The Chief Mufti folded his hands across his breast and bent low before the Padishah.
“Allah Akbar! Allah Kerim! God is mighty. Be it even as thou dost command! May the sun rise in the west if it be thy will, oh Padishah!” And the Chief Mufti drew aside and was silent.
But the aged Grand Vizier, Damad Ibrahim, came forward, and drying his tearful eyes with the corner of his kaftan, stood sorrowfully in front of the Padishah. And these were his words:
“Oh! my master! Allah hath appointed certain days for rejoicing, and certain other days for mourning, and ’tis not well to confuse the one with the other. Just now there is no occasion for rejoicing, but all the more occasion for mourning. Woeful tidings, like dark clouds presaging a storm, are coming in from every corner of the Empire—conflagrations, pestilences, earthquakes, inundations, hurricanes—alarm and agitate the people. Only this very week the fairest part of Stambul, close to the Chojabasha, was burnt to the ground; and only a few weeks ago the same fate befell the suburb of Ejub along the whole length of the sea-front, and that, too, at the very time when the other part of the city was illuminated in honour of the birthday of Prince Murad. In Gallipoli a thunder-bolt struck the powder-magazine, and five hundred workmen were blown into the air. The Kiagadehane brook, in a single night, swelled to such an extent as to inundate the whole valley of Sweet Waters, and a whole park of artillery was swept away by the flood. And know also, oh Padishah, that, but the other day, a new island rose up from the sea beside the island of Santorin, and this new island has grown larger and larger during three successive months, and all the time it was growing, the ground beneath Stambul quaked and trembled. These are no good omens, oh, my master! and if thou wilt lend thine ears to the counsel of thy faithful servant, thou wilt proclaim a day of penance and fasting instead of a feast-day, for evil days are coming upon Stambul. The voice of the enemy can be heard on all our borders, from the banks of the Danube as well as from beside the waters of the Pruth, from among the mountains of Erivan as well as from beyond the islands of the Archipelago; and if every Mussulman had ten hands and every one of the ten held a sword, we should still have enough to do to defend thy Empire. Bear, oh Padishah! with my grey hairs, and pardon my temerity. I see Stambul in the midst of flames every time it is illuminated for a festival, and full of consternation, I cry to thee and to the Prophet, ‘Send us help and that right soon.’”
Sultan Achmed continued all the time to smile most graciously.