A narrative of personal experiences & impressions during a residence on the Bosphorus throughout the Crimean War
by Lady Alicia Blackwood (1818-1913)
London: Hatchard, Piccadilly, 1881.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCES AND IMPRESSIONS DURING
MY SOJOURN IN THE EAST THROUGHOUT
THE CRIMEAN WAR.
BALLANTYNE, HANSON, AND CO.
EDINBURGH AND LONDON.
|Sultan, his death in 1880, and how it led me to think of writing out this narrative from my memorials – News of the battle of Inkermann and the sufferings of sick and wounded determines us to go to the seat of war – Arrived at Marseilles, we embark in the ship "La Gange," with French troops on board – A gigantic Arab Marabout and his fourteen wives – Our voyage calm, after a previous violent storm – Arrival off Constantinople late in the day – Unceremoniously obliged to leave the ship – Dark when we reach Galata pier – Unpleasant and perilous landing there – Help from a stray British sailor and a soldier – Deluge of rain and torrents of mud on the dreadful streets of Galata – Arrival at the gate closed by a Turkish guard – Our first acquaintance with the term "Bono Johnny" – Arrived at last at Messirie's hotel, to our great relief||1|
|Truth stranger than fiction – First crossing the Bosphorus to Scutari – A friendly captain and his boat – The Turkish Custom-House, confusion confounded – Arrival at Scutari pier and unexpected sight of Lieutenant Keatley, an old friend – His invaluable help to us – He had rescued our luggage from "La Gange" and the Custom-House – First visit to the Great Barrack Hospital – Quarters assigned in a favourable situation – Method of furnishing – M. Stampa and hamals – Ship on fire, and rum kegs – Consequent troubles||15|
|Muezzins' call – Stoves purchased – Delay in arrival – Disappointment – Singular effect on Scutari of fires in Constantinople – Difficulties about servants – Pilfering of rations – Emilio – Lack of good bread and water||29|
|Sick and wounded in hospitals – Inadequate preparations – Burials – Application to Miss Nightingale – Undertake soldiers' wives – Their sad condition – Lack of medical attendance – Dr. Payton Smith – Establishment of Women's Hospital – Mrs. Keatley, matron – My shop and customers||41|
|Entomological experiences – Rats – Our reception rooms and etiquette at Scutari – Dress for dinner, and what we had – Dinner party, and what we had not||61|
|Visit to Therapia of three days – Arrival of Mrs. Keatley – Appointment of Dr. Holton to the Women's Hospital – Earth quake – Sans froid of the dragoon, ward master – Death of Major Campbell – Arrival of M. Soyer – Opening of school for children – Miss Nightingale's sympathy – Turkish women "at home" – Procession of Sultanas in Constantinople||74|
|Naval Hospital, Therapia – Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie – Haida Pasha Hospital – Mrs. Wiloughby Moore – Purchase of "Pig" Mercantile dealings with Spanish Jew – Purchase of "Sultan" – Uses of a salad bowl – Everything down the well||91|
|Second earthquake – Excursion to Kadi Koi – Sergeant Clay's inquiries concerning his deceased wife – Miss Nightingale's illness – Two Protestant Armenians condemned – Mistaken identity – Released||107|
|Adventures of a pie – Dr. Cyrus Hamlin – A round of beef – Grand disappointment – Excursion to the Princes Islands – A liberal Mussulman – Our landlady and her daughter – Scene while repairing her house||120|
|The Ramadan – The Bairim at Constantinople – The Sultan, Abdul Medjid – Ceremony on the occasion – Hospitality of a Bey – Visit to Santa Sophia – Sad sight in the Bosphorus on our return||135|
|Inaccuracy of intelligence – Captain Hedley Vicars – Lady Rayleigh's letter – Refugees from Kertch, and their destitute condition – Assistance from the Embassy and Turkish Government – French Sisters of Mercy – Sister Bernadine – School opened for the children of Kertch Jews||149|
|Mr. Bracebridge and our excursion to the "Golden Fleece" – French cavalry stable – Lieutenant Keatley's ship – Bazaars in Stamboul – Confusion of monies – Palace of Dolma Batche – Dr. and Mrs. Bowen Thompson: his illness and death at Kulalee – Great thunderstorm||163|
|Reading-rooms for soldiers – Night-schools and lectures in place of temptations to drunkenness – Lecture on birds by the Rev. Mr. Connors – Little Dolly – Influence of officers in different regiments||178|
|Second visit to Therapia, and kindness of Lady Stratford de Redcliffe – Beautiful season on the Bosphorus – Giant's Mountain – "Sweet water" – Excursion with Lady Stratford de Redcliffe to the entrance of the Black Sea – Return home||190|
|Providential encounter with a friend – Polish Legion – Scant clothing of the women supplied – German Legion – Outbreak of cholera – Sad deaths – Sergeant H.: melancholy story of his wife – Chaplains in danger by shipwreck||205|
|Religious liberty – Hatti Sherif – Imperial Firman – Conceding liberty and other reforms – Turkish school at Scutari – Interesting Turkish master – Haida Pasha – Death of Mrs. Wiloughby Moore – A matrimonial dilemma – Miss Nightingale's perplexity – Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge's return home, and arrival out of Mrs. Shore Smith – Visit to the wife of Kaffi Pasha||220|
|Fire at Haida Pasha – Narrow escape from bullets in rifle practice – Proclamation of peace – Calamity to Admiral the Hon. Frederick and Mrs. Grey – Proposed visit to the Crimea – Disappointment by first ship – A second opportunity – Sailed by the "Edina" – Crowded state of the little ship – Arrival at Balaklava||237|
|Letter of a friend on Balaklava – Zebra Vicarage – Visits to Sebastopol – St. George's Monastery – Inkermann – Tchernaya Valley – Frogs and snakes – Kamiesh sand-storm – Mrs. Seacole||250|
|Preparations for an excursion to the interior – Kindness of Col. the Hon. W. Pakenham – Mr. Stern, the Abyssinian missionary – Hotel at Bakcheserai, and dreadful accommodation||264|
|Palace of the Khans – Continuation of journey to Tchoufout Kaleh – Greek monastery opposite – Interesting incidents with the Jews – Visit to the Synagogue – Thunderstorm and consequent plight – Night spent at the Abbot's house||273|
|Continued route to Simferopol – Happy mistake of road – Arrival, and Inns full – Lodged at the farmhouse of a Polish Jew – Night of unrest – Mr. Stern's visit to the Synagogue – Rest on Sunday – All books eagerly purchased||287|
|Journey back to camp – Alma Hotel – Arrival at Bakcheserai – Tents pitched outside the town – Untoward storms of wind and rain – Tent robbed during night – Expected breakfast stolen – Accident to horse – Arrival at the "Vicarage" – Visit to Baida – Last three days spent in revisits to Inkermann, St. George's Monastery, and Sebastopol – Embarkation in the "Queen of the South" – Adventure in the Bosphorus – Passage to England in the "Oneida" – Sultan brought home – Life and death||296|
Sultan, his death in 1880, and how it led me to think of writing out this narrative from my memorials – News of the battle of Inkerman and the sufferings of sick and wounded determines us to go to the seat of war – Arrived at Marseilles we embark in the ship "La Gange" with French troops on board – A gigantic Arab Marabout and his fourteen wives. – Our voyage calm, after a previous violent storm – Arrival off Constantinople late in the day – Unceremoniously obliged to leave the ship – Dark when we reach Galata pier – Unpleasant and perilous landing there – Help from a stray British sailor and a soldier – Deluge of rain and torrents of mud on the dreadful streets of Galata – Arrival at the gate closed by a Turkish guard – Our first acquaintance with the term "Bono Johnny" – Arrived at last at Messirie's hotel, to our great relief.
HAVING resided at Scutari throughout the period when the Bosphorus and its hospitals became of such deep and thrilling interest in connection with the Crimean War, I naturally made notes of such things as came under my personal observation, or occurred within my knowledge.
For many years these memorials lay undisturbed after our return to England, until my attention was attracted to them anew by the following circumstance:–
I had brought from Turkey a singularly docile and useful little horse, which had been named "Sultan" by my nephews in England. He had attained the age of at least thirty-four years, and was an object of interest to many friends until he died in 1880.
His death seemed to recall to memory the many scenes in which he had served me so usefully, and had become a sort of sharer in them.
Copious histories and numerous treatises have no doubt been written upon all the great matters of the Crimean campaign; my narrative makes no pretension to describe affairs so well known as are the peculiarities of that remarkable war. But many things unnoticed in larger works may yet be worth recording, and I trust that the true statements and anecdotes which I have been led to note may be found not to be without a special interest in their own kind. Therefore, without further prologue, I proceed.
When the news reached England of the battle of Inkerman, that terribly hard-fought struggle which took place on the 5th of November 1854, and wherein so many lost relatives and friends, and from whence came calls for help to the sick and wounded, my husband and I were deeply moved to go out; having at the time no special duty to detain us, it was far more trying to remain at home than to answer the appeal, and with willing hearts and hands to be ready to do whatever might be needed to the best of our abilities.
Finding, however, that we could be of very little service without a specific appointment which only could give admittance to the hospitals, Dr. Blackwood applied for and obtained a chaplaincy to the forces.
At that time two young Swedish ladies – Emma and Ebba Almroth – were staying with us, who, equally eager to be useful, at once expressed their wish to accompany us. In the preparations for the departure of so large a party, we were liberally assisted by many kind friends, especially Lady Ashtown and her sister Mrs. Gascoigne, Lady Maria Forester, Miss Michell, and others, who shared with us the same longing desire to help, but who were not at liberty to go out personally as we were.
So soon therefore as arrangements were made we set out to Paris and Lyons, thence, partly by steamer on the Rhone and partly by railway, we reached Marseilles on the third day. Now, the journey is more speedily accomplished, the railway going the whole distance; but at that time it was not so: the steamer on the Rhone made an agreeable variety to usual travellers, but it was a decided delay to those more intent on the rapidity which business requires than on pleasure making.
At Marseilles we learned that the first vessel sailing to Constantinople would be "La Gange," and that it would start the next afternoon with French troops, but that a passage in her could be secured for us, which was done.
Accordingly we embarked the following day, our party consisting of my husband and self, our two young Swedish friends, and a maid-servant, who promised to fulfil, and seemed capable of performing any duty that might be reasonably required of her.
Amongst our compagnons de voyage were some eighteen or twenty Arabs, and as they kept to the distant part of the ship, we were not a little amused by watching them – nearer acquaintance might not have been so agreeable. The very perceptible chief of the party was a man of immense stature, three or four of the number were attendants, and the rest were women.
The gigantic form of the Marabout, for such he was, especially attracted our attention, and he appeared to be some one of note in his way. On inquiry we learned he was closely related to the well-known Abd-el-Kader, at that time a prisoner in France.
I could not refrain from making a sketch of this very picturesque person, though I did not intend he should see me; but his quick eye soon spied it out, and bringing an interpreter he approached, asking permission to look at what I was drawing.
I own to having felt a little shy at the request, not knowing how he might be affected by the gratification of his wish, for though he was the peeping intruder, perhaps I had no right to depict him. However, as he seemed more amused than angry, I at once handed him my sketch-book, at which he laughed heartily, and immediately offered to write his own name under his portrait, and the date of the performance.
This pleased me, and so for a short time we became as good friends as we could, through an interpreter, he not speaking French sufficiently to be understood. Notwithstanding the friendship, however, he obviously despised us as much beneath him, because, forsooth, he had fourteen wives, to whom he pointed, while he hinted that my husband had but three, and only one attendant!
Honestly, I could not regret that, shortly after this, the effect of an increasingly rolling sea parted us, and we saw no more of him, his attendants, or his wives, until we reached Constantinople.
Here I desire to record the goodness and loving-kindness of our heavenly Father, and to bear grateful testimony to the faithful fulfilment of His promise, through Christ, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven."
Now it so happened that one of our party having some little time previously experienced a frightful storm with great danger in crossing from Antwerp to London, was henceforth timid at sea, and felt rather nervous at the prospect of seven days' sail in the Mediterranean during the winter. Before setting out, therefore, on this undertaking, some friends met together, and in the exercise of faith on the Saviour's promise, besought Him to hear their petitions which were for three things: First, that it might please Him to remove all fear for the voyage, granting us a happy and calm transit to our destination; secondly, that a sphere of usefulness might open to us on our arrival; and thirdly, that health might be 'granted to enable us to fulfil the same. The sequel will show how perfectly every request was fulfilled, and that in a manner and through circumstances impossible to be foreseen, and over which therefore we had no control.
First, then, an unexpected and "unpreventable" occurrence detained us from starting at the time we intended, and we were delayed for about a week, during which time a heavy and dangerous storm passed over the Mediterranean. When we steamed off from Marseilles we felt but the mere swell of it for a while; the voyage was in all respects a most agreeable one, the weather lovely overhead the whole time, enabling us to enjoy the sights of the coast by which we sailed in threading the islands of the Archipelago, and giving us finally that splendid view of Constantinople as you approach the city from the Sea of Marmora, which has been so much and justly applauded.
Strange to say, we had no sooner arrived off Seraglio Point, opposite Galata, than the clouds gathered darkly around us, and rain began to fall with the early closing of daylight.
It was on the 18th of December, about four o'clock in the evening that "La Gange" came to an anchor, and, alas for us! strict orders were given that all passengers should leave the ship before night.
It happens there, as it does in most places where the sea is confined in narrow bounds, if a sudden storm arises, it swells, and boils, tossing to and fro, making it very dangerous for boats or small craft venturing on it. Thus it was now with us, consequently none came to take us on shore until late in the evening. A small boat, with one man to row, was all we could get, and into which Dr. Blackwood, our two Swedes, myself, and servant stepped; it was now quite dark and the rain falling in torrents. Trusting to that Almighty hand which had hitherto protected us, for we could almost say "not knowing whither we went," we arrived at the side of what in those days was called Galata pier.
And here our difficulties began. I am told that since that time, now nearly twenty-seven years ago, all things are wonderfully changed at Constantinople, and in the foreign Bradshaw you may read of a railway station, omnibuses to take you to the different hotels, or cabs even for hire. Such improvements I can as little picture to myself, as any one who has not landed at the port of an Eastern shore, or who did not see Galata itself in those days, can imagine what its pier and the surroundings of its pier were.
A few broken planks resting on tumbledown posts, barely keeping one's feet from the green filth which floated beneath; an accumulation of every abominable and putrid thing which the waves tossed up and down, yet with no tide to carry away, and beyond the reach of the current.
This was our landing-place. What next? First, a perfect Babel of tongues greeted us, Turks, Greeks, Armenians, – all shouting together; then darkness overshadowed us; and this would have been complete, but for the few oiled-paper lamps held by some of the crowd, most of whom were eager to steal your bags and portmanteaus, or cloaks, or anything which was to be had, and unscrupulously ready to murder you if occasion needed, or permitted, in order to obtain the desired prize; and rain all the while pouring down in pitiless torrents. Here, as I said, our difficulties began, and seemed indeed overwhelming. What were we to do? who could understand us? who would direct us to the nearest hotel? was any conveyance to be had? if so, how? All these questions ran through our minds far more quickly than they could be expressed! Such things as conveyances, however, belong to civilised nations of the present day; they did not belong to Galata in those times! But we were not left nor forsaken; the kind Providence which had hitherto guided us sent help at the moment we so needed it. Just as we exclaimed in an almost despairing unbelief, "What shall we do?" the boat being now fastened to one of the crazy posts, a good broad Scotch voice was heard above the almost deafening din –
"Sir, will you let me have your boat? I'm a sailor, sir, on board the 'London,' and I'll be miserable to be here all night."
The name "London" immediately caught my ear. "It is my nephew's ship," I said, "and he would help us at once."
Dr. Blackwood replied, "The boat is not ours, we have but hired it to bring us from 'La Gange,' in which we have just arrived; but see in what distress we are. My good man, you must help us. We do not know which way to turn, or who to speak to. Pray tell us how can we find Messirie's Hotel in Pera; do, therefore, help us, and do not leave us to the mercy of this rabble in such a night and in such a place."
"Well, sir, I don't know the way, but at any rate, if you are there with ladies, I'll do my best. This is no place for ladies; it's bad enough for any one, but ladies can't stay here."
He helped us accordingly to land, trying to keep us upon the wretched planks which were full of holes and tipping up and down, some of them with spaces large enough between to allow us to fall through into the mire beneath.
"Does any one here speak English?" he shouted, and just then one of the crowd holding a paper lantern turned it accidentally upon the scarlet uniform of a British soldier, who came up offering assistance, for our dilemma was manifest. We accepted it, and said if he and the sailor would protect us, we would thankfully place ourselves under their care.
"Very good, sir," said the soldier. So he and the sailor collected our bags and such things as we had, seized upon a couple of Greeks, and made them carry the luggage and a lantern (for there was no light there but what was in the hand), and on we marched, the sailor in front, the soldier behind, the porters immediately in front of him.
Thus escorted we felt pretty safe, for "where ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise," we are told; so on we marched, stumbling however continually. Pavement there was none; in lieu of which luxury the streets had great stones rolled into them of all shapes and sizes, as though they had been thrown out of a cart and left to fix their own abode wherever they listed; in daylight they kindly kept us from pools of mud, by our carefully selecting their tops for our stepping places; but in the present instance, being dark, we as often slipped from them into mire as not.
On we went, however, and on we went, for the rugged road seemed to us interminable. At length we came to some horrible-looking khan or inn, where our first escort suggested we might possibly find lodgings for the night, as neither he nor the soldier knew anything of Messirie's Hotel, nor its direction. In our ignorance of Turkish hotels or khans, therefore, we opened the door and peeped in, but somewhat cautiously and suspiciously. A ruffian-looking pair advanced towards us, while others equally repulsive were seated round a brazier within, smoking. These for the most part were Greeks, and this was a Greek eating or drinking house.
Though the rain was falling almost in cascades, we, nevertheless, all declared we would rather remain in it all night than trust ourselves to such company. We retired and pursued our journey; and no doubt it was a wise conclusion, as a little farther on we heard frightful screams issuing from just such another "Locanda" as the one we had stopped at. Here our escorts pressed us on quickly, saying we must go to Pera, which was the European quarter, and most likely Messirie's Hotel would be there; so turning to the right hand we proceeded up a very steep hill, down which a river seemed to rush, washing over our ankles in the most unceremonious manner. When nearly at the top, as we conceived, we were arrested by strongly closed gates.
Our sailor knocked for admittance, and a Turkish guard or sentinel appeared. It was the Tower of Galata at which we had arrived: but how could two paper lanterns show us this? Through these gates, however, we must pass to reach Pera from that side.
At first the guard hesitated, as well he might at the unseemly spectacle of ladies there at such a time of evening and in such a plight; but the scarlet uniform had a surprising influence, as we then experienced, but learned more about afterwards. The Turk was softened, touched the soldier on the back, saying good-temperedly, "Bono Johnny!" and allowed us to pass.
Again we ascended the narrow street, and at last, for most things have an end, at last we came to an opening where almost opposite a blaze of light burst upon our view from lamps both outside and inside of some building which we were persuaded could be no other than the longed-for hotel.
We were correct in our surmises, and none but such as had experienced what we had gone through could conceive our feelings when once within its doors. Mrs. Messirie advanced in astonishment.
"Why, ladies, where have you come from? We are quite full in this house, I have not a room for you."
We gazed first at the orange trees with which the entrance passage was lined, then at the little rivulets which were being rapidly formed by our dripping garments; and then answered –
"It cannot be helped, Mrs. Messirie, but once under your roof you cannot turn us out in such a night."
She laughed and said, "But how did you come here? No one goes out after dark at any time in Constantinople. Why, you might all have been robbed and murdered; you were very brave to venture."
We told our tale, mentioning that we had heard sad screams of distress in one place, but that our escorts hurried us past.
"Ah!" she replied, "some horrid murder, I fear."
And so it proved to be, or nearly so; we heard the next day the poor victim was an English sailor who was robbed and had his ribs broken in.
Mrs. Messirie was certainly astonished at what we told her of our march from Galata pier.
"God has preserved us, indeed!" we said.
"Truly He has," was her reply, "for the city is full of such evil doings night after night, and I fear it will continue to be so until the English and French establish the police force, which I hear they are about to do. But what is to become of you? for really I have not a single room disengaged: and the only idea which crosses me is, that some of my guests, who are officers, will kindly give up their room in favour of you ladies. It is just possible also that one room belonging to two others may not be claimed to-night, for, as I told you, no one ventures out after dark, and probably in such a night they may remain in the Barrack to which they went, and not return till to-morrow."
She was most kind, and we felt very grateful. It turned out as she expected, two rooms were found us, from which we were not disturbed.
Where our sailor and soldier went that night we knew not; but probably not far, as we saw them the next day, and through the former I sent a message to my nephew, Lord Kilcoursie, on board the "London," telling him how much we were indebted to his ship's carpenter (for that he informed us was his office) for the assistance he had rendered us in the midst of such difficulties. It is probable that the heavy rain which so discomforted us may have been one great protection against strolling marauders who might otherwise have molested us on our way; as it was, scarcely any one was seen in the street that night besides ourselves.
This account of our landing has been given somewhat minutely, because, while I trust the mercies we received may never be effaced from my own memory, I earnestly hope the record of it, bearing testimony to the gracious fulfilment of the promises of God, may be useful to others in strengthening their faith, and thus bring glory to Him, and a blessing to themselves.
Truth stranger than fiction – First crossing the Bosphorus to Scutari – A friendly captain and his boat – The Turkish Custom-House, confusion confounded – Arrival at Scutari pier and unexpected sight of Lieutenant Keatley, an old friend – His invaluable help to us – He had rescued our luggage from "La Gange" and the Custom-House – First visit to the Great Barrack Hospital – Quarters assigned in a favourable situation – Method of furnishing – M. Stampa and hamals – Ship on fire, and rum kegs – Consequent troubles.
IT has frequently been acknowledged that stories of real life are stranger than fiction. Our arrival at this Eastern capital, and the events of the next and following days certainly have more the appearance of romance and fiction about them than reality; nevertheless, they are perfectly true, and can be well authenticated.
It was necessary that Dr. Blackwood should report himself at headquarters as soon as possible. For this purpose, therefore, we hired a commissionaire, and went down to Tophana to embark for Scutari. The pier at Tophana was the nearest to Pera, which was called the Frank Quarter, and was inhabited chiefly by the Christian population, as Stamboul was by the Turks, the pier or landing-place contiguous to which was at Galata, whereon we had made our debût the previous evening. But in respect to construction and accompaniments of filth and abomination, Tophana so resembled its neighbour that it would have been difficult to decide which was the least horrible.
There was a very heavy swell on the water consequent upon the wind of the previous evening; in such case at this time the caiques were not so very safe on account of the strong currents, and the quantity of shipping both anchored and otherwise belonging to almost every nation, and as we had as yet no experience of those most delightful little craft, we rather demurred to making the trial on the present occasion under those circumstances, the more so on perceiving an English boat fastened to one of the rickety posts doing nothing but rock two young sailors who were in it.
"Can we not have your boat?" we inquired.
"Oh no, sir, it is Captain —'s; but he will be here directly, and then I daresay he will give you permission."
Captain — did very soon appear and we addressed ourselves to him. "Oh, by all means, you are quite welcome, and I will send an officer with you." Which he did, and in a few minutes we were rowing across to Scutari.
"Can you tell us," addressing the young midshipman who was steering, "how we are to get our luggage which we left in 'La Gange' last evening? Where is the Custom-House? I suppose it will be there."
He laughed and said, "Oh, if it once gets into the Custom-House, which I daresay it will, from a French ship, you will have a poor chance of getting it for some time. The Custom-House here is a sort of den of the forty thieves; it's hard to get anything out that once goes in. Your best way will be directly to try and find a naval officer; whom, by the by, you may most probably meet at Scutari, as he is occupied there continually landing sick and wounded and stores for the hospitals; he is a capital fellow to get hold of, he knows everybody and everything, tries to help everybody, and I am sure he will help you."
"Pray tell us the name of this most valuable man," said I.
"Oh, his name is Keatley."
"Keatley!" we replied with astonishment, as though touched by an electric wire. "What, Lieutenant Keatley?"
"Yes," said he; "do you know him then?"
"To be sure we do! He is the very friend of all others we wished to see at this time; but having heard he was in the Crimea, we thought it impossible."
Just as we neared the Scutari shore, there he stood on the pier, as pleased to see us as we were to see him.
"Oh, Dr. Blackwood, how do you do? I've been looking out for you for some time, and was greatly afraid you might have been caught in that bad storm which raged for a week in the Mediterranean about ten days or so ago. I've boarded every ship that has come in, and found you came last night by 'La Gange.' She lies now up the Golden Horn, and I have got all your luggage out of her, to save it going into the Custom-House, where it was on the point of going, and then it would have been a long time before you could have got it out again; but it's all right now, and I'll have it over here for you so soon as you have settled your quarters."
Now, our good friend Lieutenant Keatley lived at Ventnor, from whence we came. He had become attached to us in consequence of some attentions we had given to a dear dying daughter, who had been greatly comforted by Dr. Blackwood's ministry. On the breaking out of the war he was sent first to Odessa, afterwards to Balaklava, in connection with the naval transport service, where we conceived he was still; but it appeared he had been recently stationed in the Bosphorus to attend the ships coming down with the sick and wounded for the Hospital at Scutari.
This was a most happy meeting for us, a kind and gracious addition to our many mercies. None but those who went to Constantinople and Scutari as strangers at that time can tell how good it was to find a helping hand in some more experienced friend. Well, we landed. The pier here was a great improvement on those before mentioned; it had evidently undergone recent repairs, and some extension also, so that the poor sufferers who were carried on stretchers could be landed in safety, without fear of being thrown down or slipped through the crazy planks which heretofore had composed the construction.
The walk to the Great Barrack Hospital was but a very short distance, rising gradually some height from the shore, to a most beautiful and healthy situation looking over the Sea of Marmora on one side, towards the Princes' Islands on another, and towards Constantinople and up the Bosphorus on a third. I need not and shall not describe it – for it is as well known now as St. Paul's in London – beyond remarking it was of such dimensions that any one seeing it for the first time must have been struck with the size of the great quadrangle, its long corridors, and its spacious accommodation; and yet – and yet it could not accommodate the number of poor sick and wounded who sought a shelter there!
We entered. The sad spectacle was before us of some being carried out to the mortuary; others, scarcely more alive, being carried into the Hospital. The wounded were comparatively few, and were generally healthy in their appearance; but the poor frost-bitten and fever-stricken ones who can describe! Fifteen hundred had been recently landed from the Crimea, and we learned that "yesterday" fifty-seven had died, chiefly among the newly landed, some indeed while in the act of landing; alas! they were all more or less like skeletons! Sights which at first were heart-felt shocks soon became too familiar to cause fresh emotion!
Here I pause – for it is not my intention to enter into any details of all the never-to-be-forgotten scenes of those times. War is a horrible thing, and ought never to be, except by a dreadful necessity. Prepared or unprepared for it, the sufferings it entails are shocking, and at this time there is no denying that the long and happy peace which we had enjoyed in our highly-favoured land, had unfitted us to conceive the necessities required for war when it did come, especially in a strange, and at that time barely civilised country; so that doubtless much increase of misery was thereby entailed. But He who overrules all things, did in His infinite mercy cause these trials in innumerable instances to tend to His own glory, in the conversion of many and many a poor soul who might otherwise never have looked to Him for help!
While Dr. Blackwood was sent in one direction to find the senior chaplain to report himself, I was conducted to that part of the Barrack occupied by Miss Nightingale and Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge, two benevolent friends who accompanied her, and devoted their time and strength to help in whatever way they could; and who can no more be forgotten by those who knew them than she who was the foundress of a new system of hospital nursing, and whose name is engraven on many a heart in England.
On this day, the 19th of December 1854, the first of our arrival in Scutari, was mournfully recorded the deaths of two brave officers – General Adams and Captain Glazbrook. The gloom which already overspread every heart seemed deepened by these sad losses; and, indeed, I had ample time to watch the painful faces which moved to and fro; sitting, as I did, for more than two whole hours a silent spectator of all that was passing.
The room to which I was shown was used partly for cooking, though it could not be called a kitchen. Behind a screen was Miss Nightingale's little camp-bedstead, placed there temporarily, as she had given up her room to one of the poor widows of the above-named officers. I was glad to rest and make observations; it was not a time to intrude on any one, but rather to wait and think how I might best be useful when once our residence was fixed on this side of the Bosphorus.
At length my husband appeared, having reported himself and received orders for work, so soon as quarters could be provided for him. Until then we remained at Messirie's Hotel, going to Scutari and back daily.
Our first Sunday was spent at Pera, and Dr. Blackwood read prayers in the morning at the Embassy. The next day was Christmas Day; again he officiated, and we partook of the communion. The thoughts which crowded in upon our minds – the scenes and sufferings at Scutari and the Crimea, the family gatherings at home at this season, the contrast between peace and war, the latter, to which we were so unused – all tended to make that Christmas Day a solemn one, and saddened still more by news which arrived of increased sickness at Balaklava and the front.
It was also on this day that we were informed of quarters being assigned to us; and by Providential goodness, without any interference or choice on our part, we had the best and most conveniently situated house in that part of Scutari, close to the Great Barrack, to which we could walk in a few minutes through the yard of the adjacent mosque.
The situation was at once healthy and lovely, rising almost in a straight line from the landing-place for about the distance of half a quarter of a mile, overlooking the broad expanse of the Sea of Marmora. One can never forget the exquisite beauty of the early mornings, with the sun in crimson glory shining on myriads of small vessels with their white wings, like flying swans in the distance, or on some nearer majestic man-of-war with all her sails set – a sight not unfrequent in those days – passing to and fro Gallipoli and Constantinople. It was charming beyond expression and most refreshing, for the rest of the day afforded an unceasing spectacle of sickness, suffering, and death, during several months.
Taking possession of our quarters, now began the furnishing; and as the modes and methods of such a work there in Scutari differed a little from the process here in England, it may be amusing to know how it was accomplished. We had wisely considered on leaving home that wherever we might be located, beds and bedding would certainly be amongst the least dispensable luxuries. We took them therefore with us as luggage; and our kind friend, according to his promise, had them conveyed speedily to our rooms; but for chairs, tables, crockery, tea-kettle and saucepan, happily we found a kind of universal shop in Pera, kept by an Italian named Stampa, who, to a certain extent, could supply these wants.
He had a little of everything, and we considered ourselves most fortunate in getting, amongst other things, some really English willow pattern plates, some queer round white dishes, a variety of cups and saucers of all colours, sizes, and patterns, and the rich treasure of a willow pattern salad bowl which fulfilled the functions of a soup tureen as well as sundry other duties.
Having selected our goods, consisting also of a large deal table, half-a-dozen chairs and most rickety sofa, &c., we naturally asked how we were to get them conveyed to our boat?
"Oh, you must engage a hamal," said M. Stampa.
"And what is that?" we inquired.
He looked rather surprised at our question, but charitably guessing we were new arrivals, excused our ignorance, and forthwith instructed us.
"What is a hamal?" said he;– "well! a hamal is a most wonderfully useful man; he carries everything on his back. Why, he would carry a house for you entire, could you but lift it on his pad."
This was our first introduction to a class of men who certainly were very indispensable to residents in that part of the world at that time, and their honesty was almost proverbial. Any number of parcels or packages, if they understood where they were to be deposited, and undertook their delivery, were safely conveyed; we never lost anything that we had committed to the care of one of these poor men: and they certainly did bear weights which astonished us; luggage piled up, almost anything that could be lifted and packed, they seemed to take without difficulty.
Hamals were soon found, and we thought it right to make a proper division among several. Everything we wanted was borne in that manner to our boat at Tophana; and once across the Bosphorus, other hamals there finished the transit, and took all up to our rooms.
We were to inhabit the upper story of the house; it consisted of a large open space like an entrance hall, with rooms on either side, two good bedrooms and one smaller. Also a kind of deep recess or closet, to which there was no door, though it had a window at the further end. Of this we made a larder, for as the rest of the house was also apportioned off for other chaplains, with only one kitchen for everybody, it was necessary to have some place wherein to bestow our goods.
The large space, or vestibule, if I can call it so, had no door; you landed on it from the staircase, while at each end was a succession of windows covered with wooden trellis-work, so that, with the exception of a small hole in the centre, it was impossible to see much from them.
Being winter time and subject to storms of wind, the cold and draughts were very great; so at first we portioned off one end of this long space by means of great cotton druggets suspended by ropes across from side to side, thus forming an apartment for our meals, and took refuge afterwards in our bedrooms as speedily as we could. In the course of time a door was put up for us by some of the engineers, to exclude the staircase; and indeed, when after some months all things began to be a little better organised, we had great additions to our comfort through the kind interference and help of Lady Stratford de Redcliffe.
But to return to the arrival of our furniture. It was purchased and shipped on Tuesday the 26th of December 1854, the day following that on which we were told where our locale would be. We all went with it across the water, thinking partly to arrange it, return to Pera for the last time that night, and on the morrow take up our final abode at Scutari. It turned out otherwise.
The boat which had been lent to us for this occasion was rowed by three Maltese sailors, under the command of an Englishman, who steered. We arrived with our cargo safely, and gave directions to our steersman to be at the pier for us at a certain time in the evening. This agreed to, we marched with our hamals to our dwelling-place, and worked most diligently, setting our house in order, until the time came for our return.
Meanwhile, when we were thus occupied, an event occurred which turned the tide of our intentions. It happened that one of the large transport ships carrying provisions to the Crimea, chiefly rum and flannel, was burnt; it took fire when near Galata, and not being able to extinguish the flames, she was towed out by a steamer off Scutari (where she would have fewer neighbours), to be scuttled with the hope of saving the cargo; but unfortunately the tug ran her too close to the shore, so that instead of sinking her, she stuck fast, and there burned to her keel. Not an article was saved but some of the kegs of rum, which were as rapidly as possible thrown overboard and which were too tempting a prize for venturesome men to resist.
Our sailors, alas! were among these, of course, as they were waiting for us and not otherwise occupied. The steersman returned first, and was in time at his post; we found him alone, anxiously looking for his comrades, who did not appear for more than half an hour longer. He told us what had occurred, and we began to share his anxiety.
At length they came, and we put off from the shore. We had not gone very far, however, before the effects of the excursion to the rum kegs became visible. One man so reeled about, that in very fear lest we should be upset, we had him laid at the bottom of the boat. The two others were more or less getting into the same state; the Englishman, though by no means sober, still could steer, but as the current was so strong, and the Bosphorus often dangerous now in consequence of the quantity of shipping, we resolved to go no farther, but to put the helm about and return, which we did, thank God, in safety; for before we landed, the men were quite incapable of rowing, and it was by the force of the stream only we were carried back to Scutari. Fortunately for us there was a bright moon; but for that, darkness would have covered us, as the delay we had in starting shortened our daylight, and here there is scarcely any twilight when once the sun has set. Too glad to find ourselves on terra firma, though without dinner or any of the considered needfuls for comfort on a December night, we unlocked the door of our house, went upstairs, unpacked one of our trunks which contained a camp kettle, some provisions, and a little charcoal, just sufficient to help in case of emergency; cooked ourselves a few slices of ham, with some biscuits and tea, made a good meal, with thankful hearts at having probably escaped a very great danger, to say the least.
Our fur cloaks kept us tolerably warm. Some little mattresses which we had found at Stampa's were soon placed on our bedsteads, and with railway wrappers and a few blankets we made ourselves comfortable, retired early to rest and slept well. This was our first night in Scutari.
Muezzins' call – Stoves purchased – Delay in arrival – Disappointment – Singular effect on Scutari of fires in Constantinople – Difficulties about servants – Pilfering of rations – Emilio – Lack of good bread and water.
VERY early in the morning, before dawn, our slumbers were disturbed by a peculiar sound, and being in that half-awake state where the dream is fading and reality advancing, imagination converted the noise into the mimi-miming of some powerful mosquito just about to pounce on the eye or cheek. Quick thought strengthened the idea," We are in the East, it must be so!" and I started up to do battle with the enemy – daylight suddenly breaking through our trellised windows – but no mosquito was there, they do not care to be out on cold December mornings! On recovering my senses I found it was the muezzins' call for prayer, from the top of the minarets of the great mosque close by, a[s] they watched the sun rise in its beauty. But such was the curious effect on the ear of the trembling and shrill voices of these usually old men, from their great height, that even when wide awake to hear it, it still reminded us of that little insect's horn, only at a louder pitch.
Breakfast was arranged very much in the same way as our supper the previous evening. It was very cold, therefore necessary that we should as soon as possible procure some stoves, for the Turks had no fireplaces; they sat round charcoal braziers, and as women as well as men smoked, managed to keep themselves warm; but such habits did not quite suit us.
However, we were now housed, and Dr. Blackwood entered on his work immediately, leaving me and our two friends to get any extras we could find to make ourselves more comfortable. Thus for the next few days we were occupied in going over to Pera to purchase stoves and sundry things to keep warmth in and cold out; for it can well be imagined how prevalent was the latter in a house through which the wind had free access everywhere from the bottom to the top, being two stories high, nothing arresting its progress between us and the outside door below; besides which, in many places where the plaster of the rooms had been broken off, the chinks in our wooden walls were really wide enough for us to spy our neighbours who walked in the street. The panes of glass in the windows, also, were not put in, as we have them, with putty, but merely fixed with little pegs here and there, which simply prevented their tumbling out. Nevertheless, there is no hesitation in saying that ours was among the best and most convenient of the houses occupied as quarters by officers, and we were very thankful for it.
We purchased our stoves, and were promised by the vendor that he would send pipes and have them put up immediately! Of course, either he did not know, or we were not supposed to know the meaning of that word; for day after day went by and our stoves stood untouched. We wrapped ourselves in fur cloaks and sat like travellers ready for a journey rather than as a family at home. One evening, on the 18th of January 1855, the weather became unusually cold, and the next day a great storm of wind and snow raged. This perhaps caused the ironmonger's heart to relent, for in the midst of it he sent his man with pipes to put up our stoves. Imagine how welcome he was, and how eagerly we watched the progress of erection; the very anticipation of looking at a little fire almost warmed us, and as soon as number one was completed, we put in our fuel and set it alight. At first the green wood smoke would come puffing down, making our eyes smart; this was natural, and we bore it well, being assured that as soon as the pipes and stove became heated, the draught would take it all up properly.
This it did in a little while, but what then? Oh, alas! no sooner did we triumph in a cheerful blaze, than down came the pipes, melting away in a few minutes, leaving the flames and smoke to fill the room, while the water-cans were seized and the fire extinguished. The man had brought zinc pipes instead of iron by mistake. This was truly a woeful disappointment; nevertheless, the old comforter, "It might have been worse!" was applicable here in this instance. Had we not been on the spot, the old house, with its dry seared wood, would certainly have been burnt down; instead of which no mischief ensued beyond the loss of the pipes, and we did well to be thankful that it was as it was. Of course we had to wait again some days before proper pipes were put up.
This incident leads me to mention what we thought a funny custom. When a fire happened in Constantinople at night, which was really very often, it was rapidly known, for a man was stationed continually on the Seraskier's Tower, which was a tall conspicuous column overlooking every quarter of the city. Guns were fired at a signal from him, which announced the catastrophe universally; consequently, the watchers here, who go about the streets at night calling the hours (very much as we used to do in England formerly), begin knocking their staves on the stones and shouting with all their might; the muezzins scream from the minarets, and the whole town is astir. But to what purpose? No one could get across the water at night nor until sunrise; they, therefore, who have warehouses in the direction of the fire must remain in the most intense anxiety, not knowing if it were their goods or not which were being consumed, for many of the merchants have their shops in Stamboul and their dwellings over here in Scutari.
Some of our difficulties in getting settled were not a little increased by domestic troubles. The maidservant whom we had brought with us left on the 4th January, just ten days after our arrival at Scutari. We afterwards learned that she had originally applied to be sent out as nurse, but having had no experience whatever of hospital work, was refused.
Bent, however, on going out if possible, and probably thinking that we should certainly all be engaged in nursing the sick and wounded, and that she might thereby help us in that same work, this hope made her readily engage herself to come with us, undertaking to do everything required of her to the utmost of her ability.
It is often very difficult to get at the ideas of others, or make them enter into yours, but we could ascribe to no other motive her acting as she did. We had tried to make her clearly understand on engaging her, that her services were for us, but that we really could not define them, not knowing ourselves how we might be situated. I suppose, however, the predominant desire to be in the Hospital, where no doubt she conceived we should be, overruled all else and prevented her comprehending anything beyond. For it was at once, on finding we were to be in a house quite apart, and that Dr. Blackwood was only engaged for spiritual ministrations to the poor soldiers, and that we had nothing whatever to do with them otherwise, that she confessed her disappointment, and refused to remain or help us in the domestic work which was necessary; and which, until we could procure further assistance, we were willing to share with each other. We then advised her to return home, offering to get her a passage; this she would not do, but went back to the hotel at Pera. Mrs. Messirie soon after recommended her to a very elderly Greek lady who required attention, and she went to her.
We felt it a little hard after bringing her so far, and on so expensive a journey, that she should leave us at such a juncture without a servant of any kind to help us; but since she could do so, we preferred that she should. Poor woman, I desire to speak gently of her, for alas! it was not many months after that she was numbered with those who lie in our cemetery there! The service of the Greek lady did not suit her, and again, in less than a month she came over to Scutari and applied to Miss Nightingale for an engagement; this it so happened was at a moment when some one was greatly needed to take care of a poor nurse (until she could be sent home) who had gone out of her mind. W—'s services were therefore accepted; subsequently she was placed in charge of the linen for the use of the Hospital, and it was not long after this that she caught fever, from which she had barely recovered when cholera seized her and she died.
We were very sorry for her, and that she had not returned to her family as we had advised. I will merely add on this subject that when once she was where she wished to be, and, as she expressed herself to Dr. Blackwood, "at the height of her ambition," she faithfully fulfilled the trust committed to her, and Miss Nightingale placed this short epitaph on her tombstone –
|"She hath done what she could."|
Thus we were at our first settling for some days entirely dependent on ourselves. My journal states that it was not until the 9th of January that we found a soldier's wife willing or fit to be engaged as a domestic servant, her husband being up "at the front." We were glad to avail ourselves of her help. She remained with us and served us well for some months, until he returned and was invalided home.
But though we could attend to ourselves within doors, it was absolutely necessary for us to have some one for exterior help; for instance, the rations allowed to Dr. Blackwood as an army chaplain had to be sent for, and most acceptable they were in a country where at any time very little animal food is required; but now when two large armies were stationed one on either side of the Bosphorus, consuming all that could be had, and when, being winter, it was hardly possible to drive flocks over the mountains in sufficient quantities to meet the demand, it became most difficult for private people to provide for their own necessities; thus these rations, including charcoal, which was equally scarce, were greatly valued. At first the senior chaplain kindly allowed his man to fetch ours at the same time when he brought those for his master, who, having been longer connected with the army, knew exactly how much he was entitled to, and received therefore his proper quantum; but we, poor, ignorant, and uninitiated ones, did not – and we suffered accordingly, receiving little more than half our due.
These men-servants here, usually Greeks, were usually dishonest. Of course, knowing that their services were required, and being on the watch for new-comers, we had hardly entered our house before one applied, and the common introduction was after this sort – "You want man – get rations? me very good man, me get much rations, me understand, me no klefty, me good servant, do all," &c. As no one gave characters, partly because none were found worthy of one, appearance was the only criterion for choice, and that was deceptive.
No less than four of these excellent gentlemen entered our service in a fortnight. The first I am ashamed to say was an Englishman, who came one day and without the slightest intimation went off the next. The second being a Prussian youth, we had some hope of him; he accompanied Dr. Blackwood to the stores to fetch something needed, and being requested to help to move a stove that was lying in the way, he at once turned on his heels and went off without yes or no. A spectator, looking significantly at Dr. Blackwood, observed, "Is that your servant?"
"He was," was the short reply.
The next was a Sclavonian who could speak no English at all, only a little French and Italian; he remained two days, and left in consequence of a violent contention with our new woman-servant, who called him "Porco."
A fourth came, and in a day or two he was dismissed for pilfering the rations too glaringly. We consoled ourselves as best we could, and thought after all, we were not so badly off as some others.
A poor lady not far from us, on the third day after her confinement, was left alone with her husband who was obliged to be absent nearly all day;– all her servants went off! At last, to our great comfort, a young Italian applied, bringing a real character with him, written by the widow of the good Dr. Reade, who was in Constantinople at the time of the declaration of war, and who proffered his services as the sick came down in large numbers to the Hospital, which was at that time ill prepared to receive them, in consequence of a persistent idea to the last that there would be no war!
Dr. Reade and his wife and daughters all laboured to their utmost to relieve the sufferings of these poor fellows, until he fell a victim to over-work or some malady. Emilio, the servant in question, had lived with this family about seven months, and from them received an excellent character when they left to return home. Of course we engaged him, and he was true to the testimonial given; from that time we began to experience a little more comfort; he remained with us till the end of the campaign, and would fain have accompanied us to England.
Amongst Emilio's accomplishments, he professed cooking, which our soldier's wife did not. She had been used to laundry work, and this was of unspeakable value to us, as we began to be very much concerned as to who should fill that department for us! Hitherto one of our young friends who was not strong enough for much active work, or exposure to the very variable climate of winter, undertook the housekeeping and culinary offices at home; while her sister, who was much stronger, either accompanied the Doctor in his visits to the ships and other hospitals on the Bosphorus where services were to be held and ministrations needed, or helped me in my work with the poor soldiers' wives, who became my charge. Thus, until our domestic troubles were rectified, we tried to portion out our separate duties according to our best abilities; and it was not a small matter on our return from the sad scenes of the Hospital and elsewhere, to find our table laid out comfortably for meals, and our dish as nicely prepared and palatable as kind and gentle hands could make it, under the adverse circumstances of scanty materials, the only cooking apparatus being our little camp kitchen and a charcoal brazier in our sitting-room, for it was not until the end of January, as before noticed, that we had our stoves.
At this time one of our real trials was the lack of good bread and good water. The only bread served out (and there was none to purchase) was native bread; this was of a greenish black colour, the flour was ground between stones too soft for the purpose, consequently it was full of gritty sand, and being leavened with the acid wine of the country, both the smell and the flavour made it very repulsive to refined taste, and indeed it agreed so little with the English constitution, that one of Miss Nightingale's first operations was to construct an oven in the Barrack for baking proper and wholesome bread; but this luxury could not extend to those outside. We procured good Austrian flour easily, and after Emilio came, he made bread, but then there was but one public oven in the town, and this was so occupied that often five loaves out of six belonging to different officers were pulled out utterly spoilt, baked to cinders! We resorted to biscuits, but of these we could only get, excepting occasionally, those in little tin canisters which cost five shillings each, and became therefore too expensive for a continuance; we baked small flat cakes on our brazier, but nothing really compensated for the want of bread; it was a positive luxury when our friend Lieutenant Keatley brought us a loaf from one of the ships. It was four or five months before this great need was properly supplied; then it was undertaken by Dr. Hamlin, one of the American missionaries who had long been resident in Turkey.
The water was worse; the smell of that was unbearable, and all had to be boiled. When analysed it was found to be full of animal matter, and what wonder! for the spring flowed through part of the great Turkish cemetery, and in many places its course was interrupted by carcases of oxen, sheep, or any other animal which might have died there, and which was left where it lay for the benefit of jackals and dogs, which were the only scavengers. This reminds me to mention that all the streets both in Constantinople and Scutari were thickly inhabited by dogs, between which frequently great fights occurred, for if by chance a venturesome dog strayed into a street beyond his own proper beat, all the canine proprietors of the invaded ground set upon him at once with determined ferocity, either hunting him off or putting him to death. Each dog knew his own street and kept it from trespassers; otherwise they were quite inoffensive animals, and never molested any one, though they seemed to belong to no one, and no one noticed them.
Sick and wounded in hospitals – Inadequate preparations – Burials – Application to Miss Nightingale – Undertake soldiers' wives – Their sad condition – Lack of medical attendance – Dr. Payton Smith – Establishment of Women's Hospital – Mrs. Keatley, matron – My shop and customers.
BEING now more settled in our household and housekeeping arrangements, it is time to mention our respective occupations, which began to be a little more shaped into regularity.
The great Barrack contained at this time about four thousand sick and wounded. Almost adjoining this was the General Hospital, which was originally the hospital attached to the great Barrack; it was smaller and contained about one thousand. Besides these, there was a building used for stables now also converted into a temporary hospital, which received from one hundred to two hundred more. Two large hulks on the Bosphorus were also filled; and at Kulalee, about five miles distant, eight hundred were already located, and preparations making to receive fifteen hundred.
Such a state of things was sad indeed, and required great activity and forethought to meet it; and here had been the failure. This, however, is not for me to discuss; that point I leave, and note, that when once the reality came to pass, it was nobly borne on either side; from the sufferers, wherever they were laid, no murmur or complaint was heard, but gratitude was looked or expressed for the most trivial alleviation and sympathy; while, on the other side, no hand was idle, no heart but beat with yearnings to relieve – and though perhaps not always wisely, all was heartily done that could be; and though perhaps blunders were made, they were not willingly or carelessly made. English people always seem somewhat difficult to rouse, but once realising their position they set to work with persevering vigour.
For this great number of poor men completely prostrate, the appliances to remedy the distress were very inadequate: insufficiency of doctors, chaplains, nurses, of beds, and even space to receive them, indeed, of almost everything needed; but at the same time it must be borne in mind that the position and locality of the seat of war had rendered it difficult of access; this was increased also by the severity of the winter season, when storms and cold in the Crimea were terrible, and the shores of the Black Sea very dangerous.
Every available place on the Bosphorus was secured and converted into hospitals; but the suffering and mortality was such that it was almost impossible to compass it. The chaplains therefore had to move from one place to another, there being far too few at this time to locate any to one place; and as poor men were dying night and day, and of course desirous of some spiritual ministrations, the work was more than the few could overtake. Every fifth, sometimes every third, night Dr. Blackwood, in turn with others, passed in the Barrack; this of course was spent chiefly by the side of the dying – for though there was a chaplain's room allocated, there was neither bedstead nor bedding provided; but had there been such luxury, the mortality was so great at first, that it would have been hard to sleep while one had the power to administer comfort to any poor soul so needing it.
The burials were taken by a weekly turn; that was a very arduous, as well as painful duty. During this first winter no road had been constructed to the cemetery, and the ground being soft with rain or melted snow, the glutinous mud was often ankle deep, and it was difficult to wade through it.
The remains of our poor soldiers were rolled in wrappers, and laid side by side in one large grave; coffins for such numbers being out of the question. For many weeks the burials averaged over fifty per diem.
The ordinary firing at military burials was very properly omitted, but the beautiful burial service of the Church of England was always read, and evidently obtained a marked attention from those engaged in the sad and solemn office. Often, indeed, the sacred ceremony was conducted under great difficulties, while the rain was descending in torrents, and a strong gale blowing from the Sea of Marmora over the high and exposed ground. It is worth noting such particulars, because, at the first, the perhaps inevitable absence of proper attention in this respect had seemed to produce a reckless disregard of decency in treating the mortal remains of men, which was observed to have a demoralising effect. Subsequently, however, this tendency was checked; a large black pall covered the corpses as they were conveyed to the grave, and the proper sentiment of reverence for the dead cultivated.
A little later on a conspicuous change was made. On the 16th of May 1855 the ground was consecrated by the Bishop of Gibraltar in the presence of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and his suite.
A column of soldiers marched first and trod along the boundary line all round the circuit; the clergy in their white surplices, and hoods, black, blue, and scarlet, followed, reading a Psalm. Returning to the starting-point where the ladies and spectators remained assembled, and where a pulpit had been raised, appropriate lessons were read, and the Bishop read prayers.
Now the ground is substantially enclosed and the graves cared for. Many monuments have been erected – one of which to Lord Chewton was amongst the first, and the cemetery presents a conspicuous object which immediately must attract the eye of the voyager approaching Constantinople from the Sea of Marmora.
There lie some six thousand brave British soldiers, whose epitaph written by the eloquent pen of Lord Macaulay for the monument designed by Baron Marochetti will remain indelible in British history.
To the Memory
BRITISH SOLDIERS AND SAILORS,
DURING THE YEARS 1854 AND 1855,
DIED FAR FROM THEIR COUNTRY,
DEFENCE OF THE LIBERTIES OF EUROPE,
THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED
BY THE GRATITUDE
QUEEN VICTORIA AND HER PEOPLE.
An English hospital can give no idea at all of what the Scutari hospital was. In England they have been institutions for years, and it would indeed be a shame if every available improvement were not in use for cleanliness and comfort: but here was an immense building suddenly to be converted from a barrack and appropriated to the use of an hospital, without furniture of any kind; and scarcely anything had been prepared for the reception of healthy men, to say nothing of sick and wounded. Here stood this great Barrack – airy and beautifully adapted for the purpose, but that was all; it was a Herculean labour to which Miss Nightingale addressed herself when she came out, for almost everything had to be thought of and procured.
Small Indian mats were all that hundreds of the poor sufferers had to lie on for weeks, before beds or bedding could be procured in sufficient quantities. In many cases at first, also, sheets and shirts were scanty luxuries, while the poor men came down from the Crimea in a state of misery, destitution, and suffering, not to be described; and in many cases their clothing, such as it was, had to be destroyed, washing being impossible.
Few can estimate the work of Miss Nightingale in accomplishing what she did in so short a time, with all the hindrances she had to contend with, for it certainly was not many weeks before the appearance of order and comfort was visible.
The difficulty of organisation was very great; for the constant deaths and the constant arrivals of fresh men from Balaklava made classifications at first almost impossible; their places were continually changed, and when once the chaplain left the side of a poor man, he could rarely find him again, he was either dead, or had been removed elsewhere to make room for one worse than himself. At first all that a chaplain could do was to visit those who were pointed out as the worst cases, distributing portions of God's Word to such as were able to receive them, and pray for guidance and a blessing on the weak instrumentality. To a conscientious man it was an overwhelming work.
When the appointed day, or perhaps an especial call, took Dr. Blackwood either to Kulalee, or to one of the hospital ships, he was usually accompanied by Ebba Almroth. She was a great assistance to him, both on account of her linguistic acquirements, for often either Germans, Swedes, or Finlanders were found among the sufferers; and also on account of her activity in distributing tracts and little comforts, many of which had been intrusted to us for distribution, as I have recorded in my journal of that time. Ebba and Dr. Blackwood went on three separate days to the Kulalee Hospital, taking with them carpet bags full of Testaments, cards with prayers on them, and tracts; they arranged so that they left no man without either the one or the other. The gratitude of the men for even a sympathising look, as they stretched out their emaciated hands to receive the gift was most deeply affecting. Ebba was attended by a young sergeant, who seemed himself alive to the vital importance of the knowledge of a Saviour; he went from bedside to bedside with her, sometimes waking up the poor sufferer by saying, "Turn round, John, here's a minister to speak to you." It was indeed a scene to move the heart, and cause the tears to flow; though Ebba could scarce refrain a smile through her tears at being called a "minister." More than once the young sergeant wept himself.
The worst cases were those whose limbs were blackened and mortifying from frost-bites; but the patience manifested by these poor men was most wonderful, and the thankfulness they expressed for the comfort and relief of getting into a clean soft bed, away from the misery and filth and cold of the camp and the voyage, made one blush to complain of petty inconveniences, which were luxuries in comparison.
If there were no bright side to these terrible and overwhelming troubles, the picture would be dark indeed; but we well know, and that by blessed experience, that "man's extremity is God's opportunity," and it was truly an opportunity used by our heavenly Father to call many a one to seek Him, who in health and spirits might never have heeded that most precious invitation – "Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
This, the sweetest of sounds to poor, suffering, dying men, was heard by not a few attentive ears in those days of woe; we at least cannot remember any time when so many lifted up their feeble voices in earnest appeal – "Lord, have mercy upon me, a miserable sinner," and finding the never-failing hand of acceptance, passed away in peace.
For myself, so soon as I was able I applied to Miss Nightingale to know where I could be most usefully employed. Possibly at this long distance of time she may forget that particular interview, but I do not; for the reply she gave me, or rather the question she put to me in reply, after a few seconds of silence, with a peculiar expression of countenance, made an indelible impression.
"Do you mean what you say?"
I own I was rather surprised.
"Yes, certainly; why do you ask me that?" I said.
"Oh, because," she responded, "I have had several such applications before, and when I have suggested work, I found it could not be done, or some excuse was made; it was not exactly the sort of thing that was intended, it required special suitability, &c."
"Well," I replied, "I am in earnest; we came out here with no other wish than to help where we could, and to be useful if possible."
"Very well, then," said Miss Nightingale, "if this is so, you really can help me if you will; in this Barrack are now located some two hundred poor women in the most abject misery. They are the wives of the soldiers who were allowed to accompany their husbands; a great number have been sent down from Varna; they are in rags, and covered with vermin. My heart bleeds for them, and they are at our doors daily clamouring for everything; but it is impossible for me to attend to them, my work is with the soldiers, not with their wives. Now, will you undertake to look after these poor women and relieve me from their importunity? there are funds to help, and bales of free gifts sent out; but we are so occupied, it is not possible for us to administer them. If you will take the women as your charge, I will send an orderly who will show you their haunts."
Of course I assented at once.
The orderly was at hand, and I accompanied him to what must really be called dens, or large cellars; they were dark, being without light or air beyond what could be admitted through a little window, sometimes a mere grating, far overhead, and which was the only ventilation. These rooms were not quite underground, but as the Barrack was built on a slope, it was levelled by a large wall elevation on one side; within this wall were these dark cellars, or whatever they may be termed, and here abode about two hundred and sixty or so poor women and babies.
If I entered into any description of these dens, it would be to say, they must have been fitly likened to a Pandemonium full of cursing and swearing and drunkenness. The arrangements of a barrack room for married soldiers in those days were such, that other than this result could hardly be expected. They were certainly as much sinned against as sinning!
I will here quote a short passage from my journal which will serve as a type for all: – On this the first day of my visiting the women I found in No. 1 a poor soul in the agonies of death; she was lying on a heap of filthy black rags on the floor in a dark room containing about sixty women, from twenty-five to thirty men, and some infants. There were no beds or bedsteads whatever, a piece of Indian matting and a heap of rags was all any one had, and these were strewn all over the floor, as may be imagined, when so many occupied the space. The poor dying woman was gasping for breath. I spoke to her, but she was past all human aid, and as I stood and looked upon her the spirit took its flight. I inquired what medical advice she had had? how long had she been ill? "A week," was the reply; "but no doctor had seen her, she could get none."
The orderly who had come with me went to report the death, and in a few minutes the poor body was rolled up, just as it was, in a wrapper brought for the purpose, and carried away. Her place was soon filled with another occupant, and I daresay her name would almost as soon be forgotten. I was so saddened at the scene myself, that I could not help speaking to those around me, and tried to improve the solemn event to them; but this was my first visit to such places, and what was new and heart-sickening to me was, alas! an occurrence with which they were too familiar to be struck by it as I was, and I fear my words made but little impression on them.
Independently of the bodily sufferings, inseparable from such a state of things, it is difficult or impossible for an English imagination to realise the terrible demoralisation produced and increased by the fact that there was no actual division between the portions of the floor appropriated by the married couples; only here and there some of them had attempted to make a kind of screen by hanging a rag or two on a piece of cord. Behind one of these a poor woman was just then confined in the midst of the Babel around her; nor was this a solitary occurrence, although among the first reported to me.
The poor infants, for the most part, had died, and no wonder, for when the parents could scarcely live, how could these tender little creatures survive? Perhaps, indeed, under the circumstances it was no calamity, but a blessing that they escaped the horrors and sufferings of the position, or the training which they would, most probably, have inherited.
The prevalence of sickness amongst many of the women at this time made me very sad, as I fully comprehended the deficiency of the medical department. It was quite impossible to get help for them. I did my best, but often felt the responsibility too great when the case was serious. Once when I pleaded with a medical authority that some one should come and see a poor woman about whom I was anxious, the answer was –
"It is hopeless to think of it at this moment; I have ordered the amputation of a limb, and there is no one forthcoming to do it, and the men must be attended to before the women."
Several of the surgeons were very ill themselves, their work was too arduous, consequent on there being too few, and their exposure to malaria, which was unavoidable at that time. Soon, however, after this I obtained help from Dr. P. Smith, a civilian, who had been sent out by Lady Ashtown and her sister Mrs. Gascoigne. He gave me several receipts, and often advice which was most useful.
Before our arrival Mrs. Bracebridge had endeavoured to keep one room for invalids, but she had so very little time to go amongst them that it was intruded upon by any who could get in, and the object was therefore neutralised. An arrangement of the kind was obviously such a necessity that it was one of the first things to which my attention was turned, and to a certain extent accomplished; but from the great need of space to accommodate the increasing number of men who were continually arriving, my difficulty was great, as the room appointed for me on one day as a kind of hospital ward, was probably wanted the next for the new arrivals; and it was manifest that unless some separate house could be obtained apart from the Barrack, little could be done towards the comfort or amelioration of the circumstances of the poor creatures, the charge of whom had devolved on me.
Mr. Bracebridge was a most kind and ready assistant for all that was wanted; he joined me in my application to the Commandant, Lord William Paulet, to procure a house suitable for the purpose of a women's hospital. Houses here were not to be had by private contract; they were demanded of the Turkish Government for quarters, for officers, or other purposes connected with the army, so that this needful requisition could only be obtained through the official channel; and as nothing was quickly done in Turkey, some time elapsed before the arrangement could be made. The house which was procured was, however, worth waiting for; it was in every respect most suitable for the purpose, and not far from our own residence. It was large and commodious, and capable of being divided, so that in case of fever, which was then very prevalent, one class of sickness could in a great measure be separated from another. It also allowed of my admitting several of the respectable and industrious women, employing them both as nurses to the sick and as washerwomen for the house, the chaplains, and the officers; there was a good drying ground attached, so that once possessing soap – a luxury, I may mention, they had scarcely seen for about six months – they could begin to make themselves useful.
In the interim between the demand and acquisition of the house, a suitable matron had to be thought of for it, as it could not possibly have answered without a resident superintendent. It occurred to me that the wife of Lieutenant Keatley, whom I well knew, would fill this office most faithfully if she would undertake it, and this could hardly be doubted, as her husband was now stationed here. She was written to, accepted the charge, and arrived from Southampton almost as soon as the house was ready for occupation. I desire here to bear testimony to her great usefulness. Mrs. Keatley was in every way a real comfort and assistance, most kind to every one, and, combining gentleness with firmness, she obtained the respect of all who were under her charge, and was especially attentive to the poor sick ones. She regulated the laundry department, and established a fair and proper tariff, which was pasted up on the wall of the house; this at first gave great offence, as the women considered they had a right to ask what they pleased for their work. However, a little firmness soon rectified this, and a ringleader being dismissed, peace was restored, and all went on as smoothly as we could expect.
I must here revert to the destitute condition of the women. They had, most of them, come from Varna, where they had encountered all kinds of hardships, and where many had died of cholera; their clothing had never been renewed – possibly there were no means of doing so, where they were encamped, for it is certain that numbers were quite lacking even what was necessary. Any little money they may have received from their husbands appeared to have been spent for the most part in drink; having been exposed to great cold, no doubt, helped to drive them to intoxication, the means for which seemed always and everywhere in reach. They told me they had not seen soap for months, and their condition in no way belied their statement – it was frightful to behold!
To meet their wants funds had been provided generously by friends at home; Major Powys sent to Mr. Bracebridge all that was required, besides which were many bales and boxes labelled, "Free gifts for the women." But to distribute these gifts and the funds right and left promiscuously would have failed to carry out the intention of the donors, which was to benefit these poor destitute women. Their habits of intemperance had become such, that almost anything they could get they would sell in order to purchase that dreadful poison, arrack, which was sold in abundance by the Greeks, who occupied every small available shed in the surroundings of the Barrack.
Desirous therefore to use everything to the best advantage, and remembering also that women as well as men were sent down from Balaklava continually, and that it would not do to exhaust my stores upon those who were already here; my young friends and I proposed to keep a kind of shop during two mornings of every week, permitting the women to choose for themselves what they wanted, paying a small sum, perhaps half the value, in some cases a third, for the purchase of the article. By this means I hoped to encourage industrious habits, so that they should earn what they spent – as well as retain and value what they purchased; also my funds would be less diminished, and enable me to purchase tea and soap which they could not at all get themselves; and which I could only get at a reasonable price from some of the ships, through Lieutenant Keatley. Calico and print for gowns also were purchased – so that those who came from the Crimea could share with the others the same benefit.
Here it is necessary to mention that the greatest caution had to be observed, for on the purchasing day many customers came, of course. It happened that about three hundred yards of flannel had been sent out for the women. The report of this great boon spread like wildfire. But at this time I had two hundred and eighty women registered in my book. All wanted flannel either for themselves, or for their little babies. It seemed a large quantity, but "what was it among so many?" It melted like snow, and with the greatest economy could only serve about or little more than half, but with my fund, added to by the small payment charged upon the flannel to purchase more, and another gift of eighty-four yards, some sixty more women were happy possessors of the coveted luxury; fortunately the name of each one who was served was registered, as not a few presented themselves a second time, protesting they had received nothing, and were not a little confounded to find themselves marked according to their regiments and the date of their purchase. This plan was especially needful also with regard to tea and soap, which, we discovered, some of them readily sold to the Greeks, and at a profit; thinking they had nothing to do but to return to us and get more. As I hoped tea would keep them from spirits, I allowed each as much as I could, and contrived to let her have one pound per month, which, in our times of scarcity, ought to have been an ample provision. Shortly after the arrival of the flannel some kind friend sent out fifty bonnets. This made an almost greater commotion, and my two hundred and eighty heads, hitherto utterly destitute of such a covering, were at our door directly. As only fifty could be gratified, the most deserving were selected; the others had to retire and retain the ragged shawl or handkerchief which was the usual substitute. On my remarking to a customer –
"Oh, you cannot have anything now, you were here only last week."
"No; well, I don't want anything, I only came to see if you had got something new."
Thus the "shop" was always readily frequented, rather more so than we liked sometimes; for it was not always that the customers retired quietly or contentedly. Accordingly our time was fully occupied – and I may here mention that at first, for many weeks, so painfully depressing and so overwhelming was the misery around us, that though we did not at the time notice it, we did afterwards remark, that when we came home for our meals – to prepare or superintend which was the cheerfully chosen part of our young friend Miss Almroth – we sat down, ate what was before us, but scarcely spoke.
I always look back to this period with gratitude as one of much usefulness and discipline – to others, I hope, but certainly to myself. Lessons were taught never to be forgotten. The intense suffering in those hospitals, which was borne with a patience and heroism unrivalled, made one ashamed of the grumblings and outbursts of temper so often exhibited under the most trivial contrarieties. There were scenes impressed on our memories that can never be effaced, and have been since as monitors to check discontent. We were taught the importance and value of life above, and the uncertainty of life below, and the comparative nothingness of all here. We were taught how many things one can do without, and that having food and raiment we should therewith be content. We were taught how much we can do for ourselves that we leave or require others to do for us; not that those things which God has given us richly to enjoy, are by any means to be despised and not enjoyed; or that the grades of rank and society which God has so wisely appointed are to be dispensed with; but that we should estimate these things according to their proper value – put them in their proper places, and not abuse them by over-indulgence, and uncalled-for and often inconvenient luxuriousness. Know how to abound, as St. Paul teaches us, and yet how to be abased. These are important lessons to learn, and of the greatest service if we will learn them.
Entomological experiences – Rats – Our reception rooms and etiquette at Scutari – Dress for dinner, and what we had – Dinner party, and what we had not.
I APOLOGISE! But it will not be quite fair to pass over all the désagréments of our Eastern life at that time: consequently the topic shall be plunged into at once. It is to be hoped, and no doubt much improvement has taken place since the year 1855.
As little things make up the sum of comfort or discomfort in human life generally, so they contributed their share of the latter to us in particular. For certain little things made an indelible impression on our minds, though they happily made but a "delible" one on our bodies! I refer to entomology.
While we were under actual suffering from the various specimens which swarmed in almost every place, we naturally imagined "no one can have any idea what it is." But every Eastern traveller must experience it, and doubtless goes through far worse – for Constantinople and its suburbs are civilised places comparatively; at any rate, they are placed within that category. Nevertheless, so sympathetically did we all feel the one for the other, that the usual English salutation of informing one's friends that the day was fine, or wet, or hot, or cold, gave place to the far more sensational and important question of, "How many fleas have you caught to-day?"
A remark was once made to me out there, "Oh, we need not mind so much, after all; as it takes quite ten Easterns to accomplish the work of one Englander." That, no doubt, being true, might have had some consolation in it, had not the multitudinous quantity quite compensated for the defective quality.
Quoting from a letter written on June 28, 1855, will give perhaps a more lucid description of the state of these affairs:– "On Sunday last we had service in a new ward, it being necessary to provide a larger one, now that our numbers have increased. The heat was very great, and you in England can have no conception of our misery. It swarmed with fleas! they hopped on our gowns, our hands, our books! On going out, at the conclusion of the service, I saw the Commandant, Lord William Paulet, his aide-decamp the Honourable Captain Bourke, with Colonels Kennedy and Lloyd, and others, apparently in grave discussion. As I passed, Lord William said, 'Well, Lady Alicia, how do you like the new church?' 'Like it, Lord William; why, it literally swarms with fleas!' 'Ah! just what we are talking about; I never saw anything like it. What's to be done? I've had it scoured three times; can you suggest a remedy?' Colonel Lloyd: 'Better, my lord, get some scores of boxes of flea-powder and empty them into the room, it's perfectly horrible!' Colonel Kennedy: 'No, Lloyd, that won't answer, it only stupefies them for a time, and they wake up as lively as ever.' Captain Bourke: 'Better consult Gordon of the Royal Engineers.'"
Such were some of our personal discomforts. I believe most of this infliction was to be accounted for by the fact that the houses swarmed with rats, and these literally shone with fleas; while the flooring of the rooms was so bad, each plank being at a respectful distance from its neighbour, the interstices, admitting thereby abundant collections of dust, afforded ample refuge for some myriads of such inhabitants from any destructive efforts of scouring or cleansing.
During the first three months of our sojourn, however, it must be confessed that fleas were not our worst entomological trouble. The Egyptian plague was largely spread; how could it be otherwise? the poor men down from the Crimea having had no change of clothing, ill with frost-bite and fever, many of them brought from places vacated by the Russians at Balaklava, whose uncleanly habits were proverbial; the women, also, having no changes of linen and no means of cleansing, were a prolific source of such a visitation. Happily, not being quite indigenous, they were in time overcome; for this was an irreconcilable evil.
One day, shortly after our arrival, I was in Miss Nightingale's room speaking to Miss Stanley, who had landed the previous day after a long and stormy voyage. No place having been prepared for her and the nurses by whom she was accompanied, they had been accommodated with a room in the Barrack where there were other nurses, until they could proceed to Kulalee, which was their destination.
In a low tone, expressive of shame, horror, and disgust, Miss Stanley said to me, "What do you think happened last night, when we were going to bed? Sister A— said to sister M—, 'Now, then, for a hunt.' 'A what?' said the other in surprise. 'A hunt, sister M—; you are not yet initiated into these things, but we always have a good hunt before we go to bed;' and suiting the action to the word, she began diligently to capture the little lively inhabitants of her dress. But what do you think – can you imagine? Sister M— actually found something on her gown – actually something."
"Oh, my dear," rejoined Mrs. Bracebridge, who well knew the grievance, "we have ceased to think about these things now. They are everywhere; it's very dreadful, but it can't be helped, and really the best thing is to try and not mind it – we shall get rid of them by and by."
Poor Miss Stanley looked unutterably shocked, and so indeed we all had been in our turn when first we made acquaintance with that species of natural history; but it was one of the trials we had to bear if we wished to put our hands to the plough and not turn back.
Next must be mentioned rats. Of these we had a full share. Our larder was a small recess in the vestibule, about six feet deep and five wide, a curtain substituted the lacking door. This larder was of course most attractive to these interesting quadrupeds; all kinds of contrivances were resorted to to catch them, and on one occasion five were destroyed at one blow by a trap of Emilio's construction, on the plan of the bricks and sticks, this being a large block of wood two feet long by one and a half wide. The fact of five victims thus caught at one moment will give an idea of their numbers. If we chanced all to be out at the same time and no sound disturbed them, we were pretty sure to find some half-dozen or so frolicking on our dining-table or on the floor when we returned. Their evening occupation was that of carpenters – thus we could not complain of silent solitude. The only security we had for such edibles as could not be effectually covered was to suspend them from hooks and ropes stretched across the room. This was by no means an ornamental method, but when certain things become necessary, they must be borne. We were in Quarters; the house had other occupants besides ourselves, and there was but one kitchen for the use of all, and any offices that may have been attached to it were converted into sleeping places for the servants, whose masters dwelt in the stories above. It may, therefore, easily be conceived that all things appertaining to our nourishment and refreshment were both safer and more agreeably taken charge of under our own supervision.
This foregoing description of conversations, manners, and customs exhibits rather a peculiar mode of existence, not quite in harmony with the usages of polite society, and it reminds me that some lady arriving from England or elsewhere, later on in the year, towards autumn, seemed desirous of making our acquaintance, and conceiving that I could have no means of knowing of her existence, inquired what might be the etiquette of visiting in Scutari. Miss Nightingale, to whom the question was addressed, could scarcely refrain from a smile at the simplicity of the query. She replied, "No one had time for calls there, unless they were on business, when she was sure we were all of ready access."
The idea of our drawing-room or reception-room was, under the circumstances, rather amusing. On entering the vestibule leading to mine, and which opened on the staircase by the great luxury of a plain unvarnished deal door, recently put up to exclude some of the fresh air which came too rudely rushing up unbidden, the visitor would observe two huge piles of yellow soap laid out in separate bars to dry; two or three chests of tea; a little beyond, some bales of calico, print, flannel, boots, shoes, &c.: in short, the shop. Above, overhead, and under which it was necessary to pass, in order to reach the partitioned-off sanctum, the visitor would perceive a large thick rope fastened at either side to the wall. On this our saddles were balanced, while a string of dried tongues and pieces of bacon were suspended from it – their only refuge from rats. Shelves had been put up in various places also; whereon were placed plates, dishes, teapot, candlesticks, &c. – articles more in use, however, in those regions and at that time than for ornament; this latter honour was not thus reserved for such things, and they were not allowed to repose in peace for any length of time.
Such was the entrance to my drawing or reception room. Once through the curtain into the real presence-chamber, what then? The centre piece of furniture was a grand and very substantial deal table whose blanched face was covered with green baize, though its legs, being bare, betrayed its lineage; chairs of the weakest and most rickety description; and a sofa, the stuffing of which was everywhere but where it should be, – these were the best and most approved pieces of luxury to be found at M. Stampa's depôt at Pera, from whom they were purchased, but they did their duty for the time we needed them. Such was our drawing-room, and we considered it well furnished, and now very comfortable.
Miss Nightingale's was very similar; perhaps, indeed, she had a flour barrel instead of soap, pots of jam and rice instead of calico bales; but this sketch will suffice to show we had not much space for the admission of "Madame Etiquette."
About this time I received a letter from some unsophisticated person quite unknown to me, and without any recommendation from any one I knew, stating she was anxious I should engage her as a servant; "she would be ready and willing to do anything, and would be quite contented with the smallest white-washed room if only she had it to herself." Doubtless she would, but small whitewashed rooms were not plentiful there with us!
But to return to earlier days. During January and February the cold was sometimes so intense that our dinner costume should be mentioned. When we came in from the Barrack, we put off our shawls and thick leather boots – which last by the by were indispensable for us in traversing the great stones laid anyhow by way of pavement – and wrapped ourselves in our fur cloaks, fur boots, and woollen caps. Thus we sat down to dinner and spent the evening; nothing short of this would keep out the cold.
The idea of dinner suggests a subject which may not be out of place here, i.e., as to what this sociable meal consisted of. When an ornamental string of dried tongues was exhibited, it must be remembered they were luxuries of a later date. For the first three or four months palatable food was with difficulty procured. The bread and water, those indispensables of life, I have before described; and that we should have fared badly had there been no rations. But the allowance granted to Dr. Blackwood and his servant as an army chaplain was ample provision as to quantity, with any little addition we could supply, but the quality was at fault.
Mutton, so called, was goat, and that of the leanest – it was most unpalatable. Beef was the tough sinewed meat of the draught araba oxen, which no stewing could reduce to tenderness; and often we had nothing, and could get nothing beside, because every available article of food was demanded for the two large armies on either side of the Bosphorus – the French and the English. If occasionally a goose or turkey made its appearance in the town, it was instantly snatched up; and it was only by sending Emilio to forage for us that we enjoyed so great a luxury. He was at this time our cook, but his proficiency in that office was by no means perfect. Our young friend Miss Almroth tried many times to improve the performances and explain new methods, but all in vain! So we gave it up, ceased to dispute the goodness of his dish, and contrived to eat it. To do him justice, he always tried to please, and certainly was vexed if we did not approve.
Emilio was a faithful servant, and it was only when he came to us that we began to experience any kind of comfort. His language was very curious; he said he came from near Milan, and we suspect he must have belonged to the Romansch race. Whether from the fact of mixing, as he had done, with many nationalities, or from some peculiar fancy of his own, he acquired the habit of never speaking any one language consecutively, nor even a phrase correctly, while "Il fait de besoin" and "pourquoi" were prominent features for every sentence. The Romansch in sound has something of a universal character of this kind, though it is, I believe, considered a distinct dialect, and this may have generated the idea in his mind. A specimen of conversation having been recorded in my journal, may be quoted here: – "Emilio, il faut acheter de la viande aujourdhui?" "Non, non pas i giorno. Il fait de besoin d'aller in Pera – pourquoi, il fait de besoin d'aller beaucoup early in morning pour cette sosse (chose, meaning the meat). Il fait de besoin roast moutone i giorno. Ci-ci, s'entend, avec poco de salse, oui s'entend."
Some of our difficulties in the culinary department may be shown from the following. One day Emilio heard of a goose to be purchased, and in great haste secured it at once for us. But – "Pourquoi il fait de besoin d'aller in forno, pourquoi troppo grande per il nostro brazier?" – wherefore in due time the goose was taken to the only and the public oven. Such a luxury as a goose we felt could not be eaten selfishly by ourselves in such times of scarcity; we therefore invited Dr. P. Smith (the same who had often so kindly helped my poor women with advice and prescriptions) to come and partake of the sumptuous dish – to which we thought a tureen of pea-soup might be added, a relish we had not previously thought of, nor had we previously informed ourselves how to make; nevertheless, once suggested, we saw no difficulty in carrying it into effect, having the materials at hand. Emilio, in this matter, was not allowed to interfere, because, being an English dish, we conceived it could be better accomplished by ourselves. The water was hot, and in we put the meat and the peas. Since that time it has been the excellent and valuable fashion for ladies to learn cookery; but, unfortunately for us, we then knew very little about that valuable department, and therefore experience had to be our instructor. How we managed to omit Mrs. Beeton's book when we packed up our luggage for a campaign, I do not know. The loss was keenly and quickly felt, and we requested our friends at home to supply our need; but in the confusion which was somewhat prevalent at Scutari in those times, some months elapsed before we received it, and its want then was scarcely felt.
But to return to the soup, how was it getting on? It had simmered till luncheon-time, but the peas still floated, and were as hard as when first put in. We patiently waited, and let all simmer till dinnertime, but alas! no change was perceptible; the peas were not softened, nor would they crush into soup. Too late we learned they should first have been soaked for some hours in cold water, and afterwards slowly stewed, instead of being at once thrown into boiling water. We all know this now. It would have been much more to the purpose had we known it then! The soup, therefore, had to be given up. Now for the goose! Our guest arrived, all things were ready for the feast, but the feast was not forthcoming – the goose did not appear. Presently Emilio arrived in that state of passionate excitement well known to an Italian. "Madama, Madama, è perduta; no goose, no goose, pourquoi il fait de besoin de patienza – mi prendera goose first in forno – him give me goose dernier in forno – pourquoi him no good, him burned, non posso mangere – patienza, patienza! Oh, il fait de besoin de patienza!" It was indeed too true. The goose had been placed first in the oven, and there was no inducing it to be allowed to make its exit till the very last, and then it appeared one large cinder! What were we to do? The case was very awkward under the circumstances of a dinner-party, especially with the daily difficulty of providing provisions. Biscuits and preserve was all we could offer.
"Oh, never mind!" said Dr. Smith, "I promised I would come one evening and make you an omelette. I have brought some eggs with me, and with the etna and a little pan we will have one in a few minutes."
It must be confessed this was turning things rather upside down with regard to the hospitality of the host towards his guest; but there need be no hesitation in saying we were really very much obliged to the latter for so kind and ready a manner of meeting our profound disappointment. We were all so accustomed to blunders of every kind, that we had in a measure learned to put away our vexation, which, indeed, had too often far more serious matters than the present to call it forth.
Not long after this, chiefly I believe from want of proper food, such as good bread, and especially good water, it became really necessary for some of us to get a little change; we resolved, therefore, as matters were improving around us with regard to sickness, and the wants of my poor women, to go for a few days to Therapia, where Mr. Messirie had also an hotel. Accordingly we went thither on Wednesday, March 7th, until Saturday the 10th.
Visit to Therapia of three days – Arrival of Mrs. Keatley – Appointment of Dr. Holton to the Women's Hospital – Earthquake – Sans froid of the dragoon ward-master – Death of Major Campbell – Arrival of M. Soyer – Opening of school for children – Miss Nightingale's sympathy – Turkish women "at home" – Procession of Sultanas in Constantinople.
THERAPIA is on one of those lovely projections formed by the countless recesses or little bays which on either side, breaking the line of the Bosphorus, discover innumerable scenes of beauty. It is almost midway between the Sea of Marmora and the Black Sea, and lies on this side of Buyukdere Bay, which has lately, from its heights and surroundings, become so important as a military position.
The trees and gardens interspersed between the houses, the dark cypress here, the plane-tree there, with stone pines and cedars, the varied colouring of the atmosphere, the rising or setting sun, with its crimson or its golden beams, gave light and shade of surpassing loveliness.
The inexpressible charm it was to us, in contrast with the work we had gone through and the sufferings we had witnessed, cannot be described. To this day we recall with pleasure the enjoyment it was, to lean for a while on the cushions at our open window, watching from the one side the rapid current, with its shoals of porpoises sporting scarcely fifty yards from us; or, from the other, gazing on the peaceful calm of the little bay, dotted at intervals by the picturesque fishing-huts, with their nets suspended, and the silent watchers within; while the ripple of the running sea against the stakes of the house – for it was built very much like those of Venice – made music which soothed and lulled almost to slumber.
To know what rest is, one must know what work is; and these few days can never be effaced from our memory. The only drawback to me was, that my husband was not able to share the rest with us; there were still so few chaplains, one of whom was at the time dying of typhoid fever, and so much work to be done, he could not leave excepting late in the evening, to return early in the morning; this was better than nothing, and a little steamer plying to and fro gave him this indulgence. Though our stay was but for three days, it so refreshed us that we returned joyfully to our work; and felt it a pleasure to resume it, instead of an irksome undertaking which had to be gone through.
The arrival of Mrs. Keatley, and her superintendence as resident matron of my women's hospital, was a great relief to me. She was by former experience of business habits qualified for the arrangement of its expenditure; and her compassionate consideration for the poor women was tempered by her judicious management of them, and made her valued by those who were capable of appreciating real but not lavish kindness.
We had now a regular service on the Sunday, and a medical man, Dr. Holton, appointed as constant visitor – a very attentive and kind man. Thus, after a while, all wants were supplied, and the little hospital was a comfortable home to any respectable women who would be industrious, sober, and quiet, as well as a refuge for the sick in time of need. A soldier as ward-master was also allowed, a useful man in many ways, and also a protection to the house; this man was of middle age, belonging to the 13th Dragoons, and was one who escaped with his life, but not without a wound, from the dreadful Balaklava charge. He had been badly shot in the foot, but being now healed and discharged from the Hospital, instead of sending him home, he was permitted to remain for the light service required of him.
An event which happened at that time will testify to the effect of military discipline. One day he was with us in our house helping to measure out a quantity of calico destined to the use of the women. Suddenly a very unusual sound was heard, as though we were in the midst of a violent hurricane, the house creaked, and reeled to and fro, something like the oscillation of a railway carriage, throwing the windows open, and clattering the crockery as though it must fall and be smashed. It was an earthquake, of course; we rushed down the stairs and into the street, and found our neighbours had all done the same thing, as frightened as we were. The houses did not fall, however, and as soon as calm was a little restored we ventured back into our several homes. I could hardly help smiling when once more I entered the room, to find the tall dragoon still standing there with the calico in his hand, apparently unmoved. He quietly said, "An earthquake, ma'am, I suppose!"
Such, indeed, it was, and so violent a one was seldom known in Constantinople. The principal shock was at Broussa, which was partially destroyed by it; but much mischief was done throughout our whole neighbourhood. It was severely felt in the Great Barrack, which was built of stone; many of the poor young men who were among the convalescents in a lower story could hardly be restrained from trying to escape out of the windows.
One very sad circumstance connected with it threw a gloom over us all. Major Campbell, at that time Deputy-Assistant-Quarter-Master-General, son of the rector of Liverpool, was in his office when the shock caused an opening or crack in a drain close by; he suddenly complained of some horrid mephitic gas which seemed to fill the office, and became sick almost immediately; fever seized him, and in a few days he was no more! Major Campbell was greatly lamented, being a most energetic man and much beloved; his exertions for the poor sick and wounded arriving from the Crimea were unwearied; he was strong and young, full of life and vigour to all appearance. It seemed such an unexpected calling away! But the battle is not to the strong, nor the race to the swift. All flesh is as grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of the field!
In the month of April M. Soyer, the famous cook, arrived. His good-natured and cheerful countenance was quite refreshing, and his presence was hailed with much welcome as a very useful adjunct to a very needful department. His peculiar appearance also enlivened the monotony of our everyday routine. M. Soyer's dress corresponded with the bent of his mind, which was in all things devoted to his profession; he clothed himself completely in white, excepting only his cap, which was large and wide and made of dark-blue cloth edged with a gold binding. Thus costumed he used to ride from one hospital to another on a small pony. At the entrance of his own private little kitchen he had pasted up Punch's portrait of himself, which was ridiculously like. It portrayed him riding on a turtle to Turkey, entitled "The good Samaritan," and evidently amused him to refer to it. On his table was always an ample display of everything good and useful in the way of nourishment – from plain rice-water to jellies and strong soups. The dishes were all made from the articles distributed as rations, and he was ever ready to instruct those who were willing to learn how to convert them to palatable food.
M. Soyer wrought so great a change in the culinary department, and so pleased the poor men, that when passing through the corridors of the Great Barrack one day he was saluted with a vociferous shout of "Three times three!" from them, cheering with all their strength. His thoughts seemed concentrated on his own hobby, it was paramount, the beginning, continuation, and ending of everything with him. Even his plan for taking Sebastopol was to be entirely by starvation; he could see no reason why lives were to be sacrificed by gunpowder when the cuisine failure would do it all. In any case the arrival of M. Soyer was a cheering and cheerful addition, for we all, more or less, benefited by his coming, and we thankfully record it when we revert to those times.
The months of January, February, and March being over, the worst was past. Death had removed its scores and scores of sufferers; frost-bitten victims were no longer coming down; fevers were less, and the wounded were recovering. With the return of spring came improvement everywhere. Stores in abundance of all kinds were now provided; and however long the war might last, we seemed prepared for any emergency. Of course this was the case with my little hospital also, which as the year advanced, was chiefly of use as such to the lying-in women, though amongst so many there were nearly always some one or two invalids from other causes. The decline of sickness gave us room to spare, and as at that time the children belonging not only to soldiers who had arrived from India, but to employés who had come out with their families, having increased in number, our attention was turned to the advisability of opening a little school. The scholars were not numerous, as many of the children were of tender age, yet there were such as needed teaching, and the parents were very glad to have an opportunity of sending them to be taught.
In this new enterprise both our young friends took a very useful part. I like especially to mention here, that at our Sunday school, which we considered a most important feature of the undertaking, we had the assistance of a young officer, who had always interested himself in such work, and who delighted in feeding the lambs. Christopher Anderson, of the Royal Engineers, has long ago gone to his rest! perhaps being early called away, he saw but little fruit of his work, but we know that his labour of love could not be forgotten nor lost, while for himself his reward has been, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!"
Miss Nightingale, who at all times lent an attentive ear to any application for help in a good cause, assisted us at once from her stores with copy-books, pens, and other scholastic materials, more than sufficient having been sent out for the use of the soldiers in their night schools. But she remarked laughingly when I spoke to her about it –
"Oh, are you really going to do that unkind thing – to teach children to write? I am so tired of writing, I sometimes wish I could not write!"
Here may be a good opportunity to mention, especially, how much I was indebted to her for advice and sympathy in all my work; however deeply she was engaged (and this only those who observed her from day to day could know), she was always ready to give most patient attention to anything that was laid before her, by those whom she knew were in earnest in their requests and in their work. The more we saw, the more we appreciated the opinion of Mr. Sidney Herbert, afterwards Lord Herbert of Lee, when in a speech printed in the Times in the autumn of 1854, at the commencement of the war, he asserted – "Miss Nightingale is the only woman in England capable of undertaking such a work!" – meaning the care of the military hospitals; a speech which at the time gave great umbrage to her country-women, whose hearts bleeding for the woes echoed from the East, imagined they could equally well perform that office, and help to nurse sick and wounded soldiers. But imagination is not practicability, and when real action is required, it must be looked for from those made ready by experience and long training. Now it so happened that Miss Nightingale, with a natural capacity for organisation, had qualified herself for the superintendence of hospitals. She was led, no doubt, by Him who leads the blind by a way they know not, to prepare herself for the work which needed such guidance, meanwhile little dreaming that the bias of her mind from childhood, which gave her such training, could result in so great an undertaking.
It must be remembered that she was about to introduce a system hitherto unknown at the War Office. She had to face and, as best she could, to overcome deep-rooted prejudices against, and opposition to, any interference with the ordinary rules and routine of our military hospitals. Her staff of trained nurses were to take the place of the orderlies, who too often were ignorant and incapable of performing the commonest requirements for a poor invalid. Not only so, but Miss Nightingale, on this occasion and at this time, found herself in a but half-civilised country where everything had to be organised, arrangements made for the reception, sustenance, nursing, and comfort of the soldiers, where nothing was really prepared and nothing to be had ready at hand.
It was indeed no small responsibility she took upon herself. But the result will be to her honour and praise through time; for there is no doubt it was the opening of a new era of usefulness and mercy, which has hitherto gone on in a developing progress of good.
Since that time how often have trained nurses been called into requisition! how much suffering has been relieved! and we may say how many lives saved since that new system was really accepted and brought into prominence.
Germany, France, Austria, the East, South Africa – almost every portion of the globe has recognised the blessing of the nursing sisters, especially near the battle-field. Nor must we omit to acknowledge the comfort and advantage of a dependable and efficient nurse in our own sick chambers at home. What an improvement is here! what a change from the often ignorant though perhaps kind and anxious attendant which was all we could formerly, if at all, avail ourselves of. It is true Mrs. Elizabeth Fry had many years previously established a system for training nurses, and a most valuable institution it was; but being on a small scale and limited to private families, was wholly inadequate to the great plunge of a military hospital in time of war; and it was not likely, being a Quakeress and one of the "Peace Society," that such a work could ever have been contemplated by her. How often is it that like the mighty rivers which flow through continents, the source is from a very small spring, an idea is started by, it may be, some humble Christian, anxious to do good, but it is enlarged, carried on, and brought to great fruition by other hands.
This reformation in England at any rate was to a very considerable extent attributable to the impetus given at that time by the need of such help consequent upon the war. Many, provoked to jealousy by Mr. Herbert's declaration, brought their talents from under the bushel, and laboured through trials and difficulties to qualify for the arduous work; and their labour has certainly not been in vain, for who will venture to gainsay the blessing that has followed?
As the aspect of things in general was now brighter, we began to enjoy the lovely scenery which surrounded us. One evening, about half-past five, my young friends and I went out to a part of the cliff overlooking the Sea of Marmora, and sat down to inhale the fresh air and talk over our day's work. Soon a number of Turkish women – I can perhaps scarcely say ladies – approached and seated themselves on the ground close to us, watching us and laughing like children; presently some black nurse or servant brought them coffee, pipes, and sweetmeats. By signs we began to fraternise with them, to their evident amusement, and this resulted in an invitation to one of their houses. We rose and followed, being curious to see them "at home".
According to the usual construction of buildings in Scutari, there was the open hall below, on entering which the "ladies" all (and there were eleven) immediately unbound the muslin eshmek, or covering, from their heads, threw off their feragee, or cloaks, tossing them upon a large wooden horse standing conveniently for the purpose, put off their slippers and scrambled upstairs in the most uncouth manner imaginable, greatly enjoyed at their success in bringing us in with them.
The feragee or cloak was generally of some brilliant colour, orange or scarlet, violet or green;– and a very picturesque addition to any scenery, but especially when contrasted with the dark cypress-tree background. We had frequent opportunities of thus admiring it, as the women usually assembled on Thursday afternoons, seating themselves in groups on equally brilliant variegated carpets and rugs, in the great cemetery, or City of the Dead, as it has been called, and which extended for about three miles. But however much it, and its wearers, claimed our admiration out of doors, they certainly lost it in doors. The jacket and loose quilted trousers may be painted on canvas to look graceful, but they fail in reality to be so, at least so we thought, and it was not from this single visit that our conclusions were drawn, for we could scarcely reckon our present friends as criterions of either grace, beauty, or manners, nor class them as among the élite of Turkish gentlewomen.
But to return. Some had socks on their feet, some had not; most of them wore loose, soft, bright yellow leather boots, but over these when they went out was a stiff slipper of the same colour, without any heel; this was the addition of which they disencumbered themselves on entering the vestibule below. Those who had not the loose boot wore a little sock just covering the toe and heel, but some even lacked these!
Well, upstairs they all scampered, beckoning us to follow. They jumped on the divan, which usually extends round the entire room (for there are no chairs), and seemed mad with delight at the novelty of their guests. Our dress underwent minute inspection, and the closely-fitting bodice excited general approbation. The universal word "Buono" was a wonderful means of mutual understanding. Pointing to their own dress – "No buono;" pointing to ours – "Englese buono; Turco no buono." But having no interpreter with us, the conversation, if such it can be called, was carried on otherwise by signs and signals.
There was not the slightest appearance of any industrial occupation whatever in the house. We were shown all their rooms, some of which were very smart, so far as the divans and carpets went; and the paintings on the walls, for nearly all are festooned with flowers, added gaiety to them. Everything was very clean and tidy, but not a table, or work-box, or work, or any one thing could we see to indicate employment. One of the "ladies" certainly produced a pipe and began to smoke, but as we made signs to her that "Englese" did not think it "buono," she immediately desisted. An elderly one, who was called "Anna" (mother), was very handsome, a fine profile and sweet smile; but such a figure – with being almost as broad as she was long! One of the young girls also was very pretty, but her painted eyebrows, made to meet over her nose, spoilt her beauty, at least in our eyes. The rest, for the most part, were plain; nearly all had their nails dyed with henna. This certainly is a barbarous custom, which to us looked very nasty, as though they had been dipped in blood, otherwise their hands were perfectly clean. After a while we bade them farewell, made signs thanking them for their intended courtesy, and returned home.
To us as Christians, the fact of so many lives thus wasted, such idleness, such ignorance, such degradation, made the visit a sad one. The language precluded all possibility of communication, and there seemed to be no way by which we could do them good. It is a great comfort to know that now, and for some years, female education in the East is making progress. This only can elevate them, and in proportion as the Gospel of Christ influences them will they rise to their proper sphere and take their place as rational women.
Before leaving the topic of ladies, I will relate that, about this time, one morning we went over to Stamboul for shopping purposes, and though we were not aware of it, it was a féte-day, or great occasion, when the Sultan's ladies went in a long procession to the mosque to offer prayers for the success of the pilgrimage to Mecca, to prepare for which the pilgrims were to assemble over on the Asiatic side during the following week. The dresses of the Sultanas were as usual brilliant in colour, and apparently rich in material, and jewels were not lacking, but their faces were closely concealed in the folds of the eshmek.
The equipages which conveyed them were wriggling, gaudy things, while the horses looked miserable to a degree, thin and wretched – anything, in short, but like royal steeds; very different to those which the Sultan mounted when he went forth in state. The carriages had a box or seat for the driver, it is true, but his occupying it was quite out of the question, so long as his way was through the streets; and, indeed, as there were few, if any, roads worthy the name, it was doubtful his ever sitting there and driving from it. The progressive movement was certainly unique; first he pulled the horses, then the carriage was partly dragged and partly lifted by the wheels over the large uneven stones with which the streets were strewn – for paved it could not be called.
A procession much more grotesque could hardly be conceived of the kind. From the narrowness of the street, we had to make our escape within the doorway of a shop while this royal cortege, consisting of about fourteen or sixteen carriages, was passing, by no means "swiftly by." No doubt since 1855 the Sultanas have also shared in the improvements which have been since that period introduced; and it is to be hoped their carriages by this time are more comfortable, and as the streets and roads now boast of cabs and omnibuses, it may also be supposed that the royal coachmen occupy their proper place on the coach-box, and drive the royal ladies in a somewhat more dignified manner.
On our return in the evening we observed all the mosques and minarets illuminated, both at Constantinople and also at Scutari. It was a very pretty sight, and the reflection of the lights in the water was like a picture of fairyland.
In consequence of the intended pilgrimage, the plain between the Barrack and the great cemetery, which appeared like a forest of cypress-trees, became a scene of much gaiety. Some grand pasha of something and his suite arrived and encamped there during four or five days previous to their departure, in order to receive the gifts of the faithful, which were to be laid at the Prophet's tomb. This chief pilgrim occupied about eight tents, and the Turks visited them in great numbers, dressed in the gayest costumes. The women also assembled in groups amongst themselves here and there, daily, during the time of preparation.
Looking down upon them from a height, it was really a beautiful spectacle, to which the surroundings of nature contributed greatly: the varied colours of the dresses thrown out in brilliancy by the dark-green cypress-trees, these again set forth by the Sea of Marmora dotted by the Princes Islands, and the final background of the chain of snowy mountains, amongst which Olympus stands in towering grandeur – composed a landscape not to be forgotten, any more than the civility of the Imaums who, inviting us to mount the minarets, afforded us this pleasurable prospect.
Naval Hospital, Therapia – Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie – Haida Pasha Hospital – Mrs. Wiloughby Moore – Purchase of "Pig" – Mercantile dealings with Spanish Jew – Purchase of "Sultan" – Uses of a salad bowl – Everything down the well.
I SHALL now shortly introduce my readers to the little steed whose recent death prompted me to recur to these reminiscences of that eventful period. Many circumstances have of course been suppressed purposely, for obvious reasons, conceiving it better to confine myself as much as possible to personal experience of passing incidents, rather than to detail mistakes and grievances to which we were doubtless subjected chiefly from the novelty which war was to us at that time, and the unprepared state in which it found us.
I have already mentioned that the condition of all things had very much improved. This happy fact, however, though it changed the character of our work to some extent, did not so very much diminish it. The sick and wounded, hitherto in the hulks on the Bosphorus, were now transferred to the different hospitals on land. One especially for the navy had been for some time established at Therapia, and was committed to the charge of Mrs. Mackenzie, a daughter of the late Dr. Chalmers, who, with her husband, came out prepared to undertake that duty. Many were received there, more at Kulalee and elsewhere. This obviated the necessity of visiting the ships in all weathers, perhaps, and often with great risk; but the number of chaplains being again diminished – some going to the front, others to Smyrna, where was also a depôt, another to Sinope – work was still heavy upon those left, though it was more confined to one spot and better organised, and consequently it could be more easily encountered.
About this time we received various anxious letters of inquiry from such as had relatives among the officers who had come down to Scutari either sick, wounded, or to be invalided home. They were located in a small palace called Haida Pasha, situated about a mile distant from the Barrack, and which had been converted into an hospital exclusively for officers, and until the arrival of Mrs. Wiloughby Moore (who unhappily did not long survive her charge), it cannot be said they had been very well attended to, having only the orderlies for nurses. The officers were beyond Miss Nightingale's range, whose special mission was to the common soldiers, and although she established a kitchen from which those who were invalided could draw requisitions, and did what she could at a distance to help, she wisely and strictly adhered to the work she had undertaken; and for which only she considered herself responsible, and that was already overwhelming enough! – therefore, being more at leisure, and only too glad to respond to the requests, I went down to Haida Pasha Palace and found several young invalids for whom inquiries were to be made.
My short visit seemed so acceptable that it was a double pleasure to feel able, by the lessened work among my women, to repeat it. But walking to and fro took up more time than could well be spared; besides, the hot weather was now upon us, and as riding was the only alternative to walking, we began to think of some useful little pony which might be a help in many ways. One was therefore soon obtained – I do not remember, and have not noted down who made the choice for us, but whoever it may have been, he chose him for strength, but neither for beauty nor activity. He was a sturdy, strong little thing who liked his own lazy way best; he had, besides, a trick, which procured for him from our servant Emilio a name which he never lost. This trick was to stop at every stall or tray of cakes, which Turks, Greeks, or others hawked about the town, and extract one or more for his own eating; vegetables, fruit, anything that came in his way, whether he was being ridden or not – he had no reverence for his rider – he would make the greatest efforts to succeed in getting something. "Cochon! cochon!" cried Emilio, "him pig, him great pig, him eat all, him no good, him cochon, him porco." But, alas! Emilio's invectives had no effect on him, though they resulted in his ever afterwards being called "Pig."
One pony, however, was not enough for us; we therefore gave Emilio directions to be on the lookout for another – and he promised if he undertook the commission that he would certainly get us something better than the one we had, or none at all. "But remember, Emilio, we want a larger animal, we should prefer a small horse; in any case, he must be larger."
Emilio prided himself greatly on his knowledge of horses, having belonged to a cavalry regiment under Garibaldi; he was so fond of them also that the idea of having the charge of them reconciled him at once to resigning the office of cook to the hands of a new servant, a soldier's wife who recently came from Varna, and had been used to service in that capacity especially. She happily arrived just at the time our former official was taken ill, and finally left with her husband who came from the Crimea invalided home. The change was particularly agreeable to us, for though we were always grateful to Emilio for his services and desire to please, yet we never quite appreciated, as undoubtedly we ought to have done, the dainty dishes he set before us, with a look of triumphant satisfaction and assurance that they were "eccellente!"
The new office of groom was as great a satisfaction to him, as the enjoyment of a lovely evening's ride after our day's work was to us! and now it was that the saddles and bridles, which I before mentioned, formed some of the ornamental part of our drawing-room furniture. A saddle-room below stairs was no more to be thought of than a larder, for whatever was deposited in those regions became at once public property. Thus every article which we wished to keep intact must be kept upstairs; spoons, knives, forks, jugs, whatever found its way below, was seized upon at once by the other servants, too glad to find anything useful at hand. No wonder that complaints were made to us by Emilio with anger continually. "Me clean sosses (choses), George – prende – him take subito – ah, ah! il fait de besoin de patienza!" Stables we possessed, because they generally formed some part of the belongings to a house which was of any size or importance, as the "effendis" usually rode either on their small ponies, or on white donkeys, of which there were some fine and handsome specimens in Scutari.
Now we became our own habit makers. With regard to needlework, all that we required was of course done by ourselves, it was the constant evening occupation. Our dresses were of the strongest materials as well as of the simplest fashion, and this for two reasons: first, because a very frequent employment during the day was in what were called the storehouses – here dear old Mrs. Bracebridge laboured indefatigably, and those who helped, will never forget how she toiled day after day midst boxes, barrels, bales, &c., unpacking heaps of goods regardless of nails, hooks, wires, and every other implement destructive of garments – and secondly, because we were our own dressmakers. Arrivals from England were too uncertain, therefore the quickest made was the most acceptable pattern for us. Prints and calico were easily procured on the spot at very reasonable prices, and the weather becoming hot, such material was most suitable.
Our draper was a Spanish Jew, who, with his pack beside him, seemed for some time almost to live on the doorstep of our house. Of him the large purchases for our women were made; and a curious transaction it was between us, for having once settled on the price, no matter what the quality, or whether it were muslin, calico, or "frintsh" (as he always called print), it cost the same. This facilitated matters greatly, and the shopping here, consequently, was far more quickly performed than on the other side of the Bosphorus, where it not unfrequently exhausted an hour to complete one single purchase. Our conversation on the subject ran thus: – "Johnny" (I have before mentioned that "Johnny" was the normal name for everybody, Turks or Jews, all addressed us as Johnny, and we did the same to them when desirous of arresting their attention. But, doubtless out of great respect which the poor Spaniard had either for me or the money I paid him, or perhaps from a degree of civilisation to which he had attained, he usually addressed me as "Missus") – "Johnny, how many yards in this piece of calico?" "Twenty-four yardas, missus; that speak" (showing me the mark written). "And how many in that piece, Johnny?" "Mesura, missus, mesura, that no speak." (There was no mark.)
The material for our habits was purchased in this way, and what was it? We chose a piece of strong unbleached calico, and being, as I said, our own tailors, they were quickly made, and no more enjoyable rides could any one have had than we – when circumstances allowed us to indulge in the exercise.
One morning in the month of May some business sent me to the Hospital at Kulalee, the management of which had been undertaken by the Sisters of Mercy brought out by Miss Stanley, of whom mention has been already made. Kulalee was about five miles distant either by land or water. On this occasion I rode thither, but my absence was greatly lengthened, owing to the slow and deliberate pace of poor "Pig," who always considered it a trouble to quicken his steps to please any chance companion I might find to accompany me on my journey, though subsequently, moved to jealousy perhaps by a real friend and companion, he stirred himself marvellously to keep up in even line.
At length I returned, and was met by Emilio, who had evidently been on the watch for me, in a state of much excitement. "Madama, Madama, me buy cavallo."
"Have you, Emilio; where is he?"
"You not come, Madama. Man no wait, me buy. Oh pourquoi il est bon!"
"Let me see him, Emilio; bring him out."
Away he went, and in a few minutes led out the newly purchased animal of which he was so proud.
"Oh, but, Emilio," I exclaimed, "why did you buy one so small? I told you we wanted a pony bigger than the one we have, and certainly this is smaller."
"Madama," pressing his finger to his mouth, by which he wished to signify something emphatic – "Madama, scusate, cavallo eccellente; vera good, from noss to tail him good, him buono cavallo! Oh pourquoi il est bon! Moi me Garibaldi officer, have plenty horse, moi me know well, him leetle but him strong, him molto stronger as odder, – oh pourquoi il est bon."
In vain I looked disappointed and vexed; every expostulation on my part was met by the assurance that he was excellent; in short, I think Emilio considered no horse was to be found like him, and I might consider myself most fortunate in possessing him.
"How did you get him, Emilio?"
"Pasha's son ride him; moi ask, You sell? and so me made bargain."
This was the purchase of Sultan, and my first introduction to the faithful and useful friend that served us so many years. We had the opinion of an officer of the Horse Artillery, which was very favourable, but his age could not be ascertained as his teeth-marks were gone. We knew he must be about eight or nine years at least (he did not look older), which, from the work he did and the years he lived we suppose must have been about his age.
The next thing was of course to ride him! – thus make trial of his qualifications. Having been disappointed in his companion, we were perhaps more particular with regard to this second purchase. The following evening, therefore, Emilio led him to the door, quite confident that he would answer all his expectations. He began by arching his neck and pulling the rein, as though he would try the strength of his new rider and pull it out of her hand, but he went gently, and seemed perfectly good-tempered. It did not take long to discover his superiority over his companion; he walked with a long stride, easily keeping pace with the large English horses which accompanied us usually in our rides, was full of spirit, and had, notwithstanding his gentle demeanour, a strong will of his own, with a mouth perfectly regardless of our curb rein whenever it was his pleasure to go; this might be accounted for from the hard bits used by the Turks, and to which they are habituated, but the perfect docility of his temper made his objectionable mouth really of no consequence.
On our return from this "trial trip," Emilio was at the door waiting anxiously for the verdict on his purchase, and I was obliged to admit, that with the exception of his size he had nothing of a pony about him – he was like a small horse, and that I had quite enjoyed my ride. This was an undoubted triumph for Emilio, and it was amusing to see the creature patted and kissed, and led away with "Ah, Madama, pourquoi il est bon!"
Were it not that this animal became like a companion to us from that time and during the many years we had him, I should not expatiate on his ways, manners, and character, but under the circumstances, it is surely due to his memory to relate some particulars. His colour was light bay, with a little white line over one hoof and a small speck of white on his nose; his tail and mane were black, or very dark brown. The oftener we rode him the more we liked him; he had no vice whatever, nor do we recollect his ever shying at that time; and notwithstanding his love of his own way and the comical efforts he made to get it, we can truly say – and this can be corroborated by all his riders – that from the day we bought him to the day of his death we never knew him to play any tricks, or do anything suddenly, taking us by surprise, unawares. If he intended to go swiftly he would give us fair notice of it by putting down his head and shaking it, continuing to shake it several times, and then increasing in rapidity of pace. Pulling him in against his will had certainly little effect, but when once you knew him, that effort was unnecessary; loosen the rein and speak to him, he was docile and would generally obey. Many and many a time in the midst of a run I have thus stopped him, and he has remained perfectly still, though snorting with excitement, but if he went on, it would be at his own pace and not mine; this must be confessed, and it was our only source of dispute. He never attended to anybody's business but his own, which was a very valuable trait, and if other horses, happening to be in company with us, or which we might meet, became restive and bolted, it never affected him beyond snorting, which he frequently did, signifying, we suppose, good spirits at being in society; and if an accident happened to any of the party, we could dismount and leave him by himself, en parole not to move, till what was wrong was rectified, and we were all ready to start afresh.
When he was brought to England, we found him to be very fond of children; they could do anything with him in play, pull his tail, take hold of his feet, one of which he would always lift up for them when he felt they tried to do so, and turn round to find where to put it down again without hurting them; he had the gentleness and tenderness of a Newfoundland dog to his master's children. Often he carried three little ones at a time on his back with the greatest gentleness and dignity: it would have been hard if such a character could not make him a favourite with all who ever had anything to do with him.
It was certainly very convenient for us that Turkish horses were so tractable, for driving being out of the question, riding was the only way of locomotion on land; and what should we poor ladies have done had we been obliged to depend on horses trained to carry us? We could go no distance excepting on horseback, consequently our custom was, when we crossed the Bosphorus, either for an excursion or any business which led us beyond the immediate streets, to take our saddles with us, and on the landing, either at Galata or Tophana, we found a row of horses waiting for hire, like cabs on a stand, saddled for gentlemen with a smartly embroidered saddle-cloth; but without hesitation we chose the one we fancied, put our saddle on his back and mounted; asking no questions as to whether he would like to carry a lady who rode on one side or not, and away we went; we never had an accident, nor did we ever find a vicious horse.
I am sure we could not try such an experiment in England. Whatever other faults the Turks may have, they cannot be accused of ill-treating their horses; and I believe a great deal of the gentleness of those animals is due to the kindness in training which they receive. It is much to be wished that our English grooms could take a lesson from them; for I do not believe that it is so much the evil disposition of the English horse, or the good disposition of the Turkish horse, as the way in which they are treated which makes them so different. But whatever may be the cause, it is certain we were able continually to do in Turkey, without risk or accident, what we should scarcely venture to think of here in England.
One day, on our return from an equestrian expedition through mud and mire, I accidentally went to the window which looked down on the stable-yard – and what did I see? The invaluable willow-patterned salad-bowl of which mention was made in one of the earlier chapters as the special prize among the crockery purchases at Stampa's, and which not only served us for various purposes – such as soup-tureen, milk-pan, pudding-dish, &c., but had been the envy of neighbours who had borrowed it frequently for state occasions – yes, even this identical precious salad-bowl was now converted into a pail for washing Sultan's feet! Was not this somewhat of a trial to my feelings? I certainly felt it was "Pourquoi" indeed! and quite my turn to exclaim, "Il fait de besoin de patienza!"
Nor was this all. One of the wire dish-covers which we had considered so necessary to the comfort and propriety of our larder in warm weather, where was it? It also had been abstracted to perform the office of sieve for the horses' barley; not that Emilio had at all been left destitute of the requisites of the stable;– buckets, pails, and all the necessary furniture had been provided, but, as before mentioned, whatever went below stairs became common property, and usually ended by tumbling into the well, where it lay "beaucoup de temps."
Who put the articles in? would have been a useless inquiry, for "nobody" reigned paramount there, as he does at home; but certainly buckets, pails, cans, spoons, forks, in short everything, were, on a great fishing occasion which we ordered should take place, fished up from the bottom of this aforesaid well, of course, to the astonishment of every one. No one could imagine how such things came there!
Expostulation was vain. Nothing was considered by Emilio as too good for his caro cavallo. "What are you doing?" was nevertheless my exclamation. "Why, that is the salad-bowl that you are using, and we shall want it for the dinner directly." (Its present use and its proximate one, made a dainty idea, certainly.) No matter, – "Madama, pourquoi il y a niente, la secchia è perduta beaucoup de temps! George, il jeta in well. Ah, Madama, George très méchant. II fait de besoin de patienza!"
This, with the persistent "pourquoi," was always the indispensable wind-up of Emilio and his troubles. We made an earnest request that the feat with the salad-bowl should not be repeated, as we did not quite approve of it;– how often it had already been so appropriated, it was clearly wise not to inquire.
Shortly after this I had the indiscretion to mention these things to a friend, as my griefs had been somewhat added to by a great breakage of cups and saucers, and sundry other such misfortunes – for misfortunes they really were, when they could only be replaced by the great exertion of a journey to Pera and hamals' backs to carry them. My friend sympathised by reason of similar experience, but I suppose we spoke too audibly, for she was scarcely gone ere Mrs. Topps, our servant, desired a private audience, and this was to tell me, – "As she understood I was not satisfied, I had better try and get some one else," which was tantamount to saying, "If you don't be quiet, I shall go away, and then what will you do?" And indeed I felt the full force of the admonition, well knowing what "trying to get some one else" meant, all the women being known to me; therefore I humbled myself immediately.
Mrs. Topps was a good cook and that I was not; she was our laundress, and that I could not be; and she did a great many things which I could not do either; so I replied, that her ideas of my dissatisfaction would be better grounded on real reproofs personally given, and not on mere hearsay; and as I suppose she did not like to confess she had been listening, and besides really did not wish to leave, I got out of my dilemma. But in truth I do not think the above description of the way in which the order "a place for everything, and everything in its place" was carried out, could be quite calculated to give any mistress "satisfaction."
Thus ends my chapter on Sultan, for though he took a large share in our work, contributing greatly to facilitate its extension, yet having once mentioned his docility and other characteristics, there could be but little of incident in his goings to and fro, or in his life in Scutari, to occupy space now.
Second earthquake – Excursion to Kadi Koi – Sergeant Clay's inquiries concerning his deceased wife – Miss Nightingale's illness – Two Protestant Armenians condemned – Mistaken identity – Released.
BEFORE passing to circumstances belonging to a later period of this year, I must not omit to mention the second severe shock of earthquake which occurred on the 11th of April, just as we were seated at dinner, in the evening, when the soup was literally tossed out of our plates. To those not habituated to such events they are very alarming; and though some of our neighbours who had spent much time in Zante, Corfu, and other Ionian Islands, spoke of them as common occurrences, to which people get accustomed and rather hoped for than otherwise, on the principle that small shocks were supposed to prevent great ones; I own I thought it doubtful if I should ever regard such commotions so philosophically, and considered the two specimens we had experienced as anything but satisfactory or consolatory! We certainly wished for no more, for though wooden houses, such as ours, are by far the safest, the sensation was very terrifying; besides the rolling and crunching sound, it was as though the house were top heavy and being screwed round for the purpose of being thrown down the next instant; the shock lasted but a few seconds. This was bad enough for us, but again Broussa was the scene of destruction; the remnant left by the last recent earthquake was now completely destroyed, and the poor inhabitants, chiefly indigent weavers, came to Scutari in numbers, and sought shelter in old tumble-down sheds and buildings, of which there was no lack around us – Turkish ideas of fate leaving to decay what might in many instances have been repaired and utilised. For some time the atmospheric disturbances were very great, and we were visited with severe storms and hurricanes, which no doubt were in some way connected with the earthquake, as they were frequently accompanied by slight shocks. But after a while the month of May opened upon us with full beauty, though with great heat.
About three miles distant from the Barrack, on the southern side, is a little Turkish town called Kadi Koi, built on the site of the ancient city Chalcedon. Beyond, but quite adjacent to it, on a neck of land stretching out into the sea, was a lighthouse, and within a few hundred yards of this a grove of old plane-trees gave shelter to a fountain whence water, reported to be delicious, was perpetually flowing into a large basin built of marble some twenty feet or more square. Its cool and refreshing appearance by no means belied the report, but our knowledge of the usual state of the watercourses in Turkey forbade any curiosity to taste without ascertaining if it were the original spring.
One fine afternoon a party was made for a ride thither, but some of the ladies having no fancy for equestrian exercise were to venture in a carriage. These carriages were furnished with a kind of soft mattress reaching quite across, giving no room for sitting, which was not usually a Turkish position. You were supposed to lie upon these mattresses as upon a divan, and four ladies could be accommodated if they had no objection to the feet of their vis-à-vis reposing beside them. To us nothing could be much more uncomfortable, for it was neither quite lying down, nor was it sitting up; under any circumstances both mattress and position were so unstable that the passengers could not fail to be "plenty tossed." "Plenty," like Emilio's "pourquoi," was an indispensable word with all "Johnnies," whose knowledge of English amounted usually to only one or two words which were made to express all things, with the addition of a little gesticulation.
When the mattress was adjusted, no edge was left to the carriage even to hold on by, and the sides were open, though it had a covered top arching over it, so that there was really little or no protection against being rolled out, as you jolted pitilessly over unmade roads, – in, out, and over deeply-cut ruts. To the brave there might not have been fear, but certainly there was great danger of such a catastrophe. I speak from experience, having once, in company with Mr. Bracebridge, made the experiment at Stamboul, which neither of us ever after desired to repeat.
One of the officers of our party had lent a horse to draw this carriage, rather than trust to the lingering pace of the jaded animals whose career we imagined usually ended as carriage horses when they had no legs left to bear the burden of a rider safely. Mr. A—'s own servant was to lead it with due injunctions to go gently. We all arrived safely, and enjoyed ourselves as children out for a holiday.
The Pasha, to whom the fountain belonged, was there, with some companions, reposing on cushions, smoking narghilees. He was dressed in a bright lavender-coloured cloak lined with white fur. At a little distance were small groups of ladies in their brilliant feragees taking coffee or iced sherbet. It was a most picturesque scene, – the plane-trees were very old and the sun was beaming through their foliage, while opening peeps gave us the sea, the Princes Islands, and grand Olympus, with his hoary head beyond in the distant background. It was so charming a spot on a summer evening, so easy of access after our day's work, that once having made its acquaintance, it became a favourite resort.
Our return home on the above occasion was not quite so felicitous as our going out had been. Possibly unused to a collar, the horse drawing the carriage refused to pull it up the hill, for it was a rising ground nearly the whole way back; becoming somewhat restive, he frightened his passengers, who preferred walking forward on their own feet to being backed in the carriage at the will of the horse; accordingly they all got out. The carriage thus lightened, away went the animal, possibly more at the driver's will and whip, for he was very angry, than by his own inclination.
I and Ebba Almroth were quietly riding on in advance; presently we heard the sound of wheels, and then saw the horse with the carriage at full tearing speed crossing our path, the reins trailing, and no guide; away it flew, when coming unexpectedly to a little declivity on the plain down it went, the two there parting company. We were most thankful to know the carriage was empty, and that our friends were walking in safety.
The owner of the horse, Mr. A—, was riding with us, and greatly frightened was his servant, when running after the horse, to find his master confronting him – "Johnny, what do you mean by all this?" "O master, horse no stop, plenty quick, plenty quick, me pull, horse pull too, horse pull more plenty, me pull, and get down quick."
The following incident is related as one of many which will serve to show that the soldiers of the Crimean War, generally speaking, were sincerely grateful for the attention and sympathy they received. As far as we ladies were concerned, we can testify to their respectful behaviour to us at all times; we walked as safely through the Barrack yard, the corridors, or anywhere else where they were located, either in the daylight or in the dusk – without even hearing a word to complain of, or receiving the slightest incivility. On the contrary, the soldiers were in the habit of saluting us as we went by with the greatest respect. No doubt it was a novelty seeing so many ladies around them, and I am sure it had a most civilising influence, and they well appreciated the kindness shown them. The effect of the Queen's letter to them also was very touching and beneficial; coming as it did when so much misery abounded. Possibly hitherto they had thought few cared for soldiers, excepting to win battles and bring glory to England, but when they saw the real personal interest taken in them, and that by ladies, and especially by Her Majesty, it worked marvellously among them – for they were not then the young, raw, and often thoughtless recruits of the present day.
One morning a soldier, just down from the Crimea, called, seeing "Chaplain House" written upon a board on the house. This was a device we had had recourse to on our first arrival in Scutari, in order to give the men some idea where a chaplain might be found in case of need: for as the streets had no names, and the houses no numbers, the "up to the right and turn to the left" guides no one. I therefore painted in as large letters as I could "Chaplain House" on the lid of one of our large deal boxes, and suspended it out of the window. This indication was so useful, that it was adopted throughout our part of Scutari so soon as any man had leisure to go round and name the streets and houses.
"Pray," said the soldier to Emilio, "does the parson's lady live here who knew my poor wife?"
"Ci, ci," said Emilio, "Madama know all womans;" and then the man was shown up.
"Beg your pardon, ma'am; my name is Clay, and my poor wife died here. I was told you were kind to her, and I wish to thank you ladies for your kindness." He came also to ask if I could tell him of anything that belonged to her; he had heard that I had asked his wife if I should take charge of her ring for her husband – which was true, as I observed it gone from her finger when she was dying; but that she had given it to one of the women of the regiment, who promised to take care of it for him. This woman now denied ever having had it, and he came to me to inquire about it. He had asked for her grave, but that could not be found. She had died very early in the year, before the records could be properly taken of the women, and very shortly after my introduction to those sad dens which have been already described.
I remembered her well; she died of dropsy, which at last carried her off very suddenly. There was indeed but little I could tell about her, excepting that I was with her when she passed away. All her poor husband could hear of her burial was that she was numbered with the fifty per diem, who in the early part of January of that year were laid together in one large grave.
He was much affected, and exclaimed in his grief – "Well, ladies, it's a good thing perhaps to lose a bad wife, but I had a dear good little wife, and I have a feeling heart though I am a rough soldier, and don't know how to address the ladies." His gratitude, as well as his sorrow, were very touching; he ended with – "Thank you, ladies, thank you; I shall now return to the battlefield; I have nobody now left caring for me!"
I should have been exceedingly glad could I have given him any interesting record of his poor wife. She was one of those lying very ill in the underground rooms inhabited by the women in those days; and it was quite clear to me from the first day I saw her that she was then beyond all human aid, even if I could have procured medical advice for her; but her death was nearer than I expected. It was perhaps some consolation to the poor man to know that I was with her in the solemn moment of departure. Alas! she was not the only one in those sad days who passed away before help could be obtained.
Towards the end of May of this year, 1855, intelligence was received of Miss Nightingale's serious illness from fever in the Crimea, whither she had gone in the early part of the month to regulate some hospital matters. For some days, at Balaklava, she was in great danger; but by the mercy and goodness of God the calamity of death was averted; and as soon as she was sufficiently recovered to be removed, she was brought down to Scutari and taken to a house near, instead of to her old quarters in the Barrack. The intense interest felt for her by the soldiers was most gratifying; many in their rough homely way made earnest and continual inquiries for her of almost everybody who passed them. One said, "Ah, there was no sadder sight than to see that dear lady carried up from the pier on a stretcher just like we men, and perhaps by some of the fellows she nursed herself." Her illness made a great sensation, and caused universal depression; and well it might! and it was long ere she recovered her former strength; and perhaps this she never did.
These are instances, and there are many others which might be recorded, of the good feeling and gratitude of the soldiers, and their readiness to express it on their recovery from sickness or return from the front; but it was not wanting among the hundreds and hundreds who could but thank with their eyes as they lay dying in the Hospital, or by stretching out a feeble hand to press the one who ministered to them. One poor fellow recently brought on a stretcher from a ship to the Barrack, and laid on a mat in one of Dr. Blackwood's wards, said to him in a faint and faltering voice, "Oh, sir, this is nice! this is paradise indeed!" while he gratefully thanked the comrades who had assisted to carry him. Alas! his paradise below was not of long duration; it is to be hoped he found the true one above, for his was one of those terrible frost-bite cases, from which so few recovered.
A remarkable circumstance connected with our residence in Scutari will not be out of place here, though it happened somewhat later on in the year. Dr. Blackwood having a little more leisure than usual went over to Pera to a committee meeting of the Evangelical Alliance on the subject of Religious Persecution; and strange to say he received tidings there of an occurrence which took place here, of which we knew nothing whatever, viz., that two Protestant Armenians of good character, both well known to the American missionaries, had been mistaken for Greeks, and were in custody at Scutari on a charge of stabbing and maiming an English soldier, who swore to one of them, who was therefore under sentence by martial law to be hung.
On his return Dr. Blackwood hastened immediately to the Adjutant to tell him the fact of the prisoners being Armenians, well known to the American missionaries, and quite incapable of the conduct attributed to them, suggesting there must be some great mistake.
The Adjutant in turn told him that the execution had also been deferred, because the identity of the man did not appear to be quite clear; a court-martial was therefore summoned for the further consideration of the matter on the following day.
Unhappily the town was full of Greeks, who were constantly perpetrating all kinds of mischief and evil, and had more than once made incendiary attempts to destroy the stores and also to burn down Haida Pasha Palace; it was therefore resolved, if this culprit could be found, to make an example of him which should strike terror, and if possible put a stop to the atrocities these desperadoes were perpetually committing. Thus, when the soldier swore to him, the man's fate seemed sealed. It was no doubt a very troublesome and serious affair; but was in the end cleared up in a remarkably providential way.
Dr. Dwight, one of the principal American missionaries who had been many years in Turkey, and one whose name always carried weight, was a man remarkable for the Christian graces which ever shone forth in him, and to whose judgment all who knew him looked with respect and deference. He arranged to come over early the next morning to hear what had been done. He was much troubled, for the men were good men, and he knew that being Protestants they had been exposed to much trial from the unconverted Armenians and the Greeks. He could in no way understand how they became implicated; and prayed earnestly that God would unravel the mystery, and bring their innocence, of which he was so confident, to light.
When he arrived, Dr. Blackwood told him the result of his interview with the Adjutant. "That is a good beginning," said Dr. Dwight, and they both left the room, intending to go to the Commandant.
Just at the foot of the stairs Dr. Blackwood was accosted by a man, "Pray, sir, can I speak to you on a very important subject? You have perhaps heard of this unfortunate business which has happened, and that there is a man accused of stabbing a soldier, and he is in prison, and they say he is to be hanged; but, sir, I can testify to his innocence, for I saw the whole affair, though I could not help in it. The man who stabbed the soldier was a Greek, and he fled at once among the cypress-trees, just where, shortly after, the poor little man with his companion came out, whom they have taken up and supposed to be the culprit; but, sir, he is not! I can swear this is not the man, and perhaps, sir, you can help me in enabling me to bear witness to this fact."
The speaker was a German – and we knew him; he came out in the winter as surgical instrument-maker; but was so much discomposed and troubled on arrival by the terrible state of things here, that he could not get on. We had given him what little assistance we could, until he should be better able to make his way – for which he was most grateful. In this affair he thought Dr. Blackwood could help, as a matter of course, and so came to say he had seen the whole transaction.
Dr. Dwight and my husband could not but be struck with the fact of this man, whose testimony could, from the respectability of his character, be relied on, coming to them exactly at the moment when they were going to the Commandant to beg to be present at the court-martial. Of course the man accompanied them, and his clearly given testimony resulted in the acquittal of the poor Armenians. To our minds this was God's answer to prayer, – for though there was nothing miraculous in it, nothing but what was natural, still the chain of circumstances leading to the happy deliverance of the man might have had missing links which would have overthrown the validity of the testimony, or delays might have occurred which would have been equally fatal.
Adventures of a pie – Dr. Cyrus Hamlin – A round of beef – Grand disappointment – Excursion to the Princes Islands – A liberal Mussulman – Our landlady and her daughter – Scene while repairing her house.
NOT to pass over some incidents which may perhaps be amusing to mention, I must revert to the end of the month of April, when we had, after some temporary amendment, again a failure of bread. The reason assigned was the long prevalence of north wind hindering the corn ships from coming up the Marmora. This was a great renewal of our troubles. Some efforts had been made with a view to improvement, as the men in health could not, with impunity, any more than ourselves, eat what was served to them as rations; for a little time, therefore, the bread was better, but this did not last long; thus it was we were subjected to a repetition of inconvenience, for, as before mentioned, it was one of those things not to be purchased.
Why Dr. Hamlin's offer to provide this necessary had been at first declined was, we heard, because the tender of the Greek purveyor was much lower. But what is unwholesome and wasted is never economical, though we often try to make it so. Finally, but not until some months had passed, was Dr. Cyrus Hamlin's offer accepted, not only to provide good bread but also meat.
With regard to this latter, hitherto more frequently than otherwise what passed for mutton was extremely unpalatable goat's flesh. To counteract the flavour and toughness of this meat, we resorted to various devices; one was to eat it with quince jelly, and call it venison; another was to have it constructed into a pie, which Emilio took to the "forno" to be baked.
One day on his return with his "venison pasty," he was encountered by two officers, evidently hungry; and struck by the novelty and tempting appearance of the pie, they insisted on purchasing it, and even went so far as to try to tempt him with a sovereign for the dainty dish; but Emilio stated indignantly the pie was "Madama's, pourquoi no sell!" "Oh, but you can make another, and we have nobody to make one for us." Emilio, however, was invulnerable, and brought his pie home safely.
This gives an instance of the state of food in those times. On relating this to Lord William Paulet one day, he at once exclaimed, "Pie, pie! what a capital idea; I never thought of a pie; I'll have one forthwith!"
This was before the advent of M. Soyer. It was therefore an unspeakable boon when Dr. Hamlin undertook to be purveyor in this department also, and we never again had cause to complain. I must here note that the money earned by this undertaking of Dr. Hamlin's, which afterwards also included washing, was all handed over to the American missionaries for the benefit of the missions, while a considerable portion of it was employed to rebuild the mission church and other buildings at Broussa which had been destroyed by the earthquake.
The scarcity of bread, like some other discomforts in our Eastern life, caused little revolutions in the manners and customs of our society; for though we did occasionally ask a friend to dinner, if by chance we had somewhat acceptable to set before him, yet with the invitation to himself came of necessity one also to his loaf – "Will you kindly bring your bread with you?" This at length became quite an understood point, so that, in due time, the bread came as a matter of course when its owner dined abroad!
While on the subject of edibles, which, after the foregoing remarks, it is hardly necessary to observe were not in the earlier days of our sojourn here, previous to the arrival of M. Soyer, according to either the quantity or quality of a generous English table, I will relate that, one Sunday morning (it was curious that most of our stirring events occurred on that day), on our return home after service, the cloth being laid for our early repast, lo! and behold a splendid round of beef of about 40 lbs. weight – one of the great sideboard exhibitions we remember in our youth – stood in all its glory on the table, ready boiled and crowned with flowers of carrots, turnips, beetroot, &c.
What a sight! our hands were lifted, and we exclaimed, "Where did that come from? Emilio, tell us who sent this?" "Oh, pourquoi gentleman, sailor officer, bring with card, ici;" he replied, his eyes glistening with satisfaction at our pleased exclamations; and handing me a card I read my own name with the compliments of Captain Green of the — Steamer. "Well, this will be a treat."
None but those who were in our condition of semi-need could appreciate our feelings respecting that round of beef. First, the gratification of possessing such a "comestible," and the pleasure it would be to invite our friends with their bread to participate in such a dish. Next – how shall I tell it? – our woeful disappointment.
It appeared that Captain Green, with all the warmheartedness of a sailor, having heard from Lieutenant Keatley of our frequently rather "sparse" dinner table, thought to send us one of the best rounds of beef from his ship's stores. Unfortunately he had ordered it to be cooked at once, that he might present it on the Sunday as a surprise on our return home; he considered speed the more necessary, also, because his ship was under orders for immediate departure. These too hurried operations were the cause of the failure, for the rapid boiling, with the brine so strongly impregnated, made eating it impossible. Captain Green (like myself, on a previous occasion with the peas for soup) had forgotten the hours it should have soaked in cold water before being placed near the fire at all!
I do not hesitate to say that when we made this discovery we felt as though we could have cried. This "beautiful" piece of beef was like pure brine, and as hard as wood. Nevertheless we could only receive it with gratitude, for the intention was most kind, and no one would have been more vexed than the good Captain himself had he known the result, which I took every pains at the time he should not hear of. The account of this reaching a friend in Scotland – Mr. R. A. Macfie – he immediately sent us out a successor, which I need hardly say was as truly enjoyed as the kind thought was appreciated.
Not long after this Lieutenant Keatley was sent on some business to the Princes Islands, and as he had to engage a little steamer for the occasion, he kindly thought it would be a good opportunity for an excursion thither for us. We gladly embraced it, and the more so as we persuaded Dr. Blackwood to accompany us, believing the fresh sea-air and change of scene for a few hours would be really beneficial to him.
Kalki, the island at which we called first, is the second in size, but considered the most picturesque; it was indeed lovely, though I have no doubt our enjoyment was enhanced by the change from the perpetual work at home. The fresh sea-air was invigorating and delightful even in itself; but the scenery of the Islands, the snowy mountains on the mainland beyond, the clear sky above, and the blue sea around, made the trip quite enchanting. We also visited Proti, which is a smaller island still; this had been appropriated as the abode of Russian prisoners: they were chiefly encamped in tents, for there were but few houses on that island, and it was not in any way so interesting or picturesque as the others; possibly from its dimensions being somewhat more limited, it was better adapted to the purpose; to it therefore the prisoners were consigned.
On our return to Kalki we enjoyed a very good picnic dinner on deck under the awning; but we had not finished our repast when a Turkish officer stepped on board, and speaking very good English, requested to be introduced "to the ladies." We therefore invited him to our table. "A Mussulman!" He informed us he had been in England six years for education, and had learned engineering; he regretted the backwardness of his country, and wished he could see roads made like ours, and other improvements. Nevertheless he was very patriotic, and endeavoured to uphold the honour of Turkey in a most creditable manner, urging many things it was capable of. This indeed was perfectly true, for under a different rule it would be a wonderful country. He spoke much of the bravery of the soldiers, but complained they needed good officers.
He seemed much pleased that we should have invited him to join us in our repast. We had perhaps done so rather as a complimentary movement than anticipating an acceptance, Mahometans and Christians not usually partaking of the same food. But upon the serious reality of his bowing assent, and seating himself beside us, we were not a little perplexed as to what we should offer him; for the picnic dinner was nearly ended when he arrived; and had, to begin with, by no means consisted of a variety of choice dishes and delicacies; indeed, the prominent dish was ham! What were we to do? there had been, it is true, a quail pie, but of that now there remained nil.
His long sojourn in England came to the rescue. Seeing, no doubt, our difficulty, he immediately with great politeness said, "Yes, thank you, I will take some ham; it is forbidden by our religion, that is true; but I have eaten it in England, and I do not mind – it is good, and I can take it."
He made the same remark with regard to the wine, which I daresay he found equally good. His faith clearly did not consist in meats and drinks, he had no scruples on that score. Whether he had learned that true religion does consist in something deeper, I know not; possibly it may have dawned upon him. Apparently the hour he spent with us was a pleasant one, as he seemed reluctant to take his departure, but as he understood we wished to go on shore and inspect whatever was to be seen, he bade us farewell and left us.
We landed and entered a Greek church, said to be very ancient. It was notably clean in the interior, for some were very much the reverse, especially those in Constantinople. The usual amount of pictures and gilding was there, but of course no statuary. The young priest who showed us all its treasures strongly deprecated the idea of images as belonging in any way to the Greek Church; but I must confess that I can see very little difference between a painted face and hands encased in thickly embossed gilt representing drapery, and a piece of statuary, when it comes to be an object of veneration, not to say worship.
The priest then showed us, with great reverence, some cases containing relics, very precious no doubt; but I could not sympathise in his apparently deep interest in them, having no respect whatever for nasty teeth, bones, hair, or rags, of which we found no lack in any of the Greek churches we inspected, either at Constantinople or in Russia; and I cannot see in the veneration of these things, any more than in respect to statuary above noticed, much to choose between the Greek and Roman churches.
We spent the remainder of our time in going to such points of the island as afforded good views; in itself there was little to see; islands make a view with other surroundings when perhaps they themselves possess nothing particular to attract attention. This we experienced on our return home, when the setting sun gilded the calm sea, and draped in misty purple the cluster of islands we left behind us. This day's enjoyment was long remembered by us.
It is time to introduce to notice our landlady, for such was the owner of our house; she often paid us a visit, her eshmek closely folded over her head, until she ascertained that no gentlemen were visible, when she would lift it and expose her face. She usually wore a brown feragee or cloak; and her feet, without stockings, were in yellow soft leather boots, these again slipped into the same coloured shoes. Occasionally, especially if it were on some feast day, she would bring us some sweetmeats; her black servant often accompanied her, and the two together went round the house eagerly watching that no injury should be done to it.
We were excellent friends, and managed by signs to understand each other; but if anything very particular was wanted, which was always made perceptible by her energetic manner and vociferous shouts at us, it was necessary to call Emilio who acted as interpreter.
She always expressed great admiration for my "kizzes" (daughters), as she called my young friends, and during one of her visits begged, with gesticulations of entreaty, that we would give her some soap, such as my "kizzes" used, to make the bright colour on their cheeks; she explained that she also had a kizz, and would bring her to see us, but that her face was pale and "no buono" – but "Englese buono."
The request of soap to produce that effect rather puzzled us. However, we took her into our room and offered her a cake of brown Windsor, making signs that it smelt sweet. Poor Anna, for that was the name by which she liked us to call her (I believe it signified mother), was most indignant; she stamped her feet with anger, and in a moment threw down the soap, pointing at the same time to some pink-coloured ribbon or wool.
Under these rather strong circumstances we were obliged to have recourse to Emilio, who did his best to pacify her, and apologise for the insult she conceived we meant to offer her, by supposing she wished her "kizz's" cheeks to be like the brown soap. But it was by no means an easy matter to make her understand we used no colour to arrive at the longed-for bloom! In any case, the proffered soap she would not have, and left us in rather a sullen mood.
Some days after, however, the "kizz" was introduced to us, and a curious interview it was, for she exclaimed with signs of wonder and almost dancing at the closely fitting dresses of my "kizzes." This, as I before mentioned, seemed to excite peculiar admiration; she clapped her hands, and screamed, and laughed, and finally nothing would satisfy her but that she must put them on herself and try the effect.
The attempt, as may be imagined, was ridiculous beyond description, for a poor Turkish girl who had never worn anything but the loosest of loose costumes, could not possibly contract herself in a few minutes to the needful dimensions; and it happened that "my daughters" were remarkably thin, and she was, au contraire, on rather a corpulent scale!
She endeavoured again and again to squeeze herself into them, and it required not a little exertion on our part to keep our risible organs under command at such an exhibition; for however much she might laugh to express delight at what pleased her, the ineffectual efforts she was putting forth soon became a serious affair with her, so that had we laughed at the performance, it would at once have raised a storm; for neither she nor her mother, nor I suppose any of the "ladies," were ever taught to control their feelings or regulate their manners.
To succeed in putting herself into one of the dresses would have been a great triumph could she have accomplished it, but alas! it was impossible, and had to be relinquished; she threw it down as her mother had done the soap – with almost passionate regret.
Notwithstanding these two great disappointments, we continued on very good terms with Anna, wishing to make her understand we liked her to come and see us. In short, we were excellent friends until we fell out, which did happen now and then, as above, but we soon made it up and went on peacefully as usual. At length, however, we had a real quarrel, and it was on this wise.
After one of the heavy thunderstorms with which we were occasionally visited, something went wrong with the drainage of the house. Now, part of this house Anna had shut up entirely; the reason she gave for so doing was, that it was sacredly kept in memory of her late husband; there were several rooms, too, on each story, which were accessible through the corridor hall, or space, which we occupied, but the door to them was locked and of course we never attempted to open it. But in consequence of this untoward escape of malaria, it was necessary at once to apply to the Commandant to get it rectified; this in itself caused no little trouble, as he had also to apply to the Turkish authorities for permission to enter a part of the house which was not included in the hiring. Then Anna had to be spoken to, and she entirely objected to open her door.
As, however, it would have been impossible for us to remain unless the mischief were repaired, it became a matter of compulsion, and forthwith Anna was made to consent, and she agreed to come on the day appointed to open the door herself. But of course when that day came, she did not! I went then with an interpreter to the house where she lived, to get the keys, and was told she had gone to Stamboul, and would not be back until the evening, whereupon I left a message for her, knowing very well she was there, to the effect that I was sorry she was absent, as the workmen were come and could not be sent away; and therefore if some one did not find the keys and bring them immediately – we should be obliged to break open the door and go in, for "Pasha Englese" (as they called the Commandant) could not be trifled with, especially as Anna knew very well the men were to begin work on that day.
My message through the interpreter was given not only as distinctly as possible, but with a decidedly elevated voice, as we had reason to suppose that Madame, far from being at Stamboul, was within measurable distance, listening to what was said. So home we went, and as the keys did not appear, the threat was put in execution; the planks which barricaded the door were taken down, and the door opened, and the workmen began their operations in the lower part of the house.
Nothing, I suppose, in Turkey could hurry either man or woman – and Anna must also have partaken of the same dilatory constitution; for they had actually progressed half an hour in their work, when Madame appeared, and then indeed a hurricane ensued.
At all times the "ladies," in these parts at least, seem to have no idea of modulating their voices, whether to express pleasure, pain, or anger; but under the existing circumstances, poor Anna exceeded, and her fury was tremendous. Such an outburst I had never before witnessed, nor conceived possible in a grown-up person.
Finding, however, that the workmen paid her no attention whatever, but went on with their work, as though the sounds were but the gentle breathings of summer zephyrs through some leafy bower – she at length sat down, put her two hands together and screamed with all – and I think with much more than – her natural might, just as you may see an inordinately passionate child do with irrepressible rage, till you wonder if it is best to treat them to a sponge of cold water to stay the rising blackness of their faces. But how she, as a woman verging on the elderly, could have strength to make such a noise, was beyond us to conceive.
At length Ebba Almroth, more persevering and courageous than her sister or I, for by turns we had all attempted to soothe, – took her in a determined manner by her hands, and through the interpreter induced her to be silent for a minute and listen to us; when with a firm and decisive voice, she informed her that we were perfectly shocked at her conduct; we were not accustomed to hear such a dreadful noise; and begged to know what she meant by it? Ladies in England never screamed in that way under any circumstances, much less would they do so when their houses were being repaired for them.
For a moment did she cease, as though to take breath – the effort to pacify her was vain; and recovering herself, on she screamed until she became quite exhausted. Then only was she silent – and sobbing convulsively, looked on at the work progressing. At last reason began to dawn upon her, and she perceived we were doing her good instead of evil; observing the broken tiles being exchanged for new ones, she became quiet, and watched the progress of repair in silence.
The next day after seeing her house again closed up, and the door locked and barricaded as before, she came to me with a look of penitence, saying she was sorry she had behaved so ill, and promised she would never do so any more; but she thought "Effendi" (meaning Dr. Blackwood) was going to take her house away from her; but now she would thank him very much if he would put some new tiles on the roof for her, and do sundry other little repairs which she thought were needed.
Poor things, they were welcome to our forgiveness, for they had far more of our compassion; we only longed to do them good, and see them elevated to their proper sphere. The wonder to us was that she was able to come and apologise, that she was not dead from apoplexy, or unable to speak; it certainly must be the result therefore of practice, and I suppose when they are put out, they do exercise their vocal powers in this manner.
The Ramadan – The Bairim at Constantinople – The Sultan, Abdul Medjid – Ceremony on the occasion – Hospitality of a Bey – Visit to Santa Sophia – Sad sight in the Bosphorus on our return.
IT was in the month of May that the great Fast of Ramadan occurred. Ramadan is the name of the month in the Mahometan calendar in which it is said the Koran was sent down from heaven for the guidance of the followers of the Prophet. This month, therefore, is set apart as the holy month, and kept rigorously sacred by the faithful; no one either eating, drinking, or smoking from sunrise to sunset.
It was curious to watch the Turks, as the longed-for hour drew near, making their preparations for the "Break-Fast." Every here and there, in the different corners of the streets, the poorer ones would begin to bring out their dish of rice, lay their pipes beside them, and sit with the greatest patience – ready to commence operations the moment the sunset gun was fired! I believe they slept the greater portion of the day, in fact, perhaps wisely reversed the order of things by turning it into night, since they were not permitted any social enjoyment during its hours. But when they rose from their slumbers and the welcome gun took off restraint, and after refreshment had, then began the stir, and night was turned to day.
The mosques were lighted up; the minarets encircled with lamps like wreaths around them from the top to the bottom, and what was very curiously managed, a different device was formed every evening between these minarets by means of two long ropes fastened from one to the other, from which lamps arranged according to the intended figure were suspended: for instance, on the first night we had "All hail!" in very large Arabic characters; the second night "Allah! Allah is good!" Sometimes a flower in coloured lamps was formed, sometimes an araba or carriage, or a ship, and so forth; it was most ingeniously contrived and quickly accomplished. The effect was very good, and when there were many minarets thus lighted up, they quite illuminated the town.
The devices were generally finished and ready to be admired about ten o'clock; this was intimated to the world by the muezzins mounting to their galleries and screaming loudly, drums were beaten and lamps carried about in every direction; shouting and cannons firing composed the music of the night. Rough nightingales, indeed, were these! and they failed – they certainly did – to "lull us to sleep with their song."
These public disturbances continued during the dark hours of the night, when we, like reasonable beings after a respectable day's work, required rest to refresh us. The sunrise gun, which sent the Turks to bed, was as welcome to us as the one of sunset was to them, for all then became quiet, and we had some chance of sleep. These cheerful little amusements were all very well if we had enjoyed them occasionally, but for one whole month to have to rejoice in this fashion for the gift of the Koran, we did consider to be rather a trespass on our patience.
On one of these noisy nights, however, we heard unusually heavy cannonading on the Bosphorus; consequently we went out, as did many of our friends, to find the cause, if possible. Constantinople was indeed brilliant with illuminations, surpassing any evening hitherto; some said these were extra rejoicings on account of the reported marriage of the Sultan's son; others, that some victories in the Crimea had been obtained. What the real cause was, however, we never did hear; and Crimean news we seldom conceived authentic till we read it in the Times long after. Possibly it was a usual extra frolic during this great fast.
Meanwhile, as we were admiring the brilliancy of the city, with its lights reflected in the water, a ship illuminated all over with lamps of different colours crossed the Bosphorus – this was really beautifully done and well worth seeing. But all things here have an end, and so at length Ramadan's last night came too. The new moon had appeared. It was stated that watchers were set on one of the peaks of the Olympus range, and the moment the little crescent is perceived, men, to whom signals are made, run with the news to the next signal, which conveys the intelligence to Constantinople.
Immediately the guns fire, and Ramadan is ended. Possibly by this time, amidst all its modern improvements, the telegraph wires may flash the important news in a somewhat more rapid fashion than in those days. In any case, the new moon extinguished the lights of Ramadan – and now began the great Feast of Bairim – so we called it, but Bairim means feast in itself. This Bairim is frequently called the Turkish Easter, as it directly succeeds the time of fasting, such as Lent is considered to be with some Christians; also, it is supposed to be the time of the pilgrims' arrival at Mecca and the commencement of their sacrifices in commemoration of Abraham's sacrifice, whose son was redeemed by God with a great victim. It is usually observed with much ceremony, consequently we were curious to see what we could of it.
At three o'clock in the morning, therefore, escorted by some military friends, we crossed to Stamboul, and walked from Seraglio Point to Santa Sophia, there to wait for the Sultan, who begins his day by going to the Mosque in state. We naturally expected a crowd on the occasion; but no; there were not more people than usually assemble in Hyde Park on ordinary days in the season. A thin and very irregular-looking line of foot soldiers was drawn up opposite to us. Shortly after our arrival a few horses belonging, we were told, to some Pashas, were brought there very handsomely caparisoned; now we presumed the procession would soon be in view, and indeed we had not long to wait. It was now not much more than four o'clock A.M.
In a little time a distant band of music announced the advancing procession. First came a number of Pashas, so we were informed by a good-natured Bey who spoke English, and seemed very pleased to act as ciceroni to us, and explain everything we did not understand.
The Pashas were mounted on beautiful-looking horses, with gay trappings, richly embroidered saddle-cloths, &c.; each took up his stand at a place apparently assigned to him; next came a few men dressed in scarlet, also on horseback; then about thirty more, with large spreading fans (for so only can I describe them) of a bright green colour, placed in the top of their caps, in size quite out of all proportion, – and probably they were very heavy also, for as soon as they had an opportunity they lifted them out of their sockets, holding them in their hands.
These were the bodyguard, and in their midst came Abdul Medjid himself. Sad, vacant, and stupid to behold was that poor man's countenance: he might well be called "the sick man" as well as his empire. A prey to opium and vice, he appeared reduced to a state of idiotcy, and though not then forty years of age was like a decrepit, bent-down old man, with scarcely strength to sit upon his horse; that noble creature, doubtless one of choicest breed, looked far more fit to be Sultan than his unhappy master; he was richly caparisoned, the saddle-cloth being massively embroidered with gold and emblazoned with jewels. Arrived at the Mosque, the Sultan, with assistance, dismounted and entered the sacred edifice.
This was the first act. And now the amiable Bey before named, had, it appeared, anticipated guests on this occasion, wherefore, by a kind and hospitable forethought, he provided café au lait, chocolate, biscuits, and other refreshments, which he begged us to partake of in his house which was close by, while the Sultan and his suite were performing their devotions in Santa Sophia.
The Bey had previously met some of the officers of our party, whom he recognised at once, and that had emboldened him to request to be introduced to us. His English was very good, and his politeness very marked, as he said, "We must take care of the ladies first." It seemed rather strange that such should fall from the lips of a Turk in those days – when so little intercourse, comparatively, had at that time been held between the East and the West. He gave a free invitation to any who would enter his house, and led us to a divan, begging us to be seated. Thus French and English ladies and gentlemen all mixed together in his reception-room, as though in a civilised country; chairs only being absent; however, the divans extended round the room, and we managed very comfortably. But no Turkish ladies were to be seen at all, anywhere, during the whole ceremony; whatever part they took, if any, in the Bairim it was apart, and far from public gaze.
After refreshment our host beckoned us away, leading us down the great avenue to the entrance of the Seraglio Palace, where the Sultan would on his return from the Mosque hold a grand reception, or levée, receiving the Pashas, ministers of state, officers both military and naval, and the "great estates of the realm."
In due time his Majesty arrived, attended by the same escort, with this difference that all but he were on foot. Again dismounting, he entered first under a portico, then through a door, and so passed into the palace. And now preparations for the levée began to be made. This was to be held in the portico on the outside; here the whole ceremony was so like a theatrical performance, it was really difficult to believe it otherwise. The portico itself was not more than perhaps some twenty feet square, raised by four or five steps, but to make it appear larger, two scenes were painted, one on either side the door, representing a fine hall with pillars, and black and white checked marble pavement. A carpet was then brought out and spread on the floor, and a gilded sofa placed upon it. Why these little matters should have been left to the last minute, we were not made to understand, nor did we make impertinent inquiries.
The bodyguard now replaced the green fans in their caps and moved forward into the portico, forming a half-circle, partly behind, partly on one side of the sofa; the band arranged themselves in the opposite direction, partly on one side, partly in front of where his Majesty would be, forming another half-circle. Our kind friend the Bey had from somewhere procured a few chairs for his guests, which were very acceptable, and having them placed in a good position, we saw all that went on perfectly, not being more than a few yards from the Sultan. The arrangements were now completed, and the poor Sultan again appeared, tottering through the door, and took his seat upon the sofa.
The first magnate who presented himself was supposed to be, or one who claimed to be, a relative of the Prophet;– this was signified by his being completely dressed in green;– he approached, and stood immediately in front of Abdul Medjid. The Sultan rose, put his two hands together, first like a partly opened book, then placed them on each side of his own face, then touched his forehead. The Prophet's relative standing opposite to him performed the same, as though in imitation; but after the touching of the forehead he advanced up the steps to the floor of the portico, and prostrated himself before the Sultan, kissed his footstool and retired.
Next came the Pashas, one by one, with slow and dignified step approaching the right side of the sofa, where some (no doubt important) official now took up his stand holding a scarf – the end of which was reverently kissed by each in his turn lifting it to his lips; then approaching the Sultan he made obeisance on the ground before him, and backed himself away.
By the time the Pashas were disposed of, poor Abdul Medjid was evidently tired of standing, and as all the prostrations and scarf kissings seemed to have no sort of interest for him, he not taking the slightest notice of what went on after his duet with the Prophet's cousin was over, he quietly sat himself down on the sofa in about the most ungraceful way imaginable – with his feet turned in, and his eyes looking at vacancy. The rather novel fact of so many French and English ladies as spectators of this levée ceased to affect him in the least, after his first almost idiotic stare. There he sat, as though he had no concern whatever in this reception, nor at the homage paid either at the right arm of the sofa, or at the left, but that it must be gone through.
The Pashas, of whom there were a goodly number, were succeeded by the military and naval officers, after them the Imaums, or those who perform the services of the Mosque; these, according to the degree of humility they professed, kissed the dust, or bowed to the ground before his feet.
The costumes were especially handsome; the Prophet's relatives were in green, others among the priests were in lilac, some in brown, but all their cloaks were handsomely embroidered with gold, as were also their turbans; this gave gaiety to the scene which after a while, when the novelty to us was over, needed something to enliven it; the excessively obsequious homage of some of the Sultan's subjects was as fatiguingly ridiculous to us to look at, as it was undoubtedly tedious and wearisome to him to accept.
At length the show came to an end, and the Sultan rose up to retire, with a select suite, to begin, we supposed, the great feast which was now to succeed the great fast. This, however, lasted only three days, instead of a month, – a wise and sanatory arrangement, no doubt; but the noise that was made on its behalf quite equalled, if it did not excel, the mighty rejoicings of the late fast; every gun in Turkey must have poured forth its bang, and that incessantly.
At eight o'clock A.M. we bade adieu to our very civil Bey, thanking him much for assisting us to see this curious custom, which was certainly wisely performed in the cooler hours of the early morning. We wished much, since we were so near, to visit Santa Sophia; but this was not allowed, none but Turks or Mahometans were permitted to enter its precincts during Bairim.
We therefore set apart a day for the purpose at another time; and on that occasion, happening to be rather a large party, it multiplied the absurdity which the scene presented – of a number of ladies and gentlemen in a row first pulling off their boots or shoes on the threshold of the entrance to the sacred building, and walking about in their stockings, or, if they had no objection, slipping their feet into well-used slippers, and then putting them on again when returning to the outside world. Nevertheless, such is the Mahometan law, and the respect considered due to the sacred mosques; and if visitors and travellers desire to see them, it is their duty to conform, and neither wise nor courteous to refuse, since no one is compelled to gratify his curiosity.
Santa Sophia being so well known will not find itself described here; especially as that is so fully done by foregone geographers, travellers, historians, &c.; but I will note my surprise that so much has been left of painting on the plaster and so much of mosaic work, especially that the figure of Christ, which is quite traceable on the ceiling, should have been allowed to remain, even imperfect as it is, under Mahometan sway, which permits no representation in the form of a picture or image in their mosques, as a rule. In this they are a great contrast to the Greek and Roman temples. Here is pure space, quite clean and ready to be filled with living stones, grounded and built on the foundation of Christ, if the faithful Evangelist could but enter the pulpit, which also is the simple furniture found therein; the hearers would find no idols, or pictures, or images to distract attention, with lighted tapers or suffocating incense, as in the Greek and Romish churches; no dead men's bones or nasty relics of teeth and hair, so disgusting and defiling, and yet so ceremoniously exhibited as they have been to us in the Greek churches in Turkey. No, there is in a mosque a total absence of this offensive idolatry; and could Mahometans once be persuaded that Christianity in its purity does not admit of such things, many would readily embrace it; but when they, to whom idolatry in any shape is an abhorence and abomination, have it presented to them with such exhibitions, it is no wonder that they turn from it with loathing and hatred.
Our visit to Santa Sophia, however, was much later on, – it has been a digression on my part to mention it here, though it was not quite unsuitable to my chapter. I will now return.
At about nine o'clock A.M. we were once more in the boat we had engaged for the occasion; it was an English boat, no caique could have been available at the first early hour when we crossed; now we were on our way home, and as we rowed from Stamboul we were presently much shocked at the dead body of a man, in sailor's dress, floating under our bows. Alas! our men told us it was no uncommon sight, and they were not startled by it as we were. "Why," said our steersman, "we have seen as many as ten in a week; they are either murdered at once by the Greeks, or thrown overboard by them when they are intoxicated and cannot help themselves. They bear us ill-will; and if an accident happens, and a man falls overboard, if his own countrymen are not near to help, no Greek will lend a hand."
"Generally," he said," the current being strong, the bodies are washed out into the Sea of Marmora; but sometimes, as in this case, it is caught by an opposite current and brought back; and it may float in that way for days, unless some one makes it his business to sink it, as we did one the other day, but it was in such a state of decomposition it was truly an awful work." The steersman was right, for so frequent did these murders become – so many soldiers and sailors missing, that the French and English established a police force on land – both at Pera and Galata; but it was not easy doing so in the harbour, where sometimes things were worse.
The Greeks were so disaffected towards us that, lately at Prinkipo (the chief of the Princes Islands), they made effigies of the French and English officers, and then offered them every imaginable indignity; this was done at midnight to avoid detection. Indeed, it was recently that they attempted to burn the Haida Pasha, or Palace Hospital. Mercifully, in the kind providence of God, it was discovered in time, and no more than part of the flooring in one end was consumed. One of our storehouses also was set on fire maliciously, when a large quantity of goods was destroyed. A double guard had consequently to be stationed in every direction, both at Scutari and Pera, where also was one of our Barracks with stores, and a constant parade kept up at night round the streets.
Inaccuracy of intelligence – Captain Hedley Vicars – Lady Rayleigh's letter – Refugees from Kertch, and their destitute condition – Assistance from the Embassy and Turkish Government – French Sisters of Mercy – Sister Bernadine – School opened for the children of Kertch Jews.
IN these days of almost universal telegraphic despatch it is difficult to realise, as before mentioned, that we, though so much nearer the seat of war, seldom received any reliable information of the actual events – successes or disasters – which occurred in the Crimea or elsewhere, until made acquainted with them by the Times newspaper. Of course there were telegrams to England, and no doubt to the Sultan, but at that time we did not benefit much by their communications. It is true there were rumours "plenty," – but these rumours were so undefined, and so constantly contradicted the following day, that at last, like the cry of wolf, little heed was given to them. A small steamer called the "Banshee," which constantly went up and down from Pera to Balaklava, generally brought the truest intelligence; still even that was not wholly depended on: thus, when the cry of "the Czar is dead!" reached us by some of these rumours, it was scarcely credited at the time, from our having been so often deceived; and official communications were always "lang o' coming."
Now rumours reached us of French successes at Sebastopol, with heavy lists of killed and wounded, and accounts also of British losses in some extempore attack on the Redan; they were, as usual, very confused, but this time the real facts were more rapidly learned by the poor wounded men being brought down in quick succession to our shores.
By this time our Hospitals were ready to receive them, all being in good working order, though of chaplains there were not many to give spiritual comfort. The senior, Mr. S—, not being very well, and hearing of the arrival of three from England, obtained leave of absence and went to Malta to recruit his health. But of the three, one was ordered immediately to the Crimea, another was sent to Haida Pasha, the Palace Hospital, to replace one invalided – and the third poor chaplain was seized with cholera almost as soon as he arrived, and died. We had several cases of that dreadful scourge about this time, but it did not then spread largely. Thus Dr. Blackwood's hands were full again.
Amongst the wounded who arrived, it may be interesting to mention a man of the 97th Regiment, who was in the mêlée when poor Captain Hedley Vicars fell: he was killed, as is known, by a Russian sortie. This man was one who helped to carry his body off the field; and to my husband he spoke of him in the most affectionate terms, as he handed to him one of the copies of the letter Lady Rayleigh had sent to us to be given to any men of the 97th Regiment whom we might meet. "Ah, sir," said the wounded man, "our Captain was a good man – he tried to do us all good; we all loved him, everybody loved him; it was a sad day for us when we carried him away a corpse!"
It may not be out of place here to mention that when we were in the Crimea the following year, 1856, we made a point of visiting the grave of Captain Hedley Vicars. It was a well-known spot even then, and many had been to see it; a little stone had been erected with his name upon it: it was at that time not far from the roadside leading to Sebastopol; I know not if it has since been removed to any of the cemeteries.
Amongst the true reports, which always seemed to reach us more tardily than false ones, was the fall of Kertch; this was known to us only a few days before we could read the full account of it in the Times: and, probably, if it had not been for the ever-vigilant and kind-hearted Lieutenant Keatley, days might have passed before we were informed of a number of poor destitute women and children who, after the surrender of the town, ran to the beach in front of the English ships imploring help and refuge from the Turkish soldiers, and who had consequently been brought down from thence to Pera for protection, with the prisoners of war.
Lieutenant Keatley told us they were in a deplorable state of need; he had heard, but could not vouch for its truth, that there were about thirty women beside children, he had seen only about that number. On hearing this we set to work at once and hoped to get a good bundle of clothes ready by the following Tuesday – taking some of the "free gifts for the women" from the stores, mending such as needed it, and preparing others. Mr. Bracebridge kindly undertook to escort me.
In the meanwhile a new report came that amongst the prisoners were three Russian ladies with their husbands and seven children, and that they also were destitute of garments and everything needful. Knowing how very unreliable all reports were, and finding that it was but hearsay intelligence that had reached us; to make sure, Mr. Bracebridge and I went as soon as possible to the Admiral himself, who said, "Yes, I understand there are three Russian ladies and seven children; at any rate it has been so reported to me also."
"Then," I replied, "it would be better to provide some more suitable clothing for them; what I now have collected are coarse and plain for the poor Kertch women."
"Oh yes, certainly it would be better to do so; if they are ladies, with their husbands, they might take it much amiss and consider themselves injured."
We next went to the Commandant of the Arsenal, who was supposed to have them in charge, and he confirmed the statement of their being persons of position, and added that some pretty muslin and calico would doubtless be acceptable, as they seemed badly provided for. We could not on this occasion visit them ourselves, everything took time in Turkey to accomplish, and they were located at some distance from where we were. But we did apply to the Commandant, because I had especially noted the Admiral saying, "So it has been reported to me."
Having done our best to arrive at the truth, we went home, and accordingly purchased from the ever-close attendant at our door-step – the before-named Spanish Jew – some muslins for dresses, and calico of fine and good quality, such as we should choose for ourselves.
I waited till Mr. Bracebridge could at his earliest convenience again escort me, and a fine chase we had when we started on the expedition. It was on this occasion that he and I made trial of one of the carriages, or arabas, before described, and which experiment we never desired to repeat.
Excepting for the heat it would have been far better to have gone on foot, wiser still had we done the usual thing and taken our saddles and tied the bundles to them. Time we certainly did not save by choosing the carriage, as the lifting the wheels over the stones (an inevitable process) took longer than we could have walked the distance in; but the sun neither of us dared face in the middle of the day, so we resigned ourselves to our jolting and shaking misery.
First we went to the Arsenal to ascertain where the prisoners might be – from thence we were sent to an "elsewhere" a good distance off; to something of a dwelling with a courtyard entrance, not unlike the usual Eastern khan. It was guarded, but we had a "permit" to pass, and there were the prisoners. But ladies there were none! If the men were Russian officers, they were such as had risen from the ranks, or perhaps even to the ranks first, for both they and their wives, these so-called ladies, were indeed, I should say, specimens of the very lowest grade; and had we brought the very coarsest sailcloth and made it up like sacks, it would have been far more to the purpose.
This was an instance of the almost impossibility to arrive at any truthful information on any subject, unless by direct personal inspection.
This one excursion, which kept us so long going hither and thither, and was so trying to poor flesh and blood inside the "rolling machine," we found to be as much as could be accomplished that day. The visit to the Kertch refugees was by compulsion postponed, they being, besides, in a totally opposite direction. From this fresh experience of inaccuracy I own strong doubts haunted me with regard to these – was it true there were thirty women beside children? Yes! it was true, but add to that number some four hundred and fifty souls, and the calculation would be nearer the mark.
A few days after our compliments had been paid to the Russian "ladies," Mr. Bracebridge and I set out again upon the Kertch refugee expedition, putting up the garments which had been prepared into two large bundles.
This time we took our saddles, went very early in the morning to Tophana, chose our horses, strapped on our bundles, and away we went to find a khan to which we had been directed some distance off; for either by accident or according to the not uncommon practice in Constantinople when space was needed, a fire had taken place and the houses in which these poor creatures were at first located were burnt down, and they had some difficulty in escaping with their lives. Of worldly goods they had little or none to lose. They then wandered to a very old and almost, if not quite, abandoned khan, which now sheltered them; it was beyond Pera, and fully three miles from the landing-place at Tophana.
Arriving at this wretched abode we found, indeed, the thirty well multiplied into about five hundred altogether. It may have been true that the women and children sought refuge and obtained it on board our ships; if so, the husbands found means to follow quickly after; for whole families were there, and in the extreme of destitution. They were for the most part German Jews, speaking a strange patois; they understood us better than we did them.
I looked at the bundles, and thought to myself, "But what are they among so many?" Clearly this was beyond any private means – and must be a case in which the Government should provide; for if these unfortunate beings had been brought down in our ships and landed at Pera, they could not be abandoned.
We found, indeed, that an application had been made to the Turkish Government on their behalf; consequently a few piastres a day had been granted, which barely provided necessary food for them – food being at that time, as we well knew, both scarce and dear. It was now summer, and scarcity of clothing did not perhaps so much matter, but if left as they were, what would become of them when the cold weather set in?
Several of the men, being artisans, had gone into Pera to seek work; no doubt many were industrious and anxious for employment; this seemed probable, not only from what their wives said of them, but German Jews are at no time considered an idle people – their success would of course ameliorate their condition, which was the case, and after a while several families moved into Pera.
On returning home prepared to write to the Embassy about these poor people, we happily met Lady Stratford de Redcliffe, who had been to visit the Hospital at Scutari. She had heard nothing whatever of the arrival from Kertch, but promised that steps should be taken at once on their behalf. Of this I was very glad – for circumstances at home actually prevented my being able for some time to renew my visit to the khan. A number of women had arrived, chiefly from the Crimea, several of whom were very ill; fever again became prevalent, and my Women's Hospital was nearly full; amongst the fever cases was Mrs. Keatley's own daughter who had accompanied her out, and who had been a very useful assistant in the little school which Ebba Almroth had opened. She was exceedingly ill, and for some days her life was despaired of: mercifully, it pleased God to spare her, and she finally recovered. Meanwhile, to our very great regret Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge returned home; they were so kind and so helpful, and so cheerful; Scutari seemed hardly Scutari without them.
At length I managed a visit to the Kertch families and found their condition greatly ameliorated. Lord Napier, then Secretary to the Embassy, had been requested to take cognizance of their state, and also by some means the French Sisters of Mercy, from the convent at Pera, had either made their own way to them, or had been directed thither; these latter had done much to help them in their extreme need. Whatever their motive may be, their unwearied patience, their undeniable usefulness as nurses for the sick, their helpfulness to the helpless, commend them as examples to us, who, with more light and a more noble object before us, even the glorification of our Lord and Master because of the salvation He has wrought for us, too often come short of the simple duties we owe one another for His sake.
Amongst these sisters was one to whom I was much attracted; Sister Bernadine, who was undoubtedly a lady of birth and education, was the directing head, and by her judicious management and useful instructions to make the best of everything, with the assistance she had from the Embassy and what we could do, wrought a wonderful reformation as to comfort, cleanliness, clothing, and industry. The sisters cut out their clothes and taught them to make them, and taught them to cook their food to more profit; they washed the children who were in a deplorable condition, nursed the sick, for there had been fever amongst them and, as with us, some isolated cases of cholera. Nothing hindered these sisters from their kind work, and no service was so menial but they were ready to do it.
I wished much that the missionaries who were stationed at Constantinople, working amongst the German Jews there, should visit these poor Kertch people. But this Lord Napier would not sanction; he did not think it right to "teaze them" about their own religion, for one reason; and for another, he did not think it right to interfere with what the good Sisters of Mercy were doing for them; and as they were then more under his charge than mine, I could not at that time see any prospect for the fulfilment of my wishes. It was impossible for me often to visit them, being at such a distance; I was therefore thankful that at any rate their temporal wants had been so efficiently attended to, but I did regret exceedingly to see them left without any teaching save that of the Roman Catholics. After a while, however, a strange opening for the furtherance of my desires on this head was made. [I will continue this little narrative to the end, passing over intervening time and events.]
Happening to arrive at the khan one day, the same on which Sister Bernadine had also come to visit such of the families who now remained, for by this time not a few had left, having obtained work and gone elsewhere, and while she was busy cutting out garments, we entered into conversation very naturally about these poor people. Said Sister Bernadine to me, "Can you not get up a school for these poor children? surely this is an opportunity that should not be lost to teach them something about Christ the Messiah; it is quite impossible for us to undertake it, and now, too, we have less time than ever to attend to them. Our hospitals are filling rapidly with the wounded from the Crimea, and we ought to give all our time there; soon I fear I shall not be able to send a sister here at all, and it seems very sad if we can teach them nothing of Jesus."
I own I was somewhat astonished to hear such a proposal made to me, a Protestant; but there was always something apparently so genuine and so superior in Sister Bernadine, that I was greatly interested in her, and felt sure that though wood, hay, and stubble might be built upon it, the foundation, as well as top-stone, of her faith was Christ.
I replied, "that had been my continual thought, and I wished much to do something of the kind, but that from the still greater distance of Scutari, it was equally impossible for us personally to undertake it, and that Lord Napier had been quite adverse to any interference with their religious ideas. However, now I will certainly speak to some of the missionaries, and see if anything can be done."
"I shall be very glad if you can do so," she replied; "I am sure it will be a right thing, and we will still give what assistance we can and send some sisters, if possible, occasionally, to help them in their needlework."
Upon the obstacle of non-interference with the sisters being removed by the proposition emanating from themselves, or rather their "Superior," we went to Pera and laid the case before our friends the American missionaries; and, most curiously and providentially, they told us of a Mr. C—, a German, himself a convert from Judaism, who was in the employment of the English Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews as schoolmaster, but whose school just at this juncture had been dispersed by the Rabbins. We applied to him at once, and he willingly undertook to open a new seat of learning amongst our poor Kertch families; if we would guarantee that his expenses should be paid. He would have a distance to go in a caique daily, and then must have a horse to ride up to the khan, whenever the weather was too hot to walk. This we agreed to; and he set to work immediately.
In a short time he gathered together about thirty little children whose parents seemed pleased at their being taught to read and write. Mr. C— was well spoken of by the missionaries as a good and pious man, energetic in his work and taking an interest in schools.
Sister Bernadine, on her part, faithfully fulfilled her undertaking; and I believe she was really glad that the children should be taught, and in this she never interfered, only attending to, or helping them in their temporal affairs when she could, either herself, or by sending one of her underlings.
We were much indebted to Miss Canning, who also took a part in visiting and helping them, and was a kind successor to the Sisters, who, being overworked in the French hospitals, were obliged, after a while, to withdraw; for besides the number of wounded who came down after the taking of the Malakoff, there were many serious cases of fever, which had become widespread among the soldiers.
In the course of time the school increased to fifty-six, and it was a most interesting sight to see these once little half-naked ruffians now clean and decently clothed sitting in rows writing, or standing to sing hymns and repeat texts of Scripture, which they eventually did like civilised children. The parents applied to become Turkish subjects, renouncing Russia, and the petition was granted; and before we left Scutari about forty more families from Bakcheserai and Simferopol arrived, and were allowed to settle.
After arranging for the carrying on of the school during our stay in Turkey, we felt obliged on our return to England to hand it over to the Jewish Society at home, whose servant Mr. C— still was. We heard of its well-doing for some time under Mr. C— both through Miss Canning and others; after a while, for some reason, it was thought advisable by the committee in London to place a more efficient master in the situation: this was done; but the efficient master not being accustomed to such rough work and uncouth pupils, declined to continue. Meanwhile Mr. C— had left, and there was no one to carry on the work! Thus, in about sixteen months after our return, ended that affair, and we were all sorry.
Mr. Bracebridge and our excursion to the "Golden Fleece" – French cavalry stable – Lieutenant Keatley's ship – Bazaars in Stamboul – Confusion of moneys – Palace of Dolma Batche – Dr. and Mrs. Bowen Thompson: his illness and death at Kulalee – Great thunderstorm.
BUT now to return to the time of the ended Bairim. One Sunday morning as we were coming from service we were told that two women (soldiers' wives) had been "forcibly" put on board the "Golden Fleece," a large steamer which had for some three weeks been lying off Scutari, that she was to sail that afternoon, and they were to be taken to England.
As I had heard nothing of this previously, and could not then and there find out either their names or who they were, I went at once to Mr. Bracebridge, fearing that the vessel might be off while we were trying to find out more about the women. He proposed that we should immediately take a caique and go to the "Golden Fleece." This was certainly the wisest thing to do, and accordingly we prepared at once a bundle of warm clothing for their voyage, which we knew would be needed, if we found the story true and that they were on board – thus we set out. Mr. Bracebridge's usual costume during the hot weather was one of entire white, from the cap on his head to the boots on his feet, made of some cool linen material, but on this occasion he had changed his apparel and dressed himself in a cloth frock-coat such as was the fashion in those days to have appeared in, in London.
As we proceeded together towards the quay, across the Barrack ground, a soldier came up to him in haste, touching his cap. "Beg your pardon, sir, but I owe you £5; perhaps, sir, you are going to England, how shall I pay you, sir?" "Bless you, man," said Mr. Bracebridge, "I'm not going to England, I'm not going away, I shall be back again directly." "Oh, thank you, sir, I beg your pardon."
"Humph! that's because I have a decent coat on my back," said Mr. Bracebridge to me. "Well, I don't wonder at the poor fellow; I suppose he thought I must be going home to be so tidy, or that something was to happen. I'm sure I go about such a figure generally, poking in those stores and doing all sorts of things, I don't wonder – I don't wonder at him; I just thought we might as well be decent if we went on board the 'Golden Fleece;' sailors are always so trig and trim on afternoons, especially on Sundays."
"Perhaps these two bundles which we are carrying suggested his idea of home," said I, as I looked rather complacently at my own appearance – my dress being a well-washed and stiffly-starched muslin, quite proper for the day of rest; so we proceeded, took a caique and reached the vessel.
The captain of the "Golden Fleece" gave us a kind welcome, and we told our errand. "There is only one woman going," said he, "and I fancy she comes of her own accord, having engaged herself to Mrs. —, a lady who wished to have some one to attend on her during her passage home." We found this to be the case, though the "going" savoured more of the "sent," than the "willing departure."
Nevertheless, all being satisfactorily arranged, the prospect of a douceur at the end of the voyage having made matters smooth, there was nothing needful but to hand our contribution to the woman's scanty wardrobe and wish her a pleasant voyage. The errand being over, after speaking a little with Captain —, I hinted to Mr. Bracebridge, "Would it not be well to return?" "Oh, my dear," said Mr. Bracebridge (a kind way in which he often addressed us), "the captain has been good enough to ask us to dinner; they dine here at four o'clock, and I accepted, I was sure you would like it, and," with a significant smile on his face, "it is not every day you know that we have the chance of a good dinner; Dr. Blackwood won't mind, he'll know you are safe with me." The argument was irresistible, there was but to thank the captain and prepare to remain.
Dinner over, Mr. Bracebridge and the captain sat down for a good chat. The vessel was not to leave till early the next morning, so there was no danger of our being sailed off unawares. Nevertheless time went on, and I thought it might be well to go. "No hurry, oh, no hurry; you are quite safe with me!" "Yes, but my husband will be expecting me." "Oh, never mind, he won't be anxious; he'll know it's all right; it's good to have a little change of scene; we shall have tea soon, after that we'll go, it will be a moonlight night."
There was clearly nothing for it but patience and submission to the stronger will, with as much enjoyment of the change of scene as could be. So we had tea; after that the eight o'clock bells struck, but the sound fell on deaf ears! in short, it was nearly ten o'clock before this good and cheery escort of mine could be induced to return.
When at last we did get home, we found very much what I expected, – Mrs. Bracebridge, on her part anxious about him, had sent to our house; my husband, meanwhile anxious about me, had sent to her quarters in the Barracks to make inquiries. However, all's well that ends well; we were neither of us the worse for our escapade, the poor woman on whose behalf we had gone was certainly the gainer by it, for she was quite unprovided with garments necessary for a sea-voyage; while Mr. Bracebridge declared he had not enjoyed himself so much for a long while. It was my secret opinion that the especial coat had been put on for this very especial and intended freak.
Though I avoid as much as possible allusions to the strange mistakes and blunders which were made during this war, yet there was one incident I can scarcely omit as it concerned our friend Lieutenant Keatley, and was unique in its way, at least it is to be hoped so. Referring to my journal I find it noted, "This is not a leaf from Baron Munchausen, but a real positively true transaction."
The French had a ship moored some little distance up the Golden Horn and used as a stable for some of their cavalry; the water where she lay was shallow and like a narrow river, so that being unaffected by the weather, she remained at anchor motionless, and was also attached to the quay. For the convenience of the horses a kind of entrance door had been cut in the side of the vessel, enabling the animals to go in and out with facility. Obviously this was useful, and indeed almost a necessity, since the ship was converted into a stable for daily service.
It so happened that we had a ship, too, at anchor and in daily use, not for horses, it is true, but for stores of all kinds, and it was often found to be exceedingly inconvenient and troublesome hauling these goods up the side into the ship, letting them down into the hold, and taking them out again when required in the usual way. We therefore, good common-sense English people, as we usually prided ourselves on being, having observed the facility with which the French, who are always a practical people, walked their horses in and out of their ship and stable, through the door in the side, naturally thought this a capital plan; what could be easier than to make the same convenient arrangement for depositing the stores in our ship – she was at anchor and likely to remain so for some time: how much trouble it would save!
This brilliant idea was no sooner conceived, than some carpenters were procured, and the deed was done; the large hole being cut only a little above water-mark to be of easy access to boats unloading.
Now it so happened that this ship was Lieutenant Keatley's home, and it chanced also that he was absent just then for a few days on some transport business, and could not therefore be consulted on the subject. There is no doubt but that this aperture in the side of his ship conduced greatly to the rapidity of taking stores in and out, and would have been a great boon, but for certain reasons; things that might often be convenient are not always expedient, and so it was in this instance.
Unfortunately, instead of being moored in the calm waters of the Golden Horn, where the French had full scope, and good reason to display their ingenuity, poor Lieutenant Keatley's great storehouse was moored about midway across the Bosphorus, and was exposed to all its strong currents and the rolling waves of the Marmora, whenever the wind was pleased to blow. Imagine, therefore, the consternation of our friend on his return "home," to find himself and stores subjected to be incontinently sent to the bottom of the sea the first time any bad weather came on. Providentially this feat of carpentering was performed in the summer time, when the barometer was steady. Both during autumn and winter, storms come on so suddenly that had this been perpetrated "then," instead of "now," in the captain's absence, it would have been ten to one all might have been lost, for a few minutes only would have sufficed to fill the ship with water and send it to the bottom.
I wonder if the mode of transacting business in the bazaars of Stamboul is changed, amongst the many transformations that have taken place since the year 1855. It was in those days new to us; but travellers now have such easy ways of reaching those once distant regions, that possibly the mercantile manners may also be reformed by the increased and facilitated intercourse with other nations. The bazaars were then, what probably they are now, streets of shops, or rather large stalls; each street being devoted to one specialty, i.e., one street consisting entirely of stalls of shoes, another street of pipes, another of jewellery, another of calico, – carpets, and so on. As you passed down one or any of these streets out rushed the stall-keeper – "Missus, missus, come here, what you want? Come on, Johnny! vary good calico, missus, dis de place, come on!" Thus you were assailed on every side, and it was necessary to turn a deaf ear, shake your head, and walk to the street appropriated to the article you wished to purchase.
This energetic part of shopkeeping was generally performed by youths, possibly sons of the graver and more calmly minded apathetic old gentlemen who were almost always to be found within the stall on a divan, and who did not deem it necessary to stir themselves unless a fly were actually caught and coming into their web. Having found the street wherein the purchase was to be made, and selected the probably successful stall, you were, after the usual, "Come on, missus, dis de place," politely invited by the loquacious Johnny to enter and be seated on the divan within, and where you usually received the respectful salaam of the older proprietor of the shop.
On our first attending these bazaars we were always asked to partake of a pipe, which was invariably handed to us of course that we might the better discuss or ruminate on the business before us, for as Turks are never in a hurry, our being so could not be imagined by them. But soon the selling Johnnies discovered that the purchasing Johnnies did not approve of smoking, and really came for the purpose of as speedily as possible completing their bargain. The customer's pipe, therefore, after a while, though it was always ready at hand, was only pointed at as a compliment, but not handed as formerly.
Nevertheless, pipe or no pipe, the transaction of business was a most deliberate affair. Nothing could be done quickly, no real effendi could be in a hurry – it was derogatory to all dignity, and our saying, "Chabouk, chabouk, Johnny," – which I must confess we often did in our impatience, was a dire offence, and indeed a very useless appeal – for "make haste" no Turk did, with whom we became acquainted; and this was one great hindrance to our going to Stamboul to make purchases, when time was so precious to us, for it took us nearly the whole day to accomplish very little. But to proceed. At length, perhaps, the article required was produced.
"How much, Johnny?" "Five shovereigns," was the ready reply, and invariably the sum named; it mattered not how trifling the intended purchase might be, possibly only a few shillings. Five sovereigns was a normal price, it had been well learnt, was easily said, and it suited everything. We knew the answer equally by heart, and were consequently prepared to say in return, "Nonsense, Johnny, I'm ashamed of you." On neither side was the language understood; but we found that accompanying gesticulations and signs of disapproval were the best interpreters to them of plain English words, and served the purpose.
Johnny would persist in the demand of five sovereigns, until showing our impatience we rose to go. That would not do, so, "How mush you give, missus?" This was one of the few sentences they had learned. We then fixed our price, so many shillings, perhaps; perhaps half a sovereign or more, according to what we considered the value might be. Johnny shook his head, and we again moved to depart. "Stope, Johnny, stope, three shovereign." "No, Johnny, no;" we were inexorable, for we usually offered more than the real value to induce him speedily to give way. We then put the price we intended to give into our hands, showed it to him and made signs to leave.
At length, after the going and calling back had exhausted more than a good half-hour, the irresistible gold and silver won the day, and the first part of the bargain was over. Now began another strife, – this time upon the value of the money; the sovereign would always be taken, but silver, no matter from what nation, was a disputable point.
Every conceivable coin from almost every known nation was occasionally current there, and generally speaking you had to put your own value upon it; beside which, there were piastre notes of Turkish currency which were actually sometimes of no market value at all, and would not be taken, and at other times they were worth something, then something more, and so on. Any way, – any how, to keep accounts at all accurately was one of the most difficult tasks imaginable – at least we thought so in those times.
Probably this confusion of moneys was one reason that the notable "five sovereigns" was the normal price asked; as the sovereign was of steady value, when every other coin (a French napoleon excepted) was not.
"Change shovereign, Johnny," was a constant offer made to you in almost every corner of the bazaar; it was an open trade.
Upon the conclusion of your purchase, or rather the agreement to take so much, began the new contention; for though you showed your price and held it in your hand, every coin was discussed and depreciated, and more required to make up its supposed value. Patience was well-nigh exhausted. There was, however, no use in leaving in disgust without your purchase, unless you resigned it altogether, for if you went to another stall, you fared no better, and had all to begin again – and that from the very beginning. Thus, the wisest way was to count the cost of your excursion before you set out; lay in a good stock of patience, give yourself plenty of time, and go through with it once for all; and the quickest way was to exhibit an English sovereign on the palm of your hand; it was a temptation few could resist, and they were much more expeditious if the purchase in any way amounted to a golden payment.
One of the causes of Turkish poverty was the lavish expenditure of its monarchs: it seemed as though Abdul Medjid built a palace in every direction wherever his fancy led him. One of these splendid buildings we visited; it is just beyond Tophana, and is called Dolma Batche; its beauty would not be quarrelled with were it the only palace, but when their name was legion and the Empire bankrupt, it was, to say the least, an imperial folly! The entrance to Dolma Batche was magnificent; the pillars supporting it are in clusters of four or five of the most lovely cream-colour and red marble; the flooring of some of the rooms was entirely of inlaid wood resembling Tunbridge ware, and some of it as finely worked. It seemed almost wrong to walk upon it; indeed, all gentlemen were requested to take off their boots, while ours underwent a great but necessary process of brushing and wiping before we were allowed to enter. The bath-room was delicious, cool, and refreshing, even to look at; the walls, ceiling, and floor were entirely of Egyptian alabaster, which, in parts, was exquisitely carved, – nothing but alabaster was visible anywhere in its interior, and the effect was quite in harmony with the idea of its appropriation. Workmen from Italy, France, Germany, and England, were employed to decorate the palace, which was not by any means finished when we went over it. English stoves and fire-grates were furnished to some of the apartments. The question often asked was – Who pays?
On Sunday the 22d of July, while returning from the morning service, a note was handed to me from Mrs. Bowen Thompson, stating in a few words that her husband, Dr. Thompson, was on board the "Emperor," just arrived from the Crimea; that he was exceedingly ill of typhoid fever, and earnestly entreating that he might be received into one of the hospitals, and not compelled to proceed to Malta, whither the ship was bound – there to land other invalids and wounded men.
Clearly no time was to be lost in endeavouring to meet her wishes, and the first thing was to apply to the authorities and state the case; it was equally clear, one would suppose, that any ship going to Malta with general invalids would be too glad to get rid of such a fever case. So, at once to headquarters with my letter of request! "But where is the ship?" She had sailed half an hour before the service was over! But whither? Not to Malta. She had scarcely arrived from the Black Sea, down the Bosphorus to Scutari, before she was sent back to Kulalee, first, before proceeding on her voyage. Kulalee, as has been already mentioned, was about five miles distant from Scutari. The heat was excessive, and at that time I could not get an escort. It was impossible for me to do anything before the morning. I could only hope, therefore, that on the arrival of the ship at Kulalee, and Mrs. Thompson making her case known to the authorities there, her husband might be received into that Hospital.
Between five and six o'clock the next morning, to avoid the heat, on my trusty little horse, accompanied by Dr. Humphrey, I went to Kulalee, and found the ship, with the poor invalid still on board. Permission was at once given for his reception at the Hospital; it was necessary to obtain this, he being a civilian. But the doctors deemed it best, then, to wait until the cool of the evening before removing him, the heat being so very great and he so very ill. Every attention was paid to him by the Sisters and nurses in charge, but to all who saw him it was a hopeless case from the first – and on the 5th of August he was called away.
Dr. Thompson had travelled much in the East, working as a medical missionary, and it was the desire to help wherever he could be of use, that took him to Balaklava, where he was seized with that too often fatal fever. His widow, Mrs. Bowen Thompson, became in later years well known to many as the foundress of the British Syrian schools in Beyrout, and the Lebanon schools, which are still carried on by her sisters. Mrs. Thompson died in the year 1869.
It was on the 7th of this same month of August that one of the most tremendous thunderstorms known here for many years visited us. Mercifully we were preserved from its effects, but a great deal of damage was done everywhere around us, and the house next to my Women's Hospital was struck and the windows broken; four horses inside the Barrack stable were knocked down, and one killed on the spot. It began about nine o'clock in the morning and continued till night; the thunder rolled incessantly and stunningly overhead, while the room seemed continually full of fire; the rain fell in such torrents that in a few minutes it was almost impossible to cross the streets, and soon the rush of water from the hills beyond was so great that it washed away everything that obstructed its course that was not strongly built. A stone bridge not far from us, over which we crossed to a long grassy plain, a favourite ride for recreation, was completely thrown down – not an arch remained. Dr. Blackwood, who had gone early to his wards, could not return till late, and then even, though we were so very near, scarcely three minutes' walk from the Barrack, he was obliged to go out of his way a quarter of a mile to reach a higher part, before he could cross the street to return home. The storm over, however, we were greatly refreshed, for the heat had been intense. Now the air was cool, and we felt we had much to be thankful for.
Reading-rooms for soldiers – Night schools and lectures in place of temptations to drunkenness – Lecture on birds by the Rev. Mr. Connors – Little Dolly – Influence of officers in different regiments.
IN the midst of all the privations which we experienced, especially during the first few months of our residence here, we had many kind friends, who were untiring in their thoughtfulness of what we might want, or what might be a help, comfort, recreation, or amusement, when we had leisure for such. I here most thankfully record this fact, though I may not be able to record their names; their gifts were more keenly appreciated than can be expressed; and had the transport of the goods been adequate, we should have wanted for little; but this being certainly at fault at that time, it was often a fact that months elapsed before we received what had been sent; consequently, in many instances, the need had passed away before they arrived. However, amongst things which did in the course of time reach us, were books; a few for our private use was a great treat, and were highly valued. A large number of books had been sent out for general use; and as soon as could be, which was about the month of September, a lending library was opened for the benefit of the soldiers. Night schools also were begun, and the classes and lectures were well attended; there were several among the officers and civilians who were able and willing to take part in this work.
A great reformation had been effected previous to the establishment of these recreations; a raid had been made on the dreadful spirit-shops kept by the Greeks, in which almost poisonous alcoholic mixtures were sold, and that to such an extent, that no sooner was a poor soldier discharged from the Hospital ward as convalescent, than ten to one, he was returned in a few hours almost dead from the effects of these noxious drinks; indeed, several cases of such returns had been fatal, and it was time, therefore, to put a stop to this sort of thing and get these Greek arrack vendors rooted out. Happily, it was done, and proper canteens opened instead. I have it recorded that one night, upon the arrival of some troops from Smyrna or elsewhere, on their way to the front, after receiving their pay, no less than one hundred and twenty poor fellows were carried, or driven into the Barracks in a fearful state of inebriety. Several we saw, ourselves, lying in the gutters – some poor creatures, less incapable than their fellows, were of course made laughing-stocks to others; we met them as Dr. Blackwood accompanied me that evening to my Hospital. It was an awful spectacle for any one to witness, especially Mahometans, to whom drunkenness is an abhorrence, and by them of course it was attributed to Christianity as its effects and fruits.
A reading-room for newspapers had been arranged long before this time, but until these sad temptations were removed, the reading-room was not much frequented. Now the case was different, and the soldiers gladly availed themselves of the entertaining and instructive lectures which were provided for them.
One of these lectures must have especial mention. It was given by a chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Connors, who took much interest in the men, and was always anxious to promote their welfare. Mr. Connor's lecture was on birds, which was very interesting and exceedingly well sustained, and ended with a remarkably graceful allusion to a certain sweet songster, "whose notes were not confined to England's woods and forests, but were the solace of the sick chamber, the soother of the sorrowful, the harbinger of ease to the wounded, and the notes of a friend to the soldier. I need not name that bird," said Mr. Connors, whereupon the building seemed ready to fall from the burst of applause and cheering, as every voice vociferated, "The Nightingale, the Nightingale."
While on the subject of instruction I will say a word of, and from, my little school – which now numbered about twenty-two; it seemed really to be appreciated by some of the parents as a means of getting their children taught, where they thought they were little likely to find such an opportunity. Lately there had arrived seven sergeants, with their wives and nine children from England. They were intended to be stationary here, therefore their families accompanied them. But in what a condition did they arrive. It was really an accumulation of finery and untidiness! they were, however, very glad to find shelter and help for the women and children under my Hospital's roof for a few days, until quarters were provided for them. The young ones, of course, attended the school.
One amongst the number of these new arrivals was a poor woman who had been married in India at fourteen years of age, and had not yet reached her twenty-second year; she had four children, the eldest was not quite seven, a nice boy, but suffering from cataract forming in one eye, the result of a blow received four years previously. The next was a fine boy of five. The third poor little child was left as an infant to crawl or lie on the floor of a freshly-scoured wet room, and for more than a year he had lost the use of one side, – shoulder, hand, leg, and foot all being affected. The youngest, born on the voyage out here, was the other day left to anybody's or nobody's care, while the mother was absent some hours. Happily for the poor little creature I went down into the barracks – where they were then located, having left the home, – and persuaded another woman to take compassion upon it and give it natural food. This was a sadly hopeless family; the elder ones consequently have been kept entirely in the Hospital, and now get regularly washed, clothed, and taught.
Among other little scholars was poor little "Dolly," a very intelligent-looking child, owned, alas! by sad parents. When she came first, her store of learning was examined, as she was supposed to have had some teaching, and the question asked her, "Can you tell me, Dolly, the name of the first man whom God made?" "Yes, ma'am, George" (her brother). Dolly was quite satisfied with her answer, for to her there was no one equal to George, or whom she seemed to love like her brother; he was only a year older than herself, a very sweet child, with heart and face open as the day, and to him she looked up as to a protector, and indeed, young as he was, he made it his business to take charge of her.
Dolly was seldom disconcerted with any question put to her; she was always quickly prepared with a reply of some kind, and very eager, too, to acquire knowledge for herself. This made her a particularly interesting child, she had a good memory, and was attentive to what was taught her. Poor children, their mother was constantly intoxicated, and their father said to be not much better.
On one occasion Dolly, with great eagerness and some little excitement, as though she knew it was wrong, asked Ebba Almroth, "Please, ma'am, what is a wretch? 'cause my father said mother was a wretch, and my mother said he was a devil. Please, ma'am, isn't the devil the black man that lives in hell." Sad language, indeed, for the poor little things to hear. Their parents are supposed to be in good circumstances; he has, notwithstanding his propensity, risen in the ranks and holds now a good appointment.
So much has been done of late years to benefit the soldiers, we would fain hope that what is just narrated, though typical then of a most common state among their families, may be the exception now; but no doubt to a very great extent, what made the difference then, between those who were respectable and well-conducted, and others who were the reverse, makes also the difference now, though there is no rule without an exception.
I may perhaps be allowed in some measure to be a judge of this, as the women were especially under my care; and during the period of our sojourn in the East, viz., one year and a half, not less than five hundred came, at one time or another, under my cognisance. In some regiments, for instance, the poor women were wretched, degraded, and seemed lost in vice, and to human eyes beyond reclamation; scarcely could one be found much better than another; if so, she was the exception, through some happy escape from contamination.
Here I will allow that their circumstances while at Varna were by all accounts very bad; they seemed to have been exposed there to great hardships and privations, while cholera and sickness carried off many, so that it is possible that the immorality and subsequent misery of many of them could be dated from that time, and attributed to a kind of reckless despair, and certainly their condition in Scutari, when first we arrived, was not conducive to morality, nor even common decency. Therefore, many cases may have been exceptional cases.
Still it was the fact that they were bad by regiments, if I may so express it, while adverse circumstances, of course, contributed to render them worse; and I felt more and more, how hopeless was the attempt, humanly speaking, to impress them with right and proper feelings, or elevate their moral tone, until the Government would really take up their cause, and treat them as women belonging to a civilised country professing Christianity, and appoint separate apartments for the married couples, not allowing them to be herded together – so many in one undivided room, so many in another.
At the period of which I write, their condition was most degrading and degraded; the decent and respectable, belonging to some regiments, were, as I have before stated, quite the exception to the rule. A few of the poor wretched ones occasionally seemed glad to be removed from temptation and to avail themselves of a quiet and respectable home; but with many the wish lasted but a little while; they were ready to come to the Hospital when sickness overtook them, but when they recovered, it happened to them according to the true proverb, – "The dog is turned to his own vomit again: and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Pet. ii. 21). In other regiments the wives were for the most part tidy, respectable women, glad to enter service, or employ themselves usefully; and what caused this difference?
Dear friends, I found almost invariably the answer was – "the officers." Plainly I desire to state it, with a hope that should any officer peruse these pages, he may take to heart the incalculable influence he has, for good or for evil, in the regiment to which he belongs. All my women were carefully registered as to their regiments, divisions, brigades, or whatever it might have been, and by that means I had full opportunity of comparing notes; and wherever I found decent and respectable women belonging to one company, I almost always heard from them, "Our Captain — is a good man, he helps the children in the schools; Lieutenant — always takes an interest in us, and looks after us. Colonel — visits us in our barracks, he would not allow us to be untidy," and many other such things. And continually where I found the contrary I heard little of any care or interest taken, and but little respect expressed for the officers in command of the regiment.
Now, in making these remarks, I am far from laying all the blame upon the officers, but I do say, that so marked was the difference, that in thus expressing myself I wish to point out how much is in the power of officers to elevate the moral standard of those under them; and this we all know, that moral elevation is a great prop and incentive to courage and bravery. The bravest men are often, I do not say always, but often the best men; it is not frequently that a good man is found to be a coward; and we are also assured of this, that many a man has been refined in his ways and habits by the influence of a good and virtuous wife.
In the beginning of September Lord William Paulet, hitherto the Commandant here, left for the Crimea; many were sorry at his leaving, as he was kind and amiable to all. I believe it was no regret to himself, as he often said active service was much more appreciated by him than the quieter, but not less onerous, position which he held at Scutari. His post was filled by General Storks, afterwards Sir Henry Storks.
It was rumoured that shortly another attempt would be made on the Redan and Malakoff. These rumours could not fail to make us very anxious, and had they not so often proved merely reports, we should have been still more so. Perhaps it was well for our peace of mind that the often empty cry had made us depend less upon them. However, this time it was a grave reality, and the intelligence of the fall of Sebastopol reached us on the 13th of the month, and of the tremendous loss of men both of the French and English, especially to us of officers. The detailed accounts were so varied, however, that it was impossible to judge what was, or what was not true. It seemed after such prolonged exertions, to take one almost by surprise; and when the little "Banshee" steamed down with the news, it was hardly credited, though at the time we were expecting it.
Miss Nightingale shortly after went up again to the Crimea to inspect the hospitals there, and perhaps get another constructed. Everything here was in order now for the reception of any who might be sent down.
After this great event was over, several of our friends came to Scutari; among them was my cousin Lieutenant Cowell (now Sir John Cowell), in attendance on his invalid General, Sir Harry Jones, to whom he was aide-de-camp. Fortunate, indeed, to have escaped all the hot fire of the last battles, he had been also at Bomersund, and had he not there accidentally shot himself, he would not have known what a wound was. However, from that he soon recovered, and was enabled to proceed to the Crimea where he took his share of the fight, as did others, and mercifully was spared to return home in safety.
Not so fortunate were some others. A young artilleryman, Lieutenant Tillard, in whom we were much interested, received a wound in the head, and though he recovered for a time, it was but a short spell of life ere he was called away. Another who served in the Naval Brigade, Lieutenant Courtney Evered, received a wound, the effects of which followed him long after. But I need not enumerate these – friends and relatives can supply the list, and it would be a long one.
But it was not from the battle only that sad tidings reached us. There were other weapons of death beside shot and shell. Cholera and disease are attendants on war, and reach where cannon does not. Mr. Stowe – the Times commissioner, who had been amongst us most actively employed trying to establish a good canteen where wholesome porter and ale might be obtained by the soldiers, instead of the poisonous raki – went up to Balaklava full of life and vigour, desirous to extend help where he could; but ere he reached the camp was seized with cholera and speedily removed.
Mr. Lee, a young man apparently healthy and well, arrived as chaplain, and being eager to begin his work at once, was appointed to the morning and afternoon service of the following day. At the former he officiated, but afterwards came to Dr. Blackwood and asked him to take the afternoon service as he was not well. Poor fellow, he retired to his room, and was removed from it a corpse in a few days, barely a week, after his arrival, by some sudden seizure, unexpected by those who attended him. Thus continually were we reminded of the uncertainty of life, quite independently of the casualties of war.
Second visit to Therapia and kindness of Lady Stratford de Redcliffe – Beautiful season on the Bosphorus – Giant's Mountain – "Sweet Waters" – Excursion with Lady Stratford de Redcliffe to the entrance of the Black Sea – Return home.
AMIDST the various visitations of fever, cholera, and other illnesses and calamities which had been fatal to so many around us, we had hitherto been preserved in health and safety. This was surely a cause for thankfulness; it was a great mercy, and one to be especially remarked, for our house stood almost, if not quite, alone in exemption from sickness. We were four, besides our two servants, and if I except myself, which I justly and thankfully may, none of the rest could be called robust in health, yet we were kept from illness, and were, with perhaps the exception of a day now and then, always able for our work with good heart and fair strength.
But now, just at the end of September, a slight accident befell me; while stepping into a caique I sprained my thumb. The first remedies, chiefly cold water, seemed to do harm rather than good, and superinduced a smart attack of rheumatism in the arm; so as rest was the next prescription, we again thought of Therapia.
Lady Stratford de Redcliffe was very kind in the trouble she took to obtain for us the use of an empty house for three weeks, which was a great boon. We brought with us sufficient furniture for the occasion; by this time well knowing how to make very little answer our purpose. Emilio was left behind to take charge of Dr. Blackwood and the ponies; our other servant, Mrs. Topps, who had reconsidered her threat of departure, came with us, and no three weeks were more enjoyed than those.
The weather was Elysian! October on the Bosphorus cannot be surpassed for luxuriant beauty and climatic enjoyment; at least so we thought, and the remembrance of it is ever fresh in my mind; and though we have since travelled in many other lands, I still give the palm to Therapia in October. It was most lovely!
The Naval Hospital, so beautifully situated there, in the midst of a shady garden, was now in excellent order under the care and supervision of Mrs. Mackenzie, the daughter of the late Dr. Chalmers, and the wife of a Free Church minister of Edinburgh, who accompanied her for rest and change to recruit his own delicate health. Their friendly intercourse added greatly to our enjoyment.
During the absence on sick leave of the appointed naval chaplain (Mr. Davidson), Mr. Mackenzie undertook the ministerial duties of the Hospital for him, with the approval of the Admiral – the Honourable Sir Frederick Grey; who, appreciating his services, often attended himself, to his great edification, as he said, and as we also did. Mr. Mackenzie being a very able preacher and really devout man, and a member of the Evangelical Alliance, had no objection whatever to use our service, and it was seldom we heard our liturgy so solemnly prayed, or preaching so earnestly impressive.
Having now more leisure than during our former visit of only three days to this charming spot, we made several excursions: one was to Unkiar Skelessi on the opposite side of the Bosphorus; in its vicinity is the celebrated kiosk which, from much the same policy that prompted Cardinal Wolsey to present Hampton Court to Henry VIII., Mahomet Ali, the Viceroy of Egypt, is said to have presented to Mahmoud, then Sultan of Turkey.
At a distance this building has a peculiar and far from attractive appearance, though its size, for the situation, is somewhat imposing, but on a nearer inspection the foundations of a beautiful residence were there, had it been completed, which it was not. The palace itself, which was of red polished marble with white facings, stood in the centre of two rather high terraces, one above the other, the walls of which were also of red and white marble; the lower terrace greatly exceeding the upper one in extent. It had the promise of a superb building, small perhaps for royalty, but of the most elaborate workmanship. The interior was intended to surpass, and no doubt from what had been done, would have far surpassed, the exterior in decoration, but there it stood in its unfinished state, a monument of vain-glory and unsatiated ambition.
The situation was indeed a choice one. In front was the Bosphorus, with all its points of interest and beauty. Immediately before us was Therapia, and by its side that most exquisitely formed bay of Buyukdere enclosed by its richly wooded heights, the chosen spot for the country residence of several of the Embassies, and now so well known as an important strategical military position, behind a far out-stretching peaceful valley, whose name might well be "Loveliness," with hill succeeding hill, as far as the eye could reach, purpled with flowery turf and wild lavender which abounds, and planes and chestnuts, and dark cypresses interspersed, affording every variety of foliage and shade, as the sun sent its beams through their branches, while its glow reposed on the sward. Such was it when we beheld it, and passing zephyrs whispered – "Oh, that I had wings like a dove!"
We wandered but a few paces down this valley, after examining all we could see of the palace both within and without, for we had obtained permission to enter it, when we discovered a little winding path which we were directed to follow, as it would lead us to the summit of what is called the Giant's Mountain, so named, because at the top, on a small flat surface, was a portion of ground marked off, of about twenty feet long and six or seven broad, enclosed with a sort of trellis wood-work and stone; and by the Turks, or at least many of them, declared to be the burial-place of Joshua.
The legend was, that Joshua sat there with his feet in the Bosphorus, to rest, having stood on the top praying for the sun to stand still during the war of the Israelites, and that he was finally buried there. It is not always advisable to analyse legends; they are clearly not intended to be so treated. Otherwise, it would surely have occurred to reasonable creatures to think what an enormous size Joshua must have been, to sit on the hill with his feet laving in the waters beneath; and again, if this were true, the grave, capacious as it seems, must have been far too small, unless poor Joshua were either well folded up, or had marvellously shrunk in size ere he could be deposited in the tomb assigned him.
But romance would be completely spoiled were we always to inquire so minutely into such narratives, and expect them to fit the squares and corners of reasonable facts. It is better for the enjoyment of the moment to suppose Joshua was tall or long enough to perform this feat and thus give the name, "Giant's Mountain."
In any case, the superstitions of the Turks have led them to pay it great honour; by hanging the trellis-work which surrounds the tomb with shreds of garments and all kinds of rags; believing implicitly in the benefit said to be derived from a piece of the garment of an invalid, especially of a fever patient, being suspended to air on the grave; the fever would depart, and the sufferer be cured.
Curiosity being satisfied with regard to this extraordinary shrine, we were filled with admiration of the splendid scenery which surrounded us, where the rays of a declining sun falling upon spreading trees and flowing waters, lent brilliancy to every branch and golden tips to every wave. This was sufficient for one day, and we returned to our "lodging" silent with delight!
On another occasion we crossed to the Asiatic side, higher up towards the north, and landing, ascended another eminence of about the same elevation as the Giant's Mountain. From thence we had a good view of the entrance to the Black Sea, and could, by turning first to one side, then the other, contrast its scenery with that which lay towards the south. It is quite of a different nature; trees give place to rocks, which stand out prominently against the grey blue waters of the Euxine, the expanse of which was broken by the rough defiant outlines of the Symplegades, and here and there, beyond, a low dark head, washed by a dashing wave, showed the danger of the coast, which is so difficult to navigate.
On that side all was rough and wild, in direct contrast to the repose and beauty of almost every point when once you enter the Bosphorus. Turning therefore towards the south, from the eminence on which we stood, the city of the Sultan was perceptible at the farthest distance, through the hazy sunset, with its numerous minarets and mosques; here and there some glistening dome catching its rays emitted the reflected light like fire; while thrown out in strong shade were the towers of Europe and Asia – those everywhere visible fortresses – with the silvery Bosphorus winding its serpentine course between; it was a beautiful picture, as indeed was every turning-point in those regions.
With regard to the towers, beyond the historical interest, there is nothing worthy of an especial visit to them, though we made a day's excursion thither; the fortifications of the castle of Romelia, on the European side, are more extensive than those on the Asiatic side, and are the most conspicuous from their elevated position – they are built of white stone, and far more to be admired as a distant object in a landscape, than for any architectural merit, at least so I conceive. Now they remain only as monuments to testify to the history which records that, by the capture of this great stronghold, Constantinople fell under the dominion of the Mahometans.
This European fortification has three large towers with castellated walls on either side, enclosing a large area of ground extending from near the water's edge upward; two towers, one on each end, being on the highest level, the third in the centre, half way.
At the time of our visit, while standing on the highest platform, looking down on this middle tower, a fine large owl flew out from its ruins, uttering its shrill hooting scream, flying round and round, and again took refuge within its walls. In olden times this would have been an important omen for weal or woe; but as now Sebastopol had fallen, it had no disturbing effect on us!
The opposite fortress, on the Asiatic side, called the Tower of Anatolia, or Anatoli Hissar, is built on the narrowest part of the channel – the most appropriate place for its defence. It stands on a low plateau at the mouth of a river which waters another valley, possibly a branch of that at the foot of the Giant's Mountain; it is here also that the "Sweet Waters of Asia" flow. The fortress is in every respect smaller than that of its opposite neighbour and far more ruined; the only attraction is its situation.
One afternoon, uninvited, we joined the ladies who assembled on Friday to take their coffee and spend an hour or two on the banks of the "Sweet Waters of Asia." It would be difficult to decide which should have the preference, this, or the Sweet Waters of Europe by the Golden Horn. Nature has bestowed rich gifts on both, and both are lovely in their turn; each is situated in a rich valley with green turf sloping to the waters.
The choice for gaiety and brilliancy of colour must certainly fall on the Sweet Waters of Europe, because, being in the vicinity of so large a city, the visitants are much more numerous. But Nature has perhaps shown more favour to Asia; her "Sweet Waters" flow through one of the loveliest valleys imaginable, and the distant surroundings are so beautiful, no description can do them justice. The undulating lines of hills and valleys, the perfection of atmosphere, the tints of foliage, conduce to render it one of the most charming of charming spots!
The "ladies" always seemed greatly pleased at our approach, and made signs for us to sit near them; our dress, as usual, was the object of attraction, and invariably underwent close inspection – the fashion of fitting to the figure being evidently the desirable and longed-for attainment. Not from admiration otherwise did they examine us, as the plain muslins which we wore could in no way compare for beauty with the silks and gold, or fur trimmings and embroidery which embellished their already brilliant costumes, and which made so marked a contrast to ours.
The company sat on rich and many-coloured carpets and rugs, with little tables beside them, on which their black servants laid trays of coffee; the cups were very small and of china, but instead of saucers, they were slipped into little gilt or silver stands like egg-cups. Their children usually played round them, and were dressed in the same gay materials as their mothers, though some of the boys had cloaks such as the "effendis" wore, looking like little men cut short. Most politely were we invited to partake of the coffee, and pipes were sometimes pointed to; but they soon learned that smoking was not among the luxuries in which Western ladies indulged.
At Scutari, when the "ladies" assembled in the great cemetery which, there, was usually on Thursday afternoons, it was amusing to hear the ice-vendors calling out, "Vera good ice, Johnny;" this of course was for the benefit of the English residents, who enjoyed the lounge as much as the Turkish women, though it would have been contrary to all propriety and etiquette to have mingled at all amongst them.
But "Vera good ice-creams, Johnny," was a cry in no way to be either despised or put down in Scutari, whatever might have been its fate in London. Hot suns made ice an especial luxury, and not unfrequently was the sound so welcome, that the poor "Johnny" who sold, was beset more than he liked by the "Johnnies" who bought. Sherbet and ice with rose-water sprinkled were always plentifully carried about at the Sweet Waters of the Golden Horn; but this sale of refreshment had not reached the Sweet Waters of Asia when we were there, we imagined from customers not being sufficiently numerous.
Lady Stratford de Redcliffe proposed an excursion for us in the Embassy caique to the Black Sea, which we enjoyed extremely. There is scarcely anything of the kind to be imagined more delightful than a caique on the Bosphorus, with those strong graceful rowers wafting the light canoe along with almost silent stroke. The dolce far niente luxury, to my mind, far exceeds that of the gondolas of Venice, delightful as they are. The comparison is perhaps scarcely fair, each is suited to its own locality, but nevertheless it is almost impossible for those who have experienced both to be in the one without thinking of the other.
The Bosphorus with its caiques have my choice; Venice is charming, but if we except the climate, it is not so much the charm of nature as of art. Its marble palaces, so unique, standing out of and contrasting in colour with the blue blue sea, the cloudless sky, the noiseless oar, the many islands, the wide expanse of the Adriatic, – all so unlike anything else, – have a vast attraction. But caiques on the Bosphorus flit by Nature's loveliest haunts, rocks and hills, flowers and gardens, palaces and trees, with every variety of foliage, from the dark cypress and the stone pine to the wide-spreading pale-green plane-tree; at every turn there is beauty.
The caiques are not covered, as the gondolas, and, in rain, would certainly not be desirable; but that falls seldom out of season. The blue canopy of heaven over you, as you lie beneath, reclining at ease on the mattress, is soothing and refreshing to my mind beyond description.
The Embassy caique is a ten-oared boat, and with it we speedily reached the entrance to the Black Sea, and had a full view of the rocks and fortresses, as we passed beneath them. Then turning round, the caique was moored to the edge of a green sward on the Asiatic side, and we landed at the foot of the old Genoese castle, which consists of walls and three towers at intervals, rising from the edge of the sea up to the summit of a high hill, where the remains of the larger tower are in better preservation.
We ascended the steep, following the course of the walls till we reached the top, where we found an entrance; all is of course in ruin. From thence, which was doubtless the chief watch-tower, the view of the Euxine is very extensive, but the turn of the channel here excludes the sight of Constantinople.
It is very interesting to trace the voyages of the Genoese in these remains, and remarkable that as they left the Bosphorus with their castle, still extant at its entrance, so we find them again at Balaklava by a precisely similar castle on the heights of that extraordinary harbour, equally defended it must have been by, and in possession of those once busy and famous people.
Before re-embarking we stepped aside to a tempting little path rising up on our right hand; curiosity led us to follow the trodden line, and we came shortly to the ruins of a building of red Roman brick; scarcely anything remained of it but the broken arch of what seemed to have been a window. It formed a good frame to a picturesque view of the waters beneath, now enlivened by the Embassy caique and the red fez of the caichées, as they waited our return by the side of the bright green sward where we landed. It may be a question, was this ruined window a last remnant of one of the churches said to have been built near this spot by Justinian, and dedicated to Michael the Archangel.
Here were no showmen, with their histories repeated like parrots, to tell us; but as we looked at it and through it, we liked to imagine it might be so, and as no one seemed able to contradict us, we were satisfied with the idea, and allowed no rude "matter-of-fact" remark to break the romance. Towards evening we returned, much delighted with our day's enjoyment, for which our thanks were due to Lady Stratford de Redcliffe.
At Therapia one day I found a scorpion, but happily was not bitten by it. The garden belonging to the house we occupied was on a rising bank behind; at the top were several stone pines, under the shade of which we often sat to feast our eyes on one of those lovely peeps which open upon you at every turn.
We were thus watching the majestic approach of H.M.S. "The Queen" sailing past us southward with all her sails set. That grand and noble sight now is almost a thing of the past! Ironclads and turret ships, those clumsy ugly machines of war, have superseded what was once our admiration. We were riveted with the scene, for turning with the stream round the corner from Buyukdere Bay she came suddenly upon us, almost startling us with the glow of her sunlit sails in full expanse, apparently so close almost as though she would touch the shore, and yet so noiselessly she sped her way.
She passed, and we gazed on her till she turned again and was hidden from our sight; just then it was I put my hand on a lump of moss which, soft and yielding, I took up, when, lo! beneath it lay a scorpion, curled with its tail round it, about the size of half-a-crown. Had the moss been hard to raise, or had I not looked while I pulled it, I might have seized the creature and been bitten; mercifully such did not happen; he was disturbed; but went his way quietly. I must own after this we looked well about us, seeing there were such inhabitants in our vicinity.
Our three weeks were ended, and we returned much refreshed to our work and our home at Scutari, regretting only that Dr. Blackwood could so seldom find time to join us, though he did so occasionally, coming in the afternoon and going back by the early steamer in the morning.
Providential encounter with a friend – Polish Legion – Scant clothing of the women supplied – German Legion – Outbreak of cholera – Sad deaths – Sergeant H—; melancholy story of his wife – Chaplains in danger by shipwreck.
MY journal records what I now refer to, and I quote it, not because the notice is either agreeable or edifying, but as one of the reminiscences of our séjour in Scutari during the war, illustrating the up and down life of pleasant and unpleasant circumstances which we experienced, some of them being quite "unimaginable" by those who only live in civilised regions and in well-appointed homes.
Rats have been mentioned before as infesting our and everybody else's quarters uninvited, intruding themselves so boldly as quietly to sit on the windowsill before us and wash their faces like rabbits tamed in a hutch!
On our return from Therapia I perceived an effluvia in our bedroom, of very uncomfortable endurance, to say the least; at first we tried to persuade ourselves it would pass, and was nothing important, but it grew worse – something must be there;– so after a sleepless night, full of resolves to bear it no longer, a carpenter was allowed to come (it was by no means easy to get one, all was done officially), and ordered to remove the flooring.
When plank after plank had been lifted, about the centre of the room lay the offender, a rat upwards of eighteen inches long; wounds were visible on the "corpse," and then Dr. Blackwood remembered that about ten days previous to this discovery our cat came running to him in great excitement, with marks of blood about her face, and he thought she might have had a scuffle with a rat, but as he saw nothing of it, it did not occur to him until we found the victim of her triumph who had evidently escaped her claws, but only to die rather more peaceably under the flooring of our bedroom; while she, poor thing, had meanwhile given birth to three little dead infants, and was very ill; Emilio had taken compassion on her, he told us, and "pourquoi" of course had made her some broth!
There is a saying by a good old divine – "He who eyes a providence will never lack a providence to eye." It happened just at the beginning of November 1855, that I entered a chemist's shop in Pera, where a young officer was trying to make the chemist understand his wants; and seeing it was difficult, I offered to be interpreter. Seidlitz powders were required. Thought I, – we have had enough sent to us to supply a regiment, I may as well ask where he lives and offer to send some from our stores, which are sure to be of a much better quality than what he might find here.
"Where are your quarters?" was my next question; and not a little surprised was I to hear, not only that he had quarters in Scutari, but that he had been wishing to find out Dr. Blackwood, of whom he had heard from his childhood upwards, as he came from the same part of Ireland, and his parents had been old friends of my husband's.
Having returned on leave from India, he had volunteered to join the forces here, and was now attached as Captain to the Osmanli Horse Artillery Corps. Our being absent at Therapia when he arrived prevented his being able to find us out. He was married, and his wife was with him.
They were located in the most wretched of quarters, their one room, the ceiling of which could be touched with your hands, was just over the stable for their horses, while the flooring, like all such in Turkish houses, had spaces between the planks sufficient to allow of peeping through in certain places; consequences may be imagined! Mrs. C— had no servant, except a Greek who was hired as groom, and who systematically stole the forage so long as he was in their service. Mrs. C— was far from strong when she accompanied her husband hither, and the insalubrity of this charming abode did not contribute to restore or maintain health or strength.
Our meeting at that time seemed one of those kind providences which I think should always be gratefully noted. A spare room in my Hospital was of course at her immediate service, to which she resorted forthwith, and it was well she did, for it was very shortly after this that we were visited with that terrible outbreak of cholera which carried off so many; and her husband was ordered away three miles distant with his men to encamp out in tents on some more healthy spot than where they were at present quartered.
About this same time the Polish Legion, which had been recently formed, brought eight wives and four children to our "fold"; three of the wives were Swedes, married to Poles, who were at Bomarsund and taken prisoners with their husbands; they were here now as volunteers for this new Legion. It need hardly be said that these three poor women were overjoyed, at such a distance from their homes, to find in our two friends countrywomen speaking their language, and to whom they could make known their wants, and pour out their tale of troubles and trials; they were all in sad need of clothing. Our summer had now broken up, they were dwelling since their arrival in slight canvas tents and were miserably cold.
A new box of clothing had just been sent to us. Surely this was a timely providential gift, for from it with good strong suitable garments we were enabled to clothe both them and their little ones. "A happy day for us!" they exclaimed, as their gratitude was enhanced by a good breakfast of hot coffee and bread and butter. Poor things, it had been months since they were thus provided for and comforted, and they had gone through great hardships; of the three Swedes, two I was able to employ in work and washing, which they did well; the third was most thankful to be an inmate of the Hospital for her confinement, and no wonder – their tents were pitched in mud, for though the warm weather had continued till about the eleventh of this month, then the rain began, and being far heavier than we usually have it in England, and pouring thus incessantly for several days, it may well be imagined that the ground on which these summer tents were pitched would become a mass of soft mud; and such we found it when we discovered the poor women of the Polish Legion.
Now my dear little pony was of the greatest use to me, though it was really almost a service of danger, as he sank in mire sometimes nearly to his knees and could hardly extricate himself with a rider on his back, but without him I could have done nothing, – it would have been simply impossible to wade through such a slough of despond.
It was only under these "emollient" circumstances that we learnt to appreciate the value of Turkish pavement, which the sailors said "had the stones always the wrong side uppermost." In any case, when we had to go any distance on foot we were very glad to see one elevated above its setting of mud, no matter which side was uppermost. The duty at the burial ground was really very onerous in such times, and when the winter set in, it often rained, and the mud was indescribable, no path or road had been made to it, and it was waded through, ankle deep!
But these inconveniences, however annoying they might be, were not to be spoken of in the midst of the fearful visitation of cholera which now awaited us, caused in great measure by the effects of this sudden rain upon bad drainage, and the washing down of the accumulation of impurities from the Turkish cemetery, as well as from other localities.
A German Legion had also been formed, and for their accommodation one side of the Great Barrack had been set apart. The number of sick and wounded belonging to our own men, being barely a third or fourth of what formerly occupied the Hospital, this portion could well be spared. And here it was the cholera broke out, and in two days showed itself of the most virulent type.
A few hours sufficed to carry off those who were attacked; in a week more than a hundred fell victims to it; amongst these, six medical men, including the doctor of the German Legion and Dr. M'Gregor, our Deputy Inspector of Hospitals.
His death seemed peculiarly sad to us, not only because we knew him so intimately and had on many occasions experienced his friendly and kindly interference, when any special application was made to him; but because of the attendant circumstances: he had been very ill, and strongly advised to return home on sick leave to recruit his health, which hitherto he had been very reluctant to yield to; at length he consented, and had on the morning of the day of his seizure passed the Board and was to have left by the first steamer.
In that afternoon he was struck down, and to our consternation and grief a messenger came in the evening to Dr. Blackwood, saying, "Dr. M'Gregor is very ill and desires to see you."
My dear husband went at once; we guessed what it was, for these messages had now become very frequent, and we knew the sad tale. It was too true, our poor friend had been carried to what was called the cholera ward, which was in Dr. Blackwood's department.
He knew his own state too well, the grip of cholera was upon him, every stage of which he understood and spoke of; an hour or two and he would be gone! He took my husband's hand and thanked him heartily for many things which had been said; confessed himself a great sinner, needing the mercy and grace of the Saviour; he made his will in the presence and by the help of a friend near; bade adieu to my husband and his sorrowing fellow-surgeons, and sank into the last stage of coma, till death released him.
Scarcely had we recovered this sad shock, when another came upon us. One morning during this terrible visitation Sergeant H—, of the Royal Artillery, called to see me about his wife, who had had permission to come out to him; many of my best women having in the course of time, either by accompanying their husbands, or from other causes, gone home; in several cases respectable women, either as servants to officers' wives or for laundry work, were much needed. Having therefore received a very good character of Mrs. H— from the clergyman of the parish where she was living, I had consented to have her out and give her employment. She had been left with four little boys, two of whom had died of fever in their father's absence.
Sergeant H—, from good conduct, was now raised to rather a lucrative post; he was exceedingly respected and liked by his comrades, to many of whom he had been of great service, being a steady and sincerely religious man. He came to tell me that he had just heard from his wife, who had crossed from Ireland to Liverpool with her two children, and that she had been disappointed of her immediately promised passage from some cause by mistake, but that she should certainly have one in another vessel leaving in a day or two; meanwhile she mentioned that the elder of the two little ones had been taken ill, she hoped it would pass off, and that she would follow her letter as soon as possible. "I suppose I may now expect her by the next ship that comes in," said Sergeant H—, "and that will be in a day or two."
This fine, tall, handsome soldier was the picture of health and strength when speaking to me at nine o'clock that morning. Towards the afternoon Emilio came to me with breathless dismay, "O Madama, big soldier speak you to-day, malade! Master see him beaucoup malato!"
Alas! it was so; he had been suddenly stricken, and taken to the cholera ward, where Dr. Blackwood was attending the poor dying fellows; whether his strong constitution helped him to hold out longer than others I know not, but, seized on Friday, he lived till the following Tuesday.
Like several others he rallied to a certain point; they were then removed to what was called a convalescent ward. This was done partly with a hope of recovery, partly because it cheered the poor sufferers with that hope, seeing one another, or being themselves moved to what was styled convalescence; and some did linger longer, though the end was foreseen.
At that stage the disease was called consecutive fever. Nevertheless it was a little prolongation, and that is always a mercy – but it was too truly said by one of the medical men attending, "If there be a recovery, it is one to ninety-nine!" Thus it was with poor H—, the rallying was not of long duration, he soon sank. His peaceful end could hardly be forgotten by those who were near him at the solemn hour.
In his life he professed his faith in Jesus, and strove to live according to that profession; he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, but tried to bring others to know the blessedness of a Saviour. From the time of his seizure perfect calm and serenity was exhibited by him. "I know the Lord will guard the fatherless and the widow," he said; "if my dear wife should come out, some one will be kind to her and help her." He mentioned one of his comrades who was his friend, and requested that he might meet her on her arrival.
All this Dr. Blackwood promised to attend to, and assured him that his widow and children should be cared for. His last words were, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord!" And to that Blessed Lord he went almost immediately afterwards. We may well say, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."
Not to interrupt this narrative I will proceed with what has to be told respecting his widow. On this same day, the 20th of November 1855, when poor H— departed in Scutari, his own child, of whose illness the mother had spoken, expired in her arms in Liverpool; she could not go when the next vessel sailed; the child had become too ill, and was released from its sufferings almost at the same moment its father was removed. Sad was the letter she wrote, to tell that another of the four little ones he had left behind had been gathered to the fold above. But hope was in her letter – the youngest was still spared. "I am to sail on Saturday, my trials have been terrible since you left, but all will yet be made up to me when I see you, my dear A—. God grant that we may soon meet again!"
When this letter arrived, it was then December, and she had sailed the last days of November; to stop her was therefore impossible. She arrived on the 13th December.
As soon as we knew the ship had come in, the friend was sent to meet her. Poor woman! when she saw him instead of her husband, as though a presentiment of woe had long possessed her, the truth flashed at once upon her, and regardless of the poor little child in her arms, she sank down on a seat and seemed as though turned to stone. She asked no question, nor did she utter a word of any kind, neither did she weep. The friend took the child in his arms, and got her into a boat and brought her to my Hospital. It was a sad sight indeed! For days the poor creature neither ate, nor spoke, nor wept, nor took notice of the child, only now and then one long convulsive sob came, as though she were choking.
I sent her with the friend to her husband's grave, hoping the sight of it would bring tears. For a few moments it did, but she soon fell back to her stricken state; it was not until his clothes and effects were brought to her that real relief came; then she burst into a paroxysm of tears and wept for some time. This was the first hope we had of her recovery from the terrible state of grief in which she was.
This was indeed a sad tale of sorrow. The consolation was, the happy death of him she mourned! H— was respected by all his comrades, while his superiors equally regretted him; there was, indeed, a universally expressed sorrow at his death, and a feeling of compassion for the poor widow and child, for whom a substantial subscription was raised.
The prompt and energetic measures taken by the Commandant, Sir Henry Storks, humanly speaking, arrested the continuance of the cholera. Though the weather was so unfavourable, and notwithstanding the very humid state of the ground from the recent heavy rains, as soon as could be the German Legion were sent off a few miles distant to encamp on some eminence, while purifying and disinfecting were carried on in and around the Barrack. The poor men, who were almost panic-stricken, were thankful for this change, fraught with discomfort as it was, of necessity, with so much rain and mud. Their spirits recovered, and health was restored.
The mortality during those ten days was terrible. I need scarcely add how anxious we were, when we knew that every case was brought into my husband's ward; for some days it was a constant carrying out of the dead at one door, while fresh cases were being brought in at another, a few only were taken to the so-called convalescent ward, and of the recovery of those, remark has already been made.
In this most painful, dangerous, and arduous duty, Dr. Blackwood was assisted by another chaplain, Mr. Bagnell, who having no particular cases of sickness in his department, which was at the General Hospital not far beyond, generously volunteered to share this work in the cholera ward; and they two, by turns, never left that duty night or day till the fearful visitation had passed away.
Miss Nightingale was at the time in the Crimea engaged in hospital work, but as soon as she heard of it and could possibly return, she did; no fear of danger hindered her from being where she considered it her duty to be. We all had our share of work during this sad time, for though no actual case of cholera broke out amongst the women, either in the huts or in the Barrack, where many were still located, yet great sickness prevailed amongst them, consequent upon exposure to damp and cold during the late storms; this with the terror engendered by the severity of the cholera induced several attacks which appeared alarming, but which mercifully were not the real poison of that deadly disease.
This subject must not be closed without expressing our thankfulness to Almighty God for His goodness and mercy to us; we were preserved the whole time from sickness of any kind, and each of us enabled to be at our post wherever duty called us; but it was a time ever to be remembered by us all.
About the middle of December we experienced an unusually severe storm of wind, accompanied with vivid lightning and a great deal of thunder. These storms come quite suddenly. When all is silent perhaps, you presently hear a slight little whistle as it were siffling through the windows; this is warning enough to those experienced, immediately to rise and fasten as strongly as possible every door and window. No doubt the trellis-work covering the windows of houses inhabited by Turks is a great protection against the fury of these storms; but whatever the consequences, we free English people could not live behind such shutters – excluding air, light, and view, things so indispensable to health and busy people. Our removal of these barricades was not wise, perhaps, when storms were concerned, but on the other hand life would have been intolerable with them up.
In the case of the storm now referred to, many windows were blown in, stone chimneys thrown down, roofs injured, some all but blown off. The stoves at the Women's Hospital had their pipe chimneys blown down, and with difficulty it was that the fires could be extinguished before the greater mischief of flames in the house occurred.
It was on this night that two of the chaplains were nearly lost by shipwreck; they had gone in a small steam-tug to Ismid, a little town on the Sea of Marmora, and returning in the dark ran on a rocky island. This steam-tug had been purchased in England for Government use, and was intrusted to a Greek master and crew. As soon as she struck, they abandoned her; but she drifted off quite safe and whole to the mainland on the other side, where she stuck for two days, and then was knocked to pieces by this storm. The chaplains, with but scanty clothing for such a feat, had to sleep in the open air, thankful to have reached terra firma at all. The next day they were happily picked up by a French steam-tug and brought back.
Religious liberty – Hatti Sherif – Imperial Firman – Conceding liberty and other reforms – Turkish school at Scutari – Interesting Turkish master – Haida Pasha – Death of Mrs. Wiloughby Moore – A matrimonial dilemma – Miss Nightingale's perplexity – Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge's return home, and arrival out of Mrs. Shore Smith – Visit to the wife of Kaffi Pasha.
ON the 3d December 1855, Dr Blackwood, after appointment made with the Grand Vizier. Ali Pasha, went over to Stamboul to present a memorial from an Œcumenical Conference which had been held in Paris, the prayer of which was for full religious liberty in Turkey. The deputation was graciously received by the Grand Vizier, who looked at and returned the document to Dr. Blackwood, saying, that the matter was in the department of the minister for foreign affairs, and that the memorial must go through him to the Sultan.
Accordingly, after a new application and a fortnight's delay, an audience was given by Fuad Pasha on the subject. He perused the document carefully, reading it twice through with manifest attention, and perhaps perplexity. It was signed by the representatives of many nations, and was a demand for full religious liberty in Turkey, as well for Mahometans as Christians.
Fuad Pasha, as is well known, was an able man, and conversant with Western ideas, as well as to some extent liberal in his own views. He was aware, also, that similar demands had been diplomatically pressed upon the Porte by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and the Dutch Ambassador. Still this memorial from the Paris Conference was of a very strong and sweeping character, not perhaps couched in diplomatic style or form, and must have seemed a bold demand. In fact, as some unsympathising journalists at the time declared, it amounted to a demand for the renunciation of the fundamental principles of Mahometanism as based on the Koran.
Yet such a demand was now made, and not repudiated with proud indignation as it might, and doubtless would have been, at other times and under other circumstances. But with England, that land of Christians and land of liberty, shedding her best blood in defence of Turkey's great capital, it would have been both impolitic and highly inconvenient roughly to reject our ideas of liberty and religious toleration at such a critical juncture. Fuad Pasha therefore promised, not only that it should be laid before the Sultan, but likewise receive consideration.
A few weeks later this astonishing event came to pass. The appeal did receive the promised consideration, and was granted. A Royal Firman, or Hatti Sherif, of the most remarkable character of any document ever issued in the Turkish Empire, was read publicly in Stamboul. It was a complete revolution of the law of the realm, establishing perfect religious liberty and equality for all the Sultan's subjects. It was to concede full liberty of conscience to each and all. It would authorise foreigners to purchase and possess land in Turkey, and it promised to establish roads, railroads, properly regulated Custom-Houses, and other offices on the European model, including a Bank to regulate the currency. This last promise of amendment was hailed by many who took little interest in the religious question, as a most welcome, and especially at this time necessary, move.
It would not indeed be easy to convey to the uninitiated what we suffered in this respect. It was difficult at all times to regulate either money or accounts in Turkey, the value of the paper piastre differed from day to day so widely; then, also, though a silver piastre of standard value was spoken of, it was seldom seen, and the paper piastre of course differed from it in value. We could all understand this, perhaps, and in a measure accustom ourselves to its variations. A piastre was the current money of the country, and we did not quarrel with it, though it was on such a sliding scale and gave us no little trouble; it was that, besides, every kind of metal was current, and called an Austrian coin, or a Greek coin, or Italian – anything in short, and any kind of value given to it; there seemed no redress – it was often that, or none.
And now that the idea of peace was broached, the confusion became worse confounded. Those who managed the money market in Constantinople, for instance, gave out that English gold would fall in value, and to this idea the firman about a bank to be established being added, there was at once a panic! Of course advantage was taken of every change of circumstances or event which might arise.
This is done, as we well know, on our own Stock Exchange, and elsewhere, doubtless; but what did it not do in Turkey, where no kind of law or regulation, to say nothing of honour or honesty, had any pretence of being part or parcel of money exchange or money dealing? So that even the hope, however distant, that some amelioration in this respect would eventuate had a cheering result.
We know from facts which have transpired since that period, that much, very much good has resulted from this important Hatti Sherif. Religious liberty was proclaimed, and became the law of the Empire; though it was, and has been in many instances departed from, and justice has failed to enforce it. Yet when we consider how many years it took England to arrive at that conclusion; how many waves ebbing and flowing of religious persecutions passed over our own island, and this, with all we had to enlighten us; and if the Word of God, freely circulated and open to all, did not, nay, I had almost said does not yet, fully influence us to tolerate differences of opinion; how could we, and what right had we, to expect a land like Turkey to be at once the champion of freedom and toleration which does not possess or acknowledge the Bible – the Word of God – which is the only source of true liberty?
Our Book is that Word of God, making salvation known to all, setting the captive free, and loosing the chains of them that are bound; commanding us to love one another, and by that love to exhibit that we are the children of the Most High, brothers and sisters of one family, redeemed by one Saviour; and it is a shame and disgrace that we should, with such a Book in our hands, be intolerant of those who differ from us; but it is so.
And yet we expect a land whose Book, as sacred to them as ours is to us, which is full of darkness, with here and there but a glimmering of Divine light, whose tenets are those of death to the unfaithful and unbelieving, whose doctrines are to be propagated by the sword, and have been so propagated from generation to generation – yet I say, we expect a land so trained, to emerge at once, unhesitatingly, from such thraldom, and unfailingly to carry out a perfect law of emancipation and toleration.
Notwithstanding all that may be said, it is a positive fact, that though the Turks are Mohammedans, and their religion inculcates persecution, there is scarcely a kingdom in Europe which allows more religious liberty than is enjoyed in many parts of the dominions of the Sultan. At this very time religious persecutions are being carried on in Sweden. It is but a few years since the same were to be reprobated in many, even of the Protestant principalities of Germany. Russia admits of scarcely any toleration; and the liberty accorded in Austria is of a very dubious nature. What may be said of Spain? And yet all these nations profess Christianity, whose weapons are commanded not to be carnal, and whose worshipped Head is the Prince of Peace!
Ebba Almroth had for some time studied the Turkish language, with the Armenian characters, which are easier than the Arabic; this frequently enabled her to speak with some of our native neighbours. She and her sister Emma therefore visited the Turkish school, kept by an old Imaum in part of the mosque close to us. There were about eighty children, and a babel of sounds pervaded, for neither order nor rule seemed to have much sway amongst them.
Round the room was fixed what we should call a wide form, and when Ebba and Emma first entered they naturally advanced towards it, intending to sit down; very soon, however, they were made to understand they had done wrong. There was a universal shout of disapprobation; for this form, instead of being a seat, was their table upon which the Koran was wont to be laid, while the children seated themselves on the floor to learn to read it. For Christians, therefore, to sit upon it was a "sin," gunah, whence was the manifest displeasure; forgiveness, however, was soon granted, an apology being made, and it being shown that no evil had been intended.
Ebba and her sister therefore seated themselves also on the floor, and they all became good friends, while the old man, as well as the children, seemed uncontrollably eager to learn English. They wrote it down, and screamed it out, without the slightest modulation of voice, of which indeed they seemed almost incapable at any time; in this respect following the example of their mothers.
The master was a very fine handsome venerable-looking old man; he sat still and wrote, and listened quietly himself, but did not in the least attempt to reprove his pupils for their uproarious conduct.
Though a Christian was forbidden to sit on the sacred form, there seemed to be no objection to the children jumping over it, and on it, and treating it with what we should call all possible disrespect, and shouting till you could scarcely hear yourself speak. Nevertheless in the midst of this confusion, there were one or two steady and quieter children who were in earnest, and who evidently wished for and received instruction.
Ebba tried to indoctrinate the boys with some kind of respect towards the girls, for it was a mixed school, and the former pushed away the latter in the most unceremonious manner, in order to be heard themselves. "Ladies first," was a lesson they had no notion of learning; it was evidently with disbelief they heard that to be the rule in England. But we were told that the older and better informed amongst the Turks had remarked that English ladies were such a superior race of beings, that they could be trusted to go about and enjoy a liberty which Turkish ladies could not be permitted to do. No doubt they were correct; but they could not perceive the reason why. It was a great step for good that even then a society was forming for the education of women in the East.
The old schoolmaster was very anxious, he said, to see our little school; he had heard (how I do not know) that we kept order there and that the children were quiet and obedient: but I do not recollect that he ventured to come. He begged our friends not to say they came to teach English but to learn Turkish: so it appeared some notice had been taken of their visit to the mosque school. It was true they did improve themselves in Turkish, but as no one asked them nor interfered with their visits, nothing was said either way.
One day Dr. Blackwood took a missionary, who spoke Arabic, to see the old schoolmaster; he alluded to Emma and Ebba Almroth going there to the school. "They are welcome," said the old man gently and with a dignified manner; then pointing to himself added, "Turkish Imaum," then turning to Dr. Blackwood, said, "English Imaum, both brothers," then pointing upward, said, "Allah, one Father!"
This certainly was a remarkable fraternisation, but one great idea was at that time fixed in the Turkish mind, that the English were good, the work in the Hospital was good, nursing the sickly women was good, and because also it extended beyond their own people, for poor sick and wounded Turks were taken in occasionally, and received the same kind attention. This made a great impression on them, as did also the gifts which were distributed; it was quite a novelty to them to see such things, and if our religion differed from theirs, it was at least shown to be practical.
The visits to the school were continued, and the children, still eager to learn, really became more tractable, and showed also some good feeling; of their own accord they procured some cushions for the English ladies to sit upon, as they understood the floor was not comfortable to them, which indeed was true, more especially as both were very tall. The teaching, however, was somewhat comical, for the noise went on; and when Ebba said, "Be quiet now," they would all shout at once, "Be quiet now," as though it were a phrase to be learnt.
This Turkish school was not only a mixed one of boys and girls, but of rich and poor, black and white; and of course the white children of the Pashas considered they were privileged to push about and thump with good hard blows, often, the little black ones, who were the offspring of their servants or slaves; consequently when Ebba or her sister reproved them for this, and noticed the poor little dark faces with compassion, it made them angry, and they would call out, "Fena" (bad), and try to push themselves into their places; and when this again was resented by the lady teachers, it caused a hindrance to the instruction.
"All are bad," said Ebba, "you fena, I fena, all the world fena, God only good." They learnt this, but how far they realised it, is another question. In any case, after a while, she got them to behave more quietly; and before we left they could actually repeat the hymn –
|"Little children, love each other,|
'Tis the Blessed Saviour's rule,"
Our two friends occupied themselves with this school and with our own school very diligently, until we went to the Crimea; they were always welcomed most respectfully by the old schoolmaster, and indeed, after we had left Turkey and returned home, we heard from one of the missionaries who had met this aged teacher, that he desired his best "salaams" and kind salutations to them both!
It would not be right to pass without notice, the striking contrast between this time – the end of December 1855 – and that of the previous year 1854, and thanking God that it had pleased Him to deliver us from all the horrors and misery which our poor army went through then; for though the war was not yet over, our men were not now exposed in the same way to cold and sufferings as at that time; and in our hospitals we had, comparatively speaking, little sickness. This lull, as it were, gave time for the introduction of many improvements and better arrangements.
For instance, the Palace Hospital, or Haida Pasha, being no longer needed as an hospital, was converted into a barrack. For some little time it had been under the charge of Mrs. Wiloughby Moore, the widow of the brave Colonel who was lost with his men by shipwreck; she came out desirous to make herself useful, as others had done, during the sad times of the early part of 1855, and to her care was assigned the supervision of this Palace Hospital, where the officers were located; and much they needed some such help.
But it was not a suitable locality for invalids, and also its isolated distance from the Great Barrack being more than a mile, made it difficult of access especially in bad weather, there being no good road to it; and moreover, in times when both doctors and chaplains were scarce, there was not sufficient help or attendance available for it. A staff of nurses had been sent there, but a head over them is always requisite. It was a great relief therefore when this superintendence was undertaken by this lady.
The best of will does not give health or strength, and poor Mrs. Wiloughby Moore had not much of either for the work and responsibility required; no doubt also the loss of her husband, with its attendant sad circumstances, had greatly depressed her, and it was not very long before she became so seriously ill that it was easy to prognosticate the end could not be far off, and in a few weeks she was called to her last home! Wisely, therefore, it was arranged to provide a more convenient locale for the few sick officers left, and to use the building for the purpose of a barrack for soldiers in health.
The superintendence of nurses is not without its difficulties as well as responsibilities; this Miss Nightingale experienced in more ways than one. When there is a very great deal to be done, and every one diligently occupied, and anxious to fulfil faithfully the duty before her, matters often go on fairly well; there is no time to think of extraneous affairs; thus it was with those excellent and indefatigable women who laboured with all their heart and soul during the many months of suffering which had passed.
But now their arduous labours were to a great extent relaxed, and they had more leisure to think of and discuss their individual future; consequently Miss Nightingale was one morning thrown into a very considerable dilemma by six of these worthy nurses coming to her all at once, and declaring that they one and all wished to be married; and not only so, but they were almost immediately followed by six soldiers – sergeants and corporals – declaring on their part their desire to claim them as brides!
Poor Miss Nightingale was nearly overpowered with such a matrimonial flood, and some of her best nurses too! one of whom had been already twice married, though to that hour she "mourned" and "had never recovered the loss of her first dear husband!"
This was certainly, to say the least, an uncomfortable announcement, for no permission could then be given, in time of war, to soldiers to marry, and the nurses must therefore go home, for after this confession and declaration they could be of little use out here henceforth.
I must not omit to mention that after the return of Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge to England, Mrs. Shore Smith, a relative of Miss Nightingale, came out, and no doubt gave her considerable comfort by her timely presence and assistance in much of her heavy work. Mrs. Smith remained with her to the end, returning only when she returned.
I had many reasons to be very glad that my little Hospital was the result of private subscriptions chiefly; no doubt, through Mr. Bracebridge's interest and help, a good portion of the funds collected for the benefit of the soldiers' wives at that time was added, and also it was by the interposition of the Government that the house itself was obtained; still I was in no way interfered with by official rules or inspection, and therefore, in my freedom of action, was enabled to help several who did not come under the category of soldiers' wives; there were others who needed help even more than these, occasionally. For instance, a Swedish vessel arrived in the Bosphorus; the captain's wife who was with him was extremely ill, and he made application to the Minister of his country to send him a doctor. The Minister sent him over to us, as he knew of our two friends, and also of the Women's Hospital. We were very glad to be able to help her, and of course received her at once.
Two ladies also at another time landed from a passing steamer with their husbands, expecting to find a hotel of some kind, and were much surprised that no such accommodation, or anything like it existed, and that every available house was occupied with officers. It was late in the evening when we heard of their difficulty, and could not but give them the shelter they needed for the night, their husbands of course finding quarters elsewhere more easily. Several such instances occurred, and we were very thankful that in many ways we could thus give a helping hand to those who needed it.
One day I went with Emma and Ebba to visit the wife of Kaffi Pasha, living in one of the good houses not very far from us; she was about the most lovely woman I had ever seen, though then no longer quite young; her son, a boy of about twelve years of age, was with her, and as beautiful as his mother; her husband was in the Crimea. He had, beside, another wife who lived with them, but she had no children, and appeared to be more in the background; for the first-mentioned lady was evidently the favourite, and mistress of the house. She was very graceful and dignified, and was in every respect much superior in appearance and manner to the generality of the Turkish ladies whom we had seen on different occasions.
During our visit, however, there was a quarrel amongst her black female servants, and they made a great noise, each being in a violent passion; finally, three of them rushed into the room where we were seated, and all together began shrieking out their grievances before her. But she merely laughed, and with her hand waived them off, saying (we supposed), that they must settle their differences between themselves and elsewhere, and be more silent; this we guessed must be the substance of her reply, for they quickly disappeared, and the house became quiet.
She seemed very pleased at our visit. It was a peculiar one – the communications being chiefly carried on by signs; for though my friends had been studying Turkish and practised it at the school, yet it takes some time to enable a conversation in a strange language to proceed, though a few words are very helpful.
My sketch-book was a great amusement, as "Pashaess" Kaffi recognised the neighbouring views. She showed us, in turn, over her house, which was very handsomely decorated with carpets and divans, but in the absence of her husband these were for the most part folded up and laid aside.
A small portrait which she pointed to as being of him, and which she seemed proud of possessing, was suspended high up in one of the rooms over the ever-closed trellised windows, and against any light which might venture to enter; to judge what it was like, or how it was done, was impossible; nevertheless, she was quite satisfied, and that was sufficient. We could not convey to her how much better it would be to place it where it could be seen and admired.
Meanwhile she ordered coffee to be served, and the black servants, now much more subdued in their demeanour, brought it in; she poured it out herself and did the honours admirably, and then sat down before us in a chair, a perfect rarity in a Turkish apartment. She expressed her desire to understand English, and that her son should study it also. Ebba offered at once to teach him, and both seemed pleased, but though she called for him several times, he never came to us for the lesson. We suspected the black guardian of the house was afraid of the Giaours, and would not allow him.
Our visit had a melancholy interest in it, for it was very sad to see one for whom nature had done so much, and who seemed so qualified for a high and perhaps noble sphere, in so unhappy a state of uselessness and ignorance.
Fire at Haida Pasha – Narrow escape from bullets in rifle practice – Proclamation of peace – Calamity to Admiral the Hon. Frederick and Mrs. Grey – Proposed visit to the Crimea – Disappointment by first ship – A second opportunity – Sailed by the "Edina" – Crowded state of the little ship – Arrival at Balaklava.
IT is sad to record that soon after Haida Pasha had ceased to be an hospital, and was used as a barrack for some of the Light Dragoons, a great part of it was burnt to the ground, and this through the misconduct of one of my unruly squad; poor unhappy woman, she was incorrigibly given to potent nectar. Mercifully, no one was hurt personally, but the men in general lost their clothes, and many other necessary articles were destroyed.
If rules had no exceptions, it would be a hard task often to sow and sow and yet see no fruit of labour. There was one out of ten lepers who returned to give thanks; and from the five hundred women who more or less had been under my charge, I did receive several grateful letters after they reached England, or the land of their destination. From one of these I heard several times, and when I was in Ireland some years ago, she came to see me, just before leaving with her husband for India, where she died. Curiously enough, in her illness there, she was under the care of the same doctor who had attended her in the Hospital at Scutari, though not belonging to her regiment.
He had married the daughter of our old friends Lieutenant (afterwards Captain) and Mrs. Keatley; and through his wife the poor dying woman sent messages of remembrance to me, expressive of her gratitude for all she had learnt, as well as received; above all, that she had been led to Christ as her only Saviour, and the One who made her deathbed cheerful by the assurance of salvation and forgiveness of sin, which He alone could give.
As we had now (the end of February 1856) far more leisure than formerly, we frequently extended our rides to enjoy the scenery of the surrounding country. On one of these excursions Ebba and I, with our escort, had a narrow escape of being shot.
We had ridden some few miles out and came to a spot on rather elevated ground, whence we could see the German Legion drilling; they appeared at a great distance, and we watched them; occasionally we heard firing, but not seeing much smoke we concluded it was only with powder, but in any case we thought them too far off to touch us, so we remained quite undisturbed by any ideas of danger. Not so our sagacious little ponies, they were far wiser than we; being so accustomed to the sound of guns, usually they never minded or noticed them in the least, but now to our surprise they became restless, and every now and then pranced and jumped most impatiently.
Presently a whizzing noise came so close to my ears that I was startled also, and at once recognised the very same unfriendly sound which several years before, on the ramparts at Caen in Normandy, had nearly proved as serious to my brother and myself as this might have been. We galloped off at once, as may be supposed, and providentially escaped any injury, for what attracted me now, had been heard several times by Ebba, who took it to be a bird flying past her, though she could see nothing. It appeared that though some soldiers were drilling, there were others, whom we did not at first observe, practising rifle shooting, and we must have been exactly in the direction of their Minie rifles, which we heard they were, and which reach a long distance.
On the 31st of March 1856 peace was proclaimed at Constantinople, and an extra salvo of guns was the result. At all times there was no lack of this amusement, and we often wondered what the expenditure of powder must have been to the Turks, for in honour of one cause or another, day and night, firing seemed scarcely ever to cease. The proclamation of peace was of course an exceptional and justifiable reason, and most assuredly it was well sounded forth from every gun in every ship and on every rampart.
It was a universal rejoicing, to the French perhaps especially so, for they were now in many respects greatly pinched, and had been for some little time in rather a lamentable condition. At first they were in far better trim than we; for, as a nation, we are slow to comprehend what is needful, and are very unfit people usually for sudden emergencies; but when once roused we plod on and persevere till all is in order; and by this time we seemed to be almost inexhaustibly stocked with everything and in fit preparation for the commencement of war, rather than the termination of it.
Nevertheless the announcement of peace was welcome to all. Our only fear was, and this fear has been since realised, that peace would be made on too easy terms to be lasting with a power like Russia, whose subtilties and intrigues are never ending.
In the beginning of April a great calamity befell Admiral and Mrs. Grey; their house at Tophana was burnt down, and we heard they lost almost everything it contained; Mrs. Grey was in very delicate health and had only recently arrived from Malta, where she had passed the winter.
Of course there was the usual cry of fire and noise of firing, but they were of such common occurrence that we did not disturb ourselves particularly to notice it; nor indeed could we have rendered any assistance had we known who the sufferers were;– the fire broke out about one o'clock in the morning. We knew that it was near Galata or Tophana by the guns fired, eight being the proper number for Tophana and Galata, five for Stamboul, while poor Scutari, where we were, had to content herself with either one or sometimes two.
This first signal over, then began the customary noise of the watchmen knocking their iron-headed clubs upon the stones, and shouting in a peculiar tone a loud note, holding it on as long as breath could endure, and this was accompanied by a fresh outburst of firing after the duly numbered signal had been given.
The utility of all this noise at Scutari because of a conflagration at Stamboul or at Tophana, as before-mentioned, we never rightly comprehended; to us it seemed quite as reasonable as if the inhabitants of Kensington should all be disturbed in consequence of a fire at Hammersmith; indeed this would have been more reasonable, for by means of a cab or carriage one might proceed thither and assist; but to cross the Bosphorus at night was a thing not to be thought of.
Meanwhile we heard the next day that poor Mrs. Grey had to escape from her bed with all speed. Fire does not take long to consume a Turkish house; many of them are old wooden buildings, whose timbers are well adapted for fuel; and it was seldom, if ever, that the mischief was confined to one house, the apparatus for extinguishing them being too primitive to be of much avail. The most effectual method of staying the conflagration was by pulling down the surrounding dwellings, and this was usually resorted to. Happily "The Queen," that majestic "Queen" which we had so admired at Therapia as she appeared and passed us in full sail, was then lying off Tophana, and on board her, Mrs. Grey took refuge, escaping herself, but obliged to leave almost everything to the merciless flames.
For some time past we had entertained the idea and hope that we might visit the Crimea before returning home; and now that our hospital work was so much diminished, and peace had been proclaimed, and as my husband had been fifteen months uninterruptedly on duty without a day's leave of absence, he applied for and obtained permission to take a holiday. We made arrangements, accordingly, to gratify our wishes, and wrote to a chaplain friend stationed near Balaklava, asking what accommodation could be had for our party, consisting of three ladies and Dr. Blackwood. Our friend Mr. Hort, ever ready to do a kindness, answered immediately, offering us his own hut, to which also he would get an off-shoot attached, to serve as a sleeping apartment for Emma and Ebba.
The weather had now changed from snow and bitter winds to summer heat, and we anticipated much benefit as well as pleasure from the change. To secure a passage for so large a party as four was not without its difficulties, for many besides ourselves desired to see that spot (ere they left its vicinity perhaps never again to be within its reach) on which our thoughts by day, and often our dreams by night, had been concentrated so long, so sadly, so prayerfully; the request, however, was promised attention so soon as it could be arranged.
One morning, very unexpectedly, as we had been waiting some days, our passage paper was sent to us, with notice to be ready within three hours. This of course we could easily have managed, but having been informed that there was no probability of our going directly, Ebba had gone off that morning, in company with a friend, to a village up the Golden Horn, beyond Stamboul, to spend the day with the wife of one of the American missionaries, in whose work she had been much interested. We sent a messenger if possible to find her, but this was a mere chance; "Pourquoi," as Emilio observed, unless you knew such a house, in such a spot, you could not find it by any inquiry; for indeed how could you inquire unless you knew the language; even so, nobody knew names, nobody knew where any other body lived; there were no names to streets or houses, and no numbers on any houses in any streets; therefore as a matter of course the man returned without her.
We had packed her things and waited for her at the pier. The caiques were ready to take us to the steamer, which we watched lying off Galata with her signal for departure flying, and to which some friends had already gone whom we were to have joined on this pleasure trip; but perhaps more trying than all was, that just as we descried Ebba coming in a caique at a distance, at that minute the steamer puffed herself away, and we were left behind!
As Ebba drew near with a smiling face, pleased with the day she had spent, ignorant of all our bustle and of what we had not enjoyed; there we stood the picture of disappointment, surrounded by our baggage and saddles, having ignominiously to walk home with them all again, not knowing when another passage paper might be granted to us, or when another vessel able to accommodate us might sail.
Well, it was our desire in all things to see an overruling Hand directing us, and no doubt it was so, for our delay enabled us to be of use to a family who sadly needed it. The day after our disappointment, by a mere chance, humanly speaking, I heard that, a clerk to one of the purveyors and his wife were both very ill with fever; off I went on my trusty little steed to their house, which was rather an isolated one at some distance, and found them both in a deplorable condition, so ill they could scarcely help one another, and yet were forced to do so, not having a servant or any one to do anything for them.
A poor little child of a year old was by its mother's sick bed, crying and moaning in all the pain of teething; the poor thing too ill to comfort it, and the father scarcely a shade better. The first thing to do was to procure a nurse, till he could be removed the next day to the General Hospital, and she brought to mine with her little one, that could there be nursed and cared for. Possibly all this could have been done had we not been there, but as Miss Nightingale was in the Crimea, and Mrs. Keatley could not well have gone to their house, I was very glad we had been kept at home to attend to them, and get them placed where they could receive the attention they needed, with less difficulty than if we had been absent; and to hear on our return from the Crimea, some time after, that both had recovered, which they would have had but a poor chance of, had they been left as they were found, without help or doctor, and so unable to do anything for themselves.
On Friday, the 18th April, much sooner than we expected, we were advised of a small steamer called the "Edina," under orders to sail the next day, Saturday, at 3 P.M., for Balaklava, and a passage paper was given to us as before. To make sure, we thought it not unwise to embark at once, as departures were very uncertain, from perhaps some fresh order being found necessary, superseding the time originally specified. We slept on board on Friday night, securing the best berths we could, and which, being the only ladies, we conceived we had the privilege of choosing.
The vessel was very small, having accommodation really for only about ten passengers. What then! when nearly forty officers arrived to claim the ten places! Such an influx would have puzzled most people, but "where there is a will there is a way," says the old proverb, and I believe it. Carpenters set to work, and in an inconceivably rapid time managed to put part of the hold into such shape as to accommodate the overflowing population. Uncomfortable they must have been, but "comfort" had been with many of us for some time a very comparative word, and we had learnt to exist, and happily too, with a very comparative quantity of it; thus on Saturday the forty officers came on board, all in good temper, nobody grumbling, but making the best of everything in their eagerness to visit the great battlefield ere it was deserted.
The appointed hour for weighing anchor came, three o'clock had struck, but stir we did not. The papers of the cargo had gone astray through some mistake of the commissariat, and though quite ready in every other respect, we could not sail without them. The officers went on shore again; we remained on board watching the barometer, which meanwhile had been rapidly falling, and it was not without some uneasiness that we contemplated our little craft being caught in a storm on the Black Sea. It began to pour with rain, which continued all night, though early in the morning it was again fair. About 6 o'clock A.M. on Sunday the papers arrived, and at 8 o'clock, when our companions once more came on board, the "Edina" steamed away! On entering the open sea, we found a heavy swell, and met ships running into the Bosphorus with reefed sails, showing, so said the captain, that it had been blowing something of a gale all night there, while we had been in shelter, put only to the inconvenience of rain.
We considered the disappearance of the commissariat clerk and the papers to be a kind providence, for that apparently tiresome delay prevented us from exposure to that night's storm in our little steamer, which was scarcely bigger than a small tug, and very heavily weighted; besides, now we had only to encounter the swell for a short time; it rapidly abated, we had a quiet night and a fair passage all Monday until we arrived. The comical part of our voyage, and I daresay not the least inconvenient to those connected with the cuisine department and the attendance, was the arrangement for meals. These were obliged to be consumed by relays, as no part of the deck and no cabin in the "Edina" could admit of more than a few at a time to a little table. The steward was a boy called "Peter," about fourteen years of age; and indeed he was a wonderful youth, and behaved admirably. Poor child, he really was nearly worked to death, and once or twice was observed napping as he stood leaning against the side of the cabin.
We spoke to the Captain about him, who tried to relieve him as much as possible, but with so many on board, and the difficulties of arrangement, what could he do? he was not aware until the last moment of such a number coming, and we well knew servants were not to be hired in a hurry or emergency in Turkey, nor indeed elsewhere – at any-rate, not such as we should like to take with us for two or three days; even if, to begin with, they were accustomed to a sea life! However, the end came at last, and all acknowledged poor Peter's good temper and willing services, and he received a compensation for them which, after a good rest, doubtless made him forget his fatigues.
We arrived outside the harbour of Balaklava on Monday night, but there we remained until the next day, just at the spot where the fearful wrecks of the "Prince" and other vessels had taken place the year before, in the unusually violent hurricane which desolated so many shores. By the goodness of God, no storm troubled us; we had been detained in the Bosphorus during the more moderate one which had, evidently, recently occurred, and which might have been very unpleasant, not to say serious, to us in so small a ship; now it was calm, our voyage had been safe, fine weather accompanied us, and we waited but for daylight to enter the marvellously narrow passage between the great sea and the splendid harbour within. One vessel only can pass through at a time, and guns are fired to signify either the entrance, or exit of any ship.
We, as others before us, were greatly surprised and impressed by this extraordinary gateway formed by nature, and yielding to any number of vessels within it the most perfect shelter in deep water. At a little distance, consequent upon the winding of the passage, no entrance is perceptible; but as you approach, the harbour is betrayed by the forest of masts rising apparently from within the rocks.
The signal being given, we entered under the walls and ancient towers of the Genoese castle, the counterpart of which we had left behind at the entrance to the Bosphorus. The rock and plain on which the highest tower stood was crowned with an extensive hospital composed of huts, than which probably no healthier spot could have been selected for such a purpose.
Letter of a Friend on Balaklava – Zebra Vicarage – Visits to Sebastopol – St. George's Monastery – Inkermann – Tchernaya Valley – Frogs and Snakes – Kamiesh Sand-storms – Mrs. Seacole.
THE letter of a friend furnishes me with a not inappropriate opening to this chapter, as it aptly describes the position of things at that time and in that spot which must ever be memorable in British history.
"As to Balaklava harbour," wrote our friend, "it is most extraordinary, a wonder of the world; its narrow entrance, its high rocky sides, deep waters, and beautiful anchorage for ships. On the rocks outside are painted, in large letters, English names as memorials of the British invasion. Inside it is full of ships, and the scene of confusion of last year is reduced to perfect order. I have never seen anything which has struck me so powerfully for a monument of British power, energy, and wealth, as the appearance of things in Balaklava and the camp. It seems as if a part of England had been transported bodily to the Crimea. No picture conveys an idea of it. The railway running along to the harbour with its locomotives is but one item. A capital military road running for miles in several directions is now covered with strings of mules and waggons. Warehouses, shops, cafés – English, French, and Greek – are crowded with customers, and the whole place is alive like a series of populous towns in the industrial regions of England, swarming with people full of energy and work, beyond the ordinary energy of peace at home. The camp extends for many miles in circumference; as for the Chersonese, and the grounds between Balaklava and Sebastopol, and all around, they are a grandly constructed battle-field with a background of a striking and almost sublime character."
Every word of the above was in perfect accord with our own feelings, and we should have lost a great sight had we missed the visit to the Crimea; and for this gratification we were, as far as accommodation was concerned, entirely indebted to our good friend Mr. Hort, who left us in possession of what he called Zebra Vicarage – his own hut, and found quarters for himself elsewhere. Miss Nightingale being here also at this time was a great help, as she kindly lent us her Bulgarian carriage and mules. This met us on our arrival, and conveyed us to the "Vicarage," which was three miles from the harbour, situated most beautifully on the rising ground, beneath which the famous but terrible Balaklava charge took place; from hence the whole extent of the plain was visible, terminating only with the heights where the Highlanders were now encamped, a distance of about five miles or more almost without interruption.
"Zebra Vicarage" was a hut of perhaps twelve feet square, fantastically painted with tar and lime in black and white stripes – hence its name. To this our friend had added a "little chamber" just large enough to contain two narrow camp beds for Emma and Ebba. My husband and I were located in the hut proper. The beds of Zebra Vicarage consisted of hessen bags filled with straw; ours was laid on the floor in one corner; they had been very considerately provided for us by Mrs. Cox, the wife of Major Cox, who lived close by in a real house, but which could not boast of much more accommodation than the "Vicarage." Some other friend lent a large marquee, which was erected quite contiguous to our abode, and to that we resorted for our meals, when the wind was not rude enough to blow it down, an event often threatened, and which actually did occur one evening while we were at tea, causing us most unceremoniously to scramble out as quickly as we could, with the precious cups and saucers in our hands.
The "Vicarage," as it varied in more than one peculiarity from the so-called dwellings "at home," deserves some little description for the benefit of the uninitiated in campaign life. To begin with, therefore, the planks of the flooring not fitting quite closely gave ample space for a small horticultural display; and the little blue starch hyacinth, which grows almost everywhere, made its appearance with several other simple associates of the bulbous tribe – crocuses, &c., with specimens of grass peeping up and struggling for light and life. Such things might have suggested "creepers" of various kinds; but tired nature forbade suggestions, excepting those of sleep; such thoughts did not distract us therefore.
The walls were indebted to the press not only for their covering, but for the filling up of chinks which the carpenter had been quite regardless of in the manipulation of his department. A good substantial deal table was in the centre of the apartment, and a small one of the roughest construction claimed to be called a dressing table. One chair, two camp stools, and two forms or benches, composed the upholstering furniture. Round the room on shelves, of which there were several, were ranged bottles, and tins of preserved meats, biscuits, tea, coffee, &c.; cheese, ham, bacon, and all such things, had their nails or hooks of suspension. On other shelves were mingled flannel shirts for soldiers, stockings, scarfs, tracts, books, Russian helmets, and sundry other things. Various pegs took charge of coats, hats, caps, saddles, &c.
A rope fastened across the hut, from which was suspended a large green cloth, served in a manner to divide it into two compartments, the one pretending to be a sitting room. In truth, however, it was but little honoured as such, for the one in frequent use was the "parlour that's next to the sky," and our chief seats the saddles on our horses. Time was limited, and there was of course much to see, and many miles to ride.
Mr. Hort left us his servant in the Vicarage, who acted as cook for us in our absence, and as groom when we returned; these combined capacities we had found very useful and had been quite accustomed to them before, at Scutari, in Emilio. We were our own housemaids, always attending to our own rooms, excepting occasionally when the straw in the bags became more heaped together than we could manage to divide; then a youth was borrowed from some department to help the home servant to give the necessary shake to put the beds a little more in order. But fatigue made them soft, we knew nothing of discomfort, none slept better than we did, and none rose in better heart and spirits for the day's holiday.
On every side we found friends to help us, and four horses were immediately put at our disposal during our stay, while of escorts we had no lack; in short, everybody and everything combined to show us attention and add to our gratification and pleasure.
On Wednesday, the day after our arrival, we rode to Sebastopol. This was naturally number one excursion. The Redan and Malakoff, which were about seven miles from Zebra Vicarage, were first explored; Sebastopol and the blown-up docks were a mile or so beyond; the fortress of St. Nicholas, the whole city, – all were a mass of ruin; heaps of stones and pieces of exploded shells and shells unexploded, and shot scattered in every direction; it was an awful picture of destruction; but the saddest sight was the rows, and rows of graves, especially near the Malakoff. The French seemed to have taken care in this manner to mark their losses, rather than in concentrating them into mounds as we usually did, and which I think would be much more durable as a monument – for a largely-constructed mound will endure for centuries, while a little heap will soon be obliterated.
All this part of the Crimea was one vast cemetery, on every side were graves and little monuments, marking, perhaps, separately, the resting-place of some especial friend or comrade. Such descriptions, however, have been so often given, and so well known is every spot, that I need not add to what indeed cannot adequately be described; and silence best tells what the heart felt at such mementoes of sorrow.
A few days after we persuaded Miss Nightingale to accompany us on our second visit to Sebastopol, which she did; and I believe this was the solitary "outing" she took during the whole time of her sojourn in the East.
A visit to the St. George's Monastery, where we also had an Hospital, made another day's excursion. We rode to a magnificent bay, girt with lofty and rugged rocks, which lies between Balaklava and Sebastopol. The monastery was built on a declivity about half-way down the cliff, from whence was a path descending to the sea, which rolled in upon a shingly shore, where were some beautiful specimens of agate and jasper, but a few only could we carry away with us. The day was lovely, and the sun on the encircling rocks exhibited the beauty of their varied colours, reminding one of the hues of Alum Bay, though this would be but a miniature portrait of that, the one being of rock and the other of sand, they could not, but for the tints, be compared.
The Hospital was one of huts, and was constructed rather on the summit, partly overlooking the bay; the situation was at once healthy and beautiful. There were patients still confined to their beds, but only a few were serious cases, while peace, and the prospect of a speedy return home, went far to cheer them.
Another day was occupied with the great review of all the troops previous to their embarkation to return. This was indeed a magnificent sight, and notwithstanding all the sad and dreadful past, it could not but fill our hearts with wonder and gratitude, to see 30,000 soldiers in such order and strength at the end of the war as though they were advancing to begin it.
We experienced the promise "Them that honour Me I will honour." Honour was put upon us at that time, and though sorely tried, and the furnace heated sevenfold, yet we were not forsaken; we acknowledged God to be the Lord and the Supreme Ruler in the Counsels of the State. Atheism and Infidelity were not flaunted before us then. Now, – the terminations of our late campaigns have been somewhat different.
The review over, we rode to some of the principal cemeteries. Small enclosures had already been marked out in different directions containing the tombstones and monuments of those who had fallen; others were walled in, such as that on Cathcart's Hill. Many graves, however, were too isolated for enclosure; amongst these, and not far from the side of the high road to Sebastopol, was the stone marking the resting-place of Captain Hedley Vicars, whose Memoirs are still the favourite book in many a village circulating library. But indeed the whole of this southern part of the Crimea was like one great graveyard, so dotted over was it with mounds and monuments of the slain!
The days devoted to the field of Inkermann and the Tchernaya Valley were deeply interesting. Inkermann is a dreary-looking place in itself, though where it extends to the cliffs overlooking the Tchernaya Valley, the view from it is fine, especially near the aqueducts. Alas! it is consecrated to us by that tremendous battle where victory cost us so dear; here were many graves on which now the spring flowers had opened their buds, and would have cheered us if they could, but recollections were too fresh in our minds, the spot was too solemn and our hearts too heavy; and while we gathered the blossoms with their roots and bulbs as mementoes, the very contrast of their simple beauty added to our sadness.
"And I saw around me the wide field revive|
With fruits and fertile promise, and the spring
Come forth her work of gladness to contrive,
With all her reckless birds upon the wing.
I turned from all she brought, to those she could not bring."
Many of those who fell at Inkermann had been disinterred from their first burial-place here, on this fatal field, and removed to the cemetery on Cathcart's Hill; where also a separate tomb was made, and a tablet erected, by the Guards for their fallen comrades, on which, over the names of eight officers, is a Russian inscription to this effect – "Respect the tombs of brave warriors."
It is a remarkable fact that the bodies so disinterred were found in such a state of preservation as to be each recognisable, though more than a year had passed since they were laid in the earth with but "their martial cloak around them." In every direction, both in the valley beneath and on the heights of Inkermann above, where we stood, were sad tell-tale remnants of the awful battle.
Dark patches on the ground were even then clearly discernible, many of them especially marked out by pieces of grey cloth mingled with small bleached bones. War is a dreadful thing. Far, far have we fallen from our allegiance to the Prince of Peace when He even said, "Such things must needs be." This world is so full of wickedness, perfect peace cannot rest her foot long upon it! And it is so, yet we must admit there are some things even worse than war!
Immediately opposite the cliffs of Inkermann, which border the Tchernaya Valley on the one side, are the rocks and curious caves supposed to have been inhabited, according to ancient history, by the Troglodytes. These rocks border the valley on the other side, and conspicuous in the centre of them a Greek church had been excavated, while the monks attached to it reside in some of these ancient adjacent caves, which they have converted into cells for habitation. We visited them, and they willingly showed us over much of the habitable part, and into their church, which is of course like other such temples, and furnished with the usual appendages necessary for their kind of worship.
Here we were particularly struck with the noise of the frogs, which were of enormous size in the swampy parts of the valley and down the sides of the river which flows in the centre; for miles these creatures could be heard like the barking of many dogs. Leaving the monks, their church and their caves, we descended the valley towards the mouth of the river, which finally empties itself into the bay or estuary between Sebastopol and Fort Catherine, across which the Russians had sunk their ships to prevent attack on that side.
Riding on for about a mile, we came to a little bridge where several French soldiers seemed busily engaged catching the frogs and likewise some reptiles we thought were snakes; they certainly did not resemble the eels we are accustomed to eat, being marked with bright orange-coloured spots like the newts which are found in some of our ponds. "Why are you catching them?" we asked, for they had a number of them in baskets. "Oh! ils sont bons a manger!" was the answer. We certainly did not covet their dinner, nor cast longing eyes at the dainty dish in prospect. The cuisine would require to be good to make them tempting, but hunger is not fastidious, and the French at this time were not rich in provisions; for them it was time peace was proclaimed.
Retracing our steps and riding up the valley we met not a few poor Russian soldiers, who were wandering about listlessly, and appeared deplorably miserable. In the Bulgarian carriage which Miss Nightingale lent us, and which usually accompanied us for the accommodation of some of our party who could not bear the fatigue of riding, we always took a number of Bibles, Testaments, and tracts in the Russian language, which we distributed among those we were sure to meet in our excursions. They were always eagerly received by them; and it was very gratifying to us to see, even days after, some of these poor fellows reading them either to each other, or by themselves in a shady nook or corner to which they had resorted. It was our privilege, as well as our duty, to sow the seed; the result may not be known until the great hereafter; we may not here see the blade spring up – but the promise is sure and will be accomplished – " Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters."
Nature had done what she could to beautify this spot. The Tchernaya Valley is evidently very fertile and lovely, bordered on either side with rocks and high lands; fruit and other trees had been abundant, spreading their shady branches by the river-side. At this time these had all been cut down for fuel, their roots and stumps alone indicating their size and where they had flourished.
At the upper part of the valley, more towards the Mackenzie Heights, the Sardinians were encamped, their white tents on which the sun shone added life to the picture, while they themselves with their dark-green plumes brought Italy constantly before us with its valleys and hills.
As to scenery, this formed one of our most picturesque rides. Pursuing our course up the valley we passed under the famous Spur Battery, then happily silent; and beyond, some distance, by the Trakter Bridge, all well-known names to many, we came round to our "Vicarage," crossing the ground of the famous Balaklava Charge; marked still here and there by the skull or ribs of a horse.
Each day we traversed some freshly interesting part of this great battle-field. Visiting the French encampment at Kamiesh Bay, we encountered one of the terrible sand-storms which must have sorely tried the soldiers, a dreadful discomfort which our army was, I believe, exempted from; at any rate, though we often had high winds threatening our marquee and other surrounding tents, yet on no occasion did we record such blinding clouds of dust and sand, as we experienced on our visit to Kamiesh.
Before closing this chapter mention must be made of the far-famed Mrs. Seacole, whose dwelling was quite in the vicinity of "Zebra Vicarage." As the railway from Balaklava to headquarters was only a stone's throw from us on the one side, she had wisely pitched her tent equally close to it on the opposite side; for the line being used for the transport of goods and war material, from the port to the front, doubtless she had a view to facilitating the transport of her stores also to her warehouse. Mrs. Seacole kept a perfect Omnibus Shop, which was greatly frequented; and one must appreciate the wisdom exhibited by the good old lady not only in providing every variety of article, both edible and otherwise, but likewise the tact and never-varying good-nature she exhibited to all her customers; and notwithstanding the heavy prices at which her goods were sold, no one grumbled. No doubt she paid heavy prices herself to provide for the demand; but if these were slightly usuriously added to on her behalf towards others, it was always remembered that she had, during the time of battle, and in the time of fearful distress, personally spared no pains and no exertion to visit the field of woe, and minister with her own hands such things as could comfort, or alleviate the sufferings of those around her; freely giving to such as could not pay, and to many whose eyes were closing in death, from whom payment could never be expected. That she did not make her fortune by her merchandise was proved subsequently by her bankruptcy; this was no doubt in consequence of the termination of the war being far sooner and more sudden than was expected.
Preparations for an excursion to the interior – Kindness of Colonel the Hon. W. Pakenham – Mr. Stern, the Abyssinian missionary – Hotel at Bakcheserai, and dreadful accommodation.
IT was very improbable that we should ever again be in the Crimea, especially under circumstances such as the present, which enabled us freely to go whither we listed; we were therefore anxious if possible to make an excursion into the interior, particularly as Dr. Blackwood wished to see the Palace of the Khans in Bakcheserai, and also to find out the resort of the Karaite Jews at Tchoufout Kaleh and their burial-ground, called the Valley of Jehoshaphat, near Bakcheserai, places of very great interest. This desire had also been strengthened by the prospect of the Rev. Henry Stern (since well known as one of the Abyssinian captives) accompanying us thither. He was at that time a missionary to the Jews and residing in Constantinople, and had likewise thought it very important to seize this opportunity of visiting those parts, and conversing with the Rabbi connected with that particular sect.
To accomplish this idea it was necessary to make some preparation, as tents and many other things would be needful for the excursion, besides also the precaution of companionship by way of safety through roads and ways not quite so civilised as might be. At length everything was arranged satisfactorily, as we believed; at any rate, all our wants were supplied through the kindness of Colonel the Hon. William Pakenham, now Earl of Longford, who lent us tents, horses, &c.
The day fixed for our departure arrived. Mr. Stern appeared with a large quantity of Testaments and books, which were deposited in our carriage, but there the arrivals ended. Officers, it seemed, were not at all dependable. The army being to a certain extent on the eve of evacuation, they had sudden orders which recalled leave, and sent them off in opposite directions; so that instead of being a fairly large party we set out almost alone, with only hopes and conditional promises that some at least of the rest might follow. Dr. Blackwood and Ebba (her sister, not being equal to possible adventures, remained behind) preceded us in the Bulgarian carriage, with a waggon from the Army Works Corps carrying provisions, &c. Also a small tax-cart, containing forage and two tents, &c.; finally Mr. Stern and I followed on horseback.
All went well, and in due time we reached the summit of the Mackenzie Heights, when finding none of our intended party following, and having heard rumours of carts and people being plundered by the Cossacks in these regions, we were not perfectly at ease, and naturally conversed upon what might befall us should we be benighted, for we had no guide to tell the road we should take, and were without the protection of a uniform, this being a very important appendage in these excursions.
Happily this latter soon appeared, and we were overtaken by an officer intending to go half the way to meet some friends who had gone the previous day to Bakcheserai and were now returning. Of course he was seized upon at once, and we rode in company, glad to find our new companion well acquainted with the road, and certainly sorry when we descried his friends, an event which ended our companionship. He gave us, however, plain directions as to our route – to Balbec first, then across the river, when, after following its course for a little, we should find a straight road to Bakcheserai, that being our intended destination for the night.
At Balbec we halted to refresh ourselves and our horses, and a very beautiful and fertile valley it was, between fine but most curiously-shaped rocks, and watered by a rapidly gushing river, which in winter time must not unfrequently inundate the neighbouring lands. Here we found a very large Russian encampment, consequently we were not left in peace; our carriage and waggon were soon surrounded, and some officers approached, and, rather more officiously than politely, offered to assist us. They spoke in French, and we soon perceived their assistance meant an opportunity to ask innumerable questions, and to try to dissuade us from further progress. "Why do you wish to visit Bakcheserai? There is nothing there which can possibly interest you; we assure you it is not worth your while to go, you will do well to return," &c.
Why they should take such pains to deter us from proceeding, or be so eager about what could or could not interest us, we did not pretend to understand. We were mutually as polite as we could be, and indeed it was policy on our part at least to be so, for we were but few, they very many. Thanks were returned on our side for the kind advice, but as we were bent on going further still, we decided to follow our own plans and continue our route, hinting that friends also were expected to join us very shortly, an event which we most earnestly desired might speedily occur.
It was now past four o'clock, and we were not without perplexity as to how we were to proceed even when we reached the town, which there was no probability of our doing before dark. Our memories considerately brought forcibly before us the tales of the experienced, whose descriptions of this ancient Tartar capital, with its Palace of the Khans, was anything but delectable when lodging for the night was in question. But we were too small a party safely to venture pitching our tents in terra incognita without more watchmen than we possessed. However uncomfortable, therefore, the lodging might be, we knew at least that many of our countrymen were in the town; and had any serious mishap befallen us there, we felt some assurance that their assistance would be within call; that being so, we pushed on with all the alacrity possible under circumstances of perpetual hindrance.
Bakcheserai was, it is true, only about twenty-five miles from our camp, but the roads, if such they could be called, were so bad, that though equestrians might get on fairly well, the carriage and waggon could not, and we had no desire to separate from each other. The ascent of the Mackenzie Heights for those two heavy appendages took a large portion of our time, then the fording of the Balbec river, and subsequently we were necessitated for some distance to drive through the very bed of it; we could more quickly have traversed fifty or sixty miles in our own country.
At length we spied scarlet uniforms rapidly approaching; this was a cheering sight, for should they not prove to be the friends we expected, we well knew they would be friends in some sense. Soon two officers overtook us with their baggage, and though strangers, of course we accosted them, and to our great satisfaction discovered they were bound for the same port as we were. We related how we had been abandoned at the eleventh hour, and had travelled thus far alone, with only hopeful expectations of being overtaken; but as we were ignorant both of the town and the road to it, we begged they would kindly join us and give us any assistance we might need. This was a providential meeting, for not only did we soon need assistance, but our new friends, being well acquainted with Bakcheserai, having already visited it several times, could direct us to the best resting-place there, and procure for us perhaps more civility than we might otherwise have received.
Our Bulgarian carriage was driven by a postillion who rode one of the mules; presently she stumbled and fell, throwing her rider over her head, and was so entangled herself with the harness that it took some time to extricate her. Happily the man was not seriously hurt, nor was the mule, but had we not had extra help at the time, it might have been a much more tedious affair; the man fell heavily, and could not in a moment recover himself, though he made the best of it, remounted the mule and continued the journey, but it became quite dark some time before we reached the capital.
Our escort led us through the long street of this horrible Tartar city, the excessive nastiness of which was on this occasion happily concealed from us by the darkness of the night, though it was not a little added to by a good shower of rain which fell at the time. Finding what they styled the "best inn" quite full, we made for the only remaining one. Ebba and I had changed places during the latter part of our journey; she rode, and I drove in the carriage with my husband. When the accident happened which delayed us, we deemed it advisable she should proceed in advance with Mr. Stern and one of the officers to secure places of repose, if possible, for us ("rooms or apartments," according to civilised ideas, we were decidedly cautioned not to expect), while the other officer remained with us, keeping to our slower pace.
In due time we arrived at the inn or khan, where Ebba and the two gentlemen were waiting for us – Oh! this most delectable Hotel! how is it to be described? On the ground floor were stalls for horses and oxen; this is a usual arrangement everywhere, I believe, in the East, but all of these were full; the only shelter our animals had, therefore, was the canopy of heaven, and their bed the mud in the street; fortunately the rain soon ceased, the air was cooled, and it became a fine summer night, thus probably they were better off than they might have been in that most uncleanly stable. To reach the floor above, where host and guests were to pass the night, a kind of rough ladder was fixed against the wall and fastened at the top to a balcony from which we entered a room; the room – a "tap room," where about a score of Russian officers, three English Naval officers, and ourselves all met.
Off this room was a little space partly partitioned, and this again divided into two. One of these places, Ebba, on arrival, had secured for herself and me, the other had been already engaged by one of the Muscovites and could not be resigned. The partition which formed them into the luxury of private apartments did not reach the ceiling, and was in fact very little higher than our heads. Each apartment boasted also of a door, which could be closed – but as the doors were narrow and the doorways wide, an advanced post had been ingeniously added for the accommodation of the door, perfectly regardless, however, of an open space about a foot wide which existed between the original doorway and the accommodating door-post! A railway wrapper soon adjusted this defect; two little old camp bedsteads were provided, affording the by no means contemptible advantage of our being thereby elevated above the certainly indescribable floor! We had our own blankets, and above all we had a window, which we opened wide, and an unspeakable luxury it was, notwithstanding the ever and anon perfumed zephyrs which arose from a not altogether pellucid little stream slowly meandering beneath, contiguous to the stalls of the lower chamber.
When we looked around and leisurely contemplated all the circumstances, we considered ourselves more than fortunate in the possession of our luxurious private apartment. Had Ebba arrived a little later we should undoubtedly have lost it. But what were the circumstances? Well, the circumstances were, that the guests assembled in the room (by no means a large one, and of which ours and the Muscovite's made part), with few exceptions, smoked and drank till midnight, at which time they numbered about forty human beings, and then and there they laid down to rest, the windows being shut; some on divans, some on the floor, the chinks in the latter delicately reminding them of the animals below. The host availing himself of the remaining space on the floor, which, however, he had taken care to secure, at length lay down also, composing himself to sleep with a large pipe in his mouth, which he puffed forth, no doubt to the enjoyment of some of his guests as well as himself, but not to ours. These were some of the circumstances which made us value our abode with its open window above price, though the exterior air was rather mitigated perfection.
Thus the night passed – perhaps we slept, certainly we rose very early. How the domestics fared we did not inquire, but as they had the carriage to resort to by turns, when off the watch necessary to protect the rest of the baggage, we could not pity them, nay, they were rather to be envied; but before they and we retired to rest, they imagined themselves somewhat injured by having to keep guard outside in the street, instead of sharing the delectable public room described above. We overheard one of them saying to Mr. Stern, "I never saw such an uncultivated place, sir; pray, sir, are they savages? what are we to do if we are attacked in the night, sir?" "Oh, come up the ladder and wake me!" "Good night," was the reply.
Palace of the Khans – Continuation of journey to Tchoufout Kaleh – Greek Monastery opposite – Interesting incidents with the Jews – Visit to the Synagogue – Thunderstorm and consequent plight – Night spent at the Abbot's house.
BY early dawn every one was up and stirring. Breakfast, like the supper of the previous evening, was provided by ourselves, hot water in a great samovah being the only aliment the inn afforded, besides spirits and tobacco, at least that we could venture to taste had we even seen it. By four o'clock A.M. we found ourselves really walking in the street of the once-famed Tartar city. The inn which had sheltered us during the night was just outside the gates and courtyard of the old palace of the Khans. It was a curious building, part of a quadrangle, painted with flowers in festoons with sundry other devices on the exterior; the colours no doubt were once brilliant; it was marvellous that they had even retained so much as might then be seen, in its chipped, ruined, and dirty condition; the minarets were greatly mutilated, partly indeed broken down: the palace itself was now converted into an hospital for Russian soldiers. We just entered to look around us, but were not enticed by the perceptive faculties of any of our senses to proceed far. Two mausoleums were there of the ancient Khans of Tartary, and they were apparently held in respect, being far less dilapidated, and in some way more protected from destruction.
The town consisted of one very long street at the foot of a high ridge of rock; once you entered this street there was no outlet until you reached the end, and it was so narrow, as to make it difficult for any carriage or conveyance to turn in it. It might be a question whether our clumsy Bulgarian machine was not the first that ever rolled along its weary length. In all probability the Khans and their followers were only horsemen.
The houses were apparently built chiefly of mud, or of some composition which we took for such, with a little stone work here and there interspersed; some of them were shops and places of business, for it was to Bakcheserai that the Jews of Tchoufout Kaleh resorted for their mercantile affairs. Otherwise the general appearance of the town was miserably poor and dirty, and the dwellings more like hovels – some better, some worse. The situation, however, was very picturesque, and the little rivers and ravines with which the neighbourhood abounds, added much to the liveliness of the scenery. Eggs and milk were plentiful, and freely offered for purchase.
At eight o'clock we were again en route, taking the direction to Tchoufout Kaleh, which was between two and three miles distant; here dwelt the Karaite Jews, whom Mr. Stern and Dr. Blackwood desired particularly to visit. The road was stony beyond comfort, and we had had some experience of what that meant when we traversed a portion of the bed of the Balbec. No English carriage could or would have put up with such usage; but the one we travelled in had no such scruples, and seemed, like a reasonable being, to get its joints even strengthened by the exercise, rather than succumb to the difficulties, for up, and down, and over, her wheels went, yielding to no obstruction; whatever might be the sufferings of her passengers under such rude shakes, time was the only thing she demanded – give her plenty of time, and the journey was accomplished without the loss of a pin or the breaking of a spring. It is true these latter were rather different in their construction to ours, and not quite so delicately framed!
At the foot of the great rock Tchoufout Kaleh, the fortress of the Jews, is a narrow valley, and at its entrance was the house of the Abbot, who was head over a community of monks; their monastery named the Monastery of the Assumption, being exactly opposite and partly excavated out of a rock which formed a prominent feature in a chain running parallel to the Jewish fortress. One of the monks invited us to see their church, which we reached by a very steep ascent. He was agreeable in his manners, conversing fluently in French, but as cleanliness was not more conspicuous in him than in any monk I ever met, – and this confraternity wore long hair down their backs reaching almost to their waists, – any very close proximity made us a little uncomfortable, and caused us slightly to retreat, not quite politely perhaps, whenever the intruding locks had to be dismissed from the face with a toss of the head! Pray, kind reader, remember that we had been for some months past educated to think of sundry things, and dread substantialities, which we had not previously dreamt of.
Having given directions to pitch the tents, and to prepare dinner by a certain hour, we remounted to ascend the long steep path which led to the Jewish village. About half-way up was a strong iron gate, and on our knocking, a little grating was cautiously opened by a porter, who questioned us as to our business; this being explained by Mr. Stern, the bars of the gate were undone, and we were allowed to proceed, and passing through a short tunnel cut through the rock we once more continued the ascent in open air. As this was the only pathway to the colony, it could be, and was, doubtless, closely watched, especially in troublous times such as the recent war had caused; for even so far as this, she had left her mark in the shape of gabions here and there on little hillocks by the roadside; once through, the heavy gate was again locked and barred.
The Jewish village to which we were bound was built quite at the top of this high rock, on a tableland; on one side it is perfectly perpendicular, and indeed it is only accessible on the side above mentioned; skirting this singular and detached habitation is the road to Mangush, leading in the direction of Kertch. This road was fortified at every turn; having for a considerable distance a succession of gabions about two hundred yards or more apart; but at the time of our visit they were all evacuated.
On reaching the summit we entered the village; it is aloft like an eagle's nest, and has been the retreat of these Jews, according to tradition, for upwards of 2500 years; they claim to be part of the people of Israel who were carried away captive by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, in the reign of Hosea, king of Israel, as mentioned in 2 Kings xvii., and possess documents to this effect which are considered genuine.
They are a kind of Protestant Jews, from their rejection of the Talmud with the traditions and superstitions of the Pharisees and Rabbins, but retain their attachment to the whole of the inspired writings of the Old Testament; and are on this account called "Karaim" or readers, because they will read no other and will not hearken to the oral law. It is possible that Krim Tartary was so called from them, their name Karaim being in Hebrew – K.R.M. – three letters only.
The whole of the learning and trade of the Crimea belongs to them, and they have retained it for ages. One side of this singular plateau overlooks a fertile and extensive valley, part of which is their burial-place, and this part they called the Valley of Jehoshaphat, which was said to contain extant more than forty thousand tombstones, independently of the multitudes of graves without a stone. About the year 1850 or so it was computed that 10,000 at least of these Jews were resident in the Crimea, all under the one Rabbi who resided here at Tchoufout Kaleh.
His house was easily found, being very near the entrance to the village, but unfortunately he was not at home, having gone to Bakcheserai for the transaction of business, and was not expected to return until the evening. A friend of his, however, received us and ordered some refreshment, which consisted of apple wine and bread, which we by no means despised, thinking them quite delicious. He then offered to conduct Mr. Stern and Dr. Blackwood to the Synagogue, as they wished to look at a manuscript of the Old Testament which was in possession of these people. It had been found in an iron chest which was dug up some four years previously from under the ark of the Synagogue, and was discovered to be an ancient copy of the entire Scriptures. Unfortunately, however, it was now at Odessa, having been sent thither for the purpose of being copied and printed.
Mr. Stern had brought with him in one of our conveyances a number of Testaments and Church of England prayer books in Hebrew, also copies in Russian of "The Pilgrim's Progress," and different tracts: many of them he had sold in Bakcheserai. Another considerable portion was packed on a mule's back for transport hither; they were sold immediately, and had there been as many again, all could quickly have been disposed of; but as we purposed, God permitting, to visit Simferopol, a portion was reserved for that city. It was a rule with our friend Mr. Stern, and certainly a wise one, to give no books away; what is purchased is valued, and the independence of purchase is in every respect more appreciated than gratuity.
In their converse with these Jews Mr. Stern and Dr. Blackwood found a people candid and intelligent, quite different from others, and apparently they were prepared at least to listen to what was spoken to them of the Gospel.
While the gentlemen were thus engaged Ebba and I remained in the reception room of the Rabbi's house. This room was large and well furnished; in one corner was a most exquisite portrait of a Jewess, painted in oil, the work of an Italian artist, we were told; it was placed on a stand in a good light, evidently for the admiration of the gazers. We admired it exceedingly, and on being told it was the sister of the Rabbi, hoped much we might see the original, but that was not to be; she was not there. Shortly after the gentlemen had left, a very pretty little lady appeared, handsomely dressed in a skirt of striped brocaded lilac silk, a black velvet jacket embroidered in gold, with rows of gold coins suspended loosely from shoulder to shoulder, a handsome gold belt encircled her waist, and a little scarlet and blue cap with fringe was placed on the top of her head; her light hair with pretty golden tinge was plainly braided back, and plaited in long plaits, rather in the Swiss fashion, with ribbons hanging down behind; she was so good looking that we thought ourselves justified in complaining that she was not quite beautiful; her manners were very agreeable, though we could not converse.
She remained with us about twenty minutes, which time was for the most part spent in smiles at vain endeavours to become better acquainted. It was at first rather a problem to us how she could be so smart in a locality so out of the way; coins and gold we could well understand, but a somewhat fashionably made dress of modern material was another matter; however, this difficulty was solved when we understood her to be the Rabbi's wife, for her childlike appearance betokened her a bride, and thus the trousseau was at once guessed. When the little wife had made us a low courtesy she retired, and I went out to sketch. Just then we were encountered by two of our friends who had originally intended accompanying us but were prevented; we were exceedingly glad they had traced us hither, and were now able to join us in our proposed further excursion to Simferopol.
A visit to the Synagogue could not be omitted by us, though we were late in going thither. Our conductor expecting we wished to see the manuscripts, at once showed us some ancient looking rolls which were exhibited to every traveller who had heard of and was desirous to see the manuscript we were in search of; and we certainly might and should have been equally imposed upon, had not Mr. Stern then joined us, and given us the fact that the one wanted was at Odessa; he being able to read them, and knowing the history of the rare one, could not be so easily deceived, and thereby we arrived at the truth.
A great portion of this remarkable village was in ruins; heaps of stones were lying in every direction, and some of the ruined buildings appeared very ancient, but none exhibited any remarkable feature worthy description. Before descending to return to our tents and dinner, we again entered the Rabbi's house, and asked for the lady to bid her farewell and thank her for her hospitality, now that we had an interpreter with us. On this occasion, however, we were shown, not into the drawing-room, but into the kitchen, to our great amusement; for behold! there was our pretty little hostess, the fair and smart Jewess, bereft of her jewels and silks, now clad in a plain loose cotton garment, kneeling on the floor before an enormous trough or tub, kneading dough to make cakes for an approaching Bairim. She beckoned to us, and with smiles seemed pleased to exhibit her large tub and useful employment. It was a custom first to display the riches of her wardrobe, which was her dowry, to the guests who visited her, and then retire to her household duties. A most useful part of education is culinary knowledge; had we been better versed in its arts, we should often have been better served ourselves in our home in Scutari.
We now began the descent, and on our way met the Rabbi returning home from Bakcheserai. He appeared pleased to meet company, and at once invited Mr. Stern, who alone could converse with him, to spend the evening at his house and accept hospitality for the night; this giving an opportunity for the long-desired interview, was at once closed with, Mr. Stern promising to be with him before sunset.
Scarcely had we parted from the Rabbi than a violent thunderstorm, which had threatened us for some time, burst over our heads, accompanied with heavy rain; had we not been so exposed to it, we should surely have admired and marvelled at its awful sound as it echoed and reverberated from rock to rock, rolling in tremendous peals above us; but the pelting rain made us quicken our paces, being eager to find shelter in our tents. But, alas! orders are much more frequently given than obeyed, and the men more intent on the midday's repast than the evening's repose, and taking no observation of the impending storm, had actually not pitched a single tent! and by this time the ground was perfectly saturated with wet. The carriage was our place of refuge, and no bad one either, its shape being that of a long waggon. It was made of wicker-work and well covered, and now that our dinner was cooked, we found it a comfortable dining-room, the benches across forming table and seats very conveniently. But the question of what shall we do for the night, intruded itself forcibly upon us.
Excepting the abbot's house, or the monastery beyond, there was no shelter for man or beast; nor was a shed visible for these latter poor creatures, which in ordinary times they did not require, but in such storms a cover would have been appreciated. Nothing daunted, we called to mind the traditional hospitality of abbots and monks, and desired to put it to the test by requesting Mr. Stern to knock at the door and make a humble appeal for a night's lodging, as we, being not as yet inured to tent life, feared to venture the first experiment on ground more resembling a marshy bog than terra firma.
The request was made, and after some consideration the abbot consented to lend a room; but on hearing there were two ladies, he suddenly drew back, and shaking his head gravely, "could not say, this altered the case, ladies had never crossed the threshold of his door, and it was impossible!" A list of excuses seemed at hand, which Mr. Stern endeavoured to combat by an appeal to his duty as a Christian, and reminded him of the injury it might be to us to be exposed to the inclemency of such weather, and how that might reflect upon his character for charity and the sacred office he professed to fulfil. All this at length had the desired effect, and, from whatever motive, he consented to receive us, and showed our friend a large room which he thought we could well manage to remain in for the night. Mr. Stern thanked him, and returned to us to announce his success.
After a while the rain began to cease, the clouds cleared off, and a gleam of sunlight invited us once more to mount our steeds and explore the country, while Mr. Stern went up again to Tchoufout Kaleh. In the rocks far on in the valley which bound us on either side were innumerable fossils, some very perfect and quite white; we collected a good many specimens, intending to bring them with us as souvenirs of this Crimean excursion.
As evening: advanced Ebba and I thought it time to seek the rest we hoped to get in the abbot's house, so taking with us our rugs and cork mattresses, &c., we knocked at his gate. Expecting us, he advanced to meet us. He was, a tall and majestic looking man, whose portly figure did not belie the "good cheer" we are told abbots do usually enjoy. He bowed and so did we, then silently led the way and we followed; not, however, to the large room shown and promised to Mr. Stern, which had been described to us, but to one down stone steps underground, though from the slope whereon the house was built, the window on the further side was above ground. It was in every other respect like a cellar, and was so damp and cold that the risk of remaining there, seemed but very little removed from that of pitching our tents on the wet earth. Having ushered us in, he bowed and departed. With the exception of two little bedsteads and a mattress on one of them, not an article of furniture was there, neither chair, table, nor stool. While contemplating the extent of our host's Christian charity, and also how arrangements were to be made for spending the night in such uncomfortable quarters, there was a knock at the door, and the little, long-haired monk who had early in the day taken us to see the treasures of the monastery, came to ask was there anything more we wished for?
Certainly, if wishing had been likely to produce beneficial results, we might have wished for a great many things, but we had long learned to be moderate in our requirements; we therefore hinted we had not expected so cold and damp a room, whereupon he opened a little door in the wall exhibiting the grating of a stove, and in a few minutes brought fuel and lighted a fire. Next he offered to place one of the bedsteads outside the door of this charming cellar for Dr. Blackwood; this being in a kind of entrance passage, and no worse as to cold and damp than the room, was accepted as an advantageous proposition. Perceiving that we had now reached the extent of the gratification likely to be afforded to our desires, we thanked him, and he bade us "good night," which monkly farewell the outside lodger fulfilled, but to us poor "weaker vessels" sleep was not so kind, she would not "weigh our eyelids down, nor steep our senses in forgetfulness."
Our cellar was full of fleas and crawling things brought out of the cracks and corners by the unusual heat of the fire; a large contribution of the lively tribe we had also, no doubt, collected the previous night at Bakcheserai, so that we were kept busily and unceasingly employed. Added to which, the atmosphere, with the smell of the damp brought out of the walls by the lighted stove, and the peculiar scent of the incense with which the house was perfumed, became so bad and overpowering, that as soon as daylight dawned, we put on our cloaks and contrived to climb up and get out of the window, to be a little revived with the fresh air before dressing could be attended to – for within it was intolerable, and almost poisonous – the effects of which we felt or imagined we did for days.
The morning was lovely, and the whole valley a carpet of flowers, especially the dark-blue scented violets which were still in quantities, and primroses everywhere; the air was delicious, refreshed also by the rain of the recent thunderstorm. What a contrast to the night we had passed! It really required immense resolution to face the needful return to the cellar to perform our toilette.
Continued route to Simferopol – Happy mistake of road – Arrival, and Inns full – Lodged at the farmhouse of a Polish Jew – Night of unrest – Mr. Stern's visit to the Synagogue – Rest on Sunday – All books eagerly purchased.
EVERY one was up by daylight. Mr. Stern had even descended from the heights above, anxious to relate to us much of the very interesting conversation he had had with the Rabbi, on Jesus of Nazareth, who was, he doubted not, the real Messiah! They had passed the best of the night in deep discussion on the subject, and parted with regret.
Mr. Stern also mentioned that during the evening the little wife had again presented herself in full costume, and remained for about twenty minutes before retiring to rest.
The Abbot, mindful of Christian hospitality no doubt, sent us each a little cup of tea and a biscuit; there was no milk, but the beverage being very delicious it was not needed. This was a little avant courier to our own more substantial meal. Breakfast over, we bade him farewell and made preparations to continue our route to Simferopol, which we hoped to reach in a couple of hours or so. We followed the road to which we had been directed; it was strongly fortified, or appeared so to us for some distance, with gabions and artificial mounds thrown up every here and there; at the end of about two miles it forked in different directions. While puzzling to think which we should take, a Russian officer advanced towards us on horseback. To him we applied for information; he consoled us by affirming that we were not in the way to Simferopol at all; but added, if we kept continually to the left wherever we found a path, we should eventually reach the right road, and ended by assuring us that if we followed his guidance, we could not fail to find it.
This mistake of ours was fully compensated for by leading us now through a wild, romantic, and most picturesque country, instead of a dull dreary high road. We passed between ridges of rock, down valleys, forded rivers, and actually drove down the bed of one, the Bourdrak, for a distance of nearly three miles, besides having to cross its windings many times. This would not have been possible in a rainy season, but the late storms, being probably in a measure local, had not sufficiently affected it so as to impede our progress. We found it comparatively shallow; in one place, it is true, we did rather demur to crossing, but believing we saw fresh traces of an araba, we ventured in, and followed the bed of it for some distance.
After travelling in this fashion by land and water for about eight or nine miles, we spied the high road, indicated by telegraphic posts and wires running from Simferopol to Sebastopol. Here we halted for refreshment, but the couple of hours or so in which our imaginations had led us to suppose we should reach our goal, had long ago passed by; we were yet some miles off – nor did we reach it till past five o'clock on the afternoon of Saturday.
Just as we were about to enter the town another thunderstorm overtook us; lurking about midst rocks and high lands and rivers, they were not unfrequent here in summer time, and we shared the discomfort of a wetting; it rather spoilt the imposing entry into Simferopol which our now reinforced party would otherwise have made, and which attracted the attention of the outskirt population, who came forth to gaze, notwithstanding the rain, at the carriage and carts and horses, for by this time, with our further additions, we were a respectable cavalcade.
At one house shelter was offered and rest for the night, which we very unwisely then declined, from the idea that those stray suburban dwellings were too far from the town, and also because we had been assured that good inns were to be found in the street; where, consequently we thought we should fare better than in a kind of lodging-house or farm. So on we went to take our chance.
Probably the inns were comparatively good, but as every one was already full to overflowing, and declined to receive us, we began to think it would be the best policy to humble ourselves, return and accept the proffered shelter which we had so foolishly refused.
The landlord, sharp enough to perceive our dilemma, at once added largely, not to say double, to the offer he had so recently made, and would now accept no terms under his demand. We had no choice, and therefore agreed with the best grace we could. The "to-morrow" would be Sunday, and we wished to rest on that day, for which we really were ready after two such nights.
We entered the house, and much to our surprise found two excellent rooms placed at our disposal, with good substantial and civilised furniture. The one was a small bedroom containing a French bedstead, bedding and eider-down quilt, and a small bedstead beside it; and at the further end of the room was a large wardrobe, which finding unlocked, we had the curiosity to open; it was well filled with silk, satin, and velvet dresses belonging to the lady of the house. Under what circumstances such costumes could be needed puzzled us almost as much as when the little Jewess displayed her possessions; for the town of Simferopol had not much appearance of a society at all commensurate with such a display of rich garments. No doubt, however, they had their gala days as well as others, and with Jews, costly garments are often found, and our host and hostess were of that persuasion. Besides, as there was really nothing in the exterior of this dwelling to indicate such a well-furnished interior, so also it might have been in many other cases.
The other room assigned to us was a large sitting-room or parlour, but which was, on this occasion, to accommodate the gentlemen of our party as a sleeping apartment for the night. After our evening meal had been served, wrappers and cork mattresses soon made the floor luxurious, and the chief thought which occupied us was the anticipation of the sweet sleep we should now enjoy after the late experiences. This house was not in any wise an inn, but a farm, and the secret of our admission was, that the master and his lady wished to spend a couple of days at Balaklava to see the camp, and by letting their house in the meanwhile they could gather a little harvest for themselves, especially as they observed that the two inns were perpetually full by the curiosity of those from the camp. Thus they divided their home on this occasion between us and a party of Naval officers who had arrived before us, for which they made exorbitant charges, though we all provided ourselves with food and attendance. We did not wonder nor blame them for thus seizing such an opportunity, and making the best of it, to amend their fortunes, which no doubt had been not a little taxed by the late war – but there are limits to most things, though these good people evidently thought the English purse had none!
After an early supper we gladly retired to rest. I sank in my downy couch and closed my eyes – but oh! not to sleep. Deep groans and sighs from poor Ebba were echoed by me! It was not hard to discover the cause. "My bed is alive!" she exclaimed in despair. I could only say mine felt equally so. We struck a light, and literally there was scarcely a space large enough to lay your hand which was not "hopping." Bad as they were at Scutari, bad as they were at Bakcheserai and in the Abbot's cellar, this exceeded all imagination. The fowl-yard was close to our room, which was on the ground floor, and certainly the cleansing of that could not have been a frequent undertaking. We set vigorously to work for some time, and by means of wet towels strove to overcome some of our foes. It was but few comparatively that we could thus sweep away – but tired nature kindly came to our aid, and at last we fell asleep, and slept till late on Sunday morning.
After breakfast we all joined in the service which Dr. Blackwood and Mr. Stern conducted in the large sitting-room, and as most of those to whom it was made known joined us, we had a fair congregation.
To Mr. Stern, especially, Simferopol was a place of great interest. It contained about three thousand Jews, amongst whom he found his books were in great request; all he had left were soon gone. The eagerness of the Jews here in these parts to possess the Old and New Testaments was most remarkable, and it was a matter of deep regret that we had so few copies compared with the demand, and also that we had so short a time to spend amongst them, not being able to remain beyond the next day.
The town was certainly in itself not attractive, it was almost all newly built, and was a range of low white houses in the midst of a Russian Steppe, with scarcely a tree to be seen; a great contrast to the wild scenery we had passed in reaching the high road to it.
A river runs at the further end of the town, but we were told by some of our countrymen who had investigated it, that it was not at all picturesque, until it was pursued for some considerable distance, and this we at least could not do at the present time.
Though chiefly inhabited by Jews there was of course also a large mixture of Russians and Tartars. The Russian soldiers were marched past our windows on Sunday morning to church, and on their way we saw them presenting arms and offering homage, or obeisance, to two wretched tawdry pictures which were hoisted on poles, and held by a couple of monks at the side of the street as they went by.
An instance of the injurious effect of this corrupt Christianity, on Jews as well as Mahometans, was, by this exhibition, plainly brought to our notice. For when Mr. Stern entered the Synagogue, the Jews immediately attacked him for it, declaring that Christians were gross idolaters, and they actually pointed to this circumstance which was constantly occurring as the proof of what they stated. It was apparently in vain that he repudiated such deeds as representing the pure gospel of Christ, and pointed them to the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and the decision there against idolatries. They could not discriminate – how should they? For this display was perpetually before them as inseparable, either in their churches or out of them, from their worship, and this as Christians!
Though as I noticed before we were well fleeced, yet our visit to Simferopol was one of gratification to us. It introduced us also to another and quite different sect of Jews. These were for the most part either Polish or German, and in the mercantile dealings which we had with them, arranging provisions for ourselves and forage for our animals, we could not by any means note them for either honesty or probity of conduct.
We also, from some of the residents with whom Mr. Stern conversed, obtained much information concerning the state of religion throughout the Crimea and the southern parts of Russia. One amongst these was a German Lutheran schoolmaster, seemingly a pious man, glad to meet a kindred spirit; from him we learned that in this large town, now the capital of the Crimea, not one book, nor a line of print in any language, could be purchased.
We had distributed a large quantity of Russian Testaments and tracts, as well as those books in the Hebrew language before spoken of. Mention may likewise be made of one copy of the Testament in Arabic which Dr. Blackwood had with him for his own study, but which he gave to a Tartar whom we met near Tchoufout Kaleh. This man had observed some books being distributed, and from the slight converse Ebba was able to hold with him, she discovered he could read it, and also that he had heard of the Christian gospel, and desired to have a copy. Dr. Blackwood gave him the book, which he received with manifestations of grateful pleasure. He lifted my husband's hand to his forehead, then kissed it, bowed and retired with the book, which he appeared to value with much respect.
Probably it was the first and only copy of the Gospel which had penetrated to Bakcheserai in that language, for there was the abode of the Tartar; it was business only which had taken him to the Jewish fortress. Thus in three languages of three races we were privileged to convey a little seed of the Divine Word to these remote and unevangelised parts. The sowing had been in faith, and though the result may never be heard of by us in this world, it will bring forth fruit to the glory of God.
"So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Journey back to camp – Alma Hotel – Arrival at Bakcheserai – Tents pitched outside the town – Untoward storms of wind and rain – Tent robbed during night – Expected breakfast stolen – Accident to horse – Arrival at the "Vicarage" – Visit to Baida – Last three days spent in revisits to Inkerman, St. George's Monastery, and Sebastopol – Embarkation in the "Queen of the South" – Adventure in the Bosphorus – Passage to England in the "Oneida" – Sultan brought home – Life and death.
ON Monday morning we prepared for our journey homewards or campwards, and our party once more became reduced to its original dimensions. As Dr. Blackwood could not prolong the time of absence, and as our friends wished to proceed farther and return by a longer and more circuitous route which could only be traversed by equestrians, and not by vehicles, we parted company. Turning our faces again towards Bakcheserai, but by a different road, so that we might pass through some of the scenery on the Alma (for neither could we now afford the time to visit that battlefield, which was much more distant), we had therefore to content ourselves with looking to the direction in which it lay, and skirting the river which we crossed after some time. Here we found an inn, promising by its exterior provender for "man and horse." We arrived about midday, a good time for rest and refreshment, thus we entered.
It may be supposed that by this time the keen edge of fastidiousness had been somewhat worn off – and indeed that was true in a great measure, but nevertheless there were limits, and some ideas of cleanliness and nicety were yet left to us. We entered the precincts of the "Alma Hotel," which announced itself thus in large letters over the door, in the usual manner of more frequented countries. A waiter received us and ushered us into what was intended and used for a salle à manger, and pointing to a little round table, which, with its already spread tablecloth and folded dinner napkins (imagine the luxury!), had evidently all been used, not by recent guests only, but by the various guests of possibly some months standing, either permanent or varying.
Anything so unlike what ought to be the dining table of a civilised Christian, not to say a mere human being, could scarcely be presented. It was really too bad, and having once seen it and been invited to it by the flourishes of an equally unprepossessing waiter, nothing could tempt us to "shut our eyes and open our mouths and take what good luck would bring us" in that place, though he appeared immediately afterwards with a ready cooked dish of what he called "côtelettes de veau." It would not do, and we therefore quickly returned to our carriage and its reserve of bread and cheese deposited there in case of any unforeseen mishap.
After our men and horses had been refreshed we were once more en route. We had also, in anticipation, bought a lamb at Simferopol; this was to be for our evening meal when we bivouacked for the night, which we resolved to do this time under canvas, the horrors of the inn or khan at Bakcheserai being too fresh in our memories to make us desirous of repeating the experiment by another halt there. As evening was advancing, therefore, we rode through the long street, and gave a passing but not a longing glance at the chamber we had made acquaintance with some few nights previously.
Continuing our course till we came to an open space about a mile distant, we spied an English tent already pitched at the top of a hill overlooking the town: accordingly we made advances towards it to claim good company, and found there the same Naval officers who had shared with us the house at Simferopol. Our party being very small, we were by no means sorry to find such an addition; we encamped therefore beside them for the night.
Scarcely had we finished the erection of our tents, and kindled our fire to cook the aforesaid lamb, when down came one of those frequent heavy showers of rain which drench everything; the fire was extinguished, and we were all sent under cover at once. Cooking the lamb or anything else was impossible, so again we divided the remainder of the bread and cheese and went to rest, consoling ourselves that the lamb would be in reserve for a good breakfast next morning before we set out again.
Ebba and I shared one tent, and Mr. Stern and Dr. Blackwood another. Being exceedingly tired and sleepy, we had placed our leather bags containing our travelling requirements between us in the centre of the tent, so that we conceived it quite impossible to be in danger of their robbery, our property being in no way exposed to any light fingering or hooking operations, which we had been well warned was the usual method of taking things from under tents. Besides, we were quite persuaded that any attempt to abstract them must certainly rouse either the one or the other of us. Matters thus adjusted to our complete satisfaction, we slept profoundly.
It had been arranged with a view to safety and protection in these "uncultivated parts," as our men termed these regions, that they should keep watch by turns, two hours each. This was done so far as the first man (a soldier) was concerned. The groom was to be the next to take his turn, but he proved unfaithful to his trust, as he freely confessed to us, and thus we suffered.
Not being in the habit of acting sentinel, he did not seem to understand the necessity of it, and finding all quiet, he persuaded himself that Russians, Tartars, Gipsies, &c., to all of whom we were in close contiguity, were very honest good people and respectable neighbours. Thus he went unconcernedly to bed, without keeping his own watch or waking any one else to do it for him. The night passed.
The sun rising in all its beauty awakened Mr. Stern, who, kindly thinking to prepare the early breakfast, lighted the fire to cook the lamb for us by the time we should be up. But lo! it was gone, in company also with a large sack of potatoes which we were taking to the "Vicarage."
The men said it had been placed in the iron bucket (our saucepan) on the ground outside, conceiving that to be a better keeping larder than within the waggon, and thus it was stolen. Scolding and questioning were vain, our breakfast had departed no one knew where or how!
The inquiries regarding it, not being made or answered in whispers, roused Ebba and me. We started up, and thinking something had happened amiss, hastily slipped on a dress and went out of the tent to learn what was the matter. Matter indeed! there lay outside the pegs of our tent my basin, brush and comb, slippers, soap, &c., all scattered in every direction around me. "What does this mean?" I exclaimed, and the next moment rushed back into the tent to look for my leather bag, which had contained all these valuables and necessaries for my toilet, besides no end of other treasures. To my great consternation it was gone! Two pegs had been removed from the tent in which we slept, alas! too soundly to disturb the dexterous hands which had drawn away the bag without waking us. To do the thief justice there was a degree of consideration about the deed which I thoroughly appreciated – the articles required for my immediate use being so kindly left within my reach! but everything else – consisting of linen, a most useful little medicine chest, a telescope, my husband's Bible, one he had had for years, the valued gift of a departed friend, – and even the fossils which had been recently collected in remembrance of Tchoufout Kaleh – all, with many other things we valued, were gone and the bag with them. Everybody knows how to be vexed on such occasions, and so did we. Ebba's bag was left; we suppose the marauder did not dare to stay for two.
A kind of vain hope of recovering the lost property sent good Mr. Stern off to the Russian police for permission to search a neighbouring gipsy encampment. The Jews of Bakcheserai told him, however, that he might more correctly lay the robbery to the charge of the Russian soldiery, as the gipsies would not have removed the pegs of the tent.
While this investigation was proceeding, which consequently delayed the time of departure, the man in charge of our waggon being a native of Yorkshire, had obtained the soubriquet of "York," and whom we then believed to be an honest man, came to Dr. Blackwood for permission to set out on the return and go very leisurely, as one of his horses, by reason of a stone injuring his foot on the "yesterday's" journey, was slightly lame, and he feared otherwise that he might, if pressed to keep up with us, become worse. This reasonable request was of course acceded to at once, and the man departed accordingly. Sad to say, we had good reason afterwards strongly to suspect, that had we searched this man and his waggon before, or stopped him just after he started, we should have had more light thrown upon our losses. Whether he had associates or not, we did not inquire, the potatoes ignited the flash of suspicion, but it was then too late to make further investigation, and there is no doubt our other valuables had been already sold and were irrecoverable.
Meanwhile, and during the absence of Mr. Stern in search of Russian police authorities, another great vexation happened to me.
The groom sent by Colonel Pakenham to take charge of the horse, mule cart, tents, &c., so kindly lent me, must needs, this morning, tie the horse and mule together with a short rope, and turn them loose to graze. This he had never done before, and it was difficult to think what induced him to try such an experiment then; for the consequences might easily have been foreseen. Scarcely had he performed this wise act, than off they went, each pulling the other contrary ways, till they rushed down a steep ravine, where was a Tartar cemetery with tombs and headstones lying, according to the usual custom, in every direction in broken fragments.
I was in the greatest alarm for the horse, and by this time the man himself who had done the deed was equally so; he mounted one of the ponies to follow and catch them, but the mischief was done. The mule would go one way, the horse another, and as they disputed the point, a fight ensued, when the mule kicked her adversary furiously, and finally cut some artery or large vein near the chest. In a moment the poor animal was covered with blood; but both continued fighting, plunging, and jumping over the stones. It was ten minutes almost before they could be caught, detached, and led up, "the red stream issuing from his wounded veins." Happily one of the Naval officers who had sympathised with us in our losses, and who had with me now watched this mischief, was a surgeon belonging to the "Leander;" he kindly offered assistance, and fastened the wound together, so that after awhile the blood was staunched.
By this time the police came; they had searched the gipsy camp, but of course without any result to us, and we prepared therefore with vexed hearts to return to Zebra Vicarage. The poor horse was fastened with a rein to the cart, and ran his twenty-seven miles gently without reopening the wound. He was laid up for a fortnight, and I was, with extreme annoyance, obliged to return him lame to his kind owner.
Thus ended our excursion into the interior; and as we had neither suffered fright nor violence in our robbery, nor was our money stolen, we had still much to be thankful for. Before arriving at the Mackenzie Heights, we met about 10,000 Russian soldiers on the march toward Simferopol. It felt strange to be driving quietly through that host.
Our holiday was now drawing to a close. A few more days, however, enabled us to take an excursion to the Phoras Pass on the south-east coast, through Baida, towards the Woronzoff Villa; this was a charming ride of about sixteen miles distant to the extent of the Pass. No wonder this part is styled the Italy of Russia; the climate has the character of being exceedingly salubrious, while the scenery is certainly very beautiful. Scarcely at any time during our ride did we really lose sight of the sea, and then only when concealed by side rocks overshadowed by trees, which temporarily intercepted the view, and made us enjoy it the more as we emerged from the leafy tunnels.
Three days more were spent, one again on the field of Inkermann, renewing all its atmosphere of sadness; one at the Monastery of St. George, when we sat and gazed on its beautiful bay and exquisitely coloured rocks; the third was given to Sebastopol, our last visit to it and all its dreadful points of interest. We lingered here long and sorrowfully, till a setting sun bade us say farewell and return to the hospitable Zebra Vicarage, to spend our last night there!
Now we were about to quit for ever that little portion of our hemisphere which had been the scene of so much concern, so much bloodshed, so much spent treasure, so many sighs and tears, so much sorrow. Nevertheless, as all is not gold that glitters, so all is not woe that is streaked with blood! Death and the grave seemed strong against us in this great war, but "out of the strong came forth the sweet," – the very sufferings and death which enshrouded us brought joy, and life, and peace eternal to hundreds who probably never would have considered their own mortality, nor sought a Saviour, had it not been so irresistibly forced upon them.
Nor must we look only to that bright result; when trials bring forth fruit we are bound to acknowledge it. See what changes have been effected in all that concerns war since then – the ambulances, the hospitals, the nursing, the care and sympathy, the numberless ameliorations and mercies which it brought forth to poor suffering, sinful humanity, – these must not be overlooked. War is a dreadful thing, and nothing but what is worse should plunge us into it. But as before noted, there are some things worse than war, in this fearfully fallen world of ours. And perhaps it was to correct these worse things that the Prince of Peace, who overrules all with a loving Hand and unerring wisdom, said, "But these things must needs be."
A fine steamer, the "Queen of the South," bore us away from the harbour of Balaklava, and after a lovely passage we entered the Bosphorus again on the 23d of May. Here another small adventure overtook us; we were towing a large vessel containing troops who were now rapidly returning homewards. This in the narrow Bosphorus was not an easy matter, encountering such strong currents; and to add to the difficulty of navigating so large a vessel, the many smaller craft always seemed in the way. As we were proceeding as gently as slow speed could take us, a Greek vessel with three masts, having four or five sailors visible on board, began carelessly to cross our bows; they were shouted at, the steam whistle shrieked at them, all was done to call their attention to what seemed their inevitable destruction; for with the vessel we had in tow, and the shallowness of the sides of the Bosphorus, our captain feared either to stop or alter his course, and yet if he did not, down the Greek vessel must go!
The excitement of all on our deck was intense. It was a venture! But the captain risked it, and by a swerve saved the careless crew, but the three masts of their vessel, with all sails set, were crushed by our yardarm in a minute, with as much ease and almost as little sound as the crumpling of a sheet of paper; we felt no shock whatever, nor, we were told, should we have felt more, had the Greek vessel gone to the bottom and we had ridden over her. Mercifully she was spared that fate, and we had only some slight damage done of smashed bulwarks; but our towed vessel was left behind, the hawser broke, and how we escaped her coming upon us we hardly knew. As was to be expected, as a matter of course, when the Greeks saw their masts shivered and falling overboard, then they roused to anger and cursing, instead of gratitude that their lives had been spared; however, we soon passed them, and saw them no more.
Our house at Scutari looked like a palace full of luxuries, after our late hutting and encamping, &c. So much for contrasts.
Emilio was delighted to see us again and was most excited, especially when I told him that Colonel Pakenham had made me a present of a cow, and that it might be expected to arrive the next day.
The only drawback to Emilio's happiness was the fact that now our sojourn in Turkey was speedily to terminate; he desired exceedingly to go with us to England, but this for many reasons could not be.
We found him some friends amongst the American missionaries, and were very pleased to learn from them, shortly after we reached England, that he had been engaged as one of the painters in the new palace of the Sultan. He had several times hinted something of his capacity in that line, and even expressed a strong desire to take my husband's portrait, but as portrait painting was not exactly what we engaged him for, the desire was not encouraged, and the talent therefore in that department not tested. However, it was added in the letter containing the information respecting him, that he gave "great satisfaction."
The war was over, and nothing now remained but the final winding-up of all things for the return. Our kind friend Lieutenant Keatley, always ready in time of need, knowing my desire to take home the pony which had become so great a favourite, procured a passage both for it and a horse belonging to my cousin Sir John Cowell, who had been through the campaign, and left with Sir Harry Jones on his return after the fall of Sebastopol. Also a place was found on board another ship for the cow, who promised to pay her own passage by contributing to the luxuries of the breakfast and tea-table, which promise, however, I fear she very scantily performed. She was by no means an amiable lady, and had so strong a will of her own, that it was only when she pleased that she would yield the gift with which she was endowed. Nevertheless, her children were appreciated, and her grandchildren remain with us to this day. She was of a fine blue grey colour, with a darker scarf, almost amounting to black in the winter – much paler in the summer. All her descendants however, hitherto, have been red and red-white, not one like herself, which we regret.
For ourselves, through the kind consideration of Admiral the Hon. Sir Frederick Grey, we had the most comfortable passage home possible, in the fine ship "Oneida," Captain Moreton, from whom we received the greatest attention throughout the voyage. She left rather suddenly, but we were accustomed now to sudden movements, and this was far too advantageous an opportunity to be refused; so all was arranged, we embarked, and on the 6th July 1856, arrived at Spithead after a splendid passage; towing a very large ship full of horses and men, as was also the "Oneida."
Thus ended our Eastern sojourn; and before closing this narrative, it remains to state that our two Swedish friends, Emma and Ebba Almroth, so frequently mentioned, were both after our return to England happily married to clergymen.
The Rev. Henry Bagnell has been already mentioned as a chaplain at Scutari, so efficient and helpful during the time of the sad visitation of cholera. On returning at the end of the war, he undertook the curacy of Dr. Blackwood's parish at Middleton, Tyas, from thence he was promoted to an Indian chaplaincy, and proceeded to India with Emma as his bride. They have a family consisting of one son and three daughters.
Ebba married the Rev. C. H. H. Wright, a very distinguished Hebrew and Oriental scholar, who afterwards went from the curacy of Middleton, Tyas, to a chaplaincy at Dresden. They have five sons. Dr. Wright was appointed Bampton lecturer for the year 1879, and his book on Zechariah has a worldwide reputation.
Our original acquaintance with these ladies occurred at Lausanne in 1854, at an Evangelical Alliance Conference; and our meeting with them was one of those providential guidances which I desire always to note.
As it was the death of my little favourite which sent me to my journal for these records, I must not close without a concluding reference to him, who during the remainder of his life was always a connecting link between those stirring and deeply interesting times and the present.
It was in England he acquired his love of hunting, having been introduced to the hunting field by some of my nephews in their early youth. By this means also he soon understood leaping, at which he was quite an adept; for so great was his love for the sport ever after, that when in Yorkshire, where Dr. Blackwood had an extensive parish, he would, if unwittingly left in his field on a hunting day within sight and sound of the hounds, leap the gate, nothing hindering, and join the hunt; on one occasion it being quite impossible either to catch him or turn him, he followed during the whole run for his own pleasure, and returned in the evening with the huntsmen, and was found quietly coming home by himself, shaking his head, having enjoyed the day to his heart's content. He was well known to all the neighbourhood, who were amused at him and kind to him. In Hertfordshire where he died, even almost to the last, if the attractive sound was within hearing, he became restless, pricked his ears and snorted.
It is but little we can understand of animals; possibly they understand more of us; certainly their appreciation of kindness is true, and they are capable of great affection. By words and kind patting almost anything could be done with Sultan, when a pull at his hard mouth would have no effect. He was fond of music, as horses often are, and listened with evident pleasure when any chanced to be played near him; and often his eager determination to bring me home at full speed after a long "parishing" day, was turned to a quiet walk, by a tune hummed or sung to him, as we went through the lanes and fields. He carried me with safety till within two or three years of his death, which seemed to occur from pure old age. He was always fond of a piece of bread covered with salt, and this was the last mouthful of food which he took from my hands on the evening before his death, rolling it about in his mouth, and finally lying down so flat, I thought for the minute he was dead, but he rallied till the next morning. His age could not be accurately ascertained, but he was considered to be somewhere about eight or nine years when we possessed him in 1855; and on that account he must have been at the least in his thirty-fourth year, as his death took place in 1880.
A little mound in our park marks the spot where he is buried, and looking back upon his long and faithful services and attachment, one can well realise the feeling of the "untutored Indian," who believes, though obscurely, in a future life:
"And thinks, admitted to that equal sky,|
His faithful dog shall bear him company."
The regard of the poor Indian for his canine companion was certainly rivalled by that of our Emilio for the steed so petted by him. In a letter written in 1857, in his strange Italian dialect, he concludes with sending his affectionate remembrances to Dr. Blackwood's "Dignitissima persona, è L'inlustrissima sua Signora, e le due Sig: cherano vicino alla sua familia, e in fine IL MIO CARO CAVALLO."
I have mentioned (p. 258) that the bodies of the officers who fell at Inkerman were at first interred on the battlefield, and that many of them were afterwards removed to the cemetery on Cathcart's Hill, surrounded by a protecting wall. There the officers of the Guards erected to their brother officers a conspicuous memorial, the Russian inscription on which signifies, "Respect the tombs of brave warriors," as I have noted.
It is to be hoped that this impressive admonition may be respected.
The Guards' Monument on Cathcart's Hill.
This monument, of which I made a sketch on the spot, may fitly conclude my subject, and form an appropriate pendant to the National Memorial in the cemetery at Scutari. Time or barbarism may destroy the material structures, but the historic record shall never perish.
|"||How sleep the brave who sink to rest|
|By all their country's wishes blest,|
|There Honour comes, a pilgrim grey,|
|To bless the turf that wraps their clay;|
|And Freedom shall awhile repair|
|To dwell, a weeping hermit, there." – COLLINS.|
A FEW documents and notices may be more suitably placed in an Appendix than in the body of the narrative, while they ought not to be quite suppressed, for several reasons respectively. Amongst these I would refer to
Reference is made to the fact (pp. 5, 6) that previous to our departure from England Christian friends assembled by request and made intercession on our behalf, especially for safe and calm voyages by sea, as well as for preservation of health, &c. It is the fashion of the age to deny, and even to scoff at, the idea of God noticing or answering such petitions, which are said to suppose an interference with "the laws of nature," and so forth. Without discussing any question as to such "laws," or interferences with them, our experience testifies that during four distinct voyages we enjoyed exemption from, not only peril or alarm, but discomfort – viz., from Marseilles to Constantinople in mid-winter, from the Bosphorus to Balaclava in a small vessel (after a previous heavy storm), from Balaclava to Constantinople across the Black Sea again, and then from Turkey home to Spithead. These are recorded facts, by whatsoever secret influences our steps and times may have been directed, whether winds and waves were or were not interfered with. I refer, however, to the subject here to record one reason why we were led to make special request in this particular. It so happened that some years previously, when Dr. Blackwood was engaged in promoting the Evangelical Alliance in Ireland, he had pressed the venerable J. Haldane Stewart to attend a gathering in Dublin for a special occasion. The good old man replied that he was such a sufferer from sea-sickness he had declined for many years to cross the Irish Channel, even to attend the April meetings he so much loved; but, he added, that in this instance he could not refuse, and he only entreated that prayer should be made for him to be favoured with a calm and quiet passage. Special meetings for prayer to this effect were accordingly held; and on his arrival Mr. Stewart stated himself to Dr. Blackwood that the captain of the ship had declared that so calm a passage the entire way he had seldom if ever experienced during twenty years of professional voyaging, the sea being smooth as glass. Our own case corroborated Mr. Stewart's, and justified our faith. So also, whatever secondary causes may have conduced to our preservation in health, the fact remains that our desires were satisfied. It may be as well to note that the work in hand was the work of the Lord, however.
Sympathy and Supplies to Men and their Wives.
Allusion is made (p. 3) to the great interest excited in England at the outbreak of the war, and the generosity of individuals in endeavouring to alleviate calamity. I have named some ladies in reference to this point, but perhaps I ought to state more distinctly that Lady Ashton, and her sister, Mrs. Gascoigne, had actually resolved to send out at their own expense twelve nurses, two surgeons, and two or more chaplains. The action of the War Office and the mission of Miss Nightingale superseded the execution of this whole purpose; nevertheless, as I have mentioned, they sent out Dr. Peyton Smith of Leeds, an eminent practitioner and a most laborious and kind-hearted man. These services were supplemented by the transmission of numerous comforts and helps to the sick and wounded, as well as to the forlorn women under my charge. Amongst these contributors I should name Mrs. M'Clintock as continuously active and liberal in forwarding such supplies; and not only so, but in response to my urgent appeals, endeavouring, as others did, to bring the subject under the notice of Government, and of the public bodies who were now being interested in the pressing affair. Mrs. M'Clintock, in a letter dated May 5, 1855, wrote, "An excellent charity is just being formed by the exertions of Mr. (now Lord) Kinnaird, in aid of Lady Alicia's work, called 'The Soldiers' Infant Home,' whether orphans or not, which will take in one hundred children; few, alas! to the number who will need it, but still a great help. The Patriotic Fund, too, exceeds a million, so that we may hope that the comforts denied to our brave soldiers themselves will in some measure be secured to those they leave behind."
This, of course, was a most timely help, and funds were placed at my disposal, with one proviso – that "the widows were not to receive anything." The honorary secretary, Major Powys, explained the seeming harshness of this rule by stating that the enormous funds of the "Patriotic" are devoted to their use, and the managers of that fund refuse to repay to the new institution any amounts given to a widow or orphan. In the meantime, however, I was enabled to do what was needful irrespective of such rules!
There is no doubt that from many quarters attention was directed at the time to the important subject of the condition of the soldiers' wives. I had several testimonies to the effect that the matter was being brought pressingly before the Government. Amongst these I find a letter from the late Duchess of Gordon, dated March 19, 1855, in which she says, "I sent an extract of your letter to the Duke of Richmond, and he writes that he means to bring the subject of the poor women before Parliament, so as to bring in a bill to secure their being better treated both at home and abroad." Thus, as often, out of the evil good arises.
The Turkish Custom-House and our Supplies.
The officer of the boat who carried us across the Bosphorus (p. 17) gave a description of the Turkish custom-house which proved too true. It was said that a party of sappers and miners hunted through it for a day or two in search of some tent-poles. However this may be, we know that multitudes of packages were hopelessly buried or lost there, including some sent to us. We afterwards avoided this calamity in part by having the goods sent in private ships, or accompanied by bills of lading. This, however, did not remedy all the evil. Our good friend, the late John Henderson of Park, sent some most valuable winter clothing, with tea and other comforts, expected to arrive in early winter. They were carried on to Balaclava, and lay there unheard of for many months in store until nearly useless. As to the Constantinople custom-house, the commission agents in Galata simply appropriated whatever they could lay hands on there, and were seldom called to account. One of these gentlemen said to Dr. Blackwood, that whenever he saw a package addressed to any British officer, he just claimed it, and took it to his own stores on chance of the owner, if alive, getting it sometime. The chance was small, but sometimes an officer would see his own property exposed for sale in one of these marts.
Casualty to General Sir Harry Jones:
In a note from my cousin, Sir J. Cowell, dated June 19, 1855, from the camp before Sebastopol, he gives a description of what he calls "yesterday's affair," which I need not relate. But the particular casualty to General Sir Harry Jones has an interest worth noting. Sir J. Cowell says, "My good old general was wounded, I caught him falling, and thought it was his death-blow; but thank God it is not dangerous nor serious. He can do his duty quite well. I saw the grapeshot come, and it struck the parapet, driving a stone up into his face. It lit on the left temple, causing a jagged cut. The casualties have been very great. You will hear of them all very soon. J. C. COWELL."
Captain Hedley Vicars.
The history of Captain Hedley Vicars has been widely made known by the memoir of him since published. It so happened that several of the 97th Regiment were brought down to Scutari and conversed with by Dr. Blackwood. His sister, Lady Rayleigh, wrote to make further inquiries, and to request that a letter written to the men of the regiment might be read to any of the survivors in hospital. Amongst these, one had stated that his soul had been benefited by the advice of Captain Hedley Vicars. One also of the name of Blakey read Lady Rayleigh's letter before he died, and with reference to him Lady Rayleigh wrote, "I was so glad that poor Blakey read my letter before he died."
It is indeed difficult to describe the feelings of these poor men as expressed by them, and the heartfelt affection and devotion manifested by many of them for the memory of their lamented captain.
In connection with this subject, a few lines from the pen of the venerable Dr. Marsh (August 21, 1855) may be recorded. "I pray your health and Lady Alicia's may be preserved, that peace may soon restore you all to good old England, the land of civil and religious liberty, the land of an open Bible, the Book of Salvation, but by which men will be judged in the last day. Happy are they who take it for their guide; the judgment will be altogether in their favour. – Yours very truly, WM. MARSH."
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