The Lion of Janina
by Mor Jokai
THE LION OF JANINA OR THE LAST DAYS OF THE JANISSARIES
A Turkish Novel
TRANSLATED BY R. NISBET BAIN
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON 1898
NEW YORK AND LONDON.
Copyright, 1897, by Harper & Brothers.
All rights reserved.
THE LION OF JANINA
CHAPTER I. THE
CHAPTER III. A
CHAPTER V. A MAN
IN THE MIDST OF
CHAPTER VI. THE
LION IN THE
CHAPTER VII. THE
THE PEN OF
CHAPTER IX. THE
CHAPTER X. THE
CHAPTER XI. THE
FLOWERS OF THE
CHAPTER XII. THE
CHAPTER XIII. A
BALL IN THE
FRONT OF THE
The first edition of Janicsárok végnapjai appeared forty-five
years ago. It was immediately preceded by the great historical romance,
Erdely aranykora (The Golden Age of Transylvania), and the
still more famous novel of manners, Egy Magyar Nábob (A
Hungarian Nabob), which Hungarians regard as, indisputably, Jókai's
masterpiece, while only a few months separate it from Kárpáthy
Zoltán (Sultan Karpathy), the brilliant sequel to the
Nabob. Thus it belongs to the author's best literary period.
It is also one of the most striking specimens of that peculiar group
of Turkish stories, such as Törökvilag Magyarorszagon (Turkey
in Hungary) and Török mozgolmak (Turkish Incursions),
A kétszarvú ember (The Man with the Antlers), and the
extremely popular Fehér rózsa (White Rose), which form a
genre apart of Jókai's own creation, in which his exuberant imagination
revels in the rich colors of the gorgeous East, as in its proper
element, while his ever alert humor makes the most of the sharp and
strange contrasts of Oriental life and society. The hero of the strange
and terrible drama, or, rather, series of dramas, unfolded with such
spirit, skill, and vividness in Janicsárok végnapjai, is Ali
Pasha of Janina, certainly one of the most brilliant, picturesque, and,
it must be added, capable ruffians that even Turkish history can
produce. Manifold and monstrous as were Ali's crimes, his astonishing
ability and splendid courage lend a sort of savage sublimity even to
his blood-stained career, and, indeed, the dogged valor with which the
octogenarian warrior defended himself at the last in his stronghold
against the whole might of the Ottoman Empire is almost without a
parallel in history.
With such a hero, it is evident that the book must abound in
stirring and even tremendous scenes; but, though primarily a novel of
incident, it contains not a few fine studies of Oriental character,
both Turkish and Greek, by an absolutely impartial observer, who can
detect the worth of the Osmanli in the midst of his apathy and
brutality, and who, although sympathetically inclined towards the
Hellenes, is by no means blind to their craft and double-dealing,
happily satirized in the comic character of Leonidas Argyrocantharides.
Finally, I have taken the liberty to alter the title of the story.
Janicsárok végnapjai (The Last Days of the Janissaries) is
too glaringly inapt to pass muster, inasmuch as the rebellion and
annihilation of that dangerous corps is a mere inessential episode at
the end of the story. I have, therefore, given the place of honor on
the title-page to Ali Pashathe Lion of Janina.
I have added a glossary of the Turkish words used by the author in
R. NISBET BAIN.
The Lion of Janina
CHAPTER I. THE CAVERNS OF SELEUCIA
A savage, barren, inhospitable region lies before us, the cavernous
valley of Seleuciaa veritable home for an anchorite, for there is
nothing therein to remind one of the living world; the whole district
resembles a vast ruined tomb, with its base overgrown by green weeds.
Here is everything which begets gloomthe blackest religious
fanaticism, the darkest monstrosities of superstitionwhile an eternal
malediction seems to brood like a heavy mist over this region, created
surely by God's left hand, scattering abroad gigantic rocky fragments,
smiting the earth with unfruitfulness, and making it uninhabitable by
the children of men.
Man rarely visits these parts. And, indeed, why should he come, or
what should he seek there? There is absolutely nothing in the whole
region that is dear to the heart of man. Even the wild beast makes no
abiding lair for himself in that valley. Only now and then, in the
burning days of summer, a lion of the wilderness, flying from before
the sultry heat, may, perchance, come there to devour his captured
prey, and then, when he is well gorged, pursue his way, wrangling as he
goes with the echo of his own roar.
Solitary travellers of an enterprising turn of mind do occasionally
visit this dreary wilderness; but so crushing an impression does it
make on all who have the courage to gaze upon it, that they scarce wait
to explore the historic ground, but hasten from it as fast as their
legs can carry them.
What is there to see there, after all? A battered-down wall, as to
which none can say who built it, or why it was built, or who destroyed
it. A tall stone column, the column of the worthy Simon Stylites, who
piled it up, stone upon stone, year after year, with his own hands,
being wont to sit there for days together with arms extended in the
shape of a cross, bowing himself thousands and thousands of times a day
till his head touched his feet. The northern and southern sides of the
valley are cut off from the rest of the world by gigantic masses of
rocks as steep and solid as the bastions of a fortress; only towards
their summit, at an elevation of some three to four hundred yards, is a
little strip of green vegetation visible.
Darkly visible at intervals in this long and steep rocky wall are
the mouths of a series of caverns, of various sizes, all close
together. It looks as if some monstrous antediluvian race had cut two
or three stories of doors and windows into the living rock, in order to
make themselves palaces to dwell in.
The walls of these caverns are so rugged, their bases are so
irregular, that it is scarcely conceivable that they could be the work
of human hands, unless, indeed, the arched concavities of the chasms
and the regular consecutiveness of the series may be assumed to bear
witness to the wonder-working power of finite forces.
Three of the entrances to these caverns have all the loftiness of
triumphal arches; nay, one of them, carved in the base of the rock, is
so exceptionally vast that it rather resembles the nave of a huge
church, and is said to penetrate the whole mountain to the sea beyond.
It is said that if any one has the courage to attempt the journey, he
will discover mysterious hieroglyphics carved on the walls. Who could
have been the authors of this unknown runic language? The Chaldeans
perhaps, or the worshippers of Mithra. What hidden secrets, what human
memorials are enshrined in these symbols? That question must remain
forever without an answer.
Most probably this valley was used as a burial-place by some
long-vanished nation, whose tombs have survived them, making the whole
region still more dreadful; the gaping crevices of the rocks seem to
proclaim, as from a hundred open throats, that here an extinct race has
found its last resting-place.
Moreover, the largest cavern of all has the unusual property of
sometimes emitting whistling sounds like interrupted human voices. The
shepherds on the mountain summits listen terror-stricken to this
bellowing of its rocky throat. At first it resembles the buzzing of
imprisoned wasps, but the din gradually gathers force and volume till
it seems as if the demons of the wind had lost their way within the
cavern, and were roaring tumultuously in their endeavors to find an
exit. This noise is generally followed by the blast of the simoon,
which no doubt penetrates into the cavern through a gap on the other
side, and thus gives rise to the mysterious voices of the valley.
But not on these occasions only; at other seasons also the cavern is
wont to speak. It happens now and then that a shepherd, more foolhardy
than his fellows, ventures into the hollow of the cavern to light a
fire, and, full of bravado, provokes the dzhin of the cavern to
appear, till the cavern suddenly re-echoes his voice; but it does not
re-echo the words he utters, but replies in a soft, low accent to the
insolent youth, bidding him withdraw and cease to mock God's creatures.
On another occasion an adulterous woman and her paramour strolled
towards the spot with the intent of using the deep darkness as the
cloak for their sinful joys; but what terror filled the guilty lovers
when their sweet whispering was interrupted by a voice which was
neither near nor far, and belonged neither to man nor spirit, but whose
cold sigh turned their hot blood into ice as it whispered, Allah is
Once, too, some robbers were lying in wait for their comrades, whom
they intended to murder in that place, when a roaring began in the cave
which seemed to make the very welkin ring, and the murderers clearly
distinguished the terrible words: The eye of Allah is upon you, and
the flames of Morhut are burning for your souls! whereupon, insane
with fright, they rushed from the cave.
Every one who lived near the place knew of, and believed in, the
dzhin of the cavern, who, they said, harmed not the good, but
But it was not only terror-stricken hearts who knew of the voice of
the invisible dzhincrushed and bleeding hearts likewise
repaired thither. And the invisible dzhin read their secrets;
they had no need to acquaint him with their griefs, and he gave them
good counsel, and, for the most part, sent them away comforted.
Doubtless anybody else might have given them similar counsels; but if
the advice had come from ordinary men, the suppliants would not perhaps
have welcomed it with such enthusiasm, or have turned it to such good
And people often came thither to inquire into the future; and the
invisible being, it was found, could distinguish between those who came
to him in real anguish of mind and those whom only curiosity had
attracted thither, or who merely wished to prove him. To the latter he
made no answer, but to the former he often spoke in prophetic parables,
whose deeply figurative meaning was frequently fulfilled word for word.
The superstitious common folk made a merit of sacrificing to this
unknown being. The dwellers round about made a point of living on good
terms with him, took care not to provoke him with vain words, did not
fly to him at every trifle; nay, on one occasion, the Kadi of
Seleucia even laid by the heels a couple of wanton rascals who were
caught throwing stones into the cavern.
[Footnote 1: For this and all other Turkish words see the glossary
at the end of this book.]
From the mouth of the cave inward extended a sort of staircase
consisting of about forty steps, terminating at a point whither the
light of day scarcely ever reached. Here stood a huge stone, not unlike
a rude altar, in the midst of which was a slight hollow. This hollow
the pious inhabitants of the district used to fill with rice or millet,
and on returning next day they would see that the dzhin had
removed it from thence, and, by way of payment, had left a small silver
coin in this natural basina coin belonging to that old silver money
which had been struck in the brilliant days of the Turkish Empire, and
was worth thrice as much as the present coinage. Thus the dzhin
would take nothing gratis, but paid for everything in ready money.
Those who wished to speak with him had to penetrate into the depths
of the cave where no daylight was visible, for he was only to be found
where the darkness was complete. If any one went with sword or dagger
he got no answer at all. And a visitor standing alone there in the
darkness was as plainly visible to the dzhin as if the glare of
noonday were beating full upon him; not a change of countenance was
hidden from this mysterious being. So they more readily believed that
he who could thus see through the darkness of earth could also see
through the darkness of human hearts and the darkness of the unrevealed
This marvel had now been notorious for fifty years, the ordinary
span of human life, and princes, pashas, generals, wise men, priests,
ulemas, were in the habit of visiting the abode of the dzhin,
who seemed to know about everything that was going on in the world
above. To many he prophesied death, and to those who pleased him not he
foretold the Nemesis that was to come upon them as a reward for their
* * * * *
In the year one thousand eight hundred and nineteen, at the season
immediately following the raging of the simoon, it chanced that a
pirate ship sailed into the haven of Suda, whence the magnificent ruins
of the ancient Seleucia are still to be seen. The corsair carried the
French flag, but her crew consisted entirely of Albanians. The deck was
encumbered with wreckage, cast down upon it by the happily weathered
tempest, and this the crew were energetically engaged in removing; but
every one on shore was astounded to see her there at all, much more in
such trim condition, for she had lost neither mast nor sail. But then,
after the manner of corsairs in general, she was very much better
equipped with both masts and sails than ships of ordinary tonnage are
wont to be. In the same hour that the ship cast anchor the largest of
her boats was lowered, and manned by four and twenty well-armed
Trinariots. Every one of these stout fellows carried orders of merit on
his cheek, the scars of many a battle, which accentuated the savage
sternness of their weather-beaten faces.
A little old man descended after them into the boat; presently his
horse was also let down by means of a crane. This was the officer in
command. He was a middling-sized but very muscular old fellow, already
beyond his seventieth and not very far from his eightieth year; but he
was as vigorous now both in mind and body as he had been when his
beard, which now swept across his breast like the wing of a swan, was
as dark as the raven's plume.
His broad shoulders spoke of extraordinary strength, while the firm
expression of his face, the flashing lustre of his eyes, and his calm
and valiant look, testified to the fact that this strength was
squandered upon no coward soul.
Some stout rowing brought the boat at last near to the shore, but
not all the efforts of the men could bring her to land; the wash of the
sea was so great that the foam-crested waves again and again drove the
boat back from the shore.
At a sign from the old man three of the ship's crew leaped into the
waves in order to drag after them the boat's hawser, but the sea tore
it out of the hands of all three as easily as a wild bull would toss a
pack of children.
Then the old man vaulted upon his steed, kicking the stirrups aside,
and leaped among the churning waves. Twice the horse was jostled back
by the assault of the foaming billows, but at the third attempt the
shore was reached. The people on the shore said it was a miracle; but
he, wasting no words upon any one, directed his way all alone along the
shore of the haven, and leaving behind him the lofty turreted row of
bastionswhich crowns the edge of the rocky promontory, encircles the
town, and hangs upon the shoulders of the hill like an ancient and
gigantic necklacepicked his way among the lofty, scattered bowlders,
and, unescorted as he was, quickly disappeared from view amid the
He had scarcely proceeded more than half an hour among the fig and
olive trees which covered the slopes of the hills, and whose scorched
and withered leaves marked the passage of the burning wind, when he
arrived at the place he sought. It was a crazy, tumble-down hut, whose
shapeless mass was so clumsily compounded of wood, stone, and mud, that
a swallow would have been ashamed to own it, let alone a beaver, whose
ordinary habitation is an architectural masterpiece compared with it.
Nature, however, had been gracious to this shanty, and clothed it with
creeping plants, which nearly hid away all the superfluous cracks and
crevices which the architect had left behind him.
It was here that the new-comer dismounted from his horse, tied it to
a tree, and, proceeding to the latchless door, amused himself by
reading the scrawl which had been written on the outside of it, and
was, as usual, one of those sacred texts which the Turks love to see
over their door-posts: Accursed be he who disturbs a singing-bird!
The stranger fell a listening. Surely there was no singing-bird
here, he thought. Then he went on reading what followed: He who knocks
at the gate of him who prays will knock in vain at the gate of
The stranger did not take the trouble to knock; he simply kicked the
Within was kneeling an anchorite of the order of Erdbuhár on a piece
of matting. He was naked to the girdle, and before him stood a wooden
tub full of fresh water. He was just finishing his ablutions.
He did not seem to observe the violent inroad of the stranger, but
concluded his religious exercises with great fervor. First of all he
washed his hands, reciting thirty times the sacred words, Blessed be
God, Who hath given to water its purifying power, and hath revealed the
true faith to us! Next he thrice conveyed water to his mouth in his
right palm, and prayed, O Lord! O Allah! refresh me with the water
Thou didst give to Thy Prophet Muhammad in Paradise, which is more
fragrant than balm, whiter than milk, and sweeter than honey, and
satisfies eternally those who pine with thirst! Then, with the palm of
his hand, he cast water upon his nostrils, and exclaimed, fervently, O
Lord! cause me to smell the perfume of Paradise, which is sweeter than
musk and ambergris, and suffer me not to inhale the accursed fumes of
hell! Then, filling both palms with water and well washing his face,
he said these words, Purify my face, O Lord, like as Thou wilt purify
the faces of Thy prophets and servants on the great Day of Judgment!
But even this did not suffice, for now he put water in his right palm
again, and, letting it run down his elbows, he sighed, Lord, suffer me
at the last day to hold in my right hand, which is the hand of Thine
elect, the book of my good deeds, and admit me to Thy Paradise! With
that he dipped his head into the tub of water, but so as to keep his
mouth clear of it, and spake in this wise, O Lord, when I appear
before Thee, encompass me with Thy mercies, and crush not my head
beneath the fiery wreath of my sins, but adorn it with the golden crown
of my merits! Then came the turn of his ears, the worthy man crying
the while, with unction, Grant, O Lord, that mine ears may hear, for
ever and ever, those joyous sounds which are written in the Kuran!
This accomplished, he sprinkled his neck and throat, suitably
exclaiming, O Lord, deliver me from those fetters which will be cast
upon the necks of the accursed! After which pious ejaculation he sat
down on the ground, and, reverently washing his right foot, exclaimed,
O Lord, suffer not my feet to slip on the bridge of Alserat which
leads across hell to heaven! Then he cleansed thoroughly his left foot
also, and sighed, May the Lord forgive me my trespasses and listen to
And the honest dervish did not utter all these pious ejaculations in
a low mumble, but in an intelligible, exalted voice, as becomes an
orthodox Mussulman, who does not consider it a shameful thing to pray
to God in the presence of men.
After that he took up the tub and, carrying it out, sprinkled the
water it contained over the wild flowers growing there, blessing them
severally and collectively; then he filled it full again with fresh
water from the spring, and bringing it back into the hut and turning
the mat over, placed the tub full of water on it, whereupon the
stranger immediately divested himself of his slippers and upper kaftan,
unwound his turban, removed his red fez from his head, and proceeded to
perform his ablutions also in the self-same manner.
When he had finished he kissed the hand of the dervish, and when the
latter drew from his girdle a long manuscript reaching to the very
ground, and began, from its eighty sections, to laud and magnify the
eighty properties of Allah, the stranger repeated them after him with
great unction, and, at the end of each one of them, intoned with him
twice over the verse, La illah, il Allah, Muhammad roszul Allah!in
the chanting of which he was as practised as any muezzin.
All these pious practices were accomplished with the utmost
devotion; but when the new-comer arose from his place, the expression
of lowliness vanished from his features and he reassumed his former
commanding look, while the dervish now humbly bowed down before him to
the very earth and murmured:
What are my lord's commands to his servant?
The stranger let him lie there and slowly raised his sword.
Art thou, cried he, that dervish of Erdbuhár to whom I
despatched a fakir of the Nimetullahitas, who dwelleth in Janina?
[Footnote 2: The orders of Erdbuhár and Nimetullahita are the
severest of all the Turkish religious fraternities: the former fast so
rigorously twice a week that they do not even swallow their saliva; the
latter observe the fast only during their year of probation, after
which they are free to return to the joys of this world.]
Thy servant is that man.
The stranger thereupon, with his right hand, drew a dagger from his
girdle, and with his left hand a purse.
Dost thou see this dagger and this purse? said he. In the purse
are a thousand sequins; on the blade of this sword is the blood of at
least as many murdered men. I ask thee notDost thou recognize me? or
dost thou know my name? Maybe thou dost knowfor thou knowest all
thingsand, if so, thou dost also know that none hath ever betrayed me
on whom I have not wreaked my vengeance. If, therefore, thou dost want
a reward, listen; but if chastisement, speak!
The dervish raised his hand to his ear to signify that he would
prefer to listen.
Arise, then! take my horse's bridle, and lead me to that cavern
where dwelleth the dzhin of prophecy. Dost thou know him?
I know him, my master, but go to him I will not, for he is wroth
with me. He loves not the dervishes, because they would always be
teaching. If I go to him he throws stones at me from out of the cavern,
or leads me into deep pitfalls. Therefore, if thou so desire it, I will
lead thee thither; but I would not go with thee if I had as many heads
upon my shoulders for thy sword to sever as there are sequins in that
There is no need of that. Thou canst remain outside and hold my
And with that the herculean old man flung himself haughtily on his
horse, and the dervish, seizing the steed's bridle, began to lead him
along the mountain path among the rugged rocks and bowlders.
The moon was already high in the heavens when they reached the mouth
of the cavern.
Looking back upon the country whence they came, the region seemed
more desolate than ever. In front, the savage, natural ruins; behind,
the black cedar forests, where thick foliage cast night-black shadows
even at noonday; on each side, the endlessly sublime masses of rocks,
which stood out still vaster in the moonlight. The caverns looked still
blacker at night, and the rock and ruins more sterile; but, night and
day alike, the place was deserted.
On reaching the cavern of the dzhin, the old man dismounted
from his horse and, bidding the dervish stand and hold it till he
returned, disappeared in the cavern without the slightest hesitation.
He could only grope his way, step by step, through the blinding
darkness; cautiously he advanced, but without fear. He tested the
ground in front of him as he advanced, with one hand over his eyes and
the other on the hilt of his sword. It must, indeed, be a resolutely
wicked spirit that would venture to attack him.
Every now and then a bat sped rapidly past him, close to his ears,
with a sound like a mocking titter; at other times he trod upon some
cold, moving body. But what cared he for these? The deep silence which
encircled him was far more terrible than all the voices of hell; and
not even the darkness terrified him, for his powerful voice now pierced
that subterranean stillness as with a sword.
I summon thee, thou spirit, whether thou art good or evil, whom
Allah permits to hold discourse with living menI summon thee to speak
I am even now beside thee, a voice suddenly whispered. It was low
and hollow, just as if the atmosphere of the cavern were speaking.
The stranger made a clutch after the voice, as if his audacious hand
would have seized the spirit; but he found nothing. It was a voice
without a shape.
Speak to me! cried the old man, in a voice that never quavered.
Dost thou know my fate?
I know it, answered the invisible voice; thou art a poor man who
hast lost what thou hadst, and what thou now hast is not thine.
Thou art a senseless spirit, growled the stranger. Go back to thy
tomb and slumber; I will inquire nothing more of thee. Thou dost not
even know my present fate; how canst thou know my future? Go back to
thy hole, I say, and sleep in peace.
I know thee, continued the voice, and I have spoken the truth. Do
not they call thee Ali Tepelenti?
The stranger was amazed. That is indeed my name, he answered.
Wert thou not a fugitive yesterday, and wilt thou not be dust and
True; but that yesterday was eighty years ago; and who shall say
when to-morrow will be?
Thou knowest that here there is neither morning nor evening,
answered the voice. To me yesterday was when I last saw the sun, and
to-morrow will be when I see it again. Ali Tepelenti, Lord of Janina,
thou art poorer than the lowliest Mussulman who girds himself with a
girdle of hair, for thou hast lost everything which thou didst account
precious. Thy kinsmen, who were for thy defence, thou hast slain; thy
mother, who loved thee, thou hast strangled; thy right hand has pulled
down the house which thou didst build up; thy glory, in which thou
didst exalt thyself, has become a curse to thee; and thou hast made
bitter haters of those who loved thee best.
So it is. I know what I have done. I repent me of nothing. The hare
nibbles the flower, the vulture seizes the hare, the hunter slays the
vulture, the lion fells the hunter, the worm devours the lion. All of
us turn to earth. Allah is mighty, and He orders it so. What am I? Only
a bigger worm than the rest. Who shall strive with God? What is my fate
in the future?
But yesterday thou wert younger than thy newborn son, to-morrow
thou shalt die older than thy oldest ancestors.
Speak more plainly. I perceive the meaning of thy words as little
as I perceive thyself.
'He who sins with the sword shall perish with the sword,' saith
Allah. He who sins with love, shall perish by love. Thou hast two
hands, the right and the left; thou hast two swords, one covered with
gold and one with silver; thou hast three hundred wives in thy harem,
but only one in thy heart; thou hast twelve sons, but only one whom
thou lovest. Look, now! Take good heed of thy life, for thy death lieth
in what is nearest to thee; thine own weapon, thine own child, thine
own property, thine own two hands, shall one day slay thee.
Mashallah! Death is inevitable. Tell me but one thing. Shall I one
day pass in triumph through the gates of the seraglio at Stambul?
Thou shalt. Thou shalt stand there on a silver pedestal in the face
of the rejoicing multitude.
That day will come when thou shalt be in two places at the same
time, in Janina and in Stambul; the days to come will explain it.
One word more. Wherefore didst thou mention that woman whom I love
She will be the first to betray thee.
Accursed one! roared Ali, drawing his sword and madly striking in
the direction of the voice.
The sword hissed fiercely through the vacant air, and the next
moment the voice replied from a respectable distance:
It has happened already.
This is a dream, all a dream! moaned Ali.
'Tis no dream; thou art wide awake, cried the mysterious voice.
If it be no dream, give me a sign that I may know before I depart
hence that I have not been dreaming.
First put thy sword into its sheath.
I have done so, said Ali; but he lied, for he had only slipped it
into his girdle.
Into the sheath, I say, cried the voice.
It was with a tremor that Ali felt that this being could distinguish
his slightest movement in the dark.
And now stretch forth thy hand! cried the voice. It was now quite
close to him.
Ali stretched forth his hand, and the same instant he felt a
vigorous, manly hand seize his own in a grasp of steel; so strong, so
cruel was the pressure that the blood started from the tips of his
At last the invisible being let go, and said in a whisper as it did
Not a muscle of thy face moved under the pressure of my hand; only
Tepelenti could so have endured.
And there is but one man living who could press my hand like that,
replied Ali. His name was Behram, the son of Halil Patrona, who,
forty years ago, was my companion in warfare, and has since
disappeared. Who art thou?
[Footnote 3: The extraordinary adventures of this Mussulman reformer
are recorded in another of Jókai's Turkish stories, A feher rózsa
(The White Rose).]
Aleikum unallah! said the voice, instead of replying.
[Footnote 4: God be with thee!]
Who art thou? again cried Ali, advancing a step.
Aleikum unallah! was the parting salutation of the already
The mighty pasha turned back in a reverie, and when he got back into
the moonlight, he still saw plainly on his hand the drops of blood
which that powerful grasp had caused to leap forth from the tips of his
CHAPTER II. EMINAH
And now for a story, a marvellous story, that would not be out of
place in a fairy tale! Away to another clime where the very sunbeams
and blossoms, where the very beating of loving hearts, differ from what
we are accustomed to.
* * * * *
In whichever direction we look around us, we shall see the land of
the gods rising up before us in classical sublimity, the mountains of
Hellas, the triumphal home of sun-bright heroes. There is the mountain
whence Zeus cast forth his thunderbolts, the grove where the thorns of
roses scratched the tender feet of Aphrodite, and perchance a whole
olive grove sprung from the tree into which the nymph, favored and
pursued by Apollo, was metamorphosed. The sunlit summits of snowy OEta
and Ossa still sparkle there when the declining sun kindles his beacons
upon them, and Olympus still has its thunderbolts; yet it is no longer
Zeus who casts them, but Ali Tepelenti, Pasha of Albania and master of
half the Turkish Empire, and the rose which the blood of Venus dyed
crimson blooms for him, and the laurel sprung from the love of Apollo
puts forth her green garlands for him also.
The poetic figures of the bright gods are seen no more on the quiet
mountain. With a long gun over his shoulder, a palikár walks hither and
thither, who has built his hut in a lurking-place where Ali Pasha will
not find it. The high porticos lie level with the ground; the paths of
Leonidas and Themistocles are covered with sentry-boxes, that none may
pass that way.
From the summit of the mighty Lithanizza you can look down upon the
fairy-like city which dominates Albania. It is Janina, the historically
Beside it stands the lake of Acheruz, in whose green mirror the city
can regard itself; there it is in duplicate. It is as deep as it is
high. The golden half-moons of the minarets sparkle in the lake and in
the sky at the same time. The roofless white houses, rising one above
another, seem melted into a compact mass, and they are encircled by red
bastions, with exits out of eight gates.
But what have we to do with the minarets, the bazaars, the kiosks of
the city? Beyond the city, where Cocytus, rippling down from the wooded
mountain, forms, with the lake into which it flows, a peninsula, there,
on an isthmus, stands the strong fortress of Ali Pasha, with vast,
massive bastions, a heavy, iron-plated drawbridge, and a ditch in front
of the walls full of solid sharp-pointed stakes in two fathoms of
water. From the summits of the ramparts the throats of a hundred
cannons gape down upon the towniron dogs, whose barking can be heard
four miles off. On the walls an innumerable multitude of armed men keep
watch, and in front of the gate the guns look out upon each other from
the port-holes of the steep bastions on both sides of it. Woe to those
who should attempt to make their way into the citadel by force! The
gate, fastened with a huge chain, is defended by three heavy iron
gratings, and from close beneath the lofty projecting roof circular
pieces of artillery shine forth, in front of which are pyramidal stacks
The court-yard forms a huge crescent, in which nothing is visible
but instruments of warfare, engines of destruction. In the lower part
of the semicircular barracks stand the sentry-boxes, while in the
opposite semicircle a long pavilion cuts the fortress in two, extending
from the end of one semicircle to the end of the other, and here are
three gates, which lead into the heart of the fortress.
In all this long building there are no windows above the court-yard,
only two rows of narrow embrasures are visible therein. All the windows
are on the other side overlooking the garden, and there dwell the
odalisks of Ali Pasha's three sons. The three sons, Omar, Almuhán, and
Zaid, inhabit the building with the three gates. The back of this
building looks out upon the garden, in which the harems of the pasha's
sons are wont to disport themselves.
Here again a long bastion barricades the garden, a bastion also
protected by trenches full of water, across whose iron bridge you gain
admission into the pasha's inmost fortress.
And what is that like? Nobody can tell. The brass gates, covered
with silver arabesques, seem to be eternally closed, and none ever
comes in or goes out save Ali and his dumb eunuchs, and those captives
whose heads alone are sent back again. The bastion surrounding this
central fortress is so high that you cannot look into it from the top
of the citadel outside; but if any one could peep down upon it from the
summit of the lofty Lithanizza he would perceive inside it a fairy
palace, with walls of colored marble protected by silver trellis-work,
with blue-painted, brazen cupolas, with golden half-moons on their
pointed spires. One tower there, the largest of all, has a roof of red
cast-iron, and this one roof stands out prominently from among all the
other buildings of the inner fortress. The colored kiosks are
everywhere wreathed with garlands of flowers, and the spectator perched
aloft would plainly discern cradles for growing vines on the top of the
bastion. He might also, in the dusk of the summer evenings, distinguish
seductive shapes bathing in the basins of the fountains, and lose his
reason while he gazed; or it might chance (which is much more likely)
that Ali Pasha's patrols might come upon him unawares and cast him down
from the mountain-top.
This wondrous retreat was Ali's paradise. Here he grouped together
the most beautiful flowers of the round worldflowers sprung from the
earth or from a human mother. For maidens also are flowers, and may be
plucked and enjoyed like other flowers. But the most beautiful among so
many beautiful flowers was Eminah, Tepelenti's favorite damsel, the
sixteen-years-old daughter of the Pasha of Delvino, who gave her to Ali
just as so many eminent Turks are wont to give their daughters. On the
day of their birth they promise to give them to some powerful magnate,
and by the time the fiancée is marriageable the fiancé
has already one foot in his grave.
A pale, blue-eyed flower was she, looking as if she had grown up
beneath the light of the moon instead of the light of the sun; her
shape, her figure, was so delicate that it reminded one of those sylphs
of the fairy world that fly without wings. Her voice was sweeter, more
tender, than the voices of the other damsels; and, wiser than they, she
could speak so that you felt rather than heard what she said. Ali loved
to toy with her light hair, unwind the long folds of her tresses, cover
his face with their silken richness, and fancy he was reposing in the
shades of paradise.
And the child loved the man. Ali was a handsome old fellow. His
beard was as glossy and as purely white as the wing of a swan; the
roses of his cheeks had not yet faded; when he smiled he was no longer
a tiger, but revealed a row of teeth even handsomer than her own. And,
in addition to that, he was valianta hero. Even in old men love is no
mere impotent desire when accompanied with all the vigorous passion of
And Eminah knew not that there were such beings as youths in the
world. Excepting her father and her husband, she had never seen a man,
and therefore fancied that other men also had just such white beards
and silvery eyelashes as they. Brought up from the days of her
childhood in the midst of a harem, among women and eunuchs, she had not
the remotest idea of the romantic visions which the hearts of love-sick
girls are wont to form from the contemplation of their ideals; to her
her husband was the most perfect man for whom a woman's heart had ever
beaten, and she clung to him as if he had been a supernatural being.
In her heart Eminah pictured Ali as one of those beneficent genii
who in the marvellous tales of the Arabs rise up from the bowels of the
earth and the depths of the sea, a hundred times greater than ordinary
men, ten times younger, and a thousand times more powerful, who are
wont to give talismanic rings to their earthly favorites, appearing
before them when they turn this ring in order to instantly gratify
their desires, their wishes; to transport them from place to place with
their huge muscular hands, to make them ride a cock-horse on their
middle fingers, play hide-and-seek with them in the thousand corners of
their vast palaces, watch over them when they sleep, overwhelm them
with heaps and heaps of gifts and treasures, and yet are gentle and
complacent in spite of their immense power. They need but take one step
to crush the towers and bastions of the mightiest fortress in the dust,
and yet they walk so warily as not even to graze the tiny ant they meet
upon their path. Why, once Ali had waded into the lake up to his waist
to rescue two amorously fluttering butterflies that had fallen into it!
Oh! Ali has such a sensitive soul that he weeps over the bird that has
accidentally beaten itself to death against the bars of its cage;
whenever he plucks a flower from its stalk he always raises it to his
lips to beg its pardon; and when they told him how at the siege of
Kilsura all the poor doves were burned, the tears sparkled in his eyes!
Eminah does not fully know the meaning of a siege; she only grieves
for the poor doves. How they would hover above the burning town in
white clusters amid the black smoke, and fall down into the fire below!
In reality the matter stood thus: Ali was besieging Kilsura, but
could not take it; the besiegers fought valiantly, and the natural
advantages of the place prevented him from drawing near enough to it.
So he signified to the inhabitants that he would make peace with them
and depart from their town, and desired them, in earnest of their
pacific intentions, to send him a number of white doves. The besieged
fell in with his proposal, and collecting together all the white doves
in the town they could lay they hands upon, sent them to Ali. He
immediately withdrew his siege artillery, with which he had already
wrought no small mischief, but at night, when every one was asleep, he
fastened fiery matches by long wires to the feet of the doves, and then
set them free. The natural instincts of the doves made them fly back to
their old homes, the familiar roofs where their nests were, and in a
moment the whole town was in flames, the doves themselves carrying the
combustible material from roof to roof and perishing themselves among
the falling houses.
Ali wept sore as he told to Eminah the story of the doves of
Kilsura; yes, Ali was certainly a sensitive soul!
The beautiful woman had everything that eye could covet or heart
desire. In her apartments were mirrors as high as the ceiling,
masterpieces of Venetian crystal, and the floor was covered with
Persian carpets embroidered with flowers. Blossoming flowers and
singing birds were in all her windows, and a hundred waiting-women were
at her beck and call. From morn to eve Joy and Pleasure were her
attendants, and each day presented her with a fresh delight, a fresh
Thirty rooms, opening one into another, each more magnificent than
the last, were hers, and hers alone. The eye that feasted on one
splendid object quickly forgot it in the contemplation of a still more
splendid marvel, and by the time it had taken them all in was eager to
begin again at the beginning.
But there was one thing which did not please Eminah. When one had
got to the end of all the thirty rooms, it was plain that they did not
end there, for then came a round brass door; and this door was always
closed against hernever was she able to go through it. Now this door
led into that huge tower with the red cast-iron roof, which could be
seen such a distance off.
The inquisitive woman very much wanted to know what was inside this
door through which she was never suffered to go, though Ali himself
used it frequently, always closing it most carefully behind him, and
wearing the key of it fastened to his bosom by a little cord.
Now and then she had asked Ali what was in this tower that she was
not allowed to see, and what he did when he remained there all night
alone? At such times Ali would reply that he went there to consort with
spirits who were teaching him how to find the stone of the wise, how to
become perpetually young, how to foresee the future, and make gold and
other marvelsall of which it was easy to make a woman believe who did
not even know that all men do not wear white beards.
After all such occasions Eminah, when she was alone again, would
conjure up before her all sorts of marvellous blue and green denizens
of fairyland appearing before Ali in the elements of air, fire, and
water, to teach him how to make gold. And Ali always proved to Eminah
that what he told her was no idle tale, for whenever he returned the
next day he was followed by a whole procession of dumb eunuchs carrying
baskets filled with gold and precious stones. Thus Ali not only knew
how to make gold, but also those things that are made of goldthat is
to say, coined money and filigreed ornaments, which he piled up before
her; and to Eminah it seemed a very nice thing, and quite natural that
if these peculiar spirits could manufacture gold from nothing, they
should also be able to make necklaces and bracelets out of smoke, as
Ali told her they did without any difficulty at all.
Now any one would have been curious to get to the bottom of such
mysteries, especially if they were close at hand; how much more, then,
a spoiled and pampered young woman, who frequently was not able to
sleep for the joy which the presents heaped upon her by Ali excited in
her breast. How much she would have loved to see these benevolent
spirits who had given her so much pleasure!
Frequently she implored Ali to take her with him when he went into
the red tower; but the pasha always tried to frighten her by saying
that these spirits were most cruel to strangers in general, and women
in particular, whom they would be ready to tear limb from limb, so that
Eminah always had to abandon her desire.
But when once a woman has made up her mind to do a thing, do it she
will, though a seven-headed dragon were to stand in the way; and if
fear is a great power in this world, curiosity is a still greater.
One evening Eminah accompanied Ali right up to the brass door, and
as he went in she dexterously thrust a little pebble between the door
and the threshold. Thus the door not being completely closed, the catch
of the lock, despite a double turn of the key, shot back again; so
instead of closing the door behind him, as Ali fondly imagined, he left
Eminah waited till the sound of her husband's footsteps had quite
ceased. Then she softly opened the door, and at first contented herself
with peeping in. Perceiving nothing to frighten her back, she ventured
right in, cautiously peering around at every step lest any angry spirit
should suddenly rise up before her.
Before her lay a long corridor, and she went right to the very end
of it. Then she came upon a spiral staircase, which was so dark that
she had to painfully grope her way along. A fatal curiosity goaded her
on in spite of the darkness, and presently she found herself in a
large, round room, dimly lit by a hanging lamp.
All round the walls of this room were arranged marble benches,
pitchers of water, funnels, and curious instruments of iron, leather,
and wood, of all shapes and sizes, looking all the more
incomprehensible in the semi-darkness. These were, no doubt, the
implements with which Ali was in the habit of making gold, thought
Eminah to herself, and, discovering a convenient niche at the head of
the staircase, she squeezed herself into it so that she could see
everything from thence without being seen herself.
A few moments afterwards the door at the opposite end of the room
opened, and Ali and twelve dumb eunuchs entered with torches. The room
was illuminated at once, the eunuchs thrusting the torches into large
iron sconces; one of them then proceeded to light the fire and pile up
various instruments around it; some sort of liquid also began bubbling
in a caldron. Ali meanwhile was sitting down on a camp-stool and
distributing his commands in a low voice. Now we shall see how Ali
makes gold, thought Eminah.
But now at a sign from Ali two of the eunuchs entered a trap-door,
and a few moments afterwards the rattling of chains was audible; the
trap-door opened again, and in came two old men, peculiar-looking
creatures, with long gray hair, closely cropped beards, and strange
garments, the like of which Eminah had never seen before.
Ah! no doubt these are the spirits which help Ali to make gold,
thought Eminah to herself. Well, at any rate, they are in chains, so I
need not be afraid of them. And, like the timid spectator of some
strange drama, she looked out from her hiding-place at the scene which
The two old men were led up to Ali, who, smiling and rubbing his
hands, stood up before them, and for a long time did not speak, but
only smiled. At last he gently stroked the face of the younger of the
Merchant of Naples, thou still dost not know, then, where thy
treasures lie hidden? said he, gently.
My lord, replied the other, with desperate obsequiousness, I have
given up everything that was mine. I am indeed a beggar.
Merchant of Naples! how canst thou say so? Let me refresh thy
memory! Thou didst go to Toulon with a full cargo of Indian goods, and
there sold it all. When we met together on thy return journey thou
didst offer me a thousand ducats, which I also took. But where is the
remainder? A profit of twelve thousand ducats appears entered in thy
Those books are false, my lord, said the merchant, in a tearful
voice. I made those totally fictitious entries simply to preserve my
Merchant of Naples, thou dost calumniate thyself. Thou dost want to
make me believe that thou art not an honest man. Forgive me if I
enliven thy memory a little.
With that he beckoned to the eunuchs, and they, undressing the
merchant, laid him on the torturing slab and tortured him for two
mortal hours. It would be too horrible to say what they did to him. Oh,
that curious woman amply atoned for her curiosity! She was obliged to
look upon tortures which made her limbs shake and shiver as if she were
in the grip of an ague. She covered her face, but the howls of the
tortured wretch penetrated to her very soul, and her sensitive nerves
suffered almost as much as if she had felt these torments herself.
Gradually, however, a curious sort of torpor seemed to stop the beating
of her heart; her limbs ceased to tremble, she opened her eyes and,
motionless as a statue, watched the hellish scene to the very end.
Ali was evidently a past-master in this horrible science. He himself
elaborately graduated the whole process, indicating briefly when and
how long the thumb-screws, the Spanish boot, the boiling oil, and the
water funnel were to be used. Last of all came the culminating torment.
They wrapped the merchant round in a raw buffalo-skin and laid him down
before the fiercely blazing fire. As the fire began to compress the raw
hide, and slowly press together the tortured limbs, the limit of the
poor wretch's endurance was reached, and he confessed that his
treasures were concealed in an iron chest, fastened by a chain to the
bottom of the ship.
Then they freed him from the torturing hide; in a state of collapse,
with foaming lips, a bleeding body and dislocated limbs, he flopped
down upon the cold marble.
Thou seest now, my dear, observed Ali, gently, what trouble thou
mightest have saved thyself and me also. Then he beckoned to the
eunuchs to remove the merchant.
So this was the way in which Ali made gold! A very simple sort of
And now it was the turn of the second man. And a haughty,
broad-shouldered fellow he was, who had regarded the torments of his
comrade without moving a muscle of his face.
Then thou wilt not tell me thy name, valorous warrior? inquired
I will tell thee thineDevil, Belial, Satan!
I thank thee! Thou dost me too much honor. But it is thy name I
should like to know. I suppose thou art some wealthy Venetian noble,
whose whereabouts his kinsmen are rather anxious to discover, and who
would not be ungrateful if any one sent thee back to them. For I value
thee very highly.
Know, then, that I am a rich noble, and that at home I have
a palace and treasures, but not a para of my property shalt thou ever
see, for I have taken poison. Dost thou not see the blue spots upon my
hand? Presently thou wilt see them on my face. In five minutes' time I
shall be dead.
And so indeed it fell out. The haughty noble died, while Ali,
furious with passion, cursed the Prophet.
And Eminah, from her hiding-place, looked intently upon Ali's face.
What must have been her thoughts at that moment?
The eunuchs removed the dead body, and Ali beckoned once more to
them, whereupon they brought in through the opposite doors a wondrously
beautiful damsel and a handsome youth. When the youth and the damsel
beheld each other the tears gushed from their eyes. They were lovers,
and lovers meet for each other.
Eminah now perceived with amazement that there were other kinds of
men besides those who wore gray beards. The captive youth, with his
frank and comely countenance and long black locks, so rejoiced her eyes
that she could not take them off him. She had never seen anything of
the sort before.
Ali approached the pair and smiled upon them both, and each of them
said to him, I curse thee!
He said to the youth, Renounce thy bride and thou shalt live! and
the youth replied, I curse thee!
He said to the damsel, Love me, be mine, and thy betrothed shall
live! and the girl replied, I curse thee!
And Eminah unconsciously murmured after them each time, I curse
thee! without knowing what she was saying.
Then Ali forced the youth down on his knees, and the eunuchs
stripped off his robe. One of them then seized him by his beautiful
long black hair, and raised him up into the air thereby, while the
other stood behind him with a large sharp sword.
Thy beloved shall die this instant, roared the infuriated Ali, if
thou dost not set him free! Embrace either me or his headless body.
Eminah turned her loathing eyes from the vile face of Ali, which, in
that moment, was deformed out of all recognition.
And the young couple replied with one voice, We curse thee! It was
as though they had taken an oath to say nothing else. The same instant
the sword flashed around the youth. His beautiful head bounded into the
air, then rolled along the floor to the foot of the spiral staircase,
and stood still before the very niche where Eminah was concealedat
her very feet, in fact. The headless body, convulsed by a final spasm,
rent its fetters in twain, and then falling prone, stretched out its
hands towards the terror-stricken girl, while the severed head, which
had rolled up to Eminah's feet, seemed to be murmuring
somethinganyhow the lips moved. Eminah bending down towards it, put
her ears close to the quivering mouth and whispered, I hear! I hear
what thou sayest! And she really believed she heard something. Perhaps
it was only her heart that was speaking.
After that she wrapped the head in her shawl, and hastened away from
the tower back into her own room, concealing the ghastly but still
beautiful trophy beneath the pillows of her sofa. Then she commanded
her odalisks to appear before her, that they might dance and sing.
Dawn was now not far distant, and still the entertainment was going
on. Then Ali returned from the red towerhis face was gentle and
smilingand after him came two eunuchs carrying gold and treasure in
large baskets; and they emptied them all at Eminah's feet. The damsel
rejoiced, laughed at the sight of the treasures, and, throwing herself
on Ali's neck, repaid him with kisses, and dragged him down to her on
Behold, the dzhins have sent thee treasures, said Ali. But
a strange thing hath befallen me; one of my treasures rolled away upon
the floor, and, search where I will, I cannot find it.
Eminah laughed, and fell a-teasing him. Perchance the dzhins
have stolen it from thee, cried she. Suppose she had said, Thou art
sitting upon it, Ali Pasha?
Ali Pasha took the damsel upon his lap, and rejoiced in her
innocent, artless eyes and her childlike smile. He fancied he could
look through those eyes down to the very depths of her heart. If only
he could have seen into it!
And while he was thus toying with her, the kadun-keit-khuda entered
the room of the odalisks, bringing with him a veiled damsel.
Gracious lady, said he to Eminah, I bring thee a Greek maiden,
who hath heard the fame of thy benevolence, and hath come of her own
accord to bask in the light of thy countenance, and gather fresh
strength from my smiles; and he drew the maiden forward towards
Eminah, who immediately recognized the girl whose lover Ali Pasha had
decapitated, and said, playfully, to the guardian of the harem:
Lo, kadun-keit-khuda, the damsel is trembling! If thou dost not
support her she will fall!
It is by reason of her great shyness, gracious lady.
But how pale she is!
Thy beauty casteth a shadow upon her.
But look!she weeps!
They are tears of joy, lady.
Eminah gave the guardian of the harem a handful of ducats for his
good answers, and allowed the bashful damsel to stand before her. Then
she sent for sweetmeats, golden bread-fruits, wine with the lustre of
garnets, and her opium narghily; and, cradling Ali's gray head in her
bosom, seized her mandolin and sang to him Arab love-songshot,
burning, rose-scented, dew-besprinkled love-songsand the pasha drew
over his face the long silken tresses of the damsel, as if he would
envelop himself in the cool shade of Paradise, and sleep a sleep of
sweet melody, intoxicating rapture, and soothing opium.
When the ivory stem of the narghily dropped from the hands of the
pasha, Eminah sent from the room all the damsels; only the newly
arrived Greek maiden remained behind. She made her sit down before her
on a cushion, and, putting into her hands a large silk fan to fan the
pasha with, she asked the damsel her name.
The damsel shook her headshe would not say.
Why wilt thou not tell me?
Because I have still a sister at home.
Eminah understood the answer. Come nearer, said she. Last night I
had a dream. Methought I was in a large tower, the interior of which
was illuminated by twelve torches. Whichever way my eyes turned they
lit upon horrorsstrange, terrifying objects appeared before me; and,
although, twelve torches were burning, darkness was still all around.
And it seemed to me as if this darkness was not vapor or thick smoke,
but a black mass of human beings all wedged together, who raised their
eyelids every now and then. After that I saw Ali Pasha sitting in a red
velvet chair with golden tiger feet, and as he sat cross-legged, after
the Turkish manner, it looked as if the tiger feet were his own feet.
Many terrifying shapes passed before me, and at last a young man and a
young woman were all who remained in the room, and to every question
put to them they replied, 'I curse thee!' Ali Pasha said to the damsel,
'Love me!' and she replied, 'I curse thee!' And immediately the head of
the youth began rolling from one end of the marble floor to the other,
right up to my feet; and a drop of blood dripped from it on to my
slipper, and, strange to say, the drop of blood was still there when I
awoke. Look, is that really a drop of blood, or is it only my
And therewith Eminah put out her pretty little foot, which hitherto
she had kept hidden beneath the folds of her garment, and showed it to
the Greek girl. Then the girl fell weeping at her feet and kissed the
slipper. But it was not the foot of her mistress that she kissedno,
no; what she kissed was the drop of blood that had dropped upon the
Look! that drop of blood has burned right through the morocco
leather of my shoe! What will it do, then, to the soul on which it has
And with that she withdrew her hair from the pasha's face and looked
at him with loathing. Yet he slept as calmly as if he were sleeping the
sleep of the just.
For nine and seventy years he had lived happily, joyously,
triumphantly, beloved by angels; and all the curses, all the murders,
that were upon his aged head were unable to carve one wrinkle on his
forehead, or distort a feature of his face, or cut off one day of his
life, or even to disturb one of his dreams; and there he lies on one
and the same couch with the head of his victim, the only difference
being that his head lies on the pillow, while the head of the murdered
man lies beneath it.
Eminah bent over him and bared the breast of the sleeper, who slept
calmly and regularly all the time.
On that table lies an enamelled dagger, said she to the girl;
bring it hither.
The girl darted away for the dagger, and came back with it. There
she stood, grasping it convulsively in her hand, as if she only awaited
a signal to drive it home.
No, not so, said Eminah. Cut not off his life, but cut through
this cord! and, taking the key which Ali wore round his neck, she cut
it from its cord with the dagger. This key opens the red tower. When
they pitched the dead bodies through the trap-door I heard the roar of
falling water. It is certain, therefore, that one can get through the
torture-chamber to the lake of Acheruz. We can get down to it by ropes.
I can swim, and thou canst also, I am sure; for art thou not a Hydriot
girl? When we have reached the heights of Lithanizza we shall find a
safe refuge in the midst of the forests. Wherever it is, it will be all
one to me. Better to be among wolves and lynxes than near Ali Pasha.
Will you do what I say?
[Footnote 5: An inhabitant of the isle of Hydra. The Hydriots were
remarkable for their enterprise and daring.]
The damsel's bosom heaved violently; she hid her head on Eminah's
shoulder and kissed her.
Freedom! she whispered, full of rapture; freedom above all
things! It is now my only joy.
Nobody will observe us, said Eminah, spurning aside the jewels,
which she loathed now that she knew whence they came. It is the last
night of the Feast of Bairam. Every one is hastening to compensate
himself for the privations of the Fast of Ramadan, every one is
sleeping or enjoying himself; the greater part of the garrison is
making merry in the apartments of the beys; even the sons of Ali Pasha,
all three of them, are feasting with Mukhtar Bey. We shall be able to
escape them, and then the whole world lies before us.
The Greek girl pressed the lady's hand. We will go together! she
cried. My brother dwells among the mountains of Corinth; he is a
valiant warrior, and will give us an asylum.
Then go thither! I shall seek refuge with my kinsmen at Stambul.
Now go into the apartments of the odalisks and ask for apparel. I have
already hatched a good plan. If they are all asleep come softly back
with thy clothes. The kadun-keit-khuda only sleeps with half an eye;
beware of him! If he ask thee whither thou art going, show him the
pasha's handkerchief, and he will fancy Ali awaits thee.
The face of the Greek girl blushed purple at these words; even to
lie on such a subject was a horrible thought to her. But Eminah
beckoned to her to be gone, and when she found herself alone she drew
forth the head she had concealed beneath the pillow and placed it on a
round table in front of her. For a long time she gazed at the sunken
eyes, the gaping mouth, and the long black tresses which rolled over
the table on both sides. The lady smoothed the raven-black tresses with
her soft hand, and passed her fingers right across the noble features
without a shudder at their icy coldness.
There she sat an hour long opposite the dead head; and beside her
Ali Tepelenti, the terror of the whole region, lay prone in a deep,
motionless slumber. It was a strange sight, this young girl alone there
between these two horrors. She had resolved to quit Ali and set the
Greek damsel free; but what she meant to do after that she herself
could not have said.
In an hour's time the Greek damsel returned. She came so softly that
nobody could have heard her; even Eminah did not perceive her till the
damsel stood before the severed head and uttered a cry of terror. Only
for an instant, only for the duration of a lightning-flash did this cry
last; the damsel stifled it at once, and if it awoke any one in the
palace he must have fancied he was dreaming or had dreamed it, and
would go on sleeping again. Then the damsel, in an agony of speechless
grief, bent over the head of her betrothed, and her tears flowed in
streams, though not a word escaped her lips.
At last Eminah grasped the girl's hand and bade her make haste. So
she dried her tears, and after placing the severed head in front of
that of the sleeping pasha so that they confronted each other, and
cutting off one of the locks from its temples, she covered the cold
eyes with bitter, burning kisses, and then, taking up her things,
rapidly followed Eminah through the long suite of rooms.
A few minutes later they were in the torture-chamber. It was quite
empty; the blood stains had been washed away, there was nothing to
recall the horrors of the night before.
They opened the trap-door through which the dead bodies were wont to
be cast. At the bottom of the deep black void there was a roaring sound
as if the lake were in a commotion. No doubt a tempest was raging
outside. How were these girls to escape by way of the subterranean
stream? Perhaps some of the headless corpses were also swimming down
yonder amidst the foaming waves. Would those who ventured down into
those depths ever see the light of day again? But to them it was all
one. Better to perish in the deep void than be condemned to the
embraces of Ali Pasha. How the two girls abominated him!the one
because he had murdered her love, the other because he had loved her.
Don't be afraid, they said to each other; and fastening their
bundles to a long rope which was used in torturing, they let it down
into the deep well, with a lamp at the end of it, and when the water
put out the light they fastened the other end of the rope to the hinge
of the door, and each in turn let herself down by it.
And whether they lived or whether they died, Ali Pasha lost on that
day two talismans which he should have guarded more jealously than the
light of his eyes: one was the spirit of blessing, the other the spirit
of cursing, both of which he had held fast bound, and both of which had
now been let loose.
* * * * *
At the moment when the two damsels plunged into the lake of Acheruz
the slumber of tranquillity disappeared from the eyes of Ali Pasha, and
he began to see spectres.
A peculiar feeling came over him. He whom phantoms avoided even when
he slept, he who had never even dreamed of fear, he whom the angel of
sleep had never known to be a coward, now began to experience a
peculiar sensation which was worse than any sickness and more painful
than any suffering. He was afraid!
He dreamed that the head of the young Suliot, which had been cut off
by his order, and which had rolled away and disappeared so that nobody
could find it, was now standing face to face with him on a table,
staring at him fixedly with stony eyes, and repeatedly addressing the
sleeper by name: Ali Pasha! Ali Pasha!
The limbs of the sleeper shook all over in a strange tremor.
Ali Pasha! he heard the head call for the third time.
Groaning, writhing, and turning himself about, he contrived to knock
the head off the cushion, smearing all the bed with blood. And now he
saw and heard more terrible things than ever.
One, two, said the severed head. And Ali understood that this was
the number of the years he had still to live. Thy head hath no longer
either hand or foot, continued the head; and Ali was obliged to listen
to what it said. Two severed heads now stand face to face, mine and
thine. Why dost thou not reply to me? Why dost thou not look into my
eyes? Two headless trunks stand before the throne of God, mine and
thine. How shall the Lord recognize thee? He inquires which is Ali. For
every soul there is a white garment laid up. And thou deniest thy name,
with thy right hand on thy heart. Thou art Ali, for on thy white
garment are five bloody finger-prints.
Ali writhed in his sleep, and covered with his hand that part of his
caftan which lay over his heart. And all the time the head never
disappeared from before his eyes and its lips never closed. Presently
it went on again.
Listen, Ali! Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin! The hand which guided
thee in the performance of thy mighty deeds is also bringing thine
actions to an end, and thou shalt no longer be a hero whom the world
admires, but a robber whom it curses. Those whom thou lovedest will
bless the day of thy death, but thine enemies will weep over thee.
Moreover, God hath ordained that thou shalt be the ruin of thine own
Ali tossed, sighing and groaning, upon his couch, and could not
awake; a world of crime lay upon his breast. He felt the earth shake
beneath him, and the sky above his head was dark with masses of black
cloud, and the thought of death was a terror to him.
The head went on speaking. Two birds quitted thy rocky citadel at
the same hour, a white dove and a black crow. The white dove is Peace,
which has departed from thy towers; the black crow is Vengeance, which
will return in search of carcasses at the scent of thy ruin. The white
dove is thy damsel, the black crow is mine; and woe to thee from them
Ali, in the desperation of his rage, roared aloud in his sleep, and
his violent cry tore asunder the light fetters of sleep. He sprang from
his couch and opened wide his eyesand lo! the severed head was
standing before him on the table.
The pasha looked about him in consternation; he was not sufficiently
master of himself at first to tell how much of all this was a dream and
how much reality. He still seemed to hear the terrible words which had
proceeded from those open lips, and his hand involuntarily clutched at
his breast as if he would have covered there the five bloody
finger-marks. Then the cut cord from which the key was missing fell
across his hand, and immediately his presence of mind returned. Drawing
his sword, he rushed towards the brazen door, and discovered that the
fugitives had had sufficient forethought to close the door and leave
the key in the lock outside, so that it could only be opened by force.
He turned back and rushed to the end of the dormitories. Some of the
odalisks were awakened by the sound of his heavy footsteps, and
perceiving his troubled face, plunged underneath their bedclothes in
terror; in front of the doors stood the dumb eunuch sentries, leaning
on their spears like so many bronze statues.
He rushed down into the garden to the end of the familiar walks, and
when he came to the gate was amazed to perceive that the drawbridge
which separated his palace from the dwellings of his sons had been let
down and nobody was guarding it. The topidshis, the negroes, knowing
that Ali always turned into his harem on the Feast of Bairam, had gone
across to the palace of Mukhtar Bey, who was giving a great banquet in
honor of Vely Bey and Sulaiman Bey, his brothers. All three had brought
together their harems to celebrate the occasion, and while the masters
were diverting themselves upstairs, their servants were making merry
below. Music and the loud mirth of those who feast resounded from the
house; every gate of the citadel was open; slaves and guards lying dead
drunk in heaps, victims of the forbidden fluid, cumbered the streets. A
whole hostile army, with drums beating and colors flying, might easily
have marched into the citadel over their prostrate bodies.
Wrath and the cold night air gradually gave back to Ali his soul of
steel. Wary and alert, he entered the palace of Mukhtar Bey.
CHAPTER III. A TURKISH PARADISE
Ali Pasha himself had built the whole citadel of Janina, and had
been wise enough, as soon as the fortress was finished, to at once and
quietly remove out of the way all the builders and architects who had
had anything to do with it, so that he only knew all the secrets of the
place. There were secret exits and listening-galleries in every part of
the building, and each single group of redoubts which, viewed from the
outside, seemed quite isolated, was really so well connected together
by means of subterranean passages, that one could go backward and
forward from one to the other without being observed in the least. At a
later day Ali Pasha's enemies were to have very bitter experience of
these architectural peculiarities.
One could go right round the palace of the three Beys, both above
and below, by means of a secret corridor, and not one of the
inhabitants of the building had the least idea of the existence of this
corridor. It was in the midst of the fathom-thick wall between two rows
of windows, and within this space invisible doors opened into every
apartment, either between windows, or behind mirrors, or beneath the
ceiling between two stories, and these doors could not be opened by
keys, but turned upon invisible hinges set in motion by hidden screws,
and they closed so hermetically as to leave not the slightest orifice
Ali Pasha stood there in the banqueting-chamber unobserved by any
one. He stood beside a huge Corinthian column, and here hung a black
board indicating the direction in which Mecca lay. He had no fear that
any one would look thither. That place, towards which every truly
believing Mussulman must turn when he prays, was carefully avoided by
every eye, for fear it should encounter the golden letters which
sparkle on the walls of the Kaaba.
[Footnote 6: The chief sanctuary of the Mussulmans standing in the
midst of the great mosque at Mecca.]
For now is the time for enjoyment. There is no need of a heavenly
Paradise, for Paradise is already here below. There is no need to
inquire of either Muhammad or the angel Izrafil concerning the wine
which flows from the roots of the Tuba-tree; far more fiery, far more
stimulating, is the wine which flashes in glass and goblet. The houris
may hide their white bosoms and their rosy faces, for what are they
compared with the earthly angels whose mundane charms intoxicate the
hearts of mortals? Truly Muhammad was but an indifferent prophet, he
did not understand how to arrange paradise; let him but regard the
arrangements of Mukhtar Beythey will show him how that sort of thing
ought to be managed.
Muhammad imagined that the embraces of seven and seventy houris
would make an enraptured Moslem eternally happy. Why, the bungler
forgot the best part of it. Would it not be more satisfactory if now
and then, say once in a thousand years or so, the Moslems were to
exchange their own houris for those of their neighbors? In this way the
aroma of brand-new kisses would prevent their raptures from growing
stale, and the Paradise of Muhammad would be worth something after all.
With all eternity before him, a man would scarcely mind waiting for his
own wives for a paltry millennium or two while he enjoyed the wives of
his neighbors, and when he returned to his seven and seventy original
damsels again, what a pleasant reunion it would be!
Now the Prophet had forgotten to introduce this novelty into his own
Paradise, and Mukhtar Bey was the happy man to whom the fairy Malach
Taraif whispered the idea during the fast preceding the Feast of Bairam
while he slept, and he immediately proceeded to discuss the matter with
All three brothers lived under one roof, each of the three had his
own special harem, and each of them possessed in their harems beauties
far surpassing what the angels Monkar and Nakir could promise them in
the next world. After the Feast of Bairam, when Mukhtar Bey had well
plied his brethren with good wine, he said to them, Let us exchange
Sulaiman Bey immediately gave his hand upon it; Vely Bey laughed at
it as a good idea at first, but afterwards drew back. The other two
worthies laughed uproariously at his simplicity, made fun of him, and
proceeded at once to transfer to each other their respective damsels,
and on the morrow and the following days aggravated Vely by extolling
before him the exchanged odalisks, each of them confiding to him what
novel attractions he had discovered in this or that bayadere. Thus
Sulaiman could not sufficiently extol the extraordinary brilliance of
the eyes of Mukhtar Bey's favorite damsel, while Mukhtar protested that
the languishing Jewish maiden he had got in exchange from Sulaiman
quivered in his arms like a dancing flame.
Vely laughed a good deal over the business, but still continued to
shake his head, confessing at last that the reason why he did not
exchange his harem was because it contained an Albanian damsel whom he
had neither purchased nor captured, but who had come to him of her own
accord, and whom he had promised long ago never to abandon, and her he
would not give for both their harems put together; nay, he said he
would not give her up for a whole world full of damsels. The two
brethren thereupon assured Vely that if he loved this particular damsel
so very much, he might exclude her from the others and keep her for
himself, and it need make no difference. Then Vely Bey also acceded to
this fraternal division of delights, and transferred his harem also,
with the exception of Xelianthé.
Mukhtar Bey had fixed the last night of the great Bairam feast for
the entertainment that was to rival Paradise, inviting his brethren and
the Prophet Muhammad himself, in order that he might learn from them
how to be happy, and might regulate heaven accordingly. To this end
they had a fourth divan added to their three, with its own
well-appointed table in front of it, and bade the attendant odalisks be
diligent in keeping the fourth goblet well filled, and do their best to
entertain the invited guest. Mockery of religious subjects was no
unusual thing with Turkish magnates in those days. Blasphemy had gone
so far as to become an open scandal; popular fanaticism and official
orthodoxy made it all the more glaring.
So the sons of Ali Pasha invited the Prophet to be their guest, and
had made up their minds that if he did appear among them he would not
All the odalisks danced and sung before them in turn, and the
brethren diverted themselves by judging which of the damsels was the
sweetest and loveliest.
In every song, in every dance, Rebecca, Mukhtar Bey's beautiful
Jewish damsel, and the blue-eyed bayadere Lizza, who was Sulaiman Bey's
favorite, equally excelled. It was impossible to decide which of the
twain deserved the palm. At last they were made to dance together.
Look! cried Mukhtar, his eyes sparkling with delight, look! didst
ever behold a more beautiful figure? Like the flowering branch of the
Ban-tree she sways to and fro. How proudly she throws her head back,
and looks at thee so languishingly that thou meltest away for very
rapture! Would that her light feet might dance all over me; would that
she might encompass every part of me like the atmosphere!
She really is charming, admitted Sulaiman, and if the other were
not dancing by her side, she would be the first star in the firmament
of beauty. But ah! one movement of the other one is worth all the life
in her body. She is but a woman, the other is a sylph. She kills you
with rapture, the other raises you from the dead.
Thou are unjust, Sulaiman, said Mukhtar; thou dost judge only
with thine eyes. If thou wouldst take counsel of thy lips, they would
speak more truly. Taste her kisses, and then say which of them is the
With that he beckoned to the two odalisks. Rebecca, the lovely
Jewish damsel, sank full of amorous languor on Sulaiman's breast, while
Lizza, with sylph-like agility, sat her down upon his knee, and the
intoxicated Bey, in an access of rapture, kissed first one and then the
Rebecca's lips are more ardent, he cried, but the kisses of Lizza
are sweeter. The kiss of Rebecca is like the poppy which lulls you into
sweet unconsciousness, but Lizza's kiss is like sweet wine which makes
Lizza's kiss may perchance be like sweet wine, interrupted
Mukhtar, but Rebecca's kiss is like heavenly musk which only the
Blessed may partake of, and those who partake thereof are
And with that Mukhtar caught up both the odalisks in his arms, that
he might pronounce judgment as to the sweetness of their lips. It was
an enviable process. The contending parties themselves were in doubt as
to which of themselves should obtain a verdict. At length they called
upon Vely Bey to decideVely, who was now lying blissfully asleep
beside them on the divan, overcome with wine, his head in Xelianthé's
bosom. His two brethren awoke him that he might judge between them as
to the sweetness of rival kisses.
It took a good deal of trouble to make the stupidly fuddled Bey
understand what was required of him, and when he did understand, the
only answer he made was, Xelianthé's kisses are the sweetest; and
with that he embraced his favorite damsel once more and, reclining his
head on her bosom, went off to sleep again.
Then cried Mukhtar, Wherefore dost thou ask for his
judgment, when amongst us sits the Prophet himself? Let him judge
With these words he pointed to the empty place which had been left
for a fourth person. Rich meats were piled up there on gold and silver
plate, and wine sparkled in transparent crystal.
Come, Muhammad! exclaimed Mukhtar, addressing the vacant place;
thou in thy lifetime didst love many a beauteous woman, and in thy
Paradise there is enough and to spare of beauty. I summon thee to
appear before us. Here is a dispute between us two as to whose damsel
is the sweeter and the lovelier. Thou hast seen them dance, thou hast
heard them sing; now taste of their kisses!
With that he beckoned to the two damsels, and they sat down, one on
each side of the empty divan, and made as if they were embracing a
shape sitting between them, and filled the air with their burning,
Well, let us hear thy verdict, Muhammad! cried Mukhtar, with
drunken bravado; and, taking the crystal goblet from the empty place
and raising it in the air, looked around him with a flushed, defiant
face, and exclaimed, Come! drink of the wine of this goblet her health
to whom thou awardest the prize!
Ali Pasha, shocked and filled with horror at the shamelessly
impudent words he heard from his hiding-place, drew a pistol from his
girdle and softly raised the trigger.
Drink, Muhammad! bellowed Mukhtar, raising the goblet on high,
drink to the health of the triumphant damsel! Which shall it be,
Rebecca or Lizza?
At that same instant a loud report rang through the room, and the
upraised crystal goblet was shivered into a thousand fragments in
Mukhtar's hand. Every one leaped from his place in terror. But
whichever way they looked there was nothing to be seen. The only
persons in the room were the three brothers and the damsels. Only at
the spot from whence the shot had proceeded a little round cloud of
bluish smoke was visible, which sluggishly dispersed. Nobody present
carried weapons, and there was no door or window there by which any one
could have got in.
From the minarets outside the muezzins proclaimed the prayer of
dawn: La illah il Allah! Muhammad razul Allah!There is no God but
God, and Muhammad is His Prophet!
* * * * *
Ali Pasha did not pursue the fugitives. That day he was praying all
the morning. He locked himself up in his inmost apartments, that nobody
might see what he was doing. He now did what he had not done for
seventy yearshe wept. For a whole hour his inflexible soul was
broken. So that woman whom he had loved better than life itself, she
forsooth had given the first signal of approaching misfortune, the
first sign of the coming struggle! Let it come! Let her veil be the
first banner to lead an army against Janina! Tepelenti would not
attempt to stay her in her flight. For one long hour he thought of her,
and this hour was an hour of weeping; and then he bethought him of the
approaching tempest which the prophetic voice had warned him of, and
his heart turned to stone at the thought. Ali Pasha was not the man to
cringe before danger; no, he was wont to meet it face to face, and ask
of it why it had tarried so long. He used even to send occasionally for
the nimetullahita dervish who had been living a long time in the
fortress, and question him concerning the future. It must not be
supposed, indeed, that Tepelenti ever took advice from anybody; but he
would listen to the words of lunatics and soothsayers, and liked to
learn from magicians and astrologers, and their sayings were not
without influence upon his actions.
The dervish was a decrepit old man. Nobody knew how old he really
was; it was said that only by magic did he keep himself alive at all.
Every evening they laid him down on plates of copper and rubbed
invigorating balsam into his withered skeleton, and so he lived on from
day to day.
Two dumb eunuchs now brought him in to Tepelenti, and, bending his
legs beneath him, propped him up in front of the pasha.
Sikham, said Ali to the dervish, I feel the approach of evil
days. My sword rusted in its sheath in a single night. My buckler,
which I covered with gold, has cracked from end to end. A severed head,
which hid itself away from me so that I could not find it, came forth
to me at night and spoke to me of my death; and in my dreams I see my
sons make free with the Prophet. I ask thee not what all these things
signify. That I know. Just as surely as in winter-time the hosts of
rooks and crows resort to the roofs of the mosques, so surely shall my
sworn enemies fall upon me. I am old compared with them, and it is a
thing unheard of among the Osmanlis that a man should reach the age of
nine and seventy and still be rich and mighty. Let them come! But one
thing I would knowwho will be the first to attack me? Tell me his
The dervish thereupon caused a wooden board to be placed before him
on which meats were wont to be carried; then he put upon it an empty
glass goblet, and across the glass he laid a thin bamboo cane. Next he
wrote upon the wooden board the twenty-nine letters of the Turkish
alphabet, and then, thrice prostrating himself to the ground with
wide-extended arms, he fixed his eyes steadily upon the centre of the
In about half an hour the goblet began to tinkle as if some one were
rubbing his wet finger along its rim. This tinkling grew stronger and
stronger, louder and louder, till at last the goblet moved up and down
on the wooden board, and began revolving along with the light cane
placed across it, revolving at last so rapidly that it was impossible
to discern the cane upon it at all.
Then, quite suddenly, the dervish raised his fingers from the table,
and the goblet immediately stopped. The point of the cane stood
opposite the letter ghainG.
[Footnote 7: The marvels of our modern table-turning and
table-tapping spirits, and all the wonders of this sort, were known to
the Arab dervishes long ago.JÓKAI.]
That signifies the first letter of his name, said the
And then the mysterious operation was repeated, and the magic stick
spelled out the name letter by letter: Gaskho Bey. At
the last letter the goblet stopped short and would move no more.
I know no man of that name, said Ali, amazed that he whose name
was so world-renowned was to tremble before one whose name he had never
Where does the fellow live? he inquired of the dervish.
The magic jugglery was set going again, and now the dancing goblet
spelled out the name, Stambul.
That was enough. Ali beckoned to the eunuchs to take the dervish
Ali thereupon summoned forty Albanian soldiers from the garrison,
and gave to each one of them twenty ducats.
This, said he, is only earnest money. I want a man put to death
whose name and dwelling-place I know. His name is Gaskho Bey, and he
lives in Stambul. This man's head is worth as many gold pieces as there
are miles between him and me. He who brings the head can measure the
distance and be paid for it. The first who brings but the report of his
death shall receive two hundred ducats; he who slays him, a thousand.
The Albanians consulted together for a brief moment, and then
intimated that if a bey of the name of Gaskho really existed, he was as
good as dead already.
Towards mid-day Ali sent for his sons. He said not a word to them of
the anxieties, the visions, and the apparitions of the night before,
but made them, after they had respectfully kissed his hands, sit down
all around him. Mukhtar Bey he invited to sit down on his left hand,
Vely on his right, and Sulaiman directly opposite.
He addressed himself first of all to Sulaiman.
Thou art the youngest and boldest, said he. To-morrow thou must
go to sea and take three ships with thee. These ships thou must take to
Sicily, load them there with sulphur, and return without losing an
Oh, my father! replied Sulaiman, the tempest is now abroad upon
the sea. Who would venture now with a ship upon the billows? All the
monsters of the ocean are now running upon the surface seeking whom
they may devour, and the phantom ship, with her shadowy rigging and her
shadowy crew, pursues her zigzag course across the waters.
Ali Pasha said no more, but turned towards Mukhtar Bey.
Thou art the most crafty, said he; go then to the captains of the
Suliotes and invite them to assemble with their forces at Janina with
all despatch. Spare neither promises nor assurances nor fair winds.
Mukhtar Bey's face turned quite angry, and, wagging his head, still
heavy from his overnight debauch, he answered, sullenly: In the
mountains the snow is now thawing; every stream is swollen into a
river; naught but a bird can find a place for its foot on the dry
ground; how, then, can armies move hither and thither? Wait for a week,
till the inundations have subsided. Truly there is no enemy on thy
borders. In thy whole realm there is not so much as a rat to nibble at
thy walls. What dost thou want now with chariots and armed men?
Ali now turned to Vely, who was sitting on his right hand. Go thou
over to Misrim, said he, and purchase for me two thousand horses; a
thousand of them shall be meet for war-chargers, and a thousand for
Oh, my father! answered Vely, who was the eldest and wisest of
Ali's sons, I will not object to thy command that the simoon has now
begun in Misrim, before whose burning, suffocating breath every living
creature is forced to fly. I reck little of that, but the horses, thy
precious horses, will perish. And, moreover, I would ask of thee one
question. Wherefore dost thou get together a host, and horses and guns,
without cause, and with no danger threatening thee? Will not all these
warlike preparations excite the rage of the Padishah against thee, and
so thy preparing against an imagined peril will saddle thee with a real
Ali Pasha laughed alouda very unusual habit with him.
Well, said he, it is for me to prove to you, I suppose, that you
are all wrong in your calculations. Dine with me and be merry. After
dinner you shall see that the sea is not stormy, that the rivers are
not in flood, and that the simoon is not suffocating. I have a talisman
which will convince you thereof.
So he entertained his sons till late in the evening, and immediately
after dinner he whispered to one of the dumb eunuchs, and then he took
his sons with him into the red tower, the doors of which were left wide
open. He stopped short with them in one of the rooms, the solitary
semicircular window of which looked out upon the lake of Acheruz. The
window was guarded by an iron grating. Here he sat down with them to
smoke his narghily and sip his coffee. The sons would have preferred to
mount upon the roof of the tower, where the fresh air and the fine view
would have made their siesta perfect; but Ali facetiously observed that
in the open air cold and hot winds were just then blowing together at
the same time, and he did not want the simoon to make them sweat or the
trade-winds to make them shiver.
As they were sipping their coffee there the splashing of oars was
audible beneath the tower, and the sons beheld three large,
flat-bottomed boats propelled upon the surface of the water, in which
sat the damsels of their harems; the boats were rowed by muscular
The faces of the three beys lighted up when they saw the damsels
being rowed on the water, and Mukhtar Bey whispered roguishly in
Sulaiman's ear, Shall we make the old man also one of our party?
Ali overheard the whisper, and replied, with a smile, Truly your
damsels are most beauteoushere he stroked his white beard from end
to endI am not surprised, therefore, that you like to stay at home
here and call the wind hot and cold, though it is nothing but the
breath of Allah, and what comes from God cannot be bad. But your
damsels are beautiful, of that there can be no doubt. Now, last
night I dreamt a dream. Before me stood the Prophet, and he told me how
you had challenged him to say which of your damsels was the sweeter and
the more beautiful. (Here the sons regarded each other, full of fear
and amazement.) The Prophet replied, continued Ali, that it was not
meet that he should come to your damsels; they should rather go to him.
So I mean to send them to Paradise.
What doest thou? cried all three sons, horror-stricken.
The only answer Ali gave was to give a long shrill whistle, at which
signal the eunuchs drew out the plugs from holes secretly bored at the
bottom of the three boats, leaping at the same time into the water, and
leaving the boats in the middle of the lake.
The damsels shrieked with terror as the water began to rush into the
boats from all sides. The air was filled with cries of agony.
Mukhtar rushed madly to the door and found it locked. With impotent
violence he attempted to burst it open. Sulaiman meanwhile tore away at
the iron window-grating with both hands, as if he fancied himself
capable of pulling down the whole of the vast building by the sheer
strength of his arms. The blue-eyed Albanian girl and the languishing
Jewish damsel, with the fear of death in their eyes, looked up at the
closed window; the waves had already begun to swallow their beautiful
Only Vely Bey remained motionless. He, at any rate, had not sinned.
He had not angered the Prophet in that orgie of amorous rivalry. He had
loved one only, by her only had he been loved, and she, yes, she was
perishing there among the others!
The boats sank deeper and deeper; nothing could be heard but the
cries of the drowning wretches in all the accents of despair. The two
sons saw their damsels dying before their eyes, and were unable to rush
out and save them; not even one could be rescued. One more shriek of
woe, and then the boats sank. For a few moments the surface of the
water was covered with bright gauze veils and shiny turbans and white
limbs and dishevelled tresses, and then a few solitary turbans floated
on the water.
Sulaiman, sobbing in despair, fell down in a heap close by the
window, while Mukhtar fell madly on the door and kicked it with all his
might, as if he would drown in the din the cries for help of the
perishing damsels. Only Vely Bey looked in bitter silence upon the
detestable waves, which within a minute had swallowed three heavens.
Far, far away on the crest of the rising waves a black object
appeared to be swimming. What was it? Perhaps one of the damsels. One
moment it vanished in the wave-valleys, the next it appeared again on
the top of a high ridge of water. What could it be? But farther and
farther it receded. Perchance some one had escaped, after all. Greek
girls are good swimmers.
And now Ali Pasha arose from his place and said, with a smile, to
Methinks that neither the storms of ocean, nor the swollen waters,
nor the breath of the simoon will now appear so terrible to you as they
did a few hours ago. Depart now with all speed. When you return you
will find new harems here, which will make you forget the old ones.
And with that he quitted them.
Sulaiman and Mukhtar immediately went their way. Woe to whomsoever
shall now give them a pretext for wreaking their vengeance upon him!
But Vely Bey remained there looking out upon the water, and as the
evening grew darker he thought upon Ali Pasha. His brothers had loaded
their father with curses; he had not said a word. They will soon make
their peace with their fatherhe never will.
[Footnote 8: It is a fact that Ali drowned the harems of his sons in
the lake of Acheruz because he feared their excessive
CHAPTER IV. GASKHO BEY
The lightning strikes to the earth the man that flies from it. Ill
luck is a venomous dog, which runs after him who would escape it.
Ali Pasha's band of Albanians, on arriving at Stambul, began to make
inquiries about Gaskho Bey.
He turned out to be a good honest man, by profession an inspector of
the ichoglanler of the Seraglio, and a particularly mild and peaceful
Mussulman to boot. In temperament he was somewhat phlegmatic, with a
leaning to melancholy. A palmist would have told you that the
sympathetic line on the palm of his hand was so little prominent as to
be scarcely visible, whereas on Tepelenti's palm there was such an
abundant concourse of sympathetic lines that they even ran over on to
the back of the hand. In those days the Mussulmans frequently diverted
themselves with such superstitious games as palmistry.
As to his figurewell, Gaskho Bey might have stood for a perfect
model of the Farnese Hercules; his huge shoulders were almost out of
proportion with the rest of his body. He could stop the wing of a
windmill with one hand; on the birthday of the Sultan's heir he hoisted
a six-pound cannon on his shoulders and fired it off, and he could
break a hard piastre in two when he was in a good humor.
It could not be said that he had hitherto used this terrible
strength to injure any one; on the contrary, he was universally known
as the most forbearing of men. The pages of the court, whom he taught
to fence, would sometimes in the midst of a lesson, as if by accident,
but really from sheer petulance, batter him with their blunt swords
till they rang again, and Gaskho Bey would always reprimand them, not
for striking him but for striking so clumsily. He had never gone to
war, and those who did not send him thither flattered themselves not a
little on their humanity, for if it came to a serious tussle there was
really no knowing what damage he might not do.
At home he was the gentlest paterfamilias conceivable. You would
frequently find him on all-fours, with his little four-year-old son,
Sidali, riding on his back, and persecuting his father with all sorts
of barbarities. He did nothing all day but teach the pages of the
Seraglio games and exercises, and at home he made paper birds for his
own little boy, flew kites for and played blind man's buff with him.
Whatever time he could spare from these occupations he would spend in
leaning out of the window of the Summer Palace overlooking the Gökk-sü,
or Sweet Waters, and looking about him a bit with a pipe in his mouth,
the stem of which reached to the ground, and if any one had asked him
while so engaged what he was looking at, he would assuredly have
answered, Nothing at all.
Now there were always the liveliest goings-on in the Gökk-sü Park of
an evening. The harems of the beys and pashas who dwelt on its banks
took the air there under the plantain-trees, and swung and danced and
sang; the wandering Persian jugglers exhibited their hocus-pocus, and
the magnificent Janissaries resorted thither to fight with one another.
Every Friday afternoon whole bands of these rival warriors flocked
thither as if to a common battle-field, and frequently left two or
three corpses on the scene of their diversions.
Gaskho Bey appeared to take very little notice of all these things,
his chibook curled comfortably on the ground beneath him. At every pull
at it large light-blue clouds of smoke rolled upwards from its crater,
taking all manner of misty shapes and forms till they disappeared
through the window, and Gaskho Bey buried himself in the contemplation
of these smoky phantasms as deeply as if he were intent on writing a
dissertation on the philosophy of pipe-smoking, oblivious of the fact
that below the very house in which he was sitting two Albanian
soldiers, in high-peaked, broad-brimmed caps and coarse black woollen
mantles, who seemed to be taking the greatest possible interest in him
and trying to get as near him as they could, had already strolled past
for the third time, always separating and going in different
directions, somewhat nervously, if they perceived any one coming
Only now and then a sly expression on Gaskho's face betrayed the
fact that he was conscious of something going on behind his back. There
little Sidali was amusing himself, while Gaskho Bey was leaning out of
the window, by kneeling on the ottoman behind, and tickling the
uplifted naked soles of his father's feet with a blunt arrow. Sometimes
the arrow would slip and come plumping down on Gaskho's head, and then
the bey would smile indulgently at the naughtiness of his little son.
And now the evening was falling, and the crowd beneath the
plantain-trees grew thinner. The two Albanians, side by side, again
came towards Gaskho Bey, who now puffed forth such clouds of smoke from
his chibook that one could see neither heaven nor earth because of
them. But the two Albanian mercenaries could make him out very well,
and both of them standing a little way from the window drew forth their
pistols, and one of them standing on the right hand and the other on
the left, they both aimed at Gaskho Bey's temples at a distance of
But little Sidali was too quick for them, for he now gave his father
such a poke with the arrow that the latter, provoked partly by the pain
and partly by the tickling, sharply turned his head, and the same
instant there was the report of two shots, and two bulletsone on the
right hand and one on the leftburied themselves in the window-sill.
Gaskho's movement was so unexpected that the two Albanian braves,
who had imagined that their bullets must of necessity have met each
other in the middle of the bey's brain, were so terrified when they saw
him still sitting there unwounded, that they stood as if nailed to the
earth. Indeed, before they could make up their minds to fly, Gaskho was
already outside the window, upon them with a single bound, and
immediately seizing the pair of them with his terrible fists, flung
them to the ground as if he were playing with a couple of dummies, and
without wasting so much as a word upon them, tied them together with
their own leather belts, so that on the arrival of the members of his
own family, who flew to the spot, alarmed by Sidali's shrieks, the two
hired assassins lay half dead and all of a heap upon the ground, for
Gaskho Bey's grip had wellnigh broken all their bones.
They were conveyed at once to the Kapu-Kiaja, and Gaskho Bey went
too. For a long time he was unable to contain himself, and bellowed out
all along the road, I never heard of anything like itnever!
It is an unheard-of case, sir, said he, on arriving at the
Kapu-Kiaja's. To furtively shoot at a peaceful Mussulman when he is
smoking his pipe and amusing himself with his children, I never heard
the like. If any one wants to kill me, he might at least, I think, let
me know beforehand, so that I may perform my ablutions, say my prayers,
and take leave of my children. But just when I am smoking my
chibook!I never heard of such a thing!
It was plain that what he took to heart the most was that they
should have tried to shoot him while he was smoking his chibook.
The Kapu-Kiaja, on the other hand, looked upon the case from another
point of view. To him it was a matter of comparative indifference
whether the deed was attempted before or after prayers. Why, he wanted
to know, should these madmen run amuck of their fellow-men at all? He
therefore asked the assassins who had set them on to murder Gaskho Bey.
They, at the very first stroke of the bamboo, made a clean breast of
it, and threw the blame on Tepelenti.
At first the Kapu-Kiaja regarded this confession as incredible. Why,
indeed, should Tepelenti be wrath with Gaskho Bey, who knew nothing at
all of Ali except by report? Nay, he greatly revered him as a valiant
warrior, and had never said a single word to his discredit.
Nevertheless, the two assassins not only stuck to their confession,
but maintained that besides themselves eight and thirty other soldiers
had been sent to Stambul by Ali on the self-same mission.
Ciauses were immediately sent to every quarter of the city to seize
the described Albanians. Five or six of them hid or escaped, but the
rest were captured.
The confessions of these men were practically unanimous. Every
circumstance of the affair, the amount of the promised reward, the
words spoken on the occasioneverything, in fact, corresponded so
exactly that no doubt could possibly remain that Tepelenti had actually
sent them out to murder Gaskho Bey.
The affair made a great stir everywhere. Ali Pasha was as well known
in Stambul as Gaskho Bey. The former was as famous for his power and
riches, his envy and revengefulness, as was the latter for his strength
and gentleness, his sympathy and tenderness.
The great men of the palace, jealous for a long time of Ali's
greatness, brought the matter before the Divan, and great debates
ensued as to what course should be taken against this mighty protector
of hired assassins. And for a long time the opinions of the counsellors
of the cupolaed chamber were divided. Some were for taking Ali by the
beard and despatching him there and then. Others were for advising
Gaskho Bey to be content with seeing the heads of the Arnaut assassins
rolling in the dust before the Pavilion of Justice, and at the same
time privately informing Ali that if he were wise he would waste
neither his money nor his powder on such quiet, harmless men as Gaskho
Bey, who had never done, and never meant in future to do, him any harm.
The latter alternative was the opinion of the wiser heads, and among
these wiser ones was the Sultan himself.
Ali is my sharp sword, said Mahmud. If my sword wounds any one
accidentally, and without my consent, is that any reason for snapping
it in twain?
Nevertheless, the enemies of the pasha kept goading Gaskho on to
demand satisfaction of Ali personally. The worthy giant, hearing his
own name on everybody's lips for weeks together, grew as wild as a
baited heifer, and began to believe that he was a famous man, that he
alone was ordained to clip the wings of the tyrant of Epirus, and at
last was so absorbed by his dreams of greatness that when he had to
give the usual lessons to the youths of the Seraglio he trounced them
all, in his distraction, as severely as if they had been the soldiers
of Ali Pasha.
The pacific Viziers promised him a house, a garden, beautiful
horses, and still more beautiful slaves. But all would not do; what he
did want, he said, was the head of Tepelenti, and he cried to Heaven
against them for their procrastination.
But Sultan Mahmud was a wise man. He had no need to consult
star-gazers or magicians, or even the caverns of Seleucia, as to the
future, in order to discover and discern the storm whose signs were
already visible in the sky.
Ye know not Ali, and ye know not me also, he said to those who
urged him to pronounce judgment against Ali. If I were to say, 'Ali
must perish!' perish he would, even if my palaces came crashing down
and half the realm were destroyed in consequence. If, on the other
hand, Ali said 'No!' he would assuredly never submit, and would rather
turn the whole realm upsidedown, till not one stone remained upon
another, than surrender himself. Therefore ye know not what ye want
when ye wish to see Ali and me at war with one another.
The conspirators, however, were not content with this, but
distributed some silver money among the Janissaries, and egged them on
to appear before the palace of the Kapu-Kiaja and demand Ali's head.
The Kiaja, warned in good time of the approaching storm, took refuge
in the interior of the Seraglio, which was speedily barricaded against
the Janissaries, and the mouths of the cannons attached to the gates
were exhibited for their delectation. As it did not meet the views of
the Janissaries just then to approach any nearer to the cannons, they
gratified their fury by setting fire to the city and burning down a
whole quarter of it, for they considered it no business of theirs to
put out the blazing houses.
The next day, however, the tumult having subsided as usual, when the
Sultan and his suite were trotting out to inspect the scene of the
conflagration, and had got as far as the fountain in front of the
Seraglio, the figure of a veiled woman cast herself in front of the
horse's hoofs, and with audacious hands laid hold of the bridle of the
steed of the Kalif.
The Sultan backed his horse to prevent it from trampling upon the
woman, and, thinking she was one of those who had been burned out the
day before, ordered his treasurerwho was with himto put a silver
piece in her hand and bid her depart in the name of the Prophet.
Not money, my lord; but blood! blood! cried the woman; and, from
the ring of her voice, there was reason to suspect that she was a young
The Sultan in amazement asked the woman her name.
I am Eminah, the daughter of the Pasha of Delvino, and the wife of
And whose blood dost thou require? asked the Sultan, scandalized
to see the favorite wife of so powerful a man prostrate in the dust
before his horse's feet.
I demand death upon his head! cried the woman, with a firm
voiceon the head of Ali Tepelenti, from whose gehenna of a fortress
I have escaped on the waters of a subterranean stream in order that I
might accuse him to thee; and if thou dost not condemn him, I will go
to the judgment-seat of God and accuse him there!
The Sultan was horrified.
It is a terrible thing when a woman accuses her own husband, who has
loaded her with benefits. He must, indeed, be an evil-doer whom
turtle-doves, the gentlest of all God's creatures, attack!
The Sultan listened, full of indignation, to the woman's
After happily escaping from the fortress of Ali Pasha with the Greek
girl, she learned, during her short sojourn among the Suliotes, of all
Ali's cruelties, and learned also, at the same time, that in Delvino
had just died a rich Armenian lady, who had been the flame of Gaskho
Bey in his younger days, and had left him all the property she owned in
Albania. Of this nobody as yet knew anything. What more natural than
that every one should immediately fancy he had found the key to the
riddle of the mysterious attempt at assassination? Why, of course, Ali
wanted to slay Gaskho Bey in order that he might take possession of his
CHAPTER V. A MAN IN THE MIDST OF
The Pasha of Janina, for thirty successive days, received nothing
but ill tidings; and twice within the period of two waxing moons did
his own power as steadily wane.
The first Job's-messenger which reached him was the Arnaut horseman,
who had escaped from Stambul, and whom the Sultan's Tartars had pursued
as far as Adrianople. This man told him that the attempt on the life of
Gaskho Bey had failed, and that the captured assassins had revealed the
name of their employer.
Behold, I have wounded myself with my own sword, exclaimed Ali.
The prophetic voice of Seleucia spoke the truth; yea, verily, it spoke
And still more of the prophecy was to be accomplished.
A few days later the report reached him that Eminah had cast herself
at the feet of the Sultan and demanded judgment on the head of her
I knew it beforehand, sighed Ali. The Prophet told it all to me.
Nevertheless, I shall stand at the gates of the Seraglio on a silver
Next day he heard that Gaskho Bey had been appointed Pasha of
They act as if I were dead already, murmured the veteran, with as
bitter a feeling as if he already saw his youthful supplanter standing
on his threshold. They bury me before I am dead, they divide my
property before I have made my will. Nevertheless, one day I shall
stand in the gates of the Seraglio on a richer pedestal.
And with that Tepelenti sent forth his ciauses to all the towns
within his domains, and to all the local governors, commanding all who
had sons to send their sons and all who had brothers to send their
brothers to him without delay. Then he ordered that every beast of
burden that could be spared should be driven into the mountains, and
that every barque they could lay their hands upon should be brought
from the sea-coast into the Gulf of Durazzo. The arsenal of Janina
bristled with terrific rows of cannons and bombs, and the commanders of
the various army corps received instructions to concentrate their
forces under the walls of Janina. At any rate, he was determined not to
be taken unawares. At least, he would have time to unfurl the red flag
before the dread message arrived from Stambul that the Padishah
demanded his head.
Ah, ha! Ali Tepelenti would not surrender his gray beard so easily.
The hunters shall find out what manner of lion they are pursuing. A
firman of the Grand Signior nominated the banished Pehliván Pasha, Lord
of Lepanto; Sulaiman Pasha was made Governor of Trikala, and the two
mountain passes guarding it; Muhammad Bey, whose father Ali had slain,
was proclaimed Lieutenant-General of Durazzo. Thus they had divided his
territories beforehand among his most bitter and most dangerous
enemies. Ah! this will, indeed, be a magnificent chase.
Ali called together his sons, of whom Vely was Lord of Lepanto,
Sulaiman of Trikala, and Mukhtar Pasha of Durazzo. He showed them on
the map where their territories lay, and pointed out that if they lost
them they would have nothing left. Let all three of them, therefore,
gird upon their thighs the swords he intrusted to them and fight like
men. The two younger sons swore fervently that they would conquer
Fortune with their weapons, but Vely Bey preserved a gloomy silence.
Art thou not my son? asked the veteran.
Allah hath so willed it, answered Vely, and I also will fight,
not for thee but for myself, not for life nor for what is on the other
side of death, but because I have a little child in Lepanto, and the
enemy is besieging that fortress. That little child is all the world to
me. I will fight as only a father can fight for his son. I will rescue
him if possible. Thy glory or thy ruin is alike indifferent to me. If
the report reach thee that the enemy hath taken Lepanto and slain my
son, then count no more upon the sword which thou hast intrusted to
And with these words Vely turned his back on his father and softly
As Ali saw his son quietly pass before him, it occurred to him
whether it would not be as well to draw his pistol from his belt and
shoot down the waverer before he quitted Janina. It is true that he had
known all this beforehand. His own wife, his own sons, his own weapons,
were to turn against him; but then, on the other hand, was he not to
stand at the gate of the Seraglio on a silver pedestal?
A host of more than twenty thousand men stood under arms at his
disposal, Albanians and Suliotes. A gallant host, if only it would
fight. But for whom would it fight?for him or for the Sultan? And
these soldiers, when they saw him besieged, would they forget their
murdered kinsfolk, their plundered fields, their burned villages? Did
not every man of them know that Ali Tepelenti had been amassing
treasures all his life, but had never troubled himself about good
deeds? And now these treasures would surely be his ruin.
Time brought the answer. While his enemies were still afar off, the
Suliotes arose, under the leadership of a girl among the mountains of
Bracori, where one of Ali's grandsons, Zaid, was recruiting soldiers,
and massacred Ali's men to the very last one. The last one, however,
they suffered to escape and convey to Ali Zaid's severed head, at the
same time informing him that it was sent by that girl the head of whose
betrothed he had cut off before her very eyes, and she meant to send
him still more.
This was the Greek's declaration of war. There at Janina, under his
very nose, the Greek captain, Zunga, deserted the Albanian camp, and
when the Grand Signior's army reached Trikala, and Gaskho Bey's herald
galloped between the two armies with the imperial firman hanging round
his neck, and summoned the vassals to take up arms against the Pasha,
the whole camp went over to Gaskho Bey. Alone, without the smallest
escort, Sulaiman, Ali Pasha's youngest son, fled without having had the
opportunity of testing his father's sword, and they captured him on the
Still he had the other two. Mukhtar Bey, with a powerful fleet, lay
in the Gulf of Durazzo, and Vely Bey, wroth though he might be with his
father, was a valiant warrior, and his son was in Lepanto, and save him
he must and would.
But not only his son, some one else was there also. On that cruel,
murderous day when Ali Pasha drowned the harems of his sons in the
lake, one person among so many escaped, and this was Xelianthé. The
damsel loved Vely as much as he loved her, and contrived to let him
know that she was alive. Vely Bey sent her to Lepanto, and kept her in
hiding there with his little son in order that she might be far from
And now the bey himself hastened to Lepanto, arrived at night in the
neighborhood of the town, and perceived already from afar that the
citadel in which he had concealed his darlings was in flames.
What if he had arrived too late!
With the fury of a savage wild tiger he flung himself upon the
besieging Pehliván, and in a midnight battle routed him beneath the
walls of Lepanto, the Albanians fighting desperately by the side of
their leader. But what was the use of it? The fortress was saved,
indeed, but it was already in flames. Vely, roaring with grief and
pain, flung himself on the gate, scarcely recognizing again the place
he had quitted so short a time ago.
He reached the pavilion where he had concealed his wife and child.
It was built entirely of wood, except the roof, which was of copper. A
curious mass of molten dark-red metal gleamed among the fire-brands.
Vely rushed bellowing to the spot, and his soldiers, tearing aside the
charred beams and rafters, came upon two skeletons burned to cinders. A
coral necklace lying there, which the fire had been unable to calcine,
told him that these were the remains of his wife and son.
Not a word did Vely say to a living soul; but he plunged his sword
into its sheath, and that same night he rode unarmed into the camp of
the discomfited Pehliván Pasha and surrendered himself to the enemy.
His army, utterly demoralized, immediately fled back to Janina,
bringing the tidings to his father that Vely Bey, immediately after his
victory, had surrendered of his own accord to the Sultan.
So every one abandoned Ali. His cities opened their gates to his
enemies, his best friends betrayed, his two sons forsook, him. Still
the third son remained. And Mukhtar Bay was the best man of the three.
He was the bravest, and he loved his father the best.
Two days later came the tidings that Mukhtar Bey with his whole
fleet had surrendered before Durazzo to the Kapudan Pasha.
The soothsayer foretold it all to me, said Ali, calmly, when the
news was brought to him. So it was written beforehand in heaven.
Nevertheless, at the last, I shall stand at the gates of the Seraglio
on a silver pedestal!
CHAPTER VI. THE LION IN THE FOX'S
Blow upon blow rain down upon thee, thou veteran warrior! Thine
armies go over to the enemy, thy friends leave thee desolate, thy sons
betray thee, they capture thy cities without unsheathing their swords,
thine allies turn their arms against thee, and with thine own
artillery, of the best French manufacture, the Suliotes from the walls
of Janina shoot down thine Albanian guards!
Ah, those Suliotes! How they can fight! If only now they would raise
their swords on thy behalf, how thine enemies would fall in rows! But
now it is thy soldiers that fall before them! A brother and a
sister lead them ona youth and a girl; the youth's name is Kleon, the
girl's name is Artemis. Every time thou dost hear their names, it is as
if a sword were being plunged into thy heart, for the girl is she whom
thou wouldst have sacrificed to thy lust, and with whom thy wife didst
escape; and thou never dost hear that name without hearing at the same
time of the loss of thy bravest warriors!
Like the destroying angel Azrael, she fares through the din of
battle, waving her white banner amidst the showers of bullets, and not
one of them touches her. Before thy very eyes she plants the triumphant
banner on thy bastions, and thou hast not strength of mind enough left
to wish her to fall; nay, rather, when thou dost see her appear before
thee, thou dost forbid thy gunners to fire upon her!
Danger approaches Janina from all sides. Thou must drain the cup,
Tepelenti, to the very last drop, to the last bitter drop; and what
then? Why, then thou wilt stand before the Seraglio on a silver
* * * * *
One night there was a rolling of drums before the seven gates of
Janina, and a bomb flying down from the heights of Lithanizza exploded
in the market-place of the town. Up, up, ye Albanians! up, up, ye who
have any martial blood in your veins, the enemy has seized the guns on
the seven gates! Ali throws himself on his prancing steed, and in his
hand is the good battle-sword which has befriended him in so many a
danger. How many times has it not been the lot of Ali to lose
everything but this one sword, and then to win back everything by means
In a moment the army of the besieged stood in battle-array. Ali
contemplated the ranks of the enemy, and a smile passed across his
face. That worthy captain, Gaskho Bey, was leading his troops to the
shambles. In an hour's time Ali will so completely have annihilated
them that not even the rumor of them will remain behind. It will be a
battle-field worthy of the veteran general. Every one who sees it will
saythere is no escaping from him! Only let them advance, that is all!
And again he was disappointed. At the first shot, before a sword had
been drawn, his army surrendered to the enemy. If only they had fired
once, the victory would have been his; but no, the army laid down its
arms and the cunningly concealed gunners turned his own artillery
It was all over! Only seven hundred Albanian horsemen remained with
Ali, the rest either went over to the enemy or allowed themselves to be
The old lion waved his sword above his head, and turning to his
handful of heroes exclaimed, with a voice that rang out like a brazen
trumpet, Will ye behold Ali die?
And with that he galloped towards the market-place of Janina, the
faithful seven hundred following closely upon his heels.
The enemy poured into the town through every gate, but the
market-place cut off one part of the town from the others, and the
triumphant hordes came upon some very evil-looking trenches bristling
with chevaux de frise, and the long narrow streets were swept by
Ali's last twelve cannons, ably handled by the pasha's dumb eunuchs,
who stood at their posts like the symbols of constancy on a tomb.
Ali Pasha put down his foot in the middle of Janina. Of his ten
thousand horsemen only seven hundred remained with him. The enemy had
twenty thousand men and two hundred guns, and yet all the skill of
Gaskho Bey was incapable of dislodging Ali from the market-place of
Janina, and although the enemy held one portion of the city, it was
unable to take the other portion. If only they could have come to close
quarters with him, they would have crushed him with one hand; but get
at him they could notthat required skill, not strength.
At last the besiegers set the town on fire all around him, but still
Ali did not budge from his place, and the wind blew the flames in the
face of Gaskho Bey, who began to look about him uncomfortably when the
two Suliote kinsfolk, Kleon and Artemis, at the head of their
squadrons, urged him to boldly assault the market-place.
Tepelenti saw the girl with her white banner, and as her troops
filled the broad space at the head of the square, he himself, at first,
drew near to her. Four cannons were pointed at the Suliotes, loaded
with chain-shot and broken glass. Ali looked towards them with a gloomy
countenance, then stuck his sword in its sheath, bade his gunners turn
the guns round, harness the horses to them, and take refuge in the
citadel. He would not let a single shot be fired at the Suliotes.
The moment Ali turned his back, the besieging host captured the
field of battle. They followed hard upon the heels of the retreating
band all the way, and when Ali reached the bridge, the Spahis and
Timariots, like two swarms of bees mingled together, gained the head of
the bridge at the same time, and swarmed after him with a shout of
triumph. The real struggle began on the bridge itself. Man to man they
fought at close quarters with their shorter weapons (they could use no
other), and clubs and dirks did bloody work in the throng which poured
from two different quarters, along and over the overcrowded bridge like
ants coming out of a slender reed. Six hundred of the Albanians
succeeded in escaping into the citadel, and then, at Ali's command, the
iron gates were clapped to, leaving the remaining hundred to perish on
the bridge, where the overwhelming crowd swallowed them up. Each single
Albanian fought against ten to twenty Timariots. The bridge rang with
the din of combat, and trembled beneath the weight of the heavy crowd.
Then suddenly the guns on both sides of the bastions which were
attached to the bridge began to roar, the supports of the captured
bridge collapsed, and the bridge itself, with its load of fighting
Turks and Albanians, plunged down into the deep trenches below.
Down there were sharp-pointed stakes beneath the deep waters, and
those of the besiegers who remained on the bank were horrified to
perceive that not one of the fallen crowd reappeared on the surface of
the water, while the water itself gradually grew redder and redder,
till at last it was a bright crimson, painted by the blood of the
And opposite to them stood the fast-barred gate.
Ahha! 'Tis not so easy to capture Tepelenti as ye thought.
Everywhere else ye have triumphed; ye have triumphed up to the very
last point. And now ye have come to the last point, and your
victories are worth nothing, for the last point is still to be won.
The fortress is unapproachable. The bastions are built in the middle
of the lake, and from their dark quadrangular cavities rows of guns
(each one of them a sixty-pounder) sweep the surface of the water, so
that it is impossible to draw near in boats. On the land side one
hundred cannons defend the bastions, and who can surmount the triple
Ye will never capture Ali there. He has sufficient muniments of war
to last him for an indefinite period, and to show them how determined
he was, he caused the solitary gate of the fortress to be filled with
masonry and walled up. So the fortress has no longer a gate. Even
desertion is now an impossibility.
There he will remain, then, walled up as in a tomb, buried alive!
The only roads from thence lead to heaven or hell; the exit from the
land side is guarded by the Suliotes; even if he could fly he could not
escape from them.
The campaign is ended. The victorious Gaskho Bey proclaims himself
Pasha of Janina. The whole of Epirus does homage to him, and deserts
the fallen Vizier. In Stambul thanksgivings are offered up in the Ejub
mosque and the church of St. Sophia for the accomplished victory, which
is proclaimed, amidst the roaring of the cannons, by heralds in the
great market-place; and all the newspapers of Europe amazedly report
that the mighty and terrible adventurer, the ever-victorious veteran of
seventy-nine, the party-leader who grew to such a height that it was
doubtful whether he or the Sultan were the real ruler of Turkey, the
man who had been the ally of the great Napoleon, who a few months
before had sent as a present to England a precious dinner-service of
pure gold worth 30,000 thaler, who had heaped up more treasures than
any Eastern nabobis suddenly crushed, annihilated, shut up in a
fortress! It now only remains for him to die.
And not very long afterwards he did die. One night a couple of bold
Albanian horsemen descended the bastions by means of a long rope, and,
crossing the lake of Acheruz on a pine log, sought out Gaskho Bey in
his camp that very night.
Ali Tepelenti was dead. They were the first to bear the joyful
tidings to the bey. He died in his grief, in his wretchedness. Perhaps
also he had taken poison. On the morrow, at three o'clock, they had
arranged to bury him in the fortress! Before his death he had called
together his lieutenants, and taken an oath of them that they would
defend the fortress to the very last gasp of the very last man. His
treasures were piled up in the red towermore than thirty millions of
piastres. He had left it all to them. But what was the use of all this
treasure to them if they could not get out of this eyrie? They would
not surrender themselves, for Ali had made them swear by every Turkish
saint that they would defend the fortress to the death. But the rank
and file were of a different opinion; they would joyfully retire from
the fortress if they were assured of a free forgiveness. Gaskho Bey had
only to stretch out his hand and the fortress of Janina, the
impregnable fortress with its two hundred cannons and its enormous mass
of treasure, would be his.
Early in the morning the gray moonless flag, the sign of death, was
waving on the red tower of Janina, and the guns overlooking the water
fired three and thirty volleys, whose echo proclaimed among the
mountains that Ali Tepelenti was dead. Within the fortress sounded the
roll of the muffled drums, and it was also possible to distinguish the
dirges of the imams.
Gaskho Bey and his staff, from the top of the Lithanizza hills,
watched the burial of the pasha. There was an observatory here from
whose balcony they could look down into the court-yard, and the
splendid telescopes, which the sultan had got from Vienna, rendered
powerful assistance to the onlookers, who through them could observe
the smallest details of what was going on in the court-yard of the
fortress; one telescope in particular brought the objects so near that
one could read the initial letters of the verses of the Kuran which the
imams held in their hands.
In the midst of a simple coffin lay Ali Pasha. It was really he; of
that there could be no doubt. Let every one look for himself! There he
laydead, cold, motionless. His lieutenants and his servants stood
around him weeping. Those who walked along by his side stooped down to
kiss his hands.
In the town outside the Suliotes knew of Ali's death, and by way of
compliment they fired a bomb into the citadel. But the match of the
bomb was too short, and it exploded in the air.
From the observatory they could see very well the fright of the
crowd assembled in the court-yard at the whizzing of the bomb over
their heads, and how every one looked anxiously at the little round
white cloud there; only he who lay dead in the midst of them remained
cold and tranquil. He will never again be disturbed by the roar of an
The imams raised him on their shoulders, and, amidst the melancholy
dirges of the mourners and the muffled roll of the drums, they carried
him away to his open tomb, for his grave was already dug.
The Moslems do not put their dead in a closed coffin; they only half
board the tomb up in order that the angels of death may have room to
place the corpse in a sitting posture when they come to take an account
of his actions.
They really did lower Ali Tepelenti into his tomb.
The garrison fired a triple salute, the imams thrice sang their
sacred verses, and then came the gravediggers and cast the earth upon
the corpse. A large marble slab was standing there, and with it they
pressed down the earth on the tomb, at the same time placing two
turbaned headstones, one at each end of the tomb.
They really did bury Ali.
When the imams and the officers had departed from the covered tomb,
Gaskho Bey summoned the keepers of the observatory to the summit of
Lithanizza and laid this command upon them:
Let a man stand in front of this telescope from morning to evening
(and mind that he is relieved every four hours), and never withdraw his
eye from that tomb. At night, when the moon goes down, a rocket is to
be fired every five minutes, that the watchers may see the tomb and
never leave it out of sight, and report upon it every hour.
What? Is Gaskho Bey actually afraid that old Ali, a veteran of
seventy-nine, will be able to arise from his tomb and hurl away that
heavy marble slab with his dead hands? There are men of whom it is
impossible to believe that they are dead, and whom people are afraid of
even when they are buried.
Every hour till late in the evening they reported to Gaskho Bey that
the tomb remained unchanged, and all the night through not a soul
Tepelenti, then, was really deadtotally dead.
Early next morning Gaskho Bey heard a very curious story.
In the artillery barracks, where the round guns stood, a drummer had
laid down his drum close beside him, with the drumsticks leaning over
it, when he suddenly perceived the two drumsticks begin to move of
their own accord over the tightly drawn skin of the drums as if some
invisible hand wished to beat a tattoo. The drummer cried out at this
marvel, and fancied that a dzhin was in the drum.
Gaskho Bey would not believe it till he had himself gone to the
barracks and seen with his own eyes how the two drumsticks vibrated
with sufficient force to tap the drum pretty loudly, moving in a spiral
line backward and forward across it, tap-tap-tapping as they went.
It is very marvellous! cried the bey; and he immediately summoned
the imams to drive the dzhin out of the drum.
The imams set to work at once. They fetched their fumigators and
their sacred books, and they fumigated the drum with nose-offending
odors and recited over it drum-expelling exorcisms in a shrill voice.
And certainly if the devil was in that drum, and had anything of a nose
or ears, he would have been obliged to escape from that noise and
stink. So long as the drum was in any one's hand the drumsticks did not
move, but when it was put down on the ground the mysterious tap-tapping
The imams went on howling, and horribly they howled.
The chief of the observatory was present during this scene. As a
French renegade he was a man of some education, and therefore he did
not accept the theory of the dzhins. When he perceived that the
imams were not successful in expelling the evil spirits, he called
Gaskho Bey aside and whispered in his ear:
I know nothing about your dzhins, and don't understand what
you are driving at with all this noise and stench, but I can tell you
that this beating of the drum is a sign that invisible hands are at
It means that we ought to get away from here, for they are digging
mines beneath us, and that is why the ground trembles and the
Gaskho Bey began smiling. He had as little idea of sapping and
mining as the French renegade had of Turkish monsters.
How superstitious thou art, my brave moosir! said he, shrugging
his shoulders and looking down upon the Frenchman.
The latter, however, did not remain there much longer, but hastened
as quickly as he could to the summit of the Lithanizza.
After about an hour and a half's more hubbub the imams succeeded in
expelling the dzhin. The drum grew quiet, the excitement
subsided, and the soldiers were instructed to lay two swords crosswise
in front of the gate, so that the spirit might not be able to come back
any more; and with that termination of the affair every one was
* * * * *
Opposite the gate of the fortress of Janina, at the head of the
collapsed bridge, stood a stone building, fenced about with redoubts
and palisades, which had now fallen into the hands of the Suliotes.
This building had been chosen by the two Greek kinsfolk for their
dwelling-place. They wanted to get as close to Ali as possible; they
would not suffer him to escape even in the shape of a bird or a spirit;
their large siege-guns were pointed at the walled-up gate. Let him
surrender or find his tomb in the fortress.
And lo! he had found his tomb without consulting them about
it. In vain they had sharpened their weapons against himthe sword of
Death is quicker and cuts down sooner. They had not been able to reach
him on the field of battle; they had not been able to plunge their
avenging swords into his heart; they had not been able to bring his
gray head to the block; it had been reserved for him to pass quietly
awayto die in his bed, untroubled, unmolested, to die the death of
Kleon and Artemis were sitting sullenly in a room of the fort by the
light of a flickering candle. The girl had absently divested herself of
her cuirass and was walking up and down the room with folded arms.
There was not a single womanly trait in her face. It was as cold as the
face of a statue.
So he is dead, thendead!
This phrase she repeated to herself again and again. She seemed
unable to get away from it.
Ali has died, and not by my hand.
Kleon was strikingly like his sister; indeed, his young face
scarcely differed at all from hers, but in his eyes quite another sort
of flame sparkled. Her face, full of dark thoughts, was much more
terrible; his was free and open, and full of radiant hope.
My triumph has lost its worth if Ali is dead, she said, with a
sigh. The old fox has dodged my steel by taking refuge in hell. Oh,
would that I might follow him thither also, that I might tear his gray
beard, which he has bathed in my kinsman's blood!
Behold! here is my gray beard! cried a voice at that instant from
the other end of the room, and the brother and sister beheld Ali
Tepelenti standing before them.
The terror-stricken young people involuntarily crossed themselves.
Horror nailed them to the ground and petrified all their limbs, when
they saw what they imagined to be a spectre standing there before them
in the self-same gray robe in which he had been buried two days before.
Behold, here I am, Ali Tepelenti!
With that the spectre clapped his hands, and from every corner of
the room rushed forth Albanians armed to the teeth, and before the
brother and sister could approach their weapons, they were overpowered
and tied together.
It was really Ali Tepelenti who stood before them.
They had put him away underground, it is true, but underground there
were paths and passages only too well known to him. The whole spectacle
of the interment had been arranged by himself, and there was an exit
from the bottom of his tomb into subterranean corridors. When the
general joy and satisfaction at the victory was at its height, he was
abroad and at work.
A strongly built subterranean trench had been constructed below the
ditches encircling the redoubts, and its ramifications extended to the
fort at the head of the bridge. Ali had so completely surprised the
garrison that they had not been able to fire a shot; the Suliotes had
been surprised and disarmed while in their dreams.
Up, up, Gaskho Bey! Arise, Muhammad Aga! To horse, ye captains!
Seize thy sword, Pehliván Pasha! Danger is at hand! This is a bad night
* * * * *
Suddenly a frightful explosion shook the ground, just as if the
earth was being wrenched from its hinges, and amidst a flame brighter
than the light of day, which seemed to leap up to the very stars, huge
round cannons were seen flying. The gunners in the barracks were also
pitched into the air. The minarets tottered and fell before the
terrific shock, every building round about crumbled into ruins. In a
moment one-half of the town was reduced to a rubbish-heap, and the next
moment a hail of burning beams and lacerated human limbs fell back upon
the ruins from the blood and fire besmudged heavens.
It was thus that Ali Pasha signified his resurrection to his
enemies! He had gone underground, and now from underground he began the
Gaskho Bey, his gigantic body half undressed (he had just leaped out
of bed), rushed to the end of the street, and was so confused that he
asked all whom he met where he was. The suddenly aroused soldiers, half
mad with terror, rushed hither and thither in confusion, crying out,
one for his horse, another for his weapons. And above their heads, more
terrible than heaven's thunder-bolts, resounded the dread cry, Ali,
Ali! There comes the entombed pasha on a white horse, with his white
beard; who will dare to look him in the face? The panic-stricken throng
falls in thousands beneath the swords of the Albanians, blood flows in
streams in the streets of Janina, and Ali Pasha, the dead man, the
buried captain, fills the hearts of their warriors with the fear of
death. There is none who can stand against him.
Only Pehliván, the stalwart hero, was able to prevent the vast
besieging army from being scattered altogether by a handful of Arnauts.
He rallied the fugitives outside the town, and, while Ali's men-at-arms
were murdering every one inside, he quickly seized all the gates,
advanced in battle-array, and stayed the triumph of the veteran
And enough had surely been done.
Three thousand of the besiegers lay dead, the guns were spiked or
overthrown, and the leaders of the Suliote band were prisonersand all
this the result of Ali's nocturnal rally! It was time for him to
Pehliván thus recaptured the town and marshalled his men in the
market-place, without pursuing Ali any further. But he had reckoned
without Gaskho Bey, who now came rushing up and furiously accosted him:
Why hast thou not pursued him right into the citadel?
It would not do to press Ali too closely, replied the practised
general; let him fly, if fly he will.
At this, Gaskho Bey, foaming with rage, tore the sword out of
Pehliván's hand (where he had left his own sword he could not have said
for the life of him), and, placing himself at the head of a band of
Spahis, began to pursue the retreating foe.
Ali was proceeding quite leisurely towards the fortress, as if he
did not trouble himself about his pursuers, although they were six
times as numerous as his forces.
When Gaskho Bey had got within ear-shot, Tepelenti shouted back to
Thou hast come to a bad place, brave Bey. This ground is mine, and
what is beneath it is mine also, dost thou not know that yet?
Gaskho Bey naturally did not understand a word of this till, at a
gesture from Ali, a rocket flew up into the air, at which signal those
inside the fortress suddenly exploded all the mines which had been dug
under all the streets of the town. Tepelenti had prepared these during
his fortunate days by piercing water conduits and making subterranean
vaults large enough to hold great stores of gunpowder.
Ali rallied his own bands at the head of the bridge, and when,
suddenly, the explosion burst forth along the whole length of the
street, and the destroying flame tossed the pursuing squadrons into the
air one after the other, he amused himself by contemplating the ruin
from the top of the fort, and was the last who disappeared in the
hidden tunnel. For a long time those in the fortress could hear the
agonized cries of the vanquished. One-third of the besieging army had
been destroyed in a single night. The rest quitted the accursed town,
which seemed to have been built over hell itself, and took up a
position in the fields outside and on the heights of Lithanizza.
The rising sun revealed a horrible spectacle. The town of Janina no
longer existed, the beautiful tall houses, the cupolaed mosques, the
slender white minarets, the imposing barrackswhere were they? Instead
of them, all that could be seen was a shapeless mass of piled-up ruins;
here and there, on a dark background, scorched by flickering flames, a
huddle-muddle of broken rafters, mangled corpses, charred black or
gaping hideously open, lay scattered about amongst the rubbish, and
from the mouth of a conduit at the side of the bastion there trickled
sadly down into the lake a dark red stream, which wound its way in and
out amongst the ruins.
* * * * *
Poor children, how sweetly they are sleeping!
Thus spoke Ali.
In a corner of the red tower, sleeping side by side, were the two
Suliote kinsfolk, Artemis and Kleon. They slept in each other's
embrace, and not even the gaze of Ali awoke them.
Don't arouse them, said Ali to his dumb eunuchs; let them sleep
And again he regarded them with a smilethey slept so soundly. And
yet they knew not when they fell asleep whether they would ever awake
Ali did not arouse the slumberers. Thrice he sent to see if they had
awakened, but he would not have them disturbed. At last the hand of the
youth made his chain clank, and both of them opened their eyes at the
I was on my way to Akro-Corinth, said he, rubbing his large dreamy
eyes with his hands, and I saw them rebuilding the Parthenon.
I stood at Thermopylæ, said the girl, and the enemy fell before
me by thousands.
And now we shall go to the block, sighed Kleon, listening as the
iron doors of his dungeon slowly opened.
Be strong! whispered the girl, pressing the hand of her brother
which was enlaced in hers.
The dumb eunuchs surrounded them, and led them before Ali Pasha.
The pasha was sitting on a divan, and still wore his funeral robe;
all the furniture was shrouded with cinder-colored cloth; there was
nothing golden, nothing that sparkled in the room.
The brother and sister stood before him, pressing each other's
My dear children, said the pasha, in a voice that trembled with
emotion, don't look into each other's eyes, but look at me!
At this unusual tone, at these kindly words, the brother and sister
did look at him, and perceived that the old man was looking at them
sadly, doubtfully, and that his eyes were full of tears.
Ali beckoned to the eunuchs, and they freed the brother and sister
from their chains.
Behold, ye are free, and may return to your homes, said Ali.
These words had the effect of an electric shock upon the youth, and
his face lit up with a flush of joy.
Why dost thou rejoice? cried Artemis, casting a severe look upon
him; dost thou not perceive that the monster is mocking us? He only
wants to excite joy within us that he may kindle our hopes, and then
make death all the more bitter to us. Why dost thou make sport of us,
thou old devil? Slay us quickly, or slay us with lingering torments,
'tis all one to us, but do not mock us!
Tepelenti devoutly raised his eyes to heaven.
My soul is an open book before you. Ye are free. Ye free Suliotes,
we understand one another. I have sinned grievously against you, but ye
have revenged yourself upon me. I burned your villages, ye, in return,
have destroyed my fortresses. I have pillaged your lands, and ye have
taken my possessions from me. I have slain your bridegroom and snatched
thee from thy parent's house; thou hast cut off the head of my favorite
grandson, and ravished from me my favorite wife. Now we are quits, and
owe each other nothing. Go in peace!
There was so much sincerity, so much repentant, contrite grief in
the words of Ali, that the watchful maid began to regard him with
Thou art amazed at my change of countenance, said Ali, observing
the impression his words had produced on Artemis. Thou hast not seen
me like this before! That other Ali is no more. He died, and was
buried. A penitent kneels before thee who has a horror of his past
sins, and begs thy forgiveness, kissing the hem of thy garment.
And, indeed, Ali fell down on his knees before Artemis, in order
that he might kiss the border of her robe, and breaking forth into
moans, shed tears at the girl's feet, so that she involuntarily bent
down and raised him up.
She was a woman, after all, and could not bear to see any one
weeping before her.
Listen now to what I say, continued the pasha, and do not fancy
that Ali has gone mad. This night I saw a vision. A beauteous and
radiantly majestic maiden descended at my threshold from the midst of
the bright, open heavens, surrounded by a company of winged children's
heads. The maiden looked at me so gently, so kindly. A divine light
shone from her countenance, and, on the earth beneath, all the flowers
turned their faces towards her as if she were the sun. In the arms of
this heavenly maid sat a child, but what a child! At the sight of him,
even I, old man as I am, trembled with joy. Round about the head of
this child was a wreath of stars, and the smile upon his face was
salvation itself. And when I raised my trembling hands towards her, the
heavenly lady and the child extended their arms towards me, and from
the lips of the maiden, in a sweet, inexpressibly sweet voice, came
these words: 'Ali Tepelenti, I call thee!' And I, all trembling, fell
down on my knees before her.
The brother and sister involuntarily knelt down beside Ali and
stammered, full of devotion, Blessed be the most holy Virgin!
Ali Pasha continued the recital of his vision.
With my face covered, I listened to the words of the bright
apparition, and now she addressed me once more in a dolorous voice,
which pierced my very heart, 'Ali Tepelenti, behold me!' And when I
raised my face, lo! I beheld seven swords pointing towards the heart of
the heavenly maid, and I felt my hand grow numb with fright. 'Ali
Tepelenti,' said the lady for the third time, 'these swords thou
hast thrust into my wounds, and my blood be upon thy head!' And I,
groaning, made answer, 'How could I have done so when I do not know
thee?' And she replied, 'He who persecutes mine, persecutes me, and who
robs my temples, robs me; didst thou not pull down the churches of
Tepelen, Turezzo, and Tripolizza?' 'I swear that I will build them up
again,' I replied, raising my hand to give solemnity to my vow; and as
I spoke one of the seven swords fell from the heart of the lady. 'Didst
thou not rob the Suliotes of their children,' inquired the heavenly
vision anew, 'in order to bring them up as Moslems?' 'I swear that I
will make them Christians again!' and at these words the second sword
fell out of her heart. 'Didst thou not carry off their maidens for
thine own harem?' 'I swear that I will give them back to the Suliotes!'
and with that the third sword fell from her heart. 'Didst thou not
gather together immense treasures from the heritage of widows and
orphans?' And, smiting the ground with my head, I answered: 'All my
treasures shall be dedicated to thy service.' And thus she recorded my
mortal sins one by one, and thus I swore to make rigorous reparation
for them with an irrefragable oath, and as many times as I so swore a
sword fell at my feet. Finally but one sword remained in her bleeding
heart, and then she asked me, 'Hast thou not sought the death of that
Suliote brother and sister who were the most faithful defenders of my
altars? Hast thou not plunged them into thy dungeon, and is not their
death already resolved upon in thy heart?' And, terrified, I laid my
hand upon my heart, for verily that thought was in it, and not without
a fierce struggle, I stammered, 'Oh, heavenly vision! these two young
people are my mightiest enemies, and they have sworn to kill me; yet if
thou dost command it I will lay my gray head in their hands, and I will
be in their power, not they in mine.' At these words the last sword
also fell from her heart, and she answered, 'Ali Tepelenti, take these
swords in thy hand, and do as thou hast said.' And with that she
reascended into heaven, the clouds closed behind her, and I remained
alone with the seven swords in my hand, on which seven vows were
written. This vision I saw in the night that has just past; and now
reflect upon my words.
The minds of the brother and sister were deeply agitated. The old
Moslem before them had spoken with such devotion, with such enthusiasm
of his vision, that it was impossible to question its reality. The
emotion visible in his countenance, the tears in his eyes, the tremor
in his voice, proved that he really felt what he said. While they were
standing there pondering over the old man's vision, he took them by the
hand and led them into his treasure-chamber, and showed them the heaps
and heaps of gold and silver, the coins piled up in vats, and the steel
which had been melted into bars and stacked up there.
My treasures are at your disposaluse them as you will. Then,
selecting from amongst his choicest diamonds two stones, worth a
hundred thousand sequins, he placed them in the hands of Kleon and
Artemis, and said, These I will send to the war-chest of the Hetæria!
Why, what does Ali mean by mentioning this secret society, which had
already undermined the whole Turkish Empirejust as he had undermined
Janina? Perhaps he would fire these mines also! Of a truth the arm of
Ali reached as far as Stambul! aye, and as far as Bucharest also.
And now he led the brother and sister into his armory, and there
they saw whole chests full of firearms from the manufactories of the
best English and French makers.
You see, I could arm a whole realm with the weapons I have in
The brother and sister sighed; one and the same thought suddenly
occurred to them both.
Tepelenti, said the girl.
Thou hast done much harm to us, we also have done much harm to
thee; let us act as if we now saw each other for the first time.
I forgive you.
I will forget that thou didst put to death my betrothed in this
room, and thou forget that we killed thy grandson. Call to mind,
moreover, that not only are we captives in this fortress, but thou art
also surrounded by the hosts of thine enemies.
I alone am a captive, said Ali, humbly. I swear by Allah, as I
have promised the holy Virgin, that I will let you and all your
companions free! What may happen to you after that I care not. Ali has
not long to live now. But your days of combat are yet to be, and if
ever the time should come when your plans need the help of arms and
treasures, remember that there is enough of both at Janina.
Artemis was constrained to believe in the sincerity of Ali's words.
And now the pasha, with his own hand, selected two beautiful
Damascus blades from among his store of weapons, and bound them to the
girdles of the brother and sister. What a warmth of self-confidence
came over them when they felt once more that they had swords by their
Then he led them down to their companions, who were assembled in the
court-yard of the fortress, and informed them that they were free to go
whither they would. And then he put wine and pilaf before the jubilant
crowd of captives, and left them to eat and drink with his own Arnauts;
and, beneath the peace-making influence of the good wine, it was not
very long before they fell to kissing one another and swearing eternal
fellowship like brothers.
Then Ali produced his best long-range rifles, with bayonets
attached, and distributed them amongst the captive Suliotes; he had not
the least fear now that they would turn these arms against him. Then he
kissed the brother and sister on their foreheads, and, giving them his
blessing, let them through that secret tunnel which led into the town.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, in Gaskho Bey's camp outside curious reports began to
circulate. A pair of captured Albanians, who had been surprised amongst
the ruins of the town when Ali retreated, began to make the most
astounding revelations before their judges; amongst other things they
maintained that the Suliotes, in the camp of the bey, had a secret
understanding with the Pasha of Janinatheir former master. And, as a
matter of fact, every one had observed that Ali had quitted the field
of battle rather than fire upon the Suliotes.
But the captives confessed still more. They said that Artemis and
Kleon had had secret meetings with Ali in the subterranean tunnel, and
had surrendered to him voluntarily. It must have been so, argued those
who had survived the last sally. Ali had made his assault from the
tower at the head of the bridge, and yet the Suliotes there had not so
much as fired a gun to signify his approach.
The captives also insisted that Ali was going to make another sally
on the following night against the besieging army, and then all the
Christians in the camp of the bey would join him.
These reports, with still more terrible variations, began to extend
throughout the whole army, and here and there slight mêlées even
took place between Christians and Moslems. The Osmanlis began to
threaten the foreign soldiers, and the latter began to everywhere form
themselves into independent little bands for mutual protection.
Gaskho Bey and Pehliván Pasha hastily summoned a council of war at
this disquieting symptom, and it was there resolved that the Greeks
should be disarmed. For this purpose they assembled them together in
the midst of the camp, surrounded them with Turkish veterans, and then,
pointing the guns at them, summoned them to instantly lay down their
arms or they should all be shot down like dogs.
The Suliotes and Albanians listened to this summons with terror.
They beheld the bloodthirsty masses around them, and reflected how many
times men had lost their lives by surrendering the very weapons
wherewith they might have defended themselves, and, in their
hesitation, they chose out twelve youths from amongst their ranks to go
to the general and ask the reason of this alarming demonstration.
Gaskho Bey was still in a towering passion, and the bold speech of
the young men irritated him still further. He had them dragged into the
midst of the camp, in front of the assembled battalions, and commanded
that their heads should be cut off, proclaiming at the same time that
any who dared to disobey this order should meet with the same fate.
The garments of the twelve young men were stripped from off them in
the presence of their comrades, and the usual head severing giant stood
behind them, ready to force them down upon their knees and decapitate
them one by one. But he had not yet cut off a single head when a loud
noise was heard coming from the direction of Janina; it was the
liberated sister and brother. Artemis and Kleon, at the head of their
bands. They had beheld from the tower of Janina the danger which
threatened their comrades, and arrived just as the executioners were
preparing to carry out Gaskho Bey's commands.
The Suliotes scattered here and there looked at each other. A
tremendous roar filled the aira roar of grief and rage and
terrorbreaking forth into despair. Those from before, those from
behind, fell upon the ranks of the Moslems. In a moment Gaskho Bey's
whole camp was converted into a chaotic mob, where Albanians and
Spahis. Suliotes and Timariotes, fought together without any fixed
plan, and, in utter defiance of all military science, recognizing
neither friend nor foe. In vain the standard-bearers raised their
banners, in vain the officers of the Spahis roared themselves hoarse,
and the Sorbadzhis and the gigantic Gaskho Bey himself did the same.
The army was so completely disorganized that not even the victorious
enemy could make head or tail of it. Towards evening the Suliotes,
under Kleon and Artemis, captured Lithanizza; while Gaskho Bey, in his
despair, fled all the way to Durazzo. When he got there he discovered
that of all his army only twelve ciauses remained with him. The whole
host had fled higgledy-piggledy along the first road it came across,
leaving behind it all its artillery, baggage, and ammunition wagons.
But Ali Pasha, sweetly smiling, calmly looked on from the red tower
of Janina, while the enemy worried itself to death, and the besieging
thousands scattered in every direction without his having to waste a
single cannon-shot upon them.
But as I have already said. Ali was often so reduced as to possess
nothing but his sword, and with this same sword he would win everything
CHAPTER VII. THE ALBANIAN FAMILY
And now we will let the rumor of great deeds rest a while; we will
close our eyes to the wars that followed upon the siege of Janina; we
will shut our ears against the echoes of the names of a Ulysses,
Tepelenti, a Kolokotrini, those heroes who shook the throne of the
Sultan, and all of whom the Pasha of Janina called his very dear
friends. While these bloody wars are raging we will turn into the grove
of Dodona, where formerly the ambiguous utterances of sacred prophecies
were always resounding in the ears of contemplative dreamers. Let us go
back eighty years! Let us seek out that quiet little glen whither
neither good report nor evil report ever comes flying, whose
inhabitants know of nothing but what happens amongst their own
fir-trees; why, even the tax-collecting Spahi only light down amongst
them to levy contributions once in a century!
The house of Halil Patrona's consort no longer stands beside the
rippling stream. Nobody even knows the tomb in which the beautiful, the
elfin Gül-Bejáze now lies; Gül-Bejáze, the White Rose, blooms no
longer anywhere in that valley. Nobody knows the name even; only the
oldest old grandmother in the circle of the spinning maidens can tell
them tales, which she also has heard from her mother or her
grandmother, of a mad lady who used to dwell in this valley and lay a
table every evening and prepare a couch every night for an invisible
spirit, whom she called her husband, and whom nobody saw but herself.
[Footnote 9: The heroine of another Turkish tale of Jókai's, A
feher rózsa (The White Rose).]
This old woman had a son called Behram, a brave, honest, worthy
youth; many a time with his comrades he would pursue the Epirot
bandits, who swooped down upon their valley and carried off their
Near to him dwelt the widow Khamko, whose husband had been shot at
Tepelen, and who, with her son, little Ali, in her bosom, had sought
refuge amongst these mountains.
Formerly Khamko was a gentle creature, but when they began to talk
to her about the mad lady she also grew as crazy as ever the other was.
She was ready to destroy the whole world, and over and over again she
would utter the wildest things; she would like, she said, to see the
whole four corners of the world set on fire so that the flames might
shoot up on all four sides of it, and every living man within it, good
as well as bad, might be burned. Listen not to such words. O Allah!
Behram was a very quiet fellow, not more than six and twenty years
old; little Ali was scarce sixteen. But this wild, restless lad was
already wont to wander for days together amongst the glens and
mountains, and whenever he came home he invariably brought his mother
money or jewels. And nobody knew whence he got them save Behram, to
whom the youth confessed everything, for he loved him dearly.
Ali joined the company of the Epirot adventurers and with them he
would go sacking villages, waylaying rich merchants, and shared with
them the easily gotten booty.
And whenever he returned home without money, his mother. Khamko,
would rail upon and chide him, and let him have no peace until he had
engaged in fresh and more lucrative robberies.
Behram looked askance at the perilous ways of his young comrade, and
as often as he was alone with him did his best to fill his mind with
honest, noble ideas, which also seemed to make some impression on Ali,
for he gradually began to abandon his marauding ways, and in order that
he might still be able to get money for his mother, he fell to selling
his sheep and his goats, and even parted with his long, silver-mounted
musket. At last he had nothing left but his sword. Dame Khamko,
meanwhile, scolded Ali unmercifully. If he wanted to eat, let him go
seek his bread, she said. And the lad wandered through the woods and
thickets, and lived for a long time on the berries of the forest. At
last, one day, when he was wellnigh famished and in the depths of
misery, he came upon an Armenian inn-keeper standing in the doorway of
his lonely little tavern. Ali rushed upon him, sword in hand, like a
wolf perishing with hunger. The Armenian was a worthy old fellow, and
when he saw Ali he said to him:
What dost thou want, my son?
The honest, open look of the old man shamed Ali, and casting down
his eyes, he replied: I want to give thee this sword. Yet the moment
before he had determined to slay him with it.
The Armenian took the sword from him, and gave him ten sequins in
exchange for it, besides meat and drink. So Ali returned home without
When Dame Khamko saw her son return home disarmed she was greatly
incensed and exclaimed:
What hast thou done with thy sword?
I have sold it, answered Ali, resolutely.
At this the mother flew into a violent rage, and catching up a
bludgeon, belabored Ali with it until she was tired. The big, muscular
lad allowed himself to be beaten, and neither wept nor said a word, nor
even tried to defend himself.
And now dost see that spindle? cried Dame Khamko. Learn to spin
the thread and turn the bobbins quickly; thou shalt not eat idle bread
at home, I can tell thee. A man who can sell his sword is fit for
nothing but to sit beside a distaff.
So Ali sat down to spin.
For a couple of days he endured the insults which his mother heaped
upon him, and on the third day he returned to the Armenian, to whom he
had sold his sword, robbed him of and slew of him with it, plundered
and burned down his house, and from thenceforth became such a famous
robber that the whole countryside lived in mortal terror of him.
Dame Khamko lived a long time after this event, and ruined her son's
soul altogether by urging him to kill and slay without mercy, till one
fine day her son murdered her likewise, and thus added her blood also
to the blood of those whom, at his mother's instigation, he had cruelly
And this lad became the Pasha of Janina. Ali Tepelenti!
Through what an ocean of treachery, perjury, robbery, and homicide
he had to wade before he attained to that eminence! How often was he
not so reduced as to have nothing left but his sword and his crafty
brain? But many a time, in the midst of his most brilliant successes,
in the very plenitude of his power, he would bethink him of the two
quiet little huts where he and Behram had been wont to dwell. He never
heard of Behram now, but he used frequently to think in those days and
wonder what would have become of himself if he had listened to Behram's
words and lived a quiet, contented life. 'Tis true he would not have
been so mighty a man as he was now, but would he not have been a much
Once, when he was a very great potentate, he had visited the little
village in the glen in which they had hidden away together. But nobody
would tell him anything of Behram. He had disappeared none knew
whither. Perhaps he had died since then!
CHAPTER VIII. THE PEN OF MAHMOUD
When, during the reign of Mahmoud II., the caravan of Meccan
pilgrims was plundered by the Vechabites, lying in ambush, the Sultan
ordered the rulers of Mecca and Medina to immediately send to the lair
of the Vechabites and buy back the dervishes with ready money.
The Vechabites gave up the captives in exchange for the ransom sent
them, but they adhered so rigidly to the terms of the bargain whereby
they were to surrender the captives only, that they even kept for
themselves the garments that happened to be on the captives, and let
nothing go but their bare bodies, on which account Mahmoud was obliged
to give his rescued subjects raiment as well as freedom.
Amongst those who were so liberated was a dervish of the
Nimetullahita order, who, after this incident was over, arose, sought
out the Sultan and said to him, Thou art a poor potentate. Thou art
the most sorry of all the caliphs. Thou art the greatest son of
suffering among all the sultans who have gone before thee, or shall
come after thee. I thank thee for delivering me from the hands of the
Vechabites, and as a reward, therefore, I bring thee a gift which,
even when they left me without any raiment, I was still able to conceal
[Footnote 10: I.e., patient of insult.]
[Footnote 11: The Vechabites are accounted heretics by the orthodox
And with that he produced a writing-reed and gave it to the Sultan,
and when Mahmoud asked him in what way he had concealed it from the
eyes of the robbers, he explained how he had cunningly thrust it into
his thick black beard, where nobody had perceived it.
Mahmoud accepted the gift of the dervish, and put it where he put
his other curiosities; but he did not think of it for very long, and
gradually it escaped his memory altogether.
One day, however, when one of his favorite damsels, moved by
curiosity, had induced him to show her the treasures of his palace, and
they came to the spot where lay the pen of the dervish, the damsel
suddenly cried out, and said that she had seen the pen move.
The Sultan looked in that direction, and, observing nothing, treated
the whole affair as a joke, and went on showing the damsel the
accumulated relics and curiosities of centuries which thirteen
successive Sultans had stored up in the khazné or treasury, and then
gave the damsel permission to choose for herself whichever of these
treasures might please her most.
Many costly things were there covered with gems, and worth, each one
of them, half a kingdom; there were also rare and precious relics, and
antiquities rich in historical associations. But the Sultan's pet
damsel chose for herself none of these things; to the amazement of the
Padishah, she only asked for this simple black pen.
Mahmoud was astonished, but he granted the damsel her wish, and
making light of it, he gave her the writing-reed which was fashioned
out of a simple bamboo cane, and was nothing very remarkable even at
The odalisk took the pen away with her to her room, and waited from
morning to night to see it move. But the pen calmly rested where she
had placed it all day long and all night too, and the odalisk began to
be sorry that she had not rather selected for herself some other more
precious thing instead of the object of her curiosity; but one evening,
when the Sultan was visiting her in her flowery chamber, and they were
holding sweet converse together, they suddenly heard in the room, where
nobody was present but themselves, a faint sound as if some one were
writing in great haste, the scratching of a pen on the extended
parchment was distinctly audible.
They both looked in the direction of the sound, and words failed
them in their astonishment, for behold! the writing-reed was half
raised in the air, just as when one is holding it in his hand, and it
seemed to be writing of its own accord on the parchment extended
The damsel trembled for terror, while the Sultan, who was a stranger
alike to fear or superstition, imagining that perhaps a spider had got
into the upper part of the reed, and consequently made it move up and
down, and anxious to convince his favorite thereof, approached the
table, and took up the pen in order to shake the spider out of it. But
there was nothing at all there, and the pen went on writing of its own
The Sultan himself began to be astonished at this phenomenon. What
the pen seemed to be so diligently writing remained a hidden script,
however, for its point had not been dipped in ink. Wishing, therefore,
to put it to the test, the Sultan dipped the point of the reed in a
little box full of that red balsamic salve with which Turkish girls are
wont to paint their lips, and then placed it on a smooth, clean sheet
of parchment, whereupon it again arose, and wrote in bright, plainly
intelligible letters these words, Mahmoud! Mahmoud!
The Sultan's own heart began to beat when he saw his own name
written before his eyes, and he inquired with something like
consternation, What dost thou want of me?
The pen immediately wrote down again these two words, Mahmoud!
Mahmoud! and then lay still.
That is my name, said the Sultan; but who then art thou. O
The pen again arose and wrote beneath the name of Mahmoud this name
also, Halil Patrona!
Mahmoud trembled at this name. It was the name of a man who had been
murdered by one of his ancestors, and if the apparition of a spirit be
terrible in itself, how much more the spirit of a murdered man!
What dost thou want here? exclaimed the terrified Sultan.
The pen answered, To warn thee!
Perchance a danger threatens me, eh? inquired the Sultan.
'Tis near thee! wrote the pen.
Whence comes this danger?
And now the pen wrote a long row of letters, and this was the
purport thereof, A great danger from the East, a greater from the
West, a greater still from the North, and here at home the greatest of
Where will the Faithful fight? asked the Sultan.
In the whole realm! was the reply.
Near which towns?
Near every town and within every town.
How long will the war last?
It was now the year eighteen hundred and twenty, and there was not a
sign of danger at any point of the vast boundaries of the Turkish
The Sultan permitted himself one more question: Tell me, shall I
triumph in these wars?
The pen replied, Thou wilt not.
Who will be my enemies?
There the pen stopped short, as if it were reflecting on something;
at last it wrote down, Another time.
The Sultan did not understand this answer, so he repeated his
question, and now the pen wrote, Ask in another place!
Evidently it would not answer the question in the presence of the
Sultan's favorite. It did not trust her.
The Sultan almost believed that he was dreaming, but now his
favorite damsel also drew near and, leaning on Mahmoud's shoulder,
stammered forth, Prithee, mighty spirit, wilt thou answer me?
And the pen replied, I will.
The woman asked, Tell me, will Mahmoud love me to the death?
The Sultan was somewhat offended. By the prophet! cried he, that
thou shouldst put such a question!
But what is not a living woman capable of asking?
The pen quivered gently as it wrote down the words, He will love
thee till thou diest.
And when shall I die?
To this the pen gave no answer.
In vain the favorite pressed her question. How many years, how many
months, how many days had she to live? The spirit answered nothing.
And how shall I die? asked the woman.
The Sultan shivered at this senseless question, and would have made
the girl withdraw; but, in an instant, the pen had written out the
answer, Thou shalt be killed.
The woman grew as pale as a wax figure, and stammered, Who will
Both of them awaited in terror and with baited breath what the pen
would answer, and the pen, taking good care not to form a single
illegible letter, wrote on the parchment, Mahmoud!
The favorite fell unconscious into the arms of the Sultan, who,
carrying her away, laid her on the divan, watching over her till she
came to herself again, and then comforting her with wise saws.
An evil, mocking spirit dwelt in the reed, he said, consolingly, who
only uttered its forebodings to agitate their hearts. Did it not say
also that I should love thee to the death? How then could I slay thee?
A lying spirit dwelleth in that reed!
And yet the Sultan himself was trembling all the time.
That night no sleep visited his eyes, and early in the morning he
took the reed from his favorite by force, telling her that he was going
to throw it into the fire.
But he did not throw it into the fire. On the contrary, the
Sultan frequently produced it, and, inasmuch as he sometimes convicted
the spirit of a false prophecy, he began to regard the whole thing as a
sort of magic hocus-pocus, invented by the kindly Fates to amuse
mankind by its oddity, and he frequently made it serve as a plaything
for the whole harem, gathering the odalisks together and compelling the
enchanted pen to answer all sorts of petty questions, as, for instance,
How old is the old kadun-keit-khuda? How many sequins are in the
purse of the Kizlar-Agasi? At what o'clock did the Sultan awake?
When will the Sultan's tulips arrive? How many heads were thrown
to-day into the sea? Is Sadi, the poet, still alive? etc., etc. Or
they forced the pen to translate the verses of Victor Hugo into
Turkish, Arabic, and Persian. And the pen patiently accomplished
everything. At last it became quite a pet plaything with the odalisks,
and the favorite Sultana altogether forgot the evil prophecy which it
had written down for her.
Now it chanced one day that the famous filibusterer Microconchalys,
who had for a long time disturbed the archipelago with his cruisers,
and defied the whole fleet of the Sultan, encountered in the open sea,
off Candia, a British man-of-war, which he was mad enough to attack
with three galleys. In less than an hour all three galleys were blown
to the bottom of the sea, nothing of them remaining on the surface of
the water but their well-known flags, which Morrison, the victorious
English captain, conveyed to Stambul, and there presented them to the
Boundless was the joy of the Sultan at the death of the vexatious
filibusterer, and there was joy in the harem also, for a feast of lamps
was to be held there the same night, and Morrison was to be presented
to the Divan on the following day to be loaded with gifts and favors.
At night, therefore, there was great mirth among the odalisks. The
Sultan himself was drunk with joy, wine, and love, and the hilarious
Sultana brought forth the magic pen to make them mirth, and compelled
it to answer the drollest questions, as, for instance, How many hairs
are there in Mahmoud's head? How many horses are there in the
stable? and How many soldiers are there on the sea? And, finally,
laughing aloud, she commanded it to tell her how many hours she had to
Ah, surely a life full of joy lay before her! But the Sultan shook
his head; one ought not to tempt God with such questions.
The pen would not write.
Then the favorite cried angrily, Answer! or I will compel thee to
count all the drops of water in the Black Sea, from here to Jenikale in
At these words the pen, with a quivering movement, arose, and
scratching the paper with a shrill sound, as if it would weep and moan,
wrote down some utterly unintelligible characters, with the number 8
beneath them, and surrounded the whole writing with a circle to signify
that there was nothing more to come.
Everybody laughed. It was plain that the spirit also loved its
little joke, and was angry with the Sultana for torturing it with so
many silly questions.
It was then the third hour after midnight, all the clocks in the
room had at that moment struck the hour. After that the odalisks fell
a-dancing again, and the eunuch-buffoons exhibited a puppet show on a
curtained stage, which greatly diverted the ladies of the harem. But
the number 8 would not go out of the head of the favorite, and as all
the clocks in the room, one after the other, struck four, she took out
the pen, and with an incredulous, mocking smile on her face, but with
horror in her heart, she asked, Come, tell me again, if thou hast not
forgotten, how many hours have I got to live?
The pen wrote down the number 7.
Those who stood around now began to tremble. But Mahmoud treated the
whole affair as a joke, and assured them that the pen was only making
them sport. And again they went on diverting themselves.
An hour later the clocks, in the usual sequence, struck the hour of
five. And now the favorite stole aside, and placing the reed on a table
repeated her former question. And the pen wrote down the number 6.
Thus, with each hour, the number indicated was lesser by one than
the previous number. The Sultan observed the gloom of his favorite, and
to drive away her sad thoughts, compelled her to retire to her
bedchamber, where she enjoyed two hours of sweet repose, leaning on the
Sultan's breast; whereupon the Sultan arose and went into his
dressing-room, for he had to hold a divan, or council.
The first thing the favorite did on awaking was to look at the time,
and she perceived that it was now seven o'clock. She immediately
hastened to interrogate the pen, and asked the question of it with fear
and trembling; and now the pen wrote down the number 4.
* * * * *
The Sultan himself sent for Morrison.
The English sailor was proudly conscious of owning no master but the
sea. During his long roamings in the East and South he had always made
it a point of visiting all the barbarous chiefs and princes who came in
his way. He regarded them simply as freaks of nature, whose absurd
rites and customs he meant to thoroughly investigate in order that he
might make a note of them in his diary, and he even went the length of
adopting for a time their manners and customs, if he could not get what
he wanted in any other way.
A summons to appear before the divan was scarcely of more importance
in his eyes than an invitation to a wild elephant hunt, or initiation
into the mysteries of Mumbo Jumbo, or an ascent in the perilous aerial
ship of Montgolfier. He donned a dark-blue-colored garment and a plumed
three-cornered hat, and condescended to allow himself to be conducted
by the ichoglanler specially told off to do him honor to the splendid
canopied, six-oared pinnace, which was to take him to the palace.
They escorted him first to the Gate of Fountains, and left him
waiting for a few moments in the Chamber of Lions, allowing him in the
meanwhile to draw a pocket-book from his breast-pocket and make a rapid
sketch of all the objects around him. They then relieved him of his
short sword, as none may approach the Sultan with arms, and threw
across his shoulders an ample caftan trimmed with ermine. He did not
reflect for the moment what a distinction this was. His only feeling
was a slight surprise that he should be dressed in green down to his
very heels, as, with the dragoman on his left hand, he was conducted
into the Hall of the Seven Viziers, where the Sultan sat in the midst
of his grandees.
Morrison greeted the Padishah very handsomely, just as he would have
greeted King George IV. or King Charles X., perhaps.
Bow to the groundright down to the ground, milord! whispered the
dragoman in his ears.
I'll be damned if I do! replied Morrison. It is not my habit to
go down on my knees in uniform!
But that was why they put the caftan on you, whispered the
dragoman, half in joke. 'Tis the custom here.
And a deuced bad custom, too, growled Morrison; and, after
reflecting for a moment or two, he hit upon the idea of letting his hat
fall to the ground, and then bent down as if to pick it up again. But,
by way of compensation, immediately after righting himself he stood as
stiff and straight as if he were determined never to bend his head
again, though the roof were to fall upon him in consequence.
The Sultan addressed a couple of brief words to the sailor,
metamorphosed by the dragoman into a floridly adulatory rigmarole,
which he represented to be a faithful version of the Sultan's ineffable
salutation. In effect he told the sailor that he was a terrible
hippopotamus, an oceanic elephant, who had ground to death countless
crocodiles with his glorious grinders, trampled them to pieces with his
mighty hoofs, and torn them limb from limb with his trunk, and had
therefore merited that the sublime Sultan should cover him with the
wings of his mantle. Let him, therefore, ask as a reward whatever he
chose, even to the half of the Padishah's kingdom. I may add that if
any one had in those days actually asked for half of the Sultan's
kingdom, he would probably have got that part of it which lies
Morrison thanked the Sultan for his liberal offer, and asked that he
might see the favorite wife of the Grand Signior.
At these words the dragoman turned pale, but the Sultan turned still
paler. The convulsive twitching of the muscles of his face betrayed his
strong revulsion of feeling, and, lowering his heavy, shaggy eyebrows,
he dashed at the sailor a look of deadly rage, while a heavy sigh
escaped from his deep chest.
The Englishman only regretted that he could not acquit himself as
creditably in this play of eyebrows. His own were small, of a bright
blonde color, and somewhat pointed.
The dragoman, however, could read an ominous meaning in this deep
O glorious giaour, rosebud of thy nation! whispered he, fleet
water-spider of the ocean, ask not so senseless a thing from the Grand
Signior! Behold his wrathful eyes, and ask for something else; ask for
his most precious treasure; ask for all his damsels, if thou wilt, but
ask not to see the face of his favorite. Thou knowest not the meaning
Morrison shrugged his shoulders. I want neither his treasure nor
his damsels. I only want to see his favorite wife.
Mahmoud trembled, but not a word did he speak. Two tear-drops
twinkled in his dark eyes and ran down his handsome, manly face.
At this the Viziers leaped to their feet, and it was evident from
their agitated cries that they expected the Sultan to order the
presumptuous infidel to be cut down there and then.
The dragoman, in despair, flung himself at the seaman's feet.
O prince of all whales! he cried. O unbelieving dog! Thou seest
me, a true believer, lying at thy feet. O wine-drinking giaour! Why
wilt thou entangle me with the words which the Sultan said to thee
through me? Art thou not ashamed to place thy foot on the neck of the
lord of princes? Ask some other thing!
In vain. The sailor changed not a muscle of his face. He simply
repeated, with imperturbable sang-froid, the words:
I want to see his favorite wife.
The Viziers rushed at him with a howl of fury, but Morrison merely
threw back the caftan which had been folded across his breast,
revealing his dreaded uniform and the decorations appended
theretomemorials of his services at Alexandria and Trafalgar. That,
he thought, would quite suffice to preserve him from any violence.
But the Sultan leaped down from his throne, beckoned with his hand
to the Viziers, and whispered some words in the ear of the
Kislar-Agasi, who thereupon withdrew. This whispered word went the
round of the Viziers, who straightway did obeisance and disappeared in
three different directions through the three doors of the room, their
places being taken by two black slaves in red fezes and white robes,
with broad-bladed, crooked swords in their hands. Only the Sultan
remained behind there with the sailor.
* * * * *
The clocks in the rooms of the Seraglio struck a quarter to ten. The
pen of the dervish in reply to the question of the favorite as to how
many hours she had to live now wrote down ¼.
At that moment the Kislar-Agasi entered. The favorite went to meet
him, trembling like a lost lamb coming face to face with a wolf.
The Kislar-Agasi bowed deeply, and beckoned to the serving-women of
the Seraglio standing behind him to come forward.
Has the Sultana accomplished the prescribed ablutions? said he.
Yes, my lord!
Gird her round the body with a triple row of pearls; fasten on her
turban the bird of paradise with the diamond clasp. Put on her gold
The favorite let them do what they would with her without saying a
The waiting-woman, covering the favorite's face with a light fan,
thickly sewn with tiny gold stars, conducted her to the door which led
to the Porcelain Chamber, and there the Kislar-Agasi left her, after
indicating whither they had to go next.
Guards stood in couples before each one of the doors; the last door
they came to was only protected by a curtain. This was the door of the
cupola chamber where the Sultan had received the sailor.
The favorite could not see the sailor because of the lofty
projecting wings of the throne; she only saw the Sultan sitting on a
divan. She hastened up to him, and when she stood before him she
suddenly caught sight of the stranger regarding her with coldly curious
eyes. Shrinking away with terror, she screamed out Giaour! and,
wrapping her veil more closely around her, turned to the Sultan for
protection. Then Mahmoud seized the damsel's trembling hand with one of
his, and with the other raised the veil from the face of his dearest
wife in the presence of the stranger.
The girl shrieked as if her face had been bitten by a serpent; then
she fell at the knees of the Sultan, and looked at the face of the
Grand Signior with an appealing glance for mercy. In the eyes of the
caliph of caliphs the moisture of human compassion sparkled. Poor
Sultana! who would not have pitied her?
Morrison made a courtly bow, and the dragoman not being present, he
expressed his thanks by using the well-known Turkish salutation, Salám
aláküm! The extraordinary charms of the damsel made no more impression
upon him than the sight of any ordinarily pretty lady at a court
presentation at home would have done.
The damsel meanwhile writhed in torments at the feet of the Sultan,
who, having had enough of it himself, covered her with her veil, and
beckoned to the Kislar-Agasi. He raised the damsel, and carried her
behind the curtains that surrounded the throne; the same instant the
two eunuch guards standing beside the throne also disappeared.
The Sultan listened and covered his eyes.
After a few moments of deep silence, it seemed to the sailor as if
he heard a long sigh behind the curtains. The Sultan shivered in every
limb, and immediately afterwards the clocks in the Seraglio began to
strike; they struck eleven.
Then the Sultan arose from his place and said, with a deep sigh:
'Twas the will of Allah! Then he descended from the divan and said
to Morrison in the purest Italian, Thou didst see her; was she not
Morrison, astonished to hear Italian spoken by the Sultan, who, as a
rule, never spoke a word save through an interpreter, in his amazement
could not find an answer to this question quick enough.
Come now and see her once more, continued the Grand Signior, and
with these words he went towards the curtains.
Morrison fell back confounded. The rosy-red damsel of a few moments
before lay there pale, lifeless, at full length, her lips and eyes
closed, her bosom motionless. A thin red line was visible round her
beautiful white neckthe mark of the silken cord!
But this is brutal! exclaimed the sailor, beside himself with
The Sultan coldly replied, Whenever a Christian man beholds the
face of one of our women, that woman must die. He then signified to
the sailor that he was dismissed.
Morrison hastened from the room, immediately hoisted his anchor, and
the same night sailed out of the Golden Horn, everywhere pursued by the
memory of the beautiful Sultana, whom he had killed with a glance of
* * * * *
Behold, behold! cried the Sultan, pressing the cold, murdered
limbs to his bosom; the dzhin told the truth. Mahmoud loved
thee to the death, and yet Mahmoud slew thee!
These words he repeated two or three times to the dead woman, and
then, descending the steps of the throne, rent his garments across his
breast, and looking up to heaven with tearful eyes, exclaimed:
And now let the rest come too!
And the rest did come. It came from the east and from the west, from
the north and from the southfour empire-subverting tempests, which
shook the strong trunk of Osman to its very roots, and scattered its
Ali Pasha of Janina was the first to kindle the blood-red flames of
war in the west, and soon they spread from the Morea to Smyrna. In the
north the crusading banners of Yprilanti raised up a fresh foe against
Mahmoud, and the cries of the sacred army re-echoed from the walls of
Athens and the banks of the Danube and the summits of Olympus. In
Stambul the unbridled hosts of the Janissaries shed torrents of blood
among the Greeks of the city on the tidings of every defeat from
outside. And when the peril from every quarter had reached its height,
the Shah of Persia fell upon the crumbling realm from the east, and
captured the rich city of Bagdad.
And still Mahmoud had the desire to liveto live and rule. A
pettier spirit would have fled from the Imperial palace and taken
refuge among the palm-trees of Arabia Felix when it recognized that an
endless war encompassed it on every side, that to conquer was
impossible, and that the nearest enemy was the most dangerous. A mine
of gunpowder had been dug beneath the throne, and around the throne a
mob of madmen were hurrying aimlessly to and fro with lighted torches.
And yet it was Mahmoud's pleasure to remain sitting on that throne.
Frequently he would steal furtively at night from his harem. Alone,
unattended, he would contemplate the flight of the stars from the roof
of the Seraglio, and would listen to the nocturnal massacres and the
shrieks of the dying in the streets of Stambul. He would watch how the
conflagrations burned forth in two or three places at once, both in
Pera and Galata their lordships the Janissaries were working their
will. And he felt that cruelly cold piercing wind which began to blow
from the north, so that in the rooms of the Seraglio the shivering
odalisks began to draw rugs and other warm coverings over their tender
limbs. Never had any one in Stambul felt that cold wind before. Whence
came it, and what did it signify?
Mahmoud knew whence it came and what it signified, and he had the
courage to look steadily in the face of the future, in which he
discerned not a single ray of hope.
CHAPTER IX. THE CIRCASSIAN AND HIS
In those days Kasi Mollah did not go by the name of Murstudi.e., a pillar of the faith. He was a simple sheik at Himri, in the northern
part of the land of Circassia, a remote little place, where the
Muscovite was no more than a rumor from afar.
Nature herself had fashioned a strong fortress around Himri. Immense
mountain-chains enclosed it within massive walls on both sides, rising
bleak, interminable, and ever upwards into the dim distance.
In the midst of this valley of eternal shadows arose a third rocky
mass, formingon both sidesa steep, ladder-like wall; and, after
extending far among the other mountains, terminating in a
ragged-looking, concave hill, defended by the junction of the impetuous
mountain streams, which dug a deep hollow among the excavated rocks.
Along this channel, running like a spinal cord throughout the backbone
of the mountain, extended some few thousands of acres of luxuriant
corna long but narrow strip.
At the head of an opening in the chain a rocky scaffolding was
visible, about one hundred feet in height, as regularly disposed as if
a number of gigantic dice had been designedly placed there one on the
top of another. By a marvellous freak of Nature, this rocky
conglomeration was provided apparently with towers, bastions, and
buttresses; so that, viewed from afar, it looked like a gigantic
fortress, and, on the very first glance at it, the thought
involuntarily occurs to one that if but four guns were planted on those
summits a few hundred men might defend themselves against an
army-corps. At the rear of the hill, moreover, where the cataracts make
any approach impossible, the flocks and herds of the defending army
could go on contentedly browsing for years together.
A foolish idea! To whom would it ever occur to attack Himri, that
tiny Circassian village with scarcely five hundred inhabitants, who
have nothing in the world but their kine, their goats, and their pretty
girls? Who would ever come against Himri with guns and an armyagainst
those most worthy men who all their life long have never done anything
but make cheese and tan hides, who only exercise their valor against
the devastating bands of bears, and only extirpate with their long,
far-reaching muskets the wild goats of the rocks?
They do not even build their houses on the summit of this wondrous
fortress of Nature, but among the rocks below, constructing them
prettily of regularly disposed logs, with roofs like dove-cots,
surrounding them with linden-trees and flower-gardens. And so far from
keeping a visitor at bay with cannon-shots, they go forth to meet him,
conduct him into their villages, hospitably entertain him, insist on
his tarrying long with them; and if the visitor be a handsome young
fellow, the loveliest eyes that ever smiled and wept grow moist at his
departure. Who amongst those who have been lulled to sleep in Himri by
the songs of the lovely and bewitching Circassian girls could ever have
dreamed that the time would come when these mountain walls all round
about would be dyed red with the blood of thousands and thousands of
strangers, who came thither to seek death, and found what they sought?
The house of the meritorious sheik differed in no respect from the
dwellings of the other inhabitants. It also was entirely built of
timber, consisted of four rooms leading one out of another, and two
venerable nut-trees stood in front of it.
Kasi Mollah sits outside, leaning tranquilly against the door-post
beneath the projecting eaves, both sides of which are covered by large
scarlet-runners, plaiting with great care and solemnity a whip out of
twelve fine thongs of kid-skin hanging on a crooked nail.
Squatting on the ground beside him on a bear-skin sits a
peculiar-looking stranger. Even if you had not seen it in his features
and clothing, his mules standing before the door would have told you
that he did not belong to these parts. He was, indeed, a Greek merchant
from Smyrna, who visited Circassia every year to purchase
kid-skinsor, so he said. He had three palaces in Smyrna; but it is
scarcely credible that he could have acquired them by his kid-skins
only. At any rate, his mules were laden now with whole bundles of furs
and pelts, and the merchant was toasting his host in a sour beverage,
made by the Circassian from horse's milk, the evil odor of which he was
striving to dispel with the smoke of good Latakia tobacco.
It was for him also that the Circassian was making that long
mule-driving whip of thongs of twelve different colors, serpentine in
shape, and plaited at the ends with beautiful white horse-hair; and
when it was ready he smacked it so vigorously, by way of showing it
off, that the merchant could scarce save his eyes from it.
A pretty whip, and a good whip, he said, at last, in order that
its owner might leave off cracking it.
I'll very soon prove whether it is a good whip or not, said the
Circassian, without moving a muscle of his brown, oval-shaped,
apathetic face; and with that he began to make the handle of the whip
out of fine copper wire of a fantastically ornate pattern nicely
studded with leaden stars.
How will you prove that it is a good whip? asked the merchant.
Stop till my children come home.
Yes, naturally. I should not think of proving it on other people's
You are surely not going to prove the whip on your own?
On whom else, then? Children should be whipped in order that they
may be good, that they may be kept in order, and that they may not get
nonsense into their heads. 'Tis also a good thing to train them betimes
to endure greater sorrow by giving them a foretaste of lesser ones, so
that when they grow up to man's estate, and real misfortune overtakes
them, they may be able to bear it. My father used always to beat me,
and now I bless him for it, for it made a man of me. Children are
always full of evil dispositions, and you do well to drive such things
out of them with the whip.
A peculiar smile passed across the long, olive-colored face of the
Greek at these words; he seemed to be only smiling to himself. Then he
fixed his sly, coal-black eyes on the sheik, and inquired, sceptically:
But surely you don't beat your children without cause?
Oh, there's always cause. Children are always doing something
wrong; you have only to keep an eye on them to see that, and whoever
neglects to punish them acts like him who should forbear to pull up the
weeds in his garden.
Kasi Mollah, said the Greek, puffing two long clouds of smoke
through his nostrils, I tell you, children are not your speciality,
for you do not understand how to bring them up. In the whole land of
Circassia there is none who knows how to bring up children.
Then how comes it that our girls are the fairest and our youths the
bravest on the face of the earth?
Your girls would be still more beautiful and your lads still more
valiant if you brought them up in the land where dwell the descendants
of white-bosomed Briseis and quick-footed Achilles. O Hellas!
The Greek began to grow rapturous at the pronunciation of these
classical names, and in his excitement blew sufficient smoke out of his
chibook to have clouded all Olympus.
I tell you. Kasi Mollah, continued he, that children are the
gifts of God, and he who beats a child lifts his whip, so to speak,
against God Himself, for His hands defend their little bodies. You do
but sin against your children. Give them to me!
You are a Christian; I am a Mussulman. How, then, shall you bring
up my children?
Fear nothing. I do not want to keep them for myself; I mean rather
to get them such positions as will enable them to rise to the utmost
distinction. I would place them with some leading pasha, perhaps with
the Padishah himself, or, at any rate, with one of his Viziers, all of
whom have a great respect for Circassians.
Thank you. Midas, thank you; but I don't mean to give them up.
Prithee, prithee, call me not Midas; that is an ominous name which
I do not understand. You might have learned any time these ten years,
when I first came to buy pelts from you, that my name is Leonidas
Argyrocantharides, and that I am a direct descendant of the hero
Leonidas, who fell at Thermopylæ with his three hundred valiant
Spartans. One of my great-great-grandfathers, moreover, fell at Issus,
by the side of the great Alexander, from a mortal blow dealt to him by
a Persian satrap. If you do not believe me, look at this ancient coin,
and at these others, and at this whole handful which are in my purse,
all of which were struck under Philip of Macedon, or else under Michel
Kantakuzenos or Constantine Porphyrogenitus, all of whom were powerful
Greek emperors in Constantinople, which now they call Stambul, and
built the church of St. Sophia, where now the dervishes say their
prayers; and then look at the figures which are stamped on these coins,
and tell me if they do not resemble me to a hair. It is so. No, you
need not give me back the money; give me rather the two little
The Circassian, who had taken the purse with the simple intention of
comparing the figures on the coins with the face of the merchant, drew
the strings of the purse tight again at this offer, and thrust it back
into the merchant's bosom.
Thank you, said he, dryly. I deal in the skins of goats, not in
the skins of men.
The face of the merchant showed surprise in all its features. Not
every man possesses the art of controlling his countenance so quickly,
especially when his self-command is put to so sudden and severe a test.
The Georgians, more to the south, were a much more manageable race of
men. With them one could readily drive a bargain for their daughters
and give them a good big sum on account for their smallest children.
One could purchase of them children from two to three years of age at
from ten to twenty golden denarii a head, and sell them in ten years'
time for just as many thousands of piastres to some illustrious pasha.
This was how Leonidas was able to build himself palaces at Smyrna.
You talk nonsense, my worthy Chorbadzhi, said the merchant, when
he had somewhat recovered himself. Shall I prove it to you? Well,
then, in the first place, you do not sell your children, and, in the
second place, why shouldn't you sell them? If a Circassian wrapped in a
bear-skin comes to you and asks you for your daughter, would you not
give her to him? And at the very outside he would only give you a dozen
cows for her, and as many asses. I, on the other hand, offer you a
thousand piastres for them from good, worthy, influential beys, or
perhaps from the Sultan himself, and yet you haggle about it.
The sheik's face began to show wrath and irritation. He was well
aware that the merchant was now dealing in sophisms, though his simple
intellect could not quite get at the root of their fallacy. It was
plain that there was a great difference between a Circassian dressed in
bear-skin, who carries off a girl in exchange for a dozen cows, and the
Captain-General of Rumelia, who is ready to give a thousand ducats for
herand yet he preferred the gentleman in bear-skins.
The Greek, meanwhile, appeared to be studying the features of the
Circassian with an attentive eye, watching what impression his words
had produced, like the experimenting doctor who tries the effects of
his medicaments in anima vili.
But I know that you will give them. Kasi Mollah, he resumed,
filling up his chibook. No doubt you have promised them to another
trader. Well, well! you are a cunning rogue. Merchants of Dirbend or
Bagdad have no doubt offered you more for them. They can afford it,
they do such a roaring business. Those perfidious Armenians! They buy
the children for a mere song, and sell them when they are eight or nine
years old to the pashas, so that not one of them lives to see his
twentieth year, but all die miserably in the mean time. I don't do such
things. I am an honest man, with whom business is but a labor of love,
and who is just to all men. It is sufficient for me to say that I was
born where Aristides used to live. Numbers and numbers of my ancestors
were in the Areopagus, and one of my great-great-uncles was an archon.
Do not imagine, therefore, that I would do for every foolish fellow
what I offer to do for you. I only do kindnesses to my chosen friends;
the ties of friendship are sacred to me. Castor and Pollux, Theseus and
Pirithous are to me majestic examples of that excellent brotherhood of
kindred spirits which I constantly set before me. Wherever I have gone
people have always blessed me; nay, did I but let them, they would kiss
my feet. The daughter of a Georgian peasant whose father trusted me is
now the first waiting-woman of the wife of the Governor of Egypt. Is
that glory enough for you! The daughter of a poor goatherd, whom I
picked up from the mire, is now the premier pipe-filler of the Pasha of
Salonica. A high office that, if you like! What Ganymede was to Jove in
those classical agesAh! the tears gush from my eyes at the sound of
that word. O Hellas!
The Circassian allowed his good friend to weep on, considering it a
sufficient answer to let his dark bushy eyebrows frown still more
fiercely, if possible, over his downcast eyes. Then he caught up a
hammer and hammered away with great fury at the handle he had prepared
for the whip, riveting the wire with copper studs.
Kasi Mollah, hitherto I have only been joking, but now I am going
to speak in earnest, resumed Leonidas Argyrocantharides, raising his
voice that he might be heard through the hammering. You should bethink
you seriously of your children's destiny. I am your old friend, your
old acquaintance; my sole wish is for your welfare. I love your
children as much as if they were my own, and the tears gush from my
eyes whenever I part from them. What will become of them when they grow
up? I know that while you are alive it will be well with them, but how
about afterwards? You may die to-morrow, or the next day; who can tell?
We are all in the hands of God. Now I'll tell you something. Mind. I'm
not joking or making it all up. I know for certain that Topal Pasha has
been informed that you have two lovely children. Some flighty traders
of Erzeroum revealed the fact to him. They are wont to trade with you
here, and he has paid them half the stipulated sum down on condition
that they bring the children to him. Now this pasha is a filthy,
brutal, rake-hell sort of fellow, the pressure of whose foot is no
laughing matter, I can tell you; a horrible, hideous, cruel man. I can
give you proofs of it. And these merchants have made a contract with
him, and have engaged, under the penalty of losing their heads, to
deliver your children to him within a twelvemonth. What do you say?
You'll throw them down into the abyss, eh? Ah! they are not as foolish
as I am. They will not openly profess that they have come here for your
children, as I do, but they will lie in wait for them when they go to
the forest, and when nobody perceives it they will clap them on the
back of a horse and off they'll go with them, so that nobody will know
under what sky to look for them. Or, perhaps, when you yourself are
going along the road with them, they'll lay a trap for you, shoot you
neatly through the head, and bolt with your children. Well, that will
be a pretty thing, won't it? You had better not throw me over.
The Circassian did not know what to answerwords were precious
things to himbut he thought all the more. While the merchant was
speaking to him, his reflections carried him far. He saw his children
in the detested marble halls, he saw them standing in shamefully
gorgeous garments, waiting upon the smiling despot, who stroked their
tender faces with his hands, and the blood rushed to his face as he saw
his children blush and tremble beneath that smile. Ah, at that thought
he began to lash about him so vigorously with the whip that was in his
hand, that the Greek rolled about on the bear-skin in terror, holding
his hands to his ears.
Do not crack that whip so loudly, my dear son, said he, or you'll
drive away all my mules. I really believe your whip is a very good one,
but you need not test it to the uttermost. I thank you for making it;
but now, pray, put it down. I must go. It is a good thing you have not
knocked out one of my eyes. You certainly have a vigorous way of
enjoying yourself. But let us speak sensibly. Do you believe that I am
an honest man, or not?
At this the Circassian did not nod his head.
Very well, then. It is natural that you should believe, you ought
to believe it. Since Pausanias there has not been a sharper among my
nation. He was the last faithless Greek, and they walled him up in the
temple. I am a man without guile, as you are well aware. But I am more
than that, more than you suspect. Oho! in this shabby, worn-out caftan
of mine dwells something which you do not dream of. Oho! I know what I
really am. I am on friendly terms with great men, with many great men,
standing high in the empire, whose fame has never reached your ears. In
the palm of this hand I hold Hellas, in the other the realm of Osman. I
shake the whole world when I move. Why do I take all this trouble? Oh,
for the sake of your holy shades, Miltiades, Themistocles, Lysippus,
and Demosthenes! for the sake of your shades, O Solon, O Lycurgus, O
Pythagoras, and a time is coming in which I will prove it! It is thy
memory, Athene, which inspires me to heap up treasures for the future!
Thou, O holy Goddess of Liberty, hath whispered in my ear that thou
canst make use of the lowly as well as of the mighty to promote thy
cause! Here the merchant leaped to his feet in his enthusiasm, and,
extending his hand towards the Circassian exclaimed, Kasi Mollah, you
groan beneath the yoke just as much as we do; let us join hands against
our oppressors, and let us gradually melt the hearts of their leaders
by the strongest of fires, by the fire of the eyes of the Greek and
Circassian maidens, and we shall catch them in a flowery net!
Kasi Mollah did not clasp the hand of the enthusiastic Greek; and,
without turning towards him, replied, coldly, I do not grudge you the
drink which I put before you, worthy merchant, but I perceive that it
has begun to mount into your head, or else you would not talk such
rubbish as selling free people to your enemies from motives of freedom.
Nor do you say well in saying that we are under the yoke, for that is
not true. Nobody has ever made the Circassian do homage, nor would any
try to conquer us for the sake of the eyes of our poor damsels. Say no
more about my children. I will not give them up. If any one comes to
visit me, I'll send him about his business; if any one tries to deceive
me, I'll cudgel him; and if any one tries to rob me, I'll slay him. And
tell that to the merchants of Erzeroum also. And now say no more about
At these words the face of the merchant grew very long indeed. In
his spite he began pulling at the stem of his chibook with such force
that his face was furrowed right down the middle, and his eyebrows
ascended to the middle of his forehead. From time to time he kept on
wagging his head, and his scarlet, mortar-shaped fez along with it, and
burned the tips of his fingers by absently poking the red-hot bowl of
his pipe. But his indignation did not go beyond a shaking of the head,
and there he wisely let the matter rest.
Very well, Kasi Mollah. You are an honest fellow. We shall seewe
The sun was now setting, and from among the hills the bells of the
home-returning cattle resounded across the level plain which extended
in front of the rocky heights of Himri. Fifteen head of snow-white kine
strolled leisurely towards the house of Kasi Mollah, passing one by one
through the gate of their enclosure; behind the last of them came the
children of the sheik, who guarded the herd in the forest.
The boy appeared to be about twelve, and the girl a year younger,
and so closely did they resemble each other that, viewed in profile, it
was impossible to distinguish one from the other. Both had the same
long, black hair, which flowed in wondrous ringlets down their
shoulders, the same soft complexion of a naïve maturity, and as smooth
as velvet, just as if they never walked in the sunlight, and yet they
had no head-coverings. The youth's face revealed so much girlish
tenderness, and the girl's so much vigor and expression, that by
changing their clothes it would have been possible to substitute one
for the other; and, but for the well-known, tight-fitting corset,
peculiar to the Circassian maidens, which caused her figure, slender as
a delicate flower-stalk, to bend somewhat backwards, throwing into
relief the contours of her childlike breasts, it would have been
scarcely possible to have distinguished her from her brother,
especially when, as now, they walked side by side, half embracing. The
snow-white arm of the girl was round her brother's neck, and her
humidly glittering black eyes seemed to be sucking the virile courage
from his face; the boy held the slim figure of his sister encircled by
one of his arms, tapping her, from time to time, caressingly on the
shoulder, while his eyes rested, full of tenderness, on her beloved
What a majestic pair of children! exclaimed Leonidas
Argyrocantharides, in his enthusiasm. What a shame it is to lock them
up in this corner of the world! But what the deuce is the lad dragging
along with his left hand while he embraces his sister with his right?
What is it, my pretty children? Nay, don't bring it here. What
sort of unclean animal is it?
The lad, with a triumphant smile, stood before the merchant while
his sister ran to her father, climbed on to his knees, and throwing her
arms shamefacedly round his neck hid her face from the stranger.
Do you not recognize the bear-skin? cried the youth, in a strong,
clear voice; and as he spoke you became aware of the light black down
which shaded his upper lip and revealed the man, and with one of his
hands he raised up the beast he was dragging after him on to its hind
legs. It was a young bear, about a year and a half old, whose head was
battered and smashed in a good many places, thus showing what a severe
struggle it had cost to bring it down.
Where did you find that monster? Who gave it to you? cried
Leonidas, holding his hand before him as if he believed that the
hideous monster, even when dead, could clutch hold of his thin
drumsticks of legs.
Where did I find it? Who gave it me? cried the youth, proudly, and
with that he pointed to his sister, and, as if ashamed to speak of his
heroic deed himself, he said, Tell him, Milieva!
The old Circassian looked attentively at the two children. Neither
of them perceived that their father was angry.
We were in the forest, began the girlher voice was like a
silvery bell. Thomar was carving a fife, and I was twining a garland
for his head, because he pipes so prettily, when all at once a little
kid with its mother came running towards us, and the little kid hid
itself close to meit trembled so, poor little thing! but its mother
only bleated and kept running round and round, just as if it wanted to
speak. Thomar looked all about, and not far from us perceived two young
bears running off, and one of them had another little white kid on its
back, which was certainly the young one of the little she-goat that was
trying to talk to us. 'Thomar,' said I, 'if I were a boy, I would go
after that young bear and take away the poor little kid from it.' 'And
dost thou think I will not do it?' replied Thomar, and with that he
caught up his club and went after the two young bears. One of them
perceived him and quickly ran up a tree, but the other would not give
up his prey, but turned to face Thomar. Ah! you should have seen how
Thomar banged the wild beast on the head with his club till the blood
ran down its shoulders, and suddenly it let go the white kid, which ran
bleating after its mother.
The child clapped her little hands for joy, while her father softly
stroked her long hair.
But now the young bear, gnashing its teeth, rushed upon Thomar and
seized the club in Thomar's hands with its teeth and claws. 'Thomar,
don't let him have it!' cried I. But, indeed, he had no fear of the
wild beast, for he drew his knife from his girdle and thrust it with
all his might into the head of the furiously charging wild beast.
Oho! interrupted Thomar, don't forget that you also rushed upon
it, and gave me time to draw out my knife by seizing the ears of the
bear in both hands and dragging it off me.
The father looked at the two children with an ever-darkening face,
but the merchant solemnly shook his head and raised his hands aloft
with an expression of horror. O foolishO mad children! cried he.
The bear had now had enough, continued Milieva, trying to give her
talkative little mouth an earnest expression befitting her serious
narration; it tore itself out of our hands, and with a great roar took
refuge from us in a subterranean cave, taking along with it Thomar's
knife, buried in its head. Now this knife we had got from Hassan Beg,
so we could not afford to lose it. So what do you think Thomar did? He
dived into the narrow hole after the bear, and, seizing it there by the
throat, throttled it, and dragged it out.
Cold drops of perspiration trickled down the foreheads of the two
Then he caught the young bear by the foot, and as it was heavy we
both dragged it along together. We had to make haste, for the old bear
had scented our trail and was after us, and pursued us as far as the
herds, where the herd-keepers shot it down, but its young one we
brought along with us.
O ye senseless children! cried the merchant in his terror. O
blockheads! Suppose the bear had clawed your faces, you would have been
disfigured forevermore. It would really serve you right if your father
gave you a good thrashing with this new whip.
And that is what really did happen.
In his wrath Kasi Mollah seized the freshly made, mule-driving whip,
and cannot one imagine the fury, begotten of fear, which would take
possession of a father's heart on hearing such a hair-bristling
narrative from the lips of his children? To poke their noses into a
bear's den, forsooth! The old bear would have torn the pair of them to
pieces had she been able to catch them! They had certainly well
deserved a thrashing, and a good thrashing too! Thomar would not have
wept or groaned however many stripes he might have got; he only
clinched his teeth, and, standing upright, bore with tearless eyes the
lashing of the whip on his back and shoulders without a cry, without a
But Milieva cast herself, shrieking, on her father's breast, and the
tears began to pour abundantly from her radiantly bright eyes. She
caught hold of the Circassian's chastising right arm with both her
hands, and begged so sweetly, Do not hurt Thomar; do not hurt him,
father! It was indeed not his fault. I assure you I set him on. I told
him to go after them. Thomar only went because I asked him.
Kasi Mollah tried to push the child aside, whereupon she flung her
arms round Thomar's neck and protected her brother's body, exclaiming,
her face all aglow, 'Tis my fault, beat me, but don't hurt Thomar!
The lad would have disengaged her arms, and, clinching his teeth for
'Tis not true! Milieva did not urge me to do it. Milieva was
looking on from a distance. Milieva was not there. Don't hit Milieva.
But the girl threw her arms so tightly round her father that he was
not able to tear himself loose. At last, in sheer desperation, he was
obliged to lift the paternal instrument of admonition against the girl
also. But now the youth snatched at the whip, and exclaimed, with
Strike her not, for she has done no wrong! Beat me as much as you
like, but do not strike Milieva. If you do I will leave your house, and
you shall never see me more!
What, you ragged cub, you! cried the old Circassian, infuriated by
the opposition of his son, and forcibly tearing away the whip from his
hand, he struck the girl a violent blow across the shoulders with it.
Milieva ceased to weep, she only pressed her lips together, as her
brother had already taught her to do, and cast down her eyes; but
Thomar perceived a tremor run through her tender, maidenly bosom at the
The old Circassian himself felt sorry for the poor thing, though he
was too proud to show it; but it was plain he had put his wrath behind
him from the fact that he now began to wind the whip round its handle.
Thomar bent over the girl's shoulder, and wherever he saw one of the
painful bruises which she had got on his account he kissed it softly,
and after that he kissed the girl's face, and those kisses were parting
He said not a word to anybody in the house, but taking up his
shepherd's staff and his rustic flute, he went forth from his father's
dwelling without once looking behind him.
Father, cried the girl, sobbing, Thomar is going away forever!
The old Circassian made no reply. His son did not look back at him,
and he did not cast a glance after his son, and yet they were both
heart-broken on each other's account.
He'll soon be back, thought the father to himself. Hunger and
want will bring him back.
It was late evening, and still the youth had not returned. The sun
had set long ago. A violent storm with thunder and lightning arose. The
wind roared among the trees of the distant woods, and the wolves howled
in the mountains.
Father, let me go and bring back Thomar, pleaded the girl, gazing
sorrowfully into the dark night through the window.
He will come back of his own accord, replied the Circassian, and
he would not let the girl go.
Listen, how the rain pours, and how the wild beasts are howling!
Thomar is all alone there in the tempest, and it is so dark.
'Tis a good night for a son who forsakes his father, replied the
sheik. But within himself he thought, Some neighbor is sure to take
the lad in and give him shelter.
At midnight the tempest abated, and the moon shone forth brightly.
From the distant woods came floating back to the village the notes of a
rustic flute. Neither father nor daughter had had any sleep.
Listen, father! said Milieva. Thomar is piping in the wood; let
me go and bring him back!
That is not a flute, but a nightingale, replied the stony-hearted
Circassian. Lie down and sleep!
Yet he himself could not sleep.
In the morning both the tempest and the song had ceased. The old
Circassian pretended to be asleep. Milieva softly raised her head and
looked at her father, and seeing that his eyes were closed, stealthily
put on her clothes and went out of the house on tiptoe. Her father did
not tell her not to go. He had already forgiven his son, and resolved
never to be angry with him any more. After all, it had only been an
ebullition of fatherly affection that had made him punish his son for
jeopardizing his life so blindly.
Shortly afterwards the jingling of the asses' bells told him that
the Greek, who slept on the floor outside, was getting ready to depart.
The merchant seemed to be in great haste. He piled his boxes on the
backs of his beasts higgledy-piggledy, even overlooking a parcel or two
here and there, and all the time he kept talking to himself, stopping
short suddenly when he caught sight of the Circassian.
I was just going to take leave of you, Chorbadzhi. Why do you get
up so early? Go to sleep! What a nice day it is after the storm! Salám
aláküm! Peace be with you! Greet my kinsmen, your sweet children. No, I
will speak no more of your children. I will do as you desire, I promise
you, and what I have once promisedSo our business is at an end? You
are a worthy man, Kasi Mollah! . . . You are a good fathera very good
father. I only wish every man was like you. The only thing that grieves
me is that you cannot join our holy covenant. The Hellene and the
Circassian groan together beneath the yoke of a common tyrant. And then
you don't reflect who are on our side. Our northern neighbor is always
ready to liberate us. I say no more. To a wise man a hint is a
revelation. But do you not long for glory? You have no glorious
ancestors. With you there are no memories of a Marathon, a Platäa. . .
. God bless you, Kasi Mollah! Go on shooting lots of antelopes, and
I'll come back and buy the hides from you; mind you let me have them
cheap! Take this kiss for yourself, this for your son, and this third
one for your daughter. Then you won't give them to me, eh? Well, God
bless you, Kasi Mollah!
The sheik felt as if a great stone had rolled off his breast when at
last he saw his guest depart, though even from afar the Greek turned
back and shouted all manner of things about Leonidas and the other
heroes. But the Circassian did not listen to him. He went back into his
house again, lest he should seem to be moping for his children.
Leonidas Argyrocantharides, on the other hand, whistling merrily,
proceeded with his asses on his way to the forest, and, when he found
himself quite alone there, began to sing in a loud voice the song of
freedom of the Hetairea, which put him into such a good humor that he
even began to flourish his weapon in the most warlike manner, though,
unfortunately, there was nobody at hand whom he could smite.
It would be doing a great injustice to the worthy merchant, however,
to suppose that he was fatiguing his precious lungs without rhyme or
reason, for during this melodious song he kept on looking continually
about him, now to the right and now to the left. He knew what he was
Yes, he had calculated well. Any one who might happen to be hidden
in the forest was bound to hear the great blood-stirring song. He had
not advanced more than a hundred yards or so when a well-known
suppliant voice struck his ear. It came from among the thick trees.
Oh, please! listen, please!
At first he pretended not to know who it was, and, shading his eyes
with his hand, made a great pretence of looking hard.
Oho, my little girl! so 'tis you, eh? Little Milieva, by all that's
holy! Come nearer, child.
The girl was not alone. She had found her brother, and was shoving
and pushing the lad on in front of her, who, sulkily and with downcast
eyes, was skulking about among the trees as if he were ashamed to
appear before the Greek, who had been a witness of his flogging.
Milieva had insisted on his returning home and begging his father's
pardon, and the lad had consented, not for his own sake, but for his
What a good job I've met you! Come here, little girl. Don't be
afraid of me. I want to whisper something in your ear that your brother
must not hear.
And he bent down towards the girl from the back of the ass and
whispered in her ear, it is true, but quite loud enough for her brother
to hear also:
My dear child, don't take your brother home now, for your father is
furious with the pair of you, and is coming after you straightway. That
is why I have been singing so loudly, for I thought you had come hither
and might hear; and let me tell you that it will be just as well for
Thomar to hide himself for a time, for your father, when I left him,
had shouldered his musket, and he swore in his wrath that he would hunt
his runaway son with the dogs, and shoot him down wherever he found
Let him shoot me down! cried the lad, defiantly. He had heard the
whole of the whisper.
The good-hearted merchant shook his head reprovingly.
Keep your temper, my son; anger is mischievous. It would be much
better if you left these parts for a little while, and Milieva can go
back in the mean time and pacify her father. I should mention, however,
that Kasi Mollah is preparing a rope in salt-water, with which he
intends to beat her.
What! cried Thomar, with flashing eyes. He would whip her again,
and with a rope?
He could say no more. The two children fell upon each other's necks
and wept bitterly.
Poor children! orphans worthy of compassion! cried the sympathetic
Leonidas, stroking their pretty heads. It is plain that they have no
mother. Willingly would I shed my blood for you. But it is vain to
speak to that savage madman. The last thing he said was that your
mother had been faithless to him, and that was why he was so furious
Then he shall never see us again, said the lad, tenderly embracing
his sister. I will go away, and I will take you with me.
Where? said his sister, trembling.
The world is wide, said the lad. I have often seen from the
summits of the mountains how far it stretches away. I will go away as
far as ever I can.
But what provision have you got? inquired the worthy merchant.
At this idea the lad seemed to hesitate, and for a moment his face
flushed red; but he soon recovered his sang-froid.
You complained the other day that your ass-driver had run away, and
that you had all the trouble of looking after the beasts yourself. Take
me for your ass-driver. I will do all your work for you, and I will ask
nothing except that Milieva may come with me without doing any hard
work. I will work extra in her stead.
The merchant was quite overcome by these words.
O children, what words must I hear! Thou art the pearl of youths,
my son. What a pity thou wast not born in Samos, the isle of heroes!
Thou shalt be no ass-driver of mine; no, thou shalt be my own son, and
thy sister shall be my own daughter, and ye shall both sit on my asses,
not follow after them. In the neighboring village I shall get
ass-drivers and to spare. I will share my last crumb with you, and ye
shall dwell at home within my palace as if ye were my own children.
And with that he embraced them both.
As for the children, they were overpowered by so much unexpected
goodness, and did not hesitate to accept the offer, although Milieva
said, somewhat tremulously:
But you will take us back afterwards to our father, won't you?
Certainly; is he not my good friend? When we get to my house I will
let him know that you are with me, and he will be very glad. But first
we will go from here to splendid cities by the sea, where edifices
three stories high float on the surface of the water. There my great
palaces areyou could put the whole of your father's house inside the
hall of any one of themand my gardens are full of those beautiful
fruits which I have so often brought for you in my sack. Thomar shall
have a beautiful steed. You would like to ride a horse, my son, eh?
Well, don't be afraid, and it shall fly away with you like the wind.
And it shall have a mane as white as a swan'sor perhaps you'd like a
black one? I have got both, and you shall sit on which you like, with a
sword dangling at your side. And when you draw that sword? Ah, ha! It
shall be a bright Damascus blade, and you will be able to make it span
your body right round without breaking. I will bet anything that among
five hundred Turkish youths you will carry off the wreath of pearls in
the sports. How nicely that wreath of pearls will become Milieva's
head! How beautifully the folds of the silken robe embroidered with
flowers will sweep around her slim figure! And then the palm-leaf shawl
when she dances! Eh, children?
When will you take us back to our father? inquired the girl,
Why, at once, of course. As soon as Thomar has become a famous man;
as soon as half the world recognizes him as a valiant bey, and the fame
of him spreads to the huts of Himri likewise. Then will Thomar go with
you to your father. He will sit on a proudly prancing horse, tossing
its head impatiently beneath its gold trappings. A grand retinue will
come riding behind himvaliant heroes, all of them, with glittering
shields and lances. And after them will follow a litter on two white
asses, with curtains of cloth of gold, and in this litter will sit a
wondrously bright and beautiful maiden, and men will stand at all the
gates and cry, 'Make way for the valiant lord and the majestic lady!'
But, meanwhile, old Kasi Mollah will be sitting at his door, and,
perceiving the splendid magnates, will do obeisance to them; then you
will leap from your horse, assist Milieva to descend from her litter,
and will go to meet him. He, however, will not recognize you. Milieva
will be so much rosier, and her figure so much more lovely; and as for
you, you will be wearing a beard and mustache, and without doubt you
will be scarred with wounds received upon the field of glory. So Kasi
Mollah will conduct you into his house with the utmost respect and make
you sit down; but you will have victuals and sherbet brought from your
carriages, and will constrain him to eat and drink with you. Then you
will fall a-talking, and you will ask him whether he has any children,
and thereupon the tears will start to his eyes.
Oh, sighed the girl, melting at the thought.
No, no; it would not do at all to make yourself known all at once.
The joy would be too much for him; he might even have a stroke. You,
little Milieva, would be content to sit and listen, leaving Thomar to
speak. And Thomar will say that he has heard tidings of Kasi Mollah's
lost children, gradually leading him on from hope to joy, and at last
you will throw yourselves on his neck, and say to him, 'I am thy son
Thomar! I am thy daughter Milieva!' How beautiful that will be!
The heads of the children were completely turned by this
conversation, and they followed the merchant joyfully all the way to
the next village. There Leonidas Argyrocantharides rested for a little
while, and made the children dismount and have some lunch in a hut.
Then he produced a gourd full of strong, sweet wine, and the children
drank of it. The wine removed whatever of sadness was still in their
hearts, and they then resumed their journey. The asses he left behind,
but two well-saddled horses were awaiting them in front of the hut. On
these the children mounted, and leaving the asses to stroll leisurely
on by one road, under the charge of the hired ass-drivers, they
themselves took another. How delighted the children were with their
The sheik, meantime, was still awaiting the return of his children,
and as they did not come back by the evening he began to make inquiries
about them. Some of his neighbors, who had been in the forest, informed
him that they had seen the children with the Greek merchant; they were
riding on his asses. At this Kasi Mollah began roaring like a wild
He has stolen my children! he groaned in his despair, and flew
back home for his horse and his weapons, not even waiting for his
comrades to take horse also. One by one they galloped after him, but
could not easily overtake him.
Riding helter-skelter he soon reached the neighboring village, but
here the track of the asses led him off on a false scent, for only when
he overtook them did he realize that the merchant with his children had
gone far away in another direction.
With the rage of despair in his heart he galloped back again. Not
till evening did he dismount from his horse; then he watered his horse
in a brook and rushed on again. Through the whole moonlit night he
pursued the Greek, and as towards dawn Argyrocantharides looked behind
him he saw a great cloud of dust on the road rapidly approaching him,
and the bright points of lances were in the midst of it.
Well, children, said he, here we must all die together, for your
father is coming and will slay the three of us. But whip up your
Then, full of terror, they bent over their horses' necks, and the
desperate race began.
The Circassian perceived the merchant and the children, and rushed
after them with a savage howl. They had better horses, but the
Circassian's horses were more accustomed to mountainous paths and had
The distance between the two companies was visibly diminishing. The
merchant flogged with his whip the horses on which the children were
riding. They dared not look back.
Their father shouted to them to turn their horses' reins. He called
Thomar by name, and bade him tear the merchant from his saddle. The son
heard his father's voice, he heard his own name mentioned; but he
fancied his father was threatening him, and clung to his horse still
A steep mountain torrent ran across the road in front of them. If
only the Greek could succeed in getting across it with but two minutes
to spare, so that he might pitch the little wooden bridge over it down
into the abyss below, he would be saved, for the space between the two
steep mountain-sides was much too wide for a horse to leap, and a ford
was not to be found within an hour's ride.
By the time they came to the bridge the pursuing Circassians were
scarcely distant more than three gunshots, and Kasi Mollah was riding
well in advance of the rest. He must needs overtake them before the
Greek could push the bridge over.
At that instant the horse on which Milieva sat slightly stumbled,
and plunging forward on to its knees, fractured its leg.
Hah! cried the sheik, with wild delight, I have got back one of
my children, at any rate.
But how amazed was he when he saw Milieva, instead of running to him
or even remaining in the road, cry out in terror to her brother and
raise her arms towards him, and Thomar, never expecting to save her,
bent down from his horse, and grasping his sister round the waist with
a swift hand, placed her in the saddle in front of him, casting a wild
look behind him, and then galloping on farther.
Kasi Mollah suddenly reined in his flying horse and stopped short,
allowing them to escape. Not a step farther did he pursue them. By the
time his comrades had joined him the Greek was well on the other side
of the bridge, and they could all see Thomar helping the merchant to
cast it down.
Two burning tear-drops stood in Kasi Mollah's eyes. They really
burned, and he felt the pain. And yetand yet, when the two children
sat in the saddle again, Milieva extended her hands towards her father
as if in most ardent supplication. What was the meaning of it?
The good Greek shortly afterwards arrived safely in Smyrna with the
children, and had them taught singing, riding, and how to walk about in
nice clothes, and some years after he sold them to the Seraglio of the
Grand Vizier for two thousand sequins.
And all that he had said at random to the children during the
journey, to cheer their spirits, actually came to pass, as we shall
When Sultan Mahmoud lost his favorite damsel so strangely, Milieva
was brought into the Seraglio instead. The girl was then about fourteen
years old. The Circassian girls at that age are fully mature, and the
bloom of their beauty is at its prime. Milieva, from the very first day
when she entered the harem, became the Sultan's favorite damsel.
Thomar joined the ranks of the ichoglanler, a band of youths who are
brought up in the outer court and form the Sultan's body-guard.
It was in this year that Mahmoud instituted the Akinji corps,
selecting its members from amongst the Janissaries, and formed them
into a small regular army. Thomar very soon won for himself the command
of a company, and continued to rise higher and higher till at length he
reached the eminence which the merchant had foretold to him; and when
the course of time brought with it the day on which he was to see Kasi
Mollah again, he had become Derbend Aga, one of the Sultan's very
highest officials, and his name was mentioned respectfully by all true
believers. And in the village of Himri his name was also mentioned.
Kasi Mollah often heard it attached to the title of bey, and Thomar
also heard a good deal of the village of Himri and of Kasi Mollah, for
they now called his father murshid, and the name murshid is full of
mournful recollections for both Moscow and Petersburg.
But of all these things we shall know more at another time.
CHAPTER X. THE AVENGER
And what now is old Ali Tepelenti about in his nest at Janina? Is he
content with a state of things which results in thisthat he must
either perish or pass the brief remainder of his days in constant
fighting? Is he satisfied with this sea of blood over which the tempest
rages, and whose shores he cannot see?
Not yet has he surrendered to fate. His country has declared war
against him, the Sultan has pronounced his death-sentence, his family
have abandoned and turned against him; but Ali has not suffered his
sword to be broken in twain. For eight and seventy years he has been
the scourge of his enemies, the defence of his country, the Sultan's
right hand, the patriarch of his family, and in his nine and seventieth
year the Sultan and his relations say to him, Die! thou hast lived
long enough! And he, by way of reply, set his country in flames, shook
the throne of the Sultan, and extirpated his own kinsfolk.
The Greeks, whose tyrant he once was, are now his allies. Tepelenti
provides them with arms and money, and with good and bad counsel,
whichever they want most.
Three armies were sent out against him, and he has annihilated all
His enemy, Gaskho Bey, has lost his army in a battle against the
rebels without anything to show for it, and now only holds the
fortresses round about Janina, to wit: Arta, Prevesa, Lepanto,
Tripolizza, and La Gulia. The Hellenes are besieging every one of them
day by day. One day Ali proclaims that in Tripolizza there are five
hundred eminent Greeks whom the Turks compel to fight along with them.
At this report the besiegers attack the fortress with redoubled fury.
Now these five hundred Greeks Ali himself got together while Tripolizza
was still in his possession. When he was obliged to leave the fortress,
he cast these Greeks down into a well, placed three loads of stones
upon them, and covered the spot with grass. This he did himself.
Exhausted by furiously fighting against superior numbers, the Turks
surrendered in three days to Kleon, who conducted the siege, simply
stipulating that they might be allowed to go free, and this was
promised them. When, however, the fortress was surrendered to the
Greeks, their first question was, Where are the hostages, our
brethren? The Turks were amazed. They knew not what to reply, for they
had no hostages in their hands.
Then a Suliote warrior discovered the pit which had been sown over
with grass, and what a sight presented itself when they broke it open!
Thirsting for blood and vengeance, the Greeks flung themselves
forthwith on the disarmed garrison, and despatched them to the very
last man, nay, they did not leave a living woman or child remaining in
the fortressthey threw them all down headlong from the bastions.
But Ali Pasha smiled to himself in the fortress of Janina.
He himself had destroyed more Turks than the whole Greek host had
When Demetrius Yprilanti captured Lepanto, he allowed the garrison a
free exit from the citadel. Demetrius himself signed the terms of the
surrender. But when the Turks emerged from the fortress, Ali Pasha's
Suliotes rushed upon them and cut them all to pieces. Yprilanti, full
of indignation, threw himself in the midst of them, exhibiting the
document in which he had promised the Turks their lives. But Kleon only
laughedhe had learned that brutal, scornful laugh from Ali.
Don't trouble yourself about them, cried he. We are only killing
those whose names are not written in the agreement.
Yprilanti turned from the butchery in disgust, and immediately
embarking his army, set sail for Chios again.
Ah, the Greeks had learned a great deal from Ali. Woe to those
Mussulmans who fall alive into their hands, or who are not so brave or
so cunning as they themselves are! The Turkish general, Omar Vrione,
along his whole line of advance, marched between rows of high gibbets
on which bleached the bones of horribly tortured Turks. Here and there,
by way of variety, nailed by the hands to upright planks, were the
bodies of dead Jews, half flayed and singeda ghastly spectacle.
Verily the descendants of the heroes of Marathon have diverged very
far indeed from their forefathers, and the experienced Turkish
commander knew right well that he is a bad soldier who even descends to
cutting off the head of his slain foe on the battle-field.
At Puló, Omar Vrione encountered the army of Odysseus. Now Omar was
at one time one of the best of Ali Pasha's lieutenants. Ali promoted
him to the rank of general, and he had begun life as a shepherd-boy.
Ali had taught him how to use his weapons, and now he turned them
against his master.
The Sultan had intrusted to him a fine army with which he had
assisted Gaskho Bey to beleaguer Ali. It consisted of eight thousand
gallant Asiatic infantry, two thousand Spahis, and eight guns. The
leader of the Spahis was Zaid, the Bey of Kastorid, Ali's favorite
grandson, whom, twenty years before, he had rocked upon his knee, and
whom, while still a child, he had carried in front of him on his
saddle, and taught him to ride. Zaid himself had asked, as a favor,
that he might lead a division of cavalry against his grandfather. He
had promised his mother to seize that sinful old head by its gray beard
and bring it home to her.
A precious grandson, truly!
So Omar Vrione reached Puló. Looking down from the hill-tops there,
he discerned the army of Odysseus. He saw him planting his white
banners in rows upon the heights, and without giving his forces a
moment's rest, he set his own martial chimneys a-smoking and attacked
the Greeks with all his might.
After an hour's combat, in which they fought man to man, the Greeks
were driven from their intrenchments, and began slowly descending into
The Timariotes remained behind, and Zaid began to send forward his
Spahis to attack the retreating army in the rear. Odysseus slowly
retraced his steps till he came to Puló. There his war-path stopped.
His banner was no longer white, but red; it was sprinkled with the
blood of the many heroes who had died in its defence.
Suddenly, from the heights of Pindus above them resounded the
tempestuous melody of the Marseillaise, which the Greeks had adopted
as their war-song, and rapid as a storm-swollen mountain torrent the
Suliotes, with Kleon and Artemis in the van, hurled themselves upon the
Omar Vrione was caught between two fires. It was too late to turn
back, too late to reform his order of battle. His guns were useless,
his cavalry could not move forward, and his infantry columns were so
completely isolated that they could not render each other any
The general saw that he could not save his army, but he was at least
determined not to save himself, so he hastened to where the fight was
raging most furiously.
A wild, merciless mêlée was proceeding between the
inextricably intermingled foes. Forcing his way along, Omar Vrione
suddenly encountered, in the midst of reeking powder and streaming
blood, a tall youth with a blackened face, whom he at once recognized
as Kleon. There, then, they stood, face to face. Three years before,
when Ali had sent Omar Vrione to threaten the Suliotes, Kleon fled
before him, and then he had called after the fugitive, Stand, I would
send thy head to Ali Tepelenti!
And there, indeed, Omar Vrione fell, combating, and Kleon cut off
How strange is fate!
The fall of Omar Vrione sealed the fate of his army. The Turks fled
wherever they saw the chance, leaving all their guns, all their flags,
and all their officers in the lurch. The cavalry had no chance of
escaping. Half of it fell, the other half surrendered.
Zaid, in the moment of extremest danger, took his silver aigrette
out of his turban and threw it away; then he changed caftans with his
servant, and mingled with the rank-and-file, so that none might
recognize him. It would have been much better for a child like him to
have remained at home than to have gone hunting that old lion, his aged
The Suliotes surrounded Zaid's company. Dismount from your horses!
exclaimed the clear voice of Kleon.
The Spahis, full of shame, dismounted.
Which is your leader, Zaid? cried Kleon, advancing. The edge of
his sword was dripping with blood.
I am, said the servant who had changed clothes with Zaid, and he
Bow down before me, thou slave! cried Kleon, kicking him.
The servant bowed his head before the victor, and he never raised it
again, for Kleon chopped it off with his bloody sword, and sticking it
on the point thereof, raised it on high and cried to his bloodthirsty
comrades: Here is their second general, Zaid, who came to subdue us!
Hallelujah! and the victorious host repeated after him, Hallelujah!
And then they stuck the heads of the two generals on the points of
two lances, and carried them through the streets of Puló in the sight
of the crowds of women and children on the housetops, bellowing, We
have conquered! We have conquered! These are the heads of the enemy's
leaders: one of them is Omar Vrione, and the other is Zaid Bey! Kyrie
And what face was ever so pale as Zaid's when he heard his name
called out and saw how they mocked and jeered at the head they took for
The Suliotes returned to Janina with the captives and the emblems of
victory. Tepelenti, hearing that they had decapitated Zaid, went down
into the camp and demanded his head.
Kleon was sitting in front of his tent en déshabille. He was
not disposed to part with the symbol of victory, but wanted it to
dazzle the eyes of the host for some little time longer.
But Ali was ready at once with a good idea: Cut off the head of
another prisoner, said he, in its stead; none will notice the
Kleon acted upon the advice, and immediately sent forth his
men-at-arms to take the exhibited head to Ali. But Ali shook his own
head when he saw it, and wagging his finger at Kleon, he said: Thou
art over-young, my son, to try and impose upon Ali. Thou wouldst turn
my counsel to my own hurt, and give me the head of another instead of
Kleon leaped to his feet. Do you mean to say that is not Zaid's
Of a truth it is not. Dost thou suppose I do not know the youthI
who used to dandle him on my knee ever since he was a child, and was
the first to place a sword in his hand?
But, indeed, he himself told me, cried Kleon, pointing at the
head, that he was Zaid, and he was wearing a general's uniform.
'Tis a slave, said Tepelenti, regarding the head more closely.
Dost thou not see? His ears have been cropped, so that he may not wear
ear-rings in them, which only great lords may do.
Then Zaid has gone free!
Zaid will be among the captives, said Tepelenti. I would
recognize him amongst a thousand. He was my favorite grandson. His
image even now is engraved in my heart.
Then they went down amongst the captives. Ali had scarce cast a
glance at them when he pointed with his finger.
There he is! Dost thou not perceive how much paler his face is than
the faces of the others?
Kleon wrathfully drew his sword and would have rushed upon the
person indicated, but Ali held his hand.
What doest thou? Wouldst thou slay my grandson before my very
Thou didst ask for his head, and it shall be thine.
But now I ask for his life, Kleon. Zaid is my favorite grandson. I
brought him up. I loved him better than his dear motherbetter than
all my children. Look now, I share with thee all the booty, and all I
ask of thee is mine ownflesh of my flesh.
The unhappy youth, hearing these words, fell at Ali's feet and
embraced his knees, wept, covered his hands with kisses, and implored
him to release himhe would be a good and dutiful son to him ever
Thou seest, too, how much he loves me, said Ali, looking with
tearful eyes at Zaid and covering the cowering fugitive with his long
gray beard. Well, Zaid, said he, so thou dost now fly for refuge
beneath the shadow of that same gray beard, by grasping which thou wert
minded to take Ali's head to thy mother, eh?
Kleon looked at Ali Pasha with a contemptuous smile. Then Ali was
tender, Ali had a heart, Ali's heart ached at the slaying of his
kinsfolk! The Greek felt a cruel satisfaction in tormenting the pasha.
If thou dost not wish to see Zaid die, said he, depart from
hence. Alive thou shalt not have him!
What! cried Ali, and, standing erect, he drew his sword. Because
my beard is long dost thou think thou canst trample upon me? I will
defend my blood with my blood, and will perish myself rather than let
him be slain. Let us see, mad youth, wouldst thou lop off thine own
Kleon was so surprised that he did not know what to do. It was in
his power to slay Ali; but then that would be a greater triumph for
Stambul than all the victories of the campaign.
At that moment a herald arrived from Odysseus with a command for
Kleon to send all the Turkish officers captured at the battle of Puló
to Prevesa, that they might be exchanged against the youths of the
sacred army who had been captured in Moldavia.
Kleon's pride was wounded by this direct command. He considered
himself just as good a general as Odysseus or Yprilanti, and did not
recognize orders sent from them.
Turning from the herald to Tepelenti, he thus replied:
Tell Odysseus that I and my soldiers are in the habit of killing
the enemy's officers on the battle-field. Only one of them, and he in
disguise, remains. He, however, is Tepelenti's grandson, who has
recognized him and ransomed him from me for a hundred thousand
piastres, which he has engaged to pay me within an hour. Is it not so,
It is so, said Ali; within an hour the hundred thousand piastres
shall be in thy hands.
Zaid, with a shriek of joy, kissed the hem of his grandfather's
robe, and Kleon gave his hand upon the bargain. An hour later the money
arrived in little hogsheads, and he had it weighed in the presence of
his captains. Ali, however, binding his grandson by the left arm, and
giving him his own caftan, had him conducted into the fortress of
Kleon looked contemptuously after him. So the old man had become
soft-hearted! How he had wept and supplicated and paid for this youth,
who was his favorite grandson!
An hour later the roll of drums was heard on the bastions of Janina,
and when the Greeks looked in that direction they saw the stake of
execution erected there. Four black executioners were carrying Zaid,
who had his hands tied behind his back, and was wearing the self-same
caftan which Ali had given him. Ali himself, mounted on a black horse,
rode right up to the stake. At a signal from him the executioners
hoisted Zaid into the air, and a moment later Tepelenti's favorite
grandson, whom he had dandled so often on his knee, was done to death
by the most excruciating torments!
Ali watched his death-agony with the utmost sang-froid, and,
when all was over, he shouted down from the bastions with a strong,
firm voice, So perish all those of Tepelenti's kinsfolk who draw the
sword against him! For them there is no mercy!
Kleon felt his heart's blood grow cold. Ah! he had much, very much
to learn from the agonized cries of the dying before he could overtake
Ali, that old man who weeps, prays, and pays, in order to rescue his
favorite grandson for the sole purpose of killing him himself with
Of all Ali's large family only two sons now remained, Sulaiman and
Mukhtar. They were the first who had betrayed their father, and it was
their treachery that had wounded him most. For a whole year Ali carried
that wound about in his heart. During that time nobody was allowed to
mention the names of his sons in his presence. Everything, absolutely
everything, which reminded him of them was removed from the fortress.
If any one was weary of life, he had only to mention the name of
Mukhtar before Ali, and death was a certainty.
Meanwhile the two apostate sons were living in great misery at
Adrianople; for the Sultan, though he paid them for their treachery,
would have nothing more to do with them. The first instalment of the
money which they were to receive as the price of their father's blood
melted away very rapidly in merry banquets, pretty female slaves, fine
steeds, and precious gems; and when it was all gone the second
instalment never made its appearance. Far different and far more
important personages had still stronger claims upon the Sultan's purse.
Tepelenti's vigorous resistance, the innumerable losses suffered by the
Sultan's armies, buried in forgetfulness the services of the good sons
whose betrayal of their father had profited the Sultan nothing. They
were already beginning to bitterly repent their overhasty step when the
rumor of Ali's victories reached them; and as the days of necessity
began to weigh heavily upon them, as money and wine began to fail them,
as they found themselves obliged to sell, one by one, their horses,
their jewels, and, at last, even their beautiful slave-girls, it became
quite plain to them that no help could be looked for from any quarter,
unless perhaps it was from wonder-working fairies, or from the genii of
the Thousand and One Nights.
But let none say that, in the regions of the merry Orient, fairies
and wonders do not still make their home among men.
Just when the beys had consumed the price of the last slave they had
to sell, such wealth poured in upon them, in heaps, in floods, as we
only hear of in old fairy tales; and fairy tales, as we all know very
well, have no truth in them at all.
* * * * *
One day, as Ali Pasha was walking to and fro on the bastions of
Janina, he perceived among the garden-beds in the court-yard below a
gardener engaged in planting tulips.
Tepelenti knew all the servants in the fortress thoroughly, down to
the very lowest. He not only knew them by name, but he knew what they
had to do and how they did it.
The name of this gardening slave was Dirham, and he was so named
because, many years before Mukhtar had purchased him when a child from
a slave-dealer for a dirham, and although his master often plagued him,
he nevertheless cared for him well, and brought him up and provided him
with all manner of good things. Thus Dirham, whenever his master's name
was mentioned, bethought him how little he was worth when Mukhtar Bey
bought him, and how many more dirhams he was worth now, and for all
this he could not thank Mukhtar enough.
Ali Pasha for a long time watched from the bastions this man
planting his tulips. Some of them he pressed down into the ground very
carefully, strewing them with loose powdery earth, preparing a proper
place for the bulbs beforehand, and moistening them gently with watery
spray; others he plumped down into the earth anyhow, covering them up
very perfunctorily, and never looking to see whether he watered them
too much or too little.
Ali carefully noted those bulbs which Dirham had bestowed the
greatest pains upon, and then went down and entered into conversation
What are the names of these tulips?
Dirham ticked them all off: King George, Trafalgar, Admiral
Gruithuysen, Belle Alliance, etc., etc. But at the same time he skipped
over one or two here and there, and these were the very ones which he
had covered up with the greatest care.
Then thou dost not know the names of those others? inquired Ali.
I have lost my memoranda, my lord, and I cannot remember all the
names among so many.
Look, now, I know the names of these flowers. This is Sulaiman,
that over there is Mukhtar Bey.
Dirham cast himself on his face before the pasha. Ali had guessed
well. Dirham remembered the two gentlemen just as a good dog remembers
his masterthey were ever in his mind.
The wretched man fully expected that Ali would immediately tear
these bulbs out of the ground and plant his own head there in their
Instead of that Ali graciously raised him from the ground and said
to him in a tender, sympathetic voice, Fear not, Dirham! Thou hast no
need to be ashamed of such noble sentiments. Thou art thinking of my
sons. And dost thou suppose that I never think of them? I have
forbidden every one in the fortress to even mention their names; but
what does that avail me if I cannot prevent myself from thinking of
them? What avails it to never hear their names if I see their faces
constantly before me? The world says they have betrayed me; but I do
not believe, I cannot believe it. What says Dirham? Is it possible that
children can betray their own father?
Dirham took his courage in both hands and ventured to reply:
Strike off my head if you will, my lord, but this I saythey were
not traitors, but were themselves betrayed; for even if it were
possible for sons to betray their father, Tepelenti's children would
not betray Tepelenti.
Ali Pasha gave Dirham a purse of gold for these words, commanding
him, at the same time, to appear before him in the palace that evening,
and to bring with him, carefully transplanted into pots, those tulips
which bore the names of Sulaiman and Mukhtar.
Dirham could scarcely wait for the evening to come, and the moment
he appeared in Ali's halls he was admitted into the pasha's presence.
Then Ali bade every one withdraw from the room, that they twain might
remain together, and began to talk with him confidentially.
I hear that my sons are living in great poverty at Adrianople. As
to their poverty, I say nothing; but, worse still, they are living in
great humiliation also. Nobody will have anything to do with them. The
wretched Spahis, who once on a time mentioned their names with
chattering teeth, now mock at them when they meet them in the street,
and when they go on foot to the bazaar to buy their bread, the women
cry with a loud voice, 'Are these, then, the heroes at whom Stambul
used to tremble?' Verily it is shameful, and Ali Pasha blushes thereat.
I know that if once I ever place in their hands those good swords which
I bound upon their thighs they would not surrender them so readily to
the enemies of Ali Pasha. What says Dirham?
Dirham was only able to express his approval of Ali's words by a
very audible sigh.
Hearken, Dirham! I have known for a long time a secret, which I
will venture to confide to thee.
'Twill be as though you buried it under the earth, my master.
In the Gulf of Durazzo there lies at anchor an English vessel,
under the command of Captain Morrison. On that ship I have deposited
five millions of piastres in goldnot less than five millions. A large
amount, eh! At any moment I like I can blow the fortress of Janina into
the air, embark on board that ship, and sail away to England or Spain,
and there I can live in a lordly fashion without care, just as I
please. But to what purpose? My remaining days are but few. Why should
I try to save them? Here I must perish. Here, where I have grown great,
it becomes me to die, and it is not for me to retreat before the
advancing sword. This money must serve another design of mine, which
has been in my mind long since, but I seek a man capable of executing
Thou shalt be that man. Falter not. Fate does great things with
little ones. Thou shalt go from Janina and pass through Gaskho Bey's
army. When thou dost arrive at Durazzo, show Morrison this ring. When
he sees it he will do everything thou sayest to him, for he will know
that these are my commands. Thou wilt have the anchor raised and sail
with the first favorable wind to Stambul. Sail not into the Golden
Horn, for it will be more difficult to get out of it again, but cast
thy anchor hard by Anadoli Hissar. There thou wilt land, and, taking
with thee a hundred thousand piastres, thou wilt put them in sacks of
chaff, the chaff being on the top, and lading sundry asses with the
sacks, thou wilt take them to Adrianople. There thou wilt seek out my
sons, and, humbly kissing the hem of their garments, give them to
understand that I have sent thee. Then thou wilt tell them of the
warfare waged around Janina, all that thou thyself hast seen and heard.
If from their faces thou seest that they receive thy words coldly, and
show no ardor of soul, then measure out to them the hundred thousand
piastres, and bid them buy and keep shop therewith, start a large
wholesale business if they feel any disposition that way, and apply
themselves diligently to heap up riches upon riches, as it becomes
honest men to do who have long years to live. But if thou seest their
face aflame and the heroes' love of glory sparkle in their eyes; if
they listen to thy words with parted lips and throbbing hearts; if they
press thy hand warmly and frequently clutch the hilts of their swords;
if they ask thee to tell them again and again what thou hast told them
alreadythen tell them that the path of glory and Tepelenti's arms are
always open before them, that those one hundred thousand piastres are
only for buying horses and weapons. I have five times as much on board
the English ship, and five hundred times as much in the red tower of
Janina. With the five millions of piastres they must get ships, and
these ships they must fully equip in secret. And this will not be
difficult, for all the Greek seamen have deserted the Turkish fleet.
These Greeks will offer their services gratis. When the ships are
ready, let them, through thee, inform thereof Bublinia, the heroic
Greek amazon, who is cruising off Crete with thirty vessels to divert
the attention of the Turkish fleet, and then row out to Beikos. With
favorable weather thou shouldst get to Durazzo in ten days.
Simultaneously, I from one quarter, Kleon from a second, and Odysseus
from a third will attack the army of Gaskho Bey, and if my sons are
victorious at sea, in the evening of the same day we shall be able to
rest in one another's arms.
Dirham wept like a child.
The pasha continued his directions:
At every step be cautious. Accomplish everything amidst the
greatest secrecy. Don't let my sons scatter their money right and left,
lest their wealth be suspected and give rise to envy and jealousy. It
would be better if they left the bulk of it on board ship, and only
drew from it whatever may be necessary for the time being. When thou
dost communicate with Bublinia, write on the parchment all sorts of
different things higgledy-piggledy. Say, for instance, that thou art
disembarking wool in Crete, and will consign it to Argyrocantharides,
who is friendly with the Sultan and all the pashas, and, at the same
time, an intermediary between us and the Greeks. But in the empty
spaces between the lines let Mukhtar write the message for Bublinia in
special characters with oil of vitriol; then, when thou dost hand over
the documents, moisten these special rows of letters with a piece of
citron. But stay, I will give thee a still better counsel. Melt some
lunar caustic in water, and write therewith thy message on the shell of
hard-boiled eggs. Then boil the eggs again; and when thou dost break
them open thou wilt find the writing visible on the white membrane
inside. Do that. Eggs are the least suspicious of cargoes.
Dirham made a careful mental note of all that was told him, secretly
amazed that Ali Pasha should have extended his attention to the
One thing more, said Ali, and his voice trembled with emotion. I
know right well that I am giving my sons dangerous parts to play, and
the issue thereof is uncertain. Take, therefore, this ring; the stone
set in it contains a talisman. Give it to Mukhtar. Let him wear it on
his finger, and if ever he finds himself environed by a great danger, a
very great dangerwhich Allah forfend!then let him open the stone of
the ring and read the talisman engraved therein. But this he is only to
do if a great danger be at hand, when he trembles for his life, when
the lowest slave would not change heads with him; for when once it has
been read the talisman loses all its virtue. And now depart, and
bethink thee of all I have told thee.
Dirham kissed the hem of the pasha's garment and promised that he
would carefully perform everything. Ali accompanied him down into the
garden. On their way back to the place they had to cross the spot where
Zaid was buried. As the hollow earth resounded beneath Ali's feet, he
stopped for a moment and murmured to himself, H'm! thou shalt not be
the only one!
* * * * *
Two weeks later Dirham met the sons of Ali in Adrianople. Morrison's
ship had taken him on the way thither, and during the voyage Dirham had
countless opportunities of convincing himself that the money deposited
by Ali was safely guarded in the hold of the vessel. There he said
everything which Ali had confided to him, and as it seemed to the poor
servant, through the medium of his tearful eyes, as if the beys grew
enthusiastic at the tidings of the war which their aged father was
waging, he told them, in this persuasion, that Ali had sent them five
million piastres, that they might buy ships and collect arms and unite
their forces to his.
The beys rejoiced greatly at the tidings of the five millions, and
embraced Dirham, who did his best to attribute all the merit of the
deed to Tepelenti for sending the money so magnanimously.
The old man might have sent us still more, said Sulaiman. What
does he want with it in Janina? Sooner or later it will become the prey
of his enemies.
Pardon me, my lord! objected Dirham. It will become nobody's prey
if only you unite with him.
Ugh! said Sulaiman; and at that moment the two brothers caught
each other's eye, and it was as though the same thought suddenly
occurred to them both.
When Dirham delivered the ring to Mukhtar, the latter asked,
Is there any poison in this ring?
What are you thinking of, my lord? I wore it on my finger the whole
way hither. There is a talisman in it.
At this both the brothers burst out laughing. They had often
ridiculed Ali for his absurd superstition. Nevertheless, Mukhtar kept
the ring, for there was a splendid emerald in it.
But the secret of the eggs completely won the favor of the brothers.
That was really a capital idea of Ali's. In this way the pashas could
send secret messages even in their harems. Who would ever suspect an
egg? They would put it to the proof at once. They would send a
declaration of love to the odalisks of the Seraskier, written in an
Dirham shook his head and spoke seriously, and entreated the beys to
first of all enter into a league with Bublinia, the amazon of Chios,
who was even bold enough on occasions to make a dash at the
Dardanelles; for if they did not hasten, the money that had been sent
to them would be of no use. It would be dangerous, he urged, to show
the people of Adrianople that they had received money. The English
captain, moreover, was not disposed to render any other service than
that of keeping safe custody of the money confided to him; but if any
harm happened to them because of it, he would neither defend them nor
even convey them out of Turkish waters.
These wise remonstrances made some impression upon the beys. Just as
if their thoughts were pursuing the same course, they both hastened to
beg Dirham to let them have at once the eggs, the lunar caustic,
writing materials, and all other indispensable things. Moreover, they
forgot to give him money for these purchases, so the poor fellow had to
buy them out of his own purse.
Dirham's foot was scarcely out of the house when the two brothers
looked at each other and smiled.
I have a good idea, began Sulaiman.
And I also, said the other.
I don't mean to return to Ali.
Nor I. I bear in mind what happened to Zaid.
I propose we buy a ship, on which we may hide our money.
And we'll man her with a Greek crew.
Then we will send Dirham with the messages written in the eggs to
Bublinia, and we'll write great things therein. We'll tell her that we
stand ready here with our fleets, and if she will attack the Kapudan
Pasha in front we will attack him in the rear. The woman is mad. She
will come forth from the Archipelago and fall upon the Turkish fleet.
Then the Kapudan Pasha will assemble his forces against her, and she
will engage all his attention till we have nicely set sail, nor will we
stop till we reach Cadiz.
Admirable! for that is the land of good wine and fair women.
And then Ali Pasha may wait for us till the angel Izrafil blows his
trumpet on the last day!
And Bublinia as wellnot forgetting the Sultan! Let them worry
Mashallah! Life is sweet!
And so it chanced that the sons of Ali, like the princes in a fairy
tale, suddenly and marvellously came into the possession of great
riches, and were wise enough to profit by these riches in the merriest
manner in the world. The money was given to them for blood and weapons.
They were going to lavish it on love and wine. And is not life lovelier
When Dirham came back they immediately boiled the eggs hard, and
wrote upon them every sort of magnificent message that occurred to
their minds. They promised to hasten to the assistance of the Greeks,
both by land and by sea; to cut their way through the fleets with their
fire-ships and blow the Turkish flag-ship into the air; to incite the
Janissaries to rise against the Sultan and the Greeks to rise against
the Janissaries; in all of which there was not a single word of truth.
Only worthy Dirham believed these things, and trembled in body and soul
at the bare thought of the sublime deeds that his masters had
determined to perform.
He himself hired a barge, loaded it with wool, and, hiding the eggs
full of secrets in a basket, set out for the Archipelago.
The good youths meanwhile laughed to their hearts' content. They
laughed at worthy Dirham; they laughed at the worthy Bublinia, and at
the wise Kapudan Pasha; they laughed at this amusing piece of good
fortune which brought them riches in heaps. But at nobody did they
laugh so much as at old Tepelenti, who was believing all along that his
sons were collecting war-ships for him.
But did he really believe it?
On the same day that Dirham quitted Adrianople, a fakir of the
Nimetullahita Order penetrated into the Seraglio and demanded an
audience of the Sultan. It was the self-same old soothsayer who had
exhibited his enchantments to Ali.
On being admitted to the presence of Mahmoud, he stood audaciously
upright before him, bending his head no lower than it was already
crooked by the weight of years.
Allah hath sent me to thee, said the dervish, in a deep, hollow
voice, which had lost all its sonorousness. A great danger is
approaching thee. The storm hanging over thy head is at this moment
compressed within the skin of an egg, and thou couldst crush it in the
palm of thy hand; but if thou dost suffer it to come forth from the
egg, thy whole realm will not be sufficient to contain it. This,
therefore, is the word of Allah unto thee: This day and this night, and
to-morrow and to-morrow night, stop every vessel which sails up the
narrow waters of the Golden Horn and search them, and whenever thy
guards come upon an egg, let them seize it and bring it to thee; for
amongst them are diverse cockatrice eggs which, if once they be
hatched, will swallow up both thee and thy realm.
Having said these words, the dervish turned him about, and without
so much as saluting the Padishah, without even taking off his slippers
before him, he withdrew, not even asking for a reward.
The Sultan was profoundly impressed by this audacity. He immediately
sent orders to the wardens of the two watch-towers at the entrance of
the Golden Horn to board and search thoroughly every vessel that passed
between them, seize every egg they found on board and bring them to
him, at the same time detaining all the crews of such vessels.
Fate so willed it that Dirham's was the first vessel that fell into
the hands of the searchers.
When the unfortunate servant perceived that the guards seized the
eggs, he leaped into the sea, and although he was a good swimmer, he
allowed himself to be suffocated in the water lest he should be
compelled to betray his masters.
The eggs they carried to the Sultan, and when he had opened them and
had read the writing written on their inner skins, he was horrified.
Treachery and rebellion! The conspiracy was spreading from one end of
the empire to the other. The complicated intrigue, one of whose threads
was in Janina and the other in the islands of the Archipelago, had its
third in the very capital. This called for terrible reprisals.
The beys were seized the same night in the midst of their joys, and
dragged from the paradise of their hopes to be thrown into a dungeon.
Who could have betrayed the secret of the eggs? they asked
themselves. Why, who else but Tepelenti?
Fools! to fancy that they could make a fool of Tepelenti!
Sulaiman fainted when they informed him that the secret of the eggs
was discovered. Mukhtar felt that the moment had come of which Ali had
said that the lowest slave would not then exchange heads with his two
sons, and in that hour of peril he bethought him of the talismanic ring
which had been sent to him. Hastily he removed the emerald, believing
that at least a quickly operative poison was contained therein, by
which he might be saved from a shameful death. There was, however, no
poison inside the ring, but these words were engraved thereon, Ye have
fallen into the hands of Ali!
Mukhtar dropped the ring; he was annihilated.
The hand of Ali, that implacable hand which reached from one end of
the world to the other, which clutched at him even out of the tombhe
now felt all its weight upon his head.
Die he must, and his brother also.
The Reis-Effendi examined them, and both of them doggedly denied all
knowledge of what was written on the eggs. But there was one thing they
could not denythe five million piastres on the English ship; this was
the most damaging piece of evidence against them, and proved to be
The Sultan demanded from Morrison the money of the beys, and
Morrison himself appeared before the Reis-Effendi to defend his
consignment, which he maintained he was only bound to deliver to its
The Reis-Effendi replied that in the Ottoman Empire there was only
one lawful owner of every sort of property, and that was the Sultan.
The property of every deceased person fell to the Grand Signior, and
nobody could make a will without his permission.
Morrison objected, very pertinently, that as the beys were not
deceased the Sultan could scarcely be looked upon as their heir.
Instead of making any answer, the Reis-Effendi sent out his officers
with a little piece of parchment which he had previously subscribed,
and a few moments later the severed heads of the beys stood in front of
Morrison on a silver trencher.
If their not being dead was the sole impediment, remarked the
Minister of Foreign Affairs, you perceive that it has now been
Morrison thereupon handed over all the gold and silver in his
possession as rapidly as possible, and quitted Constantinople that very
hour; he had no great love of a place where every word cost the life of
But the heads of the beys were stuck on the gates of the Seraglio
for three days and three nights in the sight of all the people, and
mounted heralds proclaimed, at intervals of an hour, Behold the heads
of the sons of the rebellious Ali Tepelenti, who would have devastated
And the people loaded the heads with curses each time the
proclamation was made.
* * * * *
A few days later the news reached Janina that Sulaiman Bey and
Mukhtar Bey had been beheaded at Stambul.
Ali Pasha thrice bowed his face to the ground and gave thanks to
Allah for His mercies. And he caused to be proclaimed on the ramparts,
amidst a flourish of trumpets, that his sons, the treacherous beys, had
been decapitated at Stambul. Such is the reward of traitors!
After that, for three days and three nightsjust as long a time as
the heads of the beys had been exposed on the gates of the Seraglioa
banquet, with music and dancing, was given in the fortress of Janina,
and every morning a hundred and one volleys were fired from the
bastionsthe usual ceremony after great triumphs.
And when in the evening Ali took a promenade in his garden, and
walked up and down among his flowers, he would now and then trample the
earth beneath his feet. It was the grave of Zaid that he was trampling
upon. There stood an old dahlia, the sole survivor of its extirpated
family, and, levelling it to the ground with his foot, he trod it into
the grave, murmuring to himself, No longer art thou aloneno longer
CHAPTER XI. THE FLOWERS OF THE
GARDEN OF BEGTASH
At the end of the fifteenth century, when the Turkish crescent had
won an abiding-place among the constellations of Europe, there dwelt in
the Turkish dominions a worthy dervish, Haji Begtash by name.
As the overflowing armies of the newly founded empire submerged the
surrounding Christian kingdoms, Haji Begtash went everywhere with the
conquering hosts, but in the intervals of peace he begged his way about
the empire, and scraped together a little money from the Turkish
grandees or from the extravagant, booty-laden Turkish soldiers.
Now wherefore did this worthy dervish make it a point to collect so
much money and wear himself out by travelling from the Adriatic to the
Euxine, when he might have sat all day long at the gate of the Kaaba,
as they call the stone on the tomb of the Prophet, and recited from his
long bead-string the nine properties of Allah (no very exhausting
labor, by-the-way), and received therefor, from the pilgrims to the
shrine, meat, drink, and abundance of alms?
Well, Haji Begtash had taken up a great work. When he accompanied
the Turkish armies, and they, on entering a Christian village, began to
cut down the inhabitants and tie the captives together with ropes, the
dervish would force his way through the bloodthirsty soldiery, and if
he beheld any wild Bashkir or Kurdish desperado about to dash out the
brains of a forsaken, weeping orphan child against a wall, he would lay
his hand upon them, take away the child, cover it with his mantle,
caress it, and take it away with him. And thus he would keep on doing
till he had with him a whole group of children, all of whom were
concealed beneath the folds of his ample cloak, where nobody could hurt
them; nay, frequently he would carry babies in swaddling-clothes in his
bosom, till people began to wonder what on earth he meant to do with
Subsequently he announced that any captive who brought him his
children should receive a silver denarius per head for each one of
them. This was not much, it is true; but then there was little demand
for children. In the slave-market only the adult human animal had its
price-current. And so it came about that innumerable children were
brought to the worthy dervish.
He took them away with him to a mosque at Adrianople. Folks laughed
at him, and asked him mockingly if he was going to plant a garden with
Haji Begtash accepted the jest in real earnest, and called his
children the flowers of Begtash's garden; and this name they preserved
in the coming centuries.
These saplings (amongst them were some of the loveliest little
creatures of six and seven years of age) were brought up by the
indefatigable Haji year after year. He instructed them in the Kuran; he
told them everything concerning the innumerable and ineffable joys
which the Prophet promises to those who fall in the defence of the true
Faith; and at the same time accustomed them to endure all the hardships
and privations of this earthly life.
Most of these children had never known father or mother, and those
who had quickly forgot all about them as they grew up. No love of home
or kindred bound them to this world, and therefore they were all the
more attached to one another. Their comrades were the only beings they
learned to love, and every one of them treated old Begtash as a father.
His words were sacred to them.
Their days were passed in hard work, in perpetual martial exercises,
fighting, and swimming. A youth of twelve among them was capable of
coping with full-grown men elsewhere, and each one of them at maturity
was a veritable Samson.
In those days the Ottoman armies suffered many defeats from the
Christian arms. Their strength lay for the most part in their cavalry,
but their innumerable infantry was a mere mob, two of their
foot-soldiers not being equal to one of the well-disciplined European
men-at-arms who advanced irresistibly against them in huge compact
masses; and they were of no use at all in sieges, except to fill up the
ditches and trenches with their dead bodies, and thus make a road for
the more valiant warriors that came after them.
And now, as if by magic, a little band of infantry suddenly appeared
on the theatre of the war. These new soldiers were dressed quite
differently from the others. On their heads they wore a high hat
bulging outward in front, with a black, floating cock's plume on the
top of it; their dolmans were of embroidered blue cloth; their hose
only reached down to their knees, below that the whole leg was bare;
their only weapon was a short, broad, roundish sword, in marked
contrast to the other Turkish soldiers, who loaded themselves with as
many weapons as if they were going to fight with ten hands.
None recognized the youthsand youths they all were. They did not
mingle with the other squadrons, nor place themselves under any
captain, nor did they ask for pay from any one.
But in the very first engagement they showed what they were made of.
A fortress had to be besieged which was defended in front by a broad
stream of water. The strange youths clinched their broad swords between
their teeth, swam across the water, scaled the bastions amidst fire and
flames, and planted the first horse-tail crescent on the tower.
These were the flowers of Begtash's garden.
The first battle established the fame of the youthful band that had
been brought up by the old dervish, and by the time the second campaign
began, Haji Begtash was already the chief of innumerable monasteries
whose inmates were called the Brethren of the Order of Begtash.
Consisting, as they did, of captive Christian children, and standing
under the immediate command of the Sultan, they composed a new army of
infantry, the fame of whose valor filled the whole world.
These were the jeni-cheri (new soldiers), which name was
subsequently altered into Janichary or Janissary. But for long ages to
come, if any Janissary warrior had a mind to speak haughtily, he would
call himself a flower from Begtash's garden.
Many a glorious name bloomed in this garden in the course of the
ages. The power of the Sultan rested on their shoulders, and if they
shook the Sultan from off their shoulders, down he had to go.
If they were powerful servants, they were also powerful tyrants.
Their valor often reaped a harvest of victories, but their obstinacy
again and again imperilled their triumphs. With the increase of their
power their self-assurance increased likewise. It was not so much the
Sultans and Viziers who commanded them as they who commanded the
Sultans and Viziers. And if the rebellious Janissaries hoisted on the
Atmeidan a kettle, the signal of revolt, it was always with fear and
trembling that the Seraglio asked them what were their demands; and the
whole Divan breathed more freely when the answer came that it was gold
they wanted, and not bloodthe blood of their officers. And when,
after the great Feast of Bairam, there was the usual distribution of
pilaf, and the dangerous kettles were filled full with this savory mess
of rice and sheep's flesh, the Sultan, all trembling, would anxiously
watch to see how the majestic Janissaries partook of their pottage. If
they devoured it voraciously, that was a sign of their satisfaction;
but if they only touched it in a finiking sort of way, then the Sultan
would fly into the Seraglio, and lock himself up among the damsels of
the harem, for it was now certain that their lordships the Janissaries
were displeased, and it was well if their displeasure only expressed
itself by reducing a whole quarter or so of the city to ashes.
Two Sultans had tried to break in two this dangerous double-edged
weapon, which inflicted as many wounds in the heart of the realm as
ever it dealt outside; but the Janissaries' magic influence was so
interwoven with, so ingrafted in, the mind of the nation that public
feeling was on their side, and both rulers perished in the bold
attempt. They dragged Sultan Osman forth from the Seraglio, and set him
on the back of an ass with his face to its tail, carried him in
derision from one end of the town to the other, and then flung him into
the fatal Seven Towers, where the Turkish rulers and their relatives
are wont to be buried alive and die forgotten. Mahmoud II.'s father,
Selim, on the other hand, expired beneath the sword-thrusts of the
rebels, and those swords were still sharp and those hands were still
strong when the son of the man whom they had slain sat on the throne,
and under no other Sultan did the throne tremble so much as under him.
In these days the mighty corps of the Janissaries lived only to
commit crimes or gigantic mistakes; its ancient glory was not renewed.
During the last century their arms had constantly been shattered
whenever they came into collision with the progressive military science
of Europe. In the course of the ages the flowers in Begtash's garden
had sadly faded. The flowery petals of their glory had fallen from
them, and only the thorns remained; and even these were no longer the
thorns of the brave thick-set hedge which defends the borders of the
garden against would-be invaders, but the stings of the nettle which
hurts the hand of the gardener as he hoes.
Neither life nor property was any longer safe from them. The Sultan
himself, when he sat upon the throne, was in the most dangerous place
of all, and the Viziersthe chief officials of the realmtrembled
every day for their lives. The turbulence of the Janissaries was a
perpetually recurring disease running through all the arteries of the
realm, and covering the once mighty empire with poisonous ulcers.
These seditious outbreaks occurred even during the deliberations of
the Divan, and fear on such occasions was a more urgent counsellor than
conviction to the palace magnates who sat in the cupolaed chamber.
The threats of the Janissaries had compelled Mahmoud to take up arms
against Ali Pasha; and now, when Ali had kindled the flames of war all
over the empire, and the Sultan bade the Janissaries hasten against the
enemy and subdue him, they replied that they would not fight unless the
Sultan led them in person.
Instead of that, they waged war within the very walls of Stambul,
for whenever the news of a defeat reached the capital, the Janissaries
would fall upon the defenceless Greeks and massacre them by thousands.
From distant Asia, from the most savage parts of the empire,
Begtash's priests appeared and proclaimed in the mosques death and
destruction on the heads of all the Greeks. It was they who, with
torches in their hands, headed the rush of the fanatical Janissaries
against Buyukdere, Pera, and Galata, the quarters of the city where the
Greeks resided, and every day they thundered with their bludgeons at
the gates of the Seraglio, demanding ever more and more sentences of
death against the Greek captives who were shut up in the Seven Towers.
The Sultan's officials, trembling with fear, wrote out the sentences
demanded of them, and the victims fell in hundreds; and when the
Russian ambassador, Stroganov, protested against this butchery, the
Janissaries attacked his palace and riddled all the doors and windows
with bullets, which was the subsequent pretext for the long war which
shook the empire to its base, though the Janissaries never lived to
Mahmoud watched from the summit of the imperial palace the
devastation of Stambul and the devastation of his empire, and he saw no
help anywhere. He saw nothing but the melancholy examples of his
ancestors and the disappearance of his dominions; and as he stroked the
head of his first-born, Abdul Mejid, a child of nine, he thought to
himself, This lad will not sit on the throne, he will not be a ruler
as his forefathers were; he will not dictate laws to half the world
like the other descendants of Omar; but he will be a fugitive on the
face of the earth, the slave of strange people, as was the fugitive
Dzhem, whom they cast forth ages ago.
How miserable was the life of the Sultan! What avails it though an
earthly paradise be open to him if life itself be closed against him?
What avails it to be a god if he cannot be a man? The Sultan never
knows what it is to have relatives. Very early, while they are still
children, the latest born are shut up in the Seven Towers. The
first-born son can never meet them, unless it be on the steps of the
throne, when the rebellious Janissaries drag one of them from his
dungeon to raise him to the throne, and lock up the first-born in his
stead. The Sultan cannot be said to possess a wife; all that he has are
favorite concubines, in hundreds, in thousands, as many as he chooses
to have, and there is no difference between them except differences of
feminine loveliness and the blind chance which blesses some of them
with children. And he makes no more account of one than he does of
another. Not one of them feels it her duty to love her husband; it is
enough if she be the slave of his desires. If the Padishah be troubled
or sorrowful, there is none about him to whom he can open his heart. He
may go from one end of the harem to the other, like one who wanders
through a conservatory whose flowers are all so beautiful, so radiantly
smiling; but in vain will he tell them of his grief and trouble, for
they do not understand him, they do not trouble their heads about his
thoughts; and if, perchance, he tells them that from all four corners
of the world mighty foes are marching against Stambul, here and there,
perchance, he may hear a sigh of longing from some captive maiden, who
cannot conceal her secret joy at the thought of the happy hour when the
hand of deliverance will thunder at the harem door and break its bolts
and give freedom, beautiful sunbright freedom, to the captives.
It is slavish obsequiousness and nothing else which bends its knee
before the Padishah; it is fear, not love, which obeys him. And to whom
shall he turn when his heart is held fast in the iron grip of that
numbing sensation which makes the mightiest feel they are but
Mahmoud's sole joy was his nine-year-old son. The child was brought
up by his grandmother, the Sultana Valideh, herself scarce forty years
of age. This dowager Sultana had civilized, European tastes. She had
been educated in France; the young prince was passionately attached to
her and she inspired him with all those desires and noble instincts
under whose influence, thirty years later, new life was to be poured
into the decrepit Turkish Empire.
The Sultana Valideh wished to so educate her grandson that one day
he might occupy a worthy position among the other rulers of Europe. She
sowed betimes in his heart the seeds of high principles and enlightened
tastes, and the Sultan would frequently listen to the wise sentences of
his little lad, and, while rocking him on his knee, with a smile upon
his face, his heart would beat in an agony of fear, What if anybody
got word of this?
For the old Turkish party lay in wait for every word that fell from
the Sultan's mouth, and the pointing of the little finger of one of
Begtash's fakirs was more to be feared than the armed hand of the most
valiant of the Greek heroes. If any one of the Ulemas should chance to
discover that the young heir to the throne listened to any other
bookish lore than what was contained within the covers of the Kuran,
which comprised within itself (so they taught) all the wisdom of the
world, they were capable of hounding on the Janissaries against the
Seraglio, and slaying both sovereign and child.
The recollection of Achmed Sidi was still fresh in the memory of
men. Sidi had been one of the Chief Ulemas, and the Imam of the Mosque
of Sophia; and when, a few years ago, the warriors and the diplomatists
of the Tsaritsa Catherine had won victory after victory over the
Ottomans, not only on every battle-field, but also in every political
arena, the unfortunate imam advised the Divan that, in view of the
indisputable superiority of the Christians, it was necessary to teach
the Turkish diplomatists the Bible, the inference being that just as
the Moslem sages derived all their military science and all their
administrative wisdom from the Kuran, so also the Christians must needs
learn all these things from their Bible, thereby tacitly acknowledging
the capacity of the Christians for appropriating all knowledge. But the
well-meaning Ulema paid dearly for this good counsel. They banished him
to the Isle of Chios, and there, for a very trivial offence, he was
first degraded from his office (for it is not lawful to kill a Ulema
with weapons), and then handed over to the pasha of the place, who
pounded him to death in a stone mortara deterrent example for future
reformers. Let them beware, therefore, of moving a single stone in the
ancient fabric of the Ottoman constitution!
CHAPTER XII. THE SHIPWRECK OF
Now, one fine day, when the worthy Leonidas Argyrocantharides set
out from Smyrna on one of his prettiest ships, a vexatious little
accident befell him by the way. The ship, which had taken in a cargo of
tanned hides at Stambul, was overtaken, en route, by a tempest
which drove her upon the coast of Seleucia. There, in the darkness of
the night, she was thrown upon a sand-bank, from which she was unable
to extricate herself till morning; and it was only when the land became
visible in the early light of dawn that the merchant began to realize
the awkward position into which his ship had got, despite Saint
Procopius and Saint Demetrius, who were very beautifully painted on
both sides of her prow. The vessel had heeled over on one side, and
that side of her which lay above the waves was threatened every moment
with destruction by the onset of the foaming surf which broke from time
to time over the deck, making a pretty havoc of the masts and spars.
The joints of the ship's timbers began to be loosened, creaking and
shivering at each fresh shock of the waves. And if the fate of the ship
on the sand-bank was sad enough, still sadder would it have been if she
had broken loose therefrom; for right in front of her lay the rocks of
the Seleucian coast, whose steep crags were lashed so furiously by the
raging sea that the crashing waves leaped fully a hundred fathoms up
their sides. A nice place this would have been for any ship to play
The worthy merchant sorely lamented his fate, sorely lamented, also,
his fine ship, which was painted in elaborate patterns with all the
colors of the rainbow. He lamented his many beautiful goat-skins, not a
single bundle of which he would allow to be cast into the sea for the
purpose of lightening the ship; rather let them all go to the bottom
together! He mourned over himself, too, condemned at the beginning of
the best years of his life to be suffocated in the sea; but what he
lamented far more than ship, goat-skins, or even life itself, were the
two Circassian children, the precious, beautiful boy and girl, Thomar
and Milieva, who were worth, at the current market prices of the day,
ten thousand ducats apiece; Leonidas would have given his own skin for
them any day!
Full of great hopes, he had embarked the two children at Stambul
(the tanned hides were only a secondary consideration); and lo! now,
just when he was reaching his goal, the curse of Kasi Mollah overtook
Two long-boats fully manned had made an attempt to reach the shore,
in order that they might from thence haul the ship off the sand-bank,
and both boats had been seized before his very eyes by the breakers,
and dashed to pieces against the steep rocks; so there was nothing for
it but to remain behind and perish on the sand-bank.
One wave after another drove the hulk deeper and deeper down; those
who still remained aboard wrung their hands and prayed or cursed,
according as temperament or habit urged them.
As for Leonidas, he did bothhe prayed and cursed at the same time;
for it seemed quite clear to him that praying or cursing separately was
of not the slightest use. The two children, meanwhile, holding each
other tightly embraced, sat beside the broken stump of the mast and
seemed to mock at the terrible tempest.
Not a sign of fear was visible on their faces. This roaring wind,
these foam-churning waves, seemed to afford them a pleasant pastime.
The black-and-white storm-birds sitting on the towering billows were
swimming there all round the doomed ship, merrily flapping the water
with their wings. Oh, those sea-swallows were having a fine time of it!
The two children had agreed between themselves, some time before,
that if the ship went down, they would fling themselves into the water
and swim ashore. That would be a mere trifle to them, of course.
Full of despair, the merchant rushed towards them, and embracing
them with both his arms, he exclaimed, looking bitterly at the sky,
Merciful Heaven! ten thousand ducats!
The children fancied that terror had made the merchant mad, and they
tried to comfort him with kind words:
Don't distress yourself, dear foster-father; we will not perish
here, and we will not leave you to perish either. As soon as the ship
goes down, we'll swim for the shore. We both of us know very well how
to cleave the waves with our strong arms, and we will fasten you to our
girdles and save you along with ourselves.
The merchant kissed the two dear children, and embraced them
tenderly. An hour later the last planks of the fine ship broke away
from each other, and the shipwrecked crew clung desperately to the
floating spars that the waves tossed hither and thither. The greater
part of the ship's company was ingulfed forthwith by the waves or
dashed to pieces against the hard rocks; only three persons were
savedthe merchant and the two children.
Leonidas, fast tied to their girdles, allowed himself to be cast
among the waters. The first who rose on the crest of the foaming waves
was Thomar. He perceived the rock on which a huge mountain of surf,
rushing after him, threatened to dash him to pieces, and, watching his
opportunity, grasped the long dangling roots of a tree which grew out
of a cleft of the rocks and, with a tremendous effort, dragged all
three of them up to it. The wave rolled right over them, burying them
for an instant in deep water; but the next moment the surge rolled back
again, and they were on the rocky coast.
The merchant was more dead than alive, so the children had to drag
him with them for a long way inland, lest the returning surge should
carry them back to sea again. They only ventured to rest when they had
reached a rocky cavity where they could feel sure that they were safe.
Even here the water, which shot up as high as a tower against the
opposing rock, covered them every moment; but they did not feel its
There they had to remain, crouching closely together, till the
evening. Neither in front nor behind was there any place of refuge, and
it was with a feeling of envy that they looked down upon the stormy
petrels which towards evening began to sit down in long rows on the
edge of the rocks, whither it was impossible for them to follow.
Gradually, however, the storm died away, the sea subsided and grew
smooth, and the place where the shipwrecked group had taken refuge rose
three ells above the surface of the water. Then they could venture to
look around them. The whole shore was strewn with pieces of timber and
mangled corpses. Wreckage and dead bodies were all that the sea had
vomited forth of the rich cargo of the fine ship.
But the merchant did not despair. Making the two children kneel down
beside him, he knelt down in their midst, and made them pray a prayer
of gratitude to Heaven for their marvellous deliverance; and then,
pressing them to his bosom, he sobbed, with the tears in his eyes,
What do I care, though my ship is lost and all my wares are submerged,
so long as ye remain to me, my precious offspring? That is quite
consolation enough for me.
And the worthy merchant told the truth, for as soon as ever he could
reach Stambul he was sure of getting for these two children enough to
enable him to buy two ships and twice as many wares as he had lost at
the bottom of the sea.
But now the most difficult question aroseHow were they to get away
from that spot to any place inhabited by man? All ships gave this
dangerous coast a wide berth; there was nothing to tempt them to the
spot. Even fishermen did not venture as far in their barks, so that the
unfortunate refugees who had escaped the waters saw starvation
But suddenly, while they were meditating over the misery of their
position, they fancied they heard human voices a little distance
offdeep, manly voices, apparently engaged in a lively dispute.
The two children rejoiced, thinking that good men were hard by; but
the merchant trembled, for, thought he, What if they be robbers?
Thomar now bade his sister remain with Leonidas while he went in the
direction of the voices to discover who the speakers might be. The
brave boy clambered from one cliff to another, made the circuit of the
rock-chamber behind which they were sitting, and when he came to the
opposite side of it a spacious empty cavern yawned blackly in front of
him, half covered by whortleberry bushes. Probably the conversation
came from thence, but neither near nor far was a human creature to be
seen, nor were there any footprints of men on the ground; the front of
the cavern was covered with thick green moss, on which footprints left
no trace. Thomar shouted into the cave, and as not a word came back, he
boldly entered, and slowly advanced forward. He went on and on as far
as the light of the outside world extended, and then, as no one replied
to his loud challenges, turned back again by the way he had come, and,
making the circuit of the rock again, told the merchant that he had not
come upon any human beings, but had only found a cavern which, at any
rate, would make them good night quarters.
The conversation they thought they had heard must have been a
delusion. Then they helped one another along the rocks and arrived at
the mouth of the cavern.
Milieva had scarcely cast a glance into it when she exclaimed, full
of joy: Look, Thomar, here are two chests among the bushes! And,
indeed, there were two boxes made of boards, and Thomar wondered that
he had not noticed them before. No doubt the sea had cast them up
thither out of some ship that had been wrecked there before.
One of the boxes resembled those chests in which sailors keep their
biscuits, but the shape of the other suggested that it was one of those
hermetically sealed vessels used for holding good wines. Why should
they not turn them to some account?
They were not long in forcing them open, and what was their
astonishment when they perceived that the biscuits in the first box
were not even mouldy, but quite dry and sound, as if they had only been
brought thither quite recently; while in the second box not one of the
scores of flasks there displayed was broken or cracked, but lay neatly
stored away in layers of straw?
The refugees did not greatly concern themselves with the question,
Who put these boxes here? and why? Nobody who, after being tossed about
on the sea for three days with nothing to eat or drink all the time,
and is then unexpectedly confronted with rich stores of bread and
winenobody, I am sure, under such circumstances would think of
consulting the Kuran as to whether a conscientious Mussulman should eat
and drink such things, but would fall to at once, and thank Allah for
The children forgot, in the twinkling of an eye, the dangers to
which they had been exposed, and, after the first glass or two of wine,
overcome by fatigue, lay down on the soft bed which Nature had made
ready for them with her most fragrant moss. Leonidas, however, remained
sitting where he was, considering it his bounden duty to taste all the
wines which were here offered to him gratis, one after the other; in
consequence whereof, when he did lie down at last, he chose a
position in which his head was very low down while his feet were high
in the air, and so they all three slumbered peacefully together.
Then the voices of men were heard once more far off in the cavern,
and not long afterwards there emerged from its black mouth six
gray-haired, pale-faced human beings. He who came first was the eldest.
His white beard reached to his girdle, his mouth was hidden by his
mustache, and his eyes were covered by his white eyebrows.
These men were fakirs of the Omarite Order, whose rule obliges them
to endure the most terrible of all renunciationsabstention from all
enjoyment of the light of day. Plunging themselves into eternal
darkness for the glory of Allah, they make of life a long midnight, and
the sun never beholds them on the face of the earth.
The night was well advanced when the six Omarites came forth to the
sleepers, and while five of the fakirs stood round them in silence, the
sixththe one with the long flowing beardbent over the children and
examined their features attentively in the darkness of the night, which
was only mitigated by the light of a few faint stars half hidden among
errant clouds. At last he whispered to his comrades, It is they.
Then, turning the tips of his thumbs downwards, he laid them softly on
Thomar's head. All five fakirs listened with rapt attention. The bosom
of the sleeping lad began to heave tumultuously; he clinched his fists;
his face grew hot; his lips swelled. The old man then seemed to breathe
upon his forehead, as if he would whisper something, whereupon the
sleeping lad exclaimed, in a strong, audible voice, With swords, with
guns, with arms!
The old men shook their heads, showing thereby that they approved of
Then the eldest old man bent over the other child and made passes
over her face with his five fingers. The maiden's bosom expanded
visibly, and when the old man stooped over and breathed upon her she
cried out in an energetic, dictatorial manner, Down on your knees
At this the Omarites all whispered together, and two of them lifting
the lad, two the girl, and two the merchant, they carried them on their
shoulders into the depths of the cavern.
The mouth of this cavern was the already mentioned tunnel whose
farthest exit debouched upon the valley of Seleucia, half a league from
the seathat waste, barren, and savage valley.
The Omarites moved to and fro in the black cave without a torch,
like the blind, who do not go astray in the turnings and windings of
the streets, although they see them not. The sleepers had drunk a magic
potion, which did not permit them to awake for some time, and the men
carried them on their shoulders to the opposite entrance of the cavern
and there laid them down on the moss, in a place where the sunlight was
wont to penetrate.
It was already late in the day when the two children awoke. As soon
as they had opened their eyes, their first care was to kiss and embrace
each other. Then they aroused the merchant also and, rubbing sleep out
of their eyes, began to tell him, in childish fashion, what they had
been dreaming about.
Ah! what a lovely dream I had! cried Thomar, and even now his eyes
sparkled. I was standing beside the Sultan, who was leaning on my
shoulder. Before me and around me howled a rebellious multitude, and
the Sultan was pale and sad. Turning towards me he sighed, 'Wherewith
shall I appease this raging sea?' For a long time I could find no
answer. It was as if something were weighing me down, something as
heavy as a mountain, when suddenly the words escaped from my lips,
'With swords, with guns, with weapons!' And then the Padishah girded
his own sword upon me, and I rushed among the howling mob, and I cut
and hacked away at them till they were all consumed, and at last a
field that had been reaped lay before me, and it was covered with
nothing but corpses.
That is a foolish dream, said Leonidas. Why did you eat so much
And now Milieva told her dream.
I also must have been confused by the wine. Before me also a
rebellious multitude appeared, and it then seemed to me as if I was not
a girl but a boy. Furiously they rushed upon me from every side, but I
feared them not, and when they were quite near to me I cried out to
them, 'Down on your knees before me! I am the Sultan's daughter!' And
everything was instantly quiet.
The merchant laughed till he choked at this dream. Who but children
could dream such rubbish?
But at home they used to say, observed Thomar, with a grave face,
that whatever any one dreams in a strange place where he has never
slept before, he will see that dream accomplished.
Well, I am much obliged to you, said the merchant, for in my
dream I was hanging up in Salonika by my feet, with my head downwards.
Then the merchant made the children leave the cavern.
Come, my children, said he, let us see if the sea has calmed
down, and whether a ship is approaching from anywhere.
Thomar obeyed, quitted the cavern, and exclaimed, in astonishment:
Look, my dear foster-father! How could a ship come here when the
very sea has vanished, and only the bottom of it remains.
And indeed the district stretching out before them was quite bare
and barren enough to be taken for the bottom of the sea.
Leonidas took the lad's words for a joke, and it was a joke he did
Keep your witticisms for another time, my son, said he, and rub
your eyes that they may see the better.
But Milieva leaped after Thomar, and when she had got up to him she
clapped her hands together, and exclaimed, with naïve amazement:
Why, the sea has run away from us!
And now the merchant himself arose from his place, went out of the
cavern, and could scarce believe his eyes when he saw before him the
savage, rocky region, where not a drop of moisture could be seen, to
say nothing of the sea!
God has worked wonders for us, sighed the merchant. It is plain
that we are in quite a different place from that wherein we went to
No doubt the peris of the mountains of Kâf have conveyed us
hither, said Milieva.
Peris, no doubt, observed Leonidas, absently, groping for his long
reticule, and feeling whether his diamonds were still there. If it were
not peris, they would certainly have searched him for his diamonds.
And now they had to find out where they were, and what was the best
way to get out of the wilderness. The greatest anxiety had disappeared;
they had no longer anything to fear from the sea. On dry land it would
be much easier to find a place of refuge.
After a little searching they came upon footprints in the sand, and
these footprints led them to the mouth of the valley. Whole forests of
the large cochineal cactus grew among the rocks, and here and there
they saw a light-footed kid grazing on the dry sward. Not very long
afterwards they fell in with the goatherd. Leonidas was rather alarmed
than delighted at the sight of the grim muscular figure, who, on
perceiving them, came straight towards them, and addressed them in a
Are ye those shipwrecked fugitives who slept at night in the Cavern
of the dzhin?
Dzhin! said Leonidas to himself. Methinks it must have
been a spirit of evil, then.
The children answered the goatherd boldly, and begged him to direct
them to some inhabited region.
Go straight along this gorge, said he; you cannot mistake the
path. On your right hand you will find a hut where dwells a fakir of
the Erdbuhar Order, who will direct you farther. Salám alek! And with
that the goatherd quitted them, to the great amazement of Leonidas, who
had expected nothing less of him than highway robbery.
Towards evening they had arrived at the hut of the Erdbuhar hermit.
I have been expecting you, said the dervish, when they came up to
him. Have you not suffered shipwreck and slept all night with the
Evidently one marvel after another was in store for them.
The dervish gave them meat and drink, and washed their feet, and
after they had enjoyed his hospitality he offered to conduct them all
the way to the gates of Seleucia. The merchant would very much have
liked to know something of his wondrous deliverers, but as the dervish
answered all his questions with quotations from the Kuran, he learned
very little that was definite from that holy man.
When Seleucia came in sight, the merchant began thanking the dervish
for his good offices. Do not weary thyself any further, worthy
Mussulman, cried he; I know not how to reward thy labors, but Allah
will requite thee. I am a beggar. Thou dost see that I am as bare as
one of my fingers. The ocean hath swallowed up my all.
And all the while his reticule was full of precious stones; but he
would have considered it a very great act of folly not to have made
capital out of his wretchedness, and paid the dervish with fine words.
But the dervish would not even accept his thanks. It is but my
duty, said he, and I did it not for thy sake, but for the sake of
others. And with that he quitted them, after giving a string of
praying-beads to each of the children.
The children went on in front till they reached the gate of the
city, talking in a low voice together; but when they found themselves
in the populous streets they took Leonidas by the hand, and Thomar
said, All that was thine has been lost in the sea, and who will help
us in the great strange city, where nobody knows us? Let us therefore
sing in the market-place and before the houses of the great men, and
they will give us money, and so we shall be able to go on farther.
The merchant was greatly affected by this naïve offer, and allowed
the children to sing in the market-place and in the porch of the
pasha's house, and in this way they gained enough money to enable them
to go on to the next city.
Thus, at last, they got back to Smyrna. If they had been his own
children Argyrocantharides could not have looked for greater and
heartier affection from them. They fasted that he might feast, they
shivered that he might be warmly clad, they denied themselves sleep
that he might slumber all the more tranquilly, and lowered themselves
to singing in the market-place that he might not be compelled to beg at
the corners of the streets.
Good children! sweet children!
As soon as the merchant could get a new ship he took them with him
to Stambul, and this time no misfortune happened to them by the way.
At Stambul he exhibited them to the Kizlar-Agasi, who, after
examining their limbs and satisfying himself as to their capabilities,
bought the pair of them from the merchant at his own pricethe youth
for the Sultan's corps of pages, the girl for the harem.
To the honor of the worthy merchant, however, it must be said that
when he did hand the children over he sobbed bitterly. Good, worthy
CHAPTER XIII. A BALL IN THE SERAGLIO
It was the birthday of the Sultana Valideh. The Sultana, Mahmoud's
mother, was, we may remember, a Frenchwoman, whose parents, natives of
the Isle of Martinique, had sent her to Paris while still very young,
and placed her, till she was sixteen, in a convent to be educated. Then
the family sent word that she was to return to the beautiful island on
the farther side of Africa; but during the voyage a tempest destroyed
the ship, and the crew had to take to the boats. One of these boats, in
which was the pretty French girl, was captured by Barbary corsairs, who
sold her to the Sultan. The rest we know, of course
Elle eut beau dire: Je me meurs!
De nonne elle devient Sultane!
Those poor flowers that are brought together from all the corners of
the earth to stock the Grand Signior's harem, and who know nothing
except how to love, paled before the radiant loveliness and the
sparkling wit of this damsel, who had been brought up in the midst of
European culture. She became the favorite wife of Selim, she bore him
Mahmoud, and her son loved his mother much better than all his damsels
A great surprise had been prepared for the Sultana Valideh. The
Sultan had arranged the whole thing himself in secret. He was going to
give a dance, after the European fashion, in the Seraglio.
Tailors were brought from Vienna who set to work upon dresses in the
latest fashion for the odalisks; the eunuchs were taught the latest
waltz music, a minuet, and two French square dances; and the girls were
all taught how to dance these dances. The men who had admittance into
the harem, the Kizlar-Agasi, the Anaktar Bey, the heir to the throne
(Abdul Mejid), and the Sultan himself, wore brown European dress-suits,
so that when the Sultana stepped into the magnificently illuminated
porcelain chamber she stood rooted to the floor with astonishment. She
imagined herself to be at a court ball at Paris, just as she had seen
it at the Louvre when a child. A surging mob of hundreds and hundreds
of young odalisks was proudly strutting to and fro in stylish dresses
of the latest fashion, in long gloves and silk stockings. Instead of
turbans, plumed hats and bouquets adorned the magnificent masses of
their curled and frizzled locks. They moved about with bare shoulders
and bosoms, in soft wavy dresses, with fans painted over with
butterflies, freely laughing and jesting in this, to them, newest of
worlds, and the only thing that differentiated this ball from our
dancing entertainments was the absence of the darker portion of the
showthe masculine element.
There were only four representatives of this sombre nuance
to wit, the Sultan, the heir to the throne, the Kizlar-Agasi, and the
Anaktar Bey. Of these four, two were no longer and two were not yet
men. All four were dressed in stiff Hungarian dolmans, long black
pantaloons, and red fezes. The Sultan, with his thick-set figure, would
have passed very well for a substantial Hungarian
deputy-lord-lieutenant, with his tight-fitting, bulging dolman buttoned
right up to his chin. The young prince's elegant figure, on the other
hand, was brought into strong relief by his well-made suit; his hair
was nicely curled on both sides, and his genteel white shirt was
visible beneath his open dolman. The Kizlar-Agasi, on the contrary, cut
a very amusing figure in his unwonted garb. He was constantly
endeavoring to thrust his hand into his girdle, and only thus perceived
that he had none, and he kept on holding down the tails of his coat, as
if he felt ashamed that they might not reach low enough to cover him
The Sultana Valideh was favorably surprised. The spectacle brought
back to her her childish years, and she gratefully pressed her son to
her bosom for this delicate attention, while he respectfully kissed his
mother's hands. The Sultan scattered his love among a great many women,
but his mother alone could boast of possessing his respect.
The odalisks surrounded the good Sultan, rejoicing and caressing
him. He was never severe to any of themnay, rather, he was the
champion, the defender of them all, and those whom he loved might be
quite sure that his affection would be constant.
Every one tried to please the Sultana Valideh by showing her their
new garments, but none of them found such favor in her eyes as the new
flower, which had only recently been introduced into the Seraglio, and
was now the foremost of them all, the beautiful Circassian damsel. Her
light step, the dove-like droop of her neck, the charm of her full,
round shoulders, and her lovely young bosom, were such that one was
almost tempted to believe that she had been carried off bodily from
some Parisian salon, where they know so well how to take the utmost
advantage of all the resources of fashion. Her locks were dressed up
à la Vallière, with negligently falling curls which gave a slightly
masculine expression to her facean additional charm in the eyes of a
connoisseur. Yes, the Greek merchant was right; there was no spot on
the earth worth anything except the place where Milieva lived and
The Valideh kissed the odalisk on the forehead, and led her by the
hand to the Sultan, who would not permit her to kiss his hand (who ever
heard of a lady kissing the hand of a gentleman in evening dress?), but
permitted the young heir to the throne to take Milieva on his arm and
conduct her through the room. What a pretty pair of children they made!
Abdul Mejid at this time was scarce twelve years of age, the girl
perhaps was fourteen; but for the difference of their clothes, nobody
could have said which was the boy and which the girl.
And now the tones of the hidden orchestra began to be heard, and a
fresh surprise awaited the Sultana. She heard once more the pianoforte
melodies which she had known long ago, and the height of her amazement
was reached when the Sultan invited her to dancea minuet.
What an absurd idea! The Sultana dowager to dance a minuet with her
son, the Sultan, before all those laughing odalisks, who had never
beheld such a thing before? Where was the second couple? Why herethe
prince and Milieva, of course. They take their places opposite the
imperial couple, and to slow, dreamy music, with great dignity they
dance together the courteous and melancholy dance, bowing and
courtesying to each other with as much majesty and aplomb as was
ever displayed by the powdered cavaliers and beauty-plastered goddesses
of the age of the OEil de Boeuf.
Never had such a spectacle been seen in the Seraglio.
The Sultana herself was amazed at the triumphant dexterity which
Milieva displayed in the dance; she was a consummate maid of honor,
with that princely smile for which Gabrielle D'Estrées was once so
famous. The good Mahmoud so lost himself in the contemplation of the
eyes of Milieva, his vis-à-vis, that towards the end of the
dance he quite forgot his own part in it, folding Milieva to his breast
in defiance of all rule and ceremony, and even kissing her face twice
or thrice, although he ought not to have gone beyond kissing her
handnay, he ought not to have kissed her hand at all, but the hand of
his partner, the Sultana Valideh.
When the minuet was over the eunuch musicians played a waltz in
which all the odalisks took part, clinging to one another in couples,
and thus they danced the pretty trois pas dance, for the deux
pas revolution was the invention of a later and more progressive
age. Louder than the music was the joyous uproar of the dancers
themselves. Here and there some of them tumbled on the slippery floor
to which they were not accustomed, and the nymphs coming after them
fell around them in heaps. Some disliked the dance or were weary, but
their firier and more robust partners dragged them along, willy-nilly.
The old Kizlar-Agasi and the bey stood in the midst of them to take
care that no scandal took place. Suddenly the madcap odalisk army
surrounded them, clung on to them in twos and threes, dragged them into
the mad waltz, and twisted them round and round at a galloping pace,
till the two good old gentlemen had no more breath left in them.
The Sultan and the Valideh, with the prince and Milieva, were
sitting on a raised daïs, laughing and looking on at the merry
spectacle. The pipers piped more briskly, the drummers drummed more
furiously, the cymbals clashed more loudly than ever, while the
odalisks dragged their prey about uproariously.
Ah! Listen! What didst thou hear, good Sultan? What noise is that
outside which mingles with the hubbub within? Outside there also is to
be heard the roll of drums, the flourish of trumpets, and the shouts of
Nonsense! 'Tis but imagination. Bring hither the glassesnot those
tiny cups of sherbet, for this is the birthday of the Valideh. We will
be Europeans to-night. Bring hither wine and glasses for a toast!
The Sultan had a particular fondness for Tokay and champagne, and
the ambassadors of both these great Powers had the greatest influence
The odalisks also had to be made to taste these wines; and after
that the dance proceeded more merrily, and the boisterous music and
singing grew madder and madder.
What was that?
The Sultan grew attentive. What uproar is that outside the Seraglio?
What light is that which shines at the top of the round windows?
That uproar is no beating of drums; those shouts are not the shouts
of revellers; that din is not the beating of cymbals; no, 'tis the
clashing of swords, the thundering of cannons, the tumult of a siege,
and that light is not the light of bonfires but of blazing rafters!
Up, up, Mahmoud, from thy sofa! Away with thy glass and out with thy
sword! This is no night for revelry; death is abroad; insurrection is
at thy very gate! They are besieging the Seraglio!
Twelve thousand Janissaries, joined with the rabble of Stambul, are
attacking the gates at the very time when the orchestra is playing its
liveliest airs in the illuminated hall.
Do ye hear that? exclaimed Kara Makan, the most famous orator of
the Janissaries, who with his own hand had hung up the Metropolitan of
Constantinople on the very threshold of the palace. Do ye hear that
music? Here they are rejoicing when the whole empire around them is in
mourning. Do ye know what are the latest tidings this night? The
Suliotes have captured Gaskho Bey, and annihilated our army before
Janina. A woman has blown up the ship of the Kapudan Pasha, and the
Shah has fallen upon Kermandzhan with an army! Destruction is drawing
near to us, and treachery dwells in the Seraglio. Hearken! They dance,
they sing, they bathe their lips in wine, and their blasphemies bring
upon us the scourge of Allah! We shed our tears and our blood, and they
make merry and mock at us! Shall not they also weep? Shall not their
blood also be shed? So fare it with them as it has fared with our
brethren whom they sent to the shambles!
The furious mob answered these seditious words with an indescribable
If we traversed the whole empire we should not find a worse spot
than this place.
Set fire to the Seraglio! cried one voice suddenly, and the others
took up the cry.
And if you escape from all other enemies, would you fall into the
claws of the worst enemies of all?
Death to the Viziers! Death to the lords of the palace! thundered
the people; and one voice close to Kara Makan, rising above the others,
exclaimed, Death to the Sultan!
Kara Makan turned in that direction and defended his master. Hurt
not the Sultan! The life of the Sultan is sacred. He and his children
are the last survivors of the blood of Omar; and although he be not
worthy to sit on the throne which the heroic Muhammad erected for his
descendants, yet he is the last of his race, and, therefore, the head
of the Sultan is sacred. But death upon the head of the Reis-Effendi,
death to the Kizlar-Agasi and the Kapudan Pasha! They are the cause of
our desolation. The chiefs of the Giaours pay them to destroy their
country. Tear all these up by the roots, and if there be any children
of their family, destroy them also, even to the very babes and
sucklings, that the memory of them may perish utterly!
The mob thundered angrily at the gates of the Seraglio, which were
shut and fastened with chains. The Janissaries blew the horns of
revolt, the drums rolled, and within there the Sultan was reposing his
head on the bosom of a beautiful girl. Suddenly a loud report shook the
whole Seraglio. An audacious ichoglan had fired his gun upon the mob as
it rushed to attack the water-gate.
The Sultan, in dismay, quitted the harem, and hastened to the middle
gate in order to address the mob. On his way through the corridor, his
servants and his ministers threw themselves at his feet and implored
him not to show himself to the people. Mahmoud did not listen to them.
In the confusion of the moment, moreover, it never occurred to him that
he was wearing a Frankish costume, which the people hated and
When he appeared on the balcony the light of the torches fell full
upon him, and the Janissaries recognized him. Every one at once pointed
their fingers at him, and immediately an angry and scornful howl arose.
Look! that is the Sultan! Behold the Caliphthe Caliph, the
Padishah of the Moslemsin the garb of the Giaours! That is Mahmoud,
the ally of our enemies!
The Sultan shrank before this furious uproar of the mob, and,
involuntarily falling back, stammered, pale as death:
With what shall we allay this tempest?
His servants, with quivering lips, stood around him. At that moment
they neither feared nor respected their master.
Suddenly a bold young ichoglan rushed towards the Sultan, and
answered his question in a courageous and confident voice:
With swords, with guns, with weapons!
It was Thomar.
The Sultan scrutinized the youth from head to foot, amazed at his
audacity; then hastening back to his dressing-chamber, exchanged his
ball dress for his royal robes, and, coming back from the inner
apartments, descended into the court-yard.
The guns were already pointed at the gates, the topijis stood beside
them, match in hand, impatiently awaiting the order to fire.
When the Sultan appeared in the court-yard he was at once surrounded
by some hundreds of the ichoglanler, determined to defend him to the
last drop of their blood. Mahmoud again recognized Thomar among them;
he appeared to be the leading spirit of the band.
The Sultan beckoned to them to put back their swords in their
sheaths. He commanded the topijis to extinguish their matches. Next he
ordered that the gate of the Seraglio should be thrown open to the
people. Then, having bidden every one to stand aside, he went alone
towards the gate in his imperial robes, with a majestic bearing.
No sooner was the gate thrown open than the mob streamed into the
court-yard with torches and flashing weapons in their hands, standing
for a moment dumb with astonishment at the appearance of the Sultan. He
was no longer ridiculous, as he had been in that foreign garb. The
majestic bearing of the prince stilled the tumult for an instant, but
for an instant only. The following moment a hand was extended from
among the mob of rebels which tore the Sultan's caftan from his
Mahmoud grew pale at this audacity, and this pallor was a fresh
occasion of danger to him, for now he was suddenly seized from all
sides. The Sultan turned, therefore, and perceiving Thomar, called to
him, Defend my harem! and, at the same time freeing his sword-arm, he
drew his sword, waved it above his hand, and, while his foes were
waiting to see on whom the blow would fall, he threw the sword to
Thomar, exclaiming, Defend my son!
The young ichoglan grasped Mahmoud's sword, and, while the captured
Sultan disappeared in the mazes of the mob, he and his comrades
returned to the inner court-yard, and, barricading the door, fiercely
defended the position against the insurgents. He had now to show
himself worthy of that sword, the sword of the Sultan.
Gradually two thousand ichoglanler and three thousand bostanjis
gathered round the young hero. The Janissaries already lay in heaps
before the door, which they riddled with bullets till it looked like a
corn-sifter. But the youths of the Seraglio repelled every onset.
And why did not the Sultan remain with them? They would have
defended him against all the world: Who knew now what had become of
him? Perhaps they had killed him outright.
The Janissaries speedily perceived that they could not have done
anything worse for themselves than to have brought torches with them,
for thereby they were distinctly visible to the defenders of the
Seraglio, and every shot that came from thence told.
Put out the torches! shouted Kara Makan, who was holding a huge
concave buckler in front of him, and felt a third bullet pierce through
the twofold layers of buffalo-hide and graze his body.
The torches went out one after another, whereupon the spacious
court-yard was darkened; only the flash of firearms cast an occasional
gleam of light upon the struggling mass.
It might have been two hours after midnight when suddenly there was
a cessation of hostilities. Both sides were weary, and ceased firing;
the Janissaries whispered amongst themselves, and at last in the midst
of a deep silence, Kara Makan's thunderous voice made itself heard:
Listen, all of ye who are inside the Seraglio. Ye are good
warriors, and we are good warriors also, and it is folly for the
Faithful to destroy one another. We did not take up arms to slay you
and plunder the Seraglio, neither do we wish to kill the Padishah nor
the heir to the throne; but we would rescue them from the hands of the
traitors who surround them, and we would also deliver the realm from
faithless Viziers and counsellors. Give us, therefore, the prince, the
Sultan's son. Of a truth no harm shall befall him, and we will
thereupon quit the court-yard of the Seraglio and trouble nobody within
these doors. If, however, you will not grant our request, then Allah be
merciful to all who are within these beleaguered walls.
The Kizlar-Agasi conveyed this message into the Seraglio, and
besiegers and besieged awaited with rapt attention the reply of the
Valideh; for the decision lay with hershe was superior in rank to all
four of the Asseki sultanas.
After the lapse of a quarter of an hour the Kizlar-Agasi returned,
and signified to the besiegers that the prince would be handed over to
The Janissaries received this message with a howl of triumph, while
the ichoglanler shrugged their shoulders.
They are not all women in there for nothing, said Thomar,
savagely, to the Kizlar-Agasi, and he remained standing in the gate,
that he might, at any rate, kiss the young prince's hand and whisper to
him not to go.
The Janissaries relit their torches and crowded towards the gate.
Inside reigned a pitch-black darkness.
Not long afterwards footsteps were audible in the dark corridor,
and, escorted by two torch-bearers, the prince descended the steps. He
had on the same garment which he wore when he went on horseback to the
Mosque of Sophia during the Feast of Bairam. How the people had then
huzzahed before him! He wore pantaloons of rose-colored silk, yellow
buskins with slender heels, a green caftan embroidered with gold
flowers, and a handsome yellow silk vest buttoned up to his chin. His
ribbons and buttons were made so as to represent brilliant fluttering
butterflies incrusted with precious stones.
On reaching the gate he beckoned to the torch-bearers to stand
still, sent back the Kizlar-Agasi, and, proceeding all alone to the
gate, commanded that it should be flung open.
While this was being done Thomar pressed close up to him, and
seizing the prince's hand, kissed it, at the same time whispering in
his ear, Go not; we will defend you if you remain here.
The prince pressed Thomar's hand and whispered back, I must go; you
keep on defending the Seraglio! And with that he embraced the youth
and kissed him twice with great fervor.
Thomar was somewhat startled by this burning, affectionate kiss, and
wondered what it meant. The darkness did not allow him to distinguish
the prince's features; and when he tried to detain him once more the
prince hastily disengaged himself and stepped forth from under the dark
vault among the Janissaries.
Thomar covered his eyes with his hands; he did not want to see the
fate of the prince at that moment. It was quite possible that the
blood-thirsty might cut him down on the spot in a sudden access of
The prince stepped forth among the rebels.
At that moment a cry of unbridled joy, triumph, and
blood-thirstiness burst from the Janissaries. It needed but one of them
to raise his hand, and the next would speedily have completed the
bloodiest deed of all.
But the prince stood before them haughtily and valiantly, and, with
amazing audacity, cried to them, Down on your knees before me, ye
At these words Thomar, with a start of terror, looked at the prince.
The full light of the torches fell upon his charming face. It was not
Abdul Mejid, butMilieva! They had dressed her inside the harem in
garments suitable to the Feast of Bairam, and she had come out instead
of the prince, courageously, as if she had been born to it. Who was
likely to notice the change? The heart of this odalisk loved to play a
manly part, and it was not merely the masculine garb she wore which
transformed her, but the masculine soul within her.
The Janissaries, moreover, were dumfounded by this bold attitude.
This graceful, noble figure stood face to face with them and domineered
the mob with a commanding look, proudly, majestically, as became a born
ruler. And yet death hovered over the head of him who dared to say, I
am the prince!
Thomar, forgetting himself, seized his sword, and would have rushed
to the defence of his sister but his comrades held him back. What
would you do, unhappy wretch? Trust to Fate!
Kara Makan, in savage defiance, approached the false prince with a
drawn sword in his hand.
On your knees before me! cried the odalisk, and indicating where
he should kneel with an imperious gesture, she looked steadily into the
eyes of the savage warrior.
The ferocious figure stood hesitatingly before her. The magic of her
look held the wild beast in him spellbound for an instant. His
bloodshot eyes slowly drooped, his hand, with its flashing sword, sank
down by his side, his knees gave way beneath him, and, falling down at
the feet of the young child, he submissively murmured a salaam, kissing
her hand and laying his bloody sword at her feet.
Milieva pressed her right hand on the head of the subdued rebel,
looked proudly and fearlessly upon the dumb-stricken rebels, and then,
raising the sword and giving it back to Kara Makan, she cried, Go
before and open a way for me!
As if in obedience to a magic word, the crowd parted on both sides
before her, and Kara Makan, with his sword over his shoulder, led the
way along. The crowd, with an involuntary homage, made way for her
everywhere from the Seraglio to the Seven Towers, and two torch-bearers
walked by her side, between whom she marched as proudly as if she were
making her triumphal progress. Nobody perceived the deception. The
resemblance of the young face to that of the prince, the well-known
festal raiment of the Feast of Bairam, her manly bearing, all combined
to keep up the delusion, and amongst this canaille which held
her in its power there was not a single dignitary who knew the prince
intimately and might have detected the fraud.
The Sultan had just been thrust into the dungeon of the Seven
Towers, that place of dismal memories for the Sultans and their
families in general. In that octagonal chamber, whose round windows
overlooked the sea, more than one mortal sigh had escaped from the lips
of the descendants of Omar, whom a powerful faction or a triumphant
rival had, sooner or later, condemned to death.
It was now morning, the uproar of the rebellion had died away
outside, the Seraglio was no longer besieged. It was now that Kara
Makan appeared before the Sultan.
The Padishah was sitting on the groundon the bare ground. His
royal robes were still upon him, a diamond aigrette sparkled in the
turban of the Caliph, and there he sat upon the ground, and never took
his eyes off it.
Your majesty! cried Kara Makan, addressing him.
The Padishah, as if he had not heard, looked apathetically in front
of him, and not a muscle of his face changed.
Sire, I stand before thee to speak to thee in the name of the
He might just as well have been speaking to a marble statue.
Every storm proceeds from Allah, sire, and nothing which Allah does
is done without cause. When the lightnings are scattered abroad from
the hands of the angel Adramelech, is not the air beneath them heavy
with curses? and when the living earth quakes beneath the towns that
are upon it, shall not innocently spilled blood shake it still more? So
also the Moslem people rising in rebellion is the instrument of Allah,
and Allah knoweth the causes thereof. I will guard my tongue against
telling these causes to thee; thou knowest them right well already, nor
is it for me to reprove the anointed successor of the Prophet. But I
beg thee, sire, to promise me and the people, in the name of Allah,
that thou wilt do what it beseemeth the ruler of the Ottoman nation to
dopromise to remedy our wrongs, and we will set thee again upon thy
At these words Mahmoud fixed his eyes upon the speaker, and gazed
long upon those dark features, as sinister as an eclipse of the sun.
Then he arose, turned away, and replied in a low voice, hissing with
The Sultan owes no reply to his servants.
Kara Makan's face was convulsed at these words. Scarce was he able
to stifle his wrath, and he replied, in broken sentences:
Sire, the lion is the king of the desertbut if he is in a
cagehe listens to the voice of his keeperthou knowest this hand,
which hath fought for thee in many engagementsand thou knowest that
whatever this hand seizeth it seizeth with a grasp of iron.
The Sultan pondered long. Then all at once he seemed to bethink him
of something, for his face seemed to lose its severity, and he turned
towards the Janissary leader with a mild, indulgent look.
What, then, dost thou require? This softened look concealed the
genesis of the thoughtthe Janissaries must be wiped off the face of
the earth. What dost thou require? said the Padishah, softly.
Kara Makan put on an important look, as of one who knows that the
fate of empires is in his hands.
Hearken to our desires. We are honest Mussulmans. We do not ask
impossibilities. If thou canst convince us that our demands are
unlawful, we renounce them; if thou canst not convince us, accomplish
Mahmoud's lips wore a bitter smile at this wise speech.
I do not strive with you, he replied. Ye command me. The Caliph
of caliphs listens to his servants. Bring hither parchment and an
ink-horn, and dictate to my pen what ye demand. The Sultan will be your
scribe, great rebel!
Kara Makan was not bright enough to penetrate the irony of these
words; nay, rather, he felt himself flattered by the humility of the
Sultan's speech. With haughty self-assurance he bared his bosom and
drew forth a large roll of manuscript.
I will save your majesty the trouble, said he to Mahmoud,
smoothing out the document before him. Behold, it is all ready. Thou
hast only to write thy name beneath it.
Will ye allow me to read it? inquired the Sultan, with the same
bitter smile; or is it the wish of the people that I should sign it
As your majesty pleases.
Mahmoud took up the documents one after another, and piled them up
beside him as he read them.
Ah! the appointment of a new seraskier! I will read no further. I
agree, but I would know his name. Is he whom you desire fit for the
We want Kurshid, explained Kara Makan, perceiving that the Sultan
had not read the document.
And the Janissaries demand other rewards for themselves. 'Tis only
natural: I grant them. They cannot be expected to storm the Seraglio
for nothing. The chief treasurer will pay you whatever you require.
This third article, too, I see, demands the capture of Janina. Be it
so. I grant it. Most probably the whole Janissary host will want to go
against Ali Pasha.
So long as thou art at their head, said Kara Makan, somewhat
disturbed. The Janissaries are only bound to fight under the direct
command of the Sultan.
And all these other demands are equally reasonable, eh? said the
Sultan, just glancing at one or two of them.
He took up the last one, but when he had unfolded it his face
darkened, and he suddenly leaped to his feet, his good-natured apathy
changed into wrath and fierceness, and, striking the open document with
his fist, he exclaimed, with an access of emotion:
What's this? Are ye so bold as to expect me to sign this paper?
Kara Makan was so well prepared for this outburst of anger on the
Sultan's part that he was not in the least taken aback. With rustic
stolidity he replied:
We wish it, and we demand it.
Do you know what is written in this document?
Yes; that thou must free the realm from foreigners; that thou must
put the Russian ambassador Stroganov on board ship and send him home;
refuse to admit French and English ships into the Bejkoz; send the
Sultana Valideh far away to Damascus; and slay the Grand Vizier, the
Kizlar-Aga, the Berber Pasha, and the Kapudan Pasha, and give their
bodies to the people.
The Grand Signior contemptuously threw the document to the floor and
trampled it beneath his feet.
Shameless filibusterers, he cried; not blood but money is what
you want. Ye want permission not to deliver the realm, but to plunder
it. And you expect the Padishah to sanction it! Did not you yourselves
raise the Viziers to power? Were not you the cause of their not being
able to make any use of that power? Whenever the arms of the Giaours
were triumphant, were you not always the first to fly from the field of
battle? And when the realm was sinking, were you not always the last to
hasten to its assistance? You are no descendants, but the mere shadows
of those glorious Janissaries whose names are written with letters of
blood in the annals of foreign nations; but ye make but a poor and
wretched figure therein. Kill me, then! I shall not be the first Sultan
whom the Janissaries have murdered, but, in Allah's name I say it, I
shall be the last. After me, either nobody will sit on the throne of
Omar, or, if any one sits there, he will be your ruin.
The opposition of his august captive only restored the Janissary
leader to his proper element. He felt much more at home with those
wrathful eyes than with the previous contemptuous nonchalance. He could
now give back like for like.
He picked up the crumpled document, in which were written the
death-sentences of the Viziers, and, brushing off the dust, again
presented it to the Sultan.
Either sign this document or descend from the throne of the family
of Omar, and we will seek us out from among the descendants of the
Prophet another who shall reign in thy stead.
Most abject of slaves! In thy pride thou knowest not what thou
sayest! Death comes from Allah and none can avoid it; but who amongst
the descendants of Omar would be powerful enough to seize the royal
sceptre, and who would be senseless enough to desire it?
Look at me.
I am looking. The sun does not soil itself by shining upon a swamp,
and therefore I may look even at thee; but I see nothing in thee that
would justify the adorning of thy head with a diadem so long as one of
the descendants of Sulaiman the Magnificent is alive.
Another word and thou shalt cease to live! cried the desperado,
haughtily throwing back his head before the Sultan. Art thou aware
that thy son Abdul Mejid is in our hands?
The Sultan shuddered. His consternation at these words was written
in every feature.
My son, Abdul Mejid? Impossible!
So it is. The Sultana Valideh gave him up at our request.
Oh, madness! exclaimed the Sultan; and he began pacing to and fro.
Abdul Mejid was still a mere child. The shock of such a rebellion
might easily make an epileptic of him. To deliver him into the hands of
these rebels was as good as to sign his death-warrant. Even if they did
not kill him outright, his nerves might suffer from their violence, and
he might perish, as the two and twenty other children of Sultan Mahmoud
had perished, every one of whom had died of epilepsy. Their delicate
nervous constitutions had been shattered in their youth under the
influence of that perpetual terror to which the children of the Caliph
of caliphs had been exposed from time immemorial. What, then, might not
happen to Abdul Mejid if he fell into the hands of this savage mob?
Oh, ye are hell's own children! Ye are worse than the Giaours,
worse than the Greeks, worse than the Muscovites! Ye do place your feet
on the heads of your rulers!
The despair of the Sultan emboldened the Janissary still further.
Sign this document, or thy son shall die in our hands!
Miserable cowards! moaned the Sultan. And cowards they also who
should have defended him! Did not even his mother defend him? Was it
necessary to give him up?
He is in no danger, said Kara Makan; nay, he is in a safe place.
It rests with thee to receive him back into thy arms; and he shoved
towards him again the soiled and crumpled manuscript.
The Padishah, overcome by the shock of his own feelings, humiliated
by the sense of his own soft-heartedness, tottered to the wall, and
when his groping hands came in contact with the cold marble he
collapsed altogether, and leaning against it, he pressed his burning
temples to the cold stone. The Janissary might now say whatever he
would, the Sultan neither listened to nor answered him.
At last the rough warrior, who had jumped so suddenly into power,
shouted angrily to his comrades, who were cooling their heels outside,
Bring hither the prince!
The Sultan heard the pattering of many footsteps in the corridor
outside, and the clashing of swords mingled with the murmuring of
voices, but he did not look in that direction.
Behold! cried Kara Makan, advancing towards him, here is thy son!
A drawn sword hovers above his head! Choose either to see thine own
name at the foot of that paper or his head at thy feet!
Mahmoud trembled, but he answered nothing, nor did he turn his head.
Write, or thy son dies! cried a number of the Janissaries,
Then a musical, familiar voice responded amidst the wild uproar:
My father! hearken not unto them! Let them slay me if they be
valiant enough, but chaffer not with thy slaves!
Mahmoud looked up in astonishment at this well-known voice, and saw
before him a handsome figure in the prince's garments and with a proud
and majestic countenance; but that face, though familiar to him and
very dear, was not his son's face. Ah, it was Milieva!
The odalisk perceived that Mahmoud's features softened, that he
looked tenderly upon her; and as if she feared that the Sultan might
yield out of compassion towards her, she hastily turned her flaming
face to the Janissaries and exclaimed:
Ye blood-thirsty dogs of Samound! who bay down the sun from the
heavens, accomplish your bloody work! Forward, ye valiant heroes, with
whose backs alone the enemy is familiar, fall upon me in twos and
threes, if any one of you has not the courage to plunge his steel
single-handed into the heart of the last scion of Omar's stock! My
death will not constrain the Sultan to bargain with you. Kill me while
you have power over me, for if ever I have power over you I will not
weep before you, as ye have seen Mahmoud and Selim weep; but I will so
utterly destroy you that even he who wears a garment like unto yours,
even he who shall mention your name, shall pronounce his own doom.
The infuriated rebels raised their flashing swords above the head of
the presumptuous child at these menacing words; another moment and she
would have lain in the dust. But Mahmoud arose, spurned them aside from
the prince, as they supposed him to be, and taking from the hands of
Kara Makan the document and writing materials, signed his name beneath
it. Milieva seized the Sultan's hand to prevent him from writing, but
he tenderly kissed her on the forehead and gently whispered, Rather
would I lose the whole world than thee, and with that he placed in the
hands of the Janissaries the subscribed death-warrants.
After obtaining these concessions, the rebels grew calmer, the
Sultan proclaimed amnesty for all offenders, appointed the chief
brawlers to high offices, and distributed money amongst them from the
Peace was thus restored. The Sultan and the sham prince returned to
the Seraglio, accompanied all the way by a vast throng, and the whole
square by the fountains of Ibrahim was filled by the well-known turbans
of the Janissaries, who, in the joy of their insulting triumph, shouted
long life to the humiliated Padishah.
Mahmoud surveyed the huzzaing throng, where, man to man, they stood
so tightly squeezed together that nothing could be distinguished but a
sea of heads. And the Sultan thought to himself, What a fine thing it
would be to sweep all those heads away at one stroke!
CHAPTER XIV. KURSHID PASHA
Gaskho Bey, the incapable giant, was captured by the Suliotes in a
night attack, his army was scattered beneath the walls of Janina, and
Ali Pasha became once more the absolute master of Epirus.
Then, like lightning fallen from heaven, unexpectedly, unforeseen, a
man came from Thessalonica whose name was shortly to ring through half
the world. The name of this man was Kurshid Pasha.
He was a man of a puny, meagre frame, his features were widely
divergent from the characteristic Ottoman type, for he had a delicate
profile, a bright blond beard and mustache, and blue eyes with flexible
eyebrows, all of which gave a peculiar character to his face, which
showed unmistakable traces of a penetrating mind and cool courage.
Ten thousand warriors accompanied the new commander to Janina, which
grew into thirty thousand at the very first battle. Kleon's and
Ypsilanti's armies were routed, and Gaskho Bey's scattered squadrons
rallied around the banners of the victor.
While Ali Pasha was defending Janina, the leaders of the Greek
insurgents besieged the fortress of Arta, which Salikh Bey defended
with a small garrison.
Kurshid's predecessor, Gaskho Bey, had committed the error of
besieging Janina and endeavoring to relieve Arta at the same time, and
thus he came to grief at both places. The new commander acted on a
different plan. He knew well that not a head amongst all the Greek
rebels was half so dangerous as Ali Tepelenti's; so, leaving Salikh
Pasha to his fate, he directed all his energies against Janina.
A man indeed hath come against thee, O Ali Pasha! A man as valiant,
as crafty as thou; if thou be a fox, he is an eagle of the rocks, that
pounces down on the fox; and if thou be a tiger, he is the
boa-constrictor which infolds and crushes the tiger.
Ali urged Kleon and Artemis to hasten to his assistance. His
messengers did not return to the fortress. The Greek leaders gave no
reply to his summons. Anybody else would have found some consolatory
explanation of their remissness, but Ali divined things better. The
Greeks said amongst themselves, Let the old monster tremble in his
ditch; let them close him in and hold him tight. He will be constrained
to make a life-and-death struggle to save his old beard. When we have
captured Arta, and when our detested ally (for they did detest him in
spite of his being their good friend) is at the very last gasp, then
we will go to the rescue, relieve him, and let him live a little
Tepelenti was well aware that they spoke of him in this way. He knew
well that they hated him, and would gladly leave him to perish. The
only reason the Greeks had for allying themselves with Ali was that his
fortress was filled with an enormous store of treasure, arms, and
muniments of war; his gray head was the pivot of the whole rebellion.
If the fortress were taken, they would be deprived of this strong
pivot, those treasures, that gray head!
One day the Suliotes encamped before Arta heard the terrible tidings
that Kurshid Pasha had captured Lithanizza and La Gulia, the two
outlying forts of the stronghold of Janina, and had driven Ali back
into the fortress. The tidings filled them with consternation. If
Janina were lost, the whole Greek insurrection would lose the source of
its supplies. The treasures which Ali had scattered amongst the Greeks
with a prodigal hand would at once fall into the hands of the Sultan,
and then he would be able to secure Epirus at a single blow.
A Greek army under Marco Bozzari immediately set out from Arta to
relieve Janina. Ali knew of it beforehand. Bozzari's spies had crept
through Kurshid's camp into Janina, and signified to Ali that their
leaders were on their way to The Five Wells, and that he should send
forth an army to meet them.
There is no necessity for it, replied Ali, with a cold smile. I
am quite capable of defending myself in Janina for three months against
any force that may be brought against me. It is much more necessary to
capture Arta. Go back, therefore, and say to Marco Bozzari, 'Come not
to Janina, but go against Salikh Pasha. Tepelenti is sufficient for
himself in Janina.'
Bozzari understood the old lion's hint. He did not wish the Greek
forces to get into Janina, he preferred to defend himself to the very
last bastion. All the forces he had consisted of four hundred and
thirty Albanians, but this number was quite sufficient to serve the
guns. Even if but a tenth of this force remained to him, that would be
amply sufficient to defend the red tower, and if the worst came to the
worst, Ali alone would be sufficient to blow the place into the air.
Here Ali had accumulated all his treasures, all his arms, his
garments, his correspondence with the princes of half the universe, his
young damsels. In the cellar below the tower were piled up a thousand
barrels of gunpowder, a long match reached from one of these barrels to
Ali's chamber, and there a couple of torches were always burning by his
Whoever wanted Ali's head had better come for it!
So Bozzari returned to Arta, and not very long afterward the Greek
army took the place by storm. In the whole fortress they did not find
powder enough to fill a hole in the barrel; the Turkish army had, in
fact, fired away its very last cartridge.
Ali had once more the satisfaction of seeing one of his enemies,
Salikh Pasha, prostrate. Hitherto all who had fought against him had
been his furious haters, personal enemies, enviers of his fortune; and,
bitter hater as he was, it was with a strong feeling of satisfaction
that Tepelenti saw them all bite the dust; but this Kurshid was quite
indifferent to him, and knew nothing either of his fury or his
intrigues. He had never been Ali's enemy, and had no reason for hating
him. This thought made Ali uneasy.
It had often been Ali's experience that when any one who greatly
hated him came during a siege or a battle within shooting distance of
him, and he then pointed a gun at him, the ball so fired seemed to fly
on the wings of his own savage fury, and would hit its man even at a
thousand paces; but Kurshid often took a walk near the trenches, and
though they fired at him one gun after another, not a bullet went near
Let him alone, said Ali; we shall never be able to kill this
man. And his old energy left him as if he had suddenly become
He invited Kurshid Pasha to intercede for him with the Sultan, that
he might be restored to favor, offering in such case to place his
treasures at the disposal of the Grand Signior, and turn his arms
against the Greeks. Kurshid demanded an assurance to this effect in
writing, and when Ali complied, Kurshid sent the document, not to the
Sultan at Stambul but to the Suliotes at Arta, that they might see how
ready Ali was to betray them. The Greeks, in disgust, abandoned Ali.
This last treachery dismayed them at the very zenith of their triumph;
they perceived that a mighty antagonist had risen against them in
Kurshid Pasha, who was magnanimous enough not to make use of traitors,
but spurn them with contempt. This intellectual superiority guaranteed
the success of Kurshid's arms. The Turkish commander had been acute
enough to extend the hand of reconciliation, not to Ali, but to the
Tepelenti waited in vain in the tower of Janina for the arrival of
the army of deliverance. The Suliotes returned to their villages, and
Artemis reflected with secret joy that in the very red tower in which
Ali had decapitated her plighted lover, he himself now sat in his
despair, environed by foes, waiting with the foolish hope that the
embittered Suliotes would hasten to deliver him.
The Epirote rebellion was already subdued by Kurshid Pasha, and only
one point in the whole empire now glowed with a dangerous firethe
CHAPTER XV. CARETTO
Ali had now only about room enough to cover his head. His enemies
had twenty times as much, and they besieged him night and day. The
fortress on the hill of Lithanizza and the Isle of La Gulia were in
Kurshid's power already.
Still the old warrior did not surrender. The bombs thrown into the
fortress levelled his palaces with the ground. His marble halls were
reduced to rubbish heaps, his kiosks were smoking ruins, and his
splendid gardens lay buried, obliterated. Yet, for all that, Ali Pasha
vomited back his wrath upon the besiegers out of eighty guns, and it
happened more than once that hidden mines exploded beneath the more
forward advanced of the enemy's batteries, blowing guns and gunners
into the air.
The defence was conducted by an Italian engineer whom Ali had
enticed into his service in his luckier days with the promise of
enormous treasures and detained ever since. This Italian's name was
Caretto. It was his science that had made Janina so strong. The clumsy
valor of the Turkish gunners fell to dust before the strategy of the
Italian engineer. Of late Caretto was much exercised by the thought
that he might be discharged without a farthing, but discharge was now
out of the question. If Caretto were outside the gates of Janina, then
the fate of Janina would be in his hands, for every bastion, every
subterranean mine, every corner of the fortress was known to him.
Now at home in Palermo was Caretto's betrothed, who, as the daughter
of a wealthy family, could only be his if he also had the command of
riches; and that was the chief reason why the youth had accepted the
offer of the tyrant of Epirus. And now tidings reached him from Sicily
that the parents of his bride were dead, and that she was awaiting him
with open arms; let him only come to her, poor fellow, even if he
brought nothing with him but the beggar's staff. And go he could not,
for Ali Pasha held him fast. He had to point the guns, and send forth
hissing bullets amongst the besiegers, and defend the fortress to the
last, while his beloved bride awaited him at home.
One day, as Caretto was directing the guns, a grenade fired from the
heights of Lithanizza burst over his head and struck out his left eye.
Caretto asked himself bitterly whether his bride would be able to love
him with a face so disfigured. Henceforth he went about constantly with
a black bandage about his wounded face, and the besiegers called him
the one-eyed Giaour.
One fine morning in February Kurshid Pasha again directed a fierce
fire against the fortress. The siege guns had now arrived which the
army had used against Cassandra, and after a three hours' cannonade,
the destructive effect of the new battery was patent, for the tower of
the northern bastion lay in ruins. Ali Pasha galloped furiously up and
down the bastions, stimulating and threatening the gunners with a drawn
sword in his hand. Whoever quitted his place instantly fell a victim
beneath Ali's own hand. Caretto was standing nonchalantly beside a
gabion, whence he directed the fire of the most powerful of all the
batteries, each gun of which was a thirty-six pounder. The guns of this
battery discharged thirty balls each every hour.
All at once the battery stopped firing.
Transported with rage, Ali Pasha at once came galloping up to
Why don't you go on firing? he cried.
Because it is impossible, replied the engineer, coolly folding his
Why is it impossible, thundered the pasha, his whole body
convulsed with rage, which the coolness of the Italian raised to fever
Because the guns are red-hot from incessant firing.
Then throw water upon them! cried Ali, and with that he dismounted
from his horse.
Caretto, for the life of him, could not help laughing at this
senseless command. Whereupon Tepelenti suddenly leaped upon him and
struck him in the face, so that his cap flew far away, right off the
bastion. He had struck Caretto on the very spot where Kurshid Pasha's
grenade had lacerated his face a few weeks before.
The Italian readjusted over his eye the bandage, which had been
knocked all awry by the blow, and observed, with a cold affectation of
You did well, sir, to strike my face on the spot where one eye had
been knocked out already, for if you had struck me on the other side
you might have knocked out the other eye also, and then how could I
have pointed your guns?
Ali, however, pretended to take no notice, but directed that the
guns should be douched with cold water and then reloaded; he himself
fired the first. The cannon the same instant burst in two and smashed
the leg of a cannonier standing close to it.
It does not matter, cried Ali; load the others, too.
When the second cannon also burst he dashed the match to the ground,
threw himself on his horse, and galloped off, quivering in every nerve
as if shaken by an ague.
The Italian, however, with the utmost sang-froid, ordered
that the exploded cannons should be removed and fresh ones fetched from
the arsenal and put in their places, and set them in position amidst a
shower of bullets from the besiegers. When the battery was ready the
enemy withdrew their siege guns, and till the next day not another shot
was fired against Janina.
Tepelenti was well aware that he had mortally offended Caretto, and
he had learned to know men (especially Italians) only too well to
imagine for an instant that Caretto, for all his jocoseness on the
occasion, would ever forget that cowardly and ungrateful blow. For,
indeed, it was an act of the vilest ingratitude. What! to strike the
wound which the man had received on his account! To strike a European
officer in the face! Ali was well aware that such a thing could never
The same night he sent for two gunners and ordered them not to lose
sight of Caretto for an instant, and if he attempted to escape to shoot
him down there and then.
Next day Caretto was unusually good-humored. Early in the morning he
went out upon the ramparts, which were then covered with freshly fallen
snow. The winter seemed to be pouring forth its last venom, and the
large flakes fell so thickly that one could not see twenty paces in
This is just the weather for an assault, said Caretto in a loud
voice to the Turks standing around him; in such wild weather one
cannot see the enemy till he stands beneath the very ramparts. I will
be so bold as to maintain that Kurshid's bands are likely to steal upon
us under cover of this thick snow-storm. I should like to fire a random
shot from the ramparts to let them know we are awake.
Many thought his anxiety just. Ali Pasha was also there, and he said
nothing either for or against the proposal.
Caretto hoisted a cannon to the level of the ramparts of Lithanizza
and fastened a long chain to the gun whereby his group of Albanians
could raise and lower it.
Leave the chain upon it, said Caretto, for we may have to turn it
in another direction.
Nevertheless it was in a good position already. Caretto calculated
his distances with his astrolabe, then pointed the gun and ordered it
to be loaded.
The two gunners whom Ali had set to watch him never took their eyes
off the Italian; both of them had loaded pistols in their hands.
Caretto did not seem to observe that they were watching him; he might
have thought that they were there to help him.
The gun had to be turned now to the right and now to the left.
Caretto himself took aim, but the clumsy Albanians kept on pushing the
heavy laffette either a little too much on this side or a little too
much on that, till at last he cried to the two watchers behind him:
Just lend a hand and help these blockheads! They stooped
mechanically to raise the laffette. Enough! cried the Italian, and
with that he put his hand on the touch-hole. Now fire! he cried to
the artilleryman, at the same time removing his hand.
The match descended, there was a thunderous report, and the same
instant Caretto seized the chain wound round the wheel of the cannon,
and, lowering himself from the ramparts, glided down the chain.
The watchers, with the double velocity of rage and fear, rushed to
the breastwork of the ramparts. Caretto had got to the end of the chain
and was grasping it with both hands; below him yawned a depth of thirty
feet. The chain was not long enough, and there he was suspended between
Come back, cried the watchers, aiming their pistols at his head,
or we will shoot you through and through!
Caretto cast a wild glance upward, the bandage fell from his bloody
eye, and he looked at them with the dying fury of a desperately wounded
wild beast. Then suddenly he kicked himself clear of the wall by a
sharp movement of his foot, and describing the arc of a circle, he
plunged into the depth beneath him like a rebounding bullet. The
Albanians fired after him, but neither of them hit him. Below, at the
foot of the bastion, the daring Italian lay motionless for a moment,
but then he quickly rose to his feet and began to clamber up the other
side of the ditch. He could only make use of one arm, for the other had
been dislocated in his fall. Straining all his might, he struggled up;
a whole shower of bullets pursued him and whistled about his head, but
not one of them hit him, for the heavy snowfall made it difficult to
take aim. At last he reached the top of the opposite side of the
trench, and then he turned round and shook his fist at the devastating
fortress, and disappeared in a heavy snow-drift. The gunners kept on
firing after him at random for some time.
Ali Pasha turned pale and almost fell from his horse when the
tidings reached him that Caretto had escaped.
It is all over now! cried he in despair, broke his sword in two,
and shut himself up in the red tower. In the outer court-yard they saw
him no more.
Ali knew for certain that with the departure of Caretto the last
remains of his power had vanished; his stronghold and its resources
were hopelessly ruined if any one revealed their secrets to his enemies
outside. Caretto knew everything, and the one-eyed Giaour was
received with great triumph in the camp of Kurshid Pasha. The next day
Ali Pasha had bitter experience of the fact that the hand which had
hitherto defended him was now turned against him. Within nine hours a
battery, constructed by Caretto, had made a breach thirty fathoms wide
in the outworks of Janina; the other cannons of the besiegers were set
up in places whither Ali's mines did not extend, and when he made new
ones they were immediately rendered inoperative by countermining, and
at last Caretto discovered the net-work of hidden tunnels at the head
of the bridge, although they had been carefully buried, and after a
savage struggle forced his way through them into the fortress. The
Albanians fought desperately, but Ali's enemies, who could afford to
shed their blood freely, forced their way through and planted their
scaling-ladders against the side of the fortress opposite the island,
and where the débris of the battered-down wall filled up the
ditch they crossed over and occupied the breach. In the evening, after
a fierce combat in the court-yard, Tepelenti's forces were cut to
pieces one by one, and he himself, with seventy survivors, took refuge
in the red tower.
So only the red tower now remained to him.
CHAPTER XVI. EMINAH
The vanquished lion was shut up within a space six yards square; a
narrow tower into all four windows of which his enemies were peeping
was now his sole possession! There he sits in that octagonal chamber,
in which he had passed so many memorable moments. Perhaps now, as he
leaned his heavy head upon his hand, the remembrance of those moments
passed before his mind's eye like a procession of melancholy shadows.
Around him lay his treasures in shining piles; heaps of gold and
silver, massive gold plate, the spoils of sanctuaries, sparkling gems,
lay scattered about the floor higgledy-piggledy, like so much sand or
Of all his kinsfolk, of all his warriors, not one was present with
him; all had fallen on the battle-field, fighting either with him or
against him. Of the seventy warriors who had taken refuge with him in
the tower, sixty-four had deserted him. Kurshid had promised a pardon
to the renegades, and only six remained with Ali. Why did these six
remain? Ali had not told them not to leave him.
These faithful ones were keeping guard in his antechamber, and for
some little time they had been whispering together.
At last they went in to Ali.
Tepelenti looked them every one through and through. He could read
what they wanted in their confused looks and their unsteady eyes. He
did not wait for them to speak, but said, with a wave of his hand:
Go! leave me; you are the last. Go where the others have gone; save
yourselves. Life is sweet; live long and happily. I will remain here.
Tepelenti can die alone.
Sighing deeply, the soldiers turned away. They durst not raise their
eyes to the face of the gray-haired veteran. Noiselessly, without a
word, on the tips of their toes, five of them withdrew. But the sixth
remained there still, and, after casting about for a word for some
time, said, at last, to Ali:
Oh, sir, cast the fulness of pride from thy heart, suffer not thy
name to perish! The Sultan is merciful; bow thy head before him and he
will still be gracious to thee!
The soldier had scarce uttered the last word of this recommendation
when Ali softly drew a pistol from his girdle and shot him through the
head, so that he spun round and fell backward across the threshold.
This was all the reward he got for advising Ali to ask for mercy.
And now Ali is alone. His doors, his gates stand wide open; anybody
who so pleases can go in and out. Why, then, does nobody come to seize
the solitary veteran? why do they fear to cross the threshold of the
But hearken! fresh footsteps are resounding on the staircase, and
through the open door, guarded by the corpse of the last soldier whom
Ali slew, a strange man entered, dressed in an unusual, new-fangled
uniform; he was Kurshid Pasha's silihdar.
Tepelenti allowed him to approach within five paces of where he sat,
and then beckoned him to stop.
Speak; what dost thou want?
Ali Tepelenti, said the silihdar, surrender. Thou hast nothing
left in the world and nobody to aid thee. My master, the seraskier,
Kurshid Pasha, hath sent me to thee that I might receive thy sword and
escort thee to his camp.
Tepelenti, with the utmost sang-froid, drew forth from the
folds of his caftan a magnificent gold watch in an enamelled case set
Hearken! said he, in a low, soft voice. It is now twenty minutes
past ten; take this watch and keep it as a souvenir of me. Greet
Kurshid Pasha from me, and point out to him that it was twenty minutes
past ten when you spoke with me, and let him take notice that if after
twenty minutes past eleven I can see from the windows of this tower a
single hostile soldier in the court-yard of the fortress, thenI swear
it by the mercies of Allah!I will blow the fortress into the air,
with every living soul within it. Inform Kurshid Pasha of this when you
give him my salutation.
The silihdar hastened off, and at a quarter to eleven not a soul was
to be seen in the court-yard of the fortress of Janina. Alive in his
citadel sits Ali Tepelenti, the tyrant of Epirus, mighty even in his
fall, who has nothing and nobody left, save only his indomitable heart.
Night descended upon the fortress of Janina, but sleep did not
descend upon the eyes of Ali.
He sat in that red tower where he had perpetrated his crimes, in
that chamber where his victims had breathed forth the last sighs of
their tortured lives, and all round about glittering treasures looked
upon Ali as if with eyes of fireall of it the price of robbery,
fraud, treason. What if these things could speak?
Everything was silent, night lay black before the eyes of men, only
Ali saw shadows moving about therein, phantoms with pale, phantoms with
bloody faces, who rose from the tomb to visit their persecutor and
announce to him the hour of his death.
Ali trembled not before them; he had seen them at other times also.
He had slept face to face with the severed head that spoke to him, he
had listened to the enigmatical words of the dzhin of Seleucia,
and he called them to mind again now. Calmly he looked back upon the
current of his past life, from which so many horrible shapes arose and
glared at him with cold, stony eyes. He recked them not, Allah had so
ordered it. The hare nibbles the root, the vulture devours the hare,
the hunter shoots the vulture, the lion fells the hunter, and the worm
eats the lion. What, after all, is Ali? Naught but a greater worm than
the rest. He has devoured much, and now a stronger than he devours him,
and a still greater worm will devour this stronger one also.
Everything was fulfilled which had been prophesied concerning him.
His own sons, his own wife, his own arms had fought against him. If
only his wife had not done this he could have borne the rest.
One, two, the decapitated head had said, and the last moments of
the two years were just passing away. The hand which wipes out the
deeds of the mighty shall at last blot out thy deeds also, and thou
shalt be not a hero whom the world admires, but a slave whom it curses.
Those whom thou didst love will bless the hour of thy death, and thy
enemies will weep, and God will order it so to avert the ruin of thy
So it is, so it has chanced; the hazard of the die has gone against
him, and he has nothing left.
If only his wife had not betrayed him!
At other times also Ali had seen these phantoms of the night arise.
He had seen them rise from the tomb pale and bloody; but in his heart
there had always been a sweet refuge, the charming young damsel whose
childlike face and angelic eyes had robbed the evil sorcery of all its
power. When Tepelenti covered his gray head with her long, thick,
flowing locks, he reposed behind them as in the shade of Paradise,
whither those heart-tormenting memories could not pursue him. Why
should he have lost her? She was the first of all, and the dearest; but
Fate at the last would not even leave him her.
Even now his thoughts went back to her. The pale light of that face,
that memory, lightened his solitary, darkened soul, which was as
desolate as the night outside.
But lo! it is as if the night grew brighter; a sort of errant light
glides along the walls and a gleam of sunshine breaks unexpectedly
through the open door of the room.
The pasha looked in that direction with amazement. Who could his
visitor be at that hour? Who is coming to drive the phantoms of
darkness from his room and from his heart?
A pale female form, with a smile upon her face and tears in her
eyes, appears before him. She comes right up to the spot where
Tepelenti is sitting on the ground. She places her torch in an iron
sconce in the wall and stands there before the pasha.
Ali looked at her sadly. He fancied that this also was only a dream
shape, only one of those apparitions created by a fevered mind, like
those which walked beside him headless and bloody. It was Eminah, at
whose word the devastating tempest had been unchained against the
mightiest of despots.
Tepelenti believed neither his eyes nor his heart when he saw her
thus before him. The damsel took the old man by the hand and called him
by his name, and even now the pasha believed that the warmth of that
hand and the sweetness of that voice were only part of a dream.
Wherefore hast thou come? he inquired in a whisper, or perchance
he did not ask but only dreamed that he asked.
Yet the gracious, childlike damsel was sitting there at his feet as
at other times, and she had pillowed his gray head upon her breast and
covered his face with the tent of her long tresses, as she had done
long, long ago in the happy times that were gone.
Oh, how sweet it would be to still live!
Oh, Ali Tepelenti, let go the hand of Death from thy hand and grasp
my hand instead! See how warm it is! Oh, Ali Tepelenti, rise up from
among these barrels of gunpowder, and rather lay thy head upon my
breast; hearken how it beats! Oh, Ali Tepelenti, ask mercy from the
Sultan! See, now how lovely life is!
Only at these words did Ali recover himself. His enemies had sought
out this woman, the only being that he loved, and sent her to him to
soothe away the rage of his soul and soften his heart with her
caresses. Oh, how well they understood his heart!
Kurshid Pasha swore to me that he would obtain the Sultan's favor
for thee, said Eminah, in a tone of conviction. He wrote a letter
under his seal that thou shouldst never die beneath the hands of the
executioner; that thy death should not be a violent one, unless it were
in an honorable duel or on the field of battle. Behold, here is the
If at that moment Ali had listened to his heart, he must have
extended the hand of submission without any letter of amnesty, but,
like an escutcheon above a crown, pride was perched higher than his
heart and spurned the offer.
Allah may humble Ali, but Ali will never humble himself.
Then thou wilt not live with me? asked Eminah, fixing her
piteously entreating eyes upon her husband.
Ali shook his head in silence.
Then I will die with thee! cried the damsel, with a determined
The pasha regarded her in amazement.
I swear, cried Eminah, that I will either go back with thee or
die with thee here! Dost thou hear that noise? They are slamming to the
iron gates from the outside. At this moment every exit is closed, so
that even if I wished to escape from hence I could not. These doors can
only open at a word from Ali, and they will only open once more. Either
thou wilt go with me from hence or I will remain here with thee.
Ali pressed the damsel to his bosom. She lay clinging there like a
tender blossom. He pressed his lips to that pale brow, and covering her
gently and gradually with his silken caftan, he whispered in a scarcely
Be it so! be it so! Here we will die together!
Early next morning a flourish of trumpets awoke the Lord of Janina,
the Lord of the last tower of Janina. The herald of Kurshid Pasha was
standing beneath the round windows, and delivered in a loud voice the
general's message to Ali Pasha, whereby he summoned Tepelenti to
surrender voluntarily on the strength of the solemn assurance confirmed
by oath to his wife.
Tepelenti appeared at the window with Eminah reclining on his bosom.
Go back to your master, he cried to the messenger, and tell him
that Ali and his wife have resolved to die here together. The moment an
armed host enters the court-yard of this fortress I will immediately
blow up the tower.
In half an hour the messenger returned and again summoned Ali to the
Kurshid Pasha sends thee this message, cried he. If thou dost
surrender, it is well, and if thou dost not surrender, it is well also.
Thou hast still half an hour wherein thou mayest choose betwixt life
and death. After that thou mayest, if thou wilt, throw thy torch into
thy powder barrels and blow the fortress into the air. As to thyself,
Kurshid Pasha troubles himself but little. As to thy treasures they
will not remain in the air, and when they come to the ground it will be
easy to pick them up. If, however, thou dost delay thy resolution
beyond the half-hour, then Kurshid Pasha himself will help thee in the
matter, and will blow up thy tower for thee, to save thee the trouble
of blowing it up thyself. Do as thou wilt, then, and hoist either the
white or the red flag as seemeth best to thee, for in half an hour the
fortress of Janina shall see thee no more.
Ali listened solemnly to this ultimatum, and let the messenger
depart without an answer.
Eminah lay down on a sofa in a corner, all trembling. Ali paced the
vast chamber to and fro with long strides; but his strides became more
and more uncertain. If only this woman were not here! If only he might
be spared seeing her before him; might be spared half an hour's
deliberation as to what he was to do! Nevertheless minute after minute
sped away, and still Tepelenti could not make up his mind. Twice his
hand seized the burning torch; he had but to bend over the nearest
barrel of powder and all would be over; but on each occasion his eye
fell upon the trembling woman who lay there looking at him without a
word, and the death-bearing match fell from his hand. No, no; he was
incapable of doing the terrible deed. And now the hour struck; the time
had passed. Ali felt a pressure about his heart. Would Kurshid
accomplish his dreadful threat?
At that instant a report sounded outside the fortress, and half a
moment later a red-hot steel bullet burst through the metal roof and
the massive vault of the tower with a violent crash. Falling heavily on
the marble floor, it rebounded thence, and, passing between the
powder-barrels, describing a wide semicircle as it went, ricocheted
once more and struck the wall opposite, in which it bored a deep hole,
whence it flashed and gleamed with a strong red glare, forcing blue
sparks from the nitrous humidity of the walls.
Ali was now convinced that the enemy was quite capable of keeping
The scared woman, mad with terror, flung herself at his feet, and
snatching the white veil from her head, forced it into the pasha's
Tepelenti hastily seized the veil, and, hanging it on the point of a
lance, hoisted it out of the round window.
Outside the besiegers set up a shout of triumph. Eminah, kissing
Ali's hands, sank down at his feet. Tepelenti had given her more than
manhood can bear to give: for her sake he had humbled his pride to the
dust. If only he could have died as he had lived!
Go, now, he said to the woman, with a sigh; go and tell my
enemies that they may come for me. I am theirs!
CHAPTER XVII. THE SILVER PEDESTAL IN
FRONT OF THE SERAGLIO
The emissaries of Kurshid Pasha received the veteran warrior with
great respect in the gates of the fortress, whither he went to meet
them; they showed him all the honor due to his rank; they allowed him
to retain his sword and all his other weapons. At the same time they
confirmed by word of mouth the promise which Kurshid Pasha had given to
Eminah in writingthat the executioner should never lay his hand on
Ali's head, and that he should not die a violent death, except it were
in an honorable duel or on the battle-field, which is a delight to a
A former pleasure-house, a kiosk on the island of La Gulia, was
assigned to him as a residence for the future. There they conveyed his
favorite horses, his favorite slaves and birds, and took abundant care
of his personal comfort.
Ali allowed them to do with him as they would. Neither threatening
nor pleasant faces made any impression upon him; he merely looked from
time to time at his wife, who had seized his hand, and never left him
for an instant. At such times softer, gentler feelings were legible in
his face; but at other times he would gaze steadily before him into the
distance, into infinity. Perhaps he was now thinking within himself,
When shall I stand in front of the Seraglio on a silver pedestal?
The dzhin of Seleucia had prophesied this termination to his
career. All the other prophecies had been strictly fulfilled; this only
remained to be accomplished.
A Mussulman's promise is stronger than his oath. Who does not
remember the story of the Moorish chieftain in whose house a Christian
soldier had taken refuge, and who begged for his protection? The Moor
promised the man his protection. Subsequently the pursuers informed the
Moor that this Christian soldier had killed his son, and still the
father would not give up the fugitive, but assisted him to escape,
because of his promise.
A great lord is the sea, says the Kuran; a great lord is the
storm and the pestilence; but a greater lord still is a man's given
word, from which there is no escape.
The Mussulman keeps his word, but beware of a play upon words, for
therein lies death. If he has sworn by the sun, avoid the moon, and if
he has promised to love thee as a brother, discover first whether he
hath not slain his brother.
When Sulaiman adopted Ibrahim as a son, he swore that so long as he
lived no harm should befall Ibrahim. Later on, when Ibrahim fell into
disgrace, the wise Ulemas discovered a text in the Kuran according to
which he who sleeps is not alive, and they slew Ibrahim while Sulaiman
Kurshid had given his word and a written assurance that Ali should
not die at the hand of the executioner; the document he had given to
Ali's wife, his word he had given in the presence of his whole army;
and he had escorted Ali Pasha with all due honor to the island kiosk,
permitting him to retain his weapons and the jewelled sword with which
he had won so many victories, with which he had so many times turned
the tide of the battle; nay, more, they had selected fifty of Ali's own
warriors, the bravest and the most faithful, to serve him as a guard of
Nevertheless, a courier despatched in hot haste to Stambul announced
there, from Kurshid Pasha, that the treasures of Ali Tepelenti of
Janina were in his hands, and that a Tartar horseman would follow in
three days with the head of the old pasha. And yet at this very moment
Tepelenti's head stood firmly on his shoulders, and who would dare to
say that that head was promised away while his good sword was by his
side, and good comrades in arms were around him, and the sworn
assurance of the seraskier rested upon him?
Eminah never quitted him for a moment. She was always with him. She
sat beside him, with her head on his breast, or at his feet, and in her
hand she carried the amnesty of the seraskier, so that if any one
should approach Ali with dangerous designs she might hold it before his
eyes like a magic buckler, and ward off the axe of the executioner from
But there was nothing to guard against; the executioner did not
approach Ali. He received, indeed, a great many visitors, but these
were all worthy, honorable men, musirs, effendis, officers of the army,
who treated him with all respect, and sipped their sherbet-cups most
politely, and smoked their fragrant chibooks, exchanging a word or two
now and then, perhaps, and on taking their leave saluted him in a
manner befitting grave Mussulmans.
He was allowed free access to every part of the island, and never
encountered anybody there but his own warriors.
At such times great ideas would occur to him. Perchance with these
fifty men he might win back everything once more? And then he would hug
himself with the thought of the silver pedestal in front of the
Seraglio, where he was one day to stand, amidst the joyful plaudits of
the people; and then the night before him was not altogether dark, for
here and there he saw a gleam of hope.
It was only Eminah who trembled. God has created woman for this very
purpose; she has the faculty of fearing instead of man, and can foresee
the danger that threatens him.
Whence will this danger come, and in what shape? Perchance in the
dagger of the assassin? The woman's bosom stood between it and the
heart of Ali; the assassin will not be able to pierce it. In a poisoned
cup, perhaps? Eminah herself tastes of every dish, of every glass,
before they reach the hands of Ali; the power of the poison would reach
And yet danger is near.
One day they told Ali that an illustrious visitor was coming to see
him; Mehemet Pasha, the sub-seraskier and governor of the Morea, wished
to pay his respects to him.
This was a great honor for the fallen general. Ali began to be
sensible that even his enemies respected him. Who knows? he might find
good friends amongst his very enemies, who would not think him too old
for use and employment even in his last remaining years.
On the day of the visit, the kiosk was swept and garnished.
Tepelenti put on his most costly caftan, his warriors were marshalled
in front of his dwelling, and he himself went out on horseback to meet
the seraskier when he arrived, with an escort of one hundred mounted
Mehemet Pasha was a tall, powerful man, the hero of many a fight and
many a duel. He had often given proof of his dexterity, when the
hostile armies stood face to face, by galloping betwixt them and
challenging the bravest warriors on the other side to single combat,
and the fact that he was alive at the present moment was the best
possible proof that he had been always victorious.
The two heroes exchanged greetings when they met, and returned
together to the pleasure-house. Ali conducted the sub-seraskier into
the inner apartments; the attendants remained outside.
A richly spread table awaited them, and they were waited upon by a
group of young odalisks, the hand-maidens of Eminah, who sat at Ali's
feet on the left-hand side, and, as usual, tasted of every dish and cup
before she gave it to Ali.
Pleasant conversation filled the intervals of the repast, and at the
end of it a mess of preserved pistachios was brought in and presented
to Mehemet Pasha.
I thank thee, said he, and, indeed, I am very fond of them, but
piquant, hot-spiced meats always awaken within me sinful desires and a
longing for wine which is forbidden by the Prophet, and, as a good
Mussulman, I would rather avoid the occasion of sinning than suffer the
affliction of a late repentance.
Ali laughed aloud.
Eat and be of good cheer, valiant seraskier, said he, and set thy
mind at rest. What I give thee shall be wine and yet not winethe
juice of the grape, yet still unfermented; 'tis an invention of the
Franks. This the Prophet does not forbid. I have still got a case
of bottles thereof, which Bunaberdi formerly sent me, and we will
now break it open in thy honor. Truly fizz is not wine, but only the
juice of the grape which they bottle before it becomes wine. It is as
harmless as milk.
[Footnote 12: The Moslems do not include French fizz amongst the
canonically forbidden drinks.]
[Footnote 13: Bonaparte.]
Mehemet shook his head and laughed, from which one could see that
the proposition was not displeasing to him, whereupon Ali beckoned to
the odalisks to fetch the bottles from the cellar.
Eminah, all trembling, bent over him and whispered, imploringly,
Oh, put not wine on thy table; it will be dangerous to thee!
Ali smiled, and stroked his wife's head. He thought that only
religious scruples made her dissuade him from drinking the wine, so he
drew her upon his bosom and began to reassure her.
Say now, my one and only flower, is not Moses a prophet, like unto
Of a truth he is. His tent stands beside the tent of Muhammad in
the Paradise of the true Believers.
And yet Moses said: Give wine to them that be sorrowful! Leave the
matter then to the two prophets up above there; surely, what passes
thorough our lips does not make us sin?
But that was not the reason why Eminah feared the wine.
They brought the bottles, and the liberated corks popped merrily. At
first Mehemet Pasha hesitated, but they filled his glass with fizz and,
to prevent the sparkling foam from running over, he sipped a little of
it, and quickly drained the glass, maintaining afterwards, with a
smile, that it was a similar drink to wine, but much more pleasant.
Ali filled once more the glass of the seraskier, while Eminah
tremulously watched his features, which gradually grew darker as he
drank. Drink has this effect on some men.
Suddenly the sub-seraskier dashed his glass upon the table and
exclaimed, with a furious expression of countenance:
I'll drink no more! I'll drink no more! Thou art a villain, Ali!
Thou hast made me drink wine and hast lied to me, saying it was not
wine; but it is wine, a frightful, burning drink, which has made my
Come, come, Mehemet, said Ali, in the coaxing tone one uses to
drunken men, be not so wrathful.
Speak not to me, thou dog! thundered the other, striking the table
with his fist. I might have known when I dismounted at thy door with
whom I had to do, thou sly, treacherous fox, thou godless renegade!
Ali leaped from his seat with flashing eyes, and clapped his hand on
the hilt of his sword at these words; but Eminah seized his hand, and
said to him, in a terrified whisper:
Draw not thy sword, Ali; show no weapons here! Dost thou not
perceive that he only came hither to fasten a quarrel upon thee?
Ali instantly recovered himself at these words. He saw now the snare
that had been laid for him, and calmly sat down in his place again,
crossing his legs beneath him, and, quietly taking up his chibook,
began to smoke with an air of unconcern.
Meanwhile, Mehemet played his drunken rôle still further.
I might have known beforehand, when I sat down at table with thee,
that I was sitting down with an accursed wretch, thou blood-thirsty
dog, who hath lapped up the blood of thy kinsfolk; but I never ventured
to imagine that thou wouldst be audacious enough to make me drink that
abominable liquidmay its sinfulness fall back again on thine accursed
With these words Mehemet caught up the half full glass and pitched
all the wine that was in it straight between Ali's eyes, so that it
trickled down the full length of his long white beard.
Ali, with the utmost sang-froid, beckoned to the attendant
odalisks to place before him a bowl of fresh water, in which he washed
his face and beard. He did not answer the sub-seraskier a single word.
Mehemet planted himself in front of him with a contemptuous
Wretched worm! that can wipe away such an insult so tamely! Thou
wert never valiant, thy heroic deeds were so many murders. Those whom
thou didst slay, thou didst butcher as doth a headsman. Thou couldst
surprise like a thief, but to fight like a man was never thy way, and
the blood that stains thee is the blood of fettered slaves. Thou
abominable thing! The very victory is abominable which we have gained
over such a writhing worm as thou art. I should pity my sword if it
ever came into contact with thine. Let others say if they will that
they have conquered Ali, I will only say that I have struck Ali
Tepelenti in the face.
By Allah, the one true God, that thou shall never say! thundered
Ali, leaping from his seat; and quickly drawing his sword, he whirled
it like a glittering circle through the air.
Mehemet retreated a step backward, and drew his Damascus blade with
a satisfied air.
Fight not, Ali; go inside! exclaimed Eminah, violently seizing Ali
by the sword-arm.
Tepelenti shook her off and, with his sword flashing above his head,
fell upon the sub-seraskier. Mehemet parried the stroke with his sword,
and the next instant a huge jet of blood leaped into the air from Ali's
Eminah, full of despair, flung herself between the combatants. She
saw that Ali was bleeding profusely, and throwing one arm around his
knee, with the other hand she held up before the seraskier the amnesty
of Kurshid Pasha.
Look at that! The general swore that Tepelenti should not be
Not by the executioner, replied Mehemet; but he did not guarantee
him against the sword of a warrior. Come, thou coward! or wilt thou
hide behind the petticoat of thy wife?
Eminah stretched out her arms towards Ali, but the old man thrust
her aside and rushed upon Mehemet Pasha once more; but before he could
reach him another thrust pierced him through the heart. Without a sob
he collapsed at the feet of his foe.
The terrified odalisks rushed shrieking into the camp, whilst
outside a bloody combat began between the warriors of Mehemet and the
warriors of Ali. The former were numerous, so it was not long before
Tepelenti's guards were cut down, and Mehemet, with a contented
countenance, returned to camp. A silken-net bag was hanging to his
saddle-bow, and in it was the head of Ali.
Kurshid Pasha washed his hand when the head was placed before him.
I was not the cause of thy death! he cried. I guaranteed thee
against the headsman, but not against the sword of warriors. Why didst
thou provoke the lion?
On the day fixed, beforehand, the Tartar horseman arrived in Stambul
with the head of Ali. The hours of his life had been calculated
exactly. An astronomer who determines the distances between
constellation and constellation is not more accurate in his
calculations than was Kurshid in determining the date of his enemy's
On that day the Sultan held high festival.
The Tsirogan palace, the Seraglio, all the fountains were
illuminated, and Ali's head was carried through the principal streets
of the town in triumphal procession, and finally exhibited on a silver
salver in front of the middle gate of the Seraglio in the sight of all
So there he stood at last, on a silver pedestal in front of the
Seraglio. And the prophecy was fulfilled which had said, A time will
come when thou shalt be in two places at once, in Stambul and in
Janina! So it was.
Ali's dead body was buried at Janina, and his head, at the same
time, was standing in front of the Seraglio. At Janina, a single
mourning woman was weeping over the headless corpse; at Stambul a
hundred thousand inquisitive idlers were shouting around the bodyless
At that gate where the head of Ali was exhibited the throng was so
great that many people were crushed to death by the gaping sight-seers,
who had all come hither to stare at the gray-bearded face, before whose
wrathful look a whole realm had trembled.
At last, on the evening of the third day, when the well-feasted mob
had stared their fill and begun to disperse, there drew nigh to the
gate of the Seraglio an old yellow-faced fakir who, from the appearance
of his eyes, was evidently blind. His clothing consisted of a simple
sackcloth mantle, girded lightly round the waist by a cotton girdle,
from which hung a long roll of manuscript; on his head he wore a high
mortar-shaped hat, the distinguishing mark of the Omarites.
All the people standing about respectfully made way for him as, with
downcast eyes and hands stretched forth, he groped his way along, and,
without any one guiding him, made his way straight up to Tepelenti's
There he stood and laid his right hand on the severed head, none
And lo! it seemed to those who stood round as if the severed head
slowly opened its eyes and looked upon the new-comer with cold, stony,
stiff, dim eyeballs. This only lasted for a moment, and then the
Omarite took his hand off the head and the eyes closed again. Perhaps
it was but an illusion, after all!
Then the dervish spoke. His deep, grave voice sank into the hearts
of all who heard him: Go to Mahmoud, and tell him that I have bought
from him the head of Ali Pasha and the heads of his three sons,
Sulaiman, Vely, and Mukhtar, and a whole empire is the price I pay him
What empire art thou able to give? inquired the captain of the
ciauses who were guarding the head.
That which is the fairest of all, that which is nearest to his
heart, that which he had the least hope ofhis own empire.
These bold words were reported to the Sultan, and the Grand Signior
summoned the Omarite dervish to the palace, and shut himself up alone
with him till late at night. When the muezzin intoned the fifth
namazat, towards midnight, Mahmoud dismissed the dervish. What they
said to each other remained a secret known only to themselves. The
fakir, on emerging from the Sultan's dressing-room, plucked a piece of
coal from a censer, and wrote on the white alabaster wall this
sentence, Rather be a head without a hand than a hand without a head,
and nobody but the Sultan understood that saying.
Mahmoud commanded that nine purses of gold should be given to the
dervish; he gave him also the heads of Ali and of Ali's three sons.
The dervish left the Seraglio with the four heads and the nine
purses. With the nine purses he bought an empty field in front of the
Selembrian gate and planted it with cypress-trees, and at the foot of
every cypress he set up a white turbaned tombstonethere were hundreds
and hundreds side-by-side without inscriptions. He said, too, that it
would not be long before the owners of these tombs arrived. In the
middle of this cemetery, moreover, he dug a wide grave, and in it he
buried the heads of Ali's three sons, with their father's head in the
middle. He erected four turbaned tombstones over them, two at the head
and two at the foot of the grave, and on the largest of these
tombstones was written: Here lies the valiant Ali Tepelenti, Pasha of
Janina, leaving behind him many other warriors who deserve death just
as much as he.
The people murmured because of what was written on the tomb, but who
durst obliterate what is inscribed on the dwellings of the dead?
There the mysterious inscription remained on the tomb for four
years, and in the fourth year its meaning was revealed.
Now this dervish was the dzhin of Seleucia.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE BROKEN SWORDS
Great is God and mighty!
What avails prayer if there be no longer any to hearken? What avails
the bright sword if there be none to wield it? What avails the open
book if there be none to understand what is written therein?
Ye nations of the half-moon! now is the time when the song of the
dervishes, and the scimitar, and the dirk, and the Kuran, can help no
more! From the west and from the north strange people are coming, armed
warriors in serried ranks, like a wall of steel, who are set in motion,
brought to a stand-still, expanded into an endless line, contracted
into a solid mass by a single brief word of command. Before the charge
of their bayonets the ranks of the Janissaries scatter and disperse
like chaff before the wind, and before their fire-vomiting brazen tubes
the flowers of Begtash's garden fall like grass before the mower. Wise
men are with them, who go about in simple black coats, who know much
that ye do not know; each one of whom is capable of directing a state,
and who are equally triumphant on the battle-field and in the
In vain ye call upon the name of the Prophet, in vain do ye knock at
the gate of Paradise. It is closed. Muhammad slumbers, and the other
prophets no longer trouble themselves about earthly affairs. Paradise
is full already. There they look askance now at new-comers, who reach
the shadow of the tuba-tree without the rumor of victory. The eternally
young houris, from beyond the Bridge of Alsiroth, no longer smile upon
those who fall in battle, for battle has now lost its glory. Ye must be
born again, or die forever.
Look now! the more far-seeing ones among you know what to do. They
send their children far, far away, to the dominions of the Giaours,
there to learn worldly wisdom, and prepare to make great changes in the
The old dervishes, the friends of the Turks, are excluded from the
Seraglio; they do but creep stealthily up and peep through the guarded
gates, and compare notes with one another, Behold! within there, they
are doing the work of the stranger, they are teaching the
true-believing warriors to leap to and fro at a word of command, and
twirl their weapons. They have abandoned the jiridé, that
ever-victorious weapon, and have stuck darts at the ends of their
muskets, as do the unbelievers, who dare not come within sword-distance
of the enemy. It is all over, all over with the faith of Osman.
Most jealous of all these innovations were the priests of Begtash.
One could every moment see them in their ragged, dirty mantles,
lounging about in front of the gates of the Seraglio, impudently
looking in the faces of all who go in and out; and if an imam passed
them, or one of those wise men who favored the innovations, they would
spit after him, and exclaim in a loud voice, Death to every one who
proclaims the forbidden word!
Now this forbidden word was the name Neshandchi. The mob of
Stambul had murdered Mahmoud's father because of this name, which
designated a new order of soldiers, and his successor had been
compelled to order that whoever pronounced this name should be put to
The mob would often follow the Grand Vizier all the way to the
palace, reviling him all the way, and shouting up at the windows,
Remember the end of Bajraktar!
Bajraktar had been the Sultan's Grand Vizier fourteen years before,
who had wished to reform the Turkish army, on which account a riot
broke out at Stambul, which lasted till the partisans of Bajraktar were
removed from office. As for Bajraktar himself, he was burned to death
in one of his palaces, together with his wife and children. Every one
who took part in these mysterious and accursed deliberations in the
Seraglio, from the lowliest soldier to the sacred and sublime Sultan
himself, carried his life in his hands.
It had long been rumored that some great movement was on foot, and
the priests of Begtash went from town to town through all the Turkish
domains fanning the fanaticism of their beloved children, the
Janissaries, and gradually collecting them in Stambul. In those days
there were more than twenty thousand Janissaries within the walls of
the capital, not including the corporation of water-carriers who
generally made common cause with them in times of uproar. When their
lordships, the Janissaries, set the place on fire, it was the duty of
the water-carriers to put out the flames, whereupon they plundered
comfortably together; hence the ancient understanding between them.
With the exception of the Ulemas, only the blind fakirs of the
Omarite order were admitted into the council of the Divan, and their
chief, Behram, often took counsel with the Sultan for hours together
when he was alone.
On the 23d May, 1826, at the invitation of the chief mufti, all the
Ulemas assembled in the Seraglio and decided unanimously that, in
accordance with the words of the Kuran, it was lawful to fight the
enemy with his own weapons.
Six days later they reassembled, and then the Sheik-ul-Islam laid
before them a fetva, by which it was proclaimed that a standing army
was to be raised for the defence of the realm. In order, however, that
nobody might pronounce the accursed name of Neshandchi, three names
were given to the corps of the army to be raised. The first was akinji,
or rushers, these were the young conscripts; the second was
taalimlüaske, practised men, these were selected from the soldiers of
the Seraglio; the third name was khankiar begerdi, and designated the
corps to be chosen from amongst the Janissaries. This name meant the
will of the emperor, yet the word khankiar means, in Turkish, by
itself, effusion of blood.
When the fetva came to be signed, very few of the leaders of the
Janissaries were present, but amongst those who were was the Janissary
Aga, or colonel, and his name stood there alongside the name of the
Sheik-ul-Islam, the Grand Vizier, and Najib Effendi.
Early next morning the people of Stambul read the fetva, which was
posted up at every corner. The decisive word had been spoken which was
to evoke the bloody spectre to whom so many crowned heads had been
The first day a fearful expectation prevailed. Every one awaited the
tempest, and prepared for it. The Sultan was passing the time at his
summer palace, Bekshishtash, so, at least, it was said. An anxious,
tormenting, and bloody pastime it proved to be.
In one wing of his palace were the damsels of the harem, in the
others the chief Ulemas and councillors. Mahmoud paced from one room to
another, and found peace nowhere.
Hundreds of times he sat in a row with his wise men, and caused the
annals of the Ottoman Empire by his favorite historian, Ezaad Effendi,
to be read aloud to him, and yet it was a terror to him to listen. The
whole history from beginning to end was written in blood! The same
principles always produced the same fruits! How many Grand Viziers, how
many Padishahs, had not fallen? Their blood had flowed in streams from
the throne, which had never tottered as it now tottered beneath him.
And when he returned to the harem, and the charming odalisks appeared
before him with their music and dances, and Milieva amongst them, the
loveliest of them all, to whom in an hour of rapture he had given the
rose-garden of his realm, Damascus, he bethought him that perchance
to-morrow, or even that very night, those sweetly smiling heads might
all be cut off, seized by their flowing locks and cast in heaps, while
their dear and tender bodies might be sent swimming in the cold waves
of the Bosphorus, to serve as food for the monsters of the deep. Who
knows how many hours, who knows how many moments, they have still to
Every hour, every moment, the tidings arrive from Stambul that the
Janissaries are assembling in menacing crowds, and now the
conflagrations begin; every day fires break out in three or four parts
of the town, but the heavy rains prevented any great damage from being
done. This was always the way in which the riots began in Stambul.
The priests of Begtash stirred up the fanaticism of the masses in
front of the mosques and in the public squares, incited the mob which
had joined the ranks of the Janissaries to acts of outrage against the
Sultan's officials and those of the Ulemas, softas, and Omarite fakirs
who were in favor of the reforms.
On July 14th a rumor spread that a company of Janissaries, actuated
by strong suspicion, had surrounded the cemetery which had been laid
out and enclosed by the Omarite fakir, and cut down all the dervishes
they found there, and amongst them their chief, Behram. They found upon
him a bundle of papers which plainly revealed that a secret
understanding existed between him and the great men of the Seraglio.
They also found in his girdle a metal plate, on which was the following
I am Behram, the son of Halil Patrona, the strong man, and of
Gül-Bejáze, the prophetess. My father in his lifetime began a great
work, which after his death I continued. This work will only be
accomplished and confirmed when I am dead and there is no further need
of me. Blessed be he who knoweth the hours of his life and of his
[Footnote 14: The heroine of Jókai's White Rose.]
Those who were acquainted with the life and the end of Halil Patrona
knew right well what this great work was thus mentioned by Behram, who
had lived one hundred and eight years after his father's death, and had
striven all that time to develop and mature the ideas which the former
had vainly attempted to carry out at the point of the sword.
The mob tore the dervish to pieces and distributed his bleeding
limbs as trophies, and then, like wild beasts who have scented blood,
they attacked the castles of the great men. Whom should they fall upon
first? That was the only question.
Suddenly one of the priests of Begtash tore down from the corner of
the street a copy of the fetva which proclaimed the reform and showed
it to the mob. Behold! cried he, here, foremost amongst the names of
the destroyers of the Faith stands the name of the Janissary Aga! The
leader of the Janissaries has himself betrayed his own children. Death
Death to him! howled the mob, and, seizing their torches, they
rushed towards the palace of the Janissary Aga.
The Janissary Aga heard the tumult, and, quickly dressing a slave in
his robes, mingled with the crowd, and, without being noticed, reached
the palace of the Grand Vizier in safety.
The Grand Vizier was sitting down to supper when the Janissary Aga
rushed in and informed him of his danger. He lost no time in
barricading the gates, and, slipping through his garden with his
servants and his family, escaped across the Bosphorus to the Jali
Kiosk, on the other side of the water. The besieging mob, therefore,
only found empty walls upon which to wreak their fury, and these they
levelled with the ground.
But the Janissary Aga had left his wives and children in his palace,
and these the rioters seized and murdered with the most excruciating
tortures. In the evening twilight the Aga, from his place of safety on
the other side of the water, could see the flames of his palace
shooting up towards the sky, and heard perchance the agonized
death-cries of those he loved best.
A few moments later they were joined by Nedjib Effendi, the
representative of the Viceroy of Egypt, who also took refuge with them
and brought the tidings that the insurgents were in possession of the
whole of Stambul, and had wreaked their savage fury on the families of
the refugee magnates.
The Sultan was standing on the roof of his palace, whence he could
view far away the spreading scarlet glow of the conflagration which lit
up the night with a terrifying glare, whose fiery columns were
reflected in the black Bosphorus.
Panic-stricken fugitives spread the report that the Seraglio itself
was in flames, and indeed it looked in the distance as if the fiery
waves had reached its cupolaed towers.
Mahmoud spent the whole night in prayer. Two hours after midnight a
horseman arrived who had forced his way through Stambul, his good steed
collapsing as it reached the cypress grove of Bekshishtash. The
horseman himself demanded an audience of the Sultan, and was instantly
A bright momentary ray of hope was visible on the face of Mahmoud as
he recognized the horseman. It was Thomar, now the Akinji Feriki, the
bravest warrior in the three continents of the Ottoman Empire.
When Mahmoud had quitted the Seraglio he had picked out sixteen
young horsemen from amongst his retinue, and left them behind in the
palace, with the injunction that if a rebellion should break out in
Stambul, which was pretty certainly to be anticipated, they were to cut
their way through the enemy and bring him word thereof. Thomar alone
had arrivedthe other fifteen had been killed by the rebels; he had
cut out a road for himself and contrived to reach Bekshishtash.
The dragon has raised all his twelve heads, my master, said he to
the Sultan; now is the time to cut them all off, or it will devour thy
The Sultan, who greatly loved the youth, wiped the sweat from his
face with his own handkerchief, and bade him await him below in the
And with that he resumed his devotions.
Towards five o'clock, when the sun rose from behind the blue hills
of Asia in all its glory, the Sultan descended from the roof of his
palace and commanded his servants and men-at-arms to form in rank in
front of the palace. All the fighting-men he had with him were a
thousand akinjis and about as many horsemen, silihdars, and bostanjis.
He himself first went to take leave of his womenkind.
Those who had seen his face but an hour ago were amazed at the
change that had come over it. Its generally mild and peaceful
expression had given place to a proud resentment and a death-defying
audacity. He embraced his wife and the Sultana Asseki, and finally his
son, the heir to the throne. Not a tear was visible on his face as he
embraced his beloved ones. They all noticed a new vigor flashing from
his eyes; he looked as if he were inspired. He had no need now for any
to encourage him.
As he held one arm round his wife and the other round his child, he
said to them, And now I go. My path leads me into Stambul; whether it
will lead me back again I know not. But I swear that if I do return it
will be as the veritable ruler of my realm. What will ye do if I
The face of Milieva glowed at this question. She led Mahmoud aside
into the back part of the room. There the Sultan perceived a large heap
of pillows and cushions.
If Mahmoud perishes, said the Circassian girl, enthusiastically,
those who loved him will discover a way of following him; yea, thine
enemies, when they look for us, will only find our ashes here.
Mahmoud kissed the girl on the forehead; she was indeed worthy to
sit at the foot of the throne.
With that he descended into the court-yard, and they led his good
steed in front of the arched door. The Sultan beckoned to Thomar to
hold the reins while he mounted, then he detached an agate from the
heron plume that waved above his turban, and fastened it on the fez of
the youth as he knelt before him.
I name thee leader of the akinjis; and now whoever has a sword, let
him show that he is worthy of our ancestors!
With these words the Padishah drew his scimitar, and, galloping to
the front of his horsemen, took the place of command. A moment later
the little host was already on its way to Stambul. In front marched the
akinjis with glittering bayonets; in the centre was the Sultan with his
suite; the rear was brought up by the horsemen and the gardeners. Every
one of them was resolved to die honorably and gloriously.
On reaching the city the bold band met at first with but little
opposition, for they came unawares. The rebels were weary from the
exertions of the previous night. After putting out the conflagration
the mob had set to work plundering, and towards morning the greater
part of it had dispersed amongst the coffee-houses and other places of
Mahmoud and his aggressive band met with no opposition right up to
the Seraglio. The streets indeed were thronged by a noisy mob, but it
made way at once before the serried ranks of the akinjis. None insulted
the Sultan by so much as an offensive word; on the contrary, cries of
admiration were audible here and there. Men were astounded when they
beheld the Padishah appear with a handful of armed men amidst the
raging tempest, and permitted him to enter the gates of the Seraglio in
The shout bursting through all the doors, which resounded for some
minutes from the inside of the place, announced to those outside what
courage the appearance of the Sultan had instilled into the hearts of
those of his warriors who were shut up in the Seraglio.
Kara Makan, full of amazement, withdrew the bulk of the rebels from
the Grand Signior's palace and massed the Janissaries near the
Etmeidan, where banners were hoisted side by side with the subverted
kettles. At the corners of the streets the wild priests of Begtash
continued to incite the agitated mob with hoarse cries, and from the
summits of the minarets the horns of the rebels sounded continuously,
only ceasing at such times as the imams summoned the people of Osman to
glorify Allah, about the fifth hour of the day. At the sound of the
namazat even the furious popular tempest abated, only beginning again
when the last notes of the call to prayer ceased to resound.
Stambul was literally turned upsidedown, and the dregs were swimming
on the surface. The confraternity of porters, the water-carriers, the
boatmen, all stood by the Janissaries and swelled enormously the bulk
of the rebels. Every mosque, every barrack, was in their power; even
the towers of the Dardanelles had opened their gates to the Jamaki, who
were in alliance with the Janissaries. The Sultan was shut up in his
The Janissaries intended to carry the edifice of the Sublime Porte
by assault, and had, therefore, sent forth criers to the jebejis, or
camp-blacksmiths, who were encamped with the heavy cannons on the
grounds of the Mosque of Sophia, to invite them to begin the siege.
The emissaries of the Janissaries, in brief, savage harangues,
called upon the jebejis to put their hands to the bloody work. The
latter listened to them, but for a long time hesitated. Suddenly a shot
fired from amongst the crowd struck one of the speakers, who fell down
dead, whereupon the other jebejis rushed upon the envoys of the
Janissaries, cut them down, and, flinging their severed heads into a
heap, shouted, Long live the Sultan! and with that they proceeded in
force to the Seraglio, took up their positions in front of it, and
turned their guns against the rebels.
Towards mid-day, amidst strains of martial music, the Kapudan Pasha
Ibrahim, whose nickname was The Infernal, arrived with four thousand
marines and fourteen guns. A quarter of an hour later were to be seen
in the proximity of the Jali Kiosk the overwhelming forces of the Grand
Vizier Muhammad, who, under the protection of the night, had got
together the hosts of Asia, which had always been opposed to the
Janissaries. The Janissary Aga was there, too, with the Komparajis from
Tophana. The concentrating masses welcomed one another with
blood-thirsty greeting. It was evident, from the faces of their
leaders, that they were determined not to retreat a step on the path
they had taken. The last hour of the Janissaries, or of the Ottoman
Empire, had struck.
And now the gates of the Seraglio were thrown open, and, escorted by
the high officers of state and the Ulemas, the Sultan came forth.
The Ulemas, the imams, and the officers of the army stood in a
semicircle round the gate. The Sultan remained standing on the highest
step. There he stood in the full regalia of the padishahs, holding in
one hand the banner of the Prophet and in the other a drawn sword.
What do the rebels desire, exclaimed, with a loud, penetrating
voice, the Sheik-ul-Islam, who rise up against Allah and against the
Head of the Faith, the Padishah?
The chief mufti replied with unction: It is written in the Kuran,
'If the infidels rise against their brethren, let them die the death!'
Then swear by the banner of the Prophet that ye will root out them
who have risen up against me!
The viziers kissed the holy flag and took the oath to defend it to
the last drop of their blood.
And now close the gates! commanded the Sultan; and immediately he
sent orders to the warders of all the gates of Stambul to let nobody
either out or in. One of the opposing hosts was never to leave the city
Long life to the Sultan! Death to the Janissaries! resounded from
fifteen thousand lips in front of the Seraglio.
The Sultan would have led his army in person against the rebels, but
his generals fell down on their knees and implored him in the name of
the Prophet not to expose his life to danger. Let him at least give his
sword to the Grand Vizier, that he might not soil it in the blood of
So the gates were shut. This circumstance filled the hearts of the
rebels with terror. They foresaw that this day would not be followed by
another; the hand of indulgence, of reconciliation, now grasped the
weapons of war, of massacre.
They all assembled round the Etmeidan, pulled down the buildings in
the street, and made barricades of them. 'Tis a bad sign for a
rebellion when it has to look to its defence.
The forces of the Grand Vizier slowly approached amidst the roll of
kettle-drums; the Derben Aga appeared in front of the barricades of the
Janissaries, with the sanjak-i-sherif in his hand, and summoned the
rebels to disperse and return to the allegiance of the sacred banner.
The rebels drowned his speech in curses, and above the curses rose the
thundering voice of Kara Makan hounding on the fanatical mob against
the destroyers of the faith of Osman.
Wipe out these new ordinances, give up the heads of the godless
ones who signed their names below the khat-i-sherifto wit the
Janissary Aga, the Grand Vizier, the chief mufti, and Nedjib Effendi!
This is what the ortas of the Janissaries demand and their honest
confederates, the Jamaki, the Kayikjis, and the Hamaloks, who remain
faithful to the God of the Moslemin.
Thrice did the Derben Aga summon the rebels to surrender, and thrice
did he receive the same answer. They demanded the heads of the viziers.
Mahmoud's predecessor had, on a similar request, surrendered the
heads of the viziers. Mahmoud broke his sword in two above their heads,
and throwing the broken pieces in the dust, exclaimed:
Just as I now break in two this sword and nobody shall weld it
together again, so also shall ye be overthrown and none shall raise you
The next moment the cannons of Ibraham the Infernal thundered forth
their volleys from the Etmeidan. The bombs tore through the rickety
wooden barriers, and through the breach thus made rushed Hussein Pasha
at the head of the akinjis with Thomar Bey by his side.
The appearance of the detested new soldiers was greeted by the
Janissaries with a furious howl, but the very first moment convinced
them that the bayonet was a very much more powerful weapon than the
dirk. Thomar Bey headed the charge in person, making a way for himself
with his bayonet and clearing the ranks of the insurgents like a sharp
On this side there was no deliverance, so now, with the fury of
despair, the insurgents flung themselves on the guns of Ibraham Pasha,
three times charging his death-vomiting batteries, and, thrice
recoiling, leaving the ground covered with their corpses, the terrible
grape-shot mowing them down in heaps.
It was all, all over. The flowers of Begtash's garden, vanquished,
humbled by the new soldiers, fled for refuge to the huge quadrangular
barracks which occupied the ground at the rear of the Etmeidan.
Kara Makan did not live to experience that hour of humiliation; a
cannon-ball took off his head so cleanly that his body could only be
identified by his girdle.
Within the walls of the barracks the Janissaries made ready for
their last desperate combat. It was now late. Ibrahim the Infernal
began to bombard the barracks with red-hot bullets, and within an
hour's time the whole of the enormous building was in flames. Those who
were inside the gates remained there, for there they were doomed to
perish together. Amidst the roaring of the flames their death-cries
were audible, but the flames grew stronger every moment and the cry of
their mortal anguish waxed fainter. The generals stood around the
building, and tears glittered in more eyes than one; after all, it had
been a valiant host!
Had been! Those words explain their doom.
On that day twenty thousand Janissaries fell by the command of the
Padishah. Those whom the bullet and the sword did not reach perished by
the axe and the bowstring. Their bodies were given to the Bosphorus,
and for a long time afterwards the billows of distant seas cast their
headless trunks on the shores of countries far away. These were the
flowers of Begtash.
And so the name of the Janissaries was blotted out of the annals of
The wearing of their uniforms and their insignia was forbidden under
sentence of death. Their barracks were levelled with the ground, their
banners were torn to bits, their kettles were smashed to pieces, their
memory was made accursed.
The order of the Priests of Begtash was abolished forever, their
religious homes were destroyed, their possessions confiscated.
Thus came to an end a soldiery which had existed for centuries,
which the wise Chendereli founded, and which had won so many glorious
triumphs for the Ottoman arms. It was now unlawful to mention its very
But when the bloody work was done, the Ottoman nation arose again
full of fresh vigor, and it owed a new life, full of glorious days, to
the hand which delivered the empire from its two greatest
enemiesTepelenti and the Janissaries.
GLOSSARY OF THE TURKISH WORDS USED IN THIS STORY
AGAa military and aulic title.
AKINJIa sort of irregular cavalry.
ANADOLI HISSAReastern castle.
BAIRAMthe great Muhammadan ecclesiastical feast.
BEYa dignitary next below a pasha.
BOSTANJIoriginally the gardeners of the Seraglio, subsequently
CHORBAJIa Janissary officer.
CIAUSpalace officials employed as attendants, messengers, envoys.
DERBEND AGAthe chief of the street watchmen.
DIRHAMa coin worth about 2-½_d.
DIVANcouncil of state.
DZHINa huge supernatural being.
EFFENDIa title of honor.
ETMEIDANthe headquarters of the Janissaries.
FETVAthe opinion or judgment of a mufti.
FIRAKbodies of troops.
FIRMANa decree issued by the Sultan.
ICHOGLANLERpages of non-Muhammadan parentage brought up at the
IMAMa priest who recites the canonical prayers.
JAMAKthe servant of a Janissary.
JANISSARIESliterally, new soldiers (jeni-cheri), originally
captive children brought up to be soldiers. This corps was for
centuries the flower of the Ottoman army.
JANISSARY AGAthe chief of the Janissaries.
JERIDa stick used as a dart in military exercises.
KADUN-KEIT-KHUDAguardian of the harem.
KAPUDAN PASHALord High Admiral.
KAPUJIgate-keeper of the Seraglio.
KAPUJI PASHAthe introducer of the ambassadors.
KHAT-I-SHERIFa command either signed by the Sultan or issued
directly through him.
KIZLAR-AGASIchief inspector of the harem.
MOLLAHthe title of the highest grade of Ulemas.
MUEZZINthe caller to prayer.
MUFTISthose of the Ulemas who publish or seal the fetvas or other
MURSHIDa spiritual guide.
NAMAZATthe canonical prayer.
ODALISKa concubine; literally, chambermaid.
ORTAa company of Janissaries.
PALIKÁRstrong youth, a name given to themselves by the Klephts,
freebooters of Thessaly.
REIS-EFFENDIMinister of Foreign Affairs.
SANDJAK-I-SHERIFthe sacred banner of the Prophet.
SERAGLIO } SERAI } The Sultan's court.
SERAI-AGASIchief inspector of the Seraglio.
SHEIK-UL-ISLAMthe chief of all the muftis and Ulemas.
SILIHDARSone of the six divisions of the mercenary cavalry, also
the Sultan's armor-bearers.
SIPAHIS } SPAHIS } One of six divisions of the mercenary cavalry.
SULIOTESa warlike Hellenized race of Albanian origin in the
Pachalik of Janina.
SULTANA-ASSEKIThe Sultan's consort.
SULTANA-VALIDEHthe Sultan's mother.
TIMARIOTESTurkish feudal militia.
ULEMASthe learned men, including the muftis, the mollahs, the
kadisin short, all the legal and ecclesiastical functionaries.