Since my letter of yesterday I have supped full of horrors. Nothing has as yet been said of the Turks that I do not now believe; nothing could be said of them that I should not think probable and likely. There is, it seems, a point in atrocity beyond which discrimination is impossible, when mere comparison, calculation, measurement are out of the question, and this point the Turks have already passed. You can follow them no further. The way is blocked up by mountains of hideous facts that repel scrutiny and investigation, over and beyond which you can not see and do not care to go. You feel that it is superfluous to continue measuring these mountains and deciding whether they be a few feet higher or lower, and you do not care to go seeking for molehills among them. You feel that it is time to turn back; that you have seen enough.
But let me tell you what we saw in Batak:- We had some difficulty in getting away from Pestera. The authorities were offended because Mr. Schuyler refused to take any Turkish official with him, and they ordered the inhabitants to tell us that there were no horses, for we had to leave our carriages and take to the saddle. But the people were so anxious that we should go that they furnished horses in spite of the prohibition, only bringing them at first without saddles, by way of showing how reluctantly they did it. We asked them if they could not bring us saddles, also, and this they did with much alacrity and some chuckling at the way in which the Mudir's orders were walked over. Finally we mounted and got off. We had been besieged all the morning by the same people who had blockaded us the night before, or who appeared to be the same, their stories were so much alike. We could do nothing but listen in pity to a few of them— it would have taken all day to hear each separate tale of misery and suffering— gave vague promises that we would do all in our power to relieve their misery upon our return to Constantinople. But diplomatic help is, alas! very slow. While ambassadors are exchanging notes and compliments inviting each other to dinner, discussing the matter over their coffee and cigars, making representations to the Porte, and obtaining promises which nobody believes in, these poor people are starving and dying. Many of them decided to seize this opportunity and accompany us to Batak, to visit their ruined homes, and others caught our bridle reins, determined to make us listen to their stories before we should start. One woman caught my horse, and held it until she could show me where a bullet had traversed her arm, completely disabling her from work, and this was only the least of her woes. Husband killed, and little children depending on that broken arm for bread; all of this told in a language so much like Russian that I could understand a great deal of it; so like Russian that I could easily have fancied myself amongst peasants of the Volga, or the denizens of the Gostinoidvor, Moscow. The resemblance is striking, and it is no wonder the Russians sympathise with these people.
You observe the same sort of family likeness about the eyes, that may be always seen among brothers and sisters who are utterly unlike each other in features— of countenance, movements of the hands, tones of the voice, even to that curious, uncertain expression of the face which often in the Russian peasant makes it almost impossible to tell whether he is laughing or crying. A Russian, a Bulgarian, a Servian, a Montenegrin, and a Tchek may meet and talk, each in his own language, and all understand each other. You might as well expect the English north of the Thames not to sympathise with those south of it, in case the latter were under the domination of the Turks, as to try to prevent these Slavonic races from helping each other while groaning under a foreign despotism.
Batak is situated about thirty miles south of Tatar Bazardjik as the crow flies, high up in a spur of the Balkans that here sweeps around to the south from the main range. The road was only a steep mountain path that in places might have tried the agility of a goat. There was a better one, as we learned upon our return, but, with that perversity which distinguishes the Oriental mind, our guide took this one instead. We formed a curious but a somewhat lugubrious procession as we wound up the steep mountain side. First there were our two zaptiehs in their picturesque costumes, bristling with knives and pistols, our guide likewise armed to the teeth, then the five persons who composed our party, mounted on mules and horses decked out with nondescript saddles and trappings, followed by a procession of 50 or 60 women and children who had resolved to accompany us to Batak. Many of the women carried a small child, and a heavy burthen besides, comprising the provisions, clothing, cooking utensils, or harvesting implements, they had begged or borrowed in Pestera. Even children, little girls of nine and ten years, were trudging wearily up the steep mountain side under burthens (sic) too heavy for them; and they would be five or six hours in reaching their destination.
After three hours' climbing by paths so steep that we were obliged to dismount and walk half the time without then seeming quite safe from rolling down into some abyss, mounting higher and higher until we seemed to have got among the clouds, we at last emerged from a thick wood into a delightful little valley that spread out a rich carpet of verdure before our eyes. A little stream came murmuring down through it, upon which there was built a miniature saw-mill. It appears that the people in Batak did a considerable trade in timber, which they worked up from the forests on the surrounding mountains, for we afterwards observed a great number of these little mills, and were even told there were over two hundred in and about the village. The mill-wheels are silent now. This little valley with its rich grassy slopes ought to have been covered with herds of sheep and cattle. Not one was to be seen. The pretty little place was as lonely as a graveyard, or as though no living thing had trod its rich greensward for years. We ascended the slope to the right, and when we reached the top of the ridge which separated it from the next valley, we had a beautiful panorama spread out before us. The mountains here seemed to extend around in a circle, enclosing a tract of country some eight or ten miles in diameter, considerably lower down, which was cut up by a great number of deep hollows and ravines that traversed it in every direction, and seemed to cross and cut off each other without the slightest appearance of anything like reference to a watershed. It looked more like an enlarged photograph of the mountains of the moon than anything else I could think of.
Down in the bottom of one of these hollows we could make out a village, which our guide informed us it would still take us an hour and a half to reach, although it really seemed to be very near. This was the village of Batak , which we were in search of. The hillsides were covered with little fields of wheat and rye that were golden with ripeness. But although the harvest was ripe, and over ripe, although in many places the well-filled ears had broken down the fast-decaying straw that could no longer hold them aloft, and were now lying flat, there was no sign of reapers trying to save them. The fields were is deserted as the little valley, and the harvest was rotting in the soil. In an hour we had neared the village.
As we approached Batak out attention was drawn to some dogs on a slope overlooking the town. We turned aside from the road, and passing over the debris of two or three walls and through several gardens, urged our horses up the ascent toward the dogs. They barked at us in an angry manner, and then ran off into the adjoining fields. I observed nothing peculiar as we mounted until my horse stumbled, when looking down I perceived he had stepped on a human skull partly hid among the grass. It was quite hard and dry, and might, to all appearances, have been there two or three years, so well had the dogs done their work. A few steps further there was another and part of a skeleton, likewise, white and dry. As we ascended, bones, skulls, and skeletons became more frequent, but here they had not been picked so clean, for there were fragments of half dry, half putrid flesh attached to them. At last we came to a little plateau or shelf on the hillside, where the ground was nearly level, with the exception of a little indentation, where the head of a hollow broke through. We rode toward this with the intention of crossing it, but all suddenly drew reign with an exclamation of horror, for right before us, almost beneath our horses' feet, was a sight that made us shudder. It was a heap of skulls, intermingled with bones from all parts of the human body, skeletons nearly entire and rotting, clothing, human hair and putrid flesh lying there in one foul heap, around which the grass was growing luxuriantly. It emitted a sickening odour, like that of a dead horse, and it was here that the dogs had been seeking a hasty repast when our untimely approach interrupted them.
In the midst of this heap, I could distinguish the slight skeleton form, still enclosed in a chemise, the skull wrapped about with a coloured handkerchief, and the bony ankles encased in the embroidered footless stockings worn by Bulgarian girls. We looked about us. The ground was strewed with bones in every direction, where the dogs had carried them off to gnaw them at their leisure. At the distance of a hundred yards beneath us lay the town. As seen from our standpoint, it reminded one somewhat of the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii . There was not a roof left, not a whole wall standing; all was a mass of ruins, from which arose as we listened a low plaintive wail, like the “keening” of the Irish over their dead, that filled the little valley and gave it voice. We had the explanation of thin curious sound when we afterwards descended into the village. We looked again at the heap of skulls and skeletons before us, and we observed that they were all small and that the articles of clothing intermingled with them and lying about were all women's apparel. These, then, were all women and girls. From my saddle I counted about a hundred skulls, not including those that were hidden beneath the others in the ghastly heap nor those that were scattered far and wide through the fields. The skulls were nearly all separated from the rest of the bones - the skeletons were nearly all headless. These women had all been beheaded. We descended into the town. Within the shattered walls of the first house we came to was a woman sitting upon a heap of rubbish rocking herself to and fro, wailing a kind of monotonous chant, half sung, half sobbed, that was not without a wild discordant melody. In her lap she held a babe, and another child sat beside her patiently and silently, and looked at us as we passed with wondering eyes. She paid no attention to us, but we bent our ear to hear what she was saying, and our interpreter said it was as follows: “My home, my home, my poor home, my sweet home; my husband, my husband, my dear husband, my poor husband; my home, my sweet home,” and so on, repeating the same words over again a thousand times. In the next house were two engaged in a similar way; one old, the other young, repeating words nearly identical: “I had a home, now I have none; I had a husband, now I am a widow; I had a son, and now I have none; I had five children, and now I have one,” while rocking themselves to and fro, beating their heads and wringing their hands. These were women who had escaped from the massacre, and had only just returned for the first time, having taken advantage of our visit or that of Mr. Baring to do so. They might hare returned long ago, but their terror was so great that they had not dared without the presence and protection of a foreigner, and now they would go on for hours in this way, “keening” this kind of funeral dirge over their ruined homes. This was the explanation of the curious sound we had heard when up on the hill. As we advanced there were more and more; some sitting on the heaps of stones that covered the floors of their houses ; others walking up and down before their doors, wringing their hands and repeating the same despairing wail. There were few tears in this universal mourning. It was dry, hard, and despairing. The fountain of tears had been dried up weeks before, but the tide of sorrow and misery was as great as ever, and had to find vent without their aid. As we proceeded most of them fell into line behind us, and they finally formed a procession of four or five hundred people, mostly women and children, who followed us about wherever we went with their mournful cries. Such a sound as their united voices sent up to heaven I hope never to hear again.
It may be well, before going further, to say something about Batak, so that the reader may form a better idea of what took place here. It was a place of nine hundred houses, and about eight or nine thousand inhabitants. As there are no Census statistics, nor, indeed, trustworthy statistics of any other kind in Turkey , it is impossible to tell exactly what the population of any place is or was. But the ordinary rule of calculating five persons to the house will not hold good in Bulgaria . The Bulgarians, like the Russian peasantry, adhere to the old patriarchal method, and fathers and married sons, with their children and children's children, live under the same roof until the grandfather dies. As each son in his turn gets married, a new room is added to the old building, until with the new generation there will often be twenty or thirty people living under the same roof, all paying obedience and respect to the head of the family. In estimating the population, therefore, by the number of houses, somewhere between eight and ten souls must be counted as the average. Edip Effendi, in his report, states that there were only about fourteen hundred inhabitants in the village, all told. A more impudent falsehood was never uttered, even by a Turk. Mr. Schuyler has obtained their tax-list for this year, and finds that there wore 1,421 able-bodied men assessed to pay the military exemption tax. This number in any European country would indicate a population of about 15,000, but here it would not give more than from 8,000 to 10,000 souls till told, and this is the figure at which the population of the place is estimated by the inhabitants, as well as by the people of Pestera.
I think people in England and Europe generally have a very imperfect idea of what these Bulgarians are. I have always heard them spoken of as mere savages, who were in reality not much more civilized than the American Indians; and I confess that I myself was not far from entertaining the same opinion not very long ago. I was astonished, as I believe most of my readers will be, to learn that there is scarcely a Bulgarian village without its school; that those schools are, where they have not been burnt by the Turks, in a very flourishing condition; that they are supported by a voluntary tax levied by the Bulgarians on themselves, not only without being forced to do it by the Government, but in spite of all sorts of obstacles thrown in their way by the perversity of the Turkish authorities; that the instruction given in these schools is gratuitous, and that all profit alike by it, poor as well as rich; that there is scarcely a Bulgarian child that cannot read and write; and, finally, that the percentage of people who can read and write is as great in Bulgaria as in England and France. Do the people who speak of the Bulgarians as savages happen to be aware of these facts? Again I had thought that the burning of a Bulgarian village meant the burning of a few mud huts that were in reality of little value, and that could be easily rebuilt. I was very much astonished to find that the majority of these villages are in reality well-built towns, with solid stone houses, and that there are in all of them a comparatively large number of people who have attained to something like comfort, and that some of the villages might stand a not very unfavourable comparison with an English or French village. The truth is that these Bulgarians, instead of the savages we have taken them for, are in reality a hardworking, industrious, honest, civilized, and peaceful people. Now, as regards the insurrection, there was a weak attempt at an insurrection in three or four villages, but none whatever in Batak, and it does not appear that a single Turk was killed here.
The Turkish authorities did not even pretend that there was any Turk killed here, or that the inhabitants offered any resistance whatever when Achmet-Agha, who commanded the massacres, came with the Basha-Bazouks and demanded the surrender of their arms. They at first refused, but offered to deliver them to the regular troops or to the Kaimakan at Tartar Bazardjik. This, however, Aschmet-Agha refused to allow, and insisted on their arms being delivered to him and his Bashi-Bazouks. After considerable hesitation and parleying this was done. It must not be supposed that these were arms that the inhabitants had specially prepared for an insurrection. They were simply the arms that everybody, Christians and Turks alike, carried and wore openly as is the custom here. What followed the delivery of arms will best be understood by the continuation of the recital of what we saw yesterday. At the point where we descended into the principal street of the place the people who had gathered around us pointed to a heap of ashes by the roadside, among which could be distinguished a great number of calcined bones. Here a heap of dead bodies had been burned, and it would seem that the Turks had been making some futile and misdirected attempts at cremation.
A little further on we came to an object that filled us with pity and horror. It was the skeleton of a young girl not more than fifteen lying by the roadside, and partly covered with the debris of a fallen wall. It was still clothed in a chemise; the ankles were enclosed in footless stockings, but the little feet, from which the shoes had been taken, were naked, and owing to the fact that the flesh had dried instead of decomposing were nearly perfect. There was a large gash in the skull, to which a mass of rich brown hair, nearly a yard long, still clung, trailing in the dust. It is to be remarked that all the skeletons found here were dressed in a chemise only, and this poor child had evidently been stripped to her chemise, partly in the search for money and jewels, partly out of mere brutality, and afterwards killed. We have tallied with many women who had passed through all parts of the ordeal but the last, and the procedure seems to have been, as follows: They would seize a woman, strip her carefully to her chemise, laying aside articles of clothing that wore valuable, with any ornaments and jewels she might have about her. Then as many of them as cared would violate her, and the last man would kill her or not as the humour took him.
At the next house a man stopped us to show where a blind little brother had been burned alive, and the spot where he had found his calcined bones, and the rough, hard-vizaged man sat down and sobbed like a child. The foolish fellow did not seem to understand that the poor blind boy was better off now, and that he ought really to have thanked the Turks instead of crying about it.
On the other side of the way were the skeletons of two children lying side by side, partly covered with stones, and with frightful, sabre cuts in their little skulls. The number of children killed in these massacres is something enormous. They were often spitted on bayonets, and we have several stories from eye-witnesses who saw the little babes carried about the streets, both here and at Olluk-Kui, on the points of bayonets. The reason is simple. When a Mohammedan has killed a certain number of infidels he is sure of Paradise , no matter what his sins may be. Mahomet probably in tended that only armed men should count, but the ordinary Mussulman takes the precept in its broader acceptation, and counts women and children as well. The advantage of killing children is that it can be done without danger, and that a child counts for as much as an armed man. Here in Batak the Bashi-Bazouks, in order to swell the count, ripped open pregnant women, and killed the unborn infants. As we approached the middle of the town, bones, skeletons, and skulls became more numerous. There was not a house beneath the ruins of which we did not perceive human remains, and the street besides was strewn with them. Before many of the doorways women were walking up and down wailing their funeral chant. One of them caught me by the arm and led me inside of the walls, and there in one corner, half covered with stones and mortar, were the remains of another young girl, with her long hair flowing wildly about among the stones and dust. And the mother fairly shrieked with agony, and beat her head madly against the wall. I could only turn round and walk out sick at heart, leaving her alone with her skeleton. A few steps further on sat a woman on a doorstep, rocking herself to and fro, and uttering moans heartrending beyond anything I could have imagined. Her head was buried in her hands, while her fingers were unconsciously twisting and tearing her hair as she gazed into her lap, where lay three little skulls with the hair still clinging to them. How did the mother come to be saved, while the children were slaughtered? Who knows? Perhaps she was away from the village when the massacres occurred. Perhaps she had escaped with a babe in her arms, leaving these to be saved by the father; or perhaps, most fearful, most pitiful thing of all, she had been so terror-stricken that she had abandoned the three poor little ones to their fate and saved her own life by flight. If this be so, no wonder she is tearing her hair in that terribly unconscious way as she gazes at the three little heads lying in her lap.
And now we begin to approach the church and the schoolhouse. The ground is covered here with skeletons, to which are clinging articles of clothing and bits of putrid flesh; the air is heavy with a faint sickening odour, that grows stronger as we advance. It is beginning to be horrible. The school is on one side of the road, the church on the other. The schoolhouse, to judge by the walls that are in part standing, was a fine large building, capable of accommodating two or three hundred children. Beneath the stones and rubbish that cover the floor to the height of several feet, are the bones and ashes of two hundred women and children burnt alive between those four walls. Just beside the school house is a broad shallow pit. Here were buried a hundred bodies two weeks after the massacre. But the dogs uncovered them in part. The water flowed in, and now it lies there a horrid cesspool, with human remains floating about or lying half exposed in the mud. Nearby, on the bunks of the little stream that runs through the village, is a sawmill. The wheel-pit beneath is full of dead bodies floating in the water. The banks of this stream were at one time literally covered with corpses of men and women, young girls and children, that lay there festering in the sun, and eaten by dogs. But the pitiful sky rained down a torrent upon them, and the little stream swelled and rose up and carried the bodies away, and strewed them far down its grassy banks, through its narrow gorges and dark defiles beneath the thick underbrush and the shady woods as far as Pestera, and even Tatar Buzardjik, forty miles distant. We entered the churchyard, but the odour here became so bad that it was almost impossible to proceed. We take a handful of tobacco, and hold it to our noses while we continue our investigation. The church was not a very large one, and it was surrounded by a low stone wall, enclosing a small churchyard about fifty yards wide by seventy-five long. At first we perceive nothing in particular, and the stench was so great that we scarcely care to look about us, but we see that the place is heaped up with stones and rubbish to the height of five or six feet above the level of the street, and upon inspection we discover that what appeared to be a mass of stones and rubbish is in reality an immense heap of human bodies covered over with a thin layer of stones. The whole of the little churchyard is heaped up with them to the depth of three or four feet, and it is from here that the fearful odour comes. Some weeks after the massacre, orders were sent to bury the dead. But the stench at that time had become so deadly that it was impossible to execute the order, or even to remain in the neighbourhood of the village. The men sent to perform the work contented themselves with burying a few bodies, throwing a little earth over others as they lay, and here in the churchyard they had tried to cover this immense heap of festering humanity by throwing in stones and rubbish over the walls, without daring to enter. They had only partially succeeded. The dogs had been at work there since, and now could be seen projecting from this monster grave, heads, arms, legs, feet, and hands, in horrid confusion. We were told there were three thousand people lying here in this little churchyard alone, and we could well believe it. It was a fearful sight — a sight to haunt one through life. There were little curly heads there in that festering mass, crushed down by heavy stones; little feet not as long as your finger on which the flesh was dried hard, by the ardent heat before it had time to decompose; little baby hands stretched out as if for help; babes that had died wondering at the bright gleam of sabres and the red hands of the fierce-eyed men who wielded them; children who had died shrinking with fright and terror; young girls who had died weeping and sobbing and begging for mercy; mothers who died trying to shield their little ones with their own weak bodies, all lying there together, festering in one horrid mass. They are silent enough now. There are no tears nor cries, no weeping, no shrieks of terror, nor prayers for mercy. The harvests are rotting in the fields, and the reapers are rotting here in the churchyard. We looked into the church which had been blackened by the burning of the woodwork, but not destroyed, nor even much injured. It was a low building with a low roof, supported by heavy irregular arches, that as we looked in seemed scarcely high enough for a tall man to stand under. What we saw there was too frightful for more than a hasty glance. An immense number of bodies had been partly burnt there and the charred and blackened remains, that seemed to fill it half way up to the low dark arches and make them lower and darker still, were lying in a state of putrefaction too frightful to look upon. I had never imagined anything so horrible. We all turned away sick and faint, and staggered out of the fearful pest house glad to get into the street again. We walked about the place and saw the same things repeated over and over a hundred times. Skeletons of men with the clothing and flesh still hanging to and rotting together; skulls of women, with the hair dragging in the dust, bones of children and of infants everywhere. Here they show us a house where twenty people were burned alive; there another where a dozen girls had taken refuge, and been slaughtered to the last one, as their bones amply testified. Everywhere horrors upon horrors.
There were no dogs in the place, as they had all been driven away when the inhabitants began to return, and only hung around the outskirts of the village; but I saw one or two cats, fat and sleek, that sat complacently upon the walls and watched us with sleepy eyes. It may be asked why the people who are in the village now do not bury these skeletons and these bones, instead of allowing them to be gnawed by the dogs and cats. Some of those who have been able to identify the bones of friends have made weak attempts at burying them. But they have no spades to dig graves with, and they are weak and starving. Besides, many of the survivors are women, who have made fruitless efforts to keep the bodies of loved ones covered with a little earth. We had ample proof that wherever bones could be identified, they were tenderly cared for. We saw many well-kept graves decorated with flowers. We saw others that had been uncovered by the rain or the dogs, leaving parts of the skeleton exposed, that were still decorated with flowers. We even saw skulls lying on the ground, within a doorway or a garden wall, with a bouquet of flowers lying upon them, as though some one was caring for them, and was yet loth to bury them away out of sight. I saw one half buried, with the face upward, and its hollow eyes gazing reproachfully up at the sunny sky, with a bouquet carefully placed in its mouth; but most of these skeletons and bones have nobody to look after them. Of the eight or nine thousand people who made up the population of the place, there are only twelve or fifteen hundred left, and they have neither tools to dig graves with nor strength to use spades if they had them. But why have the Turkish authorities not buried them out of sight? The Turkish authorities will tell you they have buried them, and that there were very few to bury. Of all the cruel, brutal, ferocious things the Turks ever did, the massacre of Batak is among the worst! Of all the mad, foolish things they ever did, leaving these bodies to lie here rotting for three mouths un-buried is probably the maddest and most foolish! But this village was in an isolated, out-of-the way place, difficult of access, and they never thought Europeans would go poking their noses here, so they cynically said, “These Christians are not even worth burial, let the dogs eat them.”
We talked to many of the people, but we had not the heart to listen to many of their stories in detail, and we restricted ourselves to simply asking them the number lost in each family. No other method would probably give a better idea of the fearful character of the massacre, and the way in which whole families were swept out of existence. “How many ware in your family?” we would ask. “Ten,” the answer would be, perhaps. “How many remain?” “Two.” “How many in yours?” “Eight.” How many remain?” “Three.” “How many in yours?” “Fifteen.” “How many remain?” “Five.” And so on in families numbering from five to twenty, in which only remained from one to five persons. One old woman came to us, wringing her hands, and crying in that hard tearless manner of which I have already spoken, and when we could get her sufficiently calmed to tell us her story, she said she had three tall handsome sons, Ghiorghy, Ivantehu, und Stoyan, and they were all married to good and dutiful wives, Reika, Stoyanka, and Anka, and they had between them twelve beautiful children, Anghel and Tragan and Ghiorghy and Ivantchu, Letko, Assen, Boydan, Stoyan, Tonka, Gingka, Marika, and Reika, so that the family counted all told nineteen persons living under the same roof. Of all this large flourishing family, the tall handsome sons, the dutiful wives, and the twelve beautiful children, there remained only this poor old grandmother. They were all brutally slaughtered to the last one. Of this nourishing family tree there remained only this lifeless withered trunk, and the poor old woman sat down and beat her head against the ground, and fairly screamed out her despair. There was an old man who told us of his uncle, Blagoi Christostoff, a venerable patriarch of the grand old type. Be had five sons married, who had among them twenty-seven children, thus making a family that with the wives counted up a sum total of thirty-nine persons living under the same roof. Of this enormous family there are only eight left.
We might have gone on for hours listening to these stories had we but time. There was another family of twenty-five, of whom seven were left; one of twenty, of whom eight were left; numbers of them of ten to fifteen, of whom one to five were left; and we heard besides of many families that had been completely annihilated, not one remaining. The people who committed this wholesale slaughter were not Circassians, as has been supposed, but the Turks of the neighbouring villages, led by Achmed Agha, already spoken of. The village of Batak was comparatively rich and prosperous; it had excited the envy and jealousy of its Turkish neighbours, and the opportunities of plunder to the Turks which, combined with their religious fanaticism and the pretext of an insurrection another part of the country, was more than they could resist. The man, Achmed Agha, who commanded the slaughter, has not been punished, and will not be, but, on the contrary, he has been promoted to the rank of Yuz-bashi, and decorated.
We were told that any number of children and young girls had been carried off; that it was known in what Turkish villages they were kept, and that the Turks simply refused to restore them to their parents. Mr. Schuyler afterwards obtained a list, with the names and ages of eighty-seven girls and boys that had been carried off, with the name of the village in which each was kept.
As to the present condition of the people who are here, it is simply fearful to think of. The Turkish authorities have built a few wooden sheds in the outskirts of the village in which they sleep, but they have nothing to live upon but what they can beg or borrow from their neighbours. And in addition to this the Turkish authorities, with that cool cynicism and utter disregard of European demands for which they are so distinguished, have ordered these people to pay their regular taxes and war contributions just as though nothing had happened. Ask the Porte about this at Constantinople , and it will be denied, with the most plausible protestations and the most reassuring promises that everything will be done to help the sufferers. But everywhere the people of the burnt villages come to Mr. Schuyler with the same story — that unless they pay their taxes and war contributions they are threatened with expulsion from the nooks and corners of the crumbling walls where they have found a temporary shelter. It is simply impossible for them to pay, and what will be the result of these demands it is not easy to foretell. But the Government needs money badly, and must have it. Each village must make up its ordinary quota of taxes, und the living must pay for the dead.
We asked about the skulls and bones we had seen up on the hill upon first arriving in the village where the dogs had barked at us. These we were told were the bones of about two hundred young girls, who had first been captured and particularly reserved for a worse fate than death. They had been kept till the last; they had been in the hands of their captors for several days — for the burning and the pillaging had not all been accomplished in a single day — and during this time they had suffered all it was possible that poor weak trembling girls could suffer at the hands of brutal savages. Then, when the town had been pillaged and burnt, when all their friends had been slaughtered, these poor young things, whose very wrongs should have insured them safety, whoso very outrages should have insured them protection, were taken, in the broad light of day, beneath the smiling canopy of heaven, coolly beheaded, then thrown in a heap there, and left to rot.
Mr. Disraeli was right when he wittily remarked that the Turks usually terminated their connection with people who fell into their hands in a more expeditious manner than by imprisoning them. And so they do. Mr. Disraeli was right. At the time he made that very witty remark, those young girls had been lying there many days.