Imágenes de páginas

preparing for the growing heat of the succeeding rooms. In the second hall all the divans are covered with gold embroidery, the walls lined with splendid Venetian mirrors, and the fairest and rarest flowers are lavishly scattered around. The bath itself is circular, and composed entirely of marble and glass. The dome is formed of the purest mountain crystal, and the water-taps are of massive gold. The Sultan never leaves this bath under three hours.

Sultan Abd-ul-Medjid was kindness itself to the ladies of his harem, but for all that they did not all feel happy. One of his wives, the lovely Ketiras, fell mortally in love with a general whom she had seen at the bazaars and in his kaïk on the Bosphorus. Her love did not have the tragic ending which harem adventures assume in romances. No band of Bostandjis broke into the general's house at night, and brought an executioner with them, who laid the lady's head at the feet of her lover; no mysterious bark pushed out in the dark into the Bosphorus, and discharged a sack from which, ere it sank in the waves, a voice gasped, * Soon united with thee eternally.” Ketiras received her discharge, when the Sultan learned the state of her heart, and became the general's wife in all honour. The fortunate man, however, had no great cause to rejoice at this union. Accustomed to the luxury of the serai, the lady continued her lavish course, so that, in a very short time, the creditors brought her husband's house-property to the hammer, and he was forced to request his removal to the cheapest district of the empire. The magnanimous Sultan, however, did not long leave his preferred rival in banishment, but paid all his debts, and established him afresh in Constantinople. Whether Lady Ketiras became more economical after this, our deponent sayeth not.

A lady of honour, of the name of Naura, became entangled in an adventure of a similar nature. The object was a young Greek, one of those thorough scamps who have learned nothing more, and do naught else, in the wide world than turn the heads of simple maidens. The acquaintance commenced with a flirtation, and soon attained a frightfully serious character. One morning, a window in the seras looking out on the Bosphorus was found open, and one of the maids of honour, of course Naura, was absent without leave. Her Greek took her to Syra, where the old piece of “love in a cottage” was performed, with Greek variations. So long as a small inheritance, on which the lazy lover lived, lasted, matters went on decently, but so soon as the last drachma was gone, nothing was left of the love-fire but the dead cold ashes. Shortly after the Greek disappeared, and Naura, who, in the mean while, earned a crust hardly enough with a washerwoman, heard, a few weeks after, that the unfaithful man had found, and hastily married, a rich widow at the Piræus. She was a sensible, brave girl, and, instead of dying of a broken heart over the wash-tub, she got together money enough to carry her to Constantinople, and threw herself at the Sultan's feet. The attempt proved successful : she was pardoned, received her situation again, and has since lived right comfortably on her five hundred piastres a month; but she gets out of the way of every young Greek she sees.

This kindness of Abd-ul-Medjid was sadly misused. The ladies of his harem permitted themselves expenses which went beyond all bounds even for Sultanas and Odalisques. Each of their apartments was crowded

with those elegant and expensive articles which rejoice the feminine heart, in the shape of pearls and diamonds, bottles and baskets. The good Sultan forbade this enormous outlay at times, but then a universal conspiracy was formed against him : the ladies pouted, cried, and scolded, and, in order to regain his peace, Abd-ul-Medjid had no course but to give way. In 1858, the mischief had grown so serious, that the European diplomatists waited on the Sultan in a body, and earnestly implored him to show himself master of his own house. Abd-ul-Medjid heaved a deep sigh, and issued a Hatti-Humayoun, in which he expressed his dissatisfaction that, apart from the necessary expenses entailed by the marriages of princesses, more debts had been incurred than he was in a position to pay. A commission of officials investigated the debts of the seras, and brought together in a very short period a total of five hundred thousand purses, or two hundred and fifty million piastres. Moreover, it was not the Sultan's fault that these debts were not larger, for he had himself demanded sixty million piastres for the expenses of the last Bairam, and had most reluctantly put up with eleven million piastres, which were advanced by Baltazzi, the banker. During the investigation, great embezzlements and still greater extravagance were brought to light. Many officials were discharged, a sister and four married daughters of the Sultan were placed under guardianship, but in the serai itself matters remained in the old state.

The marriages of princesses, on whose expenses, as the Hatti-Humayoun of 1858 stated, no saving could be effected, deserves special notice. If one of the Sultan's daughters has attained the age at which Turkish girls are generally married, the father seeks a husband for her among the nobles at his court. If a young man specially please her, he is given the rank of lieutenant-general, nothing lower being ever selected. The chosen man receives, in addition, a magnificent fully-furnished palace and sixty thousand piastres a month pocket-money; and, in addition, his fatherin-law defrays all the housekeeping expenses.

The bridegroom is not always over and above pleased at being selected. If he be married, he is obliged to get a divorce, he must never have a wife or mistress in addition to the princess; and, moreover, he is regarded as the servant rather than the husband of his wife. The Sultan himself announces to him his impending good fortune, and it is his bounden duty to bow reverentially, kiss the Sultan's feet, and stammer a few words about the high honour, the unexpected happiness, &c. He then proceeds with a chamberlain, who bears the imperial Hatt., to the Sublime Porte. A military band precedes him, and soldiers are drawn up along the road, who present arms. At the head of the stairs the bridegroom is received by the grand vizier, conducted by him into a room where all the ministers are assembled, and the Hatt. is read aloud. This ceremony corresponds to the betrothal.

The marriage ceremony is much like that of the ordinary Turkish nobles. If the bridegroom be rich he himself pays for the trousseau, but, as a general rule, the Sultan sends him the money for it. The presents are placed in gold or silver baskets, on whose lid Aowers or billing doves are represented, and consist of diamonds, rubies, pearls, diadems, bracelets, girdles, cups, and a thousand smaller articles in gold, furs, gold embroidered dresses and shawls. The bridegroom receives from his father-in-law a splendid sabre, buttons, and a watch and chain, all naturally sparkling with diamonds, and from his bride a rosary of fine pearls and linen of every description. The custom has been abolished of the ministers making presents. The dowry of the princess is most costly. Madame Olympia saw a dress which cost above 15,000l. But little of the fine texture was visible beneath the embroidery and pearls.

When the presents have been delivered to the bridegroom, the bride proceeds on the next morning to his house, in order to look at the arrangements. Our authoress was present when the Princess Fatime, the betrothed of Ali Ghalib Pasha, paid such a visit. Accompanied by a numerous suite, the bride drove in a state carriage which had cost 45001., through the densely-crowded streets. She wore a sky-blue silk dress, covered with a mass of pearls and diamonds, and her head was completely veiled in a texture of gold thread. The bridegroom received her on the threshold of his house. He was a handsome young man, but naturally somewhat pale and excited, as he had never seen his future wife, and on this occasion could only notice her outline as she was so overladen with ornaments. When he had saluted her with a deep bow and led her by the hand into the house, he would away again. This first visit of the bride is intended to enable her to examine the internal arrangements of her future home without any obstacles or disturbance.

The actual meeting of the new couple takes place on the evening of this day. At nine o'clock the princess proceeds to the state-room of the palace prepared for her, and seats herself on a throne. Two ladies of honour station themselves on either side of her. At the feet of the lady, who is splendidly dressed and covered with a large veil, lies a richly embroidered carpet. The husband has supped in his old residence with his relations and friends, and said his prayers in a mosque. Shortly after nine o'clock he proceeds to the princess, and is conducted to her by two eunuchs, who are awaiting him at the door. The first thing he does is to kneel down on the carpet, and offer up a prayer. When this is concluded he approaches his wife, salutes her submissively, kisses her hand, and says a few words that occur to him at the moment. The ladies of honour then remove her veil, and he sees whether he has married a pretty or an ugly woman.

Whether she be pretty or the contrary, a princess will always let her husband feel how high she stands above him. He occupies a room next to hers, and must await her commands there at all hours. Whether he have friends with him or be alone, so soon as one of her eunuchs summons him to her presence he must rise at once, make a temena—that is to say, touch the ground and then his forehead with his right hand—and proceed to her apartment. There he is expected to stand until she requests him to be seated. If he wish to pay a visit to her family, or go out on business, he must first ask her leave ; and if he remain away unusually late, he must inform her of it and of the cause. His wife never lets him go out alone, some of her eunuchs accompanying him, and would inform her if he were to do anything naughty.

In such marriages the couple do not take their meals together. His are served up to him in his room without ceremony, while she eats like a princess. At meal-time a handsome carpet is spread in her room, and a large or small table placed upon it, according as to whether the lady dines alone or has invited other ladies. For her use a large silver salver is brought and covered with fine muslin. Before the meal begins, a young slave, who has no other duty but this, kneels down before her, holds up a golden wash-basin, and pours lukewarm water over her hands from a can in the form of the Greek amphoræ. Another female slave hands her a napkin of white silk with gold fringe. The kitchen is outside the harem, and all the dishes are brought in in a basket lined with white muslin. This basket is sealed up in the kitchen, and before the princess tastes a dish, a lady in waiting examines the seals to see that they are unbroken. After dinner, during which female slaves perform music, the princess washes her hands again, and then proceeds to another room in order to perform her devotions. After this the evening's amusements commence. Reclining on a divan, she smokes a pipe or cigar, while slaves read or sing to her. If she has invited any lady friends, there is a concert, or ballet, or a theatrical performance, and during it rare fruits, pastry, and coffee are handed round. If the princess desires to see gentlemen, she gives her husband orders to send out invitations to certain persons. Such guests assemble in a room divided into two compartments by a gilt grating. On one side is the princess with her ladies, and hears and sees without being seen ;'on the other side are the gentlemen, who select such topics of conversation as will amuse her imperial highness.

The husband has no way of escaping his sertdom. His princess can be separated from him at any moment, but he must stick to her. He has no other consolation but the one, that his existence costs him nothing, and that he has such a share of the fabulous luxury which his wife indulges in as she allows him. These husbands of princesses must be regarded as the scapegoats which the male sex offers up as a punishment for its contempt of women. At any rate, the prohibition for such husbands having a second and third wife is a Turkish confession how dishonouring polygamy is. The Turks ought to derive from it the moral: “What do you not wish to happen to a princess, ought not to happen to another woman.”


To the west of Leipzig there extends for miles a splendid wood of old oaks, beeches, and other leafy trees. Most of the townspeople are only acquainted with the small portion which immediately borders the city gates. The “ wild valley of roses," as the wilder portion of the wood is called, is not visited by many persons. It is true that various disagree. ables are met with here, which are also to be found, though partially, in the tame valley of roses. Wild garlic grows over large stretches of ground, and diffuses too strong an odour, which in spring is unendurable ; Hies and other nuisances behave in the most impertinent manner after a heavy shower, and among the life-weary of the neighbouring city there is an unpleasant tacit agreement to carry out the voluntary closing act of their existence in the valley of roses. It is not every man who can stand going out to pluck snowdrops or campanulas, and unexpectedly come across a hanging body.

On October 8, 1774, a corpse was lying on the ground in this valley of roses. The man, who had shot himself beneath the autumn-tinted roof of foliage, was well known. He had called himself Colonel von Steinbach, and given himself out to be the son of a French prince; but, prior to his death, it was notorious that the name of Scröpfer, under which he had served in a Prussian hussar regiment, and kept a coffee-house in Leipzig, was his real name. Was this man, who, after his death, aroused a real enthusiasm in Saxony, an impostor or a visionary; or was he, whether wittingly or unwittingly, an instrument employed by others in order to attain certain political aims? These questions occur to us not merely in his case, but in that of all the adepts of the last century; and hence we must spend a few moments with them.

We will commehce with a proposition which, though trite, is indispensable. Every science issues from errors, and remains for a long time in them, like the rosebud in its green sheath. Humanity never attains any object, without first going astray twenty or thirty times. The best men will often rush into these wrong paths, because the straight road to science is not much more diverting than a highway laid down in a right line, running between poplar-trees to a distant steeple. The last century had a special temptation to turn from its philosophic highway sideways into the bushes. " Enlightenment not only had something dry and repulsive about it, but its fundamental principles were so simple and self-evident that a clever or vain man could not feel particularly flattered at knowing no more than what the sparrows twittered on the roofs.

To this motive of employing oneself with things unknown to the general public, were added the obscure impulse and feverish restlessness which had taken possession of the century. Men felt that they were marching towards a new era, but had not the remotest idea how they should behave under way or when they reached their destination. Revelling in feelings and forebodings, they awaited, as the whole literature of the age evidences, something great and monstrous : a regeneration, a Messianic movement, a revelation. Many of the new principles had always had partisans, who had been compelled to retire into obscurity before the Inquisition and tyranny; and as in the last century everything was overesteemed which did not stand on the tottering foundations of society in that day, the most exaggerated importance was given to the secret societies which the persecuted of former times had formed. Men flocked to join them, some in order to become acquainted with mysterious truths and revelations, which were said to have been brought to Europe, according to the traditions of the secret societies, from the Pyramids through the Pythagoreans, Essenes, and "Templars; others, in order to build up in the silence of night a temple of reason, which could be shown perfectly tinished to the coming dawn; many, because they believed that they would form a mystic union with Deity; many, too, because they dreamed of the philosopher's stone, and other useful things; and many, very many, because it became fashionable.

The choice among the existing societies was not a large one. The best known of all, the Freemasons', certainly attracted through its secresy; but, as a general rule, they did not go beyond the principles of brotherly and human love. In addition to the Freemasons were the Templars, who reconstituted themselves immediately after the cruel execution of Jacques de Molay, and whose grand-masters have existed in

« AnteriorContinuar »