Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Eastern Nights - and Flights - A Record of Oriental Adventure.
Author: Bott, Alan
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Eastern Nights - and Flights - A Record of Oriental Adventure." ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: ALIAS FRITZ RICHTER

Photograph of Captain Alan Bott, taken in Constantinople while he was a
prisoner. Captain Bott signed it in the name of "Fritz Richter, First
Lieutenant in the German Flying Corps." While escaping, he was able, by
means of the false signature, to convince a Turkish gendarme that he
was a German officer wearing mufti.]



EASTERN NIGHTS--AND FLIGHTS

_A Record of Oriental Adventure_


BY CAPTAIN ALAN BOTT


GARDEN CITY      NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

1919

COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF
TRANSLATION INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES,
INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN


TO D. O. V.



Transcriber's Note: Inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, and
hyphenation have been retained as printed.



CONTENTS


                                                           PAGE

Prologue. Through the Looking Glass                           3


CHAPTER

   I. Pain, Purgatory, and a Plan                            13

  II. The Flight That Failed                                 27

 III. Nazareth; and the Christian Charity of a Jew           39

  IV. Damascus; and the Second Failure                       64

   V. The Berlin-Bagdad Railway; and the Aeroplanes That
        Never Flew                                           90

  VI. Cuthbert, Alfonso, and a Mud Village                  110

VII. In the Shadow of the Black Rock                        124

VIII. Constantinople; and How to Become Mad                 140

  IX. Introducing Theodore the Greek, John Willie the
        Bosnian, and David Lloyd George's Second Cousin     159

   X. The Third and Fourth Failures                         175

  XI. A Greek Waitress, a German Beerhouse, a Turkish
        Policeman, and a Russian Ship                       189

 XII. The Face at the Window                                203

XIII. A Shipload of Rogues                                  213

 XIV. The City of Disguises                                 230

  XV. Stowaways, Inc.                                       250

 XVI. A Russian Interlude                                   266

XVII. Sofia, Salonika, and So to Bed                        281

Epilogue. A Damascus Postscript; and Some Words on the
Knights of Araby, A Crusader in Shorts, a Very Noble
Ladye, and Some Happy Endings                               286



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Alias Fritz Richter                               _Frontispiece_

                                                    FACING PAGE

Captain T. W. White                                         150

Captain Yeats-Brown                                         236



Eastern Nights--and Flights



PROLOGUE

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS


Most of us who were at close grips with the Great War will remember the
habit of speculation about life on the far side of the front. Somewhere
beyond the frontier of trenches, we realized, were our opposite
numbers--infantrymen, gunners, aviators, staff officers, mess
orderlies, generals, captains, lance-corporals--each according to
character, rank, and duties, and to the position he occupied by reason
of ability, courage, initiative, old age, self-advertisement, or
wire-pulling. We saw them through a glass, darkly--a glass that, being
partly concave, partly convex, and almost impenetrable throughout,
showed us our opposite numbers as distorted reflections of ourselves.

We knew well that a journey through, round, or over this glass would
take us into an unnatural world where we should be negative instead of
positive, passive instead of active, useless scrap-iron instead of
working parts of a well-constructed machine. Yet we never considered
the possibility of being obliged, in that unreal world, to live a life
of impotence. Our companions, now, might have the bad luck to be
dragged there; but our sense of normality would not let us reckon with
such an unusual happening in our own case.

And then, perhaps, one fine day or night found us isolated in an
attack, or shot down in an air fight; and we would be in the
topsy-turvy country of captivity. Some of us, who passed into this
country from the curious East, tumbled head over heels upon adventures
fantastic as those of any imaginative explorer of the wonderland
Through the Looking Glass of fancy.

                 *       *       *       *       *

We were a small band of six scout pilots, one monkey-mascot, and a team
of Baby Nieuports, hangared in a large meadow that was the nearest
aerodrome to the then front in Palestine.

Slightly to the south was the one-time German colony of Sorona, with
houses empty but for ugly furniture and ornaments, left behind when the
routed Turco-Germans scurried up the coast-line after Allenby's victory
at Gaza. A few miles north was the trench-line, a few miles west were
row upon row of sand-dunes, a sea of that intense blue which is the
secret of the Syrian coast, and the ancient port of Jaffa, misnamed
"The Beautiful."

The particular task of our detached flight of Nieuports was always to
be ready, between dawn and sunrise, to leap into the air at a moment's
notice and climb toward whatever enemy aircraft were signalled as
approaching from the north. Usually we flew in pairs, for the work was
of the tip-and-run variety, and needed, above all things, speed in
leaving the ground and speed in climbing; and a larger party would have
been slower, because of the exigencies of formation flying.

"A A A four H.A. flying S. toward Mulebbis 10,000 feet A A A," would be
telephoned by an anti-aircraft battery. The bell (made out of a Le
Rhone cylinder) would clang, the "standing by" pilots would fasten caps
and goggles as they raced to their buses, the mechanics would swing the
propellers into position as the pilots climbed into the cockpits, the
engines would swell from a murmur to a roar; and, three minutes after
the sentinel-operator had scribbled the warning, two Nieuports would be
away across the sun-browned grass and up into the cool air. A climbing
turn, at about 100 feet, and they would streak upward, at an angle of
45 degrees, to the air country above Mulebbis. And the next two pilots
on the waiting list would come within easy reach of their flying kit.

Even with the fast-climbing Nieuport it was difficult indeed to reach a
height of 10,000 to 12,000 feet in time to get to grips with machines
which were at that height while we were reading month-old newspapers on
solid earth. But practice and coöperation with anti-aircraft gunners,
by means of directional shots, enabled us to find the black-crossed
trespassers often enough to inoculate them with a wholesome fear of
venturing any distance beyond the lines.

At the period of which I write--March to May, 1918--it was not too much
to say that enemy machines in Palestine, even when in superior force,
never fought our Bristol Fighters, S.E. 5's, or Nieuports, unless there
was no chance of keeping at a safe distance. Once, three of us were
able to chase five German scouts and one two-seater for twenty miles
over enemy country until they reached their hangars at Jenin, out-dived
us because of their heavier weight, and landed without the least
pretence of showing fight; while we relieved our feelings by looping
the loop over their aerodrome.

Those were pleasant days, in pleasant surroundings. Our tents were
pitched in an orange grove, which provided shade from the midday sun,
privacy from the midnight pilfering of Bedouins, and loveliness at all
times. The fruit had just ripened, and by stretching an arm outside the
tent-flap, one could pick full-blooded giant oranges. Passing troops
bought at the rate of five a penny the best Jaffas, stolen from our
enclosure by young imps of Arabs.

In the heat of afternoon the four of us who were not waiting for the
next call would mooch through the orange-trees for a siesta; and in the
cool of evening we would drive to the sands for a moonlight bathe in
the Mediterranean. For the rest, one could always visit Jaffa, where
were some friendly nurses, and a Syrian barber who could cut hair quite
decently. Apart from these attractions, however, and the mud hovel that
may or may not have been the house of Simon the Tanner, Jaffa was just
like any other town in the Palestine zone of occupation, with its
haphazard medley of Arabs, Jews, and Syrians, all bent on getting rich
quick by exploiting that highly exploitable person, the British
soldier.

On the evening before my capture I bathed in the company of a German
cadet; a circumstance which I thought unusually novel, not foreseeing
that my next bathe would also be in the company of a German, although
under very different conditions.

One Offizierstellvertreter Willi Hampel had been shot down and
captured, and was in the prisoners' compound at Ludd. It was decided
that before forwarding Hampel to Egypt, the best way to milk him of
information would be for another aviator to discuss aeronautics on a
basis of common interest; and I was detailed for the duty. This rather
went against the grain; but Willi knew neither French nor English, and
I was the only pilot in the brigade who could speak German, so that
there was no alternative. From his cage I motored Willi to lunch in our
mess, showed him our machines and our monkey, and even took him to tea
with an agreeable compatriot, a beautiful German Jewess who was the
landlady of some houses at Ramleh.

The information he let slip was not very illuminating--a few truthful
statements about machines, pilots, and aerodromes, and a great many
obvious lies. But his opinions on our aviators and machines were
interesting. Our pilots were splendid, but too reckless, he thought. As
for the machines, the Bristol Fighter was the work of the devil, and to
be avoided at all costs; the R.E.8 might safely be attacked unless it
were well protected; the British single-seaters were good; but the
German Flying Corps regarded the B.E. types as _sehr komisch_.

As Willi was well-behaved and occasionally informative, and as he had
been a flying contemporary of mine on the Western front in 1916 and
1917, I took him for a sea-bathe before he went back to his cage, while
taking the precaution to swim closely behind him.

Next day the heat was intense, so that I was glad indeed when the
arrival of an A.E.G. from the north gave me the chance to climb to the
cool levels of 8,000 to 10,000 feet, flying hatless and in
shirt-sleeves. The trespassing two-seater spotted us, and retired
before we could reach its height.

But the next turn of my flying partner and me, in the late afternoon,
brought us the good fortune of sending a Hun bus to earth--from sheer
fright and not out of control, unfortunately--in open country. I was
well content on landing, for the atmosphere was cooler and almost
pleasant, and my day's work should have been done.

But a pony, a monkey, and mischance conspired to send me beyond the
lines for the third time that day, and the last time for many months.
Instead of leaving the aerodrome at once I remained to play with
Bohita, the marmoset mascot. Ten minutes later the bell clanged a
warning. One of the waiting pilots raced to his machine, and was away;
but the other, mounted on an energetic little pony, was chasing a polo
ball. The pony, being jerked backward suddenly, reared up and threw its
rider. Seeing that he must be hurt, or at any rate shaken, I climbed
into his machine and sent word that I would replace him, so that no
time should be wasted. It was then about one hour before sunset.

The first Nieuport had a good start, but the pilot was new to the game,
and failed to see the white puffs from directional shots fired by the
nearest A.A. battery. The last I saw of his bus was as it climbed due
east, with the apparent intention of sniffing at a harmless R.E.8 to
see if it were a Hun, and without noticing when I continually
switch-backed my machine fore and aft, as a signal that a real Hun was
near. I therefore left what should have been my companion craft to its
own amusement, and climbed toward the British anti-aircraft bursts.

At about 9,000 feet I reached their level, and picked up the
intruder--a gray-planed two-seater of the latest Rumpler type. When I
was still some 800 yards distant its pilot swerved round, and, holding
down his machine's nose for extra speed, raced back northward rather
than be forced to fight. I streaked after it, beyond the trenches.

Now the Rumpler was faster than my Nieuport, but was slower on the
climb. My only chance of catching up, therefore, was first to gain
height and then to lose it again in a slanting dive, with engine on, in
the direction of the Boche; and to repeat the tactics. Although each
dive brought me a little closer, this method was a slow business. I
remember passing Kilkilieh and seeing Shechem, and still being outside
machine-gun range of the black-crossed bus ahead.

It was at a spot west of Shechem, and about twenty miles from the
lines, that I got my chance. By then we had nosed down to 6,000 feet.
Being able to manoeuvre twice as quickly as the big two-seater, the
little Nieuport was soon in a "blind-spot" position, and I could attack
from a sideways direction, opening fire at 80 yards. The Rumpler dived
almost vertically out of the way, and I overshot.

I was turning again, when from above came a succession of
raps--_tatatatatat, tatatat, tatatatatat_--the unmistakable tap-tapping
of aërial machine-gun fire. I looked up, and saw three scouts dropping
toward me from a cloud-bank.

Swerving right round on an Immelman turn I managed to get underneath
the nearest scout as it flattened out. I had just pulled down my
top-plane Lewis gun, and was preparing to fire a long burst upward into
the belly of the scout, when--_poop!_--my petrol tank opened with a
dull thud. The observer in the Rumpler had fired from a distance of
more than 300 yards (far outside what is the normally effective range
for aërial fighting), and some of his bullets had ripped through my
tank--the only circumstance which, at that moment, could have put my
Nieuport out of action. The petrol gushed over my trousers, and swirled
round the floor of the cockpit.

I turned south, and was ready to make a last-hope effort to reach the
trenches before all the fuel had disappeared, when I received a second
shock. On looking over the side, I was horrified to find that
underneath the tank the fuselage was black and smouldering. Next
instant some wicked-looking sparks merged into a little flame, licking
and twisting across the centre of the fuselage.

A thrill of fear that was so intense as to be almost physical went
through me as I switched off, banked the bus over to the left as far as
the joystick would allow, and, holding up its nose with opposite
rudder, went down in a vertical side-slip--the only possible chance of
getting to earth before the machine really caught fire.

The traditional "whole of my past life" certainly did not flash before
me; but I was conscious of an intense bitterness against fate for
allowing this to happen one week before I was to have returned to Cairo
the Neutral, where they dined and cocktailed, and where the local staff
officers filled the dances arranged for the poor dear lonely young
officers on leave from the front. And I shouted blasphemies into the
unhearing air.

I have no hesitation in saying that I was exquisitely afraid as the
Nieuport slid downward at a great speed, for of all deaths that of
roasting in an aeroplane, while waiting for it to break up, has always
seemed to me the least attractive. But the gods were kind, for by the
time I reached a height of 500 feet the violent rush of air--which
incidentally boxed my ear painfully--had overwhelmed the flame and
swept it out of existence. The fuselage still smouldered, however, and
after righting the bus (now completely emptied of petrol) I lost no
time in looking out for a landing-place.

This was a hopeless task. Below was rocky mountainside, contoured
unevenly, and possessing neither level nor open spaces, and scarcely
any vegetation. There was just one patch of grass, about fifteen yards
long; and although this was much too small for a landing-ground, I
chose it in preference to bouldered slopes or stony gorges.

After pancaking down to the fringe of the brown grass the Nieuport ran
uphill. It was heading for a tree trunk, when I ruddered strongly to
avoid a collision, swerved aside, and--_crash_! _crack_!
_splinter_!--banged into the face of a great rock. Of what came next
all I remember is a jarring shock, an uncontrolled dive forward against
which instinct protested in vain, an awful sick feeling that lasted a
couple of seconds, and the beginnings of what would have been a
colossal headache if unconsciousness had not brought relief.

                 *       *       *       *       *

Consciousness returned dimly and gradually. First of all I saw the rock
on which my head was lolling; but I had no sense of unity, nor could I
feel any bodily sensations except an oppressive want of breath. I
twisted my neck and looked up at the sky, and somehow realized that the
sun must have set. Then I noticed, quite impersonally, that a band of
ragged Arabs were climbing toward me. Most of them carried rifles, and
all had pistols or knives protruding from their sashes and ammunition
belts. The foremost had unsheathed a long blade, which he fingered
appraisingly as he advanced at a quick walk.



CHAPTER I

PAIN, PURGATORY, AND A PLAN


As my senses became clearer the feeling of oppression in my chest grew
more and more acute, and I had to struggle desperately for breath.

Yet I failed to realize that I was directly concerned in the Arabs'
intentions and actions, and looked at the motley group from the
detached point of view of a film spectator. They were an unkempt group,
with ragged robes and dirty headdresses and straggling beards and
unfriendly eyes--the sort of nomads who, during the lawless days of war
would, and did, cheerfully kill travellers for the sake of a pair of
boots, a dress, or a rifle. They had between them a strange variety of
arms--guns of every size and shape, belts of close-packed ammunition,
revolvers and bone-handled pistols, and curved knives.

And the foremost Arab continued to advance, while fingering the drawn
blade of his knife. He was only a few yards distant when another and
older man stopped him with a shout. The man with the shining blade
answered heatedly. A general argument followed, in which most of his
companions took part.

At that time my knowledge of Arabic was of the slightest, and in any
case I was not in a condition to grasp the meaning of their words. Yet
instinct and deductions from their pantomime made me certain that they
were debating a rather debatable point, namely--whether somebody should
be killed and stripped, or merely stripped, or whether it would be more
worth while to hand him over alive to the Turks, in return for
_baksheesh_.

And again I did not regard myself as interested in the deliberations,
nor was I the least bit afraid, being still under the spell of
cinematographic detachment. When the Arabs' argument was settled beyond
question by the sudden appearance, on a near-by slope, of a detachment
of Turkish soldiers, I regarded the scene much as if it had portrayed a
film sheriff, with comic sheepskin-booted posse, riding to rescue the
kidnapped maiden from the brigands.

The dozen Arabs stood sullenly aside as four mounted officers arrived,
followed by a body of running soldiers.

"_Anglais?_" said a young officer as he dismounted.

And the mental effort of asking myself if I were English brought back
most of my senses and understanding, and I discovered that I was
intensely uncomfortable. The struggle for breath was almost
insupportable, a searing pain permeated my right thigh, my head felt as
if it were disintegrating. I tried to move, but an implacable weight
held firmly everything but my head, one arm, and one leg. "_Anglais?_"
repeated the young officer. I tried to speak, but failed, and could
only nod, miserably.

The soldiers got to work behind me; and first the weight on my chest,
then that on my thigh, lifted. Two officers helped me to rise, and one
of them felt my face.

"Not so bad. I am a doctor. I will bandage it," he said, in French.

I searched to find what was not so bad, and discovered that all this
while I had been seeing through the right eye only, for the left was
screwed up tightly, with a swollen forehead overhanging it. When the
doctor let go my arm to fetch some dressing from his horse, I
collapsed, because one thigh would not perform its work.

I fell among pieces of the most completely wrecked aeroplane I have
ever seen. After hitting the rock the machine had evidently crashed to
starboard, so that I was thrown sideways over the top plane. The
starboard wings were matchwood, the struts on the port side had
snapped, and the fuselage was twisted into a wide curve, a corner of
the rock having cut through one longeron and bent another. None of the
main parts--planes, fuselage, centre-section, rudder, or elevator--was
whole, and all were intermingled with bits of wire, splinters of wood,
and tattered fabric. As for the engine, it had fallen clean out, and
was partly buried in earth. It was the engine that had weighed so
painfully on my right thigh, while the forward end of the fuselage
pinned down my chest.

I thought of burning these remains by throwing a lighted match among
them suddenly, but refrained, firstly because I had no match, and
secondly, because there was nothing worth the burning. The soldiers had
already taken the instruments from the dashboard; and one of them, I
noticed, had broken off the joystick for a souvenir.

The doctor bound up my face and helped me to mount a mule, and we left
the Arabs to their scowls of disappointment at being cheated out of
loot. All this while I had been exceptionally well treated by the
officers in Turkish uniform. Not one had spoken roughly, nothing was
taken from me, and even my pockets were not searched. Could it be that
the Turks treated their prisoners well instead of badly? Even on the
British side of the lines we heard stories of how Turkish soldiers had
killed British wounded, how Turkish officers had threatened newly taken
prisoners with death if they did not give up all they possessed, and
how everybody's money and most people's boots were stolen immediately
they were captured; although we did not hear anything like the damnable
truth of the Turks' atrocities. The mystery soon explained itself.

"_Est-ce-que les Anglais viendront bientôt?_" said the young officer
who had first spoken.

"_Qui sait?_"

"_Moi, je l'espère bien, parce que je suis Arménien. Nous sommes tous
des Anglais ou des Arabes._"

I had been lucky enough to fall among Arabs and Armenians, whose
officers were, one and all, pro-British. They were a labour unit,
explained the young Armenian, and their work was to make roads and
tracks across the hill-country. Like all the conscript Armenians,
Greeks, and Jews, and most of the Arabs, they had not been sent to the
fighting front because most of them would have deserted to the British
at the first opportunity. The doctor who had dressed my face was a Jew.
The commandant, whom I would meet at the camp, was an Arab, and had an
intense love for the British. But he would not dare pretend to show too
much friendliness, because some of the men acted as spies for the
Turks.

The camp sprawled in a hollow between two hills without any semblance
of order. The men were squatting at their evening meal, in little
parties, each man dipping his fingers into the large bowl in the centre
of his group. The Arab commandant, a fat man with a good-humoured face,
was in front of his tent, awaiting our arrival.

He looked at me with grave curiosity on learning that I was English,
and, through an interpreter, greeted me ceremoniously. He was sorry
indeed, he said, for my misfortune, and he hoped my hurts were not
serious. He had little enough hospitality to offer, but it would be a
privilege to make me as comfortable as possible. Would I honour the
officers by joining them at dinner?

Over a meal of soup, bread, rice, and raisins, I was asked guardedly
about my views on the duration of the war, the conditions of life in
that part of Palestine occupied by the British, and, above all, if the
British would advance soon. Every one seemed to take it for granted
that the British could advance when and where they liked. I explained
that the Arabs, Syrians, and Jews were very contented and on good terms
with our troops; that bread, fish, and meat were cheap and plentiful;
that local inhabitants were well paid for everything they sold to the
British armies; that the population was overjoyed at being freed from
the Turks.

Several eyes gleamed, and most of the company looked thoughtful; but no
comments were passed. Those present looked at each other with
side-glances, as if distrustful and afraid to speak.

But afterward, when we went outside the tent to drink our coffee by
moonlight, the commandant took me aside and unburdened himself while
pretending to watch the Jewish doctor rebandage my face. Was it true,
he asked (the Jew acting as interpreter), that the British intended to
give Arabia and part of Syria to the Arabs?

"Most certainly," I replied.

Was it true that the British were friendly to the Arabs, and gave their
Arab prisoners all sorts of privileges not given to the Turkish
prisoners?

"Most certainly."

The good-humoured face of the commandant grew hard as he began talking
of the Turks' misdeeds. They had massacred many of the Syrian and Arab
notables. They had starved to death scores of thousands. They had
commandeered all the crops. They had thrown many hundreds into prison,
and left them there without trial. The whole of the population hated
the Turks, and were only waiting for a British victory to rise up and
kill the grasping officials. When the British advanced they would
receive such a welcome as conquerors had never before received in
Syria.

With that he began to tell me how, after he had been taken for service
from his native town of Homs, the Turks told him that if he deserted
their lives would be forfeit. By merely talking to me he would be
suspect. Would I be kind enough to give him my word of honour not to
try to escape while in his charge? If, however, I were sent to Damascus
and thought of escaping from there, I might obtain help from an Arab
whose address he would give me.

As I could not walk five yards, and still felt deadly sick, I gave the
parole readily enough.

The young Armenian helped me across to his tent, and put me to bed. He
then wrapped himself in a blanket and lay on the floor, facing the
entrance; for, he said, if I were left to sleep alone the men would
creep into the tent, to steal my clothes and boots.

At about two o'clock in the morning, after a few hours of fitful sleep,
I was awakened and asked to dress. A German staff officer, said the
Armenian, had ridden over to see that I was sent away, fearing that the
Arabs and Armenians might help me to escape.

Outside, in the moonlight, I found a young, eye-glassed
lieutenant--correct, aloof, and immaculate. In atrocious French he
asked if I were badly shaken, and if I thought I could ride for three
hours. I did not think I could ride for three hours. He was sorry, but
I really must ride for three hours. Why, then, had he troubled to ask
my opinion if I could ride for three hours? He made no reply, but I
heard him giving instructions to the Sanitätsunteroffizier, who had
come with him, to have me put on a mule and to ride behind, while a
guide led the way to Army Group Headquarters.

A shambling, decrepit mule was commandeered; and, with many a groan, I
was helped on to its back. The Sanitätsunteroffizier mounted his pony,
drew his revolver, and cocked it with an ostentatious click. An Arab
guide took hold of my mule's reins. I said goodbye to the Arab and
Armenian officers, and we moved off down a straggling track. The
commandant had had no chance to give me the address of his friend in
Damascus.

About fifty yards ahead I saw what looked like a Bedouin, galloping
across a stretch of grass and disappearing behind a mound. And then,
from the camp behind us, came a startled and furious shout: "_Mein
Pferd! Teufel! Wo ist mein Pferd?_" The Sanitätsunteroffizier motioned
our guide to turn round, and we retraced our path. The young staff
officer--no longer correct, aloof, and immaculate, and with eye-glass
dangling unheeded in front of his tunic--was in a loud-voiced rage. He
had told "one of these brutes," said he to the Sanitätsunteroffizier,
to hold his horse, and he now found that both the horse and the brute
had disappeared.

I remembered the Bedouin whom I had seen riding across the patch of
grass, and was infinitely amused. It appeared that the man who held the
horse had already deserted twice and been recaptured. For his third
attempt, who could blame him for taking as companion a German officer's
horse, since Allah had sent such a wonderful gift?

And the young German raged and cursed and shouted verbal contempt for
all these Asiatic "cattle," among whom it was his misfortune to live.
Finally, after promising the commandant all sorts of penalties, he said
he would take the best horse from the Arab officers' stable.

The Sanitätsunteroffizier and I again walked our mules along the narrow
track. It was a ride that will live always vividly in my memory. The
guide dragged my mule up impossible slopes, pulled it over slippery
rocks that ended in an almost vertical drop of several feet, and beat
it unmercifully on the several occasions when it fell forward on to its
knees. Each small jolt sent an exquisite pain through my contused
thigh, and my head felt as if it were being beaten by hammers.
Everything seemed unreal. The piles of heaped-up stones, so common in
this country of nomad Arabs, looked like monstrous gargoyles in the
half-light of the moon.

After about an hour I became light-headed again, forgot I was a
prisoner, forgot I was on muleback, and almost forgot that I existed. I
lost consciousness of everything but the light of the moon, which
appeared as a great white hanging sheet, from the other side of which
sounded, far away and unnatural, the voice of the Unteroffizier, like
the trickling of hidden water. Finally I fainted, and must have fallen
from the mule, for when I recovered consciousness my head and arms were
sore, and the German was arranging my bandages.

Refreshed by a short drink of water, I was once more pushed on to the
mule's back, and continued the purgatorial journey over the rocky
hillside. It was four hours after we had started when the Unteroffizier
announced that a village in a small valley some quarter of a mile ahead
was Arsun, the site of Group Headquarters.

I was taken to the officers' mess, where I found the eye-glassed young
officer relating to two early risers--a colonel and a major--how the
dirty pig-dog of an Arab had stolen his best horse. The colonel
received me kindly enough; but a major, to whom I took an instant
dislike, looked at my torn clothes and swollen face and laughed.

The colonel gave me wine, and offered his sympathy. He fought, he said,
side by side with the British in the Boxer War, and he had the greatest
regard for the English infantryman. Finding that I had flown in the
battle of the Somme, he launched into reminiscences of that epic
struggle, and told me how desperately hard put were the Germans not to
let their retreat degenerate into a rout. Now, however (this was the
period of Hindenburg's whirlwind advance toward Amiens), things were
better. He believed that Hindenburg, having bled the French white,
would bring about a German peace by the coming autumn. I remarked that
the French were by no means bled white, and, moreover, that there were
plenty of Englishmen and Americans in the world. Here the major
interposed with a sneer--

"American! All through the war the Allies have clutched at straws and
men of straw. First it was the Russians, then the blockade, then the
British, and now that all these three have failed it is the Americans!
I know the Americans well. They are all talk, bluff, and self-interest.
They will make not the least difference to German invincibility."

And he began a long, boastful account of how he had outwitted the
Americans and the English. In August, 1914, he said, he was on special
duty in Japan. He slipped across to America, and for a time worked in
the United States with Boy-Ed and Von Papen. Afterward, with Dutch
papers, he shipped to Holland. When the boat was held up by a British
cruiser, he convinced the stupid examining officer that he was a
Dutchman.

The major proceeded to draw offensive comparisons between the Germans
and the English. The German nation was magnificently organized, whereas
the British leaders could scarcely be more stupid. But it was not only
a question of organization. From every point of view the German was
superior to the Englishman. He was braver, more intelligent, more
obedient, and had a higher sense of honour. When it was a question of
equal conditions the German invariably beat the Englishman. He turned
to the colonel, and, speaking in German, pointed out as a proof of his
contentions that I myself had been shot down by a German. Also speaking
in German, which appeared to surprise the major, I mentioned that I had
been fighting with not one but four German machines after a German
pilot had run away over twenty miles of his own territory, that the
German aviators on the Palestine front invariably fled from the British
unless in greatly superior force, that the proportion of machines shot
down in Palestine was about five Germans to one British, and, moreover,
that when a German officer had the misfortune to be captured he was
treated as a gentleman, and was not made a target for uncivil taunts.

The major rang the bell, and ordered me to be taken to a tent by the
cookhouse.

Once more I lay down. This time I was allowed to sleep until awakened
by the myriads of flies that swarmed round the cookhouse while lunch
was being prepared. I hung about the tent, miserably and dejectedly,
for two hours. Then a lieutenant arrived and announced that the major
would be graciously pleased to accept an apology for my lack of
respect.

If, I replied, the major would express his regrets for having spoken
offensively of the English, I would be delighted to exchange apologies
with him. The lieutenant and I treated each other to punctilious
salutes, and he withdrew; and that was the last I heard of the
ill-mannered major.

In the afternoon, after receiving some bread and coffee, I was sent
away on ponyback, with a German cavalryman as escort. This trooper was
friendly and garrulous. He pronounced himself a Social Democrat and an
Internationalist. He was a good German, he claimed, and had fought for
Germany since 1914; but he had neither hatred nor contempt for
Germany's enemies. It was the Ministers, the politicians, the
professors, the journalists, and the general staffs who had
manufactured hatred. The German civilians and non-combatant troops were
blinded by racial feeling; but, according to my Social Democrat guard,
not so the fighting man. He liked and respected many of his officers,
especially the colonel whom I had met; but after the war the
proletariat would see that they, and the class they represented,
discarded their arrogance and ascendancy. And, either ignorant or
unmindful of Germany's crimes, this half-baked idealist looked forward
with confidence to a wonderful peace that would send him back to his
trade of printing, and would bring about an immediate heart-to-heart
reconciliation of Germany and the rest of the world.

With such debating-society talk I was distracted from the dull ache in
my thigh and the spasmodic pains that came with every jolt from the
pony. The heat was intense on my uncovered head, and the flies
collected in their hundreds each time we halted to allow a party of
ragged Arabs, mounted on camels or donkeys, to pass round some bend of
the track ahead of us.

The country was fairly level, however, and it was not long before we
reached my next stage--a field hospital corresponding approximately to
the British casualty clearing station. There my face and thigh were
dressed, and for the first time since capture I could indulge in the
glorious luxury of a wash. The doctor in charge complained that the
hospital had been machine gunned by a British aeroplane, but he seemed
surprised when I told him that the red crescent painted on the _side_
of the building could not be seen by an aviator. He agreed to mark a
large red crescent on the ground.

My destination, it appeared, was the Austrian hospital at Tul-Keran,
whither I was forwarded by motor-ambulance, with several wounded Turks.
It proved to be a dirty, insanitary building, such as the British would
scarcely have used as a billet; but at all events it provided a
much-needed place of rest.

Most ex-prisoners will agree that the interval when they were first
left alone for any length of time was a first-class substitute for
purgatory. All at once the realization of being cut off and under most
galling restraint becomes vivid and intense. The thought of irrevocable
separation from one's fighting companions, and of what they must now be
doing, leaves one utterly miserable and dejected.

Fifteen miles to the south our Nieuports would be waiting for the next
tip-and-run call to flight. It would, perhaps, be the turn of Daddy and
the Babe, who were waiting around the hangars, while the rest trooped
across to tea in the orange grove. Soon all of them would be driving
along the wired-over, sandy road to the coast. And here was I, herded
with unclean Turks in a crowded, unclean room, while the hot sun
streamed through the window and made one glad to get protection from it
by hiding under an unclean blanket.

Only fifteen miles to the south. And the coast was fifteen miles to the
west. The coast? Why, a friend of mine, after he was forced to land in
the sea, had effected a marvellous escape by hiding among the
sand-dunes during the daytime, and during the night alternately
swimming, walking, and rolling through the shallow water on the fringe
of the sands, until he had passed the Turkish trench-line. Only fifteen
miles; and from aërial observation I knew that the country between
Tul-Keran and the sea was more or less flat.

I resolved that when my leg allowed me to walk, I would somehow leave
the hospital early one night, try to reach the shore before dawn, hide
during the following day, and then run or swim to the British
out-posts.



CHAPTER II

THE FLIGHT THAT FAILED


Tul-Keran hospital was altogether beastly. After my head had been
shaved until it looked like a door-knob, I was taken to a sheetless,
dirty-blanketed bed, in an overcrowded ward that reeked of unwashed
flesh. The beds were so close that one had to climb into them from the
foot.

On my right was a Syrian doctor with a smashed leg; and on my left, not
two feet away, was a young Turkish officer with aggravated syphilis,
who groaned and complained all day long. When not in pain he read
pamphlets, which had been distributed to all the patients, explaining
just how England had shamefully attacked the peace-loving Turks and
Germans without warning.

The two windows were both broken, and through them the scorching sun of
Samaria poured all day long. Tul-Keran, being in low-lying country, is
infested throughout the hot summer by legions of flies. In the hospital
they settled in swarms on beds, faces, food, hands, and arms, and flew
at random from one diseased patient to another. At night they gave
place to hordes of mosquitoes, which pounced upon and bit every
particle of a man's body left exposed. The sole relief, by day or by
night, was to hide one's head under the filthy blankets; and then the
closeness and the reek made one gasp for breath.

But worst of all was my intense agony of mind. As I lay in bed, I
thought of my squadron going through its daily round a few miles
southwest of me; of my last air fight, and whether I might not have
avoided capture by adopting different tactics; of what the sinister
word "missing" would convey to various people in England and France; of
whether I was destined to spend months or years in captivity; and of
the general beastliness of everything. Above all, I railed, uselessly
and illogically, against Fate.

The Austrian Staff in the hospital offered whatever kindnesses they
could, and treated me rather better than they treated the Turks. Each
morning the doctor brought the Vienna _Reichspost_, and, after a
passing glance at my distorted features (I was known as "the Englishman
with the face"), stayed to chat for several minutes. He was charming
and decorative, with his light blue uniform, his curled moustache, and
his medals; but I never once saw him give medical attention to patients
beyond ordering medicine or saying invariably that each man was
progressing wonderfully well.

A good-hearted but race-proud Austrian priest often stopped by my
bedside for a friendly argument. He performed several services for me,
such as changing Egyptian notes almost at their full value, instead of
at the ruinous rate of exchange offered by Turkish banks and traders.

He was, however, a rabid hater in one connection--he could find no
words bad enough for the Czechs and other subject-races of
Austria-Hungary. To him it seemed a crime that they should be
discontented with the suppression of racial sentiments and
institutions, and should agitate for self-expression.

"They must either be loyal to us or cease to exist," he said.

Once I mentioned inadvertently that I had met Másaryk in London and
admired him; and that was the end of my friendly relations with this
otherwise kind-hearted padre, who afterward was polite but distant.

One morning there came a German officer, very tall, very correct, and
wearing the badge of an observer in the German Flying Corps. He clicked
his heels, bowed from the waist upward, and inquired: "Hauptmann Bott?"

I admitted to the name and rank, whereupon the visitor introduced
himself as Oberleutnant Wolff, the man whose shots had punctured my
petrol tank and brought my machine down in the mountains.

Having apologized for the state of my face, he offered to drop over
some British aerodrome a letter announcing that I was alive and would
like some clothes. In accordance with the polite relations between
British and German aviators in Palestine, I was visited by several
other flying officers, each of whom--out of pure kindness of heart as I
thought--made the same suggestion.

When I had written the note, and addressed it to "British Air Force,
Palestine," I was told that it could not be sent unless I addressed it
by name to my late squadron commander, giving the number of the
squadron and the situation of the aerodrome--all of which would have
been highly useful information. I refused to write such an address, and
said I would do without my kit.

The stipulation must have been a bluff, however, for Oberleutnant Wolff
finally took the original letter, and dropped it upon the British
aerodrome at Ramleh, which was well known to them.

Every few days British aeroplanes flew low over Tul-Keran, and bombed
either the railway station or local encampments. When this happened
Turks and Arabs would scurry from the road while the anti-aircraft guns
were firing, and all our orderlies would disappear until the
bombardment had ended. Soon after Oberleutnant Wolff's last visit an
aeroplane, instead of making for the railway, hovered above a large
meadow used as a landing ground, and dropped what must have looked like
an enormous bomb. It whirled down slowly, by reason of long streamers
attached to the head of it. It did not explode, and the aeroplane left
without troubling Tul-Keran any further.

The "bomb" was a sack containing kit for myself and Major Evans
(captured three weeks earlier) which a British pilot had risked his
neck to bring. A German Unteroffizier opened it before me. He searched
nearly everything--boots, underclothes, and trousers, and actually
ripped open the lining of a tunic in a hunt for hidden papers. But what
he did not find, and I did, was a tiny slip of tissue, sewn into the
corner of a collar, with this message scribbled on it: "Dear Bottle--so
glad you're alive. Never say die. Dine with me at the Savoy when we
meet after the war. The Babe."

Six months later (before the end of the war), when I had escaped from
Turkey, I did dine with "The Babe"; but at Floca's, in Salonika, and
not the Savoy.

The kit was very welcome, for I had been flying in my shirt-sleeves
when shot down; but still more welcome was the knowledge that people at
home would know that I lived. With this worry removed I now had a
clearer mind for preparing an escape. Moreover, my leg was feeling
stronger every day, so that I hoped to make the attempt soon.

While thinking over my plan one morning I was interrupted by a
soft-spoken sentence in French from the Syrian doctor with the smashed
leg:

"_M. le Capitaine_, both of us would like to be away from these Turks."

At the time I did not know to what a state of revolt the Syrians had
been brought by misery and oppression; and in any case it seemed unwise
to let a stranger know that I hoped to escape.

"Naturally," I replied, "I should like to be out of the hands of the
Turks, although I suppose they will keep me till the end of the war.
For me it is damnable here. But you----"

"For you it is a thousand times better than for me," he said, with
intensity, though still speaking in a low voice. "For two years I have
been living among people who are half savage and wholly ignorant.
Because I am a Christian, they try to treat me like a dog. All the time
I was with my infantry regiment I never knew when one of those Turkish
beasts would shoot me. Nothing would be done to a Turkish soldier who
did shoot me. I am certain I have remained untouched only because
doctors are scarce. Several other doctors--Syrians and Jews--ran away
and managed to reach the British lines; but I had no chance."

He continued to tell of the disgusting conditions which he had to share
with Turkish soldiers, who lived more like animals than human beings. I
happened to have met a Syrian doctor who, after escaping from the
Turkish army, was practising in Alexandria; at which my bed neighbour
was envious and interested. His own intention, if the Turks allowed him
to go to his home at Damascus until the broken leg healed, was to slip
out of the city with one of the secret caravans, and trek to Akaba,
where were the Hedjaz Arabs, allied to the British. He suggested that
if he and I were sent to the same hospital in Damascus we might make
the attempt together.

So we talked on in the heat of the afternoon, keeping silent for long
intervals so as not to excite suspicion. All this while the diseased
Turk on my left, who could speak nothing but Turkish and Arabic, was
moaning and tossing.

That evening, after thinking matters over, I decided that my slight
chances of getting back to the British lines by swimming down the coast
could scarcely be lessened, and might be improved, if I asked the
Syrian for advice.

He was very sympathetic and quite unsurprised, but he did not think the
possibility of success were great, because of the thousands of soldiers
in the district through which I should have to pass. Nevertheless, if
my leg became stronger I might possibly scrape through, he said. As for
him, he would like enormously to come with me, but his leg made him
helpless.

My thigh improved very rapidly, and I began to make final preparations.
Each day the Syrian and I saved pieces of bread, so that I might have a
store to take with me. The supply of water would be more difficult, as
I had nothing in which to carry it.

A Turkish general solved the problem for me. One morning the orderlies
tidied the room feverishly until it looked almost clean, while
announcing that "The Pasha" was coming. General Djouad Pasha,
commanding the Turkish Eighth Army, arrived soon afterward, attended by
a mixed collection of Turkish, German, and Austrian officers--each of
which national groups kept itself separate, and tried to look as if it
had no connection with the others. He talked amiably to the Turkish
patients--amid a chorus of "Yes, Excellency," and "No, Excellency"--and
more than amiably to me. Was I getting better and would I like some
wine sent to me? The answer in each case was a truthful "yes."

To the doctor with the smashed leg he was abrupt and aloof when he
discovered him to be a Syrian Christian; and a request to be sent home
until convalescent was curtly refused.

The general left, with his ill-assorted staff elbowing each other in
the doorway for precedence; and I heard the Syrian swearing softly to
himself for many minutes.

From Djouad Pasha came, that same afternoon, two bottles of Moselle and
a flask of eau-de-cologne, addressed to "The English guest of Turkey."

In that house of a thousand and one stenches the eau-de-cologne was as
welcome as a well in a pathless desert. The Syrian and I drank the
wine, leaving a little in one of the bottles to mix with the water I
should take to the coast.

The only remaining preparation was as regarded clothes. I decided to
wear, over a night-shirt, one of the smock dressing-gowns provided by
the hospital. In this and a pair of slippers, and with a towel arranged
as a headdress, I should not look so very different from an Arab at
night-time so long as I kept moving.

Came the day when I walked without the least pain or trouble; and
although I still could scarcely see with the left eye, I determined to
leave without delay, as I was in danger of being moved from Tul-Keran.

I kept awake from sunset until three A.M. hoping that the Austrian
night orderly would follow his usual custom of dozing; whereupon I
would slip by him into the yard and thence climb a drainpipe to the
wall that rimmed the hospital roof. But the orderly remained
obstinately alert until it was too late for my attempt; for I should
have to leave early, if I wanted to put a sufficient distance between
myself and the hospital before choosing a hiding-place in which to pass
the following day.

Having slept through the afternoon I again watched during the night;
and again the Austrian kept awake. On the next night I fell asleep at
two A.M., disappointed and almost hopeless when, for the third time,
the orderly gave me no chance.

It must have been about half an hour later when I was awakened by loud
reports and by the chatter of the Turks near me. Guns were firing all
around the town, one of them from a field fronting the hospital. I knew
that they must be anti-aircraft guns. Either Tul-Keran itself was being
raided, or machines were passing from some other place.

Inside the hospital all was disorder. Turkish patients talked
excitedly, and crowded into the lower rooms. In the ward opposite mine
a man who, some hours earlier, had undergone an operation, called
loudly for help. The orderly himself, almost helpless from fright, ran
across in answer to the cries.

Now--while everything and everybody were in confusion--or never was my
chance to escape from the hospital. I rolled up my blanket and placed
it under the quilt so as to give the appearance of a man asleep, donned
my dressing-gown, shook hands silently with the Syrian, and went out
into the yard.

Somebody passed close by me, and entered the back door. I dodged, and
locked myself in the lavatory until he was in the house. When all was
quiet I went into the open yard, gripped my parcel (the bottle of water
and the store of dry bread tied up in a towel) between my teeth, and
began climbing up the drain pipe.

It was a more difficult task than I expected. The wall was flat, and
showed few cracks that could be used as footholes. I scraped the skin
from face, arms, and legs as I struggled upward, a few feet at a time.
At last I was high enough to touch the gutter and haul myself, with
many a gasp, on to the roofs edge. While I was doing this the first
disaster happened--the package fell from my mouth.

I kept perfectly still, expecting a loud noise; but the parcel fell
with nothing worse than a dull thud, the bottle being saved from
breaking by the bread around it.

Although nobody came into the yard I did not go down again, for every
minute counted; and, moreover I was certain that I should not have the
strength to climb that drain pipe a second time. I determined to make
the attempt without bread and water and the towel, which was to have
served as headdress.

I clambered along the side of the low roof, keeping in the shadow,
until I reached the front of the building. All was clear for me; the
guns were still firing, the street was deserted, and the sentry, who
should have been below, had gone into the hospital for safety.

I caught hold of the right-hand corner of the gutter with both hands,
lowered myself until my body was hanging down with arms fully extended,
and dropped.

Then came the second disaster. Although the roof was low, and the
length of my body deducted five and three-quarter feet from the total
drop, yet the shock when I touched earth was considerable. I landed
purposely on my left foot, since the left leg was uninjured, but I
toppled over, and again hurt the bruised thigh, which throbbed with
pain.

I lay in the shadow of the wall for a few seconds. Then, knowing that I
could not remain undiscovered for long if I stayed there, I looked
around to see if the streets were clear.

Not a soul was about, for the anti-aircraft guns were still barking,
seemingly at nothing. I went out into the vague light of the
quarter-moon and began walking in the direction of the coast.

A hundred yards to westward I was past the straggling line of
buildings, and on the open road. Then came several groups of tents by
the roadside. After I had left these behind I cut away to the left,
across open country.

All this while I was in such a tense and exalted state of mind that I
did not sense whether the night air was warm or cold, nor whether the
ground was smooth or rough. Pain, however, was a sensation that could
not be buried by abnormal mental tension. My thigh throbbed
relentlessly and maddeningly as I stumbled on, taking my direction as
best I could from the stars.

By now the guns were silent, and people came from their hiding-places.
A small band of Bedouins approached out of the dimness. I sank to the
ground until they had ridden by and were on the road.

Again I began to walk; but a few minutes later I had to halt a second
time. Two Turkish soldiers, their cloth helmets outlined against a
tree, passed some distance to my right, whining an unmusical chant.

I staggered forward for about another hundred yards; and then, weak and
half-mad with the persistent, ever-increasing ache in my thigh, I lay
down in a small hollow.

The next half hour was perhaps the most bitter period through which I
have lived. I should never reach the coast with my injured leg, I
realized. Yet here I was, wearing but a night-shirt and a
dressing-gown, and helpless in Turkish territory, only a quarter of an
hour's walk from the hospital whence I had tried to escape. I could go
no farther--or very little farther; and if I remained in the hollow
until morning I should inevitably be caught. And if I were caught,
Heaven only knows what would happen. And I suddenly realized that it
was cold, and that scores of mosquitoes were biting my face, arms, and
legs. And the throb, throb, throbbing in the right leg continued.

Then the crescent moon disappeared, and the dark gray light faded into
a blackness that covered the crops and countryside and, above all,
myself.

I felt suicidal, and remained inert for half an hour longer. Finally, I
decided that my best plan was to return to the hospital and try to
reenter it unobserved.

I staggered back through the darkness, and, more by luck than judgment,
hit the road. Slowly and very painfully I made my way into Tul-Keran. I
passed the tents and houses without taking any precaution against being
stopped and questioned; but nobody took the least notice, possibly
because, in the dark, my dressing-gown would look like the robe of an
Arab.

I came within sight of the hospital, and found the sentry strolling
aimlessly in front of it, from the main gate to the side entrance
around the corner. When he had turned the corner I slipped up the
pathway to the front door, which, from past observation, I knew would
not be locked. I had been absent for two hours, and already the first
glimmer of an eastern dawn had lassoed the countryside.

I unlatched the door, entered the passage--and found myself face to
face with the Austrian night orderly. Open-eyed with wonder he stared
at my dusty and dirty dressing-gown, my muddied legs and slippers; then
grabbed me by the arm, and called out: "_Der Englander!_"



CHAPTER III

NAZARETH--AND THE CHRISTIAN CHARITY OF A JEW


"The Englishman!" he repeated, gripping my arm harder than ever. Then,
after a puzzled pause: "Where have you been?"

"For a walk. I was upset by the air raid. My head has been very bad
since the smash, and sometimes I don't know what I'm doing. But I'm
better now, and I give my word of honour that I will stay quietly in
bed. Only say nothing to the Turks."

This Austrian had always seemed a good fellow; and now, on hearing the
word "_Ehrenwort_"--word of honour--he dropped his attitude of anxiety
and suspicion, and became his usual friendly self. A wounded Turk came
into the passage to see what was happening, but the orderly sent him
away. He withdrew with a look of surprise at my disordered appearance.

"Good," replied the Austrian. "I shall say nothing to the Turks. But
when the corporal comes I shall have to tell him, and he will tell the
_Herr Doktor_. But I shall ask the corporal not to mention it to the
others."

He led me back to the ward, and there noticed, for the first time, how
a rolled-up blanket underneath the discoloured quilt made my bed seem
as if it were occupied by a man.

"_Na, Na_," he said as he straightened the blanket. "This doesn't look
as if you only went for a walk. Well, I have your word of honour that
you will keep quiet, and the _Herr Doktor_ must decide what is to be
done."

Tired out, and so despairing as to care nothing of what might happen, I
fell asleep. In the heat of mid-morning I was awakened by the corporal,
who told me to come with him to the doctor's room. As I limped
painfully along the corridor I was still tired and but half awake, so
that while I remembered an unpleasant failure I could not define
exactly what had happened.

"_Herr Hauptmann_" said the corporal with a grin, "your injured leg was
not improved by the night walk"--and only then did I remember fully the
bitter happenings of a few hours earlier.

Charming and decorative as ever, the blue-uniformed, much-medalled
doctor rose from his chair, and shook hands with exaggerated ceremony.
The priest stood, silent and bowed coldly, as if to imply that my
misdeeds were exactly what one would expect from a friend of Másaryk.

"Night walks," said the doctor, "are bad for people with injured legs
and faces. As your medical adviser, I should advise you to remain in
bed for the future."

"I hope I shall be permitted to follow your advice, _Herr Doktor_."

"That being so, perhaps you will tell us exactly where you went, and
why you did it."

Well knowing that with so many indications of an attempted escape
anything but frankness would be futile, I admitted having tried to
return to the British Army.

"_So!_ And now, what do you expect?"

"If I may presume on your kindness, I ask that I may stay here until
sent away in the normal course of events. I hope you will let me remain
in hospital on the understanding that I give my word of honour to be
good so long as I am in Tul-Keran."

"That will be difficult. I myself have no objection, and the word of
honour is guarantee enough. But if the news of your escapade got beyond
the hospital I should have to make a full report."

The doctor learned from the corporal that, apart from the four of us
present, the one person who knew the story was the night orderly, who
could be trusted to keep quiet. After a low-voiced discussion with the
priest he gave instructions that nobody else must be told. He then
promised not to make a report, unless the news leaked out and his hand
were forced thereby. I thanked him and withdrew.

But the story did leak out. Either the orderly told it, or the Turkish
patient who had seen me in the passage, after my return, formed his own
conclusions and communicated them to other people. At any rate, several
Turks came into the ward and discussed (according to the Syrian's
whispered translations) my adventure of the early morning. One man even
went so far as to say that I had gone out and signalled to the British
aeroplanes.

The Syrian was greatly concerned about whether anybody knew he had been
privy to the attempt; but I was able to reassure him.

Evidently the story became so widely known that the hospital authorities
had to make their report. Late in the afternoon I was told to dress and
collect my belongings, as the Turks were taking me from the hospital.
Having obeyed, I was handed over to an escort of two Turkish soldiers
with drawn bayonets.

"Adieu," said the Syrian. "I shall pray for you, and for happier
times."

The doctor shook hands ceremoniously when I left; and the
priest--affable once more--gave me a heavy stick to help support my
thigh, saying that he hoped we should meet as friends after the war.

Bareheaded in the searing sun (for my friends had forgotten to include
a hat in my kit) I was led through a gaping crowd to the railroad
station.

There my guards joined forces with another Turk who had in his charge
the dirtiest Arab I have ever seen. His sole dress was a pair of
tattered trousers and a faded overcoat from the left side of which a
filthy arm protruded, naked. His headdress, a much-torn strip of dingy
rag, seemed to have lain for a long time in some stagnant pool. Clots
of dirt dotted his face, his feet, and the lower part of his legs,
which were bare. His moustache and straggling beard were powdered with
sand and gravel; and on looking closely at his middle, where the
trousers tops gave place to uncovered flesh, I saw two lice on the
inner surface of the rough cloth.

The Arab and I looked at each other curiously, after the manner of
fellow-prisoners seeing each other for the first time. Then an
interrogation, interrupted by our arrival, was continued. This
consisted of a Turkish officer shouting menaces at the Arab, who
replied, whenever he was given a chance, with cringing explanations and
pleading gestures.

Presently a German interpreter, who spoke Arabic well, joined the
group. He also threatened the Arab, and I saw him place thumb and
finger on his wind-pipe, as if to suggest strangling.

This badgering of the poor brute continued, until finally the Arab
opened his hands and said something in a resigned tone; whereat a
thrill of excitement passed through the gathering. The Turkish officer,
before leaving us, wrote several lines on some official papers carried
by the Arab's guard.

The Unteroffizier then turned his attention to me, and finding that I
could speak German, talked of many things, from Hindenburg's advance in
France to his own home in the former German colony at Jaffa.

"You have a pleasant companion," he said, nodding toward the Arab.

I asked who the pleasant companion might be and heard in reply a
strange tale. The Arab, it appeared, had been found wandering in the
rear of the Turkish trenches. The garment he wore was found to be a
relic of what was once an overcoat of Turkish military pattern; so that
he was arrested as a deserter, and possibly a spy. He told a rambling
tale of how he had been a soldier in an Egyptian battalion fighting for
the British, but, after being tortured by his officers, had escaped
across the lines.

Even the Turks could not be convinced that British officers tortured
their men; and the Arab having shown himself to be a liar, they were
more than ever convinced that he was also a spy.

The Turkish officer, in the conversation I overheard, had threatened to
hang him unless he confessed to being a spy. Finally the Arab (who, in
my opinion, was not a spy, whatever he might be), terror-stricken at
the threat that he could only save himself from hanging by a
"confession," let himself be badgered into a declaration--true or
false--that he was a spy. So they hanged him, as I learned afterward,
at Damascus.

For several hours we remained on the platform, where the Arab and I
were rival attractions for general curiosity. Then, late in the
evening, we were hustled into a truck, marked in German: "12 horses or
40 men." As a matter of fact, more than fifty Turkish soldiers must
have crowded into the truck before the train started.

Our party kept together in one of the corners, where we found just room
enough to sit down without being trampled upon. I placed the kit bag
between myself and the Arab, as a barrier against lice; although, for
that matter, most of the Turkish soldiers were verminous.

That night I performed the first of many nightmare journeys on Turkish
railways. Although each side of the truck was open for about three feet
the atmosphere was intensely stuffy, so that it was difficult to
breathe when seated on the floor. The crowd of Turks spat all over the
place, and exuded dozens of different smells. The train jolted
unevenly, with many a bump and halt, up the badly kept track. Sleep was
impossible; and by the time I was hauled on to the platform at Afuleh,
nine hours later, I was heavy-eyed and faint with wakefulness,
weakness, and disgust.

Afuleh is but a few miles from Nazareth (then the Turco-German General
Headquarters on the Palestine front); and to Nazareth we trudged. This
beautiful little town is on a high hill around which the road to it
winds upward at a steep angle. With its white buildings and its
pleasant setting Nazareth offers a magnificent view as one climbs the
hill. But really to enjoy it the conditions should be other than, when
weak and ill and scarcely able to walk by reason of a bad leg, one must
climb painfully up the steep slope under an oppressive sun and with a
retinue of half-savage guards.

The Arab and I were led through the old, winding streets to the Turkish
Platzkommandant's office. The Platzkommandant--a swollen balloon of a
man--asked a question, and the Arab's reply drew all eyes in my
direction. Having understood only a few words of the Arabic I wondered
how I could be concerned in the charge of spying.

The Platzkommandant glared at me, and after examining my papers, spoke
with somebody on the telephone. Then, although not a word had been
spoken to me, we were both led outside and through some narrow streets
to a stone building. Not until we were inside it did I hear, from a
police officer who spoke a little French, why I was there.

Having noticed that rather more consideration was given to me than to
him, and thinking he might obtain better treatment by hanging on to my
coat-tails, the Arab had elaborated his story by saying that I brought
him from the British Army in my aeroplane. Evidently the
Platzkommandant, without giving me the chance to deny this fantastic
tale, had telephoned to Turkish General Headquarters which had ordered
that the spy and I, as accomplices in crime, should be kept together.
And here we were, inside what I learned was the civil criminal jail.

I protested with vehemence and ridicule against belief in the Arab's
absurd statement. I pointed out that as my machine was a single-seater,
his story must be impossible. The police officer promised to forward
these protests to military headquarters; but as for him, his orders
were that the Arab and I were to remain together. In any case, he
added, I was probably being punished for having tried to escape.

Remain together we did, in a superlatively filthy cell. I would rather
live in an American jail than in most of the poorer dwellings of the
Turkish provinces, where donkeys and dogs and hens and men and women
and children herd together in mud huts. As for most Turkish jails, I
would rather live in an American pigsty.

Even after my experience on the train from Tul-Keran I was surprised by
the first sight of that cell. The walls were neither stone nor wooden,
but of hard earth, with holes and cracks all over the surface. The
various kinds of dirt that crusted the stone floor, which must have
been left uncleaned for years, had mingled and intermingled until they
became a thin layer of slime, which gave forth a dank odour. The room
was partly underground, although the small, iron-barred window, on a
level with the floor of the yard and two feet below the stone ceiling,
let in a certain amount of light. Through it crawled all sorts of
insects. Hundreds of vermin were to be seen moving in and out of the
fissures in the walls.

Unadulterated bravery, without any trace of suppressed or subconscious
fear, does not exist; wherefore, if a man who fought in the war tells
you that he never felt the least bit afraid, call him a liar of the
goriest. But my experience has convinced me that ordinary bravery--the
sort of bravery which is self-control in the face of danger--is one of
the most ordinary of qualities, possessed by most people of every race,
sex, and age. But endurance is another matter. To all but the
lion-hearted there comes the point at which the will to endure breaks
down under abnormal strain.

Being far from lion-hearted, this now happened to me. When the gendarme
banged and bolted the door I became morally dead, and past caring about
surroundings or events. Physical weakness, mental agony, a terrible
dizziness that resulted from having been bareheaded in the Palestine
sun, the succession of privations and revolting surroundings--all these
combined to break my spirit.

I grabbed the shrinking Arab, who evidently had not reckoned on being
left alone with me, and flung him across the cell. I then sat down in
the nearest corner, and, physically and mentally sick, remained inert
for many hours.

The next three days I remember as a semi-conscious nightmare. Yet a
dreadful nightmare is easier to bear than a dreadful reality, because
the horror of it is confined to subconsciousness, and does not touch
the surface brain. I sat through hours of inertia, without
comprehension, energy, or a sense of my surroundings; so that I cared
little for the dirt, the stench, and the general beastliness of the
cell, because I scarcely realized them.

Three times I tried to pass the door, so as to protest to the police
officer; but each time I was pushed back by the guard, who made
frequent use of the words that every prisoner in Turkey knew so
well--"_yok_" and "_yassak_" ("not," and "forbidden"). I gave up the
attempt, and relapsed into a state of moral lethargy.

The changes from night to day, from stuffy heat to damp cold, passed
unnoticed, and I cared not whether I lived or died. I felt no hunger
and very little thirst. This was fortunate, for hunger could not have
been satisfied.

Each morning the guards gave each of us a small loaf of bad bread in
which pieces of straw, string, and wood were plentiful. A carafe was
filled with bad water once a day. In the evening a basin of thin soup,
with mysterious chunks floating on the surface of it, was placed
between us. Without being influenced by its unsavouriness, I felt not
the least desire for the greasy liquid, the small loaf of bread being
quite enough food for the day in my then state of unreal detachment
from bodily needs and sensations.

As for the Arab, as soon as the basin was brought he squatted on his
haunches, dug his hands into the soup, and having grabbed some floating
morsel, stuffed it into his mouth. Afterward he lapped up the liquid
itself, after the manner of a dog.

On the morning of the third day we were led from the jail to be
interrogated at Turkish Headquarters. Although my ferocious headache
still remained, the change from the dimness and closeness of the cell
to the bright sunlight of the street revived me, and I sniffed the
fresh air in gulps.

I was passing through Nazareth, watched with evident sympathy by the
sad-faced crowd, when I saw an officer of the German Flying Corps. He
looked at my pilot's badge and stopped, whereupon I broke away from the
guards and approached him. In violent language I protested against the
outrageous treatment, and asked the German as a fellow-aviator and a
fellow-European, to see that the Turks moved me from the criminal jail.

The aviator happened to be a friend of Oberleutnant Wolff, who fired
the shot that brought me down near Shechem; and, having already heard
the details of my capture, he recognized at once the absurdity of the
Arab's story that I had brought him across the lines to spy for the
British. He himself was furious at my bad treatment, for apart from
their air combats the relations between German and British aviators in
Palestine were of the best. He promised to go straight to German Air
Headquarters and enlist its influence for me.

I left the German and was led by the guards to Turkish Headquarters.
For two hours we waited in a corridor; and then, before I had been
interviewed, there arrived my friend the German pilot with two staff
officers, a monocled major and a lieutenant. I shook hands--and was
offered apologies for the brutalities I had suffered. It would all be
right now, said the major, as the trio disappeared through the doorway
of an office.

They returned with a Turkish colonel, who likewise shook hands and
apologized. Finally, escorted by a different guard, I was sent away
without having been questioned. The last I saw of the Arab was as he
staggered and cringed under a box on the ear delivered by the colonel.

Once again I was led before the Turkish Platzkommandant. Evidently his
knuckles had been telephonically rapped as a result of my treatment,
for he scowled wickedly as he took my papers and ordered a room to be
prepared for me in the barracks.

At first this room seemed a paradise after the slimy cell; but after a
few days of utter loneliness its tiny dimensions--ten feet long by six
feet wide--seemed to be closing in to crush me. The furniture was a bed
with one greasy blanket and a rickety little table on which stood an
earthenware jar.

Next morning I was again taken to Turkish Headquarters for
interrogation. The Intelligence Officer who questioned me was very far
from intelligent in his methods. He began by saying outright that since
I had been moved to better quarters he expected me to show gratitude by
giving information. I replied that instead of showing gratitude, I
ought to receive compensation. He hinted that it was in his power to
move me back to the criminal jail.

"Do as you like," I replied. "But since it is obvious that you are
highly civilized, you will do nothing of the kind." Whereupon he smiled
fatuously, and proceeded to ask leading questions, speaking in French.

"Is the report true that General Allenby has left Palestine for
France?"

"I really don't know. Possibly. Possibly not."

"Have you seen General Allenby lately?"

"No. But I have a friend who once saw him driving along a road in
France. But that was two years ago."

"Are the British preparing an attack near the coast?"

"Possibly. Possibly not. I really don't know."

These illuminating replies were noted down, word for word, by the
Intelligence Officer. His desire for details about myself was
inexhaustible. I did my best to satisfy it by telling him that I was
aged eighteen; had been an aviator for five years and a soldier for
six; had come from England on a ship named the _Hogwash_; had been
flying the type of aeroplane known as the Jabberwock; had belonged to
No. 1 Training Squadron, the best fighting squadron in Palestine; and
thought the war would continue for fifteen and a half years longer.

Having presented the Turk with this medley of misinformation, and
watched him transfer it to his notebook, I grew tired of invention and
protested a lack of knowledge in reply to every question.

That chat and backchat with the wooden-headed Intelligence Officer was
my only conversation, except a few whispered words, with a fellow-human
for nearly a week. The Platzkommandant took his revenge for my
complaints in two ways--by feeding me very badly, and by inflicting
solitary confinement upon me.

Solitary confinement makes a man utterly wretched. Left all alone, and
with nothing to distract his mind, a prisoner can only think and think
and think--and all his thoughts are morbid.

I had six matches in my pocket and with these I invented all sorts of
games and puzzles. But after a few hours my brain, refusing to
concentrate on them, drifted back to the sea of bitter despair. At
night-time the great difficulty was to keep my mind, not from drifting,
but from _racing_.

After four days of solitary confinement I was fast losing all sense of
balance and normality. At times I regretted not being back in the
criminal jail with the repulsive Arab for company.

The few words I managed to exchange with the Christian woman who tidied
my room each morning were an unspeakable joy. This woman--ragged,
bootless, and gaunt--would whisper fierce questions in broken French as
she threw water on the dusty floor, or stabbed with a hairpin some of
the bed-bugs, while a guard watched through the open door to see that
we did not conspire.

"Why come not English? We hungry. Pigs of Turks!"

And I had to whisper back that the English would come and drive the
pigs of Turks out of Nazareth.

When she had taken her stooping back and her patchwork clothes out of
the room, I would probably not have the chance to speak with anybody,
even in a whisper, for the next twenty-four hours.

Apart from the furniture I had nothing to look at but a green hillside,
seen through the tiny window. For hours at a time I paced the few feet
across the room and back again, then sat on the bed and looked through
the little window at what little I could see of Nazareth.

Several times I noticed men, women, and boys walking in a huddled
group, with guards around them. Some had their hands shackled, some had
a chain linking one arm and one leg, others were chained by the arm to
the next person. They moved aimlessly over the hillside, presumably for
exercise, while Turkish soldiers pushed or beat any who struggled or
straggled.

On my sixth morning in the barracks I was visited by the
Platzkommandant's aide-de-camp, just after such a party had disappeared
from view. I asked if these shackled and browbeaten prisoners were
Christians.

"My dear sir," said the aide-de-camp, with all the blandness of the
educated Turk when telling a lie, "we never put chains on anybody, and
our Christian criminals are as well treated as Mohammedan criminals.
You must be mistaken in what you think you have seen."

After this conversation I never again saw these groups of civilian
captives at Nazareth; and I began to think that the strain of solitary
confinement had focussed my sick brain on sights that my eyes never
met. Possibly, however, the aide-de-camp had taken care that the
chained prisoners should be taken for exercise on the far side of the
hill.

Next day the same officer paid me another visit, as he was learning
French and wanted practice. When he was in my room I noticed from the
window a strange procession. A few banners were carried at the head of
it, then came some Turkish soldiers, and finally a mass of men and
women shambling along with bowed heads. Somewhere a band was blowing
out the horrible whining discord that the Turks call music. Nothing
more melancholy and unenthusiastic than the people's attitude could be
imagined.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Two days ago the Turks gained a great victory over the British in the
Jordan valley, between Es-Salt and Amman. The Governor has organized
this procession to celebrate it. The population is showing its joy."

I looked at the sad-faced rabble below, and remarked that they looked
more like mourners at a funeral than celebrators of joy. The
aide-de-camp had spoken, however, without the least suggestion of
irony.

Next day he left Nazareth for Tul-Keran. He paid me a farewell visit,
and, to my great joy, gave me "an English book," which he had bought in
the bazaar. The "English book" proved to be a copy of a magazine for
children, dated 1906. It was even more consciously educative in its
exposition of elementary principles, and more condescendingly inept in
its milk-and-water stories, than the general run of such publications.
Yet in my state of solitary confinement I revelled in every word. That
magazine for children gave me as much pleasure as have the finest books
in the world under normal conditions.

My mind stopped racing and wandering and retrospecting while I learned
all about wireless telegraphy, in twenty lines; how Joshua smote the
Canaanites hip and thigh (with an illustration of the walls of Jericho
falling rhythmically before the Israelite trumpeters); How to make
lemonade and seed cake; How not to make trouble among one's
schoolfellows; The birth and life of jelly-fish; and How to Set a Good
Example, being an instalment of the History of Little Peter, the Boy
who Feared God, Kept His Hands Clean, and Was Always Cheerful and
Respectful and Fond of Chopping Wood for His Mother.

The magazine also showed how to make hats, sailing-boats, houses, and
whatnots out of a plain sheet of paper--all of which I practised
assiduously through a night of bug-biting sleeplessness.

Best and worst of all was the five-page summary, in schoolmistress
English, of "The Newcomes." This had nothing in it but colourless
statement of incident; and the sentiment of the book was churned into a
welter of flabbiness. As a final insult "_adsum_" was misspelt
"_adsem_" in the subjoined monstrosity with which the unliterary
procureur completed his (or more probably her) prostitution of
Thackeray's almost-masterpiece:

    When the roll call of the pensioners was made the dying Colonel,
    hearing his name, lifted his poor old head and said: "_adsem_" Then
    he fell back dead. "_Adsem_" is a Latin word signifying that a
    person is present.

Yet the protest and anger inspired by this outrage were useful in
taking my mind from its lonely bitterness; and I read the child's
magazine version of "The Newcomes" many times over, until its power to
irritate was expended.

After a few more days my confinement became less solitary. The German
major whom I had already seen visited me, with the Turkish
Platzkommandant, and asked if I had any more complaints to make. I
looked at the Platzkommandant, and said that the food was not only bad,
but scarcely sufficient to keep a man alive. The fat Turk scowled his
wickedest, but made no comment. The German major expressed regret, and
promised that meals should be sent from the General Staff's mess.

Evidently the German Staff in Palestine made a careful study of its own
comfort. For the rest of my stay in Nazareth I fed better than I could
have done, under war-time conditions, in any London hotel. Meat, fish,
vegetables, every kind of fruit, butter, sugar, pastries, good coffee
and wine, all were sent in profusion--to the great disgust of the
Turkish officers, who were fed rather worse than the German privates.

This diet was a very welcome change from bad bread and water varied by
thin soup. Sickness made me far from hungry, however, so that I found
it impossible to eat many of the meals. The corporal of the guard, the
sentry outside my door, and several of their friends would hang around
in the corridor until the tray was taken from my room, then stuff their
hands in the dishes and snatch at pieces of meat or vegetable.

For me the food from the German mess was chiefly welcome in that it
brought me a good friend--the dragoman who came with it. He was a Jew,
originally from Salonika, with a long, tongue-twisting name impossible
to remember, so that I called him Jean Willi, French being our
conversational medium. He was well-to-do, had been an official of the
Ottoman Bank in Constantinople, and spoke seven languages. For the
first two years of war he kept out of the army by means of _baksheesh_.
Finally he was taken for service because he offended an influential
officer; but his knowledge of languages, together with bribes placed in
the right quarters, procured for him the safe appointment of a dragoman
to the German Headquarters at Nazareth.

Three times a day--with breakfast, lunch, and dinner--Jean Willi
visited me. He tried to come oftener, but the Turks would not admit
him.

Everything I wanted he would move heaven and earth to get. He
"obtained" a German soldier's cap for me, on discovering that I had no
hat. He persuaded the German barber to bring the lunch one day, so that
he might cut my hair. A comb, a tooth-brush, soap, books, and a dozen
other things were brought by Jean Willi; and, having learned that my
ready cash amounted to three and a half dollars, he pretended that the
articles were sent by the German officers. Afterward I discovered this
to have been a benevolent untruth.

The wayside fallings of a roving life have brought me several Very Good
Samaritans, but none other who did as much for me, under great
difficulties, as Jean Willi. Before meeting him I was altogether broken
in spirit; and with hopelessness filling my mind I had actually begun
to fear for my reason. He understood all this and, to the limit of his
powers, did his best to remedy it, well knowing that such action would
bring him the enmity and suspicions of Turkish officers. His friendly
conversation and his invariable kindness were splendid tonics, taken
three times a day, at each visit.

When he was away my mind was prevented from slipping back into the
stagnation of despair by the books he smuggled into my room. The first
of these was a German war novel--"_Der Eiserne Mann_"--procured from a
Boche soldier. It purported to show how loyal were the Alsatians to the
German Fatherland. It was untrue, stupidly sentimental, and often
farcical; but, after all, so were most of the war novels published in
England at that time.

Then, in some dark recess of the house where he was billeted, he found
a copy of "_Les liaisons dangereuses_"--an altogether extraordinary
book to be salvaged from a little house in Nazareth. This was my first
introduction to Barbéry d'Auréville; and joy and interest in his
magnificent characterization completed the rescue of my mind from the
slough of despondency.

It was Jean Willi who first gave me an outline of Turkey's spiritual
history during the war. The sudden savage onslaught of the Turks
against their Christian subjects; the horrible character of the
Armenian massacres; the murder of prominent Syrians, the deportation of
Ottoman Greeks; the gradual starvation of the rotten old empire,
whereby scores of thousands died of hunger, while the Germans were
sending trainload after trainload of foodstuffs from the country; the
ruthless execution of all who stood in the way of Enver and Talaat; the
amazing bribery and speculation; the hundreds of thousands of
deserters, and the scores of thousands of brigands--all this was
described in such vivid detail by Jean Willi that I scarcely believed
he could be relating fact.

Two-thirds of the population, he said, were pro-Entente--not only the
Christians and Arabs, but the very Turks themselves--although none
dared oppose the violence of the Young Turk party. As for himself,
although he had never been to England, this Jew without a country
claimed to have a frantic love of the English which he could not
explain, like the love of a man for a mistress whom he very greatly
respects--his own words.

One day there arrived four Australian aviators who had been captured in
the Jordan Valley. R., the pilot of a Bristol Fighter, had landed
behind the Turkish lines after his petrol tank was hit. H. had tried
very pluckily to pick him up. H. made a splendid landing and--with R.
and R.'s observer seated on the lower planes, one on each side of the
pilot's cockpit, attempted to take his two-seater into the air with a
load of four men. He might well have succeeded if R. had not jerked his
body backward, to avoid a hot blast from the exhaust outlet; with the
result that the equilibrium was upset, and the craft swung round and
hit a pile of stones. The four officers burned their machines before
they were captured.

The Australians and I were taken for interrogation to German
Headquarters. We had agreed that our best plan would be to claim
complete ignorance of everything, and the invariable answer of C., the
first to enter the private office of the intelligence officer--one
Leutnant Santel--was "I don't know." When H., the second on the list,
adopted the same tactics, Santel tried bluff.

"_So!_" he said, softly, as if speaking to himself. "How happy am I
that it is I and not another who makes the interrogation. Most people
would order bad treatment for prisoners who refuse a correct reply.
Even I may have to do this. If the Pasha says to me: 'What have you
learned from these prisoners?' and I reply: 'They say they know
nothing,' he will be very angry and order severe measures."

"_Uh-huh_"--from H.

"Ah, sorry, I forgot you, my friend," said Santel with a start....
"Your aeroplanes are useful in communicating with the Bedouins east of
the Jordan, are they not?"

"I don't know."

"But I do know."

"Why ask me then?"--the reply obvious.

"You don't know! You don't know! _So!_ Please leave the room."

H. returned to us; and none of the remaining was questioned that day.

Leutnant Santel adopted a more subtle method next morning. With
Oberleutnant von Heimburg ("brother of the famous submarine commander,"
as Santel introduced him), staff officer of the German Flying Corps at
Palestine Headquarters, he came to the barracks and invited C., R., and
me to Haifa for the day, on condition that we gave parole until the
return.

We accepted and agreed, but while getting ready I remembered how,
before my capture, it had been my duty to extract information from a
German pilot while entertaining him; and I warned the others not to be
drawn into friendly talk about aeroplanes and operations.

It was as we expected. While we were driving to Afuleh aerodrome for
lunch in the Flying Corps mess, Von Heimburg and Santel refrained from
mention of the war, but at table they performed the usual trick of
showing photographs of British aerodromes and pilots, in the vain hope
that on recognizing them we would say something useful.

Next we travelled along a narrow-gauge line to Haifa in a swaying
truck, the motive power of which was a tractor propellor, driven by a
160 H.P. Mercedes aero-engine. Once again, over tea at the Mount Carmel
Hotel in Haifa, the Germans led the talk to Palestine operations and
aeroplanes; and once again we led it back to shoes and ships and
sealing-wax and cabbages and kings.

When Santel betrayed a desire for knowledge of the habits and exploits
of Colonel Lawrence (who was performing such magnificent work as
political officer with the Arab army of the King of the Hedjaz) H. said
he had never heard of him, but that in Australia he knew a fellow named
Lawrence, who--who----

Santel interrupted and did not try to conceal his annoyance. Then he
began talking about Miss Gertrude Bell, an Englishwoman who had done
brilliant political work among the Mesopotamian Arabs. This time we
were able to say with truth that we knew nothing of the matter;
although Santel continued to discuss and libel the lady, whom the
Germans were going to shoot, he said.

Von Heimburg then praised the British Air Service, with many a pause
that invited comment from us. The pauses remained empty, and we managed
to exclude the war by pretending to compare painstakingly and
assiduously the respective merits of English and Australian girls.

After tea, while bathing in the Mediterranean with the Germans, we saw
a strange sight along the sea-front. A line of not less than thirty
fishing-craft were left stranded on the beach, with great holes knocked
in their sides, so that they might not be floated. This drastic
prevention of the use of small vessels, according to Santel, was
because many Greek and Syrian fishermen had spied for the British or
deserted to Cyprus.

"The same thing has happened over there," he added, pointing across the
bay toward Acre, "and at other places, too--Tyre, Sidon, Beyrout, and
every port on the coast-line of Asia Minor."

We noticed, however, that three boats were out at sea, presumably
fishing for the tables of officers and officials.

"If we could get back here some night," whispered C. as we dressed, "we
might collar one of those three boats, tow it out to sea by swimming,
and sail to Jaffa." This revived my hopes of escape for the first time
since the fiasco at Tul-Keran.

"Thank you a thousand times," I said when Von Heimburg and Santel left
us at Nazareth. "It has been a most enjoyable day."

They agreed, without showing enthusiasm.

"But not a very successful one for you, I'm afraid," I added.

They were quiet for a minute, and then both laughed.

"_So!_ You were prepared," said Santel. "Well, I shan't try again."

Neither Santel nor anybody else tried again to interrogate us at
Nazareth; and two days later we were told to prepare for a journey to
Damascus.

C. had been discussing the chances of escaping by boat; and when Jean
Willi paid me a farewell visit I asked him if a journey from Damascus
to the coast would be difficult.

"Very difficult indeed under the conditions of which you are thinking."
Then, after a pause, "But I will tell you something interesting, since
you will probably be kept in Damascus for about a fortnight. The
Armenians run secret caravans from Damascus to Akaba."

"Thank you. That's very interesting, indeed." And it was; for Akaba, at
the northeastern extremity of the Red Sea, was the base of the Arab
army cooperating with the British.

Jean Willi would not listen to thanks, when he said good-bye. I gave
him my London address, in the sincere hope of being able to pay back in
part the good deeds I owed him.

I left Nazareth under much better conditions than I entered it.
Accompanied by an Arab pseudo-spy, I had arrived half crazed by
weakness, pain, and disaster, with a damaged leg and a swollen face,
and possessing neither hope nor a hat. I was leaving it in the company
of fellow-officers, with my mind and leg and face normal again, and
having not only a German hat but renewed hopes of escape, summed up in
Jean Willi's hint:

"The Armenians run secret caravans from Damascus to Akaba."



CHAPTER IV

DAMASCUS--AND THE SECOND FAILURE


Nazareth and Damascus are wonderful names; and apart from historical
values each, with the country around it, stands for exceptional beauty.
A journey from Nazareth to Damascus, therefore, "gives of the most
finest pleasure"; as the Greek guard of a Turkish train assured us in
his "most finest" English. But if you wish to see Syria at its best,
travel otherwise than as a prisoner, sitting in a dirty cattle-truck
and surrounded by Turkish guards, whose natural odour gives by no means
of the most finest pleasure.

Such were the conditions under which we--four Australian officers and
myself--came to Damascus. All the way from Nazareth we were guarded
closely as a secret meeting of the Peace Conference. Only three weeks
earlier Major Evans had escaped from Afuleh and walked forty miles
before he was recaptured; so that in our case more than ordinary
precautions were taken.

We drove down the steep hill from Nazareth in three rickety carts. Each
of the first two contained a pair of prisoners and a pair of guards,
with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets; but H., whose giant height and
strength the Turks respected, had a cart and two guards all to himself.
At Afuleh we sat until nightfall in a mud hut, with the local
population gazing and chattering through the open door, as if we had
been strange animals.

We welcomed the change to a covered cattle-truck on the railway, away
from prying Turks and Arabs. In this truck, with coats serving as
pillows, we lay on the filthy floor throughout the night, while the
train jolted eastward over the badly kept track. Whenever I looked at
the half-open shutter I met the alert eyes of a guard, whose business
it was to prevent us from jumping into the darkness.

The next day we passed in playing poker, in looking at the wild hills
of Samaria, and, by juggling with the few French words he could
understand, in trying to tell the Arab officer in charge of us how
contented were the Arab population in those parts of Palestine, Arabia,
and Mesopotamia occupied by the British.

This man, like most of the Syrian Arabs, showed himself well-disposed
to prisoners. He presented us with bread and hard-boiled eggs, bought
with his own money, and refused to take payment. As always, no food had
been provided by the military authorities.

So we jogged on, with many a halt, across the Jordan and round and up
the winding tracks in the hill country beyond it. We stopped for an
hour at Deraa, where a Turkish doctor with pleasant manners and a dirty
hypodermic needle visited the truck. Having assured us that cholera was
very prevalent in the British army, he proceeded to inoculate us, so
that we might have no chance of taking the disease to Damascus. As a
matter of fact, the British army in Palestine was entirely free from
cholera, while Damascus, as we afterward learned, was full of it.
Fortunately, nothing worse than sore chests resulted from the use of
his rusty, unsterilized needle.

Then, just before sunset, we rounded a bend at the bottom of a hill and
came upon Damascus; and forgetful of captivity and cattle-trucks and
guards and their attendant smells, I held my breath for the beauty of
it. Away to the north stretched a belt of grainland vivid in browns and
greens. Beyond was a wooded area reaching to the lower slopes of the
mountain range that extends from Lebanon to Damascus. Down the lower
slopes of one of the most easterly mountains flow the sources of
Pharpar and Abana, the twin rivers. The streams twist downward until
they lose themselves in a detached part of the old town, perched
several hundred feet above the rest of the city.

Farther below is Damascus itself--a maze of flat buildings, squat
mosques, and minaret spires, all in gray-white, as if sprinkled with
the powder of time, and now smudged with faint rose by the sinking
sunlight. Eastward and southeastward stretches the great desert that
leads to the sites of Babylon and Nineveh, to Bagdad, to Persia, to the
beginnings of human history.

In Damascus, as I knew from intelligence officers of the Palestine
army, were many friends of the British. Nearly all the population, in
fact, were secretly anti-Turk and anti-German. Could we make use of
these sentiments in planning an escape? What experiences and adventures
awaited us in this oldest standing city of the world, that was famous
in the days of Abraham, very famous in the days of Haroun-al-Raschid,
and still famous in the days of Woodrow Wilson?

The first few of these experiences were by no means pleasant.
Surrounded by the gleaming bayonets and eyes of the guards, who were
clearly anxious lest we should disappear in the fading light, we were
hustled from the railway to the police station, and locked in a tiny
room for four hours.

Finally, just before midnight, the police led us to Baranki Barracks, a
large building used as a prison for military criminals. Tired, hungry,
and disconsolate, we fell asleep on the bare bedsteads of the room
assigned to us.

But not for long. It must have been about two hours later when I awoke,
tingling all over and vaguely uncomfortable. To my surprise I saw that
C. was standing by his bed, and, by the light of my candle, was
stabbing at it. M. sat up suddenly, scratched himself, and swore softly
in a series of magnificent Australian oaths. R., who had not undressed,
still slumbered.

_Ouch!_ More sharp stingings came from my legs and arms. Bugs, and
swarms of them!

In the prison at Nazareth I had lived with scores of the little red
brutes so common in the Near East; but here there were hundreds. They
were crawling down the wall, falling on the floor, and biting every bit
of flesh left exposed. I lit a candle and found dozens on my bed.

Lying on the floor having proved to be as impossible as lying on the
bed, I went to the window and looked into the night, thinking of the
one matter that interested me in those days--escape. Across the road
was a large camp bordered on the left by a meadow and on the right by
one of the seven streams of Damascus. Straight ahead, weirdly colossal
in the moonlight, were two great mountains. Beyond them, I knew, the
great desert stretched through hundreds of miles to Mesopotamia. I was
aware just how far the British Mesopotamian army had arrived on the way
from Bagdad to Mosul; but even if we were lucky enough to find a guide
who could smuggle us into an eastward-moving caravan it would be almost
impossible to make a détour around the Turkish army; and in any case we
should be dependent on the help of Kurds or Mesopotamian Arabs, who are
much less estimable than the Arabs of Syria and Arabia. No, that plan
was not feasible.

I considered the suggestion of C.--that we should make our way to the
coast, hiding in the daytime and walking only at nights, and then,
arrived at Acre or Tyre, or some such seaport, commandeer a
sailing-boat and make for Cyprus or Jaffa. For this plan, also, the
difficulties would be many and serious. Such few boats as were still
serviceable would be well guarded. Even if we managed to steal one of
them, it would have to be towed into deep water by swimmers, which was
scarcely practicable in the darkness. In any case, a walk to the coast
from Damascus must cover many nights. A guide would be essential, as
otherwise we could buy no bread on the journey, since none of us spoke
Arabic. And a guide would cost a deal of money, of which we had little.

My scheme of getting into touch with the secret caravans, by means of
which Arabs and Armenians were slipping southward from Damascus to
Akaba, still seemed the best. But here, again, money would be needed,
besides a reliable intermediary. Money we might obtain by smuggling a
letter to the Spanish consul, who had taken charge of British interests
in Damascus. As for an intermediary, we should have to trust the gods
to give us one from among the guards.

Whatever we did would have to be done quickly, for we should not be
long in Damascus. By the time I had reached this conclusion I was tired
enough to fall asleep despite the bugs.

The morning toilet included a ceremony that every prisoner in Turkey
found it necessary to perform after travelling on the railway--a
careful hunt for lice in our clothes. The search was productive, and
led to talk of the plague of typhus which was being spread all over
Turkey by these vermin.

For the rest of the morning nothing happened, except a short visit from
the commandant. By now, having eaten nothing for twenty-four hours, we
were irritable with hunger. I made known this fact to the commandant,
who promised that we should feed at midday.

With him came a little interpreter, with bent shoulders, a greasy face,
and an absurdly long nose. Here, I thought, is a possible intermediary;
and I asked him to return later. During the afternoon he entered softly
and announced:

"I am George, interpreter of English. I am friend of English, honest to
God."

George was a native of Beyrout, part Syrian, part Greek, part Jew, and
wholly scoundrel. Were I writing fiction I should call him a
Syro-Phoenician, which is an impressive term but means nothing; but as
George really happened, I can only describe him as a Levantine mongrel.

Some time or other in his chequered life he spent three months in
America, where he learned to say "Honest to God" quite well, and to
speak a queer jargon of Anglo-American quite badly. By reason of this
accomplishment he became interpreter of English at Baranki Barracks.

However, since he spoke French much better than he tried to speak
English, conversation with him was possible. He had the Levantine habit
of using "_mon cher_" in every alternate sentence when speaking French;
and this he applied to his English by saying "my dear" on the least
provocation.

M., who could not speak French, asked him to smuggle a letter to the
Spanish consul.

"My dear," he replied, "I take it with lots of happiness. My officer
shall not know the letter, I guess."

The Spanish consul replied by return, and next day we were each
presented with twenty Turkish pounds--about sixty dollars at the then
rate of exchange. This rather annoyed the Turkish commandant, who had
himself given us seven Turkish pounds each, being our first month's pay
as captive officers.

With four hundred dollars between us we were now in a much better
position to prepare a scheme of escape. I decided to plumb the depths
of George's "I am a friend of English, honest to God." We should have
to take him with us, if possible, for if we left him behind he would be
suspected and the Turks might frighten him into betraying us.

An opportunity came that same evening. George had been telling of the
starvation in Damascus, of the deaths from destitution all over Syria,
of the hangings without trial, of the general discontent, of the
terrible conditions of his own imprisonment for sixty days, because he
had been suspected of spying for the King of the Hedjaz.

"Wouldn't you like," said M., "to be away from this nightmare of a life
and in a peaceful country like Egypt?"

"I guess yes, my dear," said George. "But I desire to quit the East and
live among English."

"Well," said C., "I could find you a comfortable job in Australia."

"Very obliged. I take your address and write when war shall finish."

"That's no good. None of us may be alive when the war is over. How
would you like to take the job now?"

"What can you desire to say, my dear?"

There was an awkward pause. We were shy of carrying the matter further;
for chance-met Levantines, like politicians, do not as a rule inspire
confidence.

Yet it had to be done. I continued the conversation in French, George's
weird English not being a good medium for the discussion of secrets.

"If," I promised, "you help us to escape and come with us, we will give
you not only money, but a job for life in Australia."

George's face whitened suddenly, and for the rest of that evening his
hands shook with excitement.

"There is nothing I wish so much, _mon cher_" he said, "as to escape to
the British. But it is very difficult and would need much money. Also I
have so little courage."

George went into the corridor to see if the guard showed suspicions.
But the sentry--a black Sudanese--was sitting on the floor, gazing at
and thinking of nothing, after his usual stupid fashion.

George returned, and for half an hour we discussed and rediscussed
possibilities. He pronounced the scheme of walking to the coast in a
series of night marches, and then stealing a boat, to be impossible.
The idea of joining a caravan to Akaba he judged more hopeful, but that
would mean hiding in Damascus until the next party was ready to start.
Hiding in Damascus would be not only highly dangerous but highly
expensive. Anyhow, the Armenians who organized the secret caravans must
be shy of adding immensely to their risks by taking British officers,
and if they did take such risks they would expect to receive more ready
money than we possessed.

George was silent for several moments, and then announced that he would
try to find an Arab, from among his acquaintances, who would lead us to
Deraa, and thence through the mountains to the Dead Sea regions. For
this also, he pointed out, money would be necessary--and gold, not
paper. We could change our paper notes only at the rate of four and a
half paper pounds for one in gold; and the sum obtained by this means
would be too little.

"But," I pointed out, "if we go below the Dead Sea to the country
occupied by the Hedjaz army, we can get gold enough. Haven't you heard
of the gold at 'X', of a certain Arab emir and of certain British
officers?"

"_Mon cher_, I have heard a lot of this gold, and so have many of the
Bedouins around here. But perhaps I shall not be able to convince my
friend that you could obtain money from it."

I gave George arguments enough to convince his friend, and made him
swear by his professed Christianity that he would keep secret our
conversation. Soon afterward he left us, still trembling with
excitement.

Full of renewed hope, I looked out of the window into the Eastern
evening, and speculated on what the god of chance might do for us. To
be effective he would have to do a lot. There was, for example, the
Austrian sentry whom I could see below, leaning against a motor lorry.
If he were about, on whatever night we fixed for our escape, how could
we climb down to the ground unobserved? The window itself offered no
difficulties, for it was above the street and on the first floor, so
that a few bedclothes tied together would suffice to lower a man out of
the barracks.

Then, while I was still watching the sentry, a different god
intervened. A hooded girl sidled up to him, and after looking around to
see that nobody was watching, he crossed the road, and disappeared with
her into the meadow to the left of the camp. An omen, I thought. If, on
escape-night, chance spirited away obstacles as easily as that, all
would be well.

Meanwhile the flat, gray houses whitened in the light of the young
moon, and the river Abana radiated soft shimmerings. In this respect,
also, chance should favour us. About a week later, when we hoped to
leave, the moon would not rise until after midnight; so that darkness
would help us to slip from the barracks, and moonlight would help us as
we moved across open country. Just then my meditations were chased away
by a fantastic, far-away sound. Somewhere in the maze of streets a
wheezy barrel organ was playing--playing _Funiculì, Funiculà_! How a
barrel organ found itself in Damascus, and in war-time Damascus, I did
not try to guess. All I knew, or wanted to know, was that across the
warm, sensitive night air there floated the lively old tune: and if you
are away from Europe take it from me that nothing will bring you to the
back streets of London, of Paris, of Naples as quickly as a barrel
organ playing _Funiculì, Funiculà_. For long after the barrel organ had
become silent, and only the moonlight and the stillness remained, I was
back in England.

Late next morning George burst into the room, with a beaming face and a
palpable desire for news telling.

"_Mon cher_," he said to me, "I have found a Druse who will guide you.
He knows about the gold, and although not quite sure, he thinks he can
trust you, as British officers, to see that he gets paid. He demands
two hundred pounds in gold when you reach 'X', and fifty pounds in
paper now, for the hire of horses."

I was overjoyed at this new prospect of a road to liberty; but when I
had translated George's French for the benefit of the Australians, M.
counselled caution.

"I don't like the sound of that fifty pounds down," he said. "Tell him
we won't pay anything until we're outside Damascus and have the
horses."

We decided that unless we conformed to the custom of always beating
down a bargain-adversary, the Druse would think we could be blackmailed
for any amount of money. He might even regard too ready an acceptance
of his terms as evidence that we did not mean to pay on arrival at "X."

Finally, we told George to place the following terms before the
Druse--one hundred pounds in gold on arrival, and fifty pounds paper
when we were on horse-back and away from Damascus. For the present,
nothing. As for George himself, he should receive fifty English pounds
when we reached safety and his job in Australia.

Next day George returned from the bazaar with the reply that the Druse
would be satisfied with one hundred and twenty-five pounds in gold at
"X," and agreed to leave the question of ready money for the horses
until we were out of Damascus. He demanded another twenty pounds,
paper, however, for the man who was to bring back the horses after we
had ridden to the mountains at Deraa. To these terms we agreed, as the
withdrawal of the demand for money in advance evidenced the genuine
intentions of the Druse.

"The Druse desires to spot you," said George, breaking into English.
"To-morrow an officer will lead you to public baths. When I say to make
attention, observe a man who carry yellow _burnous_ and robe."

And so it happened. We had our bath, and, escorted by a Greek doctor in
the Turkish army, with several guards and George the inevitable, we
walked through the hot streets toward the bazaar.

"Honest to God!" said George suddenly--for it had been agreed that this
phrase should signal the presence of the Druse.

I searched the crowd of Arabs gathered in the road at the corner of a
narrow turning, and had no difficulty in picking out, right in the
foreground, a tall, fierce-moustached man, with yellow robe and yellow
head-dress. One hand rested on the bone butt of a long pistol stuck
through his sash, and with the other he fingered the two rings round
his _burnous_. He looked at us long and intently, especially at H.,
with his six feet four inches of magnificent physique; then backed into
the growing crowd and disappeared.

"Don't look to behind you, my dear," said George, whose inability to
control himself had again blanched his face, "or my officer observe."

That walk to and from the big _hammam_ in the centre of Damascus is
perhaps the most vivid of my memories of the city. Wherever we passed,
a mass of Arabs and nondescripts surged around us, until the road was
blocked and our guards had to clear the way forcibly. Bargaining at the
stalls was suspended as we moved through the long, covered-in bazaar,
with its carpets and prayer rugs, its blood-sausages, its necklaces in
amber, turquoise, and jade, its beautiful silks and tawdry cottons, its
copper work, its old swords and pistols, its dirty, second-hand
clothes--all laid out haphazard for inspection. Once, when we entered a
shop, the crowd that collected before it was so large that the guards
took us outside by a back door.

Yet one sensed that this interest was for the most part friendly. The
Arabs expected the British army sooner or later, and wanted the British
army. Meanwhile, they were anxious to see what manner of men were the
British officers. We were not a very impressive group, with our dirty,
much-creased uniforms. What saved us, from the point of view of
display, was the tall, upright figure and striking features of H., at
whom everyone gazed in admiration.

As we passed through the gardens on the way home an _imam_, from the
ground before a mosque, was chanting something to a small gathering. On
investigation we found a large map of Gallipoli and the Dardanelles
marked out in the soil, with hills and trenches and guns and
battleships shown on it. The _imam_ was telling the Faithful just how
the unbelievers had been driven off the peninsula by the invincible
Turkish army. This he did each afternoon, we were assured.

Everywhere was evidence of destitution, starvation, and squalor. The
streets were utterly filthy, as if they had not been cleaned for months
or years--which was probably the case. The disused tram-lines reared up
two or three feet above the worn road, so that camels, donkeys, and
pedestrians constantly tripped over them. Along the principal streets
one had to turn aside, every dozen yards or so, to avoid enormous
holes. Half-crumbled walls, huts, and houses were everywhere apparent.
The magnificent old mosque which is one of the beauties of Damascus was
decaying into decrepitude, without any attempt at support or
restoration.

As for the population, most were in rags, very few had boots, about one
half wore sandals, and the remainder went about barefooted. Yet even
the destitute Arabs were more attractive than the well-to-do Levantines
with their frock coats and brown boots and straw hats.

All the poorer Arabs and Syrians looked half starved, and we must have
passed hundreds of gaunt beggars--men, women, and children. Worst of
all were the little babies, huddled against the walls and doorways.
Ribs and bones showed through their wasted bodies, which were
indescribably thin except where the stomach, swollen out by the
moistened grain which had been their only sustenance, seemed abnormally
fat by contrast. So weak were they that they could scarcely cry their
hunger or hold out a hand in supplication. Arab mothers, themselves on
the verge of starvation, had left them, in the vain hope that Allah
would provide. And neither Allah nor anybody else took the least
notice, until they were dead. The police then removed their small
bodies for burial; and more starving mothers left more starving babies
by the roadside. The Greek doctor told me that forty such babies died
in Damascus each day.

The next few days were buoyant with expectancy. We collected raisins
and other foodstuffs, while George went backward and forward into the
city to communicate with the Druse. We now hoped to leave the barracks
without especial difficulty. The Austrian sentry below, we discovered,
remained inside the doorway after midnight, so that it would be
possible to slip down from the window without being seen or heard by
him. One night we half-hitched our blankets together as a test, and
found that they would be fully strong enough to bear even the weight of
H., if tied to an iron bedpost.

A more difficult problem was that of the guard outside our room. There
were three blacks who performed this sentry duty in turn, two Sudanese
and one Senegalese--Sambo, Jumbo, and Hobo, as we called them. Jumbo
and Hobo were intensely stupid and lazy. They spent their night watches
in dozing on the floor of the corridor. Our door being closed each
night, conditions would be ideal if either of them were there on
escape-evening.

Sambo was more alert. He had been a postal messenger at Khartoum, and
as such spoke a certain amount of English. When Turkey entered the war,
he told us, he had been travelling to Mecca on a pilgrimage, and the
Turks conscripted him. Twice he had been in prison, once because he
attempted to desert, and once because an Arab prisoner whom he was
guarding, escaped. Apparently he had learned a lesson from this latter
misfortune, for he never slept when on sentry duty. Obviously, if he
were outside our door on _the_ evening, we should have to find some
means of dealing with him. We sent George to buy chloroform, but he
returned with the news that none could be found in Damascus. Thereupon
we made a gag with a piece of pants and a chunk of rubber, to be used
on Sambo if necessary.

Then, with these preliminary arrangements settled, they tumbled down
like a house of cards. We were moved to a room on the north side of the
building, so that a number of arrested Turkish officers might be put
into our larger apartment. Our first thought, on entering the new
quarters, was for the window. Ten thousand curses! It looked on to an
open courtyard. Two sentries promenaded the yard, which was surrounded
by a brick wall.

"My dear," said George when he next visited us, "the business is lost.
It is by all means impossible to quit window without observation from
Turks."

For hours the Australians and I sought a way out of the new difficulty,
and sought vainly, for it was George whose cunning rescued our plan
from the blind alley into which it had been driven. He would leave his
rifle at the top of the back stairway, he said, then come to our room
and usher us along the corridor, after telling the black guard that he
was taking us to an officer's room (as often happened in the evening).
Next he would recover his rifle, slip down the stairway to the Austrian
section of the barracks and, with bayonet fixed, lead us out of the
side door guarded by an Austrian sentry. The advantage of the Austrian
door was that the sentry, seeing a Turkish soldier walking out with
prisoners, would think he was taking them to the railway station, or
not think about the matter at all; whereas the Turkish guard at the
main door would have recognized George and known that something was
wrong.

George could not take more than three of us, as a larger number with
only one guard would make even the Austrian suspicious. He refused
point-blank to return to the barracks and repeat the performance, so
that four of us might go. C. could not come, for personal reasons that
would not allow him to let his fate remain unknown for several months.
The party, however, was still one too many. With a pack of cards we
settled the delicate problem of who was to stay behind. M. cut lowest,
to his bitter disappointment and my regret, for he was very plucky and
resourceful.

Once more with a definite plan in view--and apparently a better one
than the last--H., R., and I fixed a date for the escape. Having
calculated the times of the rising and setting of the moon, and
communicated with the Druse, we chose the third evening from the day of
our removal to the new room.

Meanwhile, we had been treated by no means badly. A few nights of
irritation accustomed us to the plague of bugs, and constant searching
and washing kept our clothes fairly free from more repulsive vermin.
For the rest, we passed the days with poker, bridge, and perfecting our
plans. We could not grumble at the food, for we messed with the Turkish
officers, who, while not feeding as well as German privates, never
actually went hungry.

Indeed, we met with much kindness and consideration at Damascus. In
every prison camp of Turkey the officers and guards took their cue from
the commandant. If, as at Afion-kara-Hissar during the reign of one
Muslum Bey, the commandant was a murderer, a thief, and a degenerate,
unspeakable outrages were committed. If, as at Baranki Barracks,
Damascus, under Mahmoud Ali Bey, the commandant was good-natured,
conditions were passable.

Some of the Turks, in fact, wanted to be too friendly. The
deputy-commandant invited us into his room one evening, and, with his
friends sitting around and George acting as interpreter, asked for an
exposition of England's reasons for taking part in the war. For two
hours I delivered myself of anti-German propaganda, though I could not
tell what force remained in my arguments after they had passed through
the filter of George's curious translation. Meanwhile, the
deputy-commandant looked at his finger-nails and occasionally smiled.
He was non-committal in expressing his own views; but afterward, when
coffee was handed round, he declared that the talk had been of the
greatest interest.

This same officer drove us one afternoon to the beautiful spot, on a
high slope outside the city, where the sources of the Seven Rivers are
gathered within a space of fifty yards. In the scorching heat we
undressed and bathed in the River Pharpar.

We had ample evidence of the widespread hatred of the Germans
throughout Syria, both among civilians and soldiers. Turkish soldiers
expressed the greatest dislike and envy of the Germans, and German
soldiers expressed the greatest contempt for the Turks. As for the Arab
officers, they were whole-heartedly pro-British. Nahed Effendi Malek,
the young Arab adjutant, and his friend the Arab quartermaster often
visited us when no Turkish officers were near. The pair talked the most
violent sedition. The quartermaster wanted to be with his brother, a
prisoner at Alexandria. The Turks knew this, and once, when in prison
for several weeks as a political suspect, he had been freed only by a
liberal distribution of _baksheesh_ among the military authorities.
Both he and Nahed were kept separate from their families while the
Turks levied blackmail by telling them that the lives of relatives or
friends would pay forfeit for any breach of loyalty. Like other
officers of their race, they were now kept expressly from the fighting
front, because so many Arabs had deserted to the British.

This very barracks, declared Nahed, was full of imprisoned officers
whose loyalty the Turks suspected. Unless they could bribe their way to
a release they might be shut up in one small room for months, unpaid,
forgotten, and living on such food as their friends provided. Then, if
their prayers and petitions for a trial brought about a courtmartial,
they might be acquitted and graciously released; but neither reparation
for the months of captivity nor military pay for the period of it would
be given.

Our own room had lately been occupied by a Turkish colonel, who shot
dead a fellow officer. Assassination being a less serious crime than
dislike of oppression, and the colonel having been an expert juggler
with military supplies and funds (like so many Turkish colonels who
bought command of their units as an investment in a colossal
corporation of Military Graft, Incorporated), he delivered sealed
envelopes to various high officers and officials, and within a week was
free.

Nahed and his friend talked savagely of the hunger and misery that
ravaged Syria, of the killing and imprisonment of Arab sheikhs, of
their hopes of an independent Arab kingdom, of their galling
helplessness against the Turks and Germans until the British arrived.

"But once let the British reach Deraa," said Nahed Effendi, "and you
will hear of such an uprising as Syria and Arabia have never known,"--a
prediction that was to be fulfilled in the following autumn, during
General Allenby's whirlwind advance.

Sometimes, instead of confiding their wrongs and hatreds, Nahed and his
friend would chant Arabian songs of love and war, or order George to
translate the stories and epigrams of Haroun-al-Raschid and other
Arabian notabilities. Once George substituted a sentence of his own for
the tale he should have retailed for our benefit:

"My dear, I must go to see my friend. Soon it is too late, and my
officer say no. Please think of some request I perform for you."

M. laughed, as if in enjoyment at a translated story, and H., turning
to Nahed, said "_kweis kateer_" ("very good")--two of the dozen Arabic
words that he knew. A little later I asked for and received permission
to send George to buy wine for us in the bazaar; and the mongrel
interpreter with a "_Mille fois merci, mon cher_" shambled off to see
the Druse.

We realized that it would be very unfortunate for little Nahed if we
escaped, and we should be sorry indeed to think of him in prison on our
account. But it was obvious that even if he would, he could not come
with us, and we certainly dared not confide in him.

As I lay half awake, early on the morning of May 15th, I was conscious
that an exceptional day had dawned. But my drowsy faculties could not
produce, from the dark room of memory, a negative of what was imminent.
Then the door opened, and with a clatter of mugs and a cry of the
German word "_Milch_" there entered an Arab milkman, with his tin bowl
slung over his shoulder.

I was alert in an instant. Why, of course, we had reached escape day,
and we must buy a stock of biscuits for a journey from this dairyman,
whose privilege it was to sell us goat's milk, at five piastres a
glass, for our breakfast.

But that morning he had brought no biscuits--and this was the first of
a heart-breaking sequence of obstacles.

Throughout the day I remained in a state of high tension. Yet my
principal concern was for the lack of self-control shown by George, who
walked about with shaking knees and unsteady hands and anxious face.

"For God's sake don't show yourself like that to the Turkish officer,"
said H.

"My dear, I am not brave, and fortune never visits me." His fear was
pitiful.

"Pray for fortune then."

And George prayed, melodramatically and in all solemnity: "God what is
in heaven, take us quickly to the Arab with horses."

The thermometer of hope quicksilvered up and down every few minutes,
throughout the pregnant hours of afternoon. For the ninety-ninth time I
examined the packets of raisins, the bread, and the water bottles. For
the hundredth time I reviewed the details of our plan.

Between ten P.M. and midnight the Druse was to wait by the station,
with long headdresses which should be disguise enough for the moment,
because in the darkness a passerby could only see us as silhouetted
outlines. Soon after ten George was to take H., R., and me through the
side door, as already described, and lead us to the Druse. Then we
would slip out of Damascus to the spot where an Arab was waiting with
the horses. We must ride over the plain all night, and hide the next
day in a certain Druse village, where a hut had been prepared for us.
We could buy arms in the village. We would travel without rest
throughout the following night and just before dawn reach the mountains
outside Deraa, when the second Arab was to take back the horses.

Once in the mountains and among the Druse tribesmen an army could
scarcely retrieve us. We should run more than a little danger from the
nomads, but these might be friendly, and in any case the guide would be
our protector and mouthpiece among his fellows.

For weeks we should be trekking over the mountains and desert east of
the Turkish lines in the Jordan valley and the hardships would be very
great. Eventually we should arrive among our allies of the Hedjaz.

Having reached "X" and paid off the Druse, we could be taken on board
one of the British war ships in the Red Sea. We might well meet a
raiding party of the Emir Feisul's Bedouins near Amman, in which case
safety would come much sooner, and we might travel by aeroplane to the
British army in Palestine.

After dinner the Turkish signal officer invited us to his room for
coffee. Having no legitimate excuse for declining, we chafed under his
small talk until nine o'clock. Then Nahed Effendi and the quartermaster
visited us, and again we were forced to sit still and deliver, from
time to time, in response to the translations of George, a fretful
"Yes" or "No" or "Good" or "Thank You."

Ten o'clock came and went, and two suggestions that we should retire to
bed were brushed aside by our visitors. By now the Druse would be
waiting for us outside the railway station.

Eleven o'clock arrived, and still Nahed continued to draw from his
endless store of tales and similes.

"My officer say," translated George, "that Arabian poet compare the
breasts of a fellow's beloved to--please, my dear, say you must sleep.
I shake and feel I must chuck sponge. Soon it is too late, honest to
God."

Ourselves almost desperate with annoyance, we performed a series of
lifelike yawns, and declared ourselves to be very tired. Thereupon, to
my great relief, the Arab officers withdrew, with George in attendance.

I followed to the doorway, and spoke to George when the officers had
entered their own room.

"In three minutes you must come back."

"I will try. But I have so little courage."

"Think of the job in Australia, and of the money."

"_Mon cher_, I have thought of them all day long, but my heart is
saying, _boum, boum!_ and a voice tells to me '_Quittez ça!_' But I
will come back."

He did not come back. Before George had left me, evil chance sent the
Turkish deputy-commandant along the passage for one of his rare visits
of inspection. He looked hard at us; whereupon George's overwrought
nerves snapped, and he broke down utterly.

"_Aa-ee!_" he called.

Next he grasped instinctively at my arm. Trembling visibly, he lowered
his head and waited. I backed into the doorway, while the
deputy-commandant took George to Nahed's room.

What followed we could deduce from the noises that swept the corridor.
George was bullied into a complete betrayal. We heard furious talk,
shouted orders, and the unmistakable sound of blows with the bare hand.
Nahed ran to our room, and counted us feverishly. Then came the
corporal of the guard, puzzled and scowling. Finally, six Turkish
soldiers replaced Jumbo outside the door, which Nahed locked.

Disgusted with George, disgusted with ourselves, and above all
disgusted with fate, H. and I paced up and down or lay sleepless on the
bedstead through hours of utter despair. R., the only one of us to make
a show of indifference, took a pack of cards, played patience, and said
not a word.

The door remained locked until the following mid-day, when the
commandant arrived with Nahed and George, both of whom showed
reluctance to enter.

"My officer knew," declared George, with eyes averted. "You are to
collect the clothes and go to railway. They send you to Aleppo I
guess." I noticed that one of his eyes was discoloured and swollen.

The commandant searched our kits very carefully, but confiscated
nothing, not even the store of food. Then he demanded why we had wanted
to escape, and who had been helping us.

"Tell him we refuse to say anything," H. answered. And with that he had
to be content.

Surrounded by no fewer than twelve guards, we carried our few
belongings to the railway station and entrucked for Aleppo. The
interpreter stayed with the Turkish lieutenant in charge of us until
the train left.

We took care not to look at George, but I could sense his misery and
shamefaced discomfort. At length, for the first time since the
betrayal, he showed sincerity with an agonized sentence in French,
spoken from the steps of the truck:

"I am mad with sorrow. I ask pardon."

Obviously he expected and hoped for an answer, but nobody took the
least notice. It was as if we had not heard.

"My officer has beaten me, and he will beat me again. My face is big
with hurts--see."

Still no reply. Then, faintly, as the Turkish officer called him down
from the steps: "I have so little courage. I ask pardon."

The appeal went home, and I half turned my head. But the bitterness of
betrayal was too great, and thinking that a few beatings were not
punishment enough, I could offer no comfort, and continued to ignore
him.

As the train chugged across Syria toward Aleppo, we wondered often what
our own punishment would be. But still more often I called to mind a
futile little figure with bent shoulders, a greasy face, an absurdly
long nose, and an eye that was discoloured and swollen, saying, with
despair in his voice: "I have so little courage. I ask pardon." And I
regretted not having turned my head to look George in the face and
answer him.



CHAPTER V

THE BERLIN-BAGDAD RAILWAY--AND THE AEROPLANES THAT NEVER FLEW


A soldier out of the combat is not necessarily a soldier _hors de
combat_.

Ambition often translates a great dream into great achievement.
Misapplied ambition often loses the benefits of such achievement.

Four thousand miles of dislike, distrust, and disorganization separate
Berlin from Bagdad. Four thousand miles of friendship, and (except for
one short distance) continuous railway communication join London to
Bagdad.

All of which diverse and disconnected statements shall be linked
together in the tale of the Tunnel, the Tommies, and the Aeroplanes
that Never Flew.

                 *       *       *       *       *

Before the train left Damascus two more prisoners joined the party--W.,
who had been in hospital at Nazareth for five months, and P., recently
captured in the Jordan valley.

Made desperate by our failure to escape, we were ready to try without
forethought any impossible plan that was suggested between halts, as we
journeyed toward Aleppo. H. and I decided, if the train slowed down, to
jump from it and make for the mountains. Then, at evening, we would
find the German aerodrome and try to steal a machine, chancing such
possible odds as alert sentries, well-guarded hangars, and empty
petrol-tanks. Once aboard the aeroplane we could fly southeastward to
the Palestine front. But the train continued at a speed which made any
leap from it impossible, so that we abandoned the scheme.

Two rather better opportunities were provided by the officer in charge
of our guards, a young Turk who was fanatical and unbelievably stupid.
The party occupied two compartments, one containing three prisoners,
the officer, and a Turkish soldier, and the other the remaining four
prisoners, a corporal, and a third guard. The officer paid us not the
least attention, whether to guard against a possible escape, to provide
us with food, or even to count his prisoners from time to time. At
sunset he turned eastward and murmured his prayers, and at odd moments
throughout the day, with head on breast, he muttered what I supposed to
be passages from the Koran. Nobody but Allah, Mohammed, and his
fanatical little self seemed to interest him.

The fanatic had a basket of bread and dried meat for his own needs--but
for his own needs only. After ten hours of foodlessness we stopped
awhile at Homs, and in broken Arabic we demanded food. He pointed to a
man on the platform who was selling bread and hard-boiled eggs, and
resumed his meditation. We left the train without hindrance, and
mingled with the people who surrounded the hawker. Two of us, at least,
could have slipped away, with the crowd as screen. But the nearest
point on the coast was far distant, and, with neither compass nor a
supply of food, to make the attempt in our uniforms would have been
madness.

On this station I got into conversation with a Maronite woman, who
talked of the dreadful conditions in her native province of Lebanon.
The crops had been commandeered, the cedars and the fruit trees cut
down by the Turks for fuel, the people systematically starved. Already
thirty per cent. of Lebanon's pre-war population had died of
destitution, she declared, including her father and her two children.

"The people of Lebanon perish, and neither God nor anybody else helps
us." This in a tone of dull hopelessness, as if she were beyond even
despair. And even as she said it, many a consignment of Syrian and
Anatolian grain was _en route_ for Germany.

The second chance came at Hamah, where we halted at dusk for half an
hour. A little restaurant faced our compartment, and, still being
hungry, we made for it. The Turkish officer ordered us to stop, while a
guard, running from the train, clutched at H.'s arm. H. shook him off,
like a horse shaking off a fly, said "_mungaree_" (his version of the
Arabic for food) and proceeded toward the restaurant. The young officer
continued to protest, but, when we took not the slightest notice, he
joined us at the buffet, where, for the price of three dollars, one
could buy a plate of goat's meat and beans, with bread and coffee.
Afterward, while the Turk went outside with four of our number, H., M.,
and I stayed behind to buy bread.

When we returned to the platform not a guard was in sight. Moreover,
our train had shunted backward. To reach it we should have to walk
fifty yards. Ahead of us we could see the little fanatic, stupidly
unconscious as ever of our location, walking between the rails with the
remainder of the party.

"You're the linguist," said H. to me. "Hop back quickly and buy all the
grub you can find. Get enough to last us to the coast."

"Twelve loaves of bread, some hard-boiled eggs, and some raisins," I
demanded of the waiter in the buffet.

He disappeared into the back room. I waited, uncomfortable under the
curious glances at my faded uniform.

"A German aviator," I heard one man tell his woman companion; at which
I was much relieved, although scarcely pleased.

The waiter could supply only three small loaves and a dozen eggs; and
with these tied in a bundle I returned to H. and M.

The military guard of the station was at the farther end of the
platform. To avoid him we had to walk along the line, in the direction
of our own train. We intended to dodge behind some waiting trucks about
twenty yards ahead, slip over the siding in which they stood, and so to
open country.

Then, as we were moving up the line, the adventure was made impossible.
Two of the guards came running toward us. We continued calmly in their
direction, so that they showed no suspicions, and evidently thought we
were alone as a result of misunderstanding.

"_Saa-seda_," said H., blandly, as he offered them cigarettes; and this
greeting disposed of whatever doubts they may have had. Yet the state
of fright into which our absence plunged the Turkish officer had the
effect of a shower-bath upon him. He roused himself from the torpor of
unintelligent disregard; and for the rest of the journey we were never
allowed outside the carriage.

Thus, once again, a mad plan fell through at the outset; for with no
guide, no compass, no water, and the necessity of buying more food, the
odds would have been a hundred to one against our reaching the coast.
And even if we had reached the coast it was improbable that we should
have found a sailing-boat waiting to be stolen.

At Aleppo we came upon some Indian prisoners. We were trudging along
the hot, uneven road from the railway station when three white-turbaned
figures in khaki saluted, from the balcony of a hospital. One of them
placed a crutch under his left armpit as he stood to attention. This
simple salute warmed the heart, with its reminder that we were not
altogether outcasts. We returned it with gusto; as did a passing German
officer, who thought it was meant for him.

We were taken to an hotel where transient Turkish officers halted on
their way to Palestine and Mesopotamia. Fresh from the failure to
escape from Damascus, we were not surprised at never being allowed to
leave the building. Indeed, I was astonished at not being sent to some
prison, and presumed--rightly, as it turned out--that punishment must
be waiting for us farther down the line. For the rest, we spent several
by no means uncomfortable days at Aleppo, helped thereto by
sight-seeing from the balcony.

The market-place fronting the street corner below was used as a food
bazaar. Each evening Arab and Syrian hucksters arrived with flat
barrows, or erected rickety stalls. Then, from baskets and panniers,
they produced their wares, which they laid out for inspection--loaves
of bread, bowls of soured milk, basins of stew, cooked potatoes,
roasted meats, vegetables, cakes, nuts, or lengths of flexible candy.
Some of them roasted meat or vegetables over metal bars placed across a
charcoal fire.

As the crowd began to gather the policemen circulated among the
vendors, looking for such as had not paid police _baksheesh_ for their
pitch. Having found a victim the gendarme would lead him around the
corner to settle accounts. Afterward the stall-keeper was at liberty to
trade for the rest of the evening. Any who could not or would not pay
were hustled from the market-place.

Then, until about midnight, was acted a succession of minor comedies,
amusing or pathetic. Trial by taste was evidently the custom; and since
Allah had provided hands and mouths, why use forks and spoons?
Intending buyers dug their fingers into the steaming dishes, pulled out
a chunk of meat or a potato, and chewed reflectively. Then they either
purchased or passed on to the next stall, while somebody else stuffed a
hand into the dish. I traced a few men and women who, by tasting meat
at one stall, potato at another, and bread at a third, must have eaten
quite a meal for nothing. This was rare, however, for the hucksters had
an instinct for _bona fide_ buyers, and kicks for such as were not.

Over there is a seller of vegetables who has dodged his police dues,
apparently because his ready cash is insufficient. A gendarme
approaches, whereupon he picks up his basket, with the wooden box on
which it rests, and fades into the crowd. When the policeman has gone
he reappears and resumes business. Twice more must he shut up shop, for
a quarter of an hour at a time. Finally his takings allow him to pay
the bribe. His wife guards the stall while he confers with the
policeman round the corner. He reappears, and, no longer obliged to
shun overmuch attention cries his wares loudly and does a roaring
trade.

The candy-barrows are mostly kept by small boys comically dignified in
apron and fez. Useless to think that their youth makes them easy game,
for they are sharp as pawnbrokers, and can tell in the fraction of a
second a bad note or coin. Most of them seem to have a working
arrangement with some gendarme whereby if an adult tries to swindle
they shriek invectives. The gendarme then strolls toward the stall, and
the would-be cheat wishes he hadn't.

One or two seedy ruffians hang around the rim of the crowd, awaiting
the chance of some petty villainy. Presently, out of the crush comes a
little Syrian girl, carrying a bowl of milk. A much-moustached,
dirty-robed Arab follows her into the entrance of a narrow street where
he suddenly grabs the milk, drinks it, pushes the bowl back into her
hands, and strides away. The little girl attracts a certain amount of
attention by shrilling her protests; but the wolfish milk-drinker has
vanished. A gendarme spectator makes no pretence at interference, not
having been bribed to protect stray children.

Soon afterward a similar outrage is perpetrated by a similar ruffian,
who snatches a chunk of meat from an old woman's basin of stew. In this
case retribution comes swiftly and suitably. The Man who Grabs Meat has
failed to notice that the weak old woman is attended by a strong young
man, who has lagged behind to talk to a friend. The strong young man
leaps at the thief, kicks him in the stomach--hard, knocks him down
when he doubles up helplessly, and proceeds to beat him. The old woman
shrieks her venom. The gendarme is much amused.

Through the changing crowd pass the drink-sellers, clanging a brass cup
against a brass can, but neither washing nor rinsing the cup after
somebody has drunk from it. From time to time a stall-keeper slips away
for a glass of _árak_ in the near-by café, while a wife or a friend
guards his barrow.

Between eleven o'clock and midnight most of the traders run out of
stock. They pack up their kit, and before leaving bargain with each
other for an exchange of surplus foodstuffs for personal use--two
loaves for a dish of vegetables, a can of milk for three slices of
meat. The streets empty, the cries cease, the gendarmes disappear with
their _baksheesh_; and we retire to join the little things that hop and
crawl in our bed.

Always there was something to distract us. A Mohammedan official of the
Indian Postal Service, for example, provided much interest. With only a
fez differentiating his uniform from that of most native officers of
the Indian Army, we accepted him at first as a fellow-prisoner. But
when, at table, he asked leading questions about the Palestine
operations, H. winked at me and fingered his lips as a signal. We took
the hint, and answered vaguely.

"Don't like the look of the little blighter," said H., after dinner;
"let's watch him."

He was worth watching. Every day, we found, he walked about the streets
of Aleppo without a guard. Moreover, he was living by himself in a
comfortable room. While this exceptional treatment of a prisoner did
not prove treachery, the circumstantial evidence was fairly damning. We
became as unopened clams when he talked to us.

This was the right attitude, for later, when at a concentration camp,
we heard of an Indian official who was an out-and-out traitor.
Sometimes he was at full liberty in Constantinople, sometimes he talked
in railway trains to newly captured prisoners, sometimes he talked with
them in hospitals. Once, at a hospital at Mosul, he was placed next to
a wounded officer taken in a recent battle. His assumed complaint was
influenza. Yet he was given full diet, and his temperature remained
normal, while he lay in bed and asked questions about the Mesopotamian
campaign.

A prisoner of war in the Orient, far more than the traveller, senses
the spirit of his surroundings. Temporarily he is of the Orient. Of
necessity his captors regard him as somebody more intimate than the
transient Westerner who, while moving freely among them, lives
according to Western custom and tradition; and of necessity the man who
is in the power of Easterns, and forced to live according to Eastern
customs, is more likely to realize the mental attitude whereby the
crooked road is chosen in preference to the straight, to-morrow never
comes, anything unexpected may happen at any time, and--to repeat an
illustration of my friend Jean Willi the dragoman--a man may get
married in the morning, and be a solitary fugitive for his life in the
evening.

So it was with us. The continuity of impressions and experiences
reacted on me till I forgot to remember that I was an ordinary
Englishman, and became as fatalistic and unsurprised as the Turks and
Arabs themselves. Somewhere or other, I knew, we should be punished for
having wanted to escape. Of what the punishment might consist we
guessed nothing, except that it would probably find us quite
unprepared. Meanwhile, it was of absorbing interest to sit on the
balcony at Aleppo, and watch the crowd in the bazaar.

On leaving Aleppo we knew neither the next stage of the journey nor our
ultimate destination; and we were content that it should be so, for a
future that is certain to be unpleasant is better indefinite than
definite.

This time our escort consisted of two gendarmes and two soldiers. First
we were herded into a third-class compartment, windowless and filthy.
Already, before we arrived, unwashed and unkempt peasants had crowded
into it; so that our party of eleven was able to occupy seven seats
only. One of the gendarmes, who could murder French, advised us never
to place our few belongings out of reach.

"Or," said he, "we meet darkness and--_pouf!_--everything vanish."

We liked the looks of neither the carriage nor the fellow-passengers,
and thought how much more pleasant a goods truck would be. R. and I
persuaded a gendarme to take us to the office of the station commandant
in the hope of being allotted different quarters. The commandant was
polite, but pretended that he could offer nothing better.

Then, as we passed along the platform, I saw a clean, covered-in truck,
with a few German soldiers inside it. One man leaned idly against the
entrance, and him I asked politely if, since there was so much room to
spare, they could lend us a corner.

"_Ausgeschlossen!_" he growled. "_Wir wollen keine Englander._"

We were about to move on, when--"_Was gibt's?_" called a Feldwebel as
he stepped from the truck.

I explained that seven British officers, two of them wounded, longed
for floor-space, so that they would not be herded with odorous Turks.

"Perhaps we can manage it," said the Feldwebel.

"What's Paris like now?" he asked suddenly, and went on to explain that
before the war he was a bank clerk there. With one eye on the space in
the truck, I admitted to having lived for a time on the _rive gauche_,
discussed peace-time and war-time Paris, and even--for one will put up
with a lot to avoid travelling in a Turkish third-class
carriage--listened patiently to the German's reminiscences of a love
affair with a French singer.

This patience was rewarded. He took a referendum of his five
companions; and all, except the surly brute to whom I had first spoken,
agreed to cede half the truck. The Feldwebel asked permission of a
German major to ask us inside, and the major agreed.

"But only because you happen to be fellow-Europeans," he explained,
"while the Turks are not."

A small bribe to the gendarme, and we moved thankfully from the Turkish
compartment. There was room enough for all, prisoners and guards, to
lie on the floor of the truck, so that by comparison we travelled _de
luxe_. The Germans were friendly; and the Feldwebel, after I had
pretended to be interested in more tales of his _affaires de coeur_,
offered us a supply of tea, with the loan of a spirit-stove for boiling
it.

So, with poker and talk, we travelled across Asia Minor. On three of
the next four evenings a certain amount of excitement was produced by
Turkish soldiers' attempts to desert when the train halted. They ran
toward the hills, sometimes fired upon and sometimes chased. Several
were captured, several got away and went to swell the huge total of
brigands.

In that part of 1918 the number of brigands all over Turkey was
enormous. Hundreds of thousands deserted from the army, and of these
scores of thousands took to the mountains and wild places, there to
become robbers. Travelling on foot, on horseback, or on donkey-back
across Anatolia was unsafe in the highest degree. In every fastness one
would be certain to meet a band of armed ruffians, destitute and
utterly merciless, who would cheerfully kill for the sake of a pair of
boots or a shirt. More than a few German soldiers who had walked a mile
or two from the beaten track were killed by brigands. Many of the
gendarmes sent to deal with the robber band were found dead, with their
heads battered in. Many others were hand-and-glove with them and gave
information of possible plunder. Sometimes a gang would descend on a
village, kill a few inhabitants as a warning to the others, and proceed
to steal everything worth the stealing before they retired.

We detrained on the eastern side of the Taurus Mountains and were
transferred to the narrow-gauge line that traversed the Taurus tunnel
before the broad-gauge railway was completed. For eight hours, on a
swaying little train with miniature engine, we moved through the
tunnel's half-light, with an occasional interval of sunlight at gaps
between the mountains.

The great Taurus tunnel was the solution of the worst obstacle to the
Berlin-Bagdad Railway. With Serbia overrun and Bulgaria and Turkey as
Germany's puppets, the line from Berlin to Constantinople was
straightforward. Already in 1915 the Anatolian Railway linked
Constantinople to Konia. At the eastern end of the Berlin-Bagdad chain
the line from Bagdad--once Turkey should have regained it--could be
extended across the desert to Mosul; and the stretch of country from
Mosul to Aleppo would offer no difficulties. Between Konia and the line
from Aleppo, however, was the natural barrier of the Taurus Mountains.

The rock stratum in the Taurus is among the hardest in the world. For
many months it resisted all ordinary drills. The German engineers
caused various special drills to be made; and then, after infinite
labour and experiment, began boring slowly through the rock. The
natural difficulties--precipices, steep slopes, chasms, and
gorges--were tremendous. Nobody who has passed through the hollowed
rock can deny that the tunnel is a magnificent piece of engineering,
especially the suspension bridge across a giant gorge on the western
slope.

Trains began running through the Taurus, along the broad-gauge line,
just before the Armistice; and the Berlin-Bagdad Railway, including
this wonderful tunnel, then became the London-Bagdad Railway. Already
the rails stretch eastward to Mosul, while the westward rails from
Bagdad are fast moving from Samarra to Mosul. These, when completed,
will be the last links in a railway chain from Boulogne to Bagdad.
When--and if--a Channel tunnel is constructed the chain will reach,
without a break, from London to Bagdad.

Throughout the war this work on the Anatolian Railway was largely done
by British and Indian soldiers, mostly from among the survivors of the
captured garrison of Kut-el-Amara. With them were a few German
technicians, some Turkish guards, and many Turkish labourers. As
workmen the Turks were hopeless, except when set to tasks that required
no intelligence; and even then they shirked. The Tommies, who were
better paid and fed by the Germans than were the prisoners working for
the Turks, established a curious ascendancy. When it suited them they
did four times the work of the Turks. They had initiative, they could
be trusted. It was not long before some of them were in charge of
Turkish gangs. Several filled positions of importance, with good
salaries and plenty of freedom.

Having left the tunnel and halted for a few hours at Belamedik, we were
met by groups of these prisoner-officials eager for news of the war.
They wore civilian clothes, furnished by the Dutch Legation at
Constantinople. Such as had clean collars and hats were greeted
respectfully with the title of _effendi_ by the Turkish labourers. One
Tommy--a Glasgow warehouseman--had charge of all the office staff, with
Greek clerks under him. Another--an Australian--was actually paymaster
of this section of the construction department. Thousands of dollars
passed through his hands each week, and the German officials trusted
him implicitly. It was an extraordinary position--British prisoners of
war, in the wildest part of Anatolia, as valued officials on the
Berlin-Bagdad Railway.

From Belamedik we proceeded to Bosanti, where, in those days, the
broad-gauge line ended and the narrow-gauge line began. There we stayed
for a night and a morning. At Bosanti, also, there was a band of
British prisoners, some of whom took us to their hut and demanded the
latest war news. At that time we had little that was good to tell. The
German drive toward Amiens and Paris was in full swing, the Italians
had been badly beaten on the Piave, the tonnage sunk by submarines was
enormous. Our one bright item of news was that thousands of Americans
were pouring into France daily. This greatly surprised the isolated
prisoners, who, from what they had been told by the Germans or had read
in the Turkish papers, thought that no American troops could have
arrived on the Western front.

Having distracted the guards' attention by giving them cocoa in a far
corner of the hut, the Tommies revealed a plan of escape. A party of
five--two Australians, two Englishmen, and a French petty officer from
a captured submarine--had built a collapsible boat. In three weeks'
time they would apply for twenty-four hours' rest from work, a
privilege allowed by the German supervisors every three months.
Carrying the boat in sections, and enough food for a fortnight, they
would then slip away and begin tramping toward the coast, near Mersina.
They expected to be walking for about ten days. Afterward they would
assemble the boat at night and put to sea, in the hope of either being
picked up by an Allied vessel or rowing to Cyprus. Five months had
passed in building the boat, the work being done inside the hut at odd
moments, sometimes by day and sometimes by night, but always with a man
on the look-out for intruders. Tools, strips of metal, and a huge sheet
of canvas had been smuggled out of the German workshops.

After making sure that the guards were unsuspicious, an Australian
lifted the tip of a plank beneath his bed, and extracted one of the
steel ribs. It was beautifully made, with folding joint in the centre
and clasp and socket at either extremity. He also produced a compass
and a revolver bought from a friendly Austrian. Both these articles
would be necessary, the compass because without it they would be unable
to follow the road, and the revolver because they would be certain to
meet brigands.

One can imagine the determination and perseverance that made possible
these long hours of secret work on the collapsible boat, during months
of designing, of filching the required materials, of odd-moment
construction under great difficulty, always with the fear of discovery.

I wish it were possible to tell of their success. About a month after
we left Bosanti they slipped away, according to plan. Carrying the boat
in sections, besides food and the oars, they walked in night marches
across the mountains and down the wild slopes fronting the coast. Three
times they met brigands, but the revolver enabled them to bluff their
way through.

And then, when already within sight of the sea, a gendarme found them.
Four of the plucky five were captured, while the fifth managed to hide
in a cleft between two rocks with the complete framework of the boat.
That night he dragged it down to the deserted part of the beach. On the
following night he pieced it together. He put to sea, and for eight
hours made a desperate effort to leave the coast. But the shoreward
currents were too strong for him, and the weak little craft drifted
back. He was recaptured, and sent to join the other adventurers in
prison.

In the morning, while waiting for our train, we watched the Tommies at
work. Six aeroplanes were on their way to Palestine, and the prisoners
were told to transfer them to the small-gauge railway. The men seemed
listless and unhasteful as they carried the machines to a secluded
siding for the reloading, but I was puzzled to find that when they
began packing the aeroplane sections on the small trucks they showed
keenness and even enthusiasm. In the distance we could see them grouped
around each truck in turn, as they worked steadily throughout the
morning.

"You always as keen in handling Hun war material?" asked H. of a burly
Londoner of the old Regulars, who strolled toward us from the siding.

"Sometimes we are, sir; sometimes we ain't."

"You couldn't have done a better morning's work in a munitions factory
at home."

"That's right. We done a good mornin's work."

"But these are _Hun_ aeroplanes, man. What the----"

"As _yew_ remark, sir, they're 'Un airerplanes. But I doubt if they'll
ever fly."

Then we guessed. He amplified the guesses with details.

"Yus; we does er bit er wreckin'--sabbertage, as yer might say. We
carry things across to that 'ere sidin', and nobody can say as we don't
bee-ave _beeyewtiful_ till we gets there. Then we open er box er two,
see what's inside, and proceed according to reggerlations. Crimernul, I
calls it....

"That 'ere sidin's useful place. Aht er the way, yer know. The Boches
don't go there. 'Course, if any Boches er near, we resoom ligitimite
operations till they've 'opped it. Turks? We don't let 'em see neither
if we can 'elp it. Wuncertwice Turkish _askas_ 've seen us at play, but
they only larf. They 'ate the 'Uns a blurry sight more'n we do. Why, I
remember when a coupler Turks '_elped_ in the good work one mornin'.

"Guns and airerplanes is 'andiest," he continued. "Yer see, when we
'ave the breech-block uv a gun it don't need long to take aht some
gadget or other, accordin' as the gunners with us sez. Airerplanes we
attack mostly on the longeerongs--those ribs o' wood that runs dahn the
length uv the body, ain't they? English pilot 'oo passed dahn the line
some months ergo giv' us the tip. 'Course, we give the other parts a
bit uv attention--wires and sechlike....

"No, it don't seem likely as those things over there'll fly fer a long
time."

It certainly didn't seem likely. Besides ripping open the fuselage
fabric and cutting some of the longerons, the Tommies had hacked at the
struts and clipped some bracing wires. They had prised open the wooden
cases, and, before replacing the covers, had snapped spars, bent
elevators and rudders, and been generally unpleasant to the planes.
Similar wrecking was being done, in greater or lesser degree, at
Belamedik and other points on the railway where prisoners were forced
to work.

The ill-treatment of those six aeroplanes at Bosanti had a peculiar
sequel. When the British entered Nazareth (the Turco-German
headquarters in Palestine) during General Allenby's final advance, they
captured most of the staff documents. Among the aviation papers was a
letter from the O.C. German Flying Corps on that front to Air
Headquarters in Germany, complaining bitterly about the bad packing and
the bad handling in transit of aeroplanes sent to Palestine. As an
instance it mentioned these very machines (my comparison of dates and
details established that point)--single-seater scouts of the Fals
type--and declared that not one of them was fit to be assembled for
flying. Enclosed was a photograph of some queer-looking débris that had
once been a wing. The protest ended with a request that the men who
packed the six craft should be punished.

Boches are Boches, but Justice is Justice; and with memories of what I
saw at Bosanti, I hope that the packers were not punished.

Having waved good-bye to these men who, though prisoners, were helping
the British armies so effectively, we passed on toward Konia. And even
as we moved westward from Bosanti the Aeroplanes That Never Would Fly
moved eastward, through the Taurus tunnel that never would be a link in
a great chain of railways from Berlin to Bagdad.



CHAPTER VI

CUTHBERT, ALFONSO, AND A MUD VILLAGE


If, at midnight, you were comfortably asleep in a railway carriage, and
some Turkish guards dragged you out of it and led you along a puddled
track to a mud village in the most god-forsaken part of Anatolia, while
the skies rained their damnedest on you and your one spare shirt, you
might be annoyed. Possibly you would cry: "To hell with the Turks!"

Such, at any rate, was H.'s comment, shouted at intervals every few
seconds, while we watched the train move Constantinople-ward, leaving
us at a small village called Alukeeshla.

Cuthbert and Alfonso (as we named the two soldiers who brought us from
Bosanti) had told us we were going to Afion-kara-Hissar. So we went to
Alukeeshla. Being unable to read or write, they failed to notice that
the composite ticket given them for seven prisoners and two guards was
valid only as far as this village. Their surprise was therefore as
great as ours when the conductor turned the whole party out of the
train. Certainly, said he, while reading a paper produced by Cuthbert,
we were bound for Afion-kara-Hissar; but, according to these written
instructions, there was to be an indefinite halt at Alukeeshla. It was
typical of Turkish official methods--guards not knowing what must be
done with the prisoners under their charge.

Cuthbert woke the sleepers, and began throwing luggage on to the
platform. In his flurry he dropped a kit-bag on W.'s badly wounded arm.
The sight of W. in pain, following upon our many discomforts and
annoyances, sent H. berserk. "To hell with the Turks!" he yelled, then
stepped one pace backward, swung a long leg, and shot his size eleven
foot at Cuthbert. The kick lifted the greasy little guard from the
floor, and sent him hurtling through the door of the compartment,
outside of which he fell on all fours.

Far from showing resentment he was obviously cowed. Having picked
himself up he asked us, humbly enough, to leave the train. Not wishing
to make a bad situation worse by inviting violence, we complied, while
trying to soothe H., who continued to consign all Turks to flaming
perdition. Evidently Cuthbert and Alfonso thought they had to deal with
a madman, and kept out of his way.

Nobody in Alukeeshla had heard of our existence; and no quarters, of
course, had been allotted. The wretchedness of our midnight search in a
mud village for somewhere to rest was so complete as to be humorous;
and as we trudged through the rain and the darkness, and fell into the
deep puddles that filled every hole in the narrow, badly kept street,
we laughed from sheer misery, so that the guards must have thought we
were now all mad.

We disturbed the inmates of four hovels before finding the two-roomed
building that served as gendarmerie headquarters. Clearly, the
policeman whom Cuthbert then roused from his sleep on the floor of the
front room disliked us, and above all disliked going out into the
night. After grumbling and protesting for five minutes he lit a
lantern, scowled his ugliest, and led the party through more puddles to
a barn. With many a creak the door of it was unlocked by means of a
rusty key.

Three sorry scarecrows rose up and blinked at the lantern, then sank
down again resignedly. The atmosphere was indescribably musty and
dusty. Revolting garbage of every species covered the earthen floor.
The wooden walls were clotted with dirt: something with wings could be
heard flitting about near the high roof. The three prostrate scarecrows
were disgusting, not because of their rags and their filth, but because
of their general suggestion of bestiality.

"The prison," explained the gendarme grandiloquently, as he waved his
hand and moved toward the door.

Now Cuthbert and Alfonso shared our indignation at the dumping of
British officers into such a place, for it would be their duty to stay
with the said officers. They protested volubly, but the gendarme
shrugged his shoulders, and said not a word as he half opened the door.
Thereupon H., still far from calm, grabbed his shoulder, spun him
backward, and began explaining the situation in lurid Australian.

An inspiration was given me by the sight of W.'s bald head. W.,
although a second lieutenant, was a very old man--in the neighbourhood
of forty, I believe. He looked venerable enough to be a temperance
lecturer, although as a matter of fact he was a first-rate fellow.
Knowing the Turkish reverence for the higher military ranks, I pointed
to the bald patch on his head and said, "kaimakam!" (colonel), then
indicated the unpleasant surroundings as if in protest against the
indignity of putting a colonel in such a place.

The policeman, already in fear of H.'s violence, was obviously of
opinion that a _kaimakam_, even an English one, should have better
quarters. With a "_haidee-git!_" to the guards he led us back into the
rain, and so to the gendarmerie. There he woke the police officer and
explained our presence. Fortunately the officer was too drowsy to read
our papers for proof of the presence of a _kaimakam_. Finally, at his
orders, the gendarme took us to a room on the first floor of a
two-story mud building. It was dirty and utterly bare; but there, at
any rate, we had privacy. We laid out claims to floor-space and fell
asleep, while Alfonso remained on guard by the door.

That little room in a mud hut was the home for ten days of seven
British officers and two Turkish guards. Side by side, and with bodies
touching each other, there was just space enough for eight people to
lie on the floor. Already, when we arrived, one could sense the
presence of Cuthbert and Alfonso without seeing or hearing them; and
with each washless day their natural odour became more and more
intensive.

We had nothing to read, and--worst misfortune of all--somebody had left
our pack of playing-cards in the train. We wandered round the walls
like beasts in a cage.

Nobody in the village knew or cared why we were there, or what was to
happen to us. We could only surmise that this was the punishment for
the plot to escape from Damascus.

Cuthbert took our papers into the village on the morning after arrival,
but returned at midday with no information and many shoulder shrugs.
Although none of us knew Turkish we understood enough to realize that
if the matter of obtaining instructions were left to this stupid
illiterate we might stay in the village for ever.

A council of war decided that I, as being the linguist, and W., as
being the most imposing of us, with his bald head, his bushy moustache,
and his South African ribbons, should drag Cuthbert into the presence
of whatever officials we could find, and make ourselves a pluperfect
nuisance until we were sent away.

"Commandant!" I said, going toward the door, this word being common to
most languages.

"_Yassak!_" (forbidden) said Cuthbert, barring the way.

"Commandant! Come!" I insisted, brushing him aside.

He was ready to yell for help when Alfonso came forward as an
unexpected ally, and persuaded Cuthbert that it would be better to let
us try to clear up the situation. He led us to the station, where, with
a French-speaking Armenian in tow as interpreter, we forced our way
into the military commandant's office.

The commandant--a slight, dapper _bimbashi_--claimed to be desolated at
our unfortunate position. But what could he do? he inquired. Only
yesterday he had not heard of our existence, and then--_clack!_--we
arrived without warning in this Anatolian village. Doubtless, if we
waited a week or so, the authorities would send orders for a transfer
to some prison camp. Meanwhile, he would gladly help us in any way
possible, except give us food or allow us to take walks or move us into
a better house or, in fact, do anything that I suggested. Twenty
minutes of argument and bluster was necessary before W. and I could
even induce the soft-spoken hypocrite to telegraph to Bosanti for
instructions about our disposal.

Next day, when I took Cuthbert to the station for news, no reply had
come. Nor was there any message on the third morning. Ten o'clock of
the morning became known as "commandant time," so that on the fourth
day the guards took the visit as a matter of course, Cuthbert showing
his watch by way of reminder. The _bimbashi_, worried by our
importunities, took to dodging from his office when he saw us coming;
but always we waited until he returned, and talked insistently until he
promised to send yet another telegram. He showed surface politeness,
and never uttered threats; which in any case would have been more or
less futile, for the fighting force of the village comprised but one
police lieutenant and four gendarmes.

We had arrived hungry, and we continued hungry. The law of supply and
demand, as applied to eggs, together with the local brand of profiteer,
was the cause. On the first morning a bearded peasant visited the hut
with a basket of hard-boiled eggs, which he sold at the current rate of
two and a half piastres each. Next day, when it became known in the
village that the prisoners were buying eggs, the rate was four piastres
each. Afterward it leaped to five, and next to seven and a half
piastres. Finally, the supply of eggs all but gave out. It was then
possible to buy only one apiece every morning, whereat we became more
hungry than ever, for eggs were our mainstay.

The commandant had given reluctant permission for each prisoner to buy
one small loaf of bread a day at the military rate of two and a half
piastres a loaf. For the rest, we managed to supplement the bread and
eggs with an occasional supply of figs or raisins bought in the village
bazaar as I returned from my importuning of the military commandant.

These fruits were shown in open baskets on crazy little stalls, side by
side with stale bread, bad sausages and meat, nuts, cotton materials,
primitive haberdashery, rock-salt, rank butter, dusty milk, and the
thousand and one other articles that jostle each other in the village
bazaars of Anatolia. It being summer, myriads of flies buzzed around
and settled on the dried fruits. The figs and raisins, therefore, could
not be eaten unless washed carefully or boiled. Fortunately we
possessed a cooking pot, given by the Tommies at Bosanti; and a ruffian
who lived below us sold charcoal at the rate of ten piastres for a
quantity just sufficient to burn for half an hour.

At its best, the crowded room was so stuffy as to be oppressive. When
charcoal fumes were added to the summer closeness the atmosphere became
unbearable. Another drawback that prevented much cooking was the
scarcity of water. We were given just enough to drink; but any surplus,
for washing or boiling purposes, had to be bought. Usually one bottle
of water sufficed for the morning toilet of two of us. Cuthbert and
Alfonso remained unworried by the shortage. They never washed.

Nerve-edging irritation will ever link itself to an enforced
companionship from which there is no escape, however temporary; and
when repulsive surroundings are the milieu for such propinquity the
irritation is akin to madness. The reek, the vermin, the heat, the
hunger, the confined space, the dirt, and the depression combined to
stab our sensibilities, so that by the third day we almost hated each
other, individually and collectively.

We could obtain no brush, no soap, no broom. The little den grew
dirtier and dirtier, the floor became more and more littered, the
guards were smellier and smellier. Cramped and intensely ennuied, we
paced in criss-cross fashion around the twelve square yards of
floor-space, getting in each other's way and brooding bitterly. Of
outdoor exercise there was only the daily visit to the commandant; and
but one other man was allowed to walk to the station with me each
morning.

A word, a suggestion, or a nudge was enough to provoke loud disputes.
Every now and then heated words only stopped short of blows because all
realized that the anger had been sired, not by bad feeling, but by
disgusting circumstances, and that a fight would be utterly futile.
Worst of all, as most prisoners in Turkey must have realized, was the
galling subjection to men such as Cuthbert and Alfonso--semi-civilized,
altogether unintelligent, and regulating their actions by the crudest
of instincts and axioms.

Only one of us, old W., remained reasonable; and he had the greatest
cause for irritation. His wounded arm, which had not received proper
treatment in the Turkish hospital at Nazareth, became badly inflamed as
a result of the terrible conditions. Yet he never once complained, nor
did he take part in the constant quarrels. Looking back, I can realize
that his fine example was the sole redeeming feature of those miserable
days in the mud village.

On one point only did we all agree. "Wish some of the pretty boys who
sport their staff tabs in Cairo could be here," said H., and there
followed a chorus of hearty assent.

"How about 'X'.?" he continued, mentioning the name of one of the
rudest staff officers who ever sat in a swivel chair. The five aviators
among us grinned at the thought of having him to ourselves in the tiny
room, far away from the list of postings and from Regulations Governing
the Promotion of Officers. This happy thought almost reconciled us to
the discomfort.

Always it rained. How it rained! The yard below our window was oozy
with mud, and the veiled women who were our neighbours lifted their
robes high as they buried their thick ankles into the slush. Three of
them, with an old man, a boy, and three infants, lived in a two-roomed
hovel that faced our building. Other dwellers in their hut were a
donkey, a dog, and several hens. Two of the women took ostentatious
care to draw their _yashmaks_ closer whenever a prisoner showed himself
at the window; but the third, rather less unprepossessing than the
others, was less careful to protect her face from the gaze of the
infidels. Beyond the yard was a stretch of flat mud dotted with squat,
ugly buildings.

It was an Australian--I forget which one--who discovered by accident an
antidote for the state of unutterable boredom and depression which was
overwhelming us. He had lived in the district which for a time was the
hunting ground of the Kelly gang, and he retold the vivid melodrama, as
told to him by older people who had been spectators, of the bushranger
brothers who wore armour and robbed so successfully, daringly, and
incredibly. By the time we had listened, thrilled by wonder, to the
tale of the Kellys' last great stand against a large force of police,
with a burning house as background, what would have been another
miserable evening had passed in tense interest.

Afterward we made full use of this means to forgetfulness. Each
afternoon and evening somebody delivered himself of _choses vues_ or
_choses entendues_. H. told of his wanderings in Fiji; R. of
sheep-farming in Queensland, I was able to relate some early-war
observations on the Swiss-German frontier, in connection with German
espionage. Old W. possessed both the Queen's and King's South African
decorations, and for many years after the war in which he gained them
had served in the Cape Mounted Rifles. His yarns of diamond-field days
before Kimberley was made respectable by the De Beers monopoly, of
Mafeking and the Vaal, of the Boer tribal treks, and of early Rhodesia
filled many an empty hour in the hut at Alukeeshla.

When pre-1914 reminiscences ran dry, most phases of the war were
described from personal experience. M. and H. had fought on Gallipoli
as troopers; R. had flown in the Sinai Desert campaign; W. had been at
Ypres and Neuve Chapelle in 1915; I had flown over the Somme battles in
the days before the Royal Flying Corps had been provided with machines
designed for warfare, instead of for inherent stability coupled with
inherent unsuitability for fighting Fokkers, Halberstadts, and Rolands
on equal terms.

Even Alfonso contributed to the time-killing narratives. We were
discussing the war's origin, and somebody mentioned Sarajevo. "_Ya
Sarajevo!_" he said, pointing to his chest, then plunged into a
whirlpool of unintelligible talk. He knew a few German words, but
mostly he spoke in Turkish or in what was either Serbian or some
Bosnian dialect. I failed to gather whether he said he was a native of
Bosnia or had merely lived there. It was clear, however, that he had
been at Sarajevo when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered, and
had seen the deed. Alfonso's excited description, containing here and
there a word I could understand, reminded me, incongruously enough, of
Marinetti's Futurist "verse," which I had heard recited by the poet
himself at a London night club in 1913. Said Alfonso:--

    "_Kronprinz_--_jabber jabber jabber_--_Sarajevo_--
    _Jabber jabber jabber_--_automobil_--
    _Jabber_--_Pouf! pouf! pouf! pouf! pouf!_--
    _Kronprinz automobil halt boum!_--
    _Jabber jabber jabber_--_Kronprinz aa-ee!_--
    _Damen aa-ee! aa-ee!_--_jabber jabber_--_aa-ee!_--
    _Jabber jabber jabber jabber jabber jabber._"

Lifting his arm as if aiming with a revolver.

We passed a vote of thanks to Alfonso, together with a cigarette and a
fig.

The departure from the mud village was as absurd as the rest of our
experiences in it. On my ninth visit to him the commandant announced
with pride that he had arranged for us to leave by the evening train,
and that the station-master at Bosanti would leave an empty truck for
us.

Twenty minutes before the train arrived we trudged through the rain to
the station, carrying our parcels of disreputable kit. All three gates
leading to the platform were guarded by sentries, who offered to
bayonet any one who tried to pass without papers stamped by the local
gendarmerie. To each sentry in turn Cuthbert explained frantically who
we were and what the commandant had said, only to be met with an
invariable "_Yassak!_" and a fingering of the rifle.

The _bimbashi_ himself was absent, and so was the Armenian
interpreter--the only other person, apparently, who knew our orders.
Alfonso, despatched to the commandant's house, returned with the news
that he could not be found. We stood in the rain puffing at damp
cigarettes and cursing. H. returned to his old refrain, "To hell with
the Turks!", to the great wonder of the tatterdemalion men and boys
gathered round us.

When the train steamed away from Alukeeshla, taking, no doubt, the
empty truck reserved for us, we startled the guards and sentries with
yells of uncontrollable laughter.

M. and I opened next morning's visit to the _bimbashi_ with bitter
protests, but had to end it in helpless acquiescence before his suave
lies. He had given strict orders that the sentries were to let us pass,
he pretended, and they would be punished severely for their failure to
do so. Meanwhile, he was charmed that we were to accept the hospitality
of the village for one day longer. He himself would be present to see
us off by the next train that same evening.

For once the commandant kept his promise. He led us to the station
himself. But this time no accommodation had been provided for us on the
train. The trucks were full of Germans, the first- and second-class
carriages of Turkish officers, the third-class carriages of Turkish
soldiers. As it would be difficult to crowd the Turkish officers and
impossible to dislodge any Germans, the only alternative was to clear
out some of the Turkish privates.

The _bimbashi_ selected a carriage, entered it, and ordered its
occupants to descend to the platform. There were only nine of us, with
the guards, while the soldiers numbered more than forty. Yet the
_bimbashi_ turned them all out. He hurled their packs through the open
windows, and by candlelight drove them before him to the doorway. Some,
who were reluctant to leave, he struck. It was astonishing to see the
little man smacking and kicking burly brutes twice his size; though he
knew well that they would never dare to hit back.

When the carriage was quite empty he took us inside and placed us in a
corner. The Turkish rabble, swearing and grumbling, returned with their
packs and their rifles, and scowled at us as they packed themselves
into the remaining seats. The whole matter could have been arranged,
with a twentieth of the fuss, by merely moving nine Turks from one end
of the carriage to the other.

"Good?" asked the commandant, proudly, after we were seated.

"Magnificent!" I replied, while we tried hard not to let our
self-control be blown over by gusts of laughter.

"Then, au revoir, my friend."

"Adieu, mister the commandant."

He strutted down the platform; and we passed from Alukeeshla to
whatever weird experiences might be waiting for us elsewhere.

                 *       *       *       *       *

This chapter is but an amplification of an inscription signed by H. and
myself before we left our mud home. When passing toward Alukeeshla from
the station, take the second turning to the right beyond the
gendarmerie, then the first to the left, and enter the fifth house in a
row of buildings that stare at you from the bottom of a blind alley.
Climb some rickety stairs to the back room on the first floor, and you
may still find these words on one of the walls:

"In memory of some bad days and good yarns, spent and told in this
dirty room of this verminous hut in this God-forsaken village. To Hell
with the Turks!"



CHAPTER VII

IN THE SHADOW OF THE BLACK ROCK


Moored under a willow tree, we were clearing what was left of the cold
chicken and salad from the middle of a punt. I filled the Chambertin
bottle with water and dropped it overboard. It plashed and sank
noiselessly to the bottom of the Thames. From the far side of our
island came the metallic strains of a gramophone, made less blatant by
the soft atmosphere of the river. A passing punt-pole clacked, rose
from the surface, stabbed the water and clacked again. Flies danced
from the hot sunlight into the shade of the willow, and hovered over
the remains of our lunch. I composed the cushions and lay down,
opposite Phyllis.

But the cushions became harder and harder, and the breeze merged
gradually into a stuffy, dark oppressiveness. I opened my eyes, and sat
up. The head cushion, it appeared, was a sackful of kit, my white
flannels were a uniform in creased and dirtied khaki, Phyllis was
Alfonso the Turkish guard, and the Thames the military baths at
Afion-kara-Hissar, in the centre of Anatolia.

Some ragged Turks arrived through the stone passage that led to the hot
room, and began undressing. Cuthbert was talking to the bath attendant,
while Alfonso lay opposite me and snored. H. and W. also snored in
dissonant notes. R. was sorting out his kit. The rest of the party
still slumbered silently, stretched out in twisted attitudes on the
stone floor.

Then I remembered how we were dragged from the train in the early
hours of the morning, and had wandered through the streets of
Afion-kara-Hissar, looking for the prison camp. Finding it closed to
night arrivals, Cuthbert and Alfonso led us to the Madrissah _hammam_,
in the courtyard of a mosque. Weary with want of sleep and the
hardships of a long journey, we had slept for several hours on the
floor of the outer bath-room.

Only R. had risked taking off his boots; and these had evidently
disappeared, for as he searched his loud curses echoed from the domed
roof. As was to be expected, all the Turks in the room disclaimed
volubly any knowledge of the missing boots, so that when we moved to
the prisoners' camp R. clattered along the streets in a pair of wooden
sandals borrowed from the bath attendant.

A Turkish officer met us at the barrier which divided the street of
prison-houses from the rest of the town, and sent us to meet the
British adjutant of the camp. Cuthbert and Alfonso waved a
good-humoured farewell and disappeared. With them they took our cooking
pots--although we did not discover this fact until later in the day. By
that time they had left Afion-kara-Hissar. We swore long and loud at
the memory of the two guards, for in those days any sort of a cooking
utensil was in Turkey worth at least two pounds.

Passing up the narrow street we were greeted by groups of weirdly
clothed Britishers. Some wore torn and creased uniforms and a civilian
cap or a much-dented billycock; some a military hat and ill-fitting
suits of shoddy mufti; some were in khaki shorts surmounted by shirts
of violent colours open at the neck; some wore heavy boots, some wore
bedroom slippers, some wore sandals.

Many of them were survivors of the Kut-el-Amara garrison and had been
prisoners in Turkey for two and a half years. Their uniforms had long
since become scarecrow relics of better days, since when they had
depended for clothing on the supplies forwarded by the Dutch Legation
at Constantinople. The productions of the Turkish tailors and
shirt-makers, as issued to the prisoners at Afion, were entertaining
but rather anarchic.

Afion-kara-Hissar contained the largest prison-camp in Turkey, although
there were others at Yozgad, Broussa and Geddós--the last-named being
for the fifty or sixty of his Majesty's officers who had been persuaded
to give parole not to attempt an escape. When the first batch of
British officers arrived at Afion the Turks turned some Armenian
families out of their homes, confiscated the furniture, and told the
captives from the Dardanelles and Mesopotamia that they were to live in
the empty houses.

"Beds? Furniture?" said the commandant. "We have none, and it is
impossible to supply any."

"Food?" he said in reply to another demand. "It is well known that all
British officers are rich. You have money enough to buy food for
yourselves."

And so it had to be. At first the British officers lived on their pay
as captives; which, according to rank, was at the rate of seven to ten
Turkish pounds a month. But food prices soon expanded to extraordinary
proportions, while the exchange value of the Turkish pound continued to
decrease. By the beginning of 1918 it was worth less than two and a
half dollars; while sugar, for example, was four dollars a pound. Tea
was fifty dollars a pound, and real coffee was unobtainable. Under
these conditions, it became almost impossible to obtain even a bare
subsistence on seven Turkish pounds a month without outside help. The
Dutch Legation, therefore, supplemented each captive officer's pay to
the extent of five, then fifteen, Turkish pounds a month, taken from
the Red Cross funds at their disposal.

Even thus the food difficulties could not have been solved without the
help of parcels from home. These arrived either seven or eight months
after they left England, or never. Many were delivered only after the
Turks had looted from them such articles as were scarce, including
boots, clothes, and good tobacco. Letters from England needed from two
to five months for transit.

The lack of furniture was overcome by amateur carpentry. With string,
nails, and planks of wood each newly arrived prisoner constructed a
bed, a table, and a chair. Profiteers in the bazaar naturally took
advantage of the demand for wood, and, by the time of which I write,
the price of it had soared to two Turkish pounds a plank.

Besides the officers there were at Afion about two hundred Tommies shut
up in a Greek church. Their daily rations from the Turks were one small
loaf of bad bread and one basin of thin soup. For the rest, they
existed on the tinned food which they received from time to time in
parcels.

As for the Russian soldiers, who were herded into the Madrissah
buildings, they were literally starving, and most of them had sold part
of their clothing to buy extra food. Weak and ragged, they passed the
time in walking round and round the courtyard. During the bitter months
of winter scores of them died from hunger and cold.

Conditions in the prison camp varied according to the character of
whoever happened to be the Turkish commandant. For a time the officer
in charge was one Muslum Bey, who was reported to have committed
several executions for Enver Pasha during the turbulent days of the
Young Turk _coup d'état_ in 1908. He was a brute, a swindler, and a
degenerate, and during his reign unspeakable outrages were committed.
He himself gave a Russian officer who had committed some minor offence
more than a hundred strokes of the bastinado. When his arm was tired he
made his sergeant-major continue the flogging until the Russian
fainted. The unconscious body of the victim was then thrown into a
cellar, where a part of his face was burned by contact with quick-lime.

Muslum Bey not only stole food parcels from England but made a practice
of deducting part of the monthly pay which helped to procure for the
British Tommies a bare existence. In addition, he made an arrangement
with bazaar traders whereby a monopoly in certain articles of food came
into being, so that the prisoners had to pay incredible prices, or go
hungry.

It was not until the visit of a Swiss Commission that was investigating
the prison-camps of Turkey that the British officers at
Afion-kara-Hissar heard of Muslum Bey's worst outrage. The brutal
commandant had taken great care that there should be no communication
between the captive officers and the captive men, and severe punishment
was inflicted if a Tommy tried to speak with a British officer whom he
chanced to pass in the street. Scenting that something was wrong the
officers induced members of the Swiss Commission to take with them the
senior British doctor when they visited the Tommies in the Greek
Church. Almost the first words that Colonel B., the doctor in question,
heard on entering the building were the equivalent of "I've been
outraged, sir." He then learned the story of how two British soldiers,
thrown into jail for some trivial offence, had been forcibly outraged,
first by the commandant and then by his sergeant-major.

The Swiss Commission itself was not immune from Muslum Bey's
criminality. An Australian officer took a member of it aside, and told
him the full story of the awful death-march from Kut-el-Amara, on which
the captured garrison, already reduced by hunger, were forced to trek
over 800 miles of desert and mountain, being left to die in the
scorching sun if they fell out owing to weakness--a death-march which
is responsible for the fact that less than 25 per cent. of the men
captured at Kut-el-Amara are alive to-day.

"Yes, we know all about it," said the Swiss, "and we had it in our
notes. But most of our papers were stolen the other day."

When I reached Afion, in May, 1918, the conditions had improved. As a
result of a secret report by the senior British officer, smuggled to
the headquarters at Constantinople of the Ottoman Red Crescent, Muslum
Bey had been removed from his position and imprisoned. He was put on
trial for his many crimes; but owing to _baksheesh_ and to political
protection the sentence was but a few months' imprisonment. He had
already served this period while awaiting trial, and was therefore
released immediately after sentence. He went into business as a
shopkeeper, and sold among other things tinned food bearing British
labels--tinned food of the kind that anxious people in England and
India lovingly bought and lovingly packed for their husbands, sons, and
relatives who were prisoners of war.

Meanwhile, although Muslum Bey had been given only the travesty of a
punishment by the Turkish judges, instructions were sent from the
Turkish War Office that life at the prison-camps of Afion-kara-Hissar
was to be made more pleasant. We were, for example, allowed the run of
a portion of the hillside. In cold print such a concession seems
unimportant enough, but to men who had become staled and unspeakably
bored by months of captivity during which their only exercise was to
walk up and down a narrow street, it was a godsend. Cricket and
football matches were also allowed, and two or three times a week long
walks were arranged.

Members of these walking parties would study the flat plain that
surrounded Afion-kara-Hissar and the succession of hill-ranges beyond
it, and would dream of an escape to some point on the coast.

From this town in the centre of Anatolia, however, escape seemed an
impossibility, for the nearest point of the coast was 150 miles
distant, and the intervening country, wild and almost trackless, was
full of brigands and starving outlaws of every description, who would
cheerfully kill a chance traveller for a pair of boots, a loaf of
bread, or merely for practice. In any case, a tramp to the coast must
extend over at least five weeks, and it was difficult to see how food
for this long period could be carried.

Several officers were carrying on a secret correspondence with friends
in England by means of code, and were trying to prepare wild schemes
whereby a boat was to be waiting for them at some specified part of the
coastline between specified dates, or whereby an aeroplane was to pick
them up during the night. Most of us gave up the idea of making a dash
for freedom from Afion, and schemed to be sent to Constantinople, where
the chances of success would be greater.

When a recently captured prisoner first accepted the fact that escape
from Afion-kara-Hissar was impossible, and when the monotony of
captivity had permeated him, he would as a rule pass through a period
of melancholia and the deepest depression. A black rock--huge, gaunt,
and forbidding--overshadowed the little town from its height of 2,000
feet of almost sheer precipice. For hours at a time one would stare at
its bare blackness, and at the crumbling ruins of the fortress, built
by the Seljak Turks, which topped the rock; and the blackness and
bareness would enter into one's soul and plunge one into a swirling
vortex of morbid thoughts. For me the rock was a symbol of
captivity--bleak, inexorable, and unrelenting.

Yet, as a rule, the period of melancholia soon passed, and gave place
to resigned acceptance of the trivial and monotonous daily round of
prison life. This more or less sane view of things was only made
possible by improvised distractions, by reading, and by the discussion
of the thousand-and-one rumours that spread from the bazaars. Time and
again it would be whispered by some Greek trader that Talaat Pasha was
negotiating a separate peace and had agreed to open the Dardanelles, or
that war was about to be declared between Turkey and Bulgaria as a
result of the Dobrudja dispute, or that Enver Pasha had been
assassinated, or that the Sultan was determined to rid himself of the
Young Turk government. We knew well that these reports were untrue and
scarce worth even the attention of bitter laughter; but since we wanted
them to be true they would be discussed with gravity over the
mess-tables until the next batch of newspapers proved their falsity.

The most useful means to forgetfulness was the camp library. Many
hundreds of books were sent to the prison-camps of Turkey by various
societies and individual sympathizers in England. It was at
Afion-kara-Hissar that I first found the courage and concentration
necessary to read through each and every consecutive volume of Gibbon.
"The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," by the way, was probably
more in demand than anything else in the library; for the state of mind
induced by captivity needed something more solid and satisfying than
the best yeller-seller. Great favourites, too, were books of Eastern
travel and adventure--in particular the works of Burton and Lamartine,
the "Travels of Marco Polo the Venetian," and Morier's "Hajji Baba." A
copy of Plutarch's "Lives" also received the attention of much wear and
tear. For the rest, many a time have I thanked the gods for Kipling;
but never more heartily than when lying on the hillside at Afion and
forgetting the Black Rock and all that it stood for in the company of
Kim the lovable, Lalun the lovely, and The Man Who Would Be King.

Away from the ragtime blare and rush of modern life this isolation in a
small town of a semi-civilized province gave the prisoners time and
opportunity to "find" themselves, so that for the first time in their
lives many began to think individually, instead of accepting
conventional opinions at second hand. At least one book of promise was
written at Afion-kara-Hissar, and four others have found publication.
Several excellent poems were born there amid a welter of verse that was
deathless because lifeless. Plays, paintings, and songs were produced
in profusion. One man, an Australian, made a very thorough study of the
ancient civilizations of the Middle East, and could supply accurate
information, without reference to a book, about every phase of the rise
and fall of Babylon and Nineveh, of the Medes and Persians, of the
Chaldeans and Assyrians, with the extent and location and customs of
the various empires. Yet he confessed that three years earlier, at a
time when he was flying in Mesopotamia, he had no more interest in
Babylon than in Nashville, Tennessee.

Apart, however, from the quality of this work _pour passer le temps_,
the very fact that so many should adventure into the unknown country of
creative effort proved that, when away from the preoccupations of an
artificial social system, even the average Englishman turned
instinctively to learning and the arts.

Meanwhile, many a lively performance was given in the garden which
served as open-air theatre, with plays written and songs composed by
people who, before being subjected to the isolation of captivity, had
occupied themselves solely with soldiering or business. Comic relief
also was provided by two youthful subalterns who set up shop as
earnest-minded philosophers, and on a foundation of Nietzsche, Wilde,
and Shaw built a gargoyled edifice that was perverted and extravagantly
young, but withal vastly entertaining.

The social life of the camp was complex. Despite the absence of the
female of the species, it resembled in many ways that of a suburb in
some wealthy city of the Midlands. As was to be expected among a
hundred people confined in two small streets, innumerable cliques were
formed, from each of which ripples of gossip spread outward until they
merged into and were overwhelmed by another eddy of gossip. Starting in
the morning from a small room in a wooden house an item of scandal
would, by the evening, have reached every room of thirty other
houses--how X. had received a pair of pyjamas for nothing from the Red
Cross supply and sold them for three liras; how Y. had climbed over
several roofs at night-time and, in the shadow of a chimney, met that
Armenian girl with the large eyes; how Z. had begun to smoke opium.
Opium, by the way, could be had in plenty. The production of it was the
chief industry of Afion-kara-Hissar ("_afion_" is Turkish for "poppy,"
"_kara hissar_" being "black rock"). Enormous poppy-fields spread all
round the town in vivid splashes of red and white.

Yet with all the trivial gossip and light scandal there was a very real
sense of comradeship. If any man were sick the remainder would fall
over each other in their desire to be of help. If any house were short
of wood during the bitter months of winter its inmates could always
borrow from such as had enough and to spare. A new prisoner, possessing
no money and a minimum of clothes--as was the case with most of
us--would find himself overwhelmed by loans and gifts.

When I was at Afion the camp was very much preoccupied with rumours of
a forthcoming exchange of sick prisoners between Great Britain and
Turkey. Scores of intrigues centred round the room of Major H., then
senior medical officer among the British; for it would be his task to
examine the "_unfit_" before deciding which were to be sent for further
and final examinations by Turkish medical boards. Scarcely a man failed
to produce an ailment. Wounds that had healed years before were
bandaged and treated with unnecessary care. Limps of every description
were to be seen in the street. Some claimed to be deaf. Others allowed
their gray hairs to grow long, and continued to express an opinion that
the old and feeble should be sent home first. Such as could produce
neither old age nor some physical ailment discussed loss of memory and
mental trouble.

All day long Major H. examined the claimants, smiled to himself, and
compiled lists. These, I imagine, must have been subdivided something
like this--(a) those who suffered from real injuries or illnesses; (b)
those who were middle-aged, and had minor ailments; (c) those who were
young, and had minor ailments; (d) those who might conceivably have
minor ailments but could supply no visible symptoms; (e) those who had
nothing the matter with them, but were good liars, and as such might
convince the Turks; (f) those who were not only healthy, but bad liars.

Besides the British there were at Afion about a hundred Russian
officers; for although the peace of Brest-Litovsk had been signed and
Russia was at peace with Germany, the Russian was the traditional enemy
of the Turk, and none knew when war might break out between Turkey and
the small states which had sprung up in the Caucasus. With no money, no
Red Cross supplies, no means of communicating with their relatives, and
no knowledge of whether these relatives had survived the Bolshevist
terror, the Russian officers among us lived miserably, and were largely
dependent upon the charity of British fellow-captives. In return they
taught some of us a smattering of Russian, and helped to pass the time
with their interminable but entertaining talk. They also provided a
really fine choir, with Captain Korniloff, a cousin of the famous
general, as one of its leading members. Besides ourselves, its
audience, when the choir sang on the hillside, never failed to include
the dark-haired Armenian girls--the only Armenians left in the
town--who had been saved from the exodus and massacres of 1915-16 that
they might serve the pleasures of Turkish officers and officials. They
listened from a distance, and looked their sympathy, as we looked ours.

At the beginning of each month, when the funds arrived from
Constantinople, there would be a succession of birthday parties. On
these occasions the rule was relaxed whereby each prisoner must remain
in his own house after seven o'clock. The Turks reverence birthdays,
and by playing upon this fact permission would be obtained to celebrate
in a friend's room. It was necessary to claim birthdays in rotation,
for even the Turks might have disbelieved if the same prisoner had
three of them in three successive months.

I shall always remember a party given on the evening of my arrival by
White, an Australian aviator captured in the early days of the
Mesopotamian campaign. It was my first introduction to _árak_, a kind
of a tenth-rate absinthe, which, excepting some incredibly bad brandy,
was then the only alcoholic stimulant to be bought in Anatolia. Finding
it far stronger than it seemed, I had almost forgotten captivity and
its miseries in an unreal enjoyment of the songs, the stories, and the
general hilarity--hilarity which was merely a cloak for forgetfulness.
And then, amid the fumes and the shouting, there recurred insistently
the thought of escape. I spoke of it to the man nearest me, a short
figure in a faded military overcoat, Turkish slippers, and an eyeglass.

"Not so loud," he warned. "You can't trust half these Russians. Come
over into the corner."

Yeats-Brown, the speaker, began to suggest advice about how best to
escape. One's only chance, he declared, was to get to Constantinople.
He himself claimed nose trouble, and having cultivated the friendship
of the local Turkish doctor, he was to be sent for treatment to a
hospital in the capital. If I could invent some plausible ailment he
would persuade the Turkish doctor to use his influence on my behalf.
Meanwhile, we would have further talks and discuss plans. The great
thing was to get to Constantinople.

Although I did not know it at the time there were in that bare room
several men with whom, in a few weeks' time, I was to be involved in a
succession of extraordinary intrigues and adventures, when we should
have met again in Constantinople. There was the host himself--Captain
White--who later on joined me in a thousand-mile journey, through
Russia and Bulgaria, to freedom; there was Captain Yeats-Brown, who for
weeks went about an enemy capital disguised as a girl; there was Paul,
who was to escape three times, be recaptured twice, and finally to
marry the English lady who helped him; there was Prince Constantine
Avaloff, a Russian colonel, who was to help us all by acting as
go-between; there was Lieutenant Vladimir Wilkowsky, a Polish aviator,
whom I was to see again on the other side of the Black Sea, in
German-occupied Odessa. Meanwhile, the _árak_ bottle passed round, and
the songs grew louder and wilder, until daylight broke up the party and
we returned to our rough, hand-made beds.

It now became my aim in life to reach Constantinople. My injuries had
healed, and at a moment's notice I could produce no convincing illness.
I decided, therefore, on some form of mental trouble. Yeats-Brown had
already mentioned me to his friend the Turkish doctor; and I was to
have been examined, when yet again the unexpected happened. It was
ordered by the Ministry of War that the seven of us who left Damascus
together were to be forwarded to Constantinople, presumably for
interrogation.

I took with me high hopes and the addresses of various civilians in the
capital who might be of help. As we entrained, and moved westward
through the poppy-fields, the Black Rock--which more than ever seemed a
symbol of the blackness and menace which overshadowed prisoners in this
half-barbaric country--loomed gigantic and forbidding, so that we were
thankful when the railway wound round a hill and shut it from sight. I
vowed to myself that never again would I return to the monotonous
death-in-life of the prison camp at its foot, on the fringe of the
squalid town of Afion-kara-Hissar.



CHAPTER VIII

CONSTANTINOPLE; AND HOW TO BECOME MAD


"Your best card," said Pappas Effendi, "is _vertige_. Melancholia and
loss of memory and nervous breakdown and all that'll be helpful, but
play up _vertige_ for all you're worth. It can mean anything. Besides,
it's impressive."

Pappas Effendi was a Roman Catholic chaplain, waiting at Psamatia (a
suburb of Constantinople) to be exchanged as a sick prisoner of war. He
and I were discussing how best I could be admitted to hospital, so as
to remain in the capital. As my injuries had healed, and I could
conjure up no physical disorder, I decided to claim, therefore, that as
a result of the aeroplane crash in Palestine I suffered from nervous
and mental troubles.

For the few British officers at Psamatia the accommodation was fair to
very fair; but for the soldiers of many nationalities in the same camp,
life must have been dreadful. Hundreds of them--Britishers, Indians,
Russians, Roumanians, and Serbs--were herded together into filthy,
crowded outhouses and sheds. They were allowed outside them only twice
a day, when they walked backward and forward, forward and backward
across the yard, by way of exercise. Most of them had done nothing else
for months. Their daily rations were the usual loaf of bread and basin
of unnourishing soup.

For the Britishers and Indians conditions were not so bad, because they
received occasional food parcels from home, and a small monthly
remittance from the Red Cross. The Russians, Roumanians, and Serbs had
neither money nor parcels. Some died of weakness, some sold half their
clothing to buy food, and in consequence died of cold during the bitter
winters. The Tommies were also better off in that they were supplied
with clothes and boots by the Dutch Legation, which administered the
Red Cross funds. Prisoners of other nationalities walked about gaunt
and in tatters. The British gave them whatever food and tobacco could
be spared on parcel-days, but even so they could often be seen
scrambling for a thrown-away stump of cigarette, or for bits of bread
or biscuit. Many seemed almost bestial in their hopeless misery. Only
the Serbs, stoic as always maintained a reserved dignity and scorned to
beg.

Two or three times a week we were allowed into Stamboul, in parties of
two or three, each with a guard. On such days the usual rendezvous for
lunch was a little restaurant near the bridge across the Golden Horn.
To pass over the bridge across the Golden Horn was forbidden; for Pera,
the European quarter, was pro-Ally almost to a man, and a British
prisoner might find many helpers there. Even in the preëminently
Turkish Stamboul one often happened upon sympathizers. There was, for
example, a young Armenian who, whenever he could, talked politics to us
on the little suburban railway between Stamboul and Psamatia, and told
us the latest false report of an imminent peace.

"_Nous sommes tous des Anglophiles acharnés_," he assured F. and me.

The threatened interrogation never happened; and one evening it was
announced that our party of seven was to return to Afion-kara-Hissar.
From every point of view it would be advisable to remain in
Constantinople. I believed it to be the only Turkish town in which one
might arrange a successful escape, and I knew that it contained
civilians who were either British themselves or willing to help British
prisoners. Moreover, it offered infinite possibilities in the way of
distraction, which were always attainable through _baksheesh_, that
lowest common denominator of the Turkish Empire. And if the
long-promised exchange of sick prisoners took place Constantinople was
obviously the place where strings must be pulled if one wanted to be
sent home on the strength of some feigned weakness.

There were at Psamatia two officers who had been told that they would
be among the first batch of prisoners to leave the country. One of
them, Flight-Lieutenant F., claimed to be suffering from some form of
tuberculosis difficult of definition and detection but strongly
supported by influential friends. The other was Father M., a Roman
Catholic padre who was among the captured garrison of Kut-el-Amara. It
was evident that thirty months of captivity had seriously affected his
well-being, mental and physical. In any case, as a non-combatant well
over military age, the white-haired priest should most certainly have
been allowed to leave Turkey. Meanwhile, he was well loved by all at
Psamatia, even by the guards, who knew him as "Pappas Effendi."
Whenever he passed down the street children from among the Catholic
Christians who lived near the prison-house would stand in his way, and
demand a blessing.

Unfortunately there was in the camp library no medical text-book to
tell how a prisoner might feign nervous disorders. I had to be content
with coaching from Pappas Effendi, and with practising before the
mirror a doleful look, tempered by a variety of twitchings. Then I
visited the camp doctor. Ever since my aeroplane smash, I complained
with mournful insistence, I had suffered terribly from _vertige_, from
periods of utter forgetfulness, from maddening melancholia, and from
nervous outbreaks. Above all from _vertige_.

Fortunately the doctor, like most Turkish medical men, was both
ignorant and lazy. His day's work was to sit in an office for two
hours, always smoking a cigarette through an absurdly long holder, and
having listened to the translated statements of would-be patients,
either to send them away with a pill or to write out a form whereby
they could be examined at a hospital.

A wound or an injury he might have treated by pill; but it was plain
that the very suggestion of mental trouble stumped him. He could not
withstand the word _vertige_, and after a second repetition of it I had
no difficulty in procuring a chit ordering me to be dealt with by a
hospital doctor.

That same afternoon I was led to Gumuch Souyou Hospital, in Péra. There
my claims to admission as a mentally afflicted person were granted
without question, so that I began to wonder whether or not I really was
in my right mind. Having heard the list of pretended symptoms, not
forgetting the _vertige_, an Armenian doctor sent me to bed for a
fortnight's rest.

W., whose wounded arm was badly inflamed, already occupied a bed in the
same room, as did Ms., who years before had ricked his right knee and,
by reason of its weakness, managed to stay in hospital, with one eye on
the possibilities of an exchange of prisoners. R., who had the same
object in view, turned up from Psamatia later in the day. He had shown
two perfectly healed bullet-wounds in the leg, received three years
earlier in Gallipoli, and bluffed the Turkish doctor into believing
that they were giving him renewed trouble.

Now clearly, if I wished to maintain a reputation for melancholia,
nervous fits, and _vertige_, I should have to prove abnormality; and
just as clearly it would be difficult to give convincing performances
before fellow-prisoners who knew me to be normal. The only solution was
to demand removal to a single-bedded room, for the sake of quiet.

"Pulse and heart normal," commented the ward doctor next morning.
Pulses, hearts, and doctors are often unaccommodating.

"Yes, _Monsieur le docteur_. For the moment nothing worries me, except
that I have forgotten all that has happened since the aeroplane smash.
Sometimes my mind is a black blank, sometimes I am unconscious of what
I do, sometimes the _vertige_ is so bad that I cannot stand on my feet.
Above all, I hate being near anybody. I desire complete rest. Will you
be so kind as to let me go to a small room where I can remain alone?"

The doctor was only half convinced; but he gave instructions for the
change, while W. turned over suddenly to hide his face, and covered his
head with a blanket so as not to laugh out loud.

Once again, as I lay in bed and racked my common-sense for ideas on the
subject of nervous fits and _vertige_, I deplored the lack of any kind
of medical text-book; for never before had I suffered from mental
derangement.

"Pulse and heart normal," the doctor said inexorably on the following
morning.

Then, some hours later, the conduct of Ibrahim, the fat orderly,
suggested the required inspiration. Disregarding instructions not to
worry me, he entered the room in the heat of early afternoon, sat down,
leaned his head on the table, and began to snore. That really did upset
my nerves, and consciously I stimulated the sense of irritation until I
was furious with the Turkish orderly. Finally, blending this anger with
the need of producing some sort of a fit, I considered how best to
attack him, and what attitude to adopt afterward.

I jumped out of bed, opened the door, seized Ibrahim round the middle,
and flung him into the corridor, while he yelled with surprise. Next I
sat down on the bed, and began tearing the sheets into long strips. The
corporal of the guard, with another Turkish soldier, half opened the
door, cautiously, and looked inside. I stared at them blankly, then got
into bed and lay down quietly, facing the wall.

Ibrahim returned presently with the doctor of the day, who entered with
a surprised and quizzical "_Qu' est-ce qu'il y'a?_"

"Doctor," I said, "I fail to remember what I've been doing during the
last five minutes. But I feel I've been through a crisis. Even now my
head swims. I suffer from acute _vertige_."

Followed a long explanation in Turkish, with gestures, from Ibrahim.
The doctor felt my pulse, which fortunately had accelerated during the
calculated excitement of heaving the orderly out of the room.

"_Calmez-vous, donc_," said the doctor. "_Tout sera bien après quelques
semaines._" I liked the suggestion of "some weeks," for anything might
happen in that time.

Before leaving me the doctor prescribed some sort of a bromide mixture,
with calming qualities. The first performance, I felt, had been rather
a success. As for the bromide mixture, I poured it out of the window
during the night. The bottle was filled again in the morning.

Next day was a fitless one; and by the evening I felt that something
must be done to maintain my reputation. Still knowing little of how a
man with my complaints must act, I thought--wrongly, as I discovered
later--that somnambulism would fit in with the general scheme of
abnormality.

I stayed awake until two A.M.; and then, wearing a nightshirt, walked
woodenly into the passage, with arms outstretched and head upheld. The
guard was dozing on a bench that faced the door, and when I passed he
took not the least notice. Feeling hurt at such disregard, I turned and
passed him again, this time taking care to nudge his knee. He rubbed
his eyes, shrilled an exclamation, and began running in the opposite
direction. When he returned with the sergeant of the guard, a quarter
of an hour later, I was in bed and apparently asleep.

During the week that followed I gave several minor performances. Soon,
however, I was ousted from my single-bedded blessedness by a more
worthy madman. A Turkish soldier passed into a violent delirium, and
ran down the corridor on all fours, calling out that he was a horse.
This was far more striking than anything I had imagined or attempted.
The delirious Turk was therefore confined apart in my little room while
I shared a ward with four Turkish officers.

I chose melancholia for the first demonstration in the new quarters.
All day I stared at the ceiling, and answered questions with a rough
"_oui_" or "_non_" without looking at the questioner. Then, at three
A.M., when the four Turks were asleep, I picked up a medicine bottle,
half filled with the bromide medicine, and flung it at the wall. It
struck, tinkled, and scattered in fragments; while three of the Turkish
officers woke and sat up in bed.

"Air-raid?" suggested one of them--for at that time British bombers
from Mudros were visiting Constantinople on most moonlit nights.

"No, a bottle," said another, switching on a light and pointing to the
splintered glass.

He proceeded to protest angrily in Turkish, and I caught the words "mad
Englishman." He turned off the light, and all lay down again. When the
night orderly arrived he found everything quiet, and dared ask no
questions for fear of disturbing the Turkish officers.

Next morning, however, the senior officer in the ward protested to the
chief doctor against being submitted to disturbance and possible
violence from a mentally afflicted Englishman. I was then moved into a
large room where were W., R., Ms., and other officer prisoners.

To sham violence before fellow-Britishers was almost impossible, I
found, even though they coöperated in casting dust into Turkish eyes. I
modified the fits into starts and twitchings whenever a sudden noise
coincided with the presence of a doctor. The melancholia and loss of
memory I retained, for these were easy of accomplishment.

In any case I should have been obliged to become normal enough for
walks outside the hospital, if my hopes were to become realities.
Staying in Constantinople when the rest of the party had returned to
Anatolia was all very well, but it availed nothing unless I could get
into touch with people who might help me to plan an escape.

Each Sunday morning such British officers as were not confined to bed
attended service at the Crimean Memorial Church, off the Grande Rue de
Péra. I wished to make use of this fact in my search for helpers.
Besides the clergyman himself there were still a few British civilians
free in Constantinople, and most of them visited the church on Sunday
mornings. Above all, there would be the chance of asking advice from
Miss Whittaker, a very plucky and noble lady who had taken great risks
upon herself in helping prisoners. Already she had managed to visit us
at Gumuch Souyou, in the company of a Dutch diplomat's wife who came
with official sanction.

A fortnight of fairly mild behaviour gained me permission to attend
divine service. With guards keeping a yard or so behind us we walked
through the Grande Rue de Péra, with its crowd of evident sympathizers,
and so to the church at the bottom of a winding side street. Then, for
an hour, I was in England. Even to such a constant absentee from church
services as myself all England was suggested by the pretty little
building, with its floor smoothly flagged in squares, its simply
compact altar, its well-ordered pews, its consciously reverent
congregation, its rippling organ, and--yes, by the great truths and
dogmatic commonplaces that were platitudinized from its pulpit. The
very sermon--dull, undistinguished, and full of the obvious levelness
that one hears in any of a thousand small churches on any
Sunday--brought joy unspeakable because of its associations.

The guards, who had been standing at the back of the church with hat on
head, refused to let us remain near the door when the congregation
dispersed. It was inadvisable to bribe them in public; so with a
friendly wave from Miss Whittaker, and sympathetic looks from unknown
British civilians, we left at once. We crossed the Golden Horn to
Stamboul, and lunched at our usual restaurant, where I met Pappas
Effendi again.

Presently, in strolled another old acquaintance--Colonel Prince
Constantine Avaloff, the Georgian. He had just arrived at Psamatia from
Afion-kara-Hissar, and brought with him the latest news from that
camp--the arrival of a new commandant who seemed quite pleasant, the
success of the latest concert, the delivery of a batch of parcels, the
increase in price of _árak_, and other of the small happenings that
filled the deadly life of a prisoner of war in Turkey. For me the most
interesting item of news was that Captain Tom White was to be sent to a
Constantinople hospital. Although he had said nothing about escaping, I
rather thought he intended to try it. If he came to Gumuch Souyou he
would be a useful companion, for I knew him to be both ingenious and
unafraid. Meanwhile, I revealed my own hopes to the prince, who
promised to help in any way possible. He was likely to be of use, for
as a result of Georgia's submission to Germany, he was now free to move
about the city without a guard. I walked back to Pera light-heartedly,
with an instinctive knowledge that opportunity was in the offing.

A tousled scarecrow of a man was sitting up in a hitherto empty bed as
we reëntered the prisoners' ward of the hospital. His long, untrimmed
hair hung over an unwashed neck, his cheeks were sunken, his hands were
clasped over the bedclothes that covered his shins. He never looked at
us, but with an expression of the most unswerving austerity continued
to read a book that lay open on his knees. As I passed I saw, from the
ruling and paragraphing of the pages, that it must be a copy of the
Bible.

I looked round for enlightenment, only to find myself face to face with
an even stranger figure. In a bed opposite the scarecrow sat a man
whose face was unnaturally white. The young forehead was divided and
sub-divided by deep wrinkles; a golden beard tufted from the chin; the
head was covered by a too-large fez made of white linen. He grinned and
waved an arm toward the Turkish orderly; but when we looked at him, he
shrank back in apparent affright, then hid under the bedclothes.

[Illustration: Captain T. W. White, Australian Flying Corps, who
accompanied Captain Alan Bott in the 1,000 mile Odyssey to Freedom,
starting from Constantinople. The clothes are the disguise worn by
Captain White in Constantinople.]

"English officers," said the orderly, "come from Haidar Pasha Hospital.
Both mad."

"I am not English," protested in Turkish the strange befezzed head as
it shot from under the bedclothes. "I am a good Turk. The English are
my enemies. I wrote to His Excellency Enver Pasha, telling him I wished
to become a Turkish officer."

"_Mulazim Heel_," continued the Turk, pointing toward the scarecrow.
Then, as he swung his hand in the direction of the man who had written
to Enver Pasha, "_Mulazim Jaw-nès_."

"My name is not Jones," the Fantastic shouted, still speaking in
Turkish, "I am Ahmed Hamdi Effendi."

Yet he was indeed Jones, just as much as the scarecrow opposite him was
Hill. We had heard stories of their extravagant doings, but this was
our first sight of the famous lunatics whose reputation had spread
through every prison-camp in Turkey. The Turks believed them to be mad,
and although there were sceptics, so did many of the British prisoners.
When, after watching the pair for several hours, we went into the
garden that evening and discussed them, we agreed that they were either
real lunatics or brilliant actors.

It had all begun months earlier at Yózgad. To pass the weary time Jones
and Hill dabbled in and experimented with hypnotism and telepathy. By
making ingenuity and the conjuror's artifice (at which Hill was an
expert) adjuncts of their seances, they nonplussed fellow-prisoners and
Turks alike; for it was impossible to tell whether trickery or
something inexplicable was the basis of their astonishing
demonstrations. By means of the Spirit of Music (a hidden lamp with the
wick turned too high), the Buried Treasure Guarded by Arms (some coins
and an old pistol that were first placed in position and then
"revealed" by digging), the Miraculous Photographs (taken with a secret
camera designed and constructed by themselves), and other devices, they
reduced the camp commandant and his staff to a state of bewildered
fear. When they had hoodwinked the commandant into the belief that they
could exchange mind-messages with local civilians, he confined them in
a small room, and allowed no communication with other prisoners.

From this time onward, moreover, Jones and Hill showed apparent dread
of their fellow-prisoners. The British officers at Yózgad wanted to
destroy them, they informed the Turkish commandant, adding a plea for
protection. Meanwhile, their hair and beards grew longer and more
untrimmed, their general appearance stranger and wilder. Perhaps their
most impressive exploit at Yózgad was when a guard found them hanging
side by side on ropes that were suspended from a beam, the chairs that
supported their weight having been kicked away just before he entered
the room. He cut down the dangling bodies, and his tale confirmed the
commandant in the belief that the spiritualistic prisoners were
altogether insane. A few days later they went under escort to
Constantinople, and were admitted to Haidar Pasha Hospital.

From this hospital their reputation spread all over Constantinople.
Long before they were transferred to Gumuch Souyou I had heard how Hill
read the Bible all day, and uttered never a word except when he prayed
aloud; and how Jones, having in two months learned to talk Turkish
perfectly, proclaimed himself a Turk, and would speak no other
language. His name, he insisted time and again, was Ahmed Hamdi
Effendi. He disregarded all Britishers in Haidar Pasha Hospital unless
it were to tell the Turkish doctor that Jones was mad, and therefore,
as the afflicted of Allah, not to be blamed.

Once he threw himself into the pond in the garden. Once, having
received the usual Red Cross monthly remittance from an official of the
Dutch Legation, he tore the bank-notes in two, threw the scraps of
paper across the room, and declared that he wanted no English money.
During an air-raid over Constantinople he ran into the open and
demanded a gun, so that he might shoot down the British aeroplanes.

At about sundown on his first evening with us Hill closed the Bible,
stepped out of bed, and knelt down, facing the east. Then, without a
pause, he recited prayers in a loud voice for twenty minutes. Several
Turks came in to listen, while Jones, tapping his befezzed head,
explained to them that the kneeling figure was mad.

Each morning and each evening Hill knelt on the floor and prayed aloud.
Sometimes during the night he would walk to another bedside, wake up
its occupant, and exhort him to prayer. For the rest he spoke never a
word other than "Yes" or "No," or "I don't know," in answer to
questions. All day he sat in bed, with eyes riveted on the Bible by
unswerving concentration, or clasped his head and appeared lost in
meditation. When the doctor examined him he paid not the slightest
attention, but when an effort was made to take away the Bible, he
clutched it desperately, and was evidently ready to use violence. His
hair and beard grew longer and more tousled, until he was forcibly
shaved; whereupon, with his hollowed cheeks and sunken, glowing eyes,
he looked more of a scarecrow than ever.

Jones kept himself quite dapper in his own peculiar fashion. His curly
golden beard and moustache seemed to be his especial pride. At first
Ms. attempted conversations with him; but as he always turned away and
showed fright, we left him alone. Yet twice he sought out the chief
doctor, and complained that the British officers wanted to murder him.
Being a Turk, he continued, why was he kept in a room with Englishmen,
who were his enemies and wanted to hurt him?

Beyond laughing and remarking how sad it was that our comrade should be
so mad, the chief doctor took no notice. Thereupon Ahmed Hamdi sat down
and wrote a letter of furious complaint to His Excellency Enver Pasha,
Minister of War in the Young Turk government, and incidentally the most
ruthless desperado in that all-desperado body, the Committee of Union
and Progress.

I still remember every detail and movement of an absurd scene. Ms. lay
asleep one hot afternoon, with a bare foot protruding through the bars
at the bottom of the bed. R. crawled across the floor, intending to
crouch beneath Ms.'s bedstead and tickle the sole of his foot with a
feather. Jones, whose bed was next to that of Ms., shrank back and made
a tentative move toward the door as R. glided nearer. R. looked up
casually from his all-fours position and found the lunatic's face
glaring at him with wide-open, rolling eyes. The pair stared at each
other surprisedly for a few seconds, then Ahmed Hamdi Jones yelled,
leaped from his bed, and ran out of the room.

If that was acting, we agreed, it was very wonderful acting. We
inclined to the theory that Hill and Jones had in the beginning merely
shammed lunacy, as a passport for England, but that under the mental
stress and nervous strain of living their abnormal rôles they had
really become insane. Another suggestion was that they lost their
reason already at Yózgad, as a result of dabbling overmuch in
spiritualism.

It was White who solved the mystery, although at the time he revealed
it only to me. With a badly marked ankle (the result of a too-hot
poultice) well in evidence, he arrived one day from Afion-kara-Hissar,
and suggested to the doctors that the said ankle was tubercular. He was
placed in the bed next to the scarecrow's.

Hill had let it be known that he was undertaking a forty-days' penance,
during which he would eat nothing but bread. All other food offered him
by the Turks he ignored. After a few days of semi-starvation his
cheek-bones were more prominent than ever, his cheeks more hollowed,
and the colour of his face was an unhealthy faint yellow.

In the middle of the night, when everybody else was asleep, White woke
him and passed over a note. In this, as a fellow-Australian, he offered
any sort of assistance that might be acceptable. Then he handed Hill
some chocolate and biscuits taken from a newly arrived parcel. These
the scarecrow accepted, and, not daring to whisper in case somebody
were listening, wrote a sanely worded message thanking White for the
offer, which he accepted. It contained also a warning that, for
safety's sake, the other Britishers must be led to believe that both he
and Jones were mad.

Thereafter White fed him secretly each night. In the daytime he
maintained his long fast, to the great astonishment of the Turks. White
also helped by complaining that the madman woke him at night-time, and
asked him to pray.

Later, having heard escape talk between White and me, Hill wrote down
an address where we might hide in Constantinople, and let me into the
secret that he was pretending lunacy, so as to be sent out of the
country as a madman.

Now that I knew the scarecrow and Ahmed Hamdi Jones to be as sane as
myself, I marvelled at their flawless presentation of different aspects
of lunacy, and at the determination which allowed them to play their
strange parts for months. Hill, in particular, had a difficult rôle,
and I wondered that his mind never gave way under it. To sit up in bed
for twelve hours a day, reading and rereading a Bible; to talk to
nobody and look at nobody, and to show no sign of interest when vital
subjects were being discussed by fellow-prisoners a few yards away; to
pray aloud for nearly half an hour each morning and evening, in the
presence of a dozen people; to maintain an expression of rigid
melancholy, and not to let even the ghost of a smile touch one's
features for many weeks--this must require almost inhuman
concentration.

Jones had a far better time, for his specialty was not studied tragedy
but spontaneous farce. He seemed to enjoy enormously the complete
fooling of all around him, the planning of a new fantasy and the
head-over-heels performance of it, without being restrained by
convention or ridicule, or a sense of the normal.

Cheerful lunacy, in fact, is great fun. Even in my own minor
assumptions of a state of unreason I had found it very stimulating and
amusing. A mental holiday from logic, custom, the consideration of
public opinion and other irksome boundaries of artificial stability is
glorious. Itself untrammelled, the mind can watch from a spectator's
point of view the patch-work restraints and littlenesses of
civilization, and take delight in tilting at them.

Often I envied Jones, with his fez, his golden beard and his rôle of
Ahmed Hamdi Effendi, as he talked to a group of Turkish officers. They
would laugh at him openly; but secretly he would laugh much more
heartily at them.

Few things in our roomful of nine British officers were not farcical.
Only one of us--old W., with his wounded arm--had any real claim to be
in hospital. R., with a healed wound scar dating back to the Gallipoli
campaign; C., with sciatica and late middle-age; and Ms., with a weak
knee dating back to before the war, were trying to build up a case for
release as exchanged prisoners of war. Jones and Hill, by means of
magnificent acting, had made everybody believe in their assumed
madness, and were also hoping to be sent home in consequence.
"Wormy"--formerly aide-de-camp to General Townsend--wanted to remain a
hospital patient because he had friends and amusements in
Constantinople, and achieved this wish by means of mythical
_hemorrhages_.

For my part, I still gave false evidence of nervous disorders, although
such efforts were dwarfed by the exploits of Jones and Hill. In any
case, it was to my interest to show only mild symptoms, such as fits of
trembling during an air-raid, or whenever a gun was fired. Had I been
more violent, I should not have been allowed into the city on Sundays,
at a time when I had made useful acquaintances and was plotting an
escape.

So the strange days passed. Hill and Jones, spurred by reports of a
near-future exchange of prisoners, gave constant and enlivening
performances. M. and R. cultivated effective limps. Wormy amused
himself. White and I discussed our plans while strolling in the garden.
Each morning the doctor walked once round the ward, said to each
patient: "_Bonjour, ça va bien?_" signed the diet sheets, and left us.
Of other medical attendance there was none, except when W's arm was
operated on, or when Jones complained to the chief doctor about our
desire to murder him.

How the madmen were included in the first batch of British prisoners to
be exchanged from Turkey, how they were led on board the Red Cross ship
that the Turks had allowed to the Gulf of Smyrna, how Ahmed Hamdi Jones
protested against being handed over to his enemies the British, and how
he and the Bible-reader miraculously recovered their sanity as soon as
the British vessel had left Turkish waters, all that is a story in
itself.



CHAPTER IX

INTRODUCING THEODORE THE GREEK, JOHN WILLIE THE BOSNIAN, AND DAVID
LLOYD GEORGE'S SECOND COUSIN


The Maritza is a little restaurant near Stamboul station. Coming toward
it from the bridge across the Golden Horn one passed along a side
street so narrow that the bodies of passengers clinging to the rails of
the swaying and much-loaded tram-cars often collided with pedestrians.
With a guard at our heels, we would disappear through a doorway, and
find ourselves in a low room that reeked of sausages and intrigue.

Whenever the captive officers at Psamatia came to Stamboul they lunched
at the Maritza, where they could hear the latest rumours from the
bazaars. On Sundays they were joined there by not-too-sick officers
from our hospital and that of Haidar Pasha.

Theodore, the Greek waiter, looked exactly what he was--a born
conspirator who had strayed from melodrama into real life. In the whole
of Turkey there was no greater expert in the science of throwing dust
into the eyes of soldiers and gendarmes. He not only lived by plotting,
but, next to money, seemed to like it better than anything in the
world.

He was also a first-rate gossip. Having seated the guards in a corner
where they could see but not hear us, the little Greek, with his bent
shoulders and blue-glassed spectacles, would sidle up to our table, and
producing a menu-card, say:

"_Bonjour!_ What would you like, gentlemen?" Then, running his finger
down the list as if suggesting something to eat, he would continue: "I
heard to-day that the Grand Vizier had quarrelled once more with the
Sultan"; or, "Enver Pasha was shot at in Galata yesterday, and is
wounded in the chest. It is said that he will not recover." He never
failed to produce at least one such rumour as these. Most often he
would announce that Bulgaria was about to make a separate peace, which
possibility was reported in Constantinople at least a dozen times
before it really happened.

I always found him trustworthy, for his hatred of the Turks was
stronger even than his greed for money, and no sum could have tempted
him to become a spy in the service of the Turkish police--a position
once offered to him. In any case, he was always convinced that the
British would win the war; and, therefore, knowing which side his bread
was buttered, would never have dared to betray the Britishers who
employed him.

As an intermediary for correspondence he was reliable but expensive,
his charge being twenty piastres for each letter delivered.

"Theodore, my friend," one would say, "I want you to go to Pera for
me."

"Good. If you have not written the letter I will engage the guards
while you prepare it."

He would then stroll across to the guards' table with the news that the
British officers would be pleased to buy them whatever they wanted to
eat; and the prisoner scribbled his note, a slip of paper resting on
his lap and the body of Theodore screening him from the guards in the
far corner. Later the letter would be handed to Theodore, in the middle
of the banknotes with which one paid the bill.

If a reply were brought, Theodore delivered it under cover of a
menu-card, always with a whispered reminder, "Twenty piastres." During
the last six months of the war the Greek waiter must have been the
messenger for scores of secret communications.

It was early in July when we heard of the arrival in Haidar Pasha
Hospital--across the Sea of Marmora--of Captain Yeats-Brown and Captain
Sir Robert Paul. Yeats-Brown was demanding attention for his nose and
Paul for his ear. With vivid memories of conversations in Afion, I had
sympathy for neither the nose nor the ear, but a great deal for the
schemes of escape which I knew them to be planning. I sent Yeats-Brown
a note, through the agency of Theodore, suggesting an appointment for
lunch on the following Sunday.

As a matter of fact, I met him before lunch-time. With the rest of the
congregation we were leaving for the little English church off the
Grande Rue de Péra, when the pair approached the vestry door with
guards at their heels. Since I last saw them both had grown moustaches,
and an appearance of dishevelled untidiness was given to Paul by a
short, stubby tuft of beard. At the time I was talking to Miss
Whittaker, and I took the opportunity of introducing the new arrivals.
Paul drew Miss Whittaker aside, and began talking earnestly, while
Yeats-Brown told me that the guards' orders were to take him direct to
Haidar Pasha, and that we should have to wait a week longer before
meeting at the Maritza.

Next Sunday afternoon, on entering the little restaurant, I heard
Yeats-Brown asking Theodore to show him where a special brand of
cigarettes might be bought. This he did in a loud voice, speaking
Turkish, as if he wished the guards to overhear. The pair left the
doorway, and disappeared into a tobacco shop. Both departed
bare-headed, so that the guards remained in their seats and were
unsuspicious. Paul was at a table near them, taking great care to
appear unconcerned. His beard had grown longer during the past seven
days, and he looked stranger and more dishevelled than ever.

Five minutes later he and I were joined by Yeats-Brown, who, as he
returned with Theodore, took care to flaunt a newly bought box of
cigarettes before the eyes of his guard. He had been to look at the
outside of Theodore's own house, so that he might recognize it.

He and Paul were to be turned out of hospital in two days' time. They
had had no time to arrange a definite scheme, but as they were to be
sent to Asia Minor very shortly, it would be necessary for them to
escape almost immediately. I did not seek to join them, for White and I
were still safe in Gumuch Souyou and had hopes of stealing an
aeroplane. I therefore wished Yeats-Brown the best of luck, and after
returning to hospital, waited anxiously for news.

Our first intimation of what had happened came when the chief doctor
announced that no Britishers were to be allowed into the city, because
two prisoners had escaped. Soon afterward a Russian, who arrived from
Psamatia with influenza, brought details. With their bank-notes
(obtained from Mr. S., a British civilian living in Pera) sewn up in
suspenders and braces, with faces and hands stained brown, and each
wearing a fez, the pair had climbed out of their window at Psamatia in
the middle of the night, crept along a ledge, tied a rope to the gutter
of the roof, and let themselves down into a dark doorway. The rope was
found in the morning, still dangling from the roof. Since then--three
days ago--nothing had been heard of them.

Meanwhile the hopes of White and myself revolved round John Willie the
Bosnian. This man, an Austrian aviator who was a lieutenant in the
Turkish Flying Corps, had been shot down in Palestine, and in the ward
next to ours was receiving treatment for minor injuries. He told Ms.
that in a few weeks' time he would desert from Turkey by aeroplane, and
said he wanted a letter of recommendation, to be presented to the
British when he landed at Mudros. Ms. refused to write such a
compromising letter, and, not trusting the Bosnian, disregarded a
suggestion that he should be taken as passenger in the proposed flight
to Mudros.

Next, Ms. having left the hospital, the Bosnian approached me. Finding
that I was a fellow-aviator, his first overtures dealt, innocuously
enough, with war-flying in general and his own experiences in
particular.

Then, one evening, he announced, with the air of a conspirator, that he
was about to tell me an important secret. I knew what was coming, but
was careful to pretend ignorance. John Willie--the name by which he
became known to us, for we dared not risk suspicion by mentioning his
real name when we talked among ourselves in the presence of
Turks--thereupon produced an English grammar, and said I must make
pretence of teaching him English, so that we might meet each day. He
would tell the Turkish doctors that I had become his schoolmaster.

His first suggestion, as we sat down on a shady bench, was that I
should write him a letter to take to Mudros. Like Ms., I declined, not
knowing what was at the back of his mind. A Turkish corporal passed the
bench, whereupon John Willie began mispronouncing some English words,
taken at random from the page of the grammar which lay open on his lap.

"If," I said, "you can get me an aeroplane to fly to Mudros myself I
will. The book is on the table, _das Buch liegt auf dem Tische_." This
last when the Turkish corporal turned back and glanced at us as he
passed a second time.

"Ze book eez on tâbel," repeated John Willie. Then in German, "I was
going to suggest the same thing myself."

John Willie proceeded to reveal the reasons why he was so anxious to
desert. As a Bosnian, he said, he hated the Austrians, and it was
because of this that he entered the Turkish and not the Austrian army.
In any case, his mother was of American birth and was now in the United
States, while his brother, so he learned, had enlisted in the American
army.

His own sympathies were pro-British and pro-American, and it was his
earnest desire to join his mother and become naturalized as an American
citizen. If, however, he landed at Mudros in Turkish uniform, he would
be made a prisoner of war; whereas if, as a guarantee of good faith, he
took with him a British prisoner or a letter from a British prisoner,
all would be well.

Next he proceeded to give details of his plan, while running his finger
over the open page of the English grammar, as if reading from it. In
about a fortnight's time he would be discharged from hospital, and
through the influence of a friendly staff officer he would be posted to
the aerodrome at San Stefano. This aerodrome, situated about twenty
miles from Stamboul, was the headquarters of the German pilots who made
a pretence of defending Constantinople from British air-raids.

Having got himself appointed orderly officer for the night, and being
the only pilot in the neighbourhood of the hangars (for the officers'
billets were in San Stefano itself, half a mile from the aerodrome), it
would be easy for him to take a petrol-loaded machine into the air,
head westward, fly over the Dardanelles to the open sea, and so to
Mudros.

"If," continued John Willie, "you can make your way to San Stefano, it
will be a simple matter to pick you up near the aerodrome, and to take
you as passenger in the back seat."

"But," I objected, "there would be a friend with me. If I fly to
Mudros, he also must come."

The Bosnian showed his eagerness by an evident determination to
override all suggested difficulties. A two-seated Rumpler, he pointed
out, could take, besides the pilot, two men in the observer's cockpit,
as had been proven many times. The only drawback was that if three of
us travelled in the same machine our combined weight would add at least
three-quarters of an hour to the flight for freedom, and if we were
chased and attacked an adequate defence would be made difficult. He
proposed that I might pilot the two-seater while he followed and
pretended to give chase in an Albatross scout. He was more than willing
to escort two of us to Mudros if only we would sponsor him with the
British authorities, and pay his passage to America.

Several times during the days that followed I plotted with the Bosnian
in the garden, always with the English grammar as camouflage for
earnest talks. Finally, after discussing every detail, we evolved a
plan which seemed workable. When John Willie should have been posted to
San Stefano, White and I were to claim that we were cured. We should
then be transferred to Psamatia, which was already half-way between
Stamboul and San Stefano. He refused to take the risk of helping us to
escape from Psamatia, but he would meet us after we should have reached
the neighbourhood of the aerodrome. He could arrange to be night
orderly officer between two given dates, and during this period he
would seek us at the place of rendezvous, at three o'clock each
morning.

His plan, having found us, was to go to the hangars, and on the
pretence of testing a Rumpler two-seater, take it into the air. He
would land in a field near us, keeping his engine ticking over. White
and I must run toward him and climb into the rear cockpit. He would
leave the ground again immediately, and head for the Dardanelles.

Even taking into account the heavy load of three men, pursuit seemed
unlikely, because all the other pilots would be asleep in their
billets. In any case, it was improbable that the mechanics from the
aerodrome would see us climbing into the Rumpler. We abandoned the
suggestion that I should fly the two-seater while the Bosnian gave
chase in an Albatross, as we failed to think of a plausible tale for
John Willie to tell his mechanics, by way of explaining how the Rumpler
could have been stolen from him by strangers.

The Bosnian drew detailed maps, giving the position of the aerodrome in
relation to San Stefano station, with the hangars, the officers' mess,
and other buildings marked on it. The place of rendezvous was to be the
fringe of a small wood that bordered a field southwest of the
aerodrome, on the left-hand side of the road to Bulgaria.

John Willie also procured for us a German staff-map, which included the
countryside between Psamatia and San Stefano. White and I had decided,
however, that our best plan would be to give the guards the slip during
the daytime in one of the winding side streets of Stamboul, to buy
tickets openly at the railway station, and to travel to San Stefano as
ordinary passengers. Using John Willie's pencilled map, we could then
find the place of rendezvous and lie low in the wood until the
following morning.

Meanwhile, now that Sunday visits to the city were forbidden, I
employed the Bosnian as messenger for letters to Theodore. We had in
mind the alternative plan of a stowaway voyage from Constantinople
across the Black Sea, and we intended to carry it out if John Willie
failed us. We could not altogether trust him, for he continued to
demand small loans for preliminary expenses. He showed himself,
besides, to be both careless and heedless, so that he seemed a far from
desirable companion for a desperate adventure. We found that in
conversation with some English Tommies, who were patients in another
ward, he had boasted of his plan to take White and myself to Mudros;
and we feared that any day, with so many people discussing it, the
story might be overheard by an English-speaking doctor.

Possibly that is what happened, for I noticed that each time the
Bosnian and I met in the garden we were watched closely. One of the
patients--a bearded, shifty-looking Turk with one arm in a sling--made
it his business to sit on the same bench, and to listen while I
pretended to give instruction in the proper pronunciation of English.
Although I warned John Willie to be very careful, he failed to realize
the danger, and continued to make us all the more conspicuous by
talking in a low voice.

One afternoon he approached me with the English grammar open in his
hand, and pointed to a folded note which lay on one of its pages. Two
Turkish nurses were passing. Seeing that they looked at the book, I
turned the page quickly to hide the note. But the nurses had apparently
seen everything, for as they entered the door of the hospital they
whispered and turned back. A few minutes later the doctor on duty
joined us in the garden, and told John Willie that in future it would
be forbidden to talk with British prisoners.

Yet we managed three further meetings, which took place at the
wash-house in the evening. Then John Willie disappeared suddenly from
the hospital, and we were left to our own resources.

We still had his maps of San Stefano; and when the period set for the
escape arrived we should know by means of a pre-arranged signal if he
was still prepared to take us to Mudros. This was that on the Sunday
morning preceding the first date of rendezvous he was to fly over
Psamatia in a Nieuport scout, and perform stunts.

Meanwhile, White and I now lacked a go-between. More than ever it was
necessary that one or both of us should see Theodore, and try to get
into touch with somebody on the Ukranian steamer _Batoum_, which I
could see from our ward window, moored opposite the Sultan's Palace of
Dolma Bagtché.

Every request that we might be permitted to visit the shops was
refused, and when White asked to see a dentist in Constantinople he was
referred to the military dentist in the hospital. We had almost decided
to leave for Psamatia before our time, when chance provided a way out.

My fame as a teacher of English had spread through the hospital. Aziz
Bey, a young Turkish doctor, arrived at my bedside one morning, with
text-books and a request for lessons. I agreed willingly, and in a few
days became quite friendly with him over conjugations, and references
to the green socks worn by the son of the gardener.

At that time intelligent Turks, many of whom hated the Germans worse
even than they hated the Armenians, were just beginning to realize that
the Allies might well win the war. In a conversation Aziz Bey referred
to this possibility, and expressed admiration for the British. In
particular he praised a man named Meester Djavid Loijorge, who, it
appeared, was the principal leader of the Allies. Djavid Loijorge,
declared Aziz Bey, was a very great man indeed.

It was then that, without any forethought, an inspiration came to me.
Remembering the fear inspired in all Turks by such despotic ministers
as Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha, and realizing the consideration that
would be paid to any connection of the British Prime Minister, whom
Aziz Bey would regard as a kind of western Talaat Pasha, I announced:

"Mr. David Lloyd George is a very great man indeed, and I am his second
cousin."

"Really?" said Aziz after a taken-aback pause, with credulity and
obvious respect. "I never expected to learn English from a relative of
Meester Loijorge."

I hastened to explain that the matter was confidential, and must not be
talked about, as I did not wish the Turkish Ministry of War to know it.
I relied upon him, as a friend, to keep the relationship secret. He
promised, and as far as I know only broke the promise to the extent of
telling four or five or ten or twelve friends of his, all of whom
treated me with the greatest consideration.

Now I am neither a second cousin of Mr. David Lloyd George nor anxious
for such relationship. But in view of the curious circumstances, I was
bold enough to believe that the statesman would not have objected to
the claim. It needed little persuasion to induce Aziz Bey to take Mr.
Lloyd George's second cousin into Constantinople whenever he had a free
afternoon; and the chief doctor, who was let into the secret, gave the
required permission readily enough.

Aziz and another doctor, whose name I forget, invited me to tea at the
Tokatlian Hotel and the Petits Champs Gardens, took me for sails on the
Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmora, and introduced me, after preliminary
whisperings, to several of their friends.

Fortunately for me the news from the Western front was then taking a
turn for the better. Hindenburg's great drive was expended, the Germans
had been thrown back across the Marne. With each day's telegrams Mr.
Lloyd George's second cousin gained further respect; and finally he was
given permission to visit the shops of Pera, escorted only by a guard.

I walked over the bridge across the Golden Horn to the Maritza
restaurant, and there was fortunate enough to find Prince Constantine
Avaloff. He was making inquiries, he said, among the officers of the
_Batoum_, and he thought that, for a suitable bribe, they would be
quite willing, when the ship left for Odessa, to take White and myself
as stowaways. The _Batoum_ was expected to leave in about three weeks'
time.

From Avaloff, who was still in touch with Yeats-Brown and Paul, I heard
of their adventures after escaping from Psamatia. Yeats-Brown was still
at large in the city, dressed in girl's clothes lent him by Miss
Whittaker. Paul, from whom Avaloff had just received a letter, was
trekking toward the Gulf of Enos with a young Greek waiter from the
Maritza as guide. They hoped to put to sea from near Enos, accompanied
by a Greek boatman. Paul, who spoke Arabic fluently, was dressed as an
Arab. I remembered the tuft of unkempt beard which he had been growing
before his escape, and now saw the reason for it.

Meanwhile, a party that included Yeats-Brown and two Turkish officers
was waiting in Constantinople on the result of Paul's attempt. If he
succeeded, said Avaloff, they would follow in his tracks, and the Greek
boatman would return to the Gulf of Enos for them.

White and I decided, out of consideration for Miss Whittaker, not to
ask her for any help, as we heard that since the escape of Paul and
Yeats-Brown she had been closely watched. The Turkish police suspected
her connivance, especially when they learned that she had met them in
the park at Stamboul on the day before they left Psamatia. On the
following Sunday morning, when, for the first time in three weeks, we
were allowed to attend service in the English Church at Pera, we took
care never to look in her direction, not knowing whether one of
Constantinople's myriad informers might be among the congregation.

For the moment our greatest problem was to obtain funds. We hoped to
find a banker in Mr. S., the English merchant who, on his own
responsibility and at great risk to himself, had several times cashed
large cheques for officers who wanted to escape. We knew several
Armenian and Greek merchants, but these we could not induce to supply
us with money, as we had no orthodox cheque-books. Such cheques as we
cashed on the Dutch Legation, or on Mr. S., were written on sheets of
blank paper.

In those days British bombers from Mudros and Imbros were visiting
Constantinople every fine moonlit night, and spreading great terror all
over the city. Whenever an alarm, false or real, was given, we were
wakened by the firing of scores of machine-guns planted on the near-by
roofs. Turkish soldiers, who, next to food and wives, love fireworks
better than anything on earth, would continue firing into the vacant
air for hours, until all their ammunition was exhausted, merely for the
pleasure of hearing the rap-rapping. Except on one occasion the bombs
themselves did little damage; but many people were killed by the
chance-falling bullets from the machine-guns.

Sometimes the aeroplanes came during the daytime; and then, anxious to
see some of our own machines, we would race into the garden while the
Turks were scurrying from it into the shelter of the hospital. Once a
very fat Turkish pasha, with paunch and dignity well to the fore, paid
Gumuch Souyou a visit of inspection and happened to be in the middle of
the garden when the anti-aircraft firing began. He cast off the
dignity, and would doubtless have liked to cast off the paunch, as he
raced for the hospital door and inquired for the underground baths.

The Turkish love of fireworks was useful to me during the Mohammedan
month of Ramazan. At each sunset guns were fired and puff-balls were
exploded, at interval of a few seconds, all round Constantinople.
Whenever I went into the city with Aziz Bey I arranged that we should
be at sunset near Taxim Gardens, opposite which some puff-balls were
exploded. On the first explosion I started violently and began to
tremble, then continued to swerve and shiver at each subsequent noise.
Having returned to Gumuch Souyou I would demand aspirin and bromide to
calm my nerves, which--as Azid Bey could bear witness--must still be in
bad condition. This I did because a few days earlier it had been
suggested that I was now in a fit state to return to a prisoners' camp;
whereas we were still a fortnight from the opening date of rendezvous
with John Willie the Bosnian, and from the time when the _Batoum_ might
be expected to weigh anchor.

But ill-luck disbanded the queer company in the prisoners' ward of
Gumuch Souyou Hospital early in the following week. On the Sunday
afternoon, after our visit to the church, White, R., and I visited some
of my newly made friends, in a street behind the Tokatlian. Our two
guards, bribed for the purpose and placated with a promise that we
would return to them in an hour's time, loafed outside the doorway. One
of the city's innumerable police spies saw us handing over a
fifty-piastre note, and having by inquiries discovered that we were
British officers, reported the incident to the War Office. Next morning
all but the two mad-men were ordered to Psamatia, at an hour's notice.

White and I were not disappointed at the change for it now wanted but a
week to August the 7th, when at three o'clock in the morning we might
expect to meet John Willie the Bosnian at the corner of a wood outside
San Stefano aerodrome. Meanwhile, there remained the urgent necessity
of cashing some cheques on Mr. S.; for only ready money could make
possible our escape, whether we flew to Mudros or crossed the Black Sea
as stowaways on the _Batoum_.



CHAPTER X

THE THIRD AND FOURTH FAILURES


"The clothes of the Capitaine Sir Paul," demanded with triumphant
satisfaction Zikki Bey, the one-eyed Turkish officer at Psamatia
prison. "The Capitaine Sir Paul needs the clothes he left here, because
he finds that his Arab dress is unsuitable for the Ministry of War
prison."

For the past two days we had heard rumours of Paul's recapture. Yet
Zikki Bey's unwelcome confirmation, as he broke in upon a bridge party
one evening, was a shock to us. The cards were abandoned as we prepared
clothes and food to be sent to whatever cell of the infamous "Black
Hole of Constantinople" Paul might have been taken, still dressed in
the Arab disguise in which he tried to reach the Gulf of Enos.

The bad news was an especial blow to four of us--White, Fulton, Stone,
and myself--for we ourselves were preparing to bolt within a few days.
Others regarded it more philosophically. Among the party was a certain
Colonel who deprecated attempts to escape, because they reacted on
one's fellow-prisoners. He also contended that it was impossible for a
Britisher to escape from Turkey.

"I knew it, I knew it," he now said; "they've nabbed Paul, and soon
they'll nab Yeats-Brown."

A few days later, having heard that certain others were ready to flit,
the Colonel delivered an ultimatum. Already the restrictions at
Psamatia were severe, because of the disappearance of Paul and
Yeats-Brown. If others went, he contended, life would not be worth
living, especially for middle-aged colonels who had prepared medical
histories of well-imagined ailments and were hoping to see their names
on the list of prisoners to be exchanged as unfit.

"After the war I'll heng, draw, and quarter the next fellow who clears
off from Psamatia while I'm here," he told Fulton, Stone, and myself,
slapping a knee that rested on the garden wall. "A successful escape
can't be done in Turkey, and it's futile to try."

Five days later four of us did clear off from Psamatia. The war is over
long since; but for some reason or other we remain unhenged, undrawn,
and unquartered. As for the pronouncement that to escape from Turkey
was impossible, within six weeks no less than ten men proved the
contrary.

White and I had been at Psamatia for ten days. Although expeditions to
Stamboul were now forbidden, we managed to go there three times, on the
pretence of seeing a dentist. We visited Theodore, and through him
received from Mr. S. about three hundred Turkish pounds in return for
foolscap-paper cheques.

After very careful consideration we had chosen the plan of crossing the
Black Sea as stowaways, in preference to that of trusting John Willie
the Bosnian aviator to fly us out of the country. Since his sudden
disappearance from the hospital we had heard no definite word of him;
unless, indeed, a rumour that a Bosnian officer was in the Ministry of
War Prison as a political suspect applied to him.

Moreover, he either failed to give us the signal that he was ready, or
gave it otherwise than according to plan. On the Sunday morning
preceding the first date of the rendezvous outside San Stefano
aerodrome he was to have flown over Psamatia on a Nieuport scout and
performed stunts to attract our attention. An aeroplane did fly over
Psamatia, and even looped the loop several times; but it was a big
two-seater instead of a little Nieuport. Under the circumstances we
decided not to risk losing the comparative certainty of a slow journey
to freedom via Russia for the dubious uncertainty of a quick flight to
Mudros.

Fulton and Stone were glad enough to inherit our arrangements with John
Willie, and to take the chance of meeting him at San Stefano. Now that
Paul was captured they were at a loose end, for if he had succeeded
they would have followed in his footsteps by joining the second party
that was to make for the Gulf of Enos. I gave them my map of the
aerodrome, showing the place of rendezvous, and also a non-committal
note, scribbled in German, which would explain their identity if they
met the Bosnian.

For White and myself a passage on the tramp steamer _Batoum_ was
definitely arranged. Prince Avaloff had shown himself to be a
too-talkative intermediary; but White met a more useful man in one
Lieutenant Vladimir Stepanovitch Wilkowsky, a Polish aviator whom he
had known at Afion-kara-Hissar, and who was also planning an early
escape. Unlike us, the Russians were still allowed into Stamboul with
their guards. Having placated his own particular guard with a bribe,
Wilkowsky often crossed the Golden Horn alone. Several times he met
Titoff, the _Batoum's_ chief engineer, in cafés at Galata; and finally,
after much bargaining, completed arrangements whereby White and I were
to travel as stowaways. He himself was also planning an escape to
Odessa.

Zikki Bey warned us that everybody at Psamatia would be sent into
Anatolia very shortly. White, Fulton, Stone, and I went into
conference, and decided to forestall the removal by making our dash two
days later, on August the twenty-first. This suited Fulton and Stone,
for it would bring them to the period named by the Bosnian aviator. As
for White and myself, a hiding-place in Pera, where we could remain
until the _Batoum_ sailed, had been arranged by Titoff. A Russian
civilian was to conceal us; and, after giving our guards the slip, we
were to meet him by appointment at a beerhouse in the Rue de Galata.

On the morning of July the twenty-first all four of us left Psamatia by
the ten o'clock train on the little suburban railway that runs between
Stamboul and San Stefano. It would be less difficult to dodge the
guards if we were in two parties, so Fulton and Stone chose an optician
as their excuse for a trip to Stamboul, while White and I were to visit
our old friend the dentist. Our real destination was the beerhouse in
the Rue de Galata, that of the other pair being the small wood outside
San Stefano.

We split up into twos as the train steamed up, Fulton's farewell being
"Good-bye, old man. See you in the Ministry of War to-morrow!" He and
Stone went into a compartment near the engine, while White and I chose
the rear end of the train. All of us hoped to lose our guards among the
crowd at Stamboul station.

Ten minutes before we should have reached Stamboul station the god of
coincidence sent an extraordinary opportunity. Just beyond Koum-kapou
the train rounded a sharp corner, and ran into some empty trucks that
were stationary on the line. There was a succession of clangs, a
violent shock, and many a jolt and jar, mingled with screams, gasps,
and frightened confusion.

One of the two guards with White and I fell on to an iron platform
between two carriages. The other, unfortunately, kept both his balance
and his head. I was standing a yard in front of him, behind White.

"Now's our chance. I'm off." said White as he pushed his way through
the struggling passengers to the farther end of the compartment. I
began to follow, but seeing that the guard was already suspicious of
White's movements, I slowed down, and pretended to pacify a nervous
woman, thus blocking the guard's advance and allowing White more room.

"He's after you," I called, as White turned his head.

In the confusion White misunderstood these words as "I'm with you."
Thinking that I was ready to follow him, he edged his way to the steps
at the far end of the compartment. The guard, meanwhile, shouted a
warning to his companion, who had picked himself up and left the train.
This second guard ran toward White along the railway embankment.

White was wearing a cap. In his inside pocket he had a felt hat, his
idea being to change headgear in a crowd, so that the guards, looking
for a man with a cap, would fail to notice him. I now saw him fling the
cap under the carriage, jam the felt hat on his head, descend from the
train and jump down the embankment. The guard with me yelled, while the
second Turkish soldier leaped down the embankment, clutched at White,
and almost caught him.

White dodged clear, and the last I saw of him that day was as he raced
down a narrow, winding street, pulling and pushing out of his way the
Turks and Greeks who streamed in the opposite direction, towards the
scene of the collision. Close behind him the guard gave chase, while
commanding passers-by to stop the British prisoner.

I jumped down the embankment, partly in a desperate attempt to elude
the other guard, and partly to create a diversion for White. At the
bottom of the slope I twisted an ankle and fell. My guard dropped on
top of me. We scrambled to our feet, myself unstable on the weak ankle,
and the Turk clutching my right arm with both his hands. Under the
circumstances it was useless to struggle. I remained quiet, while the
guard called to his aid a passing soldier.

I stood at the bottom of the embankment, gripped painfully by the two
Turks. The moments that followed were indescribably bitter. White was
probably at liberty, with the glorious prospect of a successful escape.
I had failed, for the third time since capture, and was probably booked
for a cell under the Turkish Ministry of War. My one consolation, my
one hope, was in the wads of money distributed among various parts of
my clothing. These would provide a chance to bribe the guards into
silence, leaving me free for another attempt before the British
prisoners at Psamatia were moved to Anatolia.

The three of us remained thus for ten minutes, an unregarded island in
the sea of people that surged round the derailed coaches. The shaken
passengers were climbing down the slope, the new arrivals were climbing
up it to see the wreckage. A few yards away first aid was being
administered to an injured woman.

Presently I saw Fulton and Stone, with their guards approaching from
the front of the train. They stopped short on seeing me held by two
soldiers. I shook my head and signalled them not to come any nearer,
whereupon they turned away.

The guard who had chased White returned, alternately cursing and
invoking the wrath of Allah on all Englishmen. In his anger he took off
his cloth hat, threw it on the ground, shook his fist at me, and said,
"English very bad!"

Although White had eluded him he did not give up hope at once, but led
us through a maze of alleys and streets, peering forlornly into the
doorways of shops and houses and through the gratings of cellars.
Finally he held a conference with his companions, and determined to
take me to Koum-kapou police station. My ankle, I was glad to find, had
been ricked only slightly, and was now normal again.

"English very bad," said the man who had chased White, in the clipped
Turkish used between prisoners and guards. "We"--pointing to himself
and my own guard--"prison. Prison very bad. No food."

"Here is food for prison," I consoled him, handing over two Turkish
pounds.

The sight of money partly pacified them, and their anger cooled. Soon
they were in a fit state of mind to talk _baksheesh_, that touchstone
of the Turkish character.

I produced ten more banknotes, each of one Turkish pound. Again using
pidgin-Turkish, with many an expressive gesture, I offered them to the
guards, on condition that when we reached the police station they would
say that although White had escaped I made no attempt to do so.

The matter needed several minutes of explanation before
misunderstandings were cleared up, so that we withdrew into a side
street. The two guards needed little persuasion to make them accept.
Thereupon the third man (the soldier who helped to hold me at the
bottom of the embankment) demanded a share. To satisfy him I was forced
to produce a further sum of five Turkish pounds. He saluted and left
us.

The two guards carried on an animated talk for some time longer, and,
as far as I could understand, discussed what tale to the police would
show them in the best light. They decided, apparently, not to admit
having seen White escape and let him give them the slip, but to claim
that he vanished when we were all knocked down by the collision.

I remembered that the food supplies in my pockets might be
incriminating evidence. I had, also, a dangerous slip of paper, on
which Wilkowsky had drawn a plan of the Galata beerhouse in which I was
to meet Titoff's Russian friend. This I disposed of by tearing it into
shreds behind my back, and dropping the fragments, a few at a time, as
in a paper chase.

The packets of food were rather more difficult to lose. There was a tin
of Oxo cubes, which I flung surreptitiously on to a dust-heap. Some
sticks of bivouac chocolate I left on a convenient windowsill. The
worst problem was a small bag containing a mixture of cocoa and
grape-nuts, taken from one of White's parcels from home. I could
scarcely throw this away unobserved; and the police station was already
in sight.

A woman stood in the doorway, and gazed at us. As we brushed past her
on the narrow pavement, I took the bag from my pocket, dumped it into
her hand, and moved on without a word or a sign. When, from a few yards
ahead, I looked back, she had opened the bag and was staring in
wide-eyed surprise at the cocoa--then quite unobtainable in
Constantinople--which had fallen as from heaven.

The guards told a rambling tale to the police officer, who took notes
of their description of White and sent out three gendarmes to search
the streets for him. Afterward I was taken into an inner room and
searched. Nothing was found to brand me as a suspect. The pockets were
quite empty; and my larger banknotes--one of a hundred Turkish pounds,
one of fifty, and one of twenty-five--were undiscovered, being sewn
into suspenders and braces.

Finally, as a result of the twelve Turkish pounds' worth of good
character given me by the guards, I continued the journey to the
military dentist in Stamboul, after a guard had telephoned the news of
White's disappearance to Psamatia.

Desperate after my failure in face of White's success, I made an unwise
bolt for freedom across the ruins of a recent fire. Before the guards
had recovered from their surprise, I reached a half-demolished wall at
the far end of an open space. I shinned over the wall, and found myself
in a blind alley. Straight ahead was a house; and another building cut
off the exit to the right. To the left was a bare wall, too high to be
climbed. I turned round, walked back to meet the now furious guards,
and handed them another pound note apiece. They gasped; but a sense of
humour dissolved their rage into laughter.

We continued to walk toward Stamboul, each of my arms now being held
tightly. Several times I heard the guards mention Theodore, so that I
was not surprised when they led me into a small café near the quay (the
Maritza restaurant being then out of bounds for prisoners), where one
of them stayed with me while the other fetched the Greek waiter to act
as interpreter.

"First," said Theodore after he had listened to the guards' story, "you
must give parole for the rest of the day."

I agreed readily enough; and over pots of beer--I only met one
Mohammedan guard whose religious principles prevented him from
accepting alcoholic drink in a secluded spot--the party became more
amiable. The Turks' object in fetching Theodore was that he might
explain to me a story which would saddle them with a minimum of blame
for White's escape. If I corroborated this yarn they would agree not to
mention my own misdeeds to the commandant at Psamatia. Again I
accepted.

We discussed and amended the story, which in its final form was divided
into four parts--(1) a train collision; (2) a shock that knocked the
four of us over and separated guards from prisoners; (3) the confusion;
(4) the discovery that White had disappeared, unknown to the rest of
the party.

Through Theodore I now offered the guards fifty Turkish pounds if they
would turn their backs and let me walk out alone. They refused
regretfully, saying that to lose two prisoners in one day would be as
much as their lives were worth. They reminded me of my promise, and we
left the café for the dentist's surgery, where I was obliged to allow a
perfectly sound tooth to be stopped.

Back at Psamatia I found all the prisoners shut up in their rooms. The
Turkish commandant was raving with rage. As we entered the arched
doorway he rushed from his office, and boxed the guards' ears. They
bore it without a sound, comforted no doubt by the six Turkish pounds
which each of them had concealed in his clothing.

We told our separate but corroborative tales, how we had been knocked
over by the shock and missed White in the confusion. White was queer in
the head, I explained; and it was possible that having been further
unbalanced by the collision he wandered away, not knowing where he was
going. The commandant, ready to clutch at anything that might save his
official knuckles from a rapping, affected to take the suggestion
seriously, and embodied it in his report. He affected to hope that
White would recover memory and senses, and return of his own free will.

Later that evening the commandant, after telephonic communication with
the Ministry of War, ordered all the British prisoners to prepare for a
journey into Anatolia on the following day. With Fulton and Stone, who
returned from their visit to the optician without having had a chance
to escape, I conferred on how we could get clear in the short time left
to us.

Fulton and Stone planned to leave the prison-house during the night,
but I decided to wait until morning. They wanted to leave
Constantinople for San Stefano, whereas I wanted to remain in the city;
and if I escaped before dawn I should have nowhere to spend the night
hours, and so lay myself open to the curiosity of gendarmes. In any
case, I was uncertain whether or not my parole, given to the guards,
ought to extend till midnight.

The three of us occupied the same bedroom. A small window from the
adjoining lavatory opened on to a drainpipe. It was decided that Fulton
should climb up this pipe to the roof, until he was firmly established
on the gutter. Stone would hand him a rope and their boots, and then
himself climb the drainpipe. They would crawl along a succession of
roofs, keeping in the shadow, until they reached the top of a house
about fifty yards distant, which overlooked a side street outside the
camp sentries' range of vision. Having fastened the rope to a chimney
or to some other stable object, they could let themselves down to the
road when it was conveniently deserted, with the boots slung round
their necks. They planned to tramp the fifteen miles to San Stefano
during the night, leaving Constantinople via the gate at Yedi-kuli.

That evening the sentries in the yard, stimulated by White's escape,
were more alert than usual. Another drawback was the full moon, which
for some hours lit up the corner outside the window. Not until just
before midnight were conditions, in the form of shadow and an absent
guard, suitable for the adventure.

With feet covered only by a pair of thick socks Fulton climbed through
the tiny window, gripped a bend of the drainpipe, and made use of a
metal joint for foot-hold. Stone, holding the rope and the boots,
watched from the window. Fulton gripped the gutter and was beginning to
haul himself up when--_crunch!_--the top of the flimsy drainpipe was
severed from the roof by his weight, and he fell.

Instinctively he released his feet from the joint on which they had
been resting. He thus managed to land on all fours in the yard, about
fifteen feet below.

The noise, however, was startling. Stone and I expected every second
that Fulton would be discovered, but with great presence of mind he
jumped up and ran into our room, through the near-by door, before
anybody had time to investigate.

An upper window opened noisily, and from it a Turkish officer, awakened
by the sound of Fulton's fall, yelled to the guards. Within five
minutes the yard was full of a disordered commotion. An excited group
collected round the portion of the drainpipe which was lying on the
ground.

Meanwhile, Fulton and Stone had torn off their outer clothing. When
Zikki-Bey paid us a visit of suspicious inspection, the three of us
were seemingly asleep. Soon afterward the chattering and clattering in
the yard subsided. Fortunately a strong wind was blowing, and we heard
afterward that the Turks thought a violent gust must have dislodged the
drainpipe.

With nerves on edge and all our faculties keyed up, there was little
sleep for the rest of that night. Our only remaining chance was to
escape next morning, when we passed through the city on the way to the
railway station.



CHAPTER XI

A GREEK WAITRESS, A GERMAN BEERHOUSE, A TURKISH POLICEMAN, AND A
RUSSIAN SHIP


At half-past eleven of a scorching morning every Britisher at Psamatia
marched away from the prison-house. As a result of the furore that
followed White's escape, twenty-four hours earlier, the Turks were
sending us into the interior of Anatolia. About fifty Tommies, with a
detachment of guards, left first; and we--the fifteen officer
prisoners--followed twenty yards behind them. In the rear was the
Turkish officer in charge, with a screen of six guards, who showed
fixed bayonets, loaded rifles, and smiling ferocity.

Three of us--Fulton, Stone, and myself--had made up our minds to slip
away, or if needs be dash away, before the party entrained at Haidar
Pasha, on the Asiatic shore of the Sea of Marmora. The Turkish officer
rather expected somebody to make an attempt, but knew not whom to
suspect in particular. A little deduction might have told him, for,
except F., the "do-or-die trio"--as the others had named us--were the
only officers wearing civilian clothes, and one would as easily have
suspected F. of an ambition to become the Sultan's chief eunuch as of
an ambition to escape.

Some of the Tommies were disabled or still sick. As they trudged
through the hot streets, oppressed by heavy packages and the relentless
heat, their backs bent lower and lower and they began to straggle.
Finally one man fainted. While he was being carried into the shade the
officers obtained permission to relieve the weakest Tommies of their
kits. Yet again, the Turks ought to have discovered the escape party,
for the others saw to it that Fulton, Stone, and I should not be
burdened with the parcels.

Meanwhile, the mid-day heat grew more intense, and the Tommies more
exhausted. It became necessary, every half mile or so, to rest for a
few minutes on the shady side of the street.

The "do-or-die trio" looked to these halts for their opportunity; but
always the guards hemmed us in too closely for any chance of a
break-away. A combined effort seemed impossible, so that the three of
us accepted the maxim of each man for himself. Even to talk with each
other on the march was imprudent, for earnest conversation, like
earnest looks, must have attracted attention.

The first move was made by Fulton. We had halted on a narrow pavement,
in the suburb of Yeni-Kapou. There followed a short interval of
lounging repose, during which we sipped at water-bottles, while the
Turkish officer did his best to fraternize. Turning round casually, in
a search for possible opportunities, I saw Fulton sliding into a little
booth of a shop, and then, with head bent over the counter, looking at
postcards. As far as I could gather none of the guards had noticed him.
He killed time by calling for more and ever more postcards.

Five minutes later the order to continue was given. We rose and
arranged our packs, while Ms. stood in front of the shop window, so as
to hide Fulton. But a Turkish sergeant counted us, and finding our
number short by one, became excited and aggressive as he wandered
around and checked his figures. Fulton's discovery was then inevitable.
He made the best of things, when observed through the window, by
choosing and paying for several postcards and leaving the shop
indifferently, as if he had entered it with no ulterior purpose. The
Turkish officer looked his suspicion, but made no comments.

Stone's turn came next. At Koum-kapou we rested below the wall of an
old palace. When, as he thought, nobody was looking, Stone slipped
through a side-entrance and sat down against a doorway in the left-hand
corner of the courtyard. A guard darted after him, and dragged him back
to us. The Turkish officer saw the commotion and wanted explanations;
whereupon Stone complained that although he went into the courtyard
merely to find shelter from the sun the guard had hustled him rudely.
The watchful guard was reprimanded for want of politeness.

We passed from Koum-kapou to Stamboul, where crowds of befezzed men and
veiled women gathered at every crossing to gaze their dull-eyed
curiosity. Here, in the mazed streets of the Turkish quarter, I again
petitioned Providence for some sort of a diversion, under cover of
which we might run. But nothing happened. The guards surrounded us as
if we had been wayward pigs being driven to the slaughter-house, and
handled their bayonets suggestively.

At one point we could see the Maritza, down a side turning. We moved
along the tram-lines toward the big bridge. Then, after a moment's
delay at the toll-gate, we passed over the Golden Horn.

Three-quarters of the way across the bridge the Turkish sergeant
leading us switched the column-head to some steps descending to the
ferry stage for the Haidar Pasha steamboats. The Tommies were placed at
one end of the wooden stage, with a separate group of guards, while the
Turkish officer, who since the beginning of the journey had shown a
desire to make himself pleasant, took the officer-prisoners into a
little café for cooling drinks. We talked idly to the Greek waitress
who served us; but at the moment I was too preoccupied to notice
anything about her, except that she was plump and obliging.

Later we were grouped some distance to the left of the café, in a
corner of the ferry stage opposite that occupied by the Tommies. There
we remained for nearly an hour in the broiling sun, while waiting for
the steamer which was to take us from Europe to Asia. People surged on
and off the ferryboats that moored opposite us from time to time; but
never once did the guards relax enough to allow anybody to fade into
the crowd. The chances were made even more desperate by some German
soldiers, who leaned over the bridge-rails above us and watched the
changing scene.

"Our ship comes," announced the Turkish officer at last, pointing out
to sea in the direction of Prinkipo Island. In five minutes' time, I
knew, the party would be on board that steamer; and once aboard it I
should have left behind all hope of escape from captivity in Turkey.
Only five minutes! Had the gods left _no_ loop-hole?

I searched among the crowd in every direction, ready to take advantage
of the wildest and slimmest scheme that might suggest itself.

I heard Pappas Effendi and Fulton asking the Turkish officer if they
might return to fetch some kit, which had been left in the café. The
Turk nodded, and sent them away, escorted by his sergeant. I also had
left some kit, I claimed on the spur of the moment, just as Pappas
Effendi and Fulton were leaving us.

"All right," said the Turk, "follow your comrades."

In full view of the rest of the party I walked after Pappas Effendi and
Fulton, and while keeping close to the sergeant, as if to show I was
under his wing, took care to remain behind him so that he himself
should know nothing of my presence.

The little group entered the café, first Pappas Effendi and Fulton,
then the sergeant, and finally myself.

Inside the doorway was the plump waitress, who smiled affably. I stayed
near her while the other three passed to the inside room, where we had
been seated earlier. I fingered my lips warningly, and in soft-spoken
French asked where I could hide.

The waitress gave no answer, but without showing the least excitement
or even surprise, half opened a folding doorway that led to the
kitchen. I planted myself behind it, while she entered the inner room
and talked to the Turkish sergeant.

A minute later I heard the three of them--Pappas Effendi, Fulton, and
the guard--tramp past my doorway and out to the ferry stage. Just then
the arriving steamer hooted.

"Now," said this waitress-in-a-million, "they have gone, and so must
you. The Turks may come any moment, and if they find you here I shall
suffer more than you."

"Goodbye, and a million thanks," I said, fervently, and walked into the
open.

Without even turning my head to see whether the disappearance was known
I swerved to the right, and, taking great care not to attract attention
by walking in haste, passed up the long line of steps leading to the
bridge. I continued to look straight ahead, but I could sense the
presence, only a few yards away, of the German soldiers who loitered by
the railings. Fortunately, several other people were moving up or down
the steps; and dressed as I was in a civilian suit obtained from the
Dutch Legation, the Germans paid no more attention to me than to them.

I reached the pavement, and still not daring to look behind, crossed
the tram-lines to the opposite side of the bridge. Then only did I turn
round to find out whether I were followed.

Everything was normal. Not one of the idlers who lined the railings had
noticed me; the usual traffic and the usual crowds ebbed and flowed
across the bridge; the sun shone. I lit a cigarette and walked
eastward.

Having crossed the circus of streets at the Galata end of the bridge, I
turned to the right and made for the Rue de Galata. At the corner I
looked back again. To my very great relief, I found that I was still
not followed.

I was conscious of an intense exhilaration as, free at last, I rubbed
elbows with the crowd of nondescript Levantines. It was the first time
for months that I had ever walked the streets without the burden of an
oppressive consciousness that a yard or two to the rear was an animal
of a Turkish soldier. That sense of always being followed and spied
upon and menaced and held on a leash had weighed so much on my mind
that I had come to look upon a guard in the same light as an old-time
convict must have looked upon the lead ball chained to his foot. The
sense of freedom from this incubus was glorious.

I was worried about my chances of meeting the unknown Russian who had
agreed to hide White and myself. According to the plan detailed to me
some hours earlier by Vladimir Wilkowsky, he was to wait for me in a
German beerhouse from two o'clock to four. I had been unable to escape
in time for the appointment and it was now four-twenty.

Nevertheless, hoping that the Russian might have lingered over his
drink, I decided to carry out the same arrangements as if I had arrived
in time. These, I remember thinking as I strolled along the Rue de
Galata, studiously unconscious of gendarmes and soldiers, were
suggestive of a Deadwood Dick thriller, or of some sawdust melodrama at
a provincial theatre.

Having entered the beerhouse (named _Zum Neuen Welt_), I was to pass
down the main room until, on the right-hand side of it, I reached the
piano. I must seat myself at the table next to the piano, order a glass
of beer, put a cigarette behind my left ear, and look around without
showing too much anxiety.

Somewhere near me I should find a man whose left ear, also, was adorned
with a cigarette; or, if not already there he would arrive very
shortly. He would occupy the table beyond mine--that is to say, the
next but one to the piano. On no account must I speak to him in the
beerhouse, although to make his identity doubly clear he might ask for
a light, speaking in German. He would remain until I had paid my
reckoning, then pay his own, leave the _Bierhaus Zum Neuen Welt_, and
walk toward Pera.

I was to follow him not too closely, always taking care to be separated
by a distance of at least twenty yards, so that nobody might observe
how my movements depended on his. Arrived on the fringe of Pera he
would unlock a door, leave it open, and disappear; whereupon all that
remained for me was to follow him into this retreat, where I should
find Captain White already installed.

It was four-twenty-seven when I entered the _Bierhaus Zum Neuen Welt_,
a close-atmosphered café in the Rue de Galata. The customers inside it
were few, but some of them caught my attention at once, for they
included a group of German soldiers and a Turkish officer of
gendarmerie, who was talking to a civilian. The table next to the piano
was vacant, as were those surrounding it. I sat down, casually placed a
cigarette behind my left ear, and ordered a glass of beer.

As I sipped the beer I looked around the room for the man of mystery.
Nobody paid the least attention to me. Plenty of cigarettes were held
in the hand or the mouth, but none in the cleft of the left ear.

Still with a faint hope that the Russian who was to hide me might
return, I ordered a second then a third glass of beer, and made a study
of every man present, in case one of them might be he. But nothing had
happened, and nothing continued to happen. The officer of gendarmerie
kept his back toward me, while the German soldiers grew boisterous over
repeated relays of beer, and over mandolin strummings by a red-faced
Unteroffizier. The proprietress, a German woman of an especial
corpulence, dragged her fleshy body from table to table, and finally
arrived before mine.

"You seem hot," she said in German. "You must have been walking too
fast."

"No, I have merely been out in this atrocious sun."

"German?" she asked--at which I was delighted, for it proved that my
accent, acquired many years before as a student in Munich, was not yet
too rusty to pass muster.

"No, madam, Russian," I replied, hoping hard that she could speak no
Russian.

"_So!_ Plenty of Russians come here since the Ukraine was occupied, and
the boats began to arrive from Odessa."

Now although the fat proprietress had paid such a compliment to my
German accent, I remembered the five years since I had spoken the
language continuously, and I was frightened that in any word she might
detect an English accent. I grew more and more frightened and anxious,
for it was very unlikely that the man with the cigarette would arrive
now. I looked at my watch, and found the time to be five-twenty-five.

Finally the tension of trying to think clearly while answering the
German female's questions was more than I could stand. I paid my bill,
and returned to the Rue de Galata.

By now, I judged, the guards must have discovered my escape. Probably
they were searching the streets for me; and probably the gendarmerie in
Galata, Pera, and Stamboul had been instructed to look out for a
European in a gray civilian suit and a black hat. I stopped at the
nearest outfitting shop, bought a light-gray hat, and left the black
one lying on a chair.

Deciding that the water would be safer than the land, I made my way
back to the bridge, with the intention of chartering a small boat for a
trip up the Bosphorus.

Then, crossing the open space facing the bridge, I was horrified to see
Mahmoud, one of my old guards. He revolved undecidedly and peered among
the crowd. Obviously he was looking for someone; and the odds were a
hundred to one that the someone must be me.

I edged away from him without being observed, and dodged into the fruit
bazaar among the quayside streets to right of the bridge.

This bazaar was one of the dirtiest in Constantinople. Millions of
flies drifted over and settled on the baskets of tired fruit. The very
stalls seemed ready to fall to pieces from decrepitude. The people,
vendors and buyers alike, were dusty and ragged. A few loiterers
squatted on the cobble stones and sucked orange-peel.

It was inevitable that in such a place my more or less smart Legation
suit and my newly bought hat should attract attention. A policeman, of
the "dog-collar" species, seemed particularly interested in them. I was
leaving the bazaar by a narrow street that looked as if it might lead
me to the subway station of Galata when he barred the way and said
something in Turkish, while holding out his hand expectantly.

I failed to understand most of the words, but one of
them--_vecika_--was enough. _Vecikas_ were the Turkish passports with
which every honest, or rich but dishonest, civilian had to provide
himself if he wished to remain at liberty. They might be demanded at
any time in any place by any gendarme.

Naturally I could produce no _vecika_. But I had the next best thing.
That same morning I had discussed with Vladimir Wilkowsky the
possibility of being stopped in the street by a policeman. His advice
was that if it happened I must claim to be a German officer. I
remembered being photographed in civilian clothes when at Gumuch Souyou
Hospital; and before leaving Psamatia I gave myself a useful identity
by signing one of the copies with a German name.

After searching an inside pocket, I now handed to the gendarme a
photograph which went to prove that I was "_Fritz Richter, Oberleutnant
in der Fliegertruppen_." Speaking [in fluent German, interspersed with
a few words of broken Turkish], I protested violently that I was a
German officer in mufti, and that he would get himself into trouble for
having presumed to stop a German officer. And never was I more
frightened than when uttering that bombast.

Half convinced and half browbeaten, the gendarme took the photograph,
looked at it dubiously, and consulted a Greek from among the curious
crowd that circled us. This man, it appeared, claimed to know German. I
understood little of the conversation, but as far as I could gather the
policeman asked if I really were a German officer; and the stallkeeper,
reading the signature laboriously, informed him that it proclaimed me
to be a Supreme Lieutenant of the Flying Soldiers.

"_Pek ee, effendi_," said the gendarme to me. He returned the
photograph, salaamed, and apologized. He then went away. So did I.

I returned cautiously, through a combination of side streets, to the
bridge-head, and I was much relieved to find that Mahmoud had
disappeared. From the quay I chartered a rowing-boat, ordering the
Turkish _kaiktche_ to row me up the Bosphorus.

"Are you Russian, _effendim_?" he asked.

"No, German," I replied, surlily. At that his conversational advances
ended.

The train of thought started by the word Russian led me to decide that
I had better spend the night aboard the Russian tramp steamer on which
White and I were to travel as stowaways. Vladimir Wilkowsky, in fact,
had told me to make for it if I failed to reach the hiding-place on
shore, and to ask for M. Titoff, the chief engineer. Its name, I knew,
was the _Batoum_, and most of its officers were in the conspiracy to
help us, in return for substantial consideration. I knew that the ship
was moored in the Bosphorus, but of its appearance or exact position I
had been told nothing.

"_Russky dampfschiff Batoum_," I ordered the _kaiktche_, using the
polyglot mixture which he was most likely to understand. But his
voluble jabbering and his expressive shrug showed that he, also, was
ignorant of where it lay.

"_Bosphor!_" I commanded, pointing higher up the Bosphorus and thinking
that I would find the name _Batoum_ painted on one of the five or six
ships that I could see in the distance, moored in midstream.

But having rowed some distance up the Bosphorus and already passed
Dolma Bagche Palace, I found no ship labelled _Batoum_. Most of the
craft seemed to use only numbers as distinguishing marks. What was
worse, most of them flew the German flag; although two of the masts
sported a yellow-and-blue standard which I failed to recognize.
Certainly none flew the Russian eagle.

Our only chance of finding the _Batoum_ was to ask directions. We
visited several lighters near the quay; but the _kaiktche's_ questions
to Turks and Greeks were unproductive. As a last chance I told him to
row close to a large steamer, on the deck of which I could see some
German sailors.

"Please tell me where I can find the Russian boat _Batoum_," I shouted
in German, standing up while the _kaiktche_ kept the little craft
steady with his oars.

"Don't know the _Batoum_," said a sailor. "Here there are no Russian
ships now. They've become German or Austrian."

"And those two over there?" I asked, pointing toward the vessels with
the green-and-black ensign.

"Ukrainian."

"Thanks very much," I called as we sheered off. My mistake, I realized,
had been in forgetting for the moment the existence of that
newly-made-in-Germany republic the Ukraine. Any vessel from Odessa not
flying the German or the Austrian flag would now be Ukrainian; and the
yellow-and-blue standard must be that of the Ukrainian Republic. One of
the pair flying this flag proclaimed itself to be the _Nikolaieff_. It
followed that the other, which was marked only by a number, must be the
_Batoum_.

Having made the _kaiktche_ take me to the bottom of its gangway, I
climbed to the deck. At the top of the gangway was a tall man made
noticeable by a bristling moustache and a well-pressed uniform of white
drill. Obviously he was a ship's officer, and as such he must be one of
the syndicate whom Captain White and I were bribing. If so, he would
know of Wilkowsky.

"_Russky vapor Batoum?_" I asked in pidgin-Russian.

"_Da._"

"_Monsieur Titoff?_"--pointing at him by way of enquiry into his
identity.

"_Niet; Monsieur Belaef._"

"_Droug Vladimir Ivanovitch Wilkowsky?_"

He gave me a long look, smiled, and said under his breath: "Yes,
meester."

These were the only English words known by Ivan Stepanovitch Belaef,
first mate of the Ukrainian tramp steamer _Batoum_, from Odessa. And
for the moment, at any rate, I was safe among friends.

                 *       *       *       *       *

At about armistice time I was hailed unexpectedly in Port Saïd by C.,
one of the British officers whom I had left behind on the ferry stage
of the Golden Horn. He himself had seen me leave the café, climb the
steps leading to the bridge, and fade into the crowd.

A few moments after my disappearance, related C., the Turkish officer
called the roll of the prisoners, before taking them to the ferryboat.
That roll-call almost led to the premature discovery of my escape; for
when the Turk said "À-lan Thòm-as Bott," _four_ people answered.



CHAPTER XII

THE FACE AT THE WINDOW


"Monsieur Titoff," announced the first mate, entering his cabin with a
hunched-up figure of a man, whose most obvious characteristics were
shifty eyes, very high cheekbones and a shrivelled, yellow skin.

M. Titoff and I inspected each other with care as I rose from the only
chair and shook hands. He, I knew, was the guiding spirit in the
syndicate of mates and engineers whom we were bribing.

He produced a book of English phrases, with their Russian equivalents.
Opening it at a prepared page he ran his finger down the list and said
"Seegnal!"

"Signal?"

"Yess, ceegarette seegnal."

Remembering the arrangements for the beerhouse rendezvous, I placed a
cigarette behind my left ear; whereat the chief engineer and the first
mate smiled, and shook hands once again. Neither of them could speak
any language but Russian, so that we talked with difficulty, exchanging
half-understood patter from the phrase book.

After some strumming on the mandolin and balalaika by Titoff and
Belaef, I slept on the first mate's couch, with my money tucked next to
my skin.

Next morning I was introduced to the third mate, a stocky Lett who
could speak German. Using him as interpreter Titoff explained his
arrangements. I was to dress myself as a Russian sailor, leave the
_Batoum_, and be led to the hiding-place in Pera. White and I were to
remain there for a week, until the day before the ship sailed. We could
then be concealed on board the _Batoum_ until she was safely out of the
Bosphorus.

Wearing some old clothes belonging to Kulman, the third mate, but with
their rank badges removed, I rowed ashore. Kulman accompanied me, while
Titoff, prominent in white drill, waited on the quay. Neither he nor
the white-bearded old man to whom he was talking took the least notice
of us, but turned and passed toward the Rue de Galata. The third mate
and I followed, without, however, showing apparent concern in their
movements.

At the corner of a side street on the far side of the Rue de Galata
Titoff parted from his companion. Kulman followed suit by leaving me,
after giving low-voiced instructions that I must follow the old man.

The stranger led the way up the hill, toward Péra, while I kept behind
him at a convenient distance, on the opposite side of the road. For a
quarter of an hour he moved through a succession of uneven streets and
cobbled alleys, so that I soon lost my bearings.

I was not conscious of danger, however. In the faded old uniform of a
sailor, and with my civilian clothes wrapped in a newspaper, I
attracted little attention. Occasionally I looked into shop windows to
divert the suspicions of any who might otherwise have noticed that I
was following the ancient.

Finally the guide halted among the wooden houses on the outskirts of
Péra, produced an enormous key, and unlocked an iron door. I slackened
my steps as he disappeared inside the door, but passed through it a few
seconds later.

Inside was half-darkness. Besides the old man I could see, dimly, an
unkempt and unshaven figure, wearing an overcoat that was much too
small for him. I looked at this apparition with puzzled doubt. Surely
it could not be White, whom I had last seen running through the streets
of Koum-kapou, in a perfectly respectable suit of Red Cross clothes?
Yes, it must be, for it came toward me with outstretched hand.

"Glad to see you, old man," said the figure in the overcoat. "I don't
know which of us looks the more comic."

"Why the dyed moustache, and why this?" pointing to a faded fez which
protruded from one of his pockets.

White reserved his tale until Titoff's friend had left us, after
promising to return with food and water.

While the guard was chasing him in Koum-kapou, White related, he turned
the corner suddenly and saw an open doorway. He rushed into it, acting
on impulse.

Just inside the door was a woman, who screamed. He put his hand over
her mouth, then dodged down a narrow passage into the back room, while
the pursuing guard raced past the house and up the street.

Very fortunately for White the woman was a Greek, and as such well
disposed to the British. She hid him in a cupboard for an hour, and
persuaded her husband, when he arrived home at midday, to provide a
disguise.

White bought a fez and an overcoat, and blackened his moustache. The
Greek was shorter and slighter than he, so that it was impossible to
wear the overcoat without removing his own jacket and waistcoat. These
he left in the house. The results, however, justified his loss, for
when he went into the streets, during the afternoon, he was a perfect
study of a broken-down Levantine.

He reached Galata too late for the beerhouse rendezvous, and was
obliged, therefore, to spend the evening and night as best he could. As
he wandered along the Rue de Galata a policeman stopped him and,
according to the Near East habit, showed a cigarette without saying a
word and signed that he wanted a light. This White supplied from the
cigarette he was smoking. The gendarme passed on, without deigning to
thank the wretched looking man in a faded fez and torn coat.

A café and two cinemas filled his evening. Afterward, unable to hire a
room at any hotel or lodging-house, because he had no _vecika_, he
spent the night huddled behind a cemetery tombstone.

Next day he met Titoff's Russian friend in the German beerhouse,
according to plan; and so to the hiding-place.

This hiding-place of ours was a disused workshop belonging to the
Russian, who claimed to be a carpenter. Its only furniture was a crude
bench and a long table. The floor lay inches deep in shavings through
which the rats rustled all night and most of the day. There was one
small window; but this we were told to keep covered by its iron
shutter, in case somebody should look in from the street. A tiny yard
led from the corner opposite the door to the bottom of a shaft, down
which the dwellers on the upper floors of the building threw their
rubbish.

In themselves these conditions were fairly bad; for apart from the lack
of furniture, the atmosphere was always dusty and unpleasantly musty,
and unless we opened the window the workshop remained in perpetual
twilight. But the worst drawback of all was that only a flimsy
partition separated us from the living room of a Turkish officer. His
bedroom was above our wooden ceiling. Everything he did we could hear
quite plainly, whether he coughed, spoke, whistled, removed his boots,
or snored.

The Turkish officer, we realized, must likewise hear every movement of
ours; so that whenever either he or his orderly or anybody else was in
his rooms we maintained, perforce, a death-like stillness. We scarcely
dared to whisper, or to tip-toe across the workshop on bootless feet.
In the daytime, the striking of a match had to be masked by scraping
the shavings, so as to make a noise like a rat. After daylight smoking
was impossible, because the glimmer would have shown through the many
cracks in the partition.

We slept side by side on the wooden table, with rolled-up coats as
pillows. White once woke up in the middle of the night and was
horrified to hear me talking in my sleep. Fortunately, the Turk above
was not awake, and so missed the performance. Afterward we never slept
at the same time, but kept watch in turn, in case one of us should
snore or otherwise attract attention. Four of the nights were broken
into by machine-gun fire from a near-by roof, during British air-raids.

On my arrival White had told me that we must be particularly careful in
the mornings, just after the Turkish officer left the house. The noises
from the living room then suggested that somebody, probably the Turk's
wife, was tidying it. This happened on three successive mornings. What
worried us in particular was a scrunching and scraping behind the
partition, which suggested that the wife suspected our presence and
tried to look at us through the cracks.

Each time this occurred we crouched at the bottom of the partition,
fingered our lips warningly, and scarcely dared to breathe. On the
fourth day, when the Russian brought our food, we told him our
suspicions.

"We believe this Turkish officer's wife knows of us," said White.
"Every morning she comes to the partition and seems to be looking
through it."

The carpenter grinned.

"But," he explained, "the Turk has no wife. What you've been frightened
of is his tame rabbit!"

Each day we hoped for news of the _Batoum_'s date of sailing. Three
times it was postponed; and, bored and wretched, we remained perforce
in the miserable workshop.

Unable to keep our minds as inactive as our bodies, we took the risk of
leaving the window half open during the daytime, so that we might study
our Russian textbooks, in readiness for Odessa. Seated on the shavings
in a position to catch the shaft of light that streamed through the
narrow panes, we passed many hours with the copying and learning of
Russian phrases.

When, after hours of study, our concentrative faculties became stale,
the only alternative was to hope for success, and to live again in
retrospect the extravagant happenings of the past few weeks. Most of
the business usually associated with the crudest melodrama had been
there, I reflected--spies, policemen, disguises, chases, female
accomplices, and bluff. Decidedly it had been thrilling; but for the
future I desired intensely to experience such thrills only at second
hand.

But even in this secluded room we were not to be spared the atmosphere
of movie-horrifics. Another stock thrill was inflicted on us--The Face
at the Window.

There had seemed no likelihood of discovery from the street. Even if we
bared the window from its iron shutter, nobody could see into the room
without raising himself on the ledge, for the lower panes were coated
with an opaque glaze. At mealtimes, therefore, we let in the daylight
by withdrawing the shutter.

One morning, after breakfast, when the Turkish officer had left his
rooms, I saw White stiffen suddenly as we cleared the table.

"Look natural," he whispered. "There's no time to duck."

I picked up a plank of wood and tried to appear as if my business were
carpentry; for over there, four yards away, a fez was rising slowly
above the glazed portion of the window. White performed convincingly
with a tape-measure, the nearest thing to his hand.

The fez was the forerunner of a much-wrinkled forehead. Then came a
pair of villainous eyes, a bent nose, and cheek-bones with light olive
skin drawn tightly across them. The rest of the face remained hidden by
the glaze. The Turk--for such he evidently was--have levered himself
from the ground by means of the window-ledge.

"Don't take any notice of the swine," White murmured.

Outwardly calm, but inwardly nervous and shaking, I pretended to busy
myself with the carpenter's tools, although it was difficult to
withstand a shocked instinct to gaze at the Face. It remained for about
two minutes of heart-throbbing tension, then disappeared, and left me
gasping with the surprise and the shock of its visit. We heard somebody
walking away from the building and down the hill toward Galata.

The Face might have belonged to a police spy, we speculated, but it
might have been that of a casual passer-by who was indulging the
curiosity in respect of other people's business which is common to most
Turks. In that case no harm would be done, for the stranger had seen
nothing suspicious--only a workshop, some tools and planks, a loaf of
bread and a half melon on the table, and two coatless, collarless,
unshaven, untidy-haired men who seemed to be working.

The carpenter showed fright on being told that a Turk had looked in at
us, and said he must consult Titoff. Before he returned on the
following morning the Face had again appeared, as before--first a fez
rising slowly above the glazed pane, then a wrinkled forehead, then the
villainous eyes and the crooked nose. It remained staring for a few
seconds, and disappeared.

This time the Russian could contain neither his fear nor his impatience
to get us out of the workshop. If we were caught, said he, it would
only mean imprisonment for us; but him the Turks might hang as a spy.
He told us to pack our belongings, while he went to the _Batoum_ and
arranged with Titoff for us to be taken on board.

An hour later a procession of three passed through the winding streets
toward the quay. We left the workshop in turn, at intervals of a few
seconds, for we had decided to walk separately, so that if one of us
were stopped the others could make themselves scarce.

First went the carpenter, leading the way down the hill to Galata. I
followed twenty yards behind him, still dressed as a Russian sailor;
and about twenty yards behind me came White, in his fez and old
overcoat. We scarcely looked at each other, but mooched along different
sections of the road. Each was ready, at a second's warning, to dash
down the nearest alley.

Until the Rue de Galata was reached the only people we saw were the
dull-eyed and ragged inhabitants of the slum quarter that fringes Pera,
sitting in their doorways and blinking in the heat of early afternoon.
But when we crossed the Rue de Galata White almost rubbed shoulders
with a couple of gendarmes.

Titoff was waiting on the quayside. White and I approached him,
whereupon the Russian carpenter retraced his steps and left us. In my
character of a Russian seaman I saluted the _Batoum's_ chief engineer.
He hustled us into a waiting _kaik_, and ordered the _kaiktche_ to row
to the _Batoum_.

Kulman was waiting at the top of the gangway. He led us to his cabin,
where, he said, we were to live for the present.

Meanwhile, the ship was still empty of cargo, and no definite date of
sailing had yet been given. This uncertain delay was especially
unfortunate because, apart from the growing risk of discovery, our
money was diminishing at an alarming rate.

The door was perforce closed all day long, to prevent discovery by the
captain. In the heat of those August days on the Bosphorus the stifling
stuffiness of the unventilated little cabin became almost unbearable.

Yet we had one consolation. The port-hole could be left open without
fear of intrusion by the Face, with its wrinkled forehead surmounted by
a fez, its villainous eyes, its crooked nose, and its olive skin drawn
tightly across the cheek-bones....



CHAPTER XIII

A SHIPLOAD OF ROGUES


Michael Ivanovitch Titoff, one-time chief engineer of the tramp steamer
_Batoum_, proved to the dissatisfaction of Captain White and myself
that he was a thief, a mean blackguard, a cunning liar, a cringing
coward, a rat, and an altogether despicable cheat. Otherwise he was not
a bad sort of fellow.

At the time when we lived on board the _Batoum_ as stowaways her
officers and crew were rogues almost to a man. Except Titoff and one or
two of the crew they were likeable rogues, however, and applied an
instinctive sense of decency to their unlawful dealings. For example,
Andreas Kulman, the Lettish third mate, would cheerfully cheat the
Turkish merchant who had chartered the vessel, and cheerfully smuggle
drugs from anywhere to anywhere; but I never knew him cheat a friend or
a poor man, or take advantage of a stranger in difficulties. To us, as
prisoners escaping from Turkey, he showed many kindnesses; and if we
had been without money he would have been willing to take us across the
Black Sea without payment. The other mates were of the same type, if a
trifle less obliging.

The second and third engineers--Feodor Mozny and Josef Koratkov--were
among the few of our shipmates who could not be classified as rogues.
They transgressed only to the innocuous extent of smuggling moneyed
stowaways and contraband goods. They, also, showed White and myself
many kindnesses; as did the second engineer's wife, who voyaged with
her husband. Several evenings she spent in the heat of the frowsy
little engine room, washing our only underclothes, while we sat in
Josef's cabin, clad in nothing but the tunic and trousers of our
Russian-sailor disguises.

We wore these disguises for the benefit of visitors to the _Batoum_,
and not to throw dust in the eyes of the crew. That was needless, for,
except the captain, every man belonging to the ship soon knew of us.
The marvel was that with so many people privy to the secret it never
leaked to the Turkish police. In pro-Entente circles ashore our
presence on the _Batoum_ was widely known and widely discussed; and I
count it a debt to Providence that the news was not carried to the
Ministry of War by one of the city's many police spies. The crew were
unlikely to betray us knowingly, for every man of them must have been
concerned in something which might wither in the strong light of a
police investigation. Besides, they were tolerant of the British, while
disliking the Turks even more than they disliked the Germans.

The captain--a white-bearded, bent-backed Greek of about eighty--seemed
incompetent, and well on the way to senile decay, but withal harmless.
This voyage was to be his last before enforced retirement. He was as
wax in the cunning hands of Titoff, who kept from him the knowledge
that two escaped Britishers were aboard. Had he known he would have
either insisted on our removal, or--more probably--demanded a large
share of the passage money. It was easy to keep the ancient in
ignorance, for apparently he knew less than anybody else of what
happened on his vessel. Titoff assured us that should the captain see
us in our disguise of Russian sailors he would remain unsuspicious if
we took care not to speak. His declining mind had become too feeble to
remember off-hand even the number of the crew; and much less could he
remember their faces. Once I brushed by him closely, outside Kulman's
cabin. He passed without a glance at me, looking on the ground and
muttering into his beard.

The crew was a dubious mixture. Many--in particular the firemen--had
been Bolsheviki until Austro-German forces landed at Odessa and
Sevastopol and temporarily crushed Bolshevism in South Russia. Other
ex-members of the bourgeoisie, but unable to make a living on land
under present conditions, had become temporary seamen by the grace of
friends connected with the shipping company that owned the _Batoum_.
There was also a bright youth named Viktor, who, until the Bolshevist
revolution, was a student. His father, a lawyer, had been killed in the
rioting at Kieff that accompanied the Soviet rise to power; and the
son, to keep himself alive, now swabbed the decks of a tramp steamer
and submitted to being kicked by sailors and corrupted by Michael
Ivanovitch Titoff. Viktor spoke French and German, and was therefore
much in request as interpreter when the ship's officers bargained with
their stowaways or invested in contraband consignments, or when one of
them brought on board some cosmopolitan wench from Pera or Galata.

Our most interesting shipmate on the _Batoum_ was perhaps Bolshevik
Bill the Greaser. One afternoon when White, dressed in sailor's
clothes, was helping to paint the ship's side, a hard-faced giant in
overalls approached him, produced a Russian-French grammar, and asked
for a lesson. So far as his slight knowledge of French and slighter
knowledge of Russian allowed, White did his best to comply. Thereafter
the greaser became a close friend, following us round the deck in the
evening, visiting us at odd hours during the day-time, and bringing us
figs.

Like most of the greasers and firemen he was a Bolshevik. He was not a
bloodthirsty Bolshevik, however, but one who, according to his own
limited and crude conceptions of universal equality, wanted plenty of
wealth, plenty of happiness, plenty of vodka for all. He was especially
eloquent and brotherly when drunk.

Others of the Bolsheviki were idealists of a more exterminative type.
Once, when White was playing cards with some firemen in the engine
room, the talk swung to the Russian Revolution. A lean man, who until
then had been too busy drinking to speak, began to describe the mutiny
in the Baltic Fleet, of which he had been a sailor. In his intensity he
seemed to live again through the horrors of it, as with gloating
gesture he described how unpopular officers had been thrown into the
sea with weights tied to their feet.

"That was bad, very bad," protested White in his halting Russian. "If
you are in power and somebody has done wrong, he should be given a fair
trial and, if convicted, put in prison. But to kill men merely because
you dislike them is very wrong."

"Well said!" commented Bolshevik Bill the Greaser.

"No; well meant if you like," amended the lean fireman, as he patted
White on the back; "but the Meester does not understand us. We would
never do such a thing to English officers. We had them as instructors
and found them true friends of their men. Our officers were very
different. They hit us and ignored us and treated us like animals. We
shall never be permanently free until they are all dead. We must
destroy their class. Russia----"

His voice had been growing louder and more raucous. Suddenly it
softened as he turned to White and said: "Meester, you know your
business and we know ours. Have a fig." And the game of cards
continued.

Yet, among the whole shipload of rogues, the only man who victimized us
was Titoff, the chief engineer. When we first came aboard he demanded
twelve dollars a day for food which, being stolen from the ship's
supplies, cost him nothing. At the instigation of the second and third
engineers we reduced the payment to six dollars a day. He blustered,
but gave way and tried to make up the difference by cheating us over
tobacco, cigarettes, newspapers, and other articles bought on shore. He
paid twenty-five dollars for a revolver, and tried to sell it to us for
thirty-five, as being the cost price.

We had left at Psamatia a store of clothes and tinned food, which was
to have been smuggled on board by the Russian aviator Vladimir
Wilkowsky. As the days passed and nothing arrived we suspected
Wilkowsky of having either failed or fooled us. Then, at a party in
Titoff's cabin one evening, I saw inside a cupboard some tins of
biscuits and cocoa, of the kinds that were sent to aviator prisoners in
Turkey by the British Flying Services Fund. Titoff could not--and in
any case certainly would not--have bought them in Constantinople; for
English cocoa and biscuits, if obtainable at all in the shops of Pera,
fetched extortionate prices.

Although the mere sight of the tins provided insufficient proof, the
inference was that Wilkowsky had sent our belongings and that Titoff
had stolen them. But we delayed investigation and accusation until we
should be safely out of Turkey, and in the possession of revolvers.
Some time or other we meant to make Titoff suffer. Meanwhile, we were
forced to wait until our moment came.

Delay followed upon heart-breaking delay, until we began to lose hope
that the _Batoum_ would ever weigh anchor. In four days' time, it was
promised, the cargo would arrive. Two days later the four days had
stretched, elastic-wise, to ten, because a consignment of figs had not
arrived from Smyrna. Then, a week afterward, a further extension of
five days was reported, the Turkish merchant having failed to come to
terms with the Ministry of Commerce.

It became impossible for us to remain in Kulman's cabin, which faced
the captain's. The old skipper received many visitors, including
Turkish officials, any one of whom might have been led by mischance to
discover us. At Titoff's suggestion we moved to a small room on the
bridge, formerly occupied by a wireless operator, in the days when the
_Batoum_ was a Russian transport. The transmitter and receiver were
still there, but had been out of action long since, for the Germans
forbade the use of wireless by merchant craft in the Black Sea.

There we remained hidden for a succession of twelve monotonous days and
nights enlivened only by British air-raids and by expeditions to the
deck when sunset and twilight were past, and we could take exercise by
tramping backward and forward, forward and backward, in the shadow. For
the rest, we continued to study Russian, and received friendly calls
from Kulman, Josef, Feodor, Viktor the Student, and Bolshevik Bill the
Greaser.

Titoff visited us once only, when he searched for the platinum points
on the Marconi transmitter. But already every morsel of platinum had
been removed; and the chief engineer seemed disgusted that somebody
else should have anticipated his latest idea for profitable villainy.

The tedium of inactive waiting, of day-to-day hopes and
disappointments, was as unpleasant and irritating as a blanket of damp
horsehair. Our only diversion was the kaleidoscopic view from the
window, while the ship swung with the tides. Not fifty yards away the
Sultan's summer palace stood in white stone prominence amid the dull,
squat buildings of Galata. Looking across the Bosphorus, with its heavy
_dhows_, its ferryboats, its dancing _kaiks_, and its sun-glittering
wavelets, we could see Seraglio Point, and, in the distance, the domed
roofs and minaret spires of St. Sophia and the other great mosques of
Stamboul.

Meals were served irregularly, for journeys from the kitchen to the
wireless cabin were dependent upon the outgoings and incomings of the
captain and his visitors. Whenever he or they came on the bridge we
made fast the door, and crouched beneath the window.

Our supply of money continued to dwindle, until it was insufficient to
pay the four hundred Turkish pounds which Titoff demanded as passage
money. We hesitated to approach Mr. S. once more, not wishing to
involve him in our danger. Yet we had no other method of obtaining
funds. Driven to the distasteful course by urgent necessity we decided
to compromise by communicating with him through intermediaries, instead
of visiting his office ourselves.

Titoff was anxious to be employed as messenger, but we shrank from
placing him in a position which he might misuse to blackmail Mr. S. We
therefore resumed communication with Theodore, the Greek waiter, by
sending him an envelope that contained instructions for himself, and a
sealed letter for Mr. S. When Titoff went ashore to deliver the
envelope to Theodore, Kulman accompanied him, as a check on his
propensity to walk crookedly.

The pair returned with the welcome news that Mr. S. would cash our
cheques in three days' time. Meanwhile, the stowaway syndicate had been
offered new business. Fulton and Stone had appeared once again upon the
escape-horizon, and were living in Theodore's house. Yeats-Brown, in
his disguise, was paying them frequent visits. Theodore had approached
Titoff with a proposition that on the night before the _Batoum_ sailed
the three of them should join us. The chief engineer and his partners
rather shied at the increased risk, but the money offered was too much
for them, and they agreed to take Yeats-Brown, Fulton, and Stone.

And then, with the prospect before us of sufficient funds and three
useful companions, we suffered yet another disappointment. At the time
appointed for a rendezvous Titoff went to fetch the money which Mr. S.
was to send by Theodore. He returned with an anxious face and the
announcement that the Greek waiter had disappeared. He waited vainly
for more than an hour in the Maritza restaurant, where the other
waiters professed to know nothing of Theodore's whereabouts.

It now seemed that not only should we be unable to pay for our passage,
but that we had lost the money paid by Mr. S. (so we surmised) in
exchange for our cheques. Somewhere, we felt sure, there was roguery.
Three likely and unpleasant possibilities loomed before us. Theodore
might have stolen the money and then vanished; Titoff might have stolen
it; they might have stolen it jointly. Our one legitimate hope was that
Mr. S. might not have cashed the cheques before Theodore's
disappearance.

Our only chance of discovering the truth was personal investigation. On
the following afternoon White, again wearing his fez and old overcoat
and with his moustache darkened, rowed ashore. He took the tram to the
foot of the Golden Horn bridge, walked across to Stamboul, and entered
the Maritza.

The low-roofed restaurant's appearance was as usual; but somehow the
atmosphere seemed electric with suspicion. A Turkish officer of
gendarmerie sat at a table near the door. Theodore was conspicuously
absent.

White ordered a glass of beer, and while doing so asked for news of
him. The waiter looked frightened, and left the table without a reply.
When he returned White repeated the question. He was then told:

"He has fallen with the three British officers. I pray you not to talk
of it."

"But I must know," urged White, speaking in low-toned, halting French.
"I am a British officer myself"--for this waiter, also, had acted as an
intermediary for prisoners. He now looked more frightened than ever,
and took care to keep away from the neighbourhood of White's table.

Glancing round, White saw a Turk washing his hands in the little basin
at the back of the room, while looking, slantwise but intently, at each
man present in turn, but more particularly at the proprietor and the
waiters.

After White's return to the _Batoum_ with the bad news we all but gave
up hope of recovering the four hundred Turkish pounds; for the police
would most certainly have taken whatever moneys were found on Theodore.
We had, also, to reckon with the new danger that bastinado floggings
might persuade the Greek into betraying us.

Next morning's issue of the _Lloyd Ottoman_ brought detailed
confirmations. Three British officers, said a _Faits Divers_ paragraph,
had been concealed in the house of one Theodore Yanni, a Greek waiter
employed at a restaurant in Stamboul. The police surrounded the
building and discovered them. They were taken to the Ministry of War
Prison with Theodore, his two sisters, and his aged mother.

The Ministry of War Prison--"The Black Hole of Constantinople"! We
could see the Ministry of War in the distance from the bridge of the
_Batoum_, and knowing the horrors of its special punishment cells, we
shuddered with sympathy for the strangely mixed party. Theodore
himself, we supposed, would be hanged out of hand.

Our almost hopeless position forced us into the reckless decision to
discover the truth by paying a personal visit to Mr. S. His office was
in the Prisoners of War department of the Dutch Legation, where he
helped to administer the British Red Cross funds.

The building was on the way to the Petits Champs Gardens, near the Pera
Palace Hotel; and there I went, in my sailor's uniform, with Kulman as
companion. At the door was a multi-lingual porter, whom I had seen
when, before my escape, I once bribed a guard into letting me visit the
Prisoners' Bureau. I hung back, and allowed Kulman to take the lead;
for I feared that, despite the Russian uniform, the porter might
recognize me by certain scars on my face, the legacy of an aeroplane
crash. Fortunately he could talk Russian. In answer to Kulman he said
that Mr. S. was out for the rest of the day. We left, therefore, and
passed the afternoon in various cafés, where Kulman introduced me to
friends as a German-speaking Lett.

Next afternoon, before starting for Pera, I was careful to make the
tell-tale scars less evident by means of chalk and powder. This time we
found that Mr. S. was in the Dutch Legation annexe, although engaged
and busy. We walked up the stairway to the first floor and stood in the
corridor outside Mr. S.'s office.

Only then did I realize the foolhardiness of the visit. Very much in
evidence were two officials whom I had met as a prisoner; and I was
forced to shrink behind Kulman when there passed a Jewish _kavass_ who
knew me well, from having brought clothes and money when I was a
hospital patient. Fortunately he went by with only a casual glance at
the two men in sailors' uniform.

We waited twenty minutes, and still the man with whom Mr. S. was
closeted remained in the office. Twice, speaking in French, I made
application to the lady-secretary of Mr. S.; but already, before we
arrived, three people had been waiting to see him, and I was told that
we must wait our turn. Kulman became anxious and fidgety, especially
when, looking down the stairs, he saw some Turks in the hall.

Standing near us in the corridor were two elderly Jews, who appeared to
listen intently when Kulman thought fit to emphasize my uniform by
addressing me in Russian. Presently one of them produced an unlighted
cigarette, and, also speaking in Russian, asked me for a match. Without
a word I complied, while Kulman, by himself beginning a conversation,
forestalled the suspicions which would have arisen if the Jew had begun
to question me. I avoided speaking to them by again visiting the lady
secretary. Later, Kulman drew me aside and said that it was impossible
to remain any longer with the two Russian-speaking Jews.

His nerves--and mine also, for that matter--became still more shaky
when, as we passed through the hall doorway, the porter stared hard at
me and then followed us with his eyes until we turned into a side
street that took us out of sight.

Although I had failed for the moment to reach Mr. S., it was imperative
that one of us should see him. A new method of approach was advisable,
for I believed that the porter half thought he recognized me. If I
returned he would be more than ever suspicious of the scars; for
everybody in the Prisoners of War Bureau had heard of my escape. The
only alternative was for White to go. His disguise as Turk would be
useless, as most people at the Legation spoke Turkish well, whereas he
spoke it indifferently, with an accent that reeked of English
vowel-sounds. We canvassed various nationalities and roles, and agreed
that he must accuse himself of being one of the American missionaries
who were still at liberty in Turkey.

Wearing my suit of mufti and the felt hat which I bought on the day I
escaped, White shook hands and left me, after a reminder that if he
were captured my clothes would go to prison with him. He was far from
cheerful, for it was Friday, the thirteenth of September; and he
remembered that his capture in Mesopotamia had taken place on Friday,
the thirteenth of September, 1915.

Anxiously and uncomfortably, I waited through several hours of strained
inactivity, fearing that if White, also, were recognized at the
Prisoners' Bureau, disaster might overtake not only him, but our
benefactor Mr. S.

At six o'clock he burst into the wireless cabin with a beaming face and
the joyous announcement:

"I've seen S., and the money's not lost."

White's Friday, the thirteenth of September, had been an exciting one.
He walked into the doorway of the Prisoners of War Bureau, and speaking
in English, asked for Mr. S.

"Name?" inquired the porter.

"Mr. Henry O'Neill, from Tarsus."

"Do you know Mr. S.?"

"Why, certainly, I'm a friend of his." And White felt in his waistcoat
pocket, as if searching for a card.

"His office is on the first floor," said the porter, satisfied. "Go
straight up."

With a gulp of relief White passed up the stairway. Like myself on the
day before, he had to wait many minutes before Mr. S. was disengaged;
and like myself he was horrified to see Levy, the Jew _kavass_ who had
brought his letters and parcels to Gumuch Souyou Hospital. The _kavass_
beamed, and delivered himself of an oily greeting, but failed to
remember where he had met White.

"You speak as an Englishman," he said, after a few words of
conversation. "You are a English prisoner, not?"

"Of course I'm an English prisoner," admitted White, slapping Levy on
the back. "My guard's waiting outside."

The _kavass_ fetched a chair for White and seemed disposed to ask more
troublesome questions. Just then the visitor who had been engaged with
Mr. S. left the office, and White walked inside, praying that the
_kavass_ and the porter would not compare notes, and identify Mr. Henry
O'Neill, of Tarsus, with the British prisoner whose guard was waiting
in the street.

The door being closed White explained his real identity to Mr. S., and
offered apologies for the dangerous visit to which he had been forced
by our desperate situation.

"You needn't worry about the money," said Mr. S., "I had no chance of
paying it. I've destroyed the cheques."

He went on to relate how, not wishing to trust the Greek waiter with a
large sum, he had sent a clerk to pay the banknotes into the hands of
Titoff, at the Maritza. The clerk visited the little restaurant on the
afternoon when Titoff waited in vain for Theodore. He dared not deliver
the money there and then, for a Turk appeared to be watching the
Russian engineer. When Titoff tired of waiting and went into the street
the Turk followed, and shadowed him. The clerk, in his turn, trailed
the Turkish agent unobtrusively. The three of them travelled in the
same subway car from Galata to Pera. Titoff passed into Taxim Gardens.
So did the agent and the clerk. He sat down and ordered a drink near
the bandstand. The agent chose a table near him, and the clerk
stationed himself within sight of both. At last, giving up hope of an
opportunity to speak with Titoff, the clerk returned to Mr. S. and gave
back the money.

Mr. S., meanwhile, had heard of the capture of Yeats-Brown, Fulton, and
Stone, all of whom he had helped. He realized that he himself was in
grave danger.

"I've had some sleepless nights over you fellows," he said to White. "I
rather think I've been watched since the others were taken with
Theodore, and I know your friend Titoff's watched. If Theodore blabs in
prison, my neck will be almost as near the noose as his."

Mr. S., very rightly, was unwilling to advance us money for the
present.

"The police want you badly," he pointed out, "and I'm probably a
suspect already over Yeats-Brown and Company. If you're grabbed in
Constantinople I want to be able to say with a clear conscience that
I've given you no cash since you escaped. I shall know when the
_Batoum_ is due to leave, and do my best to help you on the day before
she sails, when you're all but out of the wood. The difficulty will be
in finding a messenger. An English lady[1] helped the fellows who were
retaken, and she'd like to take you the money. But she's involved over
them and the police are watching her."

          [1] Miss Whittaker.

Deeply appreciative of the great risks which Mr. S. was taking on
behalf of not only us, but every prisoner who had tried to escape from
Constantinople, White thanked him and left. At the top of the stairs he
said good-bye to the _kavass_ who knew him as a prisoner; at the front
door he nodded to the porter who knew him as Mr. Henry O'Neill, of
Tarsus. And so back to his rôle of paying guest on the _Batoum_.

With eased minds and renewed hope we continued to live in our wireless
cabin, and prayed to Allah that the _Batoum_ would sail soon, and that
Mr. S. would find some means of sending the money. Away in the distance
we could see the citadel of the Turkish Ministry of War, in which
Yeats-Brown, Fulton, and Stone were dungeoned. All Constantinople
talked of the capture, and the word went round the cafés that Theodore
was to be hanged as a traitor, for having helped enemy prisoners to
escape.

Thereupon Titoff, mortally afraid for his own neck, wanted to get rid
of White and me. He made our shortage of ready money an excuse for
ordering us ashore; but we claimed to have grown too fond of him to
part company, and said that if we did leave the ship it would be to
give ourselves up to the police, with the request that our friend and
colleague Michael Ivanovitch Titoff should join us to prison. Michael
Ivanovitch then protested, out of the kindness of his heart, that he
would take us to Odessa whether we paid the full amount or only part of
it.

So the anxious hours passed, until at last the sickening period of
delay ended with the arrival of a consignment of cargo. A succession of
lighters left the quay and moored alongside us, and all day we listened
with delight to the clatter and whirr of the winches as they
transferred bales and barrels to the _Batoum_'s hatches. The final and
infallible date of departure, announced the Turkish merchant who had
chartered the ship for her voyage to Odessa, was September the
twenty-second--four days later.



CHAPTER XIV

THE CITY OF DISGUISES


Constantinople, even at its most normal, has ever been a city of
concealment--concealed motives, concealed truths and falsehoods,
concealed cruelties and concealed persons. There, the way to a treaty,
a change of government, a concession or a commercial contract is often
through back doors and curtained corridors, with many a halt for
whispered promises, whispered betrayals, and the handing over of
_baksheesh_.

When normal life is upset by abnormal conditions the cauldron of
crookedness bubbles over with a thousand and one conspiracies. Every
other man is intriguing for himself, his safety, his pocket, his party,
his family, or his government appointment, or from sheer inability not
to intrigue. Such a period was the late summer of 1918, when we were
disguised spectators of the misery and oppression that preceded the
downfall of the Turkish Empire.

Four-fifths of the population, including the Turks themselves, were
deadly sick of war and wanted peace at any price. They hated the
Germans, and above all hated Enver Pasha and other Young Turk
dictators, who ruled by violence with the support of the Germans. Only
the politicians, the officials who lived by corruption, and the
speculators were against a separate peace.

Many a time, before I escaped, I heard curses on Enver and on the
Germans uttered by civilians, by officers, and even by guards. Once,
when a party of us were sitting in Petits Champs Gardens, a waiter
brought with the bill for tea a slip of paper on which he had written
"Vive l'Angleterre!" Later, dressed as a sailor and sitting in the
cafés with Kulman, I often heard the same sentiments expressed.

Yet the miserable, exploited populace seemed powerless to impress its
wishes on the Government. It was too disunited and too listless for
action. A total lack of national consciousness made Constantinople a
capital without a country. The population was a haphazard jumble of
races, an _olla podrida_ of peoples that nothing, not even hunger and
tyranny, could mould into a coherent whole. They murmured individually,
but collectively they remained resigned and silent.

If circulation be the test of a city's vitality it proved
Constantinople to be at very low ebb. All Mediterranean peoples move
slowly in the streets; but the Constantinopolitans of 1918, I noticed,
seemed to get nowhere; they crawled about aimlessly, or leaned against
the walls and doorways in fatalistic inaction, _waiting for something
to happen_.

In any case, the least attempt at organized protest was likely to lead
to sudden disappearances. The dungeons of Stamboul jail were crammed
with Greek, Armenian, and Turkish suspects; the infamous "Hall of
Justice," in the Ministry of War, echoed the cries of prisoners whose
interrogators extracted "information" by means of the bastinado. Open
malcontents were hanged daily.

Every decent-living person was likely to feel the tentacles of Young
Turk tyranny, as personified by Bedri Bey, Prefect of Police, and
Djevad Bey, Military Governor of Constantinople. Only the unrighteous
flourished. The speculation and graft were colossal, and beyond the
most extravagant dreams of the British brand of war profiteer.
Everybody was on the make. Ministers and high officials received huge
bribes, little politicians made little fortunes by acting as
go-betweens, rich merchants manipulated so as to get hundreds per cent
profit.

To take but a few of the swindles that I remember from my
Constantinople days, there were: the Smyrna sugar _affaire_, involving
the barefaced theft of twenty truckloads of a consignment from Austria;
the tobacco swindle, which made three directors of the Régie very
wealthy men within a month; the cocaine and quinine corner, engineered
by a few Jewish speculators, so that for a time the doctors could
obtain these drugs only at the price of a hundred pounds a kilo; the
oil scandal, the wood scandal, and the widespread flour-adulteration
scandal, whereby the lowest grade of bread, which was all that the poor
could afford, became not only unnourishing but inedible.

There being no system of rationing, only the well-to-do could buy the
dearer necessities of ordinary life. The poor remained sugarless, for
example, because sugar cost from two pounds sterling a kilo; and the
chances were that even when bought at that price it would have been
mixed with powdered marble. Thousands actually starved; while the
beautiful island of Prinkipo, with its summer palaces and villas,
swarmed with oily, scoundrelly, enormously wealthy Levantine
vulgarians.

Some of the Ministers traded openly. Enver Pasha and his associates
owned two of the largest shops in Stamboul. The Committee of Union and
Progress, a vampire of corruption that drained the very life blood of
Turkey, engaged enthusiastically in the orgy of speculation, and, by
controlling the transport, amassed millions for their party. These sums
the Committee had begun to invest in Switzerland and elsewhere as early
as 1917; so that when the crash came Enver, Talaat, and other Young
Turk leaders were able to abscond with bulging pockets.

The police, of course, shared in the plunder, and dabbled in every
species of blackmail. They waxed fat on the system that entitled them
to see the vecikas (identity papers) of any able-bodied man at any
time. As the city contained many thousands of deserters, without taking
into account those who obtained exemption from military service by
continued bribes to recruiting officers and gendarmes, this was a
profitable responsibility. A forged _vecika_, properly stamped, cost
anything from fifty to a hundred dollars. To buy off a policeman when
unprovided with a _vecika_ was more speculative. A solitary gendarme,
alone in a dark street, might be content to accept twenty-five dollars;
whereas two gendarmes together could be persuaded only with difficulty
to accept twenty, their mutual dignity and that of their official
positions having to be maintained in face of each other.

The city was full of suppressed identities. Deserters were as common as
nuts in May, and so were disguises. An enormous game of hide-and-seek
was in progress, with police _baksheesh_ as the forfeit for being
caught.

When a rich man--Turk, Greek, Jew, or Armenian--was conscripted he
could always pretend sickness, bribe the military doctor to send him to
a hospital, bribe the hospital doctor who examined him, and finally
bribe the medical board to give him leave. At the larger hospitals of
Constantinople, such as Haidar Pasha and Gumuch Souyou, the recognized
tariff was a hundred and twenty-five dollars for each month's leave,
with pretended complaints suggested by the doctor by way of bonus.

The discontent and the misery twice showed itself in shots at Enver
Pasha, as he drove through the streets in his Mercèdes; but the bullets
either missed him or flattened themselves on the chain mail which he
was reputed to wear.

Otherwise its outward manifestation was confined to the spreading of
rumours indicative of an early victory for the Allies. The "Tatavla
Agency," so-named from a district inhabitated by Greek merchants, was
the centre of anti-German propaganda. From it, even at the time of
Hindenburg's last great drive, there spread the wildest reports of
Ententist successes. Some, no doubt, were concocted to influence the
Bourse; but the object of most was to encourage the starving population
in their hopes for the downfall of the Young Turco-German régime.

No statement was too far-fetched to be believed in the bazaars and
cafés. When the British aeroplanes renewed their bomb-raids on
Constantinople, in the autumn of 1918, Yeats-Brown dropped hints that
the attacks were not the work of the British, but were a display of
German frightfulness, to show what would happen if Turkey's loyalty to
Germany wavered. After an interval of weeks this beautiful lie was
whispered back to him by a Greek, with well-imagined circumstances and
details to make it the more plausible.

Captain Yeats-Brown and Captain Sir Robert Paul lived through the most
extravagant adventures before the Turkish armistice found them still in
disguised liberty. They first escaped with the help of Miss Whittaker,
"the Edith Cavell of Constantinople." It was owing to her that, already
before leaving the prison at Psamatia, they were well supplied with
money and could look forward to a hiding-place. As prisoners, they had
kept in touch with her by means of letters, five-minute meetings
outside the British Church, and short conversations in the park, under
the complacent eyes of a bribed guard.

One night they slipped through the window of their room in the
prison-house, and having climbed along a narrow ledge, let themselves
into the street with a rope. Wearing fezzes and with their faces
stained brown, they walked to Theodore's house. Afterward they moved to
the room prepared for them in Pera.

A few days later Paul, dressed as an Arab, left Constantinople with two
Greeks. The party of three crossed the Sea of Marmora in a
sailing-boat, landed on the northern coast, and began tramping toward
the Gulf of Enos, where a boat awaited them.

Unfortunately for Paul the description of him, which the Ministry of
War circulated, mentioned that he had a prominent stoop. A stranger
with this peculiarity was found asleep in the church of a Greek
village; and by arresting him the local gendarme earned (but probably
never received) the reward offered for the British officer's capture.
Paul was brought back to the capital and dungeoned in the Ministry of
War Prison.

Yeats-Brown, meanwhile, had been stalking about the streets of
Constantinople as Mlle. Josephine Albert, in female clothes lent by
Miss Whittaker. He was now at a loose end, for Paul and the Greeks were
to have been the advance guard of a larger party, including Yeats-Brown
and several civilians who wished to leave Turkey.

After weeks of excitement in the City of Disguises Mlle. Albert
received an unexpected message from two old friends, who were living in
a back room of Theodore's house. Fulton and Stone had escaped from a
train at Haidar Pasha station two hours after my disappearance from the
ferry stage. With the help of my map they made their way by moonlight
to San Stefano aerodrome. There they waited for three days at the place
of rendezvous appointed by John Willie, the Bosnian aviator. Made
desperate by his nonappearance one of them called at the German
officers' mess and enquired for him; but, as they then learned, John
Willie had been arrested a week earlier as a suspect, and was in the
Ministry of War Prison, awaiting court-martial.

Fulton and Stone returned to Constantinople, and bribed Theodore to
hide them in his house. They were visited by Miss Whittaker, who
brought money from Mr. S., and by Mlle. Josephine Albert Yeats-Brown.

[Illustration: Captain Yeats-Brown, wearing the disguise in which as
"Mlle. Josephine Albert" he lived for several weeks in Constantinople
while doing propaganda work. The clothes were lent to him by Miss
Whittaker (now Lady Paul), "the Edith Cavell of Constantinople," who
helped several British officers to escape from the Turks.]

For want of a better opportunity the three British officers planned to
buy a small sailing-boat, and take it across the Black Sea. Prince
Avaloff, the Georgian officer who was a semi-prisoner at Psamatia, had
kept in touch with Yeats-Brown, and promised to accompany them. Having
landed somewhere near Poti their scheme would be to make for Avaloff's
estate in Georgia. It was at this period that White and I heard from
the trio, as a result of Titoff's visit to Theodore.

For many weeks the Maritza restaurant had been watched. A police spy
suspected Theodore; and one afternoon gendarmes surrounded his house,
while others entered and searched every room. Very unfortunately for
Yeats-Brown, whose hiding-place lay elsewhere, he was visiting Fulton
and Stone at the time. All three were captured.

A queer procession passed through the winding alleys of Stamboul to the
Ministry of War Prison. First went Theodore, blinking nervously behind
his blue-glassed spectacles. Then came Yeats-Brown, in his brand-new
disguise of a Hungarian mechanic. Fulton and Stone were behind him,
wearing only shirts, pants, and socks; for they had been half dressed
when captured, and the police refused permission to put on coats and
trousers. Theodore's two sisters and his old mother brought up the
rear.

When the police surrounded Theodore's house Miss Whittaker was on her
way to visit Fulton and Stone. Seeing gendarmes before the door she
passed on, and returned to her home in Pera; but for long afterward she
was conscious of being spied upon and followed. It was for this reason
that she had to abandon her intention of bringing to the _Batoum_ the
money which White and I were to receive from Mr. S.

The prison beneath the Ministry of War now contained an extraordinary
gathering of characters in the melodrama of escape and capture. Paul
was joined by Yeats-Brown, Fulton, and Stone; John Willie, the Bosnian,
was in another cell, with some political prisoners; Theodore, weakened
by lack of food, fell ill in a dreadful dungeon, and nearly died. A
trial, he knew, could only have one result for him--sentence of
hanging. His mother and his two sisters received rather better
treatment, and were soon released.

The four Britishers lived through many strange days in the prison where
they consorted with a variety of captives that included Greeks,
Armenians, Turkish officers, two Mohammedan notabilities from Cairo, a
young Turkish prince who had been imprisoned for brawling in the
Sultan's palace, and the prince's eunuch. Yeats-Brown and Paul,
meantime, planned to escape from the famous old jail, a feat which no
captive had yet performed since it was built, six hundred years ago.

While walking in the garden one evening they slipped away from their
guards, and mingled with a crowd of officials who were crossing the
courtyard outside the Ministry of War. Swerving aside before they
reached the sentried gate, the pair climbed over some railings--and
were free once more. They walked across the Golden Horn Bridge, and so
to Pera. There, once again, Miss Whittaker and her friends found them a
place of concealment, near the deserted British Embassy.

Then began for the escaped couple a period of flitting from one
excitement to another. They became involved in a succession of
underground activities; and, with the help of Greeks and the clever
coöperation of Miss Whittaker, they spread around the city reports,
beliefs, hopes, and arguments likely to influence citizens in favour of
the Allies and against the Germans and Young Turks. They buried their
identities under darkened hair, false moustaches, fezzes, and forged
_vecikas_.

Yeats-Brown's propaganda work brought him into contact with a small
group of politicians and malcontents who were plotting a _coup d'état_
against the Young Turks. Although the miserable, exploited populace had
no popular leader to voice its discontent there came a moment--while
the Bulgars were at the gates of Adrianople, communications with
Germany were cut, the Allied Fleet threatened Dedeagatch and the
citizens of Aleppo were preparing to surrender to Allenby's victorious
cavalry--when everyone in Constantinople knew that Turkey was beaten.
Open rebellion which was to have hanged Talaat, Enver, and Djemal
Pashas high in the square of the Seraskarat then threatened.

But the rising was still-born, owing to treachery. The Prefect of
Police suddenly quadrupled his patrols, a few Turkish officers were
arrested, a few more civilians were hanged, a few conspirators
disappeared into the submerged world where men walked cautiously and in
the shadow, a few machine guns were placed so as to command a Greek
cathedral, a couple of aged senators were executed for having
"intrigued for a political resolution hostile to the Government"; and
life went on as before--upon the surface....

But escaped prisoners did not live upon the surface. They were in touch
with seditious elements beneath it. Once when Yeats-Brown was in a
certain café with some Greeks, and the talk was becoming wild as the
_árak_ bottle passed, there entered a detective known to everybody,
even to the British officer, who was the youngest initiate in "crime"
present. And without a whisper or a wink the talk swung, easily and
naturally, from the rankest sedition to the most harmless commonplace.

"We will destroy the Young Turks!" said a speaker, "we will destroy the
Young Turks and cut them in little pieces!"

He was harmonizing his words with indescribably graphic gesture, when
his expressive hands opened in a bland expression of resignation.

"What, therefore, can we do, my friends?" he continued. "We must remain
calm, and retain our dignity as citizens of a great city."

Nobody looked round or betrayed surprise; but the alien presence was
sensed by all. Soon after this scene the meeting adjourned to a cellar,
where a quiet, elderly gentleman, the proprietor of an hotel inhabited
chiefly by German officers, declared himself desirous of cutting his
clients' throats.

In war-time Constantinople one grew accustomed to this atmosphere of
melodrama, and learned not to regard it too seriously. The more one
knows of the Constantinopolitans of to-day the less can one trust any
estimate of them. Eternally fickle, like their forerunners who looked
on with equal enthusiasm at the triumph and execution of emperors and
sultans, they saw no incongruity in the city's hero-worship of Enver
Bey in 1908 and its deep detestation of Enver Pasha in 1918. Even now,
after welcoming the French and British with mad joy one short year ago,
they are restless, and again wear the cloak of conspiracy.

The wayward fickleness of Constantinople ruined the Byzantine Greeks,
and sapped the strength of the Roman Empire. Now, after a long period
of fretful wedlock, she is shaking herself free from the Turk. Whoever
next attempts to rule her will have some restless days and nights.

At the beginning of September there arrived in Constantinople another
escaped prisoner, who was to play an important part in the sensational
events that preceded the downfall of the Young Turks and their German
partners.

Several months earlier Lieutenant-Colonel Newcombe, D.S.O., R.E., had
been imprisoned in the Turkish Ministry of War, while awaiting
court-martial for an attempted escape. After his acquittal, owing to
lack of evidence, he was allowed into the city with the prison
interpreter. In a Pera tea-shop he met Mlle. "X", a Franco-Greek lady
of Entente sympathies, who offered to help him in any way possible. A
secret correspondence followed; and when Colonel Newcombe was sent to
the prison camp at Broussa, Mlle. "X", with her maid, followed him.

She stayed at a small hotel, on the pretence of taking the sulphur
baths for which Broussa was famous. Several meetings took place,
including a rendezvous at the house of the local Austrian Consul, whose
daughters were school-fellows of Mlle. "X."

The final interview at Broussa was when Colonel Newcombe, having
obtained the clothes of an Arab _imam_,[2] disguised himself in this
dress and slipped out of camp unobserved. He walked to the hotel, and
there the scheme of escape was definitely arranged. He then returned,
and by climbing over a wall, got back into the prison house without
being seen.

          [2] Priest.

Mlle. "X" left Broussa for Constantinople. On the way she stopped at
Mudania (the port of Broussa) to bargain with two Greek boatmen, who
agreed to take the British officer across the Sea of Marmora. From
Constantinople she had a letter smuggled to Broussa, explaining how the
boatmen might be recognized.

Having read the letter Colonel Newcombe again disguised himself as an
Arab, and at dusk slipped away from the prison house, while another
officer-prisoner distracted the guards' attention by running in the
opposite direction. He walked all night by moonlight, and reached
Mudania next morning.

Having found the Greeks, and paid a hundred dollars for the hire of
their boat, he put to sea with them. A strong wind raged, so that he
was fourteen hours on the Sea of Marmora, living during this time on
bread and raisins. Finally he reached Constantinople and went to the
house of Mlle. "X"'s parents.

Like White and myself, Colonel Newcombe planned to go to Russia. He,
also, had his fill of adventure. Once, he remained safely hidden in
Miss Whittaker's house while the police were searching it for
Yeats-Brown and Paul.

He wrote several anti-German proclamations for distribution among the
Turkish soldiers, and concocted a letter to the Turkish army
commanders, advising them to refuse further service unless a new
ministry were formed. But the Turco-German débâcle in the Near East, of
which General Allenby's victories in Palestine and the Bulgarian
surrender were the beginnings, made him abandon this work for something
more important. Soon he found himself drawn into the very centre of the
vortex of plotting that swirled around the Sultan, the Cabinet, and the
Sublime Porte.

The peace parties lacked a leader powerful enough to take open action;
and when the old Sultan, who had been but a puppet dancing to the
strings pulled by Talaat and Enver, died in July, they hoped to find
one in his brother, the successor to the throne.

The new ruler, although he was neither strong enough nor able enough to
challenge the Young Turk leaders until after the Bulgarian armistice,
certainly leaned toward the Entente and favoured peace. His first act
was to send for the only English tailor in Constantinople, a civil
prisoner, and to order several uniforms from him.

The excitement among the Turkish politicians was indescribable.

"Have you heard about Mr. Hayden, the English tailor? The Sultan said
to him----" And rumour made the Sultan tell the English tailor
everything that was sensationally anti-German and anti-Enver.

Had the Sultan opposed the Grand Vizier and Enver Pasha in July, he
would have found support; for three-fourths of Constantinople detested
the Government. But the constabulary were faithful to Enver, who could
likewise have relied upon the many thousands of German troops
concentrated in the city; and a premature attempt by the Sultan to
withdraw Turkey from the war would have risked his life and his throne.

The defection of Bulgaria had the effect of an unexpected cold douche
on Enver and Talaat; who, after the Turkish occupation of Batoum and
capture of Baku, had been dreaming of a Greater Turkey that was to
include the Maritza basin, most of the Dobrudja, and the whole of the
Caucasus from the Black Sea to the Caspian, with a sphere of influence
extending eastward to Bokhara and Samarkand. Agents and gramophone
records were carrying the voice of Enver all over the Moslem world.

When the Balkan Railway was cut and daily reports of German retreats in
France continued to arrive, even the Young Turk politicians began to
desert the rotten ship of state. The opposition groups--the Liberal,
the Navy, and the Khoja parties--raised their heads and began to
intrigue for a complete surrender to the Allies. Djambolat Bey, the
Minister of the Interior, resigned. Rahmi Bey, the powerful Vali of
Smyrna, who throughout the war had shown every consideration to the
Entente subjects in his _vilayet_, came to Constantinople with the
avowed intention of working an immediate peace. Talaat was for bargain
and compromise. Only Enver Pasha and his personal followers remained
faithful to their German friends. The Sultan's chance had come.

Colonel Newcombe decided on an audacious plan of action. He wrote a
convincing memorandum, which suggested that if Turkey now sued for a
separate peace she would obtain better terms than if she waited until
Germany was thoroughly beaten. This memorandum, originally the draft of
a proposed proclamation to the Turkish army, was taken by Miss
Whittaker to a Committee politician of her acquaintance. Eventually one
copy of it was given to Fethi Bey, the new Minister of the Interior,
and another passed through the hands of the Sultan's dentist to the
Sultan himself.

A week earlier--on September the twenty-ninth--the Young Turk Cabinet
had met to consider the Bulgarian demand for an armistice; and the
Grand Vizier, who arrived from Germany by the last Balkan express that
passed through Sofia, offered his resignation. At the time nobody could
form an alternative ministry so Talaat again took up the reins of
power.

The Sultan and the Minister of the Interior received their copies of
Colonel Newcombe's memorandum on October the fifth. During the
intervening days it had become more and more plain that Germany was
doomed to defeat. The Sultan and the Peace parties, therefore, only
wanted a suitable bludgeon for a _coup de grâce_ to the Ministry.

They found it in this purely unofficial communication from an escaped
prisoner of war. Colonel Newcombe's memorandum was produced and
discussed at a stormy council of the Committee of Union and Progress,
which resulted in the definite resignation of Talaat and Enver. Tewfik
Pasha, Izzet Pasha, and other Opposition leaders were called into
consulation by the Sultan.

From being a hunted fugitive Colonel Newcombe suddenly found himself a
person of consequence. As a special favour he was asked not to carry
out his plans for escaping from Turkey, because the Ottoman Government
believed he would be useful in arranging an armistice. He met the Vali
of Smyrna at the Tokatlian Hotel, and there the British prisoner and
the high Turkish official shook hands and discussed the changing
international situation.

On October the sixteenth Colonel Newcombe, accompanied by Miss
Whittaker, went by appointment to the house of a politician, where he
met the new Minister of the Interior, the Vali of Smyrna, and other
notabilities. Over the dinner table the mighty questions of peace and
war were then debated by an escaped prisoner of war and a prominent
Minister of the country in which he was technically still a captive.

Colonel Newcombe explained that though he worked for Allied and not
Turkish interests, his friendly advice was that the Ottoman Government
should sue immediately for a separate armistice; because whereas
Germany wanted to keep a weak Turkey whom she could dominate, the
Allies' principle of the rights of nationality forbade any idea of
complete domination.

The Turks' attitude at this curious meeting was summed up in remarks
made by the Minister of the Interior:

"We know we have lost our chance. There have been mistakes in the past.
We are practically bankrupt. But we honestly hate the Germans, and,
without kowtowing to the British, look to them to help us and to be our
friends, as we want to be friends with them."

Colonel Newcombe and the Turkish officials thrashed out such questions
as Turkey's financial bankruptcy, the opening of the Dardanelles, the
capitulations, autonomy for Armenia and Arabia, and punishment for the
Armenian massacres and for the maltreatment of British prisoners from
Kut-el-Amara (whereby nearly 80 per cent. of the latter had died).
Then, after dinner was over, the Minister of the Interior dictated in
French a long telegram, which the British officer was to send to Mr.
Lloyd George as soon as he should reach Allied territory.

Next day the Ministry tried to send him out of Turkey by aeroplane, but
failed because all aircraft was in the hands of the Germans. It was
agreed that he should receive special passports and proceed, via
Smyrna, to either Chios or Mudros.

After the dinner party of the sixteenth events moved rapidly toward an
armistice. The Vali of Smyrna caused a sensation two days later by
stating openly, in the _Journal d'Orient_, that peace negotiations were
in progress and that the Germans would have to go. Later in the day he
again met Colonel Newcombe at the Tokatlian Hotel, and discussed the
best means of approaching England for an armistice. By now the escaped
colonel was going about Constantinople quite openly, although
Yeats-Brown and Paul remained more or less in hiding.

Meanwhile, General Townshend, who was still a prisoner on Prinkipo
Island, had also sent a memorandum to the Government. A Turkish
armistice commission was formed, and he was asked by the Grand Vizier
to accompany the delegates who were about to leave the country; which
he did. It was arranged that Colonel Newcombe would follow in a few
days' time.

On his last night in Constantinople Colonel Newcombe went by
appointment to the terrace of the deserted British Embassy, and there
met Captain Yeats-Brown, who had slipped past the police into the
Embassy grounds. It was a meeting that neither of them will ever
forget. Below was the Golden Horn, shimmering in the moonlight, and
across its waters Stamboul showed up dimly, quiet and apparently
asleep. But the watchers on the Embassy terrace knew that the city
might stir from slumber at any moment; for the Phanar was bristling
with machine guns, St. Sophia was an armed camp, and, more terrible
than all, people were starving in the streets. The waning sickle moon
that rode above Stamboul seemed the symbol of the Turks' waning
dominion over Christian peoples. Very soon the Crescent would go down.
Very soon the Union Jack would float from the Embassy's barren
flagstaff. Very soon Pera would be decked with banners, and an Allied
fleet would proclaim an end to the nightmare of famine and oppression.

Next day Colonel Newcombe, who had been handed civilian passports by
the Minister of the Interior, travelled from Constantinople to Smyrna.
Finally he left Turkey, as a special adviser, in the company of Raouf
Bey, the new Minister of Marine. The party put to sea in a trawler, and
were picked up by H.M.S. _Liverpool_. They were taken to Mudros, where
the British Admiral Commander-in-Chief and General Townshend were
already negotiating with the Turkish delegates.

Up to the very end the Young Turk leaders hoped to hold the real, if
not the ostensible, control in Constantinople. Captain Yeats-Brown was
told by a politician that "nobody but Talaat could possibly manage
Turkey," and that "the English, if they come, would be well advised to
deal with the Committee of Union and Progress, as there is no other
real party in the country. They not only have all the money, but all
the brains and energy as well." Which last statement was nearly true.

But when it came to saying that Talaat was one of the dominant brains
of the century, and comparable as a statesman only to Lloyd George, the
disguised British officer could not help smiling and suggesting:
"Surely Talaat is not indispensable? If he goes, another
ex-telegraphist may arise, as good as he!"

This the members of the Committee of Union and Progress regarded as
near-blasphemy; but the fact that all the Young Turk leaders were
self-made men, with little knowledge of the science and history of
modern government, was one of the causes why Von Wangenheim, Von
Bernstorff, and other emissaries of German Imperialism were able, for
four years, to inspire a policy of Turkey for the Germans.

The sudden _volte face_ of the Turkish press, the announcement of the
armistice terms, the flight of the three chief criminals (Talaat,
Enver, and Djemal Pashas), and the downfall of the swaggering Germans
brought great joy to the miserable populace of Constantinople. They
vented their feelings in delirious enthusiasm over some released
prisoners who visited Pera, wearing their carefully hoarded khaki
uniforms.

The curtain was down, the sordid tragedy of oppression and corruption
was over. The new era opened in the mist of a November morning, with
the long, low lines of an Allied fleet steaming very slowly past the
Iles des Princes toward the Bosphorus.



CHAPTER XV

STOWAWAYS, INC.


Titoff was head of a syndicate of ship's officers which might have
named itself "Stowaways, Incorporated." He was the schemer-in-chief;
and the others, while disliking him heartily, were content to rely on
his superior cunning. Besides ourselves the syndicate undertook to
carry across the Black Sea a Greek, a Jewess (both of them wanted by
the Turkish police), and four passportless prostitutes; all of whom, to
the extent of some hundred dollars apiece, wished to leave
Constantinople for Odessa.

Most of the crew, also, were smuggling men, women, or material across
the Black Sea. The crew itself included four Russian soldiers, who had
escaped from prison camps in Turkey, and were passing themselves off as
seamen. The bo'sun's particular line of business was a woman thief who
had with her a heavy purse and a trunk full of property, stolen from a
merchant who had been her dear friend. Katrina, the kitchen girl who
brought us our food, invested in a well-to-do Turkish deserter.

As for the non-human contraband, it was stowed in every corner of the
vessel--cocaine, opium, raw leather, tobacco, cognac, and quinine.
Prices were extravagant enough in Constantinople, but in Russia they
were colossal. The difference in the price of drugs, for example, often
amounted to hundreds per cent. The demand for cocaine as contraband was
so great during the week before we actually sailed that by the end of
it the chemists of Pera and Galata would sell none under 500 dollars a
kilo; but in Odessa, we heard, one might dispose of it without
difficulty for a thousand dollars a kilo. Even White and I became
infected by the contraband craze and, with Kulman as partner, gambled
successfully on a consignment of leather and so covered most of our
escape expenses.

At dusk, when we left the wireless cabin and paced the shadowed portion
of the deck for exercise, we often saw a rowing boat creeping toward
whichever side of the _Batoum_ happened not to face the shore. Somebody
in it would exchange low whistlings with somebody on deck--the somebody
often being Titoff. When the boat had been made fast to the bottom of
the gangway, a figure, or two figures, would climb to the deck and
disappear. Sometimes they brought and left a package; sometimes it was
a visitor himself--or herself--who did not depart with the rowing boat.

Besides the mystery traffic from shore to ship there was also a certain
amount from ship to shore. For this the steward--a Russian Jew--was
responsible. A Turkish merchant had chartered the _Batoum_ for the
coming voyage, and since our many delays in sailing were the result of
his haggling with government officials over the amount of _baksheesh_
to be paid for permission to export, he undertook to feed the officers
and crew for as long as they remained at Constantinople. Incidentally,
he unknowingly fed White and myself, besides the other stowaways and
the escaped Russian soldiers. The steward ordered more provisions than
were needed; and a few hours after the delivery of each consignment a
boatload would be sent back to the quay and carted to the bazaars.
Titoff, who organized the sale, shared the proceeds with the steward.

Titoff's methods of graft took him into many dubious by-paths, notably
those around the offices of a Greek coal dealer. After preliminary
plottings, with Viktor as interpreter, he ordered a hundred tons. The
coal dealer delivered ninety, the bill for a hundred was presented to
the Turkish merchant, and Titoff and the Greek split the value of the
missing ten tons. It was easy enough for the chief engineer to make
good the deficit by burning ten tons more on paper than in the
furnaces.

With all this illicit traffic in men and goods there were some restless
half hours during the last few days of our stay in the Bosphorus.
Trouble was caused by the bo'sun's woman-thief, whose presence among us
the Pera police suspected. Five times they searched for her. The bo'sun
detailed a man to watch the shore, and whenever a police launch
appeared this look-out would blow a whistle. All the stowaways then
scurried to their various hiding-places.

White and I, being the most dangerous cargo, were given the safest--and
certainly the dirtiest--hiding-place of all. This was in the
ballast-tanks, at the very bottom of the ship, underneath the propeller
shaft. The entrance to them was through a narrow manhole, covered by a
cast-iron lid, about twenty yards down a dark passage leading from the
engine-room to the propeller.

The alarm having been given, Feodor, the second engineer, would lead us
along the passage by the light of a taper, remove some boards, raise
the lid, and help us to wriggle into the black cavity below. Our feet
would be covered by six inches of bilge-water while we crouched down,
so as to leave him room enough to replace the iron cover and re-lay the
wooden boards that hid it. Then, one at a time and with our knees
squelching in the water, we crawled from tank to tank.

Half-way along the line of tanks were two that contained small
mattresses, which the second engineer had placed in position for us.
After the first day they were sodden with the bilge-water; but at any
rate it was better to sit on them than in the water itself. The limited
space, however, made it impossible for us to be seated in any but a
very cramped position, with hunched-up shoulders rubbing against the
slime that coated the sides of each tank. Standing was impossible, and
lying down meant leaning one's head on the wet mattress and soaking
one's feet in the drain of bilge that swished backward and forward with
every motion of the ship.

Complete blackness surrounded us. The air was dank and musty, so that
matches sputtered only feebly when struck, and the light from a taper
was hardly strong enough to chase the darkness from the half of each
small tank.

When, after each search, the police returned to their launch we would
hear the heavy boots of the second engineer tramping along the passage
overhead. As we listened to the nerve-edging noise that accompanied the
removal of the boards and the iron lid we crouched into the best-hidden
corners of our respective tanks, not knowing whether a friend or a
policeman was at the entrance. We scarcely breathed until there came,
booming and echoing through the hollow compartments, the word
"_Signor!_"--the second engineer's password denoting that all was
clear, and that we might return to the engine-room.

The twenty-second of August was the final date fixed for the departure.
By late afternoon of the twenty-first all the Turkish merchant's cargo,
legitimate and otherwise, had been brought from the quay by lighters,
and thence transferred by winches to the _Batoum's_ hatches. The export
officials had been squared, the ship's papers were passed and stamped,
the bunkers were fully loaded with inferior coal. All on board, from
the captain to the least-considered stowaway, were content, although
nervous of what might happen during the next twenty-four hours.

At about five o'clock we received a welcome visit from Vladimir
Wilkowsky, the Polish aviator who had acted as our intermediary from
Psamatia. He bribed his guard to remain in Stamboul while he crossed
the bridge to Galata, and hired the _kaik_ that brought him to the
_Batoum_. He himself intended to follow us across the Black Sea by
escaping on the next steamer to leave Constantinople for Odessa.
Meanwhile, we were especially glad to see him, for he brought from Mr.
S. the fifteen hundred dollars for which we had waited so anxiously. In
return we sent improvised cheques written on strips of foolscap paper.

We now had enough money to pay Titoff's exorbitant fee, and still leave
funds to live in Odessa for some weeks. Two German revolvers, bought
for us in the bazaar by Kulman, added to the feeling of security.

Wilkowsky claimed to have sent on board the food and clothing which we
left at Psamatia, and he was able to confirm our suspicions that Titoff
must have stolen it. For the present, however, we refrained from
tackling the chief engineer, wishing to avoid a scandal before
departure. We promised ourselves to deal with him adequately at Odessa.

That evening there were more than the usual number of mysterious visits
from small boats. The full complement of stowaways was taken aboard,
the last cases of contraband shipped. Until a late hour the engine-room
resounded to the hammerings of Feodor and Josef, who were hiding a late
consignment of cocaine. Our own investment in raw leather was in
Kulman's cabin.

The firemen and greasers celebrated their farewell in the usual manner.
By nine o'clock several were roaring drunk. One of them--the Bolshevik
who had told of the drowning of Baltic fleet officers--staggered across
the aft deck with a drawn knife in his hand, shouting that he wanted to
finish off the third engineer, who had insulted him. He found Josef in
the engine-room, but was cowed and disarmed when the engineer
threatened him with a revolver. He let himself be led away, while
verbally murdering all officers in general and Josef in particular.

At 6.30 in the morning Josef, the third engineer, roused us from our
sleep on the floor of his cabin and invited us to the ballast-tanks;
for as the police and customs officers would be on board most of the
time until we weighed anchor, we must remain hidden until the _Batoum_
left Turkish waters.

Since we expected to be hidden for about twelve hours, we took with us
a loaf of bread, some dried sausage, and a bottle of water. After a
last look, through the port-hole, at Seraglio Point and the domes of
Stamboul, I passed below, hoping and expecting that when I next looked
to the open air we should be clear of Turkey.

For a long while nothing happened to take our thoughts from the cramped
space and the foul air of the tanks. We breakfasted sparingly, and
allowed ourselves one cigarette apiece. More we dared not smoke,
because of the effect on the oppressive atmosphere.

Then, at about ten o'clock, we heard from above a succession of three
thuds, the signal to all stowaways in the region of the engine-room
that the police were on board. We made ourselves as comfortable as
possible, and took minute care to make no sound.

We waited in frantic impatience for the noises from the engine-room
that would denote a getting-up of steam. At half-past eleven there
began a continuous, rhythmic spurting, which we took to be the sound of
the engines in action. Soon afterward a grinding and scraping from the
deck convinced us that the anchor was being raised.

"Put it there, old man," said White, thrusting his hand through the
hole that linked our respective tanks. "We're leaving Turkey at last!"

But not yet were we leaving Turkey. The noise from the engine-room was
merely that of a pump preparing the pressure. After three-quarters of
an hour it quieted as suddenly as it had begun, and we realized that
the _Batoum_ was still moored in the Bosphorus, between Seraglio Point
and the Sultan's palace of Dolma Bagtche.

And then, soon after noon, came the real music for which we had waited
so anxiously. The telegraph from the bridge tinkled, a fuller and more
throaty rhythm came from the engine-room, loud grinding and rattling
from the deck testified that the anchor had parted company with the
bottom of the Bosphorus. A few minutes later we felt the ship swinging
round, and a swishing and rushing of water told us that this time we
really were away. In silence we shook hands again.

For long hours we remained in the slimy tanks, crouched on the sodden
mattresses. But it was no longer purgatory. The swish-swish of the
screw chased away all sensation of discomfort, and there remained only
the realization that we had left Constantinople and soon would have
left Turkey. My old habit of subconsciously fitting metre and rhymes to
mechanical rhythm, to which I had succumbed many times when seated
behind aeroplane motors, began to assert itself as we sat in the
darkness and listened to the penetrating throb-throb from the
engine-room above us. Incongruously enough the unbidden lines that
continued to pass maddeningly through my mind, in time with the steady
rise and fall of the piston, were those of a G. K. Chesterton ballad:

    If I had been a heathen
    I'd have kissed Naera's curls,
    And filled my life with love affairs,
    My house with dancing girls.
    But Higgins is a heathen;
    And to meetings he is forced
    Where his aunts, who are not married,
    Demand to be divorced.

These words held sway for five hours of insistent, monotonous chugging.
They were succeeded by an extract from the Prodigal Son:

    Here come I to my own again.
    Fed, forgiven and known again.
    Claimed by bone of my bone again,
    And sib to flesh of my flesh.
    The fatted calf is dressed for me;
    But the husks have greater zest for me--
    I think my pigs will be best for me,
    So I'm off to the styes afresh.

By early evening, we had calculated, the _Batoum_ should be leaving
Turkish territorial waters and entering the Black Sea. Just before six
there came the shock of a bitter disappointment. The captain's
telegraph clanged, the engines subdued to dead slow, the vessel swung
round into the tide and seemed to remain almost stationary for a
quarter of an hour. We had expected a last search by the Turkish
customs authorities at the outlet of the Bosphorus and surmised that
this was the reason for the slackened speed. But a repetition of the
whirring and clanking on deck, followed by a loud splash, showed that
the anchor was in action again, and that something more important than
a mere search was on hand. For two hours longer we remained in the
blackness, unenlightened and very anxious. Then, after the usual
removal of the boards and the lid, there floated through the tanks a
low-voiced "_Signor!_"

Feodor, candle in hand, was waiting for us. He whispered a warning to
make as little noise as possible, because two Turkish officials were on
board. Having reconnoitred to make sure that the way to Josef's cabin
was clear, he led us there. The delay, it appeared, was because the
Turkish merchant had left some clearance papers at Constantinople. He
had gone for the capital by automobile, and meanwhile two of the
Customs Police would remain on the _Batoum_. The merchant was expected
to return with the missing document next morning, when permission to
leave would be given.

We slept in the cabin, and at dawn descended once more to the ship's
bowels. We spent five more hours of purgatory in the ballast-tanks. The
_Batoum_ remained motionless during three of them, but the last two
were enlivened by the swish-swish of displaced water as it passed the
flanks of the vessel. Finally we heard for the last time the blessed
signal "_Signor!_"

"_Fineesh Turkey_," said Feodor, as he smiled and helped us through the
manhole. Gone was the Bosphorus, and in its place we saw the leaden
waters of the Black Sea. From the port-hole of Josef's cabin we could
distinguish many miles west of us the coastline of the country in which
White had spent three years of the most dreadful captivity.

Feodor soon left us, for he had to bring other stowaways into the light
of day. From every concealed cranny of the vessel men and women, almost
as light-hearted as ourselves at deliverance from the Turks, were
coming into the open.

One of the stowaways, a passportless woman whom the aged captain was
taking with him to Odessa, did not rejoice for some time. As
hiding-place for her the ancient had chosen a deep locker in his chart
room on the bridge. There she had remained for the past two days.

Now Katrina, the kitchen wench, knew nothing of the captain's lady.
That morning, not wishing to send him back to the bunkers, where he had
spent the previous day, she thought of the locker as a temporary home
for her own particular stowaway--a Turkish deserter with coal-blackened
face, untrimmed beard, and decidedly odorous clothes. She dumped the
Turk inside the locker, fastened the lid, and ran back to the kitchen.

The Turkish deserter landed with some violence on the captain's lady,
and both received a bad fright as they clutched at each other in the
darkness. Yet the lid could not be removed from the inside, and the
shouts were unheard outside the little room. The air in the
unventilated locker grew ever more stuffy and velvety as the two people
continued to breathe it. Finally the woman fainted. The Turk, tired out
after a long spell of cramped wakefulness in the bunkers and the
kitchen, composed himself philosophically and went to sleep.

When the _Batoum_ was beyond the Bosphorus and all danger of a search
the captain opened the locker to release his friend. He inserted an
arm, and jumped with fright when, instead of a female, he produced a
coal-blackened man. The woman revived when taken into the fresh air,
but I should imagine that never again will she become a stowaway.

Titoff, fearing that some informer among the passengers might notice
us, still kept White and myself under cover all day, until we took our
usual exercise on deck each evening. The other stowaways were mingling
with legitimate passengers, whose bedding was spread over the hatches.

I remember in particular a vivid-looking, much-jewelled Jewess, who was
minus money and passport. I found her exchanging violent words with two
firemen, who were levying blackmail, using the Austrian port
authorities at Odessa as bogey-men. When, with tears and protests, she
had fulfilled their demands, two other ruffians from among the crew
took their place and demanded money, or in default jewels.

All the stowaways, in fact, except ourselves, were blackmailed in this
fashion. The woman thief was victimized less universally than the
others because she was known to be the bo'sun's especial graft. As for
us, we were under the protection of the ship's officers, and, more
important still, we carried revolvers. In any case, Bolshevik Bill the
Greaser was our good friend and a power among the crew.

On the second evening at sea the firemen stole a case of _árak_ from
the cargo, drank themselves amok, and told Josef they were far too busy
over private concerns to trouble about stoking the furnaces. The
private concerns were mostly women from among the stowaways and poorer
passengers.

The fires sank lower and lower, the engine-power dwindled, the
propeller revolved more and more slowly. Finally we came to almost a
dead halt in the middle of the Black Sea. Throughout that night we
crawled forward with a minimum number of revolutions; and even this
small progress was only because the ship's officers took turns in the
furnace-room to act as stokers. Next morning the sobered firemen
graciously agreed to let bygones be bygones, and resumed work.

The rest of that nightmare voyage included only one incident worth
recording. On the morning of the fourth day, when we should have been
within sight of land, the horizon in every direction was blank. The
Turkish merchant who had chartered the _Batoum_ was impatient to reach
Odessa, and asked the captain for our position. The ancient tugged at
his white beard, and said he was not quite sure, but would take
soundings. These revealed shallow water, showing, according to the
chart, that the ship must be some distance off her course.

The dodderer was astonished, and called the first mate into
consultation. Belaef's calculations with sextant and compass proved us
to be heading several degrees too far east, so that the then line of
sailing would have taken us nearer Sevastopol than Odessa. Thereupon
the captain handed over the ship's direction to the first mate. We
edged northward, and sighted Odessa at noon of the next day.

The city, with its pleasant terraces round the hills that slope to the
foot of the wide-curved bay, and its half-Western, half-Byzantine
towers and domes gleaming yellow-gold in the sunlight, looked inviting
enough. But for us it represented a gamble in the unknown. Odessa was
in enemy occupation, and might be more inhospitable even than
Constantinople. On the other hand, we should no longer be on the police
list of wanteds, as in Turkey, and it would be easier to pass muster
among Russians than among dark-skinned Levantines.

On the whole, we were optimistic. From Odessa a man with friends and
money might make his way to Siberia, where were some Allied
detachments; and if, as the latest news indicated, Bulgaria was about
to be emptied of Austro-German forces, Odessa would be a good
jumping-off point for Sofia.

Meanwhile, our immediate concern was to get ashore without meeting the
dock officials. Kulman and Josef promised to escort us, and thus lend
the protection of their uniforms. We ourselves discarded seamen's
clothes for the mufti worn when we escaped from the Turkish guards.
White still had no lounge coat, and although it was a hot day of August
had to put on his faded old overcoat. For the rest, the luggage we were
bringing to Russia--each of us possessed a toothbrush, some cartridges,
a revolver, a comb, and a razor, a spare shirt, a spare collar, and two
handkerchiefs--could be wrapped in two sheets of newspaper.

Before we left there was a dramatic ceremony when we paid for our
unauthorized passage, and incidentally got even with Michael Ivanovitch
Titoff. He had reckoned on taking the money himself and dividing it as
he pleased. We, knowing that Titoff could best be punished by hitting
at his avarice, explained to Kulman, Josef, and Feodor that as they had
done more for us than the chief engineer, we wanted them to receive a
share corresponding to their risks and services, and proposed to hand
all the money to them for distribution. From Titoff's share we would
deduct the value of what he had stolen from us, and also whatever we
thought excessive in his charges for food.

Each of the trio had his own grievances against Titoff, and all were
delighted with the opportunity of making money at his expense. We
prepared a balance sheet, and invited Titoff into Josef's cabin.

Josef, as Titoff's subordinate, had been scared of offending him. Four
glasses of neat vodka, however, gave him courage, and when the chief
engineer entered the cabin he was the most aggressive of us all.

"Michael Ivanovitch," he said, glaring at Titoff with bloodshot eyes,
"we are no longer at Constantinople, and our friends here insist on a
just distribution of their money. This"--handing him the balance sheet
and a list of his own--"is how it will be divided."

The chief rogue glared his indignation as White handed a handful of
banknotes to Josef, and voiced it when he received the balance sheet.
He stood up and declaimed against the deductions, but soon subsided in
face of the row of unfriendly faces, the grins, and the revolvers which
White and I kept well in evidence.

"There is nothing more to be settled," said White. "Here we are among
friends. Now leave us."

And Titoff went. At the door he turned and said to Josef with evil
meaning in his voice: "I shall have business with you later." Josef
laughed, and with a shaky hand poured himself out another glass of
vodka.

The last we saw of Michael Ivanovitch Titoff was his yellow face
leaning over the side of the ship when, with Kulman and Josef, we rowed
toward the docks. They were taking us on shore before the customs
officers boarded the _Batoum_. The other stowaways, who were mingling
with the legitimate passengers on the deck, were to come later.

The harbour was chock-full of forlorn-looking craft, which had
evidently lain idle for a long while. We dodged around and about
several of them, so as not to give the appearance of coming from the
_Batoum_, and then made for the nearest quay.

On it was an Austrian officer. When we were some fifty yards distant he
looked at us through field-glasses, and proceeded to detail a group of
soldiers to various points on the quay, evidently with the object of
stopping and questioning us.

Kulman, who was at the tiller, gave an order to the sailor at the oars.
We swung round a bend of the shore, and lost sight of the Austrians.
Close ahead was another landing-stage. We moored beside it. Without
waiting a second, but also without showing haste, we stepped from the
boat and climbed the steps--Kulman and I first, and then Josef and
White.

Two Austrian sentries and some Russian officials stood at the top of
the steps. They looked hard at us, but, satisfied by the uniforms of
Kulman and Josef, merely nodded a greeting as we passed toward the dock
gates and comparative freedom.



CHAPTER XVI

A RUSSIAN INTERLUDE


Odessa, like the rest of the Ukraine, had exchanged Bolshevism for
Austro-German domination and confiscation. Already, when we passed
through the docks, it was easy to see who were the masters. Austrian
customs officers controlled the quays; Austrian and German soldiers
guarded the storehouses; Austrian sentries stood at the dock gates and
sometimes demanded to see civilians' passports. Had we not been vouched
for by the uniforms of the _Batoum_'s third engineer and third mate,
the sentries might well have stopped White and me.

Once outside the gates we hired a cab, and drove to an address given us
by Mr. S.--that of the sister and the mother of a Russian professor at
Robert College, Constantinople. Arrived there, we left Josef and
Kulman, with very sincere expressions of goodwill.

The professor's sister received us cordially but calmly, as if it were
an everyday event for two down-at-heel British officers to drop on her
from the skies with a letter of introduction but without the least
warning.

"Why, only three days ago," she related, "two officers of the Russian
Imperial Army arrived here under like circumstances. They made their
way from Petrograd, through the Soviet territory. They now occupy the
room below ours."

Once again Providence seemed to have played into our hands; for when
these ex-officers were asked how best we could live in the
German-occupied city, they produced the two false passports by means of
which they had travelled through Bolshevist Russia. They now lived in
the Ukraine under their own names and with their own identity papers;
and the false passports, no longer necessary to them, they handed to
White and me.

Without passports we could scarcely have found lodging or rations, for
every non-Ukrainian in Odessa had to register with the Austrian
authorities. Tom White, therefore, became Serge Feodorovitch Davidoff,
originally from Turkestan, and I became Evgeni Nestorovitch Genko, a
Lett from Riga. This origin suited me very well; for the Letts,
although former subjects of Imperial Russia, can mostly speak the
German patois of the Baltic Provinces. My passport made me a young
bachelor, but White's allotted him a missing wife named Anastasia, aged
nineteen.

There were still in Odessa a few British subjects who had remained
through the dreadful days of the Bolshevist occupation and the more
peaceful Austro-German régime. It happened that the professor's sister
knew one of them, a leather manufacturer named Hatton. In his house we
found refuge until other arrangements could be made. Like most people
in Odessa, he showed us every kindness in his power, as did his Russian
wife and her relations. It was, however, unwise to remain for long with
an Englishman, for he himself would have been imprisoned if the
Austrians discovered that he was harbouring two British officers.

The professor's sister played providence yet again, and produced
another invaluable friend--one Vladimir Franzovitch B., a hard-up
lieutenant in the Ukrainian artillery. Vladimir Franzovitch lived in
two small rooms. The larger one he shared with us, there being just
room enough for three camp beds placed side by side and touching each
other. The second room was occupied by his mistress.

Obviously the situation had its drawbacks. It also had its advantages,
as the rooms were in one of the city's poorest quarters. The
neighbours, therefore, included no enemy soldiers, for the Germans and
Austrians had naturally spread themselves over the more comfortable
districts.

The _dvornik_ was an old sergeant of the Imperial Guard, with a bitter
hatred of Bolshevism and all its works. The tale which Vladimir
Franzovitch told of us--that we were English civilians escaped from
Moscow--was in itself a guarantee that he would befriend us. He took
our false passports to the food commissioners, and thus obtained bread
and sugar rations for Serge Feodorovitch Davidoff and Evgeni
Nestorovitch Genko.

Our principal interest was now in the news from Bulgaria, for on it
hinged our future movements. We visited Hatton each day to obtain
translations from the local press. These I supplemented from the
two-day-old newspapers of Lemberg and Vienna, bought at the kiosk.

The Bulgarian armistice was an accomplished fact, but the German troops
had been given a month to leave Bulgaria. Our problem was whether to
remain in Odessa until the end of this month and then try to make for
Bulgaria, or to leave for Siberia at once.

Wilkowsky all but tipped the scales in favour of Siberia. He arrived
suddenly from Constantinople, having hidden on a steamer that weighed
anchor a few days after the _Batoum's_ departure. From being a
penniless prisoner, without even the means of corresponding with his
family, he was now prosperous and comfortable; for his father was a
wealthy lawyer living in Odessa, and his uncle Minister of Justice in
Skoropadsky's Ukrainian Cabinet.

Among his friends was the local commissary of General Denikin, whose
volunteer army, composed of Kuban Cossacks and ex-officers of the
Imperial Army, was preparing to advance against the Bolshevist forces
in the Caucasus. Every few days the commissary sent a party of
ex-officers, by way of Novorosisk, to the volunteer Army Headquarters
at Ekaterinodar. General Denikin was hoping for aid from the Allies; so
that the commissary was delighted at the chance of enlisting two
British aviators. His offer was that we should fly with Denikin's army
for a few weeks and help to organize the Flying Corps, after which we
could proceed by aeroplane to some Allied detachment in Siberia.

The adventure seemed attractive, and we hesitated over it. But illness
took the decision from our hands. I was laid low by yellow jaundice,
and unable to travel with the next party that left for Novorosisk.
Weakened as I was by various forms of hardship, several days passed
before I recovered, under the kind-hearted ministrations of Elena
Stepanovna, Hatton's Russian wife.

The aftermath of jaundice once brought us what we least
desired--conspicuousness. In hot weather the Russians living around the
Black Sea bathe from the beach in the altogether. There, men's bathing
costumes attract almost as much attention as would a lack of them at
Brighton or Atlantic City. Hatton, White, and I formed a bathing party
soon after I felt better. Until we were crossing the beach below the
public gardens none of us realized that the colour of my skin was still
a warm yellow. The spectacle of a yellow man in all his nakedness drew
many sightseers from the gardens, including Austrian soldiers. I
dressed under cover of a rock, and lost no time in leaving the gardens.

No sooner was I free from jaundice than fate sent another setback.
White and I succumbed to the plague of influenza which swept across
Europe from west to east, and which in one week killed forty thousand
inhabitants of Odessa. For three days we lay in Vladimir Franzovitch's
little room, weak, feverish, miserable, and at times light-headed,
while his mistress fed us with milk and heaped every kind of clothing
over us for warmth.

Recovery was hastened by the best possible tonic--news that the way to
Varna, on the Bulgarian coast, was open to us. Thanks were due to
several good friends for this means to freedom. Hatton had introduced
us to a cosmopolitan Britisher named Waite, who enlisted the help of
Louis Demy, a Russian sea-captain. Demy spoke of us to Commodore
Wolkenau, the Ukrainian officer who, under the Austrians, controlled
the shipping at Odessa. Wolkenau, having been an officer of the Russian
Imperial Navy, was a good friend of the British. Moreover, the daily
bulletins made it apparent that the Allies were winning the war, so
that he was glad of an opportunity to prove his sympathies by helping
British officers. He arranged for our passage on a Red Cross ship which
was to repatriate Russian prisoners from Austria, now waiting at Varna.

Meantime, there was an interval of ten days' waiting before the boat
would sail. These we passed in moving about the city, in consorting
with Ukrainian officers and officials introduced by Wilkowsky, and in
collecting information likely to be of use to the British Intelligence
Department.

Our usual companion was one Pat O'Flaherty, an Irishman on the staff of
the Eastern Telegraph Company, who had stayed in Odessa during the
Bolshevist and Austro-German occupations. Entering a café with
O'Flaherty was like a blindfold draw in a sweepstake of identities.
Always he met friends; but until the moment of introduction neither we
nor he knew how or as what we were to be presented. To one man we were
merchants from Nikolaieff; to another, motor-car agents from Moscow; to
a third oil experts returned from Baku.

"Signor Califatti," said O'Flaherty on one occasion, presenting me to a
wealthy Jewish speculator.

"When he was at Nijni Novgorod Fair," he continued in all seriousness,
"Signor Califatti bought a beautiful fur overcoat. He now wants to sell
it. Perhaps you would like to buy it."

The Jew offered a thousand roubles for the mythical overcoat, provided
it conformed to the Irishman's declaration that it was of first-class
astrakhan, in four skins; while White and I remained speechless with
astonishment, embarrassment, and the desire to grin.

In those days the Bolsheviki of Odessa, after months of suppression by
the German Military Command, were beginning to raise their heads again.
There was much talk of a withdrawal of German and Austrian troops from
the Ukraine, to reinforce the French and Italian fronts. The Bolsheviki
were ready, if this happened, to rise up and capture the city.

The possession of arms by civilians was strictly forbidden, and any man
found in the streets with a revolver was liable to be shot offhand by
Austrian soldiers or Ukrainian gendarmes. But the Bolsheviki laughed at
the many proclamations anent the handing over of firearms. They hid
rifles, revolvers, and ammunition in cellars and attics, or buried them
in the ground.

Many of our neighbours in the working-class quarter were Bolsheviki.
Often they scowled at and threatened Vladimir Franzovitch, as he passed
them in his uniform of a lieutenant of the Ukrainian artillery; and it
was evident that when the Austrians withdrew our room would be rather
more dangerous as a home than a powder factory threatened by fire.

The consul of Soviet Russia was preparing lists of men willing to serve
in the corps of Red Guards that had been planned, and was spending
hundreds of thousands of roubles in propaganda. An immediate rising was
threatened; whereupon Austrian and Ukrainian military police surrounded
the consulate, captured the lists, and arrested and imprisoned the
consul and two hundred Bolsheviki who had given their names as
prospective Red Guards. Sixty of them were shot.

Even that lesson failed to frighten the half-starved men who lurked in
the poorer quarters. Often, in the evening, they haunted the streets in
small gangs that held up passers-by and stripped them of their
pocket-books and watches, and sometimes of their clothes.

The ugliest aspect of an ugly situation was that many soldiers of the
Austrian forces, particularly the Magyars and the Poles, sympathized
with the Bolsheviki, and were ready to join them, exchanging uniform
for looted civilian suits if the troops were withdrawn. The sudden
realization that Austria was beaten, coupled with hatred of Austrian
Imperialism, went to their heads like new wine. They foresaw an era in
which the working man and the private soldier would grab whatever they
wanted. Bands of Hungarian privates proved their belief in this
millennium by sacking the warehouses in the docks under cover of night.

Odessa was overfull of members of the bourgeoisie who had flocked to
what they regarded as the last refuge against Bolshevism in European
Russia. Refugees had swelled the population from six hundred thousand
to a million and a half. The middle classes--professional men,
merchants, traders, and speculators--knew they were living on the edge
of a volcano, and tried to drown the knowledge in reckless revelry.
Each evening parties costing thousands of roubles were given in the
restaurants. Wine and vodka, as aids to forgetfulness of the fear that
hovered over every feast, were well worth their sixty roubles a bottle.

Their orgy of speculation in inflated prices and their mock merriment
left the bourgeoisie neither time nor energy to take action against the
horrors that threatened them. In general they adopted a pose of
fatalistic apathy, and tried hard to soothe themselves into the belief
that the Allies would save them, since they would not save themselves.
For the rest they laughed hysterically, speculated unceasingly, and
talked charmingly and interminably.

The only serious preparation against a renewal of the Red Terror in
Odessa was made by ex-officers, who banded themselves into a
semi-official corps. But they possessed few arms and less ammunition.
Even the official forces of the Ukraine could place only a dozen
small-calibre guns round Odessa, and were obliged to be content with
one rifle between two or three men. In any case, the loyalty of the
private soldiers in the small Ukrainian army was a doubtful quantity,
and unlikely to be proof against the temptations of rich loot and
rapine.

Small arms were worth their weight in silver. Vladimir Franzovitch,
discovering that White and I possessed German revolvers, implored us to
sell them to him before we left. He offered thirty pounds apiece for
them. In Constantinople we had bought them for eight pounds each, and
in England they would have cost less than forty shillings.

Vladimir Franzovitch was weighed down by the most extreme pessimism
over the future of Russia.

"We cannot be a nation again for a hundred years," he said. "The people
are either revelling in brute-instinct, drunk with the strong wine of a
spurious and half-understood idealism, or are dying in their thousands
of starvation. Most of the strong men who might have helped to save the
country have been killed, and the bourgeoisie folds its arms and awaits
destruction in sheep-like inaction."

He saw but one hope--the Cossacks and officers who were rallying,
through incredible hardships, to Denikin's army in the Caucasus; and
Denikin could make no important move unless the Allies backed him with
arms and munitions. Until this happened his small army would be but an
oasis in the desert of hopelessness.

We were present at several gatherings of officers, in Vladimir
Franzovitch's room. Over bread and salted fish, washed down by tea,
they discussed the black past and the blacker future. From them we
heard awful tales of massacres and looting during the Bolshevist
domination over the Black Sea regions. Of these the most dreadful was
that of the cruiser _Almaz_. There have been published many imaginative
reports of Bolshevist massacres; but for horror these are equalled by
many true stories that have never been fully told, and never will be
until the veil of isolation is lifted and the seeker after truth is
free to gather his information at first-hand.

I have every reason to believe the story of the _Almaz_. It was vouched
for not only by Vladimir Franzovitch and other Russians whom we met in
Odessa, but by Englishmen who were living in the city at the time, and
are now back in England. Moreover, it is perpetuated in a local song
similar to those of the French Revolution.

The Bolsheviki who first occupied Odessa, in the early spring of 1918,
made their headquarters on the cruiser _Almaz_. Their first batch of
arrests comprised about two hundred officers, with a few officials and
other civilians. These were taken to the _Almaz_, and lined up on the
deck. Each man in turn was asked: "Would you prefer a hot bath or a
cold?" Those that chose a cold bath were thrown into the Black Sea,
with weights tied to their feet. Those that said "hot" were stoked into
the furnaces--alive.

Later, one Murravieff, believed to have been formerly a _agent
provocateur_ of the Tsarist secret police, came to Odessa as Bolsheviki
commissary. He divided the city into four sections and the Red Guards
into four parties, each of which was allotted its particular district
for three days of licensed looting. The Saturnalia was due to begin in
three days' time, when the first Austro-Hungarian detachment landed to
restore order, in response to the Ukrainian Provisional Government's
invitation. Many of the looters were rounded up and shot; but the
Bolsheviki leaders, including Murravieff and several Jews, escaped with
millions of roubles, commandeered from the bank reserves. Murravieff
afterward had the decency to commit suicide, but his Jewish colleagues
continued to flourish in Soviet Russia.

Odessa had a respite from Bolshevist domination until the tragedy of
March, 1919. Then, after a period of occupation by an insufficient
Franco-Greek force, the city was evacuated in the face of an army of
Soviet troops. Credible eye-witnesses report the massacre of three
thousand people within a few days of Odessa's recapture by the
Bolsheviks.

For all I know to the contrary, Lenin--despite the proved and damning
evidence of past connections with the German Kaiser's penetration
agents and the Russian Tsar's police agents--may be an intellectual
idealist who considers all means justifiable in establishing a form of
communism that may eventually better the world. But I do know with
certainty that Bolshevism, as practised locally in Russia by unthinking
hordes who are not and do not pretend to be intellectual idealists,
means universal injustice, flagrant robbery, senseless, butchery, and a
tyranny at least equal to that of Ivan the Terrible or any Oriental
despot. All the writings of biased minority mongers who have confined
their investigations to consorting with Soviet officials at Moscow and
Petrograd, all the blinkered sympathy of labour agitators who devote
their lives to fostering a diabolic discontent, all the chirruping of
the mentally perverted women and men who, at a safe distance of
thousands of miles from actuality, have adopted theoretical Bolshevism
as the latest fashion in parlour enthusiasms, cannot condone the fact.

Money and life were the only cheap commodities in Odessa. Paper roubles
of every denomination--Imperial notes, Kerensky notes, Ukrainian notes,
and Municipal notes--they were in scores and hundreds of thousands; and
each issue was trailed by several kinds of forgery, so that only an
expert could tell the true from the false.

Everything else was rare, and wildly expensive. Meat was ten, weak tea
a hundred and ten roubles a pound. New suits of clothes were
unobtainable at any price, for there was no cloth. Second-hand clothes
could be bought in the Jewish market, where the dealers demanded from
eight hundred roubles for a shoddy suit and from five hundred for an
overcoat. A collar cost eight roubles; a handkerchief four. Other
prices were proportionate.

Seven-eighths of the factories were idle. As for the rich grain lands
of the Ukraine, about three-quarters of their produce went to Austria
and Germany, this being the price paid by Skoropadsky's government for
the policing of the Ukrainian Republic.

The colossal price of things was due as much to Jewish speculation as
to scarcity. Everything for sale passed through the hands of a
succession of middlemen before it reached the public. A consignment
from Austria or Germany, or the produce of a local factory, would be
bought by one speculator, sold to another, re-sold to a third, and
perhaps to a fourth and a fifth. Each of the middlemen would allot
himself a profit of from twenty to two hundred per cent. The same
process was applied to the boots, foodstuffs, and equipment which
Austrian officers and soldiers stole from their military stores and
sold to the speculators.

All day long Franconi's and Robinart's, the two principal cafés of
Odessa, were infested by swarms of swarthy Jews, who wandered from
table to table, selling and re-selling, and piling up enormous fortunes
in paper roubles. And elsewhere in the city hundreds of thousands of
Russians were in little more than rags, many thousands of them half
dead from want of nourishment.

As they passed the cafés where the Jews sat and haggled and made it
ever more difficult for the half-starved masses to keep alive, the
poorer Russians talked of pogroms. The talk culminated later, when the
Germans and Austrians had withdrawn from Odessa, in massacres of the
less prosperous Jews, while the richer ones, who were the real
promoters of discord, were warned in time and stole away with their
wealth; as always happens when pogroms are threatened. The actions of
the Ukrainian Jews during the Austro-German occupation provided a very
typical instance of the provocative part played by the Jews of Eastern
Europe. The Hebrew--more calculating and infinitely more cunning than
the Slav peasant and workman--ties, binds, and enmeshes him in a web of
usury, speculation, mortgage, and irksome liability; until the Slav,
goaded beyond his powers of endurance by the men who prey on his
instability and ignorance, rises up and seeks a solution in regrettable
violence.

                 *       *       *       *       *

Glorious news heartened White and myself during the period of waiting
for the Red Cross ship to sail. Each morning we walked down the
principal street of Odessa until we reached Austrian Headquarters,
outside of which were posted the daily official and press bulletins
written in German. I mingled with the crowd before the notice board
while White looked in a shop window until I rejoined him and related
the latest Allied victory--the capture of Lille, Roubaix, Tourcoing, La
Bassée, Ostend, or the final phases of Allenby's advance in Syria. With
Hatton, Waite, and other Britishers we rejoiced greatly in private;
while the German soldiers became glummer and glummer, and the Austrian
officers lost a portion of their corseted poise as they strutted,
peacock-wise, along the boulevards.

The Russian bourgeoisie remained apathetic as ever. Their main interest
in the prospect of a general armistice seemed to be the probable effect
on prices, and on the rouble's value, of the expected arrival of the
British. As for our Bolshevist neighbours, they continued to unearth
and clean their rifles and revolvers; while the corps of ex-officers
drilled, and planned defence works outside Odessa.

Under cover of dusk we slipped past the Austrian sentry at the dock
gates on the evening before the Red Cross ship left for Varna, and
boarded her. Louis Demy and Pat O'Flaherty accompanied us as far as the
gangway.

We remained hidden throughout the night, and only ventured into the
open when, at ten o'clock in the morning, we steamed out of the
wide-curved harbour to the open sea.



CHAPTER XVII

SOFIA, SALONIKA, AND SO TO BED


Stimulated by the knowledge that Varna was occupied by the British we
walked the decks openly, flaunting our protean rôles of British
officers, highly contented men, first-class passengers, and third-class
scarecrows.

Like the _Batoum_, the Red Cross ship brought others who began the
voyage as semi-stowaways. Commodore Wolkenau had told us in Odessa that
among our shipmates would be a certain General from Denikin's army. We
found him--a tall, bearded, Grand-Duke-Nicholas-like man--dining in the
second-class saloon, and wearing a suit of clothes nearly as shabby as
our own. To dodge investigation by the Austrian port authorities he had
assumed, with the connivance of the ship's captain, the character of an
engineer's mate. The "engineer" who owned him as mate was in reality a
commander of the Russian Imperial Navy, also attached to Denikin's
forces. The pair of them were travelling to Salonika, as emissaries of
General Denikin, to ask the Franco-British command for arms,
ammunition, and financial support.

Another fellow-passenger was a former lieutenant of the Russian navy,
who, since the German occupation of Sevastopol, had been acting as an
agent of the Allies. He carried a complete list of the German and
Austrian ships and submarines in the Black Sea, and details of the
coast defences.

The three days' voyage was uneventful. The Black Sea remained at its
smoothest. A pleasant sun harmonized with the good-will and
friendliness of all on board, and with our deep content, as we
continued to tread on air and impatient expectation. A Bulgarian
destroyer pranced out to meet us, and led the vessel through the
devious minefields and into the miniature, toy-like harbour of Varna.
The Bulgarian authorities imposed a four days' quarantine upon all
passengers; but the general, the naval commander, and the
Franco-British agent joined with us in avoiding this delay by sending
ashore a collective note to the French naval officer who controlled the
port. As at Odessa, we rowed ashore with our complete luggage wrapped
in two newspapers, each of which contained a toothbrush, a revolver,
some cartridges, a comb, a razor, a spare shirt, a spare collar, and a
few handkerchiefs.

Outside the docks a British trooper in dusty khaki, shoulder-badged
with the name of a famous yeomanry regiment, passed at a gallop. The
sight of him sent an acute thrill through me, for he was a symbol of
all that I had missed since the day when I woke up to find myself
pinned beneath the wreck of an aeroplane, on a hillside near Shechem.

White looked after him, hungrily. He had been among the Turks for three
years, and since capture this was his first sight of a British Tommy on
duty.

"How about it?" I asked.

"I don't know. Somehow it makes me feel nohow in general, and anyhow in
particular."

We reported to the British general commanding the force of occupation,
and gladly delivered ourselves of information about Odessa for the
benefit of his Intelligence Officer. At the hotel occupied by the staff
there were preliminary doubts of whether such hobo-like ragamuffins
could be British officers; but our knowledge of army shop-talk, of the
cuss words fashionable a year earlier, and of the chorus of
"Good-bye-ee" soon convinced the neatly uniformed members of the mess
that we really were lost lambs waiting to be reintroduced to rations,
drinks, and the field cashier.

For many days our extravagant shabbiness stood in the way of a complete
realization that we were no longer underdogs of the fortune of war, but
had come back into our own. Bulgarian officers, their truculence in no
way impaired by their country's downfall, wanted us to leave our
first-class carriage on the way to Sofia. Outside Sofia station it was
impossible to hire a cab, for no cabman would credit us with the price
of a fare. The staff of the British Mission, to whom we gave reams of
reports, tried their politest not to laugh outright at our clothes, but
broke down before the green-and-yellow check waistcoat, many sizes too
large, which White had received from a British civilian in Odessa.

Even the real Ford car, lent us by the British Mission for the journey
to Salonika, failed to establish a sense of dignity. Once, when we
stopped on the road near a British column, the driver was asked who
were his pals the tramps.

We drove joyously down the Struma valley and through the Kreshna and
Ruppel passes, still littered with the débris of the Bulgarian retreat.
Rusted remnants of guns lolled on the slopes descending to the river.
Broken carts, twisted motor-lorries, horse and oxen skeletons--all the
flotsam of a broken army--mottled the roadside. In the rocky sides of
the mountain passes were great clefts from which dislodged boulders had
hurtled down on the Bulgarian columns when British aeroplanes helped
the retreat with bomb-dropping. We passed through the scraggy uplands
of Lower Macedonia, and so to Salonika.

The real Ford car halted in the imposing grounds that surrounded the
imposing building occupied by British General Headquarters at Salonika.
As we climbed the steps leading to the front door, warmly expectant of
a welcome by reason of our information from South Russia, an orderly
pointed out that this entrance was reserved for Big Noises and
By-No-Means-Little Noises. We swerved aside, and entered an
unpretentious side-door, labelled "Officers Only."

"Wojer want?" asked a Cockney Tommy, who sat at a desk inside it.

"We want to report to Major Greentabs, of the Intelligence Department."

The Tommy looked not-too-contemptuously at our sunken cheeks, our
shapeless hats, our torn, creased, mud-spotted tatterdemalion clothes,
and almost admiringly at White's check waistcoat.

"Nah, look 'ere, civvies," he instructed, "yer speak English well inuf.
Carncher read it? The notice says 'Officers Only', an' it means only
officers. Dagoes 'ave ter use the yentrance rahnd the corner, so aht
_yew_ go, double quick."

That day Salonika gave itself up to revelry by reason of an unfounded
report that an armistice had been signed on the Western front. One of
the celebrators was a certain 2nd-class air mechanic of the Royal Air
Force. We stopped him in the street, and asked the way to R.A.F.
headquarters. Beatifically he breathed whiskied breath at me as he
stared in unsteady surprise.

"George," he called to his companion, "the war's over--_hic_--and
here's two English blokes in civvies. Want to join the Royal Air Force,
they do." Then, tapping me on the chest--"Don't you join the Royal Air
Force. We're a rotten lot."

Armed with signed certificates of identity we went to the officers'
rest house to demand beds.

"Speak English?" said a quartermaster-sergeant as we entered.

"Yes."

"Been expecting you. The Greek contractor's sons, aren't you?"

Later, not long before the bulletin-board showed the rumoured armistice
with Germany to be premature, an orderly in the rest house wished to
share the great news that wasn't true with the nearest person, who
happened to be White. He stopped short on seeing a dubious civilian.
But his good-fellowship was not to be denied. French being the _lingua
franca_ of the multi-nationalitied troops in Salonika, he slapped White
on the back and announced: "_Matey, la guerre est finie_!"

Metamorphosed by ordnance uniforms from third-class scarecrows to the
regulation pattern of officer, we spent glorious days of rest and
recuperation. Then, by the next boat for Port Saïd, we left Salonika
the squalid for Cairo the comfortable; and so to the world where they
dined, danced, demobilized, and signed treaties of peace.



EPILOGUE

A DAMASCUS POSTSCRIPT; AND SOME WORDS ON THE KNIGHTS OF ARABY, A
CRUSADER IN SHORTS, A VERY NOBLE LADYE AND SOME HAPPY ENDINGS


Of all the cities in the Near and Middle East Damascus is at once the
most ancient, the most unchanged by time, the most unreservedly
Oriental, and the most elusive.

Constantinople is Byzantium--cum Mohammedan lust for power--cum Ottoman
domination--cum Levantine materialism--cum European exploitation and
Bourse transactions, in a setting of natural andarchitectural
magnificence; a city that expresses itself variously and inharmoniously
by a blendless chorus from an unmixable mixture of creeds and races; a
charming, feminine city with a wayward soul; a cruel, unstable city of
gamblers; a city of pleasant, vine-trellised alleyways, delightful
waterways, fear-haunted prisons and extravagant rogueries; to my mind
the most intriguing city in the world.

Cairo is a compound of sphinx-and-pyramid antiquity, modern opulence,
degenerate Arab touts, Arab Babudom, reserved and Simla-like
officialdom, the cosmopolitan gaiety of four great hotels, sordid and
curious vice, sand-fringed suburbs, traffic in tourists and fake
scarabs, and the compelling, changeless charm of the Nile.

Alexandria is bastard Byzantine-Levantine, with a wonderful past, an
insistent Cotton Exchange, a lovely harbour, a crooked racecourse where
crooked races are run, and a summer colony for Cairo's white-ducked
Westerns.

Port Saïd is a dull, heat-heavy hell, at which the traffic to the Far
East calls of unwelcome necessity, pays its tolls, skirts the
green-gray statue of De Lesseps, and gladly glides down the
turquoise-toned Suez Canal.

Suez is a hard-faced ex-courtesan, formerly famed for outrageous
spectacles, but now converted by that missionary of war-time expedience
the British Provost-Marshal into an unreal, uninviting, hypocritical
respectability; a harbour landlady for squat-sailed, dancing _dhows_.

Mecca is the pilgrim city _in excelsis_, with a Holy Stone,
overpowering heat, much colour and squalor, a reputation for
impenetrability, and no traditions earlier than the birth of the
Prophet.

Jerusalem has a stupendous history and is yet the most disappointing
city in the world; a small, gilded-gingerbread city with no beautiful
building except the blue-tiled Mosque of Omar, no first-class view
except that of the walls and roof-tops from the Mount of Olives; a city
trading its past for Western charity; a city with a rebuilt Tower of
David masquerading as the original, a probably authentic relic in the
Tomb of Absalom, and many dubious ones where, within the space of fifty
square yards of beflagged church-floor, mumbling guides point out to
pilgrims in pince-nez the supposed tombs of Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph
of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, hard by the supposed site of Calvary,
strewn with supposed fragments of the Cross; a city sacred to three
great religions, exemplified locally by scheming town-Arabs;
ring-curled, lethargic Jews aloof from their Western kindred; and
swarthy, lethargic Christians educated and largely supported by
Euro-American subsidies; a city of narrow, denominational schools that
ignore the Fellowship of Man; a city whose Church of the Holy Sepulchre
should be an epitome of peace and good-will, but yet is a place where,
in the name of Christian charity, Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Armenian,
and various kinds of Protestant priests intrigue and squabble over
claims to guard relics, windows, and corners, and defray the cost of
holy candle-light by collecting from visitors enough money to burn a
hundred and one candles for one and a hundred years; a city better read
about than examined.

Bagdad is a city with a romantic name, some fine Arabian architecture,
and an impressive western gate whence the Damascus-bound caravans move
dustily across the desert; a city fallen from greatness to the date and
grain trade, minor bazaars, and the steamer and dhow traffic of the
broad-bosomed Tigris; a city redolent of all that Haroun-al-Raschid was
and modern Mesopotamia's opportunist sheikhs emphatically are not; a
city with a prosperous future, thanks to the British engineers who have
irrigated the Tigris-Euphrates basin into the way it should go.

Mosul is an unlovely mud city that straggles around the ruins of
Nineveh the Magnificent.

But Damascus is indescribably a city with an unfathomable soul. In its
complex ancestry are the strains of many ancient civilizations. The
crooked alleys and decrepit buildings of its oldest quarter, perched on
a mountain projection high above Damascus proper, have an origin lost
in the conjectural mists of an epoch when the written word was not.
Another part of it was co-incident with Baalbek and sun-worship. The
plain façade of many a house (purposely plain to divert the cupidity of
Turkish pashas) hides a wide, white courtyard soothed by fountains, the
plashing of which is coolingly heard in divanned rooms precious with
rugs and hangings, and ornamented by minutely detailed designs in fancy
arches and miniature cupolas--houses exactly as they were when tenanted
by rich merchants who flourished under the greater Arabian caliphs. The
Street called Straight, the glass-roofed, unique bazaar and a dozen
other city-marks are bafflingly suggestive of contact with a dozen
periods of greatness. And last year, when the demoralized Turks marched
out of the city under the Arab flag that flew defiantly from the city
gate, Arab thinkers began to dream of yet another period of greatness,
in which Damascus was to be the centre of a re-united Arabian
Empire....

                 *       *       *       *       *

My motive in returning to Damascus was threefold--certain minor work at
Air Force Headquarters, an unpraiseworthy resolve to buy carpets and
knick-knacks before other officers of the Palestine Army chose their
pickings from the merchants' war hoards, and a sneakingly benevolent
desire to see George, the mongrel interpreter who had been bullied into
betraying my escape plans in Baranki Barracks, but who was yet such a
pathetic little nondescript.

With a passenger I left Ramleh aerodrome in a Bristol Fighter; for with
an aeroplane available who would think of travelling by train or
automobile over the disordered rails and roads of Syria? It was a
sun-shimmery day, pleasantly cool in the early part of a Palestine
November. Everything suggested peace as we flew northeastward--the calm
cloudlessness, the silent, sparkling countryside, the rhythmic purring
of the motor. The ground mosaic was radiant with that acute clearness
which makes flying so much more interesting in the East and Middle East
than elsewhere.

Far away to the right we could see from our height of 6,000 feet the
ghostlike outline of the Dead Sea behind the bleak-ridged hills beyond
Jericho. To the left were the shining sea, white-roofed Jaffa, and the
lines of sand dunes that curved in and out of the coloured
country-side. Ahead and around were brown surfaces of grain land and
green blotches of woodland, interspaced with gray-gleaming villages.

Soon the Bristol Fighter droned over what had been the old front of
Allenby's left flank, with uneven trenches snaking southeastward from
the sand-bordered coast to the Jordan basin. The Jordan itself twisted
and writhed through its green-and-gold valley, over which occasional
trenchworks zigzagged. Then came the hill desolation of Lower Samaria.
Near Shechem I reached out a fur-gloved hand and showed my passenger
the approximate spot where, seven months earlier, I was shot down and
awoke to find Arab nomads approaching my wrecked machine. Slightly to
the west was Nazareth, perched pleasingly on high ground.

The pear-shaped Sea of Galilee flickered with iridescent twinkling in
the sunlight. Just north of where the river flows into the lake I
picked out the point at which a regiment of the Australian Light Horse,
confronted on the far bank by a Turco-German force sent from Damascus
to defend the ford, swam their horses across the Jordan and routed the
enemy.

The patchwork flatness below changed to more plains of gray-brown
grain-country and gray-green orchard land neighboured on the east by
the desert that was a populous province in the days when armies of
age-old civilizations--Assyrian, Babylonian, Medean, Persian,
Macedonian, and Arabian--swept backward and forward in waves of
conquest and counter-conquest, to and from Nineveh, Babylon, Ctesiphon,
and Old Bagdad, until the Turkish hordes swarmed across from Central
Asia and ruined all the lands they conquered.

Small and indistinct at first, then expanding into a vivid clearness as
we flew toward it, Damascus came into sight; and of all the views from
the air that I remember from flights in Palestine, Egypt, Syria,
France, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, England, and America, this was
incomparably the loveliest.

Far away to the west was Mount Lebanon, and from it stretched a line of
mountains, growing ever bleaker as they neared the Syrian Desert. The
low ground dominated by the heights was a maze of forests,
wheat-fields, pasturage, and orchard land, intermingled with patches of
sand. Straight ahead was the ancient city of Damascus, a straggling
surface of white roofs pierced by the domes and minarets of many
mosques, all in a gray whiteness, as if powdered with the dust of its
four thousand years of history. Pharpar and Abana, the twin rivers of
Damascus, showed up plainly as, converging and diverging, they
descended from their sources on the rim of the mountain, and lost
themselves in the jig-saw of crooked streets and square-topped houses.
The background is the wide, shimmering desert that loses itself on the
eastern horizon.

Having, to the roaring accompaniment of a 1918 Hispano-Suiza
aero-engine, circled over this city half as old as time, I spiralled
down and landed on the aerodrome.

On horses borrowed from the Sikhs who guarded the aerodrome we cantered
towards the city, three miles distant. The road was utterly vile, for
apart from Turkish neglect it had for three years been dented and
spoiled by German motor lorries. Every few yards we had to edge our
horses round some large hole.

Inside Damascus long-disused tram-lines rose high above the roadway.
Through the narrow, winding streets there streamed a medley of camels,
horses, fat men riding on thin donkeys, goats, rainbow-robed Bedouins,
veiled women in black, and fezzed Syrians and Armenians. All of
them--camels, donkeys, horses, and humans--wound in and around each
other without any pretence at order.

Under such conditions the least mishap is enough to bring about a block
in the haphazard traffic. We were held up for nearly twenty minutes
when a donkey, with a huge load of wood straddled on its back, lay down
near a hole in the road, and refused to budge. Men, women, and animals
mingled confusedly, and exhortation and imprecations were flung at the
donkey and its master. The onlookers were raining advice as we halted
our horses on the rim of the crowd, but none made an attempt to help.
And the following is an approximate but far from literal translation of
a few remarks:

"O thou unfortunate one! He has a donkey with a stubborn spirit. It has
deposited itself on the ground and most annoyingly refuses to rise."

"Beat it hard, I say! I have a string of camels which become unruly
because they cannot proceed. Beat it, I say!"

"Nay, rather speak kindly and apply gentle pressure to the under-parts.
Then will it lift its forefeet and stand erect. Stubborn donkeys care
naught for blows."

"Cow-faced son of an exceedingly fat she-dog! Displace thy heavy hoof
from my astonishingly painful toes!"

"_Ah-ee! Ah-ee!_ But a moment hence I had a money-purse, and it has
left me."

"O thou unfortunate one! He had a money-purse, and it has left him. O
thou unfortunate one!"

And although all knew that the purse was probably hidden in the folds
of some Arab's robe, those near the unfortunate one searched and
scratched the ground, probably none more assiduously than the man who
could have produced it.

Now if the period had been two months earlier a Turkish gendarme would
have taken the donkey-owner apart, and, if he failed to offer a bribe,
shot his prostrate beast and hauled its carcase to the roadside. As
likely as not it would have been the gendarme who stole the unfortunate
one's money.

What actually happened was this. A sun-browned man in light khaki
tunic, short trousers, and bare knees sauntered along, a cigarette
drooping from the left-hand corner of his mouth.

"_Saa-eeda, Tommy Effendi_," said one of the loiterers, making way for
him.

"Damned old fool of a moke," said the man in shorts; then bent down and
alternately stroked, pushed, and spoke to the donkey. Somehow he
persuaded it to rise and start walking. The crowd disentangled itself
and its animals from each other, and dispersed. And the man in shorts,
his cigarette still dangling from the left-hand corner of his mouth,
passed on, as casual and unsurprised as if he had been in Brixton or
Birmingham.

Both in appearance and in spirit Damascus had changed much since the
days of my captivity. Destitution was yet evident, but far less
flagrantly than when I had seen starving babies lying against the walls
and crying their hunger. There were no more furtive looks, and many
more smiles. The swaggering Germans were supplanted by companionable
Tommies, the tyrannous Turkish gendarmes by the headdressed Arab
police. In the long, arcaded bazaar the traders had brought out their
stocks of carpets, prayer-rugs, silks, and precious stones, hoarded
during the war, and were selling them at prices far below those ruling
in war-time Cairo or war-time anywhere else. And everywhere the Arabian
flag was prominent.

For many a day the talk in the bazaars had been of a new Arabian
Empire, as a reward for the exploits of King Hussein's Arabs--exploits
that had not only freed Arabia and helped to free Syria, but had
involved the abolition of all blood-feuds in a thousand miles of
semi-lawless country. The Emir Feisul, son of King Hussein (and thus a
direct descendant of the Prophet), was on his way to the Peace
Conference in Paris, accompanied by Colonel Lawrence, the young
Englishman who was the soul of the Arab national revival, and of the
Arabs' epic campaigns between Mecca and Damascus. And many citizens of
Damascus were hoping that he would return with the realization of their
dreams that the city was to be the centre of pan-Arabian greatness.

                 *       *       *       *       *

My enquiries at Baranki Barracks, and in the offices of the British
Provost-Marshal and the Arab gendarmerie, failed to trace the fate of
George; and I had to be content with the memory of a futile little
figure standing on the steps of our railway carriage, on the morning
after our betrayal, and saying, with despair in his voice: "I have so
little courage. I ask pardon."

Of the other intimate characters in the story I can account for all but
two. Jean Willi, the Israelite dragoman who was my benefactor at
Nazareth, has not yet given me the chance to pay back in part the good
deeds that I owe him; but I still have hopes. And I can only guess at
what has happened to Michael Ivanovitch Titoff, now somewhere behind
the screen which, since the Bolshevist reoccupation of last spring,
separates Odessa from the normal world. From what I know of his
character I am certain that when the Soviet troops arrived he
proclaimed himself a Bolshevist, and took full advantage of the
conditions whereby the unrighteous have special opportunity to
flourish.

Vladimir Franzovitch--a Russian as estimable as Michael Ivanovitch was
despicable--died for the country he loved and despaired of, fighting in
Denikin's army.

For the rest, I can offer happy endings as conventionally apposite as
those of the worst "best-seller" of any lady novelist.

Miss Whittaker, the noble girl who played in Constantinople the heroic
part of an Edith Cavell, is now Lady Paul. Less than a month ago an
American warship took her from Constantinople to Beyrout, where she
married Captain Sir Robert Paul, one of the British officers whom she
had helped to escape. She now lives in Aleppo, where Paul commands the
Arab gendarmerie. In this crowded narrative I have failed to do justice
to the brave and gifted woman who many times risked liberty and life in
aiding unfortunate countrymen; but only because the last thing she
would desire is advertisement have I refrained from writing the eulogy
she deserves.

Another happy ending, almost too good to be true, was the recent
wedding of Colonel Newcombe and Mlle. "X", the girl who arranged his
escape from Broussa and concealed him in Constantinople while he worked
for a withdrawal of Turkey from the war.

Mr. S., the British merchant who jeopardized his neck in helping no
less than seven British officers to liberty, has returned to England,
and should be conscious of much merit.

The Turkish armistice happened a few days before Theodore was to have
been hanged. Fulton and Stone were released from the Ministry of War
Prison, and twenty-four hours later, by means of threats, they obtained
reprieve and freedom for the Greek waiter who had hidden them. He was
then half dead, as a result of insufficient food, and of the dreadful,
disease-ridden, insanitary, crowded state of his dungeon; but he
recovered under careful nursing, and returned to his mother and
sisters, in the house where the gendarmes had captured Yeats-Brown,
Fulton, and Stone.

The Maritza restaurant, near Stamboul station, still flourishes; but
Theodore is no longer there. With the money gained by acting as
conspirator-in-chief for British prisoners, he talks of coming to
London and opening a small restaurant of his own. If this happens, he
can count on regular customers from among those who saw him, with his
bent shoulders and blue-glassed spectacles, flicking a secret letter on
to the tablecloth, under cover of a menu-card.

Those of us who schemed, escaped, hoped, feared, wore disguises and
whiskers, assumed illnesses and insanities, suffered, and amused
ourselves generally are dispersed over five continents. Fulton and
Stone are still in Constantinople, but as responsible officials instead
of under-dogs of war. White is a quiet-living manufacturer in
Melbourne. Hill and Jones, the madmen of Yózgad, Haidar Pasha, and
Gumuch Souyou have gone their demobilized ways in sanity and content,
one to Sydney, the other to Glasgow. Paul is in Syria, Colonel Newcombe
in Egypt. Yeats-Brown, ex-Mlle. Josephine Albert, is in London, with an
eyeglass which he kept intact through three years of adventurous
captivity, from the day when he was taken prisoner near Bagdad to the
day when, from the verandah of his hiding-place opposite the deserted
British Embassy in Constantinople, he looked along the Grande Rue de
Pera and learned, from the fluttering Allied flags, that the Turkish
armistice had been signed. Last and least, I am now in civilian
blessedness and America.

Often I have left the satisfying solidity of London, the restful beauty
of a Thames backwater, the comforting hospitality of New York, the
wealth-conscious heartiness of Chicago, to hear the chanted summons to
prayer from the minaret that faced my prison in Damascus, watched the
intrigues that coloured Constantinople during the twilight of the
Turkish Empire, discuss Bolshevism and the price of revolvers with
Vladimir Franzovitch, as he sits on a camp bed in his tiny room at
Odessa.

And Time, the greatest of romantics, has nearly persuaded me to
disregard memory and believe that I enjoyed it all.


THE END


  THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS
  GARDEN CITY, N.Y.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Eastern Nights - and Flights - A Record of Oriental Adventure." ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home