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Dialogue following No. 19


Sultan (to Vizier). Where have they gone?

Vizier. Honey-of-Life is taking them to the western door of the Harem.

Sultan. But before they go in there, my joke must be explained to Rose-in-Bloom. She won't understand another lady marching in, calling herself Sultana. Run after Honey- of-Life!

Vizier. I had been running after her for weeks, when you just now took up the running.

Sultan. Tut, tut, man! That was part of the joke — one of the best parts. Go and tell Honey-of-Life to tell Rose-in- Bloom about Hassan.

Vizier. I hear and obey. (At exit.) Rose-in-Bloom shall be told the whole of your joke — especially the best part. (Exit L.U.E.)

Sultan (calling after him). No — not that part!

Enter Heart's Desire, R.U.E.

Desire. O King, the favoured Rose-in-Bloom approaches, praying for an audience.

Sultan. Is she coming from the western door?

Desire. No, O King — from the eastern.

Sultan. It is well. (Going quickly to L.U.E., then turning.) Tell her, if you see her first, that another lady is calling herself Sultana — in a moment I will return and tell her why.

Exit Sultan. Enter Scent-of-Lilies.

Desire. A new Sultana!

Scent. What's the matter?

Enter Rose-in-Bloom.

Desire. The Sultan has disgraced Rose-in-Bloom. Another Sultana is already installed in her place.

Rose. What?

Scent. Ah!

Desire. He has ordered me to tell you.

Scent. What did I tell you?

Desire. In a moment he will return and tell you why.

Rose. There's no need for that. He has found out everything.

Enter Sultan.

Sultan. Ah! Here you are! You heard my message?

Rose. Yes. Pardon!

Desire. Pardon!

Scent. I know it's very little use, but — pardon!

Sultan. I beg your pardon — what do you mean?

Enter Honey-of-Life.

Rose, Scent, and Desire. We didn't mean any harm — we didn't mean anything wrong. Pardon!

Honey. Pardon!

Sultan (to Honey). What do you want?

Honey. The Vizier sent me to help you explain your joke to the Sultana. He says he is sure you will forget the best part.

Sultan. Ah! I prefer to talk to the Sultana privately.

Rose, Scent, and Desire. To the Sultana? (Looking at one another.) Is she/Am I still the Sultana?

Sultan. Now I think I understand. Dear me! You misunderstood my message. I am obliged to allow a certain lady to call herself Sultana as part of a joke I am playing on a man named Hassan.

Rose. A joke?

Sultan. Yes.

Honey. The Vizier told me to remind you that you said the best part of the joke —

Sultan. Yes, I remember. (To Rose-in-Bloom.) Would you mind dismissing these girls?

Rose. Oh, I don't mind anything now!

Sultan. You really thought you were disgraced! And it was only part of a joke. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Girls (forcing a laugh). Ha! Ha! Ha!

Sultan. But what did you imagine you had been disgraced for?

Rose. Oh, well — (to Girls.) Why, I didn't really think I had been. Did I?

Sultan. But you were praying for pardon — what for?

Desire. Oh, that was part of our joke! Ha! Ha! Ha! (forced laugh).

Girls. Yes, that was our joke! Ha! Ha!

Exeunt Heart's Desire and Scent-of-Lilies, with forced laugh.

Honey. The Vizier says he won't speak to me again if I forget to remind you that you said the best part of your joke was —

Sultan. Yes — I remember — run away!

Exit Honey-of-Life.

Rose. Haven't you told me all of the joke?

Sultan. My dear, the whole matter is that I went last night in disguise to the house of a man named Hassan —

Rose. Yes, I know.

Sultan. Do you? How?

Rose. Well, I declare — I must have dreamed that you did! I often dream of you going about in disguise — and — and meeting other girls — and — and kissing them.

Sultan. Dreams generally have nothing to do with what has really occurred.

Rose. No — that's what comforts me. Now the other night I had an absurd dream that I actually went out of the Palace in disguise.

Sultan. How ridiculous!

Rose. Wasn't it? Suppose I ever did such a thing — what would the punishment be?

Sultan. Oh, death, I suppose.

Rose. Are you sure?

Sultan. I might try to think of something worse. It would depend, of course, on my mood. Why do you want to know?

Rose. Because, in my dream, you did find me out, and said, "Oh, well, you've done no real harm — I sha'n't punish you at all."

Sultan. How absurdly people talk in their dreams, don't they?


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