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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPeck's Bad Boy Abroad - Chapter 22. Dad Wears His Masonic Fez In Constantinople...
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Peck's Bad Boy Abroad - Chapter 22. Dad Wears His Masonic Fez In Constantinople... Post by :peter2004 Category :Long Stories Author :George W. Peck Date :May 2012 Read :1276

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Peck's Bad Boy Abroad - Chapter 22. Dad Wears His Masonic Fez In Constantinople...

CHAPTER XXII. Dad Wears His Masonic Fez in Constantinople--They Find the Turks Sensitive on the Dog Question--A College Yell for the Sultan Sends Him Into a Fit

Constantinople, Turkey.--My Dear Old "Shriner"--We got out of Russia just in time to keep from being arrested or blown up with a bomb. Dad wanted to go to Moscow, because he saw a picture once of Moscow being destroyed by fire by Napoleon, or somebody, and he wanted to see if they had ever built the town up again, but I felt as though something serious was going to, happen in that country if we didn't look out, and so I persuaded dad to go to Turkey, and the day we started for Constantinople we got the news that the Nihilists had thrown a bomb under the carriage of the Grand Duke Sergius and blew him and the carriage into small pieces not bigger than a slice of summer sausage, and they had to sweep his remains up in a dustpan and bury them in a two-quart fruit jar. Wouldn't that jar you?

When dad heard about that you couldn't have kept him in Russia on a bet, and so we let the authorities have all the money we had, giving some to each man who held us up, until we got out of the country, and then we took the first long breath we had taken since we struck the Godforsaken country of the czar. If the bombs hold out I do not think there will be a quorum left in Russia in a year, either czars, dukes or anything except peasants on the verge of starvation and workingmen who have not the heart to work. I wouldn't take the whole of Russia as a gift, and have to dodge bombs night and day.

Say, old man, you never dreamed that I knew all about you and dad joining the Masons that time, but I watched you and dad giving each other signs and grips, and whispering passwords into each other's ears, in the grocery, nights, after you had locked up. I thought, at the time, that you and dad were planning a burglary, but when you both went to the lodge one night and stayed till near morning, and dad came home with a red Turkish fez and told ma that you and he had joined the shrine, which was the highest degree in Masonry, and you and he were nobles, and all that rot, I was on to you bigger than a house, and you couldn't fool me when you and dad winked at each other and talked about crossing the hot sands of the desert.

Well, dad brought his red fez along, 'cause I think he expected he would meet shriners all over the world, that he could borrow money of. When we struck Constantinople and dad saw that every last one of the Turks wore a red fez, he felt as though he had got among shriners, and he got his fez out of his trunk and he wears it all the time.

Dad acts as familiar with the Turks here as though he owned a harem. We go to the low streets, about as wide as a street car, where Turks are selling things, with dad wearing his fez, and he begins to make motions and give grand hailing signs of distress, and the Turks look at him as though he had robbed a bank, and they charge enormous prices for everything, and dad pays with a smile, thinking his brother Masons are fairly giving things away. He looks upon all men who wear the fez as his brothers, and they look at him as though he was crazy in the head.

The only trouble is that dad insists on talking to the women here without an introduction, and a woman in Turkey had rather die than have a Christian dog look at her. Dad was buying some wormy figs of a merchant, who was seated on the floor of his shop, and giving him signs, when a curtain behind the Turk was pulled one side and a woman with beautiful eyes and her face covered with a veil, came out with a cup of coffee for the Turk. Dad shook hands with her, and said: "Your husband and I belong to the same lodge," and he was going to go inside and visit the family, when the woman drew a small dagger out of the folds of her dress, and the Turk drew one of these scimeters, and it looked for a moment as though I was going to be a half orphan, particularly when dad put his hand on her shoulder and petted it, and smiled one of those masher smiles which he uses at home, and said: "My good woman, you must not get in the habit of jabbing your husband's friends with this crooked cutlery, though to be killed by so handsome a woman would indeed be a sweet death," but the bluff did not go, and the woman disappeared behind the curtain, and dad had the frantic husband to deal with.

I have never seen a human being look as murderous as that Turk did as he drew his thumb across the blade of his knife, drew up his lip and snarled like a dog that has been bereaved of a promising bone by a brother dog that was larger.

The Turk looked through his teeth, and his eyes seemed to act like small arc lights, that were to show him where to cut dad, and dad began to turn pale, and looked scared.

"Give him the grand hailing sign of distress," said I as dad leaned against a barrel of dried prunes. Dad said he had forgotten the sign, and then I told him the only way out of it, alive, would be to buy something, so dad picked up a little jim-crack worth about ten cents, and gave the Turk a five-dollar gold piece, and while the Turk went in behind the curtain to get the change I told dad now was the time to skip, and you ought to have seen dad make a sprint out the door and around a corner, and up another street, while I followed him, and we got away from the danger of being stabbed, but dad got his foot into it again before we had gone a block.

Nobody in Constantinople ever hurries, or goes off a walk, so when the people saw an old man, with a fez on his head, running amuck, as they say here, followed by a beautiful boy, they began to crawl into their holes, thinking dad was crazy, but when we were passing a sausage store, where about 20 dogs were asleep in the street, and dad kicked half a dozen dogs and yelled, "get out, you hounds," that settled it, and they knew he was wrong in the head, and they yelled for the police, and we were pulled for fast driving, and taken before a Turkish justice of the peace, followed by the whole crowd.

The justice did not wear a fez, but had on a turban, so dad did not give him any signs, but after jabbering a while they sent for an interpreter, who could talk pigeon English, and then dad had a trial, and I acted as his lawyer. I told about how dad had tried to be kind and genial to another man's wife, and how, in his hurry to get away from the murderous husband he fell over a mess of dogs, and that he was a distinguished American, who was in Turkey to negotiate a loan to the sultan.

Say, that fixed them, and they all made salams to dad, and bowed all over themselves, and the justice of the peace prayed to Allah, and the interpreter said we could go, but to be careful about touching a Turkish woman or a dog, particularly a dog, as the Turks were very sensitive on the dog question. So we went out of the courtroom and wandered around the town, and you can bet that dad didn't look at any more women, though they were everywhere with veils that covered their faces so nothing but their eyes could be seen.

Gee, but you never saw such eyes as these Turkish women have. They are big and black, and they go right through you, and clinch on the other side. Dad says the facilities for getting into trouble are better in Constantinople than any place we have been, as the men look like bandits and the women look like executioners. Dad thanked me for helping him out of that scrape by claiming he was the agent of a financial syndicate that wanted to lend money to the sultan. If I had said dad was a collecting agency, to make the sultan pay up, they would have sentenced him to be boiled in oil.

Well, we thought we had been in trouble before, but we are in it now worse than ever. We heard at the hotel that at 11 o'clock in the morning the sultan would pass by in a carriage, with an escort, on the way to a mosque, to pray to Allah, and everybody could see the sultan, so we got a place on a balcony, and at the appointed time the procession came in sight. It was imposing, but solemn, and the people on both sides of the street acted like they do in America when the funeral of a great man is passing. No man spoke, and all looked as though they expected, if they moved, to be arrested and have a stone tied to their feet and thrown into the Bosphorus, the way they kill one of the sultan's wives when she flirts with a stranger.

We watched the soldiers, and finally the carriage of the sultan came, and in it was a dried up man, with liver complaint, with a nose like an eagle, and eyes like shoe buttons. He looked as though death would be a relief, and yet he seemed afraid of it, and there was no sound of welcome, such as there would be if Roosevelt was riding down Michigan avenue at Chicago, on the way to the stockyards to pray to Armour, instead of to Allah.

You could have heard a pin drop. I said: "Dad, this is too solemn, even for a sultan. Let's give him the university yell, and show that mummy that he has got two friends in Constantinople, anyway." "Here she goes," says dad, and we leaned over the railing, just as the sultan's carriage was right in front of us and not ten feet away, and in that oppressive silence dad and I opened up, "U-Rah-Rah-Wis-Con-Sin, zip-boom-Ah!" and then we started to sing, "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town To-Night."

Well, if any man in the crowd had touched off a bomb, there could have been no greater consternation. The sultan turned pale, as pale as so yellow a man could, and became faint, and fell over into the arms of a general who sat beside him, the Bazi Bazouks on horseback began to ride up and down the street, the crowd scattered, the sultan's carriage was turned around and rushed back to the palace, with the ruler of Turkey having a fit, and about a hundred soldiers came up on the veranda, where dad and I had broke up the procession, and they lit on dad like buzzards on a dead horse, and took possession of the hotel, and began to search our baggage.

One Turk choked dad until his tongue hung out of his mouth, and another took me by the ear and stretched it out so it was long as a mule's ear, and they took us to a bastile and dad says it is all up with us now, because they will drown us like a mess of kittens in a bag, and all because we woke them up with a football yell in the wrong place.

Well, we might as well wind up our career here as anywhere. Good-by, old man. You will see our obituary in the papers.

Your repentant,


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