“The Giaour is on the waters, your highness. He is a very rustam on board of a ship, and brings wealth to the hazneh of your sublime highness. He consulted the astrologers, and the stars were propitious. To-morrow I expect he will return.”
“Well, then, we must content ourselves with what is offered. Let the slave approach, and we will listen to his story, since we cannot have the wonderful tales of Huckaback.”
“Whose dog was Lokman, to be compared to your sublime highness in wisdom?” replied Mustapha. “What are the words of Hafiz—’Every moment that you enjoy, count it gain. Who shall say what will be the event of any thing?’”
The slave, who had been detained by the orders of Mustapha, was ordered to appear. During his confinement, Mustapha had been informed by his people that he was “visited by Allah;” or in other words, that he was a madman. Nevertheless, Mustapha—who was afraid to release a man (or rather, a story) without the consent of the pacha, and could not send for the renegade to supply any defalcation—considered that, upon the whole, it was better that he should be admitted to the presence of the pacha.
“You asked me to hear your story,” observed the pacha, “and I have consented,—not to please you, but to please myself, because I am fond of a good story: which I take it for granted yours will be, or you would not have presumed to make the request. Now you may go on.”
“Pacha,” replied the slave, who had seated himself in a corner, working his body backward and forward, “it is the misfortune of those who not aware—of the excitement which—as I before stated to your highness—exceeds in altitude the lofty and snow-covered peak of Hebrus—and, nevertheless, cannot be worth more than four or five paras—”
“Holy prophet! what is all this?” interrupted the pacha; “I cannot understand a word that you say. Do you laugh at our beard? Speak more intelligibly. Remember!”
“I remember it as if it were now,” continued the maniac, “although years have rolled away. Never will it be effaced from my recollection while this heart, broken as it is, continues to beat, or this brain may be permitted to burn. The sun had just disappeared behind the rugged summits of the mountain which sheltered my abode from the unkind north-east wind: the leaves of the vines that hung in festoons on the trellis before my cottage, which, but a minute before, pierced by his glorious rays, had appeared so brilliant and transparent, had now assumed a browner shade, and, as far as the eye could reach, a thin blue vapour was descending the ravine: the distant sea had changed its intense blue for a sombre grey, while the surf rolled sullenly to the beach, as if in discontent that it could no longer reflect the colours of the prism as before, when it seemed to dance with joy under the brilliant illumination of the god of day—”
“Poof!” ejaculated the pacha, fanning himself.