Everywhere along the sea-front was to be seen an armed multitude; sparkling swords and lances in thousands flash back the rays of the sun. The whole of the grass plain round about was planted with tents of every hue; white tents for the chief muftis, bright green tents for the viziers, scarlet tents for the kiayaks, dark blue tents for the great officers of state, the Emirs, the Mecca, Medina, and Stambul justiciaries, the Defterdars, and the Nishandji; lilac-coloured tents for the Ulemas, bright blue tents for the Muederesseks, azure-blue tents for the Ciaus-Agas, and dark green designates the tent of the Emir Alem, the bearer of the sacred standard. And high above them all on a hillock towers the orange-coloured pavilion of the Padishah, with gold and purple hangings, and two and three fold horse-tails planted in front of the entrance.
At sunset yesterday there was not a trace of this vast camp, all night long this city of tents was a-building, and at dawn of day there it stands all ready like the creation of a magician’s wand!
The plain is occupied by the Spahis, the finest, smartest horsemen of the whole host; along the sea-front are ranged the topidjis, with their rows and rows of cannons. Other detachments of these gunners are distributed among the various hillocks. On the wings of the host are placed the Albanian cavalry, the Tartars, and the Druses of Horan. The centre of the host belongs of right to the flower, the kernel of the imperial army—the haughty Janissaries.
And certainly they seemed to be very well aware that they were the cream of the host, and that therefore it was not lawful for any other division of the army to draw near them, much less mingle with them, unless it were a few delis, whom they permitted to roam up and down their ranks full of crazy exaltation.
The whole host is full of the joy of battle, and if, from time to time, fierce shouts and thunderous murmurings arise from this or that battalion, that only means that they are rejoicing at the tidings of the declaration of war: the war-ships express their satisfaction by loud salvoes.
Sultan Achmed, meanwhile, is engaged in his morning devotions, day by day he punctually observes this pious practice.
The previous night he did not spend in the harem, but shut himself up with his viziers and counsellors in that secret chamber of the Divan, which is roofed over with a golden cupola. Grave were their deliberations, but nobody, except the viziers, knows the result thereof; yet when he issues forth from his prayer-chamber the Kizlar-Aga is already awaiting him there and hands the Sultan a signet-ring.
“Most glorious of Padishahs! the most delicious of women sends thee this ring. Well dost thou know what was beneath this ring. Deadly venom was beneath it. That venom is no longer there. The Sultana Asseki sends thee her greeting, and wishes thee good luck in this war of thine. ’Hail to thee!’ she says, ‘may thy guardian angels watch over all thy steps!’ The Sultana meanwhile has locked herself up in her private apartments, and in the very hour in which thou quittest the Seraglio she will take this poison, which she has dissolved in a goblet of water, and will die.”