The rebel leaders had assembled together in the central mosque, and from thence distributed their commands.
At the sixth hour (according to Christian calculation ten o’clock in the evening) the ship arrived bearing the Sultan, the princes, the magnates, and the sacred banner, and cast anchor beside the coast kiosk at the Gate of Cannons.
Inside the Seraglio none knew anything of the position of affairs. All through the city a great commotion prevailed with the blowing of horns, in the cemetery bivouac fires had been everywhere lighted.
“Why cannot I send a couple of grenades among them from the sea?” sighed the Kapudan Pasha, “that would quiet them immediately, I warrant.”
As the Kizlar-Aga, Elhaj Beshir, came face to face with the newly arrived ministers in the ante-chamber where the Mantle of the Prophet was jealously guarded, he rubbed his hands together with an enigmatical smile which ill became his coarse, brutal countenance and cloven lips, and when the Padishah asked him what the rebels wanted, he replied that he really did not know.
That smile of his, that rubbing of the hands, which had been robbed of their thumbs by the savage cruelty of a former master for some piece of villainy or other—these things were premonitions of evil to all the officials present.
Elhaj Beshir Aga had now held his office for fourteen years, during which time he had elevated and deposed eight Grand Viziers.
And now, how were the demands of the rebels to be discovered?
Damad Ibrahim suggested that the best thing to do was to summon Sulali Hassan, a former cadi of Stambul, whose name he had heard mentioned by the town-crier along with that of Halil Patrona.
They found Sulali in his summer house, and at the first summons he appeared in the Seraglio. He declared that the rebels had been playing fast and loose with his name, and that he knew nothing whatever of their wishes.
“Then take with you the Chaszeki Aga and twenty bostanjis, and go in search of Halil Patrona, and find out what he wants!” commanded the Padishah.
“It is a pity to give worthy men unnecessary trouble, most glorious Sultan,” said Abdi Pasha bitterly. “I am able to tell you what the rebels want, for I have seen it all written up on the walls. They demand the delivery of four of the great officers of state—myself, the Chief Mufti, the Grand Vizier, and the Kiaja. Surrender us then, O Sultan! yet surrender us not alive! but slay us first and then their mouths will be stopped. Let them glut their appetites on us. You know that no wild beast is savage when once it has been well fed.”
The Sultan pretended not to hear these words. He did not even look up when the Kapudan spoke.
“Seek out Halil Patrona!” he said to the Chaszeki Aga, “and greet him in the name of the Padishah!”
What! Greet Halil Patrona in the name of the Padishah! Greet that petty huckster in the name of the master of many empires, in the name of the Prince of Princes, Shahs, Khans, and Deys, the dominator of Great Moguls! Who would have believed in the possibility of such a thing three days ago?