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Ali Pacha by Alexandre Dumas, Pere

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the arch of a casemate filled with two hundred thousand pounds of
powder, but that the whole castle, which they had so rashly occupied,
was undermined. "The rest you have seen," he said, "but of this you
could not be aware. My riches are the sole cause of the war which
has been made against me, and in one moment I can destroy them. Life
is nothing to me, I might have ended it among the Greeks, but could
I, a powerless old man, resolve to live on terms of equality among
those whose absolute master I have been? Thus, whichever way I look,
my career is ended. However, I am attached to those who still
surround me, so hear my last resolve. Let a pardon, sealed by the
sultan's hands, be given me, and I will submit. I will go to
Constantinople, to Asia Minor, or wherever I am sent. The things I
should see here would no longer be fitting for me to behold."

To this Kursheed's envoys made answer that without doubt these terms
would be conceded. Ali then touched his breast and forehead, and,
drawing forth his watch, presented it to the keeper of the wardrobe.
"I mean what I say, my friend," he observed; "my word will be kept.
If within an hour thy soldiers are not withdrawn from this castle
which has been treacherously yielded to them, I will blow it up.
Return to the Seraskier, warn him that if he allows one minute more
to elapse than the time specified, his army, his garrison, I myself
and my family, will all perish together: two hundred thousand pounds
of powder can destroy all that surrounds us. Take this watch, I give
it thee, and forget not that I am a man of my word." Then,
dismissing the messengers, he saluted them graciously, observing that
he did not expect an answer until the soldiers should have evacuated
the castle.

The envoys had barely returned to the camp when Kursheed sent orders
to abandon the fortress. As the reason far this step could not be
concealed, everyone, exaggerating the danger, imagined deadly mines
ready to be fired everywhere, and the whole army clamoured to break
up the camp. Thus Ali and his fifty followers cast terror into the
hearts of nearly thirty thousand men, crowded together on the slopes
of Janina. Every sound, every whiff of smoke, ascending from near
the castle, became a subject of alarm for the besiegers. And as the
besieged had provisions for a long time, Kursheed saw little chance
of successfully ending his enterprise; when Ali's demand for pardon
occurred to him. Without stating his real plans, he proposed to his
Council to unite in signing a petition to the Divan for Ali's pardon.

This deed, formally executed, and bearing more than sixty signatures,
was then shown to Ali, who was greatly delighted. He was described
in it as Vizier, as Aulic Councillor, and also as the most
distinguished veteran among His Highness the Sultan's slaves. He
sent rich presents to Kursheed and the principal officers, whom he
hoped to corrupt, and breathed as though the storm had passed away.
The following night, however, he heard the voice of Emineh, calling
him several times, and concluded that his end drew nigh.

During the two next nights he again thought he heard Emineh's voice,
and sleep forsook his pillow, his countenance altered, and his
endurance appeared to be giving way. Leaning on a long Malacca cane,
he repaired at early dawn to Emineh's tomb, on which he offered a
sacrifice of two spotted lambs, sent him by Tahir Abbas, whom in
return he consented to pardon, and the letters he received appeared
to mitigate his trouble. Some days later, he saw the keeper of the
wardrobe, who encouraged him, saying that before long there would be
good news from Constantinople. Ali learned from him the disgrace of
Pacho Bey, and of Ismail Pliaga, whom he detested equally, and this
exercise of authority, which was made to appear as a beginning of
satisfaction offered him, completely reassured him, and he made fresh
presents to this officer, who had succeeded in inspiring him with
confidence.

Whilst awaiting the arrival of the firman of pardon which Ali was
reassured must arrive from Constantinople without fail, the keeper of
the wardrobe advised him to seek an interview with Kursheed. It was
clear that such a meeting could not take place in the undermined
castle, and Ali was therefore invited to repair to the island in the
lake. The magnificent pavilion, which he had constructed there in
happier days, had been entirely refurnished, and it was proposed that
the conference should take place in this kiosk.

Ali appeared to hesitate at this proposal, and the keeper of the
wardrobe, wishing to anticipate his objections, added that the object
of this arrangement was, to prove to the army, already aware of it,
that there was no longer any quarrel between himself and the
commander-in-chief. He added that Kursheed would go to the
conference attended only by members of his Divan, but that as it was
natural an outlawed man should be on his guard, Ali might, if he
liked, send to examine the place, might take with him such guards as
he thought necessary, and might even arrange things on the same
footing as in his citadel, even to his guardian with the lighted
match, as the surest guarantee which could be given him.

The proposition was accepted, and when Ali, having crossed over with
a score of soldiers, found himself more at large than he did in his
casemate, he congratulated himself on having come. He had Basilissa
brought over, also his diamonds; and several chests of money. Two
days passed without his thinking of anything but procuring various
necessaries, and he then began to inquire what caused the Seraskier
to delay his visit. The latter excused himself on the plea of
illness, and offered meanwhile to send anyone Ali might wish to see,
to visit him: The pacha immediately mentioned several of his former
followers, now employed in the Imperial army, and as no difficulty
was made in allowing them to go, he profited by the permission to
interview a large number of his old acquaintances, who united in
reassuring him and in giving him great hopes of success.

Nevertheless, time passed on, and neither the Seraskier nor the
firman appeared. Ali, at first uneasy, ended by rarely mentioning
either the one or the other, and never was deceiver more completely
deceived. His security was so great that he loudly congratulated
himself on having come to the island. He had begun to form a net of
intrigue to cause himself to be intercepted on the road when he
should be sent to Constantinople, and he did not despair of soon
finding numerous partisans in the Imperial army.

CHAPTER XI

For a whole week all seemed going well, when, on the morning of
February 5th, Kursheed sent Hassan Pacha to convey his compliments to
Ali, and announce that the sultan's firman, so long desired, had at
length arrived. Their mutual wishes had been heard, but it was
desirable, for the dignity of their sovereign, that Ali, in order to
show his gratitude and submission, should order Selim to extinguish
the fatal match and to leave the cave, and that the rest of the
garrison should first display the Imperial standard and then evacuate
the enclosure. Only on this condition could Kursheed deliver into
Ali's hands the sultan's decree of clemency.

Ali was alarmed, and his eyes were at length opened. He replied
hesitatingly, that on leaving the citadel he had charged Selim to
obey only his own verbal order, that no written command, even though
signed and sealed by himself, would produce any effect, and therefore
he desired to repair himself to the castle, in order to fulfil what
was required.

Thereupon a long argument ensued, in which Ali's sagacity, skill, and
artifice struggled vainly against a decided line of action. New
protestations were made to deceive him, oaths were even taken on the
Koran that no evil designs, no mental reservations, were entertained.
At length, yielding to the prayers of those who surrounded him,
perhaps concluding that all his skill could no longer fight against
Destiny, he finally gave way.

Drawing a secret token from his bozom, he handed it to Kursheed's
envoy, saying, "Go, show this to Selim, and you will convert a dragon
into a lamb." And in fact, at sight of the talisman, Selim
prostrated himself, extinguished the match, and fell, stabbed to the
heart. At the same time the garrison withdrew, the Imperial standard
displayed its blazonry, and the lake castle was occupied by the
troops of the Seraskier, who rent the air with their acclamations.

It was then noon. Ali, in the island, had lost all illusions. His
pulse beat violently, but his countenance did not betray his mental
trouble. It was noticed that he appeared at intervals to be lost in
profound thought, that he yawned frequently, and continually drew his
fingers through his beard. He drank coffee and iced water several
times, incessantly looked at his watch, and taking his field-glass,
surveyed by turns the camp, the castles of Janina, the Pindus range,
and the peaceful waters of the lake. Occasionally he glanced at his
weapons, and then his eyes sparkled with the fire of youth and of
courage. Stationed beside him, his guards prepared their cartridges,
their eyes fixed on the landing-place.

The kiosk which he occupied was connected with a wooden structure
raised upon pillars, like the open-air theatres constructed for a
public festival, and the women occupied the most remote apartments.
Everything seemed sad and silent. The vizier, according to custom,
sat facing the doorway, so as to be the first to perceive any who
might wish to enter. At five o'clock boats were seen approaching the
island, and soon Hassan Pacha, Omar Brionis, Kursheed's sword-bearer,
Mehemet, the keeper of the wardrobe, and several officers of the
army, attended by a numerous suite, drew near with gloomy
countenances.

Seeing them approach, Ali sprang up impetuously, his hand upon the
pistols in his belt. "Stand! . . . what is it you bring me?" he
cried to Hassan in a voice of thunder. "I bring the commands of His
Highness the Sultan,--knowest thou not these august characters?" And
Hassan exhibited the brilliantly gilded frontispiece which decorated
the firman. "I know them and revere them." "Then bow before thy
destiny; make thy ablutions; address thy prayer to Allah and to His
Prophet; for thy, head is demanded. . . . " Ali did not allow him
to finish. "My head," he cried with fury, "will not be surrendered
like the head of a slave."

These rapidly pronounced words were instantly followed by a
pistol-shot which wounded Hassan in the thigh. Swift as lightning, a
second killed the keeper of the wardrobe, and the guards, firing at
the same time, brought down several officers. Terrified, the
Osmanlis forsook the pavilion. Ali, perceiving blood flowing from a
wound in his chest, roared like a bull with rage. No one dared to
face his wrath, but shots were fired at the kiosk from all sides, and
four of his guards fell dead beside him. He no longer knew which way
to turn, hearing the noise made by the assailants under the platform,
who were firing through the boards on which he stood. A ball wounded
him in the side, another from below lodged in his spine; he
staggered, clung to a window, then fell on the sofa. "Hasten," he
cried to one of his officers, "run, my friend, and strangle my poor
Basilissa; let her not fall a prey to these infamous wretches."

The door opened, all resistance ceased, the guards hastened to escape
by the windows. Kursheed's sword-bearer entered, followed by the
executioners. "Let the justice of Allah be accomplished!" said a
cadi. At these words the executioners seized Ali, who was still
alive, by the beard, and dragged him out into the porch, where,
placing his head on one of the steps, they separated it from the body
with many blows of a jagged cutlass. Thus ended the career of the
dreaded Ali Pacha.

His head still preserved so terrible and imposing an aspect that
those present beheld it with a sort of stupor. Kursheed, to whom it
was presented on a large dish of silver plate, rose to receive it,
bowed three times before it, and respectfully kissed the beard,
expressing aloud his wish that he himself might deserve a similar
end. To such an extent did the admiration with which Ali's bravery
inspired these barbarians efface the memory of his crimes. Kursheed
ordered the head to be perfumed with the most costly essences, and
despatched to Constantinople, and he allowed the Skipetars to render
the last honours to their former master.

Never was seen greater mourning than that of the warlike Epirotes.
During the whole night, the various Albanian tribes watched by turns
around the corpse, improvising the most eloquent funeral songs in its
honour. At daybreak, the body, washed and prepared according to the
Mohammedan ritual, was deposited in a coffin draped with a splendid
Indian Cashmere shawl, on which was placed a magnificent turban,
adorned with the plumes Ali had worn in battle. The mane of his
charger was cut off, and the animal covered with purple housings,
while Ali's shield, his sword, his numerous weapons, and various
insignia, were borne on the saddles of several led horses. The
cortege proceeded towards the castle, accompanied by hearty
imprecations uttered by the soldiers against the "Son of a Slave,"
the epithet bestowed on their sultan by the Turks in seasons of
popular excitement.

The Selaon-Aga, an officer appointed to render the proper salutes,
acted as chief mourner, surrounded by weeping mourners, who made the
ruins of Janina echo with their lamentations. The guns were fired at
long intervals. The portcullis was raised to admit the procession,
and the whole garrison, drawn up to receive it, rendered a military
salute. The body, covered with matting, was laid in a grave beside
that of Amina. When the grave had been filled in, a priest
approached to listen to the supposed conflict between the good and
bad angels, who dispute the possession of the soul of the deceased.
When he at length announced that Ali Tepelen Zadi would repose in
peace amid celestial houris, the Skipetars, murmuring like the waves
of the sea after a tempest, dispersed to their quarters:

Kursheed, profiting by the night spent by the Epirotes in mourning,
caused Ali's head to be en closed in a silver casket, and despatched
it secretly to Constantinople. His sword-bearer Mehemet, who, having
presided at the execution, was entrusted with the further duty of
presenting it to the sultan, was escorted by three hundred Turkish
soldiers. He was warned to be expeditious, and before dawn was well
out of reach of the Arnaouts, from whom a surprise might have been
feared.

The Seraskier then ordered the unfortunate Basilissa, whose life had
been spared, to be brought before him. She threw herself at his feet,
imploring him to spare, not her life, but her honour; and he consoled
her, and assured her of the sultan's protection. She burst into
tears when she beheld Ali's secretaries, treasurers, and steward
loaded with irons. Only sixty thousand purses (about twenty-five
million piastres) of Ali's treasure could be found, and already his
officers had been tortured, in order to compel them to disclose where
the rest might be concealed. Fearing a similar fate, Basilissa fell
insensible into the arms of her attendants, and she was removed to
the farm of Bouila, until the Supreme Porte should decide on her
fate.

The couriers sent in all directions to announce the death of Ali,
having preceded the sword-bearer Mehemet's triumphal procession, the
latter, on arriving at Greveno, found the whole population of that
town and the neighbouring hamlets assembled to meet him, eager to
behold the head of the terrible Ali Pacha. Unable to comprehend how
he could possibly have succumbed, they could hardly believe their
eyes when the head was withdrawn from its casket and displayed before
them. It remained exposed to view in the house of the Mussulman Veli
Aga whilst the escort partook of refreshment and changed horses, and
as the public curiosity continued to increase throughout the journey,
a fixed charge was at length made for its gratification, and the head
of the renowned vizier was degraded into becoming an article of
traffic exhibited at every post-house, until it arrived at
Constantinople.

The sight of this dreaded relic, exposed on the 23rd of February at
the gate of the seraglio, and the birth of an heir-presumptive to the
sword of Othman--which news was announced simultaneously with that of
the death of Ali, by the firing of the guns of the seraglio--roused
the enthusiasm of the military inhabitants of Constantinople to a
state of frenzy, and triumphant shouts greeted the appearance of a
document affixed to the head which narrated Ali's crimes and the
circumstances of his death, ending with these words: "This is the
Head of the above-named Ali Pacha, a Traitor to the Faith of Islam."

Having sent magnificent presents to Kursheed, and a hyperbolical
despatch to his army, Mahmoud II turned his attention to Asia Minor;
where Ali's sons would probably have been forgotten in their
banishment, had it not been supposed that their riches were great.
A sultan does not condescend to mince matters with his slaves, when
he can despoil them with impunity; His Supreme Highness simply sent
them his commands to die. Veli Pacha, a greater coward than a
woman-slave born in the harem, heard his sentence kneeling. The
wretch who had, in his palace at Arta, danced to the strains of a
lively orchestra, while innocent victims were being tortured around
him, received the due reward of his crimes. He vainly embraced the
knees of his executioners, imploring at least the favour of dying in
privacy; and he must have endured the full bitterness of death in
seeing his sons strangled before his eyes, Mehemet the elder,
remarkable, for his beauty, and the gentle Selim, whose merits might
have procured the pardon of his family had not Fate ordained
otherwise. After next beholding the execution of his brother, Salik
Pacha, Ali's best loved son, whom a Georgian slave had borne to him
in his old age, Veli, weeping, yielded his guilty head to the
executioners.

His women were then seized, and the unhappy Zobeide, whose scandalous
story had even reached Constantinople, sewn up in a leather sack, was
flung into the Pursak--a river whose waters mingle with those of the
Sagaris. Katherin, Veli's other wife, and his daughters by various
mothers, were dragged to the bazaar and sold ignominiously to
Turcoman shepherds, after which the executioners at once proceeded to
make an inventory of the spoils of their victims.

But the inheritance of Mouktar Pacha was not quite such an easy prey.
The kapidgi-bachi who dared to present him with the bowstring was
instantly laid dead at his feet by a pistol-shot. "Wretch!" cried
Mouktar, roaring like a bull escaped from the butcher, "dost thou
think an Arnaout dies like an eunuch? I also am a Tepelenian! To
arms, comrades! they would slay us!" As he spoke, he rushed, sword
in hand, upon the Turks, and driving them back, succeeded in
barricading himself in his apartments.

Presently a troop of janissaries from Koutaieh, ordered to be in
readiness, advanced, hauling up cannon, and a stubborn combat began.
Mouktar's frail defences were soon in splinters. The venerable
Metche-Bono, father of Elmas Bey, faithful to the end, was killed by
a bullet; and Mouktar, having slain a host of enemies with his own
hand and seen all his friends perish, himself riddled with wounds,
set fire to the powder magazine, and died, leaving as inheritance for
the sultan only a heap of smoking ruins. An enviable fate, if
compared with that of his father and brothers, who died by the hand
of the executioner.

The heads of Ali's children, sent to Constantinople and exposed at
the gate of the seraglio, astonished the gaping multitude. The
sultan himself, struck with the beauty of Mehemet and Selim, whose
long eyelashes and closed eyelids gave them the appearance of
beautiful youths sunk in peaceful slumber, experienced a feeling of
emotion. "I had imagined them," he said stupidly, "to be quite as
old as their father;" and he expressed sorrow for the fate to which
he had condemned them.

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