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Dialogue following No. 24

Enter Scent-of-Lilies, followed by Heart's Desire, followed by Vizier — all

Scent. Stop the marriage!

Desire. Don't go on with it!

Vizier. Delay the wedding!

Three (together). Where's the Executioner?

Enter Executioner.

Exec. Here! (He brings on Hassan) The wedding is over.

Vizier. Over! But the Sultan has relented!

Scent. And is going to give the Sultana the chance of an explanation. (Sunbeam looks up.)

Enter Physician and Sultan.

Phys. O King, you are too late!

Sultan (to Executioner). Dog, what have you done?

Sunbeam (to Hassan). An explanation! It's high time I had an explanation from you! How dare you let this brute divorce me and marry me to a wretched Story-Teller?

Hassan (to Executioner). Have you divorced her and married her to someone else?

Exec. Yes. It went against the grain — I'm not a marrying man!

Hassan (taking his hand). I don't know why you have done it, but let me thank you for lightening the gloom of my declining moments.

Sultan. Is it you who have been married?

Sunbeam. Who else? Have you had a hand in it?

Sultan. My dear Executioner, you've made a mistake.

Exec. Yes, O King! I've always looked on marriage as unlucky.

Scent. Nonsense!

Exec. Shall I execute myself at once — or wait till I've finished this?

Hassan. Don't wait for me.

Sultan. You've married the wrong woman! That's all. I'm very pleased. I'll see about
restoring this lady to her proper husband when I have time.

Hassan. Not during the next five minutes. I am to be beheaded in five minutes. Wait
till after that!

Sultan. Very well!

Sunbeam (to Hassan). Do you mean to say you're not the Sultan?

Hassan. Go and talk to your husband.

Exit Sunbeam. Enter Abdallah.

Desire. O King, hear me now. It was I who was at this man's house. It was I who wore
the Sultana's Royal Ring, and showed it to the Priest. It was I who called myself Sultana. Ask him.

Sultan. Is this so?

Abdallah. It was even so. Is not this Rose-in-Bloom? (Indicates Heart's Desire.)

Sultan. Then Rose-in-Bloom is innocent — and has been falsely accused! (To Abdallah.) You shall die!

Hassan. Another three minutes and it would have been too late for me, O King. I
suppose you will have to go through the form of granting me the usual free pardon for what I never did!

Sultan. Pardon you! No, indeed! You distinctly said my Royal Rose-in-Bloom did visit
you, Dog! and so besmirched her Royal character with calumny. You shall die! And this slave who brought the name of Rose-in- Bloom into such contempt, she shall die! You shall all die — you and the Priest and the slave! I have spoken.

Enter Honey-of-Life.

Honey. The Royal Rose-in-Bloom approaches!

Vizier. Let all men turn away their faces. (Men turn their backs. Enter Rose-in-Bloom.)

Rose. Let my slave live, O husband! Just to please me!

Sultan. Have you any reason why this girl should not be executed?

Rose. Yes, indeed! She — the fact is — she — (to Heart's Desire) — say something!

Desire. O King, the Sultana is much given to letting me tell stories for her amusement. She is much interested in a story I am engaged in telling her now.

Rose. Yes, that's it! She has been telling such a lovely story for me — and I do
want to know that it ends happily!

Sultan. Very well. She shall live until she has finished her story. Is it a very interesting story, and original?

Desire. Yes, O King.

Sultan. Where did you get it from?

Hassan. From me, that's why she has been in the habit of visiting me. I am telling it
to her in instalments. I merely mention this because if I am executed I sha'n't be able to finish it to her, and she won't be able to finish it to the Sultana. That's all. It's quite immaterial to me.

Sultan. You shall be spared till the story is finished. Is it funny?

Hassan. Excruciating!

Sultan. And has a happy ending?

Hassan. A happy ending! It has a dozen!

Sultan. I will return in three minutes and listen to it myself. Come, Rose-in-Bloom.
(To Hassan) You are sure it has a happy finish? I abominate unhappy endings.

Exeunt all except Hassan, Abdallah, Honey-of-Life, and Heart's Desire.

Hassan. So do I. But I don't think I am going to have one after all.

Desire. Why, all we have to do is think of a story that's so interesting and funny and
long, that we can go on telling it for years and years without boring the Sultan, and we shall be all right.

Honey. Yes, that's all you have to think of — in three minutes.

Hassan. Two and a half now!

Abdallah. Tell the Sultan you get your story in instalments from me — and I will help
you — think of one.

Hassan. And give me back my will?

Abdallah. Yes. (Hands document, which Hassan tears up).

Hassan. Very well. Now out with your story!

Abdallah. I haven't thought of one yet.

Hassan. I've got as far as that! (Enter Executioner and Scent-of-Lilies.) Do you know
any good stories?

Exec. What?

Hassan. Can you tell me anything interesting, but funny, that has ever happened to
you, that it would take a long time to repeat?

Exec. The funniest thing that has ever happened to me has happened just now.
Scent-of-Lilies has persuaded me to propose to her, and I've been accepted!

Hassan. And now I suppose you can think of nothing else?

Exec. Nothing else. I'm dazed! (Exit.)

Scent. He is so happy. (Following him.)

Hassan (detaining her). Then let him alone and stay here and help me think of a funny story — that will do for the Sultan.

Enter Yussuf, followed by Dancing Sunbeam.

Hassan (to Yussuf). The very man! I want a very long, interesting, funny story at once — to save my life with. Can you help me?

Yussuf. No: I can think of nothing now but my marriage with your wife.

Hassan. How abominably selfish young newly-married couples are!

Sunbeam. I will help you. The Sultan said he would rectify this absurd marriage. And if he does, I shall want to come back to you.

Hassan. Do you know, I'm not so sure it's worth while to bother about a story at all.
I really begin to think it's better to let the law take it's course.

Sunbeam. Think of me, dear!

Hassan. I am!

Desire (jumping up). Oh, I've just thought — no, that won't do for the Sultan!

Hassan. Once upon a time — no, that won't do for the Sultan!

Sunbeam. Listen! Do you think this will do — I'm sure no one has heard it before.

Hassan. I suppose it's only some silly bit of scandal — or we shouldn't hear it now.

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