« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
declaration that he was a free Servian, and not a subject of the Sultan, only made things worse, and led to the repeated scoffs of the Philistines. He was called the son of a swine-eating, idolatrous Giaour ! the dog of dogs, of a Servian pesevingk In vain Georgy reiterated the high rank of his Frank gospodin—an Ingleski Knez (brother to the King of England )—it availed nothing; if he were the Padishah of all Frangistan, he is but as the dust of the earth, when the padishah of all padishahs commands ! During this torrent of abuse, I sat in my saddle, maliciously enjoying the scene before me, especially when I saw the expression of fear and woe pictured in the ruddy countenance of my poor kiraidji, as he slowly and reluctantly dismounted, to save his head from being broken. It was now my turn to obey the mandate of the saucy Turk; but knowing I carried in my pocket that to which every Mussulman must yield implicit obedience—an Imperial firman—I demanded, in an authoritative tone of voice, to be conducted to the commanding officer. The crowd gave way, and behold me vis-à-vis to a tall, handsome, military-looking, middle-aged man; his high, expansive forehead, bright blue eye, fair complexion, and a peculiar stamp of intellectuality in his features, convinced me he was of a Northern race. He was attired in the undress of a Turkish officer, and wore on his breast the badge which distinguishes a bimbashi—a Crescent and star set in brilliants. He received me with the solemn dignity of a well-bred Osmanli; and seeing I was a Frank, courteously addressed me in the French language. To a man who has mingled much with the German people, it was no difficult matter to detect, by the accent of our Mussulman bimbashi, that I beheld a son of the Deutschen Fatherland, and I immediately changed our conversation from French into the rich expressive language of his native country. The sound of the tongue in which he had lisped the accents of infancy proved a severe trial to the self-possession of the man, who had made his home for so many years in a stranger's land, his eyes filled almost to overflowing, and grasping my hand, he remained for some moments speechless; with a violent effort, he regained his composure, and issued the command for his troops to bivouac, at the same time insisting that I should dine with him in his tent. He had lately returned from Syria, and favoured me with many interesting particulars of his early life, and the circumstances which led him to take service in the Turkish army. It appeared, while a mere youth in 1830, he had been compromised in some political movement that took place in Northern Germany, which obliged him to seek a refuge in the Slavonian provinces of Hungary on the Lower Danube. Here he endured every privation, nearly starved, suspected, hunted from place to place by the espionage of the police, his life forfeited, should he be taken. Thus desperate and reckless of the future, he crossed the Danube into Turkey, became a Mussulman, and a soldier in the Turkish army.
He had, no doubt, displayed great bravery and considerable military talent, for he had been elevated to the rank of bimbashi. Having chosen his path in life, retreat was no longer in his power, yet he bitterly repented the step he had taken, which had rendered existence a blank. He held no communication with his family, who he was determined should never know they had a renegade for a kinsman; he had remained unmarried, for he would leave no inheritor of a name which he said always sounded in his ear as the knell of happiness; he never attempted to amass wealth, but expended his ample revenue in acts of charity, and assisting any of his poor countrymen chance threw in his way, for his heart was still thoroughly German. How deeply I commiserated the fate of this nobleminded German, whom neither rank, nor wealth, nor power could reconcile to his position—obliged to conform to the tenets of a creed he despised, living among a people of whose intelligence he was centuries in advance, too frequently obliged to perform duties adverse to his feelings and opinions, fame, honour, distinction, all that can animate man, existed not for him; with no beloved hand to smooth his pillow, no kindred eye to shed the tear of love over his bed of sickness, he only looked forward to an honourable death, and to lie in the land of the stranger. To me he rendered every courtesy which kindness could suggest, and I parted reluctantly from a man, who both in mind and feeling deserved a better fate. Georgy's astonishment at the talent of his gospodin, in arranging disputes when they appeared most threatening, was not greater than the unbounded satisfaction he experienced as we galloped rapidly away from the Crescent and the Stars. We were now riding over an elevated steppe-like plain, extending far and wide; instead of the splendid forests of Servia, we saw nothing but stunted brushwood; the only variety afforded to our dreary ride was now and then a Bulgarian village, composed of a few huts with little patches of cultivated land. At length, we caught a distant view of Nissa, with its gilded cupolas and minarets glittering in the sun, like a fairy city in the midst of a wilderness, over which rose the high chain of the Balkan, its highest peaks, the Stara Planina and the Jaskevatz, still covered with snow. Our first welcome to Nissa was from a colony of halfnaked gipsies encamped under the walls of the fortress, who beset us with the most noisy importunities. These were the first beggars I had seen since I left the regions of wealth and luxury. We entered the city with just sufficient daylight to grope our way through its deserted streets, Georgy conducting me to rather a respectable han, kept by one of his countrymen from Belgrade. Fortunately I had made an ample repast at our military bivouac on the plains of Nissa, for these fasts of the Greek Church appear like eternity, to have neither end nor beginning, and while they last, nothing can be procured but that unsavoury composition, the polluto–stewed beans, red cabbage, or a mess of mamolinga; and these schismatics will not endanger
the peace of their souls by allowing any portion of the forbidden food to be cooked on their premises. I was therefore obliged to sup on bread and coffee, and to console myself for the want of better cheer by having recourse to the tehibouque. Our good hanji, however, provided me with a plentiful supply of clean straw, when, resigning myself to the arms of Morpheus, I dreamed of home and old England. Nissa, the Naissus of antiquity, is said to be one of the oldest towns in European Turkey; if we are to give any credence to the piesmas of the Rasci, a powerful tribe of the Illyrian-Slavons, still occupying the mountain passes and defiles of Upper Moesia, we must believe that they founded Naissus, which takes its name from a river running through the town, the Naischava, and that it was rich and populous long before the arrival of Cadmus in Greece. The Greeks say that Philip of Macedon drove out the Rasci, planted here a colony of his people, and embellished the town with strong forts, towers, palaces and public buildings. The Romans have their own version of its history; they assert that Constantine the Great was born here, and that to his taste and munificence, Naissus was indebted for triumphal arches, amphitheatres, and various other great and public works, which that people employed themselves in constructing, and if not so graceful as those of the immortal Greek, they had at least the advantage of durability, appearing as if built to defy the influence of time. Now, though we do not wish to call into question the VOL. I. K