The porter at the hotel—A little persuasive force—Trains in Turkey 토토검증사이트 are not very punctual—Two Englishmen—Snipe-shooting—The railroad takes a circuitous course—Krupp guns—The Christians are too much for the Turks in a bargain—Hadem Kui—No horse waiting—The station-master—A lanky, overgrown lad—Buyuk Checkmedge and Kara Bournu—A branch railway required—A station-master's salary—The horse—Attacked by a dog—The defence of Constantinople—A song in which the Turks delighted—Good-looking Hungarian girls—The handsome Italian—"I am not a barrel"—The song about the Turcos—Spontaneous combustion—A special Correspondent—Algeria is not Turkey, but it does not much signify.

I had ordered the porter at my hotel to call me early on the following morning, as the train started at seven, and it was quite half an hour's walk to the station. Luckily I awoke myself, and on looking at my watch, found it was about half-past six. Hastily dressing, I hurried downstairs, and found the individual whose business it was to awake me, fast asleep under a billiard 28 table in the café belonging to the hotel. He grumbled at being disturbed, and did not fancy the idea of carrying my box to the station. It was necessary to use a little persuasive force, so, seizing a billiard cue, I gave him a violent poke in the side.

"Get up directly! I shall miss the train!"

"Please God you will not," replied the Turk, with a yawn.

I had no time to lose, so, taking the recumbent man by the collar, I lifted him bodily on his legs, put my bag in his hand, and, with another push from the billiard cue, precipitated him down the steps into the street.

"You want me to go to the station, Effendi!" said the fellow, now thoroughly aroused.

"Yes."

"But the train will be gone."

"Not if we run."

"Run!" replied the porter, very much astonished, "and what will the Effendi do?"

"Run too."

And with another thrust from the billiard cue, I started him down Pera.

Fortunately for me, trains in Turkey are not very punctual in starting. On arriving at the railway, about ten minutes past seven, I found that 29 I had time to take my ticket to Hadem Kui, a small station an hour and a half from Constantinople. There were two Englishmen in the same carriage as myself, one of them an old friend whose acquaintance I had made some years previous in Madrid. They intended to stop at a swamp a few miles from the city, and spend the day snipe-shooting.

Upon my remarking that the railway seemed to take a very circuitous course, my friend smiled.

"Yes," he said, "when the line was about to be constructed, the Government agreed to pay so much per mile,—the result has been that, although the country is level, the line is not quite so straight as it might be."

"Poor Turks!" said his companion, "they are always being abused by the Christians, and yet the latter make a very good thing out of them. Why, only the other day, a quantity of Krupp guns were brought here. The cost price was 150l. per gun, but the Turks had to pay 750l."

"The Christians are too much for them in a bargain," he added.

My fellow-travellers now left the train, which had stopped at the side of a wide marsh, and before our engine was again in motion, the report 30 of a gun made me aware that their sport had already commenced.

Half an hour later I arrived at the little station of Hadem Kui. "Is there a horse waiting for me?" I inquired. "No," was the answer of the station-master, a Hungarian. "Can I hire an animal?" "No," was the reply. "How far is it to the village where Colonel H—— is living?" "Seven miles." "What sort of a road?" "No road at all, but deep mud up to the horse's girths." "When does the next train go back to Constantinople?" "Not till seven p.m."

I certainly did not bless my friend H——. To kick my heels about for twelve hours in a station destitute of a waiting-room, and with nothing to occupy my time, was not an agreeable prospect.

"I tell you what you had better do," said the station-master, "send a boy with a note to your friend. There is probably some misunderstanding about the horse, and the boy will be able to get to the village and back again in a few hours."

A lanky, overgrown lad volunteered to take the letter, and, tucking up his ragged trousers till his bare thighs were thoroughly exposed to view, he took off his boots, and started. In a few minutes I could see him wading through mud at least two feet deep. A heavy M. F. H. would have found 31 himself considerably out of his element if suddenly put down with his field and hounds in that line of country. Imagine layers of the heaviest Bedfordshire plough-fields all heaped one on the top of the other, and then you will fall short in attempting to realize the nature of the soil. If ever an invading army were to make use of the railway from Adrianople for an advance upon Constantinople, and the line between Buyuk Checkmedge on the Sea of Marmora, and Kara Bournu on the Black Sea, be selected by the Turks as a last point from which to defend the capital, the difficulty in transporting heavy guns and baggage to the centre of this position would be enormous. The defenders will have to make a small branch railway in rear of the line of defence, or it will be impossible for them to supply their army.

The station-master now invited me to sit down in his room, and wait till an answer to my note arrived. He was suffering from fever, and complained of the unhealthy nature of the soil. He could not sleep at night, and what most worried him was the incessant click of the telegraph dial. It was a very busy time, and any number of messages were always passing.

"I can read them as they pass, simply by the sound," he continued, "and that incessant click, 32 click, click, all night, is enough to drive a man mad. My brain aches. I toss from side to side. I see devils sitting on the telegraph-box."

"Take my word for it, sir," he added, "there is nothing which breaks a man down so quickly as being a station-master in Turkey."

"What is your salary?" I inquired.

"Only 80l. a year. It is not enough to keep a wife," he added. "If I had a wife the life would be easier, but there are no women here. I shall end by hanging myself upon one of my own telegraph-posts—I know I shall if I stay here much longer."

A letter now arrived from Captain F——, a friend of H——'s, to say that, in the absence of the latter, he had opened my letter, and in consequence had sent me a horse. Such a horse as he was too, with no shoulders, and only about thirteen hands high; when I mounted the animal and had let out the stirrups to their last hole they were too short. I had the cramp. When I rode without stirrups my legs were in the mud. It was a choice of evils—the cramp or the mud, and the mud gained the day.

At last I came to the little village where Colonel H—— and his friend were residing. An Armenian servant now informed me that his 33 master was busy surveying, but that he would soon return. The other officer, who had sent me the horse, was also out, but was shortly expected home. In about three hours both of them arrived. H—— had lost his way in the dark. He had been attacked by a dog; the savage brute had bitten his boot, and H—— had only saved himself by using his revolver. He had ordered a man to bring me a horse, but from the officer not being able to speak Turkish his instructions had been misunderstood.

The room was not a large one, and only a few feet square. There was no other, so we shared it between us, I being accommodated on the floor. We were up at daybreak, and rode over the position, a succession of rising slopes, which looked as if nature had made them especially for the defence of Constantinople. The distance from the Sea of Marmora to the Black Sea is twenty-four or twenty-five miles;[4] but each flank, being covered by lakes and rivers, could be easily watched and secured. The extent of the real fighting-ground would be by these features reduced to nine or ten miles of plain, but with favourable undulations affording a good command 34 over the front. Batteries could be so arranged as to enfilade each other at every point, and should fifty thousand reliable troops ever make a stand at this position, it would be a very difficult one to carry.

This time my friend had mounted me on a different sort of animal to the one which I had ridden on the previous day. He was a stout grey cob, with good shoulders: when I mounted him the first thing which he did was to try and run away. I turned his head towards a neighbouring height, and let him gallop through the deep mud. To my astonishment on arriving at the summit he continued pulling. There was evidently some good stuff in that horse, and I determined to buy him. His owner was not in the village, so I left word that if he would send the cob to Constantinople, I would give 10l. for the animal—a very fair price taking into consideration the market price of horses in the capital.

Meantime, after having said good-bye to my hospitable entertainers, I turned my face towards the railway-station. A line of telegraph-posts served me as a guide, and I arrived at the booking-office in time to catch the train.

An acquaintance, a friend of the silk-merchant, called upon me later in the evening. He proposed that we should go together to a café, and hear a 35 song which a French girl sang every night, and one in which the Turks delighted.

The café, or rather music hall, was a fine building, crowded with men of all nationalities. Good-looking Hungarian and Italian girls took the place of waiters, and bustled about, receiving orders from the more than usually excited true believers. Many of the latter, in spite of the Prophet's injunction, were freely partaking of raki. Volumes of smoke from the cigarettes and chibouks of the spectators had created a dense atmosphere in the building. Some of the attendants were remarkably handsome girls. Indeed, as I subsequently learnt, the proprietor of the café would not engage an ugly woman, his idea being that the Turks, his chief customers, came quite as much to look at and talk to his waitresses, as to see the performance. It must have been a hard trial for the digestive organs of the better-looking of these girls. One in particular, a tall and very handsome Italian, with large dark eyes and an innocent expression, which probably her character belied, was in great request, the Turks always inviting her to share the raki or the coffee which she brought them. The performance lasted from eight p.m. till about two in the morning; it was a wonder that her constitution could stand the 36 trial. I called for a cup of coffee, and when she handed it to me, I asked in Italian what she would like for herself. The girl's eyes sparkled on being addressed in her native tongue.

"Nothing, signore," she said; "I am not a barrel, although the Turks think I am; but you are not a Turk. However, I cannot afford to offend them, for the proprietor pays us no wages; all I have is what the visitors give me. It is a dreadful life, signore. Chocolate, raki, and beer. I only sip, but I have to swallow a little all the same; then there is lemonade, coffee, mastic, and occasionally, when gentlemen like yourself come here—champagne. It is such a mixture. I have a pain sometimes," she continued, at the same time pointing to the bodice of her dress, "I wish to cry, but I have to run about, smile, wait upon the visitors, and drink with them—it is a dreadful life. Oh, if I could only return to Florence!"

A Turk seated near me, and who was eagerly gazing at the girl, made a sign to her.

"I must go," she said. "He is a friend of the proprietor—I dare not offend him."

Presently she was sipping some punch from his glass. My friend caught my eye, and laughed.

"Yes," he said, "she is adding punch to the 37 other mixtures. Poor child, it will be a wonder if she does not go off by spontaneous combustion some day. But, hush! the famous singer is just going to give us the song about the Turcos."

A tall and rather stout French girl now came upon the stage. Some long black tresses were hanging down her back. Her dress, which was made of white muslin, was very low in front, and a flaming red sash encircled her waist. The song had reference to the bravery of the Turcos, how they died for France, and how France loved them.