The House of the Giraffe
‘ Yes,’ said Sir Thomas, speaking of a fashionable novel, ‘it certainly does seem strange; but the novelist was right. Such things do happen.’
‘But my dear sir,’ I burst out, in the rudest manner, ‘think what life really is — just think what happens! Why, people suddenly swell up, turn dark purple; hang themselves on meat hooks; they are drowned in horse-ponds, run over by butchers’ carts, burnt alive and cooked like mutton chops!’
LOGAN PEARSALL SMITH: Trivia.
ON almost any day of the year you may look south from Constantinople, across the Sea of Marmora, at a broken line of blue hills that remind you a little of the mountains bounding the Venetian lagoon. Those blue hills, or the clearest and easternmost of them, belong to a high wooded promontory that divides the Asiatic end of the Marmora into two unequal gulfs. Along the north shore of the upper and longer gulf runs the Bagdad railway — by which, no doubt, you will one day travel in your international sleeping car from London to Delhi. And, having passed the hilltop grave of Hannibal, you will see your last of blue water at Nicomedia, which Diocletian made for a moment the capital of the Roman empire. Near the south shore of the lower gulf lies, at the foot of the Bithynian Olympus, the old city of Broussa, first capital of the Turks and the Pantheon of the founders of their power.
But no imperial tradition and no modern highway link to the rest of the world the intermediate promontory. It is true that emperors did resort of old to certain hot springs in a fold of the blue hills, which turn green as you approach them. A persevering company even tries to-day, without too flattering success, to rehabilitate that fallen Asiatic Carlsbad. There is no reason why the company should not in the end succeed. The blue-green hills are in themselves a romantic enough piece of nature, pointing into their bright eastMediterranean lagoon. Above the Gulf of Nicomedia they rise the more abruptly, and are more thickly wooded. The other side, protected from Black Sea winds and open to all the sun of the south, is a little Riviera of olive, cypress, and vine. But people do not forget that brigands have been known to amuse themselves by carrying off the clients of the baths. And other resorts are more modern in their appointments.
So the blue-green hills, although in sight of the world, remain out of it. Not quite wild and not yet civilized, they make a strange little world of their own where fragments of wandering races, stubbornly immiscible, lodge scattered and uneasy among the old Greek ghosts of the land.
On the south shore of this peninsula, not far from a Turkish village that is half lost among immense cypresses and plane trees, a deserted garden looks across the Gulf of Moudania at the Asiatic Olympus. You would hardly know that a garden had ever been there, were it not for a tumble-down little kiosque of two or three rooms, overlooking the beach, such as the Turks always like to build in their country places. There are also poppygrown fragments of wall, and, in the central jungle of green, the ruins of a house — or of the foundations of a house.
But what most visibly marks the spot as an old pleasure ground is a great bronze giraffe that lifts its awkward neck among the trees. To a foreigner, indeed, a life-sized image of a giraffe might not suggest a garden. The Turks, however, regard statuary somewhat as the Anglo-Saxons do. They are afraid of it. When they become acquainted with European gardens, therefore, and set about imitating them, they not uncommonly replace the classic garden god by a statue of an animal. So it is that that ungainly bronze giraffe, made in Germany, stands in a tangle of Turkish green on an old Greek shore, a monument if you like and a symbol, staring strangely across its little blue sea toward the country of Antinoüs.
The villagers say, now, that the house of the giraffe would be standing yet, and that Nousret Pasha would not have been killed, if he had listened to a gypsy. She prophesied to him that if he finished the house it would burn to the ground and he would die. But he was not the man, Nousret Pasha, to be frightened out of a thing he had set his heart upon — even by a gypsy fortuneteller. For he was incredibly ignorant. He said the gypsy would have made a different prophecy if he had given her what she asked. Moreover he knew well enough that nobody wanted him to live there — although he loved the place, if he loved anything. He was born there, and passed his youth there, and made a reputation there as a pehlivan — a wrestler — and had been one of those who amused themselves by carrying off the clients of the baths on the other side of the mountain. That he found profitable as well as amusing. In the course of time, however, he found even more profitable and considerably safer game in Constantinople, where he became a notorious figure during the last years of the old régime.
He was a huge man with a big jaw and no neck, and beady little eyes set close together. He had always been a dandy. In his second period his humor took the form of shrill waistcoats, lumpy jewelry, and unquenchable perfumes. He used to spend a good part of his time driving about Pera in a gaudy yellow satin victoria that was better suited to a comic opera queen than to a dirty ruffian like himself. He would sit up very straight in the middle of the yellow satin seat, turning his beady eyes this way and that. Very little escaped those beady eyes. And if they happened to light on anything that pleased Nousret Pasha, why Nousret Pasha generally ended by having it. For he was the Sultan’s milk-brother. His mother, that is, had been the Sultan’s nurse. And so, although he was born of a humble family of peasants in an obscure village of the Marmora, Nousret ended by becoming a pasha and the pattern of a scoundrel — all through a pretty piece of Oriental sentiment.
It was incredible how many people Nousret Pasha ruined or did away with, how he robbed right and left, and went into every imaginable form of rascality that promised an instant’s amusement or a para’s worth of gain. Not that his requirements were as a usual thing so modest. He made a tremendous income simply out of blackmail, threatening to send the Sultan such and such reports unless such and such sums were forthcoming. For he was one of the Sultan’s most indefatigable spies. The Sultan liked him for that; and also because he was a first-rate shot.
Nousret Pasha had learned to shoot in his native mountains. He had always been passionately fond of hunting. That was one reason why he built the house of the giraffe. He kept any number of horses and dogs down there. The villagers say he often kept bears as well, which he brought home as cubs from the mountains. When they got too big he would set the dogs on them. He liked to watch the poor brutes being torn to pieces. Bears and dogs, though, were not his only company on the peninsula. He often took visitors down to stay with him. One of them afterwards starred in the secondrate café-chantants of Hungary as the Princess Nousret Pasha. In fact it was rather dangerous to decline an invitation to the house of the giraffe. One young woman was shot because she did — she and her mother and her servant and her dog. Nousret Pasha walked into the house one night when they were at dinner and coolly potted the four of them. And no one dared to raise a finger, simply because he was Nousret Pasha, and Nousret Pasha was the Sultan’s milk-brother.
On a certain summer day in 1908, Nousret Pasha was driving, not in his yellow satin victoria but in a smart trap, over the hills on the European shore of the Bosphorus. He was being driven, that is to say, by his coachman, Ali. This dark, slight, good-looking wearer of a braided black livery was, although the Pasha never put it to himself in so many words, the pasha’s best friend. They had been boys together in the Marmora; they had hunted, wrestled, and kidnaped together, and Nousret Pasha had done very little since in which Ali had not had a part. Yet you would not have thought so from Ali’s face. He had the simple, honest, serious look of so many of his people. And certainly he was by nature one who would have done the Sultan more honor as a milk-brother than Nousret Pasha. But because Nousret was the older and had always been the leader, and because Ali had eaten his bread for so many years, Ali remained faithful to his master with a faithfulness which only a Turk or an Albanian can know.
As they jolted down the stony road that leads from the top of the hill to Stenia Bay, they passed two ladies walking by themselves. In town it would not have been easy to get a definite impression of two promenading Turkish ladies; but being in the country, these two wore veils only over their hair,and no enveloping charshaf. Nousret Pasha accordingly perceived, being a connoisseur in such matters, that one of the ladies was extremely handsome. She had long and rather narrow dark eyes, over which eyebrows arched so delicately on a fair skin that he knew they were not painted; and from beneath the white veil escaped a strand or two of wavy hair that had a reddish glint in it.
The second promenader was apparently the servant of the first, and the pasha wasted no glances on her. Not that Nousret Pasha disdained to stoop so low if a servant were worth looking at. He immediately nudged Ali and Ali immediately turned around. The two walkers betrayed a certain surprise at seeing the trap a second time. Nousret Pasha kept his beady eyes on them, or on one of them, as he went by, and for some distance beyond. He then signaled Ali to turn again. But before this subtle manœuvre was completed the two objectives of it disappeared into a gateway beside the road.
Nousret Pasha had an instant of surprise. Having reached the same gateway, however, he directed Ali to stop.
An Albanian porter came out, thinking a visitor had arrived.
‘Excuse me,’said Nousret Pasha politely, ‘ but I am not quite sure where I am. Can you tell me whose house this is?’
The porter took in the shining trap, the trim coachman, and the conspicuously dressed and perfumed gentleman who accosted him, and answered, with his hands respectfully crossed on his girdle, —
‘This, effendim, is the house of Ahmed Bey. But he is not in.’
‘Ah!’ uttered Nousret Pasha, turning his beady eyes on an underling who did not call him Pasha at first sight. He then drew out with his most important air a silk pocket-book, diffusing a cloud of musk as he did so, and handed the porter a large printed card. ‘ Give the bey this.’ He lifted his chin, to ease it of an uncomfortable collar, and glanced down sidewise at the porter. ‘Those ladies who just went in — they are— ?’
‘It is the family of the bey,’ replied the Albanian, a shade more gravely. For the visitor had transcended the limits of good form.
‘H’m. Just tell the bey I came.’ And dropping a gold piece into the porter’s hand, Nousret Pasha ordered Ali to drive on.
Ahmed Bey, as a matter of fact, was one of the last people in Constantinople upon whom Nousret Pasha would have taken the trouble to call. He was too honest to be in favor at court and too poor to be worth pillaging. But even such a man might have his possibilities, it seemed. Accordingly when Nousret Pasha got home that night he announced to his wife that she was to go to Emirgyan the next day and call on Madam Ahmed Bey. For there had been something in those long eyes under their arched eyebrows that made him think this a case to go about with circumspection. As for Madam Nousret Pasha, she was by no means unused to such commands from her formidable spouse. She had led a somewhat varied career herself, and had thereby picked up a philosophy. She duly went to call on Madam Ahmed Bey, in a closed brougham with a black eunuch sitting on the box as if to guard the dearest treasure of the pasha’s heart.
Madam Ahmed Bey received her caller politely, not knowing at first who she was. But Madam Ahmed Bey failed to return the call. Turkish ladies of the old school are not quite so meticulous on such points as European ladies, however. Nousret Pasha, furthermore, could not consider himself slighted by a nobody like Ahmed Bey. Madam Nousret Pasha accordingly gave a party at her own country house in Bebek, and the first person she invited was Madam Ahmed Bey.
Madam Ahmed Bey, as it happened, was otherwise engaged for that day. And being asked, later, to set her own day for coming to Bebek, she replied that she suffered from ill health and never went out.
This course of events was a little longer drawn out than Nousret Pasha expected. He had grown used, among his own people at all events, to have every one come when he whistled. Who was a Madam Ahmed Bey that she should refuse the advances of a Madam Nousret Pasha? Yet she was, he could not forget, the possessor of divinely white skin, and waving hair of red glints, and eyebrows inimitably arched, and long dark eyes that he meant to see again. And he was a hunter, adept in all coursings and doublings. So he at last sent word to Ahmed Bey, who had only returned his card, that he would dine at Emirgyan on such and such a night. One may do that in the East— and a man like Nousret Pasha best of all. Nor may a man like Ahmed Bey refuse such an invitation. He therefore prepared accordingly. He engaged extra cooks, he hired dancing girls and dancing boys from the Jews who deal in such commodities, he caused inquiry to be made of his prospective guest as to what other guests should be invited. Nousret Pasha made answer that he desired to dine in intimacy, and that no company could be preferred to that of his friend Ahmed Bey.
With his friend Ahmed Bey he consequently dined, and the affair went better than he expected. Ahmed Bey seemed to wish to make up for his wife’s coolness toward Madam Nousret Pasha. He showed Nousret Pasha his garden, which, having been inherited from grandfathers and great-grandfathers, was not ill to look at, albeit somewhat wild and overgrown. He then took Nousret Pasha into a wide old wooden house and served him, with appropriate Oriental apologies, such a dinner as Nousret Pasha knew how to appreciate. One feature of the dinner, it is true, was not altogether Turkish. Nousret Pasha, to the knowledge of many men, although a good Mussulman, had acquired a taste for alcohol. Ahmed Bey, therefore, having discreetly hinted that there was wine in the house for medicinal purposes, and having received intimations to the effect that it was always well to forestall the disease by the remedy, produced bottles to which his guest did due honor.
The host afterwards asked himself if he had made a mistake. At all events when the table had been removed, and fingers and lips had been rinsed in a trickle of perfumed water which a servant poured from a slim silver jug into a silver basin with a perforated cover, Nousret Pasha had so little forgotten what he came for that he turned to his host and said, —
‘ Ahmed Bey, we are becoming more and more modern as we grow old. Why should not your wife bring in the coffee?’
Ahmed Bey knew that the Sultan’s milk-brother could go far, but he had not really believed he would go as far as this, in the house of a man whose bread he had eaten.
‘My pasha,’ he replied gravely, ‘I am very sorry, but my wife is ill.’
‘Ahmed Bey,’ retorted Nousret. Pasha, ‘it is not necessary to lie to me. Your wife is not ill. My wife has seen her — and so have I! ’
Ahmed Bey swallowed the insult.
‘My pasha,’ he persisted, ‘it is some days since my wife had the honor to receive Madam Nousret Pasha. I swear to you that she is unable to come into this room.’
The two looked at each other. Nousret Pasha felt it unnecessary to give too black a look, for the man was too much in his power. Still, the look of the beady eyes was not pleasant, nor were the words that followed it: —
‘ Ahmed Bey, go and find your wife. And tell her to bring her lute as well. It is good to have a little music after dinner — and dancing.’
To a European that might sound simple enough, for a European is proud to have his wife make music for other men, or even to dance for them. With the Turks, however, a woman may sing and dance for one man only. If she does it for others she belongs to the half world. Nousret Pasha had therefore made of Ahmed Bey the demand that a man may least accept with honor. Yet Ahmed Bey knew with whom he had to deal, and how much depended on what passed between them. He knew, too, that Nousret Pasha had had wine. And, after all, Nousret Pasha was his guest.
‘I have thought of music, my pasha. There are girls and boys waiting. I will call them.’ He clapped his hands.
A servant entered. But before Ahmed Bey could give the order Nousret Pasha got up and thundered: —
‘Will you do what I said, or shall I go myself? ’
For a second Ahmed Bey would have thrown himself on the man. But he was unarmed, and he knew that Nousret Pasha always carred a revolver and could use it better than any one. He probably would like nothing better than to use it now; and then what would be gained? Ahmed Bey signed to the servant to leave.
‘ I go, my pasha,’ he replied at length. ‘Kindly have patience for a few moments.’ And, with a low salaam, he went out of the room.
For a time Nousret Pasha was sufficiently amused. It always amused him to make other people do what he wanted, especially when they did n’t want to. The dancers amused him too. They sang long melancholy songs, accompanying themselves with tambourines, while one boy played a pipe and another beat two little drums made out of earthen jars with skins stretched over their mouths. They danced long dances, — the slow sensuous dances of the East, — snapping their fingers over their heads and waving their arms to and fro. The air, meanwhile, began to grow heavy with the perfume that burned in a brazier.
When Nousret Pasha was pleased with the performers he gave them a gold piece in a glass of mastic. But he began to be impatient to see Madam Ahmed Bey dance, with that reddish hair falling around her white shoulders and her long eyes half shut. He clapped his hands for a servant, who told him that Ahmed Bey was almost ready. Let the pasha have a moment’s more patience — and in the meantime take wine.
It took Nousret Pasha some time to realize that he had been tricked. He was naturally slow of wit, and he was too used to tricking other people to believe they would dare to trick him. Only when he called his troop of dancers after him and explored the house did he take in what Ahmed Bey had done. The door of the harem was locked. Nousret Pasha battered it in, finding the rooms lighted and full of signs of recent occupation. But no one was there — not even a servant. He rushed down through the empty house to find Ali. The doors leading into the garden were all locked. And they were harder to batter through than the one upstairs. But Ali, roused by the noise, came out of the porter’s lodge to help him. He had seen no one leave, he said. He had been sitting with the door-keeper and the Jew who brought the dancers, until a servant came to call the Albanian — who had not come back.
When the way was open the pasha ran out into the garden, revolver in hand. A summer moon helped him in his search among the shrubbery — and the dancers who followed him. They looked like a troop of bacchantes, with their loose hair and gauzy costumes, as they played their motley hide-and-seek in the moonlight. Nousret Pasha was too furious to remember that he had at his command an elaborate secret machinery for catching people — and keeping them as long as he chose. He would not leave the place until he had gone through the house once more. He rushed upstairs like a madman, opening doors, bursting into cupboards, tearing aside curtains. He began tearing them down, and shooting at windows and chandeliers. When his cartridges were gone he used the butt end of his revolver.
‘Break! Break! ’ he shouted. ‘Leave nothing!’
His band of revelers needed no second invitation. They filled the house with the crash of glass and the splinter of wood, and they ended by setting the place on fire. Those old Turkish houses only wait for a chance to burn; and too many lighted lamps were thrown on the floor of this one.
When the firemen came hooting, half-naked, from the neighboring villages, they found little of the house save a column of lurid smoke towering into the moonlight. Nousret Pasha brandished his revolver at them from the garden. His fantastic company sang and danced around him in the glare, their faces streaked and streaming, their clothes torn, their arms full of loot from the blazing house. The Jew who had brought them cringed in the arch of the gate, half terrified at the uproar, half reassured by the all-powerful presence of Nousret Pasha. In the road outside, his face strangely lighted, stood Ali at the heads of his plunging horses, patting their quivering necks and talking to them as gently as he could amid the crackle and the screeching.
Under ordinary circumstances the story would have had quite a different end. Ahmed Bey did not have much the start of Nousret Pasha, and Nousret Pasha had eyes and ears and hands everywhere. But it happened that the night which proved so eventful for Ahmed Bey and Nousret Pasha proved no less eventful for their imperial master, Sultan Hamid. There was much galloping of horses through the usually quiet streets of Beshiktash under that summer moon. Ministers remained in anxious consultation long after midnight at Yildiz Palace. Telegrams flashed back and forth between that guarded hilltop and distant Salonica — telegrams fateful for the destiny of the house of Osman. When the reigning representative of it went at last to bed it was half consciously, borne in the arms of his attendants, exhausted as he was by rage and fatigue. And in the morning three lines of print appeared at the top of all the papers, announcing that the constitution of 1876 had been reëstablished.
Nousret Pasha did not chance to see those three lines. Nevertheless he quickly had occasion to discover that something had unaccountably happened which he, the Sultan’s chief spy, knew nothing about, and which ‘ spoiled the world,’ as he put it to Ali. The police, who had been so deferential when he first gave his orders with regard to Ahmed Bey, presently dropped the case. They even had the courage to intimate that he might have something to answer for in the matter of Ahmed Bey. Other people, too, treated with as little respect, or actually cut, him whom they had been used to salute with earth-sweeping salaams and kisses of the hand. It was the more puzzling because the Sultan still spoke kindly to him. He could not understand why, if the Sultan continued to be his friend, others dared to show themselves less. The Sultan tried, not too successfully, to explain that it was because he, the Caliph of Islam and Shadow of God upon Earth, could no longer do as he pleased. And he made Nousret Pasha a handsome present and advised him to get away to Europe while he could.
In the end it was Ali who got Nousret Pasha away.
Ali and Madam Nousret Pasha persuaded him to leave the house that very night, taking only money and papers and a little jewelry and going out by the stable door to the house of a friend of Ali’s. Ali in the meantime helped Madam Nousret Pasha to pack, and early in the morning drove her down to the Moudania boat in the yellow satin victoria, which he put on board with his mistress and her boxes and her black man. For she was going to retire for a time to the house of the giraffe. Then Ali went home and dressed his master, to his master’s great disgust, in the costume of a wrestler, with fawn-colored breeches and a short embroidered jacket of the same color and a huge silk girdle and a red and yellow silk turban with the fringe hanging over one ear. It was in truth a costume which became Nousret Pasha much better than any other, and time was when he had worn it with pride. But it was with very little pride that he went out in it now, accompanied by Ali — who no longer wore his trim black livery — and two of Ali’s friends. They crowded into a common open carriage of the street, and they bought red badges of the constitution which they pinned on their sleeves, and then they drove down to the Bridge and right through Stamboul as if they were going to some wrestling match. And they went on, through Kazlî and Makri-Kyöï and San Stefano and Floria.
It was already dark when they came to the brow of a hill and saw the lights of Küchük Chekmejeh below them, and the reflection of a big star in the bay. Ali said there was not much time to the train, and he told the Pasha that if any one asked who he was, he was to say he was Mehmed, a wrestler, and that he was going to Adrianople for his trade.
Nousret Pasha did n’t like it. He was not used to having people ask questions about him and watch him. It made him think, somehow or other, of Ahmed Bey — and of Madam Ahmed Bey. He wondered where they were, and how he was to find them now.
It was a clear still night, so still that he could hear the crickets in the dark plains, and the lapping of the water on a little beach near by. Fishermen were there, busy over their boats, laughing in the darkness. He envied the fishermen. No one asked them who they were and where they were going.
‘Kalolimnos! Kalolimnos!’ one of them shouted. ‘ Who is going to Kalolimnos? The steamer is starting!’
Nousret Pasha heard the grating of a boat over shingle, splashings in the water. He got out of the carriage. For Kalolimnos is an island off the cape where he was born.
‘Come, Ali,’ he said, as he started toward the beach, ‘I am not going to Adrianople. I am going to Kalolimnos. From there we can go to our country in two hours.’
In the station a bell of two notes struck, and somewhere in the darkness a whistle faintly shrilled. Ali ran after his master.
‘Come!’ he whispered, catching hold of the pasha’s arm. ‘The train is here. After all this how can we miss it?’
‘If you like, take it,’ answered the pasha, breaking away. ‘I will not. What shall I do in Europe, among the unbelievers? I am going to my own country.’
He jumped on board the fishing boat. ‘I am going to Kalolimnos,’ he said to the fishermen. ‘How much do you want?’
‘Ali!’ called one of their companions from the station, ‘where are you? The train is coming.’
Ali, on the beach, heard it coming. It suddenly burst out of the cut beyond the village and bore down upon them, a long curve of intermittent lights. It stopped. In the sudden quiet Ali heard the water lapping the shingle, the quick crunch of gravel under feet, a musical tapping of metal, sharp questions and answers.
Ali held out his hand to the pasha, who caught it.
‘Come!’ said Ali in a low voice, pulling toward the beach.
‘No, you come!’ laughed the pasha, giving a stronger pull toward the boat.
‘Are you coming too?’ asked one of the fishermen.
Another bell rang, ending in three strokes. A whistle blew; some one shouted and some one else replied; the intermittent lights began to move slowly forward. Ali watched them touch face and tree and water, quicken into a yellow blur, and disappear. He heard the last faint scream of the whistle in the darkness with a sinking of the heart. He said nothing however — except to make arrangements with the fishermen. They were not too curious about their unexpected passengers. When they heard that the wrestler was not really going to Kalolimnos but to the peninsula beyond, they suggested landing him there — for a small extra consideration. Ali thought it might be better than attracting attention at the island and hiring another boat. He merely told them to touch at the point of the peninsula.
As for the pasha, he felt more like himself than he had felt for days. He made himself very comfortable at the stern of the boat, on the matting and sheepskins of the fishermen. He slept soundly there, oblivious to the splash of the oars, the rising of the moon, and his heavy-hearted companion. When he woke, the sun was already high and they were skimming merrily along under a patched balloon sail. The low white hills of Kalolimnos were behind them, to the south; beyond the sail he saw the steep green of his ‘country.’ They landed on the north side of Boz Bouroun, the weathered gray nose that was sacred of old to Poseidon. From it they made their way without difficulty, over the rocks and through the woods they knew so well, toward a certain colony of great black cypresses. And Nousret Pasha’s heart grew lighter with every step.
But when he came to the last turn of road and looked eagerly for his house, no house was there. Only the trees, and the head of the giraffe, showed above the wall.
Nousret Pasha and Ali looked at each other. The same thing flashed into the mind of each, — that the house had burned down, as the gypsy had prophesied. And that was not all the gypsy had prophesied.
As a matter of fact the house had burned down, and so recently that the garden was full of the acrid odor of charred wood, and the air still quivered hot above the ruins. Among them old Moustafa was poking with a stick — the pasha’s gardener and care-taker. At the sound of steps he turned. At first he did not recognize the strangers. Then he came humbly forward, salaamed, and kissed his master’s hand, touching it to his forehead.
' What is this?’ demanded the pasha, with a return of his old air.
‘They burned it,’ replied Moustafa, his hands folded in front of him.
‘They burned it! Who burned it? And why did you let them burn it?’
‘What could I do?’ stammered the old man, ‘They were many— They came from the village — There was much talk — The world is upside down since every one speaks of constitution. But it was written, my pasha,’ he added, as if there were nothing more to be said.
Yes, it was written, the pasha told himself. And why had he let that train leave him last night? By this time he would have been in Europe, and safe.
The consciousness of it was stronger than his anger.
‘And the things?’ he asked, less roughly. ‘ What became of them ? ’ The smell and ruin of the place made him think of Emirgyan.
The old man waved his hand.
‘ Gone! They took them all — furniture, horses, dogs. Only that is left ’ — pointing to the giraffe that lifted its neck among the scorched trees. ‘ They even took the silk carriage that came last night. The Kaïmakam has it.’
‘And the Hanum?' inquired the pasha, suddenly remembering his unfortunate wife. He wondered a little that he listened to it all so quietly.
‘She went back to Moudania, they said. I did n’t see her. Some thought she was going to Broussa, and others to Stamboul.’
Nousret Pasha’s heart grew heavy within him. His country, indeed! He had never imagined that the sudden madness of the world would reach even here. And his countrymen had done this to him, whom they had always known! After all, what had he done to them? If he had taken a few presents and kissed a few girls, was n’t it what they all did when they got a chance? And had they had enough, or was it written that they must require something more of him? His beady eyes brooded dully on the giraffe.
As for Ali, if he felt heavy of heart as well, he did not betray it.
‘Is the kiosque left?’ he asked at last, ‘or did they burn that too?’
‘No,’ answered Moustafa, ‘they left that for me.’
‘Eh, what more do we want!’ exclaimed Ali. ‘Let us go and sit down there, and Moustafa will make us a coffee, and we will see what we will do.’
They went, and they sat down on a little divan overlooking the blue gulf, and they saw what they would do. Or Ali did. He told the pasha that he must stay quietly in the kiosque for a few days, without so much as showing his nose outside the garden. Moustafa would look after him and see that no one troubled him, while he, Ali, would go away and arrange something. Only the pasha must let him have money, much money; for without that it would be impossible to arrange anything, now.
The pasha made haste to produce the money. He only wished Ali did not have to go away. When Ali had gone away he fell into a state of something nearer a confused introspection than he had ever experienced before. How had it all come about, and why had everybody turned against him? It made him angry. It seemed to him that Ahmed Bey must have brought it about — Ahmed Bey who was nothing. Where was Ahmed Bey, he wondered? Where had they run to that night in the moonlight? What were those long eyes looking at now? He would see them again, those long eyes! Yet, for the first time in his life, he felt afraid. He could not forget that gypsy woman. He could not bear to see the ruins of his house. They reminded him of her. And it seemed to him an eternity before Ali came back. With cigarettes and coffee, however, and gossip with old Moustafa, and a good deal of sleep, the time passed. And it was less than three days, after all, when Ali came back.
Ali had been to town, it seemed; and he brought strange news. All their old friends at the Palace were gone and the Sultan was left alone, among strangers. Selim Pasha and Izzet Pasha — that clever Izzet! — had run away to Europe. The others, or those who could be found, were being shut up in the War Office, and these new people — whoever they were — were taking their money and houses. They had even taken what they could find of Nousret Pasha’s! By the time Nousret Pasha heard this he was quite ready to hear what Ali had arranged. Ali was still for Europe, it seemed. By the help of a friend or two, and much money, he had arranged that a German steamer, bound from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, should stop for a little while, that very night, off the island of Marmora. In the meantime a tug, by which in fact Ali had run down from Constantinople, was to come as far as the house of the giraffe at nightfall and take off Nousret Pasha, in order to put him on the German steamer. The tug was to be trailing a tender, with men in it all ready to row. They would begin to row as soon as they saw certain lights in the window of the kiosque, and the passenger would only have to run down across the beach to be in safety. In the meantime they must continue to stay quietly in the kiosque. And he, Ali, would try to make up a little sleep.
In truth he looked as if he needed it. He had grown visibly thin and there were black hollows under his eyes. Yet the pasha noted with envy that he had had a shave. He himself had had none since the afternoon before he slipped out of town! Nevertheless at the return of Ali the pasha’s vapors dissipated. And at this hour to-morrow he would be on board the German steamer! No fear of his refusing this time to do what Ali said! It might be rather amusing, after all, to go to Europe. He wondered if he would meet any of his friends there. There might even be some one on the boat. But this absurd costume of his! And his four days’ beard! What would he not give to be able to go to the bath in the village! Who would know him? Certainly none of the bath boys; they changed so often. For a moment he almost thought he would go. Then he decided he would send Moustafa to call a barber. Moustafa could say that he had a friend who had hurt his foot, and they would give the man a good tip, and by the time he got back to the village it would be too late to do any harm, even if he did talk.
Old Moustafa could not deny the cogency of this reasoning. To the village accordingly old Moustafa went, and got the nearest barber, who happened to be a Greek and who took pains to leave word where he had gone. So Nousret Pasha was made in a manner presentable to the daughters of Europe, despite the unworthy wrestler’s costume. And so was the gypsy woman justified of her dark words.
It may be, indeed, that Nousret Pasha’s vanity might not have been his end, even when word was taken to the Kaïmakam that the Greek barber, having been called to the house of the giraffe, — or what was left of it, — was unable to attend his excellency. For his excellency also patronized the Greek barber, as one who might more readily be left unpaid than one of the faith. But the mention of the house of the giraffe reminded his excellency of a certain yellow satin victoria he had lately confiscated on behalf of the constitution. He desired to keep in favor with the constitution, and had made no unpleasantness about the burning of the house of the giraffe. Accordingly, unshaved as he was, he took a drive in the yellow satin victoria in the cool of the day, to the end of the peninsula, where, somewhat to his surprise, he beheld a small tug anchored in a cove of rocks.
He caught Nousret Pasha without the slightest trouble. He took the precaution to post his men out of sight, and they drew up as twilight fell. The thing was not done, of course, without a few shots. The shots frightened the tug away, however, and nobody was hurt. As for Nousret Pasha, who had such a terrible reputation, he did nothing. He merely said, ‘It was written,’ and got into the yellow satin victoria like a lamb. The Kaïmakam got in too, and a couple of soldiers. The Kaïmakam would have let the servants go. After all they were not to blame for what their master did. But Ali chose to consider himself under arrest as well. He jumped on the box, and the yellow satin victoria rolled back in the summer dusk to the village.
The Kaïmakam drove straight to the telegraph office. He wished to report his prize to Constantinople, and incidentally to ask instructions. For he had no authority to shut up Nousret Pasha, who might very well have committed all the crimes in the code, but against whom no one had produced a warrant of arrest. To the telegraph office, therefore, the Kaïmakam drove, and left Nousret Pasha under guard in the victoria while he composed his telegram.
A crowd began to collect in the little square. A crowd collected around the carriage, that is, for people had already been sitting where the coffee-house lights twinkled under the plane trees. The Kaïmakam’s new carriage and enormous horses were things to look at by themselves. When it became known who was sitting in the carriage, dressed like a wrestler as of old, the crowd trebled. Among them were not a few who had helped to loot and burn the house of the giraffe. People asked questions of the soldiers and the coachman — of Ali too, whom several of his old acquaintances gravely greeted.
The coachman nudged one of the soldiers and asked him to hold the reins for a minute. The soldier agreed willingly enough. He was cramped from sitting on that little front seat, and there was no lack of people to watch Nousret Pasha. So the coachman got down. His arms ached from holding in those big Hungarians. And the soldier got up. Ali looked at him in the dark. He seemed to be a big, mild, elderly Anatolian, such as used to serve Sultan Hamid by the thousand, in ragged blue uniforms piped with red, and seldom got paid for it.
‘Have you any tobacco, brother?’ asked Ali.
‘A little,’ answered the soldier,handing him one of those capacious metal boxes that somebody in Turkey must make a fortune out of.
Ali rolled himself a cigarette with deliberation. When he handed the box back the soldier nearly dropped the thing, it was so heavy. He looked at Ali and Ali looked at him.
‘That will get you some tobacco,’ said Ali in a low voice. ‘They are all gold liras. Give me the reins and jump down.’
The soldier hesitated, feeling cautiously under the cover of the box with one finger. He let Ali take the reins. Ali touched the other soldier on the arm.
‘Will you change places with your comrade?’ he asked. ‘He is not used to horses like these.’
The big Hungarians reared and began to back. The soldier on the box jumped down. The other looked around doubtfully. The horses still pranced. The crowd parted a little.
‘They might make a calamity,’ said the first soldier.
The one in the carriage got out, in order to mount the box.
‘Hold on!’ shouted Ali, to whoever had ears to hear, letting out the reins and cracking his whip.
The big horses bounded forward, scattering the crowd in front of them like sheep.
‘ Stop them! Stop them! ’ yelled the Kaïmakam from the steps of the telegraph office. He had just composed a telegram that satisfied him not a little.
But it was too late to stop them — unless the shots that banged in the little square had taken effect. None of them did. It was not for nothing that Ali had been born and brought up in that village. He knew every stone and tree and turn of it in the dark, and in three minutes he was past every possible mishap, on a long flat road where nothing could stop them, in that railless and motorless country — except the telegraph. He hardly knew at first what direction he took, save the one that was nearest for safety. Now he realized that they were galloping east, for the mainland, for Anatolia. That was better than the tip of the peninsula, where they would have been caught like rats in a trap — unless they found a boat. But the telegraph, in the end, could gallop faster than the big Hungarians. And it would not do to gallop through Asia Minor in a yellow satin victoria that everybody knew.
Nousret Pasha had resigned himself, when the soldiers first surprised him, to the inevitable. But spirit came back to him as he found himself rolling safely away through the dark — though there was still something cold at the bottom of his heart and he wished the horses’ hoofs did not thunder so. He reached forward now and then and pinched or patted Ali. What a boy, after all, was this Ali!
So the fugitives sped all night through the dim country of their boyhood. On one side of them the sea made soft noises against rocks and shingle. On the other side a mountain rose black to the stars. Dogs barked, every now and then, from invisible farms. After a time the moon rose — the same moon by which they had made their voyage in the fishing boat, by which they had danced in Ahmed Bey’s garden, by which Ahmed Bey had run away — the same moon, but shrunk and eaten. Nousret Pasha wondered how reddish hair would look by it, and if, somewhere, those long eyes were seeing it too. And now it made the road into Asia a little lighter for the big Hungarians, and for the fat man sitting behind them in his coquettish satin carriage, half grotesque, half tragic, trying to outrun his destiny.
The cocks were almost past crowing, and Olympus, on the other side of the gulf, was already touched by a fairy light, when they came to a village in the hills where Ali knew there was no telegraph. There they would be safe for a while at least, and they must rest and feed the horses. Then they would make one more stage inland, and get rid of that tell-tale turn-out as they could. After that — They drove to the khan, in order to arouse less suspicion, and roused a hostler. The proprietor whom Ali knew had gone; but his successor was willing to accept a handsome tip, to stable the horses, to put the carriage out of sight, to believe that his clients were driving from Yalova to Broussa, and to give them a place where they might rest.
Nousret Pasha, having eaten something, rested very well. Ali could not. He could not think, even. After a while he got up and sat at the window that looked into the street. It looked into part of the opposite garden, too, beyond which a wide green country dropped into the blue of the gulf. How cool and like a paradise it seemed in the early sun! And where in all that paradise could he find a place to hide this foolish master who snored behind him? How could they escape being caught, in the end? Why, after all, should they try to escape? What was written was written. But his heart grew heavy to think that he must yet accomplish what was written.
It was written, however, that he should not have to wait very long. As he sat pondering his ways and watching the sun mount higher over the green and blue below him, he became aware of some one moving in the opposite garden. It was a woman, evidently not a peasant, in a loose gray dress, with a white veil over her hair. She walked down a path trellised with grapevines. Then she turned into an open space of grass where pomegranate trees were blossoming. She looked up at the window, conscious that some one saw her. And Ali suddenly became aware that she was Madam Ahmed Bey. She at once drew her veil across her face and stepped out of sight below the wall.
Did she recognize him too? How should she? Yet if she did— Ali hesitated but a moment. Glancing at Nousret Pasha, he went out softly and asked whether he could hire any horses. The khanji said he had none; he doubted whether any could be found elsewhere in the village that day. Ali ordered, accordingly, that his own be harnessed at once. If the khanji thought anything, he said nothing. Most wrestlers did not travel all night in silk carriages, as this one had done, and then rest barely two hours before beginning to travel again. But everything was upside down since this affair of the constitution. The carriage was presently ready, with fodder for beast and man, and Ali called his master. Nousret Pasha came somewhat unwillingly to consciousness. But Ali looked so grave that he asked no question and made no remonstrance. A few minutes later they took their respective places in the victoria, and the hostler threw open the doors of the court to let them out.
As the horses clattered through the archway Nousret Pasha saw Ahmed Bey on the other side of the street. For an instant a commotion seized him and he looked beyond Ahmed Bey, searching the lattices of the house. But the commotion subsided and the old coldness rose within him when Ahmed Bey caught hold of a bridle.
‘Nousret Pasha, are you running away?’ asked Ahmed Bey in a strange voice.
Nousret Pasha’s coldness began to be warmed by anger.
‘Ali, whip him!’ he commanded.
Ali, however, did not whip him. He whipped the horses instead. And this time there was no crowd, as yet, in front of them. But they did not break away. Doors and windows began to open. People came out of the khan. Peasants stopped in the street.
‘Nousret Pasha —!’
Ali lashed the tired horses. The whole village would know in an instant, if Ahmed Bey went on bawling that name. As a matter of fact the name began to be repeated in the street. It was a name the village knew for a name of rumor and of terror. But Ali could not turn the horses into the straightaway stretch, because of Ahmed Bey who pulled them back. And though Ahmed Bey was his master’s enemy, Ali did not wish to hurt him. Between the two of them the horses began to plunge. Then Nousret Pasha got up, reached across the box, snatched the whip out of Ali’s hand, and lunged at Ahmed Bey. Ahmed Bey drew back. The horses leaped forward.
‘Mussulmans!’ suddenly cried a woman’s voice from behind a lattice, ‘ this is Nousret Pasha, the spy of Sultan Hamid, the drinker of blood, the destroyer of souls! Will you let him go? ’
They did not let him go.
How do such things happen? Some thrill in that woman’s voice, some buried fury against intolerable wrongs, some spark of those that flash from man to man when many are together, set on fire in those gathered peasants the wildness that lies dormant in us all. Ali, sitting on his box above it, trying to manage his terrified horses, heard the whistle of the whip that had been wrested from him, and fierce shouts, and a thudding of stones and blows, and gasps of quick breath, and his own name called in mad fear, and other sounds inhuman and unnameable.
The tumult sprang up and quieted like a blast of tropic wind. When in the end Ali could look around he saw that the satin of the carriage was more red than yellow,—and what remained in it was very little of a man. What had happened to that man was what happened of old to the bears he caught in the mountains, when he set dogs on them, at his house of the giraffe. And so was fulfilled the destiny of that house and of its master.