Kéraban the Inflexible (Part 1)/Chapter 2

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While Van Mitten and Bruno were promenading upon the Top-Hané, and at the moment they reached the frrst bridge of boats which puts Galata in communication with the áncient Stamboul, a Turk rapidly turned the corner of the Mosque of Mahmoud and halted in the open space beyond it.

It was then six o'clock in the afternoon. For the fourth time that day the muezzins were mounting the minarets to call the people to prayer, and their voices were soon heard calling out the formula—"There is but one God, and Mahomet is His Prophet"

The Turk who had arrived so hastily upon the scene, turned about and gazed intently at the few passers-by. He then advanced to the meeting-place or axis of all the streets, with a view to obtain the greatest range in all directions. But the object of his quest had not appeared, and the Turk manifested considerable impatience.

"So Yarhud has not come," he muttered. "He knows he ought to have been here punctually at the appointed time!"

The Turk then took a few turns up and down the open space, and advanced as far as the northern angle of the barracks, whence he gazed in the direction of the cannon-foundry, as he stood tapping his foot upon the ground impatiently. Then he turned back again to the café at which Van Mitten and Bruno had vainly demanded refreshments. Here he seated himself at one of the empty tables, but was too careful to summon the waiter, for, being a scrupulous observer of the Ramadan, he knew the time had not yet arrived for indulging in any of the various products of the Ottoman distilleries.

This individual's name was Scarpante, the intendant or steward of the Seigneur Saffar, a rich Turk who lived at Trebizond.

Saffar himself was at that particular time travelling in Southern Russia, and intended to return to Trebizond when he had visited the Caucasian provinces, never doubting that his intendant would meanwhile have succeeded in carrying to a successful termination an enterprise with which he had been specially charged. Scarpante was to rejoin him at his palatial residence when he had accomplished his mission, which Saffar never admitted to himself even was likely to fail. He could not conceive that any emissary of his should not succeed when he had commanded success, and backed his orders with the powerful aid of money. In everything he acted with the ostentation which is characteristic of these "nabobs"of Asia Minor.

The steward was a very audacious fellow, an adept at all enterprises which required skill and force to carry them out He hesitated at nothing to carry out his master's designs, which were put through per fas et nefas. It was upon one of these desperate undertakings that he arrived in Constantinople, and that he was then awaiting the meeting with a certain Maltese captain, who was no better than himself.

The captain's name was Yarhud; he was commander of a felucca—the Guidare—and made periodical voyages across the Black Sea. To his ordinary smuggling he added even a less creditable trade, that of carrying black slaves from the Soudan, Ethiopia, or Egypt, and others from Georgia and Circassia. The market for these human commodities was at that very corner of Top-Hané—a market in regard to which the Government, very conveniently, shut its eyes.

Scarpante was still waiting, but the captain did not come. Although the intendant remained outwardly impassible and nothing betrayed his feelings, he was inwardly boiling with indignation.

"Where is the dog?" he muttered. "Has any accident happened to him? He ought to have quitted Odessa the

"Are you certain of your crew?"

day before yesterday. He should now be here on this spot at this café at this hour, for which I gave him rendezvous."

As he finished his half-articulate speech, a Maltese sailor appeared at the angle of the quay. This man was Yarhud. He glanced right and left, and perceived Scarpante, who immediately rose and advanced to meet the captain of the Guidare in the midst of the increasing numbers of the passers-by.

"I am not accustomed to be kept waiting, Yarhud," was Scarpante's address, in a tone the Maltese could not fail to understand.

"You must forgive me," said the captain; "I made all possible haste."

"You have only this moment arrived?"

"This instant by the Janboli and Adrianople Railway, and had not the train been late—"

"When did you leave Odessa?"

"Two days ago."

"Where is your vessel?"

"Waiting for me there,—in Odessa Harbour."

"Are you certain of your crew?"

"Absolutely. They are all Maltese like myself; and devoted—to generous paymasters!"

"They will obey your orders, then?"

"Certainly; in everything."

"Good. What news have you, Yarhud?"

"Well, both good and bad news," replied the captain, lowering his voice.

"Let us have the bad news first, then," said Scarpante.

"Very well. The bad news is that the girl Amasia—Selim's, the Odessa banker's daughter—is about to be married, soon. So her kidnapping will be a more difficult matter, and will have to be accomplished more hurriedly than if she were not to be married so quickly."

"The marriage must not take place, Yarhud," said Scarpante, in a tone louder than was altogether prudent. "No, by the Prophet, it must not take place."

"I did not say that it would," replied Yarhud. "I said that it had been arranged to take place."

"Quite so. But my lord Saffar is under the impression that in three days the young lady will have been carried on board your ship and bound for Trebizond. Now, if you think that impossible—"

"I never said it impossible, Scarpante. Nothing is impossible when audacity and money are combined. I merely said that the enterprise will be more difficult under the circumstances; that is all."

"Difficult!" exclaimed Scarpante contemptuously. "This will not be the first time that a Turkish girl, or a young Russian lady, has disappeared from Odessa!"

"And it won't be the last time, or the captain of the Guidare will know the reason why," replied Yarhud.

"Who is the fellow who wants to marry Amasia?" asked Scarpante.

"A young Turk; of the same race as Amasia herself," was the reply.

"From Odessa?"

"No; of Constantinople."

"What is his name?"


"Who is this Ahmet, then?"

"Nephew and sole heir of a rich merchant of Galata, Seigneur Kéraban."

"What is his business?"

"Tobacco, in which he has made an immense fortune. Selim the banker is his correspondent at Odessa. They have put through some very important business together, and often pay each other visits. Under these circumstances, Amasia and Ahmet have become acquainted; and so the marriage has been arranged by the father of the girl and the uncle of the young man."

"Where is the marriage fixed to take place?" asked Scarpante. "Will it be solemnized here, in Constantinople?"

"No; at Odessa."


"I do not know; but if young Ahmet's wishes are consulted, it may be any day."

"So we have no time to lose, eh?"

"Not an instant."

"Where is this Ahmet now?"

"At Odessa."

"And Keraban?"

"Here; in Constantinople."

"Did you see this young man, Yarhud, while you were passing through Odessa?"

"I had a particular object in seeing him, and in taking notice of him. I have seen him, and know him."

"What kind of man is he?"

"A young, and rather interesting fellow; very acceptable to the banker's daughter too."

"Is he to be feared, think you?"

"They say he is both brave and resolute, and in this business at any rate we must reckon with him."

"Is he independent, in fortune, I mean?" continued Scarpante, who kept putting leading questions concerning the young man, who gave him some uneasiness.

"No," replied Yarhud: "Ahmet is entirely dependent upon his uncle and guardian, Kéraban, who loves him as a son; and he will no doubt soon go to Odessa, so as to be present at the marriage."

"Cannot we find some means to prevent the Seigneur Kéraban from going thither?" suggested Scarpante.

"That certainly would be a good thing to do, and would give us more time; but in what way do you propose to prevent him?"

"The way I must leave to your invention," replied Scarpante. "But bear in mind the wishes of Seigneur Saffar must be carried out, and the young Amasia must be carried off to Trebizond. It will not be the first visit of the Guidare to that part of the coast, and you know how your services will be remunerated."

"I know!" replied Yarhud briefly.

"My patron, Saffar, saw the girl, though only for an instant, in his house at Odessa. Her beauty has made a deep impression on him, and she will not complain of the exchange from the banker's home to the palace at Trebizond. Amasia will surely be carried off, Yarhud; and if not by you, by some one else."

"I will do it: you may be depend upon me," replied the Maltese simply. "But as I have told you the bad news, let me now tell you more favourable tidings."

"Speak!" said Scarpante, who, after pacing up and down in a thoughtful attitude, returned to his companion.

"If this projected marriage renders it more difficult to carry the girl off, since Ahmet will not be long absent from her, I will find opportunity to enter the banker's house. The fact is, I am not only the captain of the Guidare, but a merchant. My vessel carries a rich cargo; silk stuffs, brocades enriched with diamonds, and a hundred kindred articles, calculated to attract the attention of a young girl about to be married. At that time, too, she will be all the more easily tempted. I shall be able to attract her on board, and then, taking advantage of a favourable wind, I shall be able to put to sea before her absence has caused any alarm."

"That seems a good notion, Yarhud," replied Scarpante; "and I have no doubt you will succeed. But you must be very careful to keep all this a profound secret."

"You may make your mind quite easy on that point, Scarpante."

"You are not in want of money, I suppose?"

"No; there is no fear of that where your generous patron is concerned."

"Well, now lose no time. The marriage once contracted, Amasia will be Ahmet's wife, and it is not in that capacity that my lord wishes to see her at Trebizond."

"I quite understand."

"Very well. As soon as the banker's daughter is on board the Guidare you will set sail."

"Yes, for before I make my advances I will wait for a favourable breeze—a steady westerly wind."

"How long do you anticipate it will take you to run from Odessa to Trebizond?"

"With possible delays, calms or changes of wind—for the wind is very uncertain in the Black Sea—the voyage may perhaps occupy three weeks."

"Good!" replied Scarpante. "I will make my way to Trebizond about that time, and my patron will not be long after me."

"I hope to be there before you," said Yarhud.

"The orders of my master," continued the intendant, "are very strict concerning the treatment of the young lady. Every consideration possible is to be shown her. There must be no violence or ill-treatment, mind!"

"She shall be treated with as much respect as the Seigneur Saffar can desire, and with as much deference as if he were present himself," replied Yarhud.

"I count upon your zeal, Yarhud."

"You shall have it, Scarpante."

"And upon your skill and address."

"In truth, I shall be all the more certain to succeed if the wedding is postponed," said Yarhud; "and it will be if some obstacle can be put in Seigneur Kéraban's way so as to prevent his departure."

"Do you know this great merchant?"

"It is always as well to know one's enemies, or those who may become such," replied the Maltese. "Thus my first care on my arrival here was to present myself at his office under the pretext of doing some business."

"You have seen him, then?"

"Just for an instant, but that was enough; and—"

At the same moment Yarhud suddenly approached Scarpante and whispered,—

"Eh! this is a singular coincidence, isn't it? Perhaps it may prove a happy chance for us."

"What do you mean?" inquired Scarpante.

"Look at yonder stout man descending the Rue de Pera accompanied by his servant."

"Is that he?"

"The very same," replied the captain. "Let us keep aloof, but we will not lose sight of him. I know that he returns every evening to his house at Scutari, and if necessary I will follow him to the other side of the Bosphorus, and find out when he proposes to start for Odessa."

Scarpante and Yarhud then mixed with the other pedestrians, but in such a manner as to observe Kéraban and to overhear his orders. A feat all the easier inasmuch as "my lord Kéraban," as they called him, always spoke in a very loud tone, and never attempted to conceal his imposing person nor his sentiments.