In all the world there is no more lovely scene than that which greeted Jack Archer’s eyes as he went on deck the following morning.
The “Falcon” was anchored about mid-channel. On the left was Constantinople with its embattled wall, its palaces, its green foliage down to the water’s edge, its domes and minarets rising thickly. Separated from it by the Golden Horn, crossed by a bridge of boats, are Pera and Galatta, street rising above street. Straight over the bows of the ship was the Bosphorus, with its wooded banks dotted with villas and palaces. To the right was Scutari, with the great barrack standing on the edge of a cliff some fifty feet in height. Little did those who looked at the great square pile of building dream that ere many months it would be crowded from top to bottom with British sick and wounded, and that even its ample corridors would prove wholly insufficient to contain them. The water itself was thronged with shipping of all nations: men-of-war, merchant steamers crowded with stores, troop-ships thronged with red-coats; great barges, laden to the water’s edge, slowly made their way between the ships and the shore. The boats of the shipping, filled with soldiers, rowed in the same direction. Men-of-war boats, with their regular, steady swing, went hither and thither, while among all crossed and re-crossed from Constantinople to Scutari, the light caicques with their one or two white-shirted rowers. No boats in the world are more elegant in appearance, none except those built specially for racing can vie with them in speed. The passenger sits comfortably on a cushion in the bottom of the boat, and smokes the long pipe which the boatman, as a matter of course, fills and hands to him as he takes his seat, while the boatmen themselves, generally Albanians, and singularly handsome and athletic men, lay themselves down to their work with a vigor and a heartiness which would astound the boatmen of an English watering-place.
A scene so varied, so beautiful, and so busy could not be equalled elsewhere.
A BRUSH WITH THE ENEMY
Two days later Jack obtained leave to go on shore. He hesitated for a moment whether to choose the right or left bank. The plateau of Scutari was covered with the tents of the British army, which were daily being added to, as scarce an hour passed without a transport coming in laden with troops. After a little hesitation, however, Jack determined to land at Constantinople. The camps at Scutari would differ but little from those at Gallipoli, while in the Turkish capital were innumerable wonders to be investigated. Hailing a caicque which was passing, he took his seat with young Coveney, who had also got leave ashore, and accepted with dignity the offer of a long pipe. This, however, by no means answered his expectations; the mouthpiece being formed of a large piece of amber of a bulbous shape, and too large to be put into the mouth. It was consequently necessary to suck the smoke through the end, a practice very difficult at first to those accustomed to hold a pipe between the teeth.