When I next visited the Dobrudscha in the middle of May 1907, matters were not looking very promising. A serious uprising of the peasants had just been suppressed by troops and artillery. Many villages had been entirely destroyed, and the unfortunate peasants had been shot down, comme les motiches, as a lady described it to me in the train on my way to Bucharest. To add to the distress, the low-lying country all around the Danube mouth was inundated from the melting snows, while at the same time the fertile country too high to feel the effect of floods was suffering from drought. A somewhat unusual combination to have, too much and too little water at the same time, but so it was. No rain had fallen for some months, and it was feared that the entire corn crop would be a failure unless rain fell within a few days.
The fishermen also had risen in revolt, and the administrator, for whose protection and assistance I hoped, had been obliged to have a battalion of soldiers to protect himself; but by this time this difficulty also had been settled, and I was told that everything was then quiet. I could see for myself from the steamer the extent of the inundations between Galatz and Tulcea, and could not help having misgivings about the effect this would be likely to have on the nesting of the birds. These misgivings were justified. Herr Rettig of Malcoci, whom I called on as soon as I arrived at Tulcea, told me that the nesting-places of many of the birds in the Balta were under water, and that they were also disturbed by the fact that the extra water had enabled the fishermen to penetrate in their lodkas into parts where, as a rule, they were unable to go. It seems that the wild animals had also suffered, hundreds of Wild Cats being drowned, also many Wild Boars ; while others had been driven by the water to small islets, and were so reduced by starvation that the fishermen knocked them on the head with oars for the sake of their skins. Numbers of Wolves also had been driven from their usual retreats into the forests, where they were doing much damage, devouring cattle and horses daily.
As Herr Rettig invited me to come and take up my quarters in his house, I did so very gladly, for he knows all the country and speaks the language; and it was much more comfortable than putting up at the miserable little hotel in Tulcea.
It was decided to make an expedition together to the forest of Babadagh, distant some fifty kilometres ; but as a first step permission had to be obtained from the prefect before I could travel along the high road.
This permission took us two days and two journeys into Tulcea to obtain, for my passport, which had been properly viseed in London, had not been viseed by the British Consul in Galatz. I had never heard of such a requirement before in any other country. The prefect was away, and without this tiresome formality no one in his absence had power to do anything. However, on his arrival he kindly gave me a temporary pass, while my passport was posted to Galatz. This favour was probably owing to Rettig's representations ; for though he spoke in Roumanian, I could follow it enough to understand that he was drawing on his imagination, and endowing me with an important official position in London at the British Museum ! When taxed with it afterwards he said it was quite right, that in Roumania an official position is worshipped, while without it one is nobody and can do nothing.
We were then free to start, and did so the next morning early in a country wagon with two horses. But at every village on the road where we halted for refreshments, and to give the horses a rest, we were interviewed by a prefect or a sub-prefect, and had to show our passports, and answer innumerable questions as to our business. Rettig was a very useful companion in many ways, and he understood these people thoroughly, being really very clever in getting his own way with them.