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"Yes, you are right. It was a great mistake. But that is all Russia's fault. https://sungji.info Her agents brought about the revolution in the Herzegovina. Her functionaries encouraged Sultan Abdul Aziz in his extravagance, and were the main cause of the debt being repudiated. They thought that this would make us unpopular with England, and they were very right in their conjectures. There is plenty of wealth in Turkey," he continued. "If it were not for the impending war, we could pay some part of our interest now; but Russia will not let us be quiet. She compels us to keep up a large army. Her agents bring about massacres of Christians, and set the whole world against us."
"If there is a war, I hope that we shall cut the throats of all the Russians," interrupted the old gentleman on the carpet.
"Allah grant that we may!" exclaimed the rest of the assembly.
Coffee and pipes were now handed round, and my interview came to an end. The Pacha having kindly given orders for a telegram to be sent to Scutari, to inquire if anything had been heard of my runaway horse.
In the evening I called upon an Armenian Bishop. He lived in a quaint old-fashioned house in the Christian quarter of the town, the Turks and Armenians inhabiting different districts in Ismid, as in many other Turkish cities. Refreshments were now brought in on a silver tray, and several kinds of jam handed round in little silver dishes. The guest taking a spoonful of jam is expected to swallow it, he then drinks a glass of water. This is an economical refreshment, a very 76 little jam goes a long way in the entertainment.
"How do you like it?" said one of the party.
"Very good," I replied, at the same time having that sort of feeling in my mouth which carried my memory back to boyish days, and to the grey powders which my old nurse used to administer, "very good."
"We always treat our guests in this manner," said an old Armenian pompously. "It is the custom of our nation."
Now the conversation turned upon the Turks in Ismid, and it was pleasant to hear that some of the Turkish officials were well spoken of, even by the Armenians.
"The chief of the police here is a capital fellow," observed one of the company. "During the Ramazan, one of our people was smoking in the streets, a Mohammedan went up to him and struck him with a stick. The chief of the police, who happened to be passing by, saw this. He approached and said, 'Why did you strike that man?' 'Because he was smoking during Ramazan.' 'Did he put his cigarette in your eye?' 'No,' 'Then you had no business to strike him. You shall go to prison and learn to behave better for the future?'" 77
"Yes," said another of the guests; "the Turkish papers published the story, and highly praised the conduct of the official."
"The Turkish Government is not so bad," observed a third gentleman. "It wishes justice to be carried out impartially throughout the empire, but, so long as the Cadis refuse to take the word of a Christian as evidence, it will be difficult for us to live with any degree of comfort."
"After all," he continued, "this is an abuse which has crept in amidst the Turkish officers. The Koran says that the testimony of a Christian witness is to be taken as evidence, but nowadays many of the Mohammedans have forgotten the Koran."
In the evening a telegram arrived from the Pacha at Scutari. It was to the effect that nothing had been heard of my horse; however, so soon as the animal was found he should be sent after me. This would have been useless. There was no rail beyond Ismid, and I intended to start the following morning. In consequence of this, I wrote to a friend at the British Embassy, to ask him, in the event of the horse being found, to have the animal sold at the market in Constantinople. Meantime I sent Osman to hire a post-horse to carry my baggage as far as Sabanja, a small 78 village about twenty miles from Ismid, and on the road to Angora. Just as we were leaving Ismid, two Zaptieh or mounted police rode up. They had been ordered by the Pacha to escort me as far as Sabanja. Smart-looking fellows they were, too, with light blue jackets, red trousers, and Hessian boots. Each of them carried a repeating-rifle slung across his shoulder. Revolvers were stuck in the crimson sashes which encircled their waists. Short scimitars, but with no hilt-guards to protect the hand, were slung from their sword-belts.
It is singular that the Turkish military authorities, who have adopted the modern armament in so far as fire-arms are concerned, should be still so backward in the manufacture of swords. A cavalry soldier armed with a Turkish sword without a hilt-guard would have very little chance if engaged in a hand-to-hand encounter with a dragoon supplied with one of our own weapons.
After riding for about half an hour in the direction of Sabanja, Radford—who was leading a pack-horse, remarked to Osman,—
"What have you done with the post-horse?"
The Turk did not understand the question. When it was interpreted to him, he replied,—
"The animal is in front with the Zaptieh." 79
As it is always as well to put a Turk's statement to the test, I determined to trot on ahead and look for myself. The Zaptieh had not seen the horse. It appeared that after loading him, Osman had started the animal, much in the same way as an Irishman does a pig, with the object of driving him before our party. We now all dispersed in different directions, and finally, after a two hours' search, discovered the animal tied up by the side of a Khan, an old woman who had observed the horse wandering about having attached him to a post.
The track now became much worse than anything I had previously seen. In many places there were quite four feet of mud. It reached our horses' girths, and with the greatest difficulty we were able to force a passage.
Presently we came to a hollow in the path. Here a cart drawn by four oxen was at a standstill. The bullocks, with only their necks and shoulders out of the mud, gazed plaintively before them. The two drivers had taken off their trousers and under-clothes; their shirts were tucked up to their armpits; they waded through the black slime, and goaded the bullocks forward.
A creaking noise was heard from the ponderous wheels. The four bullocks put forth all their 80 strength; it was a useless effort, one of them pulled the cart a little to one side, the next instant it was upset and half buried in the mire. The two men with naught on them save little red fez caps and with their tucked-up shirts, presented a doleful picture. They were not burdened with much flesh, and ribs and shoulder bones were prominently thrown into relief by the coating of mud which reached as high as their waists. One poor fellow, wading up to us, asked Osman to give him a light for his pipe. The other one, looking more woe-begotten, if possible, than his fellow, had no pipe, and mournfully asked for a cigarette.
"Effendi," said Osman, "this is a dreadful place. We may be upset. Our horses will not get through. Better go back to Ismid and wait there till the mud becomes hard."
"No; go on. Horses can march where bullocks cannot."
Osman turned white, he was riding a little in advance of me, and did not at all like being sent forward to experiment upon the depth of the mire.
"He is a poor creature," observed Radford, contemptuously, "Lor, sir, what else can we expect of them? They don't drink no beer. They turn hup their noses at wine. Hosman's blood 81 ain't no thicker than ditch-water—I will lay a pound it ain't."
Our saddle-bags were covered with mud when we gained a footing on the other side. Osman, riding up to my side, congratulated himself on having guided us through in safety.
"Your face was very white," I observed.
"Yes, Effendi, my blood had turned to milk. It was not for myself, it was for the Effendi. I thought that he might be suffocated. Osman is yours, you can do with him what you like."
All these were very pretty speeches; however, I had been sufficiently often in the East to know how to appreciate them at their true value. I felt tolerably certain that if Osman's courage was ever put to the test, he would be found to value his existence in this world more than the society of a million beautiful wives in the world to come.
After all, he would have been no exception to mankind in general. I remember during the last Carlist war hearing a story about a priest who, on the eve of an expected battle, addressed the soldiers in his battalion, and informed them that whoever was slain in the morrow's fight should sup with Nuestro Señor in Paradise. The morrow came, the battle raged, and the Carlists were beaten—the priest's battalion being the first 82 to run away, headed by the divine himself, who, tucking up his cassock, ran as fast as his legs could carry him. A soldier touched the reverend gentleman on the shoulder, and said, "You told us, my father, that whoever was slain in to-day's fight should sup in Paradise, but you are running away." "My son," replied the Cura, who was very much out of breath, "I, I—never sup—I suffer from a weak digestion—I only dine." Some people in England believe that a doctrine of predestination makes the Turkish soldiers indifferent to death. This may be true in a few isolated instances; but, as a rule, both Turks and Christians have an extreme dislike to the dread ordeal.
The track became firmer. We overtook some Bashi Bazouks returning from Bulgaria. They were most of them Circassians, and one could speak Russian. He was very indignant at having been ordered home, and brandishing his long lance, with bright steel point at least twelve inches long, regretted that he had lost the opportunity of transfixing a few giaour Russians.
"Did you kill many women?" I inquired.