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Commander of the faithful, that your majesty may the better understand by what means I arrived at the happiness I now enjoy, I must acquaint you, there are two intimate friends, citizens of Bagdad, who can testify the truth of what I shall relate, and to whom, after God, the author of all good, I owe my prosperity.
These two friends are called, the one Saadi, the other Saad. Saadi, who is very rich, was always of opinion that no man could be happy in this world without wealth, to live independent of every one.
Saad was of a different opinion; he agreed that riches were necessary to comfort, but maintained that the happiness of a man's life consisted in virtue, without any farther eagerness after worldly goods than what was requisite for decent subsistence, and benevolent purposes.
Saad himself is one of this number, and lives very happily and contentedly in his station: but though Saadi is infinitely more opulent, their friendship is very sincere, and the richest sets no more value on himself than the other. They never had any dispute but on this point; in all other things their union of opinion has been very strict.
One day as they were talking upon this subject, as I have since been informed by them both, Saadi affirmed, that poverty proceeded from men's being born poor, or spending their fortunes in luxury and debauchery, or by some of those unforeseen fatalities which do not often occur. "My opinion," said he, "is, that most people's poverty is owing to their wanting at first a sufficient sum of money to raise them above want, by employing their industry to improve it; for," continued he, "if they once had such a sum, and made a right use of it, they would not only live well, but would in time infallibly grow rich."
Saad could not agree in this sentiment: "The way," said he, "which you propose to make a poor man rich, is not so certain as you imagine. Your plan is very hazardous, and I can bring many good arguments against your opinion, but that they would carry us too far into dispute, I believe, with as much probability, that a poor man may become rich by other means as well as by money: and there are people who have raised as large and surprising fortunes by mere chance, as others have done by money, with all their good economy and management to increase it by the best conducted trade."
"Saad," replied Saadi, "I see we shall not come to any determination by my persisting to oppose my opinion against yours. I will make an experiment to convince you, by giving, for example, a sum of money to some artisan, whose ancestors from father to son have always been poor, lived only from day to day, and died as indigent as they were born. If I have not the success I expect, you shall try if you will have better by the means you shall employ."
Some days after this dispute, the two friends happened to walk out together, and passing through the street where I was at work at my trade of rope-making, which I learnt of my father, who learnt of his, and he of his ancestors; and by my dress and appearance, it was no hard matter for them to guess my poverty.
Saad, remembering Saadi's engagement, said, "If you have not forgotten what you said to me, there is a man," pointing to me, "whom I can remember a long time working at his trade of rope- making, and in the same poverty: he is a worthy subject for your liberality, and a proper person to make your experiment upon." "I so well remember the conversation," replied Saadi, "that I have ever since carried a sufficient sum about me for the purpose, but only waited for an opportunity of our being together, that you might be witness of the fact. Let us go to him, and know if he is really necessitous."
The two friends came to me, and I, seeing that they wished to speak to me, left off work: they both accosted me with the common salutation, and Saadi, wishing me peace, asked me my name.
I returned their salutation, and answered Saadi's question, saying to him, "Sir, my name is Hassan; but by reason of my trade, I am commonly known by the name of Hassan al Hubbaul."
"Hassan," replied Saadi, "as there is no occupation but what a man may live by, I doubt not but yours produces enough for you to live well upon; and I am amazed, that during the long time you have worked at your trade, you have not saved enough to lay in a good stock of hemp to extend your manufacture and employ more hands, by the profit of whose work you would soon increase your income."
"Sir," replied I, "you will be no longer amazed that I have not saved money and taken the way you mention to become rich, when you come to know that, let me work as hard as I may from morning till night, I can hardly get enough to keep my family in bread and pulse. I have a wife and five children, not one of whom is old enough to be of the least assistance to me. I must feed and clothe them, and in our poor way of living, they still want many necessaries, which they can ill do without And though hemp is not very dear, I must have money to buy it. This is the first thing I do with any money I receive for my work; otherwise I and my family must starve.
"Now judge, sir," added I, "if it be possible that I should save any thing for myself and family: it is enough that we are content with the little God sends us, and that we have not the knowledge or desire of more than we want, but can live as we have been always bred up, and are not reduced to beg."
When I had given Saadi this account, he said to me, "Hassan, I am not so much surprised as I was, for I comprehend what obliges you to be content in your station. But if I should make you a present of a purse of two hundred pieces of gold, would not you make a good use of it? and do not you believe, that with such a sum you could become soon as rich as the principal of your occupation?"
"Sir," replied I, "you seem to be so good a gentleman, that I am persuaded you would not banter me, but that the offer you make me is serious; and I dare say, without presuming too much upon myself, that a considerably less sum would be sufficient to make me not only as rich as the first of our trade, but that in time I should be richer than all of them in this city together, though Bagdad is so large and populous."
The generous Saadi showed me immediately that in what he said he was serious. He pulled a purse out of his bosom, and putting it into my hands, said, "Here, take this purse; you will find it contains two hundred pieces of gold: I pray God bless you with them, and give you grace to make the good use of them I desire; and believe me, my friend Saad, whom you see here, and I shall both take great pleasure in finding they may contribute towards making you more happy than you now are."
When I had got the purse, the first thing I did was to put it into my bosom; but the transport of my joy was so great, and I was so much penetrated with gratitude, that my speech failed me and I could give my benefactor no other tokens of my feelings than 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 in, nor any other place where I could be sure it would not be discovered if I concealed it.
In this perplexity, as I had been used, like many poor people of my condition, to put the little money I had in the folds of my turban, I left my work, and went into the house, under pretence of wrapping my turban up anew. I took such precautions that neither my wife nor children saw what I was doing. But first 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.
The principal expense I was at that day was to lay in a good stock of hemp, and afterwards, as my family had eaten no flesh meat a long time, I went to the shambles, and bought something for supper.
As I was carrying home the meat I had bought, a famished vulture flew upon me, and would have taken it away, if I had not held it very fast; but, alas! I had better have parted with it than lost my money; the faster I held my meat, the more the bird struggled to get it, drawing me sometimes on one side, and sometimes on another, but would not quit the prize; till unfortunately in my efforts my turban fell on the ground.
The vulture immediately let go his hold, but seizing my turban, flew away with it. I cried out so loud, that I alarmed all the men, women, and children in the neighbourhood, who joined their shouts and cries to make the vulture quit his hold; for by such means these voracious birds are often frightened so as to quit their prey. But our cries did not avail; he carried off my turban, and we soon lost sight of him, and it would have been in vain for me to fatigue myself with running after 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; for I had laid out several in hemp. The little that was left was not sufficient to give me reason to indulge the great hopes I had conceived.
But what troubled me most, was the little satisfaction I should be able to give my benefactor for his ineffectual generosity, when he should come to hear what a misfortune I had met with, which he would perhaps regard as incredible, and consequently an idle excuse.
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 expelled 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 neighbours, 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, which I have related to your majesty, the two friends walking through that part of the town where I lived, the neighbourhood brought me to Saad's recollection. "We are now," said he to Saadi, "not far from the street where Hassan the ropemaker lives; let us call and see what use he has made of the two hundred pieces of gold you gave him, and whether they have enabled him to take any steps towards bettering his fortune."
"With all my heart," replied Saadi; "I have been thinking of him some days, and it will be a great pleasure and satisfaction to me to have you with me, as a witness of the proof of my argument. You will see undoubtedly a great alteration. I expect we shall hardly know him again."
Just as Saadi said this, the two friends turned the corner of the street, and Saad, who perceived me first at a distance, said to his friend, "I believe you reckon without your host. I see Hassan, but can discern no change in his person, for he is as shabbily dressed as when we saw him before; the only difference that I can perceive is, that his turban looks something better. Observe him yourself, and see whether I am in the wrong."
As they drew nearer to me, Saadi saw me too, and found Saad was in the right, but could not tell to what he should attribute the little alteration he saw in my person; and was so much amazed, that he could not speak when he came up to me. "Well, Hassan," 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, addressing myself to them both, "I have the great mortification to tell you, that your desires, wishes, and hopes, as well as mine, 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. I assure you nevertheless, on the word of an honest man, and you ought to believe me, for nothing is more true than what I am going to tell you." I then related to them my adventure, with the same circumstances I had the honour to tell your majesty.
Saadi rejected my assertion, and said, "Hassan, you joke, and would deceive me; for what you say is a thing incredible. What have vultures to do with turbans? They only search for something to satisfy their hunger. You have done as all such people as yourself generally do. If they have made any extraordinary gain, or any good fortune happens to them, which they never expected, they throw aside their work, take their pleasure, make merry, while the money lasts; and when they have eaten and drunk it all out, are reduced to the same necessity and want as before. You would not be so miserable, but because you deserve it, and render yourself unworthy of any service done to you."
"Sir," I replied, "I bear all these reproaches, and am ready to bear as many more, if they were more severe, and all with the greater patience because I do not think I deserve them. 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. If you inquire, you will find that I do not impose upon you. I own, I never heard of vultures flying away with turbans; but this has actually happened to me, like many other things, which do not fall out every day, and yet have actually happened."
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, insomuch that at last he 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.
When Saadi had presented me with this sum, he said, "Hassan, I make you a present of these two hundred pieces; but take care to put them in a safer place, that you may not lose them so unfortunately as you have done the others, and employ them in such a manner that they may procure you the advantages which the others would have done." 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 advice. 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 by, and wrapped up the rest in a clean linen cloth, tying it fast with a knot; but then I was to consider where I should hide this linen cloth that it might be safe. After I had considered some time, I resolved to put it in the bottom of 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 any thing to her about the two friends.
While I was absent, a sandman, who sells scouring earth for the hair and body, which women use in the baths, passed through our street, and called, "Cleansing, ho!" My wife, who wanted some, beckoned to him: but as she had no money, asked him if he would make an exchange of some earth for some bran. The sandman asked to see the bran. My wife shewed him the pot; the bargain was made; she had the cleansing earth, with which she filled a dust hole I had made to the house, and the sandman took the pot and bran along with him.
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 sat down to rest myself; and looking about me, could not see the pot of bran.
It is impossible for me to express to your majesty my surprise and the effect it had on me at the moment. I asked my wife hastily what was become of it; when she told me the bargain she had made with the sandman, which she thought to be a very good one.
"Ah! unfortunate woman!" cried I, "you know not the injury you have done me, yourself, and our children, by making that bargain, which has ruined us for ever. You thought you only sold the bran, but with the bran you have enriched the sandman with a hundred and ninety pieces of gold, which Saadi with his friend came and made me a second present of."
My wife was like one distracted, when she knew what a fault she had committed through ignorance. She cried, beat her breast, and tore her hair and clothes. "Unhappy wretch that I am," cried she, "am I fit to live after so dreadful a mistake! Where shall I find this sandman? I know him not, I never saw him in our street before. Oh! husband," added she, "you were much to blame to be so reserved in a matter of such importance This had never happened, if you had communicated the secret to me." In short, I should never finish my story were I to tell your majesty what her grief made her say. You are not ignorant how eloquent women often are in their afflictions.
"Wife," said I, "moderate your grief: by your weeping and howling you will alarm the neighbourhood, and there is no reason they should be informed of our misfortunes. They will only laugh at, instead of pitying us. We had best bear our loss patiently, and submit ourselves to the will of God, and bless him, for that out of two hundred pieces of gold which he had given us, he has taken back but a hundred and ninety, and left us ten, which, by the use I shall make of them will be a great relief to us."
My wife at first did not relish my arguments; but as time softens the greatest misfortunes, and makes them more supportable, she at last grew easy, and had almost forgotten them. "It is true," said I to her, "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."
I will not tire your majesty any longer with my moral reflections. My wife and I comforted ourselves, 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, and advanced my fortune by means of his liberality. I saw no remedy but to resolve to submit to the confusion I should feel, though it was by no fault of mine this time, any more than before, that our misfortune had happened.
The two friends stayed away longer this time than the former, though Saad had often spoken to Saadi, who always put it off; for, said he, "The longer we stay away, the richer Hassan will be, and I shall have the greater satisfaction."
Saad, who had not the same opinion of the effect of his friend's generosity, replied, "You fancy then that your last present will have been turned to a better account than the former. I would advise you not to flatter yourself too much, for fear you may be more sensibly mortified if it should prove otherwise." "Why," replied Saadi, "vultures do not fly away with turbans every day; and Hassan will have been more cautious this time."
"I do not doubt it," replied Saad; "but," added he, "there are other accidents that neither you nor I can think of; therefore, I say again, moderate your expectations, and do not depend too much on Hassan's success; for to tell you what I think, and what I always thought (whether you like to hear it or not), I have a secret presentiment that you will not have accomplished your purpose, and that I shall succeed better in proving that a poor man may sooner become rich by other means than money."
One day, when Saad and Saadi were disputing upon this subject, Saad observed that enough had been said; "I am resolved," continued he, "to inform myself this very day what has passed; it is a pleasing time for walking, let us not lose it, but go and see which of us has lost the wager." I saw them at a distance, was overcome with confusion, and was just going to leave my work, to run and hide myself. However I refrained, appeared very earnest at work, made as if I had not seen them, and never lifted up my eyes till they were close to me and had saluted me, and then I could not help myself. I hung down my head, told them my last misfortune, with all the circumstances, and that I was as poor as when they first saw me.
"After that," I added, "you may say that I ought to have hidden my money in another place than in a pot of bran, which was carried out of my house the same day: but that pot had stood there many years, and had never been removed, whenever my wife parted with the bran. Could I guess that a sandman should come by that very day, my wife have no money, and would make such an exchange? 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, "Though I would persuade myself, Hassan, that all you tell us is true, and not owing to your debauchery or ill management, yet I must not be extravagant, and ruin myself for the sake of an experiment. I do not regret in the least 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. If any thing makes me repent, it is, that I did not address myself to another, who might have made a better use of my charity." Then turning about to his friend, "Saad," continued he, "you may know by what I have said that I do not entirely give up the cause. 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 shewed 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 is worth."
Saadi, burst out 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 neighbour, 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 neighbours 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 her if she had been to several of their neighbours, naming them, and among the rest my house. "No indeed," said the wife, "I have not been there; that was too far off, and if I had gone, do you think I should have found any? I know by experience they never have any thing when one wants it." "No matter," said the fisherman, "you are an idle hussy; you must go there; for though you have been there a hundred times before without getting any thing, you may chance to obtain what we want now. You must go."
The fisherman's wife went out grumbling, came and knocked at my door, and waked me out of a sound sleep. I asked her what she wanted. "Hassan," said she, as loud as she could bawl, "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, and had so lately dropped out of my clothes, that I could not forget it. I told my neighbour 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; though of all the fish he took none equalled the first in size.
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. "Neighbour," 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. I wish it had been better. Had he sent me my net full, they should all have been yours."
"Neighbour," 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: neighbours 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. "Here," said I, "take this fish, which the fisherman our neighbour has made me a present of, in return for the bit of lead he sent to us for last night: I believe it is all we can expect from the present Saad made me yesterday, promising me that it would bring me good luck;" and then I told her what had passed between the two friends.
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 large diamond, which, when she washed it, she took for a piece of glass: indeed she had heard talk of diamonds, but if she had ever seen or handled any she would not have known how to distinguish them. 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 diamond, 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. But as a little matter amuses children, and makes them squabble and fall out, my wife and I took no notice of their noise, which presently ceased, when the bigger ones supped with us, and my wife had given the younger each their share.
After supper the children got together again, and began to make the same noise. 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 when his back was to the lamp. I bade him bring it to me, made the experiment myself, and it appeared so extraordinary, that I asked my wife what it was. She told me it was a piece of glass, which she had found in gutting the fish.
I thought no more than herself but that it was a bit of glass, but I was resolved to make a farther experiment of it; and therefore bade my wife put the lamp in the chimney, which she did, and still found that the supposed piece of glass gave so great a light, that we might see to go to bed without the lamp. So I put it out, and placed the bit of glass upon the chimney to light us. "Look," said I, "this is another 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 was enough to alarm the neighbourhood; and before my wife and I could quiet them we were forced to make a greater noise, nor could we silence them till we had put them to bed; where after talking a long while in their way about the wonderful light of a bit of glass, they fell asleep. After they were asleep, my wife and I went to bed by them; and next morning, without thinking any more of the glass, I went to my work as usual; which ought not to seem strange for such a man as I, who had never seen any diamonds, or if I had, never attended to their value.
But before I proceed, I must tell your majesty that there was but a very slight partition-wall between my house and my next neighbour's, who was a very rich Jew, and a jeweller; 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 jeweller's wife came to mine to complain of being disturbed out of their first sleep. "Good neighbour 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 it was caused by the children, and they will laugh and cry for a trifle. Come in, and I will shew you what was the occasion of the noise."
The Jewess went in with her, and my wife taking the diamond (for such it really was, and a very extraordinary one) out of the chimney, put it into her hands. "See here," said she, "it was this piece of glass that caused all the noise;" and while the Jewess, who understood all sorts of precious stones, was examining the diamond with admiration, my wife told her how she found it in the fish's belly, and what happened.
"Indeed, Ayesha," (which was my wife's name,) said the jeweller's wife, giving her the diamond again, "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 in her intended swindling bargain by my children, went away, but first whispered my wife, who followed her to the door, if she had a mind to sell it, not to shew it to anybody without acquainting her.
The Jew went out early in the morning to his shop in that part of the town where the jewellers sell their goods. Thither his wife followed, and told him the discovery she had made. She gave him an account of the size and weight of the diamond as nearly as she could guess, also of its beauty, water, and lustre, and particularly of the light which it gave in the night according to my wife's account, which was the more credible as she was uninformed.
The Jew sent his wife immediately to treat, to offer her a trifle at first, as she should think fit, and then to raise her price by degrees; but be sure to bring it, cost what it would. Accordingly his wife came again to mine 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 neighbour offered her. I returned no answer; but reflected immediately on the assurance 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, neighbour, 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, neighbour," 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 neighbours, I would limit myself to that price, which I was determined to have; and if they refused to give it, other jewellers 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, 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 favour of you to let him see it, which I promised."
At night when the Jew came home, his wife told him what she had done; that she had got no forwarder with my wife or me; that she offered, and I had refused, fifty thousand pieces of gold; but that I had promised to stay till night at her request. He observed the time when I left off work, and came to me. "Neighbour Hassan", said he, "I desire you would shew me the diamond your wife shewed to mine." I brought him in, and shewed it to him. As it was very dark, and my lamp was not lighted, he knew instantly, by the light the diamond gave, and by the lustre it cast in my hand, that his wife had given him a true account of it. He looked at and admired it a long time. "Well, neighbour," said he, "my wife tells me she offered you fifty thousand pieces of gold: I will give you twenty thousand more."
"Neighbour," said I, "your wife can tell you that I valued 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 at last that I was positive, and for fear that I should shew it to other jewellers, as I certainly should have done, he would not leave me till the bargain was concluded on my own terms. He told me that he had not so much money at home, but would pay it all to me on the morrow, that very instant fetched two bags of a thousand pieces each, as an earnest; and the next day, though I do not know how he raised the money, whether he borrowed it of his friends, or let some other jewellers into partnership with him, 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, with the vanity natural to her sex, 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, as your majesty may judge, 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 unite my concerns in one spot, I bought a large house, which stood on a great deal of ground, but was ruinous, pulled it down, and built that your majesty saw yesterday, which, though it makes so great an appearance, consists, for the most part, of warehouses for my business, with apartments absolutely necessary for myself and family.
Some time after I had left my old mean habitation, and removed to this, Saad and Saadi, who had scarcely thought of me from the last time they had been with me, as they were one day walking together, and passing by our street, resolved to call upon me: but great was their surprise when they did not see me at work. They asked what was become of me, and if I was alive or dead. Their amazement was redoubled, when they were told I was become a great manufacturer, and was no longer called plain Hassan, but Khaujeh Hassan al Hubbaul, and that I had built in a street, which was named to them, a house like a palace.
The two friends went directly to the street, and in the way, as Saadi could not imagine that the bit of lead which Saad had given me could have been the raising of my fortune, he said to him, "I am overjoyed to have made Hassan's fortune: but I cannot forgive the two lies he told me, to get four hundred pieces instead of two; for I cannot attribute it to the piece of lead you gave him."
"So you think," replied Saad: "but so do not I. I do not see why you should do Khaujeh Hassan so much injustice as to take him for a liar. You must give me leave to believe that he told us the truth, disguised nothing from us, that the piece of lead which I gave him is the cause of his prosperity: and you will find he will presently tell us so."
During their discourse the two friends came into the street where I lived, asked whereabouts my house stood; and being shewn it, could hardly believe it to be mine.
They knocked at the door, and my porter opened it; when Saadi, fearing to be guilty of rudeness in taking the house of a nobleman for that he was inquiring after, said to the porter, "We are informed that this is the house of Khaujeh Hassan al Hubbaul: tell us if we are mistaken." "You are very right, sir," said the porter, opening the door wider; "it is the same; come in; he is in the hall, and any of the slaves will point him out to you."
I had no sooner set my eyes upon the two friends, than I knew them. 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 invited them to a sofa made to hold four persons, which was placed full in view of my garden. I desired them to sit down, and they would have me take the place of honour. I assured them I had not forgotten that I was poor Hassan the ropemaker, nor the obligations I had to them; but were this not the case, I knew the respect due to them, and begged them not to expose me. They sat down in the proper place, and I seated myself opposite to them.
Then Saadi, addressing himself to me, said, "Khaujeh Hassan, I cannot express my joy to see you in the condition I wished you, when I twice made you a present of two hundred pieces of gold, for I mean not to upbraid you; though I am persuaded that those four hundred pieces have made this wonderful change in your fortune, which I behold with pleasure. One thing only vexes me, which is, that you should twice disguise the truth from me, pretending that your losses were the effect of misfortunes which now seem to me more than ever incredible. Was it not because, when we were together the last time, you had so little advanced your small income with the four hundred pieces of gold, that you were ashamed to own it? I am willing to believe this, and wait to be confirmed in my opinion."
Saad heard this speech of Saadi's with impatience, not to say indignation, which he shewed by casting down his eyes and shaking his head: he did not, however, interrupt him. When he had done, he said to him, "Forgive me, Saadi, if I anticipate Khaujeh Hassan, before he answers you, to tell you, that I am vexed at your prepossession against his sincerity, and that you still persist in not believing the assurances he has already given you. I have told you before, and I repeat it once more, that I believe those two accidents which befell him, upon his bare assertion; and whatever you may say, I am persuaded they are true; but let him speak himself, and say which of us does him justice."
After this discourse of the two friends, I said, addressing myself to them both, "Gentlemen, I should condemn myself to perpetual silence, on the explanation you ask of me, if I were not certain the dispute you have had on my account cannot break that friendship which subsists between you; therefore I will declare to you the truth, since you require it; and with the same sincerity as before." I then told them every circumstance your majesty has heard, without forgetting the least.
All my protestations had no effect on Saadi, to cure him of his prejudice. "Khaujeh Hassan," replied he, "the adventure of the fish, and diamond found in his belly, appears to me as incredible as the vulture's flying away with your turban, and the exchange of the scouring earth. 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 up to depart; when I stopped them, and said, "Gentlemen, there is one favour I have to ask; I beg of you not to refuse to do me the honour to stay and take a slight supper with me, also a bed to-night, and to-morrow I will carry you by water to a small country-house, which I bought for the sake of the air, and we will return the same day on my horses."
"If Saad has no business that calls him elsewhere," said Saadi, "I consent." Saad told him that nothing should prevent his enjoying his company. We have only to send a slave to my house, that we may not be waited for. I provided a slave; and while they were giving him their orders, I went and ordered supper.
While it was getting ready, I shewed my benefactors my house, and all my offices, which they thought very extensive considering my fortune: 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, endeavouring as much as possible to shew 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 sun-rise, 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.
When we went ashore, the two friends stopped to observe the beauty of the architecture of my house, and to admire its advantageous situation for prospects, which were neither too much limited nor too extensive, but such as made it very agreeable. I then conducted them into all the apartments, and shewed them the out-houses and conveniences; with all which they were very well pleased
Afterwards we walked in the gardens, where what they were most struck with 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 neighbouring stream. The close shade, the fragrant smell which perfumed the air, the soft murmurings of the water, the harmonious notes of an infinite number of birds, and many other agreeable circumstances, struck them in such a manner, that they frequently stopped to express how much they were obliged to me for bringing them to so delightful a place, and to congratulate me on my great acquisitions, with other compliments. I led them to the end of the grove, which was very long and broad, where I shewed them a wood of large trees, which terminated my garden, and afterwards a summer-house, open on all sides, shaded by a clump of palm-trees, but not so as to injure the prospect; I then invited them to walk in, and repose themselves on a sofa covered with carpets and cushions.
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 attempted to get at it; but as they had neither strength nor skill to accomplish their object, they shewed it to the slave who waited on them, and bade him climb the tree for it. The slave, when he came to it, was much surprised to find it composed of a turban: however he took it, brought it down, and shewed it to my children; 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.
I saw the children at a distance, coming back to us, overjoyed to have procured a nest. "Father," said the eldest, "we have found a nest in a turban." 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, have you memories good enough to remember the turban I had on the day you did me the honour 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 birds, and giving them to the children, I put it into his hands, and he gave it to Saadi. "Indeed," said Saadi, "I believe it to be your turban; which I shall, however, be better convinced of when I see the hundred and ninety pieces of gold."
"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, without having been touched by the hand of man, are sufficient proofs that the vulture drops or laid it in the tree upon the day it was seized; and that the branches hindered it from falling to the ground. Excuse my making this remark, since it concerns me so much to remove all suspicions of fraud." Saad backed me in what I urged; and said, "Saadi, this regards you and not me, for I am verily persuaded that Khaujeh Hassan does not impose upon us."
While Saad was talking, 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 on the carpet 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, Khaujeh Hassan, that this money could not serve to enrich you; but the other hundred and ninety pieces, which you would make me believe you hid in a pot of bran, might." "Sir," answered I, "I have told you the truth in regard to both sums: you would not have me retract, to make myself a liar."
"Khaujeh Hassan," said Saad, "leave Saadi to his own opinion; I consent with all my heart that he believes you are obliged to him for one part of your good fortune, by means of the last sum he gave you, provided he will agree that I contributed to the other half by the bit of lead, and will not pretend to dispute the valuable diamond found in the fish's belly." "I agree to it," answered Saadi, "but still you must give me liberty to believe that money is not to be amassed without money."
"What," replied Saad, "if chance should throw a diamond in my way worth fifty thousand pieces of gold, and I should have that sum given me for it, can it be said I got that sum by money?"
They disputed no farther at this time; we rose, and went into the house, just as dinner was serving up. After dinner, I left my guests together, to pass away the heat of the day more at their liberty, and with great composure, while I went to give orders to my housekeeper and 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 sun-set. We then mounted on horseback, and got to Bagdad by moonlight, two hours after, followed by one of my slaves.
It happened, I know not by what negligence of my servants, 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 neighbourhood for some, 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 with his hands 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, telling me, that it might perhaps be the cloth he had often heard me talk of among my friends.
Overjoyed, I 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, ordering them to say nothing to her of what had happened. She knew it immediately, and 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; but as I ought to be content with what Providence has sent me from other quarters, and I do not design to make use of them; 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, well pleased with the reception I had given them, and to find I did not make an improper use of the riches Heaven had blessed me with. I thanked them both, and regarded the permission they gave me to cultivate their friendship, and to visit them, as a great honour.
The caliph was so attentive to Khaujeh Hassan's story, that he had not perceived the end of it, but by his silence. "Khaujeh Hassan," said he, "I have not for a long time heard any thing that has given me so much pleasure, as having been informed of the wonderful ways by which God gave thee thy riches to make thee happy in this world. Thou oughtest to continue to return him thanks by the good use thou makest of his blessings. I am glad I can tell thee, that the 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 with Saad to my treasurer, who shall shew it them, to remove Saadi's unbelief, and to let him see that money is not the only means of making a poor man rich in a short time, without labour. I would also have you tell the keeper of my treasury this story, that he may have it put into writing, and that it may be kept with the diamond."
After these words the caliph signified to Khaujeh Hassan, Syed Naomaun, and Baba Abdoollah, by bowing of his head, that he was satisfied with them; they all took their leaves, by prostrating themselves at the throne, and then retired.
[Go to Ali Baba and the Forty Robbers Destroyed by a Slave]
Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.
1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM