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Title: Speaking of the Turks
Author: Bey, Mufty-Zade K. Zia
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  SPEAKING OF THE TURKS



  SPEAKING OF
  THE TURKS

  BY

  MUFTY-ZADE K. ZIA Bey

  LONDON

  STANLEY PAUL & CO.

  31, Essex Street, Strand, W. C. 2.

  All rights reserved


  Printed in U. S. A.



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER                           PAGE

      I. HOMECOMING                    3

     II. SUMMER MONTHS                16

    III. ERENKEUY                     29

     IV. MODERN TURKISH WOMEN         47

      V. LIFE ON THE BOSPHORUS        67

     VI. STAMBOUL                     87

    VII. BUSINESS IN CONSTANTINOPLE  107

   VIII. A STAMBOUL NIGHT            127

     IX. A NIGHT IN PERA             145

      X. CONSTANTINOPLE, 1922        161

     XI. ROBERT COLLEGE              183

    XII. EDUCATION AND ART           204

  VXIII. A GLIMPSE OF ISLAM          224

    XIV. A VOICE FROM ANATOLIA       245


Speaking of The Turks



I

HOMECOMING


We were arriving at Constantinople, my native city, from which I had
been absent nearly ten years. I had been in America all this time. At
first my business interests and later the general war had prevented my
coming back to my own country even on a visit. I was of military age
and Turkey was under blockade. When I had left Constantinople a few
years after the Turkish revolution, the whole country was exhilarated,
filled with joy, with ambition and with hope. Freedom and emancipation
from an autocratic domination had been obtained. Nothing was to prevent
the normal advance of Turkey and the Turks along the road to progress.
We were at last to obtain full recognition as a civilized nation. We
were at last to receive equal treatment from the other European nations.

But, alas, during the following years the gods decided otherwise. Long,
interminable wars either waged or fomented by neighbouring enemies
had hampered the progress of Turkey. First in Tripolitania, then in
Arabia and Albania, then again in the Balkans and finally during the
general war the Turkish nation had been nearly bled to death and now I
was returning to my country, and my native city was groaning under a
domination a thousand times worse even than autocracy: the domination
of victorious foreign countries Yet I was elated; homecoming is
always exciting and the entrance to Constantinople by boat is always
intoxicating. Besides, I was newly married. My young bride--an American
girl from New Orleans--was with me and I was anxious to show her my
country so maligned by the international press.

Our boat stopped at the Point of the Seraglio and a tug brought the
Inter-Allied control on board. The ship's manifesto and the passports
of all passengers had to be examined by the representatives of the
foreign armies of occupation. I was the only Turk on board and my wife
and I travelled of course on a Turkish passport. We had been obliged
to obtain a special permit from the Inter-Allied authorities before
we could even start home. I took my turn with my wife, in the line of
passengers. We showed our passport to the officer in charge: he glanced
at it and seeing it was Turkish, asked us to wait. Our passport was in
perfect order, but I believe that just for the pleasure of humiliating
a Turk the officer decided to examine everybody else's passport
before mine, and kept me waiting till the last. An Italian friend of
mine who happened to travel with us, stood near us to vouch for me in
case of need. I was coming back to my own country and I might need the
assistance of a foreigner! Poor Turkey, what had happened to you! Poor
Turks, what had become of our illusions of ten years ago which made us
believe that being at last a free and democratic country we would be
recognized as a civilized nation, and would receive equal treatment
from the other European nations. Our hopes were being systematically
trampled under the spurred heels of foreigners, whose one desire seemed
to be to eradicate for ever even our self-respect, the better to
destroy our freedom, the better to hamper our march toward progress,
the better to annihilate our national independence!

The Inter-Allied officer had humiliated me: he could do nothing
more--my passport was in order. The boat proceeded into the harbour.

The magnificent panorama of the Bosphorus and of the Golden Horn
unfolded once more before my eyes. I tried to forget the incident of
the passport with all its disheartening significance. The view was
too sublime, the moment too thrilling to attach too much importance
to an occurrence which had already passed. I turned my attention to
pointing out to my wife the resplendent charm of our surroundings. We
were entering within the water gate of an Eternal City--the queen of
two continents--the coveted prize of all nations--which, to make it the
more desirable, God had endowed with the most gorgeous beauty.

Under our eyes Asia and Europe were uniting in a passionate embrace.
Historic monuments, palaces and mosques emerged under the clear blue
sky of the Orient, curving their shining domes, raising their slender
minarets as if pointing to God, the Merciful. The City was shrouded in
an atmosphere of peace and calm, Constantinople was reposing in her
timeless dignity ... but the harbour was filled with foreign warships
in horrid contrast with the setting. Motor boats and chasers glided
busily through a maze of dreadnaughts and cruisers deadly gray in a
mist of colour! Battleships were lying at anchor, their decks cleared
for action, their guns turned on the City! My thrill changed to a
shudder, I winced.

“Never mind, Zia,” said my wife, gently placing her hand on my arm,
“every one has his day. A country cannot die, a nation cannot forever
be enslaved. Patience and untiring work will lead Turkey to progress
and to-morrow the Turks will have their day!”

Her understanding braced me. Progress, yes, progress! But had we
progressed in the midst of ten years of fighting, could we progress
during this interminable state of war which had not ceased even since
the armistice? Patience, yes, patience! But could we be patient and
work untiringly under the present conditions?

       *       *       *       *       *

I took my wife to my father's residence. He lived then in Nishantashe,
in a house on a hill, surrounded by a garden, overlooking the
Bosphorus. The house was large, but our family is large too, especially
when it comes to living together under the same roof. My father wanted
us to settle with him. Family bonds are very strong in Turkey and the
Turks have retained to a large degree the old idea of clans. Large
homes dating from the old days, designed to shelter all the members
of one family and their children, are still in use in Constantinople.
It is true that the high cost of living and the restricted housing
facilities--caused by a series of fires, by the influx of war refugees
and by the foreign invasion--have contributed to perpetuate to this
date this system of cohabitation. It is true that even families not
related to each other now live together for economy's sake. But
the custom originated in the clan spirit and its continuation is
principally due to the strength of the bonds attaching the members of
one family to each other.

Traditions have been most carefully respected in my father's family,
as in all genuine old Turkish families. We have adopted or adapted
as the case may be, any and all of the western customs which are
compatible with the Orient. But we still jealously preserve certain
quaint customs characteristic of the old Turkish civilization. The
relations between the members of our family remain as in the past:
most intimate and cordial, although outwardly somewhat ceremonious
and the family has stuck together as much as the cosmopolitanism of
its members and their frequent travels permitted. This blending of
Eastern and Western customs, of Oriental and Occidental education and
mode of living is a very natural occurrence in Turkish families such
as ours. Identified with official positions which have placed them for
generations in continuous touch with surrounding European countries
and with the Western world, they had the duty at the same time of
perpetuating Turkish traditions and the desire of assimilating any part
of Western customs and education they deemed compatible with their
own. Our family's governmental service dated back to the fifteenth
century when it had been appointed “mufty” of Western Albania. By
hereditary right it had ever since then to personify, represent and
propagate Turkish customs and education in that outlying province of
the Empire where it exerted a sort of political-religious governorship.
But the constant relation with the Italians, Austrians, Dalmatians and
Croatians of the neighbouring states gave it an opportunity to learn,
appreciate and assimilate certain Western ideals. In recent years
this double influence of the East and the West became if anything more
pronounced. My grandfather having died when my uncle and my father were
very young, they were brought up by my grandmother, and the dear old
lady succeeded so thoroughly in her task that she had the satisfaction
of seeing, before she died, her two sons representing at the same time
their country as Ambassador to France and Ambassador to Italy. The
delicate Oriental touch imparted by this lady of another age is still
to-day very much alive in members of the family. Although a man of a
certain age and having filled the highest dignities in the Government,
my father still to-day gets up respectfully when my uncle--his elder
brother--enters the room. Although we discuss freely any subject among
ourselves, without distinction of age, although the greatest cordiality
and intimacy exists between all of us, none of the younger members of
the family would, for instance, think of smoking before one of his
seniors unless he had been especially invited to do so. Although each
of us travels extensively and at times lives far away for years, the
ties uniting us to each other are as strong and as “clannish” as they
were generations ago.

So my father wanted us to live with him. But it happened that most of
the family were then gathered in Constantinople. Besides our immediate
family numbering four, my uncle, his wife, their daughter and a cousin
were in town and lived with my father and two old servants who had been
so long with us that they were now part of the family also shared the
same roof. Old servants are an immovable institution in Turkey. After
years of service they acquire a standing almost equal to that of a
member of the family. They have their own establishment, they do not
do any work except watching over the hired men, and they would feel
insulted if they were paid any salary. They ask for money when they
need it. They are really part of the family. One of the old servants
who was then with my father had been the nurse of my mother, and had
married many years ago--at which time she had been given a little
house comfortably furnished. At the death of her husband she felt so
lonely--they had no children--that she sold her house and came back
to us. She has lived with us ever since and considers us all as her
adopted children!

So while the house in Nishantashe was quite large it was nevertheless
full; and much to the regret of every one of us we decided that we
would visit there only until we could find a place of our own.

This was a difficult task. All the principal houses, all the best
apartments had been requisitioned by foreign officers belonging to
the Inter-Allied armies of occupation, by their retinues and by their
friends. We were shown many small, dirty cubby-holes in Pera, which
Greek and Armenian owners were eager to rent us at prices even higher
than those prevailing in New York. In Stamboul there was no place to be
had, more than two-thirds of the city having been destroyed by fire.
We were just about deciding to settle in a hotel, when at last we had
the good luck to fall upon a Greek couple who had suddenly decided to
get a divorce. No foreign officers had yet heard of it. The house was
situated in a populous Greek section but was otherwise all right and
it had a bathroom which is more than can be said of the houses and
apartments in Pera. The Greeks and Armenians evidently do not consider
bathrooms as a necessity. In fact I believe that the bathroom in this
house--although in the cellar--has greatly contributed to make of the
place an American headquarters ever since we gave it up.

Anyhow we took the place and we settled in it as best we could.
Of course my father, my mother and my brother became our frequent
visitors. My sister came to live with us so that my wife would not be
too lonely when I was out during business hours. We were in a Greek
section and not one of the best. A lady alone may be quite safe in
Stamboul or even in a lonely house in the suburbs. But in Pera, in the
midst of the riff-raff, it is not quite safe to leave her alone even
during the day. My sister is about the same age as my wife and speaks
fluently English, French, Italian, German and of course Turkish. This
knowledge of foreign languages is not extraordinary in Turkey where
everybody speaks at least three or four. But it made her very useful
until my wife could pick up Turkish. It interested me beyond words to
see how easy, after all, it is to establish good understanding between
two people of a certain education, no matter how far apart their racial
origins may be, no matter how little each one knows of the other's
customs, breeding and upbringing. Language is enough to avoid serious
misunderstanding, personal contact is enough to bridge any previous
misconception. Here was my wife, born in New Orleans and bred in New
York, who had never before been out of America, and my sister, born
and bred in Turkey. The only apparent point in common between the two
was that one had married the brother of the other. But between the two
developed a friendship and devotion which can be built up only upon
good understanding, irrespective of any legal bonds.

We were leading a very retired life at the time and the two girls were
thrown entirely upon their own resources. The prevailing political
conditions would have made it disagreeable and at times even unsafe
to go out extensively. The city was full of British and French
colonial troops--mostly Australians and Senegalese. While outwardly
everything seemed calm and quiet, a sense of impending tragedy hung
in the air. Vague rumors of riots and risings, reports of atrocities
committed by colonial troops were circulating from mouth to mouth.
Turkish newspapers appeared every morning heavily censored: nearly one
blank column out of every four. A general and indefinable uneasiness
prevailed. Under the circumstances we did as other Turkish families;
we led a retired life, sufficient unto ourselves, and sought our
distractions in small every-day happenings.

The local colour of the street we lived in, with its vendors, its Greek
children playing on the sidewalks, the nearby open-air fish market,
the milk man making his morning calls at the neighbouring houses and
milking his goats on their doorsteps afforded us the greatest part
of our distraction. We took advantage of this general lull of things
to get our bearings and to become thoroughly acclimatized to our
surroundings.

Thus we were as happy as could be under the circumstances and perfectly
contented with our quarters, until the beautiful summer sun started
to shine. Then the local colour became somewhat more than local: it
became stagnant. The noise of the Greek children in the street began
to resemble too much that of the tenement district in New York. The
vendors and the milk men became commonplace. The sun became too warm
for the fish market. The narrow streets surrounding our house--badly
ventilated streets, without proper drainage, like most of the streets
of Pera--developed an odor which reminded my wife of the French
quarters of New Orleans, increased to the _N_th. degree! To top it all
a case of bubonic plague broke out in a neighbouring house. Greek
quarters, with the Armenian and Jewish quarters, are the centers of
contagious diseases in Constantinople.

We had already decided that we would elect for our permanent domicile
Stamboul, as far removed from the Greek, Armenian, Levantine and
foreign elements as possible. Stamboul is exclusively Turkish and we
preferred to live in a Turkish milieu. We had succeeded in finding a
house which was to be vacated in the fall It was right opposite the
Sublime Porte, on a broad avenue, bordered with plane trees, typical of
Stamboul. It was in a decent, quiet Turkish surrounding. It had large,
airy rooms and a private Turkish bath, as is usual with all the old
houses in Stamboul. True, it needed a few repairs, but we arranged with
the landlord to have the floors recovered, to install electric light
and telephone and to add a shower in the bathroom. The house would be
ready for us in a few months. However, we decided that we could not
pass the summer in Pera. We would go to visit my Father in Prinkipo,
an island at commuting distance in the Sea of Marmora, where my family
passed the summer and where many of my old friends lived and later
we would visit my aunts, my mother's sisters, for a couple of weeks,
at Erenkeuy and possibly a distant cousin of mine who lives on the
Bosphorus. In this way we would make the round of the summer resorts in
the neighbourhood of Constantinople. These long visits are customary
in Turkey and the different members of the family expect you to make a
round such as the one we considered, especially when you return after a
long absence. Furthermore they were all anxious to know my wife better
and we desired to tie up solidly the family bonds uniting us to our
different relations before we started our new Turkish life. By this
time my wife understood a little Turkish and wanted to identify herself
as much as possible with her new relations.



II

SUMMER MONTHS


Prinkipo reminds me of Bar Harbor. It is the largest of a group of four
islands. It is covered with pine trees and has large and small country
estates and villas scattered all over its balmy hills. It has several
hotels and two beautiful clubs and many prominent Turkish families
have their summer residences there. In the old days it was the Turkish
resort “par excellence” as opposed to Therapia on the Bosphorus where
all the embassies and foreign missions have their summer headquarters.
But now the Turkish families who can still afford to live there lead a
retired life, depressed as they are by the general political situation
of the country and by their own much depleted finances. Therefore the
Levantines, the Armenians, and especially the Greeks have invaded
Prinkipo and try to crowd out the Turks from this island as they have
crowded them out from Pera. They are in a better material and moral
situation than the Turks for indulging in amusements and they have
made of Prinkipo--which used to be in the old days a refined and
distinguished resort, like Bar Harbor--a common playground for holiday
makers.

Casinos, gambling houses and even less reputable institutions have
lately flourished on the balmy shores of the island. On Saturdays
and Sundays a noisy crowd invades the place, while on every pay-day
it becomes the picnic ground of intoxicated soldiers belonging to
the international navies guarding Constantinople! The day we arrived
a few intoxicated British sailors were making themselves generally
conspicuous and disagreeable right on the landing pier, in front of the
casinos. They rushed the Italian officer commanding the police of the
island, who had tried to make them behave in a manner more in harmony
with their supposed mission of maintaining order and peace in a foreign
country. Finally the Italian officer had to draw his revolver and fire
a shot in the air. This happened in broad daylight, in a place crowded
by the mixed Levantine elements now making up the showy summer colony
of Prinkipo. Composure and calm are not one of the qualities of such
crowds. A panic started, the Levantines running in every direction
and the general stampede was only quieted when Turkish policemen were
called to the assistance of the Italian carabinieri. The Turkish police
knows how to handle a Levantine crowd better than the foreign police,
but now it can only interfere if it is especially asked to do so by the
foreign police.

With such conditions prevailing, aggravated by their own financial
difficulties, it is not surprising that the Turkish elements have
neither the heart nor the desire to assume again their position as
leaders of the summer colony in Prinkipo. They prefer to keep quietly
to themselves and they make it a point to avoid as much as possible
any contact with foreigners or with the mixed crowd of Levantines.
The beautiful Yacht Club, which was formerly an essentially Turkish
institution really devoted to yachting, is now more of a gambling
den than a club and only a few unprincipled Levantinized Turks still
frequent it. We passed before it on our way home, and father said
smilingly that it was now “taboo” for us. I can well imagine how he
felt. He had been one of the founders of the club.

My father and my uncle lived together in a big white villa midway on
the hill. The house had been originally built by my father as a small
cottage during the first years of his marriage and when my uncle was
away on one of his diplomatic missions. Then gradually as the family
increased and as my uncle came back, additions had been made to the
cottage. It stood now, a large twenty-five room house in the midst of
pine trees, with shaded verandas running around each floor, commanding
a gorgeous view over the three neighbouring islands, on the one hand,
and the smiling shores of Anatolia on the other. The background to this
panorama is furnished by the city of Constantinople, dimly discernable
at a distance, refleeting at night its millions of blinking lights in
the blue waters of the Marmora. We settled into one of the wings of the
house originally built for my elder brother when he married. He was now
away with his family.

To celebrate our arrival my father took us at the first opportunity
to the Prinkipo Club of which he was still president. This club has
remained more exclusive than the Yacht Club and has therefore a larger
and better Turkish attendance. It occupies the beautiful estate
which was the American summer Embassy at the time of Mr. Leishman.
Weekly concerts are given in its gardens every Friday night--the
Turkish Sunday. My father took us to one of these concerts to make
our “debut” into the Turkish society of Prinkipo. Groups of Turkish
families were wandering together in the gardens or sitting at tables,
enjoying the beautiful starry night and listening to the music. The
ladies were attired in summer garments--beautiful Oriental capes of
embroidered white silk, draping their Parisian gowns in flowing loose
folds--their hair covered by a net or veil, but their faces uncovered.
The men wore tuxedos or business suits and could be distinguished
from the foreigners only by their red fezes, a most unbecoming and
unpractical headgear which is, alas! obligatory for all Turkish men in
Constantinople.

This public association of Turkish ladies and men was an innovation
to me. It had gradually come to pass during my ten years absence.
Before my departure Turkish ladies could only be seen by friends of the
family, and then exclusively in the strict privacy of their homes. They
went out by themselves. They never mingled with men in public places.
They did not even talk to them if they met casually on the streets.
They would only bow slightly or make a discrete “temenah”--the graceful
Turkish salutation which consists in lifting the hand towards the lips
and to the forehead. Now, ten years later, Turkish men and women were
talking and sitting together in public places and in clubs, freely
associating with each other. This was surely a concrete sign of, at
least, social progress.

I renewed many old friendships that night at the club, and my wife
began there many acquaintances which developed later most cordially. My
wife was surprised to meet many foreign girls who had, like herself,
married Turks.

When we announced our engagement several of her friends in America had
endeavoured to dissuade her from marrying a Turk. Surely a Turk could
not make a good husband, East and West could never mix and anyhow why
should she be the first foreigner to marry a Turk? She had of course
set aside all these arguments and had believed me when I told her that
many Turks had married foreigners and lived happily ever after. I don't
think, however, that she ever conceived that foreign marriages had
been so usual. That evening at the club and during our subsequent stay
in Constantinople, she found herself in a most international _milieu_,
although associating exclusively with Turkish families. She met in
Prinkipo a charming Austrian girl, who had married an admiral of the
Turkish navy. The mother of one of my childhood friends is a Russian
lady, while the wife of another is a most attractive Bavarian girl.
Many are the Turks who studied in France and married French girls. But
the first prize for international marriages goes unquestionably to the
family of Reshid Pasha where four out of seven members married foreign
girls? Italian, English and American. So, after all, my wife found out
that not only she was not the first foreign girl, but she was not even
the first American girl who had married a Turk and she hastened to
write it to her friends in America and to tell them that from what she
could see and by her own experience East and West could and did mix.
The Moslem religion and the Turkish customs allow complete latitude as
far as marrying foreign girls is concerned and leave them of course
absolutely free to practise their own religion. As for the Turks making
good husbands, I believe of course that this is entirely dependent on
the individual and not on the race. There are good and bad husbands
among the Turks, just as there are good and bad husbands among other
nations.

Our stay in Prinkipo turned out to be one of the most pleasant summer
vacations I ever had. I would go to town to attend business regularly,
but would take long week-ends off; that is, I would do as most
business men do in summer and would stay home Fridays, Saturdays and
Sundays. We would then go bathing in the mornings, and play tennis
or go out sailing in the afternoons. The Sea of Marmora is ideal for
yachting, and numerous are the sailing yachts which use Prinkipo as
their port. Of course the fact that we usually used Turkish yachts
would somewhat hamper our movements, as boats flying the Turkish
flags were not allowed to go anywhere near the Anatolian shores, the
Inter-Allied authorities enforcing at that time a strict blockade of
the Nationalists.

Often there would be tea-parties or informal after-dinner gatherings
in the Turkish homes. And while these were small, unpretentious
affairs--the Turks cannot afford to entertain elaborately on account
of their precarious means--they were a most pleasant manner of
passing away the time. There was always someone interesting at
these gatherings. A man or a woman of prominence who would give to
us a new point of view or some insight into the general situation.
Once an Egyptian princess told us of the difference in the progress
accomplished by the Turks and by their cousins of Egypt in the last
years. How, despite the fact that the Turks had been hampered by
political circumstances while the Egyptians had had the supposed
benefit of British help, Turkish women now enjoyed a much larger
political and social freedom than Egyptian women, and public education
had spread more generally in Turkey than in Egypt. Another time the
director of the Turkish Naval Academy in Halki told us how he had
taken advantage of the temporarily complete independence of Turkey
during the war to make of his school one of the most progressive and
up-to-date naval academies in the world--how since the armistice he
was meeting seemingly insurmountable difficulties in protecting his
school from the process of disintegration systematically applied by
the Allies to everything Turkish in Constantinople. Another time Zia
Pasha, former Turkish Ambassador in Washington, told us how for years
Sultan Abdul Hamid succeeded in keeping his Empire intact by playing
the greedy ambitions of one western nation against that of the other.
Once again Reshid Pasha, the Turkish diplomat who negotiated all the
peace treaties made by Turkey in recent years--up to but excluding
the Treaty of Sèvres--told us of his experiences at the London Peace
Conference following the Balkan War. His position was most delicate as
he was representing a nation which had been defeated on the battlefield
and had to contend also with the inherent enmity that the ever-grasping
imperialistic western powers have always felt in regard to Turkey. His
was a pitched diplomatic battle against the Greek Venizelos. Reshid
Pasha was too modest to add what everybody knows: that he came out the
victor, having turned the tables on Venizelos to such a degree that the
Greek statesman came away from London with his reputation as a diplomat
greatly imperilled.

Unfortunately, subsequent events had put back Venizelos to the fore,
and after numerous shifts of policy the Greeks had succeeded before
our arrival in having the great powers present to Turkey the terms of
the Treaty of Sèvres. Naturally, past, present and future politics
were the subject of all conversations. Feeling was running high in
Turkish circles. Every one was incensed both against the Allied
powers and against the Turkish Government of the moment. The Grand
Vezir, or Prime Minister, was being severely criticised and accused
of trampling on the dignity of the nation by accepting the Treaty of
Sèvres. The Nationalist movement had already started and while the
Turks remained stoically calm in Constantinople for fear of reprisals
by the Inter-Allied fleets upon the innocent population of the city,
the tide of despair was rising in Anatolia. The Nationalist movement
was as yet not thoroughly organized. But the set purpose of preventing
the application of the terms of the treaty was already noticeable in
the activities of the Turkish Nationalist bands who had sworn to die
rather than to lose their independence. They have, since then, stuck
most efficiently to their patriotic aim.

During those critical days following the publication of the terms of
the Treaty of Sèvres, and during the first weeks of the conception of
the Turkish Nationalist movement, many a time have we watched from
Prinkipo the smoke of firearms indicating encounters between Turkish
Nationalist bands and British Colonial troops, on the hills dominating
the nearby shores of Anatolia. Once we witnessed a big forest fire
engineered for the purpose of destroying the hiding-places where
the Nationalist volunteers would take refuge after their successful
raids against the armies of occupation. These Anatolian hills lie to
this day, their once smilingly green slopes bare--a silent example
of the work of destruction undertaken in the name of civilization by
the western powers who champion the rights of certain small nations
by destroying the properties of others. These Anatolian hills are at
this day, desolate and sad--but a proud monument commemorating the
unsuccessful attempt of the so-called civilized governments to pass a
death sentence upon a small nation whose will to live independently
could not be conquered either by fire or by blood. The prologue of the
greatest crime perpetrated in history since the partition of Poland was
thus gradually unfolding itself almost under our very eyes, while the
Turkish circles of Prinkipo and Constantinople--prisoners in their own
capital--had to watch, aloof. It was an edifying show of real Oriental
restraint to see all these people stand stoically and without a murmur
so that their brethren in Anatolia might have time to organize. In the
face of the worst adversities and while their hearts were bleeding,
they furnished to Anatolia the breathing-spell it required. To the
cry of “chase the Turk out of Europe” shouted in their very face,
the Turks of Constantinople were opposing a passive and dignified
resistance. A friend of mine summarized one day most clearly the motive
underlying their passive resistance. We were on the Prinkipo boat going
to Constantinople--the boat which in the old days was full of Turkish
dignitaries going to their offices. Now only a few Turkish business men
were distinguishable in the crowd. A few foreign officers were lounging
comfortably on benches “reserved for Inter-Allied officers”--large
enough to accommodate twenty people--while crowds of men and women
were standing all around for lack of place to sit. The boat was
filled with noisy Levantines, Armenians and Greeks, eating dates and
pistachio nuts, throwing the seeds and the shells on the deck, making
of the floor a place not fit for animals, and rendering themselves
generally obnoxious. My friend pointed to them and said: “These are the
people who want to take Constantinople away from us in the name of
civilization! But we have to overlook their impudence, we have to close
our eyes on their misbehaviour, we have to stand and bear it all. What
else can we do? If we weaken and join “en masse” the Nationalists in
Anatolia, we would leave in Constantinople a majority of these people
and the Western Powers would take advantage of this majority to detach
the city completely from the rest of Turkey. If we can't control our
patience, and rise against the foreigners and the usurpers in our own
city, the Western Powers will interfere and their battleships will
destroy our homes. But if we stand pat and ignore them they can not do
us any harm. Our duty is to preserve our city for Turkey and we can
only do it by remaining here and by opposing to those who plot against
us a passive and silent resistance.”

In this atmosphere of suspense the last days of our stay in Prinkipo
drew near. Our house in Stamboul would be ready now in about a month. I
had promised my wife to take her to Erenkeuy and to the Bosphorus. My
father wanted us to discharge our obligations towards the rest of the
family and besides he was soon going back to town himself. The season
of Prinkipo was at its end. Constantinople and its surrounding are at
their best in the early fall, but Prinkipo gets too cold. The bathing
season was finished, the yachting season was at its end. The hotels
were closing. One by one the villas were shutting their hospitable
doors. The summer colony was disbanding. Prinkipo was preparing for its
annual winter sleep.

We packed our bags and went to visit my aunts.



III

ERENKEUY


Since our arrival at Constantinople my wife had been complaining that
I had not shown her a “harem.” So she was very anxious to visit my
aunts, in Erenkeuy, when I told her that it was there that she could
see one, at least in the Turkish sense of the word. Harem in Turkish
means nothing less, but nothing more, than the special house or the
special section of a house reserved to the ladies of the family. In
the old days when the ladies did not associate with men they used to
live in the main house or in a part of the house, generally the best,
where they had their own sitting-rooms, dining-rooms, boudoirs, etc.,
distinct from the sitting-room, dining-room or den of the men of the
family. When I speak of “ladies” and “men” in the plural it is well to
remember it was and still is the custom in Turkey for all the members
of the same family to live together under the same roof. The Turkish
family is a sort of a clan. So while there are always many ladies in
a family, foreigners must not imagine that there are many “wives.”
This is a true narrative of Turkey and the Turks as they really are,
so I have to speak the truth even at the risk of shattering many
legends. I am bound therefore not to fall in line with the traditions
established by other writers who never fail to refer to a servant in a
Turkish household as being a “slave,” and to the ladies of a Turkish
family as being “wives.” The truth is that slavery was not generally
practised in Turkey even before the Civil War in America, and the
“wives” referred to by most of the foreign writers either exist only in
their imagination or else are the sisters, sisters-in-law, daughters
or cousins of the head of the family which foreign writers innocently
or purposely represent as his wives. Of course there might be several
wives in the same household--but not the wives of the same man. For
instance, when we were visiting my father in Prinkipo, there were four
“wives” living together: my father's, my uncle's, my cousin's and my
own wife. Anyhow I warned my wife that she would see in Erenkeuy a
“harem” in the Turkish sense of the word and not the kind of private
cabaret which exists only in the fertile imagination of scenario
writers, and in the ludicrous pages of sensational newspapers or dime
novels.

Erenkeuy is a little village at about half an hour ride from
Constantinople and on the Asiatic side. The shores of Anatolia are here
covered with country estates uniting small villages all the way from
Scutari to Maltepe--a distance of about fifteen miles and all except
Cadikeuy and Moda are peopled with Turks. The Turks living here are
mostly conservatives. They are not old fashioned and narrow but they
have kept to the Turkish ways of living more accurately than the Turks
living in other sections or suburbs of Constantinople. It really cannot
be explained but there is here an indefinable something that makes you
feel that you are in Turkey more than you do in any other suburb of
Constantinople. Perhaps it is only due to the fact that you are on the
hospitable soil of Anatolia.

Suburban trains running on the famous Bagdad railroad take you to
Erenkeuy. I again had a jolt on these trains. In the old days the
company belonged to the Germans and was run by the Germans. But it
endeavoured not to arouse the susceptibility of the Turks by flaunting
in their faces that it was a foreign company. All the employees
on the train wore the fez, the national Turkish headgear, and the
greatest majority of them were Turks. Now the Allies have replaced
the Germans and have taken over the railroad as part of Germany's war
indemnity towards them. The result is that their systematic campaign
of humiliating the Turks has been practised even here. The new Allied
administration employs mostly Greeks and Armenians--and all the
employees of the company now wear caps. Really the difference between
caps or fezzes is only one of form, but it has a psychological effect.
For instance, even in my case, although I dislike the fez as a most
unpracticable and unbecoming headgear, and although I have worn hats
the greater part of my life I could not help resenting the change: it
rubbed me the wrong way. It made me most vividly feel as if we were not
the masters in our own homes--at least temporarily in Constantinople
and its environs.

We arrived in Erenkeuy in the afternoon on one of those beautifully
clear days-which make of the fall almost the most pleasant season of
Constantinople. The air was mildly heated by an autumnal sun shining in
a marvellously blue sky. The leaves of the plane trees surrounding the
station had turned golden red and had become scarce on the branches.
Even now some were volplaning to the earth on the wings of a gentle
fall breeze. The square in front of the station, with its clean little
shops--each a diminutive bazaar of its own--opened itself smilingly to
us as we emerged from the train with our baggage. In the background we
could see the little mosque where villagers were entering for their
afternoon prayer.

We decided to walk to my aunt's house, which is not far from the
station. Besides, it was prayer time and we should avoid arriving
while the whole household was at prayer. We heaped our luggage in
a carriage--a typically Asiatic conveyance with bright coloured
curtains hanging from a wooden canopy and with seats char-a-banc
fashion. It disappeared in a cloud of dust to the gallop of its
sturdy little Anatolian horse. My wife was delighted, this was at
last Turkey somewhat as she had imagined it to be. But what would
happen to our bags if the coachman was not honest? Had I a receipt?
Didn't the coachman give me a check? At least I had taken the number
of the carriage, hadn't I? I reassured my wife: the coachman was not
a Greek--he was not even a taxicab driver of one of the “civilized”
western metropolises. He was a plain Turk, just an Anatolian peasant,
and our luggage was as safe in his keeping as it would be in the strong
box of a bank.

We leisurely followed the carriage through a little country road
bordered by garden walls on both sides. High stone walls, white washed,
protected the privacy of the gardens from the glances of passers-by.
A big gate here, a half-opened door there would give us a glimpse of
houses, small or large, surrounded with trees--elm trees, plane trees,
fig trees, cedars and cypresses--whose dark branches enshrouded the
houses in a mystery of falling leaves. The only house of which we could
get a full view from the road was a little old house, with a slanting
brick roof, an enclosed balcony hanging high in the air and supported
by arched pillars, a cobbled courtyard where a few hens were picking
their feed while a big brown dog, a relic of the old street dogs, was
peacefully sleeping. It was at the corner of a street, its gate wide
opened, and there was only one big old tree in the garden. The others
must have died of old age, and the owner must have been too poor to
replace them.

The road we followed was dusty and almost deserted, with deep furrows
left by chariots, carts and carriages since the beginning of time.
In winter the rain and the snow turned the soft, pinkish Anatolian
soil into a greasy mud and every winter, ever since the days of the
Janissaries, chariots, carts and carriages had passed on these roads,
furrowing always deeper. One felt as if the clock of time had stopped
here years ago. An acute sense of the living past permeated everything.

On our way my wife asked me to tell her something of my aunt's family.
Our surroundings reminded me of old stories and I told her the story
as told to us by my grandmother when we were tiny little boys. I used
to love it as it opened before my mind vast visions of heroic ages.
“Centuries ago,” I told my wife, “there lived a young man, almost a
boy, in the faraway mountains of Anatolia, bordering the snow-covered
peaks of the Caucasus. He was tall and handsome but did not marry
because he had to support his old father and mother who were so old and
so poor that they could only sit on their divans all day and pray the
Almighty to call them back to him so that their boy might be left free
of worries and responsibilities. But they were good parents and the boy
was a good son. Therefore, the Almighty heard their prayer and freed
their son of all worries, but not in the way the old people had prayed
for. It so happened that the “Frank” kings of Hungary, Servia and
Bulgaria declared war on our powerful Sultan and invaded his domains.
To repulse the invaders our Sultan called all his brave subjects under
arms. They flocked from all over to the standard of their emperor. The
young boy from the Anatolian mountains near the Caucasus heard his
sovereign's call and answered it immediately. But he was so far away
that when he came to Adrianople, which was at that time the capital of
the Sultan, he found that the armies had left many days before to meet
the detested foes. He galloped post haste through the Balkans, days and
nights without rest until he finally reached the plains of Kossovo.
But, alas, what a sight met his gaze when he arrived there! The armies
of the allied “Frank” kings had captured the standard of the Sultan,
and the Turkish armies were in rout. Tooroondj--that was the name of
our young hero--decided to recapture the standard of the Sultan and in
the depths of the night when the “Frank” armies were asleep, he climbed
the walls of their citadel, killed the sentry on watch, took the flag
and returned to the Turkish camp. Next morning at dawn the Turkish
soldiers, awakening and seeing the standard of the Sultan waving
again on the imperial tent, were filled with renewed courage. The
Sultan assembled them all and before all the Turkish armies he called
Tooroond; to him. He gave the imperial flag to our hero and ordered
him to lead a final charge against the enemies. Tooroond; was so
brave that he planted victoriously the standard of his emperor on the
citadel of the enemies. Thus, first through his bravery in recovering
single-handed the standard, and second through the valour he showed in
leading the charge Tooroondj won for the empire the first battle of
Kossovo. In recognition of his services the Sultan made him Bey of his
natal province. After the war Tooroond; returned to his principality
and to his old father and mother, and took to himself a wife. His
descendants have ruled there until feudality became gradually extinct.
Then the main branch came to Constantinople where it has ever since
served the empire in all branches of the government services. Now the
last descendants of the main branch are here, in Erenkeuy, and we are
entering through the gate of their house.”

A wrought-iron garden gate opened on a road bordered with trees. Right
near the gate and on each side of the road were two little houses of
seven or eight rooms each. These used to be the “Selamlik,” or quarters
where my uncle received his men friends in the old days, entertained
them or talked state matters with them. When business required it, or
when the friends desired, they would stay a few days as his guests.
The little houses were specially designed for this purpose, each of
them having even its own kitchen. The service was made by a retinue
of men servants alone and in the old days only men were to be seen in
and around these two little houses, as around all “Selamliks.” They
were a sort of private club at the time that Turkish ladies were not
allowed to associate with the social or business activities of their
men. But now that the barkers curtailing the activities of women have
been torn down the two little houses were rented to two families. Some
of the tenants were sitting on the verandas and looked at us with the
curiosity that all people living in a quiet country place feel towards
strangers.

We followed the road winding its way through old trees and shrubs
and soon reached an inner wall covered with vines, separating the
gardens of the “Harem” from those of the “Selamlik.” The road skirted
this inner wall and took us to the back of the main house, or “harem”
proper which in the old days was consecrated to the living quarters
of the ladies and the private quarters of the family. It is a big
building with its main entrance opening on the outer court, but with
its façade turned toward the gardens of the harem, so that there is no
communication with the old Selamlik other than this entrance. The door
was ajar and opened as soon as we set foot on its steps.

My aunt, with her two sisters, their children and the servants had
formed a semi-circle inside the entrance hall and were awaiting
us, outwardly calm but with their eyes shining with restrained
excitement. Turkish etiquette requires composure no matter how excited
one is. Every one has to wait his turn and we greeted each other
accordingly, starting by the eldest and going down the line according
to age--kissing the hands of those older than us and having our hands
kissed by those younger than us. This hand-kissing is a sign of respect
which remains supreme in Turkey; no matter what their respective social
position, when two Turks greet each other the younger one always at
least makes a motion as if to kiss the hand of his elder. It is a
quaint, graceful acknowledgment of the respect and allegiance due to
old age.

With all the formality attached to it the reception extended by my
aunts at our arrival was vibrating with sincerity and emotion. The
dear, dear ladies were patting us and embracing us, their eyes full
of tears, with little sighs of delight and whispered prayers of
thanksgiving to the Almighty to have thus permitted our reunion under
their roof. They took us to the sitting-room where we all sat in a
circle, and a general conversation, in which my wife's Turkish had
to be helped by my cousin or by myself, started around. My aunts do
not speak English but this handicap of language did not prevent the
establishment of ties of love and devotion between them and my wife.
These bonds in fact developed in the course of time to such a degree
that to-day they are as strong as the ties of blood uniting my aunts
to me. They took to my wife immediately and wanted to know how she
liked Constantinople. Wasn't she missing her country and her sisters?
But now she had a new set of sisters and brothers. Their own children
would surround her with love and try to make her feel less the absence
of her sisters in America and they themselves were my wife's aunts. She
had become one with me by her marriage and how would we enjoy staying
with them in Erenkeuy? The life here was very quiet, a great change for
people coming from America.

A few minutes later my uncle came to join the family circle. We all got
up respectfully and stood until he sat in his favourite easy-chair. He
greeted us with warm words of welcome, in his quiet, unostentatious
way. Every one was conscious that the head of the family was now with
us, although there was no strain whatsoever. Just a note of deference,
that was all. Coffee was served. Then a maid brought us jam on a silver
platter and each one took a spoonful, drinking some water immediately
after. We exchanged news about the different members of the family and
about our friends, talked of the past and of our future plans. At tea
time we adjourned to the dining-room and had our tea Turkish fashion:
weak, with lemon and plenty of sugar. No toast is served but instead
bread and that wonderful white cheese which melts in the mouth. They
explained to us that during the war they drank the boiled extract of
roasted oats instead of tea or coffee.

After the ice was completely broken I had to call on my uncle and my
aunts to convince my wife that we were really in a “harem.” I must say
that they were very much amused. Of course this was a harem and no man
except the members of the family had ever passed its threshold in the
days gone by. But that did not mean that my uncle had ever had another
wife besides my aunt. They always had lived together ever since the
divorce of my second aunt, and my youngest aunt had also lived here
always with her husband. They suggested showing my wife the gardens of
the harem and we all wandered out together.

What a great difference ten or twelve years had made in these gardens!
The last time I had seen them--before my departure for America--their
alleys were carpeted with clean small pebbles, their trees were
trimmed, their well-kept flower beds and orchards were a pleasure
to the eyes, while the hot-house at the corner was filled with rare
tropical plants and fruit-trees. The whisper of running water flew
continuously from many fountains and in a small artificial lake a
miniature rowboat of polished mahogany lolled lazily in the shade of
branches hanging from the shores. It was a thriving garden, speaking
of ease and prosperity. But now! It looked as if it had been asleep
since the last few years. Gone are the pebbles in the alleys. Broken
are the window-panes of the deserted hot-house with its shelves covered
with dust and its cracked vases with dried stumps which were once the
trunks of tropical plants. Dead leaves rustle under your feet and
hush your steps. The trees have grown in a maze of unruly branches.
The rose beds of yesteryear have turned wild and now prickly bushes
bearing anemic flowers stoop to the ground, fighting for supremacy in
the flower garden. Shrubs of lilac, jasmine and honeysuckles--which
blossom here in the early fall as well as in spring--faintly scent the
air with their reminiscent perfume of past glory. The fountains are
silent and the little lake is dry--while the sad nakedness of its gray
cement marks the resting-place for the broken remains of what used to
be the shining little mahogany rowboat. The beautiful garden is now
the ghost of what it used to be. Its soul is alive--perhaps more so
than before--but pensive, sad, desolate. The greedy monster of war must
have reached as far as this peaceful estate in Erenkeuy, sucking its
vitality in its all-devastating tentacles.

How did it ever come about? My uncle and my aunt must have had some
reverses unknown to me, they would not carelessly let their property
deteriorate in this way if they could have helped it. The thought
worried me and I turned to my aunt for an explanation. With her
diminutive slippers crushing the dead leaves covering the ground, her
jet black hair covered with a delicately embroidered white veil, my
aunt was slowly walking on my right through the desolate alleys. Her
husband was next to her while my wife, with my cousins and my other
aunts walked ahead in the distance, fading gradually in the subtle
shadows of the desolate garden. My aunt explained. Her voice was
subdued but she was dispassionate, firm and resigned.

“We have tried to be too careful, my son,” she said, “and God has
taught us a lesson. Long before the war we had deposited all our
holdings with a British bank in London. We believed it would be safer
there than in any other place and we lived contented on the income it
brought us. It was nothing much but it represented with this place
all our savings and it was enough to allow us to live happily and to
take good care of our estate. The war came suddenly and our deposits
in the bank were seized by England. It was fair, all the nations did
the same and confiscated enemy properties within their reach. So we
bowed to the inevitable and passed the long years of war as best we
could. Your uncle took sick. He is just getting over an ailment which
forced him all this time to live in retirement. Nothing was coming in.
The family is large, the children had to be educated. We dismissed
all hired servants and sold our family jewels. At last the armistice
came and we hoped to get back what was ours. But years have passed and
years are passing. England has returned the properties of Armenians,
Greeks and Jews who are, like ourselves, Turkish citizens, on the
grounds that they were pro-Allies but she still refuses to give back
the private property of the Turks. No exception is made for those who,
like ourselves, were not in politics during the war and even for those
who, like your uncle, tried to dissuade the Government from entering
the war. Our only crime seems to be that we did not betray our country
during the war, that we could not be pro-Ally after our country had
entered the war! Well, what can we do? We still must be grateful to God
that we have a roof over our heads. Thousands of others are much worse
off. We can't take care of this property, but we have mortgaged it and
we live as best we can. God has helped us in the past, God will help us
in the future if we realize that no matter how careful we are we can't
foresee the future, we cannot avoid the decrees of Destiny.” I look
in silence at my aunt, there is no bitterness in her, but her finely
chiseled face is pensive. She is lost in retrospective thoughts. She
is visualizing her garden as it used to be, while her night-dark eyes
glance, unseeing, over her present surroundings. She walks slowly,
her slender body wrapped in the loose, flowing folds of an Arabian
“Meshlah” of silk, glittering with silver threads, which she had thrown
over her shoulders when she came out in the garden. She looks typically
Turkish. Her slightly aquiline nose gives a refined expression to her
proud, clean-cut features. She is small and thin, but her dignified
carriage gives the impression of power and self-confidence.

The Pasha, walks next to her, slightly bent by his recent illness.
However he is well on his way to complete recovery; his sprightly
step, his rosy cheeks, his keen bright eyes denote vigor and growing
strength. He caresses his small gray beard and smiles. He passes his
hand in his wife's arm and cheerfully says: “Hanoum, we should not
complain, we are better off now than we ever were, if our trials have
made us wiser. We know better the real value of things than we did
before. The Almighty has made me recover my health, we are all alive
and well. I am not so old yet, I can work. I will work, and you will
again help me as you did in the past. We will together rebuild our
home. It is for us to deserve the help of God. We must work for His
mercy.”

In the silence that followed new hopes were born in me. The undaunted
spirit of the Pasha faithfully reflects the feeling in the Turkey
and the Turks of to-day. This is the spirit that has brought them
through all their past trials, this is the spirit that has been taken
for fatalism, but which is nothing else than an indomitable blend of
resignation, confidence in one's self and confidence in the justice
of God. It will save Turkey and the Turks as it has saved them in the
past. They never have been despondent and they never will give up.
Calmly, without any show, without any complaint they always step back
into their normal lives, confident that the future will justify their
immovable trust in the justice of God.

We slowly return home in the silent twilight of the evening. It is
almost dinner time. The old fashioned Turkish families dine always
soon after sunset, no matter the season. Here in Erenkeuy the food
is supplied by a community kitchen to which most of the neighbours
are subscribers. It is distributed twice a day, so the food is always
freshly cooked, clean and wholesome. It is less costly and less
worrisome than to keep one's own kitchen and my surprise is great to
find such an efficient modern innovation in a little village at the
outskirts of Anatolia.

After dinner we sit around and talk some more. My cousin plays and
sings for us some old Turkish songs. Then we all retire, for the night,
the younger ones again kissing the hands of their elders. When we are
alone in our room, my wife tells me how much she has liked my aunts.
It must be mutual because there is a knock on our door and my aunt
enters. She comes to give my wife a pair of small diamond earrings as
a token of welcome under her roof. My aunt insists on her taking them.
They have no value of their own she says, but they have been in the
family for a very long time--my mother wore them when she was a child.



IV

MODERN TURKISH WOMEN


Our stay in Erenkeuy which had started under such pleasant auspices
continued in perfect harmony and developed additional ties between my
wife and her new Turkish relations. A most cordial friendship grew
between her and my cousin, the daughter of my second aunt. She had
been educated at the American College for Girls of Constantinople
and her education was therefore a most happy blend of the Orient and
the Occident. It opened an additional ground of common understanding
between the two girls who became rapidly inseparable friends. The
following winter when we were all in the city my cousin, my sister and
my wife formed a constant trio which broke up only when my sister left
Constantinople for extensive travel in Western Europe.

There was another Turkish girl in Erenkeuy who came often to call.
She was a school mate of my cousin and not only spoke perfect English
but wrote it perfectly too. Her ambition was to make English-speaking
people familiar with Turkish literature. This Turkish girl is very
active in the American colony of Constantinople.

She was then hoping to induce the American Relief Association to engage
in relief work for the needy Turks also. But I am afraid that she
found this task somewhat difficult. I have heard it said that while
it is comparatively easy to obtain financial support for Armenians
and Greeks, it is more difficult to obtain funds for the Turks. A
well-managed campaign following an energetic propaganda by which Turks
are represented as committing wholesale massacres and atrocities
against the Christian elements in the Near East is always sure to
bring substantial financial assistance for Armenians and Greeks and
incidentally to secure a longer lease of life to the jobs of all those
employed in Relief or Missionary work in Turkey. But how could money
be raised for the Turks? To create public sympathy for them in America
would necessitate the destruction of all the fables so elaborately
created by years of anti-Turkish propaganda. It is easier to follow
the lines of least resistance, to follow the beaten road by spreading
news of massacres and atrocities whenever funds are needed. The only
requirement in this case is to make a propaganda whose virulence is
in direct proportion to the reluctance of the public in subscribing
for new funds. Whenever the public seems to have lost interest or
seems to be acquiring a more accurate knowledge of the Greeks and
Armenians--whenever either of these conditions coincide with the need
of more funds--a spectacular report on new Turkish atrocities is
staged and the flow of money is stimulated. The tide runs Eastward,
but there it is carefully canalized into Greek and Armenian channels
alone. The money has been collected for them and must be distributed
exclusively to them. What difference does it make if hundreds of
thousands of Turks, old men, women and children rendered homeless by
the Greek invasion or by the repeated Armenian revolutions, are dying
from lack of clothes, lack of shelter, lack of food. The Turks are
human beings too, that is true, but they call God “Allah.” and it does
not sound the same!

The Turks are thrown exclusively on their own meagre resources for
relieving their own refugees, for helping their needy. I must say
that despite their extremely restricted means they achieve this
difficult task with unexpected efficiency. The work of relief is almost
exclusively in the hands of committees of Turkish women who work with
untiring abnegation. The president of one of these committees, Madame
Memdouh Bey, a cousin of my aunts', was quite a frequent visitor at
Erenkeuy and told us of how they are organized and how they work.
These committees are built upon such efficient business lines that
I feel I should describe them to some extent so as to give an idea
of the administrative and organizing capacities of modern Turkish
women. Each relief association specializes in a given activity. One
takes care of refugees, another of the needy orphans, a third one of
the Red Crescent--which is the Turkish Red Cross--and so forth. Each
Association is divided into Committees, every one of which is assigned
to one district and is an autonomous unit with a president and also a
secretary managing its executive work. These committees are divided
into sub-committees: one in charge of collections, one responsible for
distributions and one to organize and conduct productive work. The
ladies in charge of collecting continuously canvass their districts and
classify all donations--be they money or wearing apparel. They organize
tag days, garden parties, concerts, etc., to secure any additional
supplies and funds possible.

My wife participated in several of these tag days but on such occasions
she had to don the “charshaf” so as not to be conspicuously the
only foreigner among the Turkish ladies. On these days the streets
of Stamboul are full of groups of Turkish ladies, young girls and
children, a red ribbon pinned on their breasts with the name of the
Association they are collecting for written on it, smilingly offering
their tags to the public. They bother the foreigners very little and
solicit charity only from the Turks. The ladies who have shouldered
the responsibility of distributing the charity thus collected canvass
thoroughly their respective district, to find the refugees or the
needy who deserve the most urgent attention, determine systematically
their needs and supply them with the help they require. Any funds that
remain available to the Committee after such distribution are then
turned over to the sub-committee in charge of organizing and conducting
productive work. Here all needy women and girls who can earn their
living are brought together and given work in dressmaking or embroidery
establishments which are under the direct management of the ladies
of this sub-committee. The men are similarly given work in furniture
making or carpentry establishments. Men, women and children thus
employed are of course paid for their work, their products are sold and
the profits realized on them are again placed at the disposal of the
Committee.

Turkish ladies also run orphan asylums where little boys and little
girls who have lost both father and mother in the turmoil of the
different wars or in the forced evacuation of their homesteads before
the Greek or Armenian irredentists, are taken care of and educated.
When the little girls have reached the age of fifteen they are given
into families where they work--under the continuous supervision of the
Committee for orphans. The ladies of this committee keep a vigilant and
motherly watch over the welfare of these girls. Once a month the girls
are subjected to a medical examination to determine if their health is
properly taken care of. Once a month some lady of the Committee makes
an unexpected call in every house where any of these orphan girls are
working to ascertain how they are treated, what work they are doing,
and if they are satisfied with their employers. She has also the
privilege--which she often takes advantage of--using her savings as a
dowry to start married life.

Needless to say that the ladies engaged in this relief work are all
volunteers. They belong mostly to the upper classes and devote all
their time and energy to the charities they have undertaken. We have
seen them at work time and again and their devotion and abnegation is
beyond praise. I think that the most active of these ladies--at least
those who are most in the public eye because of the executive positions
they hold in the Committees--are Madame Memdouh Bey, Madame Ismail
Djenani Bey, Madame Edhem Bey and Madame Houloussi Bey. But there are
hundreds and thousands of others whose work, while not as prominent,
is none the less efficient, silent little women with hearts of gold
devoting their life to some work of charity and mercy.

In the shadows of the old garden at Erenkeuy, my aunts were incessantly
engaged in bringing their contribution to this general work of relief.
They would sit in a circle under some big trees and be busy one day
sewing garments for refugees, another day packing medicines for the
Red Crescent, or knitting socks, sweaters or gloves for the soldiers
of the Nationalist Armies. They would remain at work for hours at a
time, day in and day out, in their quiet, unostentatious ways making
a most touching picture: a group incessantly engaged in humanitarian
work--the elder aunt, poised and refined, directing the work of all and
participating in it with all her untiring activity--the second aunt,
emaciated by years of domestic troubles caused by the kaleidoscopic
political changes and wars of Turkey, but still cheerful and
hopeful--the youngest aunt, as sweet as a Madonna and as resigned as
one--cutting, sewing or packing with the help of their children.

I confess that I was not a little surprised by this continuous activity
in which all Turkish women, without distinction of class, took a
feverish part. It is true that even before I left Constantinople women
were already much more emancipated than they generally were given
credit for being by foreigners--it is true that I was hoping to find
them at my return well on the road to full emancipation. But frankly
I was not prepared for the long stride they had made during these
few years. I was especially not prepared to see them so competent
in public organization and so businesslike in the conduct of actual
productive work. I expected to find them rather inefficient in the new
fields opened to them for the first time after so many generations of
seclusion.

I said this frankly to my aunt, one Friday afternoon, on the eve of
our departure from Erenkeuy. We were enjoying the ever attractive
sunset from the terraces of a public garden on the shores of the
Sea of Marmora. At a distance and blurred by the purple haze of the
horizon, Prinkipo and the other islands were reflecting their dark
green hills in the opalescent sea where glimmered the dancing lights
of an orange-coloured sun. Gentle waves were breaking in cadence over
the rocks at our feet. Around us other Turkish families were sitting
at wooden tables in small groups. We had just finished sipping our
coffees. The general relaxation preceding all oriental sunsets was
gradually creeping over nature together with the lavendar shadows of
the coming twilight. My aunts had been working hard that day, and I
told them how much I admired them and all their Turkish sisters for
their indefatigable activities, for their efficiency in works they had
not participated in for generations.

My aunt looked at me. Then she laughed in her musical and contagious
manner: “You talk like a foreigner, my son,” she said. “Whenever
foreigners talk of the new emancipation of Turkish women, they express
their surprise at our efficiency.”

I explained to my aunt what I meant--I said: “Our women have been kept
for so many generations out of all activities, their attention has
been consecrated for so many centuries exclusively on their homes and
families and they have so recently acquired their freedom, that I
can not help being surprised to find them turning their freedom into
really productive channels and to see how capable they are in their new
pursuits.”

“Why should we be incapable or inefficient?” asked my aunt, “and why
should the seclusion of Turkish women in past generations influence or
interfere with the organizing, administrative or productive capacities
of the Turkish women of this generation? After all women do not
belong to a different race than men, we are the daughters of men and
inherit their qualities--or their faults--their capacities or their
inefficiency, just as much as their sons do. This present generation,
without distinction of sex, has inherited the accumulated qualities or
faults of all past generations. It is not the sex which makes or mars
the individual, which makes or mars his or her talents. Individual
talents, qualities or faults are of course inherited to a great degree,
but they don't descend exclusively from women to women and from men
to men. Furthermore they are especially enhanced by the education,
upbringing and training of the individual and I consider that the
Turkish women of this generation have had individually a better
opportunity than their brothers--or even than their western sisters--to
prepare, educate and train themselves for the work they are now doing.
The Turkish men of this generation have had to struggle for life as
soon as they were out of boyhood and, confronted by the necessity of
earning their immediate living, they did not have the opportunity of
preparing themselves for the lines of activity best suited to their
individual talents--or else and still worse, they have been drafted
into the armies and have fought consecutively for the last fifteen
years. Thousands have perished in these wars, thousands and thousands
have been maimed or otherwise incapacitated for life. As for western
women, those of the higher classes--therefore those who have received
a better education--are caught in a whirlwind of social amusement as
soon as they are little more than children and the greatest majority
keep throughout their lives the earmark of the influence that society
has impressed on them in their early youth. It is therefore only
western women who start life with the handicap of a lesser education
who, through hard work and perseverance, are generally the women who
accomplish things in the Western world. This is not the case with the
Turkish women of this generation. They have had an opportunity to study
and prepare thoroughly until they had reached maturity. They had no
social life to interfere with their studies. It is true that they did
not prepare to enter personally the different fields of activity as
they did not expect that their full emancipation would come so soon.
But they were conscious of being the mothers of the coming generation,
and to prepare their sons and daughters for their task, they equipped
themselves with all the knowledge they desired to impart and they had
plenty of leisure to do this. That is why you see now so many Turkish
women efficient in the activities they have deliberately shouldered.”

“Tell me, my aunt, how did the participation of Turkish women in all
activities of life come to pass? Was it sudden or gradual?”

“When the war came and all the men were called to the front, women
unostentatiously stepped into the employments left vacant. As is
generally the case in all movements of emancipation for which people
are really ready the movement started in the lower classes. Pushed by
necessity, some young girls dared to apply for clerical employments in
shops and offices. At the time hundreds of ladies of the higher classes
were engaged in helping at home the Red Crescent and other relief
works. They had studied nursing. Encouraged by the fact that their less
fortunate sisters had met with no opposition and were working openly in
shops and offices, they in turn offered their services as nurses. Much
of the field work and hospital work of the Red Crescent was confided to
them to liberate men for military service. This is just what happened
in other countries. But the change was greater and more permanent in
Turkey. The daily contact of Turkish women with the public during
the war years resulted of course in tearing down the social walls
which had so far secluded them and once these walls were destroyed no
one desired to build them up again. Turkish women had proved their
administrative and organizing capacities in relief and charitable work
during the war. There was no reason why they should not continue to
give the country the benefit of their services even after the general
war was ended. Furthermore there was still much relief and charitable
work to be done and Turkey needed good administrators and organisers
in many fields. So within a few years, but with gradual steps, the
emancipation of Turkish women became complete, and to-day it is so
thorough that any woman in Turkey can fill any responsible position as
long as she has shown herself capable of it. In Anatolia, we have a
woman, Halidé Hanoum, who was elected Minister of Public Education by
the National Assembly.”

I wanted to know how Anatolia and the rural districts had reacted to
this emancipation of women.

“The peasant women were always more emancipated than the city women,
my son. Our peasants have remained in a way much nearer to the
original precepts of our religion and to the old traditions of the
Turks than our city dwellers. We have deviated from our religion and
racial traditions by the contact we were forced to enter into with
the degenerate Levantine elements dwelling in the cities. Muslim
laws placed women on equality with men long before western laws did
so, and at the time of the Prophet women were allowed more freedom
than they ever had before. The Koran is full of mentions of women who
were participating in public life and the only restriction placed on
women in the Holy Book--a restriction which was necessary to correct
the customs of the Arabs living in warm climates--is that women should
not appear in public unless they were covered from the breasts down
to the ankles. This is a simple rule of decency and modesty. As for
the original Turkish customs they used to be so liberal that women
participated in public affairs among the nomad Turkish tribes roaming
on the plateau of Pamir, centuries ago. Many a Turkish woman was then
the recognized chieftain of her tribe. Many a Turkish Joan of Arc has
fought on the battlefields shoulder to shoulder with her warriors.
It is only after the Muslims and the Turks came in contact with the
decadent Byzantine Empire, it is only after the Turks conquered the
dissolute colonies of old Rome and ancient Greece in Asia Minor that
the Turks--especially those who settled in the cities--adopted certain
customs of the conquered races. Unfortunately these customs are
identified to-day, in the eyes of the foreigners, with the Turks and
the Muslims as if they had originated with them. But that is not the
case. While polygamy was not strictly forbidden so as to prevent--as
was then the case in Europe--the increase of bastards and illegitimate
children, Harems in the original sense of the word did not exist in
Muslim or Turkish countries until they assimilated byzantine customs.
The seclusion of women in separate apartments where they were condemned
to lead the life of recluses pampered and spoiled solely for the
pleasure of their master, can be retraced to the “Gyneceum” of Byzance.
So can the custom of veiling the women when they went out, as evidenced
by the pictures on old Grecian vases. The barbarous institution
of Eunuchs is exclusively Byzantine. All these were certainly not
originally Turkish customs and they have nearly never been practised by
the peasants and country people of Turkey, except the custom which made
it obligatory for women to be entirely veiled in the presence of men.
Otherwise the rural population never restricted its women in any way.
They always participated in the every-day life of their men. You should
have been with us when I went to Eski-Shehir, in Anatolia, with your
uncle during the war.” Here my aunt drew such a picture of her arrival
at Eski-Shehir that I will try to give an account of it, in her own
words.

“It was before your uncle was taken ill,” she said, “and he was
considering starting some local industries in Anatolia. He chose
Eski-Shehir on account of the railroad facilities it offers and we
went there. Only a few men who had been prevented from going to war
on account of old age or infirmity were left in the country. But the
people who had heard that a pasha from Constantinople was coming with
his wife, sent a delegation to meet us at the station. They insisted on
our being their guests and they informed us that they had especially
prepared a house for us. To refuse would have hurt their feelings.
They had chosen the best available house in the whole neighbourhood.
It was located far in the country at an hour and a half's ride in a
carriage from the station. We arrived in the evening and by the time
the customary greetings had been exchanged with the delegation it was
already dark. The whole delegation insisted on forming an escort of
honour and accompanying us to our lodgings. We took a carriage and
the ten or twelve peasants which formed the delegation got on their
horses, two preceding us, the rest forming a semi-circle around our
carriage. In the dark night we went through valleys and hilltops
escorted by this most picturesque cavalcade; mostly old men with white
beards, but sitting straight on their horses. Of the only two young
men who were there, one was blind in one eye, and the other was lame.
They all wore their country costumes: trousers cut as riding breeches
but worn without leggings, wide belts of gay colour wrapped from hips
to the middle of the breast and tight-fitting tunics crossed by
cartridge-bearing leather thongs. With their turbaned heads and their
rifles swinging from their shoulders they made a martial picture in
contrast with their courteous demeanour, their subdued voices and their
most peaceful eyes. I must say, however, that it was a reassuring
escort to have for crossing the country at night.

“We arrived at the house, a darling little farmhouse of one floor in
the midst of tall trees which reflected their spectral shadows in the
gurgling black waters of a stream. Our escort dismounted and entered
the house with us where we were received by a committee of women. They
had prepared supper and had made everything ready for us. They were
dressed in long, flowing robes, their heads covered with a veil and
they stood respectfully with their hands folded, watching us carefully
so as to anticipate our smallest wishes. Dear, pure, honest country
folk of Anatolia! How much they can teach us, how much they can
teach the western world of hospitality, modesty and faithfulness! The
women were veiled in the presence of men, but they acted their part
as hostesses while the men talked in the same room with my husband.
After having settled us to their own satisfaction they departed all
together, even the owners of the house insisting on leaving so that we
might be more comfortable. They left us their servants to take care of
us. Next day and all the days of our stay at Eski-Shehir, groups of
peasant girls would come to visit me, to enquire if I needed anything
and to entertain me as best they could. They would shyly stand at the
door until I forced them to come in. I had all the trouble in the world
to break them of the habit of sitting on the floor out of respect to
their guests, as they considered it ill-bred to sit on a level with me.
They would come in the evenings, for during the day they would be busy
working in their fields. Healthy and strong women they were, with red
cheeks and bashful eyes. They were not the type of women living for the
pleasure of their husbands, or of slaves toiling for their masters.
They were wholesome women, good daughters, good wives, good mothers who
had for generations been conscious of their duty to the community and
accomplished it efficiently--helpmates freely helping their men, freely
assisting them or willingly shouldering their husbands' responsibility
in case of absence and taking care of the welfare of their families,
their homes, their fields or their villages and withal keeping their
unassuming modesty intact--the modesty which is, or should be, the
national characteristic of all Turkish women.”

My aunt was silent for a while. Her compelling personality made us
fully share her love for her Anatolian sisters. She slowly got up and
gave the signal for returning home. We walked together. It was our last
day in Erenkeuy and I had not yet exhausted her views on the subject
of the emancipation of Turkish women. I now asked her if she thought
that its influence had been salutory upon general morality in the big
cities.

“It certainly has,” answered my aunt. “In the old days we did not
know the friends of our husbands, brothers or sons. We were excluded
from the company of men and could not therefore help our own sons in
selecting their friends. Much less of course our husbands. We always
feared the deteriorating influence that even one bad associate can
have on a whole crowd. The Turkish proverb says that one bad apple is
sufficient to rot a whole basket full of good apples. Men left to their
own resources are liable to seek distraction in drinking, in cards and
other unwholesome pastimes. Many a Turkish man has suffered in the past
the consequences of the exclusion of women from social gatherings--just
as many a western man suffers now from the consequences of leading
too absorbing a club life. But now that we participate in social
reunions as well as in other activities we can more fully make our
influence felt among the men. Our continuous contact with their friends
has rendered our husbands, brothers and sons more careful about the
character of the men they associate with. Now that you are married you
would not ask to your house a man about whose character you might have
some doubts. But if your wife was not with you, you might not be so
strict about the manners and the behaviour of those you associate with.

“Of course we Turkish women of this generation have a double duty to
perform now that we have acquired our freedom. We must first see that
this freedom is not turned into license as in some western countries,
where young men and young girls are allowed to go out alone in couples,
or--still worse--where husbands and wives cultivate different sets
of friends. We must also watch very carefully over our modesty,
and this is our most difficult task. Many Turkish women are taking
advantage of their new freedom to trample all modesty under their
feet. Alas! too many are already “over-westernized” and associate too
freely with foreigners or with Levantinized Turks in the salons of
Pera. Not that I object to the society of foreign men, but how are
we to know the character and the antecedents of all those foreigners
who are at present in Constantinople? They are mostly officers in a
faraway vanquished country or civilians desirous of staking their
all in get-rich-quick business ventures. How are we to know of their
education, their morals and their principles? We are therefore obliged
to be especially careful with foreign men. Our duty now is to raise
the new generation of girls as rationally as the well-educated western
girls. We want our girls to preserve their modesty, no matter how free
they are, we want them to know how to take good care of themselves,
no matter whom they associate with. We don't want them to abuse their
freedom. We want them to be as rational and thoughtful as my little
American daughter here.”

And so saying my aunt lovingly passed her arm on my wife's shoulders,
in a graceful movement of all-embracing protection. They looked at
each other with comprehending love. The girl of New Orleans smiled her
grateful appreciation in the eyes of the woman of Turkey.



V

LIFE ON THE BOSPHORUS


It was with real regrets that we left Erenkeuy.

A visit in such a congenial atmosphere ends always too soon even if
it has extended over two weeks. But I wanted my wife to know our
cousins who lived on the Bosphorus, to whom we had already announced
our coming, and I wanted her to come in close touch with the different
aspects of home life in Turkey, to see the Turks from different
angles. So we had to tear ourselves from Erenkeuy, after exchanging
repeated promises of seeing each other soon and often in town, promises
which--needless to say--were kept faithfully on both sides.

In the strict sense of the word our cousins are not really cousins
of ours and would not even count as relations in western countries.
However, as I said before, family bonds are so strong in Turkey, the
clan spirit is so developed, that we call cousins even the nephews of
our aunts by marriage. We consider them as such and we are brought up
to feel toward them as such.

Our cousins live on the European side of the Bosphorus, at Emirghian,
about half-way between the Sea of Marmora and the Black Sea, in one of
those old houses built right on the edge of the water. Theirs is one of
the few remaining typically Turkish country houses on the Bosphorus,
most of the others have either been destroyed by fire, fallen in
ruins, or else been replaced by modern structures--villas, apartment
houses, warehouses and depots which have, alas, contaminated with their
ultra-modern and commercial appearance the otherwise smilingly passive
shores of the Bosphorus. Thus this waterway, unique in the world,
this natural canal between two seas, which winds its way in graceful
curves between the green hills of two continents, offers now the sad
spectacle of charred ruins--where a few tumbling walls blackened by
fire are all that is left of the beautiful estates which adorned it but
a few years ago--with here and there a few pretentious buildings whose
showy architecture is a patent proof of the rapidity with which their
owners have accumulated wealth during the war and post-war profiteering
period. Worst of all, the lower Bosphorus is now bristling with quite a
few high apartment houses peopled with chattering and noisy Levantines.
Such apartment houses, with their tenants, are as out of place on the
wonderful shores of this peerless waterway as the corrugated roofs and
asbestos walls of the coal depots and general merchandising warehouses,
hastily erected in recent years under the guidance of interested--if
inartistic--foreign business men.

All the way to Emirghian I gave thanks to the Almighty for having
protected at least a few imperial palaces and a few old estates which
could still give an idea of what the Bosphorus looked like before the
war. A few, low, rambling buildings of one or, at the most, two floors,
growing lengthwise instead of upward, without a thought of economizing
the land, surrounded with parks where grow old trees, are happily still
left as a living proof of past splendour and good taste, and complete
disregard of business advantages.

Our cousin's house is one of them, possibly a little more dilapidated,
a little less comfortable than most of the other surviving buildings,
as it has been for a very long time deprived of the yearly repairs that
so large a house always needs. But what do we care: within the walls of
its almost limitless entrance hall, on the wide steps of its gorgeously
curved classical stairways, behind the latticed windows of its immense
rooms, the hospitality we find is as sincere and as great as the one
extended generations ago by one of the most brilliant Grand Vezirs of
Turkey, who was then the head of the family, at a time when to be the
Grand Vezir of Turkey really meant all the splendour that the world
suggests.

Our hostess is a widow who speaks French so fluently that she would
be taken for a French woman if she did not have the graceful poise
and dignity so typical of Turkish women. Her husband filled a
most important position in the Imperial palace in the time of the
late Sultan, and was one of the most accomplished men I have ever
met anywhere. Besides being a distinguished diplomat he was an art
connoisseur and had accumulated a priceless collection of antique
pictures, porcelains, carpets and books. Alas, this collection was
destroyed a few years ago when their town house fell the victim of one
of those all-destroying fires characteristic of Constantinople. Only
a few of the secondary pieces of the collection which were left in
their country house on the Bosphorus can still be seen there and are
an attestation of what the collection used to be. To cap it all, the
collection was insured in pre-war days in Turkish pounds which at that
time had a gold value, and the fire having taken place during the war,
and insurance being paid after the armistice, the family could only
collect Turkish paper pounds. Thus, besides the irreparable moral loss,
they had to suffer a very large material loss by recovering only one
seventh of the value the collection was insured originally for. This is
another example among millions of the terrible losses suffered in the
last years by the Turks for reasons absolutely outside their control.
It is a wonder that, despite all, they keep their composure and their
dignity. Calm before the most unimaginable trials, keeping a firm front
through the worst calamities, never complaining, never discouraged,
never losing faith--truly the Turkish race is the most stoical of all.

Our young host, the only son of the family, is just on a leave from
Germany where he went during the war to finish his studies and where he
has remained since then, having obtained a leading position in one of
the largest electrical engineering enterprises in Germany. His mother
is justly proud of the success of her son and we frankly rejoice with
her that one of us, a pure Turk in all respects, has evidently acquired
such a complete technical knowledge and has shown so much capacity as
to be picked out to fill a responsible position in one of the leading
firms of a country known the world over for the technical ability of
its electrical engineers. We ask Kemal to tell us his experiences in
Germany, but he is too modest to talk of himself. He prefers to tell
us how his firm is organized. He greatly admires the Germans for their
efficiency but is not otherwise very keen about living with them. He
finds the Germans too machine made, too materialistic to suit a Turk.
His one ambition is to perfect himself in his profession and then to
settle in Turkey where he will be able to give to his country the
benefit of the knowledge he will have acquired. He wants to return to
Germany for this purpose, but when we press him to tell us if it is for
this purpose alone he admits that he has another more personal reason:
he is engaged to a young girl in Munich and at the end of his leave his
mother will accompany him to Germany where he will get married. The
poor boy is heartbroken that his father, Ismet Bey, did not live long
enough to meet his wife. Kemal speaks English most perfectly and says
that his future wife does so also. He is therefore looking forward to
having her meet her new cousin, my wife.

The drawing-room in which we were was a spacious room with many doors
and windows. The lattices were up and the windows opened and the
breeze from the Bosphorus is so cool at this season that the great
open fireplace where big logs burned was barely enough to warm the
room. We sat near the windows on a wide divan which skirted about
one-fourth of the walls of the room, and to keep us warmer they had
placed at the corner nearest to us, a big brazero of shining copper,
filled with glowing charcoal. The windows were nearly over the water,
so near in fact that the rustling of the current, which is quite
strong on the Bosphorus, was plainly audible. It gave the impression
of being on a ship: the blue waters ran southward in an endless chain
of racing wavelets and the house seemed to be floating toward the
north. But opposite us the green hills of Asia, with a line of houses
skirting the shores and with big Anatolian mountains towering the
blue-gray horizon reminded us that our seeming flight toward the Black
Sea was only an illusion caused by the incessant rush of the current.
Big “mahons” or Turkish barges which have kept the graceful lines of
the old caiks, passed before our eyes, gliding silently on the blue
wavelets, their Oriental triangular sails swelled in the breeze. A
large Italian cargo boat plowed its way toward some romantic port of
the Black Sea: Costanza, where Roumanian peasant girls will purchase
its cargo of vividly coloured textiles in exchange for oil, so much
needed in Italy, or perhaps Batoum, where a cosmopolitan crowd of
traders will give flour, sugar and other food supplies to the starving
population of Caucasia against non-edible jewels, furs or platinum of
limitless value. Who knows? Perhaps it goes to Odessa or Novorossisk
to try bartering with Tartars and Russians, Mongols and even Chinamen
who now form the motley crowd of Bolshevik Southern Russia. The
Bosphorus is the gate of a whole world--a world fraught with mysterious
possibilities; tempting opportunities of stupendous gains, frightful
danger of very real losses, commercial and political possibilities of
such magnitude that it makes you shudder to think of them. And here
we are at the very gate of this world, a gate patrolled as usual by
England. See that gray destroyer, slim as an arrow, speeding toward its
base, the harbour of Constantinople. It flies the British flag and is
coming back from the Black Sea.

I am called back from my dreams and visions by Madame Ismet Bey who is
pointing out the outstanding places of the landscape to my wife. From
where we are the Bosphorus looks like a lake, the sinuous curves at the
two ends making it impossible to distinguish where Europe ends and Asia
begins. There, on our extreme left and near the water, is the country
estate of Khedive Ismail Pasha, father of the last Khedive of Egypt
who was dethroned by England during the war because of his pro-Turkish
sentiments. Ismail Pasha's estate is in Europe but the hills which
seem next to it are on the other side, in Asia, and the funny looking
buildings on top as well as the low buildings on the shore are the
depots of the Standard Oil Company. They used to belong to an uncle
of Madame Ismet Bey but now they belong to the Standard Oil. No, her
uncle has not sold his rights: it just happened that the Standard Oil
stepped in before he had time to have them renewed. His house, or what
used to be his house is the one just opposite us. He used to have the
most beautiful caiks in the Bosphorus, ten or fifteen years ago, and
his wife and his daughters would go every Friday to the Sweet Waters
of Asia in those long, slim racing barks, with tapering ends, rowed
by three or sometimes four boatmen with flowing sleeves, a beautiful
embroidered carpet covering the stern, its corners trailing in the
sea. He used to have a passion for flowers and you can see even from
here the roof of the hot-house where he grew the most exotic plants he
could think of: rare varieties of chrysanthemums and poppies from the
Far East, tulips from Turkestan and Persia, mogra and lotus trees from
India. Now he has sold his house and has barely enough to live on.

The Sweet Waters of Asia are nearby, just between the ruins of the old
mediaeval castle--built by Sultan Mahomet the Conqueror before he laid
siege to Byzance--and the Imperial Kiosks of Chiok Soo, a real jewel.
Further to the right--that low, rambling white building is the yali of
the family of Mahmoud Pasha. They entertain a great deal and have asked
us to tea next Sunday. Now we pass again without realizing it to the
European shores; the old castle on the hill is the Castle of Europe,
the first stronghold of the Turks on this side of the Bosphorus, and
the big building next to it is the famous Robert College, the American
College for Boys.

The view is so gorgeous that it cannot be described. I wish I had a
canvas and the technique of Courbet, the talent of Turner and the
daring of Whistler to paint in all its splendour the clear sky of the
Bosphorus, so clear and so blue that the eyes can almost see that it
is endless--the red and gold flakes of its dark-green vegetation, so
luxuriant that it speaks of centuries of loving care--the peaceful
atmosphere of its old houses, so restful that you can feel that
generations of thinkers and philosophers have meditated behind their
walls--the harmonious outline of its hills, so smilingly round that
only immemorial age can have so smoothly curved them--the mystery of
its always running currents, running so continuously that they should
have long ago emptied the Black Sea into the Mediterranean. I wish I
was endowed with enough insight to understand the mischievous whisper
of its always dancing, always running little waves. I believe they want
to tell us that although the winds have pushed them south ever since
time began and will continue to push them south until the end of the
world, although they seem to follow the wind in an endless mad rush,
they still are there. They mischievously laugh because they will always
remain there, despite the wind and all its strength. I believe they
want to give the Turks an object lesson as to how nothing can be swept
away against its will.

Our first evening in Emirghian passed very quietly. The Turks being
very reserved by nature it always takes some time before the ice is
broken, even among members of the same family. We passed the time
sitting around and talking, giving a chance to our hosts and to my wife
to know each other.

But for every day thereafter Madame Ismet Bey and her son had arranged
some special entertainment for us. Quietly, unostentatiously and with
the characteristic lack of show with which well-bred Turks entertain
their guests, they succeeded in giving us, without our being aware
that it had all been pre-arranged, a different distraction every
afternoon. Friends and neighbours would drop in for tea one evening
and a little dance or a little bridge game would be organized as on
the spur of the moment. Another afternoon they would take us in their
rowboat for an outing on the Bosphorus and we would stop either to
call on some friends or to walk around or take some refreshments in
the casino of the park at Beikos, which at this season is quiet and
pleasant. Once we had a small picnic at the Sweet Waters of Asia. We
went in the rowboat up this little stream--a miniature Bosphorus,
with old tumbled-down houses by the water, big trees leaning their
branches covered with autumnal golden leaves over old walls covered
with vines, here and there a ramshackle wooden bridge spanning the
stream and giving it the appearance of a Turkish Venice, and then large
meadows on both sides, where groups of people were, like us, taking
advantage of the last few days of summery sunshine of the year. Old
Turkish women in black dusters, their hair covered with a white veil
arranged Sphinx fashion, were sitting cross-legged near the water
in silent and impassible contemplation, while younger women--their
daughters or granddaughters--were sitting a few steps away on chairs,
drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and chattering away their time.
Small boys in vividly coloured shirts, knickers hanging loose below
their knees, wearing shapeless fezzes with a small blue bead--against
the evil eye--would be running around and prancing with little girls
clad in Kate Greenaway skirts coloured with the brightest shades of
the rainbow, their loosened hair flapping over their narrow shoulders.
Simple folk all, neither peasants or city folk--just the families
of small village traders--the kind of people whose pictures foreign
newspapermen find a malign pleasure in publishing as representative
Turks. They might as well publish pictures of tenement house dwellers
of New York and London as being representative Americans or Britishers.
Many gypsies were there, going from group to group to tell fortunes,
to sing or to dance, gypsy women of all ages and of suspicious
cleanliness, who can always be detected in Constantinople by the fact
that they are the only ones to wear coloured bloomers, while some old
Greek and Armenian women wear black bloomers. By the way, another
conception of foreigners which my wife shared but which she lost after
a short stay in Constantinople was this very one of bloomers: in all
our stay in Turkey she did not see a single Turkish woman wearing them.

A little further up on the shores of the stream was a group of Kurdish
porters, big, athletic fellows, watching a bout of wrestling: two of
their companions stripped to the waist, their legs and feet bare, their
bodies soaked in oil, engaged in a bout of cat-as-catch-can, while
further up some Laze sailors of the Black Sea were dancing their slow
rhythmic national dance to the sound of weird flutes and tambourines.

We had to go well upstream to find a place where we could enjoy our
picnic peacefully and without onlookers. But I must say that we enjoyed
it thoroughly, quite as much as the spectacle we had on our way up and
down the river. I could not help however realizing how much a few years
had changed the general aspect of the Sweet Waters of Asia. Before my
departure it used to be the smartest place to go to during the good
season on Friday and Sunday afternoons. You would meet all your friends
there and the place used to be congested with the most graceful “caiks”
and rowboats of the Bosphorus.

On Sunday we went to tea at the house of Mahmoud Pasha. It was a big
affair, almost an official reception, as are all entertainments given
by the family of Mahmoud Pasha. This family is what might be called
another great and old Turkish clan. At present it is probably the most
socially prominent Turkish family of Constantinople and the reason
underlying its social activities is quite well known among the other
Turkish families who, while possibly not entirely approving them,
hold the family of Mahmoud Pasha in great respect for the utterly
unselfish manner in which all its members live up to their convictions.
Its social activities are looked upon as having a political reason
or significance. In the first place the family was one of the first
and bitterest enemies of the Committee of Union and Progress which,
after engineering most marvellously the Turkish Revolution, had
instituted a most objectionable sort of plural dictatorship conducted
by its own members. Mahmoud Pasha's family who, like all the other
old Turkish families, did not approve of this dictatorship of the
few, became very active in the Liberal Party organized in opposition
to the Committee. So far, so good! But with the extreme enthusiasm
which is a characteristic of all the family, it carried on its war
against the Committee by taking a firm and active stand against any
and all of its policies. It fought the Committee on every ground, not
so much because it was opposed in principle to this or that other
policy but just because this or that other policy emanated from the
Committee. For this purpose it joined hands with every party that was
formed against the Committee. It kept up this war for years and years
and one of its members--a most brilliant specimen of young Turkish
manhood--sacrificed his life on the altar of his convictions during
this long-drawn feud. It was quite natural that when the Committee
embraced a pro-German policy Mahmoud Pasha's family would automatically
become anti-Germans. But instead of being satisfied with fighting this
nefarious pro-German policy by an exclusive pro-Turkish policy--as
was done by most of the other prominent Turkish families--Mahmoud
Pasha's family had to go one better and ever since the armistice has
actively embraced a pro-British policy. Therefore, it feels that
it can perfectly well entertain and lead a social life even under
the present conditions in Constantinople. The second reason which
moves this family to participate so actively in the social life of
Constantinople is its belief that after all social life in the Turkish
capital should be led by the Turks themselves and rather than abandon
the functions of society leaders to some foreigners, or worse still to
some Greeks, Armenians or Levantines, the family makes every sacrifice
needed to hold and prolong its leadership. Therefore it gives large
entertainments and weekly teas amounting to real functions.

The Sunday we called on them the immense rooms of their magnificent
house were crowded to full capacity. Foreign officers of high rank
in resplendent uniforms, members of the different high commissions
and distinguished visitors of all nations were elbowing each other
and alas! also quite a few Levantine, Greek and Armenian business men
whose standing in the business community had forcibly made a place
for them in this cosmopolitan clique of Constantinople. Of course
the crowd here was not representative of Turkish society, but rather
of the cosmopolitan society that one meets in every principal center
of Europe. Only a very few Turks were present, mostly old friends of
the family who had come more with a desire to show their esteem and
respect for the charming hostesses than mixing with the international
crowd they were sure to meet there. The three daughters of the family
were doing the honours with a tact and courtesy only possible in
scions of old families whose breeding in etiquette has extended to
so many generations that it has finally become second nature. They
were assisted in their duties by two granddaughters of Mahmoud Pasha,
two young Turkish débutantes, who were so earnestly endeavouring to
overcome their natural shyness and act like their elders that their
charming awkwardness was really delightful to watch. It amused my wife
greatly to make a mental comparison between this refreshing shyness of
the Turkish débutantes and the self-confidence and forwardness of their
American sisters. To this day I don't know which of the two schools my
wife really approved of!

Of course the brothers and husbands of our hostesses were also
there, circulating from group to group and introducing the guests to
each other. And to me the most humorous note of the whole afternoon
was given when the husband of one of our hostesses' a middle-aged
gentleman, very-serious and very widely learned--confided to me that
for him entertainments and social functions of this kind were terrible
bores but that he had to go through with them just to please his wife.
Husbands are the same all over the world!... As I did not contradict
him he took me in the quietest corner we could find and we had a long
and interesting talk on subjects which took us far away from our
surroundings.

Nevertheless I could not help but agree entirely with my wife when she
told us, on our return to Emirghian, that she had found the whole thing
“somewhat too stiff,” and I believe Madame Ismet Bey was also of our
opinion and felt that we were sincere when we told her that we much
preferred her own small at-homes and the unpretentious little parties
to which she had taken us on the previous days.

I must say that we met most interesting and charming people at all
these small parties. It is of course easier to get to know people
when you meet them a few at a time than when you meet them in a big
gathering. Madame Ismet Bey's friends and neighbours were exceptionally
interesting people. During our stay in Emirghian we met for instance
Ihsan Pasha, the Turkish general who, being taken prisoner by the
Russians during the war, and having refused to give his word of honour
that he would not attempt to escape, was exiled to the innermost part
of Siberia. He told us in the most vivid manner how he ran away from
his captors in the middle of a stormy night, disguised as a peasant;
how, for three long months he had to walk--hunted and tracked by the
Cossacks and travelling only by night--to reach the Chinese border;
how he arrived, half-starved and completely exhausted in Mukden,
in Mandchouria, where a community of rich Chinese Moslems gave him
hospitality and, after he had recovered from his three months' walk
across the steppes of Siberia, gave him money to continue his trip.
He told us--but with much less detail--the difficulties he had had
to elude the Allied Secret Service which were on the lookout for him
when he crossed Japan and the United States, although America had not
yet entered the war at that time. However, he did not tell us how he
succeeded in crossing the Atlantic despite the severe surveillance
of England and how he succeeded in running the Allied blockade of
Turkey and popped out one day in Constantinople after every one had
entirely given up hope of ever seeing him alive again. Under the most
difficult and trying circumstances he had thus succeeded in getting
over seemingly unsurmountable obstacles and accomplishing in war time,
tracked by enemies on all sides, a complete loop around the world in
less than ten months. We could not help thinking how terrible those
long months must have been for his wife, a charming young lady, who
seemed now to have forgotten all the horror of these interminable weeks
of suspense and who confided to us that she had never given up hope as
she had an entire trust in the ability of her husband and an immovable
faith in God. She said that she had passed most of her time in prayer.

We also met in Emirghian Captain Hassan Bey and his wife who lived with
her family in a beautiful villa on the hills of Bebek, but a villa in
the old style, in complete harmony with the surroundings and nestling
in a park of old trees which did not, however shut out the gorgeous
view of the Bosphorus. From the top of these hills the Bosphorus looks
more like a chain of small lakes than like a continuous waterway, the
sinuous capes of both continents cutting the view of the water in
different places. It is like looking at the lakes of Switzerland from
the peak of a mountain, only one is much nearer the water and the
panorama has no sharp or rugged outlines but presents a continuous
aspect of smoothly rounded hills, covered with forests, with mosques
here and there, and with little patches of blue water. On Fridays all
the ships, barges and rowboats and all the houses owned by the Turks
are adorned with Turkish flags, red with the white crescent and star,
fluttering in the wind and it gives to the country a cheerful and gay
aspect which reminds you at a distance of a gorgeous field of poppies.

Living with Madame Hassan Bey was her young sisters, a Turkish
sub-débutante, but somewhat less shy than the granddaughters of Mahmoud
Pasha, as she is a student of the American College for Girls. In the
course of time it became one of our greatest pleasures to call on them
at Bebek, where they give once in a while a small informal tea. They
live there all the year round as it is at an easy distance from the
city.



VI

STAMBOUL


At last we settled in Stamboul. It took us a long time to arrange
everything as we wanted, as it is hard to get upholsterers, carpet
men and all the rest to do their work properly and rapidly here in
Constantinople. Constantinople is not much different in this than any
other city I know. There is possibly this difference that it is less
difficult to explain what you want and how you want it to decorators
who, like those in western Europe or in America, have already had
experience in putting up a modern home, than to those in Constantinople
who have had none or very little experience in this line. But anyhow
there is always a way to get things done by working people, and the
Turkish workingmen respond to good treatment in a most willing manner:
they are anxious to learn and have much aptitude for learning.

As we had foreseen the hard work we had ahead of us, we took the
precaution of taking possession of the house only after we had secured
the servants we needed so that we might count on their help. As far
as servants are concerned the Turks have surely solved this problem
by adapting to it the same kind of tradition which they maintain so
jealously in their family relations. I mean to say that it is the
custom for generations of servants to serve the same family of masters,
so that as a rule servants and masters are so attached to each other
that they never think of parting. Whenever one needs or desires a
servant all one has to do is to look up some of the old servants of the
family who are sure to find a son, a daughter, a niece or a cousin of
theirs who is only too glad to perpetuate the traditions of his or her
family by serving the family of its old masters. We, therefore, did not
have any difficulty in securing ours, as we took as valet a young man
who was born in my father's house where his father had been employed
for over thirty years, and our cook was the daughter of my mother's
nurse. She also helped the maid in keeping the house in order. In this
way we could at any time leave home in peace as we were confident that
our people would look after our interests, even if we were absent,
possibly better than we could ourselves and to this day we have never
had any occasion for regretting the trust we placed in them. Of course
for these very reasons servants in Turkey have a totally different
standing from servants in any other country. They always know their
place, they never dare to take liberties or to take the slightest
advantage of their special standing: it is not in their code. But
they consider themselves, and are considered by their masters, almost
as members of the family--second class members, if that expression
could be used. Our relations with our own people were typical of
these principles and in order to do full justice to them and to give
an accurate idea of what I mean, I am going to confess that during a
period of our last stay in Constantinople I had to consider seriously
the possibility of closing our establishment and of living more cheaply
in some other quarter. I therefore notified our people that they would
have to look for other positions and that I could only help them until
they found some place elsewhere. They received the news with an emotion
which I could only hope to find in my own brothers or sisters, and left
the room with tears in their eyes. Next day they asked to be heard,
the three together, and they informed me that after having given due
consideration to the situation they had come to the conclusion that
now more than ever they had the opportunity to show their attachment
and devotion to us, that now more than ever we needed them; therefore
they had decided to stay with us. Do what I could I could not persuade
them to leave. I found them better paying positions with some friends
or relatives; they refused to go and for three months, until I could to
some extent overcome the crisis in my business, they steadily refused
to accept any pay on the ground that if I paid them we would have to
leave the house, and if we left the house we could not find another
place where we could all live together. Needless to say that such
people cannot be treated as servants in the western sense of the word,
and that they in turn must have no cause of complaint in regard to
the treatment they receive from their masters. Of course we made good
to them their sacrifices as soon as we could, and naturally they knew
that we would do so, but I doubt that in any other place in the world
such real devotion could be found even if those who made the sacrifice
had every reason to be sure that they would eventually be adequately
compensated.

Needless to say that right from the beginning the manner in which we
treated our people was the friendly manner usual in Turkey. My wife
adapted herself very quickly to this as she is from the South and I
believe that the southern states of America are the only place where
the relations between masters and servants are anything like those
prevailing in Turkey. Our people of course had each his own room.
The cook, who was a widow, had with her her little daughter, a child
about three years old, whom we took care of almost like our adopted
child. It happens frequently in Turkey that a child like this is taken
with the mother into a home, the mother doing some housework and the
child becoming what is called in Turkish the “child of Heaven” of the
masters of the house--that is, the masters of the house take care of
the child, bringing it up and educating it just as if it were their
own, but without, however, adopting it legally. In two years we hope to
put our own “child of Heaven” into the English School for Girls which
has the advantage of a kindergarten over the American School for Girls.
Our people can go out when they want, but they never do it without
asking us and they never come home a minute later than they say they
will. As they are all very ambitious to learn and improve themselves we
ask them into our rooms after dinner about once a week and we talk to
them of the world in general and of interesting topics just as if they
were friends.

They were of course of great help to us when we were settling down
in our house in Stamboul. Ours was a large stone house with nine
good-sized rooms, one on the ground floor and four on each other
floor. It had a large brick-covered entrance hall with two separate
stairways which in the old days were used, one as the Harem stairway
and the other as the Selamlik stairway, but of course we modernized
this by using one of them for service. The walls and ceilings had been
all replastered and with the exception of the entrance hall which was
painted in Turkish blue, were all calsomined in gray. Of course we
had electric light throughout and a telephone. The real innovation
for Constantinople, however, was that we changed the kitchen from the
basement, where it generally is located, to the first floor, near the
dining-room where we had a regular American kitchenette built. Then
we had a shower put in the spacious bathroom. So really the house is
as comfortable as possible. As for the furniture, we had mostly some
of the antique furniture collected by my father and myself in Western
Europe, with here and there some Turkish embroideries, old pieces that
have been in the family for many generations, and of course Turkish
and Persian carpets. Despite our western furniture and some pictures
we have on the walls we endeavoured to keep throughout the Oriental
atmosphere of the house--not the kind of Turkish interior one sees in
exhibitions, adorned with a lot of bric-a-brac and hangings, but the
simple Oriental interior. This has been rather an easy task as our
house is typically Turkish with large rooms of perfect proportions and
big latticed windows. Therefore, by just placing a very few pieces of
furniture in each room, by having straight hangings of pale Oriental
colours in the windows, and by placing the few really valuable Turkish
antiques in the most prominent place in each room, we have tried to
keep the Turkish atmosphere which has so much charm and without which
it would be sacrilegious to live in Stamboul, especially in a house
like the one we have. Our friends and our guests have told us that we
have succeeded in our endeavours and I believe this to be true, as an
American lady with whom we have grown to be very good friends since;
confided us that the first day she called on us bringing with her a
letter of introduction from a mutual friend she was struck by the
severe Turkish atmosphere of our house and--it being her first day in
Constantinople and her imagination being full of all the horrid things
she had heard about the Turks in America--she was rather nervous until
she met my wife who breezed in to greet her in a perfectly American
way. Needless to say that a short while after she was laughing with us
at the reputation of being “terrible” which the Turks have abroad.

Certainly no one who has lived in Stamboul can even conceive where
this reputation originated. Stamboul is the Turkish section of the
city and is peopled exclusively by Turks. Its streets are so quiet,
its crowds are so calm, that they really deserve much more the
adjective of “peaceful” than that of “terrible.” Anyone who has been
in Constantinople prefers Stamboul to any other section of the city
with the possible exception of some parts of Nishantashe which are also
exclusively inhabited by Turks and have therefore the same atmosphere
of peace and quiet one finds in Stamboul.

Stamboul has the dignity of a queen. It has the same refinement, the
same poise, the same nobility that a great lady always has no matter
what her circumstances. Many of the houses are tumbling down. Alas! too
many of the people living there are shabbily dressed--nay even some of
them are now in rags. But her smallest streets, her humblest shacks
have an inexpressible dignity which is at once apparent. Stamboul is a
thoroughbred. Despite her misery and her intense sufferings, despite
all her ruins and the poverty of her inhabitants, Stamboul is a queen.
She has a soul of her own, very much alive and very compassionate--a
soul which appeals to foreigners and to the Turks alike--perhaps
because of the feeling of love and compassion which emanates from her
and wins for her the hearts of Turks and foreigners. She loves her
children: more than thirty thousand families have in the last ten
years seen their houses destroyed by fire but somehow or other not
one member of those thirty thousand families has remained without
shelter. Stamboul has provided them with a roof and there they are,
all her children, somewhat crowded it is true, but all living within
her hospitable walls. She loves the foreigners and receives them with
the greatest hospitality, she adopts those who can understand her and
treats them even better than her own children: she has named, two of
her streets after Pierre Loti and Claude Farrère, her great French
friends, so that their names will remain forever alive within her
walls. All who come to her fall in love with her, and my wife and
myself fell immediately under her spell: she is so good, so sad, so
peaceful!

Our house is on one of her principal streets, a wide avenue which leads
to the Sublime Porte and then on to the Mausoleum of Sultan Mahmoud.
The avenue, like most of the principal streets of Stamboul, is bordered
with old plane trees where pigeons, and nightingales, have made their
home. From our windows we see the court of the Sublime Porte, a big
tumbled-down building where all the principal government departments
are concentrated. The gates of the Sublime Porte are night and day
guarded by Turkish soldiers and policemen, clean-cut young Turks,
tanned from the sun and the invigorating air of their birthplace in
Anatolia. Every hour of the day or of the night two of them tramp
before the gate opposite our house, in rain or in sunshine, in snow
or in fog. At the corner of the court there is a little mosque built
especially for their use so that they can go five times a day to
prayer. Five times a day the “muezzin” appears atop the slender minaret
and in his soulful chant calls the soldiers and the neighbourhood to
prayer and they all pray: when the sun rises and when it goes down,
in the middle of the day, in the middle of the afternoon and in
the middle of the night. Five times a day they give thanks to the
Almighty, fervently confirm their faith that there is no god but God,
and beg Him to assist them in following the straight path, the path to
salvation. Can people of this kind be as black as they are represented
abroad? Is it not monstrous to accuse them of so many dark crimes? Is
it not criminal to even give credence--without investigating--to all
of the deeds they are represented as doing by people who must have an
ulterior motive? For my part I can't believe these people capable of
even hurting a fly or of killing a wolf, unless it be in self-defense
and I can truthfully say that my belief is not based on sentimental
reasons or influenced by patriotic motives. I know the people, I have
watched them for days and months from our windows in Stamboul, these
Turkish peasant soldiers of Anatolia; I have read in their eyes only
resignation, passivity, and love. I have seen how they treat little
children, how they take care of poor stray dogs. No, they cannot
possibly harm anyone unless it be in self-defense.

From the upper story of our house we can see the entrance of the
Bosphorus, that enchanting piece of blue water which lures all that
have seen it once. We see it through the branches of trees, between the
Sublime Porte and a brick building on the left, the headquarters of
some newspaper. Towering above it are the houses of Galata and Pera
forming an amphitheatre much more pleasing to the eye at a distance
than from nearby. We also see the dark-green trees of the park of
the Old Seraglio, where a few slender towers, a few slanting gray
roofs mark the position of its imperial buildings. Truly our house is
situated in the heart of Stamboul, that is why we can feel it throbbing
so plainly, that is why we can learn to know her so well.

The famous Santa Sophia, the Mosque of Sultan Ahmed with its six
slender minarets, the Square of the Hippodrome, where the decadent
emperors of Byzance held horse races nearly six centuries ago, even
the famous bazaars are all within our range, almost within view of our
house and we pass our first weeks after we have settled in visiting all
these places, not as tourists, but for the purpose of knowing them,
of communing with them so that we will feel that we have become one
with our surroundings. We go time and again to the Old Seraglio, whose
nooks and corners become as familiar to us as if we had lived there,
the Old Seraglio whose every building, every kiosk, every room is still
alive with the history of Turkey's past grandeur, whose garden still
glows with the life of all the great Sultans and of their courtiers
who lived and died there. From its outer court with its long alley of
tall cypresses and poplars gently swaying to the breeze as if bewailing
past splendours, from its outer Council Room where generations of
grave Pashas robed in sable furs covered with silk brocades and with
bejeweled turbans have discussed affairs of State and international
policies while powerful Sultans were listening from behind the golden
lattices of a small balcony, from the informal audience room from
which a Sultan chased the Ambassador of Louis XIV, King of France,
for having dared to sit in his presence, to the court where another
Sultan was murdered by his Janissaries, to the Kiosk of the Lilacs to
the laboratory where learned doctors prepared drugs for their august
masters, to the very trunk of the old plane tree in the shade of which
a resentful Sultan signed the decree condemning to death one of his
generals who had failed to capture Vienna, and to the marble terrace
of the Badgad kiosk where a poet Sultan improvised his immortal verses
to his Sultana, the place seems to be full of living shadows and
remembrances. It seems as if it were only asleep and semi-consciously
waiting a signal to people again all its buildings and its gardens with
Princes and soldiers continuing their interrupted earthly existence.

We go time and again to all the different mosques of the neighbourhood,
places renowned the world over for their architecture and which are so
impregnated by the prayers Which generations of faithful believers have
made within their walls five times a day for centuries and centuries,
that they vibrate with spirituality and force you to meditation--not
a sad meditation with visions of everlasting fires to expiate earthly
sins, but encouraging meditation which whispers into your ears that
God who has created such beautiful surroundings for a city like
Constantinople, God who has given the power to human beings to conceive
and construct such cheerful and elevating temples of worship and prayer
cannot and will not create another life where the miseries of this one
are continued and multiplied eternally. A meditation which makes you
realize that if winter comes, spring cannot be far behind!

Then again we go often to the Bazaars, not necessarily to hunt for
antiques or to purchase things, but to get acquainted with the little
old shopkeepers, the second-hand booksellers with white beards
and turbans, sitting placidly in their small stores surrounded by
books--hand-written books in Turkish, Arabic or Persian, illuminated
with delicate multi-hued designs and covered with priceless old leather
bindings; little old shopkeepers who receive you as a guest and as a
friend, offer you tea and talk with you for hours on such and such
a book, this or the other school of philosophy, this or the other
Arabic, Persian or Turkish writer--without even thinking of selling
you a book. In our visits to the Bazaars we carefully avoid the Jew,
Armenian or Greek antique dealers hunting in the covered streets of
the place for foreigners and other easy prey. After a visit or two we
are known even by them and we can freely wander in the streets without
being molested by their employees who try to induce strangers to visit
their shops. We make friends with two or three dealers in the Bedesten,
the central hall of the Bazaars, a huge circular place covered with a
round dome where stands are like wide shelves and where shopkeepers sit
cross-legged surrounded by genuine works of art, jewels and furniture
piled in a beautiful disorder one on top of the other. We make friends
with a few of these vendors--old men who have kept their stands since
their early youth, people who knew my father, or an uncle or a cousin
of mine, who adopt us as if we were one of them. Thereafter we have no
more need of worrying; if we want to purchase something we have only to
tell them and they will get it for us if it exists in Stamboul, if we
see something that we want in one of the antique stores and are afraid
that it is not genuine or that the storekeeper will ask us a price
above its real value, we just have to speak of it to one of our friends
and he will expertise it for us and purchase it for us at its real
value. You see we are related to the late Reshad Bey--may the Mercy
of God be on his soul--and all these old merchants were friends of
his, and he had through their offices and with their cooperation made
the most precious collection of Turkish antiquities that exists to
this day in Constantinople and for the peace of Reshad Bey's soul, for
friendship to him, these good old people want to help us whenever they
can.

Thus we have gradually entered into the inner life of Stamboul and
identified ourselves with it. And we love it the more for the way it
has treated us. But who would not? People in Stamboul are so different
from those in Pera. Even the ordinary storekeepers, the butcher,
the grocer and the candlestick maker are honest and courteous here,
whereas honesty and politeness are as rare in Pera as the mythical
stone of the Alchemists. The Levantines, Greeks and Armenians of Pera
think they have found a speedier and better way to change everything
they touch into gold, and judging by their prosperity their system
may be efficient in so far as it secures gains. But the Turks in
Stamboul do not worry about material gains. All they want is peace
and tranquillity. And how can you secure peace with your neighbours,
how can you secure the tranquillity of your own mind if you are not
courteous to every one and if you are not honest?

So it is a real pleasure to go shopping in Stamboul and we absolutely
avoid Pera when we want or need anything. One can find everything
in Stamboul when one knows where to look for it. We have found even
English and American chintz for the curtains of our bedrooms and at
half the price we would have to pay for them in Pera. The little
cabinet maker around the corner has restored one of our Chippendale
chairs, which was broken on its way from America, so well that the
repairs cannot be detected even after a very close scrutiny. And the
funny part of it is that he never had seen a Chippendale chair before
in his life.

Right near our house is a shoe-store. I realized one Sunday morning
that I had forgotten to cash a cheque the previous day and as the
banks were closed and cheques are very little used in Turkey, my wife
and I were wishing we were in America where we could have cashed one
at a hotel, a club or even a store where we were known. I decided to
take a chance and send our man with a cheque for ten Turkish pounds
to the shoe-store to ask if they would cash it for me. A few minutes
later our man came back with the cheque--and with the ten pounds, the
storekeeper having absolutely refused to accept the cheque on the
grounds that he had entire confidence in us, that he was sure we would
pay him back next day or the day after, and that his retaining the
cheque would be tantamount to mistrusting us. I could not help thinking
that it takes an honest man to have confidence in the honesty of some
one else and one has all the time such proofs of honesty when one deals
with the small Turkish traders. I must admit however that they have
two standards of principles when it comes to naming a price for their
merchandise or for their services: the first standard which applies
to their steady customers and to Turks exclusively and which is one
of strict honesty satisfied with a very small margin of legitimate
gain--the steady customers and the Turks know that this means one
price only and do not begrudge them their small profits or try to beat
them down by bargaining--the other standard is the one they apply in
their dealings with foreigners or with a casual client, it consists in
asking for a much larger profit, leaving enough margin to indulge in
bargaining. I must also add in the defense of the small Turkish dealer
that he is obliged to have recourse to this second standard especially
in dealing with foreigners, purely and simply in self-defense. I have
still to find a foreigner who will step into a shop in Turkey and pay
without haggling over the price first asked by the merchant. This is
always a source of wonderment to me as very often the foreigner who
begrudges a paltry ten per cent profit to the Turkish merchant is the
same one who pays without the slightest protest twenty-five or fifty
per cent profit in his own town to a retailer who has had the good
sense to advertise himself as having only one price for his goods.

Anyhow, in Stamboul we never have to complain of the manner in which
we are treated by our suppliers, and when we deal with them we feel
that we have an individuality of our own and are not just a name or a
number which has to be served. We are friends who have to be pleased.
That is one of the reasons why we love Stamboul so much, and why
Stamboul is loved by all who have lived there. One becomes identified
with the quarter one lives in, one becomes part of it, one gets to
know and to be known at least by sight by every one who lives in the
same quarter: the policemen on the beat, the night watchman, the
storekeepers, the neighbours--all know each other and take a personal
interest in helping each other. There is a spirit of friendship, an
“esprit de corps” among all members of the same community.

The community in which we live is possibly exceptional in one respect
and that is that it is the center not only of Government circles, but
also of publicists and doctors. Stamboul even in its living quarters is
very markedly divided into sections where people of a certain trade,
a certain education or of a certain walk in life live in communities
distinct from each other. Ours is an intellectual community, all the
big doctors, physicians and surgeons and all the writers, publicists
and newspapermen live here, while the people of the Government come
every day to the Sublime Porte opposite our house. The result is that
after a short while we have a circle of neighbours and friends who make
it a practise to drop in informally once in a while to visit with us.
There are no official visitors, but friends who come in to pass away
the time in case you have nothing better to do and the informality is
such that they do not feel hurt if you cannot receive them. If by any
chance you have some formal party going on, they themselves do not
desire to stay. So it is perfectly charming and agreeable. So much the
more since these people are all interesting people: men and women who
know things and who are doing things and who shun small talk or gossip.
It is a remarkable thing how little gossip there is in these cliques of
Stamboul and this is a relief and a great difference from the cliques
of Pera. True, the people here are not social people in the foreign
sense of the word: they are people who do things and who desire to
exchange ideas, constructive and profitable ideas.

They generally come in late in the afternoon, when the Sublime Porte
is closing. They have to pass before our house, and every once in a
while some one of our friends stops in at tea time. After dinner we
receive the visits of our immediate neighbours, doctors and publicists,
if we have nothing else to do or if we do not ourselves call on some
neighbours. Of course these calls are not an every-day occurrence, they
happen about two or three times a week and help to pass the time in
a most pleasant way, as we have on our list of steady callers people
interested in different lines, philosophic and religious thoughts as
well as scientific and political thoughts.

So we are now finally settled and are leading a very quiet, interesting
life, right in the midst of our Stamboul, right among the Turks;
not any more the Stamboul and the Turks of Pierre Loti or of Claude
Farrère, but a Stamboul which has suffered and is suffering much, a
Stamboul which is thinking and feeling deeply, and among Turks who are
passing through a transition period of passive development--chrysalises
of the Near East which may soon develop into sturdy butterflies with
large wings and whose one ambition is to carry their race, their
country and their associates as high as the ideals towards which their
constructive imagination is now soaring.



VII

BUSINESS IN CONSTANTINOPLE


Now that we have a house which we can call our home we are able to lead
an organised life. Our daily routine varies little but it certainly is
a relief to settle down and take things easily after having lived like
gypsies for so many months. I go to my office every morning--everybody
works or at least tries to work now in Constantinople. I had good luck
in finding proper quarters for the office at a short distance from home
so that it does not take more than ten minutes' walk to go to work and
I can come back every day to lunch. In the mornings my wife is busy
with the thousand and one duties so easily devised by any woman who
takes a real interest in her home and when I come to lunch by noon
everything is ready for a quiet meal “en tête-a-tête,” followed by
twenty minutes or half an hour of restful conversation. It is so nice
to cut the day with a short recreation of this kind, well earned by
both of us. It makes one more alive for the work of the afternoon and
for the sake of having this short recreation we very seldom ask any one
to lunch. However, ours is a Turkish house and it always remains open
to guests, and we are ready to entertain any one who drops in to share
our meal. This is the custom, but every one is brought up not to take
undue advantage of the privilege, so friends or relations do not drop
in at lunch time more often than once in a great while.

When I again leave my wife for the office in the afternoon she
generally sees some friends or goes out shopping, but she is always at
home when I return in the evenings at half-past five or six. We work
rather late in the offices here.

Business life in Constantinople is a rather exacting thing nowadays.
It is unquestionably most interesting, but there is such competition,
such a scramble for work that one has to hustle to hold one's own.
Unfortunately we live in a century of commercialism and trade, and no
matter where one is one has to take an active part in the universal
struggle for life. The unfortunates who have to earn a living are the
actors in this struggle and have to devote their days, their years,
their whole life to business, no matter if they are in America or
in England, in Italy or in France, in Turkey or in China. In some
countries many go in business for a pastime. But in others--as in
Turkey--most of those who are in business have entered it only because
they had to. They would much prefer, if they could afford it, to pass
their time in the pursuit of some more elevating and morally profitable
occupation. Dire necessity has compelled practically every one now in
business in Turkey to take it up, men, women and children. I do not
think that deep in their hearts the Turks really relish this, but they
have a sort of a feeling that as long as everybody else is doing it, as
long as this is a century where only material progress counts, as long
as there is an urgent necessity to earn money, well they have to try to
make the best of it. They have come to this conclusion only in recent
years, and I believe that this is the only real good that the war has
done to Turkey and the Turks. When I left Constantinople for America,
ten or twelve years ago, there were very few Turks in business.
Commerce, finance and industry was, and had been for centuries, the
exclusive realm of the non-Turkish elements of the empire. Perhaps
this explains the reason why Turkey and the Near East did not enjoy a
very good business reputation in foreign countries--a handicap which
it will take some time still to overcome. It will require years and
years before foreign business men will realize that trustworthy and
reliable people can be found in Turkey to deal with, now that the Turks
are in business--just as it required years and years for the Chinamen
to change the opinion of foreigners on the risks of Chinese business.
Most traders who knew about the unsatisfactory results obtained in the
past in Chinese trade were prejudiced against Chinese business without
realizing that they had dealt through Japanese or half-bred Far Eastern
firms. When the Chinese entered personally into international business
the foreigners gradually lost their prejudice but it took some time.

The fact that the Turks have not entered into business until
comparatively recently is not at all due to laziness or indolence. It
is rather due to two distinct causes which must be mentioned here to
render full justice to the Turkish race. The first is a moral cause.
The religion, the education and the Asiatic origin of the Turks have
led them to look upon life more like a road that should be used to
reach spiritual attainments than like an opportunity to obtain material
gains. Spiritual attainments are eternal--those who accumulate them in
this life continue their progress in the other with a useful capital
and with assets that really count. Material gains are perishable and
those who accumulate them in this life cannot take them into the other.
Why should I therefore use my time and energy to accumulate things that
will be useful to me only during this life which, after all, is only
an infinitesimal part of my eternal existence. Accustomed to think and
to reason thus the Turks have become a race indifferent to material
gains and ambitious only for spiritual gains, and they have naturally
enough disdained business. In fact, they have for centuries looked
down upon commerce and finance and have purposely avoided competing in
these activities with the less spiritual but far more materialistic
non-Turkish elements of the Near East.

The second cause is political or historical. At the time of the
conquest of Constantinople nearly six centuries ago, and when for the
first time Turkey acquired--to her misfortune--a large non-Turkish
population, Sultan Mehemet IV. desired to give a proof of his
magnanimity and, in a spirit of justice, not only recognised the entire
freedom of religion of the newly subjected non-Turkish races, but
even exempted them from all duties towards the state. The non-Turkish
elements were only called upon to pay a yearly tribute to the Empire
and outside of this were left entirely free to look after themselves.
When it is realized that these religious and political privileges
were graciously granted by the Turks to conquered races generations
before the Spanish Inquisition--when the Christian conquerors of
Spain tried to impose Christianity on the conquered Arabs and Hebrews
through hair-raising tortures--and centuries before the religious wars
of Europe--when Catholic and Protestant majorities tried to impose
their individual dogma upon each other through massacres and torture
without considering racial or even family ties--the broadmindedness
and justice of the Turkish conquerors becomes apparent. Be it also
said incidentally that when it is realized that these political and
religious privileges granted by the Turks in 1453 have survived nearly
five long centuries, the stories of all these Christian persecutions
will be somewhat discredited and will be considered at least as greatly
exaggerated as the news of the death of Mark Twain.

Be that as it may, the fact is that the granting of these privileges
placed on the shoulders of the Turks the heavy burden of all military
and governmental duties while the non-Turkish elements went through
centuries free from any obligation. Of course they were free to
participate in the governmental civil service if they chose to do so,
but their sense of allegiance to the country was not strong enough
and their greediness was too strong to induce them to undertake
duties to which they were not forced. Rather than to take care of the
common wealth of the nation they preferred to take care of their own
individual wealth and as commerce, finance and industry developed
through the centuries the non-Turkish elements of the country obtained
a solid economic grip and used it in their endeavours to choke the
Turks.

The democratic revolution of 1908 started the economic awakening of
the Turks. The governmental reorganisation which took place at that
time threw on their own resources many Turkish families who had until
then depended for their living on salaries earned by their, members
as government employees. To support their family these people had
to go into business. Later the various wars of Turkey, involving
losses of vast territories, necessitated further curtailment in the
number of civilian and military employees of the Government. This
further increased the Turkish participation in the business life of
the country. Finally the general war which resulted in tremendous
territorial losses for Turkey as well as in the complete emancipation
of women brought about a very forceful nationalistic awakening in all
forms of activity. The slogan “Turkey for the Turks” invaded general
business and gave such a tremendous impetus to the Turks that it was
a very great surprise to me--and a very gratifying one--to witness at
my return the extent to which my people have succeeded in obtaining a
foothold in the business life of the country. The great majority of
the Turks are now in business, men and women. In all the shops and
offices of Stamboul, in quite a few stores and offices of Pera and
Galata you see Turkish girls at work behind counters or at desks, some
working on big ledgers, others pounding on typewriters. All the Turkish
working-girls dress very simply in demure little black frocks, their
hair covered with the becoming “charshaf” with a thin veil rakishly
thrown over it. It gives to their faces a soft, dark frame from under
which a few mischievous blonde or black locks openly laugh at the old
customs.

Of course there are many more Turkish men than women in business. Many
Turkish trading firms have been formed, many Turkish factories are
now operating and there are even quite a few small Turkish banks. All
these firms employ Turks almost exclusively. Thus gradually the Turks
are reclaiming the business of their own country from those who have
had it for centuries and as the Turks are really the only stable and
reliable element of the Near East they will surely obtain finally the
lead in Near Eastern business matters. The process will be slow as the
competition the Turks have to contend with is extremely strong and
very often not fair. But their business ability should not be gauged
by the time they will require to take a preponderant position in Near
Eastern business. They have as rivals Jews, Armenians and Greeks who
have the benefit of many centuries of experience plus old established
organizations. An old saying states that it takes one Jew to fool two
Christians, one Armenian to fool two Jews and one Greek to fool two
Armenians. The non-Turkish conception of good business in the Orient is
principally to fool those one is dealing with and Greeks, Armenians and
Jews are now more than ever trying to “deal” with the Turks!

The principal Turkish business center is, of course, in Stamboul and
the location of my office gives me the double advantage of being near
my home and among my own people. My office is right at the foot of the
hill of the Sublime Porte. It is near the station and almost on the
water front. Big transit warehouses for merchandise to be transshipped
to and from Black Sea ports are just opposite our building, but as the
warehouses are low they do not impair in any way the view I have from
my windows. In fact the view is so gorgeous and so little inducive
to work that I have turned my desk so that I have the window and the
view at my back. I believe that with such a view as the one we have in
Constantinople and with the climate we enjoy, business here will never
reach the intensiveness of business in London or in New York, despite
the fact that geographically speaking Constantinople commands a more
important economic position than any other city in the world being as
it is astride two continents. While the atmosphere of New York is so
full of electricity that one is forced to be on the go practically
all the time, and while the fog of London makes it almost a physical
pleasure to remain at work within the four walls of a cosy office,
the climate of Constantinople relaxes one's nerves and its gorgeous
scenery, its beautiful Oriental sky have an irresistible, softening
appeal, calling to the outdoors, to repose or to contemplation,
according to one's individual temperament. Although it does not make
people lazy, it renders them somewhat easy-going. They do not, they
cannot struggle with as much intensiveness as in New York or in London.

From the windows of my office I can see part of the famous Galata
Bridge, where more races and nationalities intermingle with each other
than anywhere else in the world. I dare say that there is not a single
nationality of Europe which has not at least one member cross this
bridge every day. Americans, Africans and Asiatics are also represented
here. Since the armistice Great Britain has added to this collection
Australians and New Zealanders. Hindoos in native costumes or in
British uniforms, Cossacks, Kalmuks and Tartars of the Russian steppes,
Arabs with long, flowing robes rub elbows with Turcomans, Chinamen,
Japanese and Annamites, while the local crowd of Turks, Armenians,
Albanians, Greeks and Slavs of different nationalities go their way in
an incessant stream. Flocks of sheep and herds of cattle freshly landed
from the Balkan countries pass over the bridge among electric street
cars, carriages, sedan-chairs, caravans of camels and automobiles:
Rolls-Royces, Fiats, Mercedes and Fords. Thickly veiled Arab women,
bloomered Gypsy, Armenian and Greek women, fat Jewesses covered with
gold pieces and their more modern progeny--Rebeccas with sleepy black
eyes--critically view each other under the amused gaze of passing
British ladies, American tourists, Russian princesses and gracefully
slim Turkish ladies flaunting their emancipation to the astonished
gaze of foreigners, while Parisian cocottes and a few of their less
refined local colleagues cross the bridge joy-riding in the military
automobiles of their lovers who have occupied Constantinople “in the
name of civilization.”

This continuous movement on the bridge is only equalled by the movement
in the harbour which I can also see from the windows of my office.
Small steamers serving the commuters of the Bosphorus and of the
Islands, large cargo boats and passenger steamers, schooners, yachts,
warships and even big transatlantics seem to be moving perpetually in
and out of this congested harbour bringing to it their individual load
of wares, merchandise and passengers from the farthest corners of the
globe. Right in front of my windows the two old continents--the cradles
of the most ancient civilizations--meet and become one under the clear,
peaceful blue sky of the East.

It is this very diversity of things that renders Constantinople and
especially business in Constantinople so interesting and captivating
that I don't know of any one who, having tasted its romance, does
not feel tied and bound forever to the place. It is not only that
one deals with all the nations of the world but--which is far more
interesting--one is in personal and daily touch with all of them: a
business day in Constantinople is really captivating and edifying. Even
in such a comparatively small office as ours it offers a degree of
diversity and of unexpected happenings which is totally different from
the usual routine and humdrum life of offices in other parts of the
world.

From nine o'clock in the morning to the closing of business my office
is the scene of an international procession and of unexpected events,
some of which are comic and others tragic; but all instructive. It
starts with the daily interview with our brokers, Jews, Armenians,
Greeks and Turks. As merchants of all these nationalities are
established in the market one is obliged to employ an international
crowd of brokers. They are all, except the Turks, cut on the same
pattern. Courteous and polite--but not any longer “sleek” or “unctuous”
like the Oriental merchants of the old school--they want to impress
you with their good-heartedness and their joviality. They want you
to believe that they have no secrets from you and that their motive
in working for you is solely the academic interest they take in your
success. They are ready to swear that they do not want to make any
profit and that they will sacrifice their commission to put a deal
through for you. This display of good will and good intentions lasts
generally up to the time that the deal is “almost” through; then at the
psychological moment the broker makes a desperate attempt to obtain
an additional commission on the grounds that he has been obliged--in
your interest--to divide his regular commission entirely among certain
people whose influence alone has brought it to the point of completion.
Of course all this haggling is part of the game and at times it is
quite amusing to see the extent to which a man who believes himself
astute can make a fool of himself. However, I must say that when one
knows them well these men can be handled easily and if after a few
trials they see that they cannot fool you they respect you the more for
it--and try again only on very rare occasions when they think you are
off your guard.

The Turkish brokers are of a totally different type. Some are well
educated, refined men, former government officials who are newly in
business and hope to work their way up to becoming sooner or later
full-fledged merchants. They are learning the business while they give
you the benefit of their often very extended connections. But they
are aware of their lack of experience and expect you to coach them.
Generally you have to give them accurate and detailed instructions
which you can, as a rule, depend on their following conscientiously
Others are--at least in appearance--good old peasants of Anatolia,
often wearing baggy trousers and turbans. They do not at first
impress you as able brokers or salesmen, but try them out and see;
they may know how to read only just enough to decipher laboriously
the specifications of the goods they sell, they may know how to write
only just enough to sign their names, but they can and they do make
mentally the most complicated calculation of discounts, percentages
or commissions, they can and do book orders and clients. They are
usually the most honest type of brokers in Constantinople. Many Turkish
merchants also belong to this class and many of them who at first
impressed me as being paupers turned out to have more money than any
one else in the market. They are thrifty, active, intelligent and
honest peasants.

Of course the interviews with brokers are just as much part of the
office routine as answering cables and letters and going over current
business. I try to dispose of all these matters in the mornings so
that when I come back after lunch, rested and fresh, I can devote the
greater part of my afternoon to new propositions and this is the really
interesting part of the day, as propositions of the most diversified
nature abound now in Constantinople. One comes in touch with the most
extraordinary, interesting and at times pathetic people with unusual
business offers. Everybody has something to sell, everybody is in quest
of business. Thousands and thousands of refugees of all kinds are here
and all of them, as well as the usual inhabitants of Constantinople,
have to earn their bread.

The most unusual propositions are generally engineered by the Russian
refugees. Many of these are spendthrifts who prefer to earn their
living in an easy manner, either through gambling or through managing
amusement places, restaurants, dancing clubs, theaters, etc. A group
of titled Russian refugees headed by a former chamberlain of the late
Tsar succeeded in starting a large establishment which provided all
imaginable amusements, not barring roulette, and their enterprise was
so successful that within two or three months after it started they
were able to pay back with substantial profits the money they had
borrowed to launch it. After this they became intoxicated with their
success and considering their enterprise as a mint, proceeded to spend
its nightly earnings as rapidly as they were won. They disposed of
their profits at their own gambling tables, they lavishly entertained
their friends and guests by consuming indiscriminately their own stocks
of wines and food, and naturally within another couple of months they
were obliged to close their doors. But many other amusement places
flourish still in Pera under the management of Russians, who are most
ingenious in this kind of enterprise. A former officer of the Russian
army once came to us and asked us to finance a scheme which would have
made a second Monte Carlo of Constantinople. As we did not care to
enter into this kind of business we lost sight of him for quite a long
period. He came back one day, however, and told us that his scheme
having fallen through he and his family had been so near starvation
that they had just about decided to commit suicide collectively when
it occurred to him to commercialize the hobby he had in his days of
prosperity, namely, cabinet and furniture making. He had offered his
services for this purpose to a new restaurant which had immediately
commissioned him. His wife, a former lady in waiting of the Tzarina,
had become a cook in this restaurant and their daughter, a child of
about fifteen, had had the good luck to find a position as lady's maid
with some well-to-do foreigners. Thus the family had been saved from
starvation and the former officer is now one of the most successful
furniture makers of Constantinople. He had heard that we were enlarging
our offices and wanted to figure on the new furniture we needed.
Needless to say that he got the order.

Some Russians have, of course, regular business propositions like the
man who undertook--and succeeded--in exchanging for the account of
some friends of mine, jewels, petroleum and caviar from Caucasia for
American flour and condensed milk, a transaction which brought very
substantial profits to himself and to my friends. Others, however,
have propositions which are businesslike or practicable only to their
unaccustomed eyes. Some come just with an idea and expect you to jump
at it and give them a substantial participation, like an old Russian
admiral who came once to us suggesting that we should purchase one of
the cargo boats of the Russian Volunteer fleet which was to be sold at
auction next week for the payment of debts. He believed that by making
an offer before the public auction the boat could be purchased at a
bargain price. The poor old admiral was very much disappointed when it
was explained to him that the creditors--British and Greek firms--were
the ones who forced the sale and would be satisfied only by the highest
price obtainable as their claims exceeded by far the market value of
the ship. He had counted on the influence he still had with Russian
circles to accomplish this transaction. He had counted on this to keep
his body and soul together. His clothes were shabby and his shoes were
patched.

One could not help feeling sorry for him, but the most pathetic of all
are the women. One day an old Russian princess was ushered into my
office. Her name was familiar to me as having been the hostess in the
years gone by in her stupendous estate in Crimea of an uncle of mine on
a special mission of the Sultan to the Tsar who was then summering at
Yalta. My uncle had told us the lavish manner in which this princess
had entertained the Turkish mission. Her residence was a palace filled
with precious antique furniture and works of art. Her meals were served
on solid gold plates incrusted with diamonds, rubies and other precious
stones. She had thousands of peasants on her estate. Now she was coming
to ask my assistance to sell her rights to some oil fields she had
in Caucasia. She was willing to sell them for a song--the rights to
these oil fields whose annual income had been in the past equal to
a king's ransom. I had to explain to her that as the Bolsheviks did
not recognize the rights of private property, especially property
belonging to the former Russian nobility, I was afraid that it would
be impossible to find a buyer for her. The poor lady was disappointed,
but she confided to me that she had received similar answers from other
business men. She therefore wanted to make me another proposition. When
she had fled from Crimea she had hidden her most precious jewels in a
place where she knew the Bolsheviks would never think to search for
them. She was now ready to tell exactly where these jewels were and to
divide them with anyone who would recover them for her. When I told
her that the insurmountable difficulties of getting her jewels out of
the country while the Bolsheviks were still there made her proposition
impracticable, the poor old lady, making a superhuman effort not to
break down at this, possibly the hundredth, refusal of her “business”
proposition, asked me if I knew any one who would care to take French
lessons. Happily my wife wanted to take up French and I was able to
help her.

Russians are not the only ones who scramble for business. Hundreds of
transactions are proposed by and handled through people of a hundred
different nationalities, and the characteristics of each individual
nation govern the negotiations in each transaction. With so many
diversified propositions and with the different style of negotiations
they each require, it really is a fortunate thing that the religions
of the different races of the Near East crowd the calendar with many
diversified holidays. Otherwise few business men would be able to stand
the strain. As it is, the quantity of holidays which are kept by the
business community of Constantinople affords a welcome relief. First
of all there are the weekly Sabbaths. Turkish business houses keep
their Sabbath on Fridays which is the Sunday of the Muslims. While
they generally do not close altogether, business is always very slack
for them on Fridays. In my office where we are all Turks and Muslims,
and we are eight in all, we take our Friday turns in rotation so that
on these days there are only two of us at the office. The Jews and
the Christians, of course, maintain their Sabbath respectively on
Saturdays and Sundays so that business is also slack on these days.
Other holidays occur quite often on account of the great diversity of
religions and nationalities. All these compensate for the strain of
normal business days which, while not being as intensive as in some of
the great western business centers is nevertheless very exhausting on
account of the variety of business treated and of the complexity of
the transactions. One has to satisfy the requirements of buyers and
sellers who do not speak the same business language, whose conceptions,
ideas and mentality are totally different and whose methods are
diametrically opposed. One has, therefore, to think and engineer all
kinds of combinations to overcome all the difficulties, and I know by
experience that it is not always an easy task.

At the close of the business day, when I climb the hill leading to our
house, I am generally tired and mentally exhausted and the prospect of
a quiet evening at home is certainly a relief.



VIII

A STAMBOUL NIGHT


I generally leave my office at about five-thirty or six o'clock. On
my way home I meet the crowd going to the bridge, the commuters who
have to catch their boat as well as business people and government
employees who live in Nishantashe or Shishli, on the other side of the
Golden Horn. It is the rush hour of Constantinople. Every one is going
home. The small stores on the avenue, mostly stationery stores and
bookstores, are pulling down corrugated iron shutters over their doors.
Every few minutes a grinding metallic noise indicates that another
storekeeper is starting home. I buy my daily provision of cigarettes
from the Persian tobacconist around the corner. I know he is a Persian,
although he wears the Turkish fez, from his hennaed beard trimmed in
a semi-circle and from the long frock coat he wears. Little Turkish
newsboys shout the headings of the last sensational news in the evening
papers. I always buy one and if I do not have the proper change the
newsboy digs into his fez. They carry their change on their heads and
the much worn squares of paper money are the more greasy for it. I
cross the street-car tracks congested with cars wherein human cattle is
packed as tightly as in a New York subway. People are streaming down
the hill in groups of three or four, clerks from the Sublime Porte
looking prosperous and smart despite the fact that their salary which
is anyhow barely enough to support them, is paid to them every two or
three months. They go hungry and live in the cheapest possible quarters
but try to look well, these poor Turkish Government employees, in an
endeavour to save appearances and to keep up their dignity in the eyes
of the foreigners. They walk leisurely and stop to greet each other.
They talk politics. I know quite a few of them and every once in a
while we exchange “temenahs,” the graceful Turkish salutation. Quite a
few go up the hill; Turkish business men and working girls living in
Stamboul like myself.

It is twilight. Overhead little puffs of pink cloud reflect the last
rays of the setting sun, while one by one lights are turned on in the
windows of surrounding buildings, indicating the homecoming of some
toiler. The crowd in the street is thinning. I reach our house as the
automobiles of the Ministers, who now meet in daily council at the
Sublime Porte, pass through the gates of the Government Palace. They
work late, they are the last ones to leave.

My wife is waiting for me. Unless we have previously arranged to meet
somewhere else, she is always at home to greet me at my return. It is
not proper for ladies to be alone in the streets of Constantinople
after sunset, and we both like to start the evening together. We tell
each other what we have done in the afternoon, we read the evening
papers and then we sit down to dinner. We have our evening meal early:
everybody dines early in Stamboul. When we are alone we have dinner
served in the drawing-room, on an old Italian carved wood table. It is
less formal and cosier. When dinner is finished the servants clear the
table. My wife sits on the couch with her sewing, I sit next to her in
an easy chair. We talk. It is peaceful and quiet. We feel our nerves
gradually relaxing from the strain of the day.

It is now evening. The dusk has fallen over Stamboul. Above, the purple
sky is getting darker and one by one the stars are lighting in the
firmament. Only one of our big windows is opened as it is quite cool
outside. From behind the lattices we see the breeze gently swaying the
branches of the plane trees bordering our street. Through the cleft
of a dark, narrow street which winds its way to the nearby sea we can
see the lights of some ships lying in the harbour. Just opposite us
the rambling building of the Sublime Porte is silent and dark, the
Government Departments are all closed. In the street below only a few
belated passers-by are hurrying home. At a distance the Mosque of
Santa Sophia raises its minarets high against the starlit vault of
Heaven, as in prayer, and the park of the Old Seraglio projects the
black silhouettes of its trees: oaks and cypresses which have witnessed
the splendours of the reign of Soliman the Magnificent. In the branches
of a nearby plane tree a flock of doves flutter and settle for the
coming night.

A calm oriental night is falling over the city. The darkness deepens
and the quiet increases. I look out from the window. In the streets,
a water seller is walking slowly, I can see dimly a graceful brass
vessel swinging from his shoulders. He stops before the house, and
in a plaintive velvety voice chants the merits of his cool water “as
sweet as frozen sherbet”--then goes on his way and disappears in the
blue night. At a distance we hear the watchman coming, knocking his
club on the pavement to mark the hour “toc--toc--toc--toe ...” He is
coming nearer, his beat takes him through our street. Now he stops: the
street is so quiet that we can hear him greeting someone: “Selam' u
aleykum--peace be with you ...” The newcomer tells him something.

Then, in the silence, the man who watches after night over the safety
of all raises his voice in a long-drawn note of warning: “Y'a'a'an gun
vaaar!” He has been notified that there is a fire and he notifies all
of the danger. Most of us live in frame houses here in Stamboul and a
fire is dangerous. Time and again thousands of houses have disappeared
in a single night, thousands of people have remained homeless. If the
fire is near we must all gather our belongings. My wife is anxious. She
comes to the window: let us find out where the fire is, the watchman
will tell us. He is now quite near, he beats his club almost on our
doorstep. “Y'a'a'an gun Vaaar--Mahmoud Pash-ada.” It is not so bad,
Mahmoud Pasha is the name of a quarter, a wholesale business district
where no one lives--so the losers will be the insurance companies who
charge such high premiums that they can afford to lose. It is quite far
from us although from the windows at the back of our house we can see a
red glow behind the mosque of Yeni Djami: it makes its cupola shine and
its minarets throw fantastic shadows over the neighbouring buildings.
But the conflagration is small and the wind is not strong to-night, so
it will be soon under control. Let us return to the sitting-room.

The watchman continues his round. His voice is now dying out in the
distance. Everything is quiet again. The night has fallen. It is the
hour of relaxation. We might receive the visit of some friends. One
can better exchange ideas in the calm of the night, and people in
Stamboul are now too poor to indulge in regular social life but they
love to call on each other in after-dinner impromptu visits. They
leave the more elaborate kind of entertainments to their more wealthy
cousins living on the slopes of the hills above Pera, in Shishli or
Nishantashe. Here we are satisfied with simple, unpretentious visits;
they help pass away the time in a far more interesting and morally
productive manner than the dancing and exchange of platitude usual in
large social gatherings.

Let us light the candles and turn out the electric light. The soft,
golden glow of candles is more restful, and conducive to deeper
thought. It is in harmony with the darkness outside and will attune
us to the relaxation of nature at night. I love semi-darkness. I will
only light the silver candelabra on the table and this funny old
lantern hanging here at the corner. Its silent shadow will talk to us
of the past, when its pale light was used to illumine the steps of
those who ventured in the streets after sunset. Even I can remember
the time when the streets of Stamboul were not lighted. Electricity
is a very recent innovation and in my childhood there were so few and
such feeble oil lamps in the streets that every one who went out at
night was accompanied by a servant who carried a lantern like this,
a folding lantern with a round chiselled silver bottom and a round
chiselled silver top, its sides made of oiled parchment or goatskin
pleated horizontally so that it could fold when not in use. The servant
would walk just a few steps before you, holding the lantern low on
the ground so that its dim light would illumine your steps. It was
an event for me to go out after sunset and the few occasions when I
did have remained engraved in my memory as great adventures, somewhat
terrifying and most exciting. I remember how I used to hang on to the
hand of my mother. I was abashed by the darkness surrounding us, by the
mystery of the night and its solitude. I remember how I would strain my
ears to hear the familiar rustle of my mother's wide silk skirt, how
I would ask her any question that came into my mind just for the sake
of hearing her musical soft voice coming from the darkness above, in
modulated tones, I remember how fascinated I would be by the yellowish
dancing light of the swinging lantern, which would project big shadows
all around us and when one of the street dogs, so common at that time,
would wake up and run away from our path, I would squeeze my mother's
hand and nestle nearer to her so that I could feel her silk dress
against my cheek and now this lantern hangs in our drawing-room, not
any more for a useful purpose in this age of electricity, but as an
artistic ornament, a symbol of the past, a symbol of the darkness of
bygone years. Its yellowish glow illumines the head of my wife who sits
right under it. It surrounds her hair with a halo of ancient light.
The cycle of thoughts continues, running after the cycle of time in a
sequence of flashes followed by long periods of darkness!

We are silent. The street outside must be almost deserted, I can only
hear occasional steps every once in a while. But something now stirs at
our front door. Someone knocks. It might be some friends, it might be
a poor man, a widow or an orphan who comes to ask for some help or for
something to eat. Ours is a Turkish home and no matter who comes the
Turks welcome an opportunity to be hospitable or charitable. No matter
how hard the times, there is always something for the guests.

It must be guests as they are coming up the stairs. The voices stop at
our door. The servant announces our neighbours, Dr. Assim Pasha and his
wife with our mutual friend, Djevad Bey. They are welcome, the night
is still very young and they are all very interesting people. Djevad
is a newspaper man, he might have some interesting news to impart. The
doctor is one of the leading surgeons of the age known not only here
but even in France and Germany where he completed his studies. He is
a scientist and more: he is a thinker, a philosopher, a man who knows
human beings and humanity intimately. His wife is one of the modern
Turkish women who do real things. She speaks English fluently so she
has grown to be a very good friend of my wife despite the difference in
their age. She has a daughter who is now studying surgery in Germany.
They are all quiet, nice people, they exactly fit our mood to-night,
they materialize the deep, calm atmosphere of a Stanlboul night. We
need not turn on the lights.

We sit around, sip our coffee and smoke. Madame Assim Pasha is on the
sofa next to my wife. She tells her of her day. She is always engaged
on some errand of mercy, helping the Turkish refugees. Thousands and
thousands of them, escaped from the horrors of the Greek invasion of
Western Anatolia, are now in Constantinople, homeless, without clothes
and in want. All the foreigners in Constantinople, all the foreign
papers abroad think, talk and assist only Russian, Greeks, Armenians
and others who are now crowding this poor city of Constantinople
which the armistice and the unnatural Treaty of Sèvres have made the
dumping-ground of all those in need, but no one gives a thought to
the Turkish refugees except the Turks. They are horded in Mosques
and in public buildings and great misery prevails among them. They
depend entirely upon the mercy of the Turks of Constantinople who
are themselves too poor to give sufficient help. But we have to do
what we can, we have to share our all with our hungry brothers and
sisters of Western Anatolia who have come to our city after the Greeks,
mandatories of “civilized” Europe, had burned their villages, ransacked
their farms and killed their cattle. The Turks are too proud to beg
for the assistance of foreigners, and we are all Turks. So we must
multiply our efforts, we must do the impossible to feed and clothe
our refugees, to take care of their health and to send their children
to school even if we can count only on our own resources. Let the
Russians, the Armenians and the Greeks cry and wail on the sympathetic
shoulders of the foreigners. We will keep our courage up, and with the
help of God we will see our needy ones through, we will overcome our
present troubles as we have overcome all our past troubles! We do not
ask help from any one, we only ask to be left alone. Why do not the
foreigners take in their own homes their pet children, their crybabies,
and leave us alone to heal our wounds? Are they afraid that the public
opinion in their countries will--through direct contact--realize too
soon the hypocrisy of their pets? Are they afraid that their own people
might be contaminated with the political and moral ailments of these
foreign refugees? and if so why should they let Constantinople and its
people be contaminated by anarchical ideals and immoral principles?
Have they not occupied Constantinople for the purpose of maintaining
law and order? Is Constantinople now more lawful than before? Are
not the foreign refugees responsible for the spread of immorality in
Constantinople? and what will happen to Constantinople if all these
foreigners, imported against their will, remain here and spread
their propaganda of discontent, restlessness and lawlessness? Madame
Assim Pasha talks calmly and in a subdued tone. She does not argue,
she just states facts. Slowly and masterfully she depicts the gloomy
consequences that the thoughtlessness of the Western Powers might bring
to this city of misery. The present is dark enough but the future will
be darker unless the Western Powers find a remedy to it. The shadows in
our room seem to have darkened, we are silent for a few minutes, then
Djevad Bey speaks.

He has been recently to Anatolia and tells us that the situation in
the regions occupied by the foreigners is much worse there than here.
Standing at his full height, his slim athletic figure dimly discernible
in the darkness of the room, he quivers with restrained emotion and
tells us of the sufferings he has seen there. He launches a diatribe
against the foreign press which will never tell of the miseries and
injustice suffered by the Turks, while it will always exaggerate the
miseries and sufferings of all other nations--the foreign press which
will never tell of the qualities and accomplishments of the Turks while
it will show through a magnifying glass the accomplishments of other
nations. Will this double standard ever be changed? Can the truth be
forever distorted? Why this prejudice against the Turks? Will the
Western world ever outgrow it and discard it? Will the World ever
replace its preconceived hatred for some and friendship for others by a
single feeling of compassion for all who suffer, no matter who they may
be, no matter what their race, and by one all-embracing feeling of love
for all--will it ever adopt one single standard of justice for all?

Djevad has once more voiced the inherent complaint of all the Turks
who resent the malign treatment they are subjected to, the campaign
of defamation which they have had to put up with since the last
generation. Under their stoic calmness these questions loom large in
the inner-consciousness of all the Turks and cast a deep shadow of
doubt over their faith. In the peace and quiet of our room we feel
that his questions, if unanswered, will shatter our confidence in the
future, we feel that the world might yet be plunged in a terror still
worse than that of the years of the great war if it destroys the faith
of the Turks and throws them in despair into the arms of their Nihilist
neighbours of the North, at the head of millions of Central Asiatic
tribes, at the head of millions of Muslims now groaning under the heels
of their conquerors: a terror which might be darker than the blackest
periods of the Darkest Ages.

Instinctively we turn for an answer to the Doctor. He has been silent
until now. He sits in a high-backed chair like a throne. The candelabra
on the table illumines his expressive face and throws the outline
of his powerful profile in an enormous shadow on the gray wall. It
almost reaches the ceiling and dominates the darkened room. The doctor
is calm and composed, his sensitive hands rest limply on the arms of
the chair. His eyes which have studied the past, stare dreamily ahead
in an endeavour to visualize the future. They gleam with a spiritual
light which pierces the penumbra surrounding him. He is thinking,
he gazes--unseeing--at a little picture on the wall, a little Dutch
picture on which the artist has, centuries ago, painted the moon rising
from behind dark clouds to illumine with rays of silver a limitless
ocean. He sighs, straightens up, throwing his head slightly back.
Then his colourful, warm voice rises in the silence and the shadows
surrounding us.

A new world is in the making. The old world had been divided by men
into races, religions and creeds. Each race had different standards,
each race was prejudiced against all others. Each religion and creed
had, in the course of time, accomodated itself to the pettiness of
humanity and had lost sight of its essential principles. The divine
light which time and again God had shed in His mercy over humanity
through one or the other of his prophets had been captured by
narrow-minded dogmatists of different races and only an infinitesimal
spark of it had been each time imprisoned in a lantern for egotistical
purposes instead of being used to illumine the outer world. Jews,
Christians and Muslims turned their own lanterns on themselves and
each one crowded around it in an endeavour to see its own particular
light. In the scramble that followed and in the jet black darkness
which surrounded each separate spark, those who struggled forgot what
they had seen in the light. Mercy, compassion and love disappeared from
before their eyes. They all called each other renegades and apostates.
The Christian world, more materialistic than the others, obtained the
upper hand and exerted its supremacy over the globe. But the greediness
of its different nations, their desire for economic possession brought
about the general war. Even in this, however, nations were the
unconscious tools of the Divine Power. One must tear down to build
anew. One must punish to improve. Therefore nations were made to
destroy their own material richnesses. And in the meanwhile, unknown
to them the sparks in their lanterns have come ever and ever nearer to
each other. The day is near when all the lanterns will be united and
will illumine together--as God meant it--the work of reconstruction
undertaken by a new Humanity which has been made to see through
suffering. The pains of the present time are the pains of travail.
Humanity is being reborn. A new age is in the making, a better world
is coming. It may take some time to come, but when it arrives it will
bring justice to all without distinction of class, colour, nationality
or sex. It will usher in real democracy based not on equality, but on
“oneness.” We are passing now through the period of preparation, the
period of travail. It is painful as all travail preceding creation,
but Humanity must hope, no matter how hard the present times are, no
matter how long the hard times last. Nothing can alter its destiny. The
millenium will come when Humanity becomes conscious of God, becomes
one with Him, reflects all His attributes: and Mercy and Love are the
principal attributes of God. With his eyes cast dreamily ahead, lost in
his vision, the great surgeon who fights death every day tells us of
immortality through love.

Our quiet room vibrates with his subdued voice--the voice of those
who have heard and understood the wails of agony. Gradually and with
the conviction acquired by generations of philosophers before him,
the thinker is rebuilding our faith. The faith that no true Muslim
must ever lose. The shadows surrounding us are becoming translucid. We
come to share his vision of a better world: a world based not on the
equality but on the unity of all. We come to share his conviction that
this is the unavoidable period of travail with its unavoidable pains
and sorrows. We must go through it without complaint, without despair,
fully realizing that we must use all obstacles in the path of humanity
as stepping-stones and not as stumbling-blocks and God will keep His
covenant to humanity. We are not fatalists, but we have faith.

Our talk continues, inspiring and elevating. How far we are, here in
Stamboul, from the mundane life of Pera. Yet it is only a narrow strip
of water which divide us: a strip of water called by the ancients
“Golden Horn,” possibly because of their foreknowledge that it would
bring to Stamboul the soothing treasures of faith and belief.

But all things have an end, and it is getting late. We drink another
cup of coffee, we smoke a last cigarette, and true to the Turkish
custom we accompany our departing guests to our front door.

Upstairs in our room we are getting ready for the night. Full of the
elevating talk of the evening, we silently prepare for sleep, the
sleep which will lead our souls to the giddy heights of unconscious
knowledge. Through our window we see the darkness outside. It is night.
Silence reigns over Stamboul. Calm and composed, the eternal Turkish
City slumbers under its dark sky where glow large Eastern stars, while
Levantines and foreigners feverishly revel in unhealthy amusements on
the hills of Pera. Let them do what they want as long as they leave
us free to use the night for its real purpose: meditation, rest and
relaxation!

It is dark outside. There is only one light in the small mosque of the
Sublime Porte: its tapered minaret points to the oriental stars above
which silently sparkle away centuries into eternity. Then the little
door on top of the minaret is pushed open and the muezzin steps out on
the ring-like gallery. It is prayer time. The cloudless sky echoes the
melodious voice of the muezzin. High above the roofs of the slumbering
city he calls the faithful to prayer:

“Allahi Ekber--Allahi Ekber! God is Great--

“There is no God but God ...”

His voice is pure as the purest crystal. He chants the greatness of God
and His Unity. He proclaims in the middle of the night that prayer is
better than sleep and calls the faithful to salvation through prayer.
He gives his message to the four winds, and retires after having again
proclaimed the greatness of God and having claimed for Mahomed only the
station of Prophethood.

One by one, silently, the soldiers on guard at the Sublime Porte and
a few neighbours have gotten up from sleep and made their way to the
mosque. They make their ablution in the little courtyard: one must
be clean to commune with God. They enter the mosque and I can see
them through the open door. In unison and as one man they kneel, they
prostrate themselves in adoration and then they rise and pray: arms
extended, palms upwards--standing like Christ on the Mount of Olives.
Allahi Ekber! God is Great!

The prayer is finished. Perfect quiet again in Stamboul. The faithful
have returned home. You can almost hear the world meditating. The
mystic night unfolds its mysteries to the believers asleep.

Complete silence, calm and relaxation. The Orient is dreaming. At dawn
the muezzin will again call to prayer: “Allahi Ekber.”



IX

A NIGHT IN PERA


Since our arrival in Constantinople we had heard of the night life
in Pera but we had not seen it close to. Although we lived--out of
necessity--in Pera during the first months of our return, we very
seldom went out. In the Summer months and in the Fall we were in the
country and since we had settled in Stamboul we loved too much our
own quiet nights at home to seek anything else. But when my friend,
Carayanni, suggested showing us Pera at night we decided that it was
almost our duty to take advantage of this opportunity of seeing it
with someone who knew the place. Since the armistice Pera is so full
of amusement resorts of all kinds that unless one is guided by an
“habitué” one is apt to get lost in more than one sense of the word.

I think that I have already said that Pera is now inhabited by almost
all the races of Europe with the exception of the Turks. The Turks have
been forced out of this quarter and are certainly not keen to reenter
it under its present conditions. Pera shelters all the foreigners in
Constantinople, from the High Commissioners of the different nations
and their immediate retinues down to the worst kind of adventurers and
of course there are many more adventurers than High Commissioners.
Pera shelters most of the Russian refugees, from poor helpless former
nobles whose plight is a real disgrace to civilization down to the
most resourcefully immoral individuals of both sexes whose behaviour
is a real shame to humanity. In addition Pera shelters all the Greeks
and Armenians of the city and its narrow, crooked streets are the
playground and dwelling-place of a nondescript people which, for lack
of better name, people have agreed to call “Levantines.”

The Levantine is the parasite of the Near East. He has no country,
no scruples, no morals, no honesty of any sort--in business or in
private life. He is the descendant of foreign traders who have settled
in the Near East at some period or other and have intermingled--not
necessarily intermarried--with Greeks and Armenians or other
non-Turkish elements of the country. His ancestors might have
originally come to the Near East either attracted by the proverbial
riches of the Orient--at a time when the Orient was still rich--or
as runaways from the justice of their own country--no one knows. As
foreigners always had certain privileges in Turkey the present-day
Levantine calls himself a foreigner when he is dealing with the
Turks or with Turkish authorities. However, when he is dealing with
foreigners he is very apt to call himself a Turk, an Armenian or a
Greek. Anyhow he never will call himself a Levantine, so stigmatized
is that appellation in the eyes of all who know the Near East. He
generally has perfected this internationalism to such a degree that
he has citizenship papers or passports of different countries which
he uses indiscriminately according to his wants or the necessity of
the moment. But despite all a Levantine is and remains a Levantine and
should be shunned as such. Anyone who is from the Near East and calls
himself a non-Muslim Turk is a Levantine, and almost any foreigner
who admits that his family has been living in the Near East for at
least two generations is probably also a Levantine. Anyhow Pera is
the hot-bed of Levantines, who have lost all their original racial
qualities and have assimilated all the racial defects of all the races
living in the Near East--whose one purpose is to make and spend money
and who are ready to sell anything for the purpose.

My friend Carayanni is not a Levantine. He is an Ottoman Greek. Just
as a Scotchman is a British subject, so Carayanni is a Greek but a
Turkish--or Ottoman--subject, and is supposed to be as faithful to
Turkey as the Scotchman is faithful to Great Britain. But in the eyes
of the world Turkey is not Great Britain, and Carayanni is a Greek
and everyone, except the Turks, seem to consider it quite natural
that he should be a Venizelist. Foreigners call him and the other
Ottoman Greeks like him who are Venizelists “patriots,” and blame
the Turks for not loving them. A Venizelist is a Greek who wants the
downfall and dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, that is to say that
an Ottoman Greek who is a Venizelist is _de juro_ a rebel, a traitor,
who conspires for the downfall and dismemberment of the Government of
his own country. When the Turks take this attitude and try to repress
this intestinal strife they are accused of committing “atrocities.”
When Great Britain or any other Western Government quells with machine
guns and hand-grenades a similar intestinal strife in their own
country, they are said to make a legal repression of a rebellious or
revolutionary movement. Double standards again.

The Venizelists want the downfall of the Ottoman Empire so that
Constantinople may become again a Greek Byzance as it was over five
centuries ago. Just because a city originally founded by the Romans
happened to be Greek thirty-nine years before Columbus discovered
America, Carayanni and all the Greeks claim now that it should again
be made Greek. They call themselves Venizelists because they follow
the principles of Venizelos who, although himself an Ottoman Greek,
turned traitor to the country of his birth and adoption and became the
political leader of Greece in her anti-Turkish policy. The western
powers hailed him as the greatest statesman and diplomat of the century
and never give a thought to his treason or to the weakness of his
claims.

But we do not mind the Venizelism of Carayanni. Like most of the
higher-class Greeks he is Venizelist only in words, and he is too well
bred to talk politics when he is with Turks. The higher-class Greeks
are not Venizelists enough to don the Greek uniform. They know that if
they did don it they might be sent to battle, and battles against the
Turks are not very safe. Why should they risk their lives, why should
they suffer the discomforts of following a military campaign--even
at a safe distance from the front? They know that by a cunning and
insidious propaganda they can get all the desired support from foreign
nations. To obtain the sympathy and the moral support of certain
nations which, like America, are imbued with the spirit of fair play,
some of their women write sweet articles where the keynote is the
lovableness of the Turks individually, their innocence, their dearness
and their romanticism cunningly interwoven with stories--supposed to
be personal experiences--which emphasize in descriptions if not in
words, the ignorance of the Turks, their administrative or business
incapacity, how they still practise slavery and polygamy, and how
they commit political murders and atrocities. The broadminded but
misinformed public believes in these camouflaged false accusations
because of the hypocritical profession of love interwoven with them
and gives more than ever its entire sympathy and moral support to the
Greeks. To obtain the active support of less broadminded nations,
to secure from them all the modern war paraphernalia and all the
money necessary to equip and hold under colours, against their will,
the lower-class Greeks who are good enough for “cannon fodder,” the
Venizelists lead in some other countries a bolder, and therefore more
commendable propaganda. In this way they are sure to obtain the moral
and material support they want without much risk. The upper-class
Greeks like to play safe: the only battles they fight are in their
clubs and around the green table of diplomacy, and the most deadly
weapon they use is their tongue--which is a pretty deadly weapon at
that! So they continue, day in and day out, to endeavour to Byzantinize
Constantinople and, while happily they have not succeeded in the whole
city, their efforts have been--for all practical purposes--crowned
with success in Pera. In the old days Pera was more than half Turkish.
To-day scarcely one out of every fifteen people you see in its streets
is a real Turk. At the armistice all the non-Turkish elements have been
given a free hand in this part of the city by the Inter-Allied police,
and rather than submit to the arrogance of the Armenians and to the
hostility of the Greek mobs, rather than witness the general débauche,
the Turks have withdrawn to Stamboul or to the heights of Nishantashe.
A Turk does not feel properly protected in Pera. He feels that he would
get little protection from an Inter-Allied policeman if it came to a
litigation with a foreigner, and only a very few Turkish policemen are
now employed in Pera where their exclusive duty is to regulate traffic.

So Pera has become, under the benevolent eye of its Inter-Allied
police, the heaven of Greeks and Levantines and Carayanni, being a
Greek, lives in Pera and knows it from A to Z. He has invited us to
dinner, and as we know that he will not talk politics, as we want to
see Pera at night, and as we could not find a better guide for the
purpose, we have accepted his invitation.

One dines very late in Pera and when we start on our trip of
exploration it is already night. We left home well after eight. On our
way to meet Carayanni we had to pass through Galata, which shelters
behind its façade of business respectability sordid back streets
patronized by sailors of the international merchant and military navies
now crowding the harbour. While banks and office buildings in the main
street are closed at this late hour we have glimpses of side streets
which would make the Barbary Coast of San Francisco blush with envy.
Intoxicated sailors rock from side to side and disappear in little
streets where organs grind their nasal notes of antiquated French,
Italian, yes, even American popular songs and where harsh feminine
voices greet prospective friends in an international vernacular. A
foreign sailor, more intoxicated and more excited than the others,
jumps on the running board of our carriage. It is a good thing that the
top is up, as in the darkness he does not see that I am a Turk and when
I push him and shout in English for him to get out he obeys without a
sound, probably thinking that I am an Englishman or an American who
could get protection from the police.

My wife is frightened, but the really dangerous part of our route is
nearly over. We are leaving Galata behind. Our carriage climbs the
hill of Pera and soon we pass before the Pera Palace, the leading
hotel of Constantinople, now owned by a Greek, where foreign officers
and business men are fêted by unscrupulous Levantine adventurers and
drink and dance with fallen Russian princesses or with Greek and
Armenian girls whose morals are, to say the least, as light as their
flimsy gowns. Right next to the hotel is the “Petits Champs” Garden
where soliciting by both male and female pleasure-seekers is now so
aggressively indulged in that not even a self-respecting man dares any
more to venture in the place.

The streets are also full of pleasure-seekers, but at this hour they
are not yet as aggressive as in the Garden. They walk slowly eyeing
each other with greedy or inviting glances. Among them hundreds of
Russian refugees, derelicts of modern civilization, are drifting sadly,
their emaciated bodies clothed in rags. Maimed men in old uniforms--on
which you can still detect the insignias of the high ranks they
obtained on the battlefields when they were fighting to make the world
safe for democracy--are now peddling little wooden toys or artificial
flowers which they try to sell to passers-by. Old women--and also a
few young ones who prefer to be street vendors rather than street
walkers--are selling candies and newspapers. At one corner a sad
young woman, who will be a mother soon, holds in her hand a bunch of
multi-coloured toy balloons. She is so tired that she leans against
the wall and can hardly move her hand to offer her balloons for sale.
Huddled on the curb and in porch-ways, little children shivering from
hunger and from cold, are begging or trying to snatch a few minutes'
sleep before the Inter-Allied police come and tell them to move on.
Fourteen or fifteen-year-old little girls are parading arm in arm
and patently offering their youthfulness in competition with the
experienced knowledge of their elder sisters. Prostitution, dishonesty,
misery and drunkenness are openly flaunted in this section of the city
which revives all the vices of Byzance coupled with those of Sodom.

And all this under the very eyes of the Inter-Allied police who have
occupied the city in the name of civilization and to enforce order and
law. Never before were Pera and Galata as disreputable as now, never
before were they so unsafe, so objectionable and so badly policed; the
Inter-Allied police professes that it does not care to mix in matters
that have no direct bearing on politics, and the Turkish police has had
its authority completely taken away in this section of the city.

At last, through this repulsive maze of vice, we arrive at the
Russian restaurant where we are to meet Carayanni. Pera is now full
of Russian restaurants, where a money-spending international crowd
revels in so-called Bohemian life. Why not? The walls are artistically
painted and the furniture queer looking enough. Of course, like most
amateur Bohemians, the only thing which this international crowd has
adopted from the Quartier Latin of Paris is free love. Anyhow, with
the punctuality of a perfect host, Carayanni is waiting for us. Well
groomed and prosperous-looking in his dapper London-made clothes, he
is trying his best to look and act like an Englishman. His polite
nonchalance and his general appearance are so perfect that, despite his
dark complexion, it is hard for me to realize that this is the same man
who, before I left Constantinople about ten years ago, was making only
a very modest living in gambling and card games in which he always was
an expert. He has changed his business, however, during the war and is
now one of the most successful food speculators in town.

Carayanni has a special table prepared right near the center of the
room and on our way to the table he stops to greet the waitresses and
to gracefully kiss their hands. Most of these girls are supposed to
belong to the Russian nobility, so in Pera it has become the custom
to kiss the hand that feeds you. We take our seats and glance about
the room. As a whole the place is almost respectable. The crowd is
the usual mixture seen now at night in Pera: mostly olive-skinned,
thick-lipped, dissipated Armenians and Greeks who can afford
high-priced restaurants, thanks to their unscrupulous war and post-war
profiteering; many foreigners who can the better afford to spend in
view of the low rate of exchange of the Turkish money; a few Americans
who love to indulge in foreign countries in pleasures forbidden to
them in their own either by puritanic traditions or by the eighteenth
amendment. The food is excellent; we have a taste of “vodka,” the
Russian drink, while at other tables imported and local wines of
rare vintage are consumed copiously. The professional entertainment
provided consists of an excellent gypsy orchestra, the best I have
heard anywhere, a few singers who sing some weird Russian songs and
an interpretative dancer who interprets better than she dances. In
between the professional numbers those who desire to dance can do
so in the middle of the room which remains cleared for the purpose.
After all, it is the same kind of cabaret restaurant that one finds in
London, Paris or New York, except that its performers are Russian, its
waitresses are supposed to be princesses and its crowd is a little more
“Bohemian.”

Of course Carayanni finds it too slow and as we are finishing dinner
he suggests that we go to a show. At one theater the Greeks are giving
a performance for the benefit of their refugees and at another the
Turks are giving a performance for the benefit of their refugees and
as our party to-night is both Turkish and Greek we must not hurt the
feelings of each other by going to either of these shows. Carayanni
suggests adjourning to a certain “club” which is the rage of the moment
and where plays and actors are so--“unreserved,” that the public is
required to wear masks. Naturally I object to this suggestion: my wife
and I are, so to speak, provincials from Stamboul and our blushes would
glow even through our masks. My wife is so shocked that Carayanni
is sorry to have ever suggested it and he proposes hastily to go to
see Scheherazade which is played by some of the former actors of the
imperial ballet corps of Petrograd. We all decide in favour of this and
we adjourn to the theater.

The play has already started. Here again there are only a very few
Turks in the audience and their presence seems to me as incongruous
as mine must seem to them. It is queer to see the place crowded with
foreigners when but a few years ago the crowds in theaters were almost
exclusively Turkish. I remember that one of the last times I came to
this very theater it was to assist at a gala performance given by the
Municipality of Constantinople in honour of the Young Turkish leaders
who had just then so successfully accomplished their democratic
revolution. The place was then covered with Turkish flags and humming
with Turkish enthusiasm. To-day it is almost entirely Russian. Really,
the dream of Peter the Great of making a Russian city of Constantinople
has partly come true, but it has turned into a nightmare. I whisper
this to my wife and, unknown to Carayanni, we both express the wish
that any one who might nourish the ambition of taking Constantinople
away from the Turks might share a plight similar to that of the
Russians. It is not generous, I admit it, but if we were not Turks and
formed the same wish for the enemies of our country, people would call
us patriots.

The performance is pretty good but it drags on. Scheherazade is a
spectacular play and neither the theater nor its staging are adapted
to such plays. The actors might have been in the Imperial Ballet of
Petrograd but they certainly were not principals. So we decide to
leave before the performance is over. This time Carayanni insists that
we go to a regular café chantant. He will take us to the best one; it
is an open-air affair but the weather is really not so cool to-night as
to make it disagreeable. We have to take a carriage as it is at some
distance, on the hills of Shishli.

This café chantant is in a garden. In the center, where orchestra
seats should be, are small tables, with chairs in semi-circle facing
the stage. It is a regular theater stage and on both sides of the
garden, boxes have been built. It is crowded. Every one seems to be
intoxicated and the weird music of a regular jazz band composed of
genuine American negroes fires the blood of the rollicking crowd to
demonstrations unknown even to the Bowery in its most flourishing days
before the Volstead Act. Much bejewelled and rouged “noble” waitresses
sit, drink and smoke at the tables of their own clients. The proprietor
of the place, an American coloured man who was established in Russia
before the Bolshevik revolution and who--it seems--protected and helped
most efficiently some British and American officers and relief workers
at the time of the Revolution, is watching the crowd in a rather
aloof manner. Frankly he seems to me more human than his clients; at
least he is sober and acts with consideration and politeness, which
is not the case with most of the people who are here. Not one real
Turk is in sight. Many foreigners, but mostly Greeks, Armenians and
Levantines--with dissipated puffed-up faces, greedy of pleasure and
materialism. We have a liqueur. The show is a vaudeville which is not
very interesting. Every minute that passes makes the crowd more and
more demonstrative. Carayanni is enjoying it immensely, but I realize
that our presence puts a damper on his good time and although he
defends himself in the most exquisite manner when I tease him about
it and accuse him of being evidently an “habitué” of the place, the
glances that he exchanges surreptitiously with one of the waitresses--a
real Russian beauty with pale skin, fire-red lips and languid black
eyes--confirm my suspicions. My wife does not enjoy herself, and she is
tired: our life in Stamboul has evidently made her lose her taste for
late hours. Besides she has never seen this kind of night life anywhere
and the atmosphere is getting decidedly too tense for us. A “parti
carrée” enters a box--and immediately pulls the curtain, thus cutting
itself entirely from the view of the public. My wife looks at me in
surprise. We really must go.

It is too early for Carayanni, the night has just started for him and
for the other regular Perotes. So we insist that he should not spoil
his evening and we apologise for our departure. He is heartbroken to
see us go but asks permission to remain, protesting that he has some
very important business matters to talk over with a friend of his whom
he has just seen in the crowd. We understand perfectly well and take
our leave.

We step out of the gay garden. At the curb a long line of automobiles
is waiting. We take one as it will get us home quicker than a carriage.
Besides, the streets of Pera, and especially of Galata, are not very
safe at this late hour, and the quicker one rushes through them the
better.

Pera is tossing in her sleep, nervous and restless. A few night-owls
of both sexes who evidently have not yet been able to find a branch
to their liking are still wandering on the sidewalks. The porches and
doorways of nearly every house are crowded with groups of children and
refugees, half-naked, sleeping cuddled up together to keep warm. In
restaurants and amusement places the merry-makers are continuing their
revels.

Galata again, her narrow streets still lit up and still resounding
with sinister noises. Now the bridge, almost deserted, and then at
last Stamboul, our Stamboul, the beautiful Turkish city, sleeping in
the night the sleep of the just; poor Stamboul, ruined by fires and
by wars, sad in her misery, but decent and noble; a dethroned queen
dreaming of her past splendour and trusting in her future.



X

CONSTANTINOPLE, 1922


The night life in Pera sketched in the past chapter constitutes,
naturally, only one aspect of the present-day so-called social life of
Constantinople. In full justice to the inhabitants of the city I must
say that it is only the “Perotes,” that is, only those who inhabit
Pera--be they foreigners, Greeks, Armenians or Levantines--who find
pleasure in this kind of distraction. The people of Stamboul lead the
quiet life which I have already described and in between these two
extremes there are, of course, quite a large number of foreigners, of
Turks and of non-Turks who do not participate in this kind of life but
who nevertheless seek distraction in the society of each other in a
more rational and decent way than the Perotes--if not quite as sedate
as their friends of Stamboul.

Pera is the theatrical and the red light district of the city.
Stamboul is the residential district of the more conservative Turks,
that is to say, the Turks who are modern enough to set aside all the
antiquated customs of their ancestors who--by preventing their women
from participating in the every-day life, had handicapped the social
progress of the race--but who are not and do not care to be modern to
the point of adopting indiscriminately all the social customs, good and
bad, of the Occident. Fortunately for Turkey, the Turks who belong to
this group constitute the greatest majority. They are serious-minded
people, progressive without exaggeration, desirous of adapting to
their own temperament and customs only those foreign customs which
are desirable. They do not seek to imitate blindly western nations.
They do not care to be over-westernized. These Turks realize that with
all its superiority over the Oriental structure, the social structure
of the West is far from being perfect, and they do not propose to
introduce and adopt customs which either might be incompatible with
their temperaments and traditions or which have been and are strongly
criticized by well-thinking people even in western countries.

Besides Pera and Stamboul, the two opposite poles, there is another
district of the city where certain foreigners live and some native
non-Turks, and quite a few Turks who do not mind over-westernization.
This district comprises the quarters of Taxim and Shishli and a certain
portion of Nishantashe. It is situated on the hills north of Pera and
is considered by some to be the modern residential section of the city.
For those who really love Turkey and the Turks or even for those who
are only interested in the Orient it has, however, not much charm
or attraction. Modern apartment houses and new residences built in
concrete or in stone, but which have no distinctive character, adorn
its wide avenues and its smaller streets. The architecture here has no
individuality whatsoever, judging by the external appearances of the
buildings and by the aspect of the avenues and streets, with electric
street cars running, with automobiles and modern garages one might be
in any city of Europe. All speak of modernism and those who inhabit it
worship anything that has the stamp of western civilization. However,
if one desires to lead any kind of social life comparable to that of
western countries one has to come to this district and one has to
identify oneself with the social clique which dwells in it.

So, as my wife and I are both human, as we are still young and desire
once in a while some kind of mundane distraction, we have had to
frequent--if not extensively at least moderately--this section of
Constantinople. One glimpse of a night in Pera had been sufficient to
make us realize the necessity of finding other playgrounds. We had to
break, once in a while, from the quiet, peaceful and elevating life of
Stamboul if it were only to make us appreciate more our normal home
life.

Shortly after we had settled in our house a cousin of mine who lives
in Shishli gave an afternoon tea to introduce us to his set. He is a
prominent business man of Constantinople, and both his own position as
well as the prominence of his family have placed him and his charming
wife among the leaders of the Turkish social set of Shishli. They have
an attractive house on one of the principle avenues and entertain
frequently. His wife, like all the Turkish ladies of her set, has a
weekly “at home,” On these days one is sure to find a large crowd of
callers in her salons. She is a perfectly charming woman, very young
and beautiful. Her beauty is typically Turkish, tall and slender
although not emaciated, languid black eyes with long eyelashes. She
dresses exquisitely as she buys most of her frocks in Paris where she
goes periodically to renew her wardrobe. At the time they gave the
afternoon tea in our honour they had just refurnished their house with
furniture purchased on their last trip to Italy and France. It was the
first tea of the season and my cousin and his wife told us that all
their friends were very anxious to meet us. As theirs is a dancing set
the news that a Turk, freshly landed from America with his American
wife, would be present at the tea had created quite a sensation; they
were all keen to see the latest steps danced in the States. The dancing
reputation of the Americans is worldwide and the fact that my wife was
an American had stirred the interest of my cousins' friends. As for
me, they imagined that any one who had lived in America for such a long
time must of necessity be a good dancer. Only a very few of the members
of this set were known to me, and that very superficially, as I had met
them as small children when I had previously been in Constantinople.
Now most of them were married and had children of their own. So when we
arrived at my cousin's house we had to be introduced to every one. My
cousin, Salih Zia Bey, and his wife, Madame Zia Bey, did the honours
in that most exquisite modern Turkish fashion which, despite all its
westernization, has still kept something of the ceremony characteristic
of the old Turkey.

We were ushered in by a tiny Javanese maid. The drawing-room was
crowded. Both my wife and myself felt the strain of being the guests
of honour. We were somewhat conscious that we had to live up to the
expectation of our new friends and try not to disappoint them too much
with our terpsichorean abilities. Madame Zia Bey received us at the
tea-table, which was really a sort of large buffet piled with delicious
pastries, cakes, sandwiches and biscuits of all kinds. Tea, coffee or
a delicious punch were served according to the taste of the guests.
It was as elaborate as the cold supper buffets one sees in America at
large dances.

Madame Zia Bey, her sister-in-law and two other young ladies who were
helping the hostess to serve, were the only ones who did not have the
“charshaf”--all the other ladies wore this most becoming headgear which
is made of the same material as the dress and fits tightly around the
head, while its two flowing ends, which enclose the shoulders when the
ladies are in the street, hang loosely behind them when they are in the
house. Over the head a flimsy veil--generally some precious lace--is
thrown backwards at a rakish angle and frames the face, which remains
entirely uncovered, in a softening cloud. After serving us with some
tea and cakes, Madame Zia Bey passed us on to her husband who, one
by one as the occasion arose, introduced us to the guests. Later the
introductions were finished by Madame Zia Bey who joined us after she
had served all her guests at the tea-table.

We were glad to see a few of our friends from Prinkipo and the
Bosphorus but the majority of the guests were, of course, new to us.
There were two young men, two brothers, who were introduced to us as
the two “tango champions” of the set. I must say that they are very
nice young boys and, despite the fact that they dance most exquisitely,
they are not at all the type of dancing men one meets elsewhere. Their
sister was also there, with her fiancé. I wished that some of my
American friends who absolutely refused to believe that the custom
of arranging marriages between girls and boys who had not previously
met was a thing of the past in Turkey could have seen this couple.
Mademoiselle Rashid Bey and her fiancé had known each other for some
time and their marriage was the result of a genuine romance in which no
outsider had interfered.

There were only two or three foreigners among the guests, and the most
prominent of them was the Japanese Ambassador, who is quite popular in
the social circles of Constantinople. The Italian military attaché was
also present as well as a French officer. A Greek lady whose husband is
one of the very few prominent Greeks who have remained openly faithful
to the cause of Turkey was also there. Needless to say that she and
her husband are very much liked by the Turks who recognize their real
friends and show them true gratitude under all circumstances. The rest
of the crowd was exclusively Turkish, all most attractive and genuinely
refined people who had kept, despite their extreme westernization, the
good manners and the good breeding characteristic of their race.

When everybody had duly partaken of the delicacies and refreshments
offered at the tea-table, we adjourned--with the slight touch of
ceremony prevailing in all Turkish gatherings--to two spacious
drawing-rooms on the same floor. And, as we expected, the informal
dancing started to the sound of a gramaphone of the latest model
imported from America. It was a surprise for us to see how extremely up
to date everybody was. Charming Turkish girls were dancing the newest
steps as expertly as débutantes of New York, London and Paris--with a
little more decorum, perhaps, and certainly with less “abandon,” but
that did not in any way hurt the effect. Quite on the contrary it gave
to modern dances a degree of respectability which is not always found
in the West.

One other difference that we found was that the tango still reigned
supreme here. It was played at least seven or eight times during the
evening. But after seeing the excellence with which everybody danced it
my wife and I were quite reluctant to give a demonstration of our own
limited abilities. We had to immolate ourselves, however, and although
we did our best to come up to expectation, I am not quite certain that
we entirely succeeded. Of course I had to explain that I should not be
personally taken as an exponent of the American art as I was not and
never had been an expert in dancing. My wife saved the day for America
by tangoing with the real experts as perfectly as only an American girl
can.

This tea-party at my cousin's was our first experience of Turkish
social life. It was to be followed by many others during the winter.
As I have said before, all Turkish ladies belonging to this set have
a day at home every week and if one cares to go out extensively one
has somewhere to go practically every day. While we did not indulge
in daily social activities this gave us the opportunity to go out
every once in a while--about once or twice a week--which afforded
us a pleasant change from our more serious and much quieter life of
Stamboul, without obliging us to seek distraction by frequenting even
at long intervals the unhealthy amusement places of Pera.

Thus the Turks have found a way to amuse themselves among their own
people exclusively and while, of course, some foreigners are asked
to the parties of these small Turkish sets it is only a very few of
them--carefully selected--who are privileged to frequent Turkish
society. I am ready to admit, however, that to my mind the selection of
these foreigners should be done even more carefully as I share entirely
the views of my aunt, explained in one of my former chapters, that the
foreigners who are at present in Constantinople are not as a whole
very trustworthy and that it is very difficult to distinguish among
them those who can be, without any objection, taken within our homes.
All the more because the Turks are racially extremely hospitable and
they are therefore apt to show too much confidence and to become too
intimate with those they take in their midst. Many other races, many
other civilizations have gone down just because of their pure and
unsuspecting hospitality toward foreigners. The Turks cannot be blamed
for their present attitude. In fact, if they are at all to blame it
is that some of them are even too careless in their extreme desire to
become entirely westernized and despite the fact that I consider myself
extremely liberal in my ideas I entirely endorse the Turkish National
Assembly of Angora for remonstrating periodically with the Turkish
inhabitants of Constantinople for mixing too freely with foreigners
and for adopting too indiscriminately their customs. Right in the
middle of the 1921-1922 season the Turkish papers published broadcast
such a remonstrance of the National Assembly and although many of the
ill-disposed foreign newspapers took advantage of this to harp on
the xenophoby of the Turks ruling in Anatolia, it really was for the
purpose--very justifiable and commendable--of reminding the people of
Constantinople that they should respect and honour any and all of their
national traditions which did not hinder the continued advance of the
nation toward progress and real civilization. A reminder of this is an
absolute necessity and has to be uttered periodically, as the people
of Constantinople live at present right in the midst of every kind of
imported vices and immoralities and the first duty of a nation for the
protection of its vitality and its vigor is to see that the virtue of
its people is not contaminated.

Naturally, in view of their environment, the Turks of Constantinople
are in danger. The greatest majority of them have so far escaped
contamination by segregating themselves in Stamboul and in Nishantashe
but there are some who need to be called to attention once in a while
as the temptations in their path are too great. In justice to them I am
bound to say, however, that judging by what I have seen they keep their
morals and virtues unimpaired despite their gay and sometimes rather
“advanced” appearances. But still the danger is there and a periodical
warning is a very good measure.

Most of the Turkish social activities and entertainments are held in
the evenings, that is, from tea-time to about dinner-time. The Turks,
even those who live in Shishli, have neither the means nor the heart
to entertain elaborately, and big dinners or official receptions or
dances are much too elaborate affairs for them to undertake. So they
are satisfied with tea-parties with dancing--tango-teas they are
called--such as the one given by my cousin. The evening entertaining
is done exclusively by the foreign diplomatic missions and by some
prominent foreign business men. I am, of course, talking exclusively
of social entertainments which are refined enough for the Turks to
participate in. The other evening entertainments offered by the
professionals of Pera or by the doubtful social set of Perotes--Greeks,
Armenians and Levantines--are not taken into consideration.

The foreign diplomatic missions give once in a while special
receptions for the Turks to which are also invited the officials, the
representatives and the nationals of the countries which are, if not at
peace at least not at open war against the Turks. For instance, at any
of the receptions where Turks were invited Greek officials and Greek
nationals would shine by their absence and, according to the wind which
blows over Turco-British relations, British officials were absent or
present if the latest declaration at the House of Commons was to the
effect of reinforcing the English support to Greece or else had taken
the colour of a revival of the traditional British friendship towards
Turkey and the Muslim world. The shifts in international policy make
the official social life in Constantinople a very delicate matter
indeed, and the host or hostess who plans to give a large reception and
is obliged to make the necessary preparations considerably beforehand
has unquestionably a very hard task, as no one can foresee, a few days
in advance, what the prevailing international policy will be on the day
the reception is given. The only reception that I know of which was
given with a total disregard of international relations and at which
all officials and prominent citizens of all nations were invited was
the reception given at the Persian Embassy in honour of the Crown
Prince of Persia and despite all, it was the most successful reception
of the season in Constantinople.

The Crown Prince was on his way to France and was to stay only a few
days in Constantinople so that the Ambassador could not possibly
give several receptions to which he could have separately asked the
different warring nations. To ask only some at the single large
reception he was obliged to give would have alienated the friendship
of all those who had not been invited. So the Persian representative
bravely decided to ask everybody without distinction of nationality and
without regard to the political situation, and let events take their
course.

Naturally, events were powerfully helped by the “savoir faire” and the
courtesy of the Persian representative and of his wife who were so
charming and hospitable to all their guests that every one enjoyed the
reception most thoroughly. Of course we were all anticipating with much
curiosity the experience and were anxious to see how it would turn out.
The Persian Embassy is in Stamboul, only a few doors from our home,
and the fact that the wife of the representative was an American and
that we knew them both in America had established most cordial friendly
relations between them and ourselves. So we were delighted to comply
with the request of Her Excellency the Khanoum, who asked us to come
early so as to be present when her first guests arrived; and soon after
dinner my wife and I made our way to the Embassy.

The Persian mission is located in a big building which had been
repainted for the occasion. It is in the center of a large garden and
has a gorgeous view of the Bosphorus from over the Sublime Porte. Over
the big entrance gate of the garden it has the Persian emblem, a lion
and a rising sun. The garden had been decorated for the occasion with
flags of all nations and multi-coloured lanterns, while on a mast in
the center floated majestically a huge Persian standard. Concealed
among the trees a Turkish Naval Band, graciously loaned by the Navy
Department, was playing different pieces of music. Attendants in
Persian uniforms with small black kolpaks received, on the marble steps
of the Embassy, the arriving guests. We were among the first to come
and it gave us an opportunity of admiring the rich antique Persian
carpets with which the enormous entrance hall had been decorated. The
whole place was covered with shimmering hangings, carpets and rugs
and with plants and rare flowers. At the top of the stairs stood the
Khan and the Khanoum with the entire staff of the Embassy, all in
uniform and decorations. The Khanoum wore her beautifully embroidered
Persian court gown and her diamond decorations and greeted us with
the ineffable charm which has won for her the hearts of all who have
met her in three continents. She took my wife by the hand and brought
us into one of the principal salons from where we could have a view
of the gardens. She informed us that the Crown Prince was resting in
his private apartment on the floor above, awaiting the arrival of the
principal guests to hold his court. As the guests were now arriving the
Khanoum returned to the head of the stairs to greet them.

From where we were we could also see the central hall where a special
dais had been built to serve as a throne for the Crown Prince. The
guests were placed in the different drawing-rooms, according to their
individual social or official position, the most important ones waiting
in the first drawing-room and the others in the drawing-rooms behind.
Soon the Naval Band outside was playing the different national anthems
of the different diplomatic representatives as they were coming in.
One of the first to arrive was the British High Commissioner and his
wife who took their place right at the door of the drawing-room where
we were waiting. After a few minutes and as the band was starting
the Turkish National Anthem, which indicated that the personal
representative of the Sultan and of the Crown Prince of Turkey had
arrived, the Persian Crown Prince came in and took his place under
the dais with his brother and the Khanoum on his right and the Khan
and the Turkish Grand Master of Ceremonies on his left. Every one
stood at attention. The Crown Prince is a young man, dark and good
looking with a small, closely clipped black mustache. He looked slim
and tall in his tight-fitting long black court dress, and appeared
that evening somewhat tired and nervous, which after all was quite
natural considering that he had just arrived from a very long and
tedious trip across the Persian deserts, Bolshevik Caucasia, and the
Black Sea As soon as he had taken his place the Turkish Mission was
ushered in and I am frank to admit that I was proud of the appearance
of our representatives. The Sultan was represented by his Minister of
Foreign Affairs, General Izzet Pasha, an imposing man of about fifty,
with gray mustaches, his fez slightly tilted on one side giving a
martial expression to his distinguished and refined face. The Turkish
Crown Prince was represented by his son, Prince Omer Farouk Effendi,
an athletic young man in the uniform of a cavalry lieutenant, tall and
well built, blond hair and blue eyes. They were both surrounded with
young officers who clicked their heels martially when they were being
introduced to the Persian Crown Prince. After the Turkish Mission the
foreign missions were introduced one by one according to the seniority
of their respective heads and when the British Mission had closed the
official train--the British High Commissioner being the most recent
foreign appointee in Constantinople--the turn came for the other
guests. Because of our privileged position in the first drawing-room
our turn came immediately after the official missions and when we made
our reverence to the Crown Prince he cordially shook us by the hand and
addressed us in a few kind words in French. We then passed into the
big ballroom where all the guests had gathered, and the painful ordeal
of all official receptions, where you have to greet with stereotyped
words the different people you know, began. But it did not last long
at this reception, as there was informal dancing and as soon as the
music started the ice was broken and the usual relaxation set in. We
danced a little and we watched the crowd which was the most interesting
agglomeration of official people one could see anywhere. Even the Greek
Mission was present, but its members had the good taste to disappear
soon after the dancing had started. Prominent diplomats of all nations
and dashing officers in resplendent uniforms were talking and joking
with each other as if the war had never taken place, or if peace had
really been established. But the most stunning figure of all and
the one which attracted the most attention, was unquestionably that
of a young Arab prince, cousin of Emir Feigal, King of Mesopotamia,
and direct descendant of the Prophet Mahomed. The prince, or more
correctly the “shereef,” as his real title is, was clad in a flowing
robe of silk and had the Arab headgear, a white silk cover tightly
bound on the head by a band of gold threads and loosely floating on
the shoulders. We were talking with some American friends, a dear
old lady of the Middle West and her husband who is a teacher at the
American Robert College, when the Shereef recognized me and came to
speak to us. Naturally, I introduced him to my wife and our friends,
and as he spoke English most fluently, as he looked most romantic in
his robe, and his blond beard gave a Christ-like expression to his
aristocratic features, our friends were visibly very much impressed
by him. When he left us the lady of the Middle West, all a-flutter,
asked me who he was--and could not conceal her terrible disappointment
when I informed her he was a “Shereef”! The dear old lady confused the
title with the functions of a sheriff charged with the keeping of the
peace in English-speaking countries, and her disappointment as well
as the ignorance of her husband, who did not correct her, amused us
so that we did not explain, and to this day I imagine that they both
are firmly convinced that sheriffs in Turkey wear too gorgeous and too
impracticable uniforms.

Towards midnight the doors of the dining-room were opened and every one
went down stairs to have cold supper. The crowd was such that despite
the rather chilly weather of the season many wandered in the gardens.
It is here that I was for the first time introduced to His Highness
Izzet Pasha, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was later to show me
many marks of friendship. He of course knew my father and my family
and immediately put my wife and myself at our ease by stating that he
wanted to be considered by us as an “Oncle.” This is a mark of extreme
courtesy in Turkey and we were, and have been ever since, duly grateful
to Izzet Pasha for this and for his subsequent real friendship. Be it
said in parentheses that Izzet Pasha is one of the ablest statesmen of
Europe, broadminded, most progressive and democratic.

As the crowd was thinning we had an opportunity to talk some more to
the Persian representative and to the Khanoum who were justly delighted
with the remarkable success of their reception. They had dared to
bring together all the representatives of different nations at war
and of nations who had not yet concluded peace and they had been most
successful in their endeavour. This was especially remarkable as it
took place right in Constantinople which is and has been for many years
the center of international intrigues, political rivalries and petty
jealousies. We could congratulate them therefore most truthfully. They
took us back into a small sitting-room on the first floor where we had
a few minutes private audience with the Crown Prince who courteously
expressed the hope that we had enjoyed the reception. Upon learning
that my wife was American he stated his admiration for the United
States which he hopes to be able to visit some time. It surely would
be a very good thing for the world if through visits of this kind the
western world was placed in a position to know and appreciate the
Orient. The American idea of an Oriental potentate would surely be
greatly revised if Oriental princes such as the Persian Crown Prince
and the Turkish Imperial Princes came to America and entered into
personal touch with the people.

Of course the Oriental feminine element was entirely absent from the
reception at the Persian Embassy, the Persians being in this respect
much stricter than the Turks, their women do not go out in society and
as Persian ladies were not to be present, Turkish ladies also remained
away. But this is not the case at the receptions given by the other
Embassies, especially the American Embassy.

The United States High Commissioner and his wife give every season
a series of entertainments to which they ask in turn the different
nations represented in Constantinople. This solves very diplomatically
the always ticklish problem of bringing inadvertently together
representatives of nations who are not on good terms. The receptions
given at the American Embassy are always most enjoyable and I can say
without exaggeration that among all the foreign representatives it is
the American High Commissioner and his wife who are the most liked--and
liked indiscriminately by all--in Constantinople. Whenever they give an
entertainment to which the Turkish society is invited the drawing-rooms
of the Embassy are filled to full capacity as all the Turks who are
asked want to show their appreciation by coming to the party. The
company is always the most representative gathering that one can see
in Constantinople. At one of the “thé dansants” they gave recently
there were, besides all the Turkish Government officials, not less than
four Imperial Princes and three Princesses. It surely is a sign of the
times and proof of the emancipation of Turkish women to see at a large
reception a Turkish Princess, a niece or cousin of the reigning Calif,
freely talking to strangers.

It is always at the American Embassy that one sees the largest
collection of Turkish ladies. Americans are very much liked by the
Turks and many of the younger Turkish generation have been educated
at Robert College or at the Constantinople College, the two American
educational institutions of Constantinople where young men and young
women are educated according to an American program. It was at one
of the teas given at the American Embassy that we met one of the
principals of Robert College, and he and his wife having asked us to
tea the following week and having promised to take us through the
college we were delighted to accept their invitation.



XI

ROBERT COLLEGE


Robert College is situated at the most picturesque spot on the
Bosphorus. It dominates the narrowest part of the waterway and its many
buildings are on a hill, above the very place which was selected by the
Turks nearly six centuries ago as the strategic spot to build their
first fort for the conquest of Constantinople. The ruins of the old
fort are still there.

Although the electric cars run from the city almost to the very door of
the college, we took an automobile, both because we wanted to time our
arrival and because we did not desire to climb through the park of the
College up the hill where its principal buildings are. We left Stamboul
with some American friends who had also been asked and, at times
skirting the quays, at times taking the road behind the old palaces, we
followed the winding contour of the Bosphorus. All the villages here
constitute the real suburbs of Constantinople and follow each other
almost uninterruptedly nearly to the shores of the Black Sea. One of
the first things that attracted our attention soon after we had left
the city proper were the buildings of the American Naval Base where
are kept all the stores for the United States warships. The principal
nations keep such stores at present in Constantinople, the harbour
being used as a base for their warships engaged in the international
control of the straits. America maintains only a few small craft in the
Near East; therefore, its naval base is much smaller than those of the
other nations but it is nevertheless quite an extensive organization
where are stored canned products of all kind, fresh food, as well as
deck and engine-room supplies. A few squares from the American Naval
Base is the Imperial Palace of Dolma Baghtshe, the official residence
of the Sultan.

It is an elaborate and large palace in stone and marble, within a
beautiful garden surrounded with high walls and wrought-iron gates.
I remember having entered it during the reign of the late Sultan. I
was struck by the enormous size of its halls and rooms, by the luxury
of its priceless carpets, rugs and hangings, and by its gallery of
pictures which includes the most important collection of paintings of
the famous Russian artist, Aivazowsky. It had been collected by Sultan
Abdul Aziz and is now greedily coveted by many European museums, who
will, however, have to be satisfied just to covet it as Turkey does not
sell its national art possessions. Passing before the Imperial Palace
I could not help comparing mentally its present appearance to the way
it looked when I had previously visited it. At that time the place was
full of life, the large gates were wide opened, and the gardens were
crowded with military aides and chamberlains busily going and coming.
Now the gates were closed, a lonely Turkish sentry was pacing up and
down, guarding the empty palace, and through the wrought-iron bars I
could get only glimpses of its forsaken gardens. My American friends
asked me why the palace was now so tightly closed and easily understood
the reason when I called their attention to the fact that most of
the largest foreign warships had to be anchored in the Bosphorus
right in front of the Palace as the inner harbour of Constantinople
is too congested with trade to make it practical for battleships to
stay there. No wonder, therefore, that the Sultan prefers to live
temporarily in the summer palace of Yildiz Kiosk which is located
outside the city, on a hill far away from the sight of foreign warships
whose propinquity would be too vivid a reminder to the sovereign of the
plight of his nation.

A little further on we passed before the gates of another old palace
which has now been converted into an orphan asylum, where hundreds of
Turkish war orphans are being cared for by the Committee of Turkish
Ladies for the Relief of Orphans. Poor little boys, ranging from six to
fourteen years and uniformly dressed in khaki tunics and long trousers,
were pitifully standing and watching the passers-by. They did not even
seem to have any desire to pass their few minutes of recreation in
playing and running in the gardens, as all other children of their age
do in all other countries. Truly Sherman was right in his definition of
war, and he would have even forged a stronger word if he had seen the
consequences of war in Turkey!

Finally we arrived at Bebek, with its pretty little public garden, its
tiny harbour where small yachts and skiffs are peacefully lying covered
with tarpaulin for their winter sleep. From here to the lower gate of
Robert College is only a very short distance and within a few minutes
our car swung through the gate and up the road winding its way to the
top of the hill. The climb is pretty steep and I pity the day pupils
who have to negotiate it every morning on foot. Of course the teachers
claim that this is good exercise for the boys. There is a building
at the foot of the hill, right near the entrance gate, which was
originally meant as an abode for some of the teachers and principals of
the college. It has perfectly splendid accommodations, but few of the
teachers live here as they naturally prefer to live on top of the hill.
Our hosts had their domicile in the hospital building which is right
below the large terrace at the very summit. So before we reached this
terrace our car swerved around and stopped at the door of the hospital.

We were directed to an apartment on the ground floor where our
hosts received us and, after the usual greetings, served us tea
and some delicious American homemade cakes. All the furniture in
this apartment--as throughout the whole college--is imported from
America, even to the window frames. Provided one does not look out
of the windows one could easily believe oneself to be in an American
home of the standardized “bourgeois” type. Everything, even to the
mahogany-finished mantelpiece and the book-cases to match, speaks of
America, the middle class America cut out of immovable patterns. The
furniture itself is also American and reminds you of pictures you see
in the anniversary sales periodically advertised in newspapers. The
eternal rocking-chair is, of course there, and on the center-table the
latest _Ladies' Home Companion_ rests peacefully side by side with the
latest _Saturday Evening Post_. Truly this is a little corner of America,
possibly not a corner of the progressive America which leads the world
in things artistic, intellectual, scientific and political--possibly
not a corner of the good old consistent America, puritan in her tastes,
but which has for generations given to the great Western Republic
millions and millions of hard-working farmers, traders and navigators,
Empire builders--but a corner of the average America which abides
faithfully to standardized taste.

The general conversation started naturally by talking about America,
the land of the free, and how everyone wished to be there; how much
comfort one had in America and how little of it one had in Europe,
especially in Constantinople; how the American colony in Constantinople
had increased since the war, and what a blessing it was to have now so
many Americans whom one could visit and whom one could talk to; how the
American colony was sufficient to itself and how one could pleasantly
and interestingly pass away the time by seeing only people of one's
own kind with whom one could speak without the necessity of employing
an interpreter or without being obliged to watch oneself continuously
so as not to make a break. Of course this question of language is a
serious consideration to the Americans; as most of them speak only
English they have comparatively few people they can talk to in foreign
countries. Our host, however, remarked that through the good work done
by Robert College and the Constantinople College for Girls, who were
both striving to spread education and the light of truth, the number of
English-speaking “natives” had greatly increased. Our hostess pointed
out how bright the young “native” children were and how easily they
picked up language, education and religion. They suggested showing us
through the college grounds and buildings and so we all got up.

Our tour started by stepping out of the French windows into the little
terrace, where an old fashioned New England flower garden had been
transplanted on these distant shores. The hedges were not high enough
to completely mask the gorgeous Oriental view. Seeing we were so much
interested in the panorama, our hosts suggested our going on the roof
of the Hospital Building where we could see it without any obstruction.
As we passed through the drawing-room our hostess pointed out to us
the genuine Turkish and Persian carpets she had been lucky enough to
purchase through the uncle of one of the pupils who had a shop in the
Bazaar. She considered them as a real bargain and she proudly told
us the price she had paid. Of course we did not say anything, but
my conscience was only set at rest after I found, through skilful
investigation, that the pupil whose uncle had a shop in the Bazaar
was an Armenian “and one of the cleverest little fellows we have.”
Our hostess showed us also, hidden in a corner near the door and
patiently awaiting the eventual return of its owners to America where
it could be shown to friends from Michigan or Wisconsin as exhibit A
of a quaint collection of Turkish antiques, a brass brazero, another
bargain purchased from the Armenian uncle of the clever little pupil.
It seemed that this man through his good services to our hosts had
been recommended by them to many of their friends and had furnished
to several of them similar bargains. No wonder that the family of the
little boy prodigy could afford to send him to Robert College.

We climbed the stairs of the building and stopped on our way in the
hospital room, a perfectly equipped place with all the comforts devised
by modern science and kept immaculately clean and as we climbed one
more flight we reached the door of the roof, a spacious flat place with
an indented parapet built according to the best principles of American
neo-mediaeval suburban architecture. Here we had the view, and words
fail me to depict its gorgeousness. Imagine if you can a limitless
horizon extending far into the transparent azure of a limpid Eastern
sky, deep into the snow-covered mountains of Anatolia, which are,
however, so far away that they almost seem at this distance to be below
your level. All around in the country are little bouquets of trees
which, with each slender minaret, represent the location of a small
village. Nearer, but still on the Asiatic shores, are the green hills
of the Bosphorus with their summer residences and their uninterrupted
line of homes by the water, while below are the green hills of the
European shore. With the blue water in between and the blue sky
overhead, the picture is unforgettable. We admired it in silence while
our hosts told us of their little country house in America, near a
little pond whose waters are as blue as the waters of the Bosphorus.

We descend from the terrace and we are taken to the principal buildings
of the college through its splendid grounds. The park is beautiful and
well kept and is crowned with an enormous terrace, facing East, from
where we have another view totally different but fully as gorgeous
as the one we had from the Hospital Building. That is the beauty of
the Bosphorus: its aspect changes from any spot that you stand on,
its every hill, its every house, its every nook and every corner
has a different outlook, each one more beautiful than the other. It
completely does away with the monotony that any panorama, no matter how
beautiful, generally has.

Right behind the terrace are the playgrounds of the college, large
lawns with special accommodations for all kinds of games: football,
tennis, croquet, and of course basket-ball and baseball. Around these
grounds and facing the Bosphorus in a semi-circle are the principal
buildings of the College where the class-rooms, the dormitories, the
dining-rooms, laboratories, gymnasiums, etc. are located. We go through
some of them. They are all spacious, well-ventilated and bright rooms,
and each is equipped according to the latest dictates of hygiene and
science. It really is perfect in every detail and no modern college in
the United States can muster any better accommodation

Our host is justly proud when we compliment him on the College. As
they are taking us back to our motor he walks with me and expresses his
personal disappointment in not having a larger number of Turkish pupils.

“We have pupils from all the nations of the Near East,” he says, “but
the largest quota is provided by the Armenians. We have, however, quite
a few Greeks, we have even Bulgarians and Roumanians who come here from
their distant countries, we have Caucasians and Russians, but barely a
few Turks. I do not understand why more Turkish families do not send
their children to be educated and brought up by us. The Turks desire
to acquire modern education, they are unquestionably good workers and
progressive. Ours is, I believe, the best College in the Near East, we
have excellent teachers and our courses are as complete as any of the
American Colleges back home. Still the Turks don't seem to care to send
us their children. They seem to admire the Americans, they desire to
know us better, to make themselves better known to us. They seem to be
sincere in their wish to understand us better and to have themselves
better understood in America. Still only a very few of them send their
sons to the only American College here and they prefer to send them
to Galata Serai which is a college run by the French and where French
education is imparted.”

On our way back in the car, I was thinking over these parting
remarks of our host and as I noticed that the American friends who
accompanied us had been impressed by them I decided to tell them of my
own experience, when years ago I was called to choose between Robert
College and Galata Serai as the educational institution to which to
send my younger brother.

To appreciate the full meaning of my action at that time and of the
reasons that induced me to act that way, I must first say that as
my father was in the diplomatic service I have grown up in foreign
countries and have myself received a foreign education. My childhood
and early youth, I passed in Rome, where French, Italian and English
teachers prepared me for taking my French degrees. I also had a
Turkish teacher who taught me my own language. As far as religious
education is concerned although I studied the Koran, being a Muslim
born, I also studied the Bible and other Holy Books. My religious
education was therefore most liberal and according to the true Muslim
principles, which as I understand them and as they are interpreted by
all broadminded Muslims, are all-inclusive of all other religions.
And recognizing the one Almighty God and all His prophets, I never
hesitated to go into any church of any denomination and therein raise
my thoughts in prayer. In fact, having passed the greater part of my
life in foreign countries I have more often prayed in churches than in
mosques.

Well about fifteen years ago, and after I had finished my studies,
I was engaged in business in Constantinople while my father was
transferred from Rome to Vienna. My father was obliged to choose
between either having my younger brother start again his studies,
with German this time as a basis, or else sending him somewhere where
he could continue his studies either in French or in English, both
of which he knew. Naturally my father preferred this last course and
decided to send my younger brother to Constantinople where he could
follow either the course of Robert College or that of Galata Serai, and
he asked me to investigate both colleges and to make arrangements with
the one I recommended the most.

I went first to Galata Serai, the program of which I already knew,
having myself taken the official French degrees. I knew that the
education one received in French schools was somewhat too theoretical
and I personally was not therefore in favour of my brother following
it. But to have a clear conscience I visited the college and had a talk
with the principal. Of course I found the class-rooms and dormitories
good enough if not very modern, and, as I expected, I found that
athletics and sports were much neglected. As for the program of studies
I found it as cumbersome as the one I had taken.

My next step was to go to Robert College where I was received by
the then Dean, who very courteously showed me all around. I was most
favourably impressed by the great attention given to athletics and
sports as well as by the most modern and hygienic buildings, the
working quarters and the living quarters. As for the program of studies
it did not take me long to realize how much more practical it was
than the French program, how boys graduated from an American College
stepped into life better equipped to face all modern problems than
those graduated from European Colleges. I therefore made up my mind
and told the Dean that I would most forcibly advocate the sending of
my younger brother to Robert College in preference to Galata Serai. As
a last word, and so as to make everything clear, I asked the Dean if,
seeing that there were no classes from Saturday noon to Monday morning,
the College would object to allowing my brother to visit his family
from Saturday to Sunday evening. The Dean replied that while he had
no objection to my brother's visiting his family on Sunday afternoons
it would not be possible for him to go home on Saturdays, as one of
the few unbreakable rules of the College was that all pupils should be
present at Sunday service. Despite all my arguments to the effect that
my brother was a Muslim and that, to be fair, he should at least not be
obliged to attend any religious functions until he had reached the age
of reason and could then choose freely the creed he wanted to follow,
the Dean informed me that he was very sorry but Muslim or no Muslim it
was an unbreakable rule that all pupils should go to church on Sundays
and he could not possibly make an exception in favour of any Muslim
pupil.

This rule seemed to me so narrow-minded, and apparently such an
unjustifiable attempt to try to force, to coerce young children into
the fold of one church and one creed in preference to any other, that
I was struck by its narrowness in comparison with the broadness of
my own education. As a result my brother went to Galata Serai and
hundreds, possibly thousands of other Turkish boys are sent yearly to
Galata Serai in preference to Robert College for this very reason.
Americans should not take the lack of participation of the Turks in
the educational campaign they lead in Turkey as a reason to doubt of
the desire of the Turks to acquire modern education or as a proof that
they are not sincere when they claim that they want to be better known
by the Americans and want to know them better. This lack of response
on the part of the Turks should be rather attributed to the fact that
all Turks like any civilized nation, resent the activities of foreign
missionaries especially when these missionaries try to impose on their
children a religion which is not their own, and try to mold young minds
into accepting the dogma of an alien church.

When I explained the foregoing to our American friends they understood
exactly the situation and they agreed with me that the greatest
handicap for the spread of American interests in the Near East
is the fact that all of the American educational enterprises are
conducted by missionaries, who, under the guise of offering modern
education, endeavour to convert people to their own denominations.
The Constantinople College for Girls is conducted on identical lines,
as far as religion is concerned, with Robert College and there is no
doubt that if instead of having Colleges for Girls and Boys conducted
by missionaries the Americans maintained non-sectarian schools where
modern science was taught and education imparted without consideration
of religion they would render a far greater service to humanity and
culture. Irrespective of religion, creed or denomination they would
help in forming in the Near East new generations of modern men and
women.

Unfortunately the Constantinople College for Girls has become, since
the armistice, more unpopular among the Turks also for another reason,
and that is that despite the fact that the United States was never
at war with Turkey, despite the fact that the Turks had treated all
American institutions most correctly and in a friendly manner during
the war, all the teachers and American employees of the College did not
hesitate to manifest openly their pleasure at the sight of the arrival
of the Franco-British fleet in the harbour of Constantinople. Together
with Greek and Armenian pupils they waved flags and handkerchiefs,
they cheered from the windows of the College the battleships of the
then enemies of Turkey without consideration of the feelings of their
Turkish pupils. To all the Turkish girls the sight of the entrance of
the Franco-British fleet in the Bosphorus meant the realization of the
defeat of their country, and they still resent the fact that their
teachers, whom they had until then considered as friendly Americans,
cheered with joy in celebration of the defeat of Turkey, the country
which had extended them a most courteous hospitality during the worst
years of the war.

It is, of course, true that, fortunately for both countries, there
are in Turkey quite a few Americans and American institutions or
enterprises which are moved by truly American broadmindedness and are
imbued with a true spirit of fair play. Those are the business and
Governmental institutions, and it is most remarkable that all of the
Americans who do not have to depend for their living on the continuance
of an anti-Turkish campaign, are out and out friendly to the Turks and
openly in their favour. The Turks see this and can discriminate between
the two groups. They are duly grateful to those of their American
guests who show rectitude and fairness in their judgment. They are
especially grateful to the American High Commissioner and to his
assistants who are more liked than any other foreigner in Turkey. The
other Americans are also very much liked, even the missionaries, but it
would unquestionably better serve the interests of America in the Near
East, and civilization as a whole, if there were less missionary and
more non-sectarian American enterprises.

I believe that the American friends who were with us and who had been
in Constantinople on business for quite a while realized perfectly well
what I meant when I said that in my opinion the most desirable thing
in the interest of the two countries would be the appearance of an
American Pierre Loti. It can be said that the indestructible friendship
between France and Turkey, and especially the fact that it has survived
the war, has been cemented by the work of this great French writer.
He has taken the trouble to study the Turks, he has come and lived
with them--not in Pera, but in Stamboul, in the heart of Turkey. He
has lived as one of them for years and has learned thoroughly their
qualities and their faults. He has knocked and has been admitted, he
has opened his heart and all hearts have opened to him and after having
thus equipped himself he has gone back to France and has endeavoured to
impart his knowledge of the Turks to his countrymen by writing unbiased
novels and books. He has, as all novelists, romanticized his message.
As the real poet that he is, he has shown Turkey and the Turks through
the coloured glasses of poetry. He has perhaps added a few things here
and erased a few other things there. But he has made the heart of
Turkey talk to the heart of France and they both have come to know and
love each other, without prejudice, without religious thought.

A single American Pierre Loti, would render, in the long run, much
greater service to the interests of his own country in the Near East
and would more efficiently serve the cause of civilization than all
the organizations at present engaged in trying to make converts and
succeeding only in showing partiality in favour of the people of their
own religion by helping and succouring Christians although thousands of
destitute Turkish refugees might be dying at their very doors.

After all Pierre Loti has used his exceptional talents as a novelist
and poet to bring about a personal touch between the French and the
Turks. Is there not an American novelist or poet who is willing to
render the same service to his own country? and if there is anyone
whose talent is equal to that of Pierre Loti and who has the courage to
publish his opinion as the French novelist has done, he can thoroughly
count on all the help, assistance and gratitude of the whole Turkish
race, much maligned in American literature. Pierre Loti has become
immortal through his works on Turkey. The people of Constantinople
have built a monument, a fountain, in his honour and have named one
of the principal streets of the City after him. His name is cherished
by millions of Turks who treat him as a friend, as a brother, when he
comes to Turkey. What is most needed for the American propaganda in the
Near East is an American Pierre Loti.

Not that the works undertaken and conducted by American enterprises
in Turkey are not very laudable in themselves. But they are as
insufficient to promote a good and thorough understanding between the
two people as the activities of the French missionaries were before
the advent of Pierre Loti. The French Frères and Sisters of Charity
had many schools, many hospitals and orphans asylums where they were
doing very good work for many generations. But it took a Pierre Loti to
establish the personal bonds of friendship between the two people and
to promote, by this fact alone, all French interests in Turkey. He has
made the masses of his countrymen at home know and appreciate the Turks
at their true value. The work of an American Loti would be the crowning
glory of all American enterprises in the Near East.

I explained to our friends that this was my personal opinion only, and
that I knew that the Turks appreciated fully the work that American
organizations were at present conducting in Turkey, and that my desire
to see an American Pierre Loti was exclusively due to a very legitimate
wish of seeing my country and my people better known in America, known
more intimately and more thoroughly through the eyes of an impartial
writer rather than through the eyes of people who might have certain
interests in keeping alive the false reputation of the Turks.

Our American friends agreed implicitly with me and pointed out that
what surprised them the most on their arrival in Constantinople was to
find that all the Americans who were in business or in non-religious
work and who had had an opportunity to know the Turks had become
without exception real friends of this maligned race. They said that
a careful investigation would establish the fact that all those who
have written or spoken against the Turks had done so for an ulterior
personal motive and they deplored with me the fact that no great
American novelist had as yet come to Turkey and popularized in his own
country the knowledge of the Turks as they really are.

Thus saying we arrived at the hotel where our friends were stopping and
upon their expressing a desire to find out more about Turkish schools
and Turkish educational institutions, I promised to arrange for them
to visit some of the exclusively Turkish schools and colleges and to
take them to call on people who would be able to tell them about modern
Turkish education better than I could and we parted until the following
week when I was able to keep my promise to them.



XII

EDUCATION AND ART


It was very easy to assist my friends in the investigation they wanted
to conduct for their own private information on Turkish schools and
the educational system of Turkey. My father had been twice Minister of
Public Education and he was in a position to give all the information
desired. My first step was, therefore, to take our friends to him and
have him explain the present educational system in our country.

Contrary to what is generally believed in foreign countries education
is obligatory in Turkey and there are fewer illiterates among the Turks
than, for instance, among Russians and other Near Eastern people.
This is principally due to the fact that all Muslims have considered
it their duty ever since the time of the Prophet Mahomed to learn how
to read the Koran. Unfortunately, however, this religious principle
was taken too literally by the average Muslim who, for centuries was
satisfied to learn just the alphabet, as he imagined that as long as he
could read the Holy Book he was accomplishing his religious duty. In
the course of time, therefore, when other nations besides the Arabs
embraced the Muslim faith, the people who did not know Arabic were
also perfectly contented to be able to read the Koran even if they did
not understand its meaning. All Muslim countries having adopted the
Arabic alphabet this very elementary education placed even the greatest
majority of non-Arab Muslims in a position to read their own language.
But it was only a very restricted higher class which took the trouble
of studying its grammar. Thus for centuries only a limited number of
Turks--as was the case with the Muslims of other nations--were learned
enough to read and write fluently their own languages, although the
greatest majority knew enough of the alphabet to be able to read the
Koran and to sign their names.

Of course this restricted knowledge of reading cannot count as
education, but when it is considered that the science of reading was
so neglected among the nations of the West that practically up to
the period of Louis XIV very few of the Western nobles knew even how
to sign their names or to decipher the simplest document, it will
be admitted that anyhow the rudimentary knowledge of the East was
preferable to the almost total ignorance of the West.

However, as in everything else, Turkey made very little progress
in this matter of education during the nineteenth century with the
result that while the percentage of people who had acquired a high
school education had increased in a very large proportion in the West,
the past generation in Turkey had still only the same proportion of
educated people as it had a century ago. The number of people who
knew the elementary principals of the alphabet was as considerable
as before, and was proportionately much larger than the number of
people who had this elementary knowledge in Western countries. But
the percentage of really educated people was proportionately much
smaller in Turkey than in the progressive Western countries. In other
words, although complete illiteracy was almost nonexistent in Turkey,
education was the property of a comparatively small number of people.
The educational level of the people at large was, and still is, much
lower than the educational level of the people of Western European
nations.

This explains the reason why one can see even to-day in the streets
of Constantinople, generally in the courtyard of the mosques, public
secretaries taking letters from old men and women of the lower classes,
poor people who do not know grammar enough to write their own letters
but who nevertheless are able to spell their names or to laboriously
decipher a printed document and it is no wonder that foreigners are
generally sceptical when told that the number of total illiterates is
very small in Turkey.

Much has been done, however, during the last generation to spread
education in Turkey and a new system of schools has been grafted
upon the old system which consisted almost exclusively in small
public schools--“Mahalle Mektebi” or District Schools as they are
called--where small children are taught the rudimentary principles of
the alphabet.

These District Schools exist by the millions all over Turkey, in cities
as well as in the country. Each mosque--and there are millions of
them--has its own private District School where the imam or clergyman
teaches the children of his district, boys and girls, how to read the
Koran. The classes, if they might be called by that name, are mostly
held in summer in the courtyard of the mosques and in winter in a room
which, for lack of a better name, we will describe as the vestry. It
is obligatory for every family living in the district and it has been
obligatory for centuries, to send their children to these schools if
they cannot afford to give them a private education. Needless to say
that these schools are absolutely gratis.

The District Schools of Turkey are a sort of primitive community
Kindergarten from which games and plays are strictly banned. Their
purpose is to teach children how to read the Koran, and reading the
Koran is a very serious matter. So, for two hours every day except
Fridays little boys and little girls from five to about eight years old
go to the mosque of their district where the classes are held. Sitting
on the ground in summer and in winter on straw mats, they form a circle
around their teacher, the imam of the district, who teaches them in a
monotonous chant the secrets of the alphabet They squat on their knees,
these little boys and girls, and repeat the chant of their teacher,
keeping time with their little bodies which they swing slowly backwards
and forwards and beware of a mistake! The little pupil who makes one,
who indulges in a childish prank or who does not behave according
to the severe discipline which must be respected by everyone who is
learning how to read the Koran or who is in the exhalted presence of an
imam, is reminded of his misdeed by the swift application of a long,
willowy stick on his hands or on some other part of his anatomy. The
teacher keeps this stick right next to him, right under his hand, and
is very quick to use it.

The alphabet is first memorized, each letter being accurately
described. Of course the Turkish alphabet is different from the Latin
alphabet, but the system could be applied to the Latin alphabet more
or less as follows: “A is a triangle with a bar in the middle”--“B is
a vertical bar with two circles on the right”--“C is a crescent facing
to the right.” Thus the whole alphabet is described in a monotonous
chant for days and months until the pupils can visualize it thoroughly.
Then the sounds of syllables are memorized according to the same
system and it is only after this has been done thoroughly that the
children are permitted to apply the knowledge they have thus acquired
by memory. They are each furnished with a Koran and they are taught
to read it aloud. Of course, as the understanding of the text of the
Koran requires a thorough knowledge of Arabic, they do not understand
what they read and those who desire to acquire this knowledge have to
go to the Medressé or theological schools, of which we will talk later.
The purpose of the district schools is exclusively to teach them how
to read, and when this is done the course of the district school is
finished.

In the old days obligatory education only extended as far as the
district school. This is not so any more. During the past twenty-five
or thirty years the Government has created high schools in the
principal cities and towns of the country where modern education is
imparted as well as the restricted means of the impoverished nation
allows. The courses of these high schools are also free and their
program is meant to prepare the pupils for college studies. They are
obligatory only for boys. The system is good enough, but for lack of
funds and for lack of peace the Government has not been able to apply
it thoroughly and to extend it as much as it was originally expected.
The study of foreign languages is only optional and very theoretic
in these schools where only the elements of arithmetic, grammar,
literature and history are taught.

The next grade is the college which corresponds to the French Lycée
and which is an absolute adaptation to Turkey of the French program.
The first college of this kind in Turkey was Galata Serai which was
organized nearly half a century ago and has ever since kept pace
with the French Lycées. As its diploma is recognized by the French
Government as equivalent to that of any Governmental French College
this institution is a sort of joint Turco-French enterprise and is
used as pattern by the other Turkish Colleges. Upon the invitation
of the Turkish Government the French Ministry of Public Education
organized Galata Serai and the French cooperation in this non-sectarian
and exclusively educational institution has continued ever since its
formation, regardless of wars or political entanglements. The French
language is of course obligatory and the study of another foreign
language is encouraged. The principal courses are given during the
first three years in Turkish and during the last two years before
graduation in French. An institution of this kind, but with the
cooperation of America and where American teachers and principals
should take the place of French teachers and principals, would do more
for the spreading of modern education on practical lines, for the
advancement of civilization by bringing up future Turkish generations
capable of rationally adapting to the Near East the principles of
democracy as conceived by the Americans than many missionary schools.

The other Turkish Colleges are modelled after Galata Serai, with
the difference that while French or one other foreign language is
obligatory all courses are given in Turkish, and their teachers and
principals are Turks. Although these institutions are not free the
tuition fees are so nominal that the Government is obliged to subzidize
them. At present the fees for the yearly courses are equivalent to
about a hundred and fifty dollars, including lodging and food, and
for the purpose of making it easier to the very much impoverished
population the Government consents to a substantial discount on these
fees to the children and relatives of Government employees.

Here also lack of funds has greatly hampered the organization of these
colleges throughout Turkey. While it was the original program to
open one such college in every city, the Government has been able to
organize and maintain only about five of them throughout the country,
and as only three are for boys and two for girls it can readily be seen
that they do not suffice for the requirements of Turkey.

In addition to these schools and colleges there are in Turkey many
academies and universities where college graduates are able to
specialize in the different branches they have selected. Most of
these academies and universities are in Constantinople, and while the
greatest majority are supported by the Government some of them owe
their existence to private endowments.

In late years, that is up to the Armistice, the Government had
given special attention principally to two institutions: the Naval
Academy and the Medical Academy. The signing of the Armistice with
the consequent dismantling of the Turkish navy brought, of course, a
great setback to the Naval Academy which is now fighting for its life
against tremendous odds. Naturally the navy of Turkey being reduced to
practically nothing very few families desire to send their children
to the Academy. In addition the foreigners who control Constantinople
do not look with a very favourable eye upon the maintenance of this
Academy for fear of its keeping alive a militaristic spirit. They do
their utmost to encourage its closing. This is the more regrettable
that in the last fifteen years the Academy had been reorganized so
thoroughly that it was in all points comparable to any of the best
high-grade educational institutions of the world. As its manager told
me once, the purpose of the Academy was to form real men so that the
cadets who had graduated would be in a position to enter into any
branch of modern activity in case they decided, after their graduation,
to quit the navy. The best proof that the Academy has most efficiently
lived up to this principle is that after the Armistice and when the
fleet was dismantled all the naval officers who were obliged to leave
the navy succeeded in making a living, and many of them have been most
successful in their new activities as business men. It would be a
shame if an institution which had so markedly succeeded in forming a
generation of real men was obliged to close its doors. An institution
for forming generations of real men should not be allowed to die just
because of the dismantlement of the fleet.

The Medical Academy is another institution which has done a most
efficient work of civilization in Modern Turkey. It can be said that
the Turkish “intelligentsia” consists mostly of doctors and medical
students. The generation of Turkish physicians which the Medical
Academy has formed has taken a lead among European medical circles
and many are the Turkish doctors whose knowledge, activities and
discoveries in medical science have earned them professorships in
France and Germany. The Medical Academy, which is situated in a large
modern building near the station of Haidar Pasha, the headline of the
Bagdad Railroad, is completely equipped with all the requirements of
modern science. It also maintains special courses for nurses, which are
now very popular among Turkish women.

It would be tedious to talk at length of all the industrial schools
that have been organized in the past ten or fifteen years in Turkey.
Suffice it to say that quite a number of them are in existence.
But a special mention should be made of the two universities of
Constantinople as they are up to date in every respect. One of these
universities is exclusively for women, the other is open to both sexes,
and any one who has seen a mixed course where young Turkish women, in
their becoming tcharshaf, sit on the same benches and study side by
side with men students can only wonder how the legend of the seclusion
of Turkish women can still receive credence in foreign countries.

In concluding His rapid outline of Turkish schools and the Turkish
educational system, my father mentioned the different art schools which
are now prospering in Turkey as well as the medressés or theological
schools where the Muslim religion is taught. I could see that our
American friends were especially interested in these two subjects and
as we were leaving my father's house I was not surprised to have my
impression confirmed. They wanted to know more about Turkish art and
they wanted to learn something about the Muslim religion. Of course I
cannot say that this surprised me.

Whenever the word “art” is pronounced in connection with Turkey, it
awakens in the mind of the westerners, especially the Americans, only
carpets, embroideries and laces, and dark-skinned, thick-eyebrowed
Armenian merchants trying to sell at exorbitant prices these dainty art
works of the Orient--purchased by them for a song generally from some
poor women who have used their eyes, their health and their time for
the ultimate purpose of bringing some soothing touch of colour into
the modern homes of Europe and America, and many many dollars, pound
sterlings, or napoleons, as the case may be, into the bank accounts
of the dark-skinned, thick-eyebrowed merchants. Even to an American
or a westerner who has been in Turkey as a tourist the word “Turkish
art” does not convey much more. In addition to carpets, embroideries
and laces he may visualize some musty copper brazero, some delicate
handwritings with painted arabesques of flowers, some richly painted
porcelains or embossed leather bindings. All things which spell old
age. In modern art he would only visualize some Oriental jewels--made
in Germany! Few are the foreigners who think of Turkish art in the
light of regular paintings, architecture or music and when they hear of
art schools their curiosity is excited.

As far as the Muslim religion is concerned westerners are, as a rule,
even more ignorant on this subject than on that of art. They think of
the Muslims as unbelievers, as pagans who deny God and the Christ, as
fatalists who calmly await the fulfilment of the prophecies without
having enough sense to get out of the rain even when it pours. The
only activities they give the Muslims credit for are massacres and
atrocities. They believe that theirs alone is a religion of love and
mercy while that of the Muslim is one of fire and blood. I remember
that an American from Pittsburg, upon hearing that I was a Muslim,
asked me what god I adored, and absolutely refused to believe that I
adored the One Almighty God. He had heard that we prayed to Allah. Say
what I would I could not at first explain to him that “Allah” in Arabic
means God in English, and he was only half convinced when I told him
that at that rate the French were also unbelievers as they prayed to
“Dieu.”

But the request of our American friends was not one that could be
immediately satisfied as I had to make the necessary arrangements to
visit the art schools and medressés and I had to await an opportunity
to put them in contact with people who could tell them more of Turkish
art and of the Muslim religion than I could. It was therefore only a
few days later that I could arrange to take them to the Academy of Art
of Constantinople, the principal school of its kind in the Near East,
where no other city--not even Athens, which is still considered as the
cradle of art--can boast of as complete and progressive an art academy.

The academy is located in the Park of the Old Seraglio, right next to
the Imperial Museum. They are both under the same management, and as
we arrived on the large plaza, shaded by old trees, we were received
by the secretary of the manager, a cousin of mine, whom I had asked to
show us through the place so as to give all available information to
our friends.

He took us through the building where different classes for drawing,
painting and modelling were being held in different rooms. The
class-rooms are large, all whitewashed and lighted by skylights and
big windows. The whole place is kept immaculately clean. The students
are quite numerous and our American friends were surprised to see
that there were as many Turkish girls studying art as men. “We always
thought of Turkish women as hot-house flowers,” they said, “and we were
very much surprised to see when we arrived here how many of them take
an active part in business and in the every-day life of the community.
We imagined that those who were thus active were doing it out of
necessity because they had to earn a living. We could not conceive that
Turkish women would work of their own choice, and especially would
spend time in studying art which, after all, is a luxury.”

Kadry Bey, the secretary of the manager, smiled and said: “Woman is the
materialization of art: is it surprising that, now that Turkish women
have acquired their entire emancipation, they should desire to study a
science the knowledge of which gives a better appreciation of their
own attribute, beauty? As soon as these classes were opened to Turkish
women only a few years ago, they flocked in great number to take full
advantage of the opportunity and you can judge for yourself how hard
they are working. Some of them have already acquired a certain renown,
and one of them, a former pupil of this academy, Moukbile Hanoum, has
just written us from Switzerland where she is visiting, that one of her
pictures had been awarded a medal at an international exhibition in
Berne.”

As our guests wanted to know if there were no galleries or exhibitions
where the work of Turkish artists could be seen, Kadry Bey told them
of the bi-yearly exhibitions which are regularly held in Galata Serai
under the auspices of the Turkish Crown Prince. “His Highness Prince
Abdul Medjid Effendi, heir to the throne of the Sultans and future
Calif of the Muslims, is an accomplished artist himself,” said Kadry.
“He is one of our most active leaders and enjoys a reputation as a
painter even in France. His pictures have been often exhibited at the
Paris Salon and there also a Turkish artist has received the highest
recognition for his work. Only a, short time after the armistice one
of the pictures of our Crown Prince received the gold medal. This is
unquestionably a palpable proof of the artistic value of His Highness's
work as the Committee of the Paris Salon is composed of the greatest
living artists in the world. It is also a splendid illustration of the
saying that art has no country as French artists did not hesitate to
recognize publicly the value of this painting by our Crown Prince so
shortly after the war. If you are in town when the next exhibition is
held at Galata Serai I strongly advise you to visit it. You would see
there pictures by our most prominent artists, as O. Hikmet, M. Refet,
Tchalizade Ibrahim and others, whose works are as good as any of the
modern artists. Most of them follow the classical school and very few
indeed are the Turkish artists who practise post-impressionism and
other extreme styles. You probably would have an opportunity of seeing
at the exhibition the Crown Prince himself as His Highness goes there
practically every day and you would surely be interested in seeing the
democratic way in which he talks and jokes with the other artists.”
Our friends wanted to know something more about the Crown Prince. So
my wife and I told them of the time we had the privilege of hearing a
few of his compositions played by the orchestra of the Imperial Palace.
It was at a charity concert given for the benefit of the Turkish
refugees of Anatolia. Prince Abdul Medjid Effendi was there personally
and although his compositions were not included in the program, the
audience asked and insisted on having them, much to His Highness's
embarrassment. As a true artist the Prince hates publicity and his
activities as a painter or as a composer are not at all meant for
public consumption--as were those of the Kaiser--but simply for his own
satisfaction and for the pleasure of a few privileged friends.

Thus talking, we were visiting the different class-rooms of the
academy. Kadry Bey introduced us to some of the teachers and to one or
two of the most advanced pupils and as we finished our visit he asked
us into the reception room of the manager who, being absent for the
day, had asked him to have us to tea in his place.

As we had to cross the Museum we stopped on our way to admire once more
the famous sarcophagus of Alexander, which is said to have contained
the remains of Alexander the Great of Macedonia and which is the pride
not only of the Museum but also of all Turks. Hamdi Bey, the founder
of the Museum, unearthed it himself in the plains of Anatolia, not
far from Smyrna, and I remember his telling me personally that he was
so excited and exhilarated when he discovered this peerless jewel of
antique art that for two days and one night he and his assistants
worked consecutively without sleep, without food. Finally the second
night arrived and as the delicate work was not yet finished Hamdi Bey
fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, but lying close to the sarcophagus,
in the earth that had hidden it for so many centuries, so that he
could at least feel his priceless find during his sleep.

The present manager of the Imperial Museum is Hamdi Bey's brother and
succeeded him after his death. I had an occasion of meeting him only
a few days ago and the sight of the Sarcophagus of Alexander brings
back to me the recollection of this meeting. I was coming out of the
Sublime Porte with Izzet Pasha, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when
we met the manager of the Museum, Halil Bey. Izzet Pasha stopped and
addressed him: “I have bad news to give you,” said he, “a powerful
foreign group has approached me to-day and has informed me that it was
willing to pay any price the Government wanted for the Sarcophagus of
Alexander.” Halil Bey was dumbfounded. The prospect of losing the most
cherished possession of his Museum, discovered by his own brother, was
too momentous, too enormous a blow. But his fears were put at rest by
Izzet Pasha when the Minister added with a smile. “I have answered them
that the loss of the Sarcophagus would be considered by the Imperial
Government as great a loss as that of the wealthiest province of the
Empire, Mesopotamia, the historic City of Bagdad and its rich oil
fields not excepted, and that therefore it could never entertain even
the possibility of selling the sarcophagus. No matter how poor we might
be the price to be paid for the possession of the sarcophagus will
always have to be reckoned in corpses on battlefields and not in money
on a counter”! This little incident gives a graphic idea of the degree
of appreciation in which the Turks hold their art treasures.

As we were having tea in the reception room of Halil Bey we talked of
his family and of how much the art renaissance in Turkey owed to them
all. Besides Hamdi Bey, who has left an undying name in the annals of
Turkish history both as the founder of the Imperial Museum and as the
creator of the Art Academy, besides the fact that his brother, Halil
Bey, has followed in his path and is continuing the work undertaken by
him, it is worth mentioning that Hamdi Bey's son is a distinguished
architect to whom is due the beautiful buildings of the Museum and of
the Academy. This distinguished family has unquestionably done more
for the revival of art in Turkey than any one family has done for art
in any other country and it was almost a pleasure that Halil Bey was
not present as we could more freely talk of his services and of those
of his family within the very walls which had been erected by them and
filled by them with treasures discovered through their own initiative
and work.

Our American friends admitted that this visit had thrown a different
light on their conception of art in Turkey and its appreciation by the
Turks, but as they were not satisfied until they had seen some other
art school I took them next day to the Darul-Elhan, the Turkish School
of Music for Girls and we had the good fortune to assist in a most
interesting concert. This school was founded and is being managed by
Senator Zia Pasha, who was Turkish Ambassador in Washington a few years
before the war. It is located in an old palace in the very heart of
Stamboul. Our American friends were quite impressed by the knowledge
that they were to hear and see, in the proper setting where their
ancestors had been recluses, free and emancipated Turkish girls playing
and singing for the benefit of strangers.

To the accompaniment of violins, lutes and longstemmed “tambours” these
Turkish girls with the full knowledge possessed only by accomplished
artists and with the soft, velvety voices so typical of the Orient,
sang and played a selection of the most complicated, classical music
as well as charming little folksongs. Zia Pasha was there himself and
as I introduced him to our friends he expressed the wish that more
foreigners would make it a point, when in Constantinople, to assist at
such concerts: “Perhaps,” said he, “if foreigners studied our music
better its reputation for weirdness and monotony would give place to one
of softness and melody. Perhaps foreigners would even be able to detect
in our music all the accords and measures they relish so much in modern
Russian music such as that of Rimsky Korsakoff, which after all is
nothing more or less than the orchestration of our Oriental music.”



XIII

A GLIMPSE OF ISLAM


The week following our visit to the Darul-Elhan and the concert which
was given there, I had an opportunity to arrange a meeting for our
American friends with the leader of one of our Muslim sects, Hassan
Effendi, who had been described to me as one of the most advanced and
broadminded theologians of Islam. A friend of mine who was a follower
of Hassan Effendi was to take us to his house and we were to go there
from our own home in Stamboul, as that was the most convenient place
where we could all meet.

On the appointed day and about an hour before the time fixed for our
audience with Hassan Effendi our American friends arrived. My wife was
delighted to see the genuine interest they were taking in the Turks and
in the Muslim religion and encouraged them in asking questions. She
believes, and I think rightly, that the more intimately the Turks are
known, the less credence foreigners can attach to all the malicious
accounts which are being circulated by interested propagandists.
She believes that the best way to find out if the Turks are really
terrible is to take the trouble to know them, the best way to prove
that they are not “unspeakable” is to speak about them.

Our friends were especially at a loss to explain why, as long as there
was such an active revival of art in Turkey, so few foreigners knew
about it, even among those who are in Constantinople. My wife explained
this:

“The trouble is,” she said, “that most foreigners who live in
Constantinople band together and will not mix with the people of the
country. They do not take the trouble to learn the language, they
do not bother to make friends with the people. They live in small,
self-sufficient groups. I am sure that if they only knew how much they
miss by doing this, they would revise their mode of living, and they
would find out that instead of its being a trouble or a bother to learn
Turkish and to make friends with the Turks it is, on the contrary,
a real pleasure. Of course the Turks are also somewhat to blame as
they--at least those who are not over-westernized, and they are the
best--do not make an effort to mix with foreigners or to Turkicize the
foreign elements who are established in their country. But after all I
understand their point of view as I know how we feel in America about
the foreigners who come to the States and do not assimilate and as
for “Turkicizing” even the foreign elements who are established here,
we must not forget that in all matters the world has two standards,
one for the western nations and the other for Turkey. When we, in the
States, endeavour to Americanize foreigners who have come to live with
us, the world admires us and calls America “the melting-pot”--but if
the Turks ever dare to try to apply the principles of equality of
all Ottoman citizens without distinction of race or creed, the whole
world jumps on them and claims that they are endeavouring to destroy
the rights of minorities. Anyhow, the reason why the revival of art
in Turkey is not much known by foreigners is because they have not,
so far, investigated with open heart and open mind the intellectual
activities now under way in Turkey. As soon as foreigners will give up
their self-sufficiency, as soon as they will mingle with the people
and will be willing to consider themselves as guests in the country,
they will be received with open arms in Turkish communities and then
probably someone will “discover” Turkish art and it will become
fashionable throughout the West, just as some years ago Russian art was
discovered and became fashionable in Europe and in America.”

Our friends wanted also to know how it was that, although Turkish
culture did after all antedate modern European culture, as it was the
continuation of the Arabic civilization of the middle ages, art--with
the exception of applied art--was only of a recent origin in Turkey.
I was glad to answer to this question, as it took us into the subject
which we wanted to investigate to-day, that of religion.

“Nearly seven hundred years before Protestant leaders forbade the use
of pictures and sculptures in their Church, the Prophet Mohamed had
similarly prohibited the reproduction of any human or animal form
within the walls of mosques. Ignorant people praying before the image
of a saint or of a prophet are liable to adore the material picture
or sculpture rather than the spirit it represents. I believe that
idolatry is a direct outcome of this human tendency. The worship of
idols in antiquity and of images in certain ignorant modern communities
is a deterioration of originally spiritual teachings. Therefore, to
prevent the repetition of a similar deterioration by his followers
Mohamed ruled that they should banish all images from places where they
prayed. But this restriction was originally placed on the use and not
on the production of images: silver money coined at the time of Mohamed
bears the effigy of the prophet. However, in the course of time his
successors went so far beyond his teachings and his example that they
altogether forbade even the creation of images. Thus the coins of all
Muslim rulers were made to bear their names instead of their likeness,
and for centuries Muslim artists, including the Turks, devoted their
genius to creating exclusively decorative art representing writings,
arabesque designs, or flowers. It was, therefore, only as education
spread among the people of all classes, it was only after even the
masses began to understand the true purpose of the restriction placed
on the use of reproductions of living beings, it was only about ten
or fifteen years ago that Turkish artists branched out into these
heretofore forbidden fields of art. Thus the delay in the development
of art in Turkey is due to religious reasons. But even at that I
consider it salutory; after all it is much better to have in its
infancy that branch of art which reproduces living beings than to
have religion stained by idolatry--especially as the other branches
of art were permitted to follow their natural development. No one can
say that the Muslims, the Orientals, have not a keen appreciation of
colour and design, no one can say that the restriction placed on art
has atrophied their sense of beauty.” As I was finishing these remarks,
my friend Emin Bey, who was to take us to Hassan Effendi, arrived and
we started on our way. Emin Bey speaks perfect French. He is one of
the high employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but he does not
know English and told us that neither Hassan Effendi nor probably any
one that we might meet at his house would speak English. So we decided
that I should be the translator and I told our American friends to ask
without reticence any question they might wish.

Hassan Effendi lives in Stamboul not far from the Mosque of Sultan
Soliman, but on a side street. So when we reached the square--in the
center of which has been built in recent years a monument to two “aces”
of the Turkish Aerial Fleet who died on the battlefield--we turned to
the right and entered a narrow street. We passed under the arches of
the old Roman Aqueduct, at the foot of which were built little wooden
shacks covered with tin plates which had been in other days Standard
Oil cans. These shacks are the temporary abode of many Turkish refugees
in Constantinople, people who have been left homeless either by the
war or by the numerous fires which have devastated the city in recent
years. Soon we reached the barren sides of a hill covered with ruins,
the very center of one of these fires. On the top of the hill and a
little to the left was a small group of houses clustering about each
other, a little mosque and a very old mausoleum. Here also was the
house of Hassan Effendi, on what used to be the corner of a street,
a tiny house with whitewashed bricks, an arched porch and a covered
gallery which gave on a miniature garden. Through the columns of this
gallery one could see two old trees--a fig tree and a cypress--two
giants which, with the climbing vines on the old walls, gave to the
whole place the aspect of the inner yard of a mediaeval cloister.

The inside of the house was meticulously clean. All the walls are
whitewashed and the floors are covered with white straw matting, with
no rugs or carpets, except in the corner of the central hall, where was
a folded prayer rug. Probably the master prays here when he does not
go to the mosque. On the windows are little curtains of white muslin,
hanging loose and straight. On the walls only a few framed writings
beautifully decorated. I translated them for the benefit of our
friends; one says: “Only God is eternal, all else is temporary”; the
other asked for Divine guidance, a third proclaimed the Oneness of God.
All around and against the walls are low divans, with pillows, covered
with silks of soft hues. This is the only furniture, the only luxury,
the only touch of colour in the room.

We were announced and immediately ushered into Hassan Effendi's room, a
room similar to the one we left. He advanced to greet us at the door.
He is an old man, a patriarch with a white beard and blue eyes which
have contemplated the infinite. He wore a white turban and a long
flowing robe of black silk. He shook hands with all of us and as I
tried to kiss his hand in sign of respect, he withdrew it hastily and
placed it on his breast, a token of gratitude. He asked us to sit down
and took himself a place in a corner, near the window from where he
could see the endless sky, the hills of Stamboul with all their mosques
and a strip of blue water, the Golden Horn. Under his windows are the
ruins of man-made buildings, ephemeral homes which were destroyed in
one night of terror, leaving their inhabitants without any earthly
possessions--their whole having been devoured by the flames. After
every one was seated the master saluted us with his hand, each one
separately: “Selamu' Aleykum--Peace be with you”!

Coffee was served and to make us feel at home Hassan Effendi asked
us to smoke. He does not smoke himself. He asked how our American
friends liked the Orient and what had interested them in Turkey. Upon
my telling him, at their request, that they were mostly interested in
education, especially religious education, and that they wanted to know
something about our religion, he turned to me and said:

“Tell them, my son, that education is one of the principal bases of
Islam. The Holy Book makes it obligatory for all Muslims to know at
least how to read and says that those who serve science, serve God.
The early Muslims practised this teaching so thoroughly that only a
few generations after the Prophet all the Arab nations of the world,
united under Islam, became the center of science and civilization.
Algebra, chemistry, astronomy and many other modern sciences still
bear the names given to them by their Muslim discoverers. The schools
of the Muslim world were so far advanced that even to-day the West
resounds with the fame of the great teachers of the Universities of
Bagdad, Cairo and Granada. The West had its dark age before it came in
touch with the East, and the European Renaissance started after the
first contact Europe had with the Orient. Whereas the East had its
dark age after it came into touch with the West, and decadence in the
Orient set in after its first contact with Europe. The crusaders took
away our knowledge together with the riches of Haroun-El-Rashid and of
Saladin and left us discouraged, despondent and demoralized. That it
has taken us such a long time to shake ourselves free from the evil
consequences of the invasions we suffered is of course a little our own
fault. But this is especially due to the fact that the crusades, that
is, the rush of the West into the East, has continued throughout all
these centuries, giving us no peace, no rest. Now that the Holy Lands
have been conquered by the West, let us hope that at last we will have
peace, let us hope that East and West will at last be able to work out
together the misunderstanding they have had for hundreds of years and
that they will be able to establish once for all the principles of
unity: Oneness of God, oneness of nature, oneness of mankind--without
which the basis of solid democracy in this world cannot be established.

“But tell our friends that they must not think that during all these
centuries the Muslim world has remained absolutely stationary and has
completely neglected education. The original Muslim educational system
has continued even if the teachers were not as learned, even if a
smaller proportion of people frequented the schools and universities.

“The Muslim educational system is based upon the Medressés or
theological colleges. There is no Muslim community in the world
which has not its own Medressé. These institutions are supported by
perpetual endowments which have been made from time to time by the
wealthy Muslims of the community, endowments representing mostly real
estate and properties whose income is used to keep up the Medressés
where students are housed and fed during all the years it takes them
to finish their courses in theological science. The Medressés are
absolutely free and their endowments are administered by the Evkaf
which is, after all, nothing else than an enormous trust company
whose duty is to take care of and develop the properties which have
been perpetually donated for all religious and charitable purposes.
Each deed of trust has been made for a special purpose and its
beneficiary is clearly mentioned. In this way all Medressés have
their own particular source of income as well as all the hospitals
and orphan asylums of the Evkaf. The system is excellent and could
not be improved. What could and what should be improved is first
the administration of the Evkaf trusts, which will thus allow the
modernization of all beneficiary institutions, and second after the
needed funds have been made available by such a reorganization, the
educational program of the Medressés.”

Our friends wanted to know if it would be possible to give the
reorganization of the Evkaf to some American business men whose
organizing skill had been demonstrated.

“In principle there would be nothing against this,” said Hassan
Effendi, “but I am afraid that in practise it would be impossible.
Despite all their profession of Christian love, westerners have never
undertaken anything in the East without its becoming soon apparent
that they had an ulterior motive. Look at all the different foreign
educational institutions in the Orient. Are they here just for the love
of spreading education or for trying to convert our children to their
own creed”?

As he was asked about the program of studies followed in the Medressés
Hassan Effendi explained that while the principal aim was the study
of religion Medressés were originally meant to teach all sciences.
The Koran contains not only the principles on which the laws and the
economic structure of Muslim countries have been built, but also the
principles of astronomy--which necessitates a deep knowledge of higher
mathematics--of natural history leading to the research of the species,
and of ancient history. Therefore, students of the Koran have also
to study all these sciences and, as the Holy Book orders them to go
as deeply as possible into all the subjects it mentions, the courses
of Medressés should really be equivalent to those of the highest
universities. We were all very much interested to hear that the Koran
explicitly states that the earth is round and that together with other
planets it revolves around the sun, that other solar systems are in
existence in the universe, that life originally started in water. Many
other theories which have been scientifically ascertained since the
time of the Prophet are also stated in the Koran although the theories
commonly accepted at that time were absolutely contrary to them.

Our American friends took advantage of the turn the conversation had
taken to ask a few questions on the Muslim religion. They wanted to
know the difference, if any, between Mahommedans and Muslims, what the
Muslim creed was, and what the title of Calif meant. Hassan Effendi
answered in detail all these questions and I will try to give below if
not word for word at least the summary of his answers.

“To begin with,” said he, “the appellation of “Mahomedan” does not
exist in the East. It is only the westerners who, having called
themselves Christians, or followers of Christ, have named Mohamedans,
the followers of Mohamed. This, however, is as wrong and misleading as
if the Hebrew were to be called “Moseans.” The Hebrews do not follow
only Moses, they believe also in all their other prophets, beginning
with Israel. Therefore, if they were to be called Moseans it would
imply that they only believed in Moses and would not be correct. This
applies also to the Muslims and to call them Mahomedan is absolutely
misleading. The Muslims believe in all prophets, including all the
Israelite prophets and the Christ. So the term Mahomedan is wrong and
is not used in the East.

“We call ourselves “Muslims” which means in Arabic, followers of Islam
or followers of the Road of Salvation. This is a better appellation and
I often wish that instead of calling themselves by names which convey
to the average people, only an idea of a person or of a race, the
different churches had chosen to translate into their own language the
exact meaning of their appellation. Then there would be less difference
and therefore less antagonism between religions. Take for instance the
Christians and the Muslims. If when speaking a common language they
both translated the meaning of their appellation into it instead of
using words of Arabic and Greek origin, they would soon realize that
their creed was identical. “Christ” means “Saviour.” A Christian
therefore is a “follower of the Saviour.” Doesn't this term alone bring
him nearer to his brother, the “follower of the Road of Salvation”?

“In the Koran there is absolutely no difference between all people
who believe in the One Almighty God, all inclusive and powerful, no
matter by what name they call themselves. The only difference that is
made between human beings is that all those who believe in one God
are placed in one group and all those who deny the oneness of God,
the Pagans or Idolaters, are placed in another. It is said that God
has sent from time to time prophets to bring the people into the path
of truth, that all these prophets came with a book within which the
immutable principles of truth were clearly enunciated, and that as
truth can only be one all the books of the prophets were the same.
Therefore, all the followers of these different prophets are called
“people of the Book” and they are all brothers to the Muslims. They
should be treated as such and only the Pagans and Idolaters should
be, if necessary, coerced into recognizing the oneness of God. That
this principle was most firmly established is evidenced by the early
history of Islam. In the army of the Prophet, the army which conquered
Mecca and destroyed the idols of the Temple, Christian and Hebrew
soldiers were fighting side by side with their Muslim brothers for the
purpose of having the oneness of God recognized by Pagans and the
Muslims never fought the Christians until the ignorant people of the
mediaeval West, roused by lords and barons in quest of rich spoils and
adventure, embarked on the Crusades for the purpose of “liberating” the
Holy Sepulchres from the Muslims. That might have been all right for
the ignorant people of the Middle Ages, but isn't it now time for the
Christian to realize that despite the fact that the Holy Sepulchres
have been “liberated” only within the last few years from the Muslims,
despite the fact that for more than a thousand years Jerusalem has
been under the rule of Islam, the Holy Sepulchres have fared as well
under the Muslims as the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Rome has under
Christians?

“The Muslims have always guarded the Holy Places in Jerusalem with as
much loving care and veneration as they have guarded the Holy Places
in Mecca or in Medina. Why shouldn't they? The Koran has taught us to
venerate Jesus Christ. We believe in His divine mission as much as we
believe in the divine mission of Mohamed. We consider Him as much our
prophet as the prophet of the Christians. Our creed is based on this
belief and on the recognition of all the past prophets. So there is
really no difference between us and the Christians as far as we are
concerned. The only differences that exist are dogmatic differences
such as those which might exist even between two churches of the same
religion and in our eyes a Christian who follows the principles of
Christ and who does not deny the prophethood of Mohamed is as much a
Muslim as any one of us.

“Of course we do not consider as Christians those who adore images. The
Russian who expects an icon to perform a miracle is as much an idolater
to our eyes as any one who adores the stone or the paint with which
the statue or the picture of a saint is made. There is no difference
between them and the pagans of yore.

“We Muslims go even farther than some Christians in our belief in
Christ. We are taught that the Virgin Mary, in her religious ardor,
was praying the Almighty to give her a son who would bring back into
the fold his erring sheep and that the people upon hearing this prayer
criticized and shamed her: a virgin praying for a child! 'But how
little they knew the ways of God,' says the Koran. 'In answer to the
Virgin's prayer the Almighty sent her one of His Angels in the likeness
of a human and she begot the Christ,'

“For us, God is not material. He is the All-Inclusive Spirit which
permeates all nature and the whole universe. He is the Supreme
Conscious Force, endowed with all the attributes, who rules the
universe. He is Eternal: He never begot and never was begotten. We
believe in Him and He only do we adore. We believe in His Angels, His
Holy Books, His Prophets, and in the future life. We believe that
He ordains everything, our recompenses as well as our punishments,
and that there is no God but He and we believe that Mohamed is His
Messenger--who revived on this earth, as all prophets before Him, the
true religion as taught by Abraham, and by Moses and by Christ.”

The master was silent for a few minutes. His words which I had been
translating sentence by sentence as he delivered them, had impressed
us all so much that we kept quiet and awaited patiently for more. He
looked out from the window into the blueness of the sky. Then, turning
again to me he said with an infinite smile: “How simple it all is, and
how foolish humanity is not to understand”!

He passed his hand over his forehead in an effort to concentrate on
more material subjects, he sighed and said:

“These are the fundamental principles of Islam. It does not claim to be
the religion of one prophet, but the Religion of God and therefore of
all prophets. Truth can only be one, and religion is truth. It is the
fault of men if they have divided it into different religions, sects
and churches. It is the sin of men that they have, in doing so, turned
religion from its most useful earthly purpose: that of establishing the
oneness of humanity, the brotherhood of all believers.

“The Muslim religion succeeded in doing this during the first centuries
of its inception. It formed the first true democracy, the first
republic of modern times: the Caliphs, the chief executives of the
Muslim world were chosen by election. But it went even further: it
created the first League of Nations in the world--all the Muslim
states, although keeping their entire independence, became a federation
under the administration of a single elected Caliph and extended their
borders from the Himalayas to the Atlantic and within their borders
all those who believed in one God lived in peace, every one prospered,
science, industry and commerce flourished. Freedom of conscience,
freedom of creeds, was meticulously observed and Christians and Jews
lived and prospered side by side with their Muslim brothers. The
millenium would have truly arrived had the western nations only applied
these same principles within their own borders. But they were not yet
mature, they were not yet ready for liberty, democracy and unity. So
gradually they undermined our own institutions. Through centuries of
continuous contact and of incessant wars they spread discord within our
own ranks. We became divided first into separate Caliphates, then into
different nations and finally into different sects. Internal strife
having set in, we were condemned to fall sooner or later under the
conquering heel of the West. Decadence crept on the Muslim world slowly
but surely until Turkey was left alone to face the repeated assault of
the different western nations. and the tragedy of the long agony of
Turkey which has lasted ever since the sixteenth century is too well
known by all of you to make it necessary for me to repeat it

“This agony has culminated with the general war and let us hope
that now that the western nations have at last obtained what they
wanted--the administration of the Holy Land by a Christian power--they
will settle down to work and find out if they have any real difference
of principles with the Muslim world. Islam has passed through its
darkest days and now it is gradually reawakening, it is becoming again
conscious of the basic truth it had reached during its first years
and sooner or later the Almighty will find humanity ready to reflect
His own oneness. The time is near when all believers, irrespective of
denominations, creeds or sects will establish throughout the world a
real League of Nations where Christians, Jews and Muslims will live in
peace, a real League of all followers of Salvation based on the only
possible true democracy: the brotherhood, the unity of men.”

Hassan Effendi stopped again and looked at our American friends who
seemed to be very much surprised. “How little do we of the West know
of the religions, the ideals and the hopes of the East,” they said;
“but are we alone to blame? Why doesn't the East send us some of its
teachers, some of its leaders to explain to us its creed and its
belief?”

Hassan Effendi smiled: “We have sent you the message of our best
leader, of our best teacher and you have had it with you for nearly two
thousand years,” he said. “We have sent you the message of Jesus of
Nazareth, the Christ, the Apostle of Love and of Mercy, the greatest
antagonist of riches and of materialism. In later years we have sent
you in person the greatest living messenger of the East, Abdul Baha,
who warned the world years before the beginning of the war of the great
cataclysm toward which humanity was headed and who preached unity and
oneness as the only salvation. What good did it do? The West has always
coveted the East for the possession of the Holy Land--forgetting that
Palestine is an Eastern Land. Up to the last century the West has
always coveted the riches of the East, forgetting that after all if the
East had all these riches it was because it had worked for them. Since
then, and taking advantage of the decadence into which we have fallen,
the West has looked down upon the East for its lack of ambition for the
possession of material things and has tried to prove its inferiority by
claiming that it had not contributed to modern scientific discoveries,
forgetting that while the West has discovered the telephone, the
telegram, electricity and steam--all things which make material life
worth living--it is the East which discovered God, His Prophets and His
Holy Books--all things which make spiritual life worth expecting and
contrary to the custom of the West, the East has not commercialized its
discoveries; it has given them as a free gift to humanity. Christ was
an Easterner and He gave freely His knowledge to the West and now that
the West has acquired our riches and our lands we hope that it will
soon recognize that it has also our God.

“This recognition, this knowledge must, however, come to the West from
within. No matter how loud we claimed it, it would not be believed.
Westerners will have to come to our country and see for themselves.
They will have to investigate, even as you are investigating. They
will have to convince themselves that the religion taught by the
Prophet Mohamed is one and the same with the religion taught by Christ.
They will have to realize that any one who follows either of them is
following the Road of Salvation. And then, only then, will the peace of
God descend upon a redeemed humanity. I pray the Almighty that this day
may come soon.”

And so saying Hassan Effendi rose from his seat next to the window.
It was the signal that our audience was at an end, and we all got up.
We took leave from the master who accompanied us to the door where he
shook hands with every one of us.

And as the door was closing we could hear his soft voice like a
blessing: “Peace be with you”!



XIV

A VOICE FROM ANATOLIA


No matter how short and succinct it is, an account of the Turks as they
really are and of the Turkey of to-day would not be complete without
a description of the Turks who are now so successfully engaged in
fighting the supreme battle of their country on the plains of Anatolia.
The foregoing pages have been devoted almost entirely to the Turks of
Constantinople, to their mode of living, their ideals and ideas. But
after all Constantinople is only one city of Turkey and Anatolia is the
real backbone of the country.

From the shores of the Black Sea down to Broussa and Smyrna, Anatolia
is an armed camp, bristling with activity. That much every one knows.
How well organized these activities are is evidenced by the success
the Turks have secured against such great odds. But behind the guns
and bayonets, behind the steel wall which has stemmed the invasion
of foreigners, there is a whole country whose borders extend as far
as Caucasia and whose influence extends beyond, to the arid steppes
of Turkestan and the snow-covered mountains of Afghanistan. Within
this country there are millions of Turks who, besides their military
activities, the immediate needs of their armies and the political
requirements of their country are living a life throbbing with
enthusiasm and hopes. This is the rejuvenated Turkey, not intent in
imitating, like a monkey, the customs of the West or in adopting
wholesale the now antiquated political structure of Europe. It is
a Turkey which realizes fully the harm that too indiscriminating
a copying of western customs has brought and is liable to bring
to nations whose temperament and moral standards are different, a
Turkey which is well aware that its past greatness in history was due
exclusively to its own unadulterated racial qualities, a Turkey which
is convinced that by reviving its own customs and modernizing them to
fit the requirements of the time it will better and more quickly revive
its racial qualities and the grandeur of the East than by imitating
aliens; a Turkey convinced that it should adapt and not adopt those of
the western customs which make for modern progress and culture.

The heart and brains of this Turkey have been set up in a small village
on top of the fertile plains which dominate the rugged mountains of
Anatolia.

Thrice presumptuous enemies have tried with machine guns, tanks and
aeroplanes, with all the destructive paraphernalia of modern armies,
to seize and destroy this village in the hope that under its ruins
would be smothered the new Turkey. Thrice the Turks of Anatolia have
answered: “Thou shalt not pass,” and have preserved intact the sanctity
of their mountains, their plains and their country from the desecration
of its western foes and despite all, thousands of Turks, leaders of
the Anatolian movement, continue to live, hope and work in Angora,
the village on top of the plains dominating the rugged mountains, the
free capital of a free and independent new Turkey which ever since
its inception has been progressing in leaps and bounds toward the
leadership of the East.

An account of modern Turkey and of the modern Turks would not be
complete without an account of these Turks, their mode of living,
their ideals and ideas and to obtain first-hand information on them
I have written to a childhood friend of mine, Djemil Haidar Bey, who
is now visiting Angora. I have received a letter from him and for
fear of omitting the smallest detail or detracting from its vivid
pictures vibrating with youthful vitality, I am giving here its textual
translation. I have only left out those parts which had to do with
matters of personal interest.

“I will now endeavour to give you the description you have asked of the
Angora of to-day and of the people who are living here. I believe you
visited Angora before the war. Anyhow you know that it was nothing but
a village which could boast of no more than about fifteen thousand
inhabitants living in wooden shacks and mud huts, good Anatolian
peasants and their families, satisfied with leading a good, peaceful
life, working in their fields during the day and meeting in prayer at
night.

“The general war came and as in every other village of Anatolia it
drained Angora of all its male inhabitants who could bear arms and
with the signing of the armistice those of the surviving inhabitants
who were lucky enough to come back found nearly half of their village
destroyed by fire. “It was written,” they said with a sigh, and settled
down to their usual life. Little did they know that soon the most
momentous events in the Near East were to make of their unknown little
village the powerful center of a whole nation in open rebellion against
the imperialistic desires of powerful enemies.

“But somewhere in the limitless space of the infinite the powers that
rule the destinies of the world were silently acting. Events were
taking shape. Turkish patriots, practically all members of the House of
Representatives duly elected by the people, winced on reading the terms
of the treaty of peace which the enemies of Turkey wanted to impose on
their country. To accept them would have been to sign the death warrant
of the country. But to refuse them and remain in Constantinople was not
to be thought of. Several of their leaders who had openly given vent
to their feelings in Constantinople had been arrested and exiled to a
little island in the Mediterranean where they could leisurely think
over the emptiness of war formulas such as the one which enunciated
as inalienable the rights of small nationalities. To organize an open
rebellion in Constantinople would have been impossible; the guns of the
most powerful fleets of the world were turned on the city.

“But the purpose of the Turkish patriots representing the will of the
people was already fixed. One by one and unostentatiously they went as
far away as possible from Constantinople, to Erzeroum on the borders of
Caucasia, and assembling here a National Assembly, flung to the face of
the surprised world the slogan of the great American patriots of 1776:
“Give us Liberty, or give us Death”!

“However, events proved that the selection they had made for their
capital was not a wise one. The Russian Colossus now ruled by the
Bolsheviki was shivering under a new fever of imperialism as acute as
the endemic one it had under the Tzars. It stretched its blood-stained
claws to the South, and gripping the independent Turkish republic of
Caucasia, implanted its Soviets too dangerously near Erzeroum. The
Turks of Anatolia, the Nationalist Turks as they now called themselves,
saw the danger and shivered in dismay. Their organization was as yet
nil, the Turkish armies had been disbanded, the Turkish fleet had been
dismantled, and their capital--the brains of New Turkey whose double
national purpose was naturally to protect Europe from a Southeastern
Bolshevik invasion and the Near East from western domination--was
without guns, without cannons and without bayonets, at the mercy of
Russia. The dismay in the Turkish camp was, however, of short duration.
From Constantinople had arrived a great man, a great leader, a great
general whose genius had already once saved Turkey at the Dardanelles.
Mustapha Kemal Pasha appeared in Erzeroum and the National Assembly
unanimously elected him at once to its presidency. He gave immediate
orders and all the members of the National Assembly, numbering nearly
seven hundred, all the civilian and military chiefs accompanied by
their staffs, all the employees of the temporary Government packed
up their baggage and trudged their weary way to the great Anatolian
plateau accessible only through easily defensible mountain passes where
the Sakaria river winds its way.

“Here, at the head of one of the very few railroad lines in Asia Minor,
practically at the same distance from the Black Sea shores, the Russian
Soviet's borders, Mesopotamia occupied by the British and Cilicia
then occupied by the French--all places from which an attack could
have been expected on the rear of the Nationalist armies fighting
against the Greeks on the Smyrna and the Broussa front--was a small,
dilapidated, half-burned village, Angora. But it was the natural center
from whence the Turkish struggle for freedom could be better launched
and could be defended with the greatest probability of success.

“The Turkish Nationalists wanted to build up their country for
efficiency, not for luxury. They had not sought and obtained power
for selfish reasons of comfort and enjoyment. So what did they care
if their capital was to be a small, uncomfortable village! They had
left their homes, their property and their families in Constantinople
and had come to Asia Minor to put into execution lofty ideals. Their
purpose was to set up in Anatolia a new state, a new democracy, a new
Government of the people and for the people, free and independent--and
they were firmly determined to do this against any odds. They were
firmly determined not only to maintain but even to extend the new
Turkey to its proper racial and economic limits so as to include, in
fact as well as in name, all countries and cities peopled by a Turkish
majority such as Constantinople and the districts of Thrace and Smyrna.
To attain this object they had already sacrificed their personal
comfort and their wealth. They were now ready to lead a truly Spartan
life to secure the success of their undertaking and they did not object
to selecting Angora and to setting up here the headquarters of their
fight for liberty.

“So one fine day this half-destroyed, quiet little village of Angora,
celebrated only for its cats and goats, was awakened by the influx of
several thousands of active, energetic and progressive men who had
decided to make of it the center of their activities, a place destined
to pass into history as the capital of a nation capable of “getting
the goat” of the most prominent statesmen of the age who thought--or
hoped--that Turkey was dead. Like the Phoenix of mythology, the Turks
were reborn from the ashes of this burnt down village.

“The village was swamped by the newcomers who lodged as best they
could in shacks and mud huts. As long as they could settle down to
assisting the painful travail of the birth of a new government and of
a new administration conforming to the wishes of the people, and of
an army capable of defending the very home and the very hearth of the
nation, the newcomers did not mind. The most prominent and influential
statesmen and military leaders were only too glad to “pile up” under
any kind of roof which could offer them shelter.

“I purposely use the expression “pile up” as it accurately describes
what took place. As I have said before half of the village had been
destroyed by fire so that there was barely enough place to lodge
normally about two-thirds of its own inhabitants and the newcomers
numbered from six to eight thousand. You can well imagine the
difficulties to contend with in order to lodge all these newcomers
when you realize that even now--after nearly three years and the hasty
erection of many temporary buildings--the place is so overcrowded
that it is common to find four or five of the most prominent citizens
sharing the same room.

“You can easily realize that under these conditions there is very
little social life. Besides, the work undertaken is too strenuous, the
people here are too much occupied with their duties--and really in
earnest about accomplishing them as well as they can--to indulge in
social life. Furthermore there are very few representatives of the fair
sex in Angora, and social life without ladies is not possible. Most
of the women here are villagers or else nurses of the Red Crescent,
Turkish relief workers and ladies otherwise occupied in assisting
their husbands, fathers or brothers in the patriotic task they have
undertaken. There are no women of leisure, no hostess who has enough
time to entertain. It can be truthfully said that every Turkish woman
now in Angora is a little Joan of Arc and the quarters being so
inadequate most of the women live together and sleep together just as
their men are obliged to live and sleep together. Everyone here works
grimly with a definite purpose and faces the realities confronting the
Cyclopean work of recreating a Nation.

“The lack of social intercourse does not however detract from the
interest of the place. The sight of the streets alone is most
interesting and edifying. Everyone is so busy and there are so many
people here that it is hardly possible to walk leisurely in the
streets during the rush hours of the day. One is taken up and carried
by the crowd. And the crowd is the most diversified and picturesque
that one can see in any place, not even barring the proverbial bridge
in Constantinople. You see, volunteers of all kinds have rushed
here not only from Anatolia, but from every Turkish country, every
Turkish village of the world and even from the most diversified Muslim
countries of Asia and Africa. It is a real Babel, but of costumes not
of languages: every one speaks Turkish. Turkish Anatolian peasants,
with baggy trousers, wide blue belts and thin turbans over their fez,
fraternize with Tartars and Kirghiz of Turkestan. Azerbeidjanian and
Caucasian Turks, with tight-fitting black coats and enormous black
astrakan kolpaks on their heads--runaways from Bolshevik Russia--are
discussing the principles of real democracy as applied to Nationalist
Turkey and comparing them with the so-called democracy of Soviet lands.
Muslim Chinamen and Hindoos are talking over the future of Turkey and
Islam. All the nations of Asia intermingle here and most of them have
official missions in Angora: Embassies from Afghanistan, Beluchistan,
Bokhara, Khiva and from the different new Republics of Turkestan, duly
accredited representatives from Persia and Azerbeidjan. The quota
from Africa is also very large and while there are no diplomatic
missions from African countries--for the simple reason that all African
countries are colonies--many are the Fellahs from Egypt, the Algerians
and Moroccans and even the Muslim negroes of North Africa who can be
seen in the streets.

“And all this crowd is active and busy. Everybody talks and
gesticulates and rushes through the streets to accomplish some purpose.

“The modern European touch is brought by the Turks from the big
centers, Nationalist leaders who have come here from Constantinople and
other large cities, clad in sack suits or in uniforms cut on western
patterns, but all wearing the black fur kolpak which has replaced
throughout the country the red felt fez as national headgear.

“In the village proper there is not a house which does not shelter more
people than it has rooms. So quite a few of the people who now live in
Angora have been quartered in small farmhouses around the country and
are obliged to commute every day to and from their business. There are
of course no suburban trains or street cars and the “commuters” are
obliged to use carriages as all the automobiles--mostly Fords--are
being used for military purposes or for transporting travellers and
goods from villages to villages. The carriage is therefore the only
means of conveyance in Angora. “Carriage” is, of course, a rather
complimentary term: true that they have four wheels and are drawn by
horses, but they generally have no springs, and two boards running
parallel to each other and facing the horse are used as seats. From
their wooden roofs hang coloured curtains and the occupants are
vigourously shaken over the uneven pavement of the streets.

“There are only a very few shops, but no one has time or leisure
to shop. The strict necessities of life can be obtained at the
open counters of the bazaars or markets and if they are not to be
found there one has either to do without or to import them from
Constantinople or from some other city. Amusement places are absolutely
nonexistent: no theaters, not even movies and of course no saloons or
bars since Prohibition is vigourously enforced in Anatolia. There are
one or two coffee-houses where a few old native peasants sit peacefully
and, over a cup of coffee or a smoke of the 'narghilé,' talk of the
good old days. The hostelry of the place has its lounge turned into a
dormitory. Travellers are at times obliged to sleep even on the steps
of the stairs, so no space can be allotted for recreation. Besides it
would be useless; no one here has time for amusement or recreation and
if you ask any one how he passes his time he will be able to answer you
with a single word: “Work,” Every one is at work to save the life of
the country, every one is endeavouring to improve the community, every
one is engaged in assisting in some way or other the Government and the
nation.

“The offices of the Government are quartered in the largest buildings.
An old barrack shelters most of them. Its enormous rooms have been
partitioned into offices with a long corridor running between them.
Every office has a door on this corridor. On some of these doors there
are inscriptions indicating the names of the departments which abide
therein. The Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Commerce,
the Treasury Department, the Department of Agriculture and all other
civilian departments are located in this building.

“Another enormous building, a former school, shelters all the
departments pertaining to every activity necessary to the national
defense. Its offices are arranged on the same style as those for
civilian activities. Thus the Nationalist Government has, fittingly,
differentiated its war activities from its administrative activities.
The departments which are engaged in constructive work, whose
activities will secure the nation's development and progress are
completely separated from those whose duty is to secure the national
defense.

“The two most active civilian departments, or rather the two
departments to which the National Government attaches the greatest
importance among those engaged in constructive work are the Department
of Public Education and the Department of Hygiene and if--as all of us
here are absolutely convinced--the programs of these two departments
are strictly adhered to, Anatolia will be in a very few years the best
educated and the most hygienic country in the Old World.

“The Government conducts its business in the most democratic way
possible. The different heads of departments are members of the
National Assembly and are, therefore, all chosen directly by the
people. They are delegated to manage the departments by the vote of all
the members of the Assembly. Each head of department is individually
responsible to the Assembly for the good conduct and administration
of his department. He is removable by the vote of the Assembly which
immediately elects his successor. The heads of the departments have
their private offices whose doors are always open to all. As the
Government is of the people and for the people any citizen who desires
to see one of his deputies concerning a matter connected with his
department has the right to come in and is received at once without any
formalities. But he has to attend immediately to his business and then
he has to leave. Efficiency is the slogan of the National Government
and for this purpose all red tape has been completely eliminated. No
loitering, no “manana” policy is indulged in. Things that have to be
done, have got to be done immediately and no one has the right to
interfere for the pleasure of following the dictates of a set routine.
Truly this is the most efficient form of government that I have ever
seen.

“The National Assembly is located in the only really attractive and
modern building of Angora. It has been especially erected to house
the Parliament and has a large meeting-room, a reading-room and
private offices for the representatives of the people. While it is not
luxurious, it is as comfortable and as serviceable as need be. It is
situated on a large square not far from the station.

“And now that you have an accurate idea of the general aspect of the
capital, now that you know that this is no place for amusements or
social activities, you will want to know something more about the
people, their ideals and their aims.

“I think that, for all these purposes, I might as well give you
a description of the two principal figures who to-day stand out
distinctly as the two leaders of the Turkish Nationalist Government;
the two national heroes who personify better than any one else the
spirit which animates so powerfully Anatolia and the whole Turkish
race. One is a man and the other a woman. You surely have already
guessed: I am referring to Mustapha Kemal Pasha, the undisputed leader
of Turkish manhood, and to Halidé Hanoum, the equally peerless leader
of modern Turkish women.

“As you know, Mustapha Kemal Pasha is not only the promoter, but the
soul and the brain of the new Turkey. That he represents exactly all
Turkish aspirations and embodies the ideals of modern Turkey is best
proved by the fact that upon his arrival in Anatolia he was elected
by the wish of the people to the Presidency of the National Assembly,
the highest executive function, and to the Field Marshalship of the
National Army, the highest military function and he has been ever since
maintained in both these most responsible positions by the general
consensus of the whole nation.

“And this has been done almost against the personal wishes of
Mustapha Kemal Pasha. He is neither ambitious nor desirous of holding
power. In fact he is what might be called a self-appointed 'power
prohibitionist.' and if he remains in power it is exclusively because
the people want him to and, being a convinced democrat, he bows his
head to the wish of the people. Of course, at the beginning of the
movement, when the national aspirations of the Turks sought some one
to formulate them and to organize the country, Mustapha Kemal Pasha
took the lead without shunning its responsibilities and without a
second's hesitation on account of the price that he personally would
have to pay should he fail in his undertaking. He set to work with the
indomitable patriotic courage which marks national heroes.

“His energy, his straightforwardness, his frankness and the rapidity
with which he made decisions coupled to the firmness with which he saw
that decisions, once made, were immediately executed became apparent
even during the first weeks of his administration and gradually won
him the full confidence and devotion of his people. This would have
been his opportunity had he desired to establish a dictatorship, had
he wanted to place his personal interests above the interests of his
country, had his democratic utterances been of the lips and not of the
heart. During the first months of the national movement Turkey was
taking the chance of seeing its individual freedom trampled once more
under the booted feet of an Abdul-Hamid or an Enver ... if the leader
who was offering himself had been any one else than Mustapha Kemal.
But the Pasha had given a few years before the proof of his matchless
patriotism and abnegation by stepping back into an inconspicuous
command after having saved his country by a series of victories at the
Dardanelles, and therefore the country felt pretty safe in confiding
its destinies to the hands of Mustapha Kemal Pasha.

“The events have proved that this confidence could not have been
better placed. Under the very guns of Turkey's enemies he organized the
national resistance and changed the prevailing state of nervousness
and despondency into an intelligent state of national efficiency
and enthusiasm. Starting with a handful of followers he opened new
horizons to the Turkish people, discouraged and broken-hearted by their
previous utter collapse. While the nation lay prostrated at the mercy
of its enemies, he stepped forth and showed to the Turks the silver
lining behind the threatening clouds and demonstrated once more to the
world that a nation which is led properly and has a will to live is
unconquerable.

“Mustapha Kemal Pasha had a double duty to perform. Turkey disarmed and
bound hand and foot, her capital occupied by the enemy, her Government
departments and administration completely disorganized, had to regain
her independence and needed therefore not only a capable military chief
but also a capable organizer and statesman. Mustapha Kemal Pasha rose
to the occasion and while he was organizing on one hand the military
resources of his country, while he was arming and training thousands
of recruits and building up factories to furnish them with guns and
ammunition and to clothe them as best he could, he was on the other
hand helping the National Assembly to formulate a new constitution,
to make a new form of government--sort of republic fitted to the
peculiar requirements of Turkey--based on the broadest and most
practical principles of democracy.

“And as soon as his military victories secured the existence of his
country and permitted him to work on more permanent matters he turned
completely to the National Assembly--resigning his commission as
Commander-in-Chief--and devoted his attention to the consolidation of
the new form of Government and to the perfection of its administration.

“But as the enemy, once more encouraged and equipped by powerful
western powers, again took the offensive and advanced into Anatolia,
burning villages, killing civilians and massacring old men, women
and children, the National Assembly turned again to Mustapha Kemal
Pasha and electing him once more Commander-in-Chief, asked him for
new victories--and Turkey did not have to wait long to have her wishes
satisfied by the military genius of the Pasha.

“Ever since the definite organization of the National Assembly,
Mustapha Kemal Pasha has spent all his energies in investing it with
the powers he held in his own hands. He has methodically and without
faltering worked to transfer his own unlimited powers as Chief
Executive and Commander to the duly elected representatives of the
people. This process of self-restriction has gone so far that to-day
the Turkish National Assembly is endowed with far greater powers and
prerogatives than any House of Representatives or Parliament of any
country. It has all the sovereign prerogatives including those of
declaring war and concluding peace. It elects its own members to the
different administrative functions of the Cabinet and removes them
whenever it sees fit and all this thanks to the restriction of his own
powers by Mustapha Kemal Pasha.

“In doing this the Turkish hero had a double purpose: he knows that the
ideas and ideals he is fighting for are not personal to him but are
shared by the whole nation and he wants to prove this to the world--on
the other hand, a true democrat at heart, he wants the entire nation,
through its duly elected representatives, to be enabled to handle
its own destinies as it sees fit. Sure of final military success,
he desired to increase within the nation the number of statesmen
capable of perpetuating indefinitely the life of a rejuvenated Turkey
and through painstaking efforts, through sharing gradually his own
responsibilities with members of the National Assembly he has created
a nucleus of statesmen enjoying the national confidence and capable
of commanding international esteem, who will be able to guide their
country along the road of progress.

“All the actions of Mustapha Kemal Pasha have been dictated by his
peerless patriotism, his genuine spirit of abnegation and his absolute
unselfishness.

“This modern Turkish Washington lives with his civilian and military
household in a little house near the station and opposite the building
of the National Assembly. This house, which is surrounded by a garden
with big trees and flowers, was originally the house of the station
master. It has eight or ten rooms, small and unpretentious, soberly
furnished throughout. The only luxury in the house is a writing-desk
almost as large as the room it occupies. At this table Mustapha Kemal
Pasha spends all his time when he is not at the front or on military
and administrative tours of inspection, or working at the National
Assembly. It is in this den that the General works from early in the
morning until late at night, without any distraction, continuously
and painstakingly striving to bring about his dream--not a dream of
personal ambition or of national conquests, but a dream of freedom and
of independence for a people--his people--whose one aim is to remain
master of its own home.

“The leader of Turkish women, Halidé Edib Hanoum, is in her own field
as great a figure as Mustapha Kemal Pasha. Her talents are most
diversified and she has, like Mustapha Kemal Pasha, a very strong will
for putting through anything she undertakes. Although she is still
young she has been for many years at the head of the movement for the
emancipation of Turkish women. You probably remember, as I do, that she
first attracted public attention when her verses were published. It
created quite a stir in Turkey as she was the first Turkish poetess,
at least the first who came out under her own name and bowed to the
public through her books. I still remember the first time I saw her,
in the good old pre-war days in the summer of 1913. I had gone with
some friends to the Sweet Waters of Asia on the Bosphorus which were
at that time the fashionable 'rendezvous' on Friday afternoons. The
little stream bordered with old trees and green meadows was crowded
with rowboats and caiks leisurely gliding on its transparent waters.
Suddenly among the boats I saw a slender skiff with two rowers wearing
embroidered Oriental liveries. At the stern a young girl was sitting,
her veil a little more transparent than it was usually worn at the
time and her dark brown locks showing a little more than those of her
sisters. She held a white embroidered parasol daintily in her hand
to shelter her from the strong rays of the summer sun. Her pensive
black eyes were beautiful. Her boat crossed ours and the vision had
disappeared in a few seconds. I held my breath and asked my companions
who she was, and when I heard that it was 'Halidé Hanoum, the poetess'
I was more impressed than ever. Little did I guess that the next time I
would see Her it would be here in Angora.

“Of course you know her career during these pre-war days and possibly
also during the war. She managed always to be a little ahead of
her sisters, the other Turkish women who were clamouring for the
emancipation of their sex. She was the first one who gradually and
almost imperceptibly lifted the veil of her contemporaries, she was the
first Turkish woman who engaged in newspaper polemics and addressed
public meetings. Even in those days she was a leader but she had not
yet come into her own. It took the national _épopée_ of Anatolia to bring
out in Her all the mature attributes of a really great woman, a leader
among leaders, a practical and rational woman of action even though
extremely advanced.

“She was, I think, the first woman to come to Angora. Communication
with Constantinople being then interrupted she had to cross in
carriage, on foot or on horseback the mountains of Anatolia. The
hardships she went through would make the subject of a long novel.
During nearly four weeks--the time it took her to reach Angora--not
once did she find a decent bed to rest in, and even her husband, Adnan
Bey, was exhausted when they arrived here. But it did not take her long
to recover and within a short time she was engaged body and soul in
organizing educational campaigns throughout Anatolia and in teaching
the peasant women all the different ways in which they could be useful
to their country.

“At the first vacancy in the National Assembly she became a candidate
and went personally before her constituency. She was, of course,
elected by an overwhelming majority and of course she distinguished
herself in her parliamentary work. In fact she criticised so well
the educational system then in vogue and offered such excellent
constructive suggestions that her colleagues of the National Assembly
elected her Secretary of Public Education in the Cabinet.

“She was successfully holding this position when the enemy started his
spring drive and the Commander-in-Chief issued a proclamation calling
under the colours all persons who could hold a gun. She immediately
took advantage of this to establish once more the equal rights of
women: on the plea that, being a huntress she not only could hold a gun
but also knew how to use it, she enrolled in the army and won the grade
of non-commissioned officer for bravery on the field, at the battle
of Sakaria. After the successful repulse of the enemy and when the
armies were disbanded for the winter she returned to Angora where she
is now completing and perfecting the organization of Turkish women for
educational, racial and hygienic betterment.

“Halidé Edib Hanoum lives in a little cottage, a farm, situated at
about one hour's ride from the village and which is reached through a
long, dusty road. Nestled within a bouquet of trees and at a short
distance from a clear little stream which sings its way through rocks
and flowers, stands the rustic cottage of Halidé Hanoum. It has a nice
little orchard and, further back behind the trees is a pasture where
she keeps a few cows. It is an ideal place for this loving and beloved
woman leader, for here she can withdraw--when she finds time from her
various occupations--and ride or hunt or else write, according to her
whim of the moment.

“The house is furnished scrupulously in Turkish style--the Turkish
style of villages: no rich embroideries and beautiful hangings, but
simple divans lined up against the whitewashed walls, one or two
carpets, and a copper 'brazero' in the living-room and of course books,
a large collection of books in every language--English, French and
German which she speaks remarkably well--and a few hunting guns.

“The last time I saw her she was returning from a ride on horseback
as I entered the gate. And I cannot say which of the two pictures is
most striking: that of a young girl in a rowboat on the Sweet Waters of
Asia, or that of a woman, slim and athletic, gracefully riding astride
a beautiful horse, her uncovered face proudly erect and her features,
now more mature, proclaiming the mind and the will of a leader!

“She asked me to tea, and in her simple little drawing-room we sat with
her husband and listened. She talked to us of her aspirations and
hopes--not social aspirations, to which all young and attractive women
are entitled, but the aspirations and hopes of seeing one day soon the
Turkish women, her sisters, recognised as the most progressive and
advanced women of the world and pointed out, even in foreign countries,
as the models of true womanhood.”

Little can be added to this picture given by Djemil Haidar Bey on the
life in the Nationalist capital and the organization of New Turkey.
Since his letter was written events have proved that he had in no way
exaggerated the efficient work and the patriotism of the Turks in
Anatolia. They have succeeded in accomplishing the impossible. Their
countrymen all over the Old Ottoman Empire as well as in the confines
of Asia share fully their joy as they had shared their sorrows and
pains. We are all proud of the unequalled accomplishments of our people
and we firmly believe, no matter what the immediate future has in store
for us of further struggles and further sufferings--no matter how
vicious a propaganda our enemies may have recourse to so as to minimize
the effect and results of our victories--that New Turkey, a rejuvenated
nation which has given such patent proofs of its unconquerable spirit
of self-sacrifice and indomitable will to live, a people which, despite
the most insurmountable obstacles thrown in its way by unfair enemies,
has succeeded in emancipating itself from all political, economic,
religious and personal prejudices--will shatter completely its material
and moral chains and continue its advance--free and independent--on the
road to culture, progress and civilization.





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