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♪1øø1~The Sleeper Awakened (5)♪


The Sleeper Awakened Part Five

"When the caliph spoke every one was silent, and the loud music ceased. Abou Hassan paused with the rest, and turned his head towards the place whence the voice came. He knew the caliph, and discovered that it was he who had personated the merchant of Moussoul. He was not discontented at this; he knew in a moment that he was quite awake, and that everything which had befallen him was perfectly real and no dream. He fell in with the humour and design of the caliph: 'Ah, ha!' cried he, looking at him with an air of confidence, ' you are there, you merchant of Moussoul! How can you complain that I make you die with laughing; you who are the cause of my bad behaviour towards my mother, and of all I myself suffered during my long confinement in the hospital for lunatics? I ask you, are not you the aggressor, and am I not the sufferer?' 'You are in the right, Abou Hassan,' replied the caliph, who was still laughing, 'but for your comfort and to make amends for all your sufferings, I am ready to recompense you in any way you wish.'

"As soon as he had said this, the caliph came down from his closet and entered the saloon. He caused one of his best habits to be brought, and bade the damsels and the officers of the chamber employ themselves in dressing Abou Hassan in it. When they had done so the caliph embraced him, and said, 'You are my brother; ask of me whatever will best please you and I will grant it.' 'Commander of the Faithful,' replied Abou Hassan, 'I beseech your majesty to inform me what you did to turn my brain, and what was your design; at present this is of more importance to me than anything else, to bring my mind back again to its former state.'

"The caliph was ready to give Abou Hassan this satisfaction. 'You must in the first place understand then,' said he, 'that I very often disguise myself, that I may find out whether proper order is preserved in all respects in the city of Bagdad; and I set apart a certain day, the first of every month, to make a circuit beyond the walls, and I always return by the bridge. I was returning from my round on the evening when you invited me to sup with you. In the course of our conversation, you observed that your greatest wish was to be caliph and Commander of the Faithful, only for twenty-four hours, that you might punish the Iman of the mosque in your neighbourhood, and the four old men, his counsellors. From this wish of yours I thought I might derive great amusement; and with that view I at once devised means to procure you the satisfaction you desired. I had about me a powder which brings on a deep sleep the moment it is taken. Without your perceiving it, I put a dose of that powder into the last glass which I presented to you, and you swallowed it. You were immediately overcome by sleep, and I ordered you to be taken away and carried to my palace by the slave who waited upon me: and when I went away I left your chamber door open. I need not tell you what happened to you at my palace after your waking, and during the whole of that day you spent here; at night, one of my female slaves who waited upon you put another dose of the same powder into the last glass which she presented to you, and which you drank. A sound sleep immediately seized you, and I caused you to be carried back to your own house by the same slave who had brought you. I did not imagine you would have to undergo so much as you suffered on this occasion; but I have given you my word I will do everything to console you, and will, if possible, make you forget all your sufferings. Consider, therefore, what I can do, and freely ask me to give you whatever you wish.'

"'O Commander of the Faithful,' returned Abou Hassan, 'great as have been the ills I have suffered, they are effaced from my memory now that I know they were occasioned by my sovereign lord and master. With regard to the generosity with which your majesty offers to shower benefits upon me, I can have no doubt, after your irrevocable word has passed, that it will be fulfilled; but as self-interest had never much power over me, the favour I shall ask is that you allow me free access to your person, that I may have the happiness of admiring your greatness all my life long.'

"This last proof of Abou Hassan's disinterestedness completely gained the caliph's esteem. 'I most readily comply with your request,' said he; 'I grant you free access to me in my palace at all hours, and in whatever part of it I may be:'-and he immediately assigned to Abou Hassan an apartment in the palace. He chose rather that his new retainer should be about his person, than that Abou Hassan have any particular office in his treasury, and upon the spot ordered a thousand pieces of gold to be paid him. Abou Hassan made the humblest acknowledgments to the caliph, who then left him in order to hold his usual council.

"Abou Hassan took this opportunity of going immediately to his mother to inform her of all that had occurred, and to acquaint her with his good fortune. He made her understand that all which had befallen him was by no means a dream; that he had really been caliph; that he had actually discharged all the royal functions, and received all the honours paid to the caliph during the space of twenty-four hours; and assured her that she need not doubt the truth of what he was telling her since he had it confirmed to him by the caliph's own mouth.

"The news of Abou Hassan's adventures soon spread throughout the city of Bagdad.

"This newly-acquired distinction of Abou Hassan brought him constantly about the caliph's person. As he diffused much cheerfulness wherever he came by his wit and pleasantry, the caliph scarcely knew how to do without him, and never engaged in any scheme of amusement but he made Abou Hassan one of the party. He sometimes brought him even to his wife Zobeide, to whom he had related his history, which entertained her much. Princess Zobeide was very well pleased with Abou Hassan; but she observed that whenever he attended the caliph in his visits to her, he had always his eye upon Nouzhatoul Aouadat, one of her slaves. This circumstance she determined to communicate to the caliph; and said to him one day, 'Commander of the Faithful, you do not observe perhaps, as I do, that every time Abou Hassan comes hither with you he constantly fixes his eyes upon Nouzhatoul Aouadat, and that she never fails to blush and cast down her eyes. You will hardly doubt that this is a sure sign she does not dislike him. If, therefore, you will take my advice, we will arrange a marriage between them.' ' Lady,' returned the caliph, ‘you bring to my recollection a thing I ought not to have forgotten. Abou Hassan has told me his opinion on the subject of marriage, and I have promised to give him a wife, with whom he shall have every reason to be satisfied. But it is better that Abou Hassan should follow his own inclination in the choice he is to make for himself. Besides, since Nouzhatoul Aouadat does not seem averse to the match, we should not hesitate about this marriage. Here they are both; they have nothing to do but to declare their consent.'

"Abou Hassan threw himself at the feet of the caliph and of Princess Zobeide, to testify his gratitude at their kindness towards him. 'I cannot,' said he, as he rose, 'receive a bride from better hands; but I dare not hope that Nouzhatoul Aouadat will give me her hand as cordially as I am ready to give her mine.' As he said this he looked at the slave of the Princess, who plainly showed that she was entirely disposed to follow the advice of the caliph and of the Princess Zobeide.

"The marriage presently took place. The nuptials were celebrated in the palace with great demonstrations of joy. Princess Zobeide considered it a point of honour to make her slave rich presents to please the caliph; and the caliph, out of regard for the Princess Zobeide, was equally generous towards Abou Hassan.

"The bride was conducted to the apartments which the caliph had assigned to Abou Hassan her husband.

"Many days passed in the festivities and rejoicings usual upon such occasions. At length the newly-married pair were left to each other's society. Abou Hassan and his new wife were charmed with each other. Nouzhatoul Aouadat had all the qualities that would inspire love and attachment in a man like Abou Hassan. Their table was constantly covered at every meal with the most delicious and the rarest dishes that cooks, with the utmost care, could prepare and furnish. Their sideboard was always provided with the most exquisite wine. They enjoyed themselves to their hearts' content in private, and entertained each other with a thousand pleasantries.

"Abou Hassan and Nouzhatoul Aouadat passed a long time in the enjoyment of mirth and jollity. They took no thought about the expense of their way of living. The cook whom they had chosen had hitherto furnished everything without demanding payment. It was but right that he should receive some money. He therefore presented his account to them. The amount was found to be very considerable. There was, moreover, a demand made for marriage garments of the richest stuff for the use of both, and for jewels of high value for the bride; and so very large was the sum that they perceived, but too late, that of all the money they had received from the liberality of the caliph and the Princess Zobeide when they were married, there remained no more than was sufficient to discharge the debt. This made them reflect seriously on their past conduct. Abou Hassan was inclined to pay the cook, and his wife had no objection. They sent for the cook accordingly, and paid him his demand, without showing the least sign of the embarrassment they knew must immediately follow upon the payment of this money.

"The cook went away quite rejoiced at being paid. Abou Hassan and Nouzhatoul Aouadat had thought their purse would never be empty. They sat with downcast eyes, and much confounded at finding themselves reduced to a penniless condition the very first year after their marriage.

"Abou Hassan remembered that the caliph on receiving him at his palace promised that he should never want for anything. But when he reflected that he had squandered in a little time the bounty he had so liberally received from the hand of Haroun Alraschid, he felt no disposition to expose himself to the shame of avowing to the caliph the necessity he was under of receiving a fresh supply of money. He had given up all his own property to his mother, as the caliph had retained him near his person; and he was very unwilling to have recourse to her for assistance.

"In the same way Nouzhatoul ...
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