The doors were flung wide open, and the mob roared to the prisoners that all to whom liberty was dear might show a clean pair of heels, whereupon a mob of women, like a swarm of shrieking ghosts, fluttered through the doors and made off in every direction. Those women who stroll about the streets with uncovered faces, who paint their eyebrows and lips for the diversion of strangers, who are shut out from the world like mad dogs, that they may not contaminate the people—all these women were now let loose! Some of them had grown old since the prison-gates had been closed upon them, but the flame of evil passion still flickered in their sunken eyes. Alas! what pestilence has been let loose upon the Mussulman population. And thou, Halil! wilt thou be able to ride the storm to which thou has given wings?
There he stands in the gateway! He is waiting till, in the wake of these unspeakably vile women, his pure-souled idol, the beautiful, the innocent Guel-Bejaze shall appear. How long she delays! All the rest have come forth; all the rest have scattered to their various haunts, only one or two belated shapes are now emerging from the dungeon and hastening, after the others—creatures whom the voice of the tumult had surprised en deshabille, and who now with only half-clothed bodies and hair streaming down their backs rush screaming away. Only Guel-Bejaze still delays.
Full of anxiety Halil descends at last into the loathsome hole but dimly lit by a few round windows in the roof.
“Guel-Bejaze! Guel-Bejaze!” he moans with a stifling voice, looking all around the dungeon, and, at the sound of his whispered words, he sees a white mass, huddled in a corner of the far wall, feebly begin to move. He rushes to the spot. Surely it is some beggar-woman who hides her face from him? Gently he removes her hands from her face and in the woman recognises his wife. The poor creature would rather not be set free for very shame sake. She would rather remain here in the dungeon.
Speechless with agony, he raised her in his arms. The woman said not a word, gave him not a look, she only hid her face in her husband’s bosom and sobbed aloud.
“Weep not! weep not!” moaned Halil, “those who have dishonoured thee shall, this very day, lie in the dust before thee, by Allah. I swear it. Thou shalt play with the heads of those who have played with thy heart, and that selfsame puffed-up Sultana who has stretched out her hand against thee shall be glad to kiss thy hand. I, Halil Patrona, have said it, and let me be accursed above all other Mussulmans if ever I have lied.”
Then snatching up his wife in his arms he rushed out among the crowd, and exhibiting that pale and forlorn figure in the sight of all men, he cried:
“Behold, ye Mussulmans! this is my wife whom they ravished from me on my bridal night, and whom I must needs discover in the midst of this sink of vileness and iniquity! Speak those of you who are husbands, would you be merciful to him who dishonoured your wife after this sort?”