The carriage ride back to Topkapi was quite an event for me for it was a whole new world full of noise and colour and …. dust.
So much dust rising up from the winding roads caking the curtained windows from which I viewed the passing villagers and the beautiful countryside which they had the freedom to wander at leisure.
The women, though veiled, appeared contented as they went about their family errands.
I shared the carriage with two black eunuchs and with another of the servants much younger than I . She was , in fact, my dresser as well as being a sort of consort there to watch me and report my every move back to the sultan. I have mentioned the sultan many times but have not yet described him and so I will attempt to do so now from my own very distanced and very subjective point of view not having all the facts. The man who had reigned as sultan at the time of my entrance to the harem in the year of 1908 was Abdhul Hamid the second. I was twenty one years old and had apparently been there since 1897 when the sultan’s men had taken me from my parents in our small Albanian village at the age of ten. I had only fleeting memories of that life but the memories of my life in Cumberland at Greylin castle in the years up to and including 1936 were all too clear.
Abduhl Hamid 11 was a strange but kindly little man who was to me like a father figure though he was nothing like my father back in England at all. The sultan was also very cultured and was a lover of European operas and of all the arts. He also loved to design furniture and specialised in exquisite wood turned chairs. That very morning I had heard from others in the harem that a visiting opera company would be performing for the sultan and for select officials and dignitaries at Yildiz Palace close by and that his excellency was trying to decide on which of his favourites should dance for the company at curtain close. As I sat there in the carriage, listening to the whirr of wooden wheels and the clanking of spokes rotating in their sockets and pondered on the likelihood of my being chosen to dance. Behind us was another carriage escorted by carefully chosen guards and at least a dozen janissaries on fine horses. In this carraige was the divine Rana and the three others purchased on that day. I could see the sultan’s men jostling for a place beside the carraige door so that they could peer in and gaze at the circassian beauty who was as unobtainable to them as was a mountain of gold. I knew that Rana , after appearing before the sultan, would be chosen.
How could he resist her? She was by far the most exotic creature I had ever seen. Her wild raven hair would surely complement my honey locks and we would make quite a contrast. I peered out through the slits in the window bracket with only a gauze veil to sheild my mouth from rising dust particles and thought I noticed a lone horseman following her entourage. A white horse. A dazzling white horse. It was he. Gurel. My Gurel come to save us. I thought then of the painting I had seen in ‘The Long Hall’ at ‘ The Hydro Majestic’ and realised that we three would be forever entwined but that the love Gurel felt for Rana was not the same as the love he would feel for me. Somehow this understanding seemed to make everything right. All would be the way it was meant to be and there was nothing I could do to change it. I must just be content to love for the sake of love and to be able to share the one I had chosen with one who would make him whole.
For without having loved Rana his soul would never be free and he would never have found me. ‘The Blue Mountains’ in that far distant land of Australia were of the same hue as the Caucases where Rana and Gurel had roamed as gypsies and danced with nature as their universe. How I longed to emulate that wild spirit but knew that to do so would be to dishonour my calling. I must remain true to myself. I was the slow burning flame never to be extinguished.
© Renee Dallow ( Hybiscus Bloom ) 2/1/2014