10. The Garden-House of Suliman the Red
We reached Rustchuk on January 10th, but by no means landed on that day.
Something had gone wrong with the unloading arrangements, or more likely with the
railway behind them, and we were kept swinging all day well out in the turbid river. On
the top of this Captain Schenk got an ague, and by that evening was a blue and
shivering wreck. He had done me well, and I reckoned I would stand by him. So I got his
ship's papers, and the manifests of cargo, and undertook to see to the trans-shipment. It
wasn't the first time I had tackled that kind of business, and I hadn't much to learn about
steam cranes. I told him I was going on to Constantinople and would take Peter with
me, and he was agreeable. He would have to wait at Rustchuk to get his return cargo,
and could easily inspan a fresh engineer.
I worked about the hardest twenty-four hours of my life getting the stuff ashore. The
landing officer was a Bulgarian, quite a competent man if he could have made the
railways give him the trucks he needed. There was a collection of hungry German
transport officers always putting in their oars, and being infernally insolent to everybody.
I took the high and mighty line with them; and, as I had the Bulgarian commandant on
my side, after about two hours' blasphemy got them quieted.
But the big trouble came the next morning when I had got nearly all the stuff aboard the
A young officer in what I took to be a Turkish uniform rode up with an aide-de-camp. I
noticed the German guards saluting him, so I judged he was rather a swell. He came up
to me and asked me very civilly in German for the way-bills. I gave him them and he
looked carefully through them, marking certain items with a blue pencil. Then he coolly
handed them to his aide-de-camp and spoke to him in Turkish.
'Look here, I want these back,' I said. 'I can't do without them, and we've no time to
'Presently,' he said, smiling, and went off.
I said nothing, reflecting that the stuff was for the Turks and they naturally had to have
some say in its handling. The loading was practically finished when my gentleman
returned. He handed me a neatly typed new set of way-bills. One glance at them
showed that some of the big items had been left out.
'Here, this won't do,' I cried. 'Give me back the right set. This thing's no good to me.'
For answer he winked gently, smiled like a dusky seraph, and held out his hand. In it I
saw a roll of money.