H. M Knadjian.

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

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


"Very well, then, if you are so foolishly stubborn, let the
men fight. Why do you mix yourselves with them? It is a
pity that young and good looking girls as you are should be
sacrificed. You are destined to a better life. Surrender to us
and marry with whom you choose and you will have a happy
time."

"We prefer to die rather than be the wives of Turks,"
said Khanum.

This was heard by the rabble. Their wild nature stirred



THROUGH BLOOD AND FIRE 211

up. They shouted and gesticulated. They threatened violence.
"Deliver them to our hands. We will show them what it means
to insult a whole Turkish nation."

But the Captain quieted them. Turning to the girls he
said:

"Do you hear what they say? If you will not submit with
a good grace, they will take you by force. Khanum, I am wil-
ling to take you to be my wife. Let the other girls pick the
men they would like to marry. There will be no force used.
Every one is free to choose. In this way the difficulty will be
solved and you will save your lives with honor."

"With dishonor, you mean," said Khanum.

The Captain changed color. The wild beast awoke in
him. Torn with passion he stood up and coming nearer, struck
her hard in the face.

"You giaour slut! You consider it a dishonor to marry
me, do you? Wait a minute. I will teach you! You will soon
be sorry for your insolence !"

He ordered his soldiers to surround the women and point
their rifles at them. He called a corporal and told him to strip
the clothing from off the girls, one by one. The officer ap-
proached and removed the garments of one of them. The
crowd was watching with savage relish. The poor girl could
not resist ; her hands were tied behind her back.

"Release her arms," commanded the Captain. "She can-
not escape in this crowd," he mocked, with a sarcastic smile.

The first girl was undressed, standing stark naked among
those howling demons. She was the object of lascivious gazes.
The same process was gone through with the second. They
were being compared with one another and obscene remarks
were thrown at them.

The turn had come to Khanum. She asked that her hands
be untied, saying that she would undress herself without any
assistance. The Captain gave his consent. They freed her arms.
She moved them up and down to ease the circulation of the
blood. She began to unfasten the buttons of her jacket with
both hands.

The corporal stood aside. The Captain was leering with
lustful eyes. She lifted the corner of her waistcoat and sudden-
ly drawing a small revolver, emptied its contents into the
Captain's head, heart and stomach, in rapid succession. He



212 THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE



slumped from his chair to the ground. When the soldiers saw
what had happened, without a moment's thought they dis-
charged their guns at the women. All five fell dead.

The mob was wonderstruck, looking on the tragedy with
gaping mouths. They never expected such courage, such hero-
ism from a persecuted and downtrodden race of women.

These Armenian heroines were martyred, dying bravely,
keeping their honor, worthy descendants of their chaste ances-
tress, Saint Ripsimia, the Virgin.

Khanum Ketenjian lived bravely and died heroically.
Paraphrasing Milton's eulogy of the death of Samson Agon-
istes :

"Come, come; no time for lamentation now,

Nor much more cause. Khanum hath quit herself

Like Khanum, and heroically hath finished

A life heroic, on her enemies

Fully revenged hath left them years of mourning,

And lamentation to the sons of Osman

Through all Mesopotamian bounds."



CHAPTER TWENTY

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

Hark! Forth from the abyss a voice proceeds,

A long lo<w distant murmur of dread sound,

Such as arises ivhen a nation bleeds

ivith some deep and immediate <wound'.

Through storm and darkness yawns the rending ground;

The gulf is thick ivith phantoms, but the chief

Seems royal still, though ivith his head discroian'd.

BYRON

The government's expectation at last found fulfillment.
When they saw that the cannon sent by Fakhry Pasha had
become foul and useless, they appealed to the Vali of the pro-
vince for help. In due time two field pieces arrived from Alep-
po, under the command of a German officer. They were instal-
led, one on the side of Lake Abraham and the other against
the Masmanah front. The first was commanded by Major
Ovackel and the second by Herr Echart, both able gunners.
It was child's play for them to bombard these makeshift posi-
tions. At the first burst of the shells, it was evident to the de-
fenders that the beginning of the end had arrived. The barri-
cades crumbled like clay. The stone masonry of the houses fell
in heaps. Consternation spread on all sides. Panic stricken
people ran hither and thither seeking safety. The roaring
sound of the guns was terrifying. The thunder of the bursting
shells sent a shiver through the most stout hearted fighters.
Pathetic was the plight of those brave defenders. Men, wo-
men; young and old; were buried alive under the ruins. De-
struction advanced from street to street. Not even the churches
were spared. And yet no sign of surrender appeared anywhere.

All of the positions of the Armenians had fallen, except
the one at the headquarters of the American Mission, which
Dikran and Arusag were defending. The strong walls of the
Evangelical Church had protected it. Echart, who had often
preached the Gospel of love and peace from its pulpit, delib-
erately turned his cannon towards it and shelled its dome. The
people under it were killed by falling masonry. But the walls
were still standing.

The entire Armenian section of the city was a heap of
ruins. There was not a building undamaged. The devastation
was so complete that one could see from end to end. It had
the appearance of a great grave yard. Everywhere dead bodies



214 THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE



could be seen, some of them half buried.

The women survivors of the bombardment ended their
lives by poison, the men by shooting themselves. Muggerdich
Yotnaghberian, the intrepid fighter, mortally sick from a gan-
grenous leg, unable to move from his bed, drew his dagger
and plunged it into his heart.

Reverend Karekin Oskerchian, a learned and well beloved
priest, had managed to escape into the vineyards with his
wife. He brought a stone and put it under her head, and divid-
ed the contents of a small vial into two parts. He gave one part
to her and swallowed the other, himself. They lay down side
by side and went to sleep, to awake together in eternity.

Pastor Soghomon Akkelian was taken alive. He would
not commit suicide, neither would he ask for mercy, although
he saw Herr Echart among his judges, who had been a co-
worker with him many years, in the religious work of the
community. He walked to the gallows unafraid. Reverend Ak-
kelian was an able-bodied, stalwart man. Under his heavy
weight the rope broke and he fell to the ground. According to
Mohammedan law, if the rope breaks during the hanging, the
condemned is set free. The cadi, who was present, remembered
this law and reminded the governor of it. But the authorities
knowing the part that he had played during the fighting and
the influence that he had exerted to continue the resistance,
would not listen to any excuse. Meanwhile Akkelian picking
the pieces of the rope, threw them at the Turks, saying "This
rope is rotten like yourselves; bring a stronger one." He was
shot.

Sarkis, the one-eyed, wounded and insensible, was taken
prisoneer. The Turks recognized him, as his daring exploits
were well known among them. When the Mutasarif heard of
his capture alive, he wanted to save his life and employ such
a brave young man for some purpose. Under good care, Sarkis
regained consciousness. The governor asked him what he
would do if his life were spared. Would he be good and serve
him as a bodyguard? "Yes," answered Sarkis, "I will be good
and the first thing I will do will be to murder you."

The Mutasarif made a sign with his hand towards the
gallows. Sarkis pushed aside his executioners, put the rope
around his own neck, and kicked the chair from beneath his
feet.



THE BEGINNING OF THE END 215

After the gunners had done their part, hordes of Moslem
crowds spread themselves for pillage and plunder. They were
searching among the masonry for valuable furniture ; recover-
ing from the ruins costly Persian carpets ; digging up the dead
bodies of women and robbing them of their ornaments and
jewelry. If they found any person still alive, they would kill
him then and there.

One band of robbers suddenly halted. A bullet from
among a heap of stones struck one of them dead. They began
to run. A second bullet followed, with the same effect. The
sound of a third one was heard, but they were out of reach.
After a while, when quiet was restored, they approached cau-
tiously to the spot where a survivor had dared to shoot at
them. They found the dead body of a girl, half buried under
a pile of rubbish, her legs crushed and a bullet in her heart.
It was Mariam Chilingirian, another heroine of the desperate
fight for self protection. Who knows how many lives of the
enemy she could account for, before she fell down helpless and
could not move. She had three shells left. Two of them served
their purpose, the third saved her unsullied honor from dis-
grace.

At last the plunderers reached the square outside the res-
idence of the American Missionaries. Dikran Aryan and a
small band of survivors with him, saw them coming. They
could hear the din of the devastation all over the city, the
screams of tormented women, the cry of helpless children.
They could do nothing, but be ready waiting for the advanc-
ing enemy.

Aryan divided his comrades, stationing them in such
positions that the entire building could be defended. He put
three of them in the stable which was situated opposite the
main entrance. Three, he put in the kitchen, the side wall of
which extended as far as the door. These two positions crossed
each other in such a way that anyone coming into the court-
yard would be in crossfire. He himself, with the rest of the
company, whose number did not exceed ten, went up to the
roof and took their stand behind the barricade. While Arusag
stood on the balcony, field glasses in her hand, watching the
movements of the crowd outside and informing the defenders
of their approach.

From the east and west sides, the house was safe. There
was no way to enter. On the north there was a small door,



216 THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE



which led to the back yard of the church. This they had al-
ready closed with masonry, to make it straight with the wall.

Dikran's last charge to his men was brave and at the
same time, pathetic. "This is our last stand against our age old
enemy. We have no hope for salvation. The whole city is in
ruins. All of our people have been massacred. Our brave com-
rades have fallen honorably, gun in hand. We did not have
a real opportunity until now, to show of what calibre we are
made. It is true that sometimes we went out to bring assist-
ance to other positions. But our station so far has escaped from
serious attacks. Our turn has come. Tense is the moment,
how do you want to die? Like valiant men, fighting? Or, with
the mean death of the gallows, hearing the jeers and insults
of that savage crowd?"

"No, no !" cried all in unison. "We will fight till the last
man has fallen."

"Forward, then to your stations. You have enough am-
munition; use it with care. Our vulnerable point is the front
entrance. Concentrate your fire on it."

The military authorities were not aware that one of the
Armenian positions was still intact. When the bombardment
ceased they thought all of them had been either captured or
destroyed. The regular soldiers had withdrawn and had given
the mob a chance to complete the destruction. The cannons
also had been removed from their platforms.

The governor, having all the officials in his office, was
congratulating the German officers for their wonderful ar-
tillery skill. They were no doubt worthy to receive a decora-
rion for their bravery and splendid marksmanship in demolish-
ing a defenseless city and burying thousands of women and
children under the ruins.

Meanwhile, the mob, unaware of any danger, approached
the door of the Mission house. They found it closed and fasten-
ed from the inside. They thought perhaps it was left from the
time when the Armenians were still resisting. They looked
for an axe to break it down. The crowd thickened in the
square.

Aryan gave the order and a volley from ten guns dropped
the same number of Turks. Taken aback, they ran for shelter.
A second volley scored another ten. The square was cleared.

The news soon reached the government house. The of-
ficials in conclave heard with astonishment. Was it possible



THE BEGINNING OF THE END 217

that a shell had not been dropped in the American headquart-
ers? The Turkish praise of the German gunners turned into
ridicule. Herr Eckhart, that faithless missionary leaped from
his seat and with a quixotic gesture, commanded his servant
to bring his horse. "I bombarded that location," he cried.
"How does it happen that the American Mission was not hit?"

He came to the church and examined it; and found that
although the roof and the dome had fallen, the thick and
strong walls had protected the adjoining building. He investi-
gated all the available places and saw it was possible to bom-
bard the house only from the square on the south side. But
the streets were so obstructed by debris that it would be im-
practicable to drag the huge and cumbersome cannon through
them.

He then went up the belfrey of the church, the steps of
which were still intact, and stood before one of the small
windows. He saw a group of men on the roof opposite, watch-
ing the square below with concentrated attention. He felt that
he had made a new discovery. It was easy from this height to
beat down the few survivors. With a feeling of satisfaction,
as if he had already triumphed over them, he called out with
a loud voice, speaking in Turkish : "You fools, there is no hope
for you. Your day of reckoning has arrived. Resistance is use-
less. Drop your weapons, or you will be annihilated."

Aryan and his comrades, taken by surprise, turned to-
wards the voice and answered with a volley. Not a bullet pen-
etrated the belfry. The oblique construction of the windows
made it impossible to shoot through. Immediately they ran
to their refuge behind the barricade for fear of reprisal. The
shots, however, were not answerd.

Once more the unseen voice spoke, "This is Herr Eck-
hart speaking, You know me. I will do this for you. I will
mediate between you and the government, if you surrender,
and save your lives."

Aryan came out of his hiding place and approached the
belfry as near as he could go. Speaking in English, he said:
"Herr Eckhart, I never had occasion to meet you during the
peace time; but I understand that you are a military man,
with the rank of captain in the German army. Do you consider
it in conformity with the international laws to bombard a
defenseless city, inhabited by thousands of women and child-
ren, or to shell the places of worship? We know that the



218 THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE

Turks practice such barbarities. They are used to massacring
unarmed populations, but we did not imagine that men who
call themselves Christian and civilized would descend to their
level."

Hearing these words, Eckhart was infuriated. Once or
twice he put his hand to his gun but did not draw it.

"Who are you?" he asked at last. "Are you an Armenian
or an American?"

"I am an Armenian and proud of it," replied Dikran.

"How can you lecture me on military laws, being an Ar-
menian? The Armenians are an ungrateful people. I am sorry
I have done so much for them."

"You are the ungrateful man," shouted Armen Attarian,
the group captain. "How can you talk of gratitude? Do you
forget that you betrayed shamelessly those men whom you
used to call your friends? Their blood is crying against you
from the ground. Was it not you who stood by, cooly watch-
ing, when Soghomon Knadjian, in whose house you had been
entertained hundreds of times, was arrested without cause
and put to death cruelly. You could have saved his life, and
the lives of many innocents, by simply raising your hand.
Who is ungrateful? You, or the Armenians, who showed you
every respect and affection, during all the time you lived
among them?"

"In that case, I wash my hands of this affair. Your
blood be on your heads," said Eckhart and withdrew.

Dikran realized that the roof was no longer tenable. The
enemy could easily destroy their wooden breastwork with
the high powered German rifles from the windows of the bel-
fry. Notwithstanding, they were not ready to relinquish their
position without a struggle. They were determined to stand
behind the defense until the end.

On the street side the square was cleared. The mob,
fearing the shots from the roof, dared not approach the door.

A short time later the belfry was filled with Turkish
soldiers. An intensive gun fire started. The defenders did not
answer. They soon found that the bullets did not reach the
barricade. It was out of a direct line from the oblique win-
dows. If anyone dared to put out his hand to shoot straight,
a bullet from the Armenians would shatter it.

At last, Eckhart ordered one of the windows to be wid-
ened. With their heavy guns they broke down the wall inch



THE BEGINNING OF THE END 219

by inch, until a large opening confronted them. When Aryan
discovered what they were doing, he told his men to run for
shelter. It was already too late. By the time they crossed the
roof to reach the stairs, several of them were hit. The survivors
took a position in the compound against the entrance.

The square was safe now. The crowd came nearer. Bat-
tering the door was the work of a moment. The mob rushed
into the courtyard. They were caught between two fires from
the stable and from the kitchen. Corpses piled on top of each
other. The slaughter was terrific.

Eckhart marveled at the military skill and the resource-
fulness of the Armenian commander. He did not believe that
he was an Armenian. He wanted to take him alive to ascertain
his identity. Turkish officials also were in doubt. They sus-
pected that a disguised English officer was leading the rebel-
lion.

Finally they decided to pull down the wall facing the
courtyard. They brought pickaxes and shovels and many wil-
ling hands took up the work of destruction. The partition fell
down with a crash, accompanied by the shouts of triumph
from the crowd. Hundreds of enraged Moslems, calling upon
Allah, rushed in fury against a handful of men.

Aryan, standing with his back to the wall opposite, with
his few surviving comrades, waited for them. They emptied
their guns on the oncoming rabble. The mob halted. The Ar-
menians reloaded their guns quickly. Fortunately the Turks
were unarmed. Believing that the fighting was over, they had
put away their weapons. Behind the crowd, at a safe distance,
the Turkish and German officers with the governor, were
watching this Thermopylean battle of modern times.

Once more the rifles barked. The attackers fell back. An
officer encouraged them forward. Told them to take the rebels
alive.

By this time the Armenians had exhausted their ammu-
nition. When their last shots were discharged, they threw the
guns away and drew their daggers.

Then began the last epic struggle. The strong iron arm
of Aryan struck right and left with telling effect. He hewed
a passage through the crowd. They dispersed like locusts be-
fore a whirlwind. Arusag standing on the balcony watched
him. She had seen him fight many a time; but she had never
witnessed such a sight. She marveled at his immense courage



220 THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE



and prodigious vigor. A mysterious wave of telepathy passed
between them. He was aware of her presence. When he had
breathing time, he looked up and smiled. Her admiration en-
veloped his whole body like a warm cloak. With bated breath
she said; "Strike, strike, my beloved. I will follow you soon."
"Already at his feet hath sunk
The foremost of the prying band.
A gasping head, a quivering trunk,
Another falls but round him close
A swarming circle of his foes ;
From right to left his path he cleft."

At last the numbers triumphed. One of the officers order-
ed the crowd to stand aside. Drawing his gun he aimed at
the lion-hearted and pressed the trigger. Fell the Armenian
hero, taking with him hundreds of lives from the enemy.

Not a single man of that dauntless band of defenders was
caught alive.

Only Arusag still lived through the carnage. Holding
the revolver in her hand, she turned its muzzle to her heart.
Just then the officer who had killed Aryan, saw her and shout-
ed; "Do no harm to yourself. Come down and live and be
happy."

"Come and take me," Arusag replied. It occured to her
that there were six bullets in the revolver. One would be
enough for herself ; why not use the rest on the enemy.

"I swear your life will be spared, if you surrender," again
called out the officer.

Arusag was measuring the distance with her eyes. She
saw the Mutasarif in the background. She very much desired
to take a chance at him, but he stood too far away.

He was indignant at the effrontery of this girl. He gave
an order to take her by force. A Turk approached the door
to go upstairs. A bullet from the balcony dropped him.

"Five liras for the man who can bring her down alive,"
he promised.

Half a dozen men rushed to the door. Two of them fell
dead before they reached the entrance. Three of them got in-
side and ran upstairs. One fell at the bed room door. The
other two turned back and ran for their lives.

Arusag decided the end had arrived. She raised the gun
and in the hearing of all, she cried: "Long live Armenia!" and
sent the last bullet through her heart.

END



PRINTED BY
THE REPUBLICAN PRINTERY

2130 KERN STREET
FRESNO, CALIFORNIA



University of California

SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY

405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1388

Return this material to the library

from which it was borrowed.




UC SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY



A 000 996 751 4



U:





1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21

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