Up And Down
Captain Kous-Kous has found an enemy in the Mullah. The Mayor puts in a word for the Captain and the Prince promotes him as his viceroy.
The Admiral was in a huff.
He called for Captain Kous-Kous to report to him. The old seadog thought all hell broke loose at that part where the fleet had moored. The Sleepy Heads were out two days in a row calling out for their presents. The sea dog had only one remedy. He instructed the captain to take a message to the mullah.
Mullah Murad was in his quarters. After the exchange of greetings the captain said, “ People out there want a gift. It is the express wish of the grand mufti that you speak to them.” Laying aside his books he said, “ Ah I knew it. It is willed that I make these infidels hear reason. Allah wills it.”
Turning to Captain Kous- Kous he said, “May Allah requite you for your pains. Carry this bundle. I may have to refer to it.”
“ But it is rather heavy O Wise One!”
“ Indeed. Wisdom indeed comes in thick volumes!”
The sight of mullah made the Sleepy Heads break the queue and surge towards him. “ Here comes my angel!” One said. Another said, “You are jumping the queue, he is mine!” There was a minor scuffle, which was only broken up by the captain who heaved his heavy sack wildly beating back the mob. The Sleepy Heads got the hint and they drew back. All agreed the angel was as dirty as a goats tail. One ventured to ask,‘If one got a personal angel as bad as this one, may be his gifts also bound to be as vile(as his figure). He bowed to the other, ”well Luke, you can have him. I shall wait my turn.”
“ Take care, my books!” mullah shouted. Next moment he pulled the captain by his sleeve, “Who is Santa Claus?” he whispered to the captain who was struggling to keep his balance. “ Santa Class? How do I know? You are supposed to know. You are the wise one.”
As mullah and the captain drew near one Sleepy Head asked, “ Santa supposedly come in a carriage with horse. Instead..”
“Horse?” another cut in.
“Instead he is bringing an ass!.”
The Sleepy Heads had no respect for persons. They would have once again broken the order but the appearance so many janissaries with drawn swords coming down the ships restrained them.
Murad Mahoud stood on a stool, which was brought by one of the slaves. “ Hear me well.” “ We are hard of hearing” one shouted, “ Give us our presents. It works like magic every time.” The mullah ignoring their comments took out a book to read. “ Watch him fellows. He does not know where the book begins or ends. And now he wants us to listen him well.” Some sniggered at which the crowd took up instantly. “We want gifts!” They chanted. What a din they created!
“He talks just like our doctor. But our Jerry Can is full. This one is almost dry”. One Sleepy Head said. “ He smells even like him.” another Sleepy Head said. The former commented, “A street Arab he is under his burnoose! The other took up an old ditty, ”No noose is good noose/ under his burnoose”/Nothing is good under..!” The crowd of course sang out of tune but they were having a good time.
“ Why do you believe in Santa Claus? Because you are an infidel. Why are you called a Sleepy Head? Because you are a kaffir.” Mullah Murad shouted. At that point some one in the crowd threw a rotten egg at the speaker who got it right on the nose. “ He is also as impressionable as our doctor.” They laughed. The mullah screamed,” Guards, let them not get away.” One soldier managed to catch hold of one who tried to run. “ How dare you throw a rotten egg at our wise one?” “ What else is a rotten egg good for?” The Sleepy Heads were practical. They never allowed rotten eggs to pile up.
At another corner one soldier had managed to restrain a Sleepy Head who was running.“Hey you there,” he stood before the running man, “ Why are you in a haste? Some one in the crowd threw eggs, tomatoes and also pears.” “No, friend,” the Sleepy Head said, “I smell food around here. It makes me hungry.” After catching his breath he added, “Let me be. I must be home in time for my dinner.” Before a few soldiers could charge, he hollered at his wife to run faster. The Sleepy Heads made good of their escape.
The janissaries were distracted by a guard who came with a message from the grand mufti. Their superior who read the note from the prince waved his fellows to stop. Having read it loud he ordered the Sleepy Heads were to be let off from all harm. Meanwhile the captain escorted Murad Mahoud who was wiping the dripping egg from his face, “ The crowd made an impression on you. Didn’t they?” Kous- Kous asked. The mullah merely glared at him. Confidentially he spoke to Murad, “When you went there to address the crowd, you carried a particular smell.” “Must be my piety” the mullah felt somewhat easy,”I pray five times..”
”May be it has its order but you also carry a certain odor which I cannot stand.” Murad felt anger rising in him. “But now,” Kous-Kous slapped on his back in good humour and said, “you come up smelling like roses!”
Mullah Murad Mahoud gathered his flowing cloak in tatters about him and walked into the safety of his ship. “ Infidels! How can they throw an egg at me?”
“ They showed they can, didn’t they?” Captain Kous-Kous akh al jaha’lah(* Brother of ignorance) said.
“ You are an ignoramus.” Replied Mullah angrily. Little did the captain realise that he had that evening made an enemy in Mullah Murad Mahoud.
Next day. The mayor had come at the time previously agreed and the prince received him. Throughout dinner in which the prince made much of the mayor as if he owed his very life to him and passed on choicest pieces to him in the best traditions of a good host. While entertaining him he also thought the mayor was a scream. Mayor Calisthenics was natural and he carried his dignity as gingerly as a posy of violets in a hand. His dress was shabby with coat tails and a waistcoat which was one size smaller. Everything about him was so strange and the way he joked and said things the host had to remind himself not to laugh loud. ‘He must do his duties worthy of a prince.’he said to himself. Yet.
After dinner Calisthenics burped and the Turk smiled for he took it as a compliment. He had the satisfaction that he had pleased his guest.
Mayor Calisthenics had never eaten so grand a feast and he was full. The prince waited his turn while his guest washed his hands from a basin of water held by a liveried servant. Another held out towel for him to dry himself. The mayor was clumsy since he had no idea of their manners and custom. In the meantime the plates were cleared and bowls of fruits and glasses were brought in.
After the prince had washed himself dry he escorted his guest to the couch where they settled themselves to chat. Pointing to the glasses he asked his guest what he would like to drink.
“Oh some wine.”
“Wine!” The grand mufti was shocked. “ Wine ? It is forbidden for us. It is allowed to us only after this life.” “ On the other side uh?” A painful silence. He asked his guest, “ May I offer you some dates?” Calisthenics shook his head. He said,”Pass me some apricots please.” The prince obliged him.
The mayor without feeling embarrassed observed, “You do have strange customs and beliefs. You offer drinks before dinner whereas we never drink on empty stomach.”The prince immediately corrected, “What I offered before dinner was sherbet. No alcoholic drinks.”
“I followed a custom what we are used to, O prince!”
“No offence intended,”The host countered with a bow,” I followed the custom allowed by the prophet.”The mayor smiled. Al-Wa’sik explained, “Our prophet forbids wine in this waking life because it makes one lose one’s head. If one cannot judge what is right or wrong one is no better than a beast.”
“Oh?” the mayor said.
“Yes. Without judgment life is meaningless.” The grand mufti commented.
“ We drink wine only at times. Only when it is absolutely necessary” the mayor defended himself, “At other times, nothing, not even a drop enters our throat.” The Turk was impressed. “ As a matter of necessity. Did you say?”
“ Oh yes. When we are thirsty.”
“ Oh Grand Turk, I am thirsty now.” Calisthenics added. “Oh certainly,” The Turk said and he clapped his hands thrice. The wine steward came. “ Bring us some wine, immediately.”
“Shall I pour it for you?” grand mufti asked his guest after the mayor made his choice. The steward who brought a cart full of wines took leave. “No thanks, I will drink it myself.”
“ It is not the custom in Turkey” replied the Turk. “ Who is thirsty? You or me?” The mayor wanted to know. The host held his silence. The mayor said,” Our custom any day is better than yours.”
“ What do you mean?”
“ When we are thirsty we do not pour. We drink to quench our thirst.” He gulped the bottle down in one stretch. He did not notice the eyes of the host growing wider. After the mayor had emptied his bottle he reached for another bottle. “Are you thirsty still?” the Turk’s jaw dropped.
“ No. But our custom dictates one good turn deserves another. Besides it is always nice to know how far I am tolerated by my esteemed host.” He finished his second and said. “My compliments for your excellent choice. My dear sire you have a good taste almost as mine.”
“ Almost! Almost did you say?” The Turk was red in the face, ”If you were not my guest I would have boxed your ears for impertinence.” The grand mufti said seriously. ”That speaks well of you O prince!”
Calisthenics said, ”You are perfect as a host. For you play it so well.” The grand mufti smiled. The mayor said,” If I did make mistakes as a guest I can get away with it. As a host you have not the same freedom.”
“ You have good choice of wines yet you do not drink them. Is that not a lack of taste? Is it not a serious error in judgment?” He asked his host.
“If you had a taste like I have, why you would drink as I do.” He added. The wine made the mayor very playful and reckless too.
The host was now beaming like a cat who had its ear scratched. “What do you smile for?” He wagged his forefinger before his nose,” I drink to my fill and you smile as if you were the one who drank it.”
Al-Wa’sik could not help laughing as the mayor reached out for a few dates,” His waist-coat was so tight that a few buttons popped. “Even your waist-coat tells that you have had enough.” The Turk said, “ Is it a good custom to eat bellyful?”
“ We are not accustomed to luxury. But our life as it is lived, is luxurious which are not the same. Let that pass. If the host spreads a feast as rich as these, well we gobble it up. That is the truth.” Said the mayor seriously.” I shall tell something more. ”We don’t drink this kind of exquisite wine. We cannot afford it. So we have learnt to be content with what we drink. It is the truth,” The host was evidently embarrassed. “Even so our culture is better than yours.”
“How can you say that you have a better culture than us?” “ We eat only to satisfy hunger.”
“ Ah, animals also do that.“ The mayor said shaking his head. “ We Sleepy Heads have a better culture. Isn’t it your culture which is linked to things than people?”
“What do you mean?”
“If a woman asked you to dine with her alone would you go?” The prince was horrified. Quickly he controlled himself and treated it as a joke.” I risk my reputation? Oh never!”
“Would you go to dinner?”the prince asked somewhat diffidently. He was shocked.
”Why not,” Calisthenics asked, “a Sleepy Head doesnot think on sex lines. One desires your company or seeks to know you better. Why a question of her sex should come in between?” The mayor asked,” Would you go to a party thrown by a peasant when there is also an invitation from another prince?” “Do I have to answer that?” “ O.K I shall qualify my question thus. The peasant is a model of prudence and full of wit. While the prince is a dreadful bore but of great lineage.” The prince looked at him searchingly. “Is n’t it obvious?”
Calisthenics shook his head.
“What is wrong with wealth? Or keeping company of people of the same class and the means?” the prince asked, “Not so much as it gives one to despise another or judge another by the price of the dishes served. What matters in the end is being seen among your equals.”
“So wealth makes that decision for you?”The grand mufti nodded. “Though reason tells you the sex and riches are besides the point. A woman who could give you far superior company is refused on account of her sex. The table of a man who is well accomplished is denied because of his low station. Is it wise to be known as civilized and yet must go against the obvious?”
“Yes. We Turks live and show ourselves so, as best as money can provide.” the prince said,” so we may not be badly spoken of. Isn’t that our obligation to our society?”
“Precisely,” the mayor said,” you make the society and yet you are slave to your own creation.” After a pause the mayor continued,” We live for the simple pleasures, which cost nothing. Our people get on each other’s nerves at times but they cannot live without sharing their pleasures. If we get a chance to sit at a feast or get a hand-out we take it but we are not overawed by it. We let society only as it should be,- at arm’s length.” The prince did not answer.
“Our ways are better than that of yours,”the mayor said,”Can an ordinary Turk leave his home keeping the door open and be away for days without being burgled?”the mayor asked slightly heady with wine,”Here we can.”
”Of course,”the grand mufti retorted,”theft is a serious offence.” “ Yes,”replied Calisthenics,” cut off the arm so says your law.” He added after a pause, “An eye for eye, a tooth for tooth.”
“Yes. We have Laws. It stops thieves and burglars from breaking them.
“True,”the guest chuckled,”In our case we have no Laws. As written down. Still our people would not think of stealing.”
“They will not eh?”the prince asked in a fit,”We shall see. You had the other day asked freedom for your people. I shall offer freedom to you on that basis. We shall see whether you live up to your bragging.” It was late. The mayor would have risen but the host politely pressed him to give his company. He stayed for a short while and insisted he had to go home and catch up with his sleep.”I should not let Sandman wait!”he said with a smile.
Before he would let him off Al-Wa’sik wanted to know if he had any favors to ask.
“Now that you have promised to grant us freedom I will ask a favor for one in your service.” The mayor mentioned the name of Captain Kous-Kous and his request. After hearing him the grand mufti said, “ You boast that your culture is better than ours. “ I shall appoint him my viceroy to the Garden of Neden. He shall live among the Sleepy Heads and learn. He shall acquaint himself with your ways and customs and shall report to me.”
“Yes, let him see for himself.” The mayor said.
”We shall see which of the culture is better. Yours or ours?” “What do you personally think, sire?” Calisthenics asked.” Prince Al-Wa’sik looked away and he said, ”Let me see what my viceroy will have to say from his experience.”
“ Agreed O Turk,” Calisthenics said.
Al- Wa’sik clapped his hands once and instantly came one of the guards. In low voice he spoke to him. Deeply bowing the guard withdrew and he brought the admiral along. The grand mufti picked a spear and tied a white banner at the tip and gave to him.
“To hear is to obey” he said and went out.
”As I said I have made the captain of the Golden Dawn my viceroy,” announced the Turk.
“ My grateful thanks.” Calisthenics said rising and he bowed. He took leave of the Turk.