THE ROVING ENGLISHMAN
THE Cadi is an august apparition, and I sit in a kiosch or summer-house, which overlooks the sea, conversing with him. We are having one of those dear dreamy conversations that I used to love in old time, when I lived among the quaint and simple scholars of pleasant Germany. But I think the conversation of the Cadi is still more quaint and simple. There is a delightful and childlike gravity about it which refreshes and improves me as I listen.
Let me describe the Cadi. He is a tall fair man, beautiful as the hero of an Eastern tale. He wears a snow-white turban on his head, and flowing robes, of a texture at once rich and delicate. I am sorry, upon the whole, that the Cadi wears the British shoe, because I think he would look better in Turkish slippers. I would rather not look at his feet therefore; my eyes repose with much greater pleasure on the chaplet of amber beads which he is playing with; and on his dignified and manly beard. His face wears an expression of habitual good humour, and there is that general sunny openness about it which bespeaks a clear conscience. If I were a prisoner I should like to be judged by the Cadi, for I am sure that his judgment would be tempered with mercy. I think you might believe in the Cadi’s word as implicitly as in that of the best gentleman in Europe. I feel instinctively that he is incapable of anything tricky or vulgar. There is something at once simple and grand about the man. He commands immediate friendship and respect from all who know him.
One of the Cadi’s attendants has refilled our pipes, and he presents them silently with his hand upon his heart. He presents the Cadi his pipe first, according to the custom of the East; but the Turkish gentleman smiles a mute apology to me as he takes it, and does not place it to his lips until I am served. The as we sink back luxuriously in our cushions, and the westerly breezes come trooping in through the open window, the Cadi requests that I will “be at large.” This is a Turkish manner of telling me to make myself at home, and I take it as such.
I now inform the Cadi that I called on him a few days since, and was so unlucky as not to find him at home. I merely say this by way of commencing the conversation. But the open brow of the Cadi looks quite troubled, and he tells me that when he returned and found that I had called in his absence, the circumstance had the same effect upon him as “a second deluge;” for the Cadi, like all Turks of the higher class is as grand in his language as in his person. I am not quite prepared for this view of the case on the part of my host, and I assure him that the regret should be on my side, but he stoutly adheres to his former opinion, and repeats it several times with the utmost gravity.
So we sit silent for a few minutes, looking out towards the sea, which is spread beneath us; for the Turks do no love idle prattlers. Discourse with them is too grave an affair to be entered on lightly. I know this, and inhale my pipe with great dignity; though I am aware that my utmost efforts in this particular are put utterly to shame by my august companion. The silence is not awkward or unpleasant: it is merely Turkish. There is the utmost good will and desire to prolong the interview by all polite means on both sides; and the Cadi is merely thinking how he shall make himself most agreeable.
At last we see a little boat tossed rather roughly on the waves out at sea; but it is pulled by a stout fisherman, and makes its way gallantly. This leads to a discourse on Turkish caiques in general; and I ask the Cadi if he does not think them dangerous in rough weather. The Cadi says that they are indeed dangerous, and to support this opinion he tells me one of those sententious stories in which all Orientals more or less delight.
“Once upon a time,” says the Cadi, settling himself in his cushions, and laying down his jeweled pipe, “one of our sultans was crossing that very sea in a bark as frail as yonder one. A storm arose, and his Highness growing frightened nearly overturned the boat by the abruptness of his movements. ‘Peace, fool!’ said the boatman at last, and addressing the sultan with a stern countenance, ‘seest thou no I have three kings to wrestle with; the winds, the waves, and thee? – but thou hast ears, and therefore I bid thee to be still.”
The Cadi assured me that the Sultan was so delighted with the fearless wit of the boatman, that he immediately made him Captain Pasha or High Admiral – and he was beheaded afterwards in due course.
Then we are again at peace until after a fragrant cup of unsweetened coffee, when I ask the Cadi if he has much professional business lately. He says yes, and adds that it has grown chiefly with the Greeks, who have grown very troublesome. He shakes his head doubtingly, when he speaks of that people, and he fears that there is nothing good to be done with them. “I am like a certain father,” says the Cadi, again illustrating his opinion by an anecdote, “who had three sons. My eldest always tells me the truth: he is the Osmanli. My second always tells me falsehoods: he is the Zingari, or the Bulgarian; and when I have to deal with either of these I know how to act, but my third son tells me sometimes truth and sometimes falsehood: he is made up of cunning, and deceives me always. He is the Greek, and I never know how to treat him.”
I am anxious to know the opinion of an honest Turk about the Tanzimat, and I take the present opportunity of putting the question fairly to the Cadi. I am glad when he answers unhesitatingly that it has done good. He says that there is nothing new in the Tanzimat; it merely provides that those laws to which violent men had not attended sufficiently, shall be carried out – nothing more. It merely enforces the spirit of the true law of the Prophet, which was that all men should do unto others as they would be done by. I tell the Cadi that this is also briefly the spirit of the Christian law and then we doze away in the same passive state of good-will as before, until the Cadi sends for some sherbet, which freshens us up again.
I mention in a cursory manner that we do not appreciate sherbet properly in Britain; and the Cadi smiles as he pronounces the word “Wine?” in an interrogative form. “No,” I answer; “beer is I think, upon the whole, our national drink.” The Cadi grows suddenly expansive: he has tasted it – it fizzes, and has a pungent, pleasant taste. He would like to have some more, but vulgar people would think it a scandal if he were to send to Smyrna for some, though bottled beer was by no means forbidden in the Koran. Perhaps I think inwardly, because it had not been invented; but I do not communicate this reflection to the Cadi. On the contrary I resolve privately to send him half my stock of bitter ale that evening. I am not sure that he does not divine this intention, for he turns the conversation to tobacco, and says that he has lately received some of a very fine sort from Constantinople, and he would like my opinion upon its merits. The Cadi, in his smiling way, I see, has been making a bargain; so I shall find a small leather bag waiting for me when I get home, and its fragrance will fill the house. This will be the Cadi’s tobacco.
Now I must think about going, and I make a preliminary observation to this effect. The Cadi says that “he hopes to see me with grey moustaches.” He means that he wishes me long life. But, seeing me look puzzled, he adds – sliding again into one of those dear sententious stories – “This is a Turkish complement. Bur there was once a wit, who, seeing a certain sultan go forth to prayer, cried out, May your Highness and I live to see your brother’s son a greybeard. The sultan inquired what he meant, and the fool replied: Your brother has yet to be born. He must be twenty years old before he has a son, and that son must be fifty before he is grey; therefore I am wishing your Highness a reign of seventy years, and that I may live to witness it.” The Cadi’s story had the good old eastern conclusion; ad he assured me that the sultan immediately raised his ingenious subject to the highest offices in the state. I wish there were more Turks like the Cadi.
BRITONS IN TURKEY
I am in Mytilene, as small European colony; the principal occupation of my few companions and myself, is waiting for the boats which touch here on their way between Smyrna and Constantinople. We are great politicians; but have been lately much surprised at the conduct of several of the European potentates, to whom we believe that we could furnish much useful advice. Like all small communities we have a notable talent for prophesying the events which never happen, and are obliged to console ourselves with the reflection that the events which we forsaw might have occurred – had things turned out as we expected. We are also fond of the marvellous, and love to relate circumstances which did never happen. We seem to me to live in a strange far-away atmosphere, which is now rapidly passing from the whole world like the dim misty vapours which fly at the approach of morning. We are in an enchanted sleep, and dwell in the world of dreams rather than in the waking life of the busy times over the water. We are but a few hours from the quick world of Smyrna and Constantinople, and if ever they send us a newspaper or a printing-press, or a lawyer, our repose will be broken. Even three young doctors who have just finished their education in France have begun to trouble us; but their efforts have been hitherto received with so much favour that it is generally hoped they will be put down. Thus far, the Hojas and Greek chanters of charms effectually exclude them from all practice; so that there is reason for a belief that they may be even starved out, if we preserve our ancient institutions a little longer.
We love to congregate around the bright Mangal in winter time, or on our pleasant balconies in the soft evenings of summer. There, we tell each other tales of pirates, which adventurous travelers have brought us from the other Greek islands: pirates who have even perhaps ventured to plunder the barques of a few poor fishermen on our own coast. Yanni Catirgi, the famous robber of Smyrna, was long the chief theme of our discourse, and we have been sometimes so dismayed by the tales of his achievements as to be afraid to go to bed. We keep each other in heart, however, by the assurance that each of us would be prepared with some formidable weapon of defense in case of need; also by relating fearful storied of our former prowess in other places. The doctor of the quarantine assures us that, on one occasion, he took such a signal vengeance on a small boy whom he caught in the act of abstracting his pocket-handkerchief, as caused him to exhibit the most extraordinary signs of fear and dismay. He assures us also that a peculiar manner which he has acquired of looking at people, has often been sufficient to dismay the boldest of his patients, and that he has no doubt it would be found equally effectual against an enemy. But, not withstanding these satisfactory appearances, there are not wanting some of the more prudent among us, who have proposed to pay a person to go about industriously circulating the rumor that we have been very poor ever since our olives were destroyed by the cold of eighteen hundred and fifty. He is to pretend even to be in want of small sums of money on our behalf, but in no case is to contract a loan, on account of the heavy interest which clings to all borrowed money in these countries.
There is a pleasant elderly gentleman, a Greek with whom I chiefly pass my evenings when not engaged in these councils. He is one of the forgotten celebrities of a far different world, and in his youth took a gallant part in the Greek War of Independence. Cast down by the ungenerous forgetfulness of his countrymen and too proud to reproach them, he talks to me of the old times of Capo D’Istrias and General Church. He remembers Lord Byron and Mr. Stanhope, as if he had parted from them yesterday. When once fairly warmed by these memories – and I love to set him on his noble old hobby-horse – he smokes away at his chibouque with such enthusiasm, and I at mine so thoughtfully, that we often seem to fall into a sort of cloudy trance. At the end of an hour or two the old gentleman appears to fade away. Then, clearly from out the mist, are marshaled named which will be remembered long, by patriot bands of modern Greece; and Byron is again dying, amid the poisonous swamps of Missolonghi. Thus do I seem to know, as if I had dwelt among them, the men who thought and fought, and wrought – for what?
We have our wise men and our reprobates. There is Kyrios Bamba, who is supposed to possess many extraordinary attainments, and a wisdom altogether remarkable; who says nothing with such dignity as will cause the most indifferent beholder to be impressed with respect and awe. If, after the example of most sages in small places, he keeps his wisdom very much to himself, we are not at all disposed to disparage it on that account. Like the rest of mankind we are not always ready to admire what we do not know; for with the best will in the world, it is perhaps impossible to admire what we do know.
On the other hand, among the chief of the good-for-nothings on whom our little society is disposed to look severely, is the carpenter, who has been, twice during the past year observed publicly in such a state of emotion, from the effects of liquor, as even to be unsteady on his legs while walking along the street. It is true that he has exhibited many signs of contrition, and that he several times took refuge in flight rather than meet the scrutinizing glance of Miss Peabody, a lady with a swift and arrowy sharpness of tongue, lately on a visit from Smyrna to a relative who has married and settled in our little colony. I remember, however –for it was not more than nine days ago, and at about the hour when I am now writing these lines – that is, in the dusk of the evening – that, the carpenter being ill, I discerned Miss Peabody coming stealthily up the street with something hidden under her cloak. She stopped at the carpenter’s door and knocked softly; but before it was half opened she took the something from under her cloak and thrust it through the aperture, after which she disappeared with great precipitation lest she should be observed. At first I was disposed to apprehend that she had translated one of Dr. Thwackcushion’s (Dr. T. is our Chaplain at Smyrna) sermons into Greek for his edification, and had chosen the present occasion as a favourable opportunity of effecting the carpenter’s reform by those means: but going out in the evening to fulfill my duties towards society (which is our phrase for taking tea in these parts) I learned indirectly that Miss Peabody had been informed of the carpenter’s illness, and had carried him a dish of arrowroot of her own making. I afterwards learned also that the carpenter, not knowing what to do with it, and yet having a great belief in Miss Peabody, had supposed that the arrowroot was intended to fix together the parts of a little work-box which he was making for her, and had applied it to this purpose; but finding the composition did not hold as he expected, was much confounded.
I do not know that there is anything else about us by which we differ from the great family of mankind. I have seen something of the world, and I have found men nearly alike in all places and conditions. The scene and dresses may be different, in a court and in a village, but the actors are very much the same.
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