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as the long-looked-for relief at last passed under us into the town. The enemy, on seeing this strong reinforcement quietly melted away, and Bjela, practically without a shot, fell into the hands of the Russians.
The house in which Forbes and I had taken up our quarters, was at one end of the straggling township. My colleague had just started back to the Danube with my sketches and a budget of war news, and Arnoldi, knowing I was alone, was good enough to invite me to dine with him. I had to go the whole length of the town to Arnoldi's quarters, he having encamped on the other side of the Yantra. The infantry were rapidly taking up their position on the heights round Bjela. All through the evening the troops continued marching through the main street, and far into the night stragglers and malingerers were dragging their weary limbs over the hard, dusty plain to the various encampments.
When I returned from dining at the cavalry camp towards midnight, the road was apparently quite silent. Presently a light flashed up from one of the cellars of a store. On looking down its steps I discovered four soldiers staggering stupidly drunk, up to their ankles in liquor, which was still running from several casks they had broken open. On catching sight of me one of the men stumbled up to the level of the street and brought his rifle to the guard at the same time challenging
I answered in my best Russian, the purity of which immediately betrayed my ignorance of the tongue, whereon the sentry cried to his companion:
"Here's a Turk!" seized me and pushed me into the cellar, where his drunken companions at once surrounded and searched me.
I immediately held out my revolver, butt-end forward, to show non-bellicose intentions. They snatched it out of my grasp, and also relieved me of my sketch- and pocket-books and purse. Then they rudely hustled me up out of the cellar on to the road. They were all more or less intoxicated, two some
what good-humouredly, but the others were sullen and ill-tempered. They held a querulous consultation as to their future dealings with me, and appeared to arrive at the conclusion to take me in the direction from whence I had come. At this I was much relieved, for I knew I should be nearing friends.
My captors placed me between them and we started. To my dismay, on arriving at the mill-dam in the centre of the town, the deep shadow of the old mill wheel seemed to suggest to the two sullen guards who were behind me that this was a fit and proper place to rid themselves of so irritating a burden as myself. Why not stab me in the back and slip me into the millrace, for was I not keeping them from a further orgy? One ruffian suddenly clutched me by the shoulder and growled out "Halt!" while the other levelled his bayonet. I quickly caught the cold steel at the charge, forcing it aside with my hands, when, luckily, the good-humoured advance - guard turned round at the noise and, seeing the dastardly deed about to be perpetrated, rushed forward.
One struck the fellow who still clutched my shoulder a blow in the mouth. Then a quarrel ensued between my captors, the rear-guard explaining the advantage of a quietus for me, while the advance-guard objected strongly to this questionable proceeding (in which I fully concurred) to thus early in life sending me over to the great majority.
At last there seemed to be a compromise between them, and, thanks to my preservers, they further relieved my mind regarding my safety by remaining in the rear while my would-be assassins were compelled to trudge on in front. We eventually arrived at a bivouac of infantry, and I was dragged toward the blazing camp-fire.
As I warmed my hands at the flaming logs, the men crowded round and stared at this supposed Turk in disguise. In a short time an officer appeared on the scene. He did not seem much convinced of my innocence, in
spite of my story which was related to him in my best French and all the Russian I was acquainted with. Luckily a cavalry-man, one of Arnoldi's troopers, pushed his way to the front, and, recognizing me, told the crowd (which immediately made me a hero in their eyes) how, on the day of their arrival in Bjela, I went down into the town, and marshalled up to their thirsty bivouac a contingent of Bulgarians, carring buckets of wine. This exploit of mine elicited a murmur of admiration, and I at once knew that I was with friends.
A cloak was spread for me by the fire, and a mug of tea handed me, in which I drank "to all honest soldiers." Presently, over the heads of those immediately around me was passed my revolver, then came my sketch book in the same manner, for the men who had arrested me were now out of favour and had quietly slunk away. Last, but not least, my purse arrived. I instinctively opened it and commenced counting the notes and coin. A howl of indignation went up from the honest fellows round me. I almost felt ashamed at my stupidity. The officer assured me that no Russian would steal. I arrested the question which readily came to my lips: "Then why take my purse?" Nevertheless, the coin had not been touched, though I believe that well-filled purse, by exciting the cupidity of the two sullen guards, nearly caused the death of me. The officer kindly gave me an escort to prevent further molestation, and I arrived at my house never more utterly fagged out in my life.
Throwing myself on to the ottoman I soon fell asleep. Presently I was disturbed by a soft, velvet touch on my face, then came a gentle pressure of my hands. Thinking I was in the throes of a pleasant nightmare, I sighed, and still sweetly slept. Now came a pinch on my right toe, quickly followed by rather a rough tweak of my nose. I sat up, rubbing my eyes till I was wide awake, when I discovered in a ray of soft moonlight, two lovely damsels in picturesque robes-de
nuit, wringing their hands and sadly moaning.
On seeing that I was fully awake they rushed at me and shook me, fearing that I might fall asleep again. The fair creatures both pointed to the window, and in a tongue utterly unintelligible to me, rapidly began talking. Their faces were full of fear, and they seemed to be in great distress, so in spite to say the least of it-of my compromising situation, I jumped out of bed, and was soon by their side, looking through the window. I soon
became aware of a dull roar like the distant surging of the sea, and bright flashes of light threw sharp shadows into the room. On looking through the casement into the street, a weird scene was presented. From our house, which formed the cul-de-sac of the alley opening on to the main street, grimlooking beings staggered hither and thither. Their rough features were lit up by flaring torches, splinters of broken shutters or window-frames steeped in pitch, which many carried. By the light of fitful beacons the ruffians were looting the stores, and quite a number--the majority the worse for liquor-were making for our house.
I at once aroused Forbes' servant, Andreas, and asked him to stand by. The husband of one of the women who had followed them into the room, was crouching by the doorway, almost in a comatose condition with fear. By this time a considerable number of looters were collected in front of the house, many beating vigorously at the door with an iron bar.
"Andreas," I whispered, "throw open the window as if in surprise, and in a loud voice ask what the deuce they mean by attacking a Bulgarian house, and that a Russian Colonel is quartered here who must not be disturbed. I will put on my military cap and shake my fist at them."
This little ruse of mine succeeded for a time, the men apparently clearing off and leaving us in peace. Almost dead with sleep I fell back again on to the ottoman. The women clinging to each other, squatted on the floor,
while the man kept crossing himself and calling upon the saints.
I was soon awakened once more by a loud knocking at the gate below. The women were crying and clinging to me with all the fervour of the distressed ladies in the romantic drama; wherever I went they hung on to me for dear life. Dragging myself to the window I must say that an alarming sight presented itself. Six men, fierce with rage, their coarse features distorted with passion, were striving to force the gate. One ruffian had fallen, and was gasping in agonizing throes on the step. His companions on seeing us at the windows, shook their fists, yelling out that "I was a cursed Turk! The house was a Mohammedan house, and that we kept poisonous liquor to kill the Russians with."
One snatched a bottle from the grasp of the fallen man and hurled it in my direction. The frightened women with piteous cries of fear clung closer and closer to me. With the assistance of Andreas I shook them off, then stirred up the cowardly, whimpering husband with my foot, and told him to blockade the door with the furniture. Giving my revolver to the women, and bidding them shoot if once the door was forced, I left them, and hurried down the stairs into the yard. I requested Andreas to leave his revolver behind, for, being found unarmed, the soldiers might not take extreme measures with us. Andreas and I stood for a moment quietly behind the door, and then suddenly let it fly open. The angry crowd was taken aback by this sudden movement, and for a second or two my servant and I stood alone in the portal.
It was a curious sight we beheld. Two of the ruffians carried torches, the lurid glare falling on the faces of the men, showed me that most of them were sottish with drink. There was a confused babble of oaths as they recovered from their surprise, and then one with a black wine bottle in his hand staggered forward, and seizing Andreas by the arm, tried to force him to drink of its contents. Andreas,
who was not thirsty, declined to obey him. At this the others closed around him, and shouted, "The accursed Moslem shall drink his own vile poison, drink! Force it down his ugly throat!"
At this they seized his head. I then came to my servant's rescue, and in another moment the bottle was dashed to the ground and smashed, splashing its contents over my boots, and Andreas and I were dragged by the angry mob up the valley and on to the main
I cried to Andreas not to resist. but to work his way, if possible, to pilot the surging, frenzied soldiers, hanging on to us towards a sentry standing guard in the middle of the road. With our clothes almost torn from our backs, and bleeding with rough usage, we gradually worked the struggling mob towards the sentry. Then Andreas called to him, explaining who we were, and asked for succour.
The sentry came forward, and shouting "Halt!" demanded our release. The drunken crew around us, a little sobered by the sharp struggle, at last began to understand that they had made a mistake, especially when a few of the more sober saw the insignia of my profession attached to my arm, bearing the Imperial Russian Eagle, which in their fury they had not noticed. They stole sullenly away. Balked of their revenge on us, I could see that they intended to re-attack the house.
I hurried up to the camp above the town, told my story to the Colonel in command, and just as day was breaking I returned to the scene of my late adventure with a half-company of men and two officers, arriving in the nick of time to prevent the drunken ruffians from forcing the door of the
On the threshold of the gateway we found the corpse of the man who had fallen with the bottle. His face was livid, and his lips black and swollen. Curled up into a ball dead, a few yards further up the valley lay another of our assailants, also black at the mouth, and his hands fearfully blistered. How
A TRIP TO MEXICO.
By Laura M. Boulton.
T is difficult, soon after crossing the Texas border into Mexico, to realize that one is still on the work-a-day North American Continent. Here there are quaint and mediæval, old-world cities, and very interesting mining towns. founded early in the Spanish dominion. One is all the more appreciative of the charm of the land after crossing hundreds of miles of arid, treeless desert, where nothing flourishes except a little sage-grass and the ubiquitous lobster-can.
Once in sight of the Sierra Madres, there is much to interest, though it is only when south of the Capital, amongst the high mountains, that the finest scenery in the country is traversed. Here the luxuriant tropical vegetation appeals strongly to northern eyes.
Some eight hundred miles from the frontier town of El Paso is Zacatecas, one of the oldest mining centres in the country. Its charter as a city was granted by Philip of Spain. There the first Bonanza silver mines of the New World were discovered, and a thriving town established, despite the drawbacks of a scarcity of water, and despite what even the optimistic guidebooks describe as an "inclement climate."
It is a very steep climb for the train up the Zacatecas hills, and it is by no means an uncommon occurrence to get "stalled" in the mountains for lack of power to draw the heavy coaches up the grade. In fact, a certain amount of philosophy is useful in travelling in this country, as time is no object, and trains arrive and depart in the most erratic fashion, with small regard for such mundane affairs as time-tables or connections.
The streets of Zacatecas are narrow and winding, paved with cobble-stones and crowded with water-carriers and
donkeys. The latter are laden with silver ore from the mines, or with picturesque-looking men, who wear huge sombreros, and are swathed to the eyes in gay serapes. This fashion gives these cavaliers a tragic and mysterious air, and makes them look like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, or near relations of Joseph and his brethren. The houses are flat-roofed, and either frescoed deeply or painted yellow, blue or violet, their courtyards filled with flowers and birds, with occasionally a background of painted canvas like the drop-scene in a theatre.
The Hotel Zacatecana, once the Augustin Monastery, has an imposing air, with its vast corridors, wide stone stairs, and stone-flagged court-yard, though the comforts of life to be found within its walls are not quite in keeping with its palatial appearance. The more or less ragged Mexicans who form the hotel staff, add to the incongruities in this "land of anachronisms." The ways of Mexican hotels in the smaller provincial towns are past finding out; there is no office and no visible manager. Once installed, and your name written on a blackboard, you are left severely alone, with no polite enquiries as to your wishes. When you are leaving, any odd hanger-on hands you a bill.
A few hours' journey across the Zacatecas hills brings one to Aguas Calientes (hot waters), about midnight. At present a night-time arrival in any small Mexican town cannot be recommended to those afflicted with nerves. The natives are really wellmeaning, but until one is a little accustomed to them, their manners and appearance are a little startling. A truculent-looking Mexican met us at Aguas station, and presumably offered to show the way to the Hotel Paris. Shouldering our bags he rapidly walked