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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Open Sesame
By Anne Charlotte Edgren-Leffler (1849–1892)
 
Translation of William Henry Carpenter

“IT was once upon a time”—so the fairy stories begin.  1
  At that particular time there was a government clerk, not precisely young, and a little moth-eaten in appearance, who was on his way home from the office the day after his wedding.  2
  On the wedding day itself he had also sat in the office and written until three o’clock. After this he had gone out, and as usual eaten his frugal midday meal at an unpretending restaurant in a narrow street, and then had gone home to his upper chamber in an old house in the Österlånggata, in order to get his somewhat worn dress coat, which had done good and faithful service for twelve years. He had speculated a good deal about buying a new coat for his wedding day, but had at last arrived at the conclusion that, all in all, it would be a superfluous luxury.  3
  The bride was a telegraph operator, somewhat weakly, and nervous from labor and want, and of rather an unattractive exterior. The wedding took place in all quietness at the house of the bride’s old unmarried aunt, who lived in Söder. The bride had on a black-silk dress, and the newly married pair drove home in a droschke.  4
  So the wedding day had passed, but now it was the day after. From ten o’clock on he had sat in his office, just as on all other days. Now he was on the way home—his own home!  5
  That was a strange feeling; indeed, it was such an overpowering feeling that he stood still many times on the way and fell into a brown study.  6
  A memory of childhood came into his mind.  7
  He saw himself as a little boy, sitting at his father’s desk in the little parsonage, reading fairy tales. How many times had he read, again and again, his favorite story out of the Arabian Nights of ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves!’ How his heart had beaten in longing suspense, when he stood with the hero of the story outside the closed door of the mountain and called, first gently and a little anxiously, afterwards loudly and boldly: “Sesame, Sesame! Open Sesame!”  8
  And when the mountain opened its door, what splendor! The poor room of the parsonage was transformed into the rich treasure chamber of the mountain, and round about on the walls gleamed the most splendid jewels. There were, besides horses and carriages, beautifully rigged ships, weapons, armor—all the best that a child’s fantasy could dream. His old father looked in astonishment at his youngest child, it was so long since he himself had been a child, and all the others were already grown up. He did not understand him, but asked him half reprovingly what he was thinking about, that his eyes glistened so.  9
  Thus he also came to think about his youth, about his student years at Upsala. He was a poet, a singer; he had the name of being greatly gifted, and stood high in his comrades’ estimation. What if any one had told him at that time that he should end as a petty government clerk, be married to a telegraph operator, and live in the Repslagaregata in Söder! Bah! Life had a thousand possibilities. The future’s perspective was illimitable. Nothing was impossible. No honor was so great that he could not attain it; no woman so beautiful that he could not win her. What did it signify that he was poor, that he was only named Andersson, and that he was the eighth child of a poor parson, who himself was peasant-born? Had not most of the nation’s gifted men sprung from the ranks of the people? Yes, his endowments, they were the magic charm, the “Open Sesame!” which were to admit him to all the splendors of life.  10
  As to how things, later on, had gone with him, he did not allow himself to think. Either his endowments had not been as great as he had believed, or the difficulties of living had stifled them, or fortune had not been with him: enough, it had happened to him as to Ali Baba’s wicked brother Casim, who stood inside the mountain only to find out to his horror that he had forgotten the magic charm, and in the anguish of death beat about in his memory to recall it. That was a cruel time—but it was not worth while now to think about it longer.  11
  Rapidly one thought followed upon another in his mind. Now he came to think upon the crown princess, who had made a royal entrance into the capital just at this time. He had received permission to accompany his superiors and stand in the festal pavilion when she landed. That was a glorious moment. The poet’s gifts of his youth were not far from awakening again in the exaltation of the moment; and had he still been the young applauding poet of earlier days, instead of the neglected government clerk, he would probably have written a festal poem and sent it to the Post.  12
  For it was fine to be the Princess Victoria at that moment. It was one of the occasions that life has not many of. To be nineteen years old, newly married to a young husband, loved and loving, and to make a ceremonious entry into one’s future capital, which is in festal array and lies fabulously beautiful in the autumn sun, to be greeted with shouts of joy by countless masses of men, and to be so inexperienced in life that one has no presentiment of the shadows which hide themselves back of this bright picture—yes, that might indeed be an unforgettable moment; one of those that only fall to the lot of few mortals, so that they seem to belong more to the world of fable than to reality! Had the magic charm, “Open Sesame!” conjured up anything more beautiful?  13
  And yet! yet!—The government clerk had neared his home and stood in front of his own door. No, the crown prince was surely not happier when he led his bride into his rejoicing capital, than was he at this moment. He had found again the long-lost magic charm. The little knob there on the door—that was his “Open Sesame!” He needed only to press upon it, when the mountain would again open its treasures to him—not weapons and gleaming armor as in his childhood—not honors and homage and social position as in his youth—no, something better than all these. Something that forms the kernel itself of all human happiness, upon the heights of life as well as in its most concealed hiding-places—a heart that only beat for him, his own home, where there was one who longed for him—a wife! Yes, a wife whom he loved, not with the first passion of youth, but with the tenderness and faithfulness of manhood.  14
  He stood outside his own door; he was tired and hungry, and his wife waited for him at the midday meal; that was, to be sure, commonplace and unimportant—and yet it was so wonderfully new and attractive.  15
  Gently, cautiously as a child who had been given a new plaything, he pressed upon the little knob on the door—and then he stood still with restrained breath and listened for the light quick step that approached.  16
  It was just as though in his childhood he stood outside the mountain and called, first gently and half in fear, and then loudly and with a voice trembling with glad expectation, “Sesame, Sesame! Open Sesame!”  17
 
 
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