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♪1øø1~The Sleeper Awakened (2)♪

1001 NIGHTS


The Sleeper Awakened Part Two


"On his return to the palace the caliph had sent the first officer in waiting to summon the grand vizier Gaifar, and the vizier had just arrived. The caliph said to him: 'Giafar, I sent to you to warn you not to seem astonished when, at the audience to-morrow morning, you shall see the man who is now asleep on my bed seated upon my throne, and dressed in my robes of state. Address him in the same form you employ towards me, and treat him exactly as if he were the Commander of the Faithful. Wait upon him, and execute punctually all his orders, just as if they were mine. He will most probably make large presents, and you will be entrusted with the distribution of them: fulfil all his commands in this matter. Remember also to warn my emirs, my ushers, and all the officers not within the palace that to-morrow at the public audience they shall pay him the same honours they accord to my person, and bid them act their parts so well that he shall be thoroughly deceived.'

"After the grand vizier had retired, the caliph passed on to another apartment; and as he went to bed he imparted to Mesrour, chief of the eunuchs, the orders which were to be executed, so that everything might succeed in the manner intended. Above all, he enjoined Mesrour not to fail in coming to call him at the usual hour, and before Abou Hassan should be awake, because he wished to be present at all that might take place.

"Mesrour awakened the caliph punctually at the time he was ordered. As soon as Haroun Alraschid had entered the room where Abou Hassan slept, he placed himself in an adjoining closet, whence he could see all that took place, without being himself seen. All the officers and all the ladies who were to be present when Abou Hassan rose came in at the same time, and were posted in their accustomed places, according to their rank, just as if the caliph himself had been about to rise, and they were waiting ready to perform the duties of their various offices.

"As it was time to get up for early prayer before sunrise, the officer who was nearest Abou Hassan's pillow applied to the sleeper's nose a small piece of sponge dipped in vinegar.

"Abou Hassan sneezed and opened his eyes; and, as far as the dim light permitted him, he saw himself in a large and magnificent chamber, superbly furnished, and ornamented throughout with vases of massive gold, and with tapestry and carpets of the richest kind. He found himself surrounded by young ladies of enchanting beauty, many of whom had different musical instruments, which they were preparing to play upon; and by black eunuchs richly dressed, and standing in attitudes of deep humility. As he cast his eyes upon the coverlid of the bed, he saw it was of crimson and gold brocade, ornamented with pearls and diamonds; by the bedside lay a dress of the same materials, ornamented in similar style; and near it, on a cushion, a caliph's cap.

"At the sight of all this splendour Abou Hassan was inexpressibly astonished and bewildered. He looked upon the whole as a dream-but a dream of so charming a nature that he hoped it might prove a reality. 'Truly,' said he to himself, 'it seems I am caliph; but,' added he, after a pause, on recovering himself, 'I must not deceive myself, this is a dream, merely an effect of the wish I formed in conversation with my guest-' so he shut his eyes again as if he intended to go to sleep.

"But at that moment an eunuch drew near. 'O Commander of the Faithful,' said he, respectfully, 'your majesty will be pleased not to sleep again. It is time to rise for early prayer. The day begins to break.' Abou Hassan, very much astonished at this address, said again to himself, 'Am I awake, or do I sleep? No, I am certainly asleep-' continued he, keeping his eyes still closed.

"'O Commander of the Faithful,' resumed the eunuch, 'your majesty will allow me to repeat that it is time to rise, unless your majesty means to disregard the hour of morning prayer.'

"'I was deceiving myself,' said Abou Hassan, 'I am not asleep, I am awake.' He sat up in his bed with a cheerful countenance, like a man rejoicing at finding himself in a situation very far above his rank; and the caliph, who watched him, penetrated his thoughts with great satisfaction.

"Then the beautiful ladies of the palace bowed down before Abou Hassan; and those among them who had instruments of music saluted him with a concert. This so enchanted him, and raised him to such an excess of delight, that he knew not where he was, and almost lost consciousness. He again doubted whether what he saw and heard was a dream or reality. He covered his eyes with his hands, and bending his head repeated to himself, 'What does all this mean? Where am I? What is this palace? Whence come these eunuchs, these gallant officers, these beauteous damsels, and these enchanting musicians?' At last he took his hands from his face; and opening his eyes to look up, he saw the sun darting its first rays through the window of the chamber in which he lay.

"At this moment Mesrour, the chief of the eunuchs, came in. He bowed down, with his face to the ground, before Abou Hassan, and as he rose said, 'Commander of the Faithful, your majesty will permit me to represent that you have not been accustomed to rise so late, nor have you ever suffered the hour of morning prayer to pass unregarded. Unless your majesty is indisposed, you will now be pleased to mount your throne, to give audience as usual. The generals of your armies, the governors of your provinces, and the other great officers of your court, await the moment when the door of the council-chamber shall be opened.

"At this address of Mesrour, Abou Hassan was, as it were, convinced against his own judgment that he was not asleep, and that the splendours which he saw around him were not a dream. He felt bewildered at the position he was in. At length he fixed his eyes upon Mesrour, and, in a serious tone, demanded of him, 'Whom are you addressing? Who is it that you call Commander of the Faithful? I know you not; you must certainly take me for some other person.'

"Any man but Mesrour would have been disconcerted at Abou Hassan's questions; but, instructed by the caliph, he played his part wonderfully well. ‘O my most honoured lord and master,' cried he, 'your majesty surely talks thus to me to-day in order to try me! Is not your majesty the Commander of the Faithful, vicar of the prophet sent from Allah, who is master of all, both in Heaven and in earth? Your poor slave Mesrour has not forgotten all this, after the many years during which he has had the honour and happiness of paying his duty and services to your majesty! He humbly ventures to think some disagreeable dream has disturbed your majesty's repose.'

"Abou Hassan burst into such a violent fit of laughter at this speech of Mesrour's that he fell back on his pillow, to the great amusement of the real caliph.

"After he had laughed till he was out of breath, Abou Hassan sat up again in his bed, and speaking to a little eunuch as black as Mesrour, cried, 'Hark ye, tell me who I am.' 'O mighty sovereign,' said the little eunuch, 'your majesty is the Commander of the Faithful, and vicar upon earth of the Lord of both worlds.' 'Thou art a little liar, thou sooty-face!' replied Abou Hassan.

"He then called one of the ladies. 'Come hither,' said he, as he held out his hand towards her, 'take the end of my finger and bite it, that I may feel whether I am asleep or awake.'

"The damsel, who knew the caliph from his hiding-place saw all that was going on, was delighted with an opportunity of showing how well she could play her part where the business was to afford her master amusement. She came towards Abou Hassan, and closing her teeth upon the end of his finger, which he had held out to her, she bit it pretty sharply.

"Abou Hassan drew back his hand in a hurry. 'I am not asleep,' he cried, 'I am most assuredly not asleep. By what miracle have I become caliph in one night?' Speaking again to the same damsel he resumed, 'Now, in the name of Allah, I beseech you tell me exactly the truth. Am I really and truly the Commander of the Faithful?' 'Your majesty,' replied she, 'is in truth Commander of the Faithful; and we, who are your slaves, are all amazed to think what can make your majesty doubt the fact.' 'You lie,' replied Abou Hassan. 'I know very well who I am.'

"As the chief of the eunuchs perceived that Abou Hassan meant to rise, he offered his hand to assist him in getting out of bed.

"'Oh, Heavens!' cried Abou Hassan, 'what miracle is this! Last night was I Abou Hassan, and this morning I am the Commander of the Faithful! I cannot at all understand this very sudden and surprising change.' The officers whose business it was to dress the caliph speedily performed their office. When this was accomplished, as the other officers, the eunuchs, and the ladies, had ranged themselves in two lines, extending to the door through which he was to go into the council chamber, Mesrour led the way, and Abou Hassan followed. Mesrour entered the council-chamber, and went on before Abou Hassan quite to the foot of the throne, where he stopped to assist him in ascending it.

"Thus Abou Hassan sat on the royal throne amidst the acclamations of the attendants, who wished him all kinds of happiness and prosperity.

"Directly Abou Hassan entered the council-chamber, the caliph quitted the closet in which he had been concealed, and passed to another closet from whence he could see and hear all that took place in the council-chamber. He was not a little diverted to see Abou Hassan representing him upon the throne, and presiding with as much gravity as he could himself have shown.

"When Abou Hassan had taken his seat, the grand vizier prostrated himself at the foot of the throne, and, as he rose, said in a solemn voice: 'O Commander of the Faithful, may Allah pour upon your majesty all the blessings of this life, and receive you into paradise in the next, and cast your enemies into the flames of hell!'

"After all that had happened to him since he awoke, and what he had just heard from the mouth of the grand vizier, Abou Hassan no longer doubted that his wish had been fulfilled, and that he was really the caliph. So he immediately began to exercise his power. Looking at the grand vizier he asked him whether he had anything to report.

"'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied the grand vizier, 'the emirs, the viziers, and the other officers who belong to your majesty's council, are at the door, anxiously waiting till you shall give them permission that they may enter, and pay their accustomed respects.' Abou Hassan ...
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