CHAPTER XIII. BEY BAZAAR, ANGORA, AND EASTWARD.
The last party of sight-seers for the day call around near midnight, some time after I have retired to sleep; they awaken me with their garrulous observations concerning the bicycle, which they are critically examining close to my head with a classic lamp; but I readily forgive them their nocturnal intrusion, since they awaken me to the first opportunity of hearing women wailing for the dead. A dozen or so of women are wailing forth their lamentations in the silent night but a short distance from the khan; I can look out of a small opening in the wall near my shake-down, and see them moving about the house and premises by the flickering glare of torches. I could never have believed the female form divine capable of producing such doleful, unearthly music; but there is no telling what these shrouded forms are really capable of doing, since the opportunity of passing one's judgment upon their accomplishments is confined solely to an occasional glimpse of a languishing eye. The kahvay-jee, who is acting the part of explanatory lecturer to these nocturnal visitors, explains the meaning of the wailing by pantomimically describing a corpse, and then goes on to explain that the smallest imaginable proportion of the lamentations that are making night hideous is genuine grief for the departed, most of the uproar being made by a body of professional mourners hired for the occasion. When I awake in the morning the unearthly wailing is still going vigorously forward, from which I infer they have been keeping it up all night. Though gradually becoming inured to all sorts of strange scenes and customs, the united wailing and lamentations of a houseful of women, awakening the echoes of the silent night, savor too much of things supernatural and unearthly not to jar unpleasantly on the senses; the custom is, however, on the eve of being relegated to the musty past by the Ottoman Government.
In the larger cities where there are corpses to be wailed over every night, it has been found so objectionable to the expanding intellects of the more enlightened Turks that it has been prohibited as a public nuisance, and these days it is only in such conservative interior towns as Bey Bazaar that the custom still obtains. When about starting early on the following morning the khanjee begs me to be seated, and then several men who have been waiting around since before daybreak vanish hastily through the door-way; in a few minutes I am favored with a small company of leading citizens who, having for various reasons failed to swell yesterday's throng, have taken the precaution to post these messengers to watch my movements and report when I am ready to depart. Our grunting patient, the crazy man, likewise reappears upon the scene of my departure from the khan, and, in company with a small but eminently respectable following, accompanies me to the brow of a bluffy hill leading out of the depression in which Bey Bazaar snugly nestles. On the way up he constantly gives utterance to his feelings in guttural gruntings that make last night's lamentations seem quite earthly after all in comparison; and when the summit is reached, and I mount and glide noiselessly away down a gentle declivity, he uses his vocal organs in a manner that simply defies chirographical description or any known comparison; it is the despairing howl of a semi-lunatic at witnessing my departure without having exercised my supposed extraordinary powers in some miraculous manner in his behalf. The road continues as an artificial highway, but is not continuously ridable, owing to the rocky nature of the material used in its construction and the absence of vehicular traffic to wear it smooth; but it is highly acceptable in the main. From Bey Bazaar eastward it leads for several miles along a stony valley, and then through a region that differs little from yesterday's barren hills in general appearance, but which has the redeeming feature of being traversed here and there by deep canons or gorges, along which meander tiny streams, and whose wider spaces are areas of remarkably fertile soil. While wheeling merrily along the valley road I am favored with a "peace-offering" of a splendid bunch of grapes from a bold vintager en route, to Bey Bazaar with a grape-laden donkey. When within a few hundred yards the man evinces unmistakable signs of uneasiness concerning my character, and would probably follow the bent of his inclinations and ingloriously flee the field, but his donkey is too heavily laden to accompany him: he looks apprehensively at my rapidly approaching figure, and then, as if a happy thought suddenly occurs to him, he quickly takes the finest bunch of grapes ready to hand and holds them, out toward me while I am yet a good fifty yards away. The grapes are luscious, and the bunch weighs fully an oke, but I should feel uncomfortably like a highwayman, guilty of intimidating the man out of his property, were I to accept them in the spirit in which they are offered; as it is, the honest fellow will hardly fall to trembling in his tracks should he at any future time again descry the centaur-like form of a mounted wheelman approaching him in the distance.