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♪1øø1~The Sleeper Awakened (4)♪

1001 NIGHTS

The Sleeper Awakened Part Four



"The day on which he renewed his custom of going towards sunset to the foot of the bridge of Bagdad in order to stop the first stranger who should approach, and invite him to do him the honour of coming to sup at his house, was the first of the month; and it has been already mentioned that this was the day on which the caliph amused himself with passing through one of the gates of the city in disguise that he might himself see whether anything was done contrary to the established laws.

"Abou Hassan had not long taken his seat on a bench placed against the parapet when, casting his eyes towards the other end of the bridge, he saw the caliph coming towards him in his old disguise of a merchant of Moussoul, and attended by the same slave who had once accompanied him to Abou Hassan's house. Convinced that all the misery he had suffered arose only from the circumstance that the merchant from Moussoul had left the door open when he went out of his chamber on the former occasion, Abou Hassan trembled at the sight of him. 'Allah preserve me!' said he to himself, 'if I am not mistaken this is the very sorcerer who laid his spell upon me.' He immediately turned his head and looked steadfastly into the stream, that the supposed merchant might not see him as he passed by.

"The caliph, who wished for a renewal of the amusement he had derived from Abou Hassan, had taken great care to be informed of all that he had said and done the day after he awoke and was carried back to his house, and had been told of everything that had happened to the unfortunate man. He felt fresh pleasure at each new particular that was told him, and was amused even at the ill-treatment which Abou Hassan had undergone at the hospital for madmen. But as this monarch was very just and generous, and as he discovered in Abou Hassan a turn of mind likely to afford him still further amusement, and as he also doubted whether, after having given up his assumed dignity of caliph, Abou Hassan would return to his usual way of life, he thought fit to bring the young man again near his person; and to effect this purpose he considered it best to disguise himself on the first day of the month like a merchant of Moussoul, as he had done before. He perceived Abou Hassan almost as soon as he was himself seen by the latter; and from Abou Hassan's turning away, he found immediately how dissatisfied his former host was with him. This induced him to walk on that side of the bridge where Abou Hassan was, and to approach him as closely as possible. When he came up to him he stooped down and looked in his face. 'It is you, brother Abou Hassan?' said he. 'I salute you; suffer me, I beseech you, to embrace you.'

"'For my part,' answered Abou Hassan bluntly, 'I want neither your salutation nor your embraces; go your way.' 'What,' resumed the caliph, 'do not you know me? Do not you recollect the evening we passed together a month ago this day at your house, when you did me the honour to entertain me so hospitably?' 'No,' replied Abou Hassan, 'I know you not, nor can I guess what you are talking of. Therefore, I say again, go about your business.'

"The caliph did not resent Abou Hassan's answer. He knew that one of the rules Abou Hassan had laid down for himself was to have no further acquaintance with a person whom he had once entertained, but he chose to pretend ignorance of it. 'I cannot believe that you do not recollect me,' he said. 'It is scarcely possible that you should have so easily forgotten me. Surely some misfortune must have befallen you, that you should speak to me thus strangely. You must remember, nevertheless, that I showed my gratitude by my good wishes; and that upon one point, which you held near your heart, I made an offer of my services which are not to be slighted.' 'I know not,' replied Abou Hassan, 'what may be your influence, nor am I desirous of putting it to the proof. This I know, that your wishes had only the effect of driving me mad. Therefore go your way, and plague me no more.'

"'Ah, brother Abou Hassan,' replied the caliph, embracing him, 'I do not mean to part from you in this manner. Since I have been so fortunate as to meet with you a second time, you must again extend to me the same hospitality you showed me a month ago, and I must have the honour of drinking with you again.' For that very reason Abou Hassan protested he would be upon his guard. 'I have sufficient power over myself,' he cried, 'to prevent myself from again associating with a man who carries mischief about him as you do. You have done me much harm, and I would not willingly expose myself to more at your hands.'

"'My good friend Abou Hassan,' returned the caliph, 'I beseech you to be convinced of my friendship. Do me the favour to relate to me what has befallen you; confide in me who have ever wished you well, who still wish you well, and who would be glad of an opportunity to do you any service in order to make amends for any misfortune you may have suffered.' Abou Hassan gave way to the entreaty of the caliph, and said, 'Your earnestness, and your importunity towards me, have overcome my resistance; but you shall judge from what I am about to tell you whether I complain of you without reason.'

"The caliph seated himself close to Abou Hassan, who gave him an account of all the adventures that had befallen him from the time of his waking at the palace to the moment of his second waking at his own chamber; and he told everything as if it were really a dream, the recital of which gave his hearer fresh pleasure. He then dwelt fervently on the impression which this dream had left upon his mind of his being caliph and Commander of the Faithful. 'This delusion,' added he, ' led me into the wildest extravagances; until at last my neighbours were obliged to bind me like a madman, and have me conveyed to the hospital for lunatics, where I was treated in a manner which all must allow to have been cruel, barbarous, and inhuman; but what will surprise you, and what, without doubt, you do not expect to be told is, that all these misfortunes have come upon me entirely through your fault. You must remember how earnestly I requested you to shut the door of my chamber when you left me after supper. This request you utterly disregarded, for you left the door open, and the devil entered and filled my head with this dream which, agreeable as it then appeared to me, has nevertheless occasioned all the evils of which I have so much reason to complain. You, therefore, by your negligence, are the cause of all.'

"Abou Hassan related to the caliph all these grievances with much warmth and vehemence. The caliph knew better than he all that had occurred, and was delighted within himself at having succeeded so well, and could not hear this narrative detailed in so artless a manner without bursting into a fit of laughter.

"Abou Hassan, who thought his story would excite compassion, was highly offended at this violent laughter of the pretended merchant. 'Are you making a jest of me,' said he, ' by thus laughing in my face? Do you wish for actual proof of what I advance? Here, look and see yourself, and tell me if this is a jest.' As he said this he bent forward, and baring his breast and shoulders he let the caliph see the scars and bruises occasioned by the beatings he had received.

"The caliph was shocked at the sight. He felt compassion for poor Abou Hassan, and was extremely sorry the jest had been carried so far. He ceased laughing, and cordially embracing Abou Hassan he said with a very serious air,' Rise, my dear brother, I beseech you let us go to your house, I wish to have again the pleasure of being your guest this evening; to-morrow, if it please Heaven, all will be found to have turned out for the best.'

"Notwithstanding his resolution, and in opposition to the oath he had taken, Abou Hassan could not withstand the nattering importunities of the caliph, whom he supposed to be a merchant. 'I consent,' said he, 'but only upon a condition which you shall bind yourself by an oath to observe. It is this: that you do me the favour to shut my chamber door when you leave my house that the devil may not come to turn my brain as he did before.' The pretended merchant gave his promise. Thereupon the two men rose and walked towards the town. The better to engage Abou Hassan, the caliph said to him, 'Put confidence in me, and I promise you, as a man of honour, that I will not fail of my word. After this you will not hesitate to rely upon a person like me, who wishes you all kinds of prosperity and happiness.'

"'I do not require this,' rejoined Abou Hassan, suddenly stopping short-'I give way with all my heart to your importunity, but I can dispense with your good wishes, and I beg for Heaven's sake that you will not invoke any blessings upon me. All the ills that have befallen me to the present time have no other source than those wishes of yours.' 'Good,' replied the caliph, 'since you will have it so, I promise to express no more good wishes for you.' 'I am heartily rejoiced to hear you say so,' said Abou Hassan, 'and I have nothing else to ask. And if you keep your word in this, I will lay no further conditions upon you.'

"Abou Hassan and the caliph, followed by the caliph's slave, walked on conversing in this manner: the day began to close when they reached Abou Hassan's house. He requested the caliph to take a seat on the sofa, and he seated himself near his guest. In a short time supper was served. They fell to without ceremony. When they had finished Abou Hassan's mother came to clear the table, and placed the fruit upon it, near her son, with the wine and glasses.

"Abou Hassan first poured out wine for himself, and then for the caliph. They drank six or seven glasses each, conversing on indifferent matters. When the caliph saw Abou Hassan beginning to grow merry, he led him to a more interesting subject, and asked him if he had ever been in love.

"'Brother, replied Abou Hassan, 'I have never considered either love or marriage but as a slavery to which I have always felt a reluctance to submit; and to this moment I have never loved anything but the pleasures of the table, and especially good wine; my idea of enjoyment, in a word, is to amuse myself and converse agreeably with my friends. I will not go so far as to say that I should be indifferent to marriage, or incapable of attachment if I could meet with a woman as beautiful and as agreeable in disposition as one of the many whom I saw in my dream on that fatal night when I received you here the first time, one who would pass the evenings feasting with me, who could sing and play on the lute and converse ...
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