All the viziers were horrified. “Who would dare to do such a thing?” they asked.
“That is what I would do,” said Abdi bluntly. After that he held his peace.
It was the Sultan who broke the silence.
“Before you arrived,” said he, “we had resolved, by the advice of the Kiaja Beg, to go back to the town with the banner of the Prophet and the princes.
“That also is not bad counsel,” said Abdi; “thy glorious presence will and must quell the uproar. Unfurl the banner of the Prophet in front of the Gate of the Seraglio, let the Chief Mufti and Ispirizade open the Aja Sophia and the Mosque of Achmed, and let the imams call the people to prayer. Let Damad Ibrahim remain outside with the host, that in case of need he may hasten to suppress the insurgents. Let the Kiaja Beg collect together the jebedjis, ciauses, and bostanjis, who guard the Seraglio, and let them clear the streets. And if all this be of no avail my guns from the sea will soon teach them obedience.”
Sultan Achmed shook his head.
“We have resolved otherwise,” said he; “none of you must quit my side. The Grand Vizier, the Chief Mufti, the Kapudan Pasha, and the Kiaja must come along with me.”
And while he told their names, one after the other, the Padishah did not so much as look at one of them.
The names of these four men were all written up on the corners of the street. The heads of these four men had been demanded by the people and by Halil Patrona.
What then was their offence in the eyes of the people? They were the men highest in power when misfortune overtook the realm. But how then had they offended Halil Patrona? ’Twas they who had brought suffering upon Guel-Bejaze.
The viziers bowed their heads.
At that same instant Abdi’s messengers arrived with the tulips. They were brought to the Padishah, who was enchanted by their beauty, and ordered that they should be conveyed to Stambul, to the Sultana Asseki, with the message that he himself would not be long after them. Moreover, he patted Abdi on the shoulder, and protested with tears in his eyes that there was none in the world whom he loved better.
The Kapudan Pasha kissed the hem of the Sultan’s robe, and then remained behind with Ibrahim, Abdullah, and the Kiaja.
“Abdullah, and you, my brave Ibrahim, and you, Kiaja,” said he, addressing them with a friendly smile, “in an hour’s time our four heads will not be worth an earless pitcher,” whereupon Damad Ibrahim sadly bent his head, and whispered with a voice resembling a sob:
“Poor, poor Sultan!”
Then they all four accompanied Achmed to his ship. They were all fully convinced that Achmed would first sacrifice them all and then fall himself.
A TOPSY-TURVY WORLD.
Halil Patrona was already the master of Stambul.