16.Kalaidji Avram of Balata
Balata, situated on the Golden Horn, is mostly inhabited by people of the poorer classes, who make their livelihood as tinsmiths, tinkers, and hawkers.
Here, there lived a certain tinsmith called Kalaidji Avram. Having rather a large business, his neighbors, especially those who lived nearest, were always complaining of the annoying smoke and disagreeable odor of ammonia which he used in tinning his pots and pans.
Opposite Avram’s place the village guard-house was situated, and the chief, a soldier, often had disputes with Avram about the smoke. Avram would invariably reply, “I have my children to feed and I must work; and without smoke I cannot earn their daily bread.”
The Soldier, much annoyed, cultivated a dislike for Avram and a thirst for revenge.
It happened that a man one day came to the soldier and said to him, “Do you want to make a fortune? If so, you have the means of doing this, provided you will agree to halve with me whatever is made.”
The Soldier, on being assured that he had to just say a word or two to a person he would name and the money would be forthcoming, accepted the conditions. The man then said, “All you have to do is to go up to a funeral procession that will pass by here tomorrow on its way to the cemetery outside the city, and order it to stop. It is against the religion of these people for such a thing to happen, and the priest will offer you first ten, then twenty, and finally one hundred and ten thousand piasters to allow the funeral to proceed. Half will be for you to compensate you for your trouble and the other fifty-five thousand piasters for me.”
This, as the man had told him, seemed very simple to the soldier. The next day, true enough, he saw a funeral, and immediately went out and ordered it to stop. The priest protested, offering first small bribes, then larger and larger, till ultimately he promised to bring to the captain one hundred and ten thousand piasters for allowing the funeral to proceed.
That evening, as agreed, the priest came and handed the money to the captain. Then taking another bag containing a second one hundred and ten thousand piasters, he said, “If you will tell me who informed you that we would pay so much money rather than have a funeral stopped, you can have this further sum.”
The Soldier immediately thought of Avram, the tinsmith, and accused him as his informant, and the priest, satisfied, paid the sum and departed.
Avram disappeared nobody knew where. The priest said that death had taken him for his own as a punishment for stopping him while on a journey.
The accomplice of the soldier came a few days later for his share of the money. The soldier handed him the fifty-five thousand piasters, and at the same time said, “Of these fifty-five thousand piasters, thirty thousand must be given to the widow and children of Avram, and I advise you to give it willingly, for Avram has taken your place.”