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The Tale of the Hashish Eater

-- From "The Tale of King Omar bin al-Nu'uman and his Sons Sarrkan and Zau al-Makan", *The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night* Nights 142-143, Translated by Richard F. Burton.

...Then said she, "Know that I mean to pass this night with thee, that I may tell thee what talk I have heard and console thee with stories of many passion-distraughts whom love hath made sick." "Nay," quoth he, "Rather tell me a tale that will gladden my heart and gar my cares depart." "With joy and good will," answered she; then she took seat by his side (and that poniard under her dress) and began to say: -- Know thou that the pleasantest thing my ears ever heard was


A certain man loved fair women, and spent his substance on them, till he became so poor that nothing remained to him; the world was straitened upon him and he used to go about the market-streets begging his daily bread. Once upon a time as he went along, behold, a bit of iron nail pierced his finger and drew blood; so he sat down and, wiping away the blood, bound up his finger. Then he arose crying out, and fared forwards till he came to a Hammam and entering took off his clothes, and when he looked about him he found it clean and empty. So he sat him down by the fountain-basin, and ceased not pouring water on his head, till he was tired. ...Then he went out to the room in which was the cistern of cold water; and seeing no one there, he found a quiet corner and taking out a piece of Hashish, swallowed it. Presently the fumes mounted to his brain and he rolled over on to the marble floor. Then the Hashish made him fancy that a great lord was shampooing him and that two slaves stood at his head, one bearing a bowl and the other washing gear and all the requisites of the Hammam. When he saw this, he said to himself, "Meseemeth these here be mistaken in me; or else they are of the company of us Hashish-eaters." Then he stretched out his legs and he imagined that the bathman said to him, "O my master, the time of thy going up to the Palace draweth near and it is to-day thy turn of service." At this he laughed and said to himself, "As Allah willeth, O Hashish!"

Then he sat and said nothing, whilst the bathman arose and took him by the hand and girt his middle with a waist-cloth of black silk, after which the two slaves followed him with the bowls and gear; and they ceased not escorting him till they brought him into a cabinet, wherein they set incense and perfumes a-burning. He found the place full of various kinds of fruits and sweet-scented flowers, and they sliced him a water-melon and seated him on a stool of ebony, whilst the bathman stood to wash him and the slaves poured water on him; after which they rubbed him down well and said, "O our lord, Sir Wazir, health to thee forever!"

Then they went out and shut the door on him; and in the vanity of phantasy he arose and removed the waist-cloth from his middle, and laughed till he well nigh fainted. He gave not over laughing for some time and at last quoth he to himself, "What aileth them to address me as if I were a Minister and style me Master, and Sir? Haply they are now blundering; but after an hour they will know me and say, This fellow is a beggar; and will take their fill of cuffing me on the neck." Presently, feeling hot, he opened the door, whereupon it seemed to him that a little white slave and an eunuch came in to him carrying a parcel. Then the slave opened it and brought out three kerchiefs of silk, one of which he threw over his head, a second over his shoulders, and a third he tied round his waist. Moreover, the eunuch gave him a pair of bath-clogs, and he put them on; after which in came white slaves and eunuchs and supported him (and he laughing the while) to the outer hall, which he found hung and spread with magnificent furniture, such as beseemeth none but kings; and the pages hastened up to him and seated him on the divan.

Then they fell to kneading him till sleep overcame him; and he dreamt that he had a girl in his arms. So he kissed her and set her between his thighs; then, sitting to her as a man sitteth to a woman, he took yard in hand and drew her towards him and weighed down upon her and lo! he heard one saying to him, "Awake, thou ne'er-do-well! The noon-hour is come and thou art still asleep." He opened his eyes and found himself lying on the marge of the cold-water tank, amongst a crowd of people all laughing at him; for his prickle was at point and the napkin had slipped from his middle. So he knew that all this was but a confusion of dreams and an illusion of the Hashish and he was vexed and said to him who had aroused him, "Would thou hadst waited till I had put it in!" Then said the folk, "Art thou not ashamed, O Hashish-eater, to be sleeping stark naked with stiff-standing tool?" And they cuffed him till his neck was red. Now he was starving, yet forsooth he savoured the flavour of pleasure in his dream.

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