Antwerp to Gallipoli
Part 3 out of 4
general conscription and the horrors of war can be associated with less
Streams of more frugal nymphs, without victorias but with the same
rakish air, push along with the sidewalk crowd, hats pinned like a wafer
over one ear, coiffures drawn trimly up from powdered necks. Waiters
scurry about; the cafe tables, crowded in these days with politicians,
amateur diplomats, spies, ammunition agents, Heaven knows what, push out
on the sidewalk. The people on the sidewalk are crowded into the
street, motors honk, hoofs clatter, the air is filled with automobile
smoke, the smoke carries the smell of cigarettes and coffee and women's
perfumes--it is "Bucarest joyeux!"
Some French music-hall singer--when I came through it was Miss Nita-Jo--
will tell you all about it at one of the open-air theatres in the
evening. All about the people you bump into in this sunset promenade--
"Des gens d'la haute, des petits creves, Des snobs, des sportsmans, des
coquets, Les noctambules, les vieux noceurs, Les grandes cocottes--oui!
tous en choeur..."--all about Capsa's, which, though but a little pastry
shop and tea-room, is as seriously regarded in Bucarest as Delmonico's
or the Blackstone, which is, of course, with dreadful seriousness (to
see one of the gilded youths of Bucarest enter Capsa's at five-thirty,
solemnly devour a large chocolate eclair, and as solemnly stalk out
again, is an experience itself), and all about the politicians and the
men who are running things. Everything is in miniature, you see, in a
little nation like this, which, although only as large as one of our
smaller States, has a King and court, diplomats, and army, and foreign
policy. All in the family, so to speak, and the chanteuse will sing
amusing verses about the prime minister as if she really knew what he
was going to do, and, curiously enough--for things are sometimes very
much in the family, indeed, in these little capitals--maybe she does
Of course the Calea Vittorei is not Rumania, though a good deal more so
than Fifth Avenue is America; nor are the officers posing there those
who would have much to do with directing the army if Rumania went to
war. Ten minutes away from the city limits and you might be riding
through the richest farming country in Wisconsin or Illinois: hour after
hour of corn and wheat, orchards, hops, and vineyards, cultivated by
peasants who, though most of them have no land and little education, at
least look care-free, and dress themselves in exceedingly pleasing
homespun linen, hand-embroidered clothes. Then higher land, and hills
as thick with the towers of oil-wells as western Pennsylvania, and, just
before you cross into Hungary, the cool pines of the Carpathians and the
villas of Sinaia, the summer home of the court, the diplomats, and the
people one does not see very often, perhaps, in the afternoon parade.
It is a pleasant and a rich little country. You can easily understand
why its ruling class should love it, and, set apart from their Slav and
Magyar neighbors by speech and temperament, want to gather all Rumanians
under one flag and push that, too, into its place in the sun.
And this, of course, is Rumania's time--the time of all these little
Balkan nations, which have been bullied and flattered in turn by the
powers that need them now, and cut up and traded about like so much
Rumania wants the province of Bessarabia on her eastern border, a strip
of which Russia once took away; she wants the Austrian province of
Bukowina and the Hungarian banat of Temesvar on the west, but most of
all the pine forests and the people of Transylvania, just over the
divide--you cross it coming from Budapest--largely Rumanian in speech
and sympathy, though a province of Hungary. As the Rumanians figure it
out, they once stood astride the Carpathians--"a cheval" ("on
horseback"), as they say--and so, they feel, they must and should stand
We are a nation of fourteen million souls--six less than Hungary, but a
homogeneous state, solidly based. Our soil gives us minerals and fuel
and almost suffices for our needs. Our people are one of the most
prolific in the world and certainly not the least intelligent. We have
behind us a continuity of national existence lacking in other nations in
this quarter of the globe. In our modern epoch we have assimilated
French culture with indisputable success, and have given in every field
proof of a great faculty of adaptability and progress. We can become
the most important second-class power in Europe the day after the war
stops; in fifty years, when our population will have passed twenty-five
millions, a great power. We shall be a nation content with our lot, and
for that reason a factor for peace. A greater Rumania responds not only
to our ideas but to the interests of Europe. The Magyars have had every
chance, and they have lost. It is now our turn.
This is a characteristic editorial paragraph from La Roumanie, which is
the voice of Mr. Take Ionesco, who, more than anybody else, is the voice
of those who want war. Once in the government, but at the moment out of
it, Mr. Ionesco keeps up a continuous bombardment of editorials and
speeches, and with his-vigor, verve, and facility reminds one a bit,
though a younger man, of Clemenceau and his L'Homme Enchaine. Rich,
well-informed, daring, and clever, with a really fascinating gift of
expression, he will talk to you in French, English (his wife is
English), Rumanian--I don't know how many other languages--about
anything you wish, always with the air of one who knows. We have no
such adventurous statesmen, or statesmen-adventurers, at home--men who
have all the wires of European diplomacy at their finger ends; look at
people, including their own, in the aggregate, without any worry over
the "folks at home"; know what they want much better than they do, and
to get it for them are quite ready to send a few hundred thousand to
Mr. Ionesco writes a long, double-leaded editorial every day, and very
often he prints with it the speech, or speeches, he made the night
before. In a time like this, he says, those of his way of thinking can't
say too much; they must be "like the French Academicians, who never stop
writing." Now and then, in the intervals of fanning the sparks of war,
he takes his readers behind the scenes of European politics, of which he
knows about as much, perhaps, as any one.
I arrived in Paris the 31st of December, 1912, in the evening. M.
Poincare received me the 1st of January, at half past eight o'clock in
the morning--an absurd hour in Paris. But I had to go to London in the
afternoon, and M. Poincare to the Elysee at ten o'clock for the
felicitations of the New Year. I asked M. Poincare for the support of
France in our difficulties with Bulgaria. M. Poincare said... I
said... and later events proved that I was right.
He is always sure of himself, like this--no doubts, no half-truths,
everything clear and irresistible. I went to see Mr. Ionesco one
evening in Bucarest--a porte-cochere opening into a big stone city
house, an anteroom with a political secretary and several lieutenants,
and presently a quiet, richly furnished library, and Mr. Ionesco
himself, a polished gentleman of continental type, full of animation and
sophisticated charm, bowing from behind a heavy library table.
The room, the man, the facile, syllogistic sentences in which it was
established that Austria-Hungary was already moribund, that Germany
could never win, that Rumania must go in with the Entente--it was like
the first scene from some play of European society and politics: one of
those smooth, hard, swiftly moving things the Parisian Bernstein might
Across it I couldn't help seeing the Berlin I had just left, and people
standing in line with their sandwiches at six o'clock to get into the
opera or theatre--the live human beings behind that abstraction
"Germany." And I said that it seemed unfortunate that two peoples with
so many apparent grounds of contact as the Germans and French must so
misunderstand each other. Their temperament and culture were different,
to be sure, but they were both idealistic, sentimental people, to whom
things of the mind and spirit were important. It seemed particularly
unfortunate that everything should be done to force them apart instead
of bringing them together.
Mr. Ionesco listened with some impatience. Unfortunate, no doubt, but
what do you wish? War itself is unfortunate--we must take the world as
it is. No, they were with France and down with the Germans. France
conquered meant the end of Rumania, subservience to Austria; France
victorious, freedom, fresh air.
He gave me a copy of a speech in which he gladly admitted that he was a
"responsible factor." People talked of going slow and sparing blood.
Well, they might get something by sitting still, even become a great
country, but they could never become a great nation. It was not
territory and population they wanted, but the sword of Rumania to join
in remaking the map of Europe. When the delegates gathered around the
green table, they did not want the one from Rumania, as he was at the
Congress of Berlin, only able to make visits to chancelleries. He must
go in the same door with them, and say: "In proportion to my population,
I have shed as much blood as you."
He had always regretted not having children, never so much as to-day;
but if he had a dozen sons, and knew that all of them would fall in the
war, he would not be cast down. Even if the territory they wished could
be occupied by a simple act of gendarmerie--he would say no--they must
enter Budapest itself (it is only twenty-four hours' railway journey
from Bucarest!)--not till then would Austria admit Rumania's
superiority. People accused him of working for himself. Who was Take
Ionesco in comparison with the fate of a race? As for ambition, well, he
had one, and only one--he wanted to see the Rumanian tricolor floating
from Buda palace, and before he died to know the moment in which he
could pass before his eyes the eighteen hundred years of Rumanian
history from the arrival of Trajan at Severin to the entry of Ferdinand
at Budapest, and cry: "Now, Lord, let thy servant go in peace, for mine
eyes have seen the saving of my race!"
The Rumanian tricolor was no nearer Buda palace when I returned several
months later, but Mr. Ionesco was no less hot for war. Even if Germany
won, he said, they still should go in, because they would at least keep
their own and Germany's respect. "Go to war?"--the phrase was inexact.
"We have been at war for eleven months, only others are firing at us,
but we are not firing at them. We are in a war that will decide our
existence, but the soldiers dying to defend our rights, instead of being
our soldiers, are soldiers of the Allies. The Allies will win, but if
any one thinks that, having won without us, they will have won for us,
he must be mad. Their victory without us may preserve our material
life, but it will never save our moral life nor that of future
Mr. Ionesco and those who agree with him belong, it will be observed,
with the romanticists--they are for the bright face of danger, great
stakes, and, win or lose, putting all to the touch. Those who did not
agree with them were men without souls, hagglers and traders, as if a
nation could figure out the number of cannon-shots and prisoners, and go
where the going's good! It made interesting reading as you sat at one of
the cafe tables, with the crowd flowing by and the five-o'clock papers
coming fresh from the press. The other side--and it included the King
and most of the government, inasmuch as Rumania had not yet gone to war
--had the more difficult task of making caution interesting. In their
editorials and speeches Ionesco and his followers were jingoes trying to
drive the nation to a Rumanian Sedan.
"A people is great, not only for its numbers of soldiers, but for its
civilization, its artists, and intellectuals. A nation militarized is
marked for eternal death, for a people lives by its thought and not by
force." There was an amusing retort, the afternoon I returned to
Bucarest, to one of the fire-eating retired generals, picturing the
quaint old fellow as thinking that people were born only to die bravely,
and knowing nothing of Rumania's rule as the "defender of Latinism" in
the Balkans, "tooting the funereal flute and showing us the mountains--
there is to be your tomb!"
There was a time, when the Russians were taking Przemysl, when Rumania's
tide seemed to be at the flood--if ever it was going to be. That chance
was lost, and Rumania found herself standing squarely in the track of
the stream of ammunition which used to flow down from Duesseldorf to the
Turks--when I was at the front with the Turks, practically all the
ammunition boxes I saw, and there were hundreds of them, were marked
"Gut uber Rumanien"--and, later, in Russia's path to Bulgaria and
One of these days a hot thrill might run down the Calea Vittorei, and
all at once Capsa's and the other little booths in this miniature Vanity
Fair would seem strange and far-away. But until that day one could
fancy the romanticists and realists lambasting each other in the papers,
the soldiers grinding away in their dusty camps, the pretty ladies
rolling gayly down the sprinkled asphalt, and the chanteuse singing over
"Que pense le Premier Ministre? On n'sait pas--"
("What thinks the Prime Minister? Nobody knows--")
"Is he for the Germans? Has he made a convention With perfidious Albion?
The Gate to Constantinople
Only the Danube separates Rumania from Bulgaria, yet the people--of the
two capitals, at least--are as different as the French and Scotch. The
train leaves Bucarest after breakfast; you are ferried over the river at
Rustchuk at noon, and, after trailing over the shoulders of long,
rolling plateaus, are up in the mountains in Sofia that evening. The
change is almost as sharp as that between Ostend and Folkestone.
You leave French, or the half-Latin Rumanian language, for a Slavic
speech, and the Cyrillic, or Russian, alphabet; names ending in "sco" or
"ano" (Ionesco, Filipesco, Bratiano) for names ending in "off"
(Radoslavoff, Malinoff, Ghenadieff, Antinoff, and the like), and all the
show and vivacity, the cafes and cocottes of Bucarest, for a clean
little mountain capital as determined and serious as some new town out
It seemed, though of course such impressions are mostly chance, that the
difference began at the border. In Rumania, at the Hungarian border,
they took away my passport, which in times like these is like taking
away one's clothes, and, though I assured the customs inspector that I
was on my way to Constantinople, and in a hurry, it required four days'
wait in Bucarest, and innumerable visits to the police before the paper
was returned. Every one, apparently, on the train had the same
experience--the Austrian drummers looked wise and muttered "baksheesh,"
and in Bucarest an evil-eyed hotel porter kept pulling me into corners,
saying that this taking of passports was a regular "commerce," and that
for five francs he would have it back again.
There is a popular legend that the clerks in Bucarest hotels are
supposed to offer incoming guests all the choices of a Mohammedan
paradise, and the occasional misogynist, who prefers a room to himself,
is received with sympathy, and the wish politely expressed that monsieur
will soon be himself again. My own experience was less ornate, but
prices were absurdly high, the waiter's check frequently needed
revision, and one had a vague but more or less continual sense of
swimming among sharks.
These symptoms were absent in Bulgaria. The border officials seemed
sensible men who would "listen to reason"; the porters, coachmen,
waiters, and the like, crude rather than cleverly depraved, and the air
of Sofia clear and clean, in more senses than one.
Modern Bulgaria is only a couple of generations old, and though all this
part of the world has been invaded and reinvaded and fought over since
the beginning of things, the little kingdom (it seems more like a
republic) has the air of a new country.
The aristocracy had been wiped out before Bulgaria got her autonomy in
1878, and, unlike Rumania, where the greater portion of the land is in
the hand of large proprietors, Bulgaria is a country of small farmers,
of shepherds, peasants, each with his little piece of land. The men who
now direct its fortunes are the sons and grandsons of very simple
people. Possibly it is because we Americans are also a new people, with
still some of the prejudices of pioneers, that we are likely to feel
something in common with the people of this "peasant state." They seemed
to me, at any rate, the most "American" of the Balkan peoples.
There is, of course, one concrete reason for this: Robert College and
the American School for Girls (Constantinople College) at
Constantinople. It was men educated at Robert College who became the
leaders of modern Bulgaria. The only Bulgarian I had known before--I
met him on the steamer--had gone from a little village near Sofia to
Harvard. His married sister had learned English at the American School
for Girls; her husband, a Macedonian Bulgar, had worked his way through
Yale. The amiable old general, who was always in the library at the
Sofia Club at tea time, ready to tell how the Dardanelles and
Constantinople could be taken, had learned English at Robert College and
had a son there; the photographer who developed my films also had a son
there--and so on.
Snow-capped mountains rise just behind Sofia, and the brown hills
thereabout, like the rolling plateaus along the shoulders of which the
train crawls on the way down from Rumania, are speckled with sheep.
Sometimes even in Sofia you will meet a shepherd patiently urging his
little flock up a modern concrete sidewalk and stopping now and then for
some passer-by to pick up a lamb, "heft" it, poke it, and feel its wool
before deciding whether or not he should take it home for dinner.
These shepherds wear roomy, short box-coats of sheepskin, with the
leather outside and the wool turned in, like a motor-coat; homespun
breeches embroidered, very likely in blue, and laced from the knee down,
and a sort of moccasin or laced soft shoe. They are as common in the
streets of Sofia as are the over-barbered young snipes in the streets of
Bucarest. On market days the main down-town street is filled with them--
long-limbed, slow-moving old fellows, with eyes and foreheads wrinkled
from years of squinting in the bright plateau sun, faces bronzed and
weathered like an old farmhouse, shuffling down the pavement and into
and out of shops with the slow, soft-footed gait of so many elk. And if
you were designing a stamp for Bulgaria you might well put one of these
hard-headed old countrymen on it, just as in the other capital you would
put the girl in the victoria pattering down the asphalt.
Two newspaper correspondents of the more or less continuous string that
were filing from one Bulgarian leader to another to find out what
Bulgaria was going to do, amiably permitted me to trail about with them,
and thus to see and talk a little with some of those who are steering
Bulgaria's exceedingly delicate course--men whose grandfathers very
likely wore those sheepskin coats with the wool turned in.
None had the peculiar verve and dash of Take Ionesco, but one or two
were decidedly "smooth" in a grave, slightly heavy way, and all
suggested stubbornness, intense patriotism, and a keen eye for the main
There is little "society" or formal entertaining in Sofia, little
display and little, apparently, of that state of mind which, in
Bucarest, is suggested by the handsome, two-horse public carriages
at a time when there are not enough horses and carriages to go round.
One-horse carriages are impracticable, because the Rumanian, or at least
the Bucareiio, thinks one horse beneath his dignity, while a trolley-
car--although there are trolley-cars--is, of course, not to be thought
People on the streets and in the parks were "nice"-looking rather than
smart, and the young officers from the military school, who were
everywhere, as fine and soldier-like young men as I had seen anywhere in
Europe. They and the common soldiers, with their fine shoulders and
chests and wiry torsos, looked as though they were made for their work,
and took to it like ducks to water.
The palace is on the central square--an unpretentious building in the
trees, with a driveway leading up from two gates, at which stand two
motionless sentries, each with one stiff feather in his cap. It is such
an entrance as you might expect to find at any comfortable country place
at home, and one day, when some student volunteers went by on a practise
march, and cheered as they passed, I saw the King, with the Queen and
one or two others, stroll down the drive and bow just as if he, too,
were some comfortable country gentleman.
There is a music-hall in Sofia, but on the two nights I went to it there
were scarce twenty in the audience. There are various beer gardens with
music, and, of course, moving pictures, but it was interesting, in
contrast with Bucarest to find the crowd going to the National Theatre
to see Tolstoi's "Living Corpse." The stock company, moderately
subsidized by the government, gives drama and opera on alternate nights.
I barely got a seat for the Tolstoi play, and the doorkeeper said that
the house was always sold out.
The Bulgarians, in short, are simple, and what the Rumanians would call
"serieux"--you must abandon all notion of finding here anything like the
little comic-opera kingdoms invented by some of our novelists. It was
in Bulgaria, as I recall it, that Mr. Shaw put "Arms and the Man," and
the fun lay, as you will remember, in the contrast between the outworn,
feudal notions of the natives and the intense matter-of-factness of the
modern Swiss professional soldier.
You will recall the doubts of the heroine's male relatives as to whether
Bluntschli was good enough for her, their ingenuous attempts to impress
him, by describing the style in which she was accustomed to live, and
his unimpressed response that his father had so and so many
table-cloths, so many horses, so many hundreds of plates, etc. Who was
he, then--king of his country? Oh, no, indeed--he ran a hotel. Mr.
Shaw's fun is all right of itself, but has about as much application to
Bulgaria or Sofia as to Wyoming or Denver.
By one of those frequently fascinating chances of geography, this little
nation, which has a territory about as big as Ohio, is set squarely in
front of the main gate to Constantinople, and saw, in consequence, the
powers which ruthlessly bullied it yesterday now almost at its feet.
Rumania stands in Russia's path, on the one hand, and, with its railway,
in Germany's on the other; but Bulgaria does both, and, in addition,
blocks the whole western frontier of Turkey and the only feasible chance
to land an army from the Aegean.
After their disastrous attempt to run the Dardanelles in March, the
English and French had been somewhat in the position of an army trying
to capture Jacksonville, Florida, for instance, and instead of marching
over from Georgia, compelled to go away down to Key West, and fight
their way up through the Everglades. They had in front of them hills
behind hills and an intrenched enemy whom they could not see generally
and who could always see them. Behind them was only a strip of beach,
the sea, and the more or less uncertain support of their ships. So
narrow was their foothold that even if they had had more men, they could
scarce find place to use them.
Could they but land in Bulgaria, they might cut off the Turks from
Europe at once, accumulate at their leisure a sufficient force, and push
down methodically from a proper base to the Chatalja line, fighting like
men instead of amphibious ducks. The thing looks easy, and the twisted
hills and hidden batteries of Gal-lipoli Peninsula were so
heart-breaking a maze to fling good men into that you can well imagine
the Allies used what pressure they could. But if it was important to
them that the gate be opened--let alone that Bulgaria come in herself--
it was just as important to the Germans and Austrians that it be closed.
And who was to say that if Bulgaria threw in her lot with the Allies and
attacked the Turks the Central Powers might not even start a grand
offensive down through Serbia--and people talked of this in Sofia months
before it actually began--connect up their lines all the way to
Constantinople--and good-by to their little peasant state and her
A little state must think of these things. She hasn't the men nor the
staggering supply of ammunition lightly to go into a world war like
this. And then the Bulgarians had had their fingers burned once--they
were not looking for adventures.
You will remember the Balkan War of 1912-3, and how the Bulgars fought
their way down almost to Constantinople and were everybody's heroes for
a time. Then came the quarrel between the Balkan allies, and presently
Bulgaria was fighting for her life--Serbia on the west, Greece on the
south, Turkey on the east--and then, when she was quite helpless, the
Rumanians coming down from the north to perform the coup de grace.
It was not a particularly sporting performance on the part of the
Rumanians, nor could the turning over to them of the Bulgarian part of
the province of Dobrudja greatly increase Bulgaria's trust in the powers
which permitted it in the treaty of Bucarest.
"It's our own fault," an Englishman said to me, speaking somewhat
sardonically of the failure of the Rumanians to go in with Italy in
spite of having accepted a timely loan from England. "We put our money
on the wrong horse! No, they'll keep on talking--they're the chaps who
want to get something for nothing. Think of the treaty of Bucarest and
the way we patted Rumania on the back--she was the gendarme of Europe
then. 'Gendarme of Europe!' ... I tell you that any army that would do
what the Rumanians did to Bulgaria has something wrong with its guts!"
An army goes where it is ordered, of course, but it is true,
nevertheless, that the Bulgarians are likely to think of their neighbors
on the north as people who want to get something for nothing, and that
they who had borne the brunt of the war with Turkey lost everything they
had gained. The Turks, "driven from Europe," calmly moved back to
Adrianople; Rumania took the whole of Dobrudja; Bulgarian Macedonia went
to Serbia and Greece. However much Bulgaria may have been to blame for
the break-up of the Balkan League--and she was stubborn and headstrong
to say the least--there is no denying that the treaty of Bucarest did
not give her a square deal. It was one of those treaties of peace (and
you might think that the men who sit around the green table and make
such treaties would learn it after a time) that are really treaties of
No, Bulgaria was not looking for adventures, nor accepting promises
unless she had securities that they would be carried out. You could not
talk to any intelligent Bulgarian five minutes without feeling the
bitterness left by the treaty of Bucarest and the fixed idea that
Bulgarian Macedonia must come under the flag again. But though this was
true, and the army mobilized, and on a fine day every other man on the
streets of Sofia an officer, the stubborn Bulgars were still sitting
tight. If they got what they wanted without fighting for it, they were
not anxious to throw away another generation of young men as they had
thrown them away for nothing in the Balkan War.
By this negative policy--the pressure, that is to say, of not going to
war--Bulgaria had induced Turkey, by the time I came through Sofia again
three months later, to turn over enough territory on the east so that
the Bulgars could own the railroad down to Dedeagatch and reach the
Aegean without being obliged to go into Turkey and out again. It even
seemed that Bulgaria might be able to keep her neutrality to the end.
Her compromise with Turkey was not so odd as it seemed to many at first.
She had fought the Turks, to be sure, but now got what she wanted, and
when you come to think of it, it might well be more comfortable from the
Bulgars' point of view to have the invalid Ottomans in Constantinople
than the healthy and hungry Russians.
Both these small states, in their present hopes, fears, and, dangers,
are an instructive spectacle to those who fancy that in the crowded
arena of Europe a little nation can always do as it wants to, or that
its neutrality is always the simple open-and-shut matter it looked to
be, for instance, in the first weeks of August, 1914. We are likely, at
home, to look on all this cold-blooded weighing of the chances of war
with little patience, to think of all these "aspirations" as merely
somebody else's land. Fear or envy of our neighbors, international
hatred, is almost unknown with us. All that was left behind, three
thousand miles away, and the green water in between permits us to
indulge in the rare luxury of altruism. Yet these hatreds, these fears,
and ambitions, inherited and carefully nourished, are just as real--
particularly in little states like these--as the fact, odd and
apparently unreasonable as it may be, that in a bit of country, which
might be included in one of our larger States, one lot of people should
speak French and think like Latins, and another speak Slavic and think
another way, and that neither wants to be absorbed by the other any more
than we want to be compelled to speak Spanish or be absorbed by the
The "aspirations" of both these little countries have realities behind
them. It is a fact that one gets a whiff of French clarity and verve in
Rumania, though it comes from a small minority educated in France, and
the Rumanian people may be no more "Latin" than we are. And it is an
interesting notion--though perhaps only a notion--that Rumania should be
the outpost or rear-guard of Latinism in this part of the world; a bit
of the restless West on the edge of the Orient.
For virility and earnestness like that of the Bulgars there is a place,
not only in the Balkans, but everywhere. The qualities they have shown
in their short life as an independent nation are those which deserve to
be encouraged and preserved. And if it were true that this war were
being fought to establish the right of little nations to live, one of
the tasks it ought to accomplish, it seemed then, was to give the
Bulgars back at least part of what was taken from them.
The Adventure Of The Fifty Hostages
Gallipoli lies by the Sea of Marmora, and looks out across it to the
green hills of Asia, just where the blue Marmora narrows into the
Dardanelles. It is one of those crowded little Turkish towns set on a
blazing hillside--tangled streets, unpainted, gray, weather-warped frame
houses, with overhanging latticed windows and roofs of red tiles; little
walled-in gardens with dark cedars or cypresses and a few dusty roses;
fountains with Turkish inscriptions, where the streets fork and women
come to fill their water-jars--a dreamy, smelly, sun-drenched little
town, drowsing on as it has drowsed for hundreds of years. Nothing ever
happens in Gallipoli--I speak as if the war hadn't happened! The
graceful Greek sloops, with their bellying sails and turned-up stems and
sterns, come sailing in much as they must have come when the Persians,
instead of the English and the French, were battering away at the
Hellespont. The grave, long-nosed old Turks pull at their bubble pipes
and sip their little cups of sweet, black coffee; the camel trains,
dusty and tinkling, come winding down the narrow streets from the
Thracian wheat country and go back with oversea merchandise done up in
faded carpets and boxes of Standard Oil. The wind blows from the north,
and it is cold, and the Marmora gray; it blows from the south, and all
at once the world is warm and sea and sky are blue--so soft, so blue, so
alive with lifting radiance that one does not wonder the Turk is content
with a cup of coffee and a view.
Nothing ever happens in Gallipoli--then the war came, and everything
happened at once. It was a still May morning, a Sunday morning, when
the English and French sent some of their ships up into the Gulf of
Saros, on the Aegean side of the peninsula, over behind Gallipoli.
Eight or ten miles of rolling country shut away the Aegean, and made
people feel safe enough. They might have been in the other wars which
have touched Gallipoli, but a few miles of country were nothing at all
to the guns of a modern battleship.
An observation-balloon looked up over the western horizon, there was a
sudden thunder, and all at once the sky above Gallipoli rained screaming
shells and death. You can imagine--at any rate remembering Antwerp, I
could very well imagine--how that hurricane of fire, sweeping in without
warning, from people knew not where, must have seemed like the end of
the world. You can imagine the people--old men with turbans undone,
veiled women, crying babies--tumbling out of the little bird-cage houses
and down the narrow streets. Off went the minaret, as you would knock
off an icicle, from the mosque on the hill. The mosque by the
water-front went down in a cloud of dust, and up from the dust, from a
petrol shell, shot a geyser of fire. Stones came rumbling down from the
old square tower, which had stood since the days of Bayazid; the faded
gray houses squashed like eggs. It was all over in an hour--some say
even twenty, minutes--but that was long enough to empty Gallipoli, to
kill some sixty or seventy people, and drive the rest into the caves
under the cliffs by the water, or across the Marmora to Lapsaki.
Now, while the bombardment of Gallipoli may not appear from a merely
human point of view, a particularly sporting performance, yet, as most
of those killed were soldiers, as Gallipoli had been a staff
head-quarters not long before and always has been a natural base for the
defense of the Dardanelles, the attack was doubtless justified by the
rules of war. It happens, however, that people who live in defenseless,
bombarded towns are never interested in the rules of war. So a new and
particularly disturbing rumor went flying through the crowded streets of
It is a city of rumors, this beautiful, bewildering Bagdad of the West,
where all the races of the world jostle each other in the narrow
streets, and you never know how the man who brushes past you lives--let
alone feels and thinks. The Constantinople trolley-cars are divided by
a curtain, on one side of which sit the men, on the other the veiled
women. When there are several women the conductor slides the curtain
along, so that half the car is a harem; when there are none he slides it
back, and there is no harem at all.
And life is like that. You are at once in a modern commercial city and
an ancient Mohammedan capital, and never know when the one will fade out
like a picture on a screen and leave you in the Orient, facing its
mystery, its fatalism, its vengeance that comes in a night.
You can imagine what it must become, walled in with war and censorship,
with the English and French banging away at the Dardanelles gate to the
south, the Russian bear growling at the door of the Bosporus, so close
that you can every now and then hear the rumble of cannon above the din
of Constantinople--just as you might hear them in Madison Square if an
enemy were bombarding the forts at Sandy Hook. You wake up one morning
to hear that all the influential Armenians have been gathered up and
shipped to the interior; you go down to the ordinary-looking hotel
breakfast-room and the three Germans taking coffee in the corner stop
talking at once; at lunch some one stoops to whisper to the man across
the table, there is a moment's silence until the waiter has gone, and
the man across the table mutters: "The G. V. says not to worry"--"G.
V." meaning Grand Vizier. To-morrow the Goeben is to be blown up, or
there will be a revolution, or a massacre--heaven knows what! Into an
atmosphere like this, with wounded pouring back in thousands from the
Dardanelles, there came the news of the bombardment of Gallipoli. And
with it went the rumor of reprisal--all the English and French left
behind in Constantinople, and there were a good many who had been
permitted to go about their business more or less as usual, were to be
collected, men, women, and children, taken down to the peninsula and
distributed in the "unfortified" towns. The American ambassador would
notify England and France through Washington, and if then the Allies
chose to bombard, theirs was the risk.
The American ambassador, Mr. Morgenthau, set about to see what could be
done. Presently the word went round that the women might stay behind,
but the men, high and low, must go. They came flocking to the embassy,
already besought for weeks by French Sisters of Mercy and Armenians in
distress, some begging for a chance to escape, some ready to go anywhere
as their share of the war. The Turks were finally induced to include
only those between twenty and forty, and at the last moment this was cut
to an even fifty--twenty-five British subjects, twenty-five French. The
plan eliminated, naturally, the better-known remnants of the French and
English colonies, and disappointed the chief of police, who had not
unreasonably hoped, as he wistfully put it, "to have some notables." Of
the fifty probably not more than a dozen had been born in England or
France, the others being natives of Malta, Greece--the usual Levantines.
Yet if these young bank clerks and tradesmen were not "important,"
according to newspaper standards, they were, presumably, important to
themselves. They were very important, indeed, to the wives and mothers
and sisters who fought up to the Galata sea wall that Thursday morning,
weeping and wailing, and waving their wet handkerchiefs through the iron
The hostages, one or two of whom had been called to their doors during
the night and marched away without time to take anything with them, had
been put aboard a police boat, about the size of a New York revenue
cutter, and herded below in two little cabins, with ten fierce-looking
Constantinople policemen, in gray astrakhan caps, to guard them. It was
from the water-line port-holes of these cabins that they waved their
With them was a sturdy, bearded man in black knickerbockers and clerical
hat, the rector of the Crimean Chapel in Constantinople--a Cambridge and
Church of England man, and a one-time dweller in the wilds of Kurdistan,
who, though not called, had volunteered to go. The first secretary of
the American embassy, Mr. Hoffman Philip, an adventurous humanitarian,
whose experience includes an English university, the Rough Riders, and
service as American minister to Abyssinia, also volunteered, not, of
course, as hostage, but as friendly assistant both to the Turkish
authorities and to their prisoners.
To him was given the little deck-cabin, large enough for a man to
stretch out on the seat which ran round it; here, also the clergyman
volunteer was presently permitted, and here too, thanks to passports
vouch-safed by the chief of police, the chroniclers of the expedition,
Mr. Suydam of the Brooklyn Eagle, and myself.
The passports, mysterious scratches in Turkish, did not arrive until the
last minute, and with them came the chief, the great Bedri Bey himself--
a strong man and a mysterious one, pale, inscrutable, with dark,
brooding eyes and velvety manners, calculated to envelop even a cup of
coffee and a couple of boiled eggs in an air of sinister romance.
The chief regretted that the craft was not "a serious passenger boat,"
for we should probably have to spend the night aboard. Arrangements for
the hostages and ourselves would be made at Gallipoli, though just what
they would be it was difficult to say, as there were, he said, no hotels
in the place and the houses were all destroyed.
With this cheerful prospect he bade us farewell, and all being ready, we
waited two hours, and finally, just before noon, with deck-hands hanging
life belts along the rail to be ready for possible English submarines,
churned through the crowded shipping of the Golden Horn, round Stamboul,
and out into the blue Marmora.
The difficulties of the next few days--for which most of the hostages,
city-bred and used to the bake-shop round the corner, were unprepared--
promptly presented themselves. Lunch-time came, but there was no lunch.
There was not even bread. Philip and Suydam had tinned things, and the
former some cake, which by tea-time that afternoon--so appallingly soon
does the spoiled child of town get down to fundamentals--seemed an
almost immoral luxury. But the luckless fifty, already unstrung by the
worry of the last forty-eight hours, fed on salt sea air, and it was not
until sundown that one of the British came to ask what should be done.
Philip dug into his corned beef and what was left of the bread, and so
we curled up for the night, the hostages and policemen below, the rest
of us in the deck-house, rolled up in all the blankets we had, for one
of the Black Sea winds was blowing down the Marmora and it was as cold
The launch came up to Gallipoli wharf in the night and not long after
daylight we were shaken out of our blankets to receive the call of the
mutessarif, or local governor, a big, slow, saturnine man in
semi-riding-clothes, with the red fez and a riding-whip in his hand, who
spoke only Turkish and limited himself to few words of that. He was
accompanied by a sort of secretary or political director--a plump little
man, with glasses and a vague, slightly smiling, preoccupied manner, who
acted as interpreter.
The governor and Philip were addressed as "Excellence," the secretary as
"Monsieur Le Directeur," and, considering that all concerned were only
half awake, and we only half dressed, the interview, which included the
exchange of cigarettes and many salutes, was extremely polite. We
joined the mutessarif and his secretary in a stroll about the town.
It was deserted--closed shutters, empty houses and shops, not so much as
the chance to buy a round, flat loaf of black bread--a shell of a town,
with a few ravenous cats prowling about and forgotten chickens pecking
the bare cobblestones. We saw the shell hole in the little Mohammedan
cemetery, where four people, "come to visit the tombs of their fathers,"
had been killed, the smashed mosques, yawning house-fronts, and dangling
rafters, and there came over one an indescribable irony as one listened,
in this Eastern world of blazing sun, blue sky, and blue water, to the
same grievances and indignations one had read in London editorials and
heard in the beet-fields of Flanders months ago.
The mutessarif took us to a little white villa on the cliff by the sea,
with a walled garden, flat black cedar, and a view of the Marmora, and
we breakfasted on tea, bread and butter, and eggs. Meanwhile the
hostages had been marched to an empty frame house on the beach, from the
upper windows of which, while gendarmes guarded the street-door, they
were gloomily peering when we returned to the launch. Philip, uneasy at
the emptiness of the town and leisurely fashion in which things were
likely to move, started for Lapsaki, across the Marmora, for food and
blankets, and Suydam and I strolled about the town. We had gone but a
few steps when we observed an aimless-looking individual in fez and
civilian clothes following us. We tramped up-hill, twisted through
several of the hot little alley-like streets--he followed like our
shadow. We led him all over town, he toiling devotedly behind, and when
we returned to the beach, he sat himself down on a wood-pile behind us,
as might some dismal buzzard awaiting our demise.
He, or some of his fellow sleuths, stuck to us all that day. Once, for
exercise, I walked briskly out to the edge of the town and back again.
The shadow toddled after. I went up to the basin beside the ruined
mosque, a sort of sea-water plaza for the town, and, taking a stool
outside a little cafe, which had awakened since morning, took coffee.
The shadow blandly took coffee also, which he consumed silently, as we
had no common tongue, rose as I rose, and followed me back to the beach.
Out in the Marmora, which is but little wider here than the Hudson at
Tappan Zee, transports crammed with soldiers went steaming slowly
southward, a black destroyer on the lookout for submarines hugging their
flanks and breaking trail ahead of them. Over the hills to the south,
toward Maidos and the Dardanelles, rolled the distant thunder--the
cannon the hapless fifty, looking out of their house on the beach, had
been sent down to stop--and all about us, in the dazzling Turkish
sunshine, were soldiers and supply-trains, landing, disembarking,
pushing toward the front. Fine-looking men they were, too, these
infantry-men, bronzed, well-built fellows, with heavy, high cheek-bones,
longish noses, black mustaches, and dark eyes, who, whatever their
qualities of initiative might be, looked to have no end of endurance and
ability to stay put. Bullock-carts dragged by big, black buffalo
cattle, carrying their heads far back, as if their big horns were too
heavy for them, crowded the street leading to the quay, and camels,
strung in groups of five, came swinging in, or kneeling in the dust,
waved their long, bird-like necks, and lifted up a mournful bellow, as
if protesting in a bored, Oriental way, at a fate which compelled them
to bear burdens for the nagging race of men.
It was to an accompaniment of these howls that a young Turkish officer
came over to find out who these strangers might be. We spoke of the
hostages, and he at once said that it was an excellent idea. The
English and French were very cruel--if now they chose to bombard. ...
"If a man throws a penny into the sea," he said, "he loses the penny.
It isn't the pocket-book that's hurt." I did not quite grasp this
proverb, but remarked that after all they were civilians and had done
nothing. "That is true," he said, "but the English and French have been
very unjust to our civilians. They force us to another injustice--c'est
Toward the end of the afternoon the hostages, closely guarded, were
marched up into the town and lodged in two empty houses--literally
empty, for there was neither bed nor blanket, chair nor table--nothing
but the four walls. A few had brought mattresses and blankets, but the
greater number, city-bred young fellows, unused to looking after
themselves out of doors, had only the clothes they stood in. The north
wind held; directly the sun went down it was cold again, and, only half
fed with the provisions Philip brought over from Lapsaki, they spent a
dismal night,' huddled on the bare floor, under their suitcases or
whatever they could get to cover them, and expecting another bombardment
We, on the contrary--that is to say, Philip and his two guests--were
taken to a furnished house over-looking the Marmora--the house, as it
presently appeared, from the pictures of Waterloo on the walls and the
English novels in a bookcase up-stairs, lately occupied by the British
consular agent. To his excellency a room to himself up-stairs, with a
real bed, was given; the historians were made perhaps even more
comfortable on mattresses on the dining-room floor. We were all sleepy
enough to drop on them at once, but another diplomatic dinner had been
planned, it appeared, and Turkish politeness can no more be hurried nor
overcome than can that curious impassive resistance which a Turk can
maintain against something he does not wish done. It was nine o'clock
before we sat down with the mutessarif, his secretary, and the voluble
journalist to a whole roast kid, a rather terrifying but exceedingly
palatable dish, stuffed with nuts, rice, and currants, and accompanied
by some of the wine of Lapsaki, rice pudding, and a huge bowl of raw
eggs, which were eaten by cracking the shell, elevating one's head, and
tossing them down like oysters.
The dinner was served by one Dimitri, a brawny, slow-moving Greek.
Dimitri was dressed in a home-spun braided jacket and homespun Turkish
trousers, shaped like baggy riding-breeches, and his complete
impenetrability to new ideas was only equalled by the solemnity and
touching willingness with which he received them. It was after he had
served us in the ignoble capacity of dish-washer and burden-carrier for
several days that we were informed one evening by the governor's
secretary, in his vague way, that Dimitri was an "architect."
"Architecte naturel," suggested the urbane Philip, and the governor's
secretary assented. Slow Dimitri might be, but once he grasped an idea,
no power could drag it from him. When one asked him where he learned to
build houses of a certain style, he always replied that so they were
built by Pappadopoulos--Pappadopoulos being dead these twenty or thirty
years. Dimitri, the secretary ventured, had been architect of the
mosque on the water-front, and when he found that we were pleased with
this idea, everything else in Gallipoli became Dimitri's. The
lighthouse, the hospital, the three white houses by the quay--we had but
to mention a building and he would promptly murmur, in his dreamy,
"Oui-i-i ... c'est Dimitri!"
Early next morning, just after we had discovered that under the cliff
was water like liquid lapis lazuli and flat-topped rocks rising just
above it on which you would not have been in the least surprised to find
mermaids combing their hair, or sirens sitting, and that it was a simple
matter to climb down and be mermen, the clergyman-volunteer arrived
with reports of the first night. It had been dismal, there were one or
two intransigent kickers, and the aesthetic young Frenchman who spent
his idle time drawing pictures of fashion-plate young ladies, had become
so unstrung that he had regularly "thrown a fit" and been unconscious
for half an hour until they could massage him back to life again. Humor
was quite gone out of them, and when the clergyman suggested that it was
a compliment to be sent out to be shot at--flattering, at any rate, to
the prowess of the Allies--a Frenchman emphatically denied it. "Pas du
tout!" he exploded. While we talked there was a knock at the front
door, and through the grating we saw the red fez and vaguely smiling
visage of the mutessarif's secretary. It was the first of a series of
visits, which, before we left Gallipoli, were renewed almost every hour,
of dialogues deserving a better immortalization than can be given here.
You must imagine, on one side of the dining-room table, the plump little
bey, with his fez and glasses, quick little salutes each time he took a
match or cigarette; facing him the tall, urbane Philip, in ineffable
flannels or riding-clothes--for the embassy secretary is one of those
who believe that clothes should express rather than blot out the inner
man. Cigarettes--coffee--assurances to his excellency that the house is
his, to Monsieur Le Directeur of our pleasure and profound
consideration. Minutes pass, an hour--the bey knows no such thing as
time, the other is as unhurried as he. The talk, in somewhat halting
French, is of war, weather, French culture, marriage, those dreadful
Russians, punctuated by delicate but persistently recurring references,
on one side, to mattresses and food for the hostages, by the little
bey's deep sighs and his "Mais ... que fairef"
That "But what can be done?" like the Mexican's "Who knows?" fell like a
curtain on every pause, it was the bey's answer to all life's riddles--
the plight of the hostages, the horrors of war, his own dream of being
governor of a province close to Constantinople. One can hear him now
through that cloud of cigarette smoke, "Mais--" with a pause and
scarcely perceptible lifting of the shoulders--"que faire..."
We went across to Lapsaki again that day to get blankets and buy or
order mattresses, and found it much what Gallipoli must have been a few
days before--sunshine and soldiers, camels loaded with stretchers and
Red Cross supplies, the hot little twisting streets, noisy with traders
You can imagine the excitement over this mysterious stranger with an
unlimited supply of gold lire and big silver medjidies, asking not what
kind of blankets, but how many did they have, how long would it take
them to make not one, but fifty mattresses! Greek traders, Jews from the
Dardanelles, one or two hybrid youths in fez and American clothes, with
recommendations from American Y. M. C. A.'s--it was a great afternoon
A round-faced, jolly German nurse, dropped all alone in the little town
by the chance of war, met us in the street, and later we went to her
hospital. It had been started only a fortnight before, there were no
beds, and the wounded lay on narrow mattresses on the floor. One man,
whose face was a mere eyes and nose poking through patches of plaster,
had been burned at Gallipoli. Another, up from the Dardanelles, had a
hideous wound in his cheek, discharging constantly into his mouth. In
spite of it he took Philip's cigarette and smoked it. He was dead when
we came back three days later. On another mattress was a poor little
brown bundle, a boy of twelve or thirteen, hit in the spine and
paralyzed by a fragment of shell at Gallipoli and now delirious. Philip
later took him back to Constantinople, to the X-ray and care that might
save his life.
It was sundown when we got back to the hostages with our spoils. The
thing had begun to get on their nerves. The English said little,
determined evidently to remain Britons to the last, but some of the
Levantines let themselves go completely. A pale gentleman with a poetic
beard, a barber by profession, was among the most eloquent. It was not
a jail, it was a mad-house, he cried. Another declared that without
bedding, doctor, or medicines, shut up here until the end of the war,
probably, they must at least have food--that was a need "primordial!"
Another stood apart, whacking his chest and addressing the empty air,
"C'est moi, c'est moi, qui n'a pas d'argent!"--it was he who had no
money and nothing to cover him, and what did they want him to do? If he
had come down to be shot at, well and good, but if he was to be frozen
and starved by inches...
Philip smoothed them down as best he could and returned to invite the
governor's secretary to stay for dinner, a repast for which Hassan, the
embassy khavass who accompanied the expedition, had procured, as he put
it, "some fresh eggies from a nice little man."
The bey, who, that morning, had leaned toward the French, now warmed to
America. The French were enlightened, he said, but without morals, the
English civilized but jealous; if he had any sons he would send them to
America, the only place where young men were both civilized and properly
"serieux." In the midst of these amiable speculations it was suggested
that, in view of the difficulty of getting mattresses, the government
might even requisition them. The suggestion drew a regretful sigh from
the bey, for Turkey was a constitutional country, he said, the shops and
houses were closed and their owners gone, and there was no way in which
such a thing could be done.
In addition to Hassan's eggies, Philip's Man Friday, the incomparable
Levy, had constructed some rice puddings, and it was in despair that he
announced, just before they were to be served, that two had "gone by the
cats"! We had, indeed, by this time attracted most of the cats in
Gallipoli. They streaked through the rooms like chain lightning, and in
the dead of night went galloping over the piano keyboard with sounds so
blood-curdling that Suydam put his mattress on the sofa and his
sleeping-bag on top of that, and, shutting himself in, defied them. The
incomparable Levy was Italian by his birth and cheerfulness, Jewish on
his father's side, Turkish by the fez he wore and a life spent in
guiding strangers about Constantinople. He had the face of a dean of a
diplomatic corps or one of those comfortable old gentlemen in spats who
have become fixtures in some city club.
It was his employer's humor to befriend and defend him in private, but
to his face assume, with the most delicate irony, that this marvel among
men was always late, forgetful, rattle-brained, and credulous. And it
was Levy's gift to play up to this assumption, to hang on his employer's
words with breathless anxiety, to relax into a paternal smile when safe,
and to support his omelets and his delays with oaths and circumlocutions
stranger even than the dishes themselves. They were odd enough, those
dinners, sitting in our little oasis of light in that deserted town, not
knowing what the next hour might bring.
Next day we again went to Lapsaki, and, although the entire industrial
resources of the place had apparently been cornered in the meantime by a
Dardanelles Jew, returned with several more mattresses and the promise
of the remainder. We found the hostages more cheerful. With the relief
money Philip had distributed the day before, and the food they had been
able to buy, they had shaken themselves together, gifted cooks had
turned up, they had made a baseball out of rags, painted humorous signs
on the doorways of their rooms--they had actually begun to sing.
And now, with that curious subsequentness with which things sometimes
happen in Turkey, the mutesarif discovered half a dozen mattresses
himself, and announced that to-morrow there would be enough for all.
Nay, more--the government would allow each hostage four piasters a day
for food, a cook would be brought down from Constantinople and meals
served in a restaurant, that they might be saved, as his secretary
observed, from the unlovely "odeurs de'cuisine."
Then it was discovered that the men might stroll about town, provided
they were in groups. They went to the beach and discussed the
feasibility of swimming, they even demurred against the Constantinople
cook as limiting their means of amusing themselves; the aesthetic young
man recovered now, polished his shoes and put a lavender handkerchief in
his breast pocket. The hostages were in a fair way to annex the
deserted village, when a bombshell burst in the shape of a despatch from
the American ambassador that permission had been obtained for all to
The changing wind now swung full upon us. Scarcely had the message
arrived ere the mutessarifs secretary followed it, lamenting that we
must go. A peacock reposing majestically in the arms of a patient hamal
appeared at the front door, a souvenir for "his excellency."
Appeared also, out of thin air, a neat little horse and phaeton, and a
trooper perched on a high Turkish saddle, with a rifle slung rakishly
across his back, and the bey himself, glasses, fez, and all, astride an
Arab steed. We were to be taken for a drive. Toward the end of it we
reached the flour-mill, the only modern edifice in this ancient town, and
were ushered into the office to sit in a constrained circle, with the
slightly ironical-looking young proprietor--accustomed, perhaps, to such
visits--and his associates, while coffee and cigarettes were brought.
The engineer, an Italian, welcomed us in French; the proprietor, who
spoke nothing but Turkish, smiled inscrutably, and overhead, in several
brass cages, canaries sang.
Philip, gazing upward, admired their song, whereat the bey at once
announced that they were his. The American protested that, much as the
gift delighted his taste and roused his gratitude, it was impossible to
think of carrying a canary back to Constantinople.
"If you please..." insisted the imperturbable bey. "It is yours!"
Scarcely had we returned, indeed, before another patient hamal knocked,
lugging the hapless bird.
The hostages, not to be outdone, invited Philip, the bey, and ourselves
to lunch. There was chicken soup and chicken, and salad and native
wine, and, for the corner of the improvised table, where the guests were
seated, the hospitable young men had actually procured several bottles
of Gallipoli champagne. The barber with the poetic beard leaped to his
feet, as fluent in welcoming us as he had been in protestations a few
evenings before, while the aesthetic young man smiled pensively down at
a long-stemmed fleur-de-lis which he slowly twirled in his fingers. The
cashier of a Constantinople department store sang from "Tosca."
With him as leader they all sang--a song of the Pyrenees mountaineers,
then a waltz from the cafes chantants: "Bien gentiment l'on se balade.
C'est la premiere promenade--"
In another week we should have had a Gallipoli Glee Club.
And so ended the adventure of the fifty hostages, who went out to be
shot at--the end of the comedy, which had its climax at the beginning.
The next morning we were up at daylight, and after several hours' delay
the mutessarif and his lieutenant came down to permit us to leave. There
were cigarettes and salutes, the secretary scribbled in Turkish
characters on his knee, the governor signed the permit, and we said
good-by to Gallipoli. Next morning we again threaded the shipping in
the Golden Horn.
The ten policemen who had looked so formidable a week before, expressed
a wish for what was left of the tinned corned beef. And with hackmen
yelling from the street and caique men shouting from the water, the
fifty hostages were swallowed up in the sunshine and smells and clatter
With The Turks At The Dardanelles
The little side-wheeler--she had been built in Glasgow in 1892, and done
duty as a Bosporus ferry-boat until the war began--was supposed to sail
at four, but night shut down and she still lay at the wharf in Stamboul.
We contrived to get some black bread, hard-boiled eggs, oranges, and
helva from one of the little hole-in-the-wall shops near by, watched
Pera and its ascending roofs turn to purple, and the purple to gray and
black, until Constantinople was but a string of lights across Galata
Bridge, and a lamp here and there on the hills. Then, toward midnight,
with lights doused and life-belts strung along the rail--for English
submarines were in the Marmora--we churned quietly round the corner of
Stamboul and into the cool sea.
The side-wheeler was bound for the Dardanelles with provisions for the
army--bread in bags, big hampers of green beans, and cigarettes--and
among them we were admitted by grace of the minister of war, and papers
covered with seals and Turkish characters, which neither of us could
read. We tried to curl up on top of the beans (for the Marmora is cold
at night, and the beans still held some of the warmth of the fields),
but in the end took to blankets and the bare decks.
All night we went chunking southward--it is well over a hundred miles
from Constantinople to the upper entrance to the straits--and shook
ourselves out of our blankets and the cinders into another of those
blue-and-gold mornings which belong to this part of the world. You must
imagine it behind all this strange fighting at the Dardanelles--sunshine
and blue water, a glare which makes the Westerner squint; moons that
shine like those in the tropics. One cannot send a photograph of it
home any more than I could photograph the view from my hotel window here
on Pera Hill of Stamboul and the Golden Horn. You would have the
silhouette, but you could not see the sunshine blazing on white mosques
and minarets, the white mosques blazing against terra-cotta roofs and
dusty green cedars and cypresses, the cypresses lifting dark and pensive
shafts against the blue--all that splendid, exquisite radiance which
bursts through one's window shutters every morning and makes it seem
enough to look and a waste of time to try to think.
It is the air the gods and heroes used to breathe; they fought and
played, indeed, over these very waters and wind-swept hills. Leander
swam the Dardanelles (or Hellespont) close to where the Irresistible and
Bouvet were sunk; the wind that blew in our faces that morning was the
same that rippled the drapery of the Winged Victory. As we went
chunking southward with our beans and cigarettes, we could see the snows
of Olympus--the Mysian Olympus, at any rate, if not the one where Jove,
the cloud-compelling, used to live, and white-armed Juno, and Pallas,
Blue-Eyed Maid. If only our passports had taken us to Troy we could
have looked down the plains of Ilium to the English and French ships,
and Australian and French colonials fighting up the hillside across the
bay. We got tea from the galley, and-with bread and helva (an
insinuating combination of sugar and oil of sesame, which tastes of
peanuts and is at once a candy and a sort of substitute for butter or
meat) made out a breakfast.
A Turkish soldier, the only other occupant of the deck, surveyed these
preparations impassively; then, taking off his boots, climbed on a
settee and stood there in his big bare feet, with folded hands, facing,
as he thought, toward Mecca. The boat was headed southwest, and he
looked to starboard, so that he faced, as a matter of fact, nearly due
west. He had knelt and touched his forehead twice to the bench, and was
going on with the Mussulman prayer when the captain, a rather elegant
young man who had served in the navy, murmured something as he passed.
The soldier looked round thoughtfully; without embarrassment, surprise,
or hurry stepped from the settee, pointed it toward the Asiatic shore,
and, stepping up again, resumed his devotions.
Five times that day, as the faithful are commanded, he said his prayer--
a sight that followed us everywhere that week. One evening after dusk,
on another boat, a fireman came up from below, climbed on a settee, and
began his prayer. Several passengers, who had not seen him in the dark,
walked in front of him. He broke off, reviled them in true fire-room
style, then with a wide gesture, as though sweeping the air clear ahead
of him all the way to the holy city, began at the beginning again.
Soldiers up in the Gallipoli hills, the captain on the bridge, a
stevedore working on a lighter in the blaze of noon with the winch
engines squealing round him--you turn round to find a man, busy the
moment before, standing like a statue, hands folded in front of him,
facing the east. Nothing stops him; no one seems to see him; he stands
invisible in the visible world--in a world apart, 'indeed, to which the
curious, self-conscious Westerner is not admitted, where, doubtless, he
is no more than the dust which the other shakes from his feet before he
is fit to address his God.
The Marmora narrowed, we passed Gallipoli on the European side, where
the English and French hostages had had their curious adventure the week
before, and on into the Dardanelles proper and the zone of war. It was
some forty miles down this salt-water river (four miles wide at its
widest, and between the forts of Chanak Kale and Kilid Bahr, near its
lower end, a fraction over a mile) from the Marmora gateway to the
Aegean. On the left were Lapsaki and the green hills of Asia,
cultivated to their very tops; on the right Europe and the brown hills
of the peninsula, now filled with guns and horses and men.
Over there, up that narrow strip of Europe, running down between the
Dardanelles and the Aegean, the Allies had been trying for weeks to
force their way to Constantinople. They had begun in February, you will
recall, when they bombarded the forts at the outer entrance to the
Dardanelles--Sedd ul Bahron the European side, at the tip of the
peninsula, and Kum Kale, across the bay on the Asiatic shore.. These
forts occupy somewhat the relation to Constantinople that Sandy Hook
does to New York, although much farther away--they face, that is to say,
the open sea, and the guns of the fleet, heavier than those of the old
forts, could stand off at a safe distance and demolish them.
When the ships pushed on up the strait toward Kilid Bahr and Chanak
Kale--somewhat like trying to run the Narrows at New York--there was a
different story. They were now within range of shore batteries and
there were anchored mines and mines sent down on the tide. On March 18
the Irresistible, Ocean, and Bouvet were sunk, and it began to be
apparent that the Dardanelles could not be forced without the help of a
powerful land force. So in April landing parties were sent ashore: at
Kum Kale and Sedd ul Bahr, at Kaba Tepe and Art Burnu, some twelve or
fourteen miles farther north on the Aegean side of the peninsula, and at
another point a few miles farther up. At Sedd ul Bahr and along the
beach between Kaba Tepe and Art Bumu the Allies made their landing good,
dug themselves in, and, reinforced by the fire of the ships, began a
trench warfare not unlike that which has dragged on in the west.
The peninsula is but ten or twelve miles wide at its widest, and the
Dardanelles side is within range of the fleet's great guns, firing clear
overland from the Aegean. It was by this indirect fire that Maidos was
destroyed and Gallipoli partly smashed and emptied of its people. There
were places toward the end of the peninsula where Turkish infantrymen
had to huddle in their trenches under fire of this sort coming from
three directions. Whenever the invaders had it behind they were
naturally at an advantage; whenever it ceased they were likely to be
driven back. The Turks, on the other hand, had the advantage of numbers,
of fighting on an "inside line," and of a country, one hill rising
behind another, on the defense of which depended their existence as a
nation in Europe.
Under these conditions the fighting had been going on for weeks, the
English and French holding their ground at Sedd ul Bahr and Ari Burnu,
but getting no nearer Constantinople. And as we went chunking down the
strait that night and into Ak-Bash in the dark, two new forces were
coming in. The next day a German submarine--come all the way round
through the Mediterranean--was to sink the Triumph and the Majestic,
while another American correspondent, who had intended to come with us
but took the transport Nagara instead, saw the head of an English
submarine poke through the Marmora. A blond young man in overalls and
white jersey climbed out of the conning-tower. "Will you give us time
to get off?" cried the American, the only one on board who could speak
"Yes," said the young man, "and be damned quick about it." Ten minutes
later, from the boats into which they had tumbled, the passengers saw a
cloud of yellow smoke, and the Nagara simply disintegrated and sank, and
with her the heavy siege-gun she was taking to the Dardanelles.
Pleasantly unaware of what might as well have happened to the bread and
beans, we drew up to a hill-side speckled with lights, a wharf, and a
hospital boat smelling of iodoform, through a cabin window of which a
doctor was peacefully eating dinner. Boxes and sacks were piled near
the wharf, and from over behind the hills, with startling nearness, came
the nervous Crack... crack... crack-crack-crack! of rifle and
We went to sleep to the tune of it, moved a few miles down the coast in
the night, and crawled out into a world of dusty brown--brown hillsides
and camels and soldiers and sacks of wheat piled on the flat, immersed
in an amber dawn. This was the destination of the side-wheeler, and by
sunup we were loaded into a machine with a horse, several goats, three or
four passengers, and four barefooted boatmen, who pushed us over the
strait to Chanak Kale.
We were now at the narrowest part of the Dardanelles, behind us, on the
European side, the old round tower of Kilid Bahr and Medjidie Fort, in
front Fort Hamidie, and on the horizon to the south, where the strait
opened into the sea, the tiny silhouettes of several of the Allies'
ships. Chanak was smashed like the towns in west Belgium, and, but for
the garrison and the Turkish and German commandants tucked away in the
trees, all but deserted, except by flies and half-starved cats. These
unhappy creatures, left behind in the flight, were everywhere, and in
front of the bake shop they crowded in literal scores--gaunt, mangy,
clawed and battered from constant fights. It was hot, there was little
to eat, and after hours of wrangling it appeared that our precious
scratches of Turkish took us to the Gallipoli instead of the Asiatic
The two were under different jurisdictions; though the fault was not
ours, the local commandant had the right to ship us back to
Constantinople, and after a sort of delirium of flies, cats, gendarmes,
muggy heat, and debates, night descended to find us going to sleep in
the middle of a vegetable farm, in a house lately inhabited by whirling
dervishes, with two lynx-eyed police-men in gray lamb's-wool caps seated
at the gate. By them we were marched next day to the wharf and suddenly
there translated into the upper ether by the German admiral and his
thoughtful aid, who, on their way to the headquarters of the land forces
across the strait, whirled us over in style in a torpedo-boat.
We landed at the same place at which we had touched in the dark two
nights before--busy and blazing now in the afternoon sun, with gangs of
stevedores shuffling to and from the ships at the brand-new wharfs,
Turkish officers galloping about on their thick-necked, bobtailed, fiery
little stallions, and the dusty flat, half a mile across, perhaps,
between its encircling hills, crowded with ox and horse carts, camel
trains, and piles of ammunition-boxes and sacks of food.
The admiral and his aid were greeted by a smart young German officer
with a monocle, and galloped off into the hills, while we fell into the
hospitable hands of another German, a civilian volunteer in red fez and
the blue and brass buttons of the merchant marine, cast here by the
chance of war. He was a Hamburg-American captain, lately sailing
between Buenos Aires and Hamburg, and before that on an Atlas Line boat
between the Caribbean and New York. He talked English and seemed more
than half American, indeed, and when he spoke of the old Chelsea Hotel,
just across the street from the Y. M. C. A. gymnasium in which I had
played hand-ball, we were almost back in Twenty-third Street. He took
us up to his tent on the hill, overlooking the men and stores, and, he
explained, reasonably safe from the aeroplanes which flew over several
times a day. Over his cigarettes and tea and bottled beer we talked of
war and the world.
It was the captain's delicate and arduous duty to impose his tight
German habits of work and ship-shapeness on camel drivers, stevedores,
and officials used to the looser, more leisurely methods of the East.
He could not speak Turkish, was helpless without his interpreter, at
best a civilian among soldiers--men have got Iron Crosses for easier
jobs than that! He talked of the news--great news for his side--of the
Triumph, and, opening his navy list, made a pencil mark.
"She's off!" he said. The book was full of marks. In methodical sailor
fashion he had been crossing them off since the war began: British and
German--Blucher, Scharnhorst, Irresistible, Goliath, and the rest--
millions of dollars and hundreds of men at a stroke.
"Where's it going to end?" he demanded. "There's seven hundred good men
gone, maybe--how many did the Triumph carry? And we think it's good
news! If a man should invent something that would kill a hundred
thousand men at once, he'd be a great man... Now, what is that?"
The English were hanging on to Sedd ul Bahr--they might try to make
another Gibraltar of it. Their aeroplanes came up every day. There was
a French-man with a long tail--he only came to the edge of the camp, and
as soon as the batteries opened up turned back, but the Englishman
didn't stop for anything. He dropped a bomb or two every time he
passed--one man must have been square under one, for they found pieces
of him, but never did find his head. It wasn't so much the bomb that
did the damage; it was the stones blown out by the explosion. If you
were standing anywhere within sixty feet when it went off, you were
likely to be killed. The captain had had trenches dug all over camp
into which they could jump--had one for himself just outside the tent.
All you hoped for when one of those fellows was overhead and the
shrapnel chasing after him was that the next one would take him fair and
square and bring him down. Yet that fellow took his life in his hands
every time he flew over. "He's fighting for his country, too!" the
It was our first duty to present ourselves to the commandant of the
peninsular forces, Field-Marshal Liman von Sanders--Liman Pasha, as he
is generally called in Turkey--and the captain found a carriage,
presently, and sent us away with a soldier guard. Our carriage was a
talika, one of those little gondola-like covered wagons common in the
country. There is a seat for the driver; the occupants lie on the floor
and adjust themselves as best they can to the bumpings of the hilly
The country reminded one of parts of our own West--brown hills, with
sparse pines and scrub-oaks, meadows ablaze with scarlet poppies, and
over all blue sky, sunshine, and the breeze from the near-by sea. We
passed camel trains, mule trains, horses, and tents masked with brush.
Here evidently were the men we had seen marching day after day through
the Constantinople streets--marching away to war in the silent Eastern
fashion, without a waving handkerchief, a girl to say good-by to, or a
cheer. Here they were and yet here they weren't, for the brush and
tangled hills swallowed them up as thoroughly as armies are swallowed up
in the villages of Belgium and France.
We passed even these signs of war and came into pines and open meadows--
we might have been driving to somebody's trout preserve. The wagon
stopped near a sign tacked to a tree, and we walked down a winding path
into a thicket of pines. There were tents set in the bank and covered
with boughs, and out of one came a tall, square-jawed German officer,
buttoning his coat. He waved aside our passports with the air of one
not concerned with such details, asked if we spoke German--or perhaps we
would prefer French?--and, motioning down the path to a sort of
summer-house with a table and chairs, told an orderly to bring tea.
This was the headquarters of the Fifth Army, and this the commander-in-
chief. A bird-man might have flown over the neighborhood a dozen times
without guessing that they were there. We were hidden in the pines, and
only an occasional far-off Br-r-rum-m! from the cannons in the south
broke the stillness. Some one had brought up a cask of native claret
from Chanak, and the field-marshal's staff were helping to put it into
the bank in front of the arbor. A professor of chemistry--until the war
called him back to the colors--was shovelling and showing the Turkish
soldiers how the cask should be slanted; another of the superintendents
had lived for ten years in America, and was enthusiastic over the charms
and future of Davenport, Iowa. Presently tea came, and thin little
sandwiches and cigars, and over these the commander-in-chief spoke with
complete cheerfulness of the general situation.
The English and French could not force the Dardanelles; no more could
they advance on land, and now that the submarines had arrived, the
fleet, which had been bothersome, would be taken care of. He spoke with
becoming sorrow of the behavior of Italy, and did not mar this charming
little fete champetre with any remarks about American shipments of arms.
The ex-banker from Davenport also spoke of the Italians, and with a
rather disconcerting vigor, considering that they were recent allies.
The young aide-de-camp whom we had seen at the wharf declared that the
Turkish soldier was the best in the world. It was a very different army
from that which had been defeated in the Balkan War, and the endurance
and tenacity of the individual soldier were beyond anything he had ever
seen. A man would see a dozen of his comrades killed alongside him by a
high-explosive shell and only shrug his shoulders and say that now, at
any rate, they were all in paradise.
One continually hears similar comments, and there can be no doubt of the
Turkish soldier's bravery, and his unusual ability to endure hardship.
No one who has wrangled with a minor Turkish official, and experienced
the impassive resistance he is able to interpose to anything he doesn't
want to do, will underestimate what this quality might become,
translated into the rugged physique and impassivity of the common
Westerners have heard so long of the Sick Man of Europe and his imminent
decease that they are likely to associate political with physical
weakness, and think that the pale, brooding, official type, familiar in
photographs, is the every-day Turk. As a matter of fact, the every-day
Turk is tough-bodied and tough-spirited, used to hard living and hard
work. The soldiers you see swinging up Pera Hill or in from a practice
march, dust-covered and sweating, and sending out through the dusty
cedars a wailing sort of chant as they come--these are as splendid-
looking fellows as you will see in any army in Europe.
They are dressed in businesslike fashion in dust-colored woollen tunics
and snug breeches with puttees, and wear a rather rakish-looking folded
cap--a sort of conventionalized turban not unlike the soldier hats
children make by folding newspapers. This protects the eyes and the
back of the neck from the sun. They are strong and well made, with
broad, high cheek-bones, a black mustache generally, and hawk eyes.
Some look as the Tartar warriors who swept over eastern Europe must have
looked; some, with their good-natured faces and vigorous compactness,
remind one of Japanese infantrymen.
During the early fighting on the peninsula the wounded came up to
Constantinople, after days on the way, in wagons, perhaps, over horrible
roads, in commandeered ferry-boats and freighters, yet one scarcely
heard a sound, a murmur of complaint. Gray and gaunt, with the mud of
the trenches still on them, they would be helped into ambulances and
driven off to the hospitals, silent themselves and through crowds as
silent as those which had watched them march away a few weeks before.
From that little oasis in the pines we drove with a pass, signed by the
field-marshal himself, taking us to the heights above Ari Burnu, to a
point near the south front, a hill in the centre of the peninsula, from
which we could see both the Dardanelles and the Aegean, and to a camp
beneath it, where we were to spend the night.
It was dark when our wagon lurched into this camp, and a full hour
passed before the baffled Turks could convince themselves that our pass
and we were all that they should be, and put us into a tent.
Nevertheless, an orderly poked his head in good-naturedly enough at
seven next morning with tea and goat's cheese and brown bread, and our
captain host, a rather wildish-looking young man from the Asiatic
interior, came to say he had telephoned for permission to take us to the
heights above Kaba Tepe and Ari Burnu.
The camp was the office, so to speak, of the division commander, with
his clerks, telephone operator, commissary machinery, and so on, the
commander himself living at the immediate front. It was like scores of
other camps hidden away in the hills--brush-covered tents dug into the
hillsides, looking like rather faded summer-houses; arbor-like
horse-sheds, covered with branches, hidden in ravines; every wagon, gun,
or piece of material that might offer a target to an aeroplane covered
with brush. They were even painting gray horses that morning with a
brown dye. A big 38-centimeter unexploded shell, dropped into a near-by
village by the Queen Elizabeth, and with difficulty pushed up on end now
by a dozen men, was shown us, and presently we climbed into the carriage
with the captain, and went rocking over the rough road toward the
The country reminded one of the California foot-hills in the dry season,
and me, particularly, of Honduras and the road from the Pacific up to
Tegucigalpa--gravelly brown hills and tangled valleys with sparse pines
and scrub-oaks; rocky slopes down which tinkled brown and white flocks
of sheep and goats; sunshine and scarlet poppies and fresh wind; and
over all a curious, quiet, busy web of war; a long shoulder, sharp
against the blue, with a brown camel train ambling down it; a ravine
with its arbor-like shelters for cavalry; wounded soldiers in carts, or
riding when they were able to ride; now and then an officer on his
cranky little stallion--the whole countryside bristling with defense.
Up one of the hot little valleys we climbed, left the carriage, and,
walking up a trail, cut into the bank, past men and horses hidden away
like bandits, and came at last to the top and several tents dug into the
rim of the hill. It was the headquarters of Essad Pasha, defender of
Janina in the last war, and division commander in this sector of the
front. He received us in his tent beside a table littered with maps and
papers--a grizzled, good-natured soldier, who addressed us in German,
and might indeed have passed for a German. He apologized for the
cramped quarters, explaining that they were likely at any time to be
bombarded, and had to live in what was practically a trench, and then at
once, in the Turkish fashion, appeared an orderly with tiny cups of
Things were quiet at the moment, he said. There was nothing but the
desultory crack-crack of snipers, coming from one knew not just where,
the every-day voice of the trenches--possibly the enemy were dismayed by
the loss of the Triumph. He had seen it all, he said, from this very
spot--a sight one was not likely to see more than once in a lifetime.
The great ship had rolled over like a stricken whale. Her torpedo-nets
were out, and as she turned over these nets closed down on the men
struggling in the water, and swept them under. He, too, expressed
entire confidence in the Turk's ability to stop any farther advance and,
calling an aid, sent us to the periscope, which poked its two eyes
through a screen of pine branches a few yards away, and looked over the
parapet and down on the first-line trenches and the sea.
We were high above the Aegean and opposite the island of Imbros, which
lifted its hazy blue on the western horizon, and was used as a base by
part of the fleet. To the south rose the promontory of Kaba Tepe,
cleared of the enemy now, our Turkish major said, and, stretching
northward from it past us and Ari Burnu, the curving rim of beach held
by the English.
More than a month had passed since the landing, and the heavy fighting
of the next few days, in which the Australians and New Zealanders, under
a hail of shrapnel churning up the water between ships and shore,
succeeded in getting a foothold; a month and more had passed, and,
though they still held their ground, apparently they could do no more.
The yellow line of their first trench twisted along the rim of the hill
below us, perhaps a quarter of a mile away, and directly behind it lay
the blue sea. How much elbow-room they might have between their
trenches and the water one could not tell, so completely foreshortened
was the space between. Cliffs rise from a narrow strip of foreshore
here, however, and apparently they had pushed just over the cliff rim--
the first hill above the sea. Their tents, stores and landing-places
were out of sight.
Directly in front of the English trenches were the first-line Turkish
trenches, in some places not more than fifteen or twenty feet away, so
close, indeed, that when there was fighting they must have fought with
revolvers, hand-grenades, shovels, anything they could lay their hands
on. At the moment it was quiet but for the constant Crack...
crack-crack! of snipers.
We could look down on the backs and heads of the Turkish soldiers;
except for a wisp of smoke rising here and there from some hidden camp
cook-stove, there was not a sign of life in the English trenches.
Snipers were attending to that. Even here, in the second-line trenches
on top of the second hill, no one was allowed to show his head, and it
was all the more curious to see a squad of Turkish soldiers digging away
below as calmly as so many market-gardeners in a potato-field. They
were running another trench behind the several that already lined the
slope, and must have been hidden by a rise of ground, though looking
down from above they seemed to be out in the open.
The position of the English did not seem enviable. They had trenches
directly in front of them, and several hundred feet above them a second
line (from which we were looking) dominating the whole neighborhood. The
first-line Turkish trenches were too close to their own to be bombarded
from the ships, so that that preliminary advantage was cut off; the
second-line defenses, in the twisting gullies over the hill, could stand
bombardment about as well as could trenches anywhere--and behind them
was the water. They were very literally between the devil and the deep
With the periscope we worked from Kaba Tepe on the left clear across the
ground in front of us to the north. Over in the west, by hazy Imbros,
were five or six ships; there was another fleet in the north to-ward the
Gulf of Saros, and little black beetles of destroyers crawled here and
there across the blue sea floor. The major took us into his tent for
cigarettes and another thimbleful of the coffee. He, too, had been
educated in Germany, spoke German and French, and with his quick, bright
eyes and soft smile, would easily have passed for a Frenchman or
They had just had a seven hours' armistice to bury the dead and bring in
the wounded, some of whom had been lying between the trenches for a
week. The English had proposed the armistice; an officer had come out
from each side, and they had had a long pow-wow and drawn up a written
agreement with meticulous care lest there should be a misunderstanding
or danger of breaking the truce. Everything, the major said, had been
most good-natured and correct. The English had sent a "diplomat" in
addition to their military delegate, a civilian whom he had known well
in Constantinople. It was altogether quaint and interesting, meeting
and talking with this man, with whom he might, so to speak, have been
playing bridge the night before--"Sehr nett! Sehr nett!" he said. With
his soft smile.
While he was waiting to receive the English delegate, five shrapnel-
shells had been fired at him, he said; but he understood that it was a
mistake and made no protest, and during the truce a wounded Turk had
refused to take the water an English officer had tried to give him,
firing at the Englishman instead. A little fanatical, perhaps, but
then--and again the major smiled in his charming way--"a little
fanaticism in one's soldiers is a good thing!"
No, one didn't care to be hanging on to that strip of beach with those
Australians and New Zealanders. We drove back to camp for lunch, which
we had in the captain's little brush-covered balcony, set into the hill.
He did not eat, but showed us his photograph, very smooth and dapper,
compared with his bristling service face, taken with his two children,
one a little girl and the other a grave little boy, with a face like a
miniature pasha. The captain came from the Asiatic side, near Broussa,
on the slopes of Olympus, and was all Turk, without any foreign frills
or a word of English, German, or French. He took no lunch, but ate some
of the helva left over from Stamboul, and then started with us up the
hill behind the camp.
This was about midway in the peninsula, and, facing south from the
summit, we looked down over the twisting hills, pockmarked with holes
from shells and aeroplane bombs, to the Marmora on the left, and on the
right to the Aegean and hazy Imbros, and, in front, almost to the end of
the peninsula. The sun was down in the west, and in its track a cruiser
steamed a mile or two out from the coast, while from under Ari Burnu,
where we had been that morning, a transport put out, rather recklessly
it seemed, and went straight across the open water. From the south and
west there was the continual Br-r-umr-m... br-r-um-m! of big guns, and
over Kaba Tepe way we could see shells bursting. We sat there for an
hour or so, waiting for one of the little specks out on the blue sea
floor to fire or sink, and then, as nothing happened, returned to camp.
An orderly brought us supper that night--mutton, bread and cheese,
haricots, stewed fruit, and coffee--and we dined on a little table
outside the tent, with the twilight turning to moonlight and the
sheep-bells tinkling against the opposite hill. Soldiers were carrying
their suppers from the cook tent--not at all the bread-and-cigarette
diet with which one is always being told the hardy Turk is content. He
may be content, but whenever I saw him eating he had meat and rice, and
often stewed fresh beans or fruit--certainly better food than most
Turkish peasants or artisans are accustomed to at home.
I sat outside watching the moon rise and listening to the distant
Crack... crack-crack! of rifle and machine-gun fire from over Ari Bumu
way. Evidently they were fighting in the trenches we had seen that
morning. The orderly who had served us, withdrawn a little way, was
standing like a statue in the dusk, hands folded in front of him, saying
his last prayer of the evening. Beyond, from a bush-covered tent, came
the jingle of a telephone and 'the singsong voice of the young Turkish
operator relaying messages in German--"Ja!... Ja!... Kaba Tepe...
Ousedom Pasha... Morgen frith... Hier Multepe!... Ja!... Ja!"
And to this and the distant rattle of battle we went to sleep.
Soghan-Dere And The Flier Of Ak-Bash
Next morning, after news had been telephoned in that the submarines had
got another battleship, the Majestic, we climbed again into the covered
wagon and started for the south front. We drove down to the sea and
along the beach road through Maidos--bombarded several weeks before,
cross-country from the Aegean, and nothing now but bare, burnt walls--on
to Kilid Bahr, jammed with camels and ox-carts and soldiers, and then on
toward the end of the peninsula.
We were now beyond the Narrows and the Dardanelles. To the left, a bit
farther out, were the waters in which the Irresistible, Ocean, and
Bouvet were sunk, and even now, off the point, ten or twelve miles away,
hung the smoke of sister ships. We drove past the big guns of the
forts, past field-guns covering the shore, past masked batteries and
search-lights. Beside us, along the shore road, mule trains and ox-carts
and camel trains were toiling along in the blaze and dust with
provisions and ammunition for the front. Once we passed four soldiers
carrying a comrade, badly wounded, on a stretcher padded with leaves.
After an hour or so of bumping we turned into a transverse valley, as
level almost as if it had been made for a parade-ground.
High hills protected it north and south; a little stream ran down the
centre--it might have been made for a storage base and camp. More
brush-covered tents and arbors for horses were strung along the
hillside, one above the other sometimes, in half a dozen terraces.
We drove into the valley, got out and followed the orderly to a
brush-covered arbor, closed on every side but one, out of which came a
well set-up, bronzed, bright-eyed man of fifty or thereabout who
welcomed us like long-lost friends.
It was Colonel Shukri Bey, commander of the Fifteenth Division. We were
the first correspondents who had pushed thus far, and as novel to him
apparently as he was charming to us. He invited us into the little
arbor; coffee was brought and then tea, and, speaking German to Suydam
and French to me, he talked of the war in general and the operations at
the end of the peninsula with the greatest good humor and apparent
confidence in the ultimate result.
Our talk was continually punctuated by the rumble of the big guns over
the plateau to the south. "That's ours"... "That's theirs," he would
explain; and presently, with a young aide-de-camp as guide, we climbed
out of the valley and started down the plateau toward Sedd ul Bahr. The
Allies' foothold here was much wider than that at An Burnu. In the
general landing operations of April 25 and 26 (one force was sent ashore
in a large collier, from which, after she was beached, the men poured
across anchored lighters to the shore) the English and French had
established themselves in Sedd ul Bahr itself and along the cliffs on
either side. This position was strengthened during the weeks of
fighting which followed until they appeared to be pretty firmly fixed on
the end of the peninsula, with a front running clear across it in a
general northwest line, several kilometres in from the point. The
valley we had just left was Soghan-Dere, about seven miles from Sedd ul
Bahr, and the plateau across which we were walking led, on the right, up
to a ridge from which one could look down on the whole battle-field, or,
to the left, straight down into the battle itself.
The sun was getting down in the west by this time, down the road from
camp men were carrying kettles of soup and rice pilaf to their comrades
in the trenches, and from the end of the plateau came continuous
thundering and the Crack... crack... crack! of infantry fire. The road
was strewn with fragments of shells from previous bombardments, and our
solicitous young lieutenant, fearing we might draw fire, pulled us
behind a bush for a minute or two, whenever the aeroplane, flying back
and forth in the west, seemed to be squinting at us. The enemy could
see so little, he said, that whenever they saw anything at all they
fired twenty shots at it on principle.
For two miles, perhaps, we walked, until from the innocent-looking
chaparral behind us there was a roar, and a shell wailed away over our
heads out into the distance.
We could see the end of the peninsula, where the coast curves round from
Eski Hissariik toward Sedd ul Bahr, and two of the enemy's cruisers
steaming slowly back and forth under the cliffs, firing, presumably, as
they steamed. Now they were hidden under the shore, now they came in
view, and opposite Eski Hissarlik swung round and steamed west again. In
front of us, just over the edge of the plateau which there began to
slope downward, were the trenches of the Turks' left wing, now under
bombardment. The ridge just hid the shells as they struck, but we could
see the smoke from each, now a tall black column, like the "Jack
Johnsons" of the west, now a yellowish cloud that hung long afterward
like fog--and with it the continuous rattle of infantry fire. Several
fliers were creeping about far up against the 'blue, looking for just
such hidden batteries as that which kept barking behind us, and out in
front and to the right came the low Br--r--um--m! of heavy guns.
Fighting like this had been going on for weeks, the ships having the
advantage of their big guns by day, the Turks recovering themselves,
apparently, at night. They were on their own ground--a succession of
ridges, one behind the other--and they could not only always see, but
generally looked down on, an enemy who could not, generally, see them.
And the enemy's men, supplies, perhaps even his water--for this is a dry
country at all times, and after June there are almost no rains--must
come from his ships. If English submarines were in the Marmora, so,
too, were German submarines off the Dardanelles, and if the Turks were
losing transports the English were losing battleships.
The situation held too many possibilities to make prophecy safe--I
merely record the fact that on the afternoon of May 27 I stood on the
plateau above Sedd ul Bahr, and perhaps five miles from it in an air
line, and still found myself a regrettable distance from the Allies'
The sun was shining level down the road as we returned to camp, and
soldiers were still tramping peacefully up to the front with their
kettles of food. Meanwhile the colonel had prepared a little exhibition
for us. Six or eight soldiers stood in line, each with a dish and
spoon, and in the dish a sample of the food for that night. We started
at the top and tasted each: soup, mutton, stewed green beans, new-baked
bread, stewed plums, and a particularly appetizing pilaf, made out of
boiled whole wheat and raisins. Everything was good, and the beaming
colonel declared that the first thing in war was to keep your soldiers
well fed. We dined with him in his tent: soup and several meat courses,
and cherry compote, and at the end various kinds of nuts, including the
cracked hazelnuts, commoner in Turkey than bananas and peanuts at home.
He hoped to come to America some day, and thought we must soon develop
the military strength to back our desires for peace, unless there were
to be continual wars. New York's climate, the cost of fruit in Germany,
and other peaceful subjects were touched on, and the colonel said that
it was an honor to have us with him--ours we brilliantly responded--and
a pleasant change from the constant talk and thought of war.
He had been six years in the field now, what with the Italian and Balkan
campaigns, and that was a good deal of war at a stretch.
After excusing ourselves, though the amiable Turk said that he was in no
hurry, we were led to a sort of tent de luxe, lined in scarlet with
snaky decorations in white, and when the young aid discovered that we
had brought no beds with us, he sent out and in a moment had not only
cots and blankets, but mattresses and sheets and pillows and
pillow-cases. He asked if we had fathers and mothers alive at home, and
brothers and sisters, and if we, too, had been soldiers. It surprised
and puzzled him that we had not, and that our army was so small. He was
only twenty-two and a lieutenant, and he had a brother and father also
in the army. With a great air of mystery he had his orderly dig a bottle
of cognac out from his camp chest, and after we had drunk each other's
health, he gave us his card with his name in Turkish and French. He
brought a table and put on it a night candle in a saucer of water, a
carafe of drinking water, and gave me a pair of slippers--in short, he
did for us in that brush-covered camp in the Gallipoli hills everything
that could be done for a guest in one's own house.
You can scarcely know what this meant without having known the
difficulties of mere existence once you left Constantinople and got into
the war zone, and Colonel Shukri Bey and Lieutenant Ahmed Akif will be
remembered by at least two Americans when any one talks of the terrible
I awoke shortly after daylight, thinking I heard an aeroplane strumming
in the distance, and was drowsily wondering whether or not it was fancy,
when a crash echoed up the valley. We both hurried out. It was sunup,
a delicious morning, and far up against the southern sky the little
speck was sailing back toward the west. There was a flash of silver just
under the flier--it was an English biplane--and a moment later another
crash farther away. Neither did any damage. A few minutes later we
were looking at the remains of the bomb and propeller-like wings, whose
whirling, as it falls, opens a valve that permits it to explode on
striking its mark. Until it had fallen a certain number of metres, we
were told, mere striking the ground would not explode it--a device to
protect the airman in case of accident to his machine or if he is forced
to make a quick landing. In the fresh, still morning, with the camp
just waking up and the curious Turkish currycombs clinking away over by
the tethered horses, our aerial visitor added only a pleasant excitement
to this life in the open, and we went on with our dressing with great
satisfaction, little dreaming how soon we were to look at one of those
little flying specks quite differently.
We breakfasted with the colonel in his arbor on bread and ripe olives
and tea, and walked with him round the camp, through a hospital and into
an old farmhouse yard, where the gunsmiths were going over stacks of
captured guns and the damaged rifles of the wounded, while the bees left
behind in some clumsy old box hives buzzed away as of yore. Wiser than
men, the colonel observed. There were English Enfields and French
rifles of the early nineties, and a mitrailleuse to which the Turks had
fitted a new wooden base. There were rifles with smashed barrels, with
stocks bored through by bullets, clean-cut holes that must have gone on
through the men who held them--live men like ourselves; quick choking
instants of terror the ghosts of ---- which we were poking and peering
into there in the warm sunshine!
We said good-by to the colonel, for our passes took us but to the
valley, and he had stretched a point in sending us down the plateau the
evening before, and I bumped back to Kilid Bahr. We did not want to
leave this part of the world without a sight of Troy, and as we had duly
presented ourselves in Gallipoli, and were now by way of coming from it
rather than Constantinople, and the Turkish official to whom the orderly
took us wrote, without question, a permission to cross to Chanak Kale,
we sailed with no misgivings. Alas for Troy and looking down on a modern
battle from the heights of Ilium! A truculent major of gendarmes hurried
us from the Asiatic shore as if we had come to capture it. We might not
land, we might not write a note to the commandant to see if the
permission to stop in Chanak, for which we had wired to Constantinople
the day before, had arrived; we might not telephone--we must go back to
Europe, and write or telephone from there.
So back to Europe, and after consultation and telephoning, back to Asia
again, and this time we succeeded in effecting a landing and an audience
with the commander of the defenses of the Dardanelles, Djevad Pasha. He
was sitting under a tree in a garden looking out over the sea gate,
which, with the aid of his two German colleagues, Ousedom Pasha and
Merten Pasha, it was his task to keep shut--a trim Young Turk, more
polished and "European" than the major of gendarmes, but no less firm.
An American's wish to see the Troy he might never be so near again bored
him excessively. We could not stay--we might not even spend the night.
There was a boat that evening, and on it we must go.
Gendarmes guarded us while we waited--we who the night before had slept
in a scarlet-lined tent!--and gendarmes hung at our heels as we and
three patient hamals with the baggage tramped ignominiously through
Chanak Kale's ruined streets. The boat we went by was the same little
side-wheeler we had come down on, crowded with wounded now, mud-stained,
blood-stained, just as they had come from the trenches across the water,
with no place to lie but the bare deck. The stifling hold was packed
with them; they curled up about the engine-room gratings--for it was
cold that night--yet there was no complaint. A tired sigh now and then,
a moan of weariness, and the soldier wrapped his army overcoat a little
closer about him, curled up like a dog on a door-mat, and left the rest
to fate. A big, round, yellow moon climbed up out of Asia and poured
its silver down on them and on the black hills and water, still as some
The side-wheeler tied up at Ak-Bash for the night, and it was not until
the middle of the next morning that it was decided that she should cross
and leave her wounded at Lapsaki instead of going on up to
Constantinople. We lugged our baggage off and hunted up our old friend,
the Hamburg-American captain, to see what might be done till some other
craft appeared. He finally put us aboard a sort of enlarged tug which
might be going up that afternoon or evening.
It was about midday. The sun blazing down on the crowded fiat; on
boxes, sacks, stevedores wrapped up in all the variegated rags of the
East shuffling in and out of the ships; on gangs digging, piling lumber,
boiling water, cooking soup; on officers in brown uniforms and brown
lamb's-wool caps; on horses, ox-teams, and a vast herd of sheep, which
had just poured out of a transport and spread over the plain, when from
the hill came two shots of warning. An enemy aeroplane was coming!
The gangs scattered like water-bugs when a stone is thrown into the
water. They ran for the hill, dropped into trenches; to the beach and
threw themselves flat on the sand; into the water--all, as they ran,
looking up over their shoulders to where, far overhead, whirred steadily
nearer that tiny, terrible hawk.
A hidden battery roared and--pop!--a little puff of cotton floated in
the sky under the approaching flier. Another and another--all the
nervous little batteries in the hills round about were coming to our
rescue. The bird-man, safely above them, drew on without flinching. We
had looked up at aeroplanes many times before and watched the pretty
chase of the shrapnel, and we leaned out from under the awning to keep
the thing in view. "Look," I said to Suydam; "she's coming right over
us!" And then, all at once, there was a crash, a concussion that hit the
ear like a blow, a geyser of smoke and dust and stones out on the flat
in front of us. Through the smoke I saw a horse with its pack undone and
flopping under its belly, trotting round with the wild aimlessness of
horses in the bull-ring after they have been gored. Men were running,
and, in a tangle of wagons, half a dozen oxen, on the ground, were
giving a few spasmodic kicks.
Men streaked up from the engine-room and across the wharf--after all,
the wharf would be the thing he'd try for--and I found myself out on the
flat with them just as there came another crash, but this time over by
the Barbarossa across the bay. Black smoke was pouring from the Turkish
cruiser as she got under way, and, with the shrapnel puffs chasing
hopelessly after, the flier swung to the southward and out of right.
Officers were galloping about yelling orders; over in the dust where the
bomb had struck, a man was sawing furiously away at the throats of the
oxen (there were seven of them, and there would be plenty of beef in
camp that night at any rate); there was a dead horse, two badly wounded
men and a hundred feet away a man lying on his face, hatless, just as he
had been blown there: dead, or as good as dead. It appeared that two
fliers had come from opposite directions and most of the crowd had seen
but the one, while the other dropped the bomb. It had struck just
outside the busiest part of the camp, aimed very likely at the stores
piled there. It had made a hole only five or six feet wide and two or
three feet deep, but it had blown everything in the neighborhood out
from it, as the captain had said. Holes you could put your fist in were
torn in the flanks of the oxen by flying stones and chunks of metal, and
the tires of some of the wagons, sixty or seventy feet away, had been
cut through like wax.
The ground was cleared, the men returned to work, and we even went in
swimming, but at every unexpected noise one looked upward, and when
about five o'clock the crowd scattered again, I will confess that I
watched that little speck buzzing nearer, on a line that would bring him
straight overhead, with an interest considerably less casual than any I
had bestowed on these birds before. There we were, confined in our
little amphitheatre; there was that diabolical bird peering down at us,
and in another minute, somewhere in that space, would come that
earth-shaking explosion--a mingling of crash and vohou'! There was no
escaping it, no dodging it, nothing to get under but empty air.
I had decided that the beach, about a hundred yards away from the
wharfs, was the safest place and hurried there; but the speck overhead,
as if anticipating me, seemed to be aiming for the precise spot. It is
difficult under such circumstances to sit tight, reasoning calmly that,
after all, the chances of the bomb's not landing exactly there are a
good many to one--you demand at least the ostrich-like satisfaction of
having something overhead. So I scurried over to the left to get out
from under what seemed his line of flight, when what should he do but
begin to turn!
This was really rubbing it in a bit. To fly across as he had that
morning was one thing, but to pen one up in a nice little pocket in the
hills, and then on a vertical radius of three or four thousand feet, to
circle round over one's head--anything yet devised by the human
nightmare was crude and immature to this. But was it overhead? If
behind, and travelling at fifty or sixty miles an hour, the bomb would
carry forward--just enough probably to bring it over; and if apparently
over, still the bomb would have been several seconds in falling--it
might be right on top of us now! Should we run backward or forward: Here
was a place, in between some grain-bags. But the grain-bags were open
toward the wharf, and the wharf was what he was aiming at, and a plank
blown through you--No, the trench was the thing, but--Quick, he is
The beach, the bags, the ditch, all the way round the camp, and Suydam
galloping after. Somewhere in the middle of it a hideous whiffling wail
came down the sky: Trrou... trrou... trou!--and then a crash! The bomb
had hit the water just off the end of the pier. I kept on running.
There was another Trrou... trrou! another geyser of water, and the bird
had flown on.
I was on the edge of the camp by this time and that strange afternoon
ended, when one of a gang of ditch-diggers, swathed in bright-colored
rags, addressed me in English, a Greek-Turk from the island of Marmora,
who, climbing out of the trench in which he and his gang had been
hiding, announced that he had lived in New York for five years, in
Fortieth Street, and worked for the Morgan Line, and begged that I get,
him out of this nerve-racking place and where he belonged, somewhere on
board ship. There were crowds like him--Greeks, Armenians, Turks, not
wanted as soldiers but impressed for this sort of work. They were
unloading fire-wood long after dark that night, when our boat at last
got under way. We paused till sunup at Lapsaki, crept close to shore
through the Marmora, and once through floating wreckage--boards and a
galvanized-iron gasolene tank--apparently from some transport sunk by a
submarine, and after dark, with lights out as we had started, round the
corner of Stamboul.
A War Correspondents' Village
The press department of the Foreign Office in Vienna duly presented the
application to the press bureau of the Ministry of War; the latter
conveyed it to the "Kaiserliche und Konigliche Armee-Oberkommando
Kriegs-Presse-Quartier," a day's railroad journey nearer the front; the
commandant made his recommendation to the chief of the General Staff.
The permission itself percolated back to Vienna presently, and early
next morning I took the Teschen express.
It was one of those semi-military trains which run into this region
behind the front--officers and couriers, civilians with military passes,
just before we started a young officer and his orderly saying good-by to
their wives. He was one of those amiable, blue-eyed young Austrians who
seem a sort of cross between German and French, and the orderly was much
such another man, only less neatly made and sensitive, and there were
the same differences in their wives and their good-bys.
The orderly saluted his officer, turned, clicked his heels, and saluted
his officer's lady before he embraced his solid wife. The latter,
rather proud to be in such company, beamed like a stove as the two men
looked down from the car steps, but the girlish wife of the captain bit
her lips, looked nervously from side to side, winked faster and faster
until the tears began to roll down her cheeks. Then the train started,
the orderly waving his hand, but the young officer, leaning quickly
forward, drew his wife toward him and kissed her on one of the wet
We crossed into Hungary, rolled northeastward for five or six hours into
the Vag valley, with its green hills and vineyards and ruined castles,
and finally came to a little place consisting almost entirely of
consonants, in the Tatra foot-hills. Two blond soldiers in blue-gray
saluted, took my luggage, showed me to a carriage, and drove to a
village about a mile away--a little white village with a factory chimney
for the new days, a dingy chateau for the old, and a brook running
diagonally across the square, with geese quacking in it and women
It was mid-afternoon, yet lunch had been kept waiting, and the officer
who received me said he was sorry I had bothered to eat on the train. He
told me where lodgings had been made ready, and that an orderly would
take me there and look after my personal needs. They dined at eight,
and at five, if I felt like it, I would probably find some of them in
the coffee-house by the chateau. Meanwhile the first thing to do was to
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