Page images

you drive through them your face gets all out of shape trying to fit itself to the sights and smells. I remember now; I wanted to mention the donkeysthe poor, patient little beasts of burden that plod through those thoroughfares, weighed down with great loads of brick and dirt and wood and every sort of heavy thing, enough to make a camel swaybacked, I should think. They are the gentlest creatures alive, and the most imposed upon. If Mohammed provided a heaven for the donkeys, I hope it isn't the one the Turks go to.

Then there are the fountains—that is, the public watering-places. They are nearly all carved in relief and belong to an earlier period, when art here was worth something. Here and there is a modern onegaudy, tinsel, wretched.

But one has to stop a minute to remember that these old streets are not always occupied by the turbans and fezzes of the unspeakable Turk. Constantinople was Greek in the beginning, founded away back, six hundred years or more B.C., and named Byzantium, after one Byzas, its founder. The colony had started to settle several miles farther up the Golden Horn, when a crow came along and carried off a piece of their sacrificial meat. They were mad at first; but when they found he had dropped it over on Bosporus Point they concluded to take his judgment and settle there instead.

Then came a good many changes. Persians and Greeks held the place by turns, and by and by it was allied to Rome. The Christian Emperor Constantine made it his capital about 328 A.D. and called it New

Rome. But the people wouldn't have that title. Constantine had rebuilt the city, and they insisted on giving it his name. So Constantinople it became and remained—the names Galata, Pera, Stamboul, and Skutari (accent on the "Sku") being merely divisions, the last-named on the Asiatic side.

It was not until eleven hundred years after Constantine that the Turkomans swarmed in and possessed themselves of what had become a tottering empire. So the Turkish occupation is comparatively recent-only since 1453.

Still, that is a good while ago, when one considers what has been done elsewhere. Christopher Columbus was playing marbles in Genoa, or helping his father comb wool, then. America was a place of wigwams—a habitation of Indian tribes. We have done a good deal in the four and a half centuries since

-more than the Turk will do in four and a half million years. The Turk is not an express train. He is not even a slow freight. He is not a train at all, but an old caboose on the hind end of day before yesterday. By the way, I know now why these old cities have still older cities buried under them. They never clean the streets, and a city gets entirely covered up at last with dirt.

I have been wanting to speak of the dogs of Constantinople ever since I began this chapter. They have been always in my mind, but I wanted to work off my ill-nature, first, on the Turk. For I have another feeling for the dogs—a friendly feeling-a sympathetic feeling-an affectionate feeling.

Every morning at four o'clock the dogs of Constantinople turn their faces toward Mecca and howl their heart-break to the sky. At least, I suppose they turn toward Mecca—that being the general habit here when one has anything official to give out. I know they howl and bark and make such a disturbance as is heard nowhere else on earth. In America, two or three dogs will keep a neighborhood awake, but imagine a vast city of dogs all barking at once-forty or fifty dogs to the block, counting the four sides! Do you think you could sleep during that morning orison? If you could, then you are sound-proof.

I have said that I have an affection for the dogs, but not at that hour. It develops later, when things have quieted down, and I have had breakfast and am considering them over the ship's side. There is a band of them owns this section of the water-front, and they are worth studying.

They are not as unsightly and as wretched as I expected to find them. Life for them is not a path of roses, but neither is it a trail of absolute privation. They live on refuse, and there is plenty of refuse. They are in fair condition, therefore, as to flesh, and they do not look particularly unhappy, though they are dirty enough, and sometimes mangy and motheaten and tufty; but then the Turks themselves are all of these things, and why should the dogs be otherwise?

The type of these dogs impresses me. They have reverted to the original pattern—they are wolf-dogs. They vary only in color-usually some tone of grizzly gray--and not widely in that. They have returned to

race-to the old wild breed that made his bed in the grass and revolved three times before he was ready to lie down. One might expect them to be ugly and dangerous, but they are not. They are the kindest, gentlest members of the dog family notwithstanding the harsh treatment they receive, and the most intelligent. No one really human can study them without sympathy and admiration.

I have watched these dogs a good deal since we came here, and a lady of Constantinople, the wife of a foreign minister, has added largely to my information on the subject.

They are quite wonderful in many ways. They have divided themselves into groups or squads, and their territory into districts, with borders exactly defined. They know just about how much substance each district will supply and the squads are not allowed to grow. There is a captain to each of these companies, and his rule is absolute. When the garbage from each house is brought out and dumped into the street, he oversees the distribution and keeps order. He keeps it, too. There is no fighting and very little discord, unless some outlaw dog from a neighboring group attempts to make an incursion. Then there is a wild outbreak, and if the dog escapes undamaged he is lucky.

The captain of a group is a sultan with the power of life and death over his subjects. When puppies come along he designates the few—the very few—that are to live, and one mother nurses several of the reduced litters—the different mothers taking turns. When a dog gets too old to be useful in the strenuous = round—when he is no longer valuable to the band-he is systematically put out of the way by starvation. A day comes when the captain issues some kind of an edict that he is no longer to have food. From that moment, until his death, not a morsel passes his lips. With longing eyes he looks at the others eating, but he makes no attempt to join them. Now and again a bit of something falls his way. The temptation is too strong — he reaches toward the morsel. The captain, who overlooks nothing, gives a low growl. The dying creature shrinks back without a murmur. He knows the law. Perhaps he, too, was once a captain.

The minister's wife told me that she had tried to feed one of those dying dogs, but that even when the food was placed in front of him he would only look pleadingly at the captain and refuse to touch it. She brought him inside, at last, where he was no longer under that deadly surveillance. He ate then, but lived only a little while. Perhaps it was too late; perhaps the decree was not to be disobeyed, even there.

As a rule, it is unwise to show kindness or the least attention to these dogs, she said. The slightest word or notice unlocks such a storehouse of gratitude and heart-hunger in those poor creatures that one can never venture near that neighborhood again without being fairly overwhelmed with devotion. Speak a word to one of them and he will desert his companions and follow you for miles.

The minister's wife told how once a male member of her household had shown some mark of attention

« PreviousContinue »