“May it please your highness,” observed Mustapha, “I have outside a wretch who is anxious to crawl into your presence. He comes from the far-distant land of Kathay—an unbeliever, with two tails.”
“Two tails! was he a pacha in his own country?”
“A pacha! Staffir Allah!—God forgive me! A dog—a most miserable dog—on my eyes be it; but still he hath two tails.”
“Let the dog with two tails be admitted,” replied the pacha. “We have said it.”
A yellow-skinned, meagre, and wrinkled old Chinaman was brought in between two of the guards. His eyes were very small and bleared, his cheek-bones prominent; all that could be discovered of his nose were two expanded nostrils at its base; his mouth of an enormous width, with teeth as black as ink. As soon as the guards stopped, he slipped down from between them on his knees, and throwing forward his body, kow-tow-ed with his head in the dust nine times, and then remained with his face down on the floor.
“Let the dog with two tails rise,” said the pacha.
This order not being immediately obeyed by the servile Chinaman, each of the two guards who stood by him seized one of the plaited tails of hair, which were nearly an ell in length, and pulled up his head from the floor. The Chinaman then remained cross-legged, with his eyes humbly fixed upon the ground.
“Who art thou, dog?” said the pacha, pleased with the man’s humility.
“I am of Kathay and your vilest slave,” replied the man, in good Turkish. “In my own country I was a poet. Destiny hath brought me here, and I now work in the gardens of the palace.”
“If you are a poet, you can tell me many a story.”
“Your slave has told thousands in his lifetime, such hath been my fate.”
“Talking about fate,” said Mustapha, “can you tell his highness a story, in which destiny has been foretold and hath been accomplished? If so, begin.”
“There is a story of my own country, O vizier! in which destiny was foretold, and was most unhappily accomplished.”
“You may proceed,” said Mustapha, at a sign from the pacha.
The Chinaman thrust his hand into the breast of his blue cotton shirt, and pulled out a sort of instrument made from the shell of a tortoise, with three or four strings stretched across, and in a low, monotonous tone, something between a chant and a whine, not altogether unmusical, he commenced his story. But first he struck his instrument, and ran over a short prelude, which may be imagined by a series of false notes, running as follows:—
Ti-tum, titum, tilly-lilly, tilly-lilly, ti-tum, titum, tilly-lilly, tilly-lilly, ti-tum, ti.
As he proceeded in his story, whenever he was out of breath, he stopped, and struck a few notes of his barbarous music.