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♪1øø1~The Sleeper Awakened (3)♪


The Sleeper Awakened Part Three

The Sleeper Awakened Part Three

"These new splendours raised in Abou Hassan's mind a still greater admiration than he felt before. At length he reached the table, and when he was seated at it and had surveyed the seven damsels with a sort of embarrassment which showed he could not tell to whom among them to give the preference, he ordered them all to lay aside their fans and to sit down and eat with him.

"When the damsels had taken their places on either side of Abou Hassan, he at once proceeded to inquire their names; and he found that their names also marked some excellence of mind or body by which they were distinguished from each other. This amused him extremely; and he showed his wit in the lively and appropriate speeches he used when he offered to each, in turn, some fruit of the different sorts before him. To her who was called Heart's-chain he gave a fig, saying: 'Eat this for my sake, and make the chains lighter which I have worn from the moment I first saw you.' And giving some grapes to Soul's-grief, he said, 'Take these grapes upon condition that you ease the grief I endure from the love with which you have inspired me;' and he addressed a similar compliment to each of the other damsels. By his behaviour on this occasion Abou Hassan made the caliph, who was much pleased with all he did and all he said, more and more delighted.

"When Abou Hassan had eaten of those sorts of fruit on the table which he liked best, he rose; and immediately Mesrour led him into a third saloon, furnished, decorated, and enriched in the same magnificent manner as the two former.

"There Abou Hassan found seven other bands of music, and seven other damsels, waiting round a table, set out with seven golden basins containing liquid sweetmeats of various sorts and colours. He walked up to the table amidst the loud harmony of the seven bands of music, which ceased when he had taken his seat. At his command the seven damsels also took their places at the table with him. And as he could not dispense these liquids with the same grace, and with the same polite attention he had shown in distributing the fruits, he begged that the ladies would themselves make choice of such as they liked best. He asked their names too; and he was not less pleased with these than with those of the former damsels.

"The day was drawing towards a close when Abou Hassan was conducted into a fourth saloon. This apartment was decorated like the rest with the most costly and most magnificent furniture. Abou Hassan found in this last saloon, as he had found in all the others, seven bands of female musicians. Here, too, he saw seven other damsels, who stood in waiting round a table. On this table glittered seven basins of gold, filled with cakes and pastry, with all sorts of dry sweetmeats, and with a number of other compounds, provocative of drinking. But Abou Hassan observed here what he had not seen in the other saloons; this was a sideboard, upon which were seven large flagons of silver filled with the most exquisite wines; and seven glasses of the finest rock crystal stood near each of these flagons.

"In the three first saloons Abou Hassan had drunk only water, in compliance with the custom observed at Bagdad, namely, to drink wine only at night. All those who drink it before evening are looked upon as dissipated persons; and they dare not appear in the day time.

"Abou Hassan entered this fourth saloon and walked up to the table. When he was seated he remained a long time in a kind of ecstasy of admiration at the seven damsels who stood about him, and whom he thought still more lovely than those he had seen in the other saloons. He had great desire to know the name of each of them.

"Thereupon he took the hand of the damsel who was nearest him on the right. He made her sit down, and after presenting her with a rich cake, he asked her name. 'Commander of the Faithful,' answered the damsel, 'I am called Cluster-of-Pearls.' 'You could not have a better name,' cried Abou Hassan, 'or one more expressive of your charms. I must think your beautiful teeth certainly surpass the finest-coloured pearls in the world. Cluster-of-Pearls,' added he, 'since that is your name, do me the favour to take a glass, fill it, and let me drink it from your fair hand.'

"The damsel went instantly to the sideboard, and came back with a glass of wine, which she presented to Abou Hassan with all imaginable grace. He took it, and looking at her tenderly said, 'Cluster-of-Pearls, I drink your health; I desire you would fill the glass for yourself and pledge me in return.' She quickly ran to the sideboard and returned with a glass in her hand; but before she drank Cluster-of-Pearls sang a song, which delighted her hearer.

"When Abou Hassan had drunk he took from the basins a supply of what he liked best, and presented it to another damsel, whom he desired to come and sit near him. He inquired her name also. She answered, that her name was Morning-Star. 'Your fine eyes,' resumed he, 'are brighter and more brilliant than the star whose name you bear. Go, and do me the favour to bring me a glass of wine;' she complied in a moment. He paid a similar compliment to the third damsel who was called Light-of-Day, as well as to all the rest.

"When Abou Hassan had emptied as many glasses as there were damsels, Cluster-of-Pearls, to whom he had first spoken, went to the sideboard and took a glass which she filled with wine, after having thrown into it a little of the powder which the caliph had made use of the day before. Presently she came and presented it to him with these words: 'Commander of the Faithful, I entreat your majesty to take this glass of wine, and before you drink it to hear a song which I dare flatter myself will not be disagreeable to you.' 'I grant your request with pleasure,' said Abou Hassan, as he took the glass which she presented him.

"The damsel took her lute and sang a song, accompanying herself on the instrument with so much accuracy and expression, that she kept Abou Hassan entranced from beginning to end.

"When she had finished singing, Abou Hassan, who was desirous of praising her as she deserved, drank off at a draught the glass of wine she had filled for him. Then turning his head towards the damsel to speak to her, he was suddenly overcome by the effect of the powder which he had taken. Presently, like a man thoroughly overcome with sleep, he became as completely forgetful of all outward things as he had been the day before, when the caliph had administered the powder to him. The caliph, who had derived an amount of amusement beyond his expectation from the events of the day, came out of his closet and appeared in the saloon, quite delighted at having succeeded so well in his design. He first ordered that the caliph's habit in which Abou Hassan had been dressed in the morning, should be taken from him; and that he should be clothed again in the garments which he had worn twenty-four hours before. He ordered the slave to be called; and upon his appearing he said, 'Take charge once more of this man, and carry him back to his own bed as silently as you can; and when you come away be careful to leave the door open.'

"The slave took up Abou Hassan, carried him off by the secret door of the palace, and placed him in his own house as the caliph had ordered him. Then the caliph said: 'Abou Hassan wished to be in my place for one day only that he might punish the Iman of the mosque in his neighbourhood, and the four old men, whose conduct had displeased him; I have procured him the means of doing what he wished. Therefore he ought to be satisfied.'

"Abou Hassan, who had been deposited on his sofa by the slave, slept till very late the next day. Then, upon opening his eyes, he was very much surprised to find himself at his own house. 'Cluster-of-Pearls! Morning-Star! Break-of-day! Coral-lips!' cried he, calling the damsels of the palace who had been sitting with him. 'Where are you? Come to me!'

"Abou Hassan called as loudly as he could. His mother, who heard him from her apartment, came running up at the noise he made. 'What's the matter with you, my son?' she asked. 'What has befallen you?' At these words Abou Hassan raised his head, and, looking at his mother with an air of haughtiness and disdain, replied, 'Good woman, who is the person you call your son?' 'You are he,' answered the mother, with much tenderness; 'are you not my son, Abou Hassan? It would be the most extraordinary thing in the world if, in so short a time, you should have forgotten it.' 'I your son, you execrable old woman!' cried Abou Hassan, 'you know not what you are saying. You are a liar. I am the Commander of the Faithful.'

"'Be silent, my son,' rejoined the mother: 'to hear you talk men would take you for a madman.' 'You are yourself a mad old woman,' replied Abou Hassan, 'I am not out of my senses, as you suppose; I tell you again I am Commander of the Faithful, and vicar upon earth of the Lord of both worlds.' 'Ah, my son!' cried the mother, 'how comes it that I now hear you utter words which clearly prove that you are not in your right mind? What evil genius possesses you that you hold such language. You are my son, Abou Hassan, and I am your mother.'

"After having given him all the proofs she could think of in order to bring him to himself, she continued to expostulate in these words: 'Do you not see that the chamber you are now in is your own, and not the chamber of a palace fit for the Commander of the Faithful; and that living constantly with me you have dwelt in this house ever since you were born!'

"Abou Hassan heard these remonstrances of his mother with composure. He sat resting his head upon his hand, like a man who was recollecting himself, and trying to discover the truth of what he saw and heard: 'I believe you are right,' said he, to his mother, a few moments afterwards. 'It seems,' said he, 'that I am Abou Hassan, that you are my mother, and that I am in my own chamber. I cannot doubt it, nor can I conceive how I could take this fancy into my head.'

"His mother thought in good earnest that her son was cured of the malady which disturbed his mind, and which she attributed to a dream. She was preparing to laugh with him, and question him about his dream, when on a sudden he sat up, and looking at her with an angry glance, cried: ‘Thou old witch, thou knowest not what thou art saying; I am not thy son, nor art thou my mother. I tell thee I am Commander of the Faithful, and thou shalt not make me believe otherwise.' 'For ...
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