So he sat on his throne and the Ulemas took their places around him on the divans covered with kordofan leather. Opposite to him sat the chief imam, Ispirizade. Sulali sat beside him.
“Lo, the blood of the victims has now been poured forth,” said Achmed in a gloomy, tremulous voice, “I have sacrificed my most faithful servants. Speak! What more do the rebels require? Why do they still blow their field trumpets? Why do they still kindle their bivouac fires? What more do they want?”
And the words of his little son rang constantly in his ears: “It is well with those who are thy enemies and grievous for them that love thee.”
No one replied to the words of the Sultan.
“Answer, I say! What think ye concerning the matter?”
Once more deep silence prevailed. The Ulemas looked at one another. Many of them began to nudge Sulali, who stood up as if to speak, but immediately sat down again without opening his mouth.
“Speak, I pray you! I have not called you hither to look at me and at one another, but to give answers to my questions.”
And still the Ulemas kept silence. Dumbly they sat around as if they were not living men but only embalmed corpses, such as are to be found in the funeral vaults of the Pharaohs grouped around the royal tombs.
“’Tis wondrous indeed!” said Achmed, when the whole Council had remained dumb for more than a quarter of an hour. “Are ye all struck dumb then that ye give me no answer?”
Then at last Ispirizade rose from his place.
“Achmed!” he began—with such discourteous curtness did he address the Sultan!
“Achmed! ’tis the wish of Halil Patrona that thou descend from the throne and give it up to Sultan Mahmud....”
Achmed sat bolt upright in his chair. After the words just uttered every voice in the council-chamber was mute, and in the midst of this dreadful silence the Ulemas were terrified to behold the Padishah stand on the steps of the throne, extend his arm towards the imam, fix his eyes steadily upon him, and open his lips from which never a word proceeded.
Thus for a long time he stood upon the throne with hand outstretched and parted lips, and his stony eyes fixed steadily upon the imam, and those who saw it were convulsed by a feeling of horror, and Ispirizade felt his limbs turn to stone and the light of day grow dim before his eyes in the presence of that dreadful figure which regarded him and pointed at him. It was, as it were, a dumb curse—a dumb, overpowering spell, which left it to God and His destroying angels to give expression to his wishes, and read in his heart and accomplish that which he himself was incapable of pronouncing.
The whole trembling assembly collapsed before the Sultan’s throne, crawled to his feet and, moistening them with their tears, exclaimed:
“Pardon, O master! pardon!”
An hour before they had unanimously resolved that Achmed must be made to abdicate, and now they unanimously begged for pardon. But the deed had already been done.