H. M Knadjian.

The eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom online

. (page 11 of 21)
Online LibraryH. M KnadjianThe eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom → online text (page 11 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the prison house to the Armenian section. Before sending
them to their respective stations, she said: "Karekin and I
go to the entrance of the court of the prison house and wait
there in the dark. When Levon is brought out we will follow
him at a distance. As his guards turn the corner of the street
where a man is hidden, he will follow them. At a certain point
you will hear an owl hooting. That is a signal for attack. We
will kill the guards and release the prisoner. Now every one
to his station."

The next step was to let Aryan know about this plan.
Arusag was afraid that if he guessed that they were taking
him to his death, he would put up such a fight with his bare
fists that they would be compelled to kill him then and there
and thus frustrate her plan. She told Karekin to go to his ap-
pointed place and wait there for her. She ran back home,
changed her clothes and returned, walking rapidly through
the streets within the shadow of the walls until she came to
the place where her brother was waiting. From the courtyard
they could see the door of the prison. It was about midnight
when it opened and Aryan came out between two soldiers,
and was led to the office of the chief of police. There he was
treated politely.

"Levon," said the Chief, "your conduct today, at the fight
in the prison, has enraged all of the Mussulman prisoners
and they have sworn to murder you at the first opportunity.
Consequently, to prevent further bloodshed, the Vali Pasha


has ordered that you should be taken to another prison, which
is located in a distant part of the city. You see how considerate
we are about your safety. It is your duty to pray for a long
life for our gracious padishah. Say, Long live the Sultan."

Aryan hesitated. He could detect a trick in these kind
words. He was distrustful. "Bey Effendi," he said, a sarcastic
smile spreading on his face, "it is very kind of you to be care-
ful about my safety. But I prefer to stay where I am. No one
can do me harm. A host of Turkish prisoners cannot kill me
if the keepers would not arm them with knives. Yesterday
the Armenians were taken by surprise, that is how three of
them were massacred. You say the mussulman prisoners have
sworn to murder me. I challenged them to come forward and
do their worst. They all retreated like the cowards that they
are. No one can kill me unless it is done by trickery."

Suddenly a noise was heard outside. The soldier at the
door was hindering someone from coming in. A woman was
urging him to let her pass. Speaking loudly, she said, "I must
see the Major. My business will not brook delay." The atten-
tion of all was turned to the door. At the same instant the
Greek nurse of the Vali, pushing the soldier to one side rush-
ed in.

"Alas ! Bey Effendi !" she bewailed, eyes swimming with
tears, "help me ! I want to go home to my poor mother who is
mourning for her only son, and the patrols will not let me
pass. Word reached me a few minutes ago, that my brother
was killed, by mistake no doubt, and the Pasha kindly per-
mitted me to go home and comfort my mother. At every cor-
ner they stop me, saying, 'Yassak Dir' (forbidden) and they
force me to go back from where I came. They do not seem to
know me. They think I am an Armenian. Pray, give me a pass,
that I may go to my mother unmolested." And she began
weeping and shedding tears.

Aryan's heart leapt into his mouth. He was deeply stirred.
Arusag had come to help him. How! She made a gesture of
contempt towards the prisoner, in the sight of the Major, as
much to say 'how dare you cast an amorous look at me.'

The Major knew Sophy, whom he had often met in the
residence of the Vali. He had spoken to her several times.

"Oh! Mademoiselle Sophy!" exclaimed the Major. "You
are late to be out in the streets at this time. Do you know how


dangerous it is to be out alone on a night like this? You must
be more careful."

"Yes, I know," she answered. "But only a little while ago
I heard the bad news of the death of my brother. I am not
afraid to go alone, if I could have a pass to identify myself."

The Major told the clerk to write on a piece of paper, an
order to the soldiers guarding the city, to give her free pas-

While the order was being prepared, Arusag said, "If
these Armenians had any sense, they would not rebel against
our Padishah. I was telling the Armenian cook at the Palace
today to convince his friends that it would be much better
for them to surrender to their masters. The government is
kind; they will take care of them."

When the clerk gave the piece of paper to her, she bow-
ed gracefully and thanking the Major, went out.

Aryan had learned his lesson. The Major told the soldiers
to tie his hands behind his back. He submitted without saying
a word.

The two soldiers, rifles on their shoulders, led him out.
One was going in front of him, one following. They passed
through the Turkish quarter without an incident. Once they
were challenged by the patrols, but as soon as they were rec-
ognized, they were allowed to pass. Advancing quickly, they
entered the Armenian quarter. Their destination was the
Apostolic Church, outside of which the bodies of the slain
were more thickly scattered. There was no moon. It was a
starlit night. The thick walls of the Church cast a dark shad-
ow over the road. It was difficult to see two steps ahead.
Suddenly the sharp blades of two poniards flashed in the shad-
ow and were instantly plunged into the breasts of the two
soldiers. Without uttering a word they fell to the ground
dead. Immediately unseen hands cut the cords on Aryan's
arms. He looked around and saw Arusag busily engaged in
stripping the soldiers of their uniforms. He took a step towards
her. She directed him to do the same with the other soldier.
She made a bundle of the clothes and gave it to him to carry.
Karekin gathered the guns and the other weapons. She led
the way and they disappeared in the darkness. At the next
corner she stopped, took off her skirt and threw it in the gut-
ter, fixed the mustache and put on a masculine appearance.


When they arrived at the appointed place, she put her
fingers to her lips and hooted like an owl, long and loud. From
all sides the men ran towards her, with the expectation of a
fight. Their astonishment was immense, when they saw Ar-
men, Karekin and Levon standing together and waiting for
them. What had happened? Who saved Aryan? Why were
they not called to help?

Armen explained that the work of the rescue of comrade
Levon was easier than was anticipated. "I was expecting that
at least half a dozen soldiers would accompany him and we
should have been compelled to wage regular warfare. But the
fat-headed officer, deceived by Levon's submission, had sent
only two soldiers to guard him. In order not to awaken their
suspicion, which might have jeopardized the comrade's life,
I did not call you, and with my brother, Karekin, accomplished
what we intended to do without much trouble."



While 1 draiu this fleeting breath.
When my eyes shall close in death.
When I rise to worlds unknown.
And behold Thee on Thy throne.
Rock of ages, cleft for me.
Let me hide myself in Thee.


That was a night of nervous tension. The voice of la-
mentation could be heard until morning. The moaning of the
wounded in the street below made sleep impossible. As soon
as my eyes were closed the spectre of the slain would rise
before me and cause anguish.

It was after midnight. I was still tossing sleeplessly from
side to side when the sound of whispering reached my ears
from outside the balcony. I sprang to my feet and went to the
door. The creak of muffled footsteps on the wooden floor
could be heard distinctly. I put my ear to the keyhole to hear
what was said. Two men were talking. "This is the room."
"Not that, the next one." I hurried to the window and looked
through a crack. The shadows of three men passed. They
were trying to find my room. Who were they? What did they

All the prisoners were locked in their compartments for
the night. They must be jailers. What is their business with
me at this late hour. The stealthy movements caused appre-

But why do they hesitate? They know exactly where I
am located. Now they are outside the door. They try to open
it. When it did not yield, one of them said in a low voice:
"Open the door." I did not reply. "Let us break it," one of
them suggested. "No, it will make too much noise," he was

Evidently they were Turkish prisoners and not working
in collusion with the prison authorities. There was no doubt
of their evil intention.

The picture of the murdered men in the courtyard was
still vivid in my mind. I could almost see the man with the
dagger outside my door. They knew who I was, having seen
me often walking on the balcony. After the brave defense of


Aryan yesterday, which frustrated the plan of destroying the
Armenian prisoners, several of the criminals had turned to-
wards me and marked the location of my room. But I never
thought they would dare to wreak their vengeance on me in
this way. To tell the truth I was afraid. But fear drove me to
a desperate determination to sell my life dearly. I resolved to
fight and to do as much damage as possible to the murderers.

Grasping the piece of iron that I had found in my room,
I put one end into the keyhole and pressed it against the door
with all my strength to prevent it from opening.

I am naturally a peace-loving man and dislike fighting,
but, at this moment, the imminence of danger made me deter-
mined that I would not be killed without resistance. Death
is not a calamity when it comes in a struggle for self-preser-
vation. A silent prayer winged from my heart to Him, who is
the judge of all, asking His protection. A serenity rested upon
my soul. The muscles of my arm stiffened. I was ready. The
first man who puts his head inside will get it. He would at
least lose an eye.

They put their shoulders against the door to break it
with as little noise as possible. (Now the middle part bent in
ready to burst.) I raised the iron to strike.

At this moment a rough voice from down below called.
"Who is there?" It was Hasan Effendi, the head jailer. The
assassins heard, stopped working and took to their heels.

He met them on the stairs and began to strike with the
whip in his hand right and left. He drove them to their com-
partment. "Listen, you dogs, you cannot do what you like in
this prison. This is a government institution. Severe punish-
ment awaits the disobedient."

After seeing that everything was in order he came to
my room and assured me that no harm would come to me.
When he saw me still apprehensive and diffident, he went out
on the balcony and leaned over the rail. With a voice that
filled the whole building, he shouted : "Hear, ye all. No one can
approach this room. Here stays the preacher of Marsovan.
There is a special order from the Capital for his protection.
The person who attempts to injure him in any way will have
to reckon with the Governor." Then turning to me : "Now you
know. Be at rest and go to sleep. No one will molest you."

The suddenness with which the crisis took a favorable
turn dazed me. A minute ago death was staring me in the


face, now I had assurance of security. What was it the man
said? Could one give credence to his word? After being de-
ceived so often, one becomes incredulous.

Pulling the mattress behind the door for safety I lay

About an hour later, I heard footsteps on the balcony
once more. Some one was coming toward my room, not
stealthily, as before, but openly. He turned the knob. It was

"Open the door, it is I."

"What do you want, Hasan Effendi?" I asked at the
same time opening the door. When he saw the mattress, he
realized that my fear was not quite allayed.

"You are sleeping just behind the door so that no one
could get in without waking you. Remove it and leave the
door open."

When he saw me still hesitating he continued in an of-
fended tone: "Have you no confidence in my ability to pro-
tect you? I am the governor here. I can crush like dirt under
my foot, any man who dares to commit an act of insubordina-
tion. Do as I tell you and sleep in peace."

Sleep was impossible all night. The slightest noise would
reach my ears in an exaggerated form. In the pitch darkness
I fancied men were feeling their way towards me with raised
hands in which the blades of daggers were shining. When I
dozed from fatigue, terrible nightmares tormented me. Once
I dreamed that in Ourfa the roof of our house had fallen and
my mother and brothers narrowly escaped from the ruins.
Another time I saw that the wall of my church in Marsovan
had fallen and the congregation fled in fear.

I could endure it no longer. Kneeling down I invoked di-
vine help. I prayed that night as I had never prayed before in
my life. I asked God to make me strong and able to bear
these afflictions without resentment. I earnestly supplicated
Christ to reveal Himself to me and show my end. Prayer
quieted my nerves and restored my mental calm. It was almost
morning. I do not know whether I was awake or asleep. A
vision appeared distinctly to my soul's eye. Jesus stood beside
me. He said in a gentle voice: "Be not afraid. You will live.
You will serve me yet for many years to come."

The sun had already risen ; its golden rays shone through
the window, when I opened my eyes. What a divine revelation


had been vouchsafed to me! It filled my heart with joy. It
exhilarated me. It cheered my spirit. I felt free. The four walls
of the prison faded. Richard Lovelace's verse actually mater-

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage:
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

A supernatural power had imparted courage to me to
endure another day's sufferings. The Lord Himself had come
and given me His word of assurance. Rejoice in the Lord!

Listen! What do I hear? The voice of Christian singing
in a Moslem prison filled the air. I recognized the melody of a
well known canticle of the mother church. The compartment
where the Armenian prisoners were confined was directly un-
der my room. They were greeting the morning light by singing
that wonderful hymn, composed centuries ago by one of the
saints of our ancient church. The rhythmical flow of the song,
sung by several dozen men's voices, resounded in every cor-
ner of the large building. They put their heart into it and felt
each word they uttered.

"Sweet morning light, Sun of Righteousness, shine upon

my soul.
Word of life and grace, springing from the Father, enter

my spirit.
Source of compassion, of thy hidden treasures, make me

the finder.
Door of rich mercies, open to thy confessor, help me to


Thou Three in One, Provider for all, have mercy on me.
Awake, Lord, to help, revive those asleep, like angels to


I Am That I Am, Father Eternal, Son and Holy Ghost ;
Receive me in mercy, receive Merciful, receive Compas-

This beautiful hymn of Nerses Shenorhaly, written in the
twelfth century, with its melodious cadence, heard under
such dire circumstances, touched me with a thrill of spiritual


uplift Why should I hide it. I was crying like a child, shedding
tears, I knew not, of joy or sadness.

I approached the window, opened it and raising my voice
joined them. There was a deacon among the prisoners. He was
leading the singing.

Just then the Turks were taken out for their morning
exercise. They heard the song and became attentive (listen-
ing). The words were not intelligible, but they felt that the
song was praise and prayer. Even the jailers did not make as
much noise as they usually did when they took the prisoners
out. Is it not true that within every human being, including
the depraved criminal, there is hunger for things divine. The
attitude of the crowd of culprits became reverential.

When the singing ended a hush fell over the courtyard.
I felt an inner urge to pray. Kneeling before the open window
I poured out my heart in the presence of God with a loud
voice so that my fellow prisoners could hear. I asked Him to
have mercy on these young souls and to spare their lives. I
supplicated Him for the preservation of our people and for
the protection of our helpless mothers and sisters. I appealed
to the Prince of Peace to restore peace and goodwill between
the Christians and Moslems.

After the Turks were shut in their compartments, the
Armenians were taken out for their daily requirements. No
one spoke. Every person seemed to have retired into himself
and was thinking of his own home and dear ones.

That day no disturbance occurred in the city. The fight-
ing did not continue. Absence of hostility was also noticeable
among the prisoners. They had a subdued appearance.

When the keepers took out Chukhchik to lead him to the
lavatory, he cast a pitiful glance at me as he passed my win-
dow. The poor boy had aged in a few days. He was groaning
beneath the heavy chains. His custodians were not willing to
stretch a helping hand. He stopped a minute to rest. One of
them hit him with the whip and told him to go on.

"Why do you beat me. I am tired and cannot walk fast.
If you intend to kill me, do so at once, without tormenting

O, those cowardly brutes, striking a chained man. If
Chukhchik were free he could drive half a dozen of them be-
fore him. They knew it and took advantage of his bonds.


"I am hungry and thirsty," he said when the jailers
brought him back to his cell. "I have not eaten for twenty-
four hours."

"It is the same with me," I answered. "The distribution
of the rations has been neglected since yesterday."

After a while he called me again.

"What is it, my son?"

"I believe you are going to be released soon."

"What makes you think so?"

"Did you not hear what the Chief said last night? You
have friends, who are working for you. It seems to me that
you will get your freedom and the rest of us are going to
remain here to die."

"Do not give up hope, Chukhchik. Trust in God. As for
what the Chief said, I do not attach much importance to his
words. It is true that he saved me from the assassins, but
who knows for what purpose."

As if he was fully settled in his mind that my release
would take place soon, he asked:

"Where will you go when you get out of here?"

This question awakened the memory of my former days
in England where I had spent many happy years, of my care-
free college life with its pleasant associations. It brought back
the reminiscences of my home in Ourfa, with father and
mother, brothers and sister, from whom I had not heard for
many months. Are they alive or martyred with many others?

Was there any element of truth in what the head jailer
had said that orders for my protection were sent from higher
authorities? If so, then my friends in England must have
heard of my imprisonment and were using their influence to
get me out.

The second day also passed quietly. Occasionally one
could hear in the distance the cries of a woman who had just
discovered the death of a dear one. The creaking sound of
the carts, gathering the dead bodies from the streets, contin-
ued for several hours.

The Armenian prisoners no longer walked in the court-
yard. Only twice a day, morning and evening, were they let
out for a short time. Aryan's absence made me feel uneasy.
Have they done away with him? His brave defense on the
day of fighting must have angered the authorities.


Mr. Perry came to see me. He was not permitted to give
me any news from the outside world, except news of a person-
al character. He told me that the Pastor of the Evangelical
Church of Sivas was killed. During the encounter he happened
to be in the market place. He ran to take refuge in the store
of a Turkish acquaintance, thinking he would be safe there.
But a regular soldier in uniform shot him in cold blood. When
Mr. Perry said this, he looked significantly at the official who
was listening to our conversation. He also told me that the
poor janitor of the church met his death on that same day
when he was coming to the prison house to take away the
empty plates in which he had brought me food.

These two deaths caused me much grief. The Pastor was
a highly educated man and beloved by his church. It weighed
upon my heart that the janitor's life was sacrificed in my serv-



Recompence to no man evil for evil
Avenge not yourselves: for it is <written
Vengeance is mine: therefore if thine
Enemy hunger, feed him : if he thirst,
Give him drink: for in so doing thou
Shalt heap coals of fire on his head.


After Aryan's narrow escape, he was led by Arusag to
her house. The revolutionary leaders gathered to meet him.
They informed him how an official order had come from Con-
stantinople for a wholesale massacre. They were all possessed
with one idea: to "execute fierce vengeance on their foes."
The iron had entered into their souls.

Although the plan of Aryan's release was well-formed and
skilfully executed, yet they were not credulous enough to
think that the Turkish authorities would let the matter rest
without an intensive investigation. When they discovered that
the two executioners were themselves killed and the prisoner
had escaped, they would take steps to recapture him and his

Aryan mapped out a coure of action. He proposed to
call out volunteers to join them and retire to the mountains
and to find a stronghold and from there to inflict injury on the
government in revenge for the martyred Christians.

Aryan was a born general. He was endowed with all the
qualifications of a leader. He said: "Comrades, the time is
short. We have to be away from this place before sunrise.
Now it is about three o'clock. There are at least two hours to
daybreak, during which we must disappear. Who among you
was born and raised in this neighborhood and is well acquaint-
ed with the surrounding country?"

Several young men informed him that they were natives
of this place and knew every part of the nearby hills and

Aryan designated two men, natives of Sivas, to remain
in the city and to enlist recruits and form a line of communica-
tion between the local groups and those who had retired to
the mountains.


Procuring some food, they shouldered their guns and
went out. Nothing happened on the way and they reached the
upper regions of the foothills.

The sun was just rising behind the Taurus range when
they came to a lonely corner of a valley where a spring of
cold water was bubbling up from the rocks. Here they camped,
and, posting sentinels, they lay down in the shadow of the
rocks and rested.

Aryan spent several days in exploring the location. It
was a gully between the hills formed in the shape of an elong-
ated plate. Down in the plain, about two miles away towards
the west, the main highway passed, connecting Sivas with
other cities. To come up to the hills, one had to pass through
a glen which could be seen from the camping ground.

On the eastern side, the land was mountainous. About
three days journey from the camp there were Turkish villages,
but the way was rough and uneven, strewn all along with jag-
ged and sharp stones. It was difficult, if not impossible, to
travel on horseback. In the north and south, gigantic buttes
rose with ragged peaks, forming a natural fortress. A hund-
red men, well-armed could easily defend this position against
ten times that number of attackers. It was decided to make
this place their headquarters, for the time being, at any rate.
Every day new volunteers arrived, bringing with them arms
and ammunition.

Aryan trained his followers regularly. He divided them
into groups and appointed captains over each. A place was
assigned to each company and they were told to familiarize
themselves with the position for defensive purposes. Each
captain was held responsible for his station. The alarm would
be sounded, without notice, any time of the day or night, to
see if every one knew what to do. They became so efficient
that, as soon as the blast of the trumpet was heard, they would
run to their respective ramparts, from wherever they were

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryH. M KnadjianThe eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom → online text (page 11 of 21)