It was not an easy matter to make
Balsamides Bey take a fancy to Paul, for he was, and
still is, a man full of prejudice, if also full of
wit. In his well-shaped head resides an intelligence
of no mean order, and the lines graven in his pale
face express thought and study, while suggesting also
an extreme love of sarcasm and a caustic, incredulous
humor. His large and deep-set blue eyes seem to
look at things only to criticise them, never to enjoy
them, and his arched eyebrows bristle like defenses
set up between the world with its interests on the
one side and the inner man Balsamides on the other.
Though he wears a heavy brown mustache, it is easy
to see that underneath it his thin lips curl scornfully,
and are drawn down at the extremities of his mouth.
He is very scrupulous in his appearance, whether he
wears the uniform of a Sultan’s adjutant, or
the morning dress of an ordinary man of the world,
or the official evening coat of the Turks, made like
that of an English clergyman, but ornamented by a
string of tiny decorations attached to the buttonhole
on the left side. Gregorios Balsamides is of middle
height, slender and well built, a matchless horseman,
and long inured to every kind of hardship, though
his pallor and his delicate white hands suggest a
constitution anything but hardy.
He is the natural outcome of the present
state of civilization in Turkey; and as it is not
easy for the ordinary mind to understand the state
of the Ottoman Empire without long study, so it is
not by any means a simple matter to comprehend the
characters produced by the modern condition of things
in the East. Balsamides Bey is a man who seems
to unite in himself as many contradictory qualities
and characteristics as are to be found in any one
living man. He is a thorough Turk in principle,
but also a thorough Western Frank in education.
He has read immensely in many languages, and speaks
French and English with remarkable fluency. He
has made an especial study of modern history, and
can give an important date, a short account of a great
battle, or a brief notice of a living celebrity, with
an ease and accuracy that many a student might envy.
He reads French and English novels, and probably possesses
a contraband copy of Byron, whose works are proscribed
in Turkey and confiscated by the custom-house.
He goes into European society as well as among Turks,
Greeks, and Armenians. Although a Greek by descent,
he loves the Turks and is profoundly attached to the
reigning dynasty, under whom his father and grandfather
lived and prospered. A Christian by birth and
education, he has a profound respect for the Mussulman
faith, as being the religion of the government he
serves, and a profound hatred of the Armenian, whom
he regards as the evil genius of the Osmanli.
He is a man whom many trust, but whose chief desire
seems to be to avoid all show of power. He is
often consulted on important matters, but his discretion
is proof against all attacks, and there is not a journalist
nor correspondent in Pera who can boast of ever having
extracted the smallest item of information from Balsamides
These are his good qualities, and
they are solid ones, for he is a thoroughly well-informed
man, exceedingly clever, and absolutely trustworthy.
On the other hand, he is cold, sarcastic, and possibly
cruel, and occasionally he is frank almost to brutality.
On the very evening of our arrival
in Pera I went to see him, for he is an old friend
of mine. I found him alone in his small lodgings
in the Grande Rue, reading a yellow-covered French
novel by the light of a German student-lamp.
The room was simply furnished with a table, a divan,
three or four stiff, straight-backed chairs, and a
bookcase. But on the matted floor and divan there
were two or three fine Sine carpets; a couple of trophies
of splendidly ornamented weapons adorned the wall;
by his side, upon a small eight-sided table inlaid
with tortoise-shell and mother-of-pearl, stood a silver
salver with an empty coffee-cup of beautiful workmanship, the
stand of beaten gold, and the delicate shell of the
most exquisite transparent china. He had evidently
been on duty at the palace, for he was in uniform,
and had removed only his long riding-boots, throwing
himself down in his chair to read the book in which
he was interested.
On seeing me, he rose suddenly and put out his hand.
“Is it you? Where have you come from?”
“From England, to see you,” I answered.
“You must stay with me,”
he said at once. “The spare room is ready,”
he added, leading me to the door. Then he clapped
his hands to call the servant, before I could prevent
“But I have already been to the hotel,”
“Go to Missiri’s with
a hamal, and bring the Effendi’s luggage,”
he said to the servant, who instantly disappeared.
“Caught,” he exclaimed,
laughing, as he opened the door and showed me my little
room. I had slept there many a night in former
times, and I loved his simple hospitality.
“You are the same as ever,”
I said. “A man cannot put his nose inside
your door without being caught, as you call it.”
“Many a man may,” he answered.
“But not you, my dear fellow. Now you
will have coffee and a cigarette. We will dine
at home. There is pilaff and kebabi and a bottle
of champagne. How are you? I forgot to ask.”
“Very well, thanks,” said
I, as we came back to the sitting-room. “I
am always well, you know. You look pale, but
that is nothing new. You have been on duty at
“Friday,” he answered
laconically, which meant that he had been at the Selamlek,
attending the Sultan to the weekly service at the mosque.
“You used to get back early
in the day. Have the hours changed?”
“Man of Belial,” he replied,
“with us nothing changes. I was detained
at the palace. So you have come all the way from
England to see me?”
“Yes, and to ask you a question and
“You shall have the answer and my services.”
“Do not promise before you have
heard. ’Two acrobats cannot always dance
on the same rope,’ as your proverb says.”
“And ‘Every sheep hangs
by its own heels,’” said he. “I
will take my chance with you. First, the question,
“Did you ever hear of Alexander Patoff?”
Balsamides looked at me a moment,
with the air of a man who is asked an exceedingly
“Hear of him? I have heard
of nothing else for the last eighteen months.
I have an indigestion brought on by too much Alexander
Patoff. Is that your errand, Griggs? How
in the world did you come to take up that question?”
“You have been asked about him before?”
“I tell you there is not a dog
in Constantinople that has not been kicked for not
knowing where that fellow is. I am sick of him,
alive or dead. What do I care about your Patoffs?
The fool could not take care of himself when he was
alive, and now the universe is turned upside down to
find his silly body. Where is he? At the
bottom of the Bosphorus. How did he get there?
By the kind exertions of his brother, who then played
the comedy of tearing his hair so cleverly that his
ambassador believed him. Very simple: if
you want to find his body, I can tell you how to do
“How?” I asked eagerly.
“Drain the Bosphorus,”
he answered, with a sneer. “You will find
plenty of skulls at the bottom of it. The smallest
will be his, to a dead certainty.”
“My dear fellow,” I protested,
“his brother did not kill him. The proof
is that Paul Patoff has come hack swearing that he
will find some trace of Alexander. He came with
me, and I believe his story.”
“He is only renewing the comedy, tearing
his hair on the anniversary of the death, like a well-paid
mourner. Of course, somebody has accused him
again of the murder. He will have to tear his
hair every time he is accused, in order to keep up
appearances. He knows, and he alone knows, where
the dead man is.”
“But if he killed him the kavass
must have known it must have helped him.
You remember the story?”
“I should think so. What
does the kavass prove? Nothing. He was probably
told to go off for a moment, and now will not confess
it. Money will do anything.”
“There remains the driver of
the carriage,” I objected. “He saw
Alexander go into Agia Sophia, but he never saw him
“And is anything easier than
that? A man might learn those few words in three
minutes. That proves nothing.”
“There is the probability,”
I argued. “Many persons have disappeared
in Stamboul before now.”
“Nonsense, Griggs,” he
answered. “You know that when anything of
the kind has occurred it has generally turned out
that the missing man was bankrupt. He disappeared
to reappear somewhere else under another name.
I do not believe a word of all those romances.
To you Franks we are a nation of robbers, murderers,
and thieves; we are the Turkey of Byron, always thirsting
for blood, spilling it senselessly, and crying out
for more. If that idiot allowed his brother to
kill him without attracting a crowd, in
Stamboul, in the last week of Ramazan, when everybody
is out of doors, he deserved his fate,
that is all.”
“I do not believe he is dead,”
I said, “and I have come here to ask you to
make the acquaintance of Paul Patoff. If you still
believe him to be a murderer when you have heard him
tell his story, I shall be very much surprised.”
“I should tear him to pieces
if I met him,” said Balsamides, with a laugh.
“The mere sight of anybody called Patoff would
bring on an attack of the nerves.”
“Be serious,” said I.
“Do you think I would be so foolish as to interest
myself in this business unless I believed that it could
be cleared of all mystery and explained?”
“You have been in England,”
retorted Gregorios. “That will explain any
kind of insanity. Do you want me to pester every
office in the government with new inquiries?
It will do no good. Everything has been tried.
The man is gone without leaving a trace. No amount
of money will produce information. Can I say
more? Where money fails, a man need not be so
foolish as to hope anything from his intelligence.”
“I am foolish enough to hope
something,” I replied. “If you will
not help me, I must go elsewhere. I will not
give up the thing at the start.”
“Well, if I say I will help
you, what do you expect me to do? Can I do anything
which has not been done already? If so, I will
do it. But I will not harness myself to a rotten
cart, as the proverb says. It is quite useless
to expect anything more from the police.”
“I expect nothing from them.
I believe that Alexander is alive, and has been hidden
by somebody rich enough and strong enough to baffle
“What put that into your head?”
asked my companion, looking at me with sudden curiosity.
“Nothing but the reduction of
the thing to the last analysis. Either he is
dead, or he is alive. As you say, he could hardly
have been killed on such a night without attracting
attention. Besides, the motives for Paul’s
killing him were wholly inadequate. No, let me
go on. Therefore I say that he was taken alive.”
“In Santa Sophia.”
“But then,” argued Balsamides,
“the driver would have seen him carried out.”
“Yes,” I admitted.
“That is the difficulty. But he might perhaps
have been taken through the porch; at all events,
he must have gone down the stairs alone, taking the
“They found the lantern,”
said Gregorios. “You did not know that?
A long time afterwards the man who opens the towers
confessed that when he had gone up with the brothers
and the kavass he had found that his taper was burnt
out. He picked up the kavass’s lantern and
carried it down, meaning to return with the next party
of foreigners. No other foreigners came, and
when he went up to find the Patoffs they were gone
and the carriage was gone. He kept the lantern,
until the offers of reward induced him to give it
up and tell his story.”
“That proves nothing, except
that Alexander went down-stairs in the dark.”
“I have an idea, Griggs!”
cried Balsamides, suddenly changing his tone.
“It proves this, that Alexander did
not necessarily go down the steps at all.”
“I do not understand.”
“There is another way out of
that gallery. Did you know that? At the
other end, in exactly the same position, hidden in
the deep arch, there is a second door. There
is also a winding staircase, which leads to the street
on the opposite side of the mosque. Foreigners
are never admitted by that side, but it is barely
possible that the door may have been open. Alexander
Patoff may have gone down that way, thinking it was
the staircase by which he had come up.”
“You see,” I said, delighted
at this information, “everything is not exhausted
“No, I begin to think we are
nearer to an explanation. If that door was open, which,
however, is very improbable, he could have
gone down and have got into the street without passing
the carriage, which stood on the other side of the
mosque. But, after all, we are no nearer to knowing
what ultimately became of him.”
“Would it be possible to find
out whether the door was really open, and, if so,
who passed that way?” I inquired.
“We shall see,” said Gregorios.
“I will change my mind. I will make the
acquaintance of your Russian friend. I know him
by sight, though I never spoke to him. When I
have talked the matter over with him I will tell you
what I think about it. Let us go to dinner.”
I felt that I had overcome the first
great difficulty in persuading Balsamides to take
some interest in my errand. He is one of those
men who are very hard to move, but who, when once
they are disposed to act at all, are ready to do their
best. Moreover, the existence of the second staircase,
leading from the gallery to the street, at once explained
how Alexander might have left the church unobserved
by the coachman. I wondered why no one had thought
of this. It had probably not suggested itself
to any one, because strangers are never admitted from
that side, and because the door is almost always closed.
Gregorios did not refer to the subject
again that evening, but amused himself by asking me
all manner of questions about the state of England.
We fell to talking about European politics, and the
hours passed very pleasantly until midnight.
On the next day I went to see Paul,
and told him the result of my first step. He
appeared very grateful.
“It seems hard that my life
should be ruined by this thing,” he said wearily.
“Any prospect of news is delightful, however
small. I am under a sort of curse, as
much as though I had really had something to do with
poor Alexander’s death. It comes up in all
sorts of ways. Unless we can solve the mystery,
I shall never be really free.”
“We will solve it,” I
said, in order to reassure him. “Nothing
shall be left undone, and I hope that in a few weeks
you may feel relieved from all this anxiety.”
“It is more than anxiety; it
is pain,” he answered. I supposed that he
was thinking of Hermione, and was silent. Presently
he proposed to go out. It was a fine day in February,
though the snow was on the ground and filled the ruts
in the pavement of the Grande Rue de Pera. Every
one was wrapped in furs and every one wore overshoes,
without which it is impossible to go out in winter
in Constantinople. The streets were crowded with
that strange multitude seen nowhere else in the world;
the shops were full of people of all sorts, from the
ladies of the embassies to the veiled Turkish ladies,
who have small respect for the regulation forbidding
them to buy in Frank establishments. At Galata
Serai the huge Kurdish hamals loitered in the sun,
waiting for a job, their ropes and the heavy pillows
on which they carry their burdens lying at their feet.
The lean dogs sat up and glared hungrily at the huge
joints of meat which the butchers’ lads carried
through the crowd, forcing their way past the delicate
Western ladies, who drew back in horror at the sight
of so much raw beef, and through knots of well-dressed
men standing before the cafes in the narrow street.
Numberless soldiers moved in the crowd, tall, fair
Turks, with broad shoulders and blue eyes, in the
shabby uniform of the foot-guards, but looking as though
they could fight as well as any smart Prussian grenadier,
as indeed they can when they get enough to eat.
Now and then a closed sedan-chair moved rapidly along,
borne by sturdy Kurds, and occasionally a considerable
disturbance was caused by the appearance of a carriage.
Paul and I strolled down the steep street, past Galata
Tower and down into Galata itself.
“Shall we cross?” asked Paul, as we reached
“Let us go up the Bosphorus,”
I said. “There will probably be a steamer
He assented readily enough. It
was about eleven o’clock in the morning, five
by the Turkish clocks, and the day was magnificent.
The sun was high, and illuminated everything in the
bright, cold air, so that the domes and minarets of
the city were white as snow, with bluish shadows,
while the gilded crescents and spires glistened with
unnatural brilliancy in the clear winter’s daylight.
It is hard to say whether Stamboul is more beautiful
at any one season of the year than during the other
three, for every season brings with it some especial
loveliness, some new phase of color. You may
reach Serai point on a winter’s morning in a
driving snow-storm, so that everything is hidden in
the gray veil of the falling flakes; suddenly the
clouds will part and the sunlight will fall full upon
the city, so that it seems as if every mosque and
spire were built of diamonds. Or you may cross
to Scutari in the early dawn of a morning in June,
when the sky is like a vast Eastern flower, dark blue
in the midst overhead, the petals shaded with every
tint to the faint purple on the horizon; and every
hue in turn passes over the fantastic buildings, as
the shadows gradually take color from the sky, and
the soft velvety water laps up the light in broad pools
and delicate streaks of tinted reflection. It
is always beautiful, always new; but of all times,
I think the hour when the high sun illuminates most
distinctly everything on land and sea is the time when
Stamboul is most splendid and queenly.
The great ferry-boat heaved and thumped
the water, and swung slowly off the wooden pier, while
we stood on the upper deck watching the scene before
us. For two men as familiar with Constantinople
in all its aspects as we were, it seemed almost ridiculous
to go on board a steamer merely for the sake of being
carried to the mouth of the Black Sea and back again.
But I have always loved the Bosphorus, and I thought
it would amuse Paul to pass the many landings, and
to see the crowds of passengers, and to walk about
the empty deck. He was tired with the journey
and harassed in mind, and for those ills the open air
is the best medicine.
He appeared to enjoy it, and asked
me many questions about the palaces and villas on
both shores, for I was better acquainted with the place
than he. It seemed to interest him to know that
such a villa belonged to such a Pasha, that such another
was the property of an old princess of evil fame,
while the third had seen strange doings in the days
of Mehemet Ali, and was now deserted or inhabited
only by ghosts of the past, the resort
of ghouls and jins from the neighboring grave-yards.
As we lay a moment at the pier of Yeni Koej, “New
town” sounds less interesting, we
watched the stream of passengers, and I thought Paul
started slightly as a tall, smooth-faced, and hideous
negro suddenly turned and looked up to where we stood
on the deck, as he left the steamer. I might
have been mistaken, but it was the only approach to
an incident of interest which occurred that day.
We reached the upper part of the Bosphorus, and at
Yeni Mahalle, within sight of the Black Sea, the ferry-boat
described a wide circle and turned once more in the
direction of Stamboul.
“I feel better,” said
Paul, as we reached Galata bridge and elbowed our
way ashore through the crowd. “We will go
“By all means,” I answered.
From that time during several weeks
we frequently made excursions into Stamboul and up
the Bosphorus, and the constant enjoyment of the open
air did Paul good. But I could see that wherever
we went he watched the people with intense interest;
following some individual with his eyes in silence,
or trying to see into dark archways and through latticed
windows, staring at the files of passengers who came
on board the boats or went ashore at the different
landings, and apparently never relaxing his attention.
The people grew familiar to me, too, and gradually
it appeared that Paul was constructing a method for
our peregrinations. It was he, and not I, who
suggested the direction of our expeditions, and I
noticed that he chose certain places on certain days.
On Monday, for instance, he never failed to propose
a visit to the bazaars, on Tuesday we generally went
up the Bosphorus, on Wednesday into Stamboul.
On Friday afternoons, when the weather was fine, we
used to ride out to the Sweet Waters of Europe; for
Friday is the Mussulman’s day of rest, and on
that day all who are able love to go out to the Kiat-hane the
“paper-mill,” where they pass
the afternoon in driving and walking, eating sweetmeats,
smoking, drinking coffee, watching gypsy girls dance,
or listening to the long-winded tales of professional
story-tellers. Almost every day had its regular
excursion, and it was clear to me that he always chose
the place where on that day of the week there was likely
to be the greatest crowd.
Meanwhile Balsamides, in whose house
I continued to live, alternately laughed at me for
believing Paul’s story, and expressed in the
next breath a hope that Alexander might yet be found.
He had been to Santa Sophia, and had ascertained that
the other staircase was usually opened on the nights
when the mosque was illuminated, for the convenience
of the men employed in lighting the lamps, and this
confirmed his theory about the direction taken by
Alexander when he left the gallery. But here
all trace ceased again, and Balsamides was almost ready
to give up the search, when an incident occurred which
renewed our energy and hope, and which had the effect
of rousing Paul to the greatest excitement.
We were wandering under the gloomy
arches of the vast bazaar one day, and had reached
the quarter where the Spanish Jews have their shops
and collect their wonderful mass of valuables, chiefly
antiquities, offering them for sale in their little
dens, and ever hungry for a bargain. We strolled
along, smoking and chatting as we went, when a Jew
named Marchetto, with whom I had had dealings in former
days and who knew me very well, came suddenly out
into the broad covered way, and invited us into his
shop. He said he had an object of rare beauty
which he was sure I would buy. We went in, and
sat down on a low divan against the wall. The
sides of the little shop were piled to the ceiling
with neatly folded packages of stuffs, embroideries,
and prayer carpets. In one corner stood a shabby
old table with a glass case, under which various objects
of gold and silver were exposed for sale. The
whole place smelled strongly of Greek tobacco, but
otherwise it was clean and neat. A little raised
dome in the middle of the ceiling admitted light and
Marchetto disappeared for a moment,
and instantly returned with two cups of Turkish coffee
on a pewter salver, which he deposited on a stool
before us. He evidently meant business, for he
began to talk of the weather, and seemed in no hurry
to show us the object he had vaguely mentioned.
At last I asked for it, which I would certainly not
have done had I meant to buy it. It proved to
be a magnificent strip of Rhodes tapestry, of the
kind formerly made for the Knights of Malta, but not
manufactured since the last century. It consists
always of Maltese crosses, of various sizes and designs,
embroidered in heavy dark red silk upon strips of
coarse strong linen about two feet wide, or of the
same design worked upon square pieces for cushions.
The value of this tapestry is very great, and is principally
determined by the fineness of the stitch and the shade
of red in the silk used.
Marchetto’s face fell as we
admired his tapestry, for he knew that we would not
begin a bargain by conceding the smallest merit to
the object offered. But he put a brave face on
the matter, and began to show us other things:
a Giordes carpet, a magnificent piece of old Broussa
gold embroidery on pale blue satin, curious embroideries
on towels, known as Persian lace, indeed,
every variety of ancient stuff. Tired of sitting
still, I rose and turned over some of the things myself.
In doing so I struck my elbow against the old glass
case in the corner, and looked to see whether I had
broken it. In so doing my eye naturally fell upon
the things laid out on white paper beneath the glazed
frame. Among them I saw a watch which attracted
my attention. It was of silver, but very beautifully
engraved and adorned in Russian niello.
The ribbed knob which served to wind it was of gold.
Altogether the workmanship was very fine, and the
watch looked new.
“Here is a Russian watch, Patoff,”
I said, tapping the glass pane with my finger.
Paul rose languidly and came to the table. When
he saw the thing he turned pale, and gripped my arm
in sudden excitement.
“It is his,” he said,
in a low voice, trying to raise the lid.
nodded. “Pretend to be indifferent,”
I said in Russian, fearing lest Marchetto should understand.
The Jew unclosed the case and handed
us the watch. Paul took it with trembling fingers
and opened it at the back. There in Russian letters
were engraved the words ALEXANDER PAULOVITCH, FROM
HIS FATHER; the date followed. There was no doubt
about it. The watch had belonged to the lost
man; he had, therefore, been robbed.
“You got this from some bankrupt
Pasha, Marchetto?” I inquired. Everything
offered for sale in the bazaar at second hand is said
to come from the establishment of a Pasha; the statement
is supposed to attract foreigners.
Marchetto nodded and smiled.
“A Russian Pasha,” I continued.
“Did you ever hear of a Russian Pasha, Marchetto?
The fellow who sold it to you lied.”
“He who lies on the first day
of Ramazan repents on the day of Bairam,” returned
the Jew, quoting a Turkish proverb, and grinning.
I was struck by the words. Somehow the mention
of Bairam made me think of Alexander’s uncertain
fate, and suggested the idea that Marchetto knew something
“Yes,” I answered, looking
sharply at him; “and another proverb says that
the fox ends his days in the furrier’s shop.
Where did you buy the watch?”
“Allah bilir! I have forgotten.”
“Allah knows, undoubtedly.
But you know too,” I said, laughing, and pretending
to be amused. Paul had resumed his seat upon the
small divan, and was listening with intense interest;
but he knew it was best to leave the thing to me.
Marchetto was a fat man, with red hair and red-brown
eyes. He looked at me doubtfully for a moment.
“I will buy it if you will tell
me where you got it,” I said.
“I got it” He
hesitated. “It came out of a harem,”
he added suddenly, with a sort of chuckle.
“Out of a harem!” I exclaimed,
in utter incredulity. “What harem?”
“I will not tell you,”
he answered, gravely, the smile fading from his face.
“I swore that I would not tell.”
“Will you swear that it really
came from a harem?” I asked.
“I give you my word of honor,”
asseverated Marchetto. “I swear by my head,
by your beard”
“I do not mean that,”
I said quietly. “Will you swear to me, solemnly,
before God, that you are telling the truth?”
Marchetto looked at me in surprise,
for no people in the world are so averse to making
a solemn oath as the Hebrews, as, perhaps, no people
are more exact in regard to the truth when so made
to bind themselves. The man looked at me for
“You seem very curious about
that watch,” he said at last, turning away and
busying himself with his stuffs.
“Then you will not swear?”
I asked, putting the watch back in its place.
“I cannot swear to what I do
not know. But I know the man who sold it to me.
He is the Lala of a harem, that is certain. I
will not tell you his name, nor the name of the Effendi
to whose harem he belongs. Will you buy my watch? birindji first
quality it is a beautiful thing. On
my honor, I have never seen a finer one, though it
is of silver.”
“Not unless you will tell me
where it came from,” I said firmly. “Besides,
I must show it to Vartan in Pera before I buy it.
Perhaps the works are not good.”
“It is yours,” said Marchetto.
“Take it. When you have had it two days
you will buy it.”
“Twenty liras, twenty Turkish pounds,”
answered the Jew promptly.
“You mean five,” I said.
The watch was worth ten, I thought, about two hundred
and thirty francs.
“Impossible. I would rather
let you take it as a gift. It is birindji first
quality upon my honor. I never saw”
I exclaimed. “Let me take it to Vartan to
be examined. Then we will bargain.”
“Take it,” he answered.
“Keep it as long as you like. I know you
very well, and I thank Heaven I have profited a little
with you. But the price of the watch is twenty
pounds. You will pay it, and all your life you
will look at it and say, ‘What an honest man
Marchetto is!’ By my head it is birindji first
quality I never”
“I have no doubt,” I answered,
cutting him short. I motioned to Paul that we
had better go: he rose without a word.
I said. “I will come back in a day or two
and bargain with you.”
“It is birindji by
my head first quality” were
the last words we heard as we left the Jew amongst
his stuffs. Then we threaded the subterranean
passages of the bazaar, and soon afterwards were walking
in the direction of Galata bridge, on our way back
to Pera. At last Paul spoke.
“We are on the scent,”
he said. “That fellow was speaking the truth
when he said the watch came from a harem. I could
see it in his face. I begin to think that Alexander
did some absurdly rash thing, followed some
veiled Turkish woman, as he would have done before
if I had not stopped him, was seized, imprisoned
in some cellar or other, and ultimately murdered.”
“It looks like it,” I
answered. “Of course I would not buy the
watch outright, because as long as it is not paid
for I have a hold upon Marchetto. I will talk
to Balsamides to-night. He is very clever about
those things, and he will find out the name of the
black man who sold it.”
We separated, and I went to find my
friend; but he was on duty and would not return until
evening. I spent the rest of the day in making
visits, trying to get rid of the time. On returning
to the house of Gregorios I found a letter from John
Carvel, the first I had received from him since I
had left England. It ran as follows:
MY DEAR GRIGGS: Since you left
us something very extraordinary and unexpected has
taken place, and considering the part you took in our
household affairs, you should not be kept in the dark.
I have suffered more annoyance in connection with
my unfortunate sister-in-law than I can ever tell
you; and the thing has culminated in a sort of transformation
scene, such as you certainly never expected any more
than I did. What will you say when I tell you
that Madame Patoff has suddenly emerged from her rooms
in all respects a sane woman? You will not be
any less surprised unless Paul has confided
in you to hear that he asked Hermione to
marry him before leaving us, and that Hermione did
not refuse him! I am so nervous that I have cut
three meets in the last month.
Of course you will want to know how
all this came out. I do not see how I can manage
to write so long a letter as this must be. But
the labor improbus knocks the stuffing out
of all difficulties, as you put it in your neat American
way. I dare say I shall survive. If I do
not, the directions for my epitaph are, “Here
lies the body of Anne Patoff’s brother-in-law.”
If you could see me, you would appreciate the justice
of the inscription.
Madame Patoff is perfectly sane; dines
with us, drives out, walks, talks, and reads like
any other human being, in which she differs
materially from Chrysophrasia, who does all these things
as they were never done, before or after the flood.
We do not know what to make of the situation, but
we try to make the best of it. It came about in
this way. Hermione had taken a fancy to pay her
aunt a visit, a day or two after you had left.
Mrs. North was outside, as usual, reading or working
in the next room. It chanced that the door was
left open, or not quite closed. Mrs. North had
the habit of listening to what went on, professionally,
because it was her business to watch the case.
As she sat there working, she heard Madame Patoff’s
voice, talking consecutively. She had never heard
her talk before, more than to say “Yes,”
or “No,” or “It is a fine day,”
or “It rains.” She rose and went
near the door. Her patient was talking very connectedly
about a book she had been reading, and Hermione was
answering her as though not at all surprised at the
conversation. Then, presently, Hermione began
to beg her to come out into the house and to live
with the rest of us, since she was now perfectly sane.
Mrs. North was thunderstruck, but did not lose her
head. She probably did the best thing she could
have done, as the event proved. She entered the
room very quietly, she is always so quiet, and
said in the most natural way in the world, “I
am so glad you are better, Madame Patoff. Excuse
me, Miss Hermione left the door open and I heard you
talking.” The old lady started and looked
at her a moment. Then she turned away, and presently,
looking rather white, she answered the nurse:
“Thank you, Mrs. North, I am quite well.
Will you send for Professor Cutter?” So Cutter
was sent for, and when he had seen her he sent for
me, and told me that my sister-in-law was in a lucid
state, but that it would be just as well not to excite
her. If she chose to leave her room she might,
he said, but she ought to be watched. “The
deuce!” said I, “this is most extraordinary!”
“Exactly,” said he, “most extraordinary.”
The lucid moment lasted, and she has
been perfectly sane ever since. She goes about
the house, touching everything and admiring everything,
and enjoys driving with me in the dog-cart. I
do not know what to make of it. I asked Hermione
how it began. She only said that she thought her
aunt had been better when she was with her, and then
it had come very suddenly. The other day Madame
Patoff asked about Paul, and I told her he had gone
to the East with you. But she did not seem to
know anything about you, though I told her you had
seen her. “Poor Paul,” she said, “I
should like to see him so much. He is the only
one left.” She was sad for a moment, but
that was all. Cutter said it was very strange;
that her insanity must have been caused in some way
by the shock she had when she threw herself out of
the window in Germany. Perhaps so. At all
events she is sane now, and Cutter says she will not
be crazy again. I hope he is right. She
appeared very grateful for all I had done for her,
and I believe she has written to Paul. Queer story,
is it not?
Now for the sequel. Hermione
came to me one morning in the library, and confessed
that Paul had asked her to marry him, and that she
had not exactly refused. Girls’ ideas about
those things are apt to be very inexact when they
are in love with a man and do not want to own it.
Of course I said I was glad she had not accepted him;
but when I put it to her in that way she seemed more
uncertain than ever. The end of it was that she
said she could not marry him, however much she liked
him, unless he could put an end to a certain foolish
tale which is told against him. I dare say you
have heard that he had been half suspected of helping
his brother out of the world. Was there ever such
nonsense? That was what Chrysophrasia meant with
her disgusting personalities about Cain and Abel.
I dare say you remember. I do not mind telling
you that I like Paul very much more than I expected
to when he first came. He has a hard shell, but
he is a good fellow, and as innocent of his brother’s
death as I am. But they are cousins,
and Paul’s mother has certainly been insane.
Of course insanity brought on by an accident can never
be hereditary; but then, there is Chrysophrasia, who
is certainly very odd. However, Paul is a fine
fellow, and I will think of it. Mrs. Carvel likes
him even better than I do. I would have preferred
that Hermione should marry an out-and-out Englishman,
but I always said she should marry the man she loved,
if he were a gentleman, and I will not go back on
my word. They will not have much to live on, for
I believe Paul has refused to touch a penny of his
brother’s fortune, believing that he may yet
But the plot thickens. What do
you suppose Macaulay has been doing? He has written
a letter to his old chief, Lord Mavourneen, who always
liked him so much, begging to be sent to Constantinople.
The ambassador had a secretary out there of the same
standing who wanted to go to Paris, so the matter
was arranged at the Foreign Office, and Macaulay is
going out at once. Naturally the female establishment
set up a howl that they must spend the summer on the
Bosphorus; that I had taken them everywhere else,
and that no one of them could die happy without having
seen Constantinople. The howl lasted a week.
Then I went the way of all flesh, and gave in.
Mrs. Carvel wanted to see Macaulay, Madame Patoff
wanted to see the place where poor Alexander disappeared,
Hermione wanted to see Paul, and Chrysophrasia wanted
to see the Golden Horn and dance upon the glad waters
of the joyous Bosphorus in the light caïque of
commerce. I am rather glad I have submitted.
I think that Hermione’s affection is serious, she
looks ill, poor child, and I want to see
more of Paul before deciding. Of course, with
Macaulay in one embassy and Paul in another, we shall
see everything; and Mary says I am growing crusty
over my books. You understand now how all this
Now I want your advice, for you not
only know Constantinople, but you are living there.
Do you advise us to come at once and spend the spring,
or to come later and stay all summer? Is there
anything to eat? Must I bring a cook? Can
I get a house, or must we encamp in a hotel? What
clothes does one wear? In short, tell me everything
you know, on a series of post cards or by telegraph, for
you hate writing letters more than I do. I await
your answer with anxiety, as we shall regulate our
movements by what you say. All send affectionate
messages to you and to Paul, to whom please read this
Yours ever, JOHN CARVEL.
I had not recovered from my astonishment
in reading this long epistle, when Gregorios came
in and sat down by the fire. His entrance reminded
me of the watch, and for the moment banished John Carvel
and his family from my thoughts. I showed him
the thing, and told him what Marchetto had said.
“We have him now!” he
exclaimed, examining the name and date with interest,
though he could not read the Russian characters.
“It is not so sure,” I
said. “He will never tell the name of the
“No; but we can see the fellow
easily enough, I fancy,” returned Balsamides.
“You do not know how these things are done.
It is most probable that Marchetto has not paid him
for the watch. Things of that sort are generally
not paid for until they have been sold out of the
shop. Marchetto would not give him a good price
for the watch until he knew what it would fetch, and
the man would not take a small sum because he believes
it to be valuable. The chances are that the Lala
comes from time to time to inquire if it is sold,
and Marchetto shows it to him to prove that he has
not got any money for it.”
“That sounds rather far-fetched,”
I observed. “Marchetto may have had it
in his keeping ever since Alexander disappeared.
The Lala would not wait as long as that. He would
take it to some one else.”
“No, I do not believe so,”
said Gregorios thoughtfully. “Besides, it
may not have been brought to the Jew more than a week
ago. Those fellows do not part with jewelry unless
they need money. It is a pretty thing, too, and
would attract the attention of any foreigner.”
“How can you manage to watch
Marchetto so closely as to get a sight of the man?”
“Bribe the Jew in the next shop;
or, still better, pay a hamal to spend his time in
the neighborhood. The man probably comes once
a week on a certain day. Keep the watch.
The next time he comes it will be gone, but Marchetto
will not have been paid for it and will refuse to pay
the Lala. There will inevitably be a hubbub and
a noise over it. The hamal can easily find out
the name of the negro, who is probably well known in
“But suppose that I am right,
and it is already paid for?” I objected.
“It is very unlikely. I
know these people better than you do. At all
events, we will put the hamal there to watch for the
row. If it does not come off in a month, I will
begin to think you are right.”
Gregorios is a true Oriental.
He possesses the inborn instinct of the bazaar.