Chapter X. The Adventure Of The Fifty Hostages

And now, with that curious subsequentness with which things sometimes happen in Turkey, the mutesarif discovered half a dozen mattresses himself, and announced that to-morrow there would be enough for all. Nay, more - the government would allow each hostage four piasters a day for food, a cook would be brought down from Constantinople and meals served in a restaurant, that they might be saved, as his secretary observed, from the unlovely "odeurs de'cuisine."

Then it was discovered that the men might stroll about town, provided they were in groups. They went to the beach and discussed the feasibility of swimming, they even demurred against the Constantinople cook as limiting their means of amusing themselves; the aesthetic young man recovered now, polished his shoes and put a lavender handkerchief in his breast pocket. The hostages were in a fair way to annex the deserted village, when a bombshell burst in the shape of a despatch from the American ambassador that permission had been obtained for all to come home.

The changing wind now swung full upon us. Scarcely had the message arrived ere the mutessarifs secretary followed it, lamenting that we must go. A peacock reposing majestically in the arms of a patient hamal appeared at the front door, a souvenir for "his excellency."

Appeared also, out of thin air, a neat little horse and phaeton, and a trooper perched on a high Turkish saddle, with a rifle slung rakishly across his back, and the bey himself, glasses, fez, and all, astride an Arab steed. We were to be taken for a drive. Toward the end of it we reached the flour-mill, the only modern edifice in this ancient town, and were ushered into the office to sit in a constrained circle, with the slightly ironical-looking young proprietor - accustomed, perhaps, to such visits - and his associates, while coffee and cigarettes were brought. The engineer, an Italian, welcomed us in French; the proprietor, who spoke nothing but Turkish, smiled inscrutably, and overhead, in several brass cages, canaries sang.

Philip, gazing upward, admired their song, whereat the bey at once announced that they were his. The American protested that, much as the gift delighted his taste and roused his gratitude, it was impossible to think of carrying a canary back to Constantinople.

"If you please..." insisted the imperturbable bey. "It is yours!" Scarcely had we returned, indeed, before another patient hamal knocked, lugging the hapless bird.

The hostages, not to be outdone, invited Philip, the bey, and ourselves to lunch. There was chicken soup and chicken, and salad and native wine, and, for the corner of the improvised table, where the guests were seated, the hospitable young men had actually procured several bottles of Gallipoli champagne. The barber with the poetic beard leaped to his feet, as fluent in welcoming us as he had been in protestations a few evenings before, while the aesthetic young man smiled pensively down at a long-stemmed fleur-de-lis which he slowly twirled in his fingers. The cashier of a Constantinople department store sang from "Tosca."

With him as leader they all sang - a song of the Pyrenees mountaineers, then a waltz from the cafes chantants: "Bien gentiment l'on se balade. C'est la premiere promenade - "

In another week we should have had a Gallipoli Glee Club.

And so ended the adventure of the fifty hostages, who went out to be shot at - the end of the comedy, which had its climax at the beginning. The next morning we were up at daylight, and after several hours' delay the mutessarif and his lieutenant came down to permit us to leave. There were cigarettes and salutes, the secretary scribbled in Turkish characters on his knee, the governor signed the permit, and we said good-by to Gallipoli. Next morning we again threaded the shipping in the Golden Horn.

The ten policemen who had looked so formidable a week before, expressed a wish for what was left of the tinned corned beef. And with hackmen yelling from the street and caique men shouting from the water, the fifty hostages were swallowed up in the sunshine and smells and clatter of Constantinople.