Selim, the Benefactor of Mankind
by James Kirke Paulding
Selim was the son of a bashaw of three tails, who had governed
Smyrna and the surrounding country with such singular humanity and
justice, that he escaped the execrations of the people on the one hand,
and the bowstring of the Sublime Porte on the other. As an example of
his humanity, it will only be necessary to state the fact of his having
once pardoned a Jew, or Tchufout, as they are termed by the faithful,
who had the impudence to call in question a passage of the commentaries
of the Sunnah, in which it was insinuated that the prophet was rather
superior to Allah. Nevertheless, the bashaw was such an orthodox
Mussulman, that he actually ordered the tree which had sprung up from
the staff of St. Policarp, in the midst of the city, to be cut down. Of
his inflexible justice, the following anecdote will suffice as a proof.
A Turkish soldier was brought before him on a charge of having
pointed his matchlock in a threatening manner at the consul of the
United Provinces, who at that period was the only Christian in Smyrna
who escaped being called infidel and dog ten times a day. The bashaw
ordered the soldier's head to be cut off; the consul solicited his
pardon, saying that he freely forgave the offence to himself. "Very
well," said the bashaw, "I grant your request so far as respects
yourself. He has been guilty of two crimes, one against you, the other
against the state, for which he deserved to have his head cut off. But
as you forgive him one half his crime, I shall dispense with one half
the punishment." So saying, he ordered the head of the soldier to be
divided exactly in the middle; and it was not without vanity he
reflected on this singularly discreet act of justice, which to this day
is spoken of in the city of Smyrna with admiration. As an encouragement
to all upright and humane governors, we record with much satisfaction
that this exemplary bashaw was permitted to die like a Christian
quietly in his bed, of a tertian ague, instead of a quinsy, the disease
which commonly proves fatal to great men in the dominions of the
commander of the faithful. What was still more miraculous, though he
left a good estate behind him, it was not seized to the use of the said
commander, who is heir at law to all his great officers, but descended
to his son Selim, and his daughter Ayesha, who was called the Lily of
Selim, at the age of eight years, was placed under the care of one
of those wandering dervises so common in the East, who live by begging,
and are for that reason especially zealous in encouraging the giving of
alms. This was in fact the only lesson inculcated by his teacher, with
the exception of one other, namely, that the bestowing of alms on any
but a true believer was an offence to Allah and his prophet. "The
enemies of Islamism," would he say, "are the enemies of the prophet,
and whosoever succours them either by alms or good offices, flies in
the face of his precepts." These sentiments he repeated so often, and
with such overpowering energy, that they became the ruling guides of
the future life of his pupil, who never heard of any other duties than
those of giving away to all true believers, and hating the infidels
with all his heart. To the former he never denied a petition for alms,
while to the latter he was a perfect little tyrant; and his weak
indulgence towards the one was strongly contrasted with his obduracy to
the other, whenever an opportunity offered.
The old bashaw, his father, observing that he gave away every thing
in his possession, left him little opportunity of indulging in the
bestowal of alms. Observing, too, that Selim carried this facility of
temper to the putting up with every species of imposition and injustice
from his companions, he would say to him, "Thou wilt one day learn, my
son, when perhaps the knowledge will be of little use to thee, that
those who forgive every thing must suffer every thing in this world."
Let it be remembered that these were the sentiments of an infidel, and
only recorded to show what sort of barbarians these people are.
When Selim repeated this to the dervise, he exhorted him not to mind
what the old bashaw said, assuring him that what people called paternal
affection, domestic ties, the duties of obedience in the child, and
protection in the parent, were beneath the attention of those who aimed
at being more extensively useful to mankind, or who aspired to a
sublime degree of piety. "Thy father," would he say, "hath no right to
thy obedience, thy sister no claim on thy affection, nor would thy wife
and children, if thou hadst any, be entitled to any sacrifices on thy
part which would interfere with the great claim of thy fellow-creatures
at large, always excepting the accursed Giaours, and the still more
accursed followers of Ali, the dog."
The whole system of the dervise was based on this sacrifice of
domestic ties and duties to the claims of strangers, and the interests
of the true faith; so that by the time Selim grew up to be a man, he
was imbued with a perfect indifference, nay, almost contempt for all
those obligations which constitute the cement of society, and
administer so effectually to the real happiness of mankind. His
feelings in proportion as they expanded abroad contracted their wings
at home; and though his natural goodness of heart prevented him from
any act of unkindness to his sister, or undutifulness to his father,
yet he habitually omitted all those little good offices which are usual
among such near kindred.
In good time the old bashaw died, full of years, money, and beard,
leaving his ample wealth equally to his son and daughter. "I have the
means now, and I will use them," quoth Selim; and accordingly he caused
it to be given out that whoever was sick, miserable, or poor, might
come to him and be relieved. It is astonishing how many people who were
never suspected before became sick, miserable, and poor, immediately
after this, in the good city of Smyrna. Distress seemed to multiply
with the means he used for its relief, and had not Selim possessed the
softest heart in the world, he would have been tired of paying so many
doctor's bills, and feeding so many good looking fat people. He
wondered how they could look so well, and be at the same time so sick,
or how it was possible to be so finely dressed and yet so poor.
One day a stout hearty looking fellow came to him and begged a dozen
"For what purpose, friend?" asked Selim, "thou lookest as if thou
lackest nothing, for thy raiment is good, and thy body wholesome to
behold; art thou hungry?"
"No, my good lord, praised be the prophet."
"Art thou sick?"
"No, my good lord, thanks to Allah."
"Art thou not then ashamed to beg?"
"Ashamed! there are too many to keep me in countenance for that."
"If thou art not in want, nor sick, nor an hungered, go thy ways and
"But, alas! my lord, you must know that I have so long been
accustomed to a certain quantity of opium every day, that I am sure I
should die without it, and my purse is empty, as you see."
"Mashallah! poor man, die while I can relieve thee? Use has made
opium a necessary of life to thee, and thou requirest it as much as
thou dost food. Here are fifty sequins; go and buy opium, and when they
are gone, come to me for more."
The man departed, touching his heart and the top of his head with
either hand, and bowing almost to the ground. Selim felicitated himself
on being the cause of happiness to a human being. At the end of a month
or two he began to wonder why the poor man did not come again; but he
never came. Ere the fifty sequins were exhausted, he fell a victim to
the indulgence of opium.
"Never mind," said Selim, on hearing the news, "never mind—it is
not my fault if a man makes a bad use of my bounty."
As he said this, he felt a hand placed lightly on his shoulder, and
heard a voice exclaim,
"Thou forgettest, Selim, that those who wilfully supply the means of
self-destruction, or enable vice to revel in criminal indulgences, are
parties in the crime and responsible for the consequences."
Turning round, he beheld the sage Amurath, a venerable old man, a
friend of his father, and one who had always shown a paternal
solicitude in the fortunes of Selim. The sole wealth of Amurath
consisted in a daughter, one of the most beautiful maidens of the whole
city, with whom he sometimes wished to unite this young man. But he was
almost discouraged from the design when he saw the mischievous
consequences likely to result to himself, and all those who might
hereafter become dependent on him, from his indiscriminate bounty alike
to the worthy and the worthless. Selim saluted him with respectful
courtesy, and answered—
"The giver is not answerable in the eyes of Allah for the uses made
of his alms."
"If he knows that he giveth to the sot, the glutton, the sensualist,
or the idler, he is answerable," replied Amurath; "to bestow upon them
the means of being wicked, is to become an accomplice in their
"I am not to judge of the uses to which my bounty may possibly be
applied; if bad, the fault is theirs, not mine. It is too much trouble
to inquire into the life and character of all those who apply to me for
relief. I cannot submit to the drudgery."
"Then thou givest away thy money because it is no trouble to put thy
hand in thy purse. Thy personal exertions thou withholdest because they
are a labour?" said Amurath, significantly shaking his head; "this is
not the virtue of charity."
"No! what is it, then?" cried Selim, in utter astonishment.
"Weakness; the incapacity to resist importunity, or restrain thyself
within proper bounds."
"But," answered Selim, after a pause of reflection; "but if I do
these people harm, I am doing good to myself. I am gaining the favour
of the prophet, who has promised his blessing to the givers of alms."
"That is selfishness, not charity, except it be the charity which
beginneth at home. Thou carest then it seems nothing for the harm thou
doest to others, so thou canst benefit thyself," replied the old man,
"Thou wouldst have me then give nothing away," said the mortified
"Not so. I would have thee first inquire, where it is practicable,
whether vice or misfortune, idleness or extravagance, caused the
wretchedness thou art solicited to relieve."
"Well, and if the former, what then?"
"Relieve it, but in such a manner as that it may not increase this
vice by affording the means of indulgence. Give them food, but not
"Well, and if the latter?"
"Spare not thy bounty, but exceed not the measure of necessity, lest
thou encourage extravagance, the mother of want."
"And if the case is doubtful between vice and misfortune, what then?"
The old man paused a moment ere he answered, "Relieve it, and trust
the issue to Allah and his great prophet."
"Then you acknowledge," said Selim, "that it is better to run the
risk of giving money for the encouragement of vice, than to take the
chance of failing to relieve the deserving?"
"I know not; that is a question which only Allah can decide. But
this I know, that the obligation to relieve distress is not more solemn
than that of doing our utmost to restrain the career of vice and
extravagance. All that is left to human virtue and wisdom is so to
distribute our alms, as to do the most good and the least harm."
"Harm?" asked Selim, in surprise; "can any harm come of the practice
of a virtue?"
"Nothing is a virtue which is not under the guidance of discretion
and good sense," replied the aged Amurath; "without this curb, piety
becomes fanaticism, scorning all social duties, and rioting in blood;
the sword of justice becomes that of a remorseless executioner; and the
balm we pour into the wounds of one fellow-creature becomes a poison to
the sores of thousands and tens of thousands. Therefore do I say, give,
my son, but do not throw away. Love all mankind except the wicked and
depraved if thou wilt, but do not forget that it is only by a due
observance of the virtues of justice and prudence, that a man can be
useful to himself or a blessing to the wretched. Without these, he
would pass from the class of benefactors to the poor, into that of
those who themselves require the aid of charity."
The muezzym now proclaimed from the tops of the lofty minarets the
hour of evening prayer, and the two pious Mussulmans separated to their
The conversation with Amurath made little impression on Selim, who
continued as before to waste his substance on the idle, the thriftless,
and the undeserving. The more he gave away, the more did these objects
of charity multiply; whereat he was not more discouraged than
"Times must be growing worse and worse every day," thought he. But
the fact was the times were just as they always had been, with this
only difference, that the idle and improvident, finding their
necessities supplied by Selim, sat themselves down quietly to smoking
their pipes, drinking sherbet, and chewing opium, instead of being
compelled to labour as they used to do.
One day Selim visited the great mosque, which was once a Christian
church dedicated to St. John, and where his devotions were exceedingly
disturbed by the sight of a veiled figure, whose beautiful little foot
peeped modestly from under her robe, and whose sparkling jet-black eyes
seemed almost to have burnt two holes in the envious veil that obscured
their lustre. As she left the mosque, curiosity, or that love which in
this region is born full grown, prompted him to follow her without
appearing to do so. From time to time she turned to look at him, and
the sparkling of her eyes set his heart in a flame. To his surprise,
she stopped at the lowly gate of Amurath, which ere she closed, she
gave him a view of the Mahometan paradise by slowly raising her veil,
and keeping it suspended for a moment, while she stood with her head
depressed, her cheek burning with blushes, and her sparkling eyes
shaded by the long silken lashes that fringed their lids.
Selim departed for his home as much in love as if he had danced the
waltz and the gallopade, and sung duets with the beautiful Fatima for a
whole year. Instead of making himself agreeable to the young lady, he
took a shorter cut: he went and demanded her of Amurath in marriage.
The old man hesitated some time; but at length the affection he bore
to Selim prompted him to forget the objection to which we have before
alluded, and he gave his consent. The beautiful Fatima received him as
one who had been lodged in her heart time out of mind, and in due
season she became established as the mistress of his household. Ayesha
received her as a beloved sister, and nothing could exceed the peaceful
happiness of the little family.
Selim was for a time too blessed to think of any thing but his
beloved Fatima, and the cessation of his alms-giving had a most
wonderful effect in the city of Smyrna. A number of people who had
depended entirely on his bounty for subsistence, discovered, to their
great surprise, that they were able to maintain themselves in tolerable
comfort without his aid! In the course of three years, Fatima brought
him a daughter and a son, and these new and endearing ties and
obligations seemed to have diverted him in a great measure from his
former habits. He still continued to relieve the distressed, but it was
with a discretion becoming the father of a family and the head of a
household entirely dependent on himself. Thus he went on happily, when
his old preceptor, the dervise, who had been on a begging expedition to
Egypt, returned, and in a short time resumed his influence.
Infected with the fiery enthusiasm, or perhaps rather the rank
hypocrisy of the wandering mendicant, Selim gradually relapsed into
his old weakness of inviting people to become poor and distressed, and
relieving them without inquiry or discrimination. In process of time,
his alms exceeded the amount of his income, and he was often in want of
the means of providing for the daily comforts of his family and
dependants. One day he went to the good Amurath, and said,—
"Wilt thou lend me a thousand sequins?"
The old man immediately brought him the money, and delivered it into
his hands, after which he said,
"My son, how is it that thou, who art so rich, art necessitated to
borrow of me who am poor?"
"Father," replied the young man, "I was applied to yesterday by an
unfortunate merchant who wanted money to feast the consuls and great
persons of the city at a splendid entertainment, and whose whole estate
had been spent in keeping open house to all comers. Such a man deserved
all I had to spare, and I gave it him."
"And so thou hast robbed thy wife, thy children, and dependants, all
of whom thou art bound to provide for by the highest obligations of
nature and society, to administer to the extravagance of a spendthrift,
who possesses not even the virtue of generosity, since he is only
liberal, after all, at the expense of others."
"But he was so grateful, my father, and thanked me with such a
warmth of heart, that I was delighted, and felt the tears in my eyes.
Now when I provide for the wants of my family and dependants, nobody
thanks me—all seem to think it is only what I am bound to do, and the
performance of a mere duty excites no gratitude from anybody. Now I
confess to thee, O my father! that I like to be thanked for what I do."
"This is not charity, but selfishness, as I once before said unto
thee. O my son! seest thou not that thou art robbing thy wife and
children, to give unto strangers, merely because the first receive thy
benefits and repay thee only with silent affection and reverence,
while the others administer to thy selfish vanity by hollow thanks and
empty professions of gratitude?"
Selim did not well know what to say in reply, so he contented
himself with grumbling in an under-tone that his old father-in-law was
a prosing skinflint, and only chid him in this manner out of pure spite
at having been called upon to lend him money.
Amurath suspected or perhaps overheard this charge, and replied—
"Thou dost me injustice, my son. Thou art welcome to the money; it
is all I have in the world, but age has circumscribed my wants as well
as my wishes. All I ask of thee in return is to send the consuls and
chief men of the city to thank me for the entertainment of thy friend,
since it appears after all I am to pay for it."
They parted little satisfied with each other, for Amurath foresaw
the ruin of Selim, and Selim could not but acknowledge in his heart
that the old man was right, and that the gift which is followed by a
loan, comes from the purse of him that lends, not he that gave. But a
single lecture from the wandering dervise destroyed all the effect of
the precepts of Amurath, and Selim continued to give to all that came,
instead of saving his money to repay the loan of his father-in-law.
"The old man," quoth Selim, "does not want it; and if he did, were I
to repay him, he would not grasp my hand, bid Allah bless me, and
promise me eternal gratitude. I never heard of anybody becoming
illustrious merely by doing their duty, and complying with the
obligations of justice. I'll trouble this unreasonable old man no more."
Accordingly whenever he wanted money, either to give away or supply
the increasing necessities of his household, he procured it of Ayesha
his sister, who, like almost all the gentle sex, was generous to a
fault— generous as much from ignorance of the value of what she gave
away, as from an innate pliancy of heart, that rendered her equally the
dupe of interested hypocrisy, and of pretended distress.
While he continued only to waste his own substance, his excellent
and devoted wife sighed and said nothing, except sometimes she would
quell the rising feeling of disapprobation at the indiscriminate
charities of Selim by whispering to herself—"It is his, let him do
with it what he listeth." But when she learned from Ayesha who kept
nothing secret from her, that Selim made almost daily drafts on her for
the means of supplying the beggars who flocked to his gate, the modest
submission of the wife yielded to the higher duty she owed to an
unprotected sister and friend. She remonstrated with her husband:
"Thou hast spent all thy substance, but it was thine, and I blame
thee not—thou hast beggared thy wife and children to supply the
demands of the wives and children of others, who had not the like
strong claims upon thee—but thy wife and children are thy own, and
thou hast a just claim to their duty and submission. Yet remember, O my
husband! the fortune of thy sister is hers by the disposition of her
father, and the law of the prophet—meddle not, nor make away with it
I beseech thee, in the spirit of a true affection which values thy
integrity far beyond the reputation or the rewards thou canst acquire
by bestowing upon strangers that which belongeth to thy friends,"—and
she kissed him with the modest fervour of a gentle, affectionate
Selim received her salute with a bad grace, for this advice accorded
not with his long cherished habits and opinions. An idea of the justice
of these remonstrances glanced across his mind, but it amounted not to
a conviction; and if it had, the actions of man's life are much
oftener governed by habit than by reason. Conviction generally comes
too late when custom has familiarized us to a certain course of conduct.
"Did Allah create women without souls that they might rule the
destinies of their lords and masters," replied he, at length,
scornfully, and stalked forth with the air of a grand seignior.
Fatima took occasion at various times, after this, to repeat her
exhortations, with that glorious perseverance of virtue conscious of
being in the right, which is the most admirable characteristic of
women; but her efforts had no other effect than to alienate him from
his home and weaken his domestic affections. At length she desired her
father to interfere in behalf of Ayesha. He shook his head—
"I will essay my best," said he, "but I fear it will be of little
avail. Nothing is more difficult of cure than errors founded in a
mistaken idea of virtue."
Amurath sought an interview with Selim, and found him in the act of
listening to a beggar, who it was obvious had studied to give himself
an air of extreme want and misery, by the aid of dirt and filthiness.
But his brawny limbs and athletic frame gave sufficient evidence of his
ability to perform every species of labour necessary to his support.
The sturdy rogue was entertaining Selim with a story of having lost his
all, wife, children, house, and every thing, by an earthquake, which
happened as he said a few months before, in the neighbourhood of Mount
Selim gave him his last piaster, and received so many thanks and
blessings, that he could not help saying to himself—"What a
delightful thing it is to be charitable! I have purchased the gratitude
of a fellow-creature who will sacrifice his life for me in return for
my alms. Had I bestowed the money upon my household, it would have been
only what they had a right to expect, and nobody would have thanked
me, and called down blessings on my head."
Amurath, who had witnessed the scene with the beggar, now came up
and addressed him:
"Thou hast been giving away that which did not belong to thee, and
was required for the comfort of thy wife and children, to an imposter
who hath filled thine ear with lies. There hath been no earthquake near
Mount Olympus, nor in all Asia Minor, for three years past. How then
could this rogue have lost his wife, his children, and substance in the
manner I have just heard him relate?"
"Alas!" replied Selim, "to what distress the poor wretch must have
been reduced, thus to resort to lying for relief! That he is poor and
miserable is evident. Didst thou not see the dirt on his face and
hands? Can any thing be a higher proof of his abject poverty?"
"There is plenty of water at the fountains; and at this moment I can
hear the waves of the bay dashing against the shore. At either of these
places he might have washed his face and hands for nothing. Dirt, my
son, is rather the badge of idleness than of poverty."
"But," said the other, "would you have me let a man starve because
his poverty forced him to tell me lies?"
"He would not have starved. He is able to work, there is enough of
employment in the city, and idle as this rogue may be, he had rather
labour than perish."
These observations had some effect for the moment on Selim. But he
had long been accustomed to combine all the moral and social duties
into one, and scarcely retained in his mind a perception that the
exclusive and excessive indulgence of one single virtue almost
inevitably led to the neglect if not violation of every other.
Amurath waited patiently for a reply, and receiving none proceeded
with his remonstrance:
"Selim, thou meanest well, but thou art proceeding upon a false
interpretation of the precepts of the Koran, which indeed inculcate
charity, but not that charity which robbeth friends and kindred, or
starveth those we are bound by the law and the prophet, by the ties of
nature, and the purest affections of the heart to cherish and protect
above all others. The neglect of these is a crime which thou canst not
atone for by giving away alms to strangers, or stretching forth thy
hand to the uttermost ends of the earth, to raise or to enlighten the
oppressed or the ignorant."
"But," said the other, "wouldst thou pretend to convince me, my
father, that it is not our duty to relieve the distresses, as well as
to pardon the offences of our fellow-creatures?"
"To a certain extent assuredly, my son. But thou hast no right to
plume thyself upon the practice of a virtue out of doors, which brings
famine and distress within, and is maintained at the expense of the
sacrifice of thy duties to thy wife, thy children, and thine orphan
sister, who has no other guardian but Allah and thee."
"O! the hard-hearted inflexible selfishness of old age!" exclaimed
Selim, involuntarily. "It thinks of nothing but itself, or if it
extends its contracted views, it is only to those whom long habit has
entwined with its affections, or whose good offices and attentions
administer to its selfish comforts! True benevolence embraces the
universe, and is followed by the benedictions of all mankind."
"Yea," replied the old man—"but not with the same warmth it
embraces wife, children, and dear associates. Go home, my son, and
behold at what an expense thou hast purchased these benedictions."
Selim entered his habitation, and found his wife sitting with her
children and Ayesha, all bathed in tears. A man of whom Selim had
borrowed a sum of money, to distribute in alms, had at length become
indignant at waiting far beyond the time prescribed for payment, while
he saw his debtor employing that which of right belonged to him, in
deeds of doubtful mercy, at the same time that he neglected the
inflexible obligations of justice, at length complained to the cadi,
who as was the custom of Smyrna, immediately ordered the house and
effects of Selim to be seized, as security for the payment of the debt.
"What a hard-hearted beast!" cried Selim, "to demand payment of a
debt from a man who has given away the money to the poor. I will go to
the cadi, and explain the matter to him, and if he persists in the
forfeiture of my house and effects, I will appeal to the people whom I
have relieved, who will doubtless rise in my behalf, and prevent such
"What hast thou to say?" asked the cadi, when Selim appeared, "and
what canst thou urge in excuse for not repaying the money thou hast
borrowed from this man?"
"It was better employed," replied Selim.
"In alms to the poor."
"Selim the simple, as thou art aptly called," quoth the cadi, in a
severe and solemn tone, "hast thou yet to learn how easy it is to
practise charity at the expense of thy creditors? or that he who giveth
away all he hath to the poor, and payeth not his own debts, commits a
fraud, rather than practises a duty?"
"Dog!" thought Selim, "may the soul of his grandfather be devoured
by ten millions of locusts!"
"Thou must pay the debt, or thyself and thy wife and thy children
must be sold as slaves to satisfy thy creditor."
"I cannot pay it, my lord," replied Selim.
"No! what hath become of the wealth left thee by the good bashaw thy
"It is gone."
"What, all? Then perhaps thy sister, the fair Ayesha, rather than
see the ruin of thy household, will contribute some of her wealth to
"I have already borrowed all she had, my lord."
"Dog!" exclaimed the cadi, "he is fit for nothing but a Christian!
Perhaps thy father, the good Amurath, then, may contribute to thy
"He possessed no more than a thousand sequins, and those I borrowed
of him long ago, to relieve the necessities of a worthy man who had
spent all his wealth in acts of hospitality," replied Selim, with great
"Then if he was so generous, why did he not repay the loan?"
"I was not so unreasonable as to ask it of him. I preferred rather
to imitate his generosity."
"What, by robbing thy aged father-in-law of the savings of his whole
life to supply the extravagance of a stranger? But what hath become of
all this wealth, thine own and thy sister's?"
"I employed it in alms to beggars."
"And thus reducing thy wife and children to beggary!"
"I but obeyed the precepts of the prophet."
"Thou hast misinterpreted these precepts. Those of whom thou
exactest service, obedience, and duty, have claims on thy protection
and support far superior to the stranger of whom thou knowest nothing,
and who for aught thou canst tell is unworthy of thy bounty. I pity
thee, but the obligations of justice must be fulfilled."
The magistrate then decreed that as the house and furniture of Selim
were insufficient for the discharge of the debt, himself, his wife, and
his children should become the slaves of the creditor, who, however,
humanely declined to avail himself of the sentence, and permitted them
to go whither they pleased. They accordingly retired to a miserable
abode in the suburbs of the city, the house of the good Amurath being
too small and desolate to afford them either shelter or subsistence.
As they were departing sorrowfully to their miserable abode, the
beggars of the city flocked round him, as was their custom, asking alms.
"Alas!" replied Selim, "I have nothing left to give; I am a beggar
"Mean avaricious wretch!" they cried out, with one voice; "his heart
has become hardened, and he affects poverty, that he may have an excuse
for denying us. May he eat nothing but turtle
1 all the rest of his life."
So they pelted him with mud and dirt, and cast sand into the faces
of Selim and his family, until they could scarcely see which way to run
to avoid the missives of these ungrateful wretches, who had received
ninety and nine favours, yet now committed violence against their
benefactor, because he was unable to grant them the hundredth.
"Mistaken mortals!" sighed Selim, wiping the dust from his eyes;
"yet I forgive them."
A little farther on they met the dervise, his preceptor, who, having
been absent roaming through various parts of Asia Minor, as yet knew
nothing of his misfortunes. He approached with eagerness; expressed his
joy at once again seeing his beloved pupil, and concluded by begging a
thousand piasters, in the name of Allah and his prophet.
"I have neither money, nor house, nor lands, nor goods," replied
Selim; "my family are outcasts, and myself a beggar. Canst thou not
afford me the means of procuring a meal for my wife, my sister, and my
"The prophet will reward thee. I leave thee to his bounty," replied
the dervise, devoutly placing his hand on his head and whirling round
six times. After this he departed in haste, and Selim never saw him
The family at length arrived at their desolate abode, a wretched
fisherman's hut by the seaside, which had been abandoned on account of
its decayed condition. All that the good Amurath, who was now verging
to an extreme old age, could do, was to supply them with a few
necessary utensils, a net, and some furniture of the most homely kind,
with which they commenced their new system of housekeeping. Their first
want was that of food, and Selim accordingly went down to the shore,
and casting his net brought up a few small fishes, which might suffice
for a scanty meal for the family. As he was returning home with these,
he encountered a fisherman, who told him a piteous story of his having
been all the day casting his nets in vain, and that he was going home
to his starving family with nothing to alleviate their hunger. The
truth is, he had been idling away his time with some dissipated
companions. But Selim believed every word he said, and forgetting the
wants of his wife and children, bestowed upon him the fish he had
It was now too late to cast his net any more that day, and he
returned home with his basket empty. His wife met him eagerly at the
door; but when she looked into the basket, she turned aside and wept.
"Thou hast taken nothing?" at length she asked in a sad voice.
"I caught a few fish," replied Selim, "but I met a poor man who had
caught none, and whose family was starving at home. So I gave him all I
had, because, as the good dervise always told me, it is our duty to
give to those who are in want."
"But he did not tell thee, my husband, that it was thy duty to
deprive thy own children of food when they were starving, to bestow
upon the children of strangers."
This was the first word of reproach she had ever used towards her
husband, for the feelings of the mother at length overcame those of the
dutiful wife. Turning on Selim a look of sorrowful yet tender reproach,
she went forth to the house of the good Amurath, whom she found just
about to eat his scanty supper, and begged of him to spare something
for the pressing wants of her children. The old man delivered to her
the untasted dish, though he had eaten nothing since early in the
"Take it, my daughter," said he, "and may the blessing of the
prophet accompany it, as does that of thy father." So saying, he
blessed her thrice, and they parted. Fatima carried the food home, and
though faint with hunger, would not taste a morsel, lest her children
might be deprived of that which was necessary to their support. But
Selim declared he should perish if he did not taste the food; and he
tasted, and tasted, until he had devoured more than half the portion of
his children. Fatima sat looking on, and though she loved her husband,
she could not help grudging him every morsel he put to his mouth.
The next morning the news came that the aged Amurath had been found
dead on his couch, and the story went that he had perished from
debility occasioned by want of that nourishment which is essential to
the feebleness of age. Fatima wrung her hands and wept, and accused
herself of having been the cause of her father's death.
"But I did it for the best," said she to her own heart, "I did it
for the sake of my children, and Allah will pardon me for having been
the death of him who gave me birth, in striving to preserve those who
owe their life to me."
Amurath had left behind only sufficient to bury him, and that day
Selim again went forth towards the seaside with his net, but meeting an
old man by the way, who was bearing a burden to the city, which long
habit had enabled him to support without difficulty, he was so smitten
with compassion that he insisted on carrying it himself; and laying his
net down by the road-side, he placed the burden on his own shoulders,
and went towards the city followed by the old man. When they came to
the place where the burden was to be deposited, the old man thanked him
and offered payment for his trouble, but Selim refused it indignantly,
saying, "Old man, dost thou think I make a trade of my good offices?"
Coming to the place where he had deposited his net, he found it
gone, and after looking for it in vain until it was dark, he returned
home without net or food. Fatima, pale and exhausted, staggered towards
him; Ayesha could not rise from the floor, where she sat leaning
against the wall, and the little children ran to his arms and cried out
that they were starved almost to death.
Selim was touched for a moment with the scene; but he said to
himself, in the pride of his heart, "Did I not relieve the old man of a
burden which his age must have made painful for him to carry."
"Where hast thou been?" at length asked his wife, with a faint and
feeble voice; "where hast thou been, and what hath become of thy net
and thy basket?"
Selim related, with not a little self-sufficiency, the disinterested
act he had performed towards the old man. Fatima forbore to reproach
him, but the clamours of his children were sufficient to stab the heart
of the father, had he not cherished a mistaken idea of the relative
duties to strangers and kindred.
Darkness now enveloped the earth, but Fatima, who could not endure
the sight of her children's distresses, and their moanings for food,
once more went forth, to beg for something to save them from perishing.
"Wilt thou not go with me, Selim?" said she.
"Alas!" replied he, "I am so tired with carrying the burden for the
old man, that I can scarcely support myself. Go thou, and do not return
without food, for I am faint with hunger and fatigue."
The night was dark, and Fatima bent her steps as well as she could
judge towards a distant point of the bay of Smyrna, where the fishermen
were wont to catch fish by decoying them with lights. But she missed
her way, and after wandering she knew not whither, at length, overcome
by fatigue and hunger, she sunk down on the beach near a point of rocks
jutting far out into the sea. Here she was found by a party of
marauding Greek pirates, who had concealed their vessel behind the
group of islands which lies off the harbour of Smyrna, who carried her
on board, and setting sail soon after, bore her away with them. Their
brutal insults and harsh inhumanity, cooperating with hunger and
debility, soon brought the existence of poor Fatima to a close, and the
third day from her capture saw her remains consigned to the waves amid
the scoffs of these unfeeling wretches.
After the departure of Fatima, Ayesha, the children, and Selim
waited anxiously awhile for her return, but at length, overpowered by
hunger and weakness, they sunk into a disturbed sleep, from which they
awoke giddy and unrefreshed. The morning came, but no Fatima; and at
length Selim resolved to go forth in pursuit of her, while Ayesha was
to exert her remaining strength in an attempt to crawl as far as the
city in search of something to relieve their necessities. The children,
now too weak to stand, they shut up in the hut for safety, and went on
Selim had proceeded little more than a couple of miles along the
winding shore, ere he was accosted by a young boy, who came running
towards him, and when he got nigh, cried out, beseeching him to hasten
and protect him from a dog that growled and showed his teeth at him as
if he intended to bite.
"I am going, it is true, in search of my wife, who may be
perishing," thought Selim, "but this will only delay me a few moments,
and it is our duty to protect strangers." Accordingly he followed the
young lad until he was past all fear of the dog, which indeed was not
dangerous, and being invited into the house of his father, received
such warm thanks for his kindness that he could not help thinking to
himself, "I dare say, if I had found Fatima, she would not have been
half so grateful. What a pleasure to confer benefits on those who have
no claim upon us, and thus entitle ourselves to their warmest thanks!"
He was so pleased with himself, and with the refreshments offered
him, of which he partook largely, that he forgot the object for which
he went forth until he persuaded himself it was too late to prosecute
his search any farther, most especially, as in all probability nobody
would thank or praise him for this act of mere duty. Accordingly,
feeling himself much invigorated with the food he had eaten, he rose to
depart for home. The thought occurred to him that he would ask for some
food to take to his children; but he said to himself, "This will enable
these people to repay the obligation I have conferred on them, and they
will no longer be grateful. Besides, no doubt but my sister has long
before this time brought them relief." Accordingly he departed for
home, cheered with the vain thought of having entitled himself to the
thanks of strangers.
As he wound round the projecting point that hid from his view the
miserable hut where he dwelt, and which was situated at a considerable
distance from any other habitation, he saw a smoke ascending in that
direction, and people running in great haste towards it.
"Thy habitation is on fire!" cried one who passed him with all his
Selim followed on as fast as his weakness would permit; but his
footsteps were arrested by a voice crying out for relief. He stopped
and beheld a child, about six or eight years old, up to the knees in a
slough by the road-side. Selim, with some difficulty and no small
delay, extricated the boy, who was so grateful for his kindness, that
he could not help congratulating himself on having spent almost half an
hour in relieving him. Presently a man came running towards him, and
"Infidel! Knowest thou not thy house is consuming, and thy children
perishing in the flames, that thou dalliest thus on thy way?"
The words smote upon the heart of Selim, and he rushed towards his
home with the speed of an Heirie. The scene that met his eye was enough
to turn his heart to stone, and urge his brain to madness. The hut was
of the most combustible materials, and thatched with dry reeds that
kindled with the slightest spark. A chill wind was blowing from the
mountains of the interior, and the children it was supposed, had
replenished the embers on the hearth with some little sticks that lay
in the chimney corner. But how the fire communicated to the hut none
ever knew exactly; once on fire the progress of the flames must
necessarily have been rapid, and the children, being too weak, in all
probability, to escape through the window, had perished miserably.
Nothing was left of the hut but its ashes, and nothing of the poor
children but whitened bones.
Selim grovelled in the dust and tore his beard at the sight. One of
the fishermen took him home, gave him food, and offered him all the
consolation in his power. But he rejected his kindness for a time,
until the violence of his grief had exhausted itself, and nature began
to peep forth from the dark cavern of sorrow in search of topics of
consolation. Occasionally his conscience told him that he had neglected
his household, and sacrificed his wife and children in his exclusive
devotion to the benefit of mankind; but, on the other hand, a secret
vanity whispered comfort to his heart by reminding him that in doing so
he had entitled himself to the praise and gratitude of strangers. "It
is no great stretch of humanity," he would say to himself, "it is no
great stretch of humanity to take care of one's own, and the less claim
people have upon us for benefits, the greater is the virtue of
bestowing them. Kindness to our families is nothing more than an
instinct; even the brutes set us the example of taking care of their
When by degrees he had wrought himself into a conviction that he was
not to blame for the misfortunes which had befallen his family, but on
the contrary entitled to the rewards of disinterested benevolence, he
one day bethought himself of his wife and sister, and resolved to go in
pursuit of them. He was just on the eve of setting out, when he was
diverted from his intention by receiving information that a number of
pilgrims were about to embark at Smyrna for Alexandria in Egypt, and
thence to proceed on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The vessel was to stop at
the Isle of Scio and other places for recruits. This opportunity
offered a great temptation to Selim, who reflected that his poverty now
precluded him from administering to the happiness of mankind by
bestowing alms, and that all that was left to him now, was the chance
of benefiting them by his precepts and example. Besides, it was the
duty of every good Mussulman to visit the tabernacle of the prophet at
least once in his life, in order to obtain a remission of his sins. In
addition to these motives, the idea of being called Hadgi, and
entitling himself to the respect of the Imams, was a great inducement.
Such were the considerations which wrought upon Selim to set out on
his pilgrimage to the temple of Mecca. He forgot his wife and sister,
and embarked in the vessel for Alexandria in company with a number of
pilgrims, male and female. Besides these, there were many others,
Turks, Arabs, Greeks, Latins, Armenians, and Jews, all going on their
several occasions, to the different ports at which the vessel was to
touch on her way. Among the pilgrims was a rich Turk and his wife, who
had left her children to the care of an old nurse. Selim was resolved
to lose no time in doing all the good in his power to the miserable
mistaken people that happened to fall in his way, and to convert as
many as possible to the true faith. "I have nothing," said he, "to give
away, but I will make it up in good offices."
The Greeks, Armenians, and Latins perpetually disputed on the
subject of their respective creeds, and cherished a bitter antipathy
towards each other, which appeared not a little extraordinary to Selim,
who considered them all dogs alike. He thought it a signal proof of
folly, as well as impudence, to pretend that any one religion was
preferable to another, with the exception of the true faith; but at the
same time, acting upon the principle of benefiting mankind, he
attempted to reconcile them, by convincing them they were all infidels.
To his great surprise and indignation, they united in abusing him
soundly in their own tongues, which was all they dared to do, seeing he
was a Mussulman. The vessel arrived at the port of Scio, where she was
detained several days waiting for the pilgrims who had not yet finished
Selim employed this interval in making excursions on foot into
various parts of the island, for the purpose if possible, of bettering
the condition of the inhabitants. One day while on his way to the
beautiful village of Salavia, situated on a charming plain near the
centre of this delightful island, which may be called the paradise of
the world, he chanced to encounter several Greek women going on a party
of pleasure to amuse themselves among the groves of olives, figs, and
mastic. They were riding on horseback after the fashion of men, without
veils, and laughing and joking with each other in high spirits. Selim
felt highly indignant at these violations of decorum, and placing
himself right before them in the highway, made them a long harangue on
the extreme indecency of their conduct. After listening to him with
great gravity, they burst into a loud laugh, and spurring their horses,
ran right over him, trampling him in the dirt, and bruising him sorely.
"Mashallah!" exclaimed he, rising and brushing the dirt from his
face and eyes—"Mashallah! what a return for attempting to benefit
these wicked women. No wonder the prophet has denied them the
possession of souls!"
He was not, however, discouraged by the ill-treatment of these
abominable females, who had the impudence to show their faces, and
laugh on horseback, but continued his endeavours to benefit mankind in
various ways during his stay in the island. One day he met with a Greek
who was labouring in a beautiful vine-yard, redundant with rich
clusters of grapes, on one extremity of which was a pleasant house and
garden, exhibiting every appearance of competence if not wealth.
"What a fool is this Greek to make a slave of himself thus, while he
has every thing he wants ready to his hands. I will go and convince him
of his error," thought Selim. Accordingly he went to him, saying what
folly it was to be labouring for that which, when he had gained it, was
not worth the purchase, and assuring him that he himself was much
happier, with his ragged, miserable garment, and with not a para in his
purse, than such a sordid hard-working slave as the Greek.
"Follow me," he cried, "and I will teach thee a proper estimate of
the worthlessness of these things."
The Greek, with that lowly reverence which this down-trodden race is
obliged to display towards their masters the Turks, invited Selim into
his house to take some rest and refreshment. Selim found his grapes
right excellent, and banqueted lustily on the products of that labour
which he so much despised. But he still continued his exhortations, and
treated the poor Greek and his pursuits with very little ceremony.
On going away he said, "Thy grapes, thy figs, and thy sweetmeats are
good, to say naught of thy sherbet. Whence and how didst thou procure
"By that labour which thou hast exhorted me to abandon," replied the
other, with a lowly obeisance.
"Hum," thought Selim, "the fruit is good, though the means of
raising it are naught. What a miserable race are these infidels, whose
whole life is spent in labouring for that which they give away for
nothing!" He made another and a last attempt to convince the Greek of
the superior delights of the more rational course pursued by the
children of the prophet, who did nothing but smoke and drink sherbet,
and chew opium, while he was slaving in his fields all day long. The
Greek, however, continued modestly to defend his mode of life, until
Selim at length fell into a passion, and declared his determination to
accept of nothing at the hands of such an obstinate Giaour. When he
came to consult his pocket, however, he found that he had reckoned
without his host. There was not a single para in it. The Greek
perceived the dilemma and said jestingly—
"Shall I lend thee the money, that thou mayst be under no obligation
to such a poor creature as thy servant?"
Selim accepted the offer, and the Greek, in counting out a few
pieces, displayed a hoard of golden ducats, which caught the eye of
Selim, who could not help thinking what a pleasant accompaniment they
would be to his pilgrimage.
"What business has a Giaour with so much money?" said he, as he
turned towards the port; "it would be better employed in a pilgrimage
to the tabernacle of the prophet." But he was too good-natured to
follow up this suggestion, and contented himself with telling the story
a day or two afterwards to the collector of the grand seignior's
tribute of mastic, who, the next time he went his rounds, took occasion
to bring an accusation against the poor Greek, of having embezzled a
portion of what was due to the representative of the prophet. The
punishment for such impiety is death, and the unlucky Greek was glad to
compound with his purse of golden ducats. "Thou hast ruined me," said
he, meeting Selim as he came forth from an audience of the collector,
and related his story.
"Beard of Mahomet! but it is a judgment upon thee," cried Selim;
"yet who would have thought my attempt to better the condition of this
miserable sinner would have led to such a catastrophe!"
Happening to hear that the janizaries stationed on the island, which
depends greatly for the subsistence of the common people on the fish
caught in the bay of Scio, practised the most horrible impositions, by
suffering none but themselves to keep nets, and selling out the fish at
their own prices to the poor, Selim thought this a favourable
opportunity of practising in his vocation of bettering the condition of
mankind. He accordingly sought an audience with the aga of the
janizaries, and remonstrated with him on his conduct to the faithful.
If it had been the infidels only who suffered, he would have thought it
"Do the dogs complain?" asked the aga.
"Very much," replied the other.
"The Greek dogs?"
"Ay, and the Tchufouts, all complain."
"They do; then, by the hump of the prophet's camel, I will give them
something to complain of," cried the aga, and sent his janizaries to
bring up as many of these grumblers as they could catch, and give them
the bastinado. This was accordingly done in the presence of Selim, who
was detained to witness this exemplary act of justice. He afterwards
went among these people condoling with them, and telling how he had
striven to better their condition by remonstrating with the aga, but
"O ho! you did, did you," exclaimed they all at once, "mashallah!
then it is to you we are indebted for this treat. It would be
ungrateful to lose a single moment in repaying thy favours."
Accordingly they laid hold of Selim, and dragging him into a
by-place, belaboured him until he could scarce find breath in his body
to cry out for mercy. When they had done, they sent him about his
"O holy prophet!" exclaimed Selim, as he crawled away, "what a
return for attempting to benefit man-kind!"
The pilgrims having completed their preparations, and all being in
readiness, Selim departed from Scio, with the consolation of having
attempted to do as much good as possible. "It is not my fault that I
did not succeed," said he. A day or two after they were becalmed close
to the little island of Nizari, which is famous for having the best
divers in all the Archipelago. Nor is this at all wonderful, since when
a rich man intends marrying his daughter, he appoints a day for all
the young men of the island to repair to the seaside, and there in his
presence and that of his child to dive for her. He who goes deepest and
remains under water the longest wins the prize.
It happened that a trial of this kind was going on at the moment the
vessel was becalmed close to the shore, and seeing a great crowd
collected, the passengers, with the exception of the Turkish lady, who
refused to be guilty of such an indecorum, all went ashore to witness
Upwards of a hundred fine looking young men were collected, and the
trial commenced in the presence of a crowd of spectators. The prize was
a charming girl who sat at some distance with eyes modestly averted. It
was said that she ardently wished success to a youth who was present,
and who excelled all his competitors in the beauty of his face, as well
as the symmetry of his person. The lots had been cast to decide the
order in which each of the candidates was to dive, and the turn of the
handsome young man was the last.
A little bag was tied round the neck of the diver, the depth of the
water correctly measured in different places, and it was astonishing to
see the time they remained under water, as well as the vast depth
whence they brought up their pearl-oysters. All had now done their
best, when the handsome youth advanced to essay his fortune. It was
observed that the robe which enveloped the bosom of the young virgin
rose and fell with more than usual rapidity, as the young man plunged
into the sea at a spot where as yet no one had reached the bottom.
As the period of his immersion lengthened beyond all the others,
shouts of victory resounded from the spectators, and the bosom of the
young prize damsel increased in its throbbings, like the waves of the
sea when the tempest is rising. A few moments more, and the shouts
gradually subsided into low murmurs, while the crowd eagerly advanced
to the verge of the ocean, and seemed agitated by a painful anxiety to
see him rise. A few moments more, and a hollow moan announced
increasing and almost hopeless anxiety. The prize damsel appeared
agitated by the most violent emotions, and at length voices exclaimed,
"It is time for him to return."
"He will never return!" exclaimed the distracted maid, rushing
towards the beach, and beseeching the other young men to dive to his
rescue, if it was not yet too late. They obeyed, but it was some time
ere they reappeared, during which the maiden wrung her hands, and
exclaimed in piteous despair. At length, after a lapse of a few
moments, one of the young men appeared bearing the body of the handsome
youth without sense or motion to the shore. Various means were taken
for his restoration, during which the distracted girl remained fixed as
a statue with her hands clasped and her eyes raised as if beseeching
the interference of Heaven. In a little while the limbs of the youth
became stiff, his muscles rigid and inflexible, and it was declared
that he was stone dead, beyond all hope.
No one was so ungenerous as to claim the victory, or demand the
prize from the deceased diver, and the poor girl was led home in silent
despair by her father and nearest relatives. Selim, who had witnessed
this scene, thought to himself that here was a capital opportunity of
benefiting mankind by abolishing this dangerous practice of diving,
which had proved fatal to so fine a youth, and blasted the happiness of
so beautiful a damsel.
When the young maiden and her friends had retired, he mounted on a
rock, and made a speech to the crowd on the dangerous and mischievous
consequences of diving, which was received with great indignation.
"He would persuade us to give up our livelihood!" cried one.
"He would abolish the practice of diving for a wife, which our
ancestors followed from time immemorial!" cried another.
"Duck him! duck him!" exclaimed a thousand voices; and poor Selim,
before he had time to argue the question, was seized and plunged
headlong into the sea, where he would have perished but for the
assistance of one of the pilgrims, who compassionated his situation and
came to his relief.
"Mashallah!" exclaimed Selim, "but this is a mighty poor return for
attempting to better the situation of these ignorant people."
From Nizari they sailed on their voyage to Samos, and thence to the
famous island of Rhodes, the chief city of which was exclusively
occupied by Turks and Jews, none other being permitted to reside there.
At this island they spent several days, enjoying the sweet air which
excels that of all other places in the Archipelago, and replenishing
their provisions amid the plenty which reigns in this fine island.
Selim, being of an inquisitive turn, and anxious on all occasions to
benefit mankind, rambled about in different directions, asking
questions and inquiring into every thing, in order that he might be the
better able to improve the condition of the people.
The Turks, who like to sit cross-legged, smoke, and do nothing but
play with a string of beads; and who abhor answering questions, cannot
form an idea of any good motive for a man being inquisitive. They
always take him for a spy, and treat him accordingly. One day Selim
made up to a venerable Turk, who was sitting quietly under the shade of
an orange-tree smoking his long pipe, with a beard as long as his pipe,
and asked him the meaning of certain inscriptions, in Greek and Latin,
over the doors of a ruined church once belonging to the knights of
Rhodes, and dedicated to our Lady of victory.
"Dost thou take me for an infidel, that I should understand any
language but that of the prophet," exclaimed the man with the long pipe
and beard indignantly. "Who and what art thou, to be asking such
"I am a pilgrim, on my way to the tabernacle of the prophet, and the
sole business of my life is to relieve the distresses, and cure the
errors of mankind," answered Selim.
"Well, go about thy business, friend, and trouble me with no more
questions; I am no Tchufout or infidel to plague myself with these
heathenish marks on an old wall. Go ask the Tchufouts."
"Tchufouts!" cried Selim, in astonishment. "Do the followers of the
prophet permit Tchufouts to live among them, and enjoy the sweet air of
"'Tis the will of the prophet," replied the Turk, "or it would not
be thus, that they should be permitted to live among us, as our slaves,
to perform those labours which are beneath a true believer; and that we
may have something to spit upon now and then."
"What fools are these Tchufouts," thought Selim, "to be slaves and
to be spit upon, when they might escape these indignities by becoming
true believers. I will go and convert them, and so better their
Accordingly he went into the quarter where they resided, and told
them without any circumlocution that as there was but one Allah and
that Mahomet was his prophet, it was a great proof of their ignorance
as well as wickedness not to believe in them, in preferrence to their
own false divinity and his prophets, who had thus left them to all the
drudgery and insults of the true believers.
An old rabbi, to whom he addressed this consolatory exhortation,
"That we are exiles, and wanderers, and down-trodden, and
oppressed,—that we have no country, no home, no rights, and no
protection but that of Jehovah, is true. But it is the will of heaven,
declared in ancient prophecies which are every day fulfilling, and we
submit not only with patience, but with a degree of happiness thou
canst not comprehend, arising from the conviction that when the
prophecy is fulfilled, the people of the Lord will be gathered from the
uttermost parts of the earth, the kingdom of Jerusalem be restored in
tenfold honour and glory, and our enemies and oppressors become in
their turn our slaves."
Selim was the best natured man in the world, except when he found
people so unreasonable and obstinate in their prejudices, that they
refused to be happy in the way he desired. That these miserable people,
who had neither country nor rights, and who were the instruments of the
labours, as well as the victims of Turkish tyranny, should pretend to
be happy or even contented, was enough to provoke a saint, much more a
He spat on the ground, and wished that the soul of the rabbi's great
grandmother might be turned into a pomegranate, and eaten by swine.
After which he went to the cadi, and advised him to order the Tchufouts
to be all bastinadoed six times a day.
"To what purpose," asked the cadi, "wouldst thou inflict this
punishment, and what offence have they committed against thee?"
"None," replied Selim, "save that they pretend to be happy in their
present condition, and refuse to believe in the Koran. Besides, did not
these Tchufouts rebel against their own prophet, and may they not be
lawfully maltreated according to the precepts of Mahomet?"
"Knowest thou not that the representative of the prophet, the
sublime Solyman, has decreed that the Tchufouts shall remain unmolested
so long as they demean themselves with the humility of dogs? Wherefore
dost thou attempt to interfere with his will?" answered the cadi.
"Upright and overwise magistrate," exclaimed Selim, "I bow to thy
words with the submission of humility; but permit thy slave to observe
that one of the most infallible modes of bettering the condition of
man-kind, is to make their present state so uncomfortable, that they
will gladly adopt any other that offers them relief from their
sufferings. I only wish to recommend such a course towards these
"What right hast thou to interfere with the will of the commander of
the faithful, son of a swineherd!— It is written in the Koran that
the man who neglects his own proper business to meddle in the affairs
of others is worse than a Giaour. Thou art such an advocate for
flagellation that I will administer it to thee presently." So he
ordered the bastinado, though Selim could not for the soul of him
recollect having ever read in the Koran the precept quoted by the cadi.
The judgment was, however, inflicted upon him, and he could not help
exclaiming at intervals—
"O Mahomet! what a world is this, where all that a man gets for
attempting to benefit his fellow-creatures is stripes and a ducking!
But I will leave these abominable Tchufouts to themselves, and may they
be obliged to live upon pork all their lives."
From Rhodes they voyaged to the famous island of Cyprus, the
birthplace of the goddess of love and beauty, where the women are all
ugly and the men handsome, in consequence, it is affirmed, of a dercee
of Venus, to revenge the neglect of the former to sacrifice on her
altar. Having a fair wind, they soon passed the little rocky island of
Castro Rosso, and came opposite the gulf of Satalia, whence sailing by
cape Sampisana, and Fonte Amoroso, on the seventh day they came in
sight of Baffee, one of the principal ports of the island of Cyprus,
not far from the site of the ancient Paphos. The next morning they
anchored in the bay of Salina, where the ships lie at about a league
from the shore.
They arrived just at the end of a long drought, which had not only
destroyed the harvest of the present year, but so dried up the streams,
that the water-mills, by which all the corn in the island is ground,
were stopped, and they had no means of converting what little grain
remained of the preceding year into flour. There was consequently a
great scarcity, and a complete famine would have ensued, had not the
European merchants residing on the island taken the precaution to lay
up a quantity of grain beforehand, which they distributed among the
people. It is affirmed that several good Mussulmans died of starvation,
some because they considered it disrespectful to counteract the will of
the prophet, who had decreed a famine; and others because they
considered it degrading to their dignity to grind their own corn, now
that the mills were all stopped. Another harvest was, however, just
gathered in, and the streams of water had been replenished with rains,
so that plenty again reigned in the island.
Among other places they visited during their stay to refresh
themselves, was the city of Famagosta, where there are a great many
fens and salt-pans, which infect the air, and cause such a great
mortality among the inhabitants, that it is remarked but few of them
arrive at a good old age. A Frank merchant with whom Selim had formed
an acquaintance observed one day to him, how easy it would be to render
the place healthy by draining the fens, and shutting the sea-water out
of the salt-pans, the exhalations from which no doubt occasioned the
frequent fevers which desolated the neighbourhood.
"Why don't you persuade them to do it," said Selim, "and thus confer
a great benefit on mankind?"
"Because," replied the other, smiling, "I don't wish to become a
martyr. They would tear me in pieces for depriving them of their salt."
"Such considerations," thought Selim, "could influence none but an
infidel, who thinks more of money than the good of mankind."
He went to the chief men of Famagosta, and proposed a plan for
draining the fens; but they treated it with scorn, and he was lucky in
escaping the bastinado. Not discouraged, he walked down to the pans,
where many thousands were engaged in gathering salt, and exhorted them
to listen to his proposal.
"What! beggar the whole city by draining the fens and destroying the
salt-pans!" exclaimed thousands with one voice.
"What! counteract the decree of Allah, who hath ordained there shall
be fens and fevers in this very spot!" cried several devout Mussulmans.
"Give him the bastinado!"
"Tear him in pieces!"
"Pickle him alive!" shouted they from different quarters.
The picklers carried the day, and Selim was tossed neck and heels
into a salt-pan, where he lay in the sun till he was nearly scorched to
death, and his body incrusted with a coat of salt half an inch thick.
From this perilous situation he was delivered by the Frank merchant,
who threw a handful of paras, during the scramble for which Selim was
lifted up and conducted out of danger by the merchant.
"I told thee how it would be," said he to Selim.
"But, mother of the prophet!" cried the other, "who would have
thought of being pickled alive for only attempting to better the
condition of his fellow-creatures!"
Our pilgrim was somewhat discouraged by this unreasonable antipathy
of the people of Famagosta to having their condition bettered, and had
almost determined not to trouble himself any more about them, until one
day he met a number of women in the fields without veils, and whose
complexions were as brown as a berry. Seeing this, he could not resist
the temptation of doing them a good turn, and accordingly remonstrated
in strong terms against this exposure, which was not only immodest in
itself, but spoiled their complexions, as was plainly to be seen,
making them look like so many wild Arabs of the desert. Now the women
of Cyprus are very apt to think themselves all Venuses, because Venus
was once queen of the island, and they resented this comparison of the
wild Arabs by pelting honest Selim with pomegranates till he was fain
to retreat as fast as his legs could carry him.
"This comes," quoth he, "of taking the trouble to enlighten people
without souls. If I ever attempt to better the condition of women
again, may my beard be turned into the tail of a cow."
All things being ready, the vessel again set sail from the island,
for the famous port of Alexandria, and proceeded on her voyage without
any accident worth recording until the fourth day, when they
encountered an adverse wind, which drove them to the leeward, and
finally increasing to a gale, carried the vessel far out of her course
towards the coast of Judea.
Finding that nothing but the most vigorous exertions of all hands on
board would prevent the vessel from going on shore, each one essayed
his utmost. The Greek sailors forthwith lighted a lamp before the
Virgin, and began saying all the prayers they could remember; the
Latins, disdaining the Greek superstition, refused to kneel at their
shrine, but offered their devotions to another virgin they considered
more orthodox. The Arabians laughed at these infidels, and indulged in
some odd mummeries of their own; while the Mussulmans, despising them
all, lighted their pipes and quietly submitted to destiny. "Allah is
great, and Mahomet is his prophet!" exclaimed they at intervals, and
The confusion on board, and the violent rolling of the vessel had
brought the rich Turk and his wife, who were going with valuable
presents of jewels to the tabernacle of the prophet, on deck, where
they sat in a quiet dignified apathy awaiting the result, which was
what might be expected, where they agreed in nothing except in
neglecting the means of safety. It happened that Selim was sitting next
the rich Turk, smoking his pipe, and thinking to himself what a
glorious thing it would be to be drowned on a pilgrimage to Mecca. For
some time not a word was exchanged between them, until a cry from the
sailors announced that the land was in sight and close at hand.
The Turk then quietly knocked the ashes out of his pipe, put away
his beads carefully, and proceeding to the cabin soon returned with a
little box of curious workmanship.
"Thou art a true believer," said he to Selim, "and no infidel,
therefore I will trust thee. In a little while, unless the storm
abates, our vessel will be dashed to pieces, and in all likelihood
every soul on board will perish. In such a situation it becomes me to
devote all my cares to the preservation of her who is dearer to me than
life, or any of the goods of life. This casket contains the wealth
which I meant to devote to the glory of the prophet. It will only
embarrass me in the crisis that is approaching. Wilt thou take charge
of it for me, and preserve it as long as thou canst without
sacrificing thyself? If I survive, I will amply reward thee."
"I will," replied Selim; "but suppose that thou and thy wife should
perish, which Allah forbid!"
The Turk considered a moment, and replied—
"If such is the will of Allah, and thou shouldst survive with the
treasure, keep it and devote one half in my name and the name of my
dear Zeid, at the shrine of the prophet. The other is thine to do with
it what thou wilt."
Selim received the casket, and promising faithfully to fulfil the
wishes of the Turk, if he should outlive the storm, fastened it round
his waist in the best manner the time and circumstances would permit.
It was almost dark night, and he had scarcely done this when the vessel
struck the ground with her stern, and wheeling around suddenly
encountered a rock, against which she in a few moments beat herself to
pieces. All was now confusion and despair, and each one essayed his own
safety with the exception of the Turk, who clasped his beloved wife in
his arms, and they both perished together. The shore was rocky and
almost everywhere steep, and so barren that it was seldom visited by
the inhabitants of the interior. No one came to their assistance, even
if aid had been practicable, and of all that had embarked on board the
ship not one escaped alive but Selim, who was thrown upon a narrow
strip of sandbeach among the rocks, bruised and exhausted, yet still
having sufficient of the vital spirit remaining to recover of himself
in the course of half an hour. The casket remained fastened to his body
as it was when the vessel struck against the rocks.
The place where this happened was at the foot of Mount Hebron,
between Joppa, or Jaffa, and Gaza, to which latter place he bent his
way as fast as his bruised limbs would carry him. It was chance that
directed him in his course, for the day had not yet dawned, and he
could not distinguish the town, which indeed was hid by a high
projecting cape. As his steps were embarrassed by the darkness as well
as by weakness of body, he advanced but slowly, and it was daylight
before he came to Gaza. Approaching the town, which, like almost all
the ancient and famous cities along this coast, is now reduced to a
miserable village, half Turkish and half Arabian, with perhaps a few
Christians under the protection of a consul,—he encountered a couple
of Arabs, who looked hard at him, and seemed very much inclined to
investigate the contents of his casket. But the approach of a Turk on
horseback, with a long beard, it would seem, prevented the indulgence
of their curiosity, and they scampered away without looking behind them.
The Turk came up, and seeing that Selim was in the habit of a
pilgrim, and that he was feeble and tired, stopped his horse, and
saluting him respectfully, inquired why his garments were so wet and
his body so bruised. Selim told his story, and the Turk, dismounting
his horse, assisted him to his place, and walking before, conducted him
to his house, which was the largest and best in the village. He was the
chief governor of the surrounding district, and was called Abdallah el
Hakim by the Arabs, whom he had drubbed into a great respect for his
character and office. Abdallah furnished Selim with dry garments,
ordered his wounds to be washed, and sent for the French consul, who
was a physician, to dress them. When Selim found he was an infidel, he
refused his good offices, and requested that one of the faithful might
be called in. Accordingly a dervise of the neighbourhood was summoned,
who, after whirling round a hundred and fifty times without stopping,
exclaiming each time, "Allah is great, and Mahomet is his prophet,"
pronounced him cured. Selim tried to believe him, but the pains in his
bones made him sometimes doubt a little; and finally he was astonished
to find, that he was three weeks before he could walk out into the
"Thou wouldst have been cured in one quarter of the time hadst thou
employed the Frank doctor," said Abdallah one day to him.
"But what true believer would not prefer being lame a few days to
the contamination of an infidel's touch?" asked Selim.
"Not I," quoth Abdallah, coolly; "but, as these Christians have it,
`Every one to his notion.' It is not for me to find fault with thy
cherishing a pain in thy bones."
"He is little better than an infidel himself!" thought Selim. "Where
is the use of going on a pilgrimage to the tomb of the prophet, if the
faith of a Giaour comes so near that of a true believer, that he may be
permitted to touch him with his hand in the way of his profession?
Better be guilty of the sin of ingratitude than to remember the favours
of Abdallah el Hakim."
From this time, such was the indignation of the good pilgrim against
Abdallah, that he actually forgot his kind offices, and determined not
to trust him with the secret of the contents of the casket, half of
which he considered as justly belonging to himself, provided the Turk
did not appear to claim the whole. He was too conscientious, in regard
to strangers at least, to avail himself of the contents of the casket
until he had ascertained with certainty the death of the rich Turk and
his wife. For this purpose, as soon as his strength would permit, he
visited the spot where the vessel was wrecked, and became certain that
both had perished by meeting a party of strolling Arabs, some of whom
wore portions of the garments of the two unfortunate pilgrims, who, as
they informed him, had been stripped and buried in the sands.
Selim was now rich once more, and he resolved to prosecute his
pilgrimage to the shrine at Mecca, with the double view of complying
with the injunctions of the prophet and fulfilling, at the same time,
his promise to the rich Turk. Learning that immediately after the close
of the month Ramozan, a caravan, composed of pilgrims from Asia Minor,
was to set out from Damascus to join that which departs from Cairo
thirty days after, he determined to travel to the former city, visiting
Joppa, Samaria, Cæsarea, Ptolemais, Tyre, and other places by the way,
with a view to improve the condition of the people if he found occasion.
Bidding farewell to his kind host, whom he scarcely thanked because
he wished him to be cured by an infidel, Selim departed for Joppa in
company with a party of merchants, among whom, to his infinite disgust,
were a couple of monks belonging to a convent of Armenians at that
place. The merchants were all well armed, and advised him to equip
himself also with the means of defence. This, however, he declined,
saying that he would reason with the Arabs if they offered to molest a
man who was journeying in obedience to the precepts of the prophet, and
for the benefit of his fellow-creatures.
Nothing particular happened until the party came to the large and
beautiful plain which, commencing near Joppa, extends as far as the eye
"Behold!" cried one of the monks; "behold the spot where Joshua
defeated the five kings, and caused the sun and moon to stand
still!"—and they both crossed themselves with pious devotion.
"Fools and unbelievers!" exclaimed Selim, in a rage: "dost thou not
know that the sun and moon are always in motion, and cannot be stayed
but by Allah himself or his prophet?"
"That is what I say," replied one of the monks. "It was Joshua, one
of our great prophets, who stayed the course of the sun and moon, by
the permission of the Most High."
"Thou liest, dog!" cried Selim. "Joshua was an impostor, and thy
book of faith is nothing but lies."
The monks felt indignant at this rude attack on their religion; but
the sight of the armed Turkish merchants indicated the necessity of
prudence, and crossing their arms in pious submission, they uttered not
Arriving at the wretched village, but once famous port, of Joppa,
which some say was the place where Noah lived and built his ark, Selim
put up at a khan, or caravanserai, appropriated to the pilgrims who,
like himself, were on their way to Damascus to join the caravan for
Grand Cairo. Here he staid two or three days, waiting for a party who
were collecting for Damascus, and spending most of the time in
strolling about the city, with a view of benefiting mankind in some way
or other. He was shocked to see the children of the Arabs, who formed a
large portion of the population of Joppa, running about almost, and
some of them quite, naked, while their mothers wore two veils, one
black, the other white; thus indulging themselves in superfluities,
while their offspring were without raiment. But what appeared to him a
still greater absurdity, these little creatures wore chains about their
legs and arms, some of them of silver.
"These ignorant people want bettering sadly," thought Selim; and
finding a number of them collected together by the seaside, dabbling in
the water, and enjoying themselves in spite of their miserable
condition, he addressed them in a long speech, setting forth the
propriety of wearing one veil, which was quite enough for a reasonable
woman in this hot climate, and of converting the silver chains into
garments to cover the nakedness of the children.
"What an unreasonable ignorant fool is this!" exclaimed they, "to
pretend that women can exist with but one veil, or that it is not more
dignified and proper to put silver chains on the legs, than garments
on the bodies of our children."
So they set up a great shout, and cried out, "A barbarian! a
barbarian!" while they pelted him so soundly with sand and pebbles that
he was almost blinded, and could scarcely find his way to the khan,
where he found the pilgrims in a state of great confusion, all gathered
about one of their number, and seeming on the point of tearing him in
"Detestable unbeliever! dog of a Shiite! enemy of the prophet!"
cried they in all the discord of rage.
"I am no unbeliever," answered the poor man meekly, "I believe in
one God, and that Mahomet is his prophet."
"But thou dost not believe in the commentators—thou rejectest the
Sunnah, and yet darest to join thyself to the Sunnites in a
pilgrimage to the shrine of the prophet. Detestable follower of an
impostor! thou shalt die for intruding among us as one of the faithful,
unless thou renouncest the accursed Ali!"
"O Mahomet!" exclaimed the poor Shiite, "what will become of me,
wretch that I am! I have travelled over the world, and tried to please
everybody, but found no rest to the soles of my feet. At Goa they
clapped me up in the inquisition, saying I was a Tchufout, because I
ate not of swines' flesh,—so I became a Catholic, and did eat of all
sorts of things. At Benares they told me I should be changed into a
tiger after death because I tasted flesh,—so I turned Bramin, and
lived on rice. In the great city of London they laughed at me for
believing in the doctrines of Brama, and I became a Protestant. At
Stamboul they spat upon me, and called me dog and infidel, so I became
a Sunnite. From thence I travelled into Persia, where they affirmed the
Sunnites were no better than Tchufouts, so I became a Shiite. And now
behold! I am about to be put to death, because I have joined myself to
those who believe in the prophet as well as I do. Mashallah! when shall
I believe in such wise as to satisfy all mankind?"
"He has backslided! he has deserted the only true faith! Tear him in
pieces!" cried the pilgrims, with one voice; "he is a follower of the
"He was the son-in-law of the prophet," said the poor Shiite.
"He was a dog and a liar!" cried they again, and were proceeding to
put their threats into execution, when the unfortunate man begged for
"Nothing but becoming a true believer will save thee."
"With all my heart; only tell me what is a true believer."
"A Sunnite! a Sunnite."
"Then am I a Sunnite from this time forward. So I beseech of you to
let me rest in peace."
"He is converted! he is converted!" shouted the pilgrims; and the
Shiite became from that time forward the chief object of their
attentions. Selim was so delighted with this triumph of the true faith,
that he attached himself to the new disciple, and in a short time made
him the confidant of his whole history, even to the secret of the
casket, half the contents of which he professed his intention of
leaving in the possession of a merchant of Damascus, until he returned
Not long after the conversion of the Shiite, Selim happened to
encounter a monk, who had been sent as a missionary to the Arabs, and
who belonged to an establishment of Spanish ecclesiastics in the Holy
Land. The opportunity seemed so apt to endeavour the conversion of this
Christian dog, that Selim at once accosted him in the Arabian tongue,
of which he had got a smattering in his travels, and exhorted him to
become a true believer. The monk meekly replied that he was already a
true believer, and that his special business was the conversion of
infidels, such as Turks, Arabs, Armenians, and Tchufouts.
The indignation of Selim at being thus associated with Tchufouts and
Armenians was terrible, and he vented it on the poor monk with all his
might, calling him Giaour, dog, infidel, and treating him as a
wandering beggar, who got his bread by lying and cheating. Never were
two people so astonished and confounded at the blindness and obstinacy
of each other, as were the two zealous partizans, who finally
separated, each with a full conviction that he had encountered Satan
himself in a human form. Selim forthwith laid an information before the
cadi, and the unfortunate missionary would have expiated with his life
the crime of having attempted to undermine the faith of a true
believer, had not the French consul interfered in his behalf, and
deprived him of the honours of martyrdom.
"Dog!" said Selim; "you have got off this time, but beware how you
"Wretched follower of a barbarian and an impostor, how I pity thee!"
replied the monk.
Leaving Joppa, the pilgrims, escorted by some armed Turks furnished
by the governor, passed through Saphet, a village inhabited principally
by Jews, and held in such veneration, that the first wish of their
hearts is to lay their bones in the sacred spot. They believe that
their Messiah will make his first appearance here.
"What fools are these Israelites, to expect a new Messiah,
when already seventeen hundred years have elapsed since he appeared!"
said the pilgrims bound to Jerusalem.
"What fools are these Christians, to believe the Messiah has already
appeared, and to go to Jerusalem to visit his burial place!" said the
"What dogs are these infidels and Tchufouts to dispute about such
nonsense, when every true believer knows they are both equally wrong.
La ilahi il Allah!" cried the pilgrims to Mecca. And thus they parted,
mutually hating and despising one another.
The next day, towards evening, they halted at a miserable little
tented village inhabited by Arabs, with an intention of passing the
night there. Everybody knows that throughout all Syria and Palestine
these people subsist in a great degree by plundering the Christian and
Jewish villages, and robbing pilgrims and travellers. Yet with all this
they live in a wretched state of poverty, wandering about and encamping
in different places, and one-half the time subsisting on dates. Selim
thought this a most capital opportunity of bettering the condition of
his fellow-creatures; and going among them in the cool of the evening,
found them at supper. "Wretched wanderers of the desert," cried he,
"who live on horseback, starve on dates, and rob on the highways,
listen to the friend of mankind!"
"Hear him!" cried they, interrupting Selim with one voice; "hear
him! he has the insolence to call us wretched, we who possess the
finest horses and the most delicious fruit in the world; who go where
we please and take what we please, and instead of labouring ourselves,
live on the labours of others!"
Perceiving they were about following up these indignant exclamations
with certain demonstrations of hostility, the zealous pilgrim departed
in haste, but not before he had been soundly pelted with handfuls of
dates by the little children, who did not stand in the same awe of the
Turkish soldiers as their parents.
"Head of the prophet!" cried he; "has Allah condemned all mankind
but the faithful to be fools as well as infidels? I have a great mind
to let them all die in ignorance, and attend to my own affairs, instead
of preaching in vain to these miserable wretches, who have the
insolence to think themselves happy."
Within a short distance of the famous city of Damascus, they
encountered a troop of dervises of the order of the Beyktachys, which
is held in great veneration among the Turks, because, as it is said,
Hadgi Beyktach, the founder of the order, placed his sleeve on the head
of Orkhan, second emperor of the Turks, by way of giving him his
blessing. They were going through their exercises in a beautiful valley
through which ran the little river Pharphar, close at the foot of Mount
Hermon, and the pilgrims halted to witness them. After making their
obeisance to their cheykh, or high-priest, who was seated under a
spreading tree with an altar before him, they successively fell on
their knees and kissed his hand, after which they sung the first
chapter of the Koran. This was succeeded by a prayer to the prophet, in
repeating which, one of the dervises had the misfortune to sneeze,
which is reckoned so great an indecorum, that he was sentenced to stand
on one leg for the next twelve hours.
After this the dervises rose with one accord, arranged themselves in
a circle, and began balancing on the right leg, and seesawing backwards
and forwards, crying out at the same time, "Ya Allah, ya hou," with
accompanying sighs and groans, while the tears and the perspiration
rolled down their cheeks. Laying aside their turbans, and resting their
arms on each others' shoulders, they then walked round and round in a
circle, stamping and leaping with great violence and howling at the
same time, till their strength became quite exhausted. In a little
while this languor was changed into a sort of strange unnatural
ecstasy, amid the delirium of which they called aloud for the ordeal of
red-hot iron. Several cimeters and other instruments were accordingly
heated, which, after being slightly touched by the cheykh with his
lips, were handed to the most fervent and excited devotees of the
troop, who seemed transported with joy on receiving them. Some bit,
and licked, and champed the red-hot irons, till they became perfectly
cooled in their mouths. Others stuck them into different parts of their
bodies, enduring the pain with a triumphant satisfaction, and finally
sinking under it without a single murmur. The cheykh then examined them
all, blew upon their wounds, rubbed them with spittle, and repeating
certain prayers assured them of being cured in twenty-four hours.
"La ilahi il Allah!" cried the pilgrims at intervals, as they
witnessed the scene; "Can any other than the true faith account for
such a miracle!"
"La ilahi il Allah!" cried Selim in an ecstasy of orthodoxy; "Can
the dogs of infidels produce such incontrovertible proofs of the
support of Allah as these holy men have just exhibited?" He had never
heard of Monsieur Chabert, the fire-king, or the sleight-of-hand people
Winding round the fort of Mount Lebanon, they were regaled with one
of the most beautiful prospects in the world. The city of Damascus,
with its rivers, one running through the centre, the other winding
around it—its gardens, fruits, and rich meadows—its delightful
climate, glittering fountains, and lofty minarets, constitute one of
the fairest portions of the earth. The Turks believe it to be the site
of paradise, and that Adam was formed of the earth taken from a
delightful meadow, called by the Latins the Ager Damascenus,—by the
Mahometans, Marssi, or the pleasant field.
The evening after the arrival of Selim at Damascus, the moon of
Ramazan being about to rise, the Muezzyns, from the tops of the
minarets, proclaimed that the fast of Ramazan was come. The mosques,
the galleries of the minarets were all at once lighted up by
innumerable lamps within and without, and ropes were stretched from one
to another, hung with variegated lights, which resembled illuminated
flowers. From the time of the proclamation of the fast until the
setting of the sun the next day, a rigid abstinence is enjoined and
practised by all devout Mussulmans. But the moment that period arrives,
they make themselves amends for their fasting. They first fall to
smoking their pipes, then take refreshment, and afterward sally forth
to the public places and coffee-houses, where plenty of sherbet, and
sweetmeats, and dainties of all kinds are for sale. Or else they visit
the tables of the rich, which are well stored, and open to all comers.
The fast of Ramazan is a sort of Saturnalia, during which crimes are
committed with impunity, and justice sleeps. If any complaint is made
before the cadi, the answer will be, "The poor man has fasted so long
that he is excusable for being quarrelsome, or for having defrauded
Selim and the converted Shiite had by this time become intimate
friends. They fasted together, they visited the coffee-houses, the Ager
Damascenus, and the mosques in company, and were, in fact, inseparable.
One morning, however, on awaking from a sleep which had lasted some
hours beyond the usual time, Selim missed his friend, who was
accustomed to rest by his side. This circumstance did not at first
excite any particular solicitude, but after waiting his return some
time, he happened to look at the place where he had deposited his
casket, and found it was gone. For some minutes he remained immersed in
a chaos of astonishment, which prevented his coming to any conclusion
as to the cause of its disappearance. By degrees his suspicions
concentrated themselves on the new convert, who he found, on inquiry,
had departed at break of day, alleging that he was going to take his
morning walk towards the beautiful meadow, with the intention of
spending the day in fasting and prayer in the solitudes of Mount
Lebanon. When Selim declared the loss of the casket, and his
suspicions, the pilgrims with one voice shouted aloud,
"He is no Sunnite after all. He is a believer in the detestable Ali
in his heart. Let us go in pursuit of him!"
Accordingly they sallied forth with one accord, and inquiring as
they went along, learned that a person answering his description had
been seen on the road towards Sidonijah, a town about four hours'
journey from Damascus, inhabited by Greeks, whose priests keep the
Turks from settling among them by assurances that some great misfortune
would befall them if they do. About three hours' journey from Damascus
they encountered a troop of Arabs who, seeing they were a poor and
ragged company, and not worth robbing, permitted them to pass. The
mid-day being extremely hot, they diverged from the high road into a
cool sequestered spot where was a fountain, and began to regale
themselves with the finest grapes in the world, which were as large as
pigeons' eggs. It happened that Selim strayed farther into the glen
than his companions, in doing which he came to a beautiful little
grotto hewn out of the solid rock, according to the ancient custom of
the Israelites, who once possessed this country, and which offered a
refreshing refuge from the noontide heat. He entered, and who should he
find there but his old friend and associate, the new convert to
Islamism, whom he seized without ceremony, and dragging him forth,
called to his companions. Divers were the insults, reproaches, kicks,
and cuffs, bestowed on the delinquent, who however maintained his
innocence with great obstinacy, and demanded to be searched. This was
accordingly done, but no casket found. They then proceeded to the
grotto and examined it with the greatest care, but without success.
After continuing the search in every direction which seemed likely to
conceal the treasure in vain, they determined to carry him to
Damascus, to be judged by the cadi. The seclusion of the new convert in
the grotto is explained by the circumstance of his having spied the
band of Arabs at a distance, which the pilgrims had met, and
apprehending a search, as is customary with these roving vagabonds; to
escape whose depredations the Christian inhabitants of Syria and Judea
are accustomed to drive their cattle in the evening to the tops of
their houses, which are flat, for safety during the night. To secure
his treasure in case of being discovered, he had disposed of it in a
manner so as to elude the search of the pilgrims, as before related.
It was within an hour of the period in which the fast of Ramazan was
to be renewed, when the delinquent was brought before the chief judge,
a respectable Mussulman with a high turban, a crooked pipe, and a long
beard, which he valued above all price. He had been chief cook to the
Janizaries, and afterwards thyrnakdjy, or nail-parer to the Grand
Seignior, who for some offence or other had degraded him from this high
station to that of judge.
The Turks are beyond doubt the most honest people in the world; they
will not cheat you in making a bargain, or overcharge in any mode
whatever. But they have another way of coming at your purse. It is
impossible to get on with high or low, rich or poor; from the sultan to
the man that paddles you from Buyukdere to Scutari—nothing can be
done without "baesth tasch;" no favour from the great, or good office
from the little can be obtained without "baesth tasch," or a present.
The whole machinery of the social system among them is kept in motion
by "baesth tasch," and it may be said to form the very cement of
When the first American ship arrived at Constantinople, under the
new arrangement between the United States and the Grand Seignior, some
difficulties occurred, and the captain found it necessary to resort to
baesth tasch to remove them. But the number to be baesth tasched was
rather alarming. There was the Caimacan pasha, a bag of coffee and a
barrel of sugar; the Seraskier, the Serkiatibe, the Reis Effendi, the
Kiakiya, the Belikje Effendi, the Mektanhaje Effendi, and half a
hundred more, each to be conciliated by a bag of coffee and a barrel of
sugar. Besides this, it was doubtful whether a small baesth tasch would
be received by such important personages, and the consignee was in a
dilemma between the expense of giving to so many, and the consequences
of omitting any one of them. He determined to consult the old capudan
pasha, who was a friend of the Americans, and to whom he stated his
difficulties. "Mashallah!" exclaimed the little old man, "you are very
right; there is too little for all of them; send all to me, and give
yourself no further trouble about the matter."
Acting under this universal stimulus, the judge before whom the
supposed offender was brought by Selim, first cast about in his own
mind whether it was at all likely that a man who had just lost all he
had in the world, would be able to comply with the ceremony of the
baesth tasch. The answer was a decided negative, and the magistrate at
once felt a rising preference in favour of the thief.
"Of what dost thou accuse this man?" asked he.
"Of stealing a casket, containing all my wealth, my lord," replied
"Where is the casket?" asked the cadi.
"It is not to be found, my lord."
"Then he had it not in his possession when you took him?"
"No, my lord, but he was missing at the same time with the treasure,
and I found him hid away in a grotto on the way to Sidonijah."
"What induced you to enter the grotto?"
"I retired thither for shelter from the heat of the sun, my lord."
"Might he not have done the same?" Then turning to the accused he
"What caused thee to hide thyself in the grotto?"
The new convert took the hint given by the cadi, and affirmed that
he had sought the sequestered fountain for the purposes of retirement
and devotion, and the grotto to escape the heat of the sun."
"Was thy treasure disposed where none else but this man knew of it?"
asked the cadi of Selim.
"I know not, my lord."
"Truly, friend, thou goest upon slight presumptions. I cannot
condemn this man merely on thy suspicions, which may be just or not.
The true believer must not be judged as if he were a Tchufout or a
"He is a Shiite, my lord," cried Selim.
"A Shiite!" exclaimed the Turk, snatching the pipe from his mouth
and laying it down with emphasis; "that alters the case, and I swear by
my beard he shall be punished whether he is guilty or not. Give him the
bastinado till he confesses his crime."
It was in vain that the new convert declared himself a Sunnite, and
denounced Ali as a dog and the son of a dog. The judge was inexorable,
the punishment was inflicted; and thus the thief who had escaped the
penalty of a crime of which he was really guilty, suffered for an
offence of which, in all probability, he was innocent.
"Allah is just!" exclaimed Selim, forgetting in the triumph of
bigotry and intolerance that he had lost all he had in the world.
Passing through the gate of the magnificent palace of the illustrious
nail-parer, he happened to turn about and cast a look towards a
latticed window, where he imagined he saw two bright eyes reconnoitring
him with great attention. The heart of a Mussulman is like tinder, and
his love takes fire as easily. He thought of nothing but the fair and
sparkling eyes all night, as he fasted from every thing but the
indulgence of his imagination.
The next day, towards sunset, while sitting at the foot of a cascade
formed by the river Barrady among the hills about a mile from Damascus,
indulging in the recollection of the two bright eyes, and passing from
thence to the reality of his forlorn and miserable state, a black, in
the habit of a slave, came near, and after eying him some time, asked,
"Art thou Selim, son of Achmet, once governor of the famous city of
"I am that miserable man," replied Selim.
"Follow me, then," said the black.
"For what purpose?"
"Thou wilt know when the purpose is answered."
Selim paused a moment,—"I cannot be worse off than I am," thought
he; "Go on, I will follow."
By the time they arrived at the city it was quite dark, save in the
vicinity of the mosques, where the thousands of lamps imitated the
splendours of the rising sun. The black led him by a circuitous route
to the rear of the palace of the magnificent nail-parer, and taking out
a key opened a little obscure gate.
"Enter," said he.
Selim looked up towards the building and recognised the palace of
the judge, who the day before had inflicted such exemplary justice on
the infamous Shiite; he remembered the pair of sparkling eyes, and his
imagination began to glow. Still the danger of entering the house of a
Mussulman, under these circumstances was not a little alarming, and he
"My lord is absent, what fearest thou?" said the black slave,
pushing him in and locking the gate inside.
"Remain here till I come back," continued he, and left him abruptly.
Selim remained alone a considerable time, and every moment brought
with it new apprehensions.
"If that black dog has deceived me," said he to himself, "may he be
condemned to ride a dromedary all the days of his life."
The slave at length returned, bringing with him a companion bearing
a long mat, which they spread on the ground and bade him lie down upon.
This he did after some little demur, and rolling him up, they lifted
him on their shoulders.
"I shall be smothered alive, or, if I escape, have my head sliced
from my body at one blow, if the cadi discovers me," thought Selim.
After proceeding a distance which Selim thought at least a thousand
miles, the slaves at length stopped, and laying down their burthen, one
of them asked—
"Is all safe?" He was answered by a female voice,
"All is safe, unroll the mat."
They did so, and Selim was lifted up almost deprived of breath as
well as reason, by want of air, and want of courage. Staring about as
by degrees he came to himself, he was astonished at the magnificence
which surrounded him, far exceeding that of the house of his father,
which excelled all others in Smyrna. He found himself in a large court
in the midst of which was a superb marble fountain that diffused a
delicious coolness around, and threw its waters into a basin, on one
side of which was a magnificent seat, under a lofty arch wainscoted
with beautiful wood, and carved in the Turkish taste. On both sides of
this room were apartments splendidly furnished, and looking into
delightful gardens, illuminated by a thousand lamps in honour of the
fast of Ramazan. In front of this seat was a grand saloon, floored with
exquisite mosaic work, the walls incrusted with the richest marbles,
and in the centre another basin and fountain of white marble ornamented
with Grecian sculpture of the purest style. The room was adorned with
sofas of surprising richness, and all around the ledges rising above
the level floor were richly gilt, and ornamented with gold and silver
toys. In the centre of the roof was a square tower, which admitted the
fresh air, and rendered the place deliciously cool.
Selim knew enough of the manners of his countrymen to be aware that
he was in the female apartments, and having recovered his breath as
well as his courage, waited impatiently the issue of the adventure. In
a few minutes he was conducted to an adjoining apartment, and left
alone, a circumstance he did not like, as he had not come there to
enjoy solitude. Presently another door opened, and a lady richly
attired entered, apparently in great agitation. After contemplating
Selim, for a moment, she clasped her hands, and exclaimed—
"It is he indeed! Allah be praised!" and burst into a passion of
"In the name of the prophet," thought Selim, "what can all this
mean. Surely I have heard that voice before!"
The lady recovered herself, and after a little hesitation asked him,
at the same time holding a handkerchief to her mouth,—
"Art thou not Selim the son of Achmet, formerly governor of the city
"The same miserable man," said he.
"I am grieved that thou art miserable," replied the lady, "but hadst
thou not an only sister called Ayesha?"
"And what hath become of her?"
"Alas! I know not, most probably she perished miserably in seeking
food for my children."
"Didst thou love her, Selim?"
"I did; though I did not show it by my actions?"
"Wouldst thou know her again?"
"Look at me!" and unveiling her face, Selim beheld with astonishment
his lost sister, though truth obliges us to say, his astonisnment was
mingled with a little chagrin.
Ayesha threw herself into his arms and wept, while Selim,
overpowered by her tenderness and affection, mingled his tears with
hers, and answered her embraces with kisses of awakened love.
"By what miracle do I find thee here?" at length asked Selim, after
"You remember," answered Ayesha, "the day we parted in search of
food for the children. I went towards the city, but such was my
weakness that after proceeding a little way through one of the streets,
I sunk to the earth at the door of a house in which sojourned Ibrahim,
the rich merchant of Damascus who had come to Smyrna on some business
connected with his profession, and whom thou wast acquainted with. He
saw me, had me conveyed into the house, and aid administered. When I
recovered, I told him my errand, and besought him to give me food for
your poor children. He not only gave me the food, but sent a female
slave who carried a basket filled with refreshments, with which we
hurried as fast as my weakness would permit. On coming in sight of the
house, I beheld nothing but a black smoke arising from the spot where
it once stood. But you know the rest, and I will not dwell on the sad
catastrophe. I became again insensible, and was carried back to the
house of the merchant, who compassionated my situation, and took me
into his house, during a severe illness which followed. In the mean
time he made inquiries concerning you, and at length ascertained that
you had departed on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Finding that I had no other
kindred in the city, and being an old man without children, he adopted
me as his daughter, and took me with him to this city, where the chief
judge, happening one day to see me, demanded me in marriage, and I
became his wife about a week ago. Yesterday I caught sight of you
through the lattice, and believing, though not certain, it was my
brother, for you are sadly changed, I took the means to which only a
Mussulman's wife can resort to satisfy my doubts, and procure an
interview. Now let me hear thy story. My husband is so engaged with
fasting that he will not interrupt us."
At this moment the attendant who had introduced Selim came in,
exclaiming in breathless terror,
"Fly! fly!—my lord is coming!"
Selim would have made his escape, but Ayesha detained him with the
assurance that this was impossible.
"We are innocent," said she firmly; "do not put on the appearance of
guilt by attempting to flee!"
At this instant the door burst open; the nailparer rushed in with a
naked cimeter in his hand, and making towards Selim would have cleft
his head in twain in an instant, had not Ayesha placed herself between
them, exclaiming at the same time,
"Forbear, my lord—slay not my brother!"
"Brother!" cried the enraged Turk, "dost thou add falsehood to
"I swear by the prophet he is my brother—my only brother, Selim,
of whom thou hast often heard me speak."
The Turk paused a moment.
"Why then this secrecy, was it necessary to see thy brother at night
and in my absence? But I will not condemn thee unheard. Does the
merchant Ibrahim know thy brother?"
"He doth, my lord; send for him and I will abide the issue."
The merchant was accordingly sent for, and at once recognised Selim
as the brother of Ayesha.
"'Tis well," said the nail-parer, "I rejoice that thou hast found
thy brother, and that I have recovered his treasure for him. This was
the cause of my absence to-day. The dog of a Shiite confessed the
theft under the bastinado, and I carried him with me to show where he
had hidden it." Then, retiring for a moment, he returned and delivered
the casket to Selim; who desired him to retain it in his possession,
explaining the nature and conditions of the bequest of the Turk who was
drowned on his voyage to Alexandria, and his intention of devoting
one-half at the shrine of the prophet.
"As thou wilt," said the nail-parer—I like to give him his highest
title.—" 'Tis well; in the mean time this is thy home, thou art
welcome," and he embraced him as a brother.
Selim, however, declined the offer, saying he was bound on a
pilgrimage, and would not leave his companions, especially as the fast
of Ramazan ended on the morrow, and they were to depart forthwith for
Alexandria. The Turk assented, and thus the matter was settled.
In due time Selim set out on his pilgrimage, leaving half his wealth
in the hands of his brother-in-law, and taking the other half with him
to bestow according to the destination of its giver. It is not our
purpose to follow him to Mecca, where he arrived in safety, kissed the
Hadjar el asouad, or black stone, which descended from heaven white,
but which became black by being touched by so many sinful lips; marched
seven times round the caaba; plunged into the well of Zemzem with his
clothes on; drank a cup of its muddy fetid water; cut his hair and
nails at the Djebel Arafat, or Mount of Gratitude, and threw seven
stones behind him, to indicate that from that time forward he held the
good things of this world in contempt. Having devoted the half of the
contents of the casket at the shrine of the prophet, for which the Imam
assured him of a free remission of all his sins, Selim departed in
company with his old friends and arrived safely at the beautiful city
of Damascus. Here he was received with affectionate welcome by Ayesha,
and brotherly kindness by her husband, who was an honest man and of a
kind heart, though he did hate a Shiite, abhor a Tchufout, and spit at
the very thought of a Giaour.
The remainder of the contents of the casket, being disposed of by
the merchant Ibrahim, made Selim rich, and he might now have repaid the
money of which he had robbed Ayesha, who had never disclosed this part
of her history to her husband, out of affection for her brother whom
she loved sincerely.
"My sister has every thing she wants in this world," thought Selim,
"and I can employ it so much better in administering to the happiness
of mankind, that upon the whole I think it best to keep the money. It
would be robbing the poor to repay her."
He debated with himself some time ere he could decide whether to
remain in Damascus, return to Smyrna, or make a tour through the
northern parts of Europe for the purpose of converting the infidels.
Ayesha was the only relation he had in the world, and she loved him
with a true sisterly affection. But somehow or other the sight of her
was not altogether agreeable; for though he had satisfied his
conscience that he was acting for the happiness of mankind in
withholding the payment of what he owed her, still a qualmish feeling
occasionally arose in his mind, especially when, as was perpetually the
case, his sister bestowed on him any token of kindness and affection.
In the mean time Selim, while balancing between these different
plans, amused himself by frequenting the coffee-houses, and conversing
with the people he met there, among whom he found natives of various
countries, of different habits, manners, and religions. Here he smoked
his pipe, and indulged himself in chewing opium occasionally, until by
degrees it became a confirmed habit, gradually approaching to excess.
One day a Frank merchant came into the coffee-house not a little
elevated with wine, and entered into conversation with Selim, who was
more than half-seas over with opium. At parting, the merchant said to
"What a beast is this infidel, to befuddle himself with opium!"
But Selim was even with him.
"What a dog of an infidel is this," quoth he, "thus to indulge in
the forbidden liquor, till he resembles a swine! As for myself, I
confess that I sometimes chew a little more opium than is good for me,
but then I make amends by doing all I can for the benefit of mankind."
The silent influence of a daily routine of habits, amusements, and
occupations, by degrees attached Selim to Damascus, and he resolved to
end his days in that delighful city. He bought a house beautifully
situated on the border of the Ager Damascenus, and opened it for the
reception of the poor of the city, who straightway abandoned their
labours and flocked to him for food and raiment. One day a poor man
came to him for charity, but just as he was about to relieve him, the
beggars, who were always found about his gate, exclaimed,
"He is an infidel!"
Whereupon Selim spat upon and drove him away with a most pious
In this manner he passed his time greatly to his satisfaction, and,
as he believed, to the happiness of mankind, when one day, as he was
distributing alms to a crowd of beggars, the black slave who had
introduced him to the palace of the nail-pairer in the manner before
related, came running out of breath to inform him that a message had
arrived from Stamboul, with an order to bring his master to the
bowstring, and that the operation had just been performed, his property
confiscated, and his wife turned out of doors.
"Mashallah!" exclaimed he, "what a piece of business. But what hath
become of thy mistress? If I was not so busily engaged in benefiting
mankind, I would go to her dwelling. Where is she now?"
"The merchant Ibrahim, her adopted father, hath taken her to his
"That is proper," said Selim, lighting his pipe; "she will be
perfectly happy under his protection, and hath a right to demand it as
the daughter of his adoption. For my part, I have higher duties to
attend to, and am so busily employed in relieving the distresses of
strangers, that I have no leisure for trifling matters of domestic
interest. Go and tell my sister my heart is sorrowful for her
misfortunes, and I will visit her as soon as I can find time."
The black slave bowed his head and departed with the message. It was
some days before Selim found leisure to visit Ayesha, who received him
with her wonted affection. She expected he would proffer the payment of
her debt, now that she was in want, or at least that he would press her
to take up her abode with him. But he departed without doing either,
thinking to himself, that whatever might be expended for either of
these purposes would be so much taken from the fund for benefiting
mankind. Ayesha remained with the good merchant, who had the character
of being a hard-hearted man, because he had refused to contribute to
the erection of an hospital for the reception of cats and dogs.
The immoderate use of opium gradually undermined the constitution of
Selim, and brought him to his grave not long after the death of the
nail-parer. Everybody thought he would have made his sister his heir,
though they knew not that if he had, it would only have been repaying
the debt which he owed her. Great, therefore, was the surprise of all
when they found he had left his house, and every thing he was worth,
the former as a carvanserai, and the rest for its maintenance, to
entertain the pilgrims to Mecca who might come from his native city of
Smyrna. Ayesha wept for the death of her brother, but more for his
injustice and unkindness; Ibrahim was indignant at his want of natural
affection; but the Imans declared from the mosques that he was received
into the bosom of the prophet, and he was ever afterwards called by the
name of Selim, THE BENEFACTOR OF MANKIND.