Every day brought fresh troops to Malta, until the brigade of Guards and eleven regiments of infantry of the line were gathered there. The streets of Valetta were like a fair, crowded with soldiery chattering with the vendors of oranges, dates, olives, and apples. Cigars, too, are nowhere cheaper than in Malta, and as, unfortunately, spirits were equally low in price, the British soldier, small as was his daily rate of pay, found but little difficulty in intoxicating himself.
In a few days the French began to put in an appearance, and the crowd in the streets was even more lively and picturesque than before. All this time the great topic of discussion was whether matters would or would not come to the arbitration of war.
During their stay Jack Archer and his comrades enjoyed themselves heartily, but it was by no means all play. The sailors had an immense deal to do in moving stores, preparing fittings, and getting matters ready for the forward despatch of the troops, should war be finally decided upon.
A month after the arrival at Malta, the doubt was put an end to, for upon the 28th of March war was formally declared, and on the 29th the French sailed for Gallipoli, followed, the next day, by Sir George Brown with the advance party of the light division.
The same day the “Falcon” steamed out of harbor, and, although the stay at Malta had been enjoyed, all hands were delighted at the advance towards the scene of future action.
Gallipoli stands near the upper end of the Dardanelles, and is an important military position.
“It looks a nice little town,” Delafield said, on returning after his first visit in the captain’s gig, to his comrades. “But I can’t say much for it when you see it at close quarters. One got tired of Malta, but Malta was a paradise to this place. The confusion seems to be tremendous. But those jolly old Turks are sitting at their doors, smoking like so many old owls, and do not seem to interest themselves in the slightest.”
“And did you see any lovely houris?” Simmonds asked, laughing.
“That I did not,” Delafield said. “I saw some bundles looking like rolls of dirty white sheets ready for the wash, with a pair of big, yellow shoes underneath them, and I believe that they were women. I did not see any of their faces. I didn’t want to, for I’m sure no decently pretty woman would allow herself to be made such an object as that.”
The same work of unloading and transporting goods to the shore, which had gone on at Malta, was continued here. Every day fresh troops arrived, English and French, and the whole of the undulating plain round Gallipoli was dotted with their camps. By the end of the month 22,000 French and some 10,000 English were gathered there.