The Story of Abou Hassan the Wag or the Sleeper Awakened part 6

Then the slave girls led him by the hand to the drinking chamber, where he saw what astonished the mind; and he continued to say within himself, No doubt these are of the Genii, and this person who was my guest is one of the kings of the Genii, who saw no way of requiting and compensating me for my kindness to him but by ordering his slaves to address me as Prince of the Faithful.

All these are of the Genii. May Allah then deliver me from them happily! And while he was thus talking to himself, lo, one of the slave girls filled for him a cup of wine; and he took it from her hand and drank it; after which, the slave girls plied him with wine in abundance; and one of them threw into his cup a lozenge of bhang; and when it had settled in his stomach, he fell down senseless.

Abou Hassan said, On the condition that thou swear to me by the inscription on the seal of Solomon the son of David (on both of whom be peace!) that thou wilt not suffer thy Afrites to make sport with me. And Alrashid replied, I hear and obey.

Continued drinking

So Abou Hassan took him to his abode, and put the food before him and his attendants, and they ate as much as satisfied them; and when they had finished eating, the servants placed before them the wine and exhilarating beverages, and they continued drinking and carousing until the wine rose into their heads.

Abou Hassan then said to the caliph, O my boon-companion, in truth I am perplexed respecting my case. It seemeth that I was Prince of the Faithful, and that I exercised authority, and gave and bestowed: and truly, O my brother, it was not a vision of sleep. But the caliph replied, This was the result of confused dreams.

And having said this, he put a piece of bhang into the cup, and said. By my life, drink this cup. Verily I will drink it from thy hand, replied Abou Hassan. So he took the cup, and when he had drank it his head fell before his feet.

The caliph then arose immediately, and ordered his young men to convey Abou Hassan to the palace, and to lay him upon his couch, and commanded the female slaves to stand around him; after which he concealed himself in a place where Abou Hassan could not see him, and ordered a slave girl to take her lute and strike its chords over Abou Hassan`s head, and desired the other slave girls to play upon their instruments.

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The Story of Abou Hassan the Wag or the Sleeper Awakened part 5

And while he was in this state, lo, one of the mamlouks came in and said to him, O Prince of the Faithful, the chamberlain is at the door, requesting permission to enter. Let him enter, replied Abou Hassan. So he came in, and, having kissed the ground before him, said, Peace be on thee, O Prince of the Faithful!

And Abou Hassan rose, and descen-ded from the couch to the floor; whereupon the chamberlain exclaimed, Allah! Allah! O Prince of the Faithful! Knowest thou not that all men are thy servants, and under thy authority, and that is it not proper for the Prince of the Faithful to rise to anyone! Abou Hassan was then told that Giafar the Barmecide, and Abdallah the son of Tahir, and the chiefs of the mamlouks, begged permission to enter.

Mother of Abou Hassan the Wag

And he gave them permission. So they entered, and kissed the ground before him, each of them addressing him as Prince of the Faithful. And he was delighted at this, and returned their salutation; after which he called the judge, who approached him, and said, At thy service, O Prince of the Faithful!

And Abou Hassan said to him, Repair immediately to such a street, and give a hundred pieces of gold to the mother of Abou Hassan the Wag, with my salutation; then take the imam of the mosque, and the four sheiks, inflict upon each of them a thousand lashes; and when thou hast done that, write a bond against them, confirmed by oath, that they shall not reside in the street, after thou shalt have paraded them through the city, mounted on beasts, with their faces to the tails, and hast proclaimed before them,

This is the recompense of those who annoy their neighbors. And beware of neglecting that which I have commanded thee to do. So the judge did as he was ordered. And when Abou Hassan had exercised his authority until the close of the day, he looked toward the chamberlain and the rest of the attendants, and said to them, Depart.

He then called for a eunuch who was near at hand, and said to him, I am hungry, and desire something to eat. And he replied, I hear and obey; and led him by the hand into the eating chamber, where the attendants placed before him a table of rich viands; and ten slave girls, high-bosomed virgins, stood behind his head.

Abou Hassan, looking at one of these, said to her, What is thy name? She answered, Branch of Willow. And he said to her, O Branch of Willow, who am I ? Thou art the Prince of the Faithful, she answered. But he replied, Thou liest, by Allah, thou slut! Ye girls are laughing at me. So she said, Fear Allah, O Prince of the Faithful; this is thy palace, and the female slaves are thine. And upon this he said within himself, It is no great matter to be effected by God, to whom be ascribed might and glory!

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The Story of Abou Hassan the Wag or the Sleeper Awakened part 4

So a eunuch said to him, O my lord, this is not thy usual custom, O Prince of the Faithful. And he was perplexed at his case, and put his head into his bosom, and then began to open his eyes by little and little, laughing, and saying, What is this state in which I find myself? And he bit his finger; and when he found that the bite pained him, he cried, Ah! and was angry.

Then raising his head, he called one of the female slaves, who answered him, At thy service, O Prince of the Faithful! And he said to her, What is thy name? She answered, Cluster of Pearls. And he said, Knowest thou in what place I am, and who I am? Thou art the Prince of the Faithful, she answered, sitting in thy palace, upon the royal couch. He replied, I am perplexed at my case; my reason hath departed, and it seemeth that I am asleep: but what shall I say of my yesterday`s guest? I imagine nothing but that he is a devil, or an enchanter, who hath sported with my reason.

All this time the caliph was observing him from a place where Abou Hassan could not see him. And Abou Hassan looked toward the chief eunuch, and called to him. So he came, and kissed the ground before him, saying to him, Yes, O Prince of the Faithful. And Abou Hassan said to him, Who is the Prince of the Faithful? Thou, he answered. Abou Hassan replied, Thou liest. And addressing another eunuch, he said to him, O my chief, as thou hopest for Allah`s protection, tell me, am I the Prince of the Faithful? Yea, by Allah, answered the eunuch; thou art at this present time the Prince of the Faithful, and the caliph of the Lord of all creatures.

And Abou Hassan, perplexed at all that he beheld, said, In one night do I become Prince of the Faithful! Was I not yesterday Abou Hassan; and to-day am I Prince of the Faithful? He remained perplexed and confounded until the morning, when a eu-nuch advanced to him, and said to him, May Allah grant a happy mor-ning to the Prince of the Faithful! And he handed to him a pair of shoes of gold stuff, reticulated with precious stones and rubies; and Abou Hassan took them, and after examining them a long time, put them into his sleeve. So the eunuch said to him, These are shoes to walk in.

He therefore convinced himself

And Abou Hassan replied, Thou hast spoken truth. I put them not into my sleeve but in my fear lest they should be soiled. He therefore took them forth, and put them on his feet. And shortly after, the female slaves brought him a basin of gold and a ewer of silver, and poured the water upon his hands; and when he had performed the ablution, they spread for him a prayer carpet; and he prayed; but knew not how to do so.

He continued his inclinations and prostrations until he had performed twenty rekahs; meditating and saying within himself, By Allah, I am none other than the Prince of the Faithful, in truth; or else this is a dream, and all these things occur not in a dream. He therefore convinced himself, and determined in his mind that he was the Prince of the Faithful; and he pronounced the salutations, and finished his prayers. They then brought him a magnificent dress, and, looking at himself as he sat upon the couch, he retracted, and said, All this is an illusion, and a machination of the Genii.

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The Story of Abou Hassan the Wag or the Sleeper Awakened part 3

After this the caliph said to his host, O Abou Hassan, is there any service that thou wouldst have performed, or any desire that thou wouldst have accomplished? And Abou Hassan answered, In our neighborhood is a mosque to which belong an imam and four sheiks, and whenever they hear music or any sport, they incite the judge against me, and impose fines upon me, and trouble my life, so that I suffer torment from them. If I had them in my power, therefore, I would give each of them a thousand lashes, that I might be relieved from their excessive annoyance.

Abou Hassan being intoxicated

Alrashid replied, May Allah grant thee the accomplishment of the wis’h! And without his being aware of it, he put into a cup a lozenge of bhang, and handed it to him; and as soon as it had settled in his stomach, he fell asleep immediately. Alrashid then arose and went to the door, where he found his young men waiting for him, and he ordered them to convey Abou Hassan upon a mule, and returned to the palace, Abou Hassan being intoxicated and insensible.

And when the caliph had rested himself in the palace, he called for his vizier Giafar, and Abdallah the son of Tahir, the Judge of Bagdad, and certain of his chief attendants, and said to them all, In the morning when ye see this young man (pointing to Abou Hassan) seated on the royal couch, pay obedience to him, and salute him as caliph, and whatsoever he comman- deth you, do it. Then going to his female slaves, he directed them to wait upon Abou Hassan, and to address him as Prince of the Faithful: after which he entered a private closet, and, having let down a curtain over the entrance, slept.

So when Abou Hassan awoke, he found himself upon the royal couch with the attendants standing around, and kissing the ground before him; and a maid said to him, O our lord, it is the time for morning prayer. Upon which he laughed, and, looking round about him, he beheld a pavilion whose walls were adorned with gold and ultramarine, and the roof bespotted with red gold, surrounded by chambers with curtains of embroidered silk hanging before their doors; and he saw vessels of gold, and chinaware, and crystal, and furniture, and carpets spread, and lighted lamps, and female slaves, and eunuchs, and other attendants; whereat he was perplexed in his mind, and said, By Allah, either I am dreaming, or this is Paradise, and the Abode of Peace. And he closed his eyes.

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The Story of Abou Hassan the Wag or the Sleeper Awakened part 2

Thus he continued to do for a whole year; after which, as he was sitting one day upon the bridge as usual, to see who might come toward him, Alrashid and certain of his domestics passed by in disguise; for the caliph had experienced a contraction of the bosom and had come forth to amuse himself among the people. So Abou Hassan laid hold upon him, and said to him, O my master, hast thou any desire for a repast and beverage? And Alrashid complied with his request, saying to him, Conduct us.

And Abou Hassan knew not who was his guest. The caliph proceeded with him until they arrived at Abou Hassan`s house: and when Alrashid entered, he found in it a saloon, such that if thou beheldest it, and lookedst towards its walls, thou wouldst behold wonders; and if thou observedst its conduits of water, thou wouldst see a fountain incased with gold. And after he had seated himself there, Abou Hassan called for a slave girl, like the twig of the Oriental willow, who took a lute and sang. And when Alrashid heard her, he said, Thou has performed well. God bless thee! Her eloquence pleased him, and he wondered at Abou Hassan and his entertainment.

Abou Hassan smiled

He then said to Abou Hassan, O young man, who art thou? Acquaint me with thy history, that I may requite thee for thy kindness. But Abou Hassan smiled, and replied, O my master, far be it from me that what hath happened should recur, and that I should be in thy company again after this time, And why so? said the caliph; and why wilt thou not acquaint me with thy case?

So Abou Hassan told his story, and when the caliph heard it, he laughed violently, and said, By Allah, my brother, thou art excusable in this matter. Then a dish of roast goose was placed before him, and a cake of fine bread; and Abou Hassan sat, and cut off the meat, and put morsels into the mouth of the caliph, and they continued eating until they were satisfied; when the basin and ewer were brought, with the kali; and they washed their hands.

After this Abou Hassan lighted for his guests three candles and three lamps, spread the wine cloth, and brought clear, strained, old, perfumed wine, the odor of which was like fragrant musk, and, having filled the first cup, said, O my boon-companion, bashfulness is dismissed from us, with thy permission. Thy slave is by thee. May I never be afflicted by the loss of thee!

And he drank the cup, and filled the second, which he handed to the caliph, waiting upon him as a servant. And the caliph was pleased with his actions, and the politeness of his words, and said within himself, By Allah, I will certainly requite him for this! Abou Hassan then, after he had kissed the cup, handed it to the caliph, who accepted it from his hand, kissed it and drank it, and handed it back to him. Abou Hassan still continued serving him, saying, Drink, and may it be attended with health and vigor. And they drank and caroused until midnight.

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The Story of Abou Hassan the Wag or the Sleeper Awakened part 1

Abou Hassan the Wag (Anonymous: ioth to 14th Century, A.D.)

The chief glory of Arabian prose literature is the celebrated collec-tion known to us as The Thousand and One Nights. Out of this volu-minous treasure store Abou Hassan the Wag has been chosen as an example of one of the numerous types of story to be found in it. This tale is rich in Oriental colour, furnishing as it does the humorous details of that craftiness which the Arab delights in—at least in the stories he tells and listens to. The story is among the best of the Nights.

The present version is translated by Edward William Lane, whose edition was first published in London in 1839. It is from the 271st to the 290th Night (Breslau ed.). The complete title is The Story of Abou Hassart the Wag, or The Sleeper Awakened.

The Story of Abou Hassan the Wag or the Sleeper Awakened (From the Thousand and One Nights)

There was a merchant of Bagdad in the reign of the Caliph Haroun Alrashid, and he had a son named Abou Hassan the Wag. And this merchant died, leaving to his son his vast wealth; whereupon Abou Hassan divided his property into two equal portions, one of which he laid aside, and of the other he expended. He took as his familiar friends a number of the sons of the merchants, and others, and gave himself up to the delights of good drinking and good eating, until all the wealth that he had appropriated to this purpose was consumed.

And upon this he repaired to his associates, and relations, and boon- companions, and exposed to them his case, showing them how little property remained in his possession; but none of them paid any regard to him, or uttered a word in reply. So he returned 1o his mother with a broken heart, and told her of the treatment that he had experienced from his associates, that they would neither do him justice nor even reply to him. But she said, O Abou Hassan, thus are the sons of this age: as long as thou hast anything, they draw thee near to them; and when thou hast nothing, they cast thee off.. She was grieved for him, and he sighed and wept.

He then sprang up, and went to the place in which was deposited the other half of his wealth, and upon this he lived agreeably. He took an oath that he would not thenceforth associate with any one of those whom he knew, but only with the stranger, and that he would not associate with any person but for one night, and on the following morning would not recognize him. Accordingly, every night he went forth and seated himself on the bridge, and when a stranger passed by him, he invited him to an entertainment, and took him to his house, where he caroused with him that night, until the morning: he then dismissed him; and after that he would not salute him if he saw him.

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One Night part 4

A night-watchman loomed up in front of me. “I come,” I said, “to get you to see about a theft which has just been committed on my premises.”The man followed me, and the few words which he spoke dispelled my nightmare. At that moment I was not aware what a comedy I was playing.When we reached the threshold of my lodging I would have dared to go into my room and hunt in every nook and corner, and go to sleep at last in complete tranquillity. The watchman searched the sitting- room, the bath-room, lighting his flashlight, and made the rounds of the whole suite. In order to give weight to my words—which lay very lightly upon me—I pretended that a jewel-case had been lying on this taboret between the candlestick and the traveling bag, and that the case had disappeared.With increasing zeal I vented my indignation on the sharpers who lounge around hotels and prey on travelers, and inveighed against the authorities, who never seem to be able to bring the guilty to justice. I must have overdone it, because the watchman smiled, and I saw the faintest trace of incredulity in his eyes. I grew angry.“I am certain,” I explained, “that an hour ago a—a valuable medallion, set in pearls and inlaid with arabesques, was in that case.”And as the man interrupted me to assure me that the reputation of the house had never been questioned, and that the vicinity was the quietest in the city, I answered that while I was in bed I had suddenly been awakened by a scratching sound like that of a diamond on glass, or of an object being drawn across a marble-topped table, that as I jumped up a man went out, slamming the door behind him. As to the case, it had four copper nails on the under side, and the sound of one of these scraping on something was what had wakened me.The watchman looked me straight in the eyes.

Complaint to the Captain

“Follow me,” he said, “and make your complaint to the Captain.”But to this I would not consent. I excused myself, saying that my friend would not be back for quite a while. My friend now meant nothing to me but a subterfuge—and I dared not for a single second leave our papers and other valuables unguarded in this suspicious place.Again that smile in the watchman`s eye. I wanted to knock him down. Suddenly the door opened and he who had been the prime cause of my dread, whom I had vainly, yes, madly, sought all through the city, stepped in. I threw myself on his neck and asked him where in the world he had been and what had kept him so long. I quickly drew him aside and gave him a detailed account of the adventure.The watchman pretended not to notice. He understood. Quite seriously, for in my aroused state the least mockery would have ruined everything, he and my friend agreed that a complaint should be lodged next day and that, to give me justice and punish the guilty, the questionable neighborhoods in the vicinity of the barracks and the docks should be systematically searched.But in the light of day the city seemed to me so peaceful, so cloister-like, so restful, that I could think only of enjoying to the full the charms of its antique works of art and the melancholy splendor of its decaying relics.

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One Night part 3

Suddenly I saw, right before my eyes, the inn where we were staying. Trembling, I put the key in the lock. What awaited me behind the door? My friend had so completely vanished from my thoughts that I did not even ask myself whether he might have returned yet.I searched all the crannies of our suite, one after the other; looked under the armchairs, sofas, and beds with a lighted candle, opened and quickly closed the cubbies, locked the door and carefully rearranged the furniture, and was frightened by my very eagerness to allay my fear. I loaded my revolver. In my bedroom I took the most elaborate precautions. To what end?

Somebody stopped on my floor

I certainly did not mean to try to go to sleep. I began to read, my eyes glued to the pages, but my attention really occupied with what might be lurking behind the door, outside the window. I could hear the, steps of a fellow-lodger coming up the stair, moving to the rhythm of my anxiety. Somebody stopped on my floor. I jumped up- out of bed, thinking of burglars.A dazzling idea came to me: to notify the police. I half dressed myself, but the moment I got to the street all my fever laid hold of me again. Should I jostle those beggars who stood like figures on a monument, and lose myself once more in the labyrinth of night from which I had emerged by miracle? Should I renew my former unrest? And work myself up to madness? I reascended the stairs, and when I stood in front of my lodging, I trembled to think what might have happened in my absence.I remember I sank down on the threshold with my arms hanging limp and weary, while at the same time I seemed to be raised and thrust away by a thousand unfeeling hands. I heard the noisy speech of other lodgers who were coming up the stairs.Nearer they came. Leaning over the landing I thought to make them a sign, to appeal to them, to say something at least, and then involuntarily I huddled back against the wall, mute, with bated breath, and as I hid myself I thought that all my blood had gone out of me, that I was collapsing. They filed past without seeing me, then vanished into their several lodgings.I was enraged at myself for not having addressed them. I even climbed one flight to knock at the end of a passage when the last comer had disappeared. When I got there I fled hastily down again.All at once I sprang downstairs four steps at a time and came out into the street, not knowing what I was doing.

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One Night part 2

The darkness grew thicker and thicker. Unbroken chains of lights glowed along the thoroughfares. One belfry after another awoke and great bells began to peal.Not far from me a church with yawning doors was engulfing the multitude. The disappearance of the antlike creatures into this gigantic mouth assumed in my eyes a disquieting significance. Had not my poor companion been carried along by the crowd and thrust willy-nilly into this depth of the unknown, out of which arose a ponderous gnashing and crunching of bronze upon bell-metal?I must have uttered a cry, because an old man who some time since had stopped on the other side of the street to look at me, and who seemed to be seeking an excuse to address me, said something unintel-ligible and then went away, looking back reproachfully, enigmatically.

Our old-fashioned suite

I was fairly twitching with anxiety. Our old-fashioned suite was many-cornered, crammed with little nooks in which the darkness piled up, compressed into dread intensity. I dressed hurriedly and began to ransack the city in all directions, rationally at first, then quite feverishly.I thought I saw my friend now among the loiterers who leaned over the parapets of a stone bridge, now in the recesses of a cellar where frightful sots lurched about a bar, now under a gigantic candelabrum, whose fitfully flickering light illumined a bas-relief of a battle between serpents and eagles.Every time I banished one of these ideas my head whirled the more. My eyes smarted and my heart was as if in a vise. I resolved to return. But hardly had I taken a step before the object of my anxiety changed. I ceased to worry about my friend and feared only for myself. Whether he was lost or killed, I must return at once! Oh, that nocturnal flight! Through black streets whose house-fronts leered so horribly! Towers loomed up out of sable squares as if built upon the Unknown to reach the stars.Wine-cellars resounded with oaths and brawlings and the sound of my footsteps, reechoed from the angles and doorways of colossal houses, was like a cannonade. More mysterious than before and more implacably hostile the passers-by appeared. Could I ask them to direct me? They were garroters, assassins ready to stick a knife into my back. I walked in the middle of the street, casting stealthy glances over my shoulder, knowing that I was ghostly pale, and fearing above all that my fear would be noticed.A little hunchback peddling matches approached me. I sprang back. to avoid him. A cocotte whispered silly words in my ear. I quickened my pace, not daring to thrust her from me bodily. In a glazed arcade, one of those hideous cloaked beggars, such as had disquieted me ever since I started out, stood blocking the passage with his sweeping gestures. I wheeled about. And the hour was striking overhead in the cathedral with a sound of swords clashing in combat.

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One Night part 1

Emile Verhaeren (1855-1920)

Emile Verhaeren was one of the most widely read poets of modern Belgium. Influenced at first by the French Parnassiens and Natura-lists, he ultimately developed a style and a philosophy of his own. He began work in the eighties. A large part of his writings are poems, but in his plays and short stories, clearly the work of a poet, he achieves effects of striking power.One Night is translated by Keene Wallis, and appears in the vol-ume, Five Tales by Emile Verhaeren, Albert and Charles Boni, New York, 1924, by whose permission it is here used.

One Night

“ Till be back directly,” the best friend I have in the world called to JL me as he raced down the stairs of the great inn where we had just put up in the outskirts of a decayed city of old Spain.I saw him disappear, then I heard his last “Be right back,” mingled with the sound of his retreating footsteps. Left alone, I went to the balcony and leaned over. Folk, haughty in their dirt and rags, strutted through the arcades. Indescribable beggars blocked the doorways. Dogs howled at the windows of convents or at the many crucifixes which gave the quarter the appearance of an abandoned graveyard.Dusk increased the mystery of the streets. In the bloody sunset the houses seemed the habitations of ghosts. I could see into a window. I felt that a disquietude ran from chamber to chamber of that house, then the room, into which I was looking was filled with people of somber aspect who suddenly prostrated themselves before a great Christ hanging on the wall between flickering candles and votive wreaths, and seeming to run living blood.Suddenly, at the end of a lane the first lamp twinkled into emerald light. I looked at my watch. An hour had passed since my friend`s departure. An overmastering anxiety rose within me. From the moment when I had first begun to look out over this ancient city, fear had been gradually inflaming my fancies. I imagined my friend meeting with a mishap, being robbed, murdered. I did not know in which direction he had gone, nor with what intent.I began to conjure up horrors, ascribing his disappearance to the workings of an alien and hostile influence. I scrutinized the passers-by, only to find them equivocal. There were old women, cavernous from illness and senility, children almost naked, whimpering until their mothers pressed them to their dry breasts; then came men, burly brutes with long staffs at the end of which was something shiny. A fiery team plunged past with a wild clash of iron- shod hoofs.

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The Invisible Wound part 8

“Then she said that she had entrusted a bundle of letters to my late wife; she could not possibly keep them at her own house owing to their peculiar character, and asked whether I would be good enough to return them to her. I felt a chill down my spine as I listened to her. With assumed calm I asked her what those contained? She trembled at the question and said:

“ `Your wife was the most faithful and loyal woman I ever met. She did not ask what they contained; she even gave me her word never to look into them.”

“ `Where did she keep your letters?`

“ `She said she kept them under lock and key in the drawer of her sewing-table. They are tied with a pink ribbon. You will easily recognize them. Thirty letters in all.`

“I took her to the room where the sewing-table stood and opened the drawer. I took out the bundle and handed it to her.

“ `Are these the letters?`

“She reached out for them eagerly. I dared not raise my eyes for fear she might read something in them. She left soon afterward.

Hastiness and cruelty

“Exactly one week after the burial a stinging pain visited the spot on my hand where the drop of blood fell on that terrible night. The rest you know. I know it is nothing but auto-suggestion, but I cannot rid myself of it. It is my punishment for the hastiness and cruelty with which I murdered my innocent and lovely girl.

I no longer try to struggle against it. I am going to join her and will try to obtain her pardon. She will surely forgive me. She will love me just as she loved me when she lived. I thank you, Doctor, for all you have done for me.”

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The Invisible Wound part 7

“We chatted, had supper together and went to bed as usual, each in Our own room. I had by that time decided upon a course of action Which I would carry out with the stubbornness of a maniac. What a miserable deception on the part of nature to endow sin with such an open face, I said to myself as I entered her room at midnight and looked at her beautiful innocent face as she slept. The poison had taken effect in my soul and had eaten itself through every vein of my body. I placed my right hand silently on her neck and pressed it with all my might. For a moment she opened her eyes and looked at me astounded, then closed them again and died. She did not make a move in self- defense, but died as quietly as though she were in a dream.

Authority to investigate

She bore no grudge against me even for killing her. One drop of blood oozed through her lips and dropped on my hand—you know the spot. I only noticed it in the morning after it was already dried. We buried her without much ado. I lived out in the country on a private estate and there was no controlling authority to investigate. Besides, no one would have thought anything about the matter, for the woman was my wife. She had no relations and no friends, and there were no questions to answer. I purposely sent out notifications of her death after the funeral, in order to escape the importunities of other people.

“I felt no pangs of conscience. I had been cruel, but she had deserved it. I did not hate her. I could easily forget her. No murderer committed his deed with more indifference than I did.

“When I arrived at the house, the Countess had just driven up. She was too late for the funeral, as I intended she should be. She was under a tremendous strain. The terror and the unexpectedness of the news almost dazed her. She spoke in a queer manner and I could not make out her meaning as she tried to console me. I didn`t listen to her with any interest, it is true, for I was in no need of consolation. Then she took hold of my hand in an intimate manner and said she would like to entrust a secret to me, adding that she hoped I would not take advantage of it.

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The Invisible Wound part 6

“I can`t say what it was that brought me to the belief that this was but pretense. Man is foolish enough to seek misery in the midst of his greatest happiness.

“She had a small sewing-table, the drawer of which she always kept locked. This began to torture me. I often noticed that she never left the key in the drawer and she never left it unlocked. What could she have to conceal so carefully? I became mad with jealousy. I did not believe her innocent eyes, her kisses and loving embraces. Perhaps all this was but cunning deceit?

“One day the Countess came to fetch her and managed to persuade her to spend the day at the Castle. I promised that I should follow later in the afternoon.

“The carriage had scarcely pulled out of the yard when I began trying to open the drawer of the sewing-table. One of the many keys I tried at last opened it. Rummaging among the many feminine effects under a folder of silk, I discovered a bundle of letters. One could recognize them at the first glance. They were, of course, love letters, tied together with a pink ribbon.

`I did not stop to consider that it was not honorable to commit such an indiscretion: looking for secrets of my wife`s girlhood days! Something urged me to go on; perhaps they belonged to a later period— lance she had borne my name? I untied the ribbon and read the letters One after the other.

“It was the most terrible hour of my life.

Stupid husbands

“They revealed the most unpardonable treachery ever committed against a man. They were written by one of my most intimate friends. And their tone. … They revealed the tenders intimacy and deepest passion. How he urged her to secrecy! What he said about stupid husbands ! How he advised her what to do to keep her husband in ignorance ! Every one of them had been written after our marriage. And I thought I was happy! I don`t want to describe my feelings. I drank my poison to the least drop. Then I folded the letters and returned them to hiding-place, locking the drawer again.

“I knew that if I did not go to the Castle she would return in the evening. That was precisely what happened. She sprang gaily out of I he carriage and rushed to meet me on the porch, kissing and embracing me with the utmost tenderness. I pretended that nothing was amiss.

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The Invisible Wound part 5

“I never experienced or heard anything like this before.”

There was nothing to be done but to repeat the operation. Everything passed off as it had the first time. The pain stopped, and though the patient experienced a great relief, this time he failed to smile, and when he thanked the doctor it was with a sad and depressed expression.

“You needn`t be surprised if I am back again in a month,” he said as he took leave.

“You mustn`t think of it.”

“It is as sure as there`s a God in heaven,” he said, with an air of finality. “Au revoir.”

The surgeon discussed the case with several of his colleagues, each of whom expressed a different opinion. Not one, however, could offer a satisfactory explanation.

A month passed and the patient did not appear. Another few weeks, and then, instead of the patient, came a letter from his place of residence. The surgeon opened it with pleasure, thinking that the pain had not returned. The letter ran as follows:

Burning coal

“Dear Doctor: I do not want to leave you in any doubt as to the origin of my trouble, and do not care to carry the secret of it into my grave, or perhaps elsewhere. I wish to acquaint you with the history of my terrible illness. It has returned three times now and I do not intend to go on struggling against it any longer. I am only able to write this letter by placing a burning coal on the spot as an antidote against the hellish flames that burn it within.

“Six months ago I was a very happy man. I was rich and contented;

I found pleasure in everything that appeals to a man of thirty-five. I married a year ago. It was a love match. A very beautiful, kindly and cultured young lady was my wife. She had been companion to a Countess not far from my estate. She loved me and her heart was full of gratitude. For six months the time passed happily, each day bringing greater happiness than the last.

She would walk miles along the highway to meet me when I had to go to the town and would not stay away even at the home of her former mistress, where she often visited, for more than a few hours. Her longing for me made the others of her party uncomfortable. She would never dance with another man, and would confess it as a great crime if she happened to dream of some one else in her sleep. She was a lovely and innocent child.

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The Invisible Wound part 4

“Stop,” he shouted, afraid lest the sufferer should sever a vein. “Since you believe it must be done, very well, I`ll do it.”

He then prepared for the operation. When it came to the actual cutting the doctor advised his patient to turn his head away, for people are generally upset at the sight of their own blood.

“Quite unnecessary,” said the other. “I must direct your hand so that you may know how far to cut.”

The stranger took the operation stoically and was helpful with his directions. His hand never even trembled, and when the round spot had been carved out he sighed a sigh of happy relief, as if a load had been taken off his shoulders.

“You don`t feel any pain now?” asked the surgeon.

“Not the least,” he said with a smile. “It is as if the pain had been cut off and the slight irritation caused by the cutting seems like a cool breeze after a hot spell. Just let the blood run. It soothes me.”

After the wound was bandaged, the stranger looked happy and contented. He was a changed man. He gratefully pressed the doctor`s hand with his own left hand.

“I am very grateful to you, indeed.”

The surgeon visited the patient at his hotel for several days after the operation and learned to respect the man, who occupied a high position in the county. He was learned and cultured, and was a member of one of the best families in the land.

After the wound was completely healed the stranger returned to his country home.

Tormenting pain

Three weeks later the patient again appeared at the surgeon s office. His hand was again in a sling and he complained of the same tormenting pain in the very spot where it hurt him before the operation.

His face looked like wax, and cold perspiration glistened on his brow. He sank into an armchair, and without saying a word held out his right hand for the doctor to look at.

“Good Lord, what has happened?”

“You didn`t cut it deep enough,” he groaned. “The pain returned; it is even worse than before. I am almost done for. I did not want to trouble you again, so I just bore it, but I can`t bear it any longer. You must operate again.”

The surgeon examined the spot. The place where he had operated was quite healed, and covered with fresh skin. Not one of the veins seemed disturbed, the pulse was normal. There was no fever, yet the man was trembling in every limb.

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