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The Prince of India; Or, Why Constantinople Fell — Volume 01 By Lew Wallace Characters: 46835

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Count Corti, we may well believe, did not spare his own steed, or those of his Berbers; and there was a need of haste of which he was not aware upon setting out from St. Romain. The Turks had broken through the resistance of the Christian fleet in the harbor, and were surging into the city by the gate St. Peter (Phanar), which was perilously near the residence of the Princess Irene.

Already the spoil-seekers were making sure of their hire. More than once he dashed by groups of them hurrying along the streets in search of houses most likely to repay plundering. There were instances when he overtook hordesmen already happy in the possession of "strings of slaves;" that is to say, of Greeks, mostly women and children, tied by their hands to ropes, and driven mercilessly on. The wailing and prayers of the unfortunate smote the Count to the heart; he longed to deliver them; but he had given his best efforts to save them in the struggle to save the city, and had failed; now it would be a providence of Heaven could he rescue the woman waiting for him in such faith as was due his word and honor specially plighted to her. As the pillagers showed no disposition to interfere with him, he closed his eyes and ears to their brutalities, and sped forward.

The district in which the Princess dwelt was being overrun when he at last drew rein at her door. With a horrible dread, he alighted, and pushed in unceremoniously. The reception-room was empty. Was he too late? Or was she then in Sancta Sophia? He flew to the chapel, and blessed God and Christ and the Mother, all in a breath. She was before the altar in the midst of her attendants. Sergius stood at her side, and of the company they alone were perfectly self-possessed. A white veil lay fallen over her shoulders; save that, she was in unrelieved black. The pallor of her countenance, caused, doubtless, by weeks of care and unrest, detracted slightly from the marvelous beauty which was hers by nature; but it seemed sorrow and danger only increased the gentle dignity always observable in her speech and manner.

"Princess Irene," he said, hastening forward, and reverently saluting her hand, "if you are still of the mind to seek refuge in Sancta Sophia, I pray you, let us go thither."

"We are ready," she returned. "But tell me of the Emperor."

The Count bent very low.

"Your kinsman is beyond insult and further humiliation. His soul is with God."

Her eyes glistened with tears, and partly to conceal her emotion she turned to the picture above the altar, and said, in a low voice, and brokenly:

"O Holy Mother, have thou his soul in thy tender care, and be with me now, going to what fate I know not."

The young women surrounded her, and on their knees filled the chapel with sobbing and suppressed wails. Striving for composure himself, the Count observed them, and was at once assailed by an embarrassment.

They were twenty and more. Each had a veil over her head; yet from the delicacy of their hands he could imagine their faces, while their rank was all too plainly certified by the elegance of their garments. As a temptation to the savages, their like was not within the walls. How was he to get them safely to the Church, and defend them there? He was used to military problems, and decision was a habit with him; still he was sorely tried-indeed, he was never so perplexed.

The Princess finished her invocation to the Holy Mother.

"Count Corti," she said, "I now place myself and these, my sisters in misfortune, under thy knightly care. Only suffer me to send for one other.-Go, Sergius, and bring Lael."

One other!

"Now God help me!" he cried, involuntarily; and it seemed he was heard.

"Princess," he returned, "the Turks have possession of the streets. On my way I passed them with prisoners whom they were driving, and they appeared to respect a right of property acquired. Perhaps they will be not less observant to me; wherefore bring other veils here-enough to bind these ladies two and two."

As she seemed hesitant, he added: "Pardon me, but in the streets you must all go afoot, to appearances captives just taken."

The veils were speedily produced, and the Princess bound her trembling companions in couples hand to hand; submitting finally to be herself tied to Lael. Then when Sergius was more substantially joined to the ancient Lysander, the household sallied forth.

A keener realization of the situation seized the gentler portion of the procession once they were in the street, and they there gave way to tears, sobs, and loud appeals to the Saints and Angels of Mercy.

The Count rode in front; four of his Berbers moved on each side; Sheik Hadifah guarded the rear; and altogether a more disconsolate company of captives it were hard imagining. A rope passing from the first couple to the last was the only want required to perfect the resemblance to the actual slave droves at the moment on nearly every thoroughfare in Constantinople.

The weeping cortege passed bands of pillagers repeatedly.

Once what may be termed a string in fact was met going in the opposite direction; women and children, and men and women were lashed together, like animals, and their lamentations were piteous. If they fell or faltered, they were beaten. It seemed barbarity could go no further.

Once the Count was halted. A man of rank, with a following at his heels, congratulated him in Turkish:

"O friend, thou hast a goodly capture."

The stranger came nearer.

"I will give you twenty gold pieces for this one," pointing to the Princess Irene, who, fortunately, could not understand him-"and fifteen for this one."

"Go thy way, and quickly," said Corti, sternly.

"Dost thou threaten me?"

"By the Prophet, yes-with my sword, and the Padishah."

"The Padishah! Oh, ho!" and the man turned pale. "God is great-I give him praise."

At last the Count alighted before the main entrance of the Church. By friendly chance, also-probably because the site was far down toward the sea, in a district not yet reached by the hordesmen-the space in front of the vestibule was clear of all but incoming fugitives; and he had but to knock at the door, and give the name of the Princess Irene to gain admission.

In the vestibule the party were relieved of their bonds; after which they passed into the body of the building, where they embraced each other, and gave praise aloud for what they considered a final deliverance from death and danger; in their transports, they kissed the marbles of the floor again and again.

While this affecting scene was going on, Corti surveyed the interior. The freest pen cannot do more than give the view with a clearness to barely stimulate the reader's imagination.

It was about eleven o'clock. The smoke of battle which had overlain the hills of the city was dissipated; so the sun, nearing high noon, poured its full of splendor across the vast nave in rays slanted from south to north, and a fine, almost impalpable dust hanging from the dome in the still air, each ray shone through it in vivid, half-prismatic relief against the shadowy parts of the structure. Such pillars in the galleries as stood in the paths of the sunbeams seemed effulgent, like emeralds and rubies. His eyes, however, refused everything except the congregation of people.

"O Heaven!" he exclaimed. "What is to become of these poor souls!"

Byzantium, it must be recalled, had had its triumphal days, when Greeks drew together, like Jews on certain of their holy occasions; undoubtedly the assemblages then were more numerous, but never had there been one so marked by circumstances. This was the funeral day of the Empire!

Let the reader try to recompose the congregation the Count beheld-civilians-soldiers-nuns-monks-monks bearded, monks shaven, monks tonsured-monks in high hats and loose veils, monks in gowns scarce distinguishable from gowns of women-monks by the thousand. Ah, had they but dared a manly part on the walls, the cause of the Christ for whom they affected such devotion would not have suffered the humiliation to which it was now going! As to the mass in general, let the reader think of the rich jostled by the poor-fine ladies careless if their robes took taint from the Lazarus' next them-servants for once at least on a plane with haughty masters-Senators and slaves-grandsires-mothers with their infants-old and young, high and low, all in promiscuous presence-society at an end-Sancta Sophia a universal last refuge. And by no means least strange, let the reader fancy the refugees on their knees, silent as ghosts in a tomb, except that now and then the wail of a child broke the awful hush, and gazing over their shoulders, not at the altar, but toward the doors of entrance; then let him understand that every one in the smother of assemblage-every one capable of thought-was in momentary expectation of a miracle.

Here and there moved priestly figures, holding crucifixes aloft, and halting at times to exhort in low voices: "Be not troubled, O dearly beloved of Christ! The angel will appear by the old column. If the powers of hell are not to prevail against the Church, what may men do against the sword of God?"

The congregation was waiting for the promised angel to rescue them from the Barbarians.

Of opinion that the chancel, or space within the railing of the apse opposite him, was a better position for his charge than the crowded auditorium, partly because he could more easily defend them there, and partly because Mahommed when he arrived would naturally look for the Princess near the altar, the Count, with some trouble, secured a place within it behind the brazen balustrade at the right of the gate. The invasion of the holy reserve by the Berbers was viewed askance, but submitted to; thereupon the Princess and her suite took to waiting and praying.

Afterwhile the doors in the east were barred by the janitor.

Still later there was knocking at them loud enough to be by authority. The janitor had become deaf.

Later still a yelling as of a mob out in the vestibule penetrated to the interior, and a shiver struck the expectant throng, less from a presentiment of evil at hand than a horrible doubt. An angel of the Lord would hardly adopt such an incongruous method of proclaiming the miracle done. A murmur of invocation began with those nearest the entrances, and ran from the floor to the galleries. As it spread, the shouting increased in volume and temper. Ere long the doors were assailed. The noise of a blow given with determination rang dreadful warning through the whole building, and the concourse arose.

The women shrieked: "The Turks! The Turks!"

Even the nuns who had been practising faith for years joined their lay sisters in crying: "The Turks! The Turks!"

The great, gowned, cowardly monks dropped their crucifixes, and, like the commoner sons of the Church, howled: "The Turks! The Turks!"

Finally the doors were battered in, and sure enough-there stood the hordesmen, armed and panoplied each according to his tribe or personal preference-each a most unlikely delivering angel.

This completed the panic.

In the vicinity of the ruined doors everybody, overcome by terror, threw himself upon those behind, and the impulsion thus started gained force while sweeping on. As ever in such cases, the weak were the sufferers. Children were overrun-infants dashed from the arms of mothers-men had need of their utmost strength-and the wisdom of the Count in seeking the chancel was proved. The massive brazen railing hardly endured the pressure when the surge reached it; but it stood, and the Princess and her household-all, in fact, within the chancel-escaped the crushing, but not the horror.

The spoilsmen were in strength, but they were prudently slow in persuading themselves that the Greeks were unarmed, and incapable of defending the Church. Ere long they streamed in, and for the first time in the history of the edifice the colossal Christ on the ceiling above the altar was affronted by the slogan of Islam-Allah-il-Allah.

Strange now as it may appear to the reader, there is no mention in the chronicles of a life lost that day within the walls of Sancta Sophia. The victors were there for plunder, not vengeance, and believing there was more profit in slaves than any other kind of property, their effort was to save rather than kill. The scene was beyond peradventure one of the cruelest in history, but the cruelty was altogether in taking possession of captives.

Tossing their arms of whatever kind upon their backs, the savages pushed into the pack of Christians to select whom they would have. We may be sure the old, sick, weakly, crippled, and very young were discarded, and the strong and vigorous chosen. Remembering also how almost universally the hordes were from the East, we may be sure a woman was preferred to a man, and a pretty woman to an ugly one.

The hand shrinks from trying to depict the agonies of separation which ensued-mothers torn from their children, wives from husbands-their shrieks, entreaties, despair-the mirthful brutality with which their pitiful attempts at resistance were met-the binding and dragging away-the last clutch of love-the final disappearance. It is only needful to add that the rapine involved the galleries no less than the floor. All things considered, the marvel is that the cry-there was but one, just as the sounds of many waters are but one to the ear-which then tore the habitual silence of the august temple should have ever ceased-and it would not if, in its duration, human sympathy were less like a flitting echo.

Next to women, the monks were preferred, and the treatment they received was not without its touches of grim humor. Their cowls were snatched off, and bandied about, their hats crushed over their ears, their veils stuffed in their mouths to stifle their outcries, their rosaries converted into scourges; and the laughter when a string of them passed to the doors was long and loud. They had pulled their monasteries down upon themselves. If the Emperor, then lying in the bloody alley of St. Romain, dead through their bigotry, superstition, and cowardice, had been vengeful in the slightest degree, a knowledge of the judgment come upon them so soon would have been at least restful to his spirit.

It must not be supposed Count Corti was indifferent while this appalling scene was in progress. The chancel, he foresaw, could not escape the foray. There was the altar, loaded with donatives in gold and precious stones, a blazing pyramidal invitation. When the doors were burst in, he paused a moment to see if Mahommed were coming.

"The hordes are here, O Princess, but not the Sultan."

She raised her veil, and regarded him silently.

"I see now but one resort. As Mirza the Emir, I must meet the pillagers by claiming the Sultan sent me in advance to capture and guard you for him."

"We are at mercy, Count Corti," she replied. "Heaven deal with you as you deal with us."

"If the ruse fails, Princess, I can die for you. Now tie yourselves as before-two and two, hand to hand. It may be they will call on me to distinguish such as are my charge."

She cast a glance of pity about her.

"And these, Count-these poor women not of my house, and the children-can you not save them also?"

"Alas, dear lady! The Blessed Mother must be their shield."

While the veils were being applied, the surge against the railing took place, leaving a number of dead and fainting across it.

"Hadifah," the Count called out, "clear the way to yon chair against the wall."

The Sheik set about removing the persons blockading the space, and greatly affected by their condition, the Princess interceded for them.

"Nay, Count, disturb them not. Add not to their terror, I pray."

But the Count was a soldier; in case of an affray, he wanted the advantage of a wall at his back.

"Dear lady, it was the throne of your fathers, now yours. I will seat you there. From it you can best treat with the Lord Mahommed."

Ere long some of the hordes-half a dozen or more-came to the chancel gate. They were of the rudest class of Anatolian shepherds, clad principally in half-cloaks of shaggy goat skin. Each bore at his back a round buckler, a bow, and a clumsy quiver of feathered arrows. Awed by the splendor of the altar and its surroundings, they stopped; then, with shouts, they rushed at the tempting display, unmindful of the living spoils crouched on the floor dumb with terror. Others of a like kind reenforced them, and there was a fierce scramble. The latest comers turned to the women, and presently discovered the Princess Irene sitting upon the throne. One, more eager than the rest, was indisposed to respect the Berbers.

"Here are slaves worth having. Get your ropes," he shouted to his companions.

The Count interposed.

"Art thou a believer?" he asked in Turkish.

They surveyed him doubtfully, and then turned to Hadifah and his men, tall, imperturbable looking, their dark faces visible through their open hoods of steel. They looked at their shields also, and at their bare cimeters resting points to the floor.

"Why do you ask?" the man returned.

"Because, as thou mayst see, we also are of the Faithful, and do not wish harm to any whose mothers have taught them to begin the day with the Fah-hat."

The fellow was impressed.

"Who art thou?"

"I am the Emir Mirza, of the household of our Lord the Padishah-to whom be all the promises of the Koran! These are slaves I selected for him-all these thou seest in bonds. I am keeping them till he arrives. He will be here directly. He is now coming."

A man wearing a bloody tarbousche joined the pillagers, during this colloquy, and pressing in, heard the Emir's name passing from mouth to mouth.

"The Emir Mirza! I knew him, brethren. He commanded the caravan, and kept the mahmals, the year I made the pilgrimage.... Stand off, and let me see." After a short inspection, he continued: "Truly as there is no God but God, this is he. I was next him at the most holy corner of the Kaaba when he fell down struck by the plague. I saw him kiss the Black Stone, and by virtue of the kiss he lived.... Ay, stand back-or if you touch him, or one of these in his charge, and escape his hand, ye shall not escape the Padishah, whose first sword he is, even as Khalid was first sword for the Prophet-exalted be his name!... Give me thy hand, O valiant Emir."

He kissed the Count's hand.

"Arise, O son of thy father," said Corti; "and when our master, the Lord Mahommed, hath set up his court and harem, seek me for reward."

The man stayed awhile, although there was no further show of interference; and he looked past the Princess to Lael cowering near her. He took no interest in what was going on around him-Lael alone attracted him. At last he shifted his sheepskin covering higher upon his shoulders, and left these words with the Count:

"The women are not for the harem. I understand thee, O Mirza. When the Lord Mahommed hath set up his court, do thou tell the little Jewess yonder that her father the Prince of India charged thee to give her his undying love."

Count Corti was wonder struck-he could not speak-and so the Wandering Jew vanished from his sight as he now vanishes from our story.

The selection among the other refugees in the chancel proceeded until there was left of them only such as were considered not worth the having.

A long time passed, during which the Princess Irene sat with veil drawn close, trying to shut out the horror of the scene. Her attendants, clinging to the throne and to each other, seemed a heap of dead women. At last a crash of music was heard in the vestibule-drums, cymbals, and trumpets in blatant flourish. Four runners, slender lads, in short, sleeveless jackets over white shirts, and wide trousers of yellow silk, barefooted and bareheaded, stepped lightly through the central doorway, and, waving wands tipped with silver balls, cried, in long-toned shrill iteration: "The Lord Mahommed-Mahommed, Sultan of Sultans."

The spoilsmen suspended their hideous labor-the victims, moved doubtless by a hope of rescue, gave over their lamentations and struggling-only the young children, and the wounded, and suffering persisted in vexing the floor and galleries.

Next to enter were the five official heralds. Halting, they blew a triumphant refrain, at which the thousands of eyes not too blinded by misery turned to them.

And Mahommed appeared!

He too had escaped the Angel of the false monks!

When the fighting ceased in the harbor, and report assured him of the city at mercy, Mahommed gave order to make the Gate St. Romain passable for horsemen, and with clever diplomacy summoned the Pachas and other military chiefs to his tent; it was his pleasure that they should assist him in taking possession of the prize to which he had been helped by their valor. With a rout so constituted at his back, and an escort of Silihdars mounted, the runners and musicians preceding him, he made his triumphal entry into Constantinople, traversing the ruins of the towers Bagdad and St. Romain.

He was impatient and restless. In their ignorance of his passion for the Grecian Princess, his ministers excused his behavior on account of his youth [Footnote: He was in his twenty-third year.] and the greatness of his achievement. Passing St. Romain, it was also observed he took no interest in the relics of combat still there. He gave his guides but one order:

"Take me to the house the Gabours call the Glory of God."

"Sancta Sophia, my Lord?"

"Sancta Sophia-and bid the runners run."

His Sheik-ul-Islam was pleased.

"Hear!" he said to the dervishes with him. "The Lord Mahommed will make mosques of the houses of Christ before sitting down in one of the palaces. His first honors are to God and the Prophet."

And they dutifully responded: "Great are God and his Prophet! Great is Mahommed, who conquers in their names!"

The public edifices by which he was guided-churches, palaces, and especially the high aqueduct, excited his admiration; but he did not slacken the fast trot in which he carried his loud cavalcade past them until at the Hippodrome.

"What thing of devilish craft is here?" he exclaimed, stopping in front of the Twisted Serpents. "Thus the Prophet bids me!" and with a blow of his mace, he struck off the lower jaw of one of the Pythons.

Again the dervishes shouted: "Great is Mahommed, the servant of God!"

It was his preference to be taken to the eastern front of Sancta Sophia, and in going the guides led him by the corner of the Bucoleon. At sight of the vast buildings, their incomparable colonnades and cornices, their domeless stretches of marble and porphyry, he halted the second time, and in thought of the vanity of human glory, recited:

"The spider hath woven his web in the imperial palace;

And the owl hath sung her watch-song on the towers of


In the space before the Church, as elsewhere along the route he had come, the hordes were busy carrying off their wretched captives; but he affected not to see them. They had bought the license of him, many of them with their blood.

At the door the suite dismounted. Mahommed however, kept his saddle while surveying the

gloomy exterior. Presently he bade:

"Let the runners and the heralds enter."

Hardly were they gone in, when he spoke to one of his pages: "Here, take thou this, and give me my cimeter." And then, receiving the ruby-hilted sword of Solomon in exchange for the mace of Ilderim, without more ado he spurred his horse up the few broad stone steps, and into the vestibule. Thence, the contemptuous impulse yet possessing him, he said loudly: "The house is defiled with idolatrous images. Islam is in the saddle."

In such manner-mounted, sword in hand, shield behind him-clad in beautiful gold-washed chain mail, the very ideal of the immortal Emir who won Jerusalem from the Crusaders, and restored it to Allah and the Prophet-Mahommed made his first appearance in Sancta Sophia.

Astonishment seized him. He checked his horse. Slowly his gaze ranged over the floor-up to the galleries-up-up to the swinging dome-in all architecture nothing so nearly a self-depending sky.

"Here, take the sword-give me back my mace," he said.

And in a fit of enthusiasm, not seeing, not caring for the screaming wretches under hoof, he rode forward, and, standing at full height in his stirrups, shouted: "Idolatry be done! Down with the Trinity. Let Christ give way for the last and greatest of the Prophets! To God the one God, I dedicate this house!"

Therewith he dashed the mace against a pillar; and as the steel rebounded, the pillar trembled. [Footnote: The guides, if good Moslems, take great pleasure in showing tourists the considerable dent left by this blow in the face of the pillar.]

"Now give me the sword again, and call Achmet, my muezzin-Achmet with the flute in his throat."

The moods of Mahommed were swift going and coming. Riding out a few steps, he again halted to give the floor a look. This time evidently the house was not in his mind. The expression on his face became anxious. He was searching for some one, and moved forward so slowly the people could get out of his way, and his suite overtake him. At length he observed the half-stripped altar in the apse, and went to it.

The colossal Christ on the ceiling peered down on him through the shades beginning to faintly fill the whole west end.

Now he neared the brazen railing of the chancel-now he was at the gate-his countenance changed-his eyes brightened-he had discovered Count Corti. Swinging lightly from his saddle, he passed with steps of glad impatience through the gateway.

Then to Count Corti came the most consuming trial of his adventurous life.

The light was still strong enough to enable him to see across the Church. Comprehending the flourish of the heralds, he saw the man on horseback enter; and the mien, the pose in the saddle, the rider's whole outward expose of spirit, informed him with such certainty as follows long and familiar association, that Mahommed was come-Mahommed, his ideal of romantic orientalism in arms. A tremor shook him-his cheek whitened. To that moment anxiety for the Princess had held him so entirely he had not once thought of the consequences of the wager lost; now they were let loose upon him. Having saved her from the hordes, now he must surrender her to a rival-now she was to go from him forever. Verily it had been easier parting with his soul. He held to his cimeter as men instantly slain sometimes keep grip on their weapons; yet his head sunk upon his breast, and he saw nothing more of Mahommed until he stood before him inside the chancel.

"Count Corti, where is"-

Mahommed caught sight of the Count's face.

"Oh, my poor Mirza!"

A volume of words could not have so delicately expressed sympathy as did that altered tone.

Taking off his steel glove, the fitful Conqueror extended the bare hand, and the Count, partially recalled to the situation by the gracious offer, sunk to his knees, and carried the hand to his lips.

"I have kept the faith, my Lord," he said in Turkish, his voice scarcely audible. "This is she behind me-upon the throne of her fathers. Receive her from me, and let me depart."

"My poor Mirza! We left the decision to God, and he has decided. Arise, and hear me now."

To the notables closing around, he said, imperiously: "Stand not back. Come up, and hear me."

Stepping past the Count, then, he stood before the Princess. She arose without removing her veil, and would have knelt; but Mahommed moved nearer, and prevented her.

The training of the politest court in Europe was in her action, and the suite looking on, used to slavishness in captives, and tearful humility in women, he held her with amazement; nor could one of them have said which most attracted him, her queenly composure or her simple grace.

"Suffer me, my Lord," she said to him; then to her attendants: "This is Mahommed the Sultan. Let us pray him for honorable treatment."

Presently they were kneeling, and she would have joined them, but Mahommed again interfered.

"Your hand, O Princess Irene! I wish to salute it."

Sometimes a wind blows out of the sky, and swinging the bell in the cupola, starts it to ringing itself; so now, at sight of the only woman he ever really loved overtaken by so many misfortunes, and actually threatened by a rabble of howling slave-hunters, Mahommed's better nature thrilled with pity and remorse, and it was only by an effort of will he refrained from kneeling to her, and giving his passion tongue. Nevertheless a kiss, though on the hand, can be made tell a tale of love, and that was what the youthful Conqueror did.

"I pray next that you resume your seat," he continued. "It has pleased God, O daughter of a Palaeologus, to leave you the head of the Greek people; and as I have the terms of a treaty to submit of great concern to them and you, it were more becoming did you hear me from a throne.... And first, in this presence, I declare you a free woman-free to go or stay, to reject or to accept-for a treaty is impossible except to sovereigns. If it be your pleasure to go, I pledge conveyance, whether by sea or land, to you and yours-attendants, slaves, and property; nor shall there be in any event a failure of moneys to keep you in the state to which you have been used."

"For your grace, Lord Mahommed, I shall beseech Heaven to reward you."

"As the God of your faith is the God of mine, O Princess Irene, I shall be grateful for your prayers.... In the next place, I entreat you to abide here; and to this I am moved by regard for your happiness. The conditions will be strange to you, and in your going about there will be much to excite comparisons of the old with the new; but the Arabs had once a wise man, El Hatim by name-you may have heard of him"-he cast a quick look at the eyes behind the veil-"El Hatim, a poet, a warrior, a physician, and he left a saying: 'Herbs for fevers, amulets for mischances, and occupation for distempers of memory.' If it should be that time proves powerless over your sorrows, I would bring employment to its aid.... Heed me now right well. It pains me to think of Constantinople without inhabitants or commerce, its splendors decaying, its palaces given over to owls, its harbor void of ships, its churches vacant except of spiders, its hills desolations to eyes afar on the sea. If it become not once more the capital city of Europe and Asia, some one shall have defeated the will of God; and I cannot endure that guilt or the thought of it. 'Sins are many in kind and degree, differing as the leaves and grasses differ,' says a dervish of my people; 'but for him who stands wilfully in the eyes of the Most Merciful-for him only shall there be no mercy in the Great Day.'... Yes, heed me right well-I am not the enemy of the Greeks, O Princess Irene. Their power could not agree with mine, and I made war upon it; but now that Heaven has decided the issue, I wish to recall them. They will not listen to me. Though I call loudly and often, they will remember the violence inflicted on them in my name. Their restoration is a noble work in promise. Is there a Greek of trust, and so truly a lover of his race, to help me make the promise a deed done? The man is not; but thou, O Princess-thou art. Behold the employment I offer you! I will commission you to bring them home-even these sorrowful creatures going hence in bonds. Or do you not love them so much?... Religion shall not hinder you. In the presence of these, my ministers of state, I swear to divide houses of God with you; half of them shall be Christian, the other half Moslem; arid neither sect shall interfere with the other's worship. This I will seal, reserving only this house, and that the Patriarch be chosen subject to my approval. Or do you not love your religion so much?"....

During the discourse the Princess listened intently; now she would have spoken, but he lifted his hand.

"Not yet, not yet! it is not well for you to answer now. I desire that you have time to consider-and besides, I come to terms of more immediate concern to you.... Here, in the presence of these witnesses, O Princess Irene, I offer you honorable marriage."

Mahommed bowed very low at the conclusion of this proposal.

"And wishing the union in conscience agreeable to you, I undertake to celebrate it according to Christian rite and Moslem. So shall you become Queen of the Greeks-their intercessor-the restorer and protector of their Church and worship-so shall you be placed in a way to serve God purely and unselfishly; and if a thirst for glory has ever moved you, O Princess, I present it to you a cupful larger than woman ever drank.... You may reside here or in Therapia, and keep your private chapel and altar, and choose whom you will to serve them. And these things I will also swear to and seal."

Again she would have interrupted him.

"No-bear with me for the once. I invoke your patience," he said. "In the making of treaties, O Princess, one of the parties must first propose terms; then it is for the other to accept or reject, and in turn propose. And this"-he glanced hurriedly around-"this is no time nor place for argument. Be content rather to return to your home in the city or your country-house at Therapia. In three days, with your permission, I will come for your answer; and whatever it be, I swear by Him who is God of the world, it shall be respected.... When I come, will you receive me?"

"The Lord Mahommed will be welcome."

"Where may I wait on you?"

"At Therapia," she answered.

Mahommed turned about then.

"Count Corti, go thou with the Princess Irene to Therapia. I know thou wilt keep her safely.-And thou, Kalil, have a galley suitable for a Queen of the Greeks made ready on the instant, and let there be no lack of guards despatched with it, subject to the orders of Count Corti, for the time once more Mirza the Emir.... O Princess, if I have been peremptory, forgive me, and lend me thy hand again. I wish to salute it."

Again she silently yielded to his request.

Kalil, seeing only politics in the scene, marched before the Princess clearing the way, and directly she was out of the Church. At the suggestion of the Count, sedan chairs were brought, and she and her half-stupefied companions carried to a galley, arriving at Therapia about the fourth hour after sunset.

Mahommed had indeed been imperious in the interview; but, as he afterward explained to her, with many humble protestations, he had a part to play before his ministers.

No sooner was she removed than he gave orders to clear the building of people and idolatrous symbols; and while the work was in progress, he made a tour of inspection going from the floor to the galleries. His wonder and admiration were unbounded.

Passing along the right-hand gallery, he overtook a pilferer with a tarbousche full of glass cubes picked from one of the mosaic pictures.

"Thou despicable!" he cried, in rage. "Knowest thou not that I have devoted this house to Allah? Profane a Mosque, wilt thou?"

And he struck the wretch with the flat of his sword. Hastening then to the chancel, he summoned Achmet, the muezzin.

"What is the hour?" he asked.

"It is the hour of the fourth prayer, my Lord."

"Ascend thou then to the highest turret of the house, and call the Faithful to pious acknowledgment of the favors of God and his Prophet-may their names be forever exalted."

Thus Sancta Sophia passed from Christ to Mahomet; and from that hour to this Islam has had sway within its walls. Not once since have its echoes been permitted to respond to a Christian prayer or a hymn to the Virgin. Nor was this the first instance when, to adequately punish a people for the debasement and perversions of his revelations, God, in righteous anger, tolerated their destruction.

To-day there are two cities, lights once of the whole earth, under curses so deeply graven in their remains-sites, walls, ruins-that every man and woman visiting them should be brought to know why they fell.

Alas, for Jerusalem!

Alas, for Constantinople!


In the morning of the third day after the fall of the city, a common carrier galley drew alongside the marble quay in front of the Princess' garden at Therapia, and landed a passenger-an old, decrepit man, cowled and gowned like a monk. With tottering steps he passed the gate, and on to the portico of the classic palace. Of Lysander, he asked: "Is the Princess Irene here or in the city?"

"She is here."

"I am a Greek, tired and hungry. Will she see me?"

The ancient doorkeeper disappeared, but soon returned.

"She will see you. This way."

The stranger was ushered into the reception room. Standing before the Princess, he threw back his cowl. She gazed at him a moment, then went to him and, taking his hands, cried, her eyes streaming with tears: "Father Hilarion! Now praised be God for sending you to me in this hour of uncertainty and affliction!"

Needless saying the poor man's trials ended there, and that he never again went cold, or hungry, or in want of a place to lay his head.

But this morning, after breaking fast, he was taken into council, and the proposal of marriage being submitted to him, he asked first:

"What are thy inclinations, daughter?"

And she made unreserved confession.

The aged priest spread his hands paternally over her head, and, looking upward, said solemnly: "I think I see the Great Designer's purpose. He gave thee, O daughter, thy beauties of person and spirit, and raised thee up out of unspeakable sorrows, that the religion of Christ should not perish utterly in the East. Go forward in the way He has opened unto thee. Only insist that Mahommed present himself at thy altar, and there swear honorable dealing with thee as his wife, and to keep the treaty proposed by him in spirit and letter. Doth he those things without reservation, then fear not. The old Greek Church is not all we would have it, but how much better it is than irreligion; and who can now say what will happen once our people are returned to the city?"

* * * * *

In the afternoon, a boat with one rower touched at the same marble quay, and disembarked an Arab. His face was a dusty brown, and he wore an abba such as children of the Desert affect. His dark eyes were wonderfully bright, and his bearing was high, as might be expected in the Sheik of a tribe whose camels were thousands to the man, and who dwelt in dowars with streets after the style of cities. On his right forearm he carried a crescent-shaped harp of five strings, inlaid with colored woods and mother of pearl.

"Does not the Princess Irene dwell here?" he asked.

Lysander, viewing him suspiciously, answered: "The Princess Irene dwells here."

"Wilt thou tell her one Aboo-Obeidah is at the door with a blessing and a story for her?"

The doorkeeper again disappeared, and, returning, answered, with evident misgivings, "The Princess Irene prays you to come in."

Aboo-Obeidah tarried at the Therapian palace till night fell; and his story was an old one then, but he contrived to make it new; even as at this day, though four hundred and fifty years older than when he told it to the Princess, women of white souls, like hers, still listen to it with downcast eyes and flushing cheeks-the only story which Time has kept and will forever keep fresh and persuasive as in the beginning'.

They were married in her chapel at Therapia, Father Hilarion officiating. Thence, when the city was cleansed of its stains of war, she went thither with Mahommed, and he proclaimed her his Sultana at a feast lasting through many days.

And in due time he built for her the palace behind Point Demetrius, yet known as the Seraglio. In other words, Mahommed the Sultan abided faithfully by the vows Aboo-Obeidah made for him. [Footnote: The throne of Mahommed was guarded by the numbers and fidelity of his Moslem subjects; but his national policy aspired to collect the remnant of the Greeks; and they returned in crowds as soon as they were assured of their lives, their liberties, and the free exercise of their religion.... The churches of Constantinople were shared between the two religions. GIBBON. ]

And so, with ampler means, and encouraged by Mahommed, the Princess Irene spent her life doing good, and earned the title by which she became known amongst her countrymen-The Most Gracious Queen of the Greeks.

Sergius never took orders formally. With the Sultana Irene and Father Hilarion, he preferred the enjoyment and practice of the simple creed preached by him in Sancta Sophia, though as between the Latins and the orthodox Greeks he leaned to the former. The active agent dispensing the charities of his imperial benefactress, he endeared himself to the people of both religions. Ere long, he married Lael, and they lived happily to old age.

* * * * *

Nilo was found alive, and recovering, joined Count Corti.

* * * * *

Count Corti retained the fraternal affection of Mahommed to the last. The Conqueror strove to keep him. He first offered to send him ambassador to John Sobieski; that being declined, he proposed promoting him chief Aga of Janissaries, but the Count declared it his duty to hasten to Italy, and devote himself to his mother. The Sultan finally assenting, he took leave of the Princess Irene the day before her marriage.

An officer of the court representing Mahommed conducted the Count to the galley built in Venice. Upon mounting the deck he was met by the Tripolitans, her crew, and Sheik Hadifah, with his fighting Berbers. He was then informed that the vessel and all it contained belonged to him.

The passage was safely made. From Brindisi he rode to Castle Corti. To his amazement, it was completely restored. Not so much as a trace of the fire and pillage it had suffered was to be seen.

His reception by the Countess can be imagined. The proofs he brought were sufficient with her, and she welcomed him with a joy heightened by recollections of the years he had been lost to her, and the manifest goodness of the Blessed Madonna in at last restoring him-the joy one can suppose a Christian mother would show for a son returned to her, as it were, from the grave.

The first transports of the meeting over, he reverted to the night he saw her enter the chapel: "The Castle was then in ruins; how is it I now find it rebuilt?"

"Did you not order the rebuilding?"

"I knew nothing of it."

Then the Countess told him a man had presented himself some months prior, with a letter purporting to be from him, containing directions to repair the Castle, and spare no expense in the work.

"Fortunately," she said, "the man is yet in Brindisi."

The Count lost no time in sending for the stranger, who presented him a package sealed and enveloped in oriental style, only on the upper side there was a tughra, or imperial seal, which he at once recognized as Mahommed's. With eager fingers he took off the silken wraps, and found a note in translation as follows:

"Mahommed the Sultan to Ugo, Count Corti, formerly Mirza the Emir.

"The wager we made, O my friend, who should have been the son of my mother, is not yet decided, and as it is not given a mortal to know the will of the Most Compassionate until he is pleased to expose it, I cannot say what the end will be. Yet I love you, and have faith in you; and wishing you to be so assured whether I win or lose, I send Mustapha to your country in advance with proofs of your heirship, and to notify the noble lady, your mother, that you are alive, and about returning to her. Also, forasmuch as a Turk destroyed it, he is ordered to rebuild your father's castle, and add to the estate all the adjacent lands he can buy; for verily no Countship can be too rich for the Mirza who was my brother. And these things he will do in your name, not mine. And when it is done, if to your satisfaction, O Count, give him a statement that he may come to me with evidence of his mission discharged.

"I commend you to the favor of the Compassionate. MAHOMMED."

When the missive was read, Mustapha knelt to the Count, and saluted him. Then he conducted him into the chapel of the castle, and going to the altar, showed him an iron door, and said:

"My master, the Lord Mahommed, instructed me to deposit here certain treasure with which he graciously intrusted me. Receive the key, I pray, and search the vault, and view the contents, and, if it please you, give me a certificate which will enable me to go back to my country, and live there a faithful servant of my master, the Lord Mahommed-may he be exalted as the Faithful are!"

Now when the Count came to inspect the contents of the vault he was displeased; and seeing it, Mustapha proceeded:

"My master, the Lord Mahommed, anticipated that you might protest against receiving the treasure; if so, I was to tell you it was to make good in some measure the sums the noble lady your mother has paid in searching for you, and in masses said for the repose of your father's soul."

Corti could not do else than accept.

Finally, to complete the narrative, he never married. The reasonable inference is, he never met a woman with graces sufficient to drive the Princess Irene from his memory.

After the death of the Countess, his mother, he went up to Rome, and crowned a long service as chief of the Papal Guard by dying of a wound received in a moment of victory. Hadifah, the Berbers, and Nilo chose to stay with him throughout. The Tripolitans were returned to their country; after which the galley was presented to the Holy Father.

Once every year there came to the Count a special messenger from Constantinople with souvenirs; sometimes a sword royally enriched, sometimes a suit of rare armor, sometimes horses of El Hajez-these were from Mahommed. Sometimes the gifts were precious relics, or illuminated Scriptures, or rosaries, or crosses, or triptychs wonderfully executed-so Irene the Sultana chose to remind him of her gratitude.

Syama wandered around Constantinople a few days after the fall of the city, looking for his master, whom he refused to believe dead. Lael offered him asylum for life. Suddenly he disappeared, and was never seen or heard of more. It may be presumed, we think, that the Prince of India succeeded in convincing him of his identity, and took him to other parts of the world-possibly back to Cipango.


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