Paul Patoff

XVI.

IF any of the party could have guessed what Gregorios Balsamides and I were doing on that dark night, they would not have slept as soundly as they did. It was an evil night, a night for a bad deed, I thought, as I looked out of the carriage window, when we were clear of the houses and streets of Pera. The black clouds drove angrily down before the north wind, seeming to tear themselves in pieces on the stars, as one might tear a black veil upon steel nails. The wind swept the desolate country, and made the panes of the windows rattle even more loudly than did the hoofs and wheels upon the stony road. But the horses were strong, and the driver was not a shivering Greek, but a sturdy Turk, who could laugh at the wind as it whistled past his ears, striking full upon his broad chest. He drove fast along the rising ground, and faster as he reached the high bend which the road follows above the Bosphorus, winding in and out among the hills till it descends at last to Therapia.

“ The clouds look like the souls of the lost to-night,” said Balsamides, drawing his fur coat closely around him. “ One can imagine how Dante conceived the idea of the scene in hell, when the souls stream down the wind.”

“ You seem poetically inclined,” I answered.

“Why not ? We are out upon a romantic errand. Our lives are not often romantic. We may as well make the best of it, as a beggar does when he gets a bowl of rice.”

“ I should fancy you had led a very romantic life,” said I, lighting a cigarette in the dark, and leaning back against the cushions.

“ That is what women always say when they want a man to make confidences,” laughed Balsamides. “ No, I have not led a romantic life. I pass most of my time sitting on my horse in the hot sun, or the driving snow, preserving, or pretending to preserve, the life of his Majesty from real or imaginary dangers. Or else I sit eight or nine hours a day chatting and smoking with the other adjutants. It is not a healthy life. It is certainly not romantic.”

“ Not as you describe it. But I judged from the ease with which you made the preparations for this expedition that you had done things of the sort before.”

My friend laughed again, but turned the subject.

“ I hope that when we meet your friends, to-morrow morning, we may have something to show for our night’s work,” he said. “ Fancy what an excitement there would be if we brought Alexander Patoff back with us ! Not that it is at all probable. We may bring back nothing but broken bones.”

“ I do not think Selim will hurt us much,” I answered. “ He is not exactly an athlete. I would risk a fight with him.”

“ I dare say. But there may be plenty of strong fellows about the premises. There are the four caïidjs, the boatmen, to begin with. There is a coachman and probably two grooms. Very likely there are half a dozen big hamáls about.”

“ That makes thirteen,” I said. “ Six and a half to one, or four and a third to one, if we count upon our own driver.”

“ You may count upon him,” replied Gregorios. “ He is an old soldier, and as strong as a lion. In case of necessity he will call the watch from Yeni Köj. There is a small detachment of infantry there. But we shall not have to resort to such measures. I believe that I can make the Khanum confess. If so, I can make her order Selim to give up Patoff, if he is alive.”

“ And if he is dead ? ”

“ It will be the worse for the Khanum and her people. She is not in good odor at the palace. It would not take much to have her exiled to Arabia, even though she be dying, as they say she is. That is the question. Let me only find her alive, and I will answer for the rest.”

“ She might very well refuse to confess, I fancy,” I remarked, surprised at my friend’s tone of conviction.

“ I believe not,” he said shortly. Then he remained silent for some time.

My nerves are good, but I did not like the business, though I knew it was undertaken for a good purpose, and that if we were successful we should be conferring great and lasting happiness upon more than one of my friends. I had heard many queer stories of wild deeds in the East, and in my own experience had been concerned in at least one strange and unhappy story, which had ended in my losing sight forever of a man who was very dear to me. I do not think that the fact of having been in danger necessarily brings with it a liking for dangerous adventures, though it undoubtedly makes a man more fit to encounter perils of all kinds. Few men are absolutely careless of life, and those who are do not of necessity court death. It is one thing to say that one would readily die at any moment; it is quite another to seek risks and to incur them voluntarily. The brave man, as a general rule, does not feel a thrill of ideasure until the struggle has actually begun ; when he is expecting it he is grave and cautious, lest it should come upon him unawares. This, at least, I believe to be the character of the Northern man, and I think it constitutes one of his elements of superiority.

Balsamides is an Oriental, and looks at things very differently. In his belief, death will come at its appointed time, whether a man stay at home and nurse his safety, or whether he lead the front in battle. The essence of fatalism is the conviction that death must come at a certain time, no matter what a man is doing, nor how he may try to protect himself. This is the reason why the fanatic Mussulman is absolutely indifferent to danger. He firmly believes that if he is to die death will overtake him at the plough as surely as in storming an enemy’s battery. But he believes also that if he dies fighting against unbelievers his place in Paradise will be far higher than if he dies upon his farm, his ambrosial refreshment more abundant, and the dark-eyed houris who will soothe his eternal repose more beautiful and more numerous. The low-born hamál in the street will march up to the mouth of the guns without so much as a cup of coffee to animate him, with an absolute courage not found in men who have not his unswerving faith. To him Paradise is an almost visible reality, and the attainment of it depends only on his individual exertions. But what is most strange is the fact that this indifference to death is contagious, so that Christians who live among Turks unconsciously acquire much of the Moslem belief in fate. The Albanians, who are chiefly Christians, are among the bravest officers in the Turkish army, as they are amongst the most faithfully devoted to the Sultan and to the interests of the Empire.

Balsamides was in a mood which differed widely from mine. As we clattered over the rough road in the face of the north wind, I was thinking of what was before us, anticipating trouble, and determining within myself what I would do. If I were ready to meet danger, it was from an inward conviction of necessity which clearly presented itself to me, and I consequently made the best of it. But Balsamides grew merry as we proceeded. His spirits rose at the mere thought of a fight, until I almost fancied that he would provoke an unnecessary struggle rather than forego the pleasure of dealing a few blows. It was a new phase of his character, and I watched him, or rather listened to him, with interest.

“ This is positively delightful,” he said in a cheerful voice.

“ What ? ” I inquired, with pardonable curiosity.

“ What ? In an hour or two we may have strangled the Lala, have forced the old Khanum to confess her iniquities, kicked the retainers into the Bosphorus, and be on our way back, with Alexander Patoff in this very carriage ! I cannot imagine a more delightful prospect.”

“ It is certainly a lively entertainment for a cold night,” I replied. “ But if you expect me to murder anybody in cold blood, I warn you that I will not do it.”

“ No, but they may show fight,” he said. “ A little scuffle would be such a rest after leading this monotonous life. I should think you would be more enthusiastic.”

“ I shall reserve my enthusiasm until the fight is over.”

“ Then it will be of no use to you. Where is the pleasure in talking about things when they are past ? The real pleasure is in action.”

“ Action is not necessarily bloodshed.” said I. “ Active exercise is undoubtedly good for mind and body, but when you take it by strangling your fellow-creatures ” —

“ Rubbish ! ” exclaimed Balsamides. “ What is the life of one Lala more or less in this world ? Besides, he will not be killed unless he deserves it.”

“ With your ideas about the delight of such amusements, you will be likely to find that he deserves it. I do not think he would be very safe in your keeping.”

“ No, perhaps not,” he answered, with a light laugh. “ If he objects to letting me in, I shall take great pleasure in making short work of him. I am rather sorry you have put on that uniform. Your appearance will probably inspire so much respect that they will all act like sheep in a thunderstorm, — huddle together and bleat or squeal. It is some consolation to think that unless I appeared with an adjutant they would not believe that I came from the palace.”

“ It is a consolation to me to think that my presence may render it unnecessary for you to strangle, crucify, burn alive, and drown the whole population of Yeni Köj,” I answered. “ I dare say you have done most of those things at one time or another.”

“ In insurrections, such as we occasionally have in Albania and Crete, it is imperative sometimes to make an example. But I am not bloodthirsty.”

“No; from your conversation I should take you for a lamb,” said I.

“ I am not bloodthirsty,” continued Gregorios. " I should not care to kill a man who was quite defenseless, or who was innocent. Indeed, I would not do such a thing on any account.”

“ You amaze me,” I observed.

“No. But I like fighting. I enter into the spirit of the thing. There is really nothing more exhilarating, — I even believe it is healthy.”

“ For the survivors it is good exercise. Those who do not survive are, of course, no longer in a condition to appreciate the fun.”

“ Exactly ; the fun consists in surviving.”

“ One does not always survive,” I objected.

“ What is the difference ? ” exclaimed Balsamides, who probably shrugged his shoulders, in his dark corner of the carriage. " A man can die only once, and then it is all over.”

“ A man can also live only once,” said I. " A living dog is better than a dead lion.”

“ Very little,” answered Balsamides, with a laugh. “ I would rather have been a living lion for ever so short a time, and be dead, than be a Pera dogforever. The Preacher would have been nearer to the truth if he had said that a living man is better than a dead man. But the Preacher was an Oriental, and naturally had to use a simile to express his meaning.”

Suddenly the carriage stopped in the road. Then, after a moment’s pause, we turned to the right, and began to descend a steep hill, slowly and cautiously, for the night was very dark and the road bad.

“We are going down to Yeni Köj,” said Balsamides."In twenty minutes we shall be there. I will get out of the carriage first. Remember that once there you must not speak a word of any language but Turkish.”

Slowly we crept down the hill, the wheels grinding in the drag, and jolting heavily from time to time. There were trees by the roadside, — indeed, we were on the outskirts of the Belgrade forest. The bare boughs swayed and creaked in the bitter March wind, and as I peered out through the window the night seemed more hideous than ever.

By the bye,” said I, suddenly, “ we have no names. What am 1 to call you, if I have to speak to you ? ”

“ Anything,” said Balsamides. “ She does not know the name of the court physician, I suppose. However, you had better call me by his name. She might know, after all. Call me Kalopithaki Bey. You are Mehemet Bey. That is simple enough. Here, we are coming to the house, be ready, they will open the door if they recognize the palace carriage through the lattice. Of course every one will be up if the old lady is dying, and it is not much past twelve. The man has driven fast.”

The wheels rattled over pavement, and we drew up before the door of Laleli’s house. We both descended quickly, and Balsamides went up the broad steps which led to the door and knocked.

Some one opened almost immediately, and a harsh voice — not Selim’s — called out, —

“ Who is there ? ”

“ From the palace, by order of his Majesty,” answered Balsamides, promptly. I showed myself by his side, and, as he had predicted, the effect produced by the adjutant’s uniform was instantaneous. The man made a low salute, which we hastily returned, and held the door wide open for us to pass ; closing it and bolting it, however, when we had entered. I noticed that the bolts slid easily and noiselessly in their sockets. The man was a sturdy and military Turk, I observed, with grizzled mustaches and a face deeply marked with small-pox.

We entered a lofty vestibule, lighted by two hanging lamps. The floor was matted, but there was no furniture of any description. At the opposite end a high doorway was closed by a heavy curtain. A large Turkish mangál, or brazier, stood in the middle of the wide hall. The man turned to the right and led us into a smaller apartment, of which the walls were ornamented with mirrors in gilt frames. A low divan, covered with satin of the disagreeable color known as magenta, surrounded the room on all sides. Two small tables, inlaid with tortoise-shell and mother-of-pearl, stood side by side in the middle of the apartment.

“ Buyurun, be seated, Effendimlir,” said the man, who then left the room. A moment later we heard his harsh voice at some distance : —

“ Selim, Selim ! There are two Effendilir from Yildiz-Kiöshk in the selamlek! ”

We sat down to wait.

“ The porter is a genuine Turk, and not a Circassian. A Circassian would have said ' Effendilir,’ without the ‘ m,’in the vocative when he spoke to us, as he did when he used it in the nominative to Selim.”

I reflected that Balsamides had good nerves if he could notice grammatical niceties at such a moment.

XVII.

In a few moments Selim, the hideous Lala, entered the room, making the usual salutation as he advanced. He must have recognized Balsamides at once, for he started and stood still when he saw him, and seemed about to speak. But my appearance probably prevented him from saying what was on his lips, and he stood motionless before us. Balsamides assumed a suave manner, and informed him that he was sent by his Majesty to afford relief, if possible, to Laleli Khanum Effendi. His Majesty, said Gregorios, was deeply grieved at hearing of the Khanum’s illness, and desired that every means should be employed to alleviate her sufferings. He begged that Selim would at once inform the Khanum of the physician’s presence, as every moment might be of importance at such a juncture.

Selim could hardly have guessed the truth. He did not know the court doctor by sight, and Balsamides played his part with consummate coolness. The negro could never have imagined that a Frank and a foreigner would dare to assume the uniform of one of the Sultan’s adjutants, — a uniform which he knew very well, and which he knew that he must respect. He was terrified when he recognized in the Sultan’s medical adviser the man who had scattered the crowd in the bazaar, and who had so startled him by his references to the ring, the box, and the chain. He was frightened, but he knew he could not attempt to resist the imperial order, and after a moment’s hesitation he answered.

“ The Khanum Effendi,” he said, “ is indeed very ill. It is past midnight, and no one in the harem thinks of sleep. I will prepare the Khanum for the Effendi’s visit.”

Thereupon he withdrew, and we were once more left alone. I confess that my courage rose as I grew more confident of the excellence of my disguise. If the Lala himself had no doubts concerning me, it was not likely that any one else would venture to question my identity. As for Balsamides, he seemed as calm as though he were making an ordinary visit.

“ They will make us wait,” he said. “ It will take half an hour to prepare the harem for my entrance. The old lady may be dying, but she will not sacrifice the formalities. It is no light thing with such as she to receive a visit from a Frank doctor.”

He spoke in a low voice, lest the porter in the hall should hear us. But he did not speak again. I fancied he was framing his speech to the Khanum. The preparations within did not take so long as he had expected, for scarcely ten minutes had elapsed when Selim returned.

“ Buyurun,” said the negro, shortly. The word is the universal formula in Turkey for “walk in,” “sit down,” “make yourself comfortable,” “help yourself.”

Balsamides glanced at me, as we both rose from our seats, and I saw that he was perfectly calm and confident. A moment later I was alone.

Gregorios followed Selim into the hall; then, passing under the heavy curtain and through a door which the Lala opened on the other side, he found himself within the precincts of the harem, in a wide vestibule not unlike the one he had just quitted, though more brilliantly lighted, and furnished with low divans covered with pale blue satin. There was no one to be seen, however, and Balsamides followed the negro, who entered a door on the right-hand side, at the end of the hall. They passed through a narrow passage, entirely hung with rose-colorecl silk and matted, but devoid of furniture, and then Selim raised a curtain and admitted Gregorios to the presence of the sick lady.

The apartment was vast and brilliantly illuminated with lamps. Huge mirrors in gilt frames of the fashion of the last century filled the panels from the ceiling to the wainscoting. In the corners and in every available space between the larger ones, small mirrors bearing branches of lights were hung, and groups of lamps were suspended from the ceiling. The whole effect was as though the room had been lighted for a ball. The Khanum had always loved lights, and feeling her sight dimmed by illness she had ordered every lamp in the house to be lighted, producing a fictitious daylight, and perhaps in some measure the exhilaration which daylight brings with it.

The floor of the hall was of highly polished wood, and the everlasting divans of disagreeable magenta satin, so dear to the modern Turkish woman, lined the walls on three sides. At the upper end, however, a dais was raised about a foot from the floor. Here rich Siné and Giordès carpets were spread, and a broad divan extended across the whole width of the apartment, covered with silk of a very delicate hue, such as in the last century was called “ bloom ” in England. The long stiff cushions, of the same material, leaned stiffly against the wall at the back of the low seat, in an even row. Several dwarf tables, of the inlaid sort, stood within arm’s-length of the divan, and on one of them lay a golden salver, bearing a crystal jar of strawberry preserves, and a glass half full of water, with a gold spoon in it. In the right-hand corner of the divan was the Khanum herself.

The old lady’s dress was in striking contrast to her surroundings. She wore a shapeless, snuff-colored gown, very loose and only slightly gathered at the waist. As she sat propped among her cushions, her feet entirely concealed beneath her, she seemed to be inclosed in a brown bag, from which emerged her head and hands. The latter were very small and white, and might well have belonged to a young woman, but her head was that of an aged crone. Balsamides was amazed at her ugliness and the extraordinary expression of her features. She wore no head-dress, and the bit of gauze about her throat, which properly speaking should have concealed her face, did not even cover her chin. Her hair was perfectly black in spite of her age, and being cut so short as only to reach the collar of her gown, hung straight down like that of an American Indian, brushed hack from the high yellow forehead, and falling like stiff horse-hair over her ears and cheeks when she bent forward. Her eyes, too, were black, and were set so near together as to give her a very disagreeable expression, while the heavy eyebrows rose slightly from the nose towards the temples. The nose was long, straight, and pointed, but very thin, and the nostrils, which had once been broad and sensitive, were pinched and wrinkled by old age and the play of strong emotions. Her cheeks were hollowed and yellow, as the warped parchment cover of an old manuscript, seamed with furrows in all directions, so that the slightest motion of her face destroyed one set of deep-traced lines only to exhibit another new and unexpected network of wrinkles. The upper lip was long and drawn down, while the thin mouth curved upwards at the corners in a disagreeable smile, something like that which seems to play about the long, slit lips of a dead viper. This unpleasant combination of features was terminated by a short but prominent chin, indicating a determined and undeviating will. The ghastly yellow color of her face made the unnatural brightness of her beady eyes more extraordinary still.

To judge from her appearance, she had not long to live, and Balsamides realized the fact as soon as he was in her presence. It was not a fever ; it was no sudden illness which had attacked her, depriving her of strength, speech, and consciousness. She was dying of a slow and incurable disease, which fed upon the body without weakening the energies of the brain, and which had now reached its last stage. She might live a month, or she might die that very night, but her end was close at hand. With the iron determination of a tyrannical old woman, she kept up appearances to the last, and had insisted on being carried to the great hall and set in the place of honor upon the divan to receive the visit of the physician. Indeed, for many days she had given the slaves of her harem no rest, causing herself to be carried from one part of the house to another, in the vain hope of finding some relief from the pain which devoured her. All night the great rooms were illuminated. Day and night the slaves exhausted themselves in the attempt to amuse her: the trained and educated Circassian girl translated the newspapers to her, or read aloud whole chapters of Victor Hugo’s Misérables, one of the few foreign novels which have been translated into Turkish; the almehs danced and sang to their small lutes ; the black slaves succeeded each other in bringing every kind of refreshment which the ingenuity of the Dalmatian cook could devise ; the whole establishment was in perpetual motion, and had rarely in the last few days snatched a few minutes of uneasy rest when the Khanum slept her short and broken sleep. It chanced that Laleli had all her life detested opium, and was so quick to detect its presence in a sweetmeat or in a sherbet that now, when its use might have soothed her agonies, no member of her household had the courage to offer it to her. Her sleepless days and nights passed in the perpetual effort to obtain some diversion from her pain, and with every hour it became more difficult to satisfy her craving for change and amusement.

Balsamides came forward, touching his hand to his mouth and forehead ; and then approaching nearer, he awaited her invitation to sit down. The old woman made a feeble, almost palsied gesture with her thin white hand, and Gregorios advanced and seated himself upon the divan at some distance from his patient.

“ His Majesty has sent you?” she inquired presently, slowly turning her head and fixing her beady eyes upon his face. Her voice was weak and hoarse, scarcely rising above a whisper.

“ It is his Majesty’s pleasure that I should use my art to stay the hand of death,” replied Balsamides. “ His Majesty is deeply grieved to hear of the Khanum Effendi’s illness.”

“ My gratitude is profound as the sea,” said Laleli Khanum, but as she spoke the viper smile wreathed and curled upon her seamed lips."I thank his Majesty. My time is come, — it is my kadèr, my fate. Allah alone can save. None else can help me.”

“ Nevertheless, though it be in vain, I must try my arts, Khanum Effendim, said Balsamides.

“ What are your arts ? ” asked the sick woman, scornfully. " Can you burn me with fire, and make a new Laleli out of the ashes of my bones ? ”

“ No,” said Gregorios, “ I cannot do that, but I can ease your pain, and perhaps you may recover.”

“ If you can ease my pain, you shall be rich. But you cannot. Only Allah is great! ”

“ If the Khanum will permit her servant to approach her and to touch her hand ” — suggested Balsamides, humbly.

“ Gelinis, come,” muttered Laleli. But she drew the pale green veil that was round her throat a little higher, so as to cover her mouth. “ What is this vile body that it should be any longer withheld from the touch of the unbeliever ? What is your medicine, Giaour ? Shall the touch of your unbelieving hand, wherewith you daily make signs before images, heal the sickness of her who is a daughter of the prophet of the Most High ? ”

Balsamides rose from his seat and came to her side. She shrank together in her snuff-colored, bag-shaped gown, and hesitated before she would put out her small hand, and her eyes expressed ineffable disgust. But at last she held out her fingers, and Gregorios succeeded in getting at her wrist. The pulse was very quick, and fluttered and sank at every fourth or fifth beat.

“ The Khanum is in great pain,” said Gregorios. He saw indeed that she was in a very weak state, and he fancied she could not last long.

“ Ay, the pains of Gehennam are upon me,” she answered in her hoarse whisper, and at the same time she trembled violently, while the perspiration broke out in a clammy moisture on her yellow forehead.

Gregorios produced a small case from his pocket. It is the magical transformer of the modern physician.

“The prick of a pin,” said he, “and your pain will cease. If the Khanum will consent ? ”

She was in an access of terrible agony, and could not speak. Gregorios took from his case a tiny syringe and a small bottle containing a colorless liquid. It was the work of an instant to puncture the skin of Laleli’s hand, and to inject a small dose of morphine, — a very small dose indeed, for the solution was weak. But the effect was almost instantaneous. The Khanum opened her small black eyes, the contortion of her wrinkled face gave way to a more natural expression, and she gradually assumed a look of peace and relief which told Gregorios that the drug had done its work. Even her voice sounded less hoarse and indistinct when she spoke again.

“ I am cured! ” she exclaimed in sudden delight. “ The pain is gone, — Allah be praised, the pain is gone, the fire is put out! I shall live ! I shall live ! ”

Not one word of thanks to Gregorios escaped her lips. It was characteristic of the woman that she expressed only her own satisfaction at the relief she experienced, feeling not the smallest gratitude towards the physician. She clapped her thin hands, and a black slave girl appeared, one of those called halaïk, or “ creatures.” The Khanum ordered coffee and chibouques. She had never accepted the modern cigarette.

“ The relief is instantaneous,” remarked Balsamides, carefully putting back the syringe and the bottle in the little case, which he returned to his pocket.

“ Tell me,” said the old woman, lowering her voice, “ is it the magic of the Franks? ”

“ It is, and it is not,” answered Gregorios, willing to play upon her superstition. “ It is, truly, very mysterious, and a man who employs it must have clean hands and a brave heart. And so, indeed, must the person who benefits by the cure. Otherwise it cannot be permanent. The sins which burden the soul have power to consume the body, and if there is no repentance, no device to undo the harm done, the magic properties of the fluid are soon destroyed by the more powerful arts of Satan.”

The Khanum looked anxiously at Balsamides as he spoke. At that moment the black slave girl returned, bearing two little cups of coffee, while two other girls, exactly like the first, followed with two lighted chibouques, a mangál filled with coals, two small brass dishes upon which the bowls of the pipes were to rest, so as not to burn the carpet, and a little pair of steel firetongs inlaid with gold. At a sign the three slaves silently retired. The Khanum drank the hot coffee eagerly, and, placing the huge amber mouthpiece against her lips, began to inhale the smoke. Gregorios followed her example.

“ What is this you say of Satan destroying the power of your medicine ? ” asked Laleli, presently.

“ It is the truth, Khanum Effendim,” answered Balsamides, solemnly. " If, therefore, you would be healed, repent of sin, and if you have done anything that is sinful, command that it be undone, if possible. If not, your pain will return, and I cannot save you.”

“ How do you, a Giaour, talk to me of repentance ? ” asked Laleli, in scornful tones. “ While you try to extract the eyelash from my eye, you do not see the beam which has entered your own.”

“ Nevertheless, unless you repent my medicine will not heal you,” returned Gregorios, calmly.

“ What have I to repent ? Shall you find out my sin ? ”

“ That I be unable to find it out does not destroy the necessity for your repenting it. The time is short. If your heart is not clean you will soon be writhing in a worse agony than when I charmed away your pain.”

“ We shall see,” retorted the Khanum, her features wrinkling in a contemptuous smile. “I tell you I feel perfectly well. I have recovered.”

But she had hardly spoken, and puffed a great cloud of aromatic smoke into the still air of the illuminated room, when the smile began to fade. Balsamides watched her narrowly, and saw the former expression of pain slowly returning to her face. He had not expected it so soon, but in his fear of producing death he had administered a very small dose of morphine, and the disease was far advanced. Laleli, however, though terrified as she felt that the agony she had so long endured was returning after so brief a respite, endeavored bravely to hide her sufferings, lest she should seem to confess that the Giaour was right, and that it was the presence of the devil in her heart which prevented the medicine from having its full effect. Gradually, as she smoked on in silence, Gregorios saw that the disease had got the mastery over her again, and that she was struggling to control her features. He pretended not to observe the change, and waited philosophically for the inevitable result. At last the unfortunate woman could bear it no longer; the pipe dropped from her trembling hand, and the sweat stood upon her brow.

“ I wonder whether there is any truth in what you say ! ” she exclaimed, in a voice broken with the pain she would not confess.

“ It is useless to deny it,” answered Balsamides. “ The Khanum Effendim is already suffering.”

“ No, I am not! ” she said between her teeth. But the perspiration trickled down her hollow cheeks. Suddenly, unable to hide the horrible agony which was gnawing in her bosom, she uttered a short, harsh cry, and rocked herself backwards and forwards.

“It is even so,” said Balsamides, eying her coldly, and not moving from his place as he blew the clouds of smoke into the warm air. “ My medicine is of no use when the soul is dark and diseased by a black deed.”

“ Where is the medicine ? ” cried the wretched woman, swaying from side to side in her agony. “ Where is it ? Give it to me again, or I shall die ! ”

“ It cannot help you unless you confess your sin,” returned her torturer indifferently.

“ In the name of Allah! I will confess all, even to you an unbeliever, if you will only give me rest again ! ” cried Laleli. From the momentary respite the pain seemed far greater than before.

“ If you will do that, I will try and save you,” answered Balsamides, producing the case from his pocket. He had been very far from expecting the advantage he had obtained through the combination of the old woman’s credulity and extreme suffering. But in his usual cold fashion he now resolved to use it to the utmost. Laleli saw him take the syringe from the case, and her eyes glittered with the anticipation of immediate relief.

“ Speak,” said Gregorios, " confess your sin, and you shall have rest.”

“ What am I to confess ? ” asked the old woman, hungrily watching the tiny instrument in his fingers.

“This,” answered Balsamides, lowering his voice. “ You must tell me what became of a Russian Effendi, whose name was Alexander, whom you caused to be seized one night in the last week of ” —

Again Laleli cried out, and rocked her body, apparently suffering more than ever.

“ The medicine ! ” she whispered, almost inaudibly. “ Quick — I cannot speak — I am dying of the pain.” The perspiration streamed down her yellow wrinkled face, and Balsamides feared the end was come.

“ You must tell me first, or it will be of no use,” he said. But he quickly filled the syringe, and prepared to repeat the former operation,

“ I cannot,” groaned Laleli. “ I die — quick ! Then I will tell.”

A physician might have known whether the woman were really dying or not, but Balsamides’ science did not go so far as that. Without further hesitation he pricked the skin of her hand and injected a small quantity, a very little more than the first time. The effect was not quite so sudden as before, but it followed after a few seconds. The signs of extreme suffering disappeared from the Khanum’s face, and she once more looked up.

“ Your medicine is good, Giaour,” she said, with the ghost of a disdainful laugh. But her voice was still very weak and hoarse.

“ It will not save you unless you confess what became of the Frank,” said Gregorios, again putting his instrument into the case, and the case into his pocket.

“It is very easy for me to have you kept here, and to force you to cure me,” she answered, with a wicked smile. “ Do you think you can leave my house without my permission ? ”

“ Easily,” returned Balsamides, coolly. “ I have not come here unprotected. His majesty’s adjutant is outside. You will not find it easy to take him prisoner.”

“ Who knows ? ” exclaimed Laleli. “ The only thing which prevents me from keeping you is, that I see you have very little of your medicine. It is a good medicine. But I do not believe your story about repentance. It may serve for Franks; it is not enough for a daughter of tlie true prophet.”

“ You shall see. If you wish to avoid further suffering, I advise you to tell me what became of Alexander Patoff, and to tell me quickly. I was wrong to give you the medicine until you had confessed, but if you refuse I have another medicine ready which may persuade you.”

“ What do I know of your unbelieving dogs of Russians ? ” retorted the old woman, fiercely.

“ You know the answer to my question well enough. If you do not tell me within five minutes what I want to know, I will tell you what the other medicine is.”

Laleli relapsed into a scornful silence. She was better of her pain, but she was angry at the physician’s manner. Balsamides took out his watch, and began to count the minutes. There was dead silence in the spacious hall, where the lights burned as brightly as ever, while the heavy clouds of tobacco smoke slowly wreathed themselves around the chandeliers and mirrors. The two sat watching each other. It seemed an eternity to the old woman, but the dose had been stronger this time, and she was free from pain. At last Balsamides shut his watch and returned it to his pocket.

“Will you, or will you not, tell me what became of Alexander Patoff, whom you caused to be seized in or near Agia Sophia, one night in the last week of the month of Ramazán before the last ? ”

Laleli’s beady eyes were fixed on his as he spoke, with an air of surprise, not umningled with curiosity, and strongly tinged with contempt.

“ I know nothing about him,” she answered steadily. “ I never caused him to be seized. I never heard of him.”

“ Then here is my medicine,” said Gregorios, coldly. “ It is a terrible medicine. Listen to the pleasure of his Majesty the Hunkyar.” He rose, and pressed the document to his lips and forehead.

“ What! ” cried Laleli, in sudden terror, her voice gathering strength from her fright.

“ It is an order, dated to-day, to arrest Laleli Khamun Effendi, and to convey her to a place of safety, where she shall await the further commands of his Majesty.”

“ It is false,” murmured the Khamun. But her white fingers twisted each other nervously. “ It is a forgery.”

“ So false,” replied Balsamides, with cold contempt, “ that the adjutant is waiting outside, and a troop of horse is stationed within call to conduct you to the place of safety aforesaid. I can force you to lay his Majesty’s signature on your forehead and to follow me to my carriage, if I please.”

“ Allah alone is great! ” groaned the Khanum, her head sinking on her breast in despair. “ Kadèr, — it is my fate.”

“ But if you will deliver me this man alive, I will save you out of the hands even of the Hunkyar. I will say that you are too ill to be removed from your house, — unless I give you my medicine,” he added, flattering her hopes to the last.

“ Give me time. I know nothing — what shall I say?” muttered Laleli, incoherently, her thin fingers twitching at the stuff of her snuff-colored gown, while as she bent her head her short, coarse, black hair fell over her yellow cheeks, and concealed her expression from Gregorios.

“ You have not much time,” he answered. “ The pain will soon seize you more sharply than before. If I arrest you, your sentence will be banishment to Arabia, —not for this crime, but for that other which you thought was pardoned. If I leave you here without help, my sentence upon you is pain, pain and agony until you die. It is already returning. I can see it in your face.”

“ I must have time to consider,” said Laleli, her old firmness returning, as it generally did in moments of great difficulty. She looked up, tossing back her hair. “ How long will you give me ? ”

“ Till the morning light is first gray in the sky above Beikos,” replied Gregorios, without hesitation. “ But for your own sake you had better decide sooner.”

Laleli was silent. She must have had the strongest reasons for refusing to tell the secret of Alexander’s fate, for the penalty of silence was a fearful one. She felt herself to he dying, hut tlie morphine had revived in her the hope of life, and she loved life yet. But to live and suffer, to go through the horrors of an exile to Arabia, to drag her gnawing pain through the sands of the desert, was a prospect too awful to be contemplated. As the effects of the last dose administered began to disappear, and her sufferings recommenced, she realized her situation with frightful vividness. Still she strove to be calm and to baffle her tormentor to the very end. If she had not felt the unspeakable relief she had gained from his medicine, she would have wished to die, but she had tasted of life again. The problem was how to preserve this new life while refusing to answer the question Gregorios had asked of her. She was so clever, so thoroughly able to deal with difficulties, that if she could but have relief from her sufferings, so that her mind might be free to work undisturbed, she still hoped to find the solution. But the pain was already returning. In a few minutes she would be writhing in agony again.

“ I will wait until morning, — it is not many hours now,” said Balsamides, after a pause. “ But I strongly advise you to decide at once. You are beginning to suffer, and I warn you that unless you confess you shall not have the medicine.”

“ I lived without it until you came,” answered Laleli. “ I can live without it now, if it is my fate.” Her voice trembled convulsively, but she finished her sentence by a great effort.

“It is not your fate,” returned Gregorios. “ You cannot live without it.”

“ Then at least I shall die and escape you,” she groaned, but even in her groan there was a sort of scorn. On the last occasion she had indeed exaggerated her sufferings, pretending that she was at the point of death in order to get relief without telling her secret. She had always believed that at the last minute Balsamides would relent, out of fear lest she should die, and that she could thus obtain a series of intervals of rest, during which she might think what was to be done. She did not know the relentless character of the man with whom she had to deal.

“ You cannot escape me,” said Balsamides, sternly. “ But you can save me trouble by deciding quickly.”

“ I have decided to die! ” she cried at last, with a great effort. She groaned again, and began to rock herself in her seat upon the divan.

“ You will not die yet,” observed Gregorios, contemptuously. He had understood that he had been deceived the previous time, and had determined to let her suffer.

Indeed, she was suffering, and very terribly. Her groans had a different character now, and it was evident that she was not playing a comedy. A livid hue overspread her face, and she gasped for breath.

“ If you are really in pain,” said Balsamides, “ confess, and I will give you relief.”

But Laleli shook her head, and did not look up. He attributed her constancy to an intention to impose upon him a second time by appearing to suffer in silence rather than to sell her secret for the medicine. He looked on, quite unmoved, for some minutes. At last she raised her head and showed the deatldy color of her face.

“ Medicine ! ” she gasped.

“ Not this time, unless you make a full confession,” said Balsamides calmly. “ I will not be deceived again.”

The wretched woman cast an imploring glance at him, and seemed trying to speak. But he thought she was acting again, and did not move from his seat.

“ You understand the price,” he said, slowly taking the case from his pocket. “ Tell what you know, and you shall have it all, if you like.”

The old Khanum’s eyes glittered as she saw the receptacle of the coveted medicine. Her lips moved, producing only inarticulate sounds. Then, with a convulsive movement, she suddenly began to try and drag herself along the divan to the place where Gregorios sat. He gazed at her scornfully. She was very weak, and painfully moved on her hands and knees, the straight hair falling about her face, while her eyes gleamed and her lips moved. Occasionally she paused as though exhausted, and groaned heavily in her agony. But Balsamides believed it to be but a comedy to frighten him into administering the dose, and he sat still in his place, holding the case in his hand and keeping his eyes upon her.

“ You cannot deceive me,” he said coldly. “ All these contortions will not prevail upon me. You must tell your secret, or you will get nothing.”

Still Laleli dragged herself along, apparently trying to speak, but uttering only inarticulate sounds. As she got nearer to him, still on her hands and knees, Gregorios thought he had never seen so awful a sight. The straight black hair was matted in the moisture upon her clammy face ; a deathly, greenish livid hue had overspread her features ; her chin was extended forward hungrily and her eyes shone dangerously, while her lips chattered perpetually. She was very near to Balsamides. Had she had the strength, to stretch out her hand she could almost have touched the small black case he held. He thought she was too near, at last, and his grip tightened on the little box.

“Confess, " he said once more, “and you shall have it.”

For one moment more she tried to struggle on, still not speaking. Balsamides rose and quietly put the case into his pocket, anticipating a struggle, He little knew what the result would be. The miserable creature uttered a short cry, and a wild look of despair was in her eyes. Suddenly, as she crawled upon the divan, she reared herself up on her knees, stretching out her wasted hands towards him.

“ Give — give ” — she cried. “ I will tell you all — he is alive — he is — a wan— ”

Her staring black eyes abruptly seemed to turn white, and instantly her face became ashy pale. One last convulsive effort, — the jaw dropped, the features relaxed, the limbs were unstrung, and Laleli Khanum fell forward to her full length upon her face on the peachcolored satin of the divan.

She was dead, and Gregorios Balsamides knew it, as he turned her limp body so that she lay upon her back. She was quite dead, but he was neither startled nor horrified ; he was bitterly disappointed, and again and again he ground his heel into the thick Siné carpet under his feet. What was it to him whether this hideous old hag were dead in one way or another ? She had died with her secret. There she lay in her shapeless bag-like gown of snuff-colored stuff, under the brilliant lights and the gorgeous mirrors, upon the delicate satin cushions, her white eyes staring wide, her hands clenched still in the death agony, the coarse hair clinging to her wet temples.

Presently the body moved, and appeared to draw one — two — three convulsive breaths. Gregorios was startled, and bent down. But it was only the very end.

“Bah ! ” he exclaimed, half aloud, “ they often do that.” Indeed, he had many times in his life seen men die, on the battlefield, on the hospital pallet, in their beds at home. But he had never seen such a death as this, and for a moment longer he gazed at the dead woman’s face. Then the whole sense of disappointment rushed back upon him, and he hastily strode down the long hall, under the lamps, between the mirrors, without once looking behind him.

XVIII.

Balsamides found Selim outside the door at the other end of the passage, sitting disconsolately upon the divan. The Lala turned up his ugly face as Gregorios entered, and then rose from his seat, reluctantly, as though much exhausted. Balsamides laid his hand upon the fellow’s arm and looked into his small red eyes.

“ The Khanum is dead,” said the pretended physician.

The negro trembled violently, and throwing up his arms would have clapped his hands together. But Balsamides stopped him.

“No noise,” he said sternly. “ Come with me. All may yet be well with you ; but you must be quiet, or it will be the worse for you.” He held the Lala’s arm, and led him without resistance to the outer hall.

“ Mehemet Bey ! Mehemet Bey ! ”

I heard him call, and I hastened from the room where I had waited to join him in the vestibule. He was very pale and grave. On hearing him enter, the porter appeared, and silently opened the outer door. Balsamides addressed him as we prepared to leave the house.

“ The Khanum Effendi is dead,” he said. “ Selim will accompany us to the palace, and will return in the morning.”

The man’s face, deeply marked with the small-pox and weather-beaten in many a campaign, did not change color. Perhaps he had long expected the news, for he bowed his head as though submitting to a superior order.

“ It is the will of Allah,” he said in a low voice. In another moment we had descended the steps, Selim walking between us. The coachman was standing at the horses’ heads in the light of the bright carriage lamps. Balsamides entered the carriage first, then I made Selim get in, and last of all I took my seat and closed the door.

“ Yildiz-Kioshk ! ” shouted Balsamides out of the window to the driver, and once more we rattled over the pavement and along the rough road. I imagined that the order had been given only to mislead the porter, who had stood upon the steps until we drove away. I knew well enough that Balsamides would not present himself at the palace with me in my present disguise, and that it was very improbable that he would take Selim there. I hesitated to speak to him, because I did not know whether I was to continue to personate the adjutant or to reveal myself in my true character. I had comprehended the situation when I heard my friend tell the porter that the Khanum was dead, and I congratulated myself that we had secured the person of Selim without the smallest struggle or difficulty of any kind. I argued from this, either that the Khanum had died without telling her story, or else that she had told it all, and that Selim was to accompany us to the place where Alexander was buried or hidden.

At last we turned to the left. Balsamides again put his head out of the window, and called to the coachman to drive on the Belgrade road instead of turning towards Pera. The negro started violently when he heard the order given, and I thought he put out his hand to take the handle of the door ; but my own was in the hanging loop fastened to the inside of the door, and I knew that he could not open it. The road indicated by Gregorios leads through the heart of the Belgrade forest.

The fierce north wind had moderated a little, or rather, as we drove up the thickly wooded valley, we were not exposed to it as we had been upon the shore of the Bosphorus and on the heights above. Overhead, the driving clouds took a silvery-gray tinge, as the last quarter of the waning moon rose slowly behind the hills of the Asian shore. The bare trees swayed and moved slowly in the wind with the rhythmical motion of aquatic plants under moving water.

I looked through the glass as we drove along, recognizing the well-known turns, the big trees, the occasional low stone cottages by the road-side. Everything was familiar to me, even in the bleak winter weather ; only the landscape was inexpressibly wild in its leafless grayness, under the faint light of the waning moon. From time to time the Lala moved uneasily, but said nothing. We were ascending the hill which leads to the huge arch of the lonely aqueduct which pierces the forest, when Balsamides tapped upon the window. The carriage stopped in the road and he opened the door on his side and descended.

“ Get down,” he said to Selim. I pushed the negro forward, and got out after him. Balsamides seized his arm firmly.

“ Take him on the other side,” he said to me in Turkish, dragging the fellow along the road in the direction of a stony bridle-path which from this point ascends into the forest. Then Selim’s coolness failed him, and he yelled aloud, struggling in our grip, and turning his head back towards the coachman.

“ Help ! help ! ” he cried. “ In the name of Allah ! They will murder me! ”

From the lonely road the coachman’s careless laugh echoed after us, as we hurried up the steep way.

“ It is a solitary spot,” observed Balsamides to the terrified Selim. “ You may yell yourself hoarse, if it pleases you.”

We continued to ascend the path, dragging the Lala between us. He had little chance of escape between two such men as we, and he seemed to know it, for after a few minutes he submitted quietly enough. At last we reached an open space among the rocks and trees, and Balsamides stopped. We were quite out of earshot from the road, and it would be hard to imagine a more desolate place than it appeared, between two and three o’clock on that March night, the bare twigs of the birch-trees wriggling in the bleak wind, the faint light of the decrescent moon, that seemed to be upside down in the sky, falling on the white rocks, and on the whitened branches torn down by the winter’s storms, lying like bleached bones upon the ground before us.

” Now, " said Balsamides to the negro, “ no one can hear us. You have one chance of life. Tell us at once where we can find the Russian Effendi whose property you stole and sold to Marchetto in the bazaar.”

In the dim gloom I almost fancied that the black man changed color, as Gregorios put the question, but he answered coolly enough.

“You cannot find him,” he said. “You need not have brought me here to ask me about him. I would have told you what you wanted to know at Yeni Koj, willingly enough.”

“ Why can he not be found ? ”

“ Because he has been dead nearly two years, and his body was thrown into the Bosphorus,” answered the Lala defiantly.

“ You killed him, I suppose?” Balsamides tightened his grip upon the man’s arm. But Selim was ready with his reply.

“ You need not tear me in pieces. He killed himself.”

The news was so unexpected that Balsamides and I both started and looked at each other. The Lala spoke with the greatest decision.

“How did he kill himself?” asked Gregorios sternly.

“ I will tell you, as far as I know. The Bekjí of Agia Sophia, the same who admitted the Effendi, took me up by the other staircase. Franks are never allowed to pass that way, as you know. When we were half-way up, holding the tapers before us, we stumbled over the body of a man lying at the foot of one of the flights, with his hand against the wall. We stooped down and examined him. He was quite dead. ‘ Selim,’ said the Bekjí, who knows me very well, ' the Effendi has fallen down the stairs in the dark, and has broken his neck.’ 'If we give the alarm,’ said I, ‘we shall be held responsible for his death.’ ‘ Leave it to me,’ answered the Bekjí. ‘ Behold, the man is dead. It is his fate. He has no further use for valuables.’ So the Bekjí took a ring, and a tobacco-box, and the watch and chain, and some money which was in the man’s pockets. Then he said we should leave the corpse where it was. And when the prayers in the mosque were over, before it was day, he got a vegetable-seller’s cart, and put the body in it and covered it with cabbages. Then we took it down to the point below Top Kapu Serai, where the waters are swift and deep. So we threw him in, for he was but a dog of a Giaour, and had broken his neck in stumbling where it was forbidden to go. Is it my fault that he stumbled ? ”

“ No,” answered Balsamides, “ it was not your fault if he stumbled, and the Bekjí was a Persian fox. But you robbed his body, and divided the spoil. What share did the Bekjí take ? ”

“ He took the ring and the tobaccobox and the money, for he was the stronger,” answered the Lala.

“ Selim,” said Balsamides quietly, “ before the Khanum died to-night she said that Alexander Patoff was alive. If so, you are lying. You are a greater liar than Moseylama, the false prophet, as they say in your country. But if not, you are a robber of dead bodies. Therefore, Selim, say a Fatihah, for your hour is come.”

With that, Balsamides drew a short revolver from his pocket, and cocked it before the man’s eyes. The negro’s limbs relaxed, and with a howl he fell upon his knees.

“ Mercy ! mercy ! In the name of Allah ! ” he cried. “ I have told all the truth, I swear by the grave of my father ” —

“ Don’t move,” said Gregorios, with horrible calm. “ You will do very well in that position. Now — say your Fātihah, and be quick about it. I cannot wait all night.”

“ You are not in earnest, Gregorios ? ” I asked in English, for my blood ran cold at the sight.

“ Very much in earnest,” he answered in Turkish, presenting the muzzle of the pistol to the Lala’s head. “ This fellow shall not laugh at our beards a second time. I will count three. If you do not wish to say your prayers, I will fire when I have said three. One — two ” —

He is alive! ” screamed the Lala, before the fatal " three ” was spoken by Balsamides. “ I have lied : he is alive ! Mercy! and I will tell you all.”

“ I thought so,” said Balsamides, coolly uncocking his pistol and putting it back into his pocket. “Get up, dog, and tell us what you know.”

Selim was literally almost frightened to death, as he kneeled on the sharp stones at our feet. He could hardly speak, and I dragged him up and made him sit upon the trunk of a fallen tree. I was indeed glad that he was still alive, for though Balsamides had not yet told me the events of the night, I could see that he was in no humor to be trifled with. Even I, who am peaceably disposed towards all men, felt my blood boil when the fellow told how he and the Bekjí had robbed the body of Alexander Patoff, and thrown it into the Bosphorus, for fear of being suspected. But the whole story seemed improbable, and I had a strong impression that Selim was lying. Perhaps nothing but the fear of death could have made him confess, after all. and Balsamides had a way of making death seem very real and very near.

“ I will tell you this, Selim,” said Gregorios. “ If you will give me Alexander Patoff Effendi to-night, alive, well, and uninjured in any way, you shall go free, and I will engage that you shall not be hurt. You evidently wished to keep the Khanum’s secret. The Khanum is dead, and her secrets are the Padishah’s, like everything else she possessed. You are bound to deliver those secrets to my keeping. Therefore tell us shortly where the Russian is, that we may liberate him and take him home at once.”

“ He is alive and well. That is to say, he has been well treated,” answered Selim. “ If you can take him, you may take him to-night, for all I care. But you must swear that you will then protect me.”

“ Filthy liquor in a dirty bottle ! ” exclaimed Balsamides angrily. “ Will you make conditions with me, you soul of a dog in a snake’s body ? ”

“ Very well,” returned the Lala cunningly. “ But if you should kill me by mistake before I have taken you to him, you will never find him.”

“ I have told you that you shall not be hurt, if you will give him up. That is enough. My word is good, and I will keep it. Speak ; you are safe.”

“ In the first place, we must go back to Yeni Koj. You might have saved yourself the trouble of coming up here on such a night as this.”

“ I want no comments on my doings. Tell me where the man is.”

“ I will take you to him,” said the Lala.

“ Well, then, get up and come back to the carriage,” said Balsamides, seeing it was useless to bandy words with the fellow. Moreover, it was bitterly cold in the forest, and the idea of being once more in the comfortable carriage was attractive. Again we took Selim between us, and rapidly descended the stony path. In a few moments we were driving swiftly away from the arches of the aqueduct in the direction whence we had come.

Before we had reached the door of Laleli’s house, Selim asked Balsamides to stop the carriage. We got out, and he took us up a narrow and filthy lane between two high walls. The feeble light of the moon did not penetrate the blackness, and we stumbled along in the mud as best we could. After climbing in this way for nearly ten minutes, Selim stopped before what appeared to be a small door sunk in a niche in the wall. I heard a bunch of keys jingling in his hand, and in a few seconds he admitted us. Balsamides held him firmly by the sleeve, as he turned to lock the door behind us.

“ You shall not lock it,” he said in a low voice. “ Are we mice to be caught in a trap ? ”

Having made sure that the door was open, he pushed Selim forward. We seemed to be in a very spacious garden, surrounded by high walls on all sides. The trees were bare, excepting a few tall cypresses, which reared their black spearlike heads against the dim sky. The flower-beds were covered with dark earth, and the gravel in the paths was rough, as though no one had trod upon it for a long time. The walls protected the place from the wind, and a gloomy stillness prevailed, broken only by the distant sighing of trees higher up, which caught the northern gale.

Selim followed the wall for some distance, and at last stood still. We had reached one angle of the garden, and as well as I could see the corner made by the walls was filled by a low stone building with latticed windows, from one of which issued a faint light. Going nearer, I saw that the lattices were not of wood, but were strong iron gratings, such as no man’s strength could break. The door in the middle of this stone box was also heavily ironed. Selim went forward, and again I heard the keys rattle in his hands. Almost instantly the shadow of a head appeared at the window whence the light came. While the Lala was unfastening the lock I went close to the grating. I was just tall enough to meet a pair of dark eyes gazing at me intently through the lowest bars.

“ Alexander Patoff, is it you ? ” I asked in Russian.

“ Good God ! ” exclaimed a tremulous voice. “ Have the Russians taken Constantinople at last ? Who are you?”

“ I am Paul Griggs,” I answered. “ We have come to set you free.”

The heavy door yielded and moved. I rushed in, and in another moment I clasped the lost man’s hand. Gregorios, far more prudent than I, held Selim by the collar as a man would hold a dog, for he feared some treachery.

“Is it really you?” I asked, for I could scarcely believe my eyes. Alexander looked at me once, then broke into hysterical tears, laughing and crying and sobbing all at once. He was, indeed, unrecognizable. I remembered the descriptions I had heard of the young dandy, the gay officer of a crack regiment, irreproachable in every detail of his dress, and delicate as a woman in his tastes. I saw before me a man of good height, wrapped in an old Turkish kaftan of green cloth lined with fur, his feet thrust into a pair of worn-out red slippers. His dark brown hair had grown till it fell upon his shoulders, his beard reached half-way to his waist, his face was ghastly white and thin to emaciation. The hand he had given me was like a parcel of bones in a thin glove. I doubted whether he were the man, after all.

“ We must be quick,” I said. “ Have you anything to take away ? ” He cast a piteous glance at his poor clothing.

This is all I have,” he said in a low voice. Then, with a half-feminine touch of vanity, he added, “ You must excuse me ; I am hardly fit to go with you.” He looked wildly at me for a moment, and again laughed and sobbed hysterically. The apartment was indeed empty enough. There was a low round table, a wretched old divan at one end, and a sort of bed spread upon the floor, in the old Turkish fashion. The whole place seemed to consist of a single room, lighted by a small oil lamp which hung in one corner. The stuccoed walls were green with dampness, and the cold was intense. I wondered how the poor man had lived so long in such a place. I put my arm under his, and threw my heavy military cloak over his shoulders. Then I led him away through the open door. The key was still in the lock without, and Balsamides held Selim tightly by the collar. When we had passed, Gregorios, instead of following us, held the Lala at arm’s-length before him. Then he administered one tremendous kick, and sent the wretch flying into the empty cell ; he locked the door on him with care, and withdrew the keys.

“ I told you I would protect you,” he called out through the keyhole. " You will be quite safe there for the present.” Then he turned away, laughing to himself, and we all three hurried down the path under the wall, till we reached the small door by which we had entered the garden. Stumbling down the narrow lane, we soon got to the road, and found the carriage where we had left it. There was no time for words as we almost lifted the wretched Russian into the carriage and got in after him.

“ To my house in Pera ! ” cried Balsamides to the patient coachman. “ Pek tchabuk ! As fast as you can drive ! ”

“ Evvét Effendim,” replied the old soldier, and in another moment we were tearing along the quiet road at breakneck speed.

Hitherto Alexander Patoff had been too much surprised and overcome by his emotions to speak connectedly, or to ask us any questions. When once we were in the carriage and on our way to Pera, however, he recovered his senses.

“ Will you kindly tell me how all this has happened? Are you a Turkish officer ? ”

“ No,” I answered. “ This is a disguise. Let me present you to the man who has really liberated you, — Balsamides Bey.”

Patoff took the hand Gregorios stretched out towards him in both of his, and would have kissed it had Gregorios allowed him.

“ God bless you! God bless you ! ” he repeated fervently. He was evidently still very much shaken, and in order to give him a little strength I handed him a flask of spirits which I had left in the carriage. He drank eagerly, and grasped even more greedily the case of cigarettes which I offered him.

“Ah ! ” he cried, in a sort of ecstasy, as he tasted the tobacco. “ I feel that I am free.”

I began to tell him in a few words what had happened: how we had stumbled upon his watch in the bazaar, had identified Selim, and traced the Lala to Laleli Khanum’s house; how the Khanum had died while Balsamides was there, just as she was about to tell the truth ; how we had dragged Selim into the forest, and had threatened him with death; and how at last, feeling that since his mistress was dead he was no longer in danger, the fellow had conducted us to Alexander’s cell in the garden. I told him that his brother and mother were in Pera, and that he should see them in the morning. I said that Madame Patoff had been very ill in consequence of his disappearance, and that every one had mourned for him as dead. In short, I endeavored to explain the whole situation as clearly as I could. While I was telling our story Balsamides never spoke a word, but sat smoking in his corner, probably thinking of the single kick in which he had tried to concentrate all his vengeance.

As we drove along the dawn began to appear, — the cold dawn of a March morning. I asked Balsamides whether it would be necessary to change my clothes before entering the city.

“ No,” he answered, “ we shall be at home at sunrise. The fellow drives well.”

“ I shall have to ask you to take me in for a few hours,” said Alexander. “ I am in a pitiable state.”

“ You must have suffered horribly in that den,” observed Balsamides. “ Of course you must come home with me. We will send for your brother at once, and when you are rested you can tell us something of your story. It must be even more interesting than ours.”

“ It would not take so long to tell,” answered Patoff, with a melancholy smile. In the gray light of the morning I was horrified to notice how miserably thin and ill he looked; but even in his squalor, and in spite of the long hair and immense beard, I could see traces of the beauty I had so often heard described by Paul, and even by Cutter, who was rarely enthusiastic about the appearance of his fellows. He seemed weak, too, as though he had been half starved in his prison. I asked him how long it was since he had eaten.

“ Last night,” he said, wearily, “ they brought me food, but I could not eat. A man in prison has no appetite.” Then suddenly he opened the window beside him, and put his head out into the cold blast, as though to drink in more fully the sense of freedom regained. Balsamides looked at him with a sort of pity which I hardly ever saw in his face.

“ Poor devil ! ” he said, in a low voice. “ We were just in time. He could not have lasted much longer.”

We reached the outskirts of Pera, and Alexander hastily withdrew his head and sank back in the corner, as though afraid of being seen. He had the startled look of a man who fears pursuit. At last we rattled down the Grande Rue, and stopped before the door of Balsamides’ house. It was six o’clock in the morning, and the sun was nearly up. I thought it had been one of the longest nights I ever remembered.

F. Marion Crawford.