Louisa (Jebb) Mrs. Roland Wilkins. Wilkins.

By desert ways to Baghdad online

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" Salutations from Monsieur le Kaimakam, and
he bids you welcome to Boulghar Maden." The
man took off his fez and bowed. We saw that he was
a cut above the enemy we had been fearing and we


felt happier. He then explained that he was the
representative in Boulghar Maden of our merchant
friends in Constantinople, that he was an Armenian,
that the Kaimakam was most perturbed lest we should
not be received in proper manner, and had com-
missioned him, Onik Dervichian, at our service, to
make all arrangements for our comfort. We were
to be the guests of the Kaimakam, and he had caused
rooms to be got ready for us in the house of a Greek
family, where he would send down the feast he was
preparing. But first he was expecting us at the

We all scrambled down the hill together and rode
through the village to the Government buildings. A
line of Zaptiehs was drawn up at the entrance and
fired a salute as we passed. Then we dismounted,
and were led through the usual mysterious curtain-
hung doors into the Kaimakam's presence.

With our friend as interpreter, we felt sure the
correct salutations would be delivered on our behalf.
The health of the King of England and of our fathers,
the great Pashas, was duly inquired after. Onik
Dervichian then hustled us away to the Greek house.
Here we found the women in a great state of per-
turbation and excitement. Our friend had sent down
sheets for our beds, which were being constructed on
the divans ; would he show them where they were
meant to gfo ? Onik Dervichian threw off his coat
and set to work on the beds himself, smoothing out
the sheets with the fat Greek mother, who argued
volubly with him the whole time. The two daughters
of the house looked on and laughed ; the little fat


boy put his finger in his mouth and roared with
laughter. Hassan stood in the doorway beaming with
satisfaction. We were to sleep indoors, but was it
not with Government sanction and under Government
auspices? This was quite a different matter from
the Karaman experience.

Rejeb was having a good time recounting our
adventures to his brother officers at the Konak,
whither he had hastened back after seeing us safely
landed at the house.

A messenger arrived from the Kaimakam — were
the ladies ready for the feast ? The dishes had been
prepared and the servants were awaiting commands.
We invited Onik Dervichian to stay and help us
through ; for this was not the first time we had
experienced Turkish hospitality and suspected that
our powers would be taxed to the full.

The little low table was brought in, and Onik
showed the Greek mother how to lay it "a la Franka."
The dishes began to arrive : curries and pilafs and
roasted kid ; dolmas and chickens and kebabs, and
then the nameless sweet dishes which Turkish cooks
only know how to prepare. At the fourth course I
made an attempt to strike, but Onik Dervichian was

" Ah, mademoiselle, pour faire plaisir au Kaima-
kam," and he piled up my plate.

At the fifth course he anticipated me.

11 Now, mademoiselle, pour faire plaisir au Kai-

At the sixth: "Now, mademoiselle."

11 No," I said; " Kaimakam or no Kaimakam, I can't,"

Onik Dervichian. The Kaimakam.

At Koui.ohar M \m s.

fact ?Agc 78.


Onik Dervichian's face was a study.

" Mais, mademoiselle, settlement pour faire plaisirau

11 You will have to do it all yourself, then," I said ;
11 he won't know which of us has eaten it."

Onik rose manfully to the occasion and did his
best. Only at the last dish did he lean back and,
rubbing himself gently, murmur :

"Ah, mon Dieu! et tout cela pour faire plaisir au

There were " written stones," they told us, in this
neighbourhood too ; accordingly next day we hired
a native as guide and set off in search of them.

A road roughly cut on the side of the mountain
led out of Boulghar Maden down the valley to
the east ; below it, precipitous sides shot into the
river's bed ; above it, the range we had crossed the
previous day towered overhead.

About a mile outside the village we turned off
the road and wound up the mountain-side. Our
horses pushed their way through the thorns and
brambles which grew in rank profusion in and out
amongst the rocky projections, until we had scrambled
up to the summit of an outlying hill-top. Here
a rocky projection stood out higher than the
surrounding ones and showed a flat face of wall
to the midday sun. It was just possible to make
out that there was an inscription on this face. We
could see that the characters were cut in relief and
not incised. The Hittites were metal workers, and
this characteristic of their inscriptions no doubt


arose from their habit of embossing metal. That
they were particularly fond of silver is suggested by
the fact that many of their treaties were inscribed on
tablets of that metal. Inscriptions are also found
on stones near the Gumush Dagh, where silver-mines
have been worked. We may presumably infer that
the working of these mines at Boulghar Maden dates
from Hittite times. The view in front of us was
one vast breaking sea of mountain tops ; the snow-
clad heights forming the crests gleamed in sudden
Hashes of sunlight, like the surf on a rising wave.

We left Boulghar Maden the next morning. The
Kaimakam insisted that we should drive in his
carriage down to Chifte Khan, the point on the
main route where we were to meet our arabas.
The road had only been made a few years and
they were very proud of it ; it was an exquisite
road, we were told. The Kaimakam, we were also
told, was very proud of his carriage. When he went
to visit the mines he had it out ; but his horse
was led behind, for apparently his pride in it was
not so great as regard for his own comfort, not
to say safety. But here was an occasion for him
to vaunt his pride with none of the accompanying-

It arrived : a springless box on wheels, a hard
and narrow seat on each side, the top encased in a
heavy roof, with rattling glass windows. The whole
was painted a bright primrose yellow, and was drawn
by two small Turkish horses.

X and I got in somewhat ruefully. It was a

face page So.

Hiinii Inscription near Boulghar Maden.

Mi STAl \. IIa-s\n. ( I. I >i:ryi< HIAN.

L. Jl BB. Kl il B.


glorious, fresh, sunny day, and we were about to
pass through some of the finest scenery of the
Taurus district.

Onik Dervichian, who came to start us on the
way, and Hassan sat inside with us. The Kaimakam
had sent his servants to ride our horses ; they and
the Zaptiehs followed in a long string behind. For
the first mile or two the road was fairly smooth ;
the vehicle lumbered heavily along ; when it struck
a loose stone the glass rattled furiously. We peered
longingly through the panes, trying to catch glimpses
of the surroundings. Pine woods nodded in the
light breeze, but the noise drowned their whispers.
Valley and hills streaked with laughing shadows
beckoned to us to come out and look at them.
Every turn in the road displayed new vistas of pine-
clad slopes, shooting long tongues of green into
the brown-red rocks.

As time went on the road became very rough ;
great masses of solid rock lay across it, and the
carriage, lurching up over them, jumped us about
on the hard seats and knocked us up against one
another. Hassan took it calmly ; he merely ejacu-
lated " Aman " when an extra lurch sent him flying
off the seat.

Onik Dervichian, however, was sorely troubled.

"Ah, mon Dieu ! " he cried out at intervals, " et
tout cela pour faire plaisir au Kaimakam."

At times it was not only painful but positively
dangerous. The side of the hill would rise up in
perpendicular walls of rock, and a narrow ledge of
road, cut at right angles to it, barely gave width



enough for the wheels to pass ; a jerk in the wrong
direction would have precipitated us down the rocks
into the valley beneath. 1

At such moments Onik Dervichian, pink with
terror and excitement, opening with difficulty the
door at the back, would scramble out and follow
on foot. The crisis over, his sense of humour
would return and he would take his seat again,
throw up his hands and ejaculate, " Et tout cela
pour faire plaisir au Kaimakam ! "

Then the carriage came to a dead stop. In front
of us the ledge of rock had broken away, and two
great boulders, fallen from above, blocked the
narrow way.

X pointed down the steep precipice.

" Look, Hassan, look," she said, pretending to

Hassan looked.

" You go over, I go too," was his reply.

The driver got down and examined the obstruction.
We all got out and examined it. The servants,
leading our horses behind, dismounted and examined
it. The horses stood with their noses on it and
stared stupidly Then everybody took hold of the
wheels and lifted and shoved the whole concern
bodily over. With the wheels on one side falling well
over the steep side, the driver carefully engineered
horses and carriage round the corner.

Bruised and exhausted, shaken in body and nerves,

1 We heard later that the official who had been mainly
responsible for the construction of the road met his death in this
manner shortly after our visit.


we were finally safely landed at Chifte Khan, where
we found our men and arabas awaiting us. We flung
ourselves down on the grass of a little orchard and
thanked God for our delivery from the task of pleasing
Kaimakams. Hassan stood over us and gazed thought-
fully at the yellow carriage standing by the roadside,
while the driver devoured pilaf at the door of the

"It is well now," he said; "we have pleased the

The driver clambered up on the seat again
and turned his horses' heads up the road we had

" Thank God," said Onik Dervichian, "that we are
still alive to see it depart ! "

From Chifte Khan we followed a good road, through
the gorgeous vale of Bozanti, to Ak Kupru, where we
pitched our camp for the night by the side of the river

The weather broke suddenly, and we reached the
place in torrents of rain.

The wind, tearing in gusts up the valley, shook the
walls of the tent, and the ropes strained at the pegs.
It drove the rain so hard against the white canvas that
it forced the drops through almost against their will.
It would have been so much easier for them just to
run down the outside slope ; but every force in nature
seemed to be let loose to make the others worse.
I moved my bed a little to try and get a clear course
between two sets of drips. X surveyed my endeavours


from where she sat, mechanically tilting a pool off her
mackintosh rug when the accumulated drops showed
signs of flowing in disastrous directions.

" It's no use trying not to be wet," she said, "when
there is no way of keeping dry."

A new drip in the centre of the two original ones
forced me to accept her philosophy, and we sat
silently watching the scene outside. In front of us
a bridge crossed the river and from it wound the
road we should follow, zigzaging up until it dis-
appeared round a corner. The Taurus Mountains
rose like a black barrier in front of us, towering
aloft in gigantic walls of rock ; then layers of black
forest and grassy slopes, then misty tops showing
white snow where the clouds parted. At their
feet on the other side lay the great Cilician Plain,
covered with yellow crops and brown earth and clothed
with mud-coloured villages. On the other side also was
the Mediterranean, blue and calm ; there was sun and
warmth and quiet, and people quietly basking in the
heat. But on this side there was turmoil and cold and
wet ; the earth's face was hard and bare, and over it
angry waters dashed in heedless, headlong fury ; angry
clouds overhead vied with them, shooting down re-
lentless torrents of rain. On the other side, the blue
Cydnus wound gently in and out through the level
plain, and made marshes of its low banks as its waters
lazily crawled round in long, curving loops. On this
side the Chakut Su, goaded on by the maddened
waterfalls, rushed its black waters impatiently against
obstructing rocks, and turning white with fury foamed
round them in angry swirls and dashed on through


narrow gorges, lashing at their mocking, immovable

We sought refuge in the khan for the evening meal,
sharing the fire with our own men and the Zaptiehs.
Onik Dervichian, always merry and full of resources
even on such an evening, made the men sit round so
as to leave an empty space in the centre of the room.
Then he produced a walking-stick and laid it flat
on the ground.

" Stand up, oh stick!" he said, waving his hand and
addressing it in Turkish.

Not a sound could be heard in the room ; all eyes
were fixed on the stick, which slowly rose and stood
up, apparently of itself.

" Ha ! ha ! " went round the room in deep murmurs.

" Lie down, oh stick ! " said Onik.

And the stick, after giving a hop or two, went slowly
down on the floor again.

For full half an hour did Onik Dervichian, by means
of a fine thread invisible in the dim firelight, sfo
through a series of tricks with the walking-stick.

The men never moved or took their eyes off it
for a moment, but showed no curiosity about it.
They took it, like everything else, as a matter of

Hassan and Rejeb, two silent men, talked together
the whole night long just outside our tent. What
with this and the wind and the rain, and the flapping
of the tent and the drips, which, coursing down the
canvas, found new points of entry at every moment,
we got but little rest.


Hassan greeted us vvith an anxious look next

" You were not frightened in the night, I hope ? " he

" No," I answered, "but we did not get much rest."

"Rejeb and I," he went on, "were afraid you would
be frightened by the noises, and we talked all night
to show that we were close at hand."

The rain was still coming down in torrents. The
khanji said it had come to stay, and he made a big
fire, for he expected us to stay.

But X was inexorable. If the bad weather had
begun, she said, we must push on and get through the
pass before we were snowed up ; that would be worse
than getting a wetting.

We had all got into the habit of doing what X told
us ; so Hassan went out grimly and packed up the
sodden tents. " Aman, aman," he murmured now
and again, " it is the whim of a woman." The arabajis
dejectedly fetched out the horses, who drooped their
heads in the rain and blinked reproachfully. " It
is the will of Allah," said the men, and they loaded
up the tents. The Zaptiehs and Rejeb fetched their
horses and mounted. " It is the will of Allah," said
also the Zaptiehs ; but their Lieutenant held his
peace. The rain might be the will of Allah, but to
ride through it was the whim of a woman.

One by one we filed out over the bridge and up the
winding road opposite. The arabas creaked ; their
sodden, wooden wheels squeaked as they lurched
along after us ; and the khanji stood in the doorway


and wondered a little ; then he went back to his fire.
And we rode up and up silently. Thick rain mists
shrouded the heights above us ; gradually we reached
the forest line, and the grassy slopes were level with
us on the opposite side of the valley ; and still we
rode gently up and up. The rain lessened a little bit,
and we raised our heads and told each other so.
Onik Dervichian burst into song and made the
hills echo with his ringing voice. Then the rain
poured down again and we rode silently on into it.

A string of camels laden with merchandise met
us just as we were crossing a track, which was being
temporarily turned into the bed of a stream for super-
fluous waters. Their great hoofs slipped on the greasy,
muddy sides, and each one paused in its mechanical
march as its turn came to slide down the slippery

"Y'allah, y'allah ! " shouted the drivers, prodding
them, and they resignedly put forward their great
hoofs and floundered after their companions.

The arabas made slow progress up the hill. We
were getting wet through and decided to push on
ahead with Rejeb and two of the Zaptiehs. Onik
Dervichian announced his intention of returning ; he
could reach Boulghar Maden that evening if he went
no further, and he did not relish the idea of another
night such as the one he had just spent.

At midday we arrived at Gulek Boghaz, where we
found a new detachment of Zaptiehs awaiting us, for
we had crossed the borders of the Konia vilayet and
were now under the Vali of Adana. The men took


our horses and led them into the stable. Streams of
water ran off horses and men alike and collected in
pools about the uneven floor. We brushed past the
horses' heels and went on into the living room leading
out of the stable, where a roaring wood fire blazed a*
the far end. We lay on the rough divan in the corner
and thawed and dried. The men came in from seeing -
to their horses, and the fire drew clouds of thick steam
out of their soaking clothes.

Rejeb sent out a Zaptieh to see if there was any
sign of the arabas, but he returned with no news save
that of increasing rain. We dozed round the hot fire ;
the Zaptiehs sat at the far end of the room and
smoked ; there was no sound but the beating of the
rain outside and of the horses munching and stamp-
ing in the adjoining room.

More than an hour passed and still no sign of the
arabas. We roused ourselves and conjectured all the
possibilities of mishap: awheel had come off; they
had stuck in the mud ; they had lost their way ; the
roads were too heavy for the horses after the rain ;
they had been attacked by brigands.

X, however, had her own suspicions. The arabajis
had been very loath to leave Ak Kupru, and they
knew of our intention of pushing on after the midday
rest. They were dawdling on the road or sheltering
somewhere out of the rain — we had passed an open
shed — so as to ensure arriving too late for us to get
on to the next stage.

She cast round for a method of outwitting them,
and at last hit on one.

" You take two of the new Zaptiehs," she said,


"and ride on with them to the next khan; I will
wait here until the arabas turn up. We cannot leave
you alone, and that will be an excuse to make the men
come on."

I always did as X told me, and rose obediently from
the warm corner. As I drew on my dry overcoat,
hot from the fire, and looked out at the drenching
rain, I felt strongly drawn in sympathy towards the
arabajis. My horse was saddled and dragged outside,
as loth to leave its companions as I was. I mounted,
and bid farewell to Rejeb and Mustapha, who were
returning to Konia. It was a tearful parting, for they
had been with us now for eleven days and we were
fast friends. X stood in the doorway of the stable.

" When you get to the khan," she called out after
me, "say ' Atesh getir.' "

"All right," I said obediently. What ' atesh getir '
meant I did not know ; but X said I was to say it
and that was enough. I was awfully afraid of forget-
ting it, and it was too wet to make a note, so I kept
on repeating it at intervals. The Zaptiehs rode one
behind and one before me, for the road was narrow.
By and by we entered a defile not more than three or
four yards across, where the rocks towered above us
quite perpendicularly on one side and overhung us on
the other ; the road became almost coincident with
the bed of the stream, and a large piece of fallen rock
nearly blocked the way. The Zaptieh in front of me
pointed with his whip at the rock just over our heads
and also at the one fallen in the bed of the stream.
The rain was pouring over the faces of both and
obscured them, but it was just possible to make out


that these also were "written stones," and I concluded
that we must be riding through the famous Cilician
Gates, round which the historical interest of the
Taurus centres.

I repeated " Atesh getir" devoutly, and we hurried
on. A two hours' ride brought us to a khan on the
side of the road. One of the Zaptiehs galloped ahead
to announce our arrival. The yard, ankle deep in
mud, was full of dripping animals and men. The
khanji helped me to dismount, and I said " Atesh
getir." He nodded and smiled and talked away at
me hard as he led me into a vast room, perfectly bare,
without even the usual divan. There was a wood fire
burning up a tumble-down chimney in the middle, and
they fetched me a little three-legged stool to sit on.
I thanked them and said " Atesh getir " once more.
The Zaptiehs came and turned my hat and coat
round and round in front of the fire to dry, as an
excuse to dry their own. A boy appeared with more
logs of wood, which he threw on the fire. Every now
and then the khanji would come and jabber at me,
and I smiled and nodded and said " Atesh getir." It
seemed now to have become a sort of joke, for every
time I said it the Zaptiehs and the other men laughed,
and I caught the words repeatedly in their conversa-
tion amongst themselves. Every few minutes the boy
came and threw more wood on the fire, then he would
turn and ask me a question. I had nothing but
" Atesh getir " to say. But I felt a little nervous
about the size of the fire. It was exceeding the
bounds of the hearth, and I was afraid would soon
burn down the rotten old place, for the heat was

Near the Cilii ian Gates Pass.


terrific. So I would point at the fire and shake my
head when he threw on the logs, but he only grinned
and went off to return with some more.

As I sat there waiting for X, I knew that I should
always remember once for all that warmth is the one
thing in the world which really matters. I was
hungry, for we had not tasted much food that day.
There was not much to sit upon, the stool had got
very hard ; the room was dirty and bare, and the smell
of wet animals came up from the sheds below ; but
the fire made up for it all. One felt one had really
got all one wanted, and I would not have exchanged
that fire for the best of meals or the downiest of beds.

I was quite content to sit by it and wait for X for
ever if need be. She had shipped me off with two
strange men to a strange place with two strange words
whose meaning I did not know — but there was the

She arrived at last. The men all came tramping
in with her and gathered round the blazing logs.
Hassan fetched a bundle out of the araba, where the
things had kept fairly dry, and made a seat for us.
Constantin opened the last tin of sardines, and having
demolished them we finished up with native bread and

Hassan went out to look for a place to pitch the
tent, and came back to say there was nothing but mud
and water outside ; should he put it up under an open
shed just below the room? The floor was sodden
with the smell of generations of passing caravans, but
there seemed no other choice, and the tent was the
only means of privacy.


Late at night a sudden thought struck me. I turned
towards X and saw that she was awake.

" X," I said, " what does ' atesh getir ' mean ? "
" It means ' get a fire,' " said X sleepily.

We were awakened early by the departure, before
sunrise, of the men and animals who, quartered in the
yard of which our shed formed part, had not given us
much peace during the night. We were not loth, on
our part, to leave the tent, which had caught and
retained the smell rising up from the sodden earth
floor, until we were nearly choked with the fumes. It
was still raining, and the peaks we had ridden under
the day before were shrouded in mist. We kept on
descending slowly, and by and by came out on a piece
of open moor land. The sun began to appear again
now. We were leaving it all behind, the cold and the
wet and the storms of the hills. We were getting
into the stillness of the plains again. The men took
off their overcoats and rolled them up on their saddles
behind. One by one we shed the wraps which had
seemed so thin and inefficient under the snowy
heights ; they were getting unbearable here.

We expected at every turn to get a view of the
sea. In spite of this, its first appearance was so
sudden as to come as a surprise. We rounded a
corner, and there it lay, as we had pictured it on the
other side, still and bright, with no suggestion of storm

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Online LibraryLouisa (Jebb) Mrs. Roland Wilkins. WilkinsBy desert ways to Baghdad → online text (page 5 of 18)