LETTERS FROM ARMENIA
LETTER No. XXVIII.
OUR LAST DAY IN MALATIA : A BUSY CROWD — SELECTING FIFTY ORPHANS OUT OF FIFTEEN HUNDRED — DEPARTURE — GOODNESS OF SOME MOSLEMS — THE ZAPTIEHS — JOURNEY BACK TO HARPOOT BEGUILED BY HYMNS — WELCOME AT HARPOOT — PLANS FOR VAN.
HARPOOT, August 19, 1896.
DEAR FRIENDS, — In our last joint circular from Malatia you heard of R.’s departure. I can now report his safe journey as far as Marsovan, and no doubt very soon, almost as soon as this reaches you, he will be on English ground once again, and able to talk with you face to face! It seems strange to continue my lonely circulars after losing him, the chief actor in our past travels, but as I am writing on the condition of this afflicted land and beloved people quite as much as to describe personal experience, I will do my best to keep you in touch with matters here so long as I remain, and as I move from point to point to carry you with me in my travels.
Our last day in Malatia was our busiest, I think. All our premises were in
a constant crowd, in which it was difficult to say who were coming and who
going! Turkish commissioners and zaptiehs, Gregorian priests, Protestant
deacons! The architect, yesterday out of prison, busy
suggesting how to rebuild the ruined Protestant schools,
so that on Sundays they can be also used as church to hold 1000 people. The young preacher, also just released (the joint effect of the visits of the British Consul, Mr. Fontana, and Shakir Pasha, to Malatia), going in and out among the crowd with a constant smile on his fine open countenance. The still imprisoned pastor’s wife trying to rejoice in the freedom of her husband’s late companions, but with a twitching of the mouth, and repressed tears in the eyes, because her dear one is still, with one other, held in thrall for no other conceivable or pretended purpose, except to save the appearance of opening the prison door too widely (and also, if possible, to secure a bribe).
Here are the Building Committee, deep with Mr. Gates in plans and projects for rebuilding the houses of the town, a grant of money for this purpose having just been telegraphed from Constantinople. There is Miss Bush in an inner room, writing down from the lips of an eager-looking young woman seated at her feet an account of heroic courage and self-sacrifice during massacre days, a tale which will equal anything on record almost of womanly heroism, and which I hope to send you by-and-by. And in the midst of all, here come trooping up the stairs, and on to the verandah, accompanied by a number of women caretakers, the band of orphan children from whom, with the help of the com- . mittee, I am to select the fifty orphans I have promised on behalf of the Friends’ Belief Committee to care for during one year. Each little creature salaams in a way that tells of a high civilisation somewhere in past history, if not of present culture, and stands waiting my verdict,
and then for each pleading voices are lifted up, — and these Armenian women know how to plead! Fifty out of fifteen hundred good orphans are not hard to select, except that so many must be rejected, and I will have none but those whose fathers were actually killed in the massacre. It is hard to say “ no ” to many, but this is more than counterbalanced by the joy of accepting some ; and I only wish the dear friends, who have contributed to the Fund from which they will be supported, could have seen the delight and heard the grateful words of the crowd, as one after another of the silent little candidates for succour were selected, and their names written down. We did not finish our work until the stars were overhead, and had to begin again by daylight next day; many visitors attended us during our early breakfast, so that instead of our usual quiet devotional time afterwards, we had prayer in Armenian for the company, offered by the native preacher.
Then we mounted our horses, which were all in excellent spirits, and rode out of the beautiful, though ruined, town in the quiet morning, the streets lined with Armenians to bid us farewell, and the market-place with Turks, who saw us depart no doubt with great satisfaction. Once again, however, I must bear witness here to the goodness of some of the Moslems in the time of trouble, in Malatia as elsewhere. One man who came to see us had sheltered several hundred Christians, and another had kept sixteen in his house. I believe with all my heart that there is good stuff hidden away in the ordinary Turk behind a mass of evil. For he is a slave to those in
authority, and to the cruel part of his creed, and these two forces hold him in bondage to that which is bad; tinder better auspices I believe much good would appear, and the same remark applies to the Kurds, only that they are more savage still.
Our zaptiehs are almost always helpful, and I think glad to be with us. One who came part way from Malatia to Harpoot poured out to Dr. Gates a tale of woe — zaptieh woe, of which who ever thinks ? — which was sad to hear; no pay for a year, and hurried here and there, tired and sick at heart; no home life, no comfort of any kind: they almost quarrelled for the chance of who should come with us to get our food and fee, at one stopping place.
Our journey back to Harpoot was unmarked by any incident worth recording. The heat was intense, such as we never feel in England, and we rode from eight in the morning till five in the evening under the blaze of the sun, with hardly an hour, in the middle of the first day, to rest and eat by the side of the Euphrates before crossing, under the flickering shadow of a lonely tree; and in the second day in a little khan, where for lunch we drank bowls of hot sheep’s-milk, and ate a very little native bread, and the luxury of that lunch I shall, I think, never forget!
The road was good and broad most of the way, it being the central road through Turkey, and we rode four abreast, and Mr. Gates and Miss Bush sang, besides many sweet hymns, “Way down upon the Swanee River” and other old-time songs, which brought back to my remembrance
my own girlish days. What I enjoyed most, however, was the hymn —
“ From Greenland’s icy mountains,”
and the stanza commencing —
“ Waft, waft ye winds His story,”
made my heart thrill with joyful anticipation for this land as for all others, so that I could not but look backward and ask our zaptieh if he did not think the missionaries’ song very good.
But I must not be discursive. In the afternoon of the second day we met the entire Harpoot Mission Station, six in number, come out three hours from the city to meet and welcome us back. Thus Oriental lavishness in welcoming courtesy is engrafted upon the graciousness of Western manners, and makes unitedly a most charming compound.
Shakir Pasha is here now, and I am endeavouring to negotiate through the Consul a journey under the shelter of his wing to Van, taking dear Miss Bush with me, if the Board permit, but this is quite uncertain, and we may go to Arabkir instead, whence the cry is loud for help. — Yours affectionately,
HELEN B. H.
[H. B. H. adds in a letter : Please do not slacken interest in the country and people because of my husband’s return, for their very existence depends on our keeping up our work for them, and not growing weary. He will be able to do more for them in England now I feel sure than were he still here, and I know you will still continue to pray for me in my solitary lot.]
Table of contents
The cover and pages 1-4 | Preface | Table of contents (as in the book)
Turkish Armenia with Route of J.R. & H.B. Harris (a map)
Letter I | Letter II | Letter III | Letter IV | Letter V | Letter VI | Letter VII | Letter VIII
Letter IX | Letter X | Letter XI | Letter XII | Letter XIII | Letter XIV | Letter XV
Letter XVI | Letter XVII | Letter XVIII | Letter XIX | Letter XX | Letter XXI | Letter XXII
Letter XXIII | Letter XXIV | Letter XXV | Letter XXVI | Letter XXVII | Letter XXVIII
Memorandum: Notes of Information from J. R. H. | Letter XXIX | Letter XXX
Letter XXXI | Letter XXXII | Letter XXXIII | Letter XXXIV | Letter XXXV
Letter XXXVI | Letter XXXVII
J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris. Letters from the Scenes of
the Recent Massacres in Armenia. London, James Nisbet & Co.,