CHAPTER XXIX - SURPRISE OF SATALIEH
WHILST I was remaining upon the coast of Syria I had the good fortune to become acquainted with the Russian Sataliefsky, * a general officer, who in his youth had fought and bled at Borodino, but was now better known among diplomats by the important trust committed to him at a period highly critical for the affairs of Eastern Europe. I must not tell you his family name; my mention of his title can do him no harm, for it is I, and I only, who have conferred it, in consideration of the military and diplomatic services performed under my own eyes.
The General as well as I was bound for Smyrna, and we agreed to sail together in an Ionian brigantine. We did not charter the vessel, but we made our arrangement with the captain upon such terms that we could be put ashore upon any part of the coast that we might choose. We sailed, and day after day the vessel lay dawdling on the sea with calms and feeble breezes for her portion. I myself was well repaid for the painful restlessness which such weather occasions, because I gained from my companion a little of that vast fund of interesting knowledge with which he was stored, knowledge a thousand times the more highly to be prized since it was not of the sort that is to be gathered from books, but only from the lips of those who have acted a part in the world.
* A title signifying transcender or conqueror of Satalieh.
When after nine days of sailing, or trying to sail, we found ourselves still hanging by the mainland to the north of the isle of Cyprus, we determined to disembark at Satalieh, and to go on thence by land. A light breeze favoured our purpose, and it was with great delight that we neared the fragrant land, and saw our anchor go down in the bay of Satalieh, within two or three hundred yards of the shore.
The town of Satalieh * is the chief place of the Pashalic in which it is situate, and its citadel is the residence of the Pasha. We had scarcely dropped our anchor when a boat from the shore came alongside with officers on board, who announced that the strictest orders had been received for maintaining a quarantine of three weeks against all vessels coming from Syria, and directed accordingly that no one from the vessel should disembark. In reply we sent a message to the Pasha, setting forth the rank and titles of the General, and requiring permission to go ashore. After a while the boat came again alongside, and the officers declaring that the orders received from Constantinople were imperative and unexceptional, formally enjoined us in the name of the Pasha to abstain from any attempt to land.
* Spelt "Attalia" and sometimes "Adalia" in English books and maps.
I had been hitherto much less impatient of our slow voyage than my gallant friend, but this opposition made the smooth sea seem to me like a prison, from which I must and would break out. I had an unbounded faith in the feebleness of Asiatic potentates, and I proposed that we should set the Pasha at defiance. The General had been worked up to a state of most painful agitation by the idea of being driven from the shore which smiled so pleasantly before his eyes, and he adopted my suggestion with rapture.
We determined to land.
To approach the sweet shore after a tedious voyage, and then to be suddenly and unexpectedly prohibited from landing - this is so maddening to the temper, that no one who had ever experienced the trial would say that even the most violent impatience of such restraint is wholly inexcusable. I am not going to pretend, however, that the course which we chose to adopt on the occasion can be perfectly justified. The impropriety of a traveller's setting at naught the regulations of a foreign State is clear enough, and the bad taste of compassing such a purpose by mere gasconading is still more glaringly plain. I knew perfectly well that if the Pasha understood his duty, and had energy enough to perform it, he would order out a file of soldiers the moment we landed, and cause us both to be shot upon the beach, without allowing more contact than might be absolutely necessary for the purpose of making us stand fire; but I also firmly believed that the Pasha would not see the befitting line of conduct nearly so well as I did, and that even if he did know his duty, he would hardly succeed in finding resolution enough to perform it.
We ordered the boat to be got in readiness, and the officers on shore seeing these preparations, gathered together a number of guards, who assembled upon the sands. We saw that great excitement prevailed, and that messengers were continually going to and fro between the shore and the citadel. Our captain, out of compliment to his Excellency, had provided the vessel with a Russian war-flag, which he had hoisted alternately with the Union Jack, and we agreed that we would attempt our disembarkation under this, the Russian standard! I was glad when we came to that resolution, for I should have been sorry to engage the honoured flag of England in such an affair as that which we were undertaking. The Russian ensign was therefore committed to one of the sailors, who took his station at the stern of the boat. We gave particular instructions to the captain of the brigantine, and when all was ready, the General and I, with our respective servants, got into the boat, and were slowly rowed towards the shore. The guards gathered together at the point for which we were making, but when they saw that our boat went on without altering her course, THEY CEASED TO STAND VERY STILL; none of them ran away, or even shrank back, but they looked as if THE PACK WERE BEING SHUFFLED, every man seeming desirous to change places with his neighbour. They were still at their post, however, when our oars went in, and the bow of our boat ran up - well up upon the beach.