Authors: Rose Macaulay
'Rose Macaulay is one of the few writers of whom it may be said, she adorns our century, bringing to it high qualities—style, wit, laughter and learning. Each novel has shown more than one facet of her diverse genius:The Towers of Trebizondunites and gives play to them all. One can speak of it almost endlessly, without touching on this novel's poetry, humanity, spiritual import, intellect and, above all, emotion.'
'An achievement at once dazzling and intensely distinguished. It is exquisitely comic, deeply serious, sad and challenging . . . '
John Connelly - Evening News
'Absolutely bewitching and altogether the most enchanting mixture of wit, common sense, sheer glorious nonsense and sincerity, that can possibly be imagined.'
TheTowers of Trebizond
First published in1956by William Collins Sons&Co Ltd
First issued inFontanaBooks1962
Second Impression, January1967
Third Impression, February1970
Fourth Impression, June1978
To Susan Lister
Table Of Contents
"The sheening of that strange bright city on the hill, barred by its high gates . . . "
"Barred from all, Phrastes?"
"From all, Eroton, who do not desire to enter it mote strongly than they desire other cities."
"Then it is barred indeed, and most men must let it go."
"Those who have once desired it cannot let it go, for its light flickers always on the roads they tread, to plague them like marsh fires. Even though they flee from it, it may drag them towards it as a magnet drags steel, and, though they may never enter its gates, its light will burn them as with fire, for that is its nature."
"Who then were the builders of this dangerous city?"
"Gods and men, Eroton, men seeking after gods, and gods who seek after men. Does it not appear to you that such a fabric, part artifact and part deifact, reared out of divine intimations and demands, and out of the mortal longings and imaginings that climb to meet these, must perpetually haunt the minds of men, wielding over them a strange wild power, intermittent indeed, but without end?So, anyhow, it has always proved."
Dialogues of MortalityChapter 1
"Take my camel, dear," said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass. The camel, a white Arabian Dhalur (single hump) from the famous herd of the Ruola tribe, had been a parting present, its saddlebags stuffed with low-carat gold and flashy orient gems, from a rich desert tycoon who owned a Levantine hotel near Palmyra. I always thought it to my aunt's credit that, in view of the camel's provenance, she had not named it Zenobia, Longinus, or Aurelian, as lesser women would have done; she had, instead, always called it, in a distant voice, my camel, or the camel. I did not care for the camel, nor the camel for me, but, as I was staying with aunt Dot, I did what she bade me, and dragged the camel by its bridle to the shed which it shared with my little Austin and, till lately, with my aunt's Morris, but this car had been stolen from her by some Anglican bishop from outside the Athenseum annexe while she was dining there one evening with Professor Gilbert Murray and Archbishop David Mathew. On camel and car, Gothic gargoyles looked down, on account of the shed being enclosed by the walls of an eighteenth-century folly built out of stones from the restored Perp. and Dec. village church. Of this folly, a few perp. arches remained, and the gargoyle faces of imps and monks. The camel, an unconverted Moslem, seemed to look at them with a sneer. I gave it a mangel-wurzel for its luncheon (though it seemed to be still chewing the cud of the one it had for breakfast) and locked it in.
The camel took aunt Dot to church, but not the Austin me. My aunt was a regular church-goer, which I was not. She was a high Anglican, not belonging, therefore, to that great middle section of the Church of England which is said to be the religious backbone (so far as it has one) of our nation. I too am high, even extreme, but somewhat lapsed, which is a sound position, as you belong to the best section of the best branch of the Christian Church, but seldom attend its services.
Perhaps I had better explain why we are so firmly Church, since part of this story stems from our somewhat unusual attitude, or rather from my aunt Dot's. We belong to an old Anglican family, which suffered under the penal laws of Henry VIII, Mary I, and Oliver P. Under Henry VIII we did indeed acquire and domesticate a dissolved abbey in Sussex, but were burned, some of us, for refusing to accept the Six Points; under Mary we were again burned, naturally, for heresy; under Elizabeth we dug ourselves firmly into Anglican life, compelling our Puritan tenants to dance round maypoles and revel at Christmas, and informing the magistrates that Jesuit priests had concealed themselves in the chimney-pieces of our Popish neighbours. Under Charles I we looked with disapprobation on the damned crop-eared Puritans whom Archbishop Laud so rightly stood in the pillory, and, until the great Interregnum, approved the Laudian embellishments of churches and services, the altar crosses, candles and pictures, the improvements in the chapel of St. John's College, Cambridge under Dr. Beale, and in Peterhouse under Dr. Cosin (Cambridge was our university). During the suppression, we privately kept outed vicars as chaplains and attended secret Anglican services, at which we were interrupted each Christmas Day by the military, who, speaking very spitefully of Our Lord's Nativity, dragged us before the Major-Generals. After the Glorious Restoration, we got back our impoverished estates, and, until the Glorious Revolution, there followed palmier days, when we persecuted Papists, conventiclers and Quakers with great impartiality, and, as clerical status rose, began placing our younger sons in fiat livings, of which, in 1690, they were deprived as Non-Jurors, and for the next half century or so carried on an independent ecclesiastical existence, very devout, high-flying, schismatic, and eccentrically ordained, directing the devotions and hearing the confessions of pious ladies and gentlemen, and advising them as to the furnishing of their private oratories, conducting services with ritualistic ceremony and schismatic prayer-books, absorbing the teachings of William Law on the sacramental devotional life, and forming part of the stream of High Church piety that has flowed through the centuries down the broad Anglican river, quietly preparing the way for the vociferous Tractarians. These clergymen ancestors of ours were watched with dubious impatience by their relations in the manor houses, who soon discreetly came to terms with the detestable Hanoverians, and did not waste their fortunes and lives chasing after royal pretenders, who were not, after all, at all Anglican.
It is not, therefore, strange that we should have inherited a firm and tenacious adherence to the Church of our country. With it has come down to most of us a great enthusiasm for catching fish. Aunt Dot maintains that this propensity is peculiarly Church of England; she has perhaps made a slight confusion between the words Anglican and angling. To be sure the French fish even more, as I sometimes point out, and, to be sure, the pre-Reformation monks fished greatly. "Mostly in fish-ponds," said aunt Dot. "Very unsporting, and only for food."
However this may be, our family have been much given to this pursuit. Inheriting the fish-ponds of the Sussex abbey which they so warily angled for and hooked in 1539, they took for their crest three pikes couchant, with the motto "Semper pesco", (it was as masters of trawling-fleets that they had acquired their wealth in the fifteenth century) and proceeded to stock the abbey ponds with excellent carp, which they fished for by way of recreation and ate for dinner in the fasting seasons. Those of the family who took Holy Orders, brought up from infancy to this pastime, continued to practise it assiduously in the various pleasant livings which came their way. One of them, rector of East Harting in the late eighteenth century, wrote in his journal (published in 1810) that he prepared most of his sermons while thus engaged; he thought that his vocation as fisher of men was assisted by miming it out on the river banks, and each fish that he landed caused him to exult greatly, as if he had captured a soul. When they nibbled at the bait, he prayed; when they got away, he repented of his own unworthiness that caused his hand to fail, and took it as divine correction. Subsequently he became a bishop, but did not cease to fish.
The occupation had, of course, its snares. At times the thoughts of these clergymen, angling away in their beautiful and tranquil surroundings, would ramble over speculative theological ground, and encounter, like a dragon in the path, some heresy or doubt. This dragon they would sometimes step over without injury, saved perhaps at the moment of encountering it by a gentle tug at the line: at other times they would grapple with it, perhaps defeat and slay it, or perhaps suffer defeat themselves. Or they would not give battle at all, but would let it slide into their souls, an uninvited guest, not to be dislodged. Some of them were thus vanquished by the assaults of manicheeism, others by the innocent theories of Pelagius, others again by that kind of pantheism which is apt to occur in meadows and woods, others by the difficulties of thus thinking of the Trinity, and still more by plain Doubt. Many became increasingly latitudinarian, some almost Deist, and, as the nineteenth century advanced, they began joining the Modern Churchmen's Union.
But, by and large, the more they fished, the Higher they grew. And the more tenaciously and unswervingly Anglican they were, the better they fished. One of the family, my great grandfather, a keen Tractarian and angler, apt to get into trouble over the Eastward Position, caught, on a holiday in Argyllshire, the largest salmon ever captured in the waters of the Add. But presently, led by his piscatorial musings into another tributary of the great Church stream, he renounced his Orders and became a Roman Catholic. During his Lapse, as the family always called it, he caught only inconsiderable fish, including the smallest trout ever not put back, for my great grandfather put nothing back. At last, wearying of so many small fishes, he poached a large-size salmon in a Devonshire stream, was caught, and appeared before a magistrate, who rightly paid no attention to his false plea that he had supposed his catch to be a wild fish. For this crime he spent a week in Bideford jail; during his detention it came to seem to him that successful angling must be, for him, an Anglican pursuit, and, weary now not only of catching such small fishes but of poaching large ones, lying, and doing time, and wearying too of so many difficult matters that he now found himself expected to believe, he ejaculated, as George Tyrrell was later to do, "Church of my baptism! Why did I ever leave you?" returned to his spiritual home, and was presently rewarded by a miraculous draft of fishes in Loch Tay. Which, as my aunt Dot said, just showed. His son, aunt Dot's father, was of a more steadfast mind; he left his curacy to go up the Amazon with his young wife, preaching to Brazilian Indians and fishing for the delicioustrutta Amazonia; he met death at the jaws of a crocodile; aunt Dot's mother just escaped this dreadful fate, and soon afterwards bore aunt Dot.
My aunt, therefore, had inherited a firm and missionary Anglicanism, with strong prejudices against Roman Catholicism, continental Protestantism, Scotch Presbyterianism, British Dissent, and all American religious bodies except Protestant Episcopalianism; she had also inherited a tendency to hunt fish.
She was now a widow. Comparatively early in her married life she and her husband, a zealous missionary, had, while travelling in the more inhospitable parts of central Africa, been surprised by ferocious savages, equipped with the most horrible weapons. My uncle by marriage had been told by the British Resident Officer at Nwabo that he had better not fall alive, or let aunt Dot so fall, into the hands of this unamiable tribe, who were inclined to cook their captives alive in boiling water, as we do lobsters, to improve their flavour, so my uncle and aunt took poison tablets with them. Feeling for these tablets, my uncle discovered that he had lost them, on account of a hole in his pocket So he said to aunt Dot, as the frightful savages appeared, "I think I had better shoot you first, then myself." Aunt Dot was definitely against this plan; but there was little time for argument, so my uncle, after commending both their souls and pronouncing an absolution, aimed his gun at her and fired. Fortunately he was not a good shot, and the bullet whizzed through aunt Dot's topee. Lest he should have another shot, aunt Dot, full of presence of mind, fell to the ground as if dead; my uncle then turned his gun on himself, and this time met with more success; he fell, shot through the head. The savages, being by now arrived close to them, were about to carry off the bodies to the pot, but aunt Dot sprang to her feet and told them in their own language, having prudently learned the appropriate phrases beforehand, that she was a goddess, whose flesh was poisonous to those who consumed it, but that she would confer many favours on them if spared. So they conducted her to the hut of their chief, and, as he was away on a hunting expedition, put her in the haarem to await his return. She was small and plump, which was the shape he preferred; though, as they regretfully said, she would also have done very nicely for the pot.
She found the other haarem women rather boring: they seemed, she said, to know little about anything but sweets and love. She shewed them the Book of Common Prayer, translated into central African, and said compline every evening aloud in the same tongue, for she had an office book in it, but they did not think much of either. The wives used to go down to the river half a mile away to wash their clothes and their children; aunt Dot went too, and took her fishing rod, and caught several of a small and distasteful fish called kepsi. Once they met a lioness, who stood in the path and stared at them and waved her tail.
"The wives all ran away," said aunt Dot. "Nice little women, but they ran away. I stayed and stared back, and presently the creature slid off. ThenIran away."
"How did you escape from the haarem?" I would ask her, when she told me this story in my childhood.
"One of the wives, who didn't want me to wait till the chief came back, bribed one of the tribe to take me away into the jungle and kill me. But he was afraid to do this, as I was a goddess, so he showed me a path out of the forest that led to a Baptist missionary settlement. I had never cared much for Baptists, but they were really most kind. You must never forget, Laurie, that dissenters are often excellent Christian people. You must never be narrow minded."
I promised that I never would.
"Though of course," my aunt added, "you must always remember thatweareright."
I promised that I always would.
I now stayed mostly with aunt Dot when I was not in my London flat. Her children are either deceased, or following some profession abroad. I too follow professions, but at some distance behind, and seldom catch up with them. My favourite one is painting water-colour sketches to illustrate travel books, which is a good way to get abroad, a thing I like doing better than anything else, for I agree with those who have said that travel is the chief end of life.
My aunt looked very pleasant. She was at this time in her early sixties, small and plump, with a round, fair, smooth face and shrewd merry blue eyes. She enjoyed life, and got about, sharing my views on the chief end of life, and was a cheerful and romantic adventuress.Chapter 2
When I returned from stabling the camel, my aunt asked me, as she often did, to ring up a house agent about a derelict house she had seen in St. John's Wood. He said the rent would be eight hundred, and the lino, the Hoover, and the bowl of goldfish, which all went with the house, would cost two thousand more. Aunt Dot said, "Rubbish. Offer him a thousand for the lino and the Hoover and say I won't take the fish."
The agent said the fish must be taken, but that the owner might be prepared to discuss one thousand eight hundred for the lot. He added that this was moderate, as household fittings went, and that one of his clients last week had paid a thousand for some kitchen lino and the lounge under-felt only.
"Tell him I'll think about it," said aunt Dot, rather impressed. "He must keep it open a few days."
The agent said someone else was after it, who would probably be prepared to pay the full two thousand.
I did not suppose it would come to anything. Aunt Dot, who was looking for a home for what she called "all those poor young unmarried fathers, ruined by maintenance," always liked to keep several houses on a string, toying with them, but she seldom took them, she would go abroad with the camel just before the agreement was to be signed.
This, indeed, was what we were about to do now. We were off in three weeks on another mission-investigation expedition, this time to Turkey and the Black Sea, to find out how successful an Anglican mission in the neighbourhood of Trebizond seemed likely to be, and how it would be regarded by the local population. My aunt belonged to an Anglo-Catholic missionary society, which sent investigators abroad to make these reports on this or that hitherto little tilled corner of the world, all of which they saw as a potential field for Anglican endeavour, for they regarded the Anglican Church as the one every one should belong to, whatever the nature of their previous beliefs.
It was remarkable how large a special currency allowance the Treasury, urged by various ecclesiastical interests and by several High Court bishops, allowed to these A.C.M.S. spies, and, as aunt Dot also had very good black market connections everywhere, she did pretty well. She meant also to write a book about the position of women in the Black Sea regions, which she would callWomen of the Euxine today, for the position of women, that sad and well-nigh universal blot on civilizations, was never far from her mind. She often took me with her on such expeditions, as illustrator, courier and general aide, and, she was kind enough to say, as company. The A.C.M.S. would arrange that she should also take a clergyman, because of having to show potential converts what Anglican services were like. This time she was taking the Rev. the Hon. Father Hugh Chantry-Pigg, an ancient bigot who had run a London church several feet higher than St. Mary's Bourne Street and some inches above even St. Magnus the Martyr, and, being now just retired, devoted his life to conducting very High retreats and hunting for relics of saints, which he collected for the private oratory in his Dorset manor house. He had already assembled in his reliquaries many fragments of saintly bone, skin, hair, garments, etc., and hoped to find many more in the tombs, hermitages and monasteries of Armenia and Cilicia. He was also anxious to explore the ancient lava dwellings of Cappadocia, and Mount Ararat, where planks from the ark still, it seems, lie scattered. He hoped also to push on south into Syria and Jordan and the mountains about the Dead Sea, desiring to celebrate Mass in the Greek monastery of Sabas, and search for such scrolls as might still be lying about in caves. He meant to take some of his relics with him and work miracles, which would greatly impress Moslems and others. He believed everything, from the Garden of Eden to the Day of Judgment, and had never let the chill and dull breath of modern rationalist criticism shake his firm fundamentalism. Aunt Dot, too, though far from a fundamentalist, was all for giving converts the whole works; she thought it made it easier for Moslems (who are themselves of a fundamentalist turn of mind), though harder, of course, for Christians. I felt that Father Chantry-Pigg did not really much like either aunt Dot or me, but he was glad of the chance to travel abroad and win souls from the Prophet to the Church and test the power of his relics, so he accepted the invitation without reluctance, the more so because there had last year come to his London parish a band of very enterprising Arab Moslem missionaries from the Dead Sea, who had worked with great zeal and some success among his congregation, and he felt inclined for a return match.
Aunt Dot had a notion that we might even get into Russia, so she had started some time ago working away at Russian visas, but without success, as this was some time before the Great Thaw. All she would be allowed to do about Russia would be to join a sponsored party in celebration of some Russian literary man, or of the various Russians who invented radio, motor cars, and the telephone, or a party of scientists and people who enjoyed such things as hospitals, lavatories, maternity homes, model farms, underground stations, universities, schools and dams, or at least, whether they enjoyed them or not, would have to see them.
"Certainly not," said aunt Dot. "I would want to see the Caucasus, Circassian slaves, Tartars, wild mares, koumiss, churches, clergymen, and women."
Hearing her say this on the telephone to the Russian Consulate, I started dreaming of Caucasian mountains, over which Tartars galloped upside down on long-tailed ponies, shouting horribly, wild mares with their koumiss foaming into green pitchers, sledges and droshkys speeding over the steppes fraught with fur-capped men and Circassian slaves and pursued by wolves, who, every mile or so, were thrown a Circassian slave to delay them, but, never having enough, took up the chase again, till at last they had devoured all the Circassian slaves, the horses, and the fur-capped men. I dreamed too of the Crimea, of crumbling palaces decaying among orchards by the sea, of onion domes, of chanting priests with buns . . . .
Father Chantry-Pigg thought it would be wrong to go to Russia, because of condoning the government, which was persecuting Christians. But aunt Dot said if one started not condoning governments, one would have to give up travel altogether, and even remaining in Britain would be pretty difficult. It was obviously one's duty to try to convert such Russians as had succumbed to Soviet atheism, and particularly Tartars in the Caucasus. She also had large future designs on Arabs and Israelites. But first it was to be the eastern end of the Black Sea, and we were to sail in a ship that took camels and plan our campaign from Istanbul.
"Constantinople," said Father Chantry-Pigg, who did not accept the Turkish conquest.
"Byzantium," said I, not accepting the Roman one.
Aunt Dot, who had accepted facts, said, "How many of our friends are in Turkey just now?"
"A lot," I said. "They are all writing their Turkey books. David and Charles are somewhere by the Black Sea, following Xenophon and Jason about. I had a card from Charles from Trebizond. He sounded cross, and he and David have probably parted by now. David wanted to get into Russia. Freya and Derek are somewhere camping in Anatolia. Margaret Beckford was in the Meander valley when last heard of, digging away for Hittites. I don't know where Patrick is, probably somewhere near Smyrna. And I think Steven is in Istanbul, lecturing to the University."
Aunt Dot said she must get down to her Turkey book quickly, or she would be forestalled by all these tiresome people. Writers all seemed to get the same idea at the same time. One year they would all be rushing for Spain, next year to some island off Italy, then it would be the Greek islands, then Dalmatia, then Cyprus and the Levant, and now people were all for Turkey.
"How they get the money for it I can't think. Turkey costs about a pound an hour. I suppose they have Contacts.
People are so dishonest in these days. What do you think they are all writing about?"
"The usual things, I suppose. Antiquities and scenery and churches and towns and people, and what Xenophon and the Ten Thousand did near Trebizond, and what the Byzantines did, and coarse fishing in the Bosphorus, and excavations everywhere, and merry village scenes."
"I dare say," said aunt Dot, "the B.B.C. has a recording van there. Reporters for the B.B.C. have such an extraordinary effect on the people they meet—wherever they go the natives sing. It seems so strange, they never do it when I am travelling. The B.B.C. oughtn't to let them, it spoils the programme. Just when you are hoping for a description of some nice place, everybody suddenly bursts out singing. Even Displaced Persons do it. And singing sounds much the same everywhere, so I switch off."
We made out a loose itinerary. Father Chantry-Pigg was for going first to Jordan-Jerusalem and staying with the Bishop, to see the Palestine refugees, then crossing the great Divide to visit the Children of Israel. But aunt Dot said no, we must leave Israel to the last, since, owing to the prejudices of Jordanites, Syrians, Lebanese and Egyptians, it was so difficult to get out of except into the sea. Father Chantry-Pigg said he would like also to go into Egypt and visit the Pyramids but aunt Dot said we couldn't go everywhere in one trip, and anyhow seeing the Pyramids seemed to drive people (other than archaeologists) mad, like Atlantis and the Lost Tribes, they got pyramiditis, and began to rave in numbers. So we decided to go first to the Black Sea. In Istanbul we should, said aunt Dot, be able to discover who were our most dangerous religious rivals. It seemed that in Turkey there were few, though the American Missions claimed a Turkish Christian community of some two thousand five hundred souls. Father Chantry-Pigg said, with hostile contempt, that the Seventh Day Adventists were the busiest missionaries in Turkey and the Levant, and met, he feared, with only too much success. But none of the principal Anglican missionary societies worked much, it seemed, in Turkey; nor, he believed, was the Italian Mission very active. When Father Chantry-Pigg said "Italian Mission", a look of particular malevolence slightly distorted his finely arranged features: the same look, only worse, that was apt to disturb and distort the fleshier and more good-humoured Irish countenance of Father Murphy, the priest of St. Brigid's, when the St. Gregory's clergy and choir filed in chanting, incense-swinging, saint-bearing processions out of their church door and round the square which both churches served. Father Chantry-Pigg took the view that it was emissaries from St. Brigid's who had made a habit of defacing his church notices, and sometimes entered his church in order to make disagreeable remarks and scatter spiteful leaflets, though some of this was-done from a very Low church in a neighbouring street, and some of the leaflets had "Catholic Commandos" printed on them, and others "Protestant Storm Troopers" and Father Chantry-Pigg did not know which of these two bands of warriors he disliked most. When he put a notice on his church door containing the words Eucharist, or Mass, or even Priest (particularly if the priest was going to hear confessions), these words would be struck out by ardent representatives of one or another of these guerrilla armies, or perhaps by both and the Catholic Commandos would write over it "You have no Mass", (or Eucharist, or priests, as the case might be), and, referring to confession, "Why? He has no power to absolve", and the Storm Troopers would correct Mass to the Lord's Supper, and alter the bit about confession to "The Minister will be in church to give counsel", and cross out Benediction, so that, after both sets of workers had been busy with the notices, there was not much of them left and they had to be re-Written. As Father Chantry-Pigg said, the Commandos belonged to the Catholic underworld and the Storm Troopers to the Protestants, and underworlds everywhere are pretty much like one another in manners, even when they hold differing views. Anyhow these underworlds, he said, were two minds (if minds they could be called) with but a single thought (if thought it could be called) about the section of the Anglican Church to which he belonged, and that thought was one of powerful hostility. Both underworlds were, of course strongly disapproved of by the higher minded and better mannered of their respective religious parties.
From time to time the Storm Troopers (who were the more destructive of the two) would enter St. Gregory's and overturn the altar candlesticks and extinguish the sanctuary lamp and cover up the crucifix and the reredos, and had once even removed the tabernacle, so that since then the Blessed Sacrament had had to be locked in an aumbry when no one was on guard, and they left a placard saying "This is the Lord's Table, and not for idolatry", and the Commandos would leave a placard to the same effect, saying "This is not an altar, for you have no Mass and no Sacrament and no priests to offer the Holy Sacrifice."
Usually these raids would be made on different days, so that the two sets of raiders did not as a rule meet, but one evening after Benediction they both came in, while Father Chantry-Pigg was hearing confessions in the south aisle and a curate in the north aisle, and the Commando went to the south aisle and the Storm Trooper to the north, and the Commando asked, "What do you think you are doing, and by what right?" and no doubt the Storm Trooper was putting similar enquiries to the curate. Father Chantry-Pigg got up and said, "Leave this church immediately, or I shall call the police and have you evicted and given in charge for brawling." Meanwhile the curate, who was young and strong, was pushing the Storm Trooper before him down the north aisle and out through the west door. Having done this, he walked over to the south aisle, and the Commando went away, and Father Chantry-Pigg and the curate went on hearing confessions, but probably by that time neither they nor their penitents had their minds on the job. It was said in the parish that for some time after that evening a good many more penitents turned up, hoping.
Anyhow, these were the sort of relations that Father Chantry-Pigg had with his neighbours of other denominations, so naturally he felt sour about the Italian Mission.
Aunt Dot said, "Never mind about other missionaries. I don't suppose any of them are specifically concerned, as we are, with the position of women. The extraordinary way they are still treated in the remoter parts of Turkey," she went on, warming up, as she always did on this subject. "One supposed that Atatürk had ended all that, but it seems not at all, among the masses. Dr. Halide Tanpinar told me that once you get outside the large westernized towns and into the country, they're still muffled to the eyes, even in the hottest weather, and crouch against a wall if a man passes, and not allowed to eat in restaurants or sit in the squares and cafés and play dice, instead they work in the fields all day having no fun, while the men sit about. And as tobathing! The British Consul's wife somewhere told me that even when her husband has Turks to luncheon, she never sits with them, they would be too shocked. And in mosques the women are hidden away in galleries, because it wouldn't do for men and women to pray together. Though I can't see why the men shouldn't sometimes be in the galleries and the women on the floor. But Dr. Halide says their clergy are afraid that if any of the old traditions went, the whole thing would totter. The sooner it totters the better, I say. I know it's a very fine and noble religion, but I'd rather have atheism, it would make an easier life for women. But we'll try and make Anglicans of them. You know how religious women are, they must have a religion, so it had better be a rational one."
Father Chantry-Pigg barked; "Rational?" as sharply as if it had been an obscene word. "Thatwon't get them far."
With all those relics in his pockets, he could scarcely be expected to think so.
He added, "As for women, they've got to be careful, as St. Paul told them. Wrapping their heads up is a religious tradition that goes very deep."
"An oriental tradition," said aunt Dot.
"Christianity," Father Chantry-Pigg reminded her, "is an oriental religion."
"Anyhow," said aunt Dot, "Christianity doesn't derive from St. Paul. There is nothing in the Gospels about women behaving differently from men, either in church or out of it. Rather the contrary. So what a comfort for these poor women to learn that they needn't."
"Naturally," said Father Chantry-Pigg, rather testily, "I am for bringing Turkish women into the Church. Jews, Turks, infidels and heretics, as we pray on Good Fridays. But their costume is a very minor thing, and should be approached, if at all, with great caution. Those Arab missionaries in London were deeply shocked by our bare-headed and bare-armed women in the streets. They said it led to unbridled temptation among men."
"Men must learn to bridle their temptations," said aunt Dot, always an optimist. "Theymust be converted, too."
"The great stumbling-block to Moslems," said Father Chantry-Pigg, "is the Blessed Trinity. To a people who hear the One God proclaimed so many times a day, and so loudly, the Triune God raises all kinds of difficulties in the mind, as it did in the minds of many of the early Christians. It needs great tact to put it across successfully."
"Not important," said aunt Dot, dismissing the Trinity, her mind being set on the liberation of women.
"Merely the central doctrine of the Christian faith," said Father Chantry-Pigg, sneering, as if he was scoring a point.
Perhaps he was, I didn't know. Anyhow it seemed to me that Turks wouldn't understand the Trinity; they would never be able even to dispute, as Greek Christians used to do, about Who proceeded from Who (obviously one must not say Whom, the matter being so controversial). There were no complications of that sort with Allah, and I thought he was probably their intellectual limit. But I did not like to discourage my elders, so said nothing. It would never do if they were to lose faith in their expedition.Chapter 3
Actually, we nearly did lose it, because for some reason the ships all said they were not taking camels that spring, and we thought we should have to go without it in a Landrover, because we had to have something to get about in when we got there. Aunt Dot and I would do the driving; we would not let Father Chantry-Pigg drive much, he drove so eccentrically. Aunt Dot was a clever, impetuous driver, taking the sharpest bends with the greatest intrepidity. A brilliant and unorthodox improviser, she usually managed to work her way out of the jams she not infrequentiy got us into. We had driven in the Jugo-Slav mountains before, and had several mishaps; there are few service garages, and these are always a long way from where one is, but there are a lot of road-menders, brigands, etc., and they can usually take tyres off, patch them, and produce from their pockets spare parts, such as fan-belts, differentials, and those kinds of things, that get so damaged when one travels and are normally so irreplaceable and yet so essential to replace, and of which we never seem to carry about enough replicas; the brigands, no doubt, get theirs from the stolen cars that they keep in caves.
We were feeling rather low about all this, when we heard of a Turkish cargo ship that took camels, as well as other animals (so that we should not feel odd, having the only animal, though we might feel odd that ours was a camel), so we booked passages on it from London to Istanbul.
This ship mainly took cargo round the Mediterranean ports and to such places as Vigo, Antwerp, Rotterdam and London, and so few people could get on to it that, instead of its being odd to be a camel, it was pretty odd to be a human being.
Most of the other human beings were Turks doing the round trip, two Cypriots collected from restaurants in Percy Street, W.1, and all set for starting restaurants in Mataxas Square, Nicosia, and two British physicists got up as yachtsmen and all set for the curtain; they left us at the Piraeus in a caique sailed by Albanians got up as Greek fishermen. Aunt Dot thought one of the Turks was a British diplomat, she remembered meeting him at someone's cocktail party in London, but when she spoke to him in English he only jerked back his head and said "Yok," a discouraging word which we got very used to in Turkey.
I spent the nine days' voyage partly sketching my Turkish fellow-passengers, and partly trying to learn Turkish, and after a time I was able to say, "I would like a shoe-horn," and "See how badly you have ironed my coat, you must do it again." Father Chantry-Pigg said this phrase-book was little use, as it had no sentences about the Church being better than Islam, all it said about religion was "Is there an English church here? Who is the preacher? Where is the verger? The seats must be paid for, there is a strong choir, an offertory is taken," and that kind of conversation, which Father Chantry-Pigg had never had with his flock at St. Gregory's.
So he decided to trust to Patristic Greek. He knew also a little Armenian, but aunt Dot told him that this language was a mistake with Turks, and only vexed them, as they had long since pronounceddelenda est Armeniaover this so unfortunately fragmented people, and did not care to hear them referred to. She herself could speak enough Turkish to get about on, and practised it on the ship's crew, but she complained that Turks were not very quick about their own language.Chapter 4
Arrived at the Dardanelles on the ninth morning of our voyage, we decided to disembark at Çanakkale and visit Troy. The camel and our baggage were to go on to Istanbul and stay on board till we joined them next day. The captain told us that we couldn't visit Troy, owing to its being in a military zone, but aunt Dot took no notice of military zones, so we disembarked and the ship steamed off for Istanbul and we went and had coffee in the café garden of a dirty little inn above the sea. At the next table sat the British diplomat got up as a Turk who had said "Yok" to aunt Dot, he was with another Britonen Turque, whom he had come to meet there, and they were talking Turkish together and drinking coffee and spying. Actually, we saw so many British spies in disguise spying in Turkey that I cannot mention all of them, they kept cropping up wherever we went, like flying saucers and pictures of Atatürk and people writing their Turkey books. One of these, whose name was Charles, and I had known him at Cambridge, walked into this café garden while we were there. We said we thought he was with David somewhere round the Black Sea; he said he had left David and was going down the west coast alone. He wanted to know what we were doing and where, and was falsely polite, till aunt Dot eased his mind by saying we were chiefly doing mission work, though she was going to write about what women did, about which Charles couldn't care less. To vex him, I said I would be writing some landscape and archaeology bits into aunt Dot's book, and that we might be doing the west coast later on. However, since Father Chantry-Pigg was with us, he thought we were probably fairly harmless, and cheered up; he said we were not to believe any stories we heard in Istanbul about his having quarrelled with David, as the true story was quite different, but it wouldn't be fair to David to spread it about. Aunt Dot, who was inquisitive, said it wouldn't matter spreading it about Çanakkale, where there was no British colony, but Charles said the affair was not yet over, and he would prefer no gossip, even in Çanakkale, which as a matter of fact was a very gossipy place, owing to the British war cemetery at Gallipoli, and anyhow we would be in Istanbul to-morrow, and no doubt seeing all the Embassy people who weren't in Ankara, and a lot of archaeologists, who were the worst of the lot for tittle-tattle, and as malicious as cats.
"Cats aren't," said Father Chantry-Pigg, who had one at home.
Aunt Dot said that camels were; and, resigning herself to having no more tittle-tattle, asked how one got to Troy. Charles said this wasn't worth while; the Turks had let it get all overgrown with grass and thistles and asphodel and no digging had been done there for twenty years, and anyhow it was hard to get a permit, one had to find the Governor of Çanak for it, and he was never at home, and the police were no help at all, but if we really wanted to go, he would come with us to the police station. When he said police station, one of the diplomat spies looked at the other, and they got up and left the garden, so, though he had answered "Yok" about being who aunt Dot said he was, the one who said it must have known English.
Charles then took us to the police station. A fat policeman sat in his garden in his shirt, mopping his forehead and smoking his hubble-bubble. Aunt Dot explained about Troy, and he said we must find the Governor. So he told a minor policeman to telephone the Governor's house, but it seemed that the Governor was across the Hellespont, lunching in Gallipoli. Well, said aunt Dot, we only have this afternoon, and could nothing be arranged? So the head policeman, a good-natured man, took our passports and tried to read them, aunt Dot interpreting, but our having no Turkish visas bothered him. Aunt Dot explained that Turkish visas had been abolished for the British two years ago, but he doubted this. Even if you know Turkish, you can't get the better of the Turkish police, because they can't reason, Charles said. You may tell them that Turkish visas were abolished two years ago, but still they say, "for why you have not got a visa?" Argument does not register with them; they never say "therefore", or "in that case." Father Chantry-Pigg said later on that this made it difficult to discuss theology with Turks, as one had been used to do with Byzantines, who had reasoned all the time, reasoning themselves in and out of all the heresies in the world, and no doubt they could easily have reasoned themselves into the Anglican heresy. Father Chantry-Pigg always spoke as if he had just parted from the Byzantines, and was apt to sigh when he mentioned them, though, as aunt Dot pointed out, he had missed them by five centuries. His crusading ancestor, Sir Jocelyn de Chantry, had found them, but, being of the Latin Church, had dealt with them unkindly. The fact was that Father Chantry-Pigg would not really have liked the Byzantines much had he encountered them, though he would have preferred them to Turks and other Moslems. He was not actually a sympathetic clergyman, and, had he been with his ancestor for the great attack on Constantinople in 1203, he would have been among those who, brandishing the cross above their heads, massacred and pillaged and looted in the name of Latin Christendom, helping to put to flames the great libraries whose loss he now deplored. He was better at condemning than at loving; aunt Dot used to wonder what Christ would have said to him.
The head policeman said he would have to telephone to someone about our visas, so he sent the minor policeman to do this, and after some time, during which we sat and stared at the large picture of Kemal Atatürk on the wall, and he scowled back at us, the minor policeman came back and said that visas for the British had just been abolished. The head policeman said he should have been told before, and told the minor policeman to copy out our passports, which took a long time, especially aunt Dot's, which was in its tenth year and had travel markings from foreign consulates all over the world, from Arabia to Peru. Some trouble was caused by the minor policeman believing that the Arabic inscriptions made on the frontier of Yemen emanated from the Russian Black Sea port of Batumi; the head policeman told aunt Dot that she had been in Russia, and therefore could not travel in Turkey, but she managed to straighten this out after a time. You really need quite a lot of time when dealing with Turkish police, who are pleasant but rather slow.
When the copying was finished, an application to the Governor for leave to visit Trua was made out and we all signed it, and it was stamped with the head of Atatürk and put away in a drawer with the copies of our passports so now it was safe for us to go to Troy, provided that the minor policeman went with us. So we got into a car which had been following us about and drove off for Troy, aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg and Charles and I and the minor policeman, which felt very strange and improbable.
Troy was about twenty kilometres away, along a dusty road that wound up and down among the foot-hills of Mount Ida, through pine forests and above bays of the Aegean, all very beautiful, and the woods smelt of dust and incense. Charles, to discourage us from writing it up, because of his being a jealous man, said the Troad was pretty commonplace really, and had gone down since everybody used to come here in past centuries and look for Priam's tomb, and have ecstasies in Alexandria Troas. Father Chantry-Pigg, who knew Tennyson, started reciting Œnone, about the vale in Ida lovelier than all the valleys of Ionian hills, and when we came down from the hills and saw the little museum and the rocky hill in front of it where Troy had stood, he said that the gorges, opening wide apart, revealed Ilion's columned citadel, and it was true that there were some parts of columns standing and lying about, some of them having been stood on end to look more like a columned citadel. Charles looked pretty distant about Tennyson and Œnone, but he made allowances for Father Chantry-Pigg's generation. We climbed about the citadel, with a guide who darted out of the museum and showed us round, and there was the ghost of a theatre, and what the guide maintained was Priam's palace, with thrones and rooms and walls, but the walls were too little and too late, for they were all of the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth Troy, and there had been no excavations since 1932, and everything was grown over with grass and thistles and looked very neglected, and Schliemann, though he had been a disorderly man himself, would have hated to see it. Father Chantry-Pigg, who had been a good classic before he took up with Byzantine Greek and monks' Latin, began to recite the Aeneid, Book II, lamenting over poor Priam and Troy in flames. "Haec finis Priam fatorum" he said, "hic exitusiliumsortetulit,Trojam incensametprolapsa videntemPergama," and so on. However late and little and ill-tended were Troy's remains, it was exciting and beautiful to be there, looking down over the plain to the sea, which must have gone back some way since the Greek ships lay there and the Greeks looked up at the battlements where Helen walked round.
But aunt Dot could only think how Priam and Hecuba would have been vexed to see the state it had all got into, and no one seeming to care any more. She thought the nations ought to go on working at it and dig it all up again, and perhaps do some reconstruction, for she belonged to the reconstruction school, and would have liked to see Troy's walls and towers rising once more against the sky like a Hollywood Troy, and the wooden horse standing beside them, opening mechanically every little while to show that it was full of armed Greeks.
But I thought there were enough cities standing about the world already, and that those which had disappeared had better be let alone, lying under the grass and asphodel and brambles, with the wind sighing over them and in the distance the sea where the Greek ships had lain waiting ten years forTrojam incensam, and behind them Mount Ida, from which the unfair and partial gods had watched the whole affair.
Father Chantry-Pigg, of course, remarked, "jam seges estubiTroiafuit" and Charles, who was vexed about our all coming to Troy, said, well, hardlyseges,just grass and things, and anyhow Troy had probably never stood there at all. Meanwhile the museum guide had scampered on to more rocks and walls, and we all followed him except the policeman, who wasblaséabout Trua, which he no doubt had to visit too often, so that he looked at it in a bored, supercilious kind of way, as if he did not see why he should have had to come, and we did not see why either, because it hardly seemed like a military zone, and we had not met a single soldier on the way. Anyhow, to Turks the Great Siege had been an affair between Greeks and Trojans and the Grecian dame, of which they knew nothing, it was too long pre-Turk and too Greek, and Turks are not brought up, as Europeans are (or were) to the Trojan legend. The Trojan cycle, the Roman de Troie, the Arthurian cycle, the cycle of Charlemagne, the cycle of Roland, the cycle of Christ—these are the European folk-tales which filled the Middle Ages, and still echo down the modern ages, but not for Turks, who have, presumably their own folk-tales, of Mahomet, of Caliphs, Sultans, Seljuks, Mamelukes, Ottomans, and Kemal Atatürk, and these have shaped the minds of the Turkish police, in so far as they have been shaped at all, which is not really much.
Presently Father Chantry-Pigg said we would now drive on to Alexandria Troas, twenty miles south of Troy. It seemed that his father, who had been a dean interested in St. Paul, had visited this place in 1880, in order to follow up St. Paul's doings there, and had said ever since that its ruins were among the most beautiful Roman ruins in the world, largely owing to being half buried in valonia oak woods, and having fine arches that were partly in the sea. This was what was said by most of the eighteenth and nineteenth century visitors, and many travellers (including aunt Dot, who is romantic rather than accurate) think it is a pity that it is no longer believed to be Troy, and the arches Priam's palace, whereas they had actually been a bath.
But what Father Chantry-Pigg wanted to see was the place where St. Paul preached so long that the young man Eutychus sank into sleep and fell down three storeys and was taken up for dead but revived by the apostle, and where Paul met a man from Macedonia who entreated his missionary help, so that he set sail at once and converted Gentiles, and left his cloak behind in Troas. All this would be very interesting to Father Chantry-Pigg, but when he told our driver to drive there the driver said "yok ", he did not know it. The policeman agreed that it was not known; and the fact is that in Turkey very few places except large towns are known to Turkish policemen, and none of them belong to classical antiquity, for which Turks do not care. Charles said the Turkish name of this place was Eski-Stamboul, and he and David had been there. So we tried Eski-Stamboul on the driver, but still he said "yok", he did not know it, and still the policeman agreed with him, so aunt Dot said he was to drive down the coast until we stopped him. But the policeman, who had only bargained for Troy, and had had it, said it was all a military area and we could not drive about it. Father Chantry-Pigg, who was seventy-three and stubborn, said very well, he would walk it, and would aunt Dot tell the policeman so in Turkish. Aunt Dot said it would be no use telling the policeman that, because walking through a military area would be as much yok as driving through it. Instead, she mentioned money, and then the area became less military, and the policeman seemed more yielding.
"If it's military," said Father Chantry-Pigg, "there should be some soldiers about. We haven't seen any at all."
Aunt Dot said better not argue, the policeman was softening. He softened, and the driver softened too, and away we drove south through the Troad in the late afternoon sunshine along a rolling road, the Aegean on one side and the range of Mount Ida some way off to our left, and, when the road climbed high enough to see it, the island of Tenedos swam off shore like a humpy whale with a shoal of dolphins round it.
The driver, who knew a little English, pointed to the hills and said, "Wolf up there."
"A wolf?" said aunt Dot, interested in animals.
"Plenty wolf. In winter, come down near Çanak, hunt sheep, kill men."
"Wolves," Father Chantry-Pigg, who knew about hunting, corrected him, "when they hunt men. Wolf when men hunt them."
Being both old-fashioned and very class, Father Chantry-Pigg called these animals wooves and woof, for he was apt to omit the l before consonants, and would no more have uttered it in wolf than he would in half, calf, golf, salve, alms, Ralph, Malvern, talk, walk, stalk, fault, elm, calm, resolve, absolve, soldier, or pulverise.
The driver, not really taking the point about the hunters and the hunted, said again, "Plenty wolf, plenty jackal, plenty pig."
Presently he pointed ahead, towards some rising ground in the distance, and said, "Eski-Stamboul."
"So he knew it all the time," said aunt Dot.
"Troas," said Father Chantry-Pigg, thinking about St. Paul and the man from Macedonia.
As we got nearer, there were ruins all about, and they had been good ruins once, when Dean Chantry-Pigg had been there in 1880, but ever since they had dwindled, as ruins will, being carried away by sultans for their grand buildings and broken in pieces by the locals for their mean ones, and though a lot of very fine bits were left, you could not see what they had been once. Sheep and camels and men strolled about near by, and some women worked, for there was a village, and it was probably full of Circassians who had been planted there last century in the Circassian-planting period, for that is what Circassians are for, you plant them about like trees, and they increase, and very soon they are what the nineteenth century travellers used to call squalid villages, and these lie about the eastern lands in great abundance.
Dr. Pococke had said that, when he was there, Troas was infested by Rogues; that was over two centuries ago, but Rogues go on in the same places for ever, as churches do, it seems to have something to do with the soil they are on. A group of inhabitants stood by the road as we drove up; they were dark and sad, and they may have been Rogues, but I thought they looked more like those obscure, dejected, maladjusted and calamity-prone characters who come into Tenebrae, such as Aleph, Teth, Beth, Calph, Jod, Ghimel, Mem, and the rest, and they sounded as if they were talking in that afflicted strain that those characters talk in, and saying things like "he has brought me into darkness and not into light", "he has compassed me with gall and labour", "he has built against me round about, that I may not get out, he has upset my paths", and "my eyes have failed with weeping, my bowels are disturbed, my liver is poured out", and so on, till all the lights go out and there is nothing but the dark.
"There are those two spies again," aunt Dot said, and she was right, the two British spies got up as Turks stood among the rest, spying out the military secrets of Troas, so it seemed that Troas was still infested by Rogues.
We passed the aqueduct and went in among the ruins, which spread a long way, and we saw part of the line of the walls, which were several miles round, and there were broken arches and vaults, and some excavations had been lately done in the great bath, and altogether we thought it was much better than Troy, and were not surprised that Constantine had thought of it for his capital before he thought of Byzantium. It was full of valonian oak trees, and the harbour must have been fine before it got so full of sand. Aunt Dot got out her camera, to photograph a large arch, but the policeman soon stopped that, and all the Tenebrae types, including the two British spies and the camels, looked on cynically, for this was just what they had suspected. Meanwhile Father Chantry-Pigg produced a plan of the place drawn by his father the Dean, with all the ruins marked "house where Paul preached all night and Eutychus fell-down", "house of Carpus, where St. Paul left his cloak, books and parchment", "place where Paul saw the man of Macedonia in a dream", "beach where he sailed for Samothrace," and so on, for Dean Chantry-Pigg, besides being most learned, had also been full of imagination. When later he came into the title and retired to live in the family place, he began a large book about St. Paul, but never finished it, owing to death.
Father Chantry-Pigg began exploring about Troas with his father's old plan, but of course that did not do; one of the spies went up to the policeman and told him, out of jealousy, and the policeman went to Father Chantry-Pigg and asked him what he was doing, and took the plan from him and held it upside down, trying to make it out, and the spies came and looked too, to help him. Father Chantry-Pigg called aunt Dot, who was looking at the excavated bath, and she came up to interpret. The policeman said the drawing appeared to be of Eski-Stamboul, and the writing was information useful to the enemy (by the enemy, Turks mean Russia, which had had a try at the Troad in 1915), and Father Chantry-Pigg would have to return to the police station at Çanakkale and explain. Aunt Dot said the drawing had been made long ago, by the priest's father, and the writing was about a great Christian prophet who had stayed some years ago in Eski-Stamboul, which was a holy place to which Christians came on pilgrimage, like Mecca. But the policeman looked as if he was remembering the Russian writing on aunt Dot's passport which she had said was Arabic, and he and the two British spies and the driver agreed that we should all go back to Çanakkale at once, so we did. Father Chantry-Pigg was very much annoyed, as he had not yet identified Carpus's house or the one where the young man fell three storeys while St. Paul preached, but Charles said one can never hope to identify anything while Turks look on. Actually, he and David had done much better at Troas, for they had been taken there by a high-up Turkish friend of David's so had had no trouble, and had been shewn over the ruins by the archaeologist who was digging the bath up, and they had gone down to the harbour and the beach, and it had all been delightful, and Charles was putting it into his book, so he was quite pleased that we were going back to Çanakkale now. Father Chantry-Pigg asked him which were the sites of the two houses he had been looking for, but Charles and David and the Turkish high-up and the American archaeologist had not known about St. Paul, so Charles could not tell him that, he had not known even that this apostle had ever been to Troas, or anywhere else. People know about quite different things, and this often makes conversation difficult. Charles, for instance, not being Anglican or Roman Catholic, or indeed Christian at all, would not know about the characters in Tenebrae.
So we drove back to Çanakkale. When we got there it was evening. The policeman took Father Chantry-Pigg and aunt Dot to the police station, to complain to the head policeman about the plan and the camera, and Charles and I went to the hotel where we were sleeping, and had drinks in the garden above the Hellespont.
"Will they lock them up?" I asked Charles.
Charles said, dear me no, it was just a Turkish gesture. He and David had been taken to police stations for spying again and again, but never kept more than an hour or two, while the police probed into their past lives and the lives of their parents and other relations, and wrote a report for the police chiefs, then they were given a drink and let out to spy again.
"They'll keep the plan, of course, and the negatives in the camera. They collect plans and photographs and potted autobiographies of tourists; they're kept in the Espionage Department in Ankara, and no harm is done . . . . Now I'd rather like to tell you why I left David. I don't want inaccurate stories to get about, and if you hear any in Istanbul, and you will, because I know David wrote to a man he knew in the Chancery, I should be glad if you would contradict them."
So he began telling me why he had left David, and it was all rather confused, and I was sleepy after the drive and the drink, and the Hellespont slapped at the sea wall of the café garden, and people were playing tric-trac at the tables round us, and dice clattered, and the radio whined away at that Turkish music which goes on and on like crooning, and which Turks love so much that western music is hateful to them and Mozart just a noise to be turned off. I lapsed into sleep, like the young man Eutychus, and would have fallen three storeys had they been there, and I dreamed of Alexandria Troas, and the Tenebrae types lamenting there, Aleph and Calph, Teth and Jod, Ghimel and Mem and Nun, all afflicted, all put out, all sad about what they had been through, the dark places they had come to, the bitterness and the gall, then the last light went out and the dark was all, and through the dark Aleph and Teth and Jod still wailed for Alexandria Troas broken and gone. And I dreamed of sea winds whispering in rustling grass and asphodel among the fallen columns of Ilium and over the grave of Priam's Troy, and of the Trojan plain stretching level to the sea where the Greek ships lay, and where the Greek sailors, bored to death, played with dice, tric-trac, tric-trac, and the waves lipped on the beach and lifted the ships, and music wailed from the pipes of the Dardan goat-herds on the plain. Ten long years it had gone on, and because of those ten years Troy was our ancestor, and the centre of a world that Turks could never know.
"And then David said . . . and I said . . . and he said . . . "
It was like women talking near you on the bus—she said, he said, I said. And it was like the B.B.C. news—Mr. Attlee has said at Blackpool . . . Mr. Dulles said in Washington . . . Mr. Nehru said yesterday in Delhi . . . The Archbishop of York has said . . . The Pope has said . . . said, said, said . . . The peoples of the Free World, they said, must unite to resist the aggressor. The peoples of the Free World, they said, all long for a just peace . . . " Whereisthis free world they all talk so much about?" aunt Dot would interrupt the News to ask. "Inever went there. It must be quite extraordinary, every one doing just as they please, no laws, no police, no taxation, no compulsory schooling, nothing but a lot of people all resisting aggressors and longing for a just peace. By the way, the camel was taken in charge for obstruction again by that stupid policeman."
The slapping of the Hellespont on the sea wall woke me, and I supposed myself Leander, for a light was twinkling on the Europe shore in Hero's tower.
"It's time to swim across," I said.
Charles said, "Swim across what? So we agreed it was reallynouse going on together, if that was the kind of thing that was liable to happen. So I packed up and went. It seemed the only thing to do. Don't you agree?"
I agreed, and said, "Shall we swim across, as Leander, Mr. Ekenhead and I did? If we go in now, we could dine at Sestos, if we make it, and if any Turk can tell us where it is, but they won't know. Or would aunt Dot want to come too, I wonder?"
Aunt Dot was a very fine swimmer, being the right shape and build, and she probably would want to come too.
Charles said, "One has first to find out about the currents. It took Byron and Ekenhead miles out of their course, and Leander never made it at all, that last time. Of course the Abydos-Sestos crossing isn't the shortest, actually. People usually now go in half a mile up the coast from Çanak. But anyhow I'm not in form for it to-night, I should drown. You have to be feeling happy and full of hope for the Leander swim."
So we gave up the Leander swim, and then aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg came back from the police station. Father Chantry-Pigg was very angry about his father's plan of Troas, and aunt Dot was annoyed about her negatives, and a disguised policeman was following them and sat at the table when we dined, and we saw that we had joined the large army of spies who seemed to be going about Turkey.
Next morning we took a motor boat across to the Gallipoli peninsula to see the British war cemeteries, where practically every one has relations. Aunt Dot had a brother there, so she took some red irises for him, and, as we stood by his grave, she began to be angry again, as she had been in 1915 when he was killed, for she had always thought the Gallipoli expedition very stupid, and the most awful waste of her brother's life. However, she left the irises in a jampot, and Father Chantry-Pigg said "Requiem aeternam dona ei,Domine",and aunt Dot and I said "Etlux perpetua luceat ei", and Father Chantry-Pigg prayed that all the souls in those cemeteries might rest in peace, and then we wandered about the graves, which were kept very beautifully, and I thought how awful it was that all those people should be lying there under the ground of Gallipoli, when they might by now have been elderly men doing well or ill at something, and it seemed too soon for them to be lying dead, in their sixties, though it was all right for Hector and Achilles and Patroclus and all the Greeks and Trojans who lay in the Troad, for they would have been several thousand years old. Death is awful, and one hates to think about it, but I suppose after all those years of it the dead take it for granted.Chapter5
We went back to Çanak, and got on the steamer for Istanbul, and Charles came too, for he was anxious to be back in Istanbul to tell people about himself and David, in case they should be getting false ideas. When he had given them the true ideas about that, he was going to travel about Turkey and write his own Turkey book, which was now to be a separate book from the one he had meant to write with David. For a time he had an idea that he might come with us down the Black Sea. But when we told him about how we were an Anglican mission to Turks, and how aunt Dot meant to convert Turkish women to independence, and about the camel, whom we were to rejoin at Istanbul harbour, he changed his mind, not wanting to be mixed up with things like that, for he knew what would be said of it at the Embassy and in Shell Company and in the University and in the good houses along the Bosphorus, and in the smart Beyoglu hotels, and by the archaeologists, and all down the Black Sea. Father Chantry-Pigg was glad Charles was not to accompany us, as he was so very indifferent to religion.
The boat was gay and crowded with Turks, and it went up the straits between the Dardanelles shores, Asia to the right and Europe to the left, past Abydos and Sestos, and past where Xerxes threw his bridge of boats across the Hellespont to conquer Greece, and the Europe shore climbed up like mountains, dotted with white villages and houses, and the Asia shore heaved down to Troy plain, and between them the Hellespont ran green, and widened out presently into the sea of Marmara.
We voyaged all day, and before dark Istanbul could be seen ahead, and it is true that it must look more splendid than any other city one comes to by sea. Even Father Chantry-Pigg, who did not think that Constantine's city and the Byzantine capital ought to have had all those mosque-domes and minarets built on to its old Byzantine shape, of which he had engravings in a book, even he thought the famous outline climbing above the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, with all its domes and minarets poised against the evening sky, was very stupendous. Aunt Dot, already knowing the place, was delighted to see it again, and was busy making notes of all the things she wanted to do there before leaving it. She had Turkish friends in the University, and knew Turkish lawyers and doctors and archaeologists and Imams, for Istanbul is full of intelligent and cultured Turks, but she agreed that the less she said to the Imams about our expedition the better, as they could not be expected to approve of it. Indeed, aunt Dot herself sometimes felt that it was somewhat impertinent to try and convert the holders of such a noble, powerful and bigoted religion as Islam to another faith. But then she remembered the position of Moslem women, and her missionary zeal returned. She knew a clever and highly educated woman doctor in Istanbul, who would be able to tell her all about the woman position in the country at large, how deeply women were still dug in to Moslemism, how likely they were to prefer Christianity when they heard of it, and what their husbands and fathers would think and do if they did.
Father Chantry-Pigg meant to see Byzantine churches (of which he still counted St. Sophia to be one), and also to get in touch with some Greek Orthodox priests, and with the local Anglican priest, who would give him news of the Seventh-Day Adventist Mission, for he would not care to talk to a Seventh-Day Adventist himself. He hoped to meet the Greek Patriarch, and to have a Byzantine discussion with him on many interesting topics.
Charles meant to leave us as soon as we had landed.
I meant to explore Istanbul and do some sketches and improve my Turkish and keep away from the camel.
The quays and wharves were very noisy and bustling. The boat which had brought us from England was still in the harbour, and after some time we found it, and aunt Dot asked the crew where was her camel, and they took her to a kind of camel stables on the quay, where the camel was tied to a post, with a row of other camels. It did not seem to recognise aunt Dot, but went on chewing and looking distant. We left it there, and took a taxi up to our hotel in Beyoglu. It was a nice hotel, and the management were so eager to help us that they begged us to let them cash our travellers' cheques at a much higher rate than we should have got from a bank, and it seemed very kind that they should want to give us more liras for our pounds than the banks liked us to have, and more than we would have been quite willing to accept, but this is one of the mysteries that only financiers can understand, and it goes on almost all over the world, because the love of the English pound and of the American dollar is so great and wide-spread that foreigners actually compete for them, very quietly, in whispers, and as if they wanted no one else to hear, though actually every one knows quite well what the conversation is about. Aunt Dot, who is very experienced, doesn't whisper, but just asks, "How much on the black market to-day?" and if it isn't enough she says "No thank you, I can do better than that at the so-and-so," and puts her cheques away. Father Chantry-Pigg, being so extreme, agrees with Roman Catholics that to cheat governments is all right, because they spend money so badly, and I like to take all I can get, so we do pretty well, though people like Charles do even better. Actually, aunt Dot knows so many people in all parts of the world who will cash ordinary English bankers' cheques for her that she is very seldom in difficulties. "Have good friends, dear," she says, "make to yourself friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, and you'll be all right everywhere."
She spent a lot of our week in Istanbul seeing her friends, Turkish and British, at the University and at Robert College, and women lawyers and doctors, and the British Institute staff, and the British Embassy, and several archaeologists, and some Shell Company people, who were, said she, the most hospitable people in the world, only equalled by the Irak Petroleum Company in the Levant; it was important, she always said, to get in with oil, in whatever part of the world you were, just as it was important to get in with port wine when in Portugal. One of her Istanbul friends was Dr. Halide Tanpinar, the woman who had told her so much about the female position in Turkey. This doctor had trained at a London hospital, and had, while in London, joined the Church of England, from being an atheist like most young educated Turks since Kemal Atatürk had shown their parents that Moslemism was out of date. Aunt Dot, who had known her for some years, asked her if she would come with us and help us with our mission tour, sizing up the situation and the possibilities, and telling the women about the Anglican Church in Turkish, and about what a good time Christian women had, wearing hats and talking to men, not having to carry the loads, and being free to go about and have fun like men, and sometimes ride the donkeys instead of walking. Besides, said aunt Dot, she would be able to heal the sick, which was always the greatest help in mission work. So Dr. Halide said she would come, as she felt it was her duty both to Turkish women and to the Church. Fortunately she was not very busy just then with her practice, and had an accommodating neighbour who would take it over, like Dr, Watson, and she would enjoy the expedition very much.
While aunt Dot saw her friends, I saw Istanbul, the mosques and palaces and the Seraglio and the cisterns and the Turkish cemetery and the walls and the Bazaar, and the excavations going on in Justinian's palace, and the archaeologists who were digging it all up, and the ruined house that Justinian had on the sea shore, and so on, and one day I went up the Bosphorus and saw the castles and palaces and mosques and old wooden houses and villages on the shores. But in the evenings I wandered about old Stambul, down by the quays and among the narrow streets and cafés and old shops, and watched the ships in the harbour and the people, till it was time to catch a tram back to Beyoglu and dinner in the hotel. Often Father Chantry-Pigg and I dined there alone, while aunt Dot dined with her friends, and she would come in later in the evening, full of the things people had told her all day. I met people I knew, who were staying in Istanbul for a while; these were mostly writing their Turkey books, and had just come up from southern or western or eastern Turkey, and were just off to some other part. One of them was David, from whom Charles had parted, and he told us why, as Charles had, but it was not the same story, and I was sleepy the evening he told us, as I had been when Charles told his, and I got the two stories confused, so I shall never quite know what happened to make them part. David asked if we had seen Charles, and where he was now, and we didn't know, but next day they met by chance in the bar of the Konak hotel, and were very cold and distant, on account of what they each thought had happened when they were in Trebizond, so, in spite of knowing they had better join again, because Charles's descriptions needed David's drawings, and David's drawings needed Charles's descriptions, and because, though Charles knew more archaeology (which was not saying much), David knew more Turkish (which was not saying much either)—in spite of all these reasons for joining, their hearts stayed sundered, and Charles went off in a ship to Smyrna, and David in a plane to Iskenderon, and each would write his Turkey book alone. Travelling together is a great test, which has damaged many friendships and even honeymoons, and some people, such as Gray and Horace Walpole, never feel quite the same to one another again, and it is nobody's fault, as one knows if one listens to the stories of both, though it seems to be some people's fault more than others.
One evening aunt Dot brought Dr. Halide Tanpinar to dinner. She was handsome, and seemed about thirty-five, and felt extremely strongly about Turkish women who were backward and still obeyed the Prophet after all Kemel Atatürk had said about not doing this but leading a free life in hats, with education. Father Chantry-Pigg asked her if she thought the poorer Turkish women were ready for education and Christianity and hats. Dr. Halide said she was afraid they were not at all ready for these advantages yet, but she thought they might be persuaded. The Church must come first, as, till they stopped believing in the Koran and the Prophet and the Imams, they would feel it very wrong to disobey them. Father Chantry-Pigg would have to work hard at this, though he would find the second half of his name a handicap with Moslems, and this had better be concealed from them. Then Father Chantry-Pigg asked her if she was herself a fully Catholic Anglican, and would be prepared to help to instruct people in the full faith. He wanted to know what churches she had been used to attend when in London. Dr. Halide, who was experimental, said she had tried many, such as All Saints Margaret Street, St. Mary's Grarm Street, St. Stephen's Gloucester Road, St. Augustine's Kilburn, St. Paul's Knightsbridge, St. Magnus the Martyr, St. Thomas's Regent Street, St. John's Holland Road, Grosvenor Chapel, the Annunciation Bryanston Street, St. Michael & All Angels off Portobello Road, All Souls Portland Place . . . .
When she got to All Souls Portland Place, Father Chantry-Pigg, who had passed the other churches with approval, as if they would do very well for the Turkish women, looked cold, and as if anything that Dr. Halide might have got from there would be as well kept from the Turkish women. But I thought a Low church like that might suit Moslems better than the High ones, which are so set about with images.
It seemed to me to be a mistake to think, as Father Chantry-Pigg thought, that all Anglican churches ought to have the same type of service, and that type some approximation to what went on in St. Gregory's, for by no means all Anglicans like scenes of that nature. Some Commander (R.N.) in the Church Assembly or some such gathering, once complained that one of the worst scandals in the Church of England was the variety of worship that occurred in its different churches and parishes, and this scandal, said the Commander, kept many people from going to church at all, though one does not quite see why it should have this effect, one would suppose that variety would induce more types of person to go, since there will always be something for this Commander, and something for aunt Dot and me, and something wonderfully extreme for Father Chantry-Pigg, who had made for himself a church so excessively high that churches such as All Saints Margaret Street seemed to him practically Kensitite. So our Church is very wonderful and comprehensive, and no other Church, it is said, is quite like it, and this variety that it has is one of its glories, and not one of its scandals at all, though there are plenty of these, such as new incumbents having to recite things so strange that they do not even want to believe them, like some of the Thirty-Nine Articles, and such as the Church being forbidden to revise its own Prayer Book by a non-Anglican parliament, so that Anglicans have to use a revised order quietly and illegally without further reference to the House of Commons. And when one considers such scandals as these, one sees that variety of worship is nothing but a merit.
Looking more closely into Dr. Halide's full Catholicity, Father Chantry-Pigg said that he assumed that she herself practised, and was prepared to teach, sacramental confession. Dr. Halide said that she would certainly pass on this idea to the Turkish women, but that she herself, though she had made a first confession, had never got round to a second, owing to being too busy.
"I never got time," she said, "to think of what I should say."
I thought how different Dr. Halide was from me, who knew very well what I should say, but was in no position to say it.
Father Chantry-Pigg nodded gravely, and said in a matter like that one shouldmaketime.
"Yes," Dr. Halide agreed. "We will tell them. But I think they will not hurry. It will be very strange to them."
Aunt Dot said, "Besides, Father, you don't yet know enough Turkish to hear them. Halide can't interpretthere,you must remember."
Father Chantry-Pigg murmured something about Greek.
"My dear Father," said aunt Dot, "they don't know a word of Greek. Why should they? No, you must work at your Turkish, and give up hopes of meeting any left-over Byzantines who have joined Islam and yearn to be Christians again. By the way, did you see the Patriarch?"
Father Chantry-Pigg said he had, and that they had had a most interesting conversation about the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, in neither of which the Patriarch believed, but in both of which Father Chantry-Pigg would have believed if they had not been pronounceddefidetoo late to be part of pure Catholic heritage, by the rival branch of the Church, which he liked to thwart. So, whatever he believed in his heart, he followed St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Bonaventura, in outwardly rejecting the one doctrine, and the earlier Fathers in not accepting the other, and was not intending to offer either to his Moslem converts asdefide, and should not recommend the A.C.M.S. to do so if they started a mission.
He had also had conversations with the chaplain of the Anglican church, and with an American professor at Robert College, and had learned that a mission conducted by some followers of Dr. Billy Graham was busy converting people down the Black Sea, and was having a great success. When he mentioned this Dr. Graham, he looked scornful and disagreeable, as he did about All Souls Portland Place, and as if he did not at all care for that kind of thing, and would be greatly vexed if we were to come across it down the Black Sea.
I told him how I had been to Harringay arena one evening with my friend Joe, who was a literary editor, because we had press tickets lent us by John Betjeman, so we drove down, and, because of the press tickets, we were shown right to the front of the arena, and sat on chairs just below the platform, where all the thousands of people behind could see us, which was embarrassing, and when we looked up Dr. Graham was above us, holding up his Bible and being eloquent and the whole arena hanging on his words, which were about Immorality, for he was taking the ten commandments, and that night he had got to the seventh, which was the only one, he said, that was about Immorality, and Immorality was worse than all the other sins. He said it happened continually everywhere, in the streets and in the fields and on the beaches, and at the Judgment Day God would say "You thought no one saw you that evening on the beach, but I saw you, I took a picture of you." Joe wanted to go out, but I said we couldn't as we were right in front, so he had to bear it. Later Dr. Graham told every one who wished to decide for Christ to come forward, and slow religious music played, and many hundreds or thousands of people left their seats and came forward and stood under the platform. I thought it would be very nice if Joe decided for Christ, it might improve the literary world, which is full of Immorality and other faults, but he wouldn't. He said why didn't I; but when I decide for Christ (which I sometimes do, but it does not last) it is always in an Anglican church (high), and I didn't think I would care to decide thus in the Harringay arena, so neither of us got up.
I wondered what effect Dr. Graham's disciples would have on Turks, and if they would come forward when he told them, but I thought that if they did they would probably only be deciding for the Prophet, and the missioners would send them back to the mosques they attended, with notes for their Imams.Chapter 6
So after a week we left Istanbul, collecting the camel and boarding a Black Sea ship calledTrabzon, which is the Turkish for Trebizond. It was full of Turks, Americans, Germans, Scandinavians, and a few British, and was very smart and clean and comfortable in the first class. A less smart and clean and comfortable class was very full of Turks; they had large baskets of food, and slept on the deck, and every morning and evening the male Turks had a service, praying together and reading the Koran aloud. No women were seen to pray; if they prayed at all, it was in secret and in whispers. Aunt Dot thought this was hopeful for our mission; women, being the more religious sex everywhere, like public worship, and would be ready converts to a religion which allowed them this. But we all thought it was very admirable in the male Turks to meet for worship so regularly when voyaging; Christian travellers are seldom seen to do this, unless they are pilgrims. But Father Chantry-Pigg set up his portable altar in a corner of the upper deck where it could be seen from the steerage deck and said Mass before it each morning, and aunt Dot and Dr. Halide and I attended, and we were watched by the Turks on the steerage deck and sailors and bar waiters and passengers, among whom were two American girls in bikinis sun bathing, and more Turks watched the American girls than us. The girls thought the altar and the candles and the Mass very cute; one of them had been sometimes to that kind of service in Cambridge, Mass., at a place she called the Monastery, which Father Chantry-Pigg said was where the Cowley Fathers in America lived, but the other girl and her parents were not Episcopalian, they belonged to one of those sects that Americans have, and that are difficult for English people to grasp, though probably they got over from Britain in theMayfloweroriginally, and when sects arrive in America they multiply, like rabbits in Australia, so that America has about a hundred to each one in Britain, and this is said to be on account of the encouraging climate, which is different in each of the states, and most encouraging of all in the deep south and in California, where sects breed best. The parents of the girl who belonged to one of these obscure sects lived in California, where they had a lot of money and oil, and their name was Van Damm, and they were now travelling about Turkey, and Mr. Van Damm was interested in oil and in defending the Turks from the Russians by selling them cables and oil drums and metal litter of all kinds to fortify their beaches, for he disliked Russians almost as much as the Turks did, and was not going to have them landing on Turkish beaches if he could help it. Mrs. Van Damm looked very handsome and bland, with blue hair and eyes and Park Avenue clothes, and she was interested in Billy Graham and the mission some of his followers were said to be conducting down the Black Sea, and she looked at the shores through bird glasses to see if they had got there yet.
"We should hear them," she said, "quite a way off shore. They set every one singing. Now you Episcopalians, you don't sing so much. But some of your churches have very fine choirs. You folks should have brought a choir along with you. Listen now; do you hear singing?"
We were lying off the port of Zonguldak, which is full of coal, and above the noises coal makes we could hear singing. Mrs. Van Damm got out her bird glasses, and we all looked through them in turn, and we saw a little van on the shore among the coal, and round it a crowd of Turks stood singing Turkish songs, and Turkish music whined, but it was not missionaries, for on the van was written B.B.C., and it was one of those recording vans, with tapes, that aunt Dot hated so much, and it was collecting a slice of Black Sea life for a Home Service programme.
"Isn't that cute," said Mrs. Van Damm.
"How every one gets about," said aunt Dot. "I wonder who else is rambling about Turkey this spring. Seventh Day Adventists, Billy Grahamites, writers, diggers, photographers, spies, us, and now the B.B.C. We shall all be tumbling over each other. Abroad isn't at all what it was." She looked back at the great open spaces of her youth, when one rode one's camel about deserts frequented only by Arabs, camels, flocks of sheep and Gertrude Bell. "Odd," she said, "how the less money one is allowed to take abroad, the more one goes there. But of course all these people are on jobs, and get as much as they want."
Father Chantry-Pigg said that he had heard in Istanbul that a party of Seventh Day Adventist pilgrims was journeying to Mount Ararat for the second coming of Christ, which was due to occur there this summer on the summit of this mountain. It had been due in this same spot on earlier occasions, and pilgrims from all over Europe had several times travelled there to meet it, but it had been delayed, and now it was really due. If we climbed Mount Ararat, as Father Chantry-Pigg intended to do, we should find the pilgrims waiting as near the top as it was possible to get, collecting pieces of the ark, singing hymns and preparing their souls against the Coming. It seems that life on Ararat has always been immensely strange.
"Not at all an agreeable mountain," said aunt Dot, who had been up it with my uncle Frank in 1920. There had been pilgrims that year, too, she said, waiting for the Second Coming; many of them had come from the Caucasus, where strange races and religions had been used to congregate once. There would of course, be no Caucasian pilgrims now. Those poor Caucasians, said aunt Dot, we must get to them somehow and she and Father Chantry-Pigg looked secretive and determined, and as if they were planning to crash the curtain. Crashing the curtain is a very popular enterprise, like climbing Everest, but more private; a lot of people try it, and some succeed in getting in, but not all get out again, they are just swallowed up quietly, and no more heard, though sometimes years later they are spewed out, rather the worse for wear. Of course the best plan is to be a scientist or engineer, and become missing, but most people want a less long visit than that, just a dip in and out, such as ambassadors and their staffs get when they are appointed to Moscow; they just have time to collect copy for their Russia books, then out again and write them. I supposed that if aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg were set on crashing the curtain in order to convert Caucasians, I should have to go too, though I did not think Dr. Halide would, but I would rather stay in Turkey, which became more and more pleasant the farther we got down the Euxine sea, the intimidating Black Sea, so-called, said my Turkish guide-book, on account of its storms and high waves, which arise so sudden that many people have perished.
But the days we were on it, it was not black and had no storms or high waves and no one perished. It was dark blue, shading to light green near the coast, and all along the mountains ran, and the forests on them, and every now and then a little port, made by the trading Greeks long ago, and, but for the ports, the coast was what the Argonauts saw when they sailed to fetch the Golden Fleece, and those who are good at Greek history give the year of this as 1275, but no one seems sure, which always vexed me when I was a child, and vexes me still. And, when the weather was clear, a faint shadow loomed on the Euxine's northern side, which was the shadow of the Crimea; when I commented on this to the captain of the ship, he and the first officer gave the Crimea a dirty look. Turks do not believe in peaceful co-existence with Russia, they never have, and Father Chantry-Pigg agrees with them. Fortunately for most of our voyage Russia was out of sight. Aunt Dot looked towards the Crimea through her glasses, and sighed after that menacing shadow, and I sighed too, because of those orchards and palaces and seaside villas that I might never see.
But on the southern shore all was animation, for from each little port boats rowed out to us full of people, full of bundles, full of hampers of food and fruit for the passengers on the steerage deck, or full of animal carcasses, live fowls, donkeys, pigs, sheep and female goats, immense tyres, trucks, metal tools and bundles of planks, to be conveyed by theTrabzonto the ports along the shore. They rowed back with landing passengers, but more embarked than disembarked, and the crowds on the decks grew, and were most amiable and cheerful. I would have liked to go on shore at all these ports, but this was not allowed, and I could only sketch them from the deck. I decided that I liked Turks very much.
When we anchored off Inebolu, the B.B.C. recording van chugged past us in a motor launch, on its way to some other port, where it would record more native life. Perhaps we should catch up with it at Trebizond, which is really the social hub of the eastern Euxine, though Samsun is now a more important port. Trebizond, having once been for seven years the last bit of the Byzantine empire, has cachet and legend and class, besides being so near to where Xenophon and the Ten Thousand marched down from the mountains, and went mad from a surfeit of the local honey. Perhaps the Billy Graham missioners would also be there, and perhaps the Seventh Day Adventists, having a rest before they set out for Ararat and the Second Coming, and no doubt a lot of writers scribbling away at their Turkey books. And, of course, a number of British and Russian spies. Life in Trebizond, I thought, would be very sociable, animated and peculiar.
So, really, was life on theTrabzon,what with the Van Damms, the ship's officers, the Turkish tourists who strolled on the decks and looked in at the cabin windows at the other tourists dressing, a party of university students from Istanbul, the arrivals of people and animals from every port, the Islamic devotions conducted on the steerage deck, the Christian devotions conducted on the cabin deck, and the spies who murmured to one another in corners in various tongues. Aunt Dot made it her job to converse with Turkish women, on whatever deck they might be found. The university students made it their job to practise their English on us and the Van Damms and tell us about Turkish literature which, it seemed, was in a very thriving and interesting state. Several of them, both male and female, wrote poetry, and were inclined to recite it to us in Turkish, with prose renderings of its meaning in English. They read us other Turkish poets too, and so did Dr. Halide, and they asked Father Chantry-Pigg, whom they admired, whether he did not find them extremely good.
"Obscure," he said, for he found most modern poetry this, and actually modern poems in Turkish were not much more obscure to him than modern poems in English. Aunt Dot was indifferent to verse, she thought prose better.
"Obs-cure?" they enquired. "What means that? You like?"
"He means he doesn't understand," I explained.
"Ah," said Dr. Halide, who was very patriotic for the New Turkey. "I will translate."
I told her that would be no use, Father Chantry-Pigg still wouldn't understand. "He doesn't understand most English modern poetry, either," I said.
They looked at the priest, whose eyes were now closed in sleep or prayer, with pity, and without surprise. They knew that the Church, being backward and reactionary, had been left behind in the spectacular progress of Atatürk's modern secular Turkey. Imams, priests, patriarchs, prophets, Turkey had left them all behind, and doubtless Britain had too, though not so far behind as Turkey had, Turkey having got further on.
"We study English poetry," they said. "Dylan Thomas, Spender, MacNeice, Lewis, Eliot, Sitwell, Frost, Charlotte Mew. It is very like ours, yes?"
"Yes," I said. "Very like."
"It is better, less good, much about the same?"
"Much about the same," I said.
They looked disappointed, for they knew that theirs was better. "English writers," they said, "come to Istanbul and speak at the British Institute on the Poem. Also the Novel. You speak?"
"No," I said.
"Excuse. Why then you not speak on the Novel and the Poem?"
"I shouldn't be able to think what to say. I believe it has all been said."
They agreed that it probably had. "Yes. We have heard."
"You understand the Poem of to-day?" they asked, for Turks do not stop asking questions.
I said I understood some of it.
I said I liked some of it.
Perceiving that the topic of the Poem was unlikely to be soon exhausted, aunt Dot changed it to that of the Turkish Woman, and this was one of their subjects too. Turkish speakers, they said, especially women speakers, such as Dr. Halide (who, tiring of all this juvenile babble, which was extremely familiar to her, had strolled off to chat with the First Officer, a handsome man who admired her)—these women speakers travelled abroad and lectured in London, Edinburgh, Paris, New York and Milan on the Woman. For she too, like literature, politics and education, flourished greatly in the New Turkey.
"Lawyers, doctors, teachers, writers, judges, painters, dancers, modistes, beauticians," they said. "And many other important women. Some virgins, some wives. In Turkey to-day, it is no matter. All get about."
"Isn't that nice," aunt Dot agreed. "And these important women, are many of them Moslem or not?".
"Not," they chorused; but added, "Nevertheless, some are," and they seemed to regard with respect the important women who were so behind the times. The youngest of them said, "There is my aunt.Sheis very religious Moslem and very important woman; she teaches in Robert College."
"And you students? One understands that you have largely left Moslemism behind, it's so bound up with old-fashioned tradition and all that. But what about Christianity? Dr. Halide is a Christian, you know, and you can't callherbehind the times. It's a most progressive religion actually. Have you ever considered it?"
"Too old. It is over, long past. Dr. Halide caught it in Britain, where it is much about. Here it is the past. The Greek papas—ού μην!"
The speaker, a chubby Greek youth in spectacles, threw a scornful glance at two Greek clergymen eating cheese and olives in deck chairs near by, and feeding a goat with the rind and skins. It was apparent that they too had been left behind by the new Turkey.
"My parents, yes," he amplified. "Ourselves, no. It is the same with the mosques. They contain the grandfathers of my friends."
"And up in the galleries, our grandmothers," his friends added. "Our mothers, some. Our aunts, few. Except only the aunt of Mihri. Most aunts, and many mothers, are lawyers, teachers, doctors, modistes . . . "
"Of course, the important women," aunt Dot interrupted. "Now, did you ever hear of the Church of England?"
They looked politely vague. "You too had a church," they supposed. "We have still," aunt Dot rapped out.
At this point Father Chantry-Pigg, who had been dozing in his chair, woke up and took a hand.
"Only," he gently said, "the eternal Church of Christendom. The one holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. You know of it?"
It seemed to strike a bell.
"The Catholic church, yes. There are many in Istanbul, isn't it? We have seen."
"Only one example ofourbranch of it," Father Chantry-Pigg explained. "The Anglican communion has a church in a small meydan off Istiklal Caddesi."
"We have not seen," they regretted. "It is very fine?"
"No," Father Chantry-Pigg answered, "it is not very fine."
He looked sad that it was not very fine, that it was less fine than most of its companion churches of other communions.
"Still," aunt Dot briskly put in, "it is the best Church to belong to, because it has the most truth."
They looked polite, but one could see that they did not think this was saying much.
One of them remembered something.
"It is the Church of Billy Graham? There was a large meeting in Taksim Square. They sang many songs. It is your Church? Yes?"
"No," said Father Chantry-Pigg, sharply. "It is not. Those people are mainly American Baptists."
"Yes, yes. Church of America. America is the great friend of Turkey. That Church too has truth, is it?"
"All Churches have some," aunt Dot told them, before Father Chantry-Pigg could deliver himself on the matter. "But what," she went on, getting back to the Woman, "what about all those women down there "—she waved towards the steerage deck, where at the moment the male Turks were meeting in prayer—" and the women in country villages and small towns all over Turkey, who go about muffling their faces, and mayn't sit down to meals with men, or walk with them, or pray with them, or play games, or sit in the cafés and gardens, or bathe in the sea, but do the hard dull work, and walk by the donkey while their husbands ride—yes, what about theunimportant women?"
"They are still backwards," the students cheerfully dismissed their oppressed sisters. "Theylookstill backwards. Kemal Atatürk commanded them to look forwards and wear hats, but they are very simple women and wear still shawls and rugs and do as the men say. In time, they will cure. All that, it is not Turkish, it is from the Greeks before the Conquest. It is Byzantine."
"Not true," said the Greek young man. "It is Moslem. The Greeks were not so."
Waving this aside, the Turks spoke of Ankara, the great progressive capital, where women went unveiled and free, as in Istanbul, where there was a large famous university, and many great public buildings. Of course we were going to Ankara?
Aunt Dot said we were.
Then they told us about Ankara, its government buildings, the President's house with a swimming-pool, its embassies and consulates, its great restaurants, its Atatürk museum, its Atatürk model farm, its new Atatürk mausoleum, where the founding Father is to lie, its houses of business, its noble streets of shops, its multitudinous Americans, its racecourse, its Genelik Park, its colleges and schools and institutes, its railway station, its boulevards, its illuminated signs, its hotels. Ankara, in short, was the New Turkey, born of the Great Revolution that had so stirred their parents thirty years ago, and it seemed odd that they had not turned against it. In Britain, the revolution which had stirred the parents would have been definitely out, reaction would have set in, and the statues of Atatürk on his horse would have been mocked. Young Turks seemed to have more piety.
They went on telling us about Ankara, but the only thing I wanted to see there was the Seljuk citadel in which the old town lies, and the Roman Temple of Augustus, and the view from the acropolis, and perhaps the Hittite things in the museum, though I do not care for Hittites. Modern Ankara was obviously a bore.
Turks, like Russians and Israelites, seem to want you to see the things that show how they have got on since Atatürk, or since the Bolshevik revolution, or since they took over Palestine. But how people have got on is actually only interesting to the country which has got on. What foreign visitors care about are the things that were there before they began to get on. I dare say foreigners in England really only want to see Stonehenge, and Roman walls and villas, and the field under which Silchester lies buried, and Norman castles and churches, and the ruins of medieval abbeys, and don't care a bit about Sheffield and Birmingham, or our model farms and new towns and universities and schools and dams and aerodromes and things. For that matter, we don't care a bit about them ourselves. But foreigners in their own countries (Russians are the worst, but Turks are bad too) like to show off these dreadful objects, and it is hard not to let them see how very vile and common we think them, compared with what was in the country before they got there. We did not like to tell the Turkish students, whom we liked very much, that the most interesting things in Turkey were put there before it was Turkey at all, when Turks were roaming about mountains and plains in the East (which perhaps they should not really have left, but this was another thing we did not like to tell the students, who did not know where they truly belonged, and perhaps actually few of us do).
So we voyaged on, and Father Chantry-Pigg looked up the places on the coast in the Anabasis by Xenophon; he had spotted which was Heraclea, and next day we passed, between Zonguldak and Inebolu, the beach where Jason moored the Argo, and we saw the mouths of the Parthenius, the Halys, the Iris, and the Thermodon, and passed the country of the Paphlagonians, who had feasted and danced with Xenophon's soldiers, and then we came to Sinope, where Diogenos had lived, and Father Chantry-Pigg knew about it all, which made the Van Damms and the Turkish students admire him very much, and we thought it did the Church of England a great deal of good with them, though none of them knew who these people were that he kept mentioning, or when they had done these things or why, for it was all a long time pre-Turkey, and even longer pre-America, and it was not Hittite; still, they saw he was a very learned man. I liked myself to think about Jason and the other Argonauts sailing along this coast, anchoring here and there, tossed about by the high waves, on the way to Colchis and the Golden Fleece.Chapter 7
We were due to reach Trebizond on the afternoon of Whit Sunday. That morning Father Chantry-Pigg celebrated Mass as usual at eight o'clock in a quiet corner of the top deck, and aunt Dot and Dr. Halide and the Americans and I attended it, and the Greek priest and several Turks looked on. The Greek priest made his communion, and, as he did not know English, he was not disturbed by the references to Whit Sunday, which of course for him had not yet arrived. The Van Damms rather worried Father Chantry-Pigg when they came forward too, as he did not suppose that they had ever been confirmed, but he let it pass.
Later in the morning, when I was on deck looking through glasses for the first sight of Trebizond, he came and stood by me and said, "How much longer are you going on like this, shutting the door against God?"
This question always disturbed me; I sometimes asked it of myself, but I did not know the answer. Perhaps it would have to be for always, because I was so deeply committed to something else that I could not break away.
"I don't know," I said.
"It's your business to know. There is no question. You must decide at once. Do you mean to drag on for years more in deliberate sin, refusing grace, denying the Holy Spirit? And when it ends, what then? It will end; such things always end. What then? Shall you come back, when it is taken out of your hands and it will cost you nothing? When you will have nothing to offer to God but a burnt-out fire and a fag end? Oh, he'll take it, he'll take anything we offer. It is you who will be impoverished for ever by so poor a gift. Offer now what will cost you a great deal, and you'll be enriched beyond anything you can imagine. How do you know how much of life you still have? It may be many years, it may be a few weeks. You may leave this world without grace, go on into the next stage in the chains you won't break now. Do you ever think of that, or have you put yourself beyond caring?"
Not quite, never quite. I had tried, but never quite. From time to time I knew what I had lost. But nearly all the time, God was a bad second, enough to hurt but not to cure, to hide from but not to seek, and I knew that when I died I should hear him saying, "Go away, I never knew you," and that would be the end of it all, the end of everything, and after that I never should know him, though then to know him would be what I should want more than anything, and not to know him would be hell. I sometimes felt this even now, but not often enough to do what would break my life to bits. Now I was vexed that Father Chantry-Pigg had brought it up and flung me into this turmoil. Hearing Mass was bad enough, hearing it and not taking part in it, seeing it and not approaching it, being offered it and shutting the door on it, and in England I seldom went.
I couldn't answer Father Chantry-Pigg, there was nothing I could say except "I don't know". He looked at me sternly, and said, "I hope, I pray, that you will know before it is too late. The door won't be open for ever. Refuse it long enough, and you will become incapable of going through it. You will, little by little, stop believing. Even God can't force the soul grown blind and deaf and paralysed to see and hear and move. I beg you, in this Whitsuntide, to obey the Holy Spirit of God. That is all I have to say."
He left me, and I stayed there at the rail, looking at the bitter Black Sea and its steep forested shores by which the Argonauts had sailed and where presently Trebizond would be seen, that corner of a lost empire, defeated and gone under so long ago that now she scarcely knew or remembered lost Byzantium, having grown unworthy of it, blind and deaf and not caring any more, not even believing, and perhaps that was the ultimate hell. Presently I should come to it; already I was on the way. It would be a refuge, that agnosticism into which I was slipping down. But it would always be anglo-agnosticism, and Mass would always torment. Once Anglicanism is in the system, I think one cannot get it out; it has been my family heritage for too many centuries, and nothing else, perhaps, is ultimately possible for us. I was a religious child, when I had time to give it thought; at fourteen or so I became an agnostic, and felt guilty about being confirmed, though I did not like to say so. I was an agnostic through school and university, then, at twenty-three, took up with the Church again; but the Church met its Waterloo a few years later when I took up with adultery; (curious how we always seem to see Waterloo from the French angle and count it a defeat) and this adultery lasted on and on, and I was still in it now, steaming down the Black Sea to Trebizond, and I saw no prospect of its ending except with death—the death of one of three people, and perhaps it would be my own. Unless, one day, the thing should relax its hold and peter out. So really agnosticism (anglo or other) seemed the only refuge, since taking the wings of the morning and fleeing to the uttermost parts of the sea is said to provide no hope, only another confrontation.Chapter 8
The shore swept back in higher ridges; cleaving the forests, deep valleys ran down to the sea. The ancient Greek ports, with their red-roofed white houses in front, and always their white mosques and minarets, climbed back to what had been their medieval Byzantine fortifications, but these had largely gone, destroyed by the Turks for modern buildings; theTrabzonlay too far out for us to see how much was left of the old Amisus behind the busy port of Samsun, or of the forts that guarded the little harbour of Tirebolu. All the ports were busy, full of ships and trade, and from all of them launches and rowing boats and motor boats and steam tugs came out to theTrabzonfull of people and things to sell and things to be shipped to Trebizond, and it was all much more animated than it had been in Jason's day, or even a century ago, but not splendid and gay, as it had been when Trebizond was a free Roman city and the gate to Armenia, and later when it was a Greek empire after the Latin conquest of Constantinople, and the Queen of the Euxine and the apple of the eye of all Asia, and trade flowed down the Euxine Sea, but fighting and intriguing and palace revolutions never stopped; or latest of all, when Constantinople fell to the Turks and the Byzantine Empire was for eight years Trebizond, and Trebizond was a legend, and for years after it had fallen English poets wrote of it, and it was a romance, like Troy and Fonterrabia and Venice. As we came in sight of it, having rounded Cape Yeros, Father Chantry-Pigg and aunt Dot told the Turkish students about it, but they had not heard of it, they called it Trabzon, and supposed it had always been a Turkish town, a port on a Turkish sea. Even Dr. Halide did not know much about its Greek past.
When we saw Trebizond lying there in its splendid bay, the sea in front and the hills behind, the cliffs and the ravines which held the ancient citadel, and the white Turkish town lying along the front and climbing up the hill, it was like seeing an old dream change its shape, as dreams do, becoming something else, for this did not seem the capital of the last Byzantine empire, but a picturesque Turkish port and town with a black beach littered with building materials, and small houses and mosques climbing the hill, and ugly buildings along the quay. The citadel, the ruins of the Comnenus palace, would be somewhere on one of the heights, buried in brambled thickets and trees; a great cliff, grown with tangled shrub, divided the city into two parts. Expecting the majestic, brooding ghost of a fallen empire, we saw, in a magnificent stagey setting, an untidy Turkish port. The ghost would be brooding on the woody cliffs and ravines, haunting the citadel and palace, scornfully taking no notice of the town that Trebizond now was, with the last Greeks expelled by the Father of the Turks twenty years back. From cafés and squares loud speakers blared across the water to us the eternal Turkish erotic whine, I dare say no more erotic than the British kind that you get on the Light Programme, but more eternal, for the Light Programme sometimes has a change, though it loves and whines much more than the Home Programme does, and on the Third they scarcely love and whine at all, which is why those whom aunt Dot calls the Masses very seldom turn this programme on. That is to say, the Third does love sometimes, but in a more highbrow, operatic kind of way, and it certainly whines sometimes, but not at the same time that it loves, and when it whines it sounds more like nagging than yearning and cuddling. But the Turkish radio seems to love and cuddle and yearn without a break, Turks being an excessively loving people, and if there were English words to their music they would be, "I love only yew, Baby, To me be always trew, Baby, For I love only yew."
The boats came out from Trebizond to take cargo and passengers back to it, and of the first-class passengers only we and the B.B.C. couple with their recording van, who had joined us at Samsun, were going to stay there. The Van Damms and the students and some other tourists landed to see the place and the shops, but they would return to theTrabzonin the evening to go on with their round trip, which would turn and bring them back when they reached Hopa, the last Turkish port before the iron curtain blocked the road to Russia. The boats were filled mostiy with steerage passengers who lived in Trebizond or were visiting relations there, and the women carried great bundles and sacks full of things, but the men carried suit-cases with sharp, square corners, which helped them very much in the struggle to get on and stay on the boats, for this was very violent and intense. More than one woman got shoved overboard into the sea during the struggle, and had to be dragged out by husbands and acquaintances, but one sank too deep and had to be left, for the boat-hooks could not reach her; all we saw were the apples out of her basket bobbing on the waves. I thought that women would not stand much chance in a shipwreck, and in the struggle for the boats many might fall in the sea and be forgotten, but the children would be saved all right, for Turks love their children, even the girls.
The camel was put on a steam tug that took animals, and it was the one camel, among sheep and calves and donkeys and pigs, and stood looking tall and white and distinguished, showing race, for it was of the tribe of Ruola, and it was very smooth, having just shed its winter coat, and very smart, with white ostrich plumes tossing on its head, for aunt Dot had spruced it up to make a snob impression in Trebizond. So far, this camel had not been of any use on the trip, in spite of being so useful at home in Oxfordshire, but now it would begin to earn its keep, for aunt Dot was going to take it into the interior, and up Mount Ararat, and all that, for conversion purposes. It was a strong camel, and could carry two of us and some luggage, and we might also get a mule. Aunt Dot thought that we would make a much more powerful impression riding about on a white Arabian camel from the famous Ruola herd than if we travelled in a common way by car, which anyhow we had not got. There is something, aunt Dot said, about a white camel that gives prestige, and particularly religious prestige. We put the camel in a nice stable close to the Yessilyurt Oteli, where we had booked rooms.
The B.B.C. were also at the Yessilyurt, in fact there seemed no other hotel, and it was a nice hotel, old and cleanish, and all the rooms opened out of a circular hall on the first floor, and the dining-room was beyond. When I saw it, I felt that I would not mind quite a long stay in Trebizond, and that, hidden in the town and its surroundings, there was something I wanted for myself and could make my own, something exiled and defeated but still alive, known long since but forgotten.
We went out to explore, and the first thing we saw in the street was the B.B.C. van taking records, and round it stood a crowd of Trapezuntines staring, while the B.B.C. couple asked them questions, through an interpreter they took about with them. They seemed to be asking what the favourite games in Trabzon were, and how much football was played, and was it rugger or soccer, but the answer, said the interpreter, was tric-trac, so the second half of the question did not arise. Aunt Dot, as we passed by, asked in Turkish, "What do the girls play?" but did not stop for the answer, as she knew what it would be, and that the girls had to stay at home and work in the house, or else in the fields, and in the evenings, while the men played tric-trac in the cafés, and the boys bicycled or played with balls in the squares, the girls would be toiling away like Circassian slaves. Aunt Dot grew angrier and angrier about the Moslem treatment of women, and could not wait for the A.C.M.S. to get its mission going but Dr. Halide said, "You must not be impatient. One cannot hurry Turks." As we left the B.B.C. van, we heard the interpreter urging the crowd (which increased all the time, Turks being inquisitive about the odd behaviour of foreign visitors, though not much about more impersonal things) to break into song and dance. They did not take any notice, but no doubt they would be bribed presently and would break out, and a nice Home Service programme about Trebizond would emerge.
The real Trebizond, about which the Home listeners would not hear, was in the labyrinth of narrow streets and squares which climbed up from the sea, and in the ruined Byzantine citadel, keep and palace on the heights between the two great wooded ravines that cleft deep valleys down from the table-topped mountains Boz Tepe to the shore, and in the disused, wrecked Byzantine churches that brooded, forlorn, lovely, ravished and apostate ghosts, about the hills and shores of that lost empire.
I got to know Trebizond, and particularly the ruined citadel and palace, pretty well before I had done with it. There is all about it, with maps and plans, in a very large good book on Armenian travels by H. F. B. Lynch, who was there about sixty years ago, and a good description of Trebizond to-day, and all the Byzantine churches, in Patrick Kinross's Turkey book, and there is a large history of it in German, which is therefore not easy to read, and some good shorter histories, and all about the church painting, by Professor Talbot Rice, and the Empire of Trebizond has a long section in Finlay'sHistory of Greece, but Finlay disapproved of Trapezuntines, and says at the end (and this was a bit that Dr. Halide liked and quoted), "In concluding the history of this Greek state, we inquire in vain for any benefit that it conferred on the human race," for the tumultuous agitation of its stream, he said, did not purify a single drop of the waters of life, which Finlay thought empires should do, but after all they very seldom have done anything like that, and he had forgotten all the Byzantine churches and the Comnenus palace. Still, there is no denying that Trapezuntines, like most Byzantines, did behave very corruptly and cruelly and wildly very often, and like most empires, they no doubt deserved to go under, but not so deeply under as Trebizond has gone, becoming Trabzon, with a black squalid beach, and full of those who do not know the past, or that it ever was Trebizond and a Greek empire, and women all muffled up and hiding their faces, and the Byzantine churches mostly turned into mosques, or broken up, or used for army stores and things.
Father Chantry-Pigg wanted to see the churches first, but aunt Dot said these would do later, the first thing at Trebizond was to drive up to the citadel and get a view, for this was what aunt Dot always wanted to do first, so we took a taxi from the square and drove up the hill across the western ravine, then climbed up on foot, and got to the walled and gated part, inside which Turkish houses had been built, and it was all covered with wild gardens and fig trees and brambles and thickets and goats and coops of hens, and we climbed up to the keep at the top, and the palace, and there was some confusion as to which ruins were which, but you could see the eight pointed windows of the palace banqueting hall, and through them there was a view of the whole landscape, with the broken citadel walls twisting about among the small gardens and cottages and the jungle of trees and shrubs that sloped down to the western ravine, and beyond was the sea and the western bay of Trebizond. Looking the other way, you saw the mountain Boz Tepe, that used to be Mithras, where the statue of Mithras once stood till destroyed by the martyr St. Eugenios on account of not being Christian, and Eugenios was presently destroyed by Diocletian on account of being Christian, for all was religious prejudice and hate, and Eugenios's church stands on a hill not far from the palace, and it is now a mosque, for Mahomet has defeated Mithras and Eugenios and Diocletian and has made the palace of the Grand-Comnenus a broken ruin in a wild fertile wilderness set with white minarets.
Father Chantry-Pigg read us Cardinal Bessarion's description of how the place had looked when he was there in the fourteenth century, and it had looked much more magnificent then than it did now that the walls were broken and the palace was a ruin with no roof and no painted walls, and grass and shrubs and fig trees hot in the sun sprouting from where had been the marble mosaic floors, and little cottages and sheds clustering against the walls, and goats all about. The mountain side and the sea and the ravines were the same, but the view down across Trabzon, with its minarets and its white houses and red roofs sloping down to the harbour and the quay and the custom-house, had become all-Turkish, the last Greeks gone.
Father Chantry-Pigg said his piece about Turkish apathy and squalor having let this noble palace and citadel go to ruin, as all antiquities in Turkey went to ruin. He had forgotten about St. Sophia, and the ancient Istanbul mosques, and about Dr. Halide being there and being a Turkish patriot. Dr. Halide, who had the lowest opinion of the public and private morals of Byzantines, said that it was understandable that the monuments to such vicious, cruel, violent and murderous profligates and maladministrators as the Byzantine emperors, despots, grand-dukes, nobles, bishops, eunuchs, populace, and above all the Trabzon Comnenus dynasty, of which Anna the historian was the only worthy representative—and indeed in Trabzon history it was notable that the women had been greatly superior to the men—it was understandable, said Dr. Halide, that the Osmanlis, taking over this corrupted and vicious empire, should not care to preserve the edifices reared out of the blood of the citizens and the coffers of vice. The Ottomans, sweeping in with their healthier and more robust strain, armed with the vigour of Islam, had built up a new and nobler régime, too destructive, perhaps of the past, but that was excusable.
Father Chantry-Pigg and aunt Dot and I scarcely liked to expatiate on the Ottomans and Islam, though aunt Dot did just say that, when it came to bloodthirstiness, murder, torture, violence, and all that, it seemed a pretty near thing between Byzantines and Turks; after all, as she pointed out, both the Comneni and their conquerors were Asiatic, and deeply devoted to cruelty. Look, she said, at the way Mahomet II had massacred or enslaved the Christian Greeks of Trebizond.
Dr. Halide said, look at the religious tolerance of Sulemein the Magnificent in sixteenth century Istanbul.
"So much more tolerant was he than the West," she said, "that no doubt some of your ancestors fled to Istanbul to escape from persecution at home."
I thought this would have been very wise of our ancestors, whatever it was they were being persecuted for, because Istanbul would have been a very beautiful and romantic city to flee to.
But Dr. Halide admitted that neither Islam nor Christianity had exercised a very moderating influence on cruelty down the ages, in fact, both had seemed to heighten it, though she did not think it had been worse in the east than in the west at the same period, when all was shocking, and look at the Crusaders.
Father Chantry-Pigg looked as if he feared that Dr. Halide, faced with all this Christian and Islamic wickedness, might slip into agnosticism again, for her Christianity seemed to him, he had told us, to be a rather brittle veneer. After all, he had pointed out, she had not got behind her, as we had, centuries of Christian, not to say Anglican, ancestors, but a fierce race of nomadic, bloodthirsty and rather stupid followers of the Prophet (Father Chantry-Pigg looked on followers of the Prophet with prejudice and distaste), who had been most uncultured. It would be extremely inconvenient if she should lapse now, just when we needed her assistance in our enquiries and her sympathetic help in preparing the ground. So he changed the subject from Byzantine wickedness to Byzantine architecture, and suggested that we should now visit the church of St. Eugenios, which we could see from the citadel, and he hoped that this and the other ancient Greek churches, so neglected and dilapidated and mosqued, with their paintings daubed with whitewash, would show Dr. Halide the barbarous lack of culture of her ancestors.
We spent several days in Trebizond, seeing it and making expeditions and talking to the inhabitants. Aunt Dot and Dr. Halide called on the mayor, and broached the idea of an Anglican school being started, to teach the children English and Christianity. They asked him if such a school would be welcomed by the Trebizond parents, and he replied yok, for the Trabzon people were pretty Moslem and not at all progressive, had excellent schools of their own, and wanted no change. He himself was progressive, too progressive to be Moslem, and too progressive to be Christian, and he liked neither the Imams nor the Greek papas. But the Trabzon poor were backward.
"What wouldhesay if he could come back to-day?" he asked, jerking his head in the direction of the nearest statue of Atatürk.
"What indeed?" Dr. Halide echoed. "Look, for example, at those women there."
She pointed to two women in the street outside, throwing their shawls round their faces as they passed a group of men.
The mayor nodded.
"Nevertheless," he said, "it is well for our women to be modest." So Dr. Halide and aunt Dot saw that he was not really at all progressive about women, only about religion, education, intercourse with the west, and things like that, whereas, as aunt Dot told him, the important thing was women, and there was no call for them to be any more modest than men. He nodded and was benign, but any one could see he did not agree, and that women were only important for field work, house work, bearing sons, and for what D. H. Lawrence called that ugly little word, sex, though it always seems odd that D. H. Lawrence should have thought that word either ugly or little.
Anyhow, the mayor was not encouraging about starting an Anglican school in Trabzon.
Next day was Corpus Christi, so Father Chantry-Pigg said Mass at eight at his portable altar in a corner of the public gardens, and a crowd collected and watched, and they thought we were the Greek Church, but they were stolid and tolerant, and did not behave like the Catholic Commandos or the Protestant Storm Troopers at home. After Mass, Father Chantry-Pigg thought it would be nice to have a procession round the gardens, so he walked off with the portable altar, chanting Ave Verum, and aunt Dot and Dr. Halide and I followed behind, chanting too, and a number of Turkish boys and a few men came after to see what was the matter and what we would be at next Presently Father Chantry-Pigg stopped and preached a short sermon in English, and Dr. Halide put it into Turkish, and the chief thing it said was that this was a great Christian festival and holy day, always kept in the Church of England, and I wondered what Mr. Scott of All Souls Portland Place would say to that, but we shall never know.
What we did know was what the Trabzon Imam was saying to it, for he suddenly appeared near the end of the sermon, and, though he said it in Turkish, he made it quite clear, waving his arms with stern gestures and cries of disapproval, and sometimes breaking off to cuff a boy who was gaping up at us. He tried to jam Father Chantry-Pigg's voice with his own, and what he was saying must have been terrible, for the boys and men began to slink away. Then the Imam saw a dreadful sight, for two women who were passing by with large baskets of washing had paused to look on, and he advanced on them full of the wrath of the Prophet against women, but before he got to them they had fled, covering their whole faces with their shawls. The Imam returned to us, and now he was chanting the Koran, and his arms tossed and his beard and hair tossed and one saw how dominating he must be over his flock. Halide and Xenophon watched him with great contempt, but aunt Dot was interested.
"Other clergymen," she said, "are so odd compared with ours." I could see she was remembering the whole strange world of clergymen; mullahs, Buddhists, Orthodox, Copts, Romans, Old Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Rabbis, and of course they all are odd, for they uphold strange creeds and rites, and that is what they are for, but aunt Dot may have been right to think Anglicans the least odd, or perhaps it is only that they are the ones we are most used to. But Father Chantry-Pigg said later that he had behaved very much like that Imam to the Arab missionaries who came to St. Gregory's, and that the Imam was very right to defend his flock against strange doctrine.
After he had stopped preaching, Father Chantry-Pigg spoke polite words to this Imam and asked Halide to tell him that there was no ill-feeling, but Halide said she could not tell him that, as in the Imam there was quite a lot of ill-feeling. What she did tell him was that this was the Church of England, and Christians were bound to show their religion to non-Christians, it was part of their religious rule. But we could see that the Imam was going to make trouble for us with the mayor.
Then we went in to breakfast at the Yessilyurt, and aunt Dot said we had made a good beginning.
In the afternoon aunt Dot and Dr. Halide called on the British consul to consult him about the mission, of which he took a poor view, not thinking it the thing to try to convert the nationals of a country one was visiting to another faith, when they had a perfectly good one of their own. He had heard about the Corpus Christi procession and the sermon, and thought it a pity. Aunt Dot pointed out how missionary work was often done by foreigners in Africa, Asia and so on, and used in the past to be the thing in all countries. We ourselves, she pointed out, had been converted by Roman and Irish missionaries, Rome by Jews and Greeks, Greeks by Jews, North Americans by French and British emigrants, South Americans by Spanish and Portuguese, and now America was sending missions to convert Britain. It was done all the time; in Syria the Crusaders had had a go at it, and today there were several missions at work in Turkey, and no one seemed to mind. Had the consul read the Gospels, he would remember that the disciples had been bidden to go into all the world and preach Christianity. The consul still thought it tactless, but said he had no powers to stop it, and if they must do it, they must. Already, he said, British visitors to Trabzon were thought pretty odd, and indeed seemed always to have been so. They had been apt to take what seemed to Turks a rather morbid interest in Armenia; Mr. H. F. B. Lynch, for instance, in the eighteen nineties, who had stayed in the city for a long time making explorations, maps and plans, and taking notes for a large and remarkable book, had then gone on into Armenia and had climbed Ararat. He had shown a good deal of sympathy, still legendary in Trabzon, for the then recently massacred Armenians. Lord Kinross too, who had been in Trabzon lately, had been thought to have too lively an interest in alleged Armenian church architecture. And now here were those B.B.C. people, who had the population following them about wherever they went, eager to see what on earth they would do next, the boys bribed to sing, while the women and girls giggled from a distance. Then there had been the Billy Graham mission, which had passed through the other day, hired a room in the municipal buildings, and held a revival service through an interpreter, telling people that it was quite probable that they would be dead in twenty-four hours so had better turn to Christ before that. The local Imam had not approved of this, holding that, if his flock turned to any one, it should be to Allah.
"You have to be careful," the consul said, "about these religious matters. The Imams take them very seriously, and national pride comes in. Also the men are afraid of having the women upset. I mean, it would never do if the women began turning to Christ. It might put all kinds of revolutionary notions into their heads. You do see that, don't you?"
From what aunt Dot and Dr. Halide told us, this started an argument that only ended when the Vali called to see the consul on business, and the ladies had to retire, to be entertained by the consul's wife in another room. The consul's wife told them that she admired their courage in bathing. For her part, she did not dare. It was true that our bathing parties collected great crowds on the beach, and that the boys threw apples and tomatoes at aunt Dot, who dived and swam like a porpoise, while the women, wrapping their shawls over their mouths, looked on in shocked stupefaction. The consul's wife warned aunt Dot that female bathing was thought extremely immodest at this end of the Black Sea, and was not a good advertisement for the Christian Church, but aunt Dot was so sold on bathing that she thought it must be a good advertisement for anything. But she liked the consul and his wife very much, they had been most kind and civil to us, and she did not want to make trouble for them, though actually that is what consuls expect and are for. So she agreed that perhaps Trebizond was not a good headquarters for an Anglican mission, and that it might be better to start it in the villages back in the mountains. The consul and his wife were relieved to hear this, as it did not seem to them that an Anglican mission could do a great deal of harm back in the mountains, it would not be like Trabzon and the other Black Sea ports, where there is so much pride and gossip and scandal that consuls are apt to be nervous about what their nationals may do next. Whereas in the mountains behind, life is so strange and ignorant always that nothing new is very strange and it does not matter much, and consuls probably never get to hear of it. So we parted from the consul and his wife the best of friends, and the consul said he hoped that we might catch up with the Seventh Day Adventists making for Ararat and the Second Coming, for they are part of the strange and ignorant life that goes on, and has always gone on, round about there. No one is surprised at the things that happen in that country, such as the ark landing on the top of Ararat and letting loose on it all those creatures, and no one would really be surprised if the Second Coming happened there, and it may have been the only religious belief that the Seventh Day Adventists shared with Father Chantry-Pigg, that is to say, he did not actually believe, as they did, that it was due to appear on Ararat that year, but it would not have taken him by surprise, as it would aunt Dot, Dr. Halide, and me. Dr. Halide, who had picked up modernism somewhere in England (perhaps in some of the churches she had mentioned to us) and had even attended a conference of the Modern Churchmen's Union one summer at Somerville College, Oxford, was a partial-diluvian, which was a heresy that the flood had not covered the whole earth, and this had been held by Bishop Colenso in the nineteenth century, and he had told Africans so, and in a novel by Charlotte Yonge the arithmetic book he wrote was condemned on account of this heresy. So when she told Father Chantry-Pigg that she had this heresy too (for she was still in the stage of the Christian religion when people think that heresies and unbelief matter and are important, whereas aunt Dot and I, in our ancient Anglicanism, take them in our stride, knowing that they cannot unseat us), Father Chantry-Pigg told her that this was not a theory to be mentioned to Turks, to unsettle their minds at the very beginning of the great Bible story; and in any case the Turks themselves believed in the great and total Flood, which had been taught them by the Prophet. So what with the Prophet, and what with Father Chantry-Pigg, and what with the Seventh Day Adventists, and what with the Billy Graham missioners, and, of course, aunt Dot and myself, Dr. Halide would not really stand a chance of convincing the Turkish women in the mountains of partial-diluvianism, she would be one against many, even though she spoke Turkish. She thought it would be very nice if the Turkish women could have an enlightened modern Anglicanism, to go with the enlightened modern education, habits and hats that Kemal Atatürk had tried to give them, and of course this was the only kind of Anglicanism that he would have liked for them, if he had known enough about Anglicanism to distinguish between one kind and another. But it seemed that the kind they would be told about would be Father Chantry-Pigg's, which was superstitious and extreme, and I thought this would go much better with the Turkish women, who were superstitious and extreme themselves, and really probably Roman Catholicism or the Greek Church would be more in their line. But Dr. Halide said they would not make good Roman Catholics on account of the chilly attitude of the Prophet towards images. I said that if they could not take images it would be no use their being converted by Father Chantry-Pigg, they had better be Low Church, and Dr. Halide said intelligently, "Ah yes, Mr. Scott should be here from Portland Place." Aunt Dot said, "That would be very odd," and Father Chantry-Pigg looked as if he thought so too.
Next day we drove up the coast to see if Rize or Hopa would be more encouraging than Trebizond towards Anglican missions. We crossed the mouths of the Pyxitis, where Xenophon's Ten Thousand camped, but the ground was pretty marshy and did not seem a good camping-place, and we found no intoxicating honey. People were fishing in boats on the river, and I thought I would come on another day and do this. We drove on to Rize, the next port towards the Russian frontier, and bathed on a charming beach, which was much nicer than the black beach of Trabzon littered with harbour construction. The people of Rize seemed happy, and the women were about more, so aunt Dot decided it might be a promising place for mission headquarters. We met on the shore the young Greek student, Xenophon Paraclydes, who was staying there with his maternal grandfather, a well-off Turk who had a tea-garden. When we told him we were soon off to Armenia, he looked wistful, and said he wished he could come too.
The next port, Hopa, seemed less prosperous and encouraging, and was the nearest port to Russia, and aunt Dot looked towards the frontier with a determined expression, for beyond it was the Caucasus. Knowing that aunt Dot's chief passion was for strange and exciting places, and that Christianity and the Church of England and even the liberation of women came some way after that, I felt that her journeys for the A.C.M.S. were partly an unconscious camouflage for this great ambition she had and this delightful hobby she indulged in.
Dr. Halide, on the other hand, gazed through her field glasses at Russia with an expression of the firmest hostility.
"That great devil," she said. "Crouching there in its cage like a savage brown bear waiting to give the death hug. But just let it try.Weare ready for it."
Aunt Dot said, "Now, Halide dear, it's not a bit of good getting het up about Russia. There it is, and there it will stay. Not a thing we can do about it, so we must just accept coexistence."
Father Chantry-Pigg said that no doubt St. Michael and his angels should just have accepted co-existence with Satan, instead of hurling him from heaven. Aunt Dot said that Almighty God, anyhow, still accepted co-existence with Satan, and also that she didn't know where we could hurl Soviet Russia to if we tried. Father Chantry-Pigg said this would be another job for St. Michael and the angels, when the time was ripe.
"Even I may live, I hope, to see the old Russia of the saints and ikons set free."
Dr. Halide said, "When I see those Orthodox papas all about Istanbul, I can't wish them back to power, not even in Russia, though it would serve the Russians right. They are over, they are the past, not the future."
Father Chantry-Pigg said that our branch of the Catholic Church was in communion with these papas, and I saw that this did not make Dr. Halide think any more highly of our branch of the Catholic Church. Aunt Dot saw it too, and changed the subject to those British who succeed from time to time in slipping behind the curtain from London, Harwell and such places, of whom she spoke rather enviously. She had a theory, and, though I don't know how she came by it, it may be true, that the great secret these disappeared tell the Russians is that we have no H bombs, nor anything nearly so enormous and peculiar, as we have no idea how to make them, nor enough money to make them with, nor would we actually care to make them if we had, they being so dangerous, expensive and cruel, and so liable to go off at the wrong times and in the wrong places, and therefore, behind the immense and complicated façade of mystery and secrecy that has been erected, what we are so busy making is dummy bombs filled with water, and ever and anon, indeed all too often, those who are privy to this secret flit, heavily financed, behind the curtain to give comfort and succour to the Queen's enemies by revealing it. And aunt Dot did not see why she could not reveal it quite as well herself.
That evening, when I was going to bed, I found a notebook full of writing in one of the drawers in my room, under the newspaper lining, and I saw the writing was Charles's, and it was all about the places he had been to in Turkey with David, and it seemed to be part of his Turkey book, and he must have had my room when he and David were staying in Trebizond. I did not know where he was now, so I put the note-book in my suitcase to send to him later. It looked interesting, and I thought I would have a read in it presently, so as to know what not to put myself, in the part I was writing for aunt Dot's book. Other people's books on the subjects one is writing about oneself are annoying sometimes, because if one has read them one must avoid saying the same things, and if one has not read them and says the same things readers think one has copied, and when one's own book comes first, the books that come after it have either copied from it or not copied from it, and when they have copied they get the credit, as readers have forgotten who wrote it first, and when they have not copied they seem to be despising it and to be saying the opposite. It would be better if only one writer at a time wrote on each subject, but this cannot be, and when the subject is a country it would be unfair, as people rely on writing to get them about abroad and let them take money to spend there. At the present time, a great many writers are interested in seeing Turkey, and on account of this many of them are writing books about it, and this has to be put up with. Aunt Dot's Turkey book which I was illustrating and in which I was putting bits, would not be like any one else's really, as it would be mostly about the misfortunes of Moslem women and how their lot could be improved by a change in their religion, but if the Turkish women seemed too much against being converted she would have to give the book a sad end, and it would not be so encouraging for the Church, though of course the Church must never give up hope. But my bits would be about the scenery and churches and castles and ruins and towns, and these had already been so well done lately that I should have to be very careful. The trouble with countries is that, once people begin travelling in them, and people have always been travelling in Turkey, they are apt to get over-written, as Greece has, and all the better countries in Europe, such as Italy and France and Spain. England has not been over-written, at least not by foreigners, on account of its not being very attractive, what with the weather and the Adantic Ocean and the English Channel and the North Sea and the industrial towns and not having many antique ruins, but above all the weather, for no one from abroad can stand this for long, and actually we can't stand it for long ourselves, but we have to. For the same reason, the Scandinavian countries are under-written, because no one wants to sit about in the open air in the snow and very likely in the long dark night eating soused and pickled fish and writing about what they see, however beautiful it may be, and so there are only a few books about the Scandinavian countries, and those that there are do not seem to sell very well, because so few travellers want to go there. Russia is always written about by those who manage to get there, and in the sixteenth century a lot of English merchants and sailors did, and Muscovy got written up, because it was strange and barbarous; to-day though still strange and barbarous, it has grown more difficult to get into, but those who make it, such as ambassadors, diplomats, scientists, communists, and spies, all write about it, though the books by the spies and the missing diplomats and scientists have not yet come out, and perhaps never will, or perhaps they will only come out in Sunday newspapers as serials, called "How I crashed the Curtain."
Anyhow, we are now many of us writing about Turkey, and I put Charles's note-book away to keep for him. I saw that there was a long piece about Trebizond in it, and I hoped he had when there different thoughts from mine.
Next morning the consul rang up aunt Dot and said had she heard that Charles Dagenham, who had been stopping with a friend at the Yessüyurt a month or two ago, had just been killed by a shark while swimming off Smyrna. I was very sorry about this, as I had known Charles for years and was fond of him, and it seemed, and indeed was, a dreadful end. Father Chantry-Pigg crossed himself and prayed that poor Charles might rest in peace and have perpetual light shining on him, even though that kind of light had not seemed to shine much on him while he was alive. Father Chantry-Pigg added that this was what came of indiscriminate bathing, and probably the Turks, who knew their own shores, were quite right not to. Aunt Dot said, "Poor boy. He can't have learnt shark technique. That is all one needs." We all agreed that it was terribly sad, and I wondered what David felt about their quarrel now. I did not know what to do with Charles's note-book, but supposed I had better take it back with me to England and give it to his people. To forget this sad end that poor Charles had made, I went fishing in the Pyxitis, where I caught several fish rather like trout, and the Yessilyurt cooked them for our dinner that night. At dinner aunt Dot told me that in two days we were leaving Trebizond for our Armenian travelling. I was sorry to leave Trebizond and stop exploring the town and the citadel and palace ruins and fishing in the Pyxids; I felt I was settling down, and could have put in a month or two there very happily. However, I was being taken about Turkey by aunt Dot, to help her, and of course it would be fine to see Armenia and Ararat and do some pictures and get some fishing in some of the rivers and small lakes that I saw marked on the map. Actually aunt Dot would enjoy it too, if I could seduce her away from her missionary work. After all, the best two for missionary work would be Father Chantry-Pigg as a priest and Dr. Halide as a doctor and a Turk.
Our most important and difficult job before starting on our journey was to pack the camel. Being a racing camel, it could not carry seven or eight hundred pounds, as a Bactrian could, but it could manage about five to six hundred. Aunt Dot weighed about a hundred and twenty-six pounds, and Father Chantry-Pigg a hundred and fifty-four, which came to two hundred and eighty between them; and this left, if they both rode the camel at once, nearly three hundred pounds for luggage and sometimes an extra rider. Thus loaded, it would cheerfully (except for camels never being really cheerful) do some twenty-five miles a day at quite a good speed, and would only want a drink every three or four days. Not that we should be going so far and so fast each day; we should go at a leisurely rate, stopping to talk to people and have drinks in the villages.
The day before we started, Xenophon Paraclydes, the Greek student who had been staying at Rize with his grandfather, turned up at the hotel in a jeep, and asked if he could come with us. It seemed that the jeep was one of his grandfather's, and that he had been allowed to borrow it, and it would, as he said, be just the thing for the mountain country. So, he said, wouldhebe just the thing, talking Turkish to people and rounding them in to our meetings. Aunt Dot gathered that he greatly approved of the proselytising of Turkish women, which would annoy Turkish men so much, as he had a strong hereditary objection to Moslemism, as well as to the Greek Church, and to Kemal Atatürk, who had expelled the Greeks from Turkey. So he did not like people to be Moslems, and he did not like them to be atheists, as the Atatürk régime had desired, and he did not like them to be Greek Church, and he thought the Church of England would do very well for them.
Father Chantry-Pigg asked him if he was any kind of Christian, and he could not think of any kind he was, but supposed that, if he were to become any kind, it would have to be Anglican, as the Greek papas were so extremely backward, and Roman Catholics were known to be idolatrous, and Seventh Day Adventists insane, and American Baptists talked too much, but he did not think he would do anything like that for the present. Father Chantry-Pigg said that would be all right, so long as he said nothing discouraging about the Faith, as he that was not against us was with us, and he hoped that Xenophon might presently come by the great gift of Faith, and might perhaps be the first convert. Xenophon, with all that long history of ikons in his blood, and, through his mother, of mosquery, did not look as if he thought this was really likely, but he said with great politeness that it would, he was sure, be most enjoyable.
Anyhow, here he was with the jeep, which solved all our transport difficulties, and was the very thing for Armenian mountains, and actually Dr. Halide and I and Father Chantry-Pigg much preferred it to the camel, so we agreed that we would take turns riding the camel behind aunt Dot, but that in the villages, where people would see us, it would be Father Chantry-Pigg on the camel, as white Arabian camels give dignity and are a sign of prosperity, and look very religious and fine, whereas jeeps have a scrubby, irreligious look. Father Chantry-Pigg remarked that Job in his better days had six thousand camels, and aunt Dot said she was glad for every reason not to have been Job.
We said goodbye to those we knew in Trebizond, who hoped we should come back, for we had amused them, except the schoolmaster, who did not care for what the mayor had told him about our wanting to start an English school in the town, and except the consul, who had the occupational disease of consuls, which is fear of what their nationals will do next to annoy them.
So we arranged to start at seven next morning. Before I went to bed I finished the letter I had been writing for a week to my second cousin Vere. When one of us is abroad without the other, we both keep a kind of daily journal and post it once a week. Vere does not hold with religion, and thought the mission a foolish, troublesome and exhibitionist way of getting about Turkey, though admittedly it was one way, and you had to hand it to aunt Dot for enterprise.Chapter 10
So in the morning, which, though we meant it to be seven, became eleven, partly on account of difficulties in packing the camel so that things did not slide off it, but mostly because starting at seven tends to become eleven, we set out along the coast road, that wound at first through narrow streets, so that we were followed by a crowd, and the jeep went first with Xenophon driving and Halide sitting beside him, and I sat at the back, looking at the view. The camel paced briskly after the jeep, with aunt Dot sitting astride in blue linen slacks and a topee, in front of the hump and holding the reins, which were scarlet, and Father Chantry-Pigg in khaki riding-breeches and puttees, riding on the top of the hump, with luggage slung on each side, though most of it was in the jeep. I thought we certainly looked sensational, and Vere would not have liked it at all, though it was not really exhibitionist, but the natural drama that was in aunt Dot's character, and this is a useful quality to have, and leads to many conversions. It also leads to the enjoyment of lookers on. The people of Trebizond ran after us and cheered. The children learned a little English at school, and had also mixed with some tough young Britons who had been employed on the harbour works, and had picked up from them uncultured remarks such as bye bye, cheerio, cheery bye, old trout, and so on. So they called these after us, shouting, "Bye bye, old trout," as the camel went by with aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg on its back and its ostrich plumes tossing on its head.
Father Chantry-Pigg frowned and said, "These lads need a lesson. Calling a lady names like that. One is ashamed to think that they must have learnt it from our countrymen."
Aunt Dot said, "I think it was you he meant," but Father Chantry-Pigg said he was afraid that old trouts were female.
"They can't all be," aunt Dot, who knew natural history and the facts of fish life, corrected him. But Father Chantry-Pigg still thought he was not an old trout, and that if anyone was this fish it would be aunt Dot. And it is a fact that women get called rude names more than men, because it is not expected that they will hit the people who call them names, so they are called old trouts, old bags, cows, tramps, bitches, whores, and many other things, which no one dares to shout after men, though when they are not there men may safely be called sharks, swine, hogs, snakes, curs, and other animals.
We left the town behind us, and followed the road that wound between the mountain Boz Tepe and the sea, by Eleousa Point and the eastern bay, which was broad and slate blue and full of ships, and tumbled with small shaggy waves, and we crossed the Pyxids and Xenophon's camp, and Xenophon the student said his father had named him that to vex his mother, who wanted to call him Mehmet.
From the Pyxids I looked back at Trebizond and at the Trapesus rock jutting up between the two great ravines shaggy with woods and crowned with the broken citadel walls that sprawled round the Byzantine palace and the small Turkish houses and gardens that crowded inside them, and below was the sea, and the harbour where the Greek and the Roman ships had sailed in and out and rocked at anchor in the bay, and all the trade from Asia Minor and Persia had flowed in by ship and caravan, bringing to Trebizond the wealth and the pride and the power that made her the Queen of the Euxine, and now the wealth and the pride and the power had ebbed away and Trabzon was like the descendant of some great line who has become of small account, and has a drab name, without glory or romance, but is still picturesque, though the new harbour works that had been planned were a desolate litter on the unclean beach, making it a waste land.
Yet I liked the city, and its people, and I knew that I should come back, to find the glory and the legend, to find Trebizond, the ghost that haunted Trabzon.
Now we were among the rhododendrons and the azaleas which had supplied the madding honey to the Ten Thousand, and the May breezes blew about, sweet with the tangs of lemon trees and fig trees and aromatic shrubs; and pomegranates and cucumbers and tobacco plants and gourds and all the fruits you would expect flourished in the woods we went through, and I thought the Garden of Eden had possibly been situated here. When we stopped for lunch in a wood,
I asked Father Chantry-Pigg about this but he said no, that garden had been in Mesopotamia.
I do not think I have mentioned that we were carrying a tent in the jeep, which was a pity, as, when evening came we had to put it up, which was a very tedious job, instead of sleeping in the Palace Hotel in the nearest village, or in a waysideban, which provided more local colour as well as beds. But aunt Dot was a confirmed camper if the weather was fine, and it was always part of my job to struggle with the tent. We usually found a stream to camp by, and it was also part of my job to find the stream. So the jeep went on ahead and found a stream, and by the time Xenophon and I had got the tent up, the camel arrived at a canter, with aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg on its back and the bags bobbing up and down against its sides.
Xenophon called out, "Here is water," and Father Chantry-Pigg looked encouraging and expectant as he dismounted stiffly from the hump, as if he was hoping that Xenophon's next words would be what the eunuch had said to Philip, "what should hinder me to be baptised?" But Xenophon's next words were, "There are good meals in the Palas Oteli in that village there," and he pointed at a small group of hovels on a hill-side near by, where it did not look as if there would be good meals, but in Turkey you never know, and anyhow there seemed no other meals at hand, so aunt Dot rode the camel up the hill, and Father Chantry-Pigg and Xenophon went on foot, and Dr. Halide and I stayed behind to look after the tent and jeep till they came back, and that is one of the troubles about tents, they cannot be left alone and locked up, so the natives everywhere will find their way into them, even in Turkey, which is very honest as countries go. There is no saying whether, in most countries, natives or travellers are the more dishonest; gypsies and pedlars and nomads and barrow boys, who move on all the time, are bad, but natives who never move at all, and pick things up from those who do, are bad too, and tents which do not lock are safe with neither.
"Your aunt," Halide said to me when the others had gone off for this meal they had heard about, and we were busy arranging the tent, "will, as well as eating, look about to find out what the women and girls, and perhaps too the men, feel about religion. But I can tell her. My poor countrywomen in these ignorant parts of Turkey are tied to the past, and even if this Church society she works for were to start a mission and schools and a Y.W.C.A. round here, no one would go to them. The men would not let the women go, and the women would not wish it, nor let their children attend the schools. Why should they? We now have village schools all over Turkey, to which even the girls go. As to religion and customs, they are tied to their traditions, and they will not change yet. Atatürk did his best, but see them now. Their only chance is to go and live in towns. The religion of other races will not cure them, and what Dot calls 'women's institutes' will not cure them. What are these institutes, do you know them?"
I said there was one in every English village, and women met and talked there and drank tea and made jam and put fruit into bottles.
"Talk, tea, jam, fruit in bottles," said Halide, "we have all those in Turkey too, but they do not emancipate women. Education must do that; education only will give them the intelligence to throw their shawls back from their faces and look men in the face and defy them, wearing hats and playing tric-trac in the cafés while men carry the loads. But the Christian Church they will not accept, it is too far from them, even if they throw off Islam. I have spoken to Moslems about it in Istanbul, I have spoken of it to young medical students, after I returned from London a Christian myself. Some will accept parts of it, they will read the Bible, they will admire Christ, as the Prophet did. But further they will not go. They have said to me, 'The Bible, yes. Jesus Christ, yes. Holy Communion, no.' And the Church of England, isn't it, is built round Holy Communion, what you call the Mass. That is what your Father Chantry-Pigg would tell people; and it won't go well with Moslems, I can assure you. I know what I talk about. Dot is a romantic woman, her feet aren't on the ground. She thinks she is practical, a woman of business, but no, she is a woman of dreams. Mad dreams, dreams of crazy, impossible things. And they aren't all of conversion to the Church, oh no. Nor all of the liberation of women, oh no. Her eyes are on far mountains, always some far peak where she will go. She looks so firm and practical, that nice face, so fair and plump and shrewd, but look in her eyes, you will sometimes catch a strange gleam. Isn't it so?"
"Why, yes. Aunt Dot has always had her dreams. They are what take her about the world. She is an adventuress."
"About the world, yes. Tell me, Laurie, does she love her country?"
"Not that I know of, particularly. Why should she? I mean, she usually prefers to be somewhere else, when she can. Most Britons do, I think. I expect it's the climate. Besides, we are a nomadic people; we like change of scene."
"Still, a man or a woman may love his country, her country, even if they enjoy travelling. We Turks love our country very deeply. We see its faults, but we love it. Don't the English do the same?"
"Some do, I suppose. And lots of us quite like it, for one thing or another."
"Every one should love his country." Halide looked handsome and firm and patriotic, and as if she would fight for Turkey to the death.
I asked, "Why should they? Is it a merit to love where one happens to live, or to have been born? Should one love Birmingham if one was born there? Or Leeds? Or Kent or Surrey?" for I never had been able to see why, except that I suppose it is better to love every place and person. "Or Moscow?" I added, to vex Halide.
"Moscow!" She said it like a curse. "Still, I suppose Russians love it. I cannot reason," she said, "about loving one's country. It is just a thing one does. As one loves one's mother."
"I seldom meet mine. She left my father early for another, and we lost touch. She can't have been the possessive type of mother. My father was a priest, so he didn't divorce her. She is usually abroad somewhere. I rather like coming across her."
"My mother," Halide said, "is a great bore. My father too is a bore."
We mused for a while over parents. Then I went on musing about why it was thought better and higher to love one's country than one's county, or town, or village, or house. Perhaps because it was larger. But then it would be still better to love one's continent, and best of all to love one's planet.
Halide said, "I sometimes wonder if Dot can be trusted."
"Well, actually she can be, I mean she often has been. But perhaps she shouldn't be."
"Always her eyes on the mountains. That disturbs me sometimes."
"Well, if she wants to climb Ararat, she can, so far as I am concerned. I shall stay on the lower slopes myself, and pick up bits of the ark there."
"Ararat!" Halide seemed to wave Ararat and the ark away. "I am not afraid of Ararat."
She brooded darkly for a while, I supposed on some mountains not Ararat, of which she was afraid. Turkey is full of mountains, and most of them are rather alarming. But we did not have time to go on talking, because just then the others came back from the Palas Oteli.
"Was it good food?" I asked. "What did you have?"
"Etli pilav, çiç kebabi, simit, zeytun yagli bakla, blossoms with sugar and yoghourt, and wine of these vineyards, that was not good; the food was small town, but cooked o.k. You will see. You will like the blossoms, they are spécialité maison in these hotels around Trabzon." It was Xenophon who answered about the food. Aunt Dot was thinking of other things, and said, "Most vexing. All the women are locked up in their houses. It seems that the Billy Graham missioners were there the other day and held a meeting in the village square, and a lot of the women came forward and decided for Christ, or anyhow for the missioners, and the men were so angry that they all locked up their wives and daughters and only let them out now for their work in the fields, and they mustn't say a word to anybody they meet. So there was no chance of any conversation with them, and if these Graham missionaries are going to queer our pitch all about Armenia, we may as well give it up and go elsewhere."
"We had better get ahead of them," said Father Chantry-Pigg. "I gather their progress is slow, as they delay every day for these long meetings. In the jeep, we could overtake them, and reach Ararat first."
"I am not in the jeep," said aunt Dot. "I am on the camel, and the camel will take a week to get to Ararat. Anyhow, I am not set on Ararat, which is a disagreeable mountain, and will be infested with Seventh Day Adventists waiting for the Coming. For all we know, they will be holding services too. Armenia—perhaps the whole of Anatolia—is obviously over-missionised, and I shall say so in my report. Halide and Laurie, do go and have your dinners."
Aunt Dot was depressed and out of humour. She got off the camel, and she and Xenophon unstrapped the sleeping-bags and the rugs and led the camel down to the stream for watering and grooming, and aunt Dot fed it roots and azaleas and aromatic shrubs that were good for its teeth, which were pretty yellow, and cud-wort, in case it lost its cud, and Xenophon peered about the jeep engine and fed it oil and water and cleaned the plugs and all that kind of thing, and Father Chantry-Pigg got out his prayer-books and made ready to say evensong or compline or whatever he was going to say that evening, then had a read in his Sarum breviary.
Halide and I walked along the forest path, between the flowering oleanders and azaleas and the copses of oak and beech and spruce fir, and crossed the stream by a foot-bridge and climbed the hill up to where was the village with the hovels, one of which was the Palace Hotel, and it was a small white house with arcades and a small yard in front with mud and goats and hens, and, as it was now become evening, they had just lit the iron lamp that swung over the door and turned on the lights inside, and the radio wailed and whined without stopping, as western radio stops from time to time, to change the tune for another one which sounds the same. We went into the kitchen behind the eating-room, to see the food cooking on the stoves in large cauldrons and pick what we would have, which is a great advantage had by Turkish restaurants over most European ones, for not only can you see and smell the dishes but it does not matter not knowing the Turkish for them, as you just point. Of course this did not matter to Halide, who knew what they all were in Turkish, and which were stews of goat and fat and rice and which were minced mutton and rice rissoles fried in batter and onions and which were tough braised chicken stewed with herbs, and what there was inside the stuffed vine leaves and cabbage leaves. She asked for trout, but the trout were all eaten up, so we ate from a lot of different cauldrons, and Xenophon had been right that it was quite well cooked though rather small town, and that the local wine was not good. We dined in the verandah above the yard, and the radio whined so loud that it was a job to talk through it, so mostly we just ate, though passing some remarks every little while.
Halide said, over her vine leaves stuffed with minced mutton, that it seemed obvious to her that the Anglican Church would not stand a good chance against Moslemism, and that, if any Christian religion did, it would be something simpler and more revivalist, like the Billy Graham mission, which didn't have all those doctrines, but spoke to the feelings and just said Come and surrender, then go back to your own churches and worship there, and do not think but feel. Thus they could exchange the Prophet for Christ without much trouble. I said I supposed they would also have to exchange the Koran for the Gospels, but Halide said that, not being intellectual, they would not much notice the differences between these books. Whereas in the organised Christian churches, such as the Anglican, there are creeds and doctrines and baptisms and confirmations and sacraments and the Trinity, none of which would be approved of by the Prophet, and all of which would fuss the Turks.
"So," said Halide, "I don't think Dot's Anglo-Catholic Mission Society is going to have much good fortune in my country, and she will be wiser not to encourage them to think so. The advancement of Turkish men and women must come from within, it must be a true patriotism, as it has been in the past, when we have progressed so much and so fast. When the masses will also start to advance, it will be as when our ancestors rolled across the Asia hills and plains, nothing could stay them. This will surely be again, when the minds of the Turkish masses roll on like an army and conquer all the realms of culture and high thinking. Then we shall see women taking their places beside men, not only as now in the universities and professions, but in the towns and villages everywhere, they will walk and talk free, spending their money and reading wise books and writing down great thoughts, and when the enemy comes, they will defend their homes like men. All this we shall see, but it must be an all Turkish movement; we shall throw over Islam, as Atatürk bade us, but I think we shall not become Christian, it is not our religion. Sometimes I feel that I should not have done so myself when in London, and that it was to betray my country. And now I love a devout Moslem man, and this makes it difficult. He too is a doctor. He wishes that I throw off the Church of England and that we marry. But I could not be a Moslem wife, and bring up children to all that."
She sighed as she ate her yoghourt. I thought how sad it was, all this progress and patriotism and marching on and conquering the realms of culture, yet love rising up to spoil all and hold one back, and what was the Christian Church and what was Islam against this that submerged the human race and always had? It had submerged Anthony and Cleopatra, and Abelard and Heloïse, and Lancelot and Guinevere, and Paolo and Francesca, and Romeo and Juliet, and Charles Parnell and Faust, and Oscar Wilde and me, and Halide and her Moslem man, and countless millions more. It kept me outside the Church, and might drive Halide out of it, it was the great force, and drove like a hurricane, shattering everything in its way, no one had a chance against it, the only thing was to go with it, because it always won. All very odd, I thought, but there it was, and I finished my pilaf and got on to the simit and yoghourt, which went well together, then, after coffee, we walked back to the tent, and the moon was rising over the hills and the tent was in a pool of misty light. Our two lanterns stood on the ground outside it, and we saw the white camel lying on its knees beneath a tree, munching and chewing, and Xenophon lay on his back under the engine of the jeep, and aunt Dot was down in the stream, bathing and splashing, and Father Chantry-Pigg was finding the places in his prayer-book for the evening service. Sweet smells of earth and trees and blossoms filled the air, and the running of the stream sounded and I forgot about love and religion and thought how I would go down early in the morning to the stream and see what fish it had. Then I went down to bathe in it, and met aunt Dot coming up.
Before long the tent was surrounded by a circle of boys from the village. They sat staring at us and talking to each other, and it was like being watched by savages in a jungle, and the moonlight glittered on their eyes. Xenophon and Halide told them to be off, and they would go a little way off, but soon crept back and sat staring and grinning with the moon on their eyes, while we said and sung compline, then blew up our Lilos and lay down on them in the tent. Xenophon went and harangued them; he came back saying they were Turkish bullfrogs and had no shame, and that Greek boys would never behave so. Aunt Dot, who had travelled all over Greece, and was half asleep, opened her eyes to say "Rubbish," rolled her blankets about her, and slept. Halide said that not only Greek boys but the boys of half Europe had manners far worse than Turks, and recalled how it had been said often that the Turk was a gentleman. Xenophon and she then continued the conversation in Turkish, and their contentious murmurings mingled with the running of the stream and the rustling of the trees and the chatter of the ill-bred Turkish boys outside the tent and the distant whine of the radio, and it all slipped into the dark dreams that one has when sleeping in woods.
Also when sleeping in woods one wakes very soon, and I woke when the dawn came through the chinks of the tent on to my face. So I got out of my bag, saw that the others were all rolled up in theirs, and got my fishing rod out and crept quietly down to the stream, past the camel, which lay on its knees with its eyes shut, chewing its cud, and it opened its eyes as I passed and looked at me spitefully, as it always did, and I went on down through the rhododendrons to the stream and walked a little way up it to a pool and sat down to watch it, till I saw fish moving about. I fished that pool for half an hour, and caught three Anatolian bream, then I moved on to another pool and got two more, which made five, and that would be one each for breakfast. So then I walked downstream again and bathed in a running bit of it that wouldn't disturb the pools, and I lay on the grass edge to dry in the sunrise, and thought this was a good expedition we were having, and I was glad that aunt Dot got these notions that took her about the world, which is the chief end of man. And I thought how Turks too had always got about. Father Chantry-Pigg, who had unfair anti-Turk prejudices, owing to his devotion to Greeks and to the Trinity, said that Turkish hordes had always made where they settled barren deserts only fit for camels, and every few centuries they move on somewhere else and make more howling deserts. (Father Chantry-Pigg pronounced it hooling, and I believe this is right, like Cowley and owl). But those are the common Turks without money and without culture, and the rich Turks, the Sultans and Pashas and eunuchs and nobles and tycoons, have built palaces and mosques and haarems and castles and cities, out of the stones they take from the Greek and Roman cities and temples, and fountains play in their courts and beautiful girls dance for them and beautiful boys serve at their banquets and they have troops of concubines and camels and much culture. And I wondered how soon the Turks would feel it was time to do one of their great treks again, and thought this would perhaps be into Greece, which had once been theirs. Then there might be a minaret again on the Parthenon, which looks very pretty like that in the old pictures, and I thought it might improve the Parthenon, these mixtures of styles being often very pleasant. And perhaps the little Turkish houses would come huddling back up the Acropolis and all round it, looking most charming and really setting the Acropolis off. I thought I would mention this idea to Xenophon.
I lay by the edge of the stream among tall ferns, and the bank was covered with rhododendrons and azaleas, white and pink and yellow and scarlet, growing in great bushes beneath spruce firs and large oaks, and the wood smelt of earth and damp moss and sweet blossoms, which I chewed, and the stream ran brown like a Scotch burn, and I felt that I was in a wood in Perthshire, staying with my grandparents, for the smell was the same, and I and the others used to go out early and fish the burn for trout, and I was very happy there. I thought the Turks would be stupid if they left these parts, even to roll on into Greece and mosque the Parthenon.
As I was thinking about all this Xenophon came scrambling down to the stream to bathe. He got into a pool with my landing-net and spooned up fishes, which he said was less trouble than throwing flies for them. I did not think that aunt Dot or any of our clerical ancestors would have approved of this way of fishing, but the main thing was to have fish for breakfast, and we got lots.
While we climbed up from the stream I asked Xenophon what he thought about the Turks going into Greece-and occupying Athens. It was not a new idea to him, for his Turkish fellow students sometimes spoke of it, thinking that Greece should be still theirs and that there should be another war of liberation about it. He said, as the Turks always said about the Russians, "Let them try. We are quite ready for them," and I thought how ready nations always were and how brave. As we passed the camel, I gave it some azalea flowers to chew, and it seemed to like them.
Then we got to the tent, and aunt Dot and Halide were boiling water for coffee on the little Primus, and we threw the fish into a pan. When he smelt them frying, Father Chantry-Pigg came out of the tent, pleased about the fish, because it was a fasting day. He said, "To-day I shall be in the jeep," so it was for me to ride the camel.
We set off presently up the road that climbed up into the hills, but the camel took camel paths and scampered up them at a great pace, roaring, and aunt Dot thought it might be in love, though out of season. When we stopped for lunch, Halide, who has done quite a lot of work among mental cases, looked at the camel closely, and into its eyes, and watched the way its mouth worked while it chewed, and said, "Has it had mental trouble before? For I think that it now has."
Aunt Dot said that she believed that camels usually had a certain degree of this, they were born with it, and without it they would never lead the peculiar lives they did, but her camel had, she thought, not yet been actually round the bend. Father Chantry-Pigg said that Pliny had mentioned that camels were given to going round the bend, and that when they did they were apt to become dangerous, as they also did, said Pliny, when interrupted in making love.
Halide, still observing the camel said, "It certainly looks odd."
"It looks odd because itisodd," said aunt Dot. "Camels are." She thought this settled the matter, but of course it did not, because the point about a camel (as about a human) is, is it odder than other camels, or other humans?
Halide said, "I fear we may have trouble with this animal. It ought to see a psychiatrist, or even an alienist. I am nearly sure, my dear Dot, that it is not quite right in its head."
But aunt Dot only said "No camel is", and got out her note-book to write a little more of her bookWomen of the Euxine, for the less she saw of these women, the more she had to say about them. They had now become to her shackled, gagged and oppressed slaves, who must be liberated at once. Halide too agreed that they wanted liberating, but she now took the view that this must be done by their countrymen, and that foreigners, coming with a foreign religion, would only annoy the women's countrymen and make the position worse. Particularly, she added, when the mission priest was called Pigg.
So what with the women of the Euxine and what with the mental state of the camel and what with Father Chantry-Pigg's view that Christianity must be a universal cure and my view that it was someone else's turn for the camel, we talked contentiously all through lunch. Father Chantry-Pigg always called our coffee and bread and cheese and fruit luncheon, but aunt Dot and I thought that for luncheon you need a table, even if you only wander round the table with forks, pronging up what you want, and that eating out of doors on rocks is only lunch. But for Father Chantry-Pigg, who, as I have said before, is old-fashioned and class, any mid-day meal, however and wherever it is eaten, has always been luncheon. He usually said over it the longest Latin grace there is, and the hungrier we all were, the longer it became, and sometimes it was Greek. Perhaps this lunch we had that day was really luncheon, as Xenophon had made for it a fine dessert of azalea blossom done up with yoghourt and sugar and nuts, like what we had at the Palas Oteli, and it was a speciality of these parts.Chapter 11
The days went pleasantly by. We got higher into the mountains, and the scenes were most extravagant and dramatic, and all of us but aunt Dot, who feared nothing and had great experience, were frightened of falling off the narrow roads and paths into deep ravines. Father Chantry-Pigg became so alarmed by the jeep and by Xenophon's driving that he returned to the camel, thinking it more sure-footed, even if not at all right in the head. Every now and then Armenian churches or fortresses would rear themselves up on rocky heights above us, and we would stop to examine them.
I had practically decided that instead of writing bits into aunt Dot's book, I would only do the pictures for it, and I would write a separate Turkey book of my own and perhaps I would call itRambling round Anatolia with rod, line and camel.I liked thinking about this book, and sometimes I would take notes for it, or even write a few lines. I thought aunt Dot's bookWomen of the Euxinewas not really well named, as she was filling it with animals and fish and plants and things which were not actually women of the Euxine at all, but she did not seem to think this mattered. Meanwhile, Xenophon, when he had a moment to spare from seeing to the jeep, was writing poetry in Greek, and Halide was writing an article for the Istanbul University Journal onEvidences of present-day Culture in the Taurus, which Xenophon said would be an extremely short article if that was its subject, but would take a long time to write, as hunting for these evidences might take years. Father Chantry-Pigg was writing something very retrospective, about the Armenian Church. So we all had our Turkey books to amuse us when we were not otherwise occupied, but this was not often, and I also did a lot of sketching.
We had conversations in the villages and little towns with people in inns and cafés, and with policemen and small officials who talked to us very affably, but usually when we asked them about going to some place they said "yok", either because it was up high mountains without roads or because it was in a forbidden zone and too near the frontier, or because Turks like the word yok. So soon we gave up asking these questions, and rambled on saying nothing about it till someone stopped us. The camel could not have been more eager and noisy and swift on its feet, and usually it raced ahead of the jeep, with aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg clinging to its reins. In the towns, such as Artvin, we caused a great deal of interest. But when aunt Dot and Halide talked to any of the local people about Anglican mission schools, it did not seem to go well, for they had lately had the Graham missioners on their motor bicycles, and the Imams had forbidden their flocks to have anything to do with these infidel religions, and, when Father Chantry-Pigg said Mass in the square, Artvin men and boys watched us from their tric-trac in the café, but the women and girls were not allowed anywhere near us because women and girls are easily upset and cannot resist temptation as men can. This was the same in the other towns, and when we had spent a night at Ardahan aunt Dot got tired of prospecting for the Church, which she began to think was too good for Turks, and set her mind on a small lake we saw on the map, which seemed only twenty or thirty miles on from Ardahan, in the mountains, and aunt Dot had stayed there once long ago, and had had very good fishing there, so we thought we would stay there for a time and have a rest, and give the camel a chance to relax, before pushing on to visit Ani, the ancient ruined Armenian capital on the frontier, on which Father Chantry-Pigg had set his heart.
It was a tiresome climb up to this lake from Ardahan; the jeep boiled and the camel roared and only aunt Dot seemed happy. I do not care for going up mountains, and it seems waste to cross over them in a boiling jeep or on foot, and when you come down on the other side be no higher than you were before, and tunnels through them, like the Mont Cenis, would be better. However, when we looked down from the track we saw the little lake shut in by rocky mountains, and it was a very good deep green colour because of the pines and the gloomy shadows of the hills, and wild geese were flying over it, and we came down to its western corner, about a mile from a village, and there were some boats drawn up on the shore and a group of fishermen's houses and a khan. The lake was about half a mile long, and had an island, and was well outside the forbidden frontier area.
We put up the tent and hired a boat and rowed out for the evening rise. That is to say, aunt Dot and I did, while the others explored round the shore and walked to the village to see what the food there was like. We got several good trout, and two odd-shaped fishes which must have been a spécialité of that lake, as we had never seen them before. Altogether it seemed a nice lake; I thought that next day I would land on the island, where there was a ruined church standing on a rocky ledge above the water.
At supper, which we had at the khan, we ate our fishes, fried by the cook there, and the spécialité fish were not bad, and I said I did not mind how long we stayed on this lake, it was much better than driving or riding about Armenia hawking the C. of E. to infidel dogs who thought we were mad and were probably right. Father Chantry-Pigg did not mind how long we stayed there either, as he had observed several ruined Armenian churches about the landscape which he would like to see closer, though the one he most hankered after was St. Saba, some way the wrong side of the Russian frontier. He went off on foot next morning with Xenophon, while I went on the lake again, and Halide and aunt Dot went to the village to see if it had any evidences of present-day Taurus culture for Halide's book, and any women longing to be liberated by the Anglican Church.
Over supper, aunt Dot said there had not seemed to be much of either of these, though there was a village institute and a school with a school-master.
"And the women?" asked Father Chantry-Pigg.
"Cowed," said aunt Dot "We couldn't get anything interesting out of them. They were afraid to speak out. Of course they're not allowed to speak to strangers at all, really. One keeps remembering what Lynch says about Turkish women in his book—'they appear conscious of some immense and inexpiable sin'."
Father Chantry-Pigg said nothing, but he looked as if he thought the Turkish women, and indeed all women, did well to be conscious of this, for they had committed it in Eden, and had been committing it ever since merely by existing. He did not dare, however, to say this to aunt Dot and Halide, who erroneously believed men to be equally sinful, and even (in Turkey) more.
"By the way," aunt Dot went on, "those two spies are staying at the inn there: you remember, the ones we saw in the Troad. I knew them in a minute."
"What would you think they are doing here?" I said.
"Spying, naturally," said aunt Dot. "They had fishing-rods, and no doubt presently we shall be seeing them on the lake. Perhaps this evening. Laurie, I was told that round that island with the little ruin is very good for fish in the evening. We might have a try."
Father Chantry-Pigg said, "I did too much climbing about to-day. To-morrow I should like to ride the camel to that church beyond the one on the near ridge."
"Very well, I'll come with you. It needs exercise, anyhow. It was very restive in the night; stamping and pawing and crying out; people don't like it."
"It is very mad," Halide repeated, with indifference. "It gets no better."
Aunt Dot and I had a very good evening on the lake, and we caught quite a number of fishes. The two spies turned up, and landed on the island, spying all about it and peering into the little ruined church, where probably messages had been hidden for them, and it was a pity we had not found them first. They crouched behind a wall while they put the documents in their pockets, at least I supposed this was what they were doing, but aunt Dot said that when they reappeared they were chewing something, and that they must be eating the documents up. All this spying was very interesting to us, as we had so often heard of it but had not known that it flourished in Turkey to this extent.
"I wonder how much they are paid," said aunt Dot, "and how often."
"And who by," I said. "Were they collecting it on the island, would you say?"
Aunt Dot thought not, because they would not have eaten it. "Of course they have Contacts, who hand them their pay quietly, in the bars of hotels, so that it looks like ordinary black market business. I believe the pay is excellent." I could see that she was envious of this pay, and would have liked to get some of it, for she sighed.
"We all have our price," she said, "but we don't all get it. If our government had seen fit to employ me to report to them about Turkey, I could have told them quite a lot. Though I can never imagine what it is that countries want to know about each other, or what they flit away by night to tell. I expect none of it is the least use really. But governments get these fancies, and are prepared to pay for them, so why not be in on it? How many spies have we noticed in Turkey?"
"About fifty so far, I should think. But of course there must be hundreds more that we haven't noticed, because they spy more quietly. Istanbul was a hot-bed of them, and Trebizond a nest. And this lake seems a hunting-ground."
"Well," aunt Dot said, "these fish seem to have stopped rising. They rise better in the Caspian, where they are as thick together as sardines in a tin—sturgeon, salmon, herring, most delicious, all pushing up to be caught. Now thatisa sea. A pity Turkey has no access to it." She sighed, thinking of that Caucasian sea so crowded with fish and the mountains and forests sweeping down to its shores.
"And," she added, "that dear little lake just beyond the frontier, where the road runs through the gap . . . . But we had better go back. I can hear that camel crying out. I suppose it wants its supper. I think it gets tired of all that cud it chews, nasty thing. We'll ride it out early to-morrow, and Father Hugh can see all the churches he wants, and I shall gallop it about to make it quieter. It keeps trying to run away with me now; I have to tug on the reins. If they broke, it would race off like a rocket, heading for its herd in Arabia. I dare say it's homesick and doesn't care for Turkey. I sometimes feel I agree with it."
She was silent for a minute, then said, "How I should like to see the Troglodyte city of Vardzia. And the river Terek, and all that Cossack country Tolstoy wrote about. Not that he wrote enough about it;The Cossackswould be a much better book without Maryana and so much love interest. And really that applies to so many novels. But I should like to see all that country, its mountains and forests and villages and Tartars and herds of horses. A pity it's the wrong side of the curtain."
There were a great many things that aunt Dot desired to see, and it was certainly a pity that so many of them were the wrong side of the curtain.
We rowed in and went to bed. All night I heard, between sleeping and waking, the lake water running on the shore, and the pine trees singing on the hills, and the mosquitoes droning and the wild geese squawking and the radio whining from the khan, and the camel grumbling and stamping outside the tent, and I believed that it loved another camel and could not at all get over it, and I felt that I ought to go and tell it how I was in a similar plight and could not get over it either, so that we could comfort each other.
In the morning, quite early, it raced off up a hill to see churches, with aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg clinging to its back, and the fir woods and the oak woods and the rocky mountains received them all.Chapter 12
I had a very nice day on the lake, fishing and landing on the island, and watching the flying of the geese, and walking round the shore with Halide, while Xenophon pottered about the village and drank in the café with the villagers. The spies were still about, and Halide had a few words with them, as they pretended they only spoke Turkish, but they were very reserved men in any language, and would not say much even about fish. Halide and I had a bathe from the island, but the spies did not, and this rather shook my faith in aunt Dot's theory that they were Britons, still, they had to impersonate Turks after all, and though Turks sometimes bathe, they do not do so with British enthusiasm, and anyhow undressing and leaving their clothes about is awkward for spies. It was a beautiful hot day, and when it was evening the fishes dashed up from the deep and leaped for flies. Halide, who was out in the boat with me, said, "How you and Dot love angling. It is your favourite pastime, no?"
"What then do you prefer?"
"I think, love."
"Oh, love. Oh, that goes without saying, that one prefers love the best. I too, even with all the other things that I like to do. But then, love is also sad, and stabs the heart."
"You too find that, poor Laurie. But still you find it great pleasure also."
"Great pleasure, yes."
We both reflected on Love, its pleasure and its pain, while I threw flies over the green lake, and Halide was remembering the Moslem man whom she loved but would not marry because of not wanting to be a Moslem wife, and I was thinking of Vere.
"Dot, now," said Halide presently, "she is older, she is perhaps past this delicious torment and grief. Or is one never past it? One day, Laurie, you and I will know that. But Dot seems to have all her heart in other adventures—seeing the world, spreading the Church, hunting fish, riding that detestable camel about, enquiring into the sad lot of women, and just being alive. By the way, are they not out a long time? I hope they are well and safe. That camel is not to be trusted. Trust no camel, and less this one than most. It could have escapades, it could run wild, it could break its reins and be off who can say where, at a speed to break the neck. It gets dark. Shall we row back?"
We rowed back, and it got darker, and still aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg and the camel tarried. We had supper at the khan, and sat on there smoking and sipping raki and talking, while Turks played tric-trac at little tables beneath the trees. They told us what we knew, that it was unsafe to be out so late on these hills, for the paths were difficult and steep, and the camel might miss its footing or its way. Besides which, they might get too near the frontier zone and have trouble with the guards. Or even—it had been known—so near the frontier itself as to have trouble with the Russian guards on the further side. Halide and Xenophon and the local Turks had animated conversation about all these possibilities, and at last Xenophon said we had better go up the forest path on foot and search. So we all set out through the hot night along the narrow track that wound through the pine woods up the steep ridge that shut the lake to the east. The church they had gone to see was on the ridge beyond, and would be a walk of about four or five miles. It took us two hours to get there, guided by a young man from the khan. Of course there was no sign of them, and nothing to shew that they had passed that way. The little Armenian church stood on the steep hill-side, grown about with trees and shrubs, and branches pushed through the roof, and yellow lilies stood about, smelling very sweet. The moon rose from behind the hill and shone on the further rim of the lake below, but the church was still in shadow, a black haunt of murdered Armenian ghosts.
"What next?" said Halide, sitting down to rest on a broken wall. "What direction after this? It might be anywhere, yes? There is no way to know."
The Turkish young man said it would be better to wait for daylight before looking further. In the morning the police would come from the near villages, and a search could be made. Useless, he said, to go on over these hills and ravines with no direction, and we might find ourselves by mistake in the frontier zone. For his part, he thought they had got themselves arrested by the guards and had been taken off to some village police station, where they were being held.
"It is the Russians," Halide said, and her voice had the tone of doom in which she habitually spoke of these persons.
"They are being held by Soviet Russia. Or else they have been shot. Do you know what I think? I think that Dot had it in her mind to cross that frontier. Or else was it the camel, which ran away with them? Or Father Hugh, whose mind roved after churches on the other side? But I think they have crossed it, and are now behind the curtain. If they are alive," she added, and her voice shook with anger and fatigue.
As it seemed no use to stay there or to go on in the dark towards that bourne from whence no traveller returns except under police escort, we stumbled back to the lake, and this time it took us two hours and a half, the shadows and light of the moon deceiving us so that we lost the paths and strayed among deep woods and ravines, and the smell of the woods and ravines was sweet and heavy like honey, and it was so hot as the moon climbed higher that we were soaked in sweat, and wild creatures that we did not know nor want to scattered about among the bushes, and Xenophon was bitten in the leg by a small jackal.
It was three o'clock when we came down to the lake shore, and a tiny cool wind stirred, and the first thing we did was to swim in the lake, because we were so tired with the heat and with climbing up and down, and we lay in that bland dark water and let it slip about us in moon-silvered ripples, washing away the sweat and the scratches and the aching, while the faint light of dawn began to glimmer. Then, after Halide had cauterized and bandaged Xenophon's leg, we got into our sleeping-bags and mosquito nets and lay in the tent while the morning grew, and it was odd not to hear among the night noises the peculiar noises the camel used to make, chewing and snorting and moaning and giving little cries as it dreamt, as if it was answering the wild geese, and I wondered where it was making these noises now.
When day came, we got hold of several policemen from the near villages and they and Halide and I, because Xenophon's leg still hurt him, deployed about the hills on strong little ponies, which was much better than walking. These ponies scrambled first to the ruined church, then down into a ravine, and the policemen shouted and we shouted, in case our party should be lying injured in this ravine, but no one shouted back, and Halide said, "How should they answer from the place where they now are? We should not hear them," and the place was a Russian gaol, or perhaps a Russian hole in the ground with earth shovelled over them, while the camel cavorted about Soviet Armenia with Soviet soldiers on its back, and perhaps cried aloud with love for some new-met mate.
Halide said we must ride on to the frontier, where we might get some news, but the police said yok, that was impossible for civilians without a permit, and the whole party might get shot on sight. For the police, it was possible, and three of them would go and reconnoitre, while the other two rode back with us to find out if any news had come in.
Halide said, "There will be no news."
We rode back, and Halide and the two policemen talked all the way about what had probably happened and about what to do next. Every little while Halide would say in English, "But it will be of no use. Nothing will be of use. They have gone, and they will shortly be digging for salt, if they are let to live. It must go up to high levels. Ambassadors, ministries, heads of states, your archbishops, Sir Winston Churchill, our President, yes, and our army chiefs —they must all write. Our friends must not be permitted quietly to disappear, as if they were scientists or engineers, or young men from the Foreign Office. It is not to be borne."
I agreed that it was not to be borne, unless of course they had disappeared on purpose, because they wanted to see Russia. I remembered aunt Dot's expression when she had mentioned the troglodyte city of Vardzia, and always when she spoke of the Caucasus, the Caspian, and what she called "that little lake on the frontier ", and Father Chantry-Pigg's talk of the Armenian church of St. Saba, and how they were both fanatics when they set their hearts on anything, and were like those who seek a country and will not be deterred. I thought they would get themselves out of Russia in the end, for aunt Dot always got out of the jams she got into, even the harems of African cannibals.
And Halide was wrong when she said there would be no news, for the thing we saw when we rode down the track to the lake shore was a group of Turks, and Xenophon among them, crowding round our camel, which stood with its nose in the air, masticating with that unpleasing sideways motion of the lower jaw which is one of the reasons why we dislike camels. It did not look tired, but indifferent and bored, and its broken scarlet reins dangled from its neck.
"The camel!" cried Halide. "Dot's camel. She has been thrown."
But when we got off our ponies and joined the camel, Xenophon shewed us an envelope addressed to me which he had found in its saddle-bag, and in it was a letter written in aunt Dot's lively scrawl, "Dear Laurie, we are going in, but not the camel, which would be in the way and attract too much notice. Please do not start a fuss with police, consuls, the A.C.M.S., etc. etc. We shall be all right, and shall see and do a number of things we both want to do. Don't know when we shall be out. Don't wait in Turkey for us, why not take the camel south into Syria, Lebanon and Jordan? If you get to Jerusalem, as we planned, you might tell the Bishop and Stewart Perowne and Katy Antonius that I shan't be coming for the present. Look after the camel, give it plenty of hard roots, they are good for its teeth. I expect it will miss me, I know you don't like it, but be sympathetic sometimes, even if it seems to take no notice. It is very reserved and backward, and I think has its own troubles and ambitions and seems to live in the past and I think it broods sometimes on Sex and is a bit frustrated, so treat it gently. Better not let it run after other camels as it goes about, it is very excitable. Well, my love for now, I shall be seeing you before very long, no doubt."
The letter was signed in full, "Your affectionate aunt, Dorothea ffoulkes-Corbett ", and the name, written out like that, seemed a valiant and gentlewomanly flourish, a gesture of dignified valediction before departure into the unknown, an emblem of the adventurous pride and resolution which was the firm background of aunt Dot's brisk eccentricity andjoie de vivre.
I passed the note to Halide; she read it with a face of doom, then folded it tightly and returned it to me.
"I guessed it," she said, in a low, urgent voice in my ear. "Dorothea has gone through the curtain to Spy. It was a project that I thought she was playing with. But who can be paying her? Not your government; not mine. She is being paid by Soviet Russia, and she is reporting to it on Turkey. Father Pigg too. Oh they have sunk to the lowest vileness, they are betraying Turkey to the enemy for gain, in order that they may see the Caucasus and the Russian part of that miserable Armenia with its churches and troglodyte dwellings and those dirty Cossacks and Tartars, and fish for female sturgeon in the Caspian and go on that little lake beyond the frontier gap, and eat caviare and drink koumiss from wild mares. Oh yes, I know well what Dorothea hankered after and would sell her soul to get. But she cannot have got it, they will be captured and taken to Moscow to tell what they know about Britain and Turkey."
"It's not very interesting, what they know about Britain and Turkey."
"Interesting! They will spin romances, they will tell fine tales that those brutes will like to hear, they will broadcast them to the people.Thatis what Dorothea and Father Pigg will have to do, not at all rambling about the Caucasus and fishing for caviare in the Caspian and in that silly little lake. Yes, that is what Dorothea, who was my friend, has sunk to. Well and good, I leave the Church of England, perhaps I marry a Moslem. No, that is impossible, I cannot be a Moslem wife. From now on, I am a Turkish free-thinker. And so much for your Mass and Vespers and Compline and Matins and Evensong and incense and beautiful Prayer Book and missals, that were to convert Turks but do not keep people from betrayal."
"Well," I said, "how could they? No Church has ever succeeded in doing that, I suppose. But it does seem a pity. Though we don't know that they mean to betray anything, actually. Perhaps they only mean to see a little of the country."
"Without visas, without leave, without Russian money, my poor Laurie? They would be noticed and discovered immediately, they would be arrested, shot, taken to Siberia to dig for salt. All that salt—what can it be wanted for? To eat with caviare? To preserve herrings? No, to make bombs. Or, because Dorothea and Father Pigg are not so young, they might put them in gaol and keep them there."
"Well, it would be better they should tell stories about Britain than that. Aunt Dot thinks we haven't made any atomic bombs, and that Russians ought to be told so, to discourage them from making them too. Then she would like to tell them how well off we are, and how progressive our social arrangements are, and all that."
"She would not be let out of gaol to say that," said Halide bitterly. "No, they will have to say what will please . . . . But do not let us talk about it. We will not speak of it to any one here; we must let them think it a kidnapping. You must not show that letter, Laurie; you must destroy it."
I too thought it a letter better not shewn to Turks, and when Xenophon asked what was in it, I said "nothing in particular, just private messages about the camel."
Xenophon said, "But why messages? Did they then know they would not be coming back to us?"
I said you could never be sure, when near a frontier, on which side you would be, and for how long, and anyhow aunt Dot sounded all right.
"They had money with them?" Xenophon asked. "They had some luggage, clothes, maps? They will surely be made prisoners. The British consul at Trebizond, he will do something?"
"I expect so," I said. "We must tell him. Unless they come back before long. But we won't get up a great fuss, Xen. There's nothing much, anyhow, that the police here can do, as they seem to have left Turkey for a time. You and Halide had better tell them that."
"We had better leave here to-morrow," Halide said. "In any case I must get back to Istanbul soon."
"And I to Rize," said Xenophon. "My grandfather will be missing his jeep."
Halide spoke to the police, and they had no objection at all to giving up the search. The disappearance of these two foreign tourists would become yet one more incident in the files at the local police stations. Tourists come and tourists go; Turkish police remain, and do not take much notice, and any one venturing near the Russian frontier is out of bounds and no one is responsible for him. Either these tourists would return, spewed out of Russia, or Russia would retain them; the Turkish police regarded the alternatives with bored, lethargic eyes.
I took charge of the camel, and tethered it to its tree and unharnessed it and fed it, and mended the broken rein. It seemed tired, and I wondered how far it had wandered since yesterday. When I went into the tent, Halide was looking among aunt Dot's things.
"She has taken her canvas bag," she said. "And of course she will have her wallet, for that she always kept on her.
She had planned to go, oh yes, she had planned it. What did she keep in her wallet? Her travellers' cheques, no doubt, and her passport. And of course Father Pigg had his. You have yours, Laurie?"
"I have some travellers' cheques, yes."
But it was aunt Dot who paid the bills, it was her expedition and her money; I had not brought much. It seemed likely that I should have to get hold of some more. Perhaps I could touch some consul somewhere. Or perhaps not. Many people think that this is partly what consuls are for. Consuls do not always agree with this. Time would show. But it is certain that they do not always care much for the nationals under their protection. I thought that Halide would be warmer-hearted.
She and I looked at aunt Dot's things, to see what she had taken with her. Her miscellaneous collection of medicine bottles was here; it was a largish collection, because she did not know what most of them were, or for what complaints, on account of chemists not caring to say more on the labels than "The Pills ", "The Tablets ", "The Mixture ", and other non-committal tides, so aunt Dot took a great many of these anonymous bottles about with her on her travels and ate and drank them at random when she ailed. She always said this anonymity was owing to chemists not being able to read the handwriting of the doctors who wrote the prescriptions, or understand the abbreviations of the Latin words used, so that they did not know whether they were making up the things prescribed or another set of things altogether, and thought it better that the labels should be non-committal. I once asked a doctor why he did not write better, and also in English, and put the words in full. He said that the patient might in that case understand it, which would not do. Chemists too think that this would not do, and that if a patient knew what he was taking it might even prove fatal, because of nerves, and the name of the remedy might make him guess what illness he had, which would prove still more fatal. For the same reason, nurses who take temperatures will not ever tell the patient what the thermometer says, because that too might end in death, so that people who like to know how they are getting on have to hide their private thermometers somewhere about them and take their own temperatures. Anyhow, aunt Dot had left her array of bottles and pill-boxes in her medicine bag, and I thought I would take them along with me and eat and drink some of them when I felt weak, and one would counteract another, so they would do no harm.
Aunt Dot had taken, we thought, a change of clothes, her sleeping-bag and pillow, her toilet things, and a map. "Father Pigg too," Halide said. "His shaving things are not here." Since her revulsion from the Anglican Church, she no longer called this priest Father Hugh, as we did, and the tone in which she said "Father Pigg" was full of Moslem distaste for the word.
"He was in it too," she said, with her melancholy rancour. "They planned it together, this wicked expedition. I think too that he has taken that little altar and candles, and those relics of his. Perhaps he will convert the Soviet Union to the Church of England, and make those barbarian Tartars who raid our frontiers pray to the saints." She said this not with hope, but with anti-Anglican irony.
"You never know," I said, "do you?"
We packed up everything, our own things, aunt Dot's, and Father Chantry-Pigg's, and Xenophon got the jeep ready, and we arranged to leave early next morning by the road we had come by, I riding the camel and the others in the jeep. Xenophon was rather gloomy, now that the expedition was so nearly over and he had to return to his grandfather at Rize, who, he now admitted, had not given him leave to take the jeep and might make himself unpleasant about it. Whenever Xenophon displeased his Turkish grandfather, the old gentleman said it was his Greek blood, and that his daughter Mijirli had so much vexed Allah when she had married into Greek scum that he had visited her with this deplorable offspring.Chapter 13
We set off next morning for the Black Sea, I rode the camel, and the jeep had to keep down almost to its pace, which, when it ran, was about 25 m.p.h. over the rough mountain tracks, though in the flat, such as a desert, that kind of racing camel can do about 40. I liked much better riding in front of the hump, as I now could do, and saw for the first time why aunt Dot enjoyed riding this animal.
It was melancholy to turn our backs on the mountain lake, and on the mountains and lakes beyond it, and on all the Armenian places we had hoped to see, such as Kars and Ani and Ararat (on whose lower slopes even now Seventh Day Adventists awaited the Second Coming, their transports and their hymn-singing recorded by the B.B.C. for a Home Service programme), and the splendours and islands and fishing and Armenian churches of Lake Van. But we had not the money for the expedition, and anyhow the heart and zest had gone out of it, and all the time I was wondering what was happening now to aunt Dot, and when we should get any news, and I wanted to get to Trebizond and the consul, and we had melancholy meals by the road and gloomy nights in the tent, grumbling at one another and at the camel, and Halide brooded over the betrayal of Turkey by aunt Dot, and her own breach with the Anglican Church, and the dichotomy between Love and the Islam oppressions of women, and Xenophon brooded over what his grandfather would do to him at Rize about the jeep.
On the third day we got to the point in the mountains where it is proper for travellers sighting the Black Sea to cry "Thalassa" (or if they prefer it "Thalatta") like Xenophon's army, but we were too dispirited to do this, and anyhow Halide, who despised this Greek army, would not have copied its ways, either in crying Thalassa or in making herself sick and mad with honey from the local rhododendrons, which she was now sure that the camel had done, if not aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg too. So we descended the mountain quietly, except for the camel, which began to roar when it smelt the Euxine rhododendrons, and galloped on ahead of the jeep.
Our road did not come down to the sea at Trabzon, it took us to Hopa, the port eighty miles up the coast and the nearest to the frontier. At Hopa Halide would board the steamerTrabzon,which would be starting next day from there on its return journey to Istanbul. Xenophon would drive the jeep to Rize, the next port, and I would ride the camel down the coast to Trabzon. So at Hopa we parted.
Halide said, "Directly I get to Istanbul, I shall speak to the British Embassy and to our own Intelligence Service and Police. Everything that can be done to rescue them, even should they not wish to be rescued, shall be done. Be assured of that, my dear Laurie. But it is no use to hope too greatly. It may be many years before we see our friends again."
Whenever Halide talked like this, in her discouraging Turkish fashion, I felt very unhappy, and saw a vast twilight wilderness full of chained prisoners digging away for salt, or shackled in deep dungeons incommunicado, or kept in Moscow offices where they pour out glib streams of news about Britain to men with lumpish Slav faces who write it all down in notebooks to show to the Kremlin. Then I see the lumpish men conducting aunt Dot about the most horrid buildings—hospitals and prisons and schools and institutions and factories and maternity homes and collective farms, and these are the very things that she has always sworn she will never look at, but where are the wild mares and wild Cossacks on the wild mountains, and where the frosty Caucasus and the lakes brimming with female sturgeon that she crashed the curtain to see? It must be something like Hades, or Purgatory, for round her wander all those vanished Britons of whom we hear no more on this earth, their pale faces brooding on physics and nuclear, or on the doctrines of Karl Marx, so that they remember Britain as a dim dream which they do not wish to recall, and they too are Tenebrae types, dejected and cast out and brought into darkness and compassed with gall and labour, except for a few who are rewarded and prosperous and fattened up with boiled chestnuts like Circassian slaves and living in large suites with wine and dice and dancing girls because their value and their services to the Soviet Union are so very great. But aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg would not care for any of these types, and in the mornings they are aroused by songs sung by University students about the efficiency of collective farms, and then it is like a Butlin Camp.
And all the time perhaps instead of all this they are shot and dead.
I thought it would be easier to think of them as pampered friends of the Soviet Union, allowed to go about (though watched by policemen), and talk with Russian clergymen about intercommunion, when Halide was no longer with me, because she looked so much on the dark side, so I was relieved when she boarded theTrabzonnext morning and when theTrabzonat last felt full enough of cargo and people to steam away for Istanbul, Xenophon had already driven off to Rize, and I saddled the camel and took the coast road at noon, and as it was about eighty miles I thought I would sleep at Rize and make Trebizond the next evening.
The road to Rize was very pretty, with the sea on the right, green and warm and full of fishing boats and barges, and the mountainy shore climbing up steeply on the left, all grown with fir forests and ravines (which should have been rivers but they were mostly now dry) sweeping down to the shore, and tobacco fields and tea gardens smelling of tobacco and tea, and roses and oleanders smelling sweetly of flowers and honey in the woods. We ambled along, sometimes walking at three or four miles an hour, sometimes trotting, sometimes cantering at about twenty-five. I was very comfortable up there, and thought that when we were in England again I would ride the camel more often than before. Then I thought that presently, if I obeyed aunt Dot's behest that I should go south to Lebanon and Syria and Jordan, it would be on the camel that I would go, and it would be cheaper than if I had my car, for camels cost much less than cars in food and drink, and need practically no running repairs. So I thought a new kind of life (cheaper, and more getting about) was before me, and that when aunt Dot came back and rode her own camel again, I would get hold of another camel, which would also be a white racing Arabian, and we would journey together all about the east. For there is no doubt at all that one rider is enough on a camel, and that when there are two the one behind is not really comfortable. I thought aunt Dot would be pleased when I told her I was going to get another camel. I kept thinking of things I would tell her, and the only thing I would not think was that perhaps I should not be telling her anything again at all, or not for a very long time, so I got all kinds of things ready in my mind for her.
When we were nearly into Rize we heard a great jingling of bells ahead, round a bend in the road, and a roaring, and when we came round the bend there was a camel caravan, six big brown Bactrians with two humps, loaded up with baggage, and their riders dressed in shirts and baggy blue breeches and leather chaps like Kurds from the mountains, and they were unloading the packs and herding the camels on to a little grassy beach where a river came down to the sea down a deep ravine, and the river for once had water, and spread into a pool between rocky banks before it got to the beach, and the camels were up to their knees in it drinking. Between drinks they threw up their heads and gave solemn roars, as Matthew Arnold heard the waves doing on Dover beach, when they gave melancholy long withdrawing roars which sounded to him like the ebbing of the Christian faith. Then the camels would dip their heads again to the river and drink and drink, storing up enough to last them four days, and their bells jingle-jangled like goat-bells on the Alps, and the drivers shouted and sang and pulled at their reins, and presently pushed them right under the water and made them kneel, and threw the water over them with pails to wash them.
When my camel saw the others, it began to, whinny and paw and get excited, just as aunt Dot had said it was not to do, and the Bactrians which saw it got excited too, mine being female and they most of them male, and mine also being Arabian, and white, and more class and breed, so I was afraid that love might occur. The drivers seemed afraid of this too, for they shouted and signed to me to ride on quickly, and they held on firmly to their camels' bridles, and ducked them in the water to blind them and prevent them thinking of love. I put mine at a trot through the river where it ran into the sea, and it splashed up the little waves with its feet and cried aloud with eagerness, but I beat it with my switch and told it to hurry on, and the drivers shouted at us in a discouraging way, and I made it canter on into Rize, with the sunset in our faces and on the smooth green bay that bloomed like a large pink oleander, and round the bay were the tea-gardens and the rich fruit orchards that climbed the wooded hills, and the white houses of Rize clustered round the harbour.
I stopped at a café in the town for coffee, but I did not call on Xenophon, who would be in trouble at his grandfather's tea farm, and I was in trouble too and did not feel like conversation, so after I had drunk my coffee and eaten a melon and some figs and a lot of hazel nuts, I found a stable for the camel and a room for myself near it and had a bathe in the warm evening sea, then dined in the garden in the square and went to bed. I would have liked to stay longer in Rize, which was very charming, but I knew it was Trebizond that I must stay in and wait there for news of aunt Dot, and I knew as well that Trebizond held something for me, and it was there that I might try to sort out my own problems too, in the derelict forlorn grandeur of that fallen Greek empire with its ghosts, and its rich sweet fruits, especially figs, and its sea full of the most exotic fish, which I had heard a lot about and would like to catch. I would stay at the Yessilyurt hotel, and go and see the consul, who would do whatever consuls do about their vanished nationals, and his wife, who was very kind and had liked aunt Dot and would cheer me up, and when my travellers' cheques came to an end, I supposed the consul might lend me some money to go on with. And I should find waiting for me at the Post Office some letters from Vere.
All these things Trebizond held for me, and I left Rize very early next morning to get there, and when at noon I came to Xenophon's Camp and the Pyxitis, with its mouths spreading about into the sea, and the great mass of Boz Tepe ahead, and Eleousa Point, and the harbour bay at its foot where the fishing boats lay in deep purple water for the noon rest, and west of the harbour the white-walled, red-roofed town and the wood-grown height beyond it between the two deep ravines, where the ancient citadel stood in ruin, with house and gardens climbing up among its broken walls, I felt as if I had come not home, not at all home, but to a place which had some strange hidden meaning, which I must try to dig up. I felt this about the whole Black Sea, but most at Trebizond. A nineteenth century traveller said that the only thing the Black Sea was good for was fish, and particularly the kalkan balouk, a sort of turbot with black prickles on his back, which was most delicious. But I do not much care for that kind of turbot myself, and anyhow he was quite lost and unimportant in this long strange, frightening, and romantic drama for which the Black Sea and its high forested shores seemed to me to be the stage. Some tremendous ancient drama long since played, by Argonauts, by Jason and Medea, by the Greeks, by the Ten Thousand, by imperial Rome, by the Goths, by an army of Christian martyrs, by Justinian and Belisarius, by the Byzantines, by the Comneni, by the Latins, by the romantic last Greek emperors commanding the last Greek corner of the Euxine, and ultimately by the Turks who slew the empire; and still the stage was set, and drama brooded darkly in the wings. The deep ravine, shaggy with woodland, the high ruined palace and keep, the broad shining of the sea beyond the curve of the littered shore, the magnificent forested mountains that ranged to right and left behind, this was all Greek; but the shore itself was all Turkish, and the narrow-streeted climbing jumbled town, with here and there a minaret, here and there a Byzantine church that was now a mosque or store-house.
So again I rode through the narrow streets to the central part of the town where the Yessilyurt stood, among small streets that sold grain and vegetables and tools and pots and hardware, but its front faced on a square and the public garden, and not far off down steep streets were the harbour and quays. The manager of the Yessilyurt sat smoking outside his front door, and seemed pleased to see me. He knew practically no English, but my phrase book had, "What room have you to let?" and he had a room, and I think he was asking after my companions, but I found no phrase which said, "They have left me, they have gone to Russia," so I put up one finger and said, "One room only," and the porter helped me to take my luggage off the camel and carried it up the stairs to the large central room out of which all the bedrooms opened, and I had the room I had been in before.
Then I went back to the camel and took it to the stables where it had lodged and gave it mash and root and things, and said, "Lie down. Go to sleep," and it knelt down and chewed, and I thought that later I would give it something from a bottle that aunt Dot had among her medicines which was only labelled "The Mixture" by the chemist, but aunt Dot had written on it "Camel sedative. Dose according to need." I thought that either she had never given the camel any of this stuff, or that the stuff was no good. However, I decided to give it a dose later, in case it made it stamp and kick and roar less in the night, as this annoys the people near it a good deal.
I wondered if, when I rang up the consul later, he would perhaps ask me to dinner, so that we could discuss what to do next. But when I rang, and asked for him, the answer was Yok, he had gone away three days ago for Istanbul and London on leave, and the vice consul was doing his work. The kavass put me through to the vice consul, who was a Cypriot Turk, but of course could talk some English, and I said I would come to the Consulate and see him.
When I saw him I remembered that we had met him with the consul once. He lived down by the quay, and was concerned mostly with ships and cargoes and lading-bills and the commercial troubles of British merchants and sea captains, for there are a great many of these. I saw that he would not be at all up to getting aunt Dot out of Russia or finding out what had happened to her or where she was. He was hardly up to making a call to Istanbul, for they never seemed to get through, whereas the calls of the consul quite often did this. I saw that he did not think it important that two Britons had disappeared to Russia; he said that it often occurred.
"They perhaps go too near the frontier, and then the Russians shoot. Or some Soviet guards perhaps cross the frontier and take them prisoners."
"Or," I said, "they went across on purpose, to see things."
The vice consul said this would not be possible, the Arpa Çay, which was the frontier there, was a steep-banked river ravine, and was guarded all along.
"And what things would they wish to see?" he added.
I said, "The scenery, I think. Mountains, lakes, rivers, all that." Seeing that the vice consul thought this notion absurd, I added, "And perhaps military secrets, to report to the British and Turkish Governments."
That interested him more, and seemed more likely; with spying he was at home. I had enlisted his sympathy; his round face smiled.
"Ah. You think they spy for us, your friends. In that case, we must wish them luck. But there is nothing we can do to help them. Perhaps your ambassador can make enquiry. But if they spy, they are outside help, they must help themselves. I am sorry."
They don't spy, I thought, at least I don't think they spy, except on the fish in the lakes and rivers. But our ambassador will make enquiry; Halide will see to that. Perhaps we should report to the newspapers; perhaps the press attaché will see to that. For my part I shall wait in Trebizond, because that is where they will come back to.
I left the Consulate. I regretted the consul and his wife; this vice consul was no use. I dined alone in the Yessilyurt restaurant, and a kind young Turk whom we had met before came and talked to me. I could see that he did not think we should see aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg again, for Turks take this view of those who vanish into Russia. But he said he would come down with me to the quay to-morrow and get some fishermen to let me go out in their boat with them and try for kalkan baligi. But I would rather try for khamsi baligi, which is still more liked, and I had read that great quarrels had always occurred in the market place when this popular fish arrived. Hadrian, who always did so much good to towns, and particularly to Trebizond, had a brass model of it put on a column outside the city gate, and this brass fish was a talisman that attracted the similar fish in the sea to throw themselves on the shore, thus saving the fishermen trouble, and this went on till the birth of that spoil-sport Prophet, which immediately, it seems, checked talismans and magic, so unlike Christianity the religion he started was; though what was he doing stopping magic in Trebizond, a Christian Byzantine city? Actually from all accounts a very great deal of magic flourished all through the Middle Ages in Trebizond, which was a great city for enchanters and magicians. But these khamsi baligi did cease to come up on the shore for themselves, though the sea still abounded with them during the fifty days of the season of southerly winds, and I suppose it still does. Evliya Efendi, writing in the seventeenth century, says that when the boats full of them arrive in harbour, the fish-dealers sound a horn and people stop whatever they are doing, even praying, and run after the fish like madmen. And one cannot be surprised, for it is a shining white fish which does not smell fishy, does not set up a fever, cures sore mouths, and is an aphrodisiac of extraordinary potency, and this is a thing Turks value. It is used in cooking many dishes, to which it gives a peculiar flavour, and it is a dish of friendship and love. So I hoped that I should catch some, as it was now the season for them.
After dinner I went and saw the camel, and gave it a dose of its sedative, then I sat in the gardens and read the letters I had collected from the Post Office, which were from Vere, who was one of a party sailing about the Aegean in the yacht of a press lord, and they might be touching next at Smyrna. Reading Vere's letters, and writing a reply to them, filled me with adultery again, our love being so great, and Vere so amusing and so much my companion, and I wanted very much to be on the press lord's yacht, though yachts always make me seasick. I wrote to Vere till long after dark, telling about everything, while at the other tables men played trictrac, and the radio in the trees among the electric lights crooned away like cats on the tiles, and the lights twinkled out from the fishing boats in the bay.
Then I went up to the Yessilyurt smoking-room, which was one of the rooms that opened out from the round central hall on the first floor, and Turkish men of trade sat about drinking water or raki or coffee and reading commercial papers and smoking. The hotel resounded with the shouts of men of commerce trying to telephone to Samsun, which was a thing I remembered that they tried to do most of the day and night, and whenever one of our party had tried to telephone to the Consulate or to Istanbul, we had been stopped by a call from Samsun coming through for someone. I wondered how they had done business between Trebizond and Samsun in the nineteenth century, when the Yessilyurt was the Hotel d'Italie and then the Hotel des Voyageurs, and nothing was changed in it except that now there was a telephone which did not work very well, and a chain to pull which did not always work very well either. But it was a nice hotel, and I liked the management and the porter and the restaurant and the old lady who did the rooms, and I felt at home here. I do not know when it was built.
I studied my Turkish phrase book, and learned a few of the most useful ones by heart. One was about how I did not understand Turkish well, which I copied into my note-book and carried about with me; I also copied Is there anyone here who speaks English, can you tell me the way if you please, thank you, what does this cost it is too much money, and some enquiries about meals. I crossed out some phrases I had copied before, such as when does the bus, train and other conveyance start, because henceforth I should always be starting on the camel. I had already mastered, "Where can I put my camel?" When I had done some Turkish, I read Charles's manuscript about Trebizond, which was very good and detailed, and I decided to take it with me as I went about the town looking at things, as it would help me to identify them and was very intellectual and full of information. Charles also quoted things from the books of old travellers such as Bessarion in the 15th century, and Evliya Efendi in the 17th, and various 19th century tourists, so that one got many views of Trebizond, how it had looked at different times, and he had put in bits from H. F. B. Lynch, and descriptions of church paintings from Professor David Talbot Rice, and a lot more, besides what he had invented himself, so that altogether it was a very interesting manuscript. I supposed that what I had was probably a rough draft, and that there was another copy, which would get published somewhere, and I thought I would keep this one so long as I stayed in Trebizond, as it was such a good write-up of the town and neighbourhood. He quoted from Evliya Efendi about the delicious wines and fruits, fine-flavoured grapes, cherries red as woman's lips, apples called Sinope, figs called something else, which are the sweetest in the world, purple oranges, pomegranates and olives, and as for flowers, there is a ruby-coloured pink peculiar to this place, each blossom like a red rose and perfumes the brain with the sweetest scent. I would look out for this pink, as well as for all that fruit, and the delicate fishes that abounded.
Another feature of Trebizond life which interested me seemed to be Charles's own discovery. It had been generally noticed in the Middle Ages that this famous but remote Byzantine city had been much addicted to magic and full of notorious wizards, enchanters and alchemists, who practised their arts for the benefit of those who paid for their services. It had, of course, been a Byzantine art and industry; the arrival of the down-to-earth, matter-of-fact Ottomans, who were neither clever or imaginative, and thought wizardry wrong, had driven it underground, to be practised privately and lucratively by the Greeks who remained in the city after the Turkish massacres. Like the fairies, the enchanters were of the old profession. The expulsion of the remaining Greeks by Atatürk had, you might suppose, dealt the obsolescent craft itscoup-de-grâce; but this was not, it seemed, the case, it still survived in corners, among pseudo-Turkish Greeks who turned an honest lira by selling fair winds to fishing-boats and charming the desired fishes into the nets, making up love potions (which no doubt they merely labelled "The Mixture"), making marriages fruitful, restoring youthful beauty to women and youthful potency to men, bestowing on unborn infants the gift of maleness (money refunded if the charm failed to work, unless the enchanter could prove that the mother had not obeyed instructions faithfully), blessing business enterprises so that they resulted in wealth, and inflicting all kinds of malicious damages on enemies by means of wax images and so on.