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16. The Battered Caravanserai
Two days later, in the evening, we came to Angora, the first stage in our journey.
The passports had arrived next morning, as Frau von Einem had promised, and with
them a plan of our journey. More, one of the Companions, who spoke a little English,
was detailed to accompany us - a wise precaution, for no one of us had a word of
Turkish. These were the sum of our instructions. I heard nothing more of Sandy or
Greenmantle or the lady. We were meant to travel in our own party.
We had the railway to Angora, a very comfortable German _Schlafwagen_, tacked to
the end of a troop-train. There wasn't much to be seen of the country, for after we left
the Bosporus we ran into scuds of snow, and except that we seemed to be climbing on
to a big plateau I had no notion of the landscape. It was a marvel that we made such
good time, for that line was congested beyond anything I have ever seen. The place
was crawling with the Gallipoli troops, and every siding was packed with supply trucks.
When we stopped - which we did on an average about once an hour - you could see
vast camps on both sides of the line, and often we struck regiments on the march along
the railway track. They looked a fine, hardy lot of ruffians, but many were deplorably
ragged, and I didn't think much of their boots. I wondered how they would do the five
hundred miles of road to Erzerum.
Blenkiron played Patience, and Peter and I took a hand at picquet, but mostly we
smoked and yarned. Getting away from that infernal city had cheered us up wonderfully.
Now we were out on the open road, moving to the sound of the guns. At the worst, we
should not perish like rats in a sewer. We would be all together, too, and that was a
comfort. I think we felt the relief which a man who has been on a lonely outpost feels
when he is brought back to his battalion. Besides, the thing had gone clean beyond our
power to direct. It was no good planning and scheming, for none of us had a notion
what the next step might be. We were fatalists now, believing in Kismet, and that is a
comfortable faith.
All but Blenkiron. The coming of Hilda von Einem into the business had put a very ugly
complexion on it for him. It was curious to see how she affected the different members
of our gang. Peter did not care a rush: man, woman, and hippogriff were the same to
him; he met it all as calmly as if he were making plans to round up an old lion in a patch
of bush, taking the facts as they came and working at them as if they were a sum in
arithmetic. Sandy and I were impressed - it's no good denying it: horribly impressed -
but we were too interested to be scared, and we weren't a bit fascinated. We hated her
too much for that. But she fairly struck Blenkiron dumb. He said himself it was just like a
rattlesnake and a bird.
I made him talk about her, for if he sat and brooded he would get worse. It was a
strange thing that this man, the most imperturbable and, I think, about the most