Told in the Coffee House: Turkish Tales | Annotated Tale

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How Chapkin Halid Became Chief Detective

IN BALATA there lived, some years ago, two scapegraces, called Chapkin Halid and Pitch Osman. These two young rascals lived by their wits and at the expense of their neighbors. But they often had to lament the ever-increasing difficulties they encountered in procuring the few piasters they needed daily for bread and the tavern. They had tried several schemes in their own neighborhood, with exceptionally poor results, and were almost disheartened when Chapkin Halid conceived an idea that seemed to offer every chance of success. He explained to his chum Osman that Balata was "played out," at least for a time, and that they must go elsewhere to satisfy their needs. Halid's plan was to go to Stamboul, and feign death in the principal street, while Osman was to collect the funeral expenses of his friend Halid.

               Arriving in Stamboul, Halid stretched himself on his back on the pavement and covered his face with an old sack, while Osman sat himself down beside the supposed corpse, and every now and then bewailed the hard fate of the stranger who had met with death on the first day of his arrival. The corpse prompted Osman whenever the coast was clear, and the touching tale told by Osman soon brought contributions for the burial of the stranger. Osman had collected about thirty piasters, and Halid was seriously thinking of a resurrection, but was prevented by the passing of the Grand Vizier, who, upon inquiring why the man lay on the ground in that fashion, was told that he was a stranger who had died in the street. The Grand Vizier thereupon gave instructions to an Imam, who happened to be at hand, to bury the stranger and come for the money to the Sublime Porte.

               Halid was reverently carried off to the Mosque, and Osman thought that it was time to leave the corpse to take care of itself. The Imam laid Halid on the marble floor and prepared to wash him prior to interment. He had taken off his turban and long cloak and got ready the water, when he remembered that he had no soap, and immediately went out to purchase some. No sooner had the Imam disappeared than Halid jumped up, and, donning the Imam's turban and long cloak, repaired to the Sublime Porte. Here he asked admittance to the Grand Vizier, but this request was not granted until he told the nature of his business. Halid said he was the Imam who, in compliance with the verbal instructions received from his Highness, had buried a stranger and that he had come for payment. The Grand Vizier sent five gold pieces (twenty piasters each) to the supposed Imam, and Halid made off as fast as possible.

               No sooner had Halid departed than the cloakless Imam arrived in breathless haste, and explained that he was the Imam who had received instructions from the Grand Vizier to bury a stranger, but that the supposed corpse had disappeared, and so had his cloak and turban. Witnesses proved this man to be the bona-fide Imam of the quarter, and the Grand Vizier gave orders to his Chief Detective to capture, within three days, on pain of death, and bring to the Sublime Porte, this fearless evil-doer.

               The Chief Detective was soon on the track of Halid; but the latter was on the keen lookout. With the aid of the money he had received from the Grand Vizier to defray his burial expenses he successfully evaded the clutches of the Chief Detective, who was greatly put about at being thus frustrated. On the second day he again got scent of Halid and determined to follow him till an opportunity offered for his capture. Halid knew that he was followed and divined the intentions of his pursuer. As he was passing a pharmacy he noticed there several young men, so he entered and explained in Jewish-Spanish (one of his accomplishments) to the Jew druggist, as he handed him one of the gold pieces he had received from the Grand Vizier, that his uncle, who would come in presently, was not right in his mind; but that if the druggist could manage to douche his head and back with cold water, he would be all right for a week or two. No sooner did the Chief Detective enter the shop than, at a word from the apothecary, the young men seized him and, by means of a large squirt, they did their utmost to effectively give him the salutary and cooling douche. The more the detective protested, the more the apothecary consolingly explained that the operation would soon be over and that he would feel much better, and told of the numerous similar cases he had cured in a like manner. The detective saw that it was useless to struggle, so he abandoned himself to the treatment; and in the meantime Halid made off. The Chief Detective was so disheartened that he went to the Grand Vizier and asked him to behead him, as death was preferable to the annoyance he had received and might still receive at the hands of Chapkin Halid. The Grand Vizier was both furious and amused, so he spared the Chief Detective and gave orders that guards be placed at the twenty-four gates of the city, and that Halid be seized at the first opportunity. A reward was further promised to the person who would bring him to the Sublime Porte.

               Halid was finally caught one night as he was going out of the Top-Kapou (Cannon Gate), and the guards, rejoicing in their capture, after considerable consultation decided to bind Halid to a large tree close to the Guard house, and thus both avoid the loss of sleep and the anxiety incident to watching over so desperate a character. This was done, and Halid now thought that his case was hopeless. Towards dawn, Halid perceived a man with a lantern walking toward the Armenian Church, and rightly concluded that it was the beadle going to make ready for the early morning service. So he called out in a loud voice:

               "Beadle! Brother! Beadle! Brother! come here quickly."

               Now it happened that the beadle was a poor hunchback, and no sooner did Halid perceive this than he said:

               "Quick! Quick! Beadle, look at my back and see if it has gone!"

               "See if what has gone?" asked the beadle, carefully looking behind the tree.

               "Why, my hump, of course," answered Halid.

               The beadle made a close inspection and declared that he could see no hump.

               "A thousand thanks!" fervently exclaimed Halid, "then please undo the rope."

               The beadle set about to liberate Halid, and at the same time earnestly begged to be told how he had got rid of the hump, so that he also might free himself of his deformity. Halid agreed to tell him the cure, provided the beadle had not yet broken fast, and also that he was prepared to pay a certain small sum of money for the secret. The beadle satisfied Halid on both of these points, and the latter immediately set about binding the hunchback to the tree, and further told him, on pain of breaking the spell, to repeat sixty-one times the words: 'Esserti! Pesserti! Sersepeti!' if he did this, the hump would of a certainty disappear. Halid left the poor beadle religiously and earnestly repeating the words.

               The guards were furious when they found, bound to the tree, a madman, as they thought, repeating incoherent words, instead of Halid. They began to unbind the captive, but the only answer they could get to their host of questions was 'Esserti, Pesserti, Sersepeti.' As the knots were loosened, the louder did the beadle in despair call out the charmed words in the hopes of arresting them. No sooner was the beadle freed than he asked God to bring down calamity on the destroyers of the charm that was to remove his hunch. On hearing the beadle's tale, the guards understood how their prisoner had secured his liberty, and sent word to the Chief Detective. This gentleman told the Grand Vizier of the unheard-of cunning of the escaped prisoner. The Grand Vizier was amused and also very anxious to see this Chapkin Halid, so he sent criers all over the city, giving full pardon to Halid on condition that he would come to the Sublime Porte and confess in person to the Grand Vizier. Halid obeyed the summons, and came to kiss the hem of the Grand Vizier's garment, who was so favorably impressed by him that he then and there appointed him to be his Chief Detective.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: How Chapkin Halid Became Chief Detective
Tale Author/Editor: Adler, Cyrus & Ramsay, Allan
Book Title: Told in the Coffee House: Turkish Tales
Book Author/Editor: Adler, Cyrus & Ramsay, Allan
Publisher: Macmillan & Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1898
Country of Origin: Turkey
Classification: unclassified

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