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THE TURK AND SOME OF HIS PHASES
JF one wants to get a fair idea of the mixed popuIlation of Constantinople, when the city's phantasmagoric life is in full swing, he may walk slowly across the Galata bridge, or he may stand still and watch the kaleidoscope revolve. Every costume, every color and kind of fabric, every type of Oriental will be represented there. It is a wild fancy-dress parade let loose—only that most of the bizarre costumes are rather dingy and have the look of belonging to their wearers, which is less likely to be so on an artificial occasion.
The red fez predominates as to head-gear, and sanguinary waves of them go by. But there is every manner of turban, too, and the different kinds are interesting. Some of them are bound with rope or cord; some with twisted horsehair (those are Bedouins, I believe); some are wound with white muslin -these are worn by priests—and some are wound or bound with green, which indicates that the wearer is a descendant of Mohammed himself-that is, a “Son of the Prophet.” The Prophet seems to have a good many descendants-not so many as Israel had in the same length of time, but still an industrious showing.
One might suppose that these wearers of the green turban would be marked for special honor, and per
haps they are, but by no means are they all men of leisure. I saw one “wearer of the green” tooling a tram to the Seven Towers, and another son of the Prophet-a venerable man-bowed beneath a great box until his white beard and the rear elevation of his trousers nearly dragged in the dust.
I think, by-the-way, I am more interested in the Turkish trousers than in any other article of national dress. They are rather short as to leg, but what they lack in length they make up in width and general amplitude. There is enough goods in the average pair of Turkish trousers to make a whole suit of clothes with material left for repairs. They are ridiculous enough from the front and the rear, but I rather like a side view best. The long after-part has such a drooping pendulous swing to it, and one gets the full value of the outline in profile and can calculate just what portion of it is occupied by the owner, and can lose himself in speculation as to what the rest is for. I like freedom and comfort well enough, too, in my clothes, but I would not be willing to sacrifice in the length of my trousers for the sake of that laundrybag effect in the rear. I can admire it, though, and I do, often.
At the Stamboul end of the Galata bridge is the most picturesque group, I believe, in the Orient. A coffee-house is there, and in front of it all the picture types of the East are gathered, with not a single Caucasian face or dress. When I used to look at the gorgeously extravagant costumes and the flowing beards and patriarchal faces of the paintings and illustrations of the East, I said: “No, they do not really exist. They may have done so once, but not to-day. I have seen the Indian of my own country in his native sage-brush, and he is no longer the Indian of the pictures. His dress is adulterated with ready
color and feature; with the Orient it must be the same.”
I was mistaken. All the picture people are collected here, and more than picture ever saw. No sober imagination could conceive the scene at the end of the Galata bridge. To present it a painter would have to inebriate himself, spill his colors all about the place and wind up with the jimjams. What do these people do there? They indulge in keyeff. There is no English word for keyeff—no word in any language, probably, except Turkish. It is not done in any other language. Keyeff is a condition of pure enjoyment, unimpaired even by thought. Over his coffee and nargileh the Turk will sit for hours in a thought-vacancy which the Western mind can comprehend no more than it can grasp the fourth dimension. It is not contemplation—that would require mental exercise. It is absence of thought-utter absence of effort-oblivion—the condition for which the Western mind requires chloroform.
From the end of the Galata bridge the thronged streets diverge, and into these a motley procession flows. Men of every calling under the sun-merchants, clerks, mechanics, laborers, peddlers, beggars, bandits-all men—or nearly all, for the Mohammedan woman mostly bides at home. It is just as well that she does, if one may judge from the samples. She is not interesting, I think. She may be, but my opinion is the other way. She dresses in a sort of domino, usually of dingy goods, her feet and ankles showing disreputable stockings and shoes. Even the richest silk garments, when worn by women—those one sees on the street-have a way of revealing disgusting foot-gear and hosiery. No, the Mohammedan woman is not interesting and she has no soul. I believe the Prophet decided that, and I agree with him. If she had one—a real feminine soul-she would be more particular about these details.
The Turk is a dingy person altogether, and his city is unholy in its squalor. Yet the religion of these people commands cleanliness. Only the command was not clear enough as to terms. The Prophet bade his followers to be as cleanly as possible. There was latitude in an order like that, and they have been widening it ever since. I don't believe they are as “clean as possible.” They pray five times a day, and they wash before prayer, but they wash too little and pray too much for the best results. I mean so far as outward appearance is concerned. Very likely their souls are perfect.
At all events they are sober. The Prophet commanded abstinence, and I saw no drunkenness. There are no saloons in Constantinople. One may buy “brandy-sticks”—canes with long glass phials concealed in them and a tiny glass for tippling—though I suspect these are sold mostly to visitors.
You are in the business part of Constantinople as soon as you leave the bridge—in the markets and shops, and presently in the bazaars. The streets are only a few feet wide, and are swarming with men and beasts of burden, yet carriages dash through, and the population falls out of the way, cursing the “Christian dogs," no doubt, in the case of tourists. Yet let a carriage but stop and there is eager attention on every hand—a lavish willingness to serve, to dance attendance, to grovel, to do anything that will bring return.
The excursionist, in fact, presently gets an idea that these people are conducting a sort of continuous entertainment for his benefit-a permanent World's Fair Midway Plaisance, as it were, where curious wares and sights are arranged for his special diversion. He is hardly to be blamed for this notion. He sees every native ready to jump to serve him—to leave everything else for his pleasure. The shopkeeper will let a native customer wait and fume till doomsday as long as the tourist is even a prospect. The native piastre is nothing to him when American gold is in sight. That is what he lives for by day and dreams of by night. He will sweat for it, lie for it, steal for it, die for it. It is his life, his hope, his salvation. He will give everything but his immortal soul for the gold of the West, and he would give that too, if it would bring anything.
Most places along the Mediterranean deal in mixed moneys, but compared with Constantinople the financial problem elsewhere is simple. Here the traveller's pocket is a medley of francs, lire, crowns, piastres, drachmas, marks, and American coins of various denominations. He tries feebly to keep track of