Suffragettes of the Harem
Asleep, I gradually became conscious of a low murmuring song, and opened my eyes to meet those of my little slave Kondjé.
"May the day be a happy one to you, glorious Hanoum," she said when her eyes met mine.
"Is it late?" I asked.
"The magnificent sun has been at his pleasure-giving task for some time now. My mistress's sister gave me orders not to let the daylight make you heavy with sleep; for you are going out with her before the heat begins. That is why I have been coaxing your spirit back to your body with my song."
"Did you have to coax it long?" I asked, smiling at the Oriental superstition against awakening any one suddenly. They believe that the soul leaves the body during sleep, and wanders in other lands.
"Yes, young Hanoum. It must have gone far away from here, and where the flowers blossom their prettiest; for a pleasant smile was on your lips. Now your body and spirit are together again, and here is your coffee while I go to make ready your bath."
I looked at my watch. It was a quarter to six. In harems one goes to bed early and wakes up early again. Perhaps this is the secret of the beauty of the Eastern women.
As I was sipping my coffee, I remembered that to-day I was to go with Houlmé Hanoum to the meeting of advanced Turkish women.
My coffee finished, and my bath and my toilet, I went to the window to look at the east in its morning glory. A heavy rain had fallen in the night, and the beflowered nature that met my eyes was a very clean and fresh one. It looked like a Turkish Hanoum coming from her morning bath. And this loveliness alone was left from the rain: the thirsty earth had drunk every drop of the water.
As I looked through the latticed window, my eyes roamed first down to the gay Bosphorus plashing at the feet of the fairylike dwellings along its banks; then to the coquettish hills bathed in the morning glow. From the farther view my glance came back to our garden, to be surprised by the sight of two young Turks walking about among the flowers, in that portion allotted to the men. Then I remembered that Selim Pasha had brought a number of guests with him the night before. As I was looking at the two Turks my surprise became delight on recognizing in one of them a friend of my childhood, of whom I had been very fond.
I clapped my hands, and Kondjé came running in.
"Please go down and see if the Validé Hanoum is up yet," I said; "and if she is, ask her if she could receive me."
In a few minutes the slave returned to tell me that the Validé was about to partake of her morning meal, and would consider it an honor if I would join her.
I rushed down to her. "Good-morning to you, Validé Hanoum," I cried, and plunged at once into the reason for my visit, without those flattering and ceremonious approaches that would have been fitting. "You need not grant me what I am going to ask of you, but I should like you very much to grant it."
"Good-morning to you, first rose of a young rosebush," she answered, unvexed by my lack of politeness. "And I shall grant you what you wish, provided that it comes under my jurisdiction. If it does not we shall have to apply to our just master, Selim Pasha, who is again back among us."
I pointed out of the window at the young men walking in the garden. "I want to go and speak to them," I said.
"What?" She threw back her lovely head and laughed her fresh, happy laugh.
"You dear, dear yavroum! You are already tired of us women-folk, and want to go and talk with the men."
"Not a bit," I protested. "I would gladly give up the society of ten men for yours, Validé Hanoum; but one of those young fellows is Halil Bey, with whom I used to play when I was a child. Do, please, say that I may go and speak to him!"
"Nay, nay, little pearl, you must not speak to him. He is to be married in two weeks, and I cannot allow any temptation in his way. I might change my mind, however, after we have partaken of some nourishment. You know, yavroum, a hungry person sees the world all awry."
As she spoke the slaves were bringing in freshly. picked fruit from the orchard, on brass trays on their heads. A small slave also carried a basket charmingly arranged with vine leaves and grapes from the house vine-yards—and nowhere on earth do grapes taste as good as those of Constantinople.
All the different fruits were arranged on their own leaves on low tables inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and we ate them without the use of knives. Then one slave brought in a graceful brass basin, while another presented the soap and poured out water for us from a slender brass water-jug. A third handed us embroidered Turkish towels to dry our hands on. Meanwhile, an old slave came in with a brazier, sat down in the middle of the room, and cooked the coffee, while the two young slaves passed the delicious beverage to us with toast and cakes. This was all our breakfast. At its close the Validé turned to the old slave and asked:—
"Nadji, what do you suppose this young Hanoum wants to do?"
The old slave looked at me with her kind, motherly eyes. "The young Hanoum has good taste. I suppose she wants to marry one of our men and be one of us. Indeed Allah, the great and only God, be my witness, but since she has been with us she looks prettier and healthier."
The Validé and I shrieked with laughter.
"No, Nadji, the young Hanoum has not yet come to such a grave resolution. She wants to go and talk with those two young men walking in the garden."
The slave left her embers, walked to the window, and looked critically at the two men. "Mashallah!" she cried, smacking her lips, "but they are two worthy young specimens. The young Hanoum will want to stay among us more than ever."
"Nadji, would you then let her go?"
"It is not for me to decide, but for you, honored head of a most honored household."
"But would it be right, Nadji, to let her go talk to them?"
Nadji looked me straight in the eyes as if to ascertain whether I were worthy.
"She talks to men when she is at home, my beloved mistress."
"Yes," smiled the Valide, "she does. But you know, Nadji, the young Hanoum particularly wishes to talk to Halil Bey, who is to be married in two weeks' time." The Validé's smile was full of mischief.
Nadji examined me again. "It does not matter, my Validé. Halil Bey's mind is filled with the thought of one woman, who is to be his, and whom he has not seen. His fancy is clothing her with wondrous beauty, and no real person can do any harm. Allah is wise as well as great." Her gray head was bowed low at Allah's name.
"I am glad you approve, Nadji; for this young Hanoum here so pleases my fancy that I am likely to spoil her." She turned to me: "Run along, yavroum, only be sure to put on your wooden sandals, for there might be some chill left in the earth after the rain. I will notify the young men of the honor you are about to bestow upon them."
A few minutes later I was by the side of the astonished Halil Bey, who, if he ever thought of me, thought of me as in the wilds of America. In his gladness at seeing me again he picked me up, kissed me on both cheeks, and set me down on the bench, to pour into my ears the wonders of the beauty of his unknown bride to be.
"But suppose," I suggested to him, when his enthusiasm at length gave me an opportunity to put in an objection, "suppose when you raise the veil, instead of seeing a beautiful young girl with a slim figure, as you picture her to yourself, you meet a fat, ugly woman, what will you do?"
He laughed at the idea. "But I have seen her in the street and she is slim. And I know she is pretty—my heart tells me so."
Lovers seem to be the same everywhere, even though they are Turkish lovers, supposed by us to be devoid of romantic raptures; and though I stayed some time with Halil Bey, we talked of nothing except the girl who was to become his first and—as he vowed—his only wife.
When I returned to the house several of its inmates shook their fingers at me and sang in chorus, "I saw you!" But the Validé put a protecting arm around me, and—looking around for the effect it would produce—impressively gave me this invitation:
"Yavroum, Selim Pasha wishes me to beg of you to do him the honor to dine to-night with him and his guests."
It was my turn to shake my fingers at the Turkish women, as I challenged them: "Those who do not admit that they would give anything to be in my wooden sandals, let them raise their hands!"
Not a hand was raised, though they might have debated the point further, had not Houlmé run her arm through mine and interrupted with: "Young Hanoum, the sun does not favor those who travel many hours after he has started his journey. Let us start. We have a long way before us, and the day I know will prove interesting."
In my room I was surprised to find a new tchitcharf of silver-gray silk. "What is this for?" I asked Houlmé.
"You cannot go to the meeting unless you have this color on. It is the emblem of dawn, the dawn we are about to bring to the Turkish women's life."
A few minutes later Houlmé and I, in company with an old slave inside the carriage with us, and an old eunuch, who was the shadow of Houlmé, sitting on the box by the coachman, were driving to Hanoum Zeybah's house, where the meeting was to be held. It was half-past ten o'clock when we reached there, and we were the last to arrive. Inside the door stood two gray phantoms, to whom we gave the password, "Twilight."
In a large hall stood the rest of the gray symbols of dawn, all so closely veiled as to be unrecognizable. Without a sound they saluted us in the Turkish fashion; and then we were all conducted to a large room. It was very mysterious and conspirator-like. The nine windows of the room were tightly shuttered, that no ray of unromantic sun-light should fall upon the forerunners of a new epoch. We all sat crosslegged and motionless on a bare settee which ran around two sides of the room. Over our heads hung a banner of sky-blue silk, embroidered in silver with "Freedom for Women!" Beneath that hung another of black, bearing the words "Down with the Old Ideas!" in fiery red. There were no chairs. The beautiful oak floor was partially covered with Eastern rugs, and on some fat cushions in the middle of the room sat our hostess, the originator and president of the society.
President Zeybah clapped her hands three times and announced that the meeting was about to begin. It did begin, and continued for more than an hour.
The president produced a manuscript with gilt edges from a European satchel at her side, and read her contribution to the club.
"Women, fellow-sufferers, and fellow-workers," she read "we come here to-day to dig a little farther into the thick wall which the tyranny of man has built about us. By nature woman was meant to be the ruler. By her intuition, her sympathy, her unselfishness, her maternal instinct, she is the greatest of the earth. One thing alone brute nature gave to man—strength! Through that he has subjugated woman. Let us rise and break our bonds! Let us stand up en masse and defy the brute who now dominates us! We are the givers of life; we must be the rulers and lawmakers as well. Down with man!"
In this strain, and in a deep voice befitting a ruler and a lawmaker, the president read from her gilt-edged paper, and ended up with the proposition that six members of the club should be chosen by lot to kill themselves, as a protest against the existing order of things. The proposition, which was made in all seriousness, provided, however,—with a naivete that might have imperilled the gravity of a meeting of American women,—that the president of the club should be exempt from participation in the lot-drawing.
This plan for making tyrant man sit up and take notice was received with a murmur from the veiled listeners, rather more of approval than of disapproval. The question, however, was not discussed further at the moment, and the president called on another lady to read her paper.
The first speaker having proved that women were great and were only kept from recognition by the brute force of man, the second one went ahead to prove that women were capable of doing as good work as men in certain cases, by citing George Sand, George Eliot, and others. A third one asserted that women were mere playthings in the hands of men, and called on them to rouse themselves and show that they were capable of being something better.
I was utterly disgusted at the whole meeting. I might just as well have been in one of those silly clubs in New York where women congregate to read their immature compositions. There were totally lacking the sincerity, the spontaneity, and the frankness which usually characterize Turkish women.
When the meeting adjourned, we passed into several dressing-rooms, where the veiled and secret conspirators against the dominion of man all kept luncheon gowns. When the assemblage came together again, the majority of them were corseted and in Paris frocks, and all were quite unveiled, the mystery of the meeting having been mere pretense and affectation. These forty-odd women, ranging in age from seventeen to forty, were drawn from the flower of the Turkish aristocracy. Luncheon was served in a large room overlooking the Golden Horn. We were seated at four round tables, and during the meal the great cause was forgotten, and they were again spontaneous Turkish women.
After luncheon we passed into the reclining room, where Eastern dances and music were given for our pleasure. I was happy to notice that as we lay about on the couches, the Parisian-gowned ladies were distinctly less comfortable than the rest of us. After the music was over, the heavy conversation was started again by our hostess, who was never happy for long unless she considered that she was shining intellectually. She was not yet thirty, but had found time already to divorce two husbands.
"What I like most about American women," she said to me and to her disciples, "is the courage they have in discarding their husbands. Why should a woman continue to live with a man whom she finds to be not her intellectual companion?" Her pose was fine, as she uttered these words, and murmurs of appreciation arose among her hearers.
"Few men are women's companions intellectually," I said, having listened to as much as I could without replying "The only men who are the companions of intellectual women are half-baked poets, sophomores, and degenerates. Normal men, nice men, intelligent men, never talk the tomfoolery women want to talk about. They are too busy with things worth while to sit down and ponder over the gyrations of their souls. In fact, they don't have to worry over their souls at all. They are strong and healthy, and live their useful lives without taking time to store their heads with all the nonsense women do."
Those forty women breathed heavily. To them I represented freedom and intellectual advancement, and here I was smashing their ideals unmercifully. I pretended not to notice the effect of my words, and continued:—
"If you expect real men of any nationality to sit down and talk to you about your souls, you will find them disappointing. As for American women, they are as different from you as a dog from a bird. Whatever they do cannot affect you. They are a different stock altogether. Will you tell me what you are working for specifically?"
"Freedom to choose our husbands, and freedom to go about with men as we like," the president answered.
"We want to go about the world unchaperoned and free—to travel all over the world if we choose," another answered.
The last speaker was a girl barely eighteen years old, and beautiful with a beauty the East alone can produce. I laughed openly.
"My dear child," I said, "you could not go alone for half a day without having all sorts of things happening to you."
"But that is just what I want," she retorted. "I am tired of my humdrum life, when such delicious things as one reads of in books might be happening to me."
This girl in her youth and simplicity was really revealing the cause of their malady. They were all fed on French novels.
"Even American women, when they are young, do not go about with men unchaperoned as you think," I said, "nor do they travel alone with men, at any age. Of course there are American women who are compelled to go about alone a good deal, because they are earning their own living; but they only do this because they have to. As to what Zeybah Hanoum said about their divorcing their husbands frequently, I am afraid she is looking at American civilization from the seamy side. I do not deny that there are American women who have parted with decency, and whom one divorce more or less does not affect; but the really nice American women have as much horror of divorce as any well-bred European woman."
Zeybah Hanoum here interrupted me. "I beg your pardon, but I have read in the American papers that a woman may divorce her husband in the morning, and marry again in the afternoon. Also, that no other reason for divorce is required than that she does not wish to continue to live with him. It is called 'incompatibility of temper.' I believe"—here the learned lady threw back her head, and turned to the rest of her audience—"that a nation that has such laws has them not for those who have parted with decency, but for the nice women, in order to help them to rid themselves of undesirable husbands. I hear that the courts proclaim that a woman may not only get rid of her husband, but that the husband shall continue to support her. Can you tell me after that that America does not uphold divorce?"
I was rather staggered by her argument, although I knew that fundamentally she was mistaken.
"What you say is true, in a way," I admitted; "but the fact remains that nice American women do not believe in indiscriminate divorcing."
"Oh, well, there are always backward women in every country. I was told by an American lady, once, that not to be divorced nowadays was the exception. And wait till the women have the power to vote. That is the one thing the American men are afraid to grant women, because they know that then women will make laws to suit themselves."
I did not ask Zeybah Hanoum how much farther women could go, with the ballot, than she thought they already had gone, in the home of the free. I was very sorry for the women who were under her influence, because most of them were young and all of them inexperienced, so I took up another side of the subject.
"Let's leave American women alone then, since you will only believe the yellow journalism, and come to your own affairs. Do you really think that by having six women kill themselves you will accomplish anything?"
"At any rate, we shall teach men a lesson."
"And that is?"
"That we are capable of going to any lengths to get what we want. Woman is a power to-day!"
"But do you think you can bring about what you want by violent methods? There are a great many among your men who believe that women should be free to choose their husbands, and to educate themselves as they like. So far you have been given privileges in studying music and art. Little by little other things will come. But remember, that to one woman who thinks as you do there are a hundred who don't."
"They are blind, and we wish to open their eyes. It is our duty—in the name of humanity. We owe this to the Progress of the World," Zeybah announced oratorically.
"Since you have descended to Duty," I said with some heat, "I suppose you are capable of anything cruel and unkind."
At this point a lady—a visitor, like me—who was an instructress in a girls' seminary, though she was the daughter of a rich man, quietly put in: "Zeybah Hanoum, I should like to hear the lady tell us how she thinks it would be wise to proceed. She knows our ways, what privileges we now have, and our shortcomings."
"Yes, yes," several voices cried.
"Since you do not like your system,—although it seems to me admirable on the whole,—it is only right that you should be allowed to live your lives as you want to. Only you must go about it in a sensible way, and take into consideration the others who are involved in it. For example, I should think that you ought to tear down that banner of 'Down with the Old Ideas!' and put up another, reading: 'Respect for the Old Ideas, Freedom to the New!' Then, instead of closeting yourselves together and behaving like imitation French Anarchists, you ought to have your meetings in the open. Since you all wear your veils, you can invite the men who are sympathetic to your movement, to take an interest in it. Little by little, more men will come, and also more women. Really, your troubles are not so serious as those of European women, because under the laws of the Koran women have many privileges unheard of in other countries. The Mussulman system is very socialistic. What you want is to be free to mingle with men. Since you want it, you had better have it, though you are overrating the privilege. There is a great deal of poetry and a great deal of charm in your system; but if you don't like it, you don't like it. You will all be mothers some day; bring up your sons in the new thought, and thus gradually you will bring about the change."
"But you are spoiling our society," the president cried. "What is the object of it if not to push things along fast?"
"I do not agree with you," the quiet lady said. "I believe in what the foreign Hanoum has just said. We ought to go about this in a rational manner."
"Do I understand that you do not approve of our association?" the president asked, bristling up.
"Not in the least; but I do not believe in the bloody demonstration you proposed."
Thereupon arose a discussion which lasted the whole afternoon. The president was vehemently in favor of her plan for having six of the members kill themselves. Most of the others, however, encouraged by the moral support they received from me and from the quiet lady, finally admitted that they did not wish to die. Yet that they would unhesitatingly have committed suicide, had the club decided on the plan, and had the lot fallen to them, I have not the slightest doubt, knowing the nature of Turkish women as I do.
Just as the meeting was breaking up I was very much surprised to have Houlmé come to me and ask me if I should like to meet the young woman whom Halil Bey was to marry in two weeks. I had had no inkling that she was at the meeting, or even that she held advanced views. Naturally I was most anxious to know her, and as it happened that we were going a good part of the way home in the same direction, she invited me to drive with her in her brougham until we came to the parting of the ways. She was a very pretty brunette, with large violet eyes, and such a lovely, kissable mouth—but what a preciéuse!
"I suppose you are very busy over your coming marriage," I said to her.
"My marriage interests me very little, mademoiselle," she replied coldly. "In fact, I think of it as little as possible. It is not a love-match, you know, but an arranged affair."
"But your future husband is young, handsome, and a well-educated nobleman. I feel certain that you will find in him your ideal."
"Indeed!" she snapped. "So you think that all a man has to have, to be acceptable to a young woman, is youth, good looks, and education?"
"A beautiful mind," she said, as pompously as Zeybah Hanoum herself might have spoken. "I wish my husband to understand the world of Kant and Schopenhauer and all the great thinkers. I wish him to treat me as if I, too, had a mind capable of soaring above the sordid conditions of our daily life. Do you think, when I am married, that I am likely to find in Halil Bey a man to speak to me on these subjects ? No! he will tell me that I am beautiful, and that he loves me. As if his paltry love mattered in this great world."
"I should think it would matter to him, and to you."
"Excuse me, mademoiselle, but are you not taking rather a commonplace view of happiness?"
"Perhaps I am. But I might learn to appreciate a high-minded one if it were explained to me."
"I should like a husband who would forget his petty personality, and me as well; who would realize that the greatest love of all is intellectual companionship. The other kind of love is good enough for the inferior class of people, whose only participation in the great world is their part in the perpetuation of the race."
"How do you know that your future husband is not animated by the same noble ideas as you are?" I asked, though I had no such hope myself.
"Quite impossible! Our men are incapable of appreciating such high ideals of life, since they allow their women so little freedom."
By the time I parted from Halil Bey's fiancee I was so filled up with high ideals that if Houlmé Hanoum had talked any more in the same line I should have gone mad. "Poor Halil Bey!" I kept thinking to myself.
Once home I had to rush to my room to get ready to dine with the men. The Validé followed me.
"Yavroum, what will you wear to-night?"
"Dear me! I have not had time to think of that. I have not a dinner gown with me. I suppose a little white lawn will have to do."
"I have thought all about it, and I have several gowns for you to choose from. As soon as your bath has been given to you, come to me."
In her apartment I found a bevy of women all anxious to help in my attiring. Of all the beautiful clothes displayed the choice fell on a lovely brocade which the Validé had worn in years gone by. With the help of the wives and several of their slaves, and with jewelry enough to start a goldsmith's shop, I was made ready for the extraordinary occasion. When they were through with me I looked as if I were for sale, and said so.
"I do hope, yavroum," the Validé said piously, "that you will find your master there."
"Allah bayouk!" murmured several women, with bowed heads.
The Validé conducted me to the mabeyn, or dividing line between the haremlik and selamlik, where Selim Pasha himself was waiting for me, arrayed in his uniform. The rest of the guests were in European clothes, and after the introductions were over, I told them that a few of them at least would have to approach the Validé for my hand, otherwise she might fear that she had not done all in her power to make me charming.
The dinner was a very interesting one; indeed, I believe it was the most interesting one I have ever been to. Contrary to the opinion of most people who do not know them, the Turks are very attractive men. They are frank, chivalrous, and above all, considerate to women. They also possess a keen sense of humor, and enjoy a joke even at their own expense. They are good talkers, and pretty well informed.
Though it was after eleven o'clock when I returned to the haremlik, all the ladies and slaves were sitting up to see me return from the remarkable adventure of dining with a dozen men.
"Well, yavroum?" the Validé said.
"Oh! I think some of them will ask you for my hand. Don't you worry, Validé." She was beaming with happiness.
"And Validé," I said, after a little more talk, "not to trouble you again, I asked Selim Pasha if I might speak to Halil Bey again to-morrow morning in the garden, and he gave me permission. And since my engagement with him is at half-past eight, I think I will wish you good-night."
The next morning, though I was on time in the garden, I found Halil Bey already there, and very impatient to hear all about his fiancée.
"Tell me," he cried out, as soon as we had shaken hands, "is she beautiful?"
"Very," I answered; "but, my poor boy, she is crazy over Kant and Schopenhauer."
"Who are they?" he bellowed, thunder in his voice and fire in his eyes. "Tell me quick, and I will draw every drop of blood from their veins."
"I have no doubt that in al fist-to-fist encounter you would have the best of them, but they are both dead and gone, and only their miserable books are left to fight against."
"Oh!" he laughed, "is that all? I think I can take care of that."
It was my turn to laugh. "Halil Bey, you have read 'Cyrano de Bergerac'?"
"You remember what Christian answered when Cyrano was trying to coach him: 'Et par tous les diables, je saurais toujours la prendre entre mes bras.' It did not work however. Now, if you want to be happy, listen to me! Devote your time from now till your marriage-day to those two writers. Memorize as much of them as you can. When your bride comes home, and you raise her veil and see her face, be a Spartan. Don't make love to her; don't tell her that she is beautiful. Just talk Kant, recite Schopenhauer, and give her every kind of tom-foolery about your soul that you can think of, provided it sounds highfaluting enough. Buy all the works of Maeterlinck and make her read them to you till she is ready to drop. Tell her that she is to remain for you the ideal companion, the complement of your soul, and any other silly thing that comes into your head. She will help you along; for she has all that at the tip of her tongue. Before a month is over, she will be sick of it and crazy for you. Then fire ahead and make love to her as much as you want to."
Halil Bey looked anything but enthusiastic over the course I had mapped out for him; so I had to repeat most of the conversation I had had with his unknown lady-love.
"I am going to Russia soon," I ended. "I shall be back in about six weeks. Come to my hotel then and tell me all about it."
To leave Selim Pasha's household for a minute: other events more important to me had quite driven Halil Bey and his fiancée from my mind before I returned from Russia. I was getting ready to sail for America when Halil Bey came to see me.
"Hallo, Boy!" I said. "How is the précieuse?"
"She is dead!" he answered simply.
I stared at him. "Halil! you have not killed her?"
"Not I, but Kant and the other fellow did. And now hurry up; I want you to come and see my little wife. She is waiting for you."
In less than an hour our carriage brought us to Halil Bey's residence, where a very charming hostess was waiting. She threw her arms around my neck and kissed me.
"Mademoiselle, I think you are a happiness-giver."
"And don't you think that his love and your love matter a little in this world?"
"It is the only thing that does matter," she answered, while her violet eyes were looking, not at me but at Halil Bey.
But to return to the Suffragettes. The most noticeable thing about them was that they were attracted only by the worst features of our Western civilization. It was my opinion at that time—although recent political events do not seem to have borne me out—that Turkey would be better off without any influx of European thought.
That the Turks gain nothing from the missionaries we send them is still my firm belief. To begin with, we send them men who are ignorant of the history of Turkey, as of the nature of the Turk, men who are narrow and bigoted. Two of these missionaries, who had for three years been in Asia Minor, came home in the same steamer with me. They were of different sects, and were not on speaking terms with each other.
I was talking with one of them, and found that he hated the Turks as heartily as the Master whose gospel he had gone out to teach commanded us to love one another. There was nothing too bad for him to say about their morals and their religion. I asked him if he understood Turkish.
"No, indeed, I do not. I find their language very much like the people."
How did he manage to talk with the Turks?
"I had an interpreter, an Armenian who was a convert of mine," he explained complacently.
"What was he before you converted him?" I asked, amused. The man was too small to be angry with.
"He was an Armenian, naturally," he answered sharply.
"I thought Armenians were Christians," I ventured.
"Oh, well, their Christianity does not amount to much. We have to teach them the real meaning of the Saviour's words."
"Brotherly love and tolerance?" I inquired, thinking of the other missionary aboard. I received no reply to this, and presently asked: "Did you get to know many Turks?"
"No. They avoided us as if we went there to do them harm. I knew some fishermen and vendors. I only hope that the example of our cleanly lives will help some of them; for we can never preach to them: they will not come to hear us. I shall write a book on Turkey as soon as I am rested."
He was a fair average specimen of the class of men who go to Turkey to educate and uplift her. With few exceptions these missionaries are even ignorant of the fact that Turkey is a country with a great past, and with a literature of its own comparable to that of Greece.
The most discouraging thing about Turkey is that, while the old-fashioned Turk is a man on whose integrity you may depend, as soon as a Turk becomes Europeanized he loses his own good qualities, without obtaining those of the West—exactly as the American Indian does. He is so vitally different from us, and his mind is so nail and unspoiled, that the result of contact with our sophisticated thought is very harmful. I agree with Houlmé that Turkey ought to work out her own salvation. When she does, I do not believe that she will be found behind any Christian state, on account of the cardinal virtues which the Turkish race possesses. Her religion has as sublime thoughts as ours. That it has kept the race practically abstainers from drink for nearly twenty centuries testifies to its strength.
In my enthusiasm for Turkey I do not wish to be understood as implying that Turkey is perfect, or that all her customs are beyond reproach, or that the Turks do not need "elevating." On the contrary, there are many things about them which to me are hateful, and which I cannot reconcile with their good qualities. One incident which I witnessed in Selim Pasha's household, just before I left it, makes me shudder even now when I happen to think of it. It concerned the pasha's eldest son and his wife, for whose arrival I had been invited to remain a few days longer.