« PoprzedniaDalej »
I HAD agreed for my passage with the captain of a Greek polacre, who was to sail in the evening for Odessa. The polacre was a remarkably pretty barque, bat bad what the sailors call a roguish look; and, unless I shrewdly misconceived appearances, had played her part among the islan is in the days when the sabre did more than the invoice, and Greek captains traded in more matters than they would acknowledge in any custom-house in the Mediterranean. But all was now innocent. The polacre had been purified from all her pirate frolics; her destination was legitimate; and my baggage, wallet, and leash of Anatoly greyhounds, were put on board. The cabin was sufficiently small, and I had taken it to myself, with the fair additional stipulation that neither more goods nor passengers should be taken on board than the vessel would be able to carry. The captain, a showy, bronzed, tall Greek, shook me by the hand, in token of being charmed with all my stipulations; pledged himself by the image of the Virgin, which hung prominent and propitious over his forecastle, to fulfil every condition with accuracy unequalled by any navigator of the seas; and finished by promising me a passage worthy of an emperor.
The wind was blowing right up the Bosphorus, and I became impatient to begin my voyage. But Captain Callistrato's impatience threw mine totally in the back ground. He ranted, raved, and Aung out his whole vocabulary of seanames upon his crew, his passengers, and all things else within his memory. But, to my surprise, there lay our gallant vessel yet with her grapnels to the quay, and her anchor fast in the ooze. As I gazed at the reflection of the moon-rise in the mirror of the waters, I hinted to the captain that the first preliminary to movement was connected with hoisting his anchor. He struck his ample forehead in atter astonishment at the stapidity of his crew, and give instant
orders for the handspikes to be in readiness. The orders were ochood and reechoed round the deck. Yet, by some singular mischance, neither grapnel nor anchor stirred. After observing this strange neglect to the captain, who instantly darted away to have it rectified, I went down to my cabin. Imagine my indignation; I found it half full already, my trunks occupied as ottomans by half a dozen long-bearded Osmanlis quietly preparing their pipes for a final treat, before they lay down on their carpets. This was intolerable. It was now my turn to rave. I rushed upon deck, determined to abate the nuisance in the most summary manner, by compelling the captain to clear my cabin of every interloper at once, and to leave his fresh passengers on shore. But I was too late for this part of the performance. I found the deck a pile of goods of every kind; the polacre overloaded to such a degree that the first gale would in all probability blow her over; and the captain wringing his hands at“ the trick which had been played upon him by the knavery of the crew.”
The dew and the gusts together at length overcame my repugnance to vonture into the stifling atmosphere of my cabin, possessed as it was by interlopers ; and down I plunged, found a snoring Turk for my pillow, and wrapping nyself up in my cloak, waited to be trampled on by the next importation of the disastrous captain.
But, to sleep was impossible, and after an hour or two wasted in vain attempts, I left the Turks to settle the matter with each other, and went above. There what a scene met my eye! If I had seen the polacre overloaded before, what. was I to make of her now ! She was actually a pile of goods. Stem and stern were equally undistinguishable. The gale was increasing: in half an hour we must be in the Euxine; and in half a minute after that it was fifty chances to one but that our story was told. My first business now was to find the captain. But he bad, I suppose, exhausted all his pathetics, for he was not to be found. He had ensconced himself among his bales, and he might as well be looked for in the billows that were, now beginning to tumble about us in a suffsciently menacing style. As I was rather angrily continuing my search, the mate of the ship, a little Maltese, with shrewd eye and the air of a humourist addressed me:
“You may, as well give over your tronble for the night, sir, (said be) for when the captain does not choose to be found, it will not be a very easy matter to find him.”
“ Is the rascal hanged, drowned, or run away?" was my impatient.exclama.. tion to the mate.
“ The last should be first, (coolly replied the Maltese ;), the others may come: alį in good time. But if you expect to see Captain Callistrato: until the whom is down, and we are fairly out of the channel
Here he was interrupted by a loud voice from the water, hailing the resset. "What, more passengers! (I exclaimed); is the captain out of his senses ? wa cannot find rooms to stand already."
"He is not accountable for those that are shoved overboard, (was the cool reply), he is paid alike for all. (On looking over the side he said,) but this seems a cargo of another calibre."
“A rope had been already thrown from the felucca which followed us, and a stately Greek, magnificently attired, came up the chains. His arrival had evidently been expected, and the captain now appeared, as if he had started from the sea along with him. A young and very lovely female was next handed up the side, and conducted along the deck to a sofa, which a couple of female at. tendants covered with cushions and shawls, and where the young beauty was waited upon with peculiar attention.
My curiosity was a little roused; and the Maltese, with whom I had become confidential, on the approved merit of being a good listener, told me in a whisper, and with a visage worthy of a priry councillor, that our new passenger was no less a personage than the Hospodar of Wallachia. “ He was summoned to Constantinople (said the Maltese), to give some account of bis proceedings with the Muscovites; in other words to leave his head and his money in the seraglio. Some unknown friend found means to let him know that to-night was to finish his earthly troubles; and the Greek, perhaps thinking that his share of troubles was not enough yet, hired the polacre at an hour's notice to carry him to Odessa."
“And hired my cabin too, I suppose, among the rest ?" “Yes, (was the answer), the captain never refuses money—that is the first
and as you payed handsomely, and the Greek paid handsomely also, it would have hurt his feelings to have disappointed either. This, too, accounts for the state of the deck; he would not deprive so many pour fellows of their market for a few scruples of conscience, and so, giving way to his compassion, and pocketing their money, he has fairly left the Turkish custom-house behind, and carries them, smugglers, goods, and all, to the north of his highness the sultan's line of fire."
A sudden sound of oars interrupted the dialogue.
“By our lady, (exclaimed the Maltese,) the officers are on our track! I would Rot give a ducat for the life of any man among us by sunrise if we suffer them to catch us."
The captain was evidently quick-eared to the sound, for I saw the rascal struggling his way, in infinite baste and terror, through the boxes and piles that almost broke in our deek. A blaze of musketry alongshore, followed by the booming of a heavy gan, showed that the Turkish fortastern was on the
alert. We had nothing for it now but to hoist every strip of canvass, and distance the Moslem if we were able. But the polacre could scarcely move; the sails could not be handed, and the men could not stir upon deck, from the enormous compilation of merchandise which the roguery of Callistrato had suffered to gather there. I was not totally indifferent to the result, for a Turkish cimeter or knife was not likely to be a very discriminating judge of nationality at midnight. But, even if I were, I should have been made zealous by the evident terror of the STAR OF THE HAREM. In moments of general alarm, all the world becomes communicative; and I learned from one of the Greek attendants that there was a little romance counected with the public part of his highness's flight. A young Italian, an officer in the Austro-Venitian squadron lying in the Propontis for its summer trip up the Mediterranean, had contrived to establish an interest in the heart of the fair Greek; which, as happens in other cases, was by no means-entertained with the same cordiality by her guardian. A bullet and the cimeter were the promised rewards of the Italian's farther attentions; and the young beauty, disconsolate of course, but not the less handsome for her melancholy, as I could attest, on the visible evidence of her magnificent eyes and lovely expression, was whirled away from Constantinople, never to see her worshipper more.
In the mean time our clumsy attempts to get up the sails proceeded, and though the wind was now blowing a gale, and we began to feel the swell at the mouth of the Bosphorus, the polacre crept on a snail's pace, while the Turkish guard-boats were evidently coming up at full gallop. The hospodar's anxiety was obvious enough, but it was at least within the line of manliness; but Callistrato was the grand performer of the hour. He was in an agony, and his agony had now the advantage of being perfectly sincere. With such a weight of contraband upon his soul, no man was more likely to be bastinadoed out of the world or his first capture, if he were not sliced like a cucumber by the first Turk who got footing on the polacre. He ranted and raved, recounted all the sins of his lise, an extraordinary exhibition of memory; barangued, whined wept, and made himself so abjectly ridiculous, that I could act help alternately scorning and laughing at his distress. I was fully revenged for the plunder of my passage-money. The whole cabin was in the same confusion. Jew and Turk, the sly Smyrniote, whose soul is made of oil and figs, the smooth Peraite, who lives by European plunder in all shapes, and the Rabbi, to whom nothing Christian or infidel comes amiss, were all gathering up whatever they could abstract most precious from their bags, and preparing plausibilities for the re. morseless ears of the Doganieri.
There was no time for ceremoay; I introduced myself to the hospodar, acquainted him briefy with the nature of the case, kicked Captain Callistrato out