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Dialogue following No. 23

Rose: Heart's Desire, I have been summoned to the ceremony of my divorce and disgrace! How am I looking?

Desire. Are you ready for your wedding with my Story-Teller?

Rose. Cannot you do anything to save me?

Desire: I wish I could. I tried to tell the Sultan that it was only myself impersonating you at Hassan's house, but he wouldn't listen.

Enter Blush-of-Morning.

Rose: He might later on — if we could only put it off.

Enter Scent-of-Lilies, then Honey-of-Life.

Blush: Oh, which one of you is the Sultana?

Rose: I am — for a minute or two longer.

Blush: Well, Dancing Sunbeam says you left off being Sultana half an hour ago, when she came. And she wants to know if it is true that a message has just been sent to the Sultana, and, if so, why it was not brought to her!

Honey: The Sultan did say she was to be treated as Sultana.

Scent: Do you thing we could manage? —

Desire: Yes. Yussuf said he wouldn't mind if she were middle- aged and plain, and I'm bound to believe him; and it would comfort me.

Scent: Here she comes! (Drums.)

Honey: And here's the Executioner!

Desire (to Rose). Run back — to the eastern door. She shall take your place.

Exit Rose-in-Bloom. Enter Dancing Sunbeam.

Sunbeam: Are you not aware that I am Sultana — and that it was I who should have been summoned to this ceremony, whatever it is?

Blush: They understand now. They made a mistake.

Scent, Honey, and Desire: We apologize.

Sunbeam: Well, well, you can enlighten me on a small point of etiquette that, curiously enough, I am ignorant of. Should I be veiled, or not, for this ceremony?

Scent: Of course.

Desire: It is most important!

Honey: There will be men present — horrid men! Don't you know that the Queen's face must never be seen by any man but the Sultan? (They begin arranging the veil.)

Sunbeam: Men are absurdly jealous!

Blush: But what is the ceremony?

Sunbeam: I have an idea that I am to be publicly acknowledged Queen. In a few minutes you will see me attain the summit of even my Ararat of ambition!

She is veiled — the Girls twist her round, humming:

Girls: Giddy girl this way, giddy girl that,
Say if the world be round or flat!
Say if the world be upside down!
Which will you marry, a King or a Clown?

Exeunt Honey-of-Life and Heart's Desire. Enter Executioner
(followed by a Royal Guard).

Exec. Is the Sultana here?

Sunbeam: I am she.

Scent (going to him). Yes, that is she!

Exec. When I have pronounced the decree your veil will be removed, that all and sundry, high and low, may gaze upon your beauty.

Sunbeam: A very good idea.

Scent (to Executioner). You have never seen the Sultana's face, have you?

Exec. No man has, except the Sultan. You ought to know that.

Scent: The reason I mention it is, if you had, you will find her greatly changed. The anxiety she has gone through during the last half-hour has added at least twenty-five years to her appearance; even her voice has turned into a contralto. (Exit.)

Exec. Bring in the Story-Teller. (Enter Yussuf.) I am going to pronounce the decree.

Sunbeam: Don't waste any more time. (The Executioner unfolds a scroll.)

Exec. By the decree of the Sultan, I pronounce you divorced — eternally disgraced — and married to this vagabond. Remove your veil — take twopence from the poor-box — go in peace — I have spoken.

The veil is removed — Picture.

Sunbeam. Blush. Yussuf
What did you say? What did it mean? Married to her?

Exec. The thing's quite plain.

Yussuf: It is. And middle-aged. This is what Heart's Desire meant.

Exec. You're married. It's all over. Now it's over, I don't mind acknowledging I'm sorry for both of you. I've never felt any qualms at executing anybody; but marrying 'em is different. I'm not a marrying man. Scent-of-Lilies says I am — but I'm not. It upsets me. (Exit.)

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