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Dialogue following No. 21


Hassan. Has Dancing Sunbeam had the house re-decorated, and invited a party while I've been asleep? (To Vizier.) Is this my house?

Vizier. O King, are you not the Sultan?

Hassan. Don't be silly! If this is a joke on the part of my wives, it is a very cheap
form of wit — or very expensive. These decorations — (looking round, he sees the Executioner.) Aren't you the Sultan's Executioner?

Exec. Yes — I am your Executioner.

Hassan. My Executioner! (In a sudden access of terror.) I remember now. I'm going to be executed. Mercy! Mercy! (Throws himself at feet of the Executioner.)

Enter Sultan.

Sultan. What is happening to the Commander of the Faithful?

Phys. I think that while he slept he was troubled by a bad dream, and the shadow of
his nightmare still lingers with him.

Sultan. Is that so, O King?

Hassan (after a pause). A dream! Would it be possible that everything that is real I should have forgotten, and that everything I remember is only a dream?

Phys. Quite.

Hassan. And who are you?

Phys. Your Physician-in-Chief, O King. Do you not know me?

Hassan. No. And yet I seem to have a cloudy recollection of having seen you somewhere— and you — and you (to Vizier, Sultan, and Executioner.) (To Executioner.) I
actually recognised you, didn't I?

Exec. O King, it was a great joy to me.

Hassan. Somehow it wasn't to me. Do you really mean to say that I am the Sultan?

Sultan. May your shadow never grow less.

Hassan. Talking of growing less — how is it that my clothes fit so badly? I seem to
have shrunk.

Sultan. O King, you have just awakened from a long illness.

Hassan. Have I?

Sultan. That is why your memory and your body have both shrunk.

Hassan. My memory has simply shrunk to nothing. Except my delirium, I can't remember — Have you ever heard of a man called Hassan — whom folks call "Mad Hassan"?

Vizier. Mad Hassan?

Sultan. Who is he, O King?

Hassan. I — I don't quite know.

Sultan. Is there such a man, O King?

Hassan. I — I'm not quite sure. (Almost weeps. Buries his face in his hands.)

Vizier (to Sultan). Shall the people enter who crave audience?

Sultan. Yes. You have warned them they are to address him as if he were myself?

Vizier. Yes, O King.

Sultan. Anything he grants wisely I will confirm.

Vizier (reading from list). Yussuf, a Story-Teller, craves a boon of the Full Moon of Full Moons. (Enter Heart's Desire.)

Sultan. Bring Yussuf, the Story-Teller! (Enter Honey-of-Life.)

Vizier. Yussuf, the Story-Teller! (Enter Scent-of-Lilies.)

Phys. Yussuf, the Story-Teller!

Exec. Yussuf, the Story-Teller! (Enter Yussuf.)

Yussuf. I am here — Yussuf, the Story-Teller!

Desire (aside to Yussuf). Be very careful!

Scent (aside). Mind what you say!

Honey (aside). Don't get flustered!

Yussuf. I have come to — to — that is to say —

Hassan has raised his head and is regarding him earnestly.

Sultan. To say what?

Yussuf. That I would ask for one of the Royal Slaves for a wife!

Hassan. Listen: did you meet the slave at the house of a man named Hassan?

Yussuf. No — er — O King!

Hassan. Do you know a man named Mad Hassan?

Yussuf. No — er — O King!

Hassan. It is most extraordinary. (Sinks back. Then leans forward and points to Heart's Desire.) Is not that the slave you would take to wife?

Yussuf. No — I don't know her — I don't know Hassan — I don't know —

Sultan. Don't you know whom you do want to marry?

Yussuf. No.

Hassan. Young man, you seem to be one of those who rush very blindly into matrimony. Remember, that in the matter of wives you will find that five-and-twenty are
practically — (To Sultan.) How many wives have I?

Sultan. In the Royal Harem there are six hundred and seventy-one, O King.

Hassan. Good gracious! You don't say so!

Sultan. Stand back, O Story-Teller, and if your other stories equal this story of your
love, I should join another profession.

Desire. I think you tell stories magnificently.

Vizier. Abdallah the Priest begs an audience.

Hassan. Eh?

Sultan. Bring Abdallah the Priest.

Desire (to Yussuf). If he speaks of the Sultana, you shall hear me tell my story. (Goes up.)

Vizier. Abdallah the Priest!

Phys. Abdallah the Priest!

Exec. Abdallah the Priest!

Enter Abdallah.

Abdallah. I am here — Abdallah the Priest!

Hassan. Ah! Do you know a man that folks call Mad Hassan?

Abdallah. Yes, O King!

Hassan. Where is he?

Abdallah. He is at the point of death.

Hassan. Why — why do you think that?

Abdallah. Because, when the Sultan knows that his Sultana visited this man's house last night, he will assuredly put Hassan to death.

Sultan. Is this true, Hassan?

Hassan. Then I am Hassan!

Sultan. And I am the Sultan!

Hassan. Well, I'm not sorry! Six hundred and seventy-one wives — and I've not
forgotten my past life!

Sultan. Make the most of the recollection — for you have little enough in the future,
if this be true. Speak, dog!

Abdallah. It is true, O King. I saw the Sultana in his house, wearing the Royal signet.

Hassan. O King, it is true that she dropped in — unexpectedly — but if you will listen
to me —

Sultan. Listen, dog! Have I not heard enough? (To Executioner, who has moved across.) Slay this man! And the Sultana — Rose-in-Bloom — she favours low company; marry her to the Story-Teller, who wants a wife, and cares not who it is. I have spoken.

Desire. O King — hear me! Rose-in-Bloom is innocent. The signet was worn by —

Sultan. I have spoken.

Exeunt Sultan and Abdallah.

Scent. I said that idea wouldn't come off.


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