I was resolved that, if possible, I would escape from a country where women’s tongues were cut out; but how to manage it I knew not. I had still some money and valuables, which had been left in my possession by my unfortunate mistress, and I made inquiry about the means of proceeding to Constantinople, where, at least, I should be in a civilised country. At last a Jew, who heard that I wished to go to the southward, offered to take me with him as soon as the snow was on the ground, for which I bargained for five hundred roubles. In a fortnight the winter had set in, and we got into a drotski, and went away. We arrived at Moscow, and from thence we at last gained Constantinople. On my arrival I selected my luggage, that I might pay the sum agreed; but it was snatched from me by the old rascal, who saluted me with a kick in the body which half-killed me. I was locked up in a room, and in half an hour a slave-merchant came, and I was sold for a low sum and taken away, remonstrating in vain against the injustice. My beauty was now gone, I was more than thirty years old, and hardship had done the rest.
My subsequent life has been nothing but a series of changes and disasters. I was sold to a pastrycook, and broiled by standing over the oven. I grew obstinate and was punished by blows, but for those I cared not. The pastry was burnt, and I was resold to a barber, whose wife was a shrew, and half-killed me; fortunately the barber was accused of shaving a criminal, who had escaped from prison, and one morning was stretched out before his own door, with his head under his arm. His wife and I were both sold again as slaves.
Thus did I go down-hill each year, fetching less and less, and receiving worse treatment, until I was embarked with several others by an Armenian, who was bound to Smyrna. The vessel was captured by an Algerine pirate, and for a long while I was kept on board to cook their victuals. At last she was wrecked on this coast; how I escaped I know not, for I was weary of life. But I was thrown up, and made my way to this place—where I have for many years lived in company with an old wretch like myself, supplicating alms. He died about a year ago, and left me in the hovel by myself. I still beg for my subsistence; and now, pacha, you have my story, and I think you will acknowledge that I may well say that "Time has been."
* * * * *
“It is your kismet, your destiny, good woman. There is but one God, and Mahomet is his Prophet,” observed the pacha. “You are dismissed.”
“And the gold, your highness,” whispered Mustapha.
“Let her retain it. Has she not been a sultana?” observed the pacha, with some appearance of feeling.
The old woman’s ears were keen, she had heard the question of Mustapha, and she had heard the reply of the pacha; and she easily imagined the rest.
“And now, pacha, before I quit your presence, as I have enjoyed your bounty, I will, with your permission, offer you a piece of advice, which, from my knowledge of the world and of people’s countenances, may be of no small service to you. Is it permitted, O pacha?”