« AnteriorContinuar »
the other elements, they are guided by the sentiments of equality, justice and liberty, but they will not tolerate the formation of a State within a State. Our non-Mussulman compatriots, who desire to live as brothers with the Mussulmans, must calmly examine their hearts and consciences. Let them have the courage to tear from their hearts all ideas—if they entertain such—which are prejudicial to the interests of the Turkish rule, and let them, without fear, throw themselves into our arms. They have nothing to fear from us; all that is asked of them is that they make us believe in their sincerity. But, whatever may be said in this country, it is the Turks who compose, and who will always compose, the dominant element.” The Committee, therefore, set itself diligently to work to secure the ascendency of its adherents in Parliament. It selected as its nominees the best men it could find, who commanded the respect of the people, for the most part professional men in towns, and landed proprietors in the country; and it undertook the education of the voters in the exercise of their new privileges. It sent missionaries throughout the country to preach the cause of the Constitution, and to confute the arguments of the reactionary agents. It founded schools of political instruction in the villages. Its lecturers addressed attentive crowds
in city streets. Even the theatres were used for the dissemination of political doctrines, and both in Constantinople and Salonica I attended plays written with the object of showing the horrors of the Despotism and the blessings of liberty under constitutional government. One night I visited a Turkish theatre in Pera, where a company of amateurs—Young Turks, several of whom were officers in the army, whilst the others had either recently been released from prison or had returned from exile—presented a patriotic play entitled The Awakening of Turkey. In this remarkable play, though fictitious names appeared on the programme, nearly all the characters impersonated were well-known men, creatures of the Palace, reformers and others, and whenever an actor appeared on the scene so good was his make-up that the audience at once knew who was intended, and received him with warm applause or cries and groans of execration, as the case might be. The play opened with a sort of prologue—“the Pasha's dream.” The curtain rose and disclosed a room in which a white-bearded old man was sleeping in an arm-chair. He was recognised by the audience as a well-known victim of the Despotism. The Pasha, as he slept, dreamt a vivid dream, which now unfolded itself before us. The back of the room faded away, and we looked into the interior of a luxuriously furnished chamber in the
Yildiz Palace. And here, in dumb show, were enacted before us some of the evil doings of the Camarilla that is no more. There we saw, made up to the life, the Sultan's hated secretary, Izzet Pasha, and to judge from his reception by the audience he is safer in his English house than he would be in Constantinople. There, too, were the Sultan's aged astrologer, Abdul Houda, and other Court favourites. Spies came in with lists of denounced reformers, and orders for execution or for the oubliette were signed. The tyrants bethought themselves to seek recreation in the intervals of their cruel business, so the hideous and fawning black eunuchs were ordered to bring in a troupe of beautiful Armenian dancing girls. A young Turk in chains was led in, tortures were applied to him in vain to wring from him the betrayal of his associates; so he was put to death there and then by the Court executioner, in the presence of his wife, who was on her knees imploring for mercy, and frantic with grief, while the callous Court favourites, with scarce a side glance at the bloody deed, continued to gaze with gloating eyes at the dance of the slave girls. Then a messenger came in with news that was evidently of importance. He opened the box which he had brought with him, and to the joy of the courtiers drew out the bleeding head of the murdered Midhat Pasha. Then the vision faded away, and the Pasha
awoke from his nightmare. It had deeply affected him, and in a long speech he announced his intention of fleeing from Turkey to Paris in order that he might help to organise the revolution by which Turkey must be saved. His son entered, was delighted to hear the Pasha's resolve, and agreed to accompany him. The scenes of the play itself were laid in Paris. We heard plots being arranged by spies in the Turkish Embassy in the French capital, and saw them circumvented by an attaché of the Embassy, who happened to be a secret adherent of the Young Turk party. We witnessed the deathbed of the Pasha, who had abandoned wife and property for the sake of his country, and who, in a long speech, urged his son to persevere in the good work. We were taken to a Mussulman burial ground, where an eloquent funeral oration was delivered over the remains of the dead patriot, and we witnessed his apotheosis when angels bore him upwards to Paradise. The final scene represented a somewhat extraordinary entertainment at the Turkish Embassy, where a good deal of champagne was being drunk; suddenly, in rushed a news-boy carrying a poster announcing the proclamation of the Constitution; and the curtain dropped on the group of revelling spies, now overwhelmed with fear and consternation. It was a gloomy play, mainly made up of long and earnest monologues, lit up occasionally with
flashes of grim humour, but its effect upon the audience was extraordinary. The actors who represented the friends of liberty delivered, with great oratorical power, eloquent speeches, in which they preached the righteousness of the cause, and the beauty of sacrifice of self for the fatherland. They swayed the audience as they willed; for these were not merely clever actors who felt their parts, but men who had done, and were still doing, in real life, the things that they represented upon the stage. The audience hung upon their words, warmly applauded the patriotic sentiments, and showed their detestation of the tyrants and their pity for the sufferers. There were tears in the eyes of many men present, to whom, no doubt, the play recalled bitter memories. The audience was almost exclusively composed of Mussulman Turks—soldiers, theological students, turbanned hodjas, and others. In the higherpriced seats were many officers of the army and navy, and two near relatives of the Sultan were in the boxes.