Frederick Marryat.

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Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

The Pacha of Many Tales, by Captain Marryat.


Captain Frederick Marryat was born July 10 1792, and died August 8 1848.
He retired from the British navy in 1828 in order to devote himself to
writing. In the following 20 years he wrote 26 books, many of which are
among the very best of English literature, and some of which are still
in print.

Marryat had an extraordinary gift for the invention of episodes in his
stories. He says somewhere that when he sat down for the day's work, he
never knew what he was going to write. He certainly was a literary

"The Pacha of Many Tales" was published in 1835, the sixth book to flow
from Marryat's pen. It is designedly reminiscent of "The Arabian
Nights". Marryat has let his genius for inventing delightful little
stories and episodes run riot in this unusual book.

This e-text was transcribed in 1998 by Nick Hodson, and was reformatted
in 2003, and again in 2005.




Every one acquainted with the manners and customs of the East must be
aware that there is no situation of eminence more unstable, or more
dangerous to its possessor, than that of a pacha. Nothing, perhaps,
affords us more convincing proof of the risk which men will incur, to
obtain a temporary authority over their fellow-creatures, than the
avidity with which this office is accepted from the sultan who, within
the memory of the new occupant, has consigned scores of his predecessors
to the bow-string. It would almost appear, as if the despot but
elevated a head from the crowd, that he might obtain a more fair and
uninterrupted sweep for his scimitar, when he cut it off; only exceeded
in his peculiar taste by the king of Dahomy, who is said to ornament the
steps of his palace with heads, fresh severed, each returning sun, as we
renew the decoration of our apartments from our gay parterres. I make
these observations, that I may not be accused of a disregard to
chronology, in not precisely stating the year, or rather the months,
during which flourished one of a race, who, like the flowers of the
cistus, one morning in all their splendour, on the next, are strewed
lifeless on the ground to make room for their successors. Speaking of
such ephemeral creations, it will be quite sufficient to say, "There
_was_ a Pacha."

Would you inquire by what means he was raised to the distinction? It is
an idle question. In this world, pre-eminence over your fellow
creatures can only be obtained, by leaving others far behind in the
career of virtue or of vice. In compliance with the dispositions of
those who rule, faithful service in the one path or the other will
shower honour upon the subject, and by the breath of kings he becomes
ennobled to look down upon his former equals.

And as the world spins round, the _why_ is of little moment. The
honours are bequeathed, but not the good, or the evil deeds, or the
talents by which they were obtained. In the latter we have but a life
interest, for the entail is cut off by death. Aristocracy in all its
varieties is as necessary for the well binding of society, as the divers
grades between the general and the common soldier are essential in the
field. Never then inquire, why this or that man has been raised above
his fellows; but, each night as you retire to bed, thank Heaven that you
are not _a King_.

And if I may digress, there is one badge of honour in our country, which
I never contemplate without serious reflection rising in my mind. It is
the _bloody_ hand in the dexter chief of a baronet, - now often worn, I
grant, by those who, perhaps, during their whole lives have never raised
their hands in anger. But my thoughts have returned to days of yore -
the iron days of _ironed men_, when it _was_ the symbol of faithful
service in the field - when it really was bestowed upon the "hand embrued
in blood;" and I have meditated, whether that hand, displayed with
exultation in this world, may not be held up trembling in the next - in
judgment against itself.

And I, whose memory stepping from one legal murder to another, can walk
dry-footed over the broad space of five-and-twenty years of time, - but
the "damned spots" won't come out - so I'll put my hands in my pockets
and walk on.

Conscience, fortunately or unfortunately, I hardly can tell which,
permits us to form political and religious creeds, most suited to
disguise or palliate our sins. Mine is a military conscience; and I
agree with Bates and Williams, who flourished in the time of Henry the
Fifth, that it is "all upon the king:" that is to say, it _was_ all upon
the king; but now our constitution has become so incomparably perfect,
that "the king can do no wrong;" and he has no difficulty in finding
ministers, who voluntarily impignorating themselves for all his actions
in this world, will, in all probability, not escape from the clutches of
the great _Pawnbroker_ in the next - from which facts I draw the
following conclusions: -

First. That his majesty (God bless him!) will go to heaven.

Secondly. That his majesty's ministers will all go to the devil.

Thirdly. That I shall go on with my story.

As, however, a knowledge of the previous history of our pacha will be
necessary to the development of our story, the reader will in this
instance be indulged. He had been brought up to the profession of a
barber; but, possessing great personal courage, he headed a popular
commotion in favour of his predecessor, and was rewarded by a post of
some importance in the army. Successful in detached service, while his
general was unfortunate in the field, he was instructed to take off the
head of his commander, and head the troops in his stead; both of which
services he performed with equal skill and celerity. Success attended
him, and the pacha, his predecessor, having in his opinion, as well as
in that of the sultan, remained an unusual time in office, by an
accusation enforced by a thousand purses of gold, he was enabled to
produce a bowstring for his benefactor; and the sultan's "firmaun"
appointed him to the vacant pachalik. His qualifications for office
were all superlative: he was very short, very corpulent, very
illiterate, very irascible, and very stupid.

On the morning after his investment, he was under the hands of his
barber, a shrewd intelligent Greek, Mustapha by name. Barbers are
privileged persons for many reasons: running from one employer to
another to obtain their livelihood, they also obtain matter for
conversation, which, impertinent as it may sometimes be, serves to
beguile the tedium of an operation which precludes the use of any organ
except the ear. Moreover, we are inclined to be on good terms with a
man, who has it in his power to cut our throats whenever he pleases - to
wind up; the personal liberties arising from his profession, render all
others trifling; for the man who takes his sovereign by the nose, cannot
well after that be denied the liberty of speech.

Mustapha was a Greek by birth, and inherited all the intelligence and
adroitness of his race. He had been brought up to his profession when a
slave; but at the age of nineteen he accompanied his master on board of
a merchant vessel bound to Scio; this vessel was taken by a pirate, and
Demetrius (for such was his real name) joined this band of miscreants,
and very faithfully served his apprenticeship to cutting throats, until
the vessel was captured by an English frigate. Being an active,
intelligent person, he was, at his own request, allowed to remain on
board as one of the ship's company, assisted in several actions, and
after three years went to England, where the ship was paid off. For
some time, Demetrius tried to make his fortune, but without success, and
it was not until he was reduced to nearly his last shilling, that he
commenced the trade of hawking rhubarb about in a box: which speculation
turned so profitable, that he was enabled in a short time to take his
passage in a vessel bound to Smyrna, his own country. This vessel was
captured by a French privateer; he was landed, and, not being considered
as a prisoner, allowed to act as he thought proper. In a short time he
obtained the situation of valet and barber to a "millionaire," whom he
contrived to rob of a few hundred Napoleons, and with them to make his
escape to his own country. Demetrius had now some knowledge of the
world, and he felt it necessary that he should become a True Believer,
as there would be more chance of his advancement in a Turkish country.
He dismissed the patriarch to the devil, and took up the turban and
Mahomet; then quitting the scene of his apostacy, recommenced his
profession of barber in the territory of the pacha; whose good-will he
had obtained previous to the latter's advancement to the pachalik.

"Mustapha," observed the pacha, "thou knowest that I have taken off the
heads of all those who left their slippers at the door of the late

"Allah Kebur! God is most powerful! So perish the enemies of your
sublime highness. Were they not the sons of Shitan?" replied Mustapha.

"Very true; but, Mustapha, the consequence is that I am in want of a
vizier; and whom do I know equal to that office?"

"While your sublime highness is pacha, is not a child equal to the
office? Who stumbles, when guided by unerring wisdom?"

"I know that very well," replied the pacha; "but if I am always to
direct him, I might as well be vizier myself; besides, I shall have no
one to blame, if affairs go wrong with the sultan. Inshallah! please
the Lord, the vizier's head may sometimes save my own."

"Are we not as dogs before you?" replied Mustapha: "happy the man, who
by offering his own head may preserve that of your sublime highness! It
ought to be the proudest day of his life."

"At all events it would be the last," rejoined the pacha.

"May it please your sublime highness," observed Mustapha, after a pause,
"if your slave may be so honoured as to speak in your presence, a vizier
should be a person of great tact; he should be able to draw the line as
nicely as I do when I shave your sublime head, leaving not a vestige of
the hair, yet entering not upon the skin."

"Very true, Mustapha."

"He should have a sharp eye for the disaffected to the government,
selecting them and removing them from among the crowd, as I do the few
white hairs which presume to make their appearance in your sublime and
magnificent beard."

"Very true, Mustapha."

"He should carefully remove all impurities from the state, as I have
this morning from your sublime ears."

"Very true, Mustapha."

"He should be well acquainted with the secret springs of action, as I
have proved myself to be in the shampooing which your sublime highness
has just received."

"Very true, Mustapha."

"Moreover, he should be ever grateful to your highness for the
distinguished honour conferred upon him."

"All that you say is very true, Mustapha, but where am I to meet with
such a man?"

"This world is convenient in some points," continued Mustapha; "if you
want either a fool or a knave, you have not far to go to find them; but
it is no easy task to select the person you require. I know but one."

"And who is he?"

"One whose head is but as your footstool," answered the barber,
prostrating himself, - "your sublime highness's most devoted slave,

"Holy Prophet! Then you mean yourself! - Well, now I think of it, if one
barber can become a pacha, I do not see why another would not make a
vizier. But then what am I to do for a barber? No, no, Mustapha; a
good vizier is easy to be found, but a good barber, you know as well as
I do, requires some talent."

"Your slave is aware of that," replied Mustapha, "but he has travelled
in other countries, where it is no uncommon circumstance for men to hold
more than one office under government; sometimes much more incompatible
than those of barber and vizier, which are indeed closely connected.
The affairs of most nations are settled by the potentates during their
toilet. While I am shaving the head of your sublime highness, I can
receive your commands to take off the heads of others; and you can have
your person and your state both put in order at the same moment."

"Very true, Mustapha; then, on condition that you continue your office
of barber, I have no objection to throw that of vizier into the

Mustapha again prostrated himself, with his tweezers in his hand. He
then rose, and continued his office.

"You can write, Mustapha," observed the pacha, after a short silence.

"Min Allah! God forbid that I should acknowledge it, or I should
consider myself as unfit to assume the office in which your sublime
highness has invested me."

"Although unnecessary for me, I thought it might be requisite for a
vizier," observed the pacha.

"Reading may be necessary, I will allow," replied Mustapha; "but I trust
I can soon prove to your highness that writing is as dangerous as it is
useless. More men have been ruined by that unfortunate acquirement,
than by any other; and dangerous as it is to all, it is still more
dangerous to men in high power. For instance, your sublime highness
sends a message in writing, which is ill-received, and it is produced
against you; but had it been a verbal message, you could deny it, and
bastinado to death the Tartar who carried it, as a proof of your

"Very true, Mustapha."

"The grandfather of your slave," continued the barber-vizier, "held the
situation of receiver-general at the custom-house; and he was always in
a fury when he was obliged to take up the pen. It was his creed, that
no government could prosper when writing was in general use. `Observe,
Mustapha,' said he to me one day, `here is the curse of writing, - for
all the money which is paid in, I am obliged to give a receipt. What is
the consequence? that government loses many thousand sequins every year;
for when I apply to them for a second payment, they produce their
receipt. Now if it had not been for this cursed invention of writing,
Inshallah! they should have paid twice, if not thrice over. Remember,
Mustapha,' continued he, `that reading and writing only clog the wheels
of government.'"

"Very true, Mustapha," observed the pacha, "then we will have no

"Yes, your sublime highness, every thing in writing from others, but
nothing in writing from ourselves. I have a young Greek slave, who can
be employed in these matters. He reads well. I have lately employed
him in reading to me the stories of `Thousand and one Nights.'"

"Stories," cried the pacha; "what are they about? I never heard of
them; I'm very fond of stories."

"If it would pleasure your sublime highness to hear these stories read,
the slave will wait your commands," replied the vizier.

"Bring him this evening, Mustapha; we will smoke a pipe, and listen to
them; I'm very fond of stories - they always send me to sleep."

The business of the day was transacted with admirable precision and
despatch by the two quondam barbers, who proved how easy it is to
govern, where there are not "three estates" to confuse people. They sat
in the divan as highwaymen loiter on the road, and it was "Your money or
your life" to all who made their appearance.

At the usual hour the court broke up, the guards retired, the money was
carried to the treasury, the executioner wiped his sword, and the lives
of the pacha's subjects were considered to be in a state of comparative
security, until the affairs of the country were again brought under
their cognisance on the ensuing day.

In obedience to the wish expressed by the pacha, Mustapha made his
appearance in the afternoon with the young Greek slave. The new vizier
having taken a seat upon a cushion at the feet of the pacha, the pipes
were lighted, and the slave was directed to proceed.

The Greek had arrived to the end of the First Night, in which
Schezehezerade commences her story, and the Sultan, who was anxious to
hear the termination of it, defers her execution to the following day.

"Stop," cried the pacha, taking the pipe from his lips; "how long before
the break of day did that girl call her sister?"

"About half an hour, your sublime highness."

"Wallah! Is that all she could tell of her story in half an hour? -
There's not a woman in my harem who would not say as much in five

The pacha was so amused with the stories, that he never once felt
inclined to sleep; on the contrary, the Greek slave was compelled to
read every afternoon, until his legs were so tired that he could hardly
stand, and his tongue almost refused its office; consequently, they were
soon finished; and Mustapha not being able to procure any more, they
were read a second time. After which the pacha, who felt the loss of
his evening's amusement, became first puzzled how to pass away his time;
then he changed to hypochondriacism, and finally became so irritable,
that even Mustapha himself, at times, approached him with some degree of

"I have been thinking," observed the pacha, one morning, when under the
hands of Mustapha, in his original capacity, "that it would be as easy
for me to have stories told me, as the caliph in the Arabian Nights."

"I wonder not that your highness should desire it. Those stories are as
the opium to Theriarkis, filling the soul with visions of delight at the
moment, but leaving it palsied from over-excitement, when their effect
has passed away. How does your sublime highness propose to obtain your
end; and in what manner can your slave assist to produce your wishes?"

"I shall manage it without assistance; come this evening and you shall
see, Mustapha."

Mustapha made his appearance in the afternoon, and the pacha smoked his
pipe for some time, and appeared as if communing with himself; he then
laid it down, and clapping his hands, desired one of the slaves to
inform his favourite lady, Zeinab, that he desired her presence.

Zeinab entered with her veil down. "Your slave attends the pleasure of
her lord."

"Zeinab," said the pacha, "do you love me?"

"Do not I worship the dust that my lord treads on?"

"Very true - then I have a favour to request: observe, Zeinab - it is my
wish that," - (here the pacha took a few whiffs from his pipe) - "The fact
is - I wish you to dishonour my harem as soon as possible."

"Wallah sel Nebi!! - By Allah and the Prophet your highness is in a merry
humour this evening," replied Zeinab, turning round to quit the

"On the contrary, I am in a serious humour; I mean what I have said; and
I expect that you will comply with my wishes."

"Is my lord mad? or has he indulged too freely in the juice of the grape
forbidden by our Prophet? Allah kebur! God is most powerful - The hakim
must be sent for."

"Will you do as I order you?" said the pacha angrily.

"Does my lord send for his slave to insult her! My blood is as water,
at the dreadful thought! - Dishonour the harem! - Min Allah! God
forbid! - Would not the eunuch be ready and the sack?"

"Yes, they would, I acknowledge; but still it must be done."

"It shall not be done," replied the lady: - "Has my lord been visited by
Heaven? or is he possessed by the Shitan?" - And the lady burst into
tears of rage and vexation as she quitted the apartment.

"There's obstinacy for you - women are nothing but opposition. If you
wish them to be faithful, they try day and night to deceive you; give
them their desires and tell them to be false, they will refuse. All was
arranged so well, I should have cut off all their heads, and had a fresh
wife every night until I found one who could tell stories; then I should
have rose up and deferred her execution to the following day."

Mustapha, who had been laughing in his sleeve at the strange idea of the
pacha, was nevertheless not a little alarmed. He perceived that the
mania had such complete possession, that, unless appeased, the results
might prove unpleasant even to himself. It occurred to him, that a
course might be pursued to gratify the pacha's wishes, without
proceeding to such violent measures. Waiting a little while until the
colour, which had suffused the pacha's face from anger and
disappointment, had subsided, he addressed him: -

"The plan of your sublime highness was such as was to be expected from
the immensity of your wisdom; but hath not the Prophet warned us, that
the wisest of men are too often thwarted by the folly and obstinacy of
the other sex? May your slave venture to observe, that many very fine
stories were obtained by the caliph Haroun, and his vizier Mesrour, as
they walked through the city in disguise. In all probability a similar
result might be produced, if your highness were to take the same step,
accompanied by the lowest of your slaves, Mustapha."

"Very true," replied the pacha, delighted at the prospect, "prepare two
disguises, and we will set off in less than an hour - Inshallah, please
the Lord, we have at last hit upon the right path."

Mustapha, who was glad to direct the ideas of the pacha into a more
harmless channel, procured the dresses of two merchants (for such, he
observed, were the usual habiliments put on by the caliph and his vizier
in the Arabian Nights), and he was aware that his master's vanity would
be gratified at the idea of imitating so celebrated a personage.

It was dusk when they set off upon their adventures. Mustapha directed
some slaves well armed to follow at a distance, in case their assistance
might be required. The strict orders which had been issued on the
accession of the new pacha (to prevent any riot or popular commotion),
which were enforced by constant rounds of the soldiers on guard,
occasioned the streets to be quite deserted.

For some time the pacha and Mustapha walked up one street and down
another, without meeting with any thing or any body that could
administer to their wishes. The former, who had not lately been
accustomed to pedestrian exercise, began to puff and show symptoms of
weariness and disappointment, when at the corner of a street they fell
in with two men, who were seated in conversation; and as they approached
softly, one of them said to the other, "I tell you, Coja, that happy is
the man who can always command a hard crust like this, which is now
wearing away my teeth."

"I must know the reason of that remark," said the pacha; "Mesrour
(Mustapha, I mean), you will bring that man to me to-morrow, after the
divan is closed."

Mustapha bowed in acquiescence, and directing the slaves who were in
attendance to take the man into custody, followed the pacha, who,
fatigued with his unusual excursion, and satisfied with the prospect of
success, now directed his steps to the palace and retired to bed.
Zeinab, who had laid awake until her eyes could remain open no longer,
with the intention of reading him a lecture upon decency and sobriety,
had at last fallen asleep, and the tired pacha was therefore permitted
to do the same.

When Mustapha arrived at his own abode, he desired that the person who
had been detained should be brought to him.

"My good man," said the vizier, "you made an observation this evening
which was overheard by his highness the pacha, who wishes to be
acquainted with your reasons for stating `that happy was the man who
could at all times command a hard crust, like that which was wearing
away your teeth.'"

The man fell down on his knees in trepidation. "I do declare to your
highness, by the camel of the Holy Prophet," said he, in a faltering
voice, "that I neither meant treason, nor disaffection to the

"Slave! I am not quite sure of that," replied Mustapha, with a stern
look, in hopes of frightening the man into a compliance with his
wishes - "there was something very enigmatical in those words. Your
`_hard crust_' may mean his sublime highness the pacha; `wearing away
your teeth' may imply exactions from the government and as you affirmed
that he was happy who could _command_ the hard crust - why it is as much
as to say that you would be very glad to create a rebellion."

"Holy Prophet! May the soul of your slave never enter the first
heaven," replied the man, "if he meant any thing more than what he said;
and if your highness had been as often without a mouthful of bread as
your slave has been, you would agree with him in the justice of the

Online LibraryFrederick MarryatThe Pacha of Many Tales → online text (page 1 of 32)