150 East 34th Street, New York, March 13, 1907.
Joe Hornstog told me this story—the first part of it; the last part of it came to me in a way which proves how small the world is.
Joe belongs to that conglomerate mass of heterogeneous nationalities found around the Golden Horn, whose ancestry is as difficult to trace as a gypsy’s. He says he is a “Jew gentleman from Germany,” but he can’t prove it, and he knows he can’t.
There is no question about his being part Jew, and there is a strong probability of his being part German, and, strange to say, there is not the slightest doubt of his being part gentleman—in his own estimation; and I must say in mine, when I look back over an acquaintance covering many years and remember how completely my bank account was at his disposal and how little of its contents he appropriated.
And yet, were I required to hold up my hand in open court, I would have to affirm that Joe, whatever his other strains might be, was, after all, ninety-nine per cent. Levantine—which is another way of saying that he is part of every nationality about him.
As to his honesty and loyalty, is he not the chosen dragoman of kings and princes when they journey into far distant lands (he speaks seven languages and many tribal dialects), and is he not today wearing in his buttonhole the ribbon of the order of the Mejidieh, bestowed upon him by his Imperial Highness the Sultan, in reward for his ability and faithfulness?
I must admit that I myself have been his debtor— not once, but many times. It was this same quick-sighted, quick-witted Levantine who lifted me from my sketching stool and stood me on my feet in the plaza of the Hippodrome one morning just in time to prevent my being trodden under foot by six Turks carrying the body of their friend to the cemetery— in time, too, to save me from the unforgivable sin among Orientals, of want of reverence for their dead. I had heard the tramp of the pall-bearers, and supposing it to be that of the Turkish patrol, had kept at work. They were prowling everywhere, day and night, and during those days they passed every ten minutes—nine soldiers in charge of an officer of police—all owing to the fact that some five thousand Armenians, anxious to establish a new form of government, had been wiped out of existence only the week before.
Once on my feet (Joe accomplished his purpose with the help of my suspenders) and the situation clear, I had sense enough left to uncover my head and stand in an attitude of profound reverence until the procession had passed. I can see them now—the coffin wrapped in a camel’s-hair shawl, the dead man’s fez and turban resting on top. Then I replaced my hat and finished the last of the six minarets of the mosque gleaming like opals in the soft light of the morning.
This act of courtesy, due so little to my own initiative, and so largely to Joe’s, gained for me many friends in and about the mosque—not only those of the dead man, one of whom rowed a caique, but among the priests who formed the funeral cortege—a fact unknown to me until Joe imparted it. “Turk-man say you good man, effendi,” was the way he put it. “You stoop over yourselluf humble for their dead.”