Halil did not trouble his head in the least about all this gossip. It was noticed, indeed, that his face was somewhat paler than it used to be, but if anyone ventured to jest with him on the subject, face to face, he was very speedily convinced that Halil’s arms, at any rate, were no weaker than of yore.
One day he was sitting, as usual, at the door of his booth, paying little attention to the people coming and going around him, and staring abstractedly with wide and wandering eyes into space, as if his gaze was fixed upon something above his head, when somebody who had approached him so softly as to take him quite unawares, very affectionately greeted him with the words:
“Well, my dear Chorbadshi, how are you?”
Patrona looked in the direction of the voice, and saw in front of him his mysterious guest of the other day—the Greek Janaki.
“Ah, ’tis thou, musafir! I searched for you everywhere for two whole days after you left me, for I wanted to give you back the five thousand piastres which you were fool enough to make me a present of. It was just as well, however, that I did not find you, and I have long ceased looking for you, for I have now spent all the money.”
“I am glad to hear it, Halil, and I hope the money has done you a good turn. Are you willing to receive me into your house as a guest once more?”
“With pleasure! But you must first of all promise me two things. The first is, that you will not contrive by some crafty device to pay me something for what I give you gratis; and the second is, that you will not expect to stay the night with me, but will wander across the street and pitch your tent at the house of my worthy neighbour Musli, who is also a bachelor, and mends slippers, and is therefore a very worthy and respectable man.”
“And why may I not sleep at your house?”
“Because you must know that there are now two of us in the house—I and my slave-girl.”
“That will not matter a bit, Halil. I will sleep on the roof, and you take the slave-girl down with you into the house.”
“It cannot be so, Janaki! it cannot be.”
“Why can it not be?”
“Because I would rather sleep in a pit into which a tiger has fallen, I would rather sleep in the lair of a hippopotamus, I would rather sleep in a canoe guarded by alligators and crocodiles, I would rather spend a night in a cellar full of scorpions and scolopendras, or in the Tower of Surem, which is haunted by the accursed Jinns, than pass a single night in the same room with this slave-girl.”
“Why; what’s this, Halil? you fill me with amazement. Surely, it cannot be that you are that Mussulman of whom all Pera is talking?—the man I mean who purchased a slave-girl in order to be her slave?”
“It is as you say. But ’twere better not to talk of that matter at all. Those five thousand piastres of yours are the cause of it; they have ruined me out and out. My mind is going backwards I think. When people come to my shop to buy wares of me, I give them such answers to their questions that they laugh at me. Let us change the subject, let us rather talk of your affairs. Have you found your daughter yet?”