“Worthy Ibrahim!” said he at last, “thou hast a son, hast thou not, whose name is Osman, and who has now attained his fourth year. Now I have a daughter, Eminah, who has just reached her third year. Lo now! as my soul liveth, I will not gird on the Sword of the Prophet, I will not take in my hand the Banner of Danger until I have given these young people to each other in marriage. Long ago they were destined for each other, and the multiplication of thy merits demands the speedy consummation of these espousals. I have sworn to the Sultana Asseki that so it shall be, and I cannot go back from my oath as though I were but an unbelieving fire-worshipper, for the fire-worshippers do not regard the sanctity of an oath, and when they take an oath or make a promise they recite the words thereof backwards, and believe they are thereby free of their obligations. It beseemeth not the true believers to do likewise. I have promised that this festival shall be celebrated, and it is my desire that it should be splendid.”
Ibrahim sighed deeply, and it was with a sad countenance that he thanked the Padishah for this fresh mark of favour. Yet the betrothal might so easily have been postponed, for the bridegroom was only four years old and the bride was but three.
“Allah Kerim! God grant that thy shadow may never grow less, most mighty Padishah!” said Damad Ibrahim, and with that he kissed the hand of the Grand Seignior, and both he and the Chief Mufti withdrew.
At the gate of the Seraglio the Chief Mufti said to the Grand Vizier sorrowfully:
“It had been better for us both had we never grown grey!”
But Sultan Achmed, accompanied by the Bostanjik, hastened to the gardens of the grove of puspang-trees to look at his tulips.
THE SLAVE OF THE SLAVE-GIRL.
Worthy Halil Patrona had become quite a by-word with his fellows. The name he now went by in the bazaars was: The Slave of the Slave-Girl. This did not hurt him in the least; on the contrary, the result was, that more people came to smoke their chibooks and buy tobacco at his shop than ever. Everybody was desirous of making the acquaintance of the Mussulman who would not so much as lay a hand upon a slave-girl whom he had bought with his own money, nay more, who did all the work of the house instead of her, just as if she had bought him instead of his buying her.
In the neighbourhood of Patrona dwelt Musli, a veteran Janissary, who filled up his spare time by devoting himself to the art of slipper-stitching. This man often beheld Halil prowling about on the house-top in the moonlit nights where Guel-Bejaze was sleeping, and after sitting down within a couple of paces of her, remain there in a brown study for hours at a time, often till midnight, nay, sometimes till daybreak. With his chin resting in the palm of his hand there he would stay, gazing intently at her charming figure and her pale but beautiful face. Frequently he would creep closer to her, creep so near that his lips would almost touch her face; but then he would throw back his head again, and if at such times the slave-girl half awoke from her slumbers, he would beckon to her to go to sleep again—nobody should disturb her.