CHAPTER IX. THROUGH EUROPEAN TURKEY.
This is the last day of Ramadan, and the following Monday ushers in the three days' feast of Biaram, which is in substance a kind of a general carousal to compensate for the rigid self-denial of the thirty days 'fasting and prayer' just ended. The government offices and works are till closed, everybody is wearing new clothes, and holiday-making engrosses the public attention. A friend proposes a trip on a Bosphorus steamer up as far as the entrance to the Black Sea. The steamers are profusely decorated with gaycolored flags, and at certain hours all war-ships anchored in the Bosphorus, as well as the forts and arsenals, fire salutes, the roar and rattle of the great guns echoing among the hills of Europe and Asia, that here confront each other, with but a thousand yards of dancing blue waters between them. All along either lovely shore villages and splendid country-seats of wealthy pashas and Constantinople merchants dot the verdure-clad slopes. Two white marble kiosks of the Sultan are pointed out. The old castles of Europe and Asia face each other on opposite sides of the narrow channel. They were famous fortresses in their day, but, save as interesting relics of a bygone age, they are no longer of any use. At Therapia are the summer residences of the different ambassadors, the English and French the most conspicuous. The extensive grounds of the former are most beautifully terraced, and evidently fit for the residence of royalty itself. Happy indeed is the Constantinopolitan whose income commands a summer villa in Therapia, or at any of the many desirable locations in plain view within this earthly paradise of blue waves and sunny slopes, and a yacht in which to wing his flight whenever and wherever fancy bids him go. In the glitter and glare of the mid-day sun the scene along the Bosphorus is lovely, yet its loveliness is plainly of the earth; but as we return cityward in the eventide the dusky shadows of the gloaming settle over everything. As we gradually approach, the city seems half hidden behind a vaporous veil, as though, in imitation of thousands of its fair occupants, it were hiding its comeliness behind the yashmak; the scores of tapering minarets, and the towers, and the masts of the crowded shipping of all nations rise above the mist, and line with delicate tracery the western sky, already painted in richest colors by the setting sun. On Saturday morning, July 18th, the sound of martial music announces the arrival of the soldiers from Stamboul, to guard the streets through which the Sultan will pass on his way to a certain mosque to perform some ceremony in connection with the feast just over. At the designated place I find the streets already lined with Circassian cavalry and Ethiopian zouaves; the latter in red and blue zouave costumes and immense turbans. Mounted gendarmes are driving civilians about, first in one direction and then in another, to try and get the streets cleared, occasionally fetching some unlucky wight in the threadbare shirt of the Galata plebe a stinging cut across the shoulders with short raw-hide whips - a glaring injustice that elicits not the slightest adverse criticism from the spectators, and nothing but silent contortions of face and body from the individual receiving the attention. I finally obtain a good place, where nothing but an open plank fence and a narrow plot of ground thinly set with shrubbery intervenes between me and the street leading from the palace. In a few minutes the approach of the Sultan is announced by the appearance of half a dozen Circassian outriders, who dash wildly down the streets, one behind the other, mounted on splendid dapple-gray chargers; then come four close carriages, containing the Sultan's mother and leading ladies of the imperial harem, and a minute later appears a mounted guard, two abreast, keen-eyed fellows, riding slowly, and critically eyeing everybody and everything as they proceed; behind them comes a gorgeously arrayed individual in a perfect blaze of gold braid and decorations, and close behind him follows the Sultan's carriage, surrounded by a small crowd of pedestrians and horsemen, who buzz around the imperial carriage like bees near a hive, the pedestrians especially dodging about hither and thither, hopping nimbly over fences, crossing gardens, etc., keeping pace with the carriage meanwhile, as though determined upon ferreting out and destroying anything in the shape of danger that may possibly be lurking along the route. My object of seeing the Sultan's face is gained; but it is only a momentary glimpse, for besides the horsemen flitting around the carriage, an officer suddenly appears in front of my position and unrolls a broad scroll of paper with something printed on it, which he holds up. Whatever the scroll is, or the object of its display may be, the Sultan bows his acknowledgments, either to the scroll or to the officer holding it up.