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♪1øø1~The Sleeper Awakened (1)♪

1001 NIGHT

The Sleeper Awakened Part One


"During the reign of the Caliph Haroun Alraschid, there lived at Bagdad a very rich merchant, whose wife was far advanced in years. They had an only son, called Abou Hassan, who had been in every respect brought up with great strictness.

"The merchant died when this son was thirty years old; and Abou Hassan, who was his sole heir, took possession of the vast wealth which his father had amassed, by great parsimony, and a constant industry in business. The son, whose views and inclinations were different from those of his father, very soon began to dissipate his fortune. Abou Hassan had always envied young men of his own age who had been more liberally supplied, and who never denied themselves any of those pleasures in which young men too readily indulge, and determined in his turn to distinguish himself by making an appearance consistent with the great wealth with which fortune had favoured him. Accordingly, he divided his fortune into two parts. With the one he purchased estates in the country and houses in the city, and, although these would produce a revenue sufficient to enable him to live at his ease, he resolved to let the sums arising from them accumulate; the other half, which consisted of a considerable sum of ready money, was to be spent in enjoyment, but he laid it down as a primary rule, which he determined inviolably to keep, not to expend more than this sum in the jovial life he proposed to lead.

"Abou Hassan soon brought together a company of young men, nearly of his own age and rank in life; and he thought only how he should make their time pass agreeably. To accomplish this he was not content with entertaining them day and night, and giving the most splendid feasts. These feasts were generally followed by balls, to which the best dancers in the city of Bagdad were invited. All these amusements, which were daily varied by new pleasures, were so extremely expensive to Abou Hassan, that the large sum of money which he had devoted to this prodigality ended with the year. So soon as he ceased giving these entertainments his friends disappeared; they shunned him whenever they saw him.

"Abou Hassan was more distressed at the strange conduct of his friends, who abandoned him with so much faithlessness and ingratitude, than at the loss of all the money he had so foolishly expended on them. Melancholy and thoughtful, with his head sunk upon his breast, he entered his mother's apartment and seated himself at the end of a sofa at some distance from her.

"'What is the matter, my son?' asked his mother, when she saw him in this desponding state. ‘Had you lost everything you possessed in the world you could not appear more miserable. I know at what an enormous outlay you have lived; and ever since you engaged in that course of dissipation I thought you would soon have very little money left. Your fortune was at your own disposal, and I did not endeavour to oppose your irregular proceedings, because I knew the prudent precaution you had taken of leaving half of your means untouched; while this half remains I do not see why you should be plunged into this deep melancholy.' Abou Hassan burst into tears at these words, and in the midst of his grief exclaimed, 'Oh, my dear mother, I know from woeful experience how insupportable poverty is. Yes, I feel very sensibly that as the setting of the sun deprives us of the splendour of that luminary, so poverty deprives us of every sort of enjoyment. Poverty buries in oblivion all the praises that have been bestowed on us, and all the good that has been said of us, before we fell into its grasp. He who is poor is regarded but as a stranger, even by his relations and his friends. You know, my mother,' continued Abou Hassan, 'how liberally I have conducted myself towards my friends for a year past. I have exhausted my means in entertaining them in the most sumptuous manner; and now that I cannot continue to do so, I find myself abandoned by them all. I thank Heaven for having inspired me with the idea of reserving what I call my income, under the rule and oath I made not to touch it for any foolish dissipation. I will strictly observe this oath, and I have resolved to make a good use of what happily remains; but first I wish to see to what extremity my friends, if indeed I can still call them so, will carry their ingratitude. I will solicit them to raise among themselves a sufficient sum of money in some measure to relieve me in the unhappy situation to which I am reduced by contributing to their amusement. But I mean to take this step, only to see whether I shall find in these friends the least sentiment of gratitude.'

"'My son,' replied the mother of Abou Hassan,' I will not take upon myself to dissuade you from executing your plan. I plainly see you do not yet know those men who, among people of your description, are commonly styled friends; but you will soon know them: and I pray Heaven it may be in the way I wish-that is, for your good.' 'My dear mother,' cried Abou Hassan, 'I am convinced of the truth of what you tell me: but it will be a more convincing proof to me of those men's baseness and want of feeling if I learn it by my own experience.'

"Abou Hassan set out immediately; and he timed his visits so well that he found all his friends at home. He represented to them the great distress he was in, and besought them to lend him such a sum of money as would be of effectual assistance to him; he even promised to enter into a bond to every one individually to return the sums each should lend him, so soon as his affairs were reestablished; but he still avoided letting them know that his distresses were in a great measure arising from them; for he wished to give them every opportunity of displaying their generosity. And he did not forget to hold out to them the hope that he might one day be again in a position to entertain them as he had done.

"Not one of his convivial companions was the least affected by Abou Hassan's afflictions. He had even the mortification to find that many of them pretended not to know him, and did not even remember ever to have seen him. He returned home, his heart filled with grief and indignation. 'Alas! my mother,' cried he, 'you have told me the truth; instead of friends I have found only perfidious, ungrateful men, unworthy of my friendship. I renounce them for ever, and I promise you I will never see them again.'

"Abou Hassan kept firmly to the resolution he had made. He bound himself by an oath never to ask any man who was an inhabitant of Bagdad to eat with him. He then took the strong box which contained the money arising from his rents from the spot where he had laid it by, and put it in the place of the coffers he had just emptied. He resolved to take from it for the expenses of each day a regular sum that should be sufficient to enable him to invite one person to sup with him; and he took a second oath, declaring that the person he entertained should not be an inhabitant of Bagdad, but a stranger who had only tarried in the city one day; and determined that he would send him away the next morning, after giving him only one night's lodging.

"In carrying out his design Abou Hassan took care every morning to make the necessary provision for this limited hospitality; and towards the close of each day he went and sat at the end of the bridge of Bagdad, and as soon as he saw a stranger, whatever the appearance of the wayfarer, he accosted him with great civility, and invited him to sup and lodge at his house on that, the night of his arrival. He at once informed his guest of the rule he had laid down, and the bounds he had set to his hospitality; and thereupon conducted him to his house.

"The repast which Abou Hassan set before his guest was not sumptuous; but it was such as might well satisfy a man, especially as there was no want of good wine.

"When he took leave next morning of his guest, Abou Hassan always said: "To whatever place you go, may Allah preserve you from every sort of calamity. When I invited you to sup with me yesterday, I informed you of the rule I had laid down for myself: for which reason you must not take it ill if I tell you that we shall never drink together again, nor shall we ever meet each other any more. I have my reasons for this course of conduct, which I need not explain to you. May Allah guard you!'

"Abou Hassan observed this rule with great exactness; and for a long time he continued this course of life. But one day, a little before sunset, as he was seated in his usual manner at the end of the bridge, the Caliph Haroun Alraschid appeared; but so completely disguised that none of his subjects could know him.

"Although this monarch had ministers and officers of justice, who performed their duty with great exactness, he wished, nevertheless, to look into the working of everything himself. With this design, he often went in different disguises through the city of Bagdad. He was even accustomed to visit the high environs; and on this account he made it a custom to go on the first day of every month into the high roads which lead to the city. That day, the first of the month, he appeared disguised as a merchant from Moussoul, and was followed by a strong and sturdy slave.

"As the caliph looked in his disguise like a grave and respectable man, Abou Hassan, who believed him to be a merchant from Moussoul, saluted the stranger with a courteous air, and addressed him thus: 'O my master, I congratulate you on your happy arrival; I entreat you will do me the honour to sup with me, and pass the night at my house, that you may rest yourself after the fatigue of your journey.' And to induce the supposed merchant to comply with his request, he told him, in a few words, the rule he had laid down to himself.

"The caliph found something so singular in the whimsical taste of Abou Hassan, that he felt an inclination to know something further of him. Therefore he assured Abou Hassan he could not better reply to so great and unexpected a civility, than by accepting the obliging invitation; and accordingly begged his entertainer to lead the way, declaring himself ready to follow him.

"Abou Hassan, who was ignorant of the high rank of the guest whom chance had just presented to him, treated the caliph as if he had been his equal. He took him to his house, showed him into an apartment very neatly furnished, where he seated him on a sofa in the most honourable place. Abou Hassan's mother, who was an adept in the culinary art, sent in three dishes. One was a fine capon, garnished with four fat pullets; the other two dishes were a fat goose and a ragout of pigeons.

"Abou Hassan placed himself at table opposite his guest; and the caliph and he began eating with a good appetite, helping themselves to what they liked ...
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