Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

bend it farther if you choose, it will never break. Swords of the kind are not made to-day."

“This is old, too, I suppose.”

“The Sultan's signature, which you will find on the hilt, is that of the great Sultan Aladin, with whom the English fought for the tomb of the prophet Jesus.”

“But if it bends so easily, you couldn't kill a man with it.”

The gentleman may try.”.
“On myself?” laughing
“On his humble servant.”

These extravagant remarks of the Turks are not jests, but the mere forms of politeness, and expected to be taken seriously.

“What are these marks engraved on the blade?”.

“Verses from the Koran, promising rewards to those who die in battle, fighting for Allah.

Then, under his breath, and making a slight salute: “There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet.”

The westerner is by this time convinced that his deflection from the main point is to no avail, the Turk will go on forever about the Damascus blade, apparently quite oblivious of the fact that there had been any talk of buying a Persian shawl. If the buyer wants the shawl, he must come back to it himself.

He does so in his own characteristically abrupt way.
“Well, how much have I got to pay for this shawl?”

“His lordship is a gentleman. He evidently wants the shawl greatly, I will part with my treasure for $800.00.”

“I will give you $300.00.”

“The gentleman is jesting; some Persian woman toiled twenty years perhaps to complete this wonderful fabric. Such articles are the work of a lifetime."

The American has taken out his money. He counts out $300.00 and says nothing. His lordship wouldn't have me the loser on his account. It is eight years now I have kept this shawl in my shop, waiting for a purchaser wealthy enough and worthy to carry it away. I must have $700.00.”

“We are wasting time, my friend,” says the foreigner, who seems somewhat experienced, “you know you will sell this article much less than that, so why not name your price?"

“Camels brought the delicate fabric over many miles of desert-a long and weary journey. I have given the shawl to the gentleman, but he would not accept it. I think he can easily give me $550.00 for it.”

"I am a good ways from home, and if I get rid of all my money, how shall I get back?" uneasily, but his countenance does not change its expression nor his manners descend to haste.

“By the beard of the prophet, it has cost me more. I must be in need of bread before I could part with so rare an article for such a price. I can show you many shawls for

can

that figure, but I could not sell this one for less than $500.00.

From this point on the abatement of price is by smaller and smaller sums, until it goes down a dollar at a time.

“His lordship is indeed in a strange land. The prophet bid us be kind to strangers. I would sell it to the gentleman for $475.00.”

“My friend, I have told you how much I will give. You see it here. I cannot give more.”

He holds the money under the glittering black eyes of the trader. He, too, knows his antagonist's weak point. The glistening coin is a temptation. The Oriental's fingers work. Suffice it to say the Turk will move steadily downward on his figures, but at his own gait. He cannot be hurried by importunity or indifference, by argument or by direct appeal. Moreover, he will never come quite to his antagonist's figures, but if the Yankee is a good waiter, as this one seemed to be, he will doubtless get the article, say for $350.00, after which bargain completed, the Oriental will be ready to spend another tranquil hour in selling him a rug from Smyrna or a scarf from Syria.

Most of the streets of the city are narrow and tortuous, but there are more modern sections where broad thoroughfares and carriage drives abound. Here are the English and European shops, and the residences of the well-to-do foreigners in the city. The old native families, both Turkish and Armenian, inhabit the water front from the sea of Marmora to the Golden Horn, where their palaces leave off and the splendid dwellings of foreign ambassadors begin; and at this point the channel is crossed by the Galatia bridge, which introduces one to a colony composed of Levantines, and the scum of all Europe-perhaps the basest villains on the face of the earth.

Such in brief outline is Constantinople-a city marvel ously full of interest to the observer of human nature or the student of human events, because here, as nowhere else in the world, the various states of Oriental and Occidental civilization, with all their dross and all their gems, crop up side by side, and may be intelligently compared-a spot where trade is affected by every wave that tosses on every sea, where thought is stirred by every brain that pulsates under any sky, where life is truly cosmopolitan.

THE FALL OF THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE.

Although the Turks had conquered all Thrace, although city after city had heard the clash of the Musselman's arms, and had been compelled to bow before his onward march, there was one city, the pride and glory of the Byzantine empire, that still remained unconquered. Constantinople, the Rome of the East, and capital of the empire, was the jewel that Mohammed II. most coveted. How to gain this jewel for his crown was his constant thought. It baunted him wherever he went. It interfered with his usual sleep. Long after midnight, when all his camp reposed in peaceful slumber, this restless spirit paced to and fro in his apartments, seeking to devise some means to reach his cherished

end. One thing he had determined: he would win Constantinople or die. Such men seldom fail.

One thousand masons were commanded to erect at once a sortress on the European shore of the Bosphorus, known as Castle of Europe. As the work of this construction rapidly progressed, Constantine, the Byzantine emperor, sought by compromise, treaty and submission to avert the designs of the implacable Sultan, all to no avail. The Sultan did not want compromise; he wanted war, and any excuse was welcome. “Since then," despairingly wrote the emperor, “neither oaths, nor treaty, nor submission can secure peace, pursue your impious warfare. My trust is in God alone, and if it should please Him to modify your heart, I shall rejoice in the happy change. If he delivers the city into your hands, I submit without a murmur to His holy will; but until the Judge of the earth shall pronounce between us, it is my duty to live and die in the defense of my people.” • To Mohammed this was a signal sound of strife; gigantic were the preparations. A foundry was established at Adrianople, and a cannon ordered to be made capable of battering down the strongest wall.

These instructions were well followed, and a gun produced of enormous dimensions, capable of sending a ball weighing 600 pounds over a mile. Boats were constructed, warriors enlisted, until the number in the army was swelled to nearly 250,000.

Battering rams were placed near the gates of St.

« ForrigeFortsett »