CHAPTER XXIV. CONSTANTINOPLE AND ATHENS.

CONSTANTINOPLE - CHANGES - TWO FIRES - VOYAGE TO GREECE - QUARANTINE AT AEGINA - A DAY IN ATHENS - CALAMACHI - THE ISTHMUS - PATRAS - CORFU.

Little can be said of the passage from Odessa to Constantinople; we continued out at sea and did not land anywhere. The distance is 420 miles. The ship belonged to the Russian government, it was named Odessa, was of 260 horse power, and was handsome, clean, and neat.

In order that my parting with my dear friends, the Russians, might not be too much regretted, one of them was so good at the end of the passage as to behave in a manner that was far from polite. During the last night which was very mild and warm, I went out of the close cabin on to the deck, and placed myself not far from the compass- box, where I soon began to sleep, wrapt in my mantle. One of the sailors came, and giving me a kick with his foot, told me to leave the place. I thanked him quietly for the delicate way in which he expressed himself, and requesting him to leave me at peace, continued to sleep.

Among the passengers were six English sailors, who had taken a new ship to Odessa, and were returning home. I spoke with them several times, and had soon quite won them. As they perceived that I was without any companion, they asked me if I spoke enough Turkish to be able to get what I wanted from the ship's people and porters. On my answering that I did, they offered to manage everything for me if I would go on shore with them. I willingly accepted their offer.

As we approached land a customs' officer came on board to examine our luggage. In order to avoid delay I gave him some money. When we landed I wanted to pay, but the English sailors would not allow it; they said I had paid for the customs' officer, and it was therefore their time to pay for the boat. I saw that I should only have affronted them if I had pressed them further to receive the money. They settled with the porter for me, and we parted good friends. How different was the behaviour of these English sailors from that of the three well-bred Russian gentlemen at Jalta!

The passage into the Bosphorus, as well as the objects of interest in Constantinople, I have already described in my journey to the Holy Land. I went immediately to my good friend Mrs. Balbiani; but, to my regret, found that she was not in Constantinople; she had given up her hotel. I was recommended to the hotel "Aux Quatre Nations," kept by Madame Prust. She was a talkative French woman, who was always singing the praises of her housekeeping, servants, cookery, etc., in which, however, none of the travellers agreed with her. She charged forty piasters (8s.), and put down a good round sum in the bill for servants' fees and such like.

Since my last stay here a handsome new wooden bridge had been erected over the Golden Horn, and the women did not seem to be so thickly veiled as on my first visit to Constantinople. Many of them wore such delicately woven veils that their faces could almost be seen through them: others had only the forehead and chin covered, and left their eyes, nose, and cheeks exposed.

The suburb of Pera looked very desolate. There had been a number of fires, which were increased by two during my stay; they were called "small," as by the first only a hundred and thirty shops, houses, and cottages, and by the second, only thirty were burned to the ground. They are accustomed to reckon the number destroyed by thousands.

The first fire broke out in the evening as we were seated at table. One of the guests offered to accompany me to see it, as he thought I should be interested by the sight if I had not seen such a one before. The scene of the fire was rather distant from our house, but we had scarcely gone a hundred steps when we found ourselves in a great crowd of people, who all carried paper lanterns, {330a} by which the streets were lighted. Every one was shouting and rushing wildly about; the inhabitants of the houses threw open their windows and inquired of the passers by the extent of the danger, and gazed with anxiety and trembling at the reflection of the flames in the sky. Every now and then sounded the shrill cry of "Guarda! guarda!" (take care) of the people, who carried small fire-engines {330b} and buckets of water on their shoulders, and knocked everything over that was in their way. Mounted and foot soldiers and watchmen rushed about, and Pashas rode down with their attendants to urge the people on in extinguishing the fire, and to render them assistance. Unfortunately almost all these labours are fruitless. The fire takes such hold of the wooden buildings painted with oil colours, and spreads with such incredible rapidity that it is stopped only by open spaces or gardens. One fire often destroys several thousand houses. The unfortunate inhabitants have scarce time to save themselves; those who live some distance off hastily pack their effects together and hold themselves prepared for flight at any moment. It may easily be supposed that thieves are not rare on such occasions, and it too often happens that the few things the poor people have saved are torn away from them in the bustle and confusion.

The second fire broke out in the following night. Every one had retired to sleep, but the fire-watch rushed through the street, knocking with his iron-mounted staff at the doors of the houses and waking the people. I sprang terrified out of bed, ran to the window, and saw in the direction of the fire a faint red light in the sky. In a few hours the noise and redness ceased. They have at last begun to build stone houses, not only in Pera but also in Constantinople.

I left Constantinople on the evening of the 7th of October, by the French steamer Scamander, one hundred and sixty-horse power.