CHAPTER II - TURKISH TRAVELLING
I was always conning over my maps, and fancied that I knew pretty well my line, but after Adrianople I had made more southing than I knew for, and it was with unbelieving wonder, and delight, that I came suddenly upon the shore of the sea. A little while, and its gentle billows were flowing beneath the hoofs of my beast, but the hearing of the ripple was not enough communion, and the seeing of the blue Propontis was not to know and possess it - I must needs plunge into its depth and quench my longing love in the palpable waves; and so when old Moostapha (defender against demons) looked round for his charge, he saw with horror and dismay that he for whose life his own life stood pledged was possessed of some devil who had driven him down into the sea - that the rider and the steed had vanished from earth, and that out among the waves was the gasping crest of a post-horse, and the ghostly head of the Englishman moving upon the face of the waters.
We started very early indeed on the last day of our journey, and from the moment of being off until we gained the shelter of the imperial walls we were struggling face to face with an icy storm that swept right down from the steppes of Tartary, keen, fierce, and steady as a northern conqueror. Methley's servant, who was the greatest sufferer, kept his saddle until we reached Stamboul, but was then found to be quite benumbed in limbs, and his brain was so much affected, that when he was lifted from his horse he fell away in a state of unconsciousness, the first stage of a dangerous fever.
Our Tatar, worn down by care and toil, and carrying seven heavens full of water in his manifold jackets and shawls, was a mere weak and vapid dilution of the sleek Moostapha, who scarce more than one fortnight before came out like a bridegroom from his chamber to take the command of our party.
Mysseri seemed somewhat over-wearied, but he had lost none of his strangely quiet energy. He wore a grave look, however, for he now had learnt that the plague was prevailing at Constantinople, and he was fearing that our two sick men, and the miserable looks of our whole party, might make us unwelcome at Pera.
We crossed the Golden Horn in a caique. As soon as we had landed, some woebegone looking fellows were got together and laden with our baggage. Then on we went, dripping, and sloshing, and looking very like men that had been turned back by the Royal Humane Society as being incurably drowned. Supporting our sick, we climbed up shelving steps and threaded many windings, and at last came up into the main street of Pera, humbly hoping that we might not be judged guilty of plague, and so be cast back with horror from the doors of the shuddering Christians.
Such was the condition of our party, which fifteen days before had filed away so gaily from the gates of Belgrade. A couple of fevers and a north-easterly storm had thoroughly spoiled our looks.
The interest of Mysseri with the house of Giuseppini was too powerful to be denied, and at once, though not without fear and trembling, we were admitted as guests.