8. The Wise Son of Ali Pasha

A servant of his Majesty Sultan Ahmet, who had been employed for twenty-five years in the Palace, begged permission of the Sultan to allow him to retire to his native home, and at the same time asked for a pension to enable him to live. The Sultan asked him if he had not saved any money. The man replied that owing to his having to support a large family, he had been unable to do so. The Sultan was very angry that any of his servants, should, after so many years’ service, say that he was penniless. Disbelieving the statement, and in order to make an example, the Sultan gave orders that Hassan should leave the Palace in the identical state he had entered it twenty-five years before. Hassan had everything he had, the accumulation of a quarter of a century, confiscated, and distributed amongst the Palace servants. Poor Hassan, without a penny in his pocket, and dressed in the rough costume of his native province, began his weary journey homeward on foot.

In time he reached the suburbs of a town in Asia Minor, and seeing some boys playing, he approached them, sat on the ground, and watched their pastime. The boys were playing at state affairs: one was a Sultan, another his Vizier, who had his cabinet of Ministers, while close by were a number of boys bound hand and foot, representing political and other prisoners, awaiting judgment for their imaginary misdeeds. The Sultan, who was sitting with worthy dignity on a throne made of branches and stones, beckoned to Hassan to come near, and asked him where he had come from. Hassan replied that he had come from Stamboul, from the Palace of the Sultan.

“That’s a lie,” said the mock Sultan, “no one ever came from Stamboul dressed in that fashion, much less from the Palace. You are from the far interior, and if you do not confess that what I say is true, you will be tried by my Ministers, and punished accordingly.”

Hassan, partly to participate in their boyish amusement, and partly to unburden his aching heart, related his sad fate to his youthful audience. When he had finished, the boy Sultan, Ali by name, asked him if he had received his twenty-five years. Hassan, not fully grasping what the boy said, replied, “Nothing! Nothing!”

“That is unjust,” continued Ali, “and you shall go back to the Sultan and ask that your twenty-five years be returned to you so that you may plough and till your land, and thus make provision for your old age.”

Hassan was struck by the sound advice the boy had given him, thanked him and said he would follow it to the letter. The boys then separated, to return to their homes, never dreaming that the seeds of destiny of one of their number had been sown in play. Hassan, retracing his steps, reappeared in time at the gates of the Palace and begged admittance, stating that he had forgotten to communicate something of importance to his Majesty. His request being granted, he humbly asked, that, as his Majesty had been dissatisfied with his long service, the twenty-five years he had devoted to him should be returned, so that he might labor and put by something to provide for the inevitable day when he could no longer work. The Sultan answered, “That is well said and just. As it is not in my power to give you the twenty-five years, the best I can grant you is a pension. But tell me, who advised you to make this request?”

 Hassan then related his adventure with the boys while on his journey home, and his Majesty was so pleased with the judgment and advice of the lad that he sent for him and had him educated. The boy studied medicine, and distinguishing himself in the profession ultimately rose to be Doctor Ali Pasha.

He had one son who was known as Doctor Ali Pasha’s son. He studied calligraphy, and became so proficient in this art, now almost lost, that his imitations of the Imperial decrees were perfect facsimiles of the originals. One day he took it into his head to write a decree appointing himself Grand Vizier, in place of the reigning one. He took the decree to the government offices and there and then installed himself. By chance the Sultan happened to drive through Stamboul that day, in disguise, and noticing considerable excitement and cries of “Long live my Sultan “amongst the people, he made inquiries as to the cause of this unusual occurrence. His Majesty’s informers brought him the word that the people rejoiced in the fall of the old Grand Vizier, and the appointment of the new one, Doctor Ali Pasha’s son. The Sultan returned to the Palace and immediately sent one of his courtiers to the government offices to see the Grand Vizier and find out the meaning of these strange proceedings.

The courtier was announced, and the Grand Vizier ordered him to be brought into his presence. Directly he appeared in the doorway, he was greeted with: “What do you want, you black dog?”

Then turning to the numerous attendants about, he said, “Take this dog to the slave market, and see what price he will bring.”

The courtier was taken to the slave market, and the highest price bid for him was fifty piasters. On hearing this, the Grand Vizier turned to the courtier and said, “Go and tell your master what you are worth, and tell him that I think it too much by far.”

The courtier was glad to get off, and communicated to his Majesty the story of his strange treatment. The Sultan then ordered his Chief courtier, an important person in the Ottoman Empire, to call on the Grand Vizier for an explanation. At the government offices, however, no respect was paid to this high dignitary. Ali Pasha received him in precisely the same manner as he had received his subordinate. The chief was taken to the slave market, and the highest sum bid for him was five hundred piasters. The self-appointed Grand Vizier ordered him to go and tell his master the amount some foolish people were willing to pay for him.

When the Sultan heard of these strange proceedings he sent a signed letter to Ali Pasha, commanding him to come to the Palace. The Grand Vizier immediately set out for the Palace and was received in audience, when he explained to his Majesty that the affairs of State could not be managed by men not worth more than from fifty to five hundred piasters, and that if radical changes were not made, certain ruin would be the outcome. The Sultan appreciated this earnest communication, and confirmed the appointment, as Grand Vizier, of Ali Pasha, the son of the boy who had played at state affairs in a village of Asia Minor.