The Strand Magazine/Volume 2/Issue 7/Anecdotes of the War Path

Written and illustrated by Irving Montagu.
4032756The Strand Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 7 — Anecdotes of the War PathIrving Montagu

II.

AROTID arteries and jugular veins were of no more concern to Mehemet Ben Ali than the laws of Meum and Tuum, yet he was true to the core when it served his own interests, and invaluable to us in the capacity of Postmaster-General when on the war-path in Asia Minor. The fact was, Ben had had his critical eye on the messengers we sent to the rear with despatches for some considerable time, as recent experiences proved.

Not long since, our faithful Johannes, the driver of the ramshackle areba, or native cart, which contained our supplies, had been attacked when on a foraging expedition in quest of black bread, and very roughly treated. As a representative of English pashas, he was supposed to be a man of more substance than he turned out to be when his pockets were rifled by a detachment of four burly brigands who had been sent out by the wily Ben to intercept him. On his joining us, there could be little doubt that he really had suffered considerably at their hands, having been unmercifully cudgelled as a poverty-stricken knave who was not (happily for himself) worth powder and shot. But is such treatment peculiar to semi-barbarous latitudes? Isn't it a crime in the most cultured centres to be "hard up"? Johannes combined the devotion of a Sancho Panza with the swash-bucklerism of a Falstaff; his unseen adventures were marvellous. When driving in advance, he had several times done prodigies of valour; just before our arrival, against great odds, too, to save our stores. He was generally sheathing his yatagan on our approach, and apparently in a state of considerable excitement. He was, however, honesty itself in its broadest sense, and the fact of his having returned on that particular occasion sans almost everything, and severely knocked about into the bargain, was sufficient evidence of the maltreatment he had received. No; mulching oneself into something like a jelly, is not a likely or pleasant way of producing evidence of an experience. Johannes had been an unmistakable victim.

We all liked him; he was a cheery soul, and generous to a fault—many faults, in fact, as one of our experiences proved. It happened in this way. We found him one morning in advance of our party, commiserating with a poor traveller who, weary and footsore, was leaning against a box-tree in a glade through which we were passing. He had already elicited from the poor wretch the rough story of his strange career, even to the fact that he was then returning by long and exhausting stages to his native village near Lake Van, which he hoped to reach before his aged kotona joined the houri.

What he feared most was brigands; he was in a state of abject dread of them. He had one or two little things which he valued about him, and a small amount of money as well; and, when we came up, he was imploring Johannes to intercede for him that he might be allowed to accompany us and enjoy the protection of our escort for such time as our way lay in his direction. Seven times a day would he kiss the hems of our garments if need be, to say nothing of prostrating himself each night before the setting sun to supplicate the blessings of Allah on the kindly pashas who had afforded him this much-coveted protection.

We were quite willing he should accompany us, and, moreover, gave him the additional advantage of riding in our areba.

He would "grovel in the sand to serve us"; he would remember when in Paradise (he seemed sure of his ethereal destination) the services we had rendered him, and perpetually sing our praises.

From the point of view of futurity, our wanderer had been a good investment, and we metaphorically patted each other on the back as good Samaritans. So it was that days and nights succeeded each other in which we received ample recompense in blessings for the protection we were affording. Five days had in all passed, and night had closed in, when our fellow traveller, having shared our frugal meal, as usual, and discussed equally, as usual, our post-prandial café noir, was smoking his last pipe before retiring to rest, when (my dragoman translating) he volunteered the following story:—

"Once upon a time, O mighty white Pashas," he began, with a delightful Oriental vagueness as to period, "once upon a time, there dwelt at Teheran a mighty monarch and a miserable mendicant. The monarch’s wealth was abundant, and the eyes of his lovely daughter Myrrah were as lode-stars in the rays of which he basked. As far as this world’s possessions were concerned he had nothing left to desire, yet was he the most miserable man in all Persia; for in his youth he had violated (no matter how) the confidence of his best friend, and now old age was creeping upon him so rapidly that he feared insufficient time for repentance would be left him.

"Now, one day while riding in the vicinity of his palace, he noticed a starving mendicant lying by the wayside, and he felt that in him Allah had afforded him an opportunity for doing good as a means by which to compensate for his youthful shortcomings.

"So he bade the beggar rise and follow him. Then for his rags were substituted fine raiment, and he not only showered upon him untold wealth, but made him even the highest officer in his royal household, his Grand Vizier.

"Now, what did that Grand Vizier do? Did he sing the praises of his deliverer from cockcrow to sundown?

"No, he did not; he did nothing of the kind. He added to his obligations by falling desperately in love with the king’s only daughter, the princess Myrrah, whose eyes, you will remember, were as lode-stars and whose complexion blended in one the beauties of the lily and the rose, and whose lips were 'ruddier than the cherry'; and he said unto her: 'Take of thy father's jewels and gold all thou canst secure, and I also will do the same, he has enough and to spare. And, when we have gathered together all that cometh within our reach, we will journey hence together while your royal father the king sleepeth, and none shall know whither.'

"And this, O pashas, in the dead of night they did, so that when the monarch awoke in the morning he found himself, not only robbed of his most valuable worldly possessions, but, above all, discovered himself to be childless.

"'There is no gratitude in this world," said the king. 'In striving by good deeds to erase bad ones, I have but proved that the ready-witted rogue is the winner in the long run.'"

This was the strange philosophy of the wanderer's story on which I pondered when, half an hour later, all others in the khan were wrapped in slumber.

At the first grey streak of dawn I awoke, and felt, as was my custom, in my waistcoat pocket for my watch, that I might time our uprising.

It was gone! Not the waistcoat, but the watch. The chain had been nipped by a sharp instrument, many sovereigns too had been dexterously abstracted from my gold belt.

Several other correspondents had suffered somewhat similarly. An entry must have been made in the night. We all hoped the poor stranger with his small stock of hard-earned valuables, which he cherished so dearly, had not suffered as well. No, he had not. The spot where he had disposed himself to rest the night before, in the language of the East, "knew him not."

It had been an exit, not an entry, after all. He had, in other words, made tracks, taking with him everything he could lay hands on. We had, in short, been done to a turn by an Asiatic sharper of the first water, and it was with sickly smiles that we concurred with the moral of his story of the night before—

"There is no gratitude in this world. Ready-witted rogues generally win in the long run."

Those abundant blessings had been a bad investment after all. The poor stranger would have made an able officer in the service of Mehemet Ben Ali.

The incident, however, which decided our future action with a view to keeping in touch with the base of operations in Fleet-street was the premature return of one of our messengers who had been sent by us with sketches and despatches to Erzeroum. The story he told was a simple one. The leathern case in which he carried our pen and pencil contributions to the London press had attracted the notice of several brigands, who had followed him into a gloomy copse; and, having first beaten him, the invariable custom of those who are too humane to kill outright, they had bound him to a tree, a helpless witness to the examination of his effects.

The manuscripts had of course no interest for them, but the sketches delighted them immensely. They literally roared when they saw themselves as others saw them.


A hanging committee.

Having formed a hanging committee, they disposed of a batch of these drawings on the surrounding forest trees. A sylvan exhibition of black and white sketches, to "a private view" of which they now left our scared servant.

Later on they returned, bringing with them many others, amongst whom they were ultimately divided with a general good humour which was so catching that they unanimously agreed to let the messenger who had been the innocent means of so much amusement go free, and thus it was that he had been able to again join us.

Happily for us, this discovery was made so early that it did not materially affect us, and served as a wholesome hint that, under certain circumstances, when not in touch with the regular army, and sometimes even then, we must avail ourselves of the services of "our friend, the enemy," in other words of these very brigands themselves. Williams, my Levantine interpreter, was on all such critical occasions invaluable, and we now at once consulted him. There were, he told us, many villages en route known by the natives to be chiefly occupied by desperadoes of the highway, whose propensities, bloodthirsty enough when in the open, were mild and lamblike at home to all passing strangers who claimed their hospitalities. Once within the limits and your protection was assured till your departure, when, becoming again public property, you were attacked with all possible precipitancy, lest some other gang secured you who had not extended to you any hospitalities at all.

To one of several such remote villages I would refer. Our approach had evidently not been expected, or we should probably have been intercepted. We were in fact palavering with several of the villagers before the chief, or headman, of the place was well aware of our arrival. He was a venerable rogue, with a merry twinkle in his eye; nature had designed him for a very low comedian, but, fate having ordained otherwise, he was the leading spirit of that little community of cut-throats.

The village, however, was "ours," and they, the inhabitants, were "our veriest slaves."

Immediately the women had been accommodated elsewhere, we should have "the best khan in the place." In vain did we protest that we wouldn't for the world disturb the ladies. They were bundled off instanter, and we were ushered, still on horseback, into a huge stable, one portion of which was divided off into stalls where sheep, goats, oxen, and several very faded-looking horses were indiscriminately huddled together, while the smaller division of the place was devoted to the accommodation of poor humanity.

Several bewrinkled old hags, who were understood to be proof against our blandishments, had been allowed to remain to satisfy, later on, the curiosity of their fairer sisters.

The night was cold, and the wood fire which burned brightly in a convenient corner came as a welcome invitation to make ourselves as comfortable as we could under the circumstances, which, it is needless to say, we at once proceeded to do.


An international exhibition.

Having been supplied plentifully with youart (a sort of rank curds and whey) and pelaff (a concoction of rice and the fat obtained from the pendulous tails of Asiatic sheep), we wrapped ourselves snugly up in our many wraps, lit our pipes, and calmly awaited what "Kismet" had in store for us.

Presently the rude door of the place was thrown wide open and a chilly gust of wind careered through the khan, bearing with it a volume of smoke from our primitive fireplace to be circulated in a sort of sooty cloudland above the rafters, chimneys being unknown in this happy valley.

Was it a funeral procession, or what?

The measured tread of many feet was to be heard without: first a beturbaned native entered, who, walking majestically to where I was seated, presented me with much solemnity with a flint stone, upon which, salaaming, he left the khan, to be succeeded by another and yet another, till some twelve or fourteen villagers had thus paraded before us, each bringing unconsidered trifles as presents for the white pashas. Broken bits of rusty flint-locks, bunches of leaves, old horseshoes, anything, in short, to convey an impression of kindly welcome and suggest future bucksheesh.

These presentations were hardly concluded when the clatter of horses' hoofs outside suggested the return from one of their raids of a small party of marauders who, the next moment, had ridden into the khan and dismounted. First and foremost amongst these was Mehemet Ben Ali, whose glorious indifference with regard to carotid arteries and jugular veins was spoken of at the commencement of this article.

We joined the amused throng in the village later on, who gathered round those swarthy exhibitors of our effects, as they held up, one after another, our effects for inspection—a comb causing much amusement, its use, with that of a hair brush, requiring considerable explanation. I distinctly remember, too, a necktie, the band of which fastened with a patent clasp and an ominous click, which at once associated itself in their minds with the click of a pistol, and it was quite ludicrous to see how suddenly it was dropped by the first, and how carefully it was avoided by the rest of those who were examining the contents of our saddle bags. Soap, again, was more than once supposed to be eatable, and its use for washing purposes, when explained, was only half believed, its colour happening to be pink and white, suggesting to them some form of Rahat Lakoum, they evidently thought we were trying to save our sweet stuff. Everything, however, was returned to us, pilfering being only practised without the village lines, once having left which we were open to attack at any moment from our late entertainers, who now followed to waylay us.


Ben Ali.

I was so pleased with Mehemet Ben Ali's superior intelligence that I consulted Williams with a view to explaining to him our desire to keep up a direct communication with Erzeroum and thus with Trebizond on the coast, the latter part of the postal communication being covered by Tatas, or native footmen, generally some six or eight in number, who carry their letters and parcels in the saddlebags of the mules or horses they ride, and who are always accompanied by an armed escort of zapteahs. Thus, if once we could deposit our supplies of sketches and MS. with the British Consul at Erzeroum, all would go well.

It has been seen that ordinary messengers between the villages at which—when not sleeping in the open—we put up, and that place were invariably waylaid, so we further explained how utterly valueless to anyone, save our own people in England, were the despatches we sent; while, on the other hand, if we could once obtain an assurance of their safe delivery, we would reward Mehemet personally to a considerable extent, and he could pay his hirelings as he thought fit. Thus would he make more by the transaction in a week than he would perhaps make by the uncertain profession of brigandage in six months.

Ready-witted Ben saw at a glance that in this case honesty was the best policy, and thus it was that, not only there, but elsewhere, we were able to keep up direct communication with the rear, which would have been otherwise impossible. Every short cut through the mountains was known to these fellows, who thus circumvented the regular troops who sometimes were despatched in small bodies in search of them. This they did in the most marvellous way, always managing, through some intermediary, to get our literary and artistic contributions to the press by hook or by crook into the town, turning up a few days later with some unmistakable evidence of their delivery; then the Postmaster-General, as we dubbed Ben Ali, received the promised largess, the same system being made afterwards to apply, as I have said, with equal success elsewhere during such time as we were traversing that wild track of country intervening between Erzeroum and Kars, where we eventually joined the army of Ahmed Muckhtar Pasha.

The revolver they hold in special abhorrence, as containing the shafts of Sheitan—the devil's bolts—since, from their point of view, it goes off without loading. We never failed to show these easily-deluded creatures the repeating qualities of our weapons, never, of course, letting them see us load them.

I remember one occasion on which for their edification I proposed that a bottle should be put up and smashed by us at a fairly long pistol range, each correspondent firing six shots. I fired first.

I emptied my revolver without—I blush to confess it—going within measurable distance of that bottle; it had, indeed, been a most unfortunate suggestion on my part.

Utterly disgusted at my failure, The Manchester Guardian, an excellent revolver shot as a rule, took up his position. He failed now, as utterly and ignominiously as I had done. The Scotsman came next, with no better result. At this moment a lanky Circassian, who had been looking on, inquired mildly what the great white pashas were trying to do; and, when it was explained that they had intended hitting that bottle, he expressed himself as wonderstruck, picked up a stone, and, certainly with a force and precision I never witnessed before, or since, he smashed that bottle to smithereens.

We did no more revolver practice in that village. Small matters have sometimes weighty significance, as instanced on another occasion, a delightfully calm evening, when we were steaming from Constantinople across the placid waters of the Sea of Marmora towards Brindisi. It was some months after our Anatolian experiences recorded above.

***

Did I ever suffer from palpitation of the heart? Why, who could help it who has spent more than a week in Spain. She certainly "takes a side glance and looks down, beware!" but then, at the same time, to have basked in the sunny smiles of Spanish beauty is to have enjoyed a glimpse of Paradise and the Peri.


"Flirting that fan of hers."

In any other country, war would have crushed, at least for the moment, the spirit of love; not so, however, during the Spanish campaign. I assure you that in San Sebastian, where I was during the siege of that place by the Carlists, the Alemada, or chief boulevard, was the scene every evening of the wildest gaiety. Staid duennas with patronising air enjoying the gambols of their younger sisters to the full, as much as those accomplished fan-flirters did themselves, while the wild Fandango, the graceful Bolero, and seductive waltz won over by turns the hearts of all the male on-lookers.

Night after night have I watched my own particular Dulcinea del Toboso—or rather of San Sebastian in this case—flirt her fan and frolic on the light fantastic toe till I swore solemnly never again to visit the Peninsula, without having learnt to conjugate the verb to love in Spanish.

I recall, too, how I once nearly lost my heart and my balance at one and the same moment when in the Basque frontier town of Irun—it was during the siege of that place also that I happened to be there. It was evening. A typical Spanish damsel was crossing the Plaza, her mantilla gracefully wrapped about her shoulders; she was flirting that fan of hers as Spanish women alone know how, and cast so bewitching a glance in my direction as she passed that I confess I was—well——— To continue, she was presently joined by several female friends, who, notwithstanding the fusillade which was going on from the roof of the great square tower of the cathedral, and the occasional bursting of a shell on the outskirts (a deadly messenger from the Carlist fort of St. Marcial, on the heights), were as light-hearted and frolicsome as if they were going to a fête de nuit—on, on they came again in my direction.

I had eyes only for one—and she evidently knew it. Oh, the exquisite delight of that moment! Twilight was closing in, yet I presently noted that "the queen of my heart" was followed by an uncanny reptile, she was evidently quite unconscious of its pursuit of her; with unwieldy leaps and bounds whichever way she turned it dogged her footsteps.

Now I have the greatest repugnance to anything of the insect or reptile kind, yet I had manifestly only one course to pursue now; besides, what a happy—may I say heroic?—medium for introduction thus presented itself.

I rushed at the grim, black, lizard-like beast. Twice did it dexterously evade the foot which would have crushed it. The third time, however, I was more fortunate, the full force of my heel had come down on the agile creature, and there was at the same time a curious feeling that it had been severed from the skirt to which it had been clinging tooth and nail. The little party stopped, and the lady of my particular choice with a look of amazement exclaimed, "Señor!"

I hastily explained in French, which happily that lady understood. I pointed to the dead animal at my feet, raised my hat, and smiled triumphantly.

Then, turning to her friends, she pointed at it too, and all united in roars of laughter at my expense, intermingled with loud shouts of "El drap! El drap!"

The fact was it was a well-known Spanish practical joke by which the uninitiated are led to suppose that a cleverly cut piece of cloth attached to a girl's skirts and twitched into action by her as she walks is a reptile of dangerous proportions. Who shall say that men were "gay deceivers ever" after that?

***


Harem on the march.

It has not been given to many to make pen and pencil notes of the ladies of a Pasha's harem, yet twice when in Asia Minor did I come across them as fugitives hastening on before the Russian advance. On the first occasion the impression conveyed was that of a travelling menagerie, so closely were those fair ones packed in a long gilded diligence-like conveyance, the sides of which were closely latticed, while the Pasha—at other times no doubt "a lion amongst the ladies"—was now at large, riding sedately at the rear.

My second was the experience of which I make a pencil note in this article, and which struck me as far the most characteristic of the two.

A handsome bronzed Asiatic Turk, not having evidently had time to make all necessary arrangements for flight, had accommodated his seven wives as best he could; two had secured the shelter of a latticed sedan chair, while the others, alternating between horse and camel-back, adapted themselves to the situation as best they could; indeed, those in the sedan alighted from time to time when a halt was made, and it was then the distinctive positions of those wives in relation to that Pasha were most noticeable. Of the seven, four were really more or less attendants on the remaining three, while the actual favourite, the wife of wives, the queen of the harem, held amongst these three a distinctive position. She was generally the happy possessor of a French parasol. I don't mean to infer that this is the distinguishing badge of an Oriental favourite, but when, in far-off up-country villages and small townships, the local Kiamakans and others can secure one of those much-coveted Parisian or Viennese sunshades, it becomes as a matter of right the property of her who takes first rôle in the Pasha's household.

When I came across the little group which forms the subject of my illustration, they were halting for refreshment; the Pasha calmly smoking his mid-day nargilé and sipping black coffee, while his wives were refreshing themselves with sweetmeats.

I couldn't help noticing, as far as good taste in personal appearance was concerned, that Pasha's choice of a favourite; her yashmack, much more gauzy than the rest, revealing most charming features, while her figure, judging from the folds of her voluminous draperies, was of perfect contour.

Fate, apparently, had no horrors for this much-married magnate: perhaps, when he looked around, and his wives, with one accord, said, or seemed to suggest: "We are seven, to say nothing of our retainers, together with our dogs, cats, and parrots," he felt that he was beyond its reach. He was the very embodiment of philosophy, as he stood there calmly surveying his surroundings, lazily smoking his sweet-scented nargilé; it takes a good deal to rouse the average Turk to action, but when his blood is up, he's a demon. This Pasha will however retreat leisurely, till he touches the coast, when, with all his impedimenta round about him, he will make his way in the first available ship to Constantinople—at least, so he hopes—Kismet!

***


Sanctuary.

Whistler's butterfly, whose flutterings are represented by the splutterings from that eccentric artist-author's pen, would find happy hunting-grounds on these pages, where incident follows incident regardless of place or period. Thus would I now ask you to return with me for the nonce to Spain, that we may indulge together in more impressions by the way.

Under certain circumstances there is something singularly eloquent about absolute silence. I have, on several occasions in my wandering career, been infinitely more impressed by it than by noisy demonstration. Look up at that massive Gothic tower, standing out as black as approaching night against a saffron sky; it's the cathedral of Irun, in the erst market-place of which we are standing—shambles had been a better name for it since the commencement of this civil war. Hush! there is an appalling silence over all to-night, which may not be rudely broken. There is no evidence of movement anywhere. Accustoming one's eyes to the deepening twilight, one certainly sees here and there groups of men, women, and, in some cases, children huddled together in strange attitudes and gloomy corners round about the dark entry to the cathedral—horror depicted on the faces of some, perfect serenity on those of others, yet never a word do they utter. They are "in the garden of sleep." They are dead, all dead, the market-place, after a hard day's fighting, being deserted by the living—all save you and I, and that spectre-like sentry yonder on the cathedral tower "on guard."

But the gloom is suddenly relieved by a ray of many-coloured light which comes through one of the cathedral windows. This is succeeded by another, and yet another.

The priests within are lighting up the altar, and a flood of prismatic brilliance mingles with the smoke from burning embers and the still night air without, save where the old pile faces the Carlist lines, in which direction the windows have been carefully barricaded, so as not to attract the enemy's shell fire. Hark! sweet and low the organ peals forth exquisite strains of music; while, now and again, Dong! and a sonorous metallic voice from the belfry invites the stricken ones to sanctuary. A company of Migueletes, with slow, measured tread, emerge from a neighbouring street, and, directing their steps towards the cathedral, are followed by a miscellaneous crowd, all hastening for the protection of Mother Church. Dong! Again that bell, so full of solemn warning.


The iron shield.

Look! What are they carrying on that splintered door, which serves as a stretcher? Let us reverently lift the cloak which half conceals a human form. It is a young officer, evidently dying, to whom the last rites are about to be administered. Not a word is spoken as the regimental favourite is tenderly carried by his comrades to the altar. Crucifix in hand, the officiating priest affords this suppliant for pardon the spiritual assurances he most needs. Raising himself on one arm, he looks first this way, then that, as if uncertain as to what is going on around him; and then, realising it all, he sinks back, with a restful, satisfied smile on his young face. He is dead! The regimental surgeon, who happens to be present, certifies it. "Those whom the gods love die young."

The procession moves on just as another similar one takes its place at the altar steps. And all this to the running accompaniment, now of the clank of arms; the continuous strains, still soft and low, of organ music; the occasional irregular rattle of musketry when the pickets are exchanging shots; and again the measured, muffled, periodical Dong! of that passing bell.

This is no fancy picture: I saw and heard it more than once when on the war-path; but yet, as I have said, the silence which preceded or succeeded events was often more eloquent than events themselves. At Hernani, near Oreamendez, the tolling of sanctuary came across hill and dale with ominous significance, which made the intervening silence doubly terrible; while in remote, unexpected places, up in the hills perhaps, it was not unusual to come across just such a scene as the one I have depicted—a beautiful Gothic setting to a monument of inhuman passion. The eloquence of silence at such times is indeed impressive, and may fitly contrast with the incident on the title-page of this article. A long line of Bedouins, shouting, yelling to their camels, "Ider! Ider! Ider!" have come at a swinging pace between myself and the setting sun. From a certain point of view, the wild devilry of the whole thing cannot be excelled: as a picture of weird activity it stands alone. Yet a few hours later, when under the still, starlit canopy of heaven they are reposing by their exhausted camels, wrapped in the silence of sleep, a crescent moon glimmering over the crest of the distant uplands, one feels infinitely more impressed than before.

***

All things are comparative in this world—finding ourselves transported on the wings of fancy—you and I are again in Spain. That Arab encampment was but a dissolving view. We are at the battle of Behobie, on the Franco-Spanish frontier. As will be seen by the illustration, that which at a first glance looks not unlike a huge Gladstone collar is, as a matter of fact, an immense iron shield which the Carlists used on several occasions with signal effect. Oh! the rattle of the musketry against that barrier, which, as the fighting progressed, was moved forward on crossbeams and rollers, while behind it all the securable furniture and debris were piled up, so as to give vantage points to those of the defending party who had been unable to secure holes for the muzzles of their rifles, apertures with which this novel defence was plentifully studded.

Just as love laughs at locksmiths because he penetrates everywhere, so could the Carlists laugh at the enemy whose bullets in harmless confusion rattled against that iron shield, save when the more adventurous exposed themselves above it.

***

It is astonishing what the association of ideas will do. In jotting down my pen and pencil notes for this article I must not omit to refer to a strange Jewish encampment at Zimnitza, the particular attraction of which was a circus of considerable proportions under a huge umbrella tent. Zimnitza, it will be remembered, is situated on the banks of the Danube, just where, in 1877, the Russians threw their magnificent bridge of boats across that river.

Here, just at the rear of the fighting, as it were, were speculative Jews—and Gentiles, too—making hay while the sun shone. Almost everything which money could buy was obtainable in this canvas village. Holes dug deep into the ground were canvassed over and dubbed by such high-sounding titles as the Hôtel de la Reine Hortense, Grand Hôtel de la Guerre, and so on, while that great circular curriculum was an unfailing attraction when night closed in.

Here Mr. Merryman, dressed à la grand Turk, was master of the ceremonies; here, too, marvellous feats of horsemanship on piebald and spotted screws were performed; Mademoiselle Elise dancing with exquisite skill on the tight-rope, while tumblers tumbled to the delight of a well-packed audience of those who could afford the exorbitant charges of the speculative proprietors. Indeed, "let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die," seemed the spirit which infused those Russian officers as they applauded the antics of the acrobats or the grimaces of Mr. Merryman; in fact, it was difficult to realise that, once across that bridge of boats yonder, glittering when lit up after dark like a chain of diamonds, you would be in touch, as it were, with what was hourly becoming one of the hardest contested military positions of modern warfare.

There is a gaiety about Tommy Atkins at the front, no matter what his nationality be, which is truly marvellous.

"Furnished" and "unfurnished" apartments, too, were obtainable here—at a price. Their construction was delightfully simple. Unfurnished accommodation was represented by a hole bearing a striking resemblance to a grave covered in at the top with lightly interwoven branches—the snow did the rest. On the other hand, a furnished apartment had boards thrown down at the bottom, on which a quantity of straw was placed, to which, for the convenience of the sleeper, a short ladder was sometimes added, that he might not, like his "unfurnished" neighbour, have to jump too precipitously into bed. There were many such on the Bulgarian side of the river, too. I well remember taking one of these (furnished) myself one night, and when I questioned the price, which was thirty francs, I was assured that on the previous night—true, it was snowing at the time—a brigadier had cheerfully handed over thirty-six francs for the same accommodation.

The quick and the dead in turn, in many cases, occupied these queer quarters; since, when there was no further use for them as far as the living were concerned, they were often used for purposes of interment.

Thus will it be seen from these anecdotes of the war-path that the "special" must be no feather-bed soldier or carpet knight who would represent the Press at the front.

Compared with many, I have been myself most fortunate, yet even I have had fevers, small-pox, and two sunstrokes, to say nothing of imprisonment as a spy, hairbreadth 'scapes, and other such minor matters to contend with.

Of my brethren of the pen and pencil I might say much, not only as far as their services to the Press have been concerned, but their services to humanity as well, when—in quest of incident—they have been at the front with the Red Cross. As I write, such distinguished men as Archibald Forbes, Fred Villiers, O'Donovan, McGahan, Christie Murray, and many others, naturally present themselves as amongst those who have already "left their footprints on the sands of time."


A death's head.
(Curious effect seen on the Sea of Marmora.)