Eothen By A. W. Kingslake

































 - EOTHEN

By A. W. KINGSLAKE


(From the 1898 George Newnes edition) 


CHAPTER I - OVER THE BORDER



At Semlin I still - Page 1
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EOTHEN By A. W. KINGSLAKE

(From the 1898 George Newnes edition)

CHAPTER I - OVER THE BORDER

At Semlin I still was encompassed by the scenes and the sounds of familiar life; the din of a busy world still vexed and cheered me; the unveiled faces of women still shone in the light of day. Yet, whenever I chose to look southward, I saw the Ottoman's fortress - austere, and darkly impending high over the vale of the Danube - historic Belgrade. I had come, as it were, to the end of this wheel-going Europe, and now my eyes would see the splendour and havoc of the East.

The two frontier towns are less than a cannon-shot distant, and yet their people hold no communion. The Hungarian on the north, and the Turk and Servian on the southern side of the Save are as much asunder as though there were fifty broad provinces that lay in the path between them. Of the men that bustled around me in the streets of Semlin there was not, perhaps, one who had ever gone down to look upon the stranger race dwelling under the walls of that opposite castle. It is the plague, and the dread of the plague, that divide the one people from the other. All coming and going stands forbidden by the terrors of the yellow flag. If you dare to break the laws of the quarantine, you will be tried with military haste; the court will scream out your sentence to you from a tribunal some fifty yards off; the priest, instead of gently whispering to you the sweet hopes of religion, will console you at duelling distance; and after that you will find yourself carefully shot, and carelessly buried in the ground of the lazaretto.

When all was in order for our departure we walked down to the precincts of the quarantine establishment, and here awaited us a "compromised" {1} officer of the Austrian Government, who lives in a state of perpetual excommunication. The boats, with their "compromised" rowers, were also in readiness.

After coming in contact with any creature or thing belonging to the Ottoman Empire it would be impossible for us to return to the Austrian territory without undergoing an imprisonment of fourteen days in the odious lazaretto. We felt, therefore, that before we committed ourselves it was important to take care that none of the arrangements necessary for the journey had been forgotten; and in our anxiety to avoid such a misfortune, we managed the work of departure from Semlin with nearly as much solemnity as if we had been departing this life. Some obliging persons, from whom we had received civilities during our short stay in the place, came down to say their farewell at the river's side; and now, as we stood with them at the distance of three or four yards from the "compromised" officer, they asked if we were perfectly certain that we had wound up all our affairs in Christendom, and whether we had no parting requests to make.

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