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Dialogue following No. 17


The Sultan enters. Everyone is prostrated.

Sultan. Are the Royal Slave Girls and Officials all present?

Vizier. Yes, O King!

Sultan. Where is the man Hassan?

Vizier. O King, he is still sleeping from the effect of Bhang.

Sultan. Last night he boasted he was as good as I!

Vizier. Shall he die, O King?

Phsician. For the lie, O King?

Executioner. Shall I, O King? (Drawing scimitar.)

Sultan. No, no.

All. We hear you and obey.

Sultan. When he said he was as good as I he may have spoken the truth. He is the first man who has ever said such a thing — to my face; and he has given me an idea. Take
him, while he still sleeps, and dress him in a royal robe, and put a crown upon his head — (Taking off his own crown) — and when he wakes, see that he finds himself seated on the throne.

Vizier. The throne, O King?

Phsician. Your own, O King?

Sultan. Yes.

All. We hear you and obey.

Sultan. And see that he is treated exactly as if he were Sultan — in every respect. See that you treat me exactly as if I were not Sultan — with no respect. You can begin at once by assuming a perpendicular position.

All. We hear you and obey.

Vizier (kneeling). O King, it will be impossible to treat another as we should treat you!

Sultan. Oh, no, not at all. If I find the experiment successful, I shall leave him here to be grovelled to, while I go for a few weeks to the seaside, disguised as a cheap tripper. The truth is — I don't want to offend you — but I'm a little tired of you all — just a leetle bit tired of seeing everybody crawling about on their stomachs. (Lifting up Vizier.) I don't blame you. I know you can't help it. I know you're unhappy now, because you're not cringing, aren't you? Well, well, I won't be cruel — down you get.

Vizier (kneeling). O King, this is not a natural attitude. But it is natural to be unnatural when Kings are about.

Sultan. Exactly. It's human nature. Bless you, there's nothing new in that. People talk about Society nowadays being artificial. Not a bit. Modern manners are only original human nature some years in bottle.


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