Saturday, March 27 (48th day). — Sometimes the war seems to us who are held captive a sort of conundrum, without rhyme or reason, and its continuance a puzzle. Mr. Clements says he is convinced that we are all dead and do not know it; that we still inhabit the house because of the earthly attraction so recently severed, and that in a little while we shall all fly away. I can’t help wondering if it has anything to do with my future; if it was specially intended to keep me here, until something else shall have happened, some other way been opened. Man proposes, but — And life is a strange series of events.
We never have had any butter since we have been in Urfa, except occasionally a half-rancid pail of oleomargarine; but even that was finished a long time ago, and some time since we used up the last of any kind of grease, as have the French also. At every meal, I long for some good butter, and think of the delicious butter that we have in Boston. However, we fare very well for siege-food, though it does seem rather tasteless at times. To give a little zest to it, Mr. Woodward cherishes a pail of strong — yes, very strong — cheese, which he has brought to his elbow at the table at dinner-time. The rest of the family exclaims, and orders him to keep it covered; but Miss Waller and I share a spoonful with him, regardless of strength and odor, for it helps to get the other food down. One eats to live.
Sunday, March 28 (49th day). — This morning I went up on the roof to see if I could see the robbers’ rendezvous, and also to search for bullets. At first I was a bit cautious about stooping so as to be hidden behind the coping, at least in part; but the day was so bright and sunny and peaceful that it did not seem as if enemies could be abroad in the land; so I stood boldly up and walked to the central pitch of the roof, when pop came a bullet straight at me. You may be sure I dropped in a hurry, rolling down the roof to the protection of the front coping, and crawled on my tummy, a slow and laborious process, stopping now and then to rest and to enjoy the warm sunshine, till I reached the middle, where I stood up and made a dignified, if somewhat rapid ascent of the roof to the other side, where is the door leading below. I had two bullets, however — one a Russian, in excellent condition, the other a mass of spattered lead which I dug out of the stone coping.
Monday, March 29 (50th day).— When I opened my door for the night, the rain was falling steadily and one could not see twenty feet away in the darkness. I had not gone to sleep when the first gun barked outside my door, and from then until dawn, it was rifle and machine-gun and bomb from all our windows, with the answering spat or whistle of the bullets from the enemy. One takes it all as a matter of course— without a sense of danger.
Colin Clements said just now — ‘Dear me — all my youth going in this place!’
Wednesday, March 31 (52d day).— Fair but cool after a night of rain.
To remind us that the war is not yet over, — although this morning I had the cheerful feeling that it was time to pack up, — some sharpshooter has been sniping pretty steadily all morning, and has sent me as a souvenir a bullet which missed coming in my open door by eight inches.
Thursday, April 1 (53d day).— It is a beautiful spring day, the wind a little cool, like our March winds; but the house, having all the windows shuttered, is rather cold and dark, so Miss Waller found my balcony the only comfortably warm place and has sat out there all morning regardlessof whirring bullets. When she can do that, you may realize how blasé we have become as regards rifle-fire, for a few weeks ago the whistle of a ball would have sent her hurrying to cover behind the thickest wall she could find. This afternoon Mrs. Mansfield is pounding her typewriter on the table I have set out; and, as usual on fairly warm days, we shall have tea there. Mr. Clements is already calling for it. There seems something very unreal about this war. Why should it take the French military authorities two months to get relief here, even if the troops had to come all the way from France? Somehow, it seems as if we would be left to our fate, whatever that may be, as if we had been forgotten by the world and could get no word to it. And yet, inside our own little world, — our own four walls, — life goes on much as usual; we eat and drink and sleep. To be sure, we do not always eat what we want, and there are many anticipations of feasts in Paris or New York; but we eat something, and fare better, we think, than the French, in the matter of vegetables. They share their horsemeat with us and furnish our bread. Coarse and black though it is, it is palatable.
Just after dark, we were all in the front yard for a frolic under the nearly full moon. The soldiers indulged in a little jumping over the trenches for exercise. Over to the east, we could hear the Turks signaling to each other in imitation of the cry of the jackal, reminding us that their Sabbath began at sundown and that to-morrow is the fateful Friday, as it is our Good Friday.
Good Friday, April 2 (54th day).— The Turks did not bother us much during the night, and there was but little firing on both sides; but this morning I was awakened, not very early, by the sound of bullets striking the front wall near my balcony, and by the banging of the soldier’s gun on the other side of the wall against my head. This latter sound showed that Lone Tree Hill was again occupied. The bullets were striking so fast and so near that I was not surprised, when I rose, to see a puddle of milk on my floor under the window, where a box of evaporated milk was shedding its contents; and going outside, I saw a very neat little hole through the window-glass. It was only yesterday that I was congratulating myself on the fact that no glass had been broken in my window or door, although dozens of panes have been shattered all over the house.
Noon, Friday. — It bids fair, indeed, to be a fateful Friday, if the Turks’ supply of shells holds out, for about eleven o’clock I heard the first one go screaming over the house, and for about an hour, at one-minute intervals, the cannon on the hill behind us shelled French Headquarters, sending an occasional one to Captain Marcereau’s, or, rather, now, Lieutenant Frayne’s, post to the west of us. The bursting shells in barracks and mess-house and in Dr. Vischer’s, the latter two houses for some time vacant of their inhabitants, sounded very ominous; so, thinking my sandbagged balcony the safest place I could occupy without going downstairs, I have brought my typewriter out here.
Two walls behind me give me a greater sense of security, even though it be out in the open. You would not think our stone walls were much security, could you see the hole one bullet made this morning, coming through the wall of Miss Waller’s room and burying itself out of sight in the opposite wall. It had happened to strike the crevice between the stones and had ploughed its way through. Mr. Woodward’s thought last night, that the reason the ‘column’ could not reach us was because this war had become a National Turkish movement, is doubtless correct, for the morning light revealed the fact that the Star and Crescent flies both over Lone Tree Hill and over the white house a little to the northeast of us, and doubtless heralds the advent of reinforcements and field-guns for the Turks. Our best hope now is of the return of the Indian troops from the south; for if war was resumed between the Allies and the Turks within forty-eight hours of the refusal of the latter to sign the peace terms, as we hear, then our little war is an affair of the Allies also.
2 P.M. — I’ve just learned that the bullets do not need to seek a crevice to come through the inner stone walls of our house. The Turks in the white house to the east are so near that the bullets plough right through the sixinch wall. I have had Anthony replace my wounded milk-boxes with Ivory Soap. Perhaps the makers would like to know that their boxes have formed an excellent barricade for us. The bullet may plough through two or three cakes, but it seldom gets through the whole layer. I chose them because they pile so much more evenly than our sandbags, which are not real sand, but a mixture of clay and small stones, which does not make a smooth wall.
Easter Sunday, April 4 (56th day; end of the eighth week).—The sergeant thought it a bit dangerous to let me go over to the Cantonment last night, but he was willing to let me take the chance, and mon soldat feeling able to protect and guarantee safe passage, we stepped off in the bright moonlight about 7.30, going, by a slight détour, out of our west gate toward Maison Carré, the Marcereau post, and then cutting diagonally across the vineyard to the Vischer house, for I wanted to keep my engagement for le Pâques with Mrs. Vischer and the Sisters. So I have had a whole beautiful day in the open — more or less within stone walls. Dr. Vischer surrendered his bed to me, so I slept with Mrs. Vischer in a vaulted, cave-like room, whose one window was too low to be reached by the bullets of the Turks, but-was stone-barricaded in the lower two thirds to protect against the shell splinters, which I saw later — from the devastation wrought in the Vischer houses—to be very destructive. I had an opportunity to make the doctor’s rounds with him, and watch him do the dressings before time for Mass. I saw some terrible wounds made by bullets and éclats—it’s strange how repulsive human flesh can be when diseased.
The return to Cantonment du quatrecent-douze would have been dangerous had the Turks on the hill seen us and chosen to fire. We made it at doublequick. Mass was said in the little room which the Sisters occupy, one side being curtained off for a chancel; the rest of the room serves as sleeping-and diningroom, as the two beds lining the sides of the wall clearly showed. In this little space—perhaps 8 feet by 10—crowded the small but intense congregation: Commander Hauger and nearly all the officers, the three Sisters, Mrs. Vischer, and I. No sound could be heard but the low chanting of Père Gabriel; not even a bell rang. No one kneeled, — officers, privates, or Sisters, — but all stood during the whole Mass: doubtless a military necessity in times of war, when Mass is often said in the open, on the damp ground, where kneeling means danger of colds or rheumatism. The primitive altar was evidently covered with one of my hospital sheets, the tabernacle veiled with a piece of my unbleached muslin, and for a reredos were two small rugs, apparently Assyrian, across which marched a procession of wooden camels and other animals suggestive of Noah’s Ark.
Dinner at the Vischer house was a very simple affair, but good: horsemeat soup, horsemeat pot roast, and spaghetti; nothing more but a half of one of our own canned peaches.
At the Sisters’ this evening it was the same thing, except that boiled beans were substituted for the spaghetti, and two plums for the half-peach. By the way, our fruit is nearly gone. The French have bread for five days, hardtack (biscuits) for four more—and afterward —
Mon soldat called for me about 8 P.M. There was a spice of danger in the return trip across the vineyard under the full moon. When we were about a hundred feet from the house, there came the sharp crack of a bullet, and the two soldiers stooped and ran. Here was where skirts and a long coat were a handicap; but I managed to follow suit, and we made the house without mishap.
About 5.30 this evening, on the mountain-top, between two peaks, appeared three horsemen, dismounted and overlooking the city. Whether they were friends or foes, we know not, but to-night, seemingly at the upper end of the citadel, a shaded light burned — doubtless a signal of some kind.
Tuesday, April 6 (58th day).— The strangest thing about this affair is that no aeroplane has returned to let us know what is the trouble and why relief is not sent. One could come and go in a few hours, and the French are said to have two escadrilles at Beirut.
Wednesday, April 7 (59th day).Oh, for a Salvation Army lassie with a big pan of doughnuts, and for her comrade with a basket of big juicy oranges! Perhaps we would not do justice to them! Of course, what the boys want more than anything else is cigarettes. They are smoking tea-leaves again for the third interval. Between intervals the French have divided their scanty supply, and once, when the liaison was established, for a night or two, Miss Holmes sent a goodly supply from the city; now the French have none, and the Turkish ones have vanished in smoke, so they must needs return to tea-leaves. They tried coffee, but it was not a success. Then Miss Waller conceived the idea of cutting up the dried stems of the carnation plants, which did very well, and gave off a much sweeter perfume than the tea-leaves. Mr. Weeden used to save all his butts and make new cigarettes from them. One morning Miss Waller found Mr. Clements engaged in the pathetic occupation of searching the ashes in the fireplace for butts. Glad I have not the habit.
Thursday, April 8 (60th day).— Again, at midnight, my light extinguished, I stood at the open balcony door, looking out over my ramparts toward the city. But search the darkness as I might, my eyes could detect no sign of an advancing column, without which our two months of waiting and fighting and suffering and dying are of no avail; for there remain but two days’ provisions with the French, to-day and to-morrow, and the Turks to-day await an answer to their parlementaire of yesterday.
Dr. Vischer writes me that Dr. Beshlian and another Armenian came yesterday as envoys from the Turks to the French, to say that the provisions of the Armenians are at. an end, and that the Turks have promised to revictual them if the French will withdraw from the Armenian quarter. This they could do without losing anything of special strategic importance, for their post there on Orphanage Hill was mainly for the protection of the Orphanage and of the Armenians. But what of their own provisioning? When the war opened, the French had provisions for fifteen days; they have held out for sixty days —a noble record. If there is any blame or disgrace, it falls upon those who sent 400 men here without any equipment, sans wireless, cannon, automobiles, lorries, provisions, and then left them to their fate in a war-ridden and dangerous country, not even sending an avion for five weeks, with a message of news or cheer.
The Turks promise to bombard again if the French do not consent to-day to leave, and it is probably for that purpose that they have been intrenching on Lone Tree Hill.
Friday, April 9 (61st and last day of the Siege of Urfa). — I am writing this several days after, so events have lost much of t heir vividness. The morning, so far as I remember, was uneventful, though through notre petit soldat, as the Sisters call him, I knew that the Commander was to receive a parlementaire to-day, to obtain his answer to the Turkish proposals.
Tea had just been placed on the table of my verandah at 4.15, when Mr. Weeden, looking toward French Headquarters, said, ‘See the two white flags coming.’ One was carried by a Moslem on horseback, one by an Algerian on foot, while a French sergeant accompanied them. They stopped at the two French posts between here and Headquarters, and the horseman, in flowing garments, remained in the road, while the others went in to announce to their comrades that a peace had been arranged. Everyone in the house was watching as they advanced toward our house and came in the gate, the horseman standing outside.
Messrs. Weeden and Clements went out to meet them, and we followed, to learn that the French, for lack of provisions, have been compelled to evacuate, and will leave to-morrow, at midnight. It is a sad peace, a great blow to French pride and honor, which one aeroplane might have avoided, had it dropped a few bombs on that second visit six weeks ago. It has never reappeared, and no word, no help has come. The thing is inexplicable.
However, everyone was glad to get out in the open in daylight, — the first time we had moved freely in nine weeks, — and it seemed safe for me to make the attempt to get to the Orphanage in the city; so I started while it was yet daylight for Headquarters, where Commander Hauger kindly gave permission and ordered a soldier to precede me with a flag of truce.
The Commander was heartbroken, as were the other officers. His chin quivered, tears were in his eyes as he talked to me, and in the Sisters’—everyone was sad. It was not only their own lack of provisions that compelled the surrender; but the Armenians had signified that theirs were near an end, and Miss Holmes had written the Commander, begging him to make conditions, or her children would starve.
By the time my soldier considered himself sufficiently furbished to start, it was dusk. Going through the Cantonment, we met Dr. and Mrs. Vischer, who were taking advantage of the new freedom to go to our house. It was a devious way through the various barracks, through holes in the walls, and dark passages, up and down cellar stairways, and through the garden of the Mahmoud Nedin house, till we came to the final hole in the wall, which opened, directly over a well, to the outside world.
At the Samsat Gate, all looked deserted. We continued up the hill, to where a high stone wall across Mr. Wooden’s road barricaded the way. Here Elias, who fortunately had joined my train, shouted in Turkish, and presently some fierce-looking Kurds armed with rifles appeared on the roof of the corner house, whence much of the firing has been directed at us. Elias talked and argued in Turkish, with Lucia’s assistance, that I was the American doctor and must get over to the Orphanage; and after many refusals, they finally sent for the sergeant, who came scrambling up the trench which led from the wall to the Turkish fortress on top of Cemetery Hill. He led us back down the hill to the Samsat Gate, barricaded but undefended; but we found the guards farther on, where the street branched, the idea being, I suppose, to let the French get into the narrow street inside the gate, and then shoot them down.
The two Kurds led us down the lefthand street in the darkness, till we came to a house which was apparently Kurdish headquarters, and into a room where the Kurdish chiefs — fifteen or twenty of them, fierce-looking bearded fellows in flowing robes and head-coverings — were seated around the four sides of a small room; on the floor, of course, with a charcoal brazier in the centre. One immediately offered me coffee and another a cigarette. I took both. Another offered his own cigarette for a light. I lighted the wrong end and drank another cup of coffee while Elias vehemently explained the need of my reaching the Orphanage to-night, the French soldier being as dumb as I.
Permission was freely granted, and the whole concourse, seemingly, accompanied me to the first barricade, and speeded me on my way! We passed several barricades of stone, and finally came out on the road inside the high barricade, whence two fierce fellows continued as our guard to where the French wire fence, barricades, and trenches began, when they said goodnight, but absolutely refused me permission to return that night; and I did not argue the question.
Mr. Weeden had preceded me earlier in the afternoon, and we had a family reunion at the dinner-table, the same four who were the first to reach Urfa, the others being Miss Holmes and Miss Law. My coming was a surprise, and I received a joyous welcome. Ferideh and Elmas added to the pleasure of my home-coming, for such it seemed; and there was much to tell on both sides.
Saturday, April 10. — Our two months of siege ended and everyone out in the open again. I slept on a native mattress on the bare floor last night, so I did not sleep much and was willing to get up early. I spent the morning looking over the Armenian defenses, which were very extensive and showed military skill. Except by bombardment, a city of this kind is almost impossible to take, for the narrow streets are easily controlled by rifle-fire from the loop-holes in the walls, and the ordinary life of the quarter can go on. Only at certain points could the streets be seen from the hills, and these were either protected by a barricade of stone, or a door was opened through the walls. Most of the loop-holes were smooth holes bored through the stone walls, hardly more than the diameter of the rifle itself.
From there I went to the French defenses on Orphanage Hill. Here the military genius of Lieutenant Marcereau was shown, for they formed a splendid system of defense and were very extensive, going along the hill-top to the farther end, and beyond to the Telebiad road and the plains of Harrans He could have held the hill indefinitely, and did repulse many attacks.
Miss Law, after sending messengers in vain to find me, had started off, with my soldier who had accompanied me last night, bearing the flag of truce; and Lieutenant Marcereau said the Turks would not let me pass. But I thought I would try it; so with my three young attendants, Levon (Miss Law’s boy), Yeremia (mine), and Lucia, I climbed the hill toward the Turkish ramparts, down the steep back of which the trail runs toward the road to home. The Kurds, fierce-looking, with their brown-bearded faces, but picturesque in their headgear and flowing robes, streamed down from the brow of the hill, to meet me and bar my way to the path. Of course, they said it was impossible, forbidden, and many other things; but my three voluble companions out-argued them, and we finally won through. This path, by the way, was the one the French used to use going from G.H.Q. to the Armenian quarter, till the Turks occupied the brow of the hill commanding it, and the liaison was broken.
At the foot of the hill, on t he Seroudj and Arab Poonar road, lies a post of the gendarmerie, also occupied by the French until the position was rendered untenable by the enemy position on the hill overlooking it. Here, again, my able assistants out-talked the guards, and I was sent on my way, but toward the Milleh bridge, where, I suppose, they thought the forces could turn me back if they wished. We had gone about a hundred paces when they shouted to us to stop and wait for a horseman who was riding down the road from Arab Poonar. This was their great chief, Namik, commander of the Milleh forces in Urfa. He was black-bearded, with rather kindly — at least, for the moment — brown eyes, and greeted me in French with a pleasant smile. But again my young companions and the gendarmes did the explaining, and Namik, without any demur, granted the request. The gendarmes then permitted me to go by the nearer bridge.
An Algerian soldier guarded the other end, but from there on I had no trouble. However, a group of Turkish or Kurdish soldiers watched me on my way, till I reached our house. I pause here to say, as we afterward learned, that the great Namik was returning from the Seroudj road, where he had been planning a hellish trap for the French, and placing his forces of cruel and savage Kurds and Turks; for last night the whole male population of the city had gone out to waylay the French on their retreat from Urfa, which the Turks had given their plighted word would be free from danger.
Sunday, April 11 (2d day of Peace). — A devilish peace — and France has something now to avenge if our informal ion is correct. The golden quarter of the waning moon was just showing above the eastern horizon at 11.30 P.M., when our little garrison of eighteen soldiers, with Mr. Woodward, our accountant, and Anthony, his Syrian interpreter, moved off, after many farewells. By the time they had reached our gate, the darkness had swallowed them, but we knew they were continuing on to the Cantonment, whence the little army was to start, at 1 A.M. for the mountain road of Arab Poonar. Elias was with them also, and our beloved John, who said he preferred fighting his way through with the French to remaining for slaughter in the Armenian quarter. Any Armenians who could escape the cordons drawn round them by the Turks probably started also. It has been a sad day for the French, as for us, who saw our friends and protectors leaving under the shadow of defeat; but saddest of all for the Armenians, whose lives are darkened by fear of persecution and massacre.
We gathered on my little upper verandah after they had gone, waiting and watching; but nothing could be heard, and only an occasional flare of light told that there was anything going on at the Cantonment. In darkness and in silence they moved off. Not a sound broke the stillness of the night to our listening ears. Strain our eyes as we would, no line of soldiers could we see, and no tramp of feet could we hear; but we knew that at the appointed hour the little column had started to climb the mountains toward Arab Poonar.
I was awakened about 7.30, and going to my door, could see hundreds of sight-seeing Moslems circling our place and examining curiously all the neighboring posts; but the Turkish guard, who had arrived at daylight, kept them out of our wire enclosure. It was so bright and sunny and looked so peaceful, that I decided to go to church; so Mrs. Mansfield said she would go too. We went by the outside road to the Bagh Capou (Gate of the Rich), and in through the short stretch of market, to the church. People looked at us curiously, but answered our greetings, and there was no hindrance. The cattle and sheep markets were deserted and the place of the former covered with little blue flowers. The Arab women whom we met along the way were friendly. For the first time in my stay, we found the church door fastened. I had forgotten that, since the French had gone, there would probably be no nine o’clock Mass. Frère Raphael welcomed us in the courtyard with outstretched arms, and we went into the monastery to meet Pères Inge, Gabriel, and Joachim, whose surprise at seeing us in these troublous times was very great. Both convent and monastery have been tranquil during the war, and it is not true that they were levied on to fill the war-chest — at least, so far.
My ultimate aim being the Orphanage, we started on through the city streets till we reached the gendarmerie, where we were told that our visit could not be permitted to-day. We heard in the city that the Moslem army had started out yesterday before the French, to ambush them on the road.
Shortly before noon, we heard shouting over in the direction of the Arab Poonar road, and I saw all the sightseers in our vicinity running thither. Someone said, ‘The camels are returning.’ We could see them and men coming down the Arab Poonar road. This looked dubious, in face of the fact that some of the Moslem soldiers had tried to take our disabled automobile this morning, saying they wanted to go out toward Seroudj, where, it was said, the French had been wiped out.
Mr. Weeden had come over from the city to take luncheon with us and to tell us of a wonderful conference held at the Orphanage this morning, where the Mutasarif and other notables had gathered to tell of the new republic to be organized in Urfa, and to promise brotherhood and citizenship to all. It was wonderful, if true, and the Armenians took heart, and some returned to the market. Just after luncheon, Mr. Weeden started to return to the city, taking Mrs. Mansfield with him, when the shouting increased, and I heard the sound of rapid firing seemingly from beyond the mountains. The shouting increased in volume, and the shrill Moslem cry of rejoicing. The crowd was streaming down the mountainside, and presently a horseman bearing the Turkish flag galloped out to meet it. Then we saw Mr. W. and Mrs. M. returning — they had gone only just beyond the cantonments, where they could see the populace lining the road, as they did last night when the French went out. A messenger had met Mr. Weeden with this note from Miss Holmes: ‘Come back at once.
The French have been attacked and the head of one of them is being displayed in the streets. Some say it is that of the Commander, others of our dear Marcereau. The panic of fear is spreading.’
I had thought at the sound of firing that the French were fighting for their lives; but their fate was worse than that, and was already sealed.
Mr. Weeden hurried to the Orphanage and to the Mutasarif, taking one of our Turkish guards and his interpreter— he had learned that Mr. Woodward and Anthony had been brought back by the gendarmes, with a few Mohammedan Algerians. So far as we know, the French army was utterly wiped out. The shrill cries of the Kurdish women and the rejoicing of all the Moslem populace increased as the returning army — Turkish and Kurd — came streaming down the mountain road and passed between the two lines of the cheering crowd. After an hour or so, Anthony came on horseback, accompanied by a Turkish soldier, saying that Mr. Woodward was safe with the Mutasarif, but too exhausted to come until later, which he did about five o’clock, supported by Dr. Vischer. I shall combine the main points of both of their stories.
(Two letters received to-day, the first in three months.) ;
The French forces left Headquarters about 1.30 Sunday morning, just as the moon was rising, and marched for six or seven hours, with the usual tenminute stop every hour. They had covered 20 or 30 kilometres, and had reached a place called Feriz Pasha, where the road, making a bend somewhat like the letter S, runs between three hills. The advance guard had passed the first bend, and the centre, in which were Commandant Hauger, Captain Sajous and other officers, with Mr. Woodward and Anthony, his interpreter, had come into a sort of bowl between the hills, when suddenly, without any warning, the whole hillside blazed with rifle-fire. Where a minute before no one was to be seen, now there were thousands pouring a deadly rain of bullets on the French below.
Mr. Woodward had been walking all night with the officers and had just climbed into a Red Cross wagon; but he immediately jumped out and tumbled down the steep side of the road into a sort of gully, which formed a slight protection, and ran along, stooping, thinking that, if he reached the bend in the road, he would find some shelter. Just beyond the bend there was a shallow hole in the rocky hillside, into which he crept, to be followed by the Commandant, Captain Sajous, Anthony, and a few others. Mon petit sold at, Dumais of the great heart, who was always wanting to do something to cheer up the blessés, and who had been with the rear guard, crept in later with a wounded arm which he had tried to bandage. The rear guard under Lieutenant Marcereau had been cut to pieces as it came up.
The French, having deployed on both sides, going up the hillsides with their machine-guns, had opened fire; but they were a smaller ring within the greater and higher ring of Kurds and Turks. However, they did deadly work when the enemy attacked, and mowed down great numbers of them.
Commandant Hauger, seeing that, nothing but slaughter was in store for his men, decided to surrender, and asked for volunteers to go out with the flag; so Mr. Woodward volunteered, and accompanied by Anthony and the sergeant of gendarmes, who had had charge of the French escort of forty men, stepped out into the roadway with the bullets pattering all round them, waving a small improvised white flag and a tiny American one. The sergeant shouted, ‘Stop firing!’ and finally the word was passed up the hillside and had effect for a few minutes; but it could not reach those farther away on the hills or the fresh forces coming up, and the firing soon began again.
Seeing the uselessness of attempting to stop it, and the danger of remaining, Mr. Woodward said, ‘Let us get out of this’; and they started back toward Urfa. The sergeant of gendarmes found a horse for himself, put Mr. Woodward in charge of nine other gendarmes, told them their lives would be forfeit if they failed to bring the American back alive, and then galloped off to carry the news to Urfa. That was the last Mr. Woodward saw of the Commandant and Captain Sajous.
It was a terrible sight, Mr. Woodward said, and shuddered at the thought of it. ‘They butchered them like pigs,’ thousands of savages rushing down the hillsides on a little handful of French. One wounded Frenchman, lying in the road, put up his arm to shield himself, when a Kurd ran a bayonet through his head, so that it came out on the other side: just plain slaughter and butchery.
The road was a shambles as they passed along, and they were constantly meeting bands of Kurds clamoring to kill the ‘infidels,’ and were saved only by the pleas and threats of the gendarmes, who formed a ring about t hem. So they started off across the mountains, and after many weary miles, with frequent pauses to allow Mr. W. to rest, his aching feet, they struck the river to the west of our house and crossed. Even here they were not safe, for the rejoicing enemy on the hills and road just outside of town fired on them; but fortunately they were not struck.
Our beloved and honorable John no doubt lies out there on the barren roadside, as does Elias, for whom his bride Aghavni mourns, whose time is near. Would they had heeded the appeals of their friends not to go; but they thought, as indeed did we all, that they were safer going out with the French than here in the Armenian quarter, knowing not what was in store for them.
Monday, April 12. — I have heard many terrible stories—the aftermath of the French massacre of Sunday morning. The Commander’s head had been exhibited in the streets; also Captain Sajous’s and Lieutenant Marcereau’s. So the gift ed warrior, Marcereau, is no more, and the kind Commander, who was so honorable that he believed in the honor of others. The others, too, for they say no Frenchman has been left alive—all our dear friends — gentle and kindly men — men who had passed five years of war on French battlefields, to meet such death from these Kurdish hordes — butchered to make a Moslem holiday. But the one face that seems to stay most clearly in my mind is Lieutenant Frayne’s, as I saw him Sunday morning, with its silky black beard, and gentle, Christ-like face and kindly blue eyes. Then, too, Captain Perrault, the Good, a daily communicant — always prepared for death, always so jolly and optimistic, ever hoping against hope that the ‘column’ was near, and trying to infuse everyone with his hope; not one left alive to tell the tale of the terrible morning.
And it was all planned beforehand: a proclamation was sent through the city, calling upon all loyal Moslems to go out and fight the French; and word had been sent to the Kurdish tribes to gather for the slaughter and the pillage; and the very fact that the massacre had already taken place was known to that roomful of Turkish and Kurdish notables who gathered that Sunday morning in Miss Holmes’s office to tell of the new republic of Turkey, with its capital at Angora, and its promises of democracy to all the inhabitants, Moslem and Christian. No wonder the Armenians say they speak fair words with their lips, but they lie in their hearts.
The two porters who brought the raisins for the children’s dinner from the market to-day openly acknowledged that they had a part in the massacre — the whole city having emptied itself for that purpose. Being asked why they should do such a thing, they said, ‘Why not? They were our enemies, and we did an honorable work in killing them.’ Another Turk, who knew our beloved John, said he was dead, and that when he last saw Elias, he had a wound in his breast. Few wounded are allowed to live. An Armenian, who went, down in the market as requested by the authorities, said he saw a wagonful of heads. There is no hope, even for the advance guard, which had got by before the firing began. Some tried to escape, but were run down by the mounted soldiers and tribesmen. The Armenians are still in great fear. I asked one, ‘ Is there no way the Armenians can escape from this they fear?’ and he said, ‘There is no way — all ways are guarded. We can only wait.’
There was great rejoicing in the city to-day: the sound of music and dancing, and to-night much firing, in celebration of victory.
The captain of the gendarmes, who saved Mr. Woodward, says it will be six months before the trains will be running again — so you may see my fate; and Dr. Lambert begs us to make no attempt to move, lest the brigands get us on the way. From the peaceful country of last fall, under British occupation, this has become a place of danger and of many pitfalls. No wonder Major Burroughs, being forewarned of what was coming, besought the authorities in Aleppo to move us and the Orphanage while there was still time. We used to think he was an alarmist, but we know better now. We learn that the government here has received telegrams from Constantinople, saying the Allies have occupied it in force.
Tuesday, April 13. — To-day I again started my clinic at the City Orphanage, so had to be up early. Later in the morning, I accompanied Mr. Woodward to the Serai, to the office of the Mutasarif, where we also found Namik, commander of the Milleh forces, the same black-bearded gentleman who speeded me on my way the other morning, when I wanted to come back. I know now that he had been out on the Seroudj road, organizing the attack on the French on Sunday last. It is almost impossible to believe that these two kindly, smiling gentlemen could have been guilty of such a breach of honor; but customs, manners, and traditions vary in different nations and races. I cannot blame the Turks for attempting to drive out the invaders and occupiers of their country, but I do blame them because they dishonored their plighted word and attacked with such overwhelming forces an enemy army to which they had promised safe passage to the railroad. Here I may digress to say that both the Mutasarif and Namik assured me that Turkey would even now accept a mandate of America, but not of any other nation. The Turks say that Said Bey has left with his tribes for his own villages; but since it is known that every man and boy above the age of eighteen in Urfa has been called Upon to go to Telebiad and Jerablus, to fight the French and drive them out, one can easily guess where Said Bey and his fierce Kurdish tribesmen have gone.
The Turks admit that they are besieging Jerablus, — the division centre on the Bagdad Railway of the French, as it was of the British, — as they did Urfa. One can only hope that the French will withdraw in time, or that relief will come before they suffer the horrible fate of their brothers on the Seroudj road. If only the Turkish government would treat its Christian subjects humanely, I would say, let them have their country. They are surely pleasant people to meet socially; but for an enemy they know no mercy; and what is too cruel for them to do, t he Kurds do for them.
As it is, it seems incomprehensible that Europe and America should stand idly by and, either from indifference or from impotence, watch these Christian peoples being rapidly and surely exterminated, by fire and sword and pestilence, by torture and massacre and sudden death, with none to offer help. Imagine the hopelessness of it all, the weary prayers offered to Heaven for deliverance, the longing in those eyes turned in vain to America for succor. Yet behold the dauntlessness of a race that lifts its head after every massacre and starts again to build up its ruined lives and to reconstruct its homes upon the ashes of the old. All honor to the Armenian nation!