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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 3 - 30/74 -

When they had drunk off their wine, "It is 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, whose beauty might not please me, and who, besides, might create me a great deal of trouble by her imperfections and ill-humour." The conversation lasted a long time, and the caliph seeing Abou Hassan had drunk to the pitch he desired, said, "Let me alone, 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, filled him up a bumper, and presenting it to him, said, "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 your word." No sooner had Abou Hassan drank off his bumper, than he was seized with as deep a sleep as before; and the caliph ordered the same slave to take him and carry him to the palace. The slave obeyed, and the caliph, who did not intend to send back Abou Hassan as before, shut the door after him, as he had promised, and followed.

When they arrived at the palace, the caliph ordered Abou Hassan to be laid on a sofa, in the fourth hall, from whence he had been carried home fast asleep a month before; but first he bade the attendants to put him on the same habit in which he had acted the caliph, which was done. He then charged all the eunuchs, 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 before they went into the hall, that he might conceal himself in the closet as before.

Mesrour, at the hour appointed, awakened the caliph, who immediately rose, and went to the hall where Abou Hassan lay still asleep, and when he had placed himself in his closet, Mesrour and the other officers, ladies, and musicians, who waited for him, went in, and placed themselves about the sofa, so as not to hinder the caliph from seeing what passed, and noticing all his actions.

Things being thus disposed, and the caliph's powder having had its effect, Abou Hassan began to awake without opening his eyes, and threw off the phlegm, which was received in a gold basin as before. At that instant, the seven bands of singers joined their voices to the sound of hautboys, fifes, flutes, and other instruments, forming 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, whom he thought he recognized, his amazement increased. The hall that he was in seemed to be the same he had seen in his first dream, and he observed the same lustres, and the same furniture and ornaments.

The concert ceased, to give the caliph an opportunity of attending to the countenance of his guest, and all that he might say in his surprise. The ladies, Mesrour, 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 and illusion that happened to me a month ago, and must expect again the bastinado and grated cell at the mad-house. Almighty God," added he, "I commit myself into the hands of thy divine providence. 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. The base wretch swore to shut the door after him, but did not, and the devil came in and has turned my brain with this wicked dream of being commander of the faithful, and other phantoms which bewitch my eyes. God confound thee, Satan? and crush thee under some mountain of stones."

After these words, Abou Hassan closed his eyes, and remained some time thoughtful and much perplexed; then opening them again, and looking about him, cried out a second time with less surprise, and smiling at the various objects before him, "Great God! I commit myself into the hands of thy providence, preserve me from the temptation of Satan." Then shutting them again, he said, "I will go to sleep until Satan leaves me, and returns as he came, were I to wait till noon." They did not give him time to go to sleep again as he promised himself; for Strength of Hearts, one of the ladies whom he had seen before, approached, and sitting down on the sofa by him, said to him respectfully, "Commander of the faithful, I entreat your majesty to forgive me for taking the liberty to tell you not to go to sleep; day appears, and it is time to rise." "Begone, Satan!" answered Abou Hassan, raising his voice; but looking at the lady, he said, "Is it me you call the commander of the faithful? Certainly you take me for somebody else." "It is to your majesty I give that title," replied the lady, "to whom it belongs, as you are sovereign of the world, and I am your most humble slave. Undoubtedly," added she, "your majesty means to divert yourself by pretending to have forgotten yourself, or this is the effect of some troublesome dream; but if you would but open your eyes, the mists which disturb your imagination would soon be dispelled, and you would find yourself in your own palace, surrounded by your officers and slaves, who all wait your commands: and that your majesty may not be surprised to find yourself in this hall, and not in bed, I beg leave to inform you, that you fell so suddenly asleep last night, that we were unwilling to awake you, to conduit you to your chamber, but laid you carefully upon this sofa." In short, she said to him so many things which appeared probable, that at last he sat up, opened his eyes, and recollected her and all the ladies again. They all approached him, and she who spoke first, resuming the discourse, said, "Commander of the faithful, and vicar of the prophet on earth, be not displeased if I acquaint your majesty once more that it is time to rise, for day appears."

"You are very troublesome and importunate," replied Abou Hassan, rubbing his eyes; "I am not the commander of the faithful, but Abou Hassan; I know it well, and you shall not persuade me otherwise." "We do not know that Abou Hassan you majesty speaks of, nor desire to know him," answered the lady; "but we know you to be the commander of the believers, and you cannot persuade us to the contrary."

Abou Hassan looking about, and finding himself in the same hall, attributed all he saw and heard to such a dream as he had had before, and greatly feared the dreadful consequences. "Allah have mercy on me!" said he, lifting up his hands and eyes, like a man who knew not where he was; "I commit myself into his hands. I cannot doubt, after what I have seen, but that the devil, who came into my chamber, possesses me, and fills my imagination full of all these visions."

The caliph, who saw him all the time, and heard these exclamations, began to shake so heartily, that he had much difficulty to forbear bursting into loud laughter.

Abou Hassan laying himself down again, and shutting his eyes, the same lady said, "Commander of the faithful, since your majesty does not rise, after we have, according to our duty, informed you it is day, and the dispatch of business requires your presence, we shall use the liberty you give us in such cases." Then taking him by one arm, and calling to one of the other ladies to do the same 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 was in inexpressible perplexity, and exclaimed, "What! am I indeed caliph, and commander of the faithful!" And in his uncertainty, would have said more, but the music was so loud, that he could not be heard. At last he made a sign to String of Pearls and Morning Star, two of the ladies who were dancing, that he wanted to speak with them; upon which they forbore, and went to him. "Do not lie now," said he, "but tell me truly who I am?"

"Commander of the faithful," replied Morning Star, "your majesty means either to surprise us, by asking this question, as if you did not know that you are commander of the faithful, and vicar on earth of the prophet of God, master of both worlds, that whereon we now are and that to come after death, or else you must have had some extraordinary dream that has made you forget who you are; which may well be, considering that your majesty has slept longer than ordinary; however, if you will give me leave, I will refresh your memory with what passed yesterday." She then told him how he went to council, punished the imaum, and the four old men, and had sent a present by his grand vizier of a thousand pieces of gold to the mother of one Abou Hassan; what he did in the inner part of the palace, and what passed at the three meals which he took in the three halls, adding, "In the fourth your majesty did us the honour to make us sit down by you, to hear our songs, and received wine from our hands, until your majesty fell asleep, as Strength of Hearts has told you. From that time your majesty has continued, contrary to custom, in a sound sleep until now. Strength of Hearts, all your other slaves, and the officers present, can confirm what I say, and it is now time you should go to prayers."

"Very well," replied Abou Hassan, shaking his head, "you would have me believe all this; but I tell you, you are all fools, or mad, and that is great pity, for you are very handsome. Since I saw you I have been at home, where I used my mother so ill that they sent me to a mad-house, and kept me there three weeks against my will, beat me unmercifully every day, and yet you would make me believe all this to be a dream." "Commander of the faithful," answered Morning Star, "you are mistaken, we are ready to swear by all your majesty holds most dear, that all you relate can be only a dream. You have never stirred out of this hall since yesterday, but slept here all night."

The confidence with which the lady assured Abou Hassan that all she said was truth, and that he had never been out of the hall since that time, bewildered his senses so that he was at a loss what to believe. "O Heaven!" said he to himself, "am I Abou Hassan, or the commander of the faithful! Almighty God, enlighten my understanding, and inform me of the truth, that I may know what to trust." He then uncovered his shoulders, and shewed the ladies the livid weals of the blows he had received. "Look," said he, "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 testimonial

The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 3 - 30/74

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