“He was,” drily replied Mustapha. “No Kessehgou of our true believers could equal him; but that is now over, and the dog of an Isauri must prove himself a Rustam in the service of your sublime highness. Aware that your highness would require amusement, and that it was the duty of your slave, who shines but by the light of your countenance, to procure it, I have since yesterday, when the sun went down, despairing to find his glory eclipsed by that of your sublime highness, ordered most diligent search to be made through the whole of the world, and have discovered, that in the caravan now halted on the outskirts of the town, there was a famous Kessehgou proceeding to Mecca to pay his homage to the shrine of our prophet; and I have dispatched trusty messengers to bring him into the presence of the Min Bashi, to whom your slave, and the thousands whom he rules, are but as dust:” and Mustapha bowed low.
“Aferin, excellent:” exclaimed the pacha; “and when will he be here?”
“Before the tube now honoured by kissing the lips of your highness shall have poured out in ecstasy the incense of another bowl of the fragrant weed, the slippers of the Kessehgou will be left at the threshold of the palace. Be chesm, on my eyes be it.”
“’Tis well, Mustapha. Slave,” continued the pacha, addressing the Greek who was in attendance, with his arms folded and his eyes cast down to the ground; “coffee—and the strong water of the Giaour.”
The pacha’s pipe was refilled, the coffee was poured down their respective throats, and the forbidden spirits quaffed with double delight, arising from the very circumstance that they were forbidden.
“Surely there must be some mistake, Mustapha. Does not the Koran say, that all that is good is intended for true believers; and is not this good? How then can it be forbidden? Could it be intended for the Giaours? May they, and their fathers’ graves, be eternally defiled!”
“Amen!” replied Mustapha, laying down the cup, and drawing a deep sigh.
Mustapha was correct in his calculations. Before the pacha had finished his pipe, the arrival of the story-teller was announced; and after waiting a few minutes from decorum, which seemed to the impatient pacha to be eternal, Mustapha clapped his hands, and the man was ushered in.
“Kosh amedeid! you are welcome,” said the pacha, as the Kessehgou entered the divan: he was a slight, elegantly moulded person, of about thirty years of age.
“I am here in obedience to the will of the pacha,” replied the man in a most musical voice, as he salaamed low. “What does his highness require of his slave Menouni?”
“His highness requires a proof of thy talent, and an opportunity to extend his bounty.”
“I am less than dust, and am ready to cover my head with ashes, not to feel my soul in the seventh heaven at the condescension of his highness; yet would I fain do his bidding and depart, for a vow to the prophet is sacred, and it is written in the Koran——”