Philippopolis, August 10.
I had not been here a day when I heard of a personage whom the Turks jeeringly spoke of as the " Queen of the Bulgarians." This Queen, it appeared, was in prison, and was, I was given to understand, a very contemptible sort of person indeed. I learned that she had headed the insurrection, had been crowned Queen, had promenaded the streets of her native village on horseback, bearing a flag like another Jeanne d'Arc, besides committing a variety of other follies which seemed to form the subject of much merriment among the Turks here. Naturally I conceived a great desire to make the acquaintance of this fallen Queen, and see what sort of person it was who aspired to be the leader of a new Sclavonic Empire. I had no difficulty in accomplishing this, as Mr. Schuyler had no sooner heard of her than lie demanded and obtained permission to see her, and kindly allowed me to accompany him. She was confined in the house of an Imam, or priest, with another Bulgarian woman from the same village, and these were the only two women we found in prison upon our arrival here. We were conducted to the Imam's house by Dr. Vlados, a Greek physician, who has been charged with the task of looking after the health of the prisoners. After a long walk through the crooked, narrow, stony streets, we brought up before a low, rickety building, partly of wood, partly of rough unhewn stones, and found ourselves before a pair of low, double wooden doors opening outwards into the street. The doctor knocked, and after a prolonged colloquy with a voice inside, the door was opened about half an inch, and we caught sight of a harsh-looking, partly-veiled female face, that seemed to be regarding us with some suspicion. Apparently, this preliminary survey was satisfactory, for the door was thrown open a little wider, and a slight girlish figure stepped forward and stood in the doorway, followed by an elderly matron, tall and stalwart almost as a man, who stood behind and gazed at us over the girl's head with tearful eyes.
I was at first inclined to think it was the tall woman who must be the Queen, as she more nearly filled my ideas of what an Amazon should be, and I was surprised to learn that it was not she but the young girl who had been playing at " Kings and Queens" with such disastrous effect to herself. A slight, graceful form, only too plainly seen through her scanty, miserable clothing, large hazel eyes, an oval face, slightly browned by the sun, straight nose, and a veritable little rosebud of a mouth. She was thin and weak, and seemed scarcely able to stand, and the young girlish face wore a dejected, brokenhearted look that was sad to see. A handkerchief was thrown over her head, and she wore a coarse brown linsey-woolsey jacket and a short petticoat of the same material that scarcely reached below her knees, exposing a white delicate foot. She had no shoes and stockings, and this costume she afterwards told me was not her own, but was given her after she had been stripped of her own clothing. She told us her story in a few words, from which it appeared she had taken some part in the insurrection indirectly, but that the report of her having been crowned Queen of the Bulgarians was a pure fiction. The name "Queen of the Bulgarians" had been given her by the Turks in mockery, coupled with the vilest epithets and insults that a cowardly brutal soldiery could think of. She had been in prison two months, and during all this time had been given nothing to eat but bread and water. It was no wonder she looked weak and ill. As she was evidently too weak to stand talking there long, Mr. Schuyler told her he would try to have her set at liberty as soon as possible, and then we took our leave.
This visit of Mr. Schuyler's and the interest he showed in her, resulted in her being released next day on bail, to be definitely set at liberty a few days later. I paid her a visit the day after in the khan or caravansary where she with her companion had found a temporary shelter, and obtained her story in detail. As it is intimately connected with these Bulgarian massacres, and will at the same time give an idea of the condition of the Bulgarian people, I may as well give it in full, as she gave it to me. Her name is " Raika," and she is the daughter of a priest in the village of Otluk-kui, or Panagurishti, about twenty miles from Tatar-Bazardjik. At the age of twelve she had been already remarked for her intelligence and beauty, and a kind of village literary club, which exists in the place, decided to send her to school and educate her. For this purpose a subscription was set afoot, and the requisite funds were soon raised. They decided to send her to Eski-Zara, where the American missionaries had established a school for girls, which they afterwards turned over to the Bulgarians, by whom it is now conducted.
It may not be amiss to remark here that the American and English missionaries have done an immense deal of good in Bulgaria by establishing schools throughout the country, educating teachers, and showing the Bulgarians how to organise and establish schools for themselves. In this they have succeeded so well that there is scarcely a village in Bulgaria without its school. Raika remained at this school four years, and acquired seemingly a very fair education ; better, perhaps, than many an English girl gets in a better school. She had a particular fondness for needlework, and she acquired so much skill in all sorts of curious and tasteful embroidery that she became famous throughout all the country. When she returned to her native place, after four years' study in a boarding-school, she was looked upon as a veritable marvel by all the people around her. It was particularly the wonders she worked with her needle that astonished and pleased them, and this, with her wonderful education and her sweetness of character, made them begin to look up to her as a being of a superior order. She was now sixteen, and there was a career already marked out for her— that of a teacher ; and she entered upon it gladly. The schools in Otluk-kui, or Panagurishti, as it is called by the Bulgarians, were at that time in a very flourishing condition. Since hearing Raika's story I have been there, and I took pains to inquire into the matter. There were three schools in the place—one for girls and two for boys ; and, to judge by the ruins which I saw, they were fine large buildings that no village of the same size, even in the civilised part of Europe, need have been ashamed of. There were six teachers in all—three male and three female; and the number of children that attended the schools was 680, of whom 500 were boys, and 180 girls. The teachers were well paid—better, I think, everything considered, than they are in England, France, and Germany. The three male teachers and Raika received each sixty pounds a year, a sum which, in this country, where living is cheap, where do great expenditure is required in the way of dress, and in a mountain village far away from railways and telegraphs, was really a very comfortable income. For a young girl like Raika especially, who had her home, it was a great deal of money. She applied half of it, however, to paying back to the literary society the money spent on her education. She soon became the head mistress of the girls' school, and as she was the only one of the teachers who was a native of the village, she was a great favourite of the people.
It should be remembered that the schools in Bulgaria are supported by a kind of tax which the Bulgarians voluntarily levy upon themselves ; and the flourishing condition of the schools in one little place like this, and the way in which they were supported, will enable us to form an idea of what they are all over the country, and of the efforts these poor people are making to rise from the grovelling condition in which they have been held for so long. Raika's position as schoolmistress in a place like Panagurishti was by no means an unenviable one. A schoolmistress in a place like this is a different sort of personage, it should be remembered, from a schoolmistress in London. With her cleverness, her education, her good looks, the esteem and respect in which she was held by everybody, her position was a very pleasant one, and she was in reality a sort of village queen. I asked some of the people there if she had no sweetheart all this time, and what had become of him. They said there seemed to be nobody who aspired to her hand, for the reason that she was so far superior to the young men of the place, that they did not dare to hope for such a prize as she would have been. Poor girl; not one of the young men who then thought her so far above them would marry her now. Things went on pleasantly enough until the breaking out of the insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Raika was eighteen, she had been a teacher for two years, and had nearly paid her debt. Then there were signs of approaching trouble. Fresh upon the news of the war in Herzegovina came the tax-gatherer with demands for the year's taxes and those of the previous year, which had been remitted owing to the failure of the crops. Many were unable to meet these unlooked-for demands. Their property was instantly seized and sold at any price it would bring. The cattle, the agricultural implements of the peasants, were seized and sold without the slightest regard to future consequences. Some were even thrown into prison, when nobody offered to buy the poor effects that were offered for sale. Naturally these acts resulted in a great deal of misery and dissatisfaction.
The taxes upon the agricultural population are .heavy enough, often amounting, as they do, to twenty and thirty per cent., according to the tax farmer's capacity for extortion, without being suddenly doubled at a moment's notice. Hard upon this followed the demand for the taxes of 1876 in advance, which resulted in still more forced sales, extortions, quarrels with the tax-collectors, misery, and discontent. The young men of the place began to hold secret meetings and to talk of throwing off the yoke of the Turks, and asserting their independence, like their brothers of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Servia. I may as well state here that it was in this place that the insurrection, if such a puny outbreak as occurred here may be dignified by that name, broke out. There was, it seems, an Insurrectional Committee at Bucharest, composed of young Bulgarians, in the schools or in business there. They were natives of the villages in this part of the country, and not Russians, as stated by the Turks as well as our diplomatists, who see a Russian in every bush. " The insurrection was fomented from without," in the sense only that these young Bulgarians had their head-quarters at Bucharest, and there does not seem to be the slightest evidence to show that there were any Russians or Servians in this part of the country, as is stated by the Turks, and believed by Sir Henry Elliot.
It does not appear that Raika had anything to do with fomenting the insurrection. She says that the first positive knowledge she had of anything brewing was in the spring, about Easter time. She was summoned one day to the house where the school committee were in the habit of meeting. She went, supposing it was for some business relating to the school, but was greatly surprised to find, not the school committee, but a number of young men of the village, who were listening to a fiery speech by a man named Bankovsky, urging them to revolt. We have not been able to find out who this Bankovsky was, nor what has become of him. It is supposed that he was killed near Sophia, but this is by no means certain. We have only been able to ascertain that his real name was not Bankovsky, and that he was a Bulgarian. I believe that many of the people know who he was and where he was from, but that they pretend to know little about him in order not to be forced to tell what they do know, and compromise his friends. Raika describes him as a tall, handsome man, with a blonde moustache, blue eyes, and a very fiery, eloquent manner of speaking. His words so worked upon them that they decided unanimously to rise as soon as Servia should declare war, which eventuality was looked upon as certain. They immediately commenced taking measures for carrying this resolution into effect, and it appeared that one of the first things they needed was a flag.
With a flag everything was possible, and this was why the young school-mistress had been summoned to the council. Her skill with the needle was famed throughout the country far and wide, and they had fixed upon her to embroider the standard of rebellion. Understanding the danger, she at first refused, and tried to dissuade them from their project, but they were resolved upon their line of action, and insisted upon her embroidering the flag for them. Urged partly by threats, partly by persuasion, and perhaps in the generous hope that the revolt might after all be successful, she finally consented; and it is sad to think that her skill in needlework, that most womanly of accomplishments, should have been the cause of so fearful a misfortune to her. In order to not compromise her father and mother, however, she decided to do the work in the house of one of the insurgents. A vain precaution. It did not prevent her father from being slaughtered, with hundreds of others, in the church where he was officiating. We have seen the flag as it fell into the hands of the Turks, and is now used in evidence on the trials that are going on here. The poor rag, bespattered and torn, was prettily worked with a naive design showing a huge yellow lion, with his paw on a crescent, with which he seemed greatly displeased, and the inscription, " Liberty or death," in Bulgarian.
By the first of May, the day fixed upon for the rising to take place, the banner was ready. But Servia had not declared war, and they had received almost certain information that they were betrayed to the Turkish authorities. They determined to go on, as they considered it now too late either to abandon the attempt or to postpone it. So having taken their arms, they formed in a body and marched to the church, sent for two priests, one of whom was Raika's father, declared their intention of rising, and asked them to bless the undertaking. This the priests did. Although several priests were killed at the time of the massacres, and several more hanged afterwards, it does not appear that any priest took a more active part in the insurrection than that of giving his blessing in one or two instances to the insurgents. Having obtained the blessing of the Church, the insurgents next called for Raika, and informed her that as she had made the flag she must carry it through the village at the head of a procession. She refused; but they seized her, put her upon a horse, put the flag in her hand, and marched through the streets shouting and singing in the most approved French manner. Having thus declared war, they proceeded to act. There was no Mudir, or Turkish governor, in the village at this time, so they had matters all to themselves, and nobody to interfere with them. They immediately proceeded to fortify the place, and they do not seem to have had any other plan for the insurrection than that of waiting, quietly in the village, and defending it against all comers.
This seems to have been the plan adopted in the three or four villages where a rising really took place; and a more foolish one could hardly have been imagined. Instead of young men in each village forming themselves into flying bands, and traversing the country in every direction, destroying the railways, cutting the telegraphs, surprising small posts of Turkish soldiers, and avoiding contact with large bodies of troops, each of these villages having thrown off the Turkish authority in the manner above described, adopted the mad plan of defending itself separately and singly against the regular troops. This, together with the fact that the rising only occurred in three or four places, and not simultaneously in these, would seem to indicate that the members of the Bucharest Committee were very raw-hands at organizing an insurrection, and that their organization was very imperfect, if indeed there were anything like organization at all. They seem to have persuaded these three or four villages to rise, hoping that the rest of the country would follow the example, and that there would be a general insurrection as a matter of course. But the rest of the population, without leaders and without organization, remained inactive, and allowed themselves to be quietly slaughtered. There is little doubt, in my mind, that if the rising had been general, properly organized and provided with leaders, the Turks would have been obliged to abandon the whole country north of the Balkans, and withdraw to Adrianople. They would never have been able to fight Servia and Montenegro, and at the same time to keep up their communications through a hostile country that was up in arms against them. This is, in my mind, the best evidence that there was no organized insurrection throughout the country; for if there had been, it would have succeeded.
All the people of Panagurishti seem to have finally engaged in the revolt, for Raika informed me that even the women had gone out and worked on the fortifications, so great was the enthusiasm, and that they worked at them nine or ten days. I afterwards had occasion to inspect those amateur fortifications when I went there with Mr. Schuyler. They consisted simply of slight embankments thrown up across two of the roads leading to the village on hills between one and two miles away. The ditch was about a foot or eighteen inches deep, and five or six feet wide, and the embankment, or loose earth, three or four feet high, and not more than four or five feet wide at the bottom, would not have stopped a three-pound shell. It would have afforded convenient cover for pickets or a skirmish line, but was utterly useless for anything else. It would have been equally useless had it been a well-constructed fort; for the village was so accessible from all sides, that infantry would not be obliged to advance by the road, and the works would be turned.
The ten days during which they were throwing up this puny earthwork did not pass without some incidents. In the first place, two tax-collectors, who approached the place, were ordered to deliver up their arms, and upon their refusal to do so were fired upon and killed. These tax-collectors were not, properly speaking, officers of the Government, but rather agents of the tax farmer, who had excited the hatred of the people by their extortions. Shortly afterwards seven more Turks, who approached the village, were ordered to surrender, and did so at once. These were two zaptiehs, two tax-collectors, one clerk, and two pomaks or Mohammedan Bulgarians. They were all lodged in a Bulgarian house and well treated, except one of the zaptiehs or mounted police of the country, who had committed such acts of cruelty and barbarity that they decided he had merited death, and therefore sentenced and shot him. A day or two later some people in a closed carriage, approaching along the road towards the fortifications, were hailed and likewise ordered to surrender, and upon their attempting to escape were fired upon. The carriage was captured, and it was found there were two men and three women in it. The two men and one of the women had been killed by the fire; one of the remaining women seized a sabre and struck at one of the insurgents, whereupon she was killed. The other woman was captured and sent into the village, and well treated until the arrival of the Turks, when she was set at liberty. As far as we have been able to learn up to the present, those two women are the only ones that have been killed by the insurgents, and one of them, as I have just related, was shot accidentally. The Turkish authorities in Philippopolis state that there were twelve killed in all; but they have been unable to give Mr. Schuyler either the names of these women, or the names of the villages in which they were said to have been killed, and he therefore will not accept the statement until he finds further proof.
Kiani Pacha, who was sent here to inquire into the atrocities committed by the Bashi-Bazouks, told Mr. Schuyler, with the coolest assurance, that the wife and daughter of the Mudir of Avrat-alan had been killed. Mr. Schuyler found, upon investigation, that the wife of the Mudir had not been killed, and that he never had a daughter. It was said that the wife of the Mudir here in Otluk-kui had likewise been killed. As I have already stated, there was no Mudir in this village at the time of the outbreak, and his wife could not therefore have been killed. Of the twelve cases of Turkish women killed, we have therefore investigated five, and found that three of them were without the slightest foundation. As we cannot learn the names of the villages where the seven other women were killed, we cannot investigate, and we therefore take the liberty of doubting. The story told by Edib Effendi, of a Turkish girl who was killed and then mutilated in so disgusting a manner, is a pure fiction. We have not been able to discover the least trace of it. Nobody, Turk or Christian, in Tatar-Bazardjik, near where it is said to have occurred, ever heard of it; nor did the different Consuls in Philippopolis, who received daily reports of every thing that was going on throughout the whole district from the beginning of the troubles, ever hear of it until they saw the report of Edib Effendi. The truth is that the story is an impudent falsehood, invented by Edib Effendi, which has not even the semblance of probability. This state of things continued in Panagurishti, or Otluk-kui, for nine or ten days, during which time nine Turks and two Turkish women were killed. All of these but the two women and the one zaptieh were killed with arms in their hands. Altogether during this time some twenty prisoners were taken, and these were well treated and cared for until the Turkish army came on and released them. It should be remembered that I am not giving the story of one person alone in making these statements, for since my conversation with the schoolmistress we have been to Panagurishti, have compared her story with the accounts received from other people, and find it corroborated in every particular. To tell the truth, it scarcely needed corroboration, for the Turks themselves, neither here nor at Philippopolis, do not claim more killed than the number above stated.
The rising occurred on the 2nd of May. On the 12th Hafiz Pacha arrived before the place with a regiment of regular troops, two or three pieces of artillery, and a great number of Bashi-Bazouks. It would seem that the insurgents only had about 250 men armed with muskets or rifles. The rest had only knives or pistols, such as before these troubles were worn by everybody. One hundred and fifty of the best armed men had gone out on one road towards Tatar-Bazardjik, to dispute the way, and 100 on the other road, for it seems they did not send spies out to see by which way the army would come. When Hafiz Pacha arrived he found only 100 men to oppose him, and these, frightened at the great superiority of the force brought against them, ran away at the first fire. It does not even appear that they fired off their guns, for there was not a single Turk killed or wounded. The inhabitants, panic-stricken, had in the meantime attempted to fly, but the town had-already been surrounded, and they were either driven back or cut down in the fields. I had forgotten to state that at the approach of the Bashi-Bazouks the inhabitants of eight or nine neighbouring villages, fear-stricken, had abandoned their homes and taken refuge here, to the number of five or six thousand, and they now filled the streets, crying and screaming with fright. As all resistance had now ceased, or rather, as none had really been offered, Hafiz Pacha had nothing to do but march into the town, arrest the leaders of the insurrection, and restore order. Instead of this, however, he brought up his artillery, and, without summoning the place to surrender, commenced a bombardment, ruthlessly throwing the bursting shells into these crowds of shrieking women and children. Until midnight the din of the bombardment resounded through the streets. Then the loudmouthed dogs of war ceased their clamour; they had done their work ; it was now the turn of the sabre.
During the night and the next morning the troops and the Bashi-Bazouks entered the place, and then began a scene of pillage, violence, and massacre, only equalled by that of Batak. Neither age nor sex was spared. The town was pillaged, then fired ; about one-fourth of the houses were burnt, people were cut down in the streets, on their own doorsteps, on their own hearthstones. Old men and women begging for mercy, and children and infants screaming in terror, perished alike beneath the swift and certain sabre. It is thought that 3,000 people were killed in this place alone, of whom about 400 were inhabitants of the town, and the rest from the neighbouring villages who had taken refuge here. But we were not greeted here with the scenes of horror that awaited us at Batak. Hafiz Pacha, unlike Achmet Aga, had sense enough to have the bodies buried within the following three days, and thus to cover up his tracks.
It has been repeated again and again that these acts were perpetrated by the Bashi-Bazouks only, and not by the regular troops ; and a great deal is made of the statement as showing the massacres were committed without the consent of the authorities. If the statement were worth anything, the converse ought to be true—that if the massacres were committed by the regular troops then the authorities are responsible. Now, as it happens, wherever there were any regular troops to commit massacres, they rivalled the Bashi-Bazouks in atrocity. Here, as Mr. Schuyler will show in his report, regular and irregular troops were equally cruel, pitiless, and ferocious, and Hafiz Pacha is no less guilty than Achmet Aga. The reason is simple. They are all Turks alike, and there is nothing to choose between them. These massacres were committed by the order of the authorities, and that is why the men who committed them have been rewarded with decorations and promotions.
When we were in Panagurishti we were shown in the ruins of the church, before the place where the altar had stood, a black spot specked with calcined bones, on which lay a bouquet of flowers. This was the remains of a priest, Theodor Peoff, 85 years of age, who had been seized and tortured in the hopes of obtaining money, mutilated and maltreated in ways which only the foul imagination of a Turk could invent, then killed, and burnt here before the altar. In another place we were shown a black spot where an old blind man, Dondje Stregleyoff, was beaten half to death, and then thrown senseless on a heap of wood and burnt alive.
There was an old man here, Zwatko Boyadjieff by name, a public benefactor, a liberal contributor to the school fund, who in winter supported half the widows and orphans of the place, who was renowned for his charities to Christian and Turk alike. He was likewise seized, tortured, and maltreated. His eyes were put out, and, after undergoing the most fearful torments, he was thrown on a heap of wood fainting or dead, the people do not know which, and burnt. They seized the priest Nestor, and cut off his fingers one by one to extort money, and as the poor man had none to give them they continued by cutting off his hands, and finally his head. We were shown in the yard of a neat little cottage, embowered in trees, a grave, beside which a woman was kneeling as we passed. It was the grave of a young man of eighteen, who had just returned home from school when the troubles began, after an absence of two years, and who had taken no part in the outbreak. They had seized him, and in mere sport cut off his hands one by one in the presence of his mother, then killed him.
What made these acts more terrible was, that many of them were committed in the presence of the weeping relatives—wife, mother, brothers, sisters of the victims. And they were repeated by the hundred. It would take a volume to tell all the stories that were related to us. But it was not only old and young men who suffered; women, young girls, children, infants, were ruthlessly slaughtered. These Turks have no pity, no compassion, no bowels. They have not even the pity of wild beasts. Even the tiger will not slay the young of its own species. But these Turks, these strong bearded men, picked infants up out of their cradles with their bayonets, tossed them in the air, caught them again, and flung them at the heads of the shrieking mothers. They carried little babes about the streets on the points of their bayonets, with the poor little heads and arms drooping around the barrels of their guns, and the blood streaming down over their hands. They cut off the heads of children, and compelled other children to carry the still bleeding heads about in their arms.
I would have the reader remember that I am relating facts that have been coldly and concisely noted down in my presence by Mr. Schuyler ; facts that will appear in his report; facts that were told him by people who wept and moaned and wrung their hands, and fairly tore their hair at the bare remembrance of the scenes they were relating.
Hundreds of women came to us recounting what they had seen and what they had suffered. Not a woman in the place seemed to have escaped outrage. They all confessed it openly. In other places where these things occurred, the women have shown a hesitation to speak. In some cases they denied they had been outraged, and we afterwards learned they confessed to others that they had been. At Avrat-Alan a deputation of ladies called upon Mr. Schuyler to make their complaints, and he was somewhat astonished to find they had very little to say. Upon going away, however, they left him a letter, signed by them all, saying that scarcely a woman in the place had escaped outrage. They could not bring themselves to tell him viva, voce; but thinking that as he was investigating here in an official capacity he ought to know, they had decided to write to him. Here, however, they did not hesitate to speak out. Outrages were committed so publicly, so generally, that they feel it would be useless to try to hide their shame, and they avow it openly. These acts were committed not only in the houses, but in the streets, in the yards, in the courts, for the Turks have not even the decency which may accompany vice. They have not even the modesty of vileness; they have not even the shame of nature. Mothers were outraged in the presence of their daughters ; young girls in the presence of their mothers, of their sisters and brothers. One woman told us, wringing her hands and crying, that she and her daughter, a girl of fifteen, had been violated in the same room, another that she was violated in the presence of her children. A girl of eighteen avowed, shuddering and bowing her face in her hands, that she had been outraged by ten soldiers. A woman, who came to us on crutches with a bullet still in her ankle, said she had been violated by three soldiers while lying wounded on the ground groaning in agony. Young, delicate, fragile little creatures, ten and twelve years old, were treated in the same brutal manner. A woman told us that her daughter, a tender, delicate little thing of twelve, had been seized and outraged by a Bashi-Bazouk, although she had offered all the money she had in the world—although she offered herself—if he would spare the child. Another told us of a poor little thing of ten violated in her presence, with a number of other girls. Still another told us how a dozen young girls, twelve or fifteen years old, had taken refuge in her house, hoping to escape detection ; how they had been discovered; how two of them had been outraged, and killed, because they had resisted, and how the others then submitted to their fate, white, shivering, their teeth chattering with fright.
And yet Sir Henry Elliot and Mr. Disraeli will keep prating to us about exaggeration, forsooth ! The crimes that were committed here are beyond the reach of exaggeration. There were stories related to us that are maddening in their atrocity, that cause the heart to swell in a burst of impotent rage that can only find vent in pitying, useless tears. We were told of a young girl of sixteen, outraged by three or four Bashi-Bazouks in the presence of her father, who was old and blind. Suddenly she saw one of them preparing in mere sport to kill the poor old man, and she sprang forward with a shriek, threw her arms around his neck, weeping, and trying to shield him with her own delicate body. It was all in vain ; the bullet sped on its course, and the father and daughter—the sweet young girl and the blind old man— fell dead in each other's arms. I should, perhaps, beg pardon, of my readers for dwelling on these harrowing details. But I am not writing for children and young girls, but for men and women ; and everywhere here I see the Turks looking upon the English as their friends and allies, counting upon us for help against their enemies, looking to us for aid and comfort, and believing—most exasperating thing of all—that they have our approval in everything they do.
If I tell what I have seen and heard it is because I want the people of England to understand what these Turks are, and if we are to go on bolstering up this tottering despotism ; if we are to go on carrying this loathsome vice-stricken leper about on our shoulders, let us do it with open eyes and a knowledge of the facts; let us see the hideous thing we are carrying. Mr. Schuyler obtained ample evidence of other crimes too foul to be even named. I believe that Mr. Baring has obtained no information on this point, and does not believe in it. I scarcely wonder at this. There are crimes that repel investigation, that avoid the light; that, like those vile creeping loathsome things found under carrion or in the lowest depths of sewers, cling to the dark holes and corners and escape inspection. Mr. Schuyler has explored these dark depths to the bottom with the coolness of a surgeon probing a foul and festering ulcer. But I do not think he will be able to state the facts in his report. They are without the pale of the English language, and for my part I shall not again refer to them.
And the "Queen of the Bulgarians," the young school-mistress, what became of her ? Alas ! her fate was only that of hundreds of others. I could not ask her to relate all the story of her misfortunes. It was too plainly written in the pale, dejected, though still gentle and sympathetic face. But we saw a woman, in Otluk-kui who was present when she fell into the hands of three or four Bashi-Bazouks. Yes, this educated, intelligent, sensitive young girl was seized and outraged, in the presence of half-a-dozen of her comrades and neighbours, by three or four brutes who still pollute the earth with their vile existence. Exaggerated, Sir Henry, indeed! And if your own daughter had been treated in the same way, would you still go on prating about exaggeration ? But this was not enough. Her father was shot down in his own house, and she and her mother dug his grave in their garden and buried him; and still the poor girl had not suffered enough. The Turkish authorities heard that she had embroidered the flag, and two weeks after the insurrection was completely crushed they ordered her arrest. A Mudir had been sent to the village in the meantime, and he seized and took her to his house at ten o'clock at night, with the woman at whose house the flag had been worked—the tall, stalwart woman of whom I have spoken in the beginning of this letter. She told us what occurred in the Mudir's house that night. The poor girl, in spite of tears and prayers, that might have moved a tiger to pity, was stripped naked, beaten, spat upon, and again outraged. It was then that she was nick-named " Queen of the Bulgarians," and the next day she and another woman, who had been likewise maltreated in even a more horrible way, were sent to Tatar-Bazardjik. Here she was surrounded by the Turkish population, hooted, jeered, pelted with mud, spat upon, and insulted with the foulest epithets that a Turkish mob could find. It mattered not that she was one poor weeping girl all alone among a crowd of enemies—fiends rather than men. There is no pity in the breasts of these savages. Then, fainting, insensible, she was thrown into a cart and sent off to Philippopolis, thrown into prison there, and kept on bread and water until the arrival of Mr. Schuyler. Then she was set at liberty, ill, shattered in health, and brokenhearted.
We saw this same Mudir of Otluk-kui when we were there. Mr. Baring spoke of him as the most filthy brute he ever saw. The very night Mr. Baring was there, the Mudir, as if in very contempt for his presence in the place, sent for two young married women, whose husbands had been killed in the massacre, to come to his house. They refused. The next night, when Mr. Schuyler was there, he again sent for them, and they again refused ; but they came to Mr. Schuyler next day in despair, saying they felt sure that as soon as we left the village he would send his zaptiehs for them. When Mr. Schuyler spoke to the Governor of Philippopolis about this Mudir, he simply replied that he knew he was a bad man, but he had no better man to put in his place. This man will not be punished, nor will Achmet Aga, the destroyer of Batak, nor another Achmet Aga, equally infamous, who destroyed Perustitza ; nor Tossum Bey, who burnt Klissura; nor Chefket Pacha, who, beaten as a general in Bosnia and Herzegovina, wreaked his vengeance on the unresisting people of Bazardjik, where his generalship had full scope. These men have, on the contrary, been rewarded, decorated, and promoted. And we can do nothing; I am sure nothing will be done. Diplomacy is impotent If Sir Henry Elliot remains in Constantinople he will make a few mild representations to the Porte, which the latter will receive with the best possible grace, and—that is all. How could it be otherwise ? Sir Henry does not believe in the atrocities. How can he be expected to make strong representations on the subject ? Or a strong man may be sent in Sir Henry's place, who will go so far as to make urgent representations to the Porte, or who may even go the length of making strong representations. The Porte will promise everything. It will give assurance of the most benevolent intentions, it will utter the most philanthropic protestations, the Government will issue more paper reforms, the diplomatists will be satisfied, and that will be the end of it.
It cannot be otherwise. There are not a dozen Turks in the empire who see the necessity of reform. There is nobody to carry out the reforms. The Mutle-serif of Philippopolis told the simple truth when he said he had no better Mudir to send to Otluk-kui instead of the drunken beast who is there now. But they would not carry out reforms if they could. The Mutle-serif of Philippopolis has the reputation of being too favourable to the Bulgarians, and when we were there the Turks were loudly demanding his recall. He seemed like a very honest, conscientious man, desirous of doing what was right. He entered into the question of the misery of the burnt-out people with Mr. Schuyler and Mr. Baring in an earnest serious way, that carried with it the conviction that he was really working hard to relieve their sufferings. He said money was to be given them, their cattle to be restored, their houses rebuilt, and every possible thing done for them. He was so earnest, so serious, so thoroughly convinced of the necessity of these measures, that you could not doubt his good intentions. And yet, not only are the cattle not restored, not only are the houses not rebuilt, but Mr. Schuyler has found that this same plausible, earnest, conscientious governor, at the very moment that he was making these promises to him and Mr. Baring, was issuing the strict orders that the people of Batak, as well as of the other burnt villages, be forced to pay their regular taxes as though nothing had happened. And this is one of the good men—one who is so friendly to the Bulgarians that the Turks demand his recall.
Here is an example of Turkish ideas of reform. Until the last year the whole male Christian population, from infants one day old up to the age of a hundred, had to pay the military exemption tax. Last year, however, a great reform was ushered in with a loud flourish of trumpets. In future, only those capable of military service were to pay the exemption tax, and there were great rejoicings among the people. But when the tax came to be levied, what was the astonishment of everybody to find that each village was ordered to pay exactly the same sum as before. The tax was only redistributed. The round sum before paid on the whole population of the village now falls on the shoulders of those only capable of military duty. But the whole amount must be made up. This is the Turkish idea of reform, and the Turkish way of throwing dust in the eyes of Europe. And these are the people from whom we expect reforms! There will be no reforms. The thousands of helpless women and children, of babes and sucklings slaughtered in cold blood, whose bones and flesh are fattening the soil of Bulgaria, cry out against the hollow mockery, and give it the lie. And you say, oh statesmen of Europe, that the status quo must be maintained ; that this must last. I tell you it will not last. You must find another solution for the Eastern question, or another solution will find you. It will not last, or civilization is a delusion, justice a mockery, and Christianity a farce and a failure.