THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A JOURNALIST, VOLUME II
IN TWO VOLUMES
WILLIAM JAMES STILLMAN
XX. CONSULAR LIFE IN CRETE
XXI. THE CRETAN INSURRECTION
XXIV. ROSSETTI AND HIS FRIENDS
XXV. RETURN TO JOURNALISM
XXVI. THE MONTENEGRINS AND THEIR PRINCE
XXVII. THE INSURRECTION IN HERZEGOVINA
XXVIII. A JOURNEY IN MONTENEGRO AND ALBANIA
XXIX. WAR CORRESPONDENCE AT RAGUSA
XXX. THE WAR OF 1876
XXXI. RUSSIAN INTERVENTION AND THE CAMPAIGN OF 1877
XXXII. A JOURNEY INTO THE BERDAS
XXXIII. THE TAKING OF NIKSICH
XXXV. THE LEVANT AGAIN
XXXVI. GREEK BROILS—TRICOUPI—FLORENCE
XXXVII. THE BLOCKADE OF GREECE
XXXVIII. CRISPI—A SECRET-SERVICE MISSION—MONTENEGRO REVISITED
XXXIX. ITALIAN POLITICS
XL. ADOWAH AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
CONSULAR LIFE IN CRETE
Cholera was raging all over the Levant, and there was no direct communication with any Turkish port without passing through quarantine. In the uncertainty as to getting to my new post by any route, I decided to leave my wife and boy at Rome, with a newcomer,—our Lisa, then two or three months old,—and go on an exploring excursion. Providing myself with a photographic apparatus, I took steamer at Civita Vecchia for Peiraeus. Arrived at Athens I found that no regular communication with any Turkish port was possible, and that the steamers to Crete had been withdrawn, though there had not been, either at that or at any previous time, a case of cholera in Crete; but such was the panic prevailing in Greece that absolute non-intercourse with the island and the Turkish empire had been insisted on by the population. People thought I might get a chance at Syra to run over by a sailing-boat, so I went to Syra. But no boat would go to Crete, because the quarantine on the return was not merely rigorous but merciless, and exaggerate to an incredible severity. No boat or steamer was admitted to enter the port coming from any Turkish or Egyptian port, though with a perfectly clean bill of health, and all ships must make their quarantine at the uninhabited island of Delos. Such was the panic that no one would venture to carry provisions to that island while there was a ship in quarantine, and during the fortnight I waited at Syra an English steamer without passengers, and with a clean bill of health, having finished her term, was condemned to make another term of two weeks, because a steamer had come in with refugees from Alexandria, and had anchored in the same roadstead. Mr. Lloyd, the English consul, protested and insisted on the steamer being released, and the people threatened to burn his house over his head if he persisted; but, as he did persist, the ship was finally permitted to communicate with Syra, but not to enter the harbor, and was obliged to leave without discharging or taking cargo, after being a month in quarantine.
At last an English gentleman named Rogers, who lived at Syra, an ex-officer of the English army, offered to carry me over to Canea on his yacht of twelve tons, and take the consequences. I found the consulate, like the position in Rome, deserted, the late consul having been a Confederate who had gone home to enlist, I suppose, for he had been gone a long time, and the archives did not exist. There was nothing to take over but a flag, which the vice-consul, a Smyrniote Greek, and an honest one, as I was glad to find, but who knew nothing of the business of a consul, had been hoisting on all fte days for two or three years, waiting for a consul to come. I was received with great festivity by my protgs, the family of the vice-consul, and with great ceremony by the pasha, a renegade Greek, educated in medicine by the Sultana Valide, and in the enjoyment of her high protection; an unscrupulous scoundrel, who had grafted on his Greek duplicity all the worst traits of the Turk. As, with the exception of the Italian consul, Sig. Colucci, not one of the persons with whom I acted or came in contact in my official residence survives, unless it may be the commander of the Assurance, an English gunboat, of whose subsequent career I know nothing, I shall treat them all without reserve.
The Pasha, Ismael, I at once found, considered it his policy to provoke a conflict with any new consul, and either break him in or buy him over; and the occasion for a trial of strength was not long coming. The night patrol attempted to arrest the son of the vice-consul in his house, in which I had been temporarily residing while the house which I took was being put in order, and over which the flag floated. I at once demanded an apology, and a punishment for the mulazim in command of the patrol. The pasha refused it, and I appealed to Constantinople. The Porte ordered testimony to be taken concerning the affair, and the pasha took that of the mulazim and the policeman on oath, and then that of my witnesses without the oath, the object being, of course, to protest against their evidence on the ground that they would not swear to it. I immediately had their evidence retaken on oath and sent on to Constantinople with the rest. The Porte decided in my favor, and ordered the apology to be made by the mulazim. As the affair went on with much detail of correspondence between the konak and the consulate for some weeks, it had attracted the general attention of our little public, and the final defeat of the pasha was a mortification to him which he made every effort to conceal. He denied for several weeks having received any decision from the Porte, in the hope, probably, that he would tire me out; but as I had nothing to do, and the affair amused me, I stuck to him as tenaciously as he to his denials, and he had to give in. It was a very small affair, but the antagonism so inaugurated had a strong effect on the Cretans, who found in me an enemy of their tyrant.
Ismael was cruel and dishonorable; he violated his given word and pledges without the slightest regard for his influence with the population. I have since seen a good deal of Turkish maladministration, and I am of the opinion that more of the oppression of the subject populations is due to the bad and thieving instincts of the local officials than directly to the Sublime Porte, and that the simplest way of bringing about reforms (after the drastic one of abolishing the Turkish government) is in the Powers asserting a right of approbation of all nominations to the governorships throughout the whole empire. When, as at certain moments in the long struggle of which I am now beginning the history, I came in contact with the superior officers of the Sultan, I found a better sense of the policy of justice than obtained with the provincial functionaries.
Ismael Pasha had only one object,—to do anything that would advance his promotion and wealth. He regarded a foreign consul, with the right of exterritoriality, as a hostile force in the way of his ambitions, and, therefore, until he found that one was not to be bought or worried into indifference to the injustice perpetrated around him, he treated him as an enemy. I always liked a good fight in a good cause, and I had no hesitation in taking up the glove that Ismael threw down, and my defiance of all his petty hostile manoeuvres was immediately observed by the acute islanders and put down to my credit and exaltation in the popular opinion. The discontent against his measures was profound, and the winter of my first year in the island was one of great distress. Ismael had laid new and illegal taxes on straw, wine, all beasts of burden, which, with oppressive collection of the habitual tithes (levied in accordance not with the actual value of the crops, but with their value as estimated by the officials), and short crops for two years past, made life very hard for the Cretan. Even this was not enough; justice was administered with scandalous venality and disregard of the existing laws and procedure. Not long after my arrival at Canea, the hospital physician, a humane Frenchman, informed me that an old Sphakiot had just died in the prison, where he had been confined for a long time in place of his son, who had been guilty of a vendetta homicide and had escaped to the Greek islands. According to a common Turkish custom, the pasha had ordered his nearest relative to be arrested in his place. This was the old father, who lay in prison till he died.
The capricious cruelty of Ismael was beyond anything I had ever heard of. One day I was out shooting and was attacked by a dog whom I saluted with a charge of small birdshot, on which the owner made complaint to the pasha that I had peppered accidentally one of his children. Ismael spread this report through the town, learning which I made him an official visit demanding a rectification and examination of the child, which was found without a scratch. The pasha, furious at the humiliation of exposure, then threw the man into prison, and as he, Adam-like, accused his wife of concocting the charge, he ordered her also to prison for two weeks, without the slightest investigation, leaving three small children helpless. I protested, and insisted on the release of the man, who had only obeyed the wish of the pasha in making the charge against me.
Having no occupation but archaeological research and photography, I decided to make a series of expeditions into the mountain district, and to begin with a visit to the famous strongholds of Sphakia. The pasha protested, but as I had a right to go where I pleased, I paid no attention to his protests, and he then went to the other extreme, and offered to provide me with horses, which offer I unfortunately accepted. The horse I rode and the groom the pasha sent with him were equally vicious. The man, when we saddled up the first day out, put the saddle on so loosely that as we mounted the first steep rocky slope the saddle slipped over the horse's tail, carrying me with it, and the horse walked over me, breaking a rib and bruising me severely, and then tried to kick my brains out. I remounted and kept on, but that night the pain of the broken rib was such, and the fever so high, that I was obliged to give up the journey and go back to Canea. I found that the pasha had anticipated a disaster, and heard of it with great satisfaction.
As soon as restored, I set out on a trip to the central district of Retimo, then perfectly tranquil, the agitation in Sphakia, which preceded the great insurrection, having already begun, and making my venturing there imprudent. I was anxious to see something of the provincial government of the island, as, in Canea, where the foreign consuls resided, there was always the slight check of publicity on the arbitrariness of the official, though what we saw did not indicate a very effective one. I had a dragoman in Retimo, a well-to-do merchant, who served for the honor and protection the post gave him, and his house was mine pro tem., and over it, during my stay, floated the flag of the consulate. We made an excursion across the island to the convent of Preveli, situated in one of the most beautiful valleys in the island, sheltered on the north, east, and west by hills, and lying, like a theatre, open to the south, and looking off on the African sea. The entrance was by a narrow gorge, and here we witnessed one of those natural phenomena that still impress an ignorant people with the awe from which, in more ancient times, religion received its most potent sanction. The wind passing through some orifice in the cliff far above our heads, even when we felt none below, produced a mysterious organ-like sound, which the people regarded as due to some supernatural influence. As all the modern sanctuaries in that part of the world are founded on the ruins of ancient shrines, I have no doubt that our hospitable shelter of that night was on the site of some temple to one of the great gods of Crete.
That journey gave me a sight of one of the remarkable Cretan women, whose reputation for beauty I had always regarded, judging from the women in the cities, as a classical fable. I had been making a visit to the mudir of the province through which we were passing, and, after pipes and coffee, and the usual ceremonies, I mounted my horse, and, at the head of my escort, rode out of the mudir's courtyard, when my eye was caught by the flutter of the robes of a woman in a garden across the road. Around the garden ran a high hedge of cactus, and as I leaned forward in my saddle to look through one of the openings, a girl's face presented itself to me at the other side of it, and we stared each other in the eyes for several seconds before she—a Mussulman girl—remembered that she must not be seen, when, wrapping her veil around her head, she flew to the house. The vision was of such a transcendent beauty as I had, and have since, never seen in flesh and blood,—a mindless face, but of such exquisite proportion, color, and sweetness of modeling, with eyes of such lustrous brown, that I did not lose the vivid image of it, or the ecstatic impression it produced, for several days; it seemed to be ineradicably impressed on the sensorium in the same manner as the ecstatic vision I have recorded of my wood-life. I suppose such beauty to be incompatible with any degree of mental activity or personal character, for the process of mental development carries with it a trace of struggle destructive to the supreme serenity and statuesque repose of the Cretan beauty. Pashley tells of a similar experience he had in the mountains of Sphakia, and he was impressed as I was.
On our arrival at the city gates, returning to Retimo, we had an experience of the mediaeval ways of the island, finding the gates locked and no guard on duty. We called and summoned,—for a consul had always the privilege of having the gates opened to him at any hour of day or night,—but in vain, until I devised a summons louder than our sticks on the gate, and, taking the hugest stone I could lift, threw it with all my force repeatedly at the gate, and so aroused the guard, who went to the governor and got the keys, which were kept under his pillow. The next day we had an affair with Turkish justice which illustrates the position of the consuls in Turkey so well that I tell it fully. The dragoman and I had gone off to shoot rock-pigeons in one of the caves by the seashore, leaving at home my breech-loading hunting rifle, then a novelty in that part of the world. When we got home at night the city was full of a report that some one in our house had shot a Turkish boy through the body. I at once made an investigation and found that the facts were that a boy coming to the town, at a distance of about half a mile from the gate, had been hit by a rifle ball which had struck him in the chest and gone out at the back. No one had heard a shot, and the sentinel at our doors, set nominally for honor, but really to watch the house, had not heard any sound. The boy was in no danger, and he declared that the bullet had struck him in the back and gone out by the chest. My Canea dragoman, who was reading in the house all the time we were gone, had heard nothing and knew nothing about it; but, on examining the rifle, I found that some one had tried to wipe it out and had left a rag sticking half way down, the barrel. This pointed to a solution, and an investigation made the whole thing clear. The dragoman's man-servant had taken the gun out on the balcony which looked out on the port, and fired a shot at a white stone on the edge of the wall, in the direction of the village where the boy was hit.
The kaimakam of Retimo sent an express to Canea to ask Ismael what he should do, and received reply to prosecute the affair with the utmost vigor. He therefore summoned the entire household of the dragoman, except him and myself, to the konak, to be examined. As they were all under my protection I refused to send them, but offered to make a strict investigation and tell him the result; but, knowing the rigor of the Turkish law against a Christian who had wounded a Mussulman, even unintentionally, I insisted on being the magistrate to sit in the examination. The pasha declined my offer, and I forbade any one in the house to go to the konak for examination. I then appeared before the kaimakam and demanded the evidence on which my house was accused. There was none except that of the surgeon, who was a Catholic, and a bigoted enemy of the Greeks, and especially of the dragoman, with whom he had had litigation. He declared that the shot came from the direction of the town, while the boy maintained the contrary; and as, in the direction from which the boy had come, there was a Mussulman festival, with much firing of guns, I suggested the possibility that the ball came, as the boy believed, from that direction, and put the surgeon to a severe cross-examination. I asked him if he had ever seen a gunshot wound before, and he admitted that he had not. Thereupon I denounced him to the kaimakam, who had begun to be frightened at the responsibility he had assumed, and the man broke down and admitted that he might be mistaken, on which the kaimakam withdrew the charge.
I knew perfectly well that the servant was guilty, but I knew, too, that for accidental wounding he would have been punished by indefinite confinement in a Turkish prison, as if he had shot the boy intentionally. The refusal of the pasha to permit me to judge the case, as I had a right to do, he being my protg, left me only the responsibility of the counsel for the prisoner, and I determined to acquit him if possible. The bullet had, fortunately, gone through the boy and could not be found; and, as the wound, though through the lungs, was healing in a most satisfactory manner, and would leave no effects, I had no scruples in preventing a conviction that would have punished an involuntary offense by a terrible penalty, which all who know anything of a Turkish prison can anticipate. The governor-general was very angry, and the kaimakam was severely reprimanded, but they could not help themselves. My position under the capitulations was secure, but it made the hostility between the pasha and myself the more bitter.
The accumulated oppressions of Ismael Pasha had finally the usual effect on the Cretans, and they began to agitate for a petition to the Sultan, a procedure which time had shown to be absolutely useless as an appeal against the governor; and, while the agitation was in this embryonic condition, I decided to go back to Rome and get my wife and children. We were still in the state of siege by the cholera, and there was still no communication with the Greek islands, so that I accepted the offer made by my English colleague, the amiable and gratefully remembered Charles H. Dickson, of whose qualities I shall have to say more in the pages to come, of a passage on a Brixham schooner to Zante. Sailing with a clean bill of health, we had to make a fortnight's quarantine in the roadstead, and, taking passage on the Italian postal steamer to Ancona, I was obliged, on landing, to make another term of two weeks in the lazaretto, though we had again a clean bill; and, on arriving on the Papal frontier by the diligence, we had to undergo a suffocating fumigation, and all this in spite of the fact that no one of the company I had traveled with had been at a city where cholera had existed at any time within three months, or on a steamer which had touched where the cholera was prevalent. At that time there was no railway northward from Rome, and traveling was conducted on the system of the sixteenth century, except for sea travel.
I was not long cutting all the ties that bound me to Rome, though I left a few sincere friends there, and, drawing a bill on my brother for my indebtedness to the kind and helpful banker, an Englishman named Freeborn, to whose friendship I owed the solution of most of the difficulties and all the indulgences I had enjoyed while in Rome, I started on my return to Crete in the problematical condition of one who emigrates to a foreign land through an unknown way. I had money enough to get through if nothing occurred to delay me, and no more, for, with the high rate of exchange on America, I felt distressed at the burthen I was laying on my brother, though I had always been told to consider myself as to be provided for while he had the means, and by his will when he died. His death took place at this juncture, and, curiously enough, the draft reached him in time to be accepted, but he died before it was paid. His will made no mention whatever of me, but left all his property to his wife during her lifetime, and to three Seventh-day Baptist churches after her death.
In our consular service there was no allowance for traveling expenses, or provision of any kind for the extraordinary expenses which might fall on the consul from contingencies like mine. The salary at Crete, which had been $1500 during the war, was reduced to $1000 at its close, and in future I had only that and what my pen might bring me. Arrived at Florence on our way to Ancona, we found the Italian government being installed there; and our minister to Italy, Mr. Marsh, knowing my circumstances, insisted on my taking a thousand francs, though his own salary, which was, as in my case, his only income, was always insufficient for his official and social position at the capital. I accepted it, and it was ten years before I paid it all back.
Looking back on this period of my life from a later and relatively assured, though never prosperous condition, I can see that most of my straits in life have been owing to my having accepted the miserable and delusive advantage of an official position under my government. I was not indolent, and asked for an appointment not to escape work, but to be put in the way of work which I wanted to do; and when I was disappointed in the appointment to Venice I should have set to work at home. But my position was a difficult one. The arts were for the war times suspended; I could not get into the army, my mother in an extreme old age was a pensioner at my brother Charles's house, and my sister-in-law refused to allow me to remain in my brother's house. I had, at an earlier date, in obedience to my brother's urgings and in deference to the Sabbatarian scruples, refused all offers to go into business, as he regarded me as his heir, and had formally and at more than one juncture assured me that my future was provided for and that I need have no anxiety as to money.
My brother had urged my acceptance of the post at Rome, and all the disasters of my subsequent life came from that error. My temperament and the habit of my life had always prevented me from anticipating trouble, and I never hesitated to go ahead in what lay before me, trusting to the chapter of accidents to get through, incessant activity keeping anxiety away. I have never flinched from a duty, if I saw it, have never done an injustice to man or woman, intentionally, and at more than one moment of my career have accepted the worse horn of a dilemma rather than permit a wrong to happen to another; and if I have been erratic and unstable it has not been from selfish or perverse motives. I have always been what most people would call visionary, and material objects of endeavor have not had the value they ought to have had in my eyes. As I look back upon a career which has brought me into contact with many people and many interests not my own, I can honestly say that I have not been actuated in any important transaction by my own interest to the disadvantage of that of other people, though I have probably often insisted too much on my own way of seeing things in undue disregard of the views of others. Confronted with opportunities of enriching myself illicitly, I can honestly say that they never offered the least temptation, for I have never cared enough about money or what it brings to do anything solely for it; and, if I have been honest, it has not been from the excellence of my principles, but because I was born so.
But if I could have conceived what this Cretan venture was to bring me to, I should have taken the steamer to America rather than to the Levant. The few days we remained in Florence, then still crowded by the advent of the court, with its satellites and accompaniments, gave me an opportunity to know well one of the noblest of my countrymen of that period of our history, Mr. George P. Marsh. It is difficult even now, after the lapse of many years since I last saw him, to do justice to the man as I came, then and in later years, to know him and compare him with other Americans in public life. As a representative of our country abroad, no one, not even Lowell, has stood for it so nobly and unselfishly; Charles Francis Adams alone rivaling him in the seriousness with which he gave himself to the Republic. Lowell was not less patriotic, but he loved society and England; Marsh in those days of trial loved nothing but his country, and with an intensity that was ill-requited as it was immeasurable. He took a great interest in our little Russie, whom he pronounced the most remarkable child for beauty and intelligence he had ever seen, and his interest followed us in the tragedy of our Cretan life.
We sailed by the Austrian Lloyds' steamer to Corfu, with a bill of health in perfect order, but on arrival at Corfu were ordered into quarantine, because six months before cholera had made a brief appearance at Ancona. Our consul, Mr. Woodley, came off to the steamer to see me, for the American flag was flying from the masthead, as is customary in the Levant when a consul is on board, and he proposed to hire a little yacht for us to make the quarantine in, as otherwise we should have to go to a desert island at the head of the bay, where the only shelter was an ancient and dilapidated lazaretto overrun by rats, and where we should have to pass two weeks dependent on the enterprise of the Corfiotes for our subsistence. The yacht was accepted, and came to an anchor off the marina, two or three hundred yards from the quay, and we transshipped at once, as the steamer continued her voyage. The putting us in quarantine was a monstrous injustice. We came from a clean port, on a steamer which had not for several months touched at a foul port; but the panic was such amongst the people that there was no reasoning with them. We had not lain a day at the anchorage when the fright of the Corfiotes at our proximity, as great as if we had the plague on board, caused a popular demonstration against us, and the health-officer coming off in a boat ordered us from a distance to move off to the lazaretto island. I replied that if he was prepared to come and weigh the anchor and navigate us there he might do so, but that no one of the yacht's people should touch the anchor, and on that I stood firm; and, as no one dared come in contact with the yacht in contumacy, there we remained. The panic on shore increased to such a point that Woodley and the health-officer had a quiet consultation, and it was agreed to give us pratique immediately. We went that night to the hotel, and the question was forgotten by the next day. The Corfiotes are certainly the most cowardly people I have ever known, and in later years we had other evidence of the fact; but, as they disclaim Hellenic descent, and boast Phoenician blood, this does not impeach the Greek at large.
We left Corfu by the steamer of the Hellenic Navigation Company on the eve of the Greek Christmas, my family being the only passengers, and without the captain of the steamer, who pretended illness, in order to be able to enjoy the festa with his family; the command being taken by the mate, a sailor of limited experience in those waters. The engineers were English or Scotch, the chief being one of the Blairs. What with the Christmas festivities and the customary dawdling, we did not sail till 10 P.M., instead of at 10 A.M., and, to make up for the delay, the commander pro tem. made a straight course for the port of Argostoli in Cephalonia, our next stopping place. We made the island about 10 A.M. of the next morning, and were well in towards the shore when we were caught by one of the sudden southwesterly gales which are the terror of the Mediterranean, and more dangerous than a full-grown Atlantic gale. The cliffs to the north of Argostoli were in sight, looming sheer rock above the sea line, and the wind, rapidly increasing, blew directly on shore, bringing with it a quick, sharp sea, and getting up before long a cross sea by the repercussion from the cliffs, so that in the complicated tumult of waters the old, heavy paddle steamer rolled and pitched like a log, the water pouring over the bulwarks with every roll either way. Soon, what with the wind and the sea, she made nothing but leeway. They put her head to the wind, and we soon found that even to hold her own was more than she could do, while our port lay ten miles away dead on the beam, and the cliffs dead astern.
The plunging and rolling of the ship made it impossible to stand or walk on deck, and I sent Laura and the children to their stateroom and to bed, lest they break their bones. The wind, a whistling gale, cut off the caps of the waves and filled the air with a dense spray, and the main deck was all afloat. There were no orders heard, none given, nothing but the monotonous beat of the paddles and the roar of the wind, and the crew were all under shelter, for it was no longer a question of seamanship, but of steam-power; only the commander pacing the bridge to and fro, like a polar hear in a cage, and the engineers changing their watch, broke the monotony of the merciless blue day, for, except a little flying scud, the sky was as blue as on a summer day.
I walked aft to the engineers' mess-room, on the upper deck, and found Blair and the two assistants off duty, seated round the table, not eating, but mute, with their elbows on the table and their heads in their hands, looking each other in the face in grim silence. We had made friends on leaving Corfu, and were on easy terms, so that, as I entered and no one spoke to me, but all looked up as if I were the shadow of death, I began to rally them for their seamanship, but got no word of retort from one of them. "What's the matter with you all?" I said; "you look as if you had had bad news." "The matter is we are going ashore," said the chief engineer. "This—fool of a mate has got caught in shore and we can't make steam enough to hold our own against this wind." I had not thought of this; I was chafing at the delay and the discomfort to Laura and the children. What was the worst in the case was still to be known. The boilers of the steamer were old and rotten, and had been condemned, and, but for the sharp economy of the Greek steamship company, would have been out already. The chief engineer, when he found that the engines at ordinary pressure did not keep the steamer from, going astern, had tied the safety valve down and made all the steam the furnaces would make. "If we don't go ahead we are done for just as much as if we blow up," said he; "for if we touch those rocks not a soul of us can escape, and we shall touch them if we drift, just as surely as if we blow up."
I went out of the mess-room with a feeling that it was a dream,—so bright, so beautiful a day,—we so well, so late from land, and so near to death! "Bah!" I said to myself. "They are fanciful; the cliffs are still a couple of miles away, and something will come to avert the wreck." I went down to the stateroom; Laura and the boy were unable to raise their heads from extreme sea-sickness, but baby Lisa was swinging on the edge of her berth, delighted with the motion, and singing like a bird, in her baby way. I sat down in my berth—there were four berths in each room—and watched her, and somehow the faith grew in me that we were not going that way at that time, that the hour had not come; and I went back to the mess-room to try to inspire confidence in my friends.
The afternoon was now wearing on. Since 10 A.M. we had made no headway towards our port, and when I looked at the cliffs it was clear that they were getting nearer, and the wind showed no signs of lulling. Our only hope lay in being able to drift so slowly that the wind might fall before we struck, and if that did not take place before nightfall it probably would not till the next morning. Rationally I understood this perfectly, but I could not feel that there was imminent danger. I had no presentiment of death, and nothing that I could do would enable me to realize the real and visible danger.
The wind never lulled an instant or blew a degree less furiously; it came still from the blue sky, and still we plunged and buried our bows and shipped floods at every plunge; the wheels throbbed and beat as ever, and no one moved on deck. The engineers changed their watches and the captain unrelieved kept up his to and fro on the bridge. I am confident that of all the men on board I was the only one who was not persuaded that death was near. My wife never knew till long after what the danger had been. We could already see that the water beneath the cliff was a wild expanse of breakers, coming in and recoiling, crossing, heaving, surging,—a white field of foam, where no human being could catch a breath. The waves that swung in before this gale rose in breakers against the cliff higher than our masts. We might go up in their spray if we reached the rocks, but no anchor could check our crawling to doom. To this day I look back with surprise at the complete freedom, not from fright, but even from a recognition of any real danger impending over us, which I then felt; it was not courage, but a something stronger than myself or my own weakness; it was not even a superstitious faith that I should be preserved from the threatened peril, but a profound and immovable conviction that the danger was not real; and the whole thing was to me simply a magnificent spectacle, in which the apprehension of my shipmates rather perplexed than unnerved me.
In half an hour more, the captain said, our margin of safety would be passed,—drifting as we then drifted our stern would try conclusions with the cliffs of Cephalonia. The sun was going down in a wild and lurid sky, a few fragments of clouds still flying from the west, when, almost as the sun touched the horizon, there came a lull; the wind went out as it had come on, died away utterly, and as we got our bows round for Argostoli we could hear the roar of the great waves that broke against the cliffs, and could see in the afterglow the tall breakers mounting up against them. In ten minutes we were going with all the steam it was safe to carry for Argostoli, where we ran in with the late stars coming out, and our engineers broke out into festive exuberance of spirits as we sat down to dine together at anchor in the tranquil waters of that magnificent port, where the Argonauts had taken refuge long before us. Blair shook his head at my rallying him, as he said in his broad Scotch tongue, "Ah, but no man of us expected ever to see his wife and bairns again; that I can assure ye." We were again indebted to private courtesy for a trip from Syra to Canea, though the delay was long. I had made an appeal to the commander of our man-of-war on the station to see us back to my post, but received a curt and discourteous refusal. I am not much surprised when I remember some of the occupants of the consulates in those days.
THE CRETAN INSURRECTION
Returned to Canea, I found that the Cretan assembly had begun its deliberations at Omalos. The real agitation began (ten days after my arrival) on its coming down to Boutzounaria, a little village on the edge of the plain of Canea, where it could negotiate with the governor and communicate with the consuls. There was a plateau from which the plain could be overlooked, so that no surprise was possible, and on which was the spring from which Canea got its water, an aqueduct from the pre-Roman times bringing it to the city. It was cut by Metellus when he besieged Canea, and at all the crises of Cretan history had been contested by the two parties in its wars. Long deliberation was required to formulate the petition to the Sultan, but it was finally completed, and a solemn deputation of gray-headed captains of villages brought to each of the consuls a copy, and consigned the original to the governor for transmission to Constantinople. He, in accepting it, ordered the assembly to disperse and wait at home for the answer. He had on a previous occasion tried the same device, and when the assembly had dispersed he had arrested the chiefs, called a counter assemblage of his partisans, and got up a counter petition, which he sent to the Sultan. They, therefore, refused this time to separate. The reverence of the Cretans for their traditional procedure was such that when the assembly had dissolved, its authority, and that of the persons composing it, lapsed, and the deputies had no right to hope for obedience if they called on the population to rise. The assembly would have to be again convened, elected, and organized in order to exercise any authority.
As the plan of the pasha was to provoke a conflict, he ordered the troops out, and called a meeting of the consuls, to whom he communicated his intention of dispersing the assembly by force. As this meant fighting, the consuls opposed it, with the exception of Derch, the French consul, who took the lead in approving the pasha's proposals. The English consul, Dickson, an extremely honest and humane man, but tied by his instructions to act with his French colleague, could only say that the assembly thus far had acted in strict accordance with its firman rights, and he hoped that they would be respected, but he did not join in the opposition with the rest of us. Colucci, the Italian, the youngest of the consular body, said that he had information that the committee of the assembly had expressed their willingness to disperse on receiving assurance that they would not, as in the former case, be molested for the action they had taken; and as they had committed no illegal act, he considered this their due. His excellency dodged the suggestion, and, rising, was about to dismiss the meeting, when, seeing that nothing had been done to avert the collision, I arose and formally protested against the attempt to disperse the assembly by force, and against any implied consent of the consular body to the programme he had announced. The Italian, the Russian, and one or two of the other consuls followed, supporting my protest, and the pasha, disconcerted by the unexpected demonstration against him, sat down again, and we renewed the discussion, when Dickson said that what he had said was implied in the position, and that as the assembly had done nothing to deserve persecution, it could not be supposed that they would be subjected to it, and he regarded the assurance of immunity as uncalled for. And so the conference broke up, leaving me in the position of the defender of Cretan liberties, but the troops were not sent out, and the report spread through the island that the pasha and the consuls were at loggerheads.
The real reason for the insistence on the formal promise being made to the consuls was that a list of the agitators indicated for arrest had been found by the daughter of the Greek secretary of the pasha, in which, amongst the names of the persons to be arrested, was her lover, to whom she gave the list. It was possible even then that the Cretans would have submitted but for the influence of two Greek agents in the camp of the assembly. These were one Dr. Ioannides and a priest called Parthenios Kelades, a patriotic Cretan, but long resident in Greece. These urged the assembly to extreme measures, and promised support from Greece. When, later, hostilities broke out, Parthenios went into the ranks and fought bravely, but Dr. Ioannides disappeared from the scene. The next device of Ismael was to call the Mussulmans of the interior into the fortresses, and when we protested against this as dangerous and utterly uncalled for, the pasha sent a counter order; but the bearers of it met the unfortunate Mussulmans by the way, having abandoned everything, thrown their silkworms to the fowls, and left their crops ungathered, and being ready to vent their hostility on the innocent Christian population, whom they made responsible for the disaster. The call to come in was then renewed, and the entire Mussulman population gathered in the three fortresses of Canea, Candia, and Retimo. A panic on the part of the Christians followed, and all the vessels sailing for the Greek islands were crowded with fugitives. The pasha called for troops from Constantinople, though no violence had been even threatened, and several battalions of Turkish regulars with eight thousand Egyptians arrived and disembarked. With one of the battalions was a dervish fanatic, carrying a green banner, who spread his praying carpet in every public place in Canea, preaching extermination of the infidels. I took a witness and went to the general in chief, Osman Pasha, and protested against this outrage, and the dervish was at once shipped off to Constantinople.
The military chiefs were reasonable, and the Christian population totally unprepared and averse to hostilities, but the plan at Constantinople was, as we soon found, to provoke an insurrection in order to justify a transfer of the island to Egypt. Later we had from Constantinople all the details, but for the moment we could only conjecture the Egyptian collusion in the plan by the presence of Schahin Pasha, the general-in-chief of the Egyptian army, and minister of war of the viceroy, and the very important part taken by him in the ensuing negotiations. He came in great state and pomp, and immediately assumed the lead in the negotiations with the islanders, which were carried on in secret and through Derch. Ismael Pasha, who was probably not in the Egyptian secret, had another plan of his own, equally secret, and the two conflicted. Ismael, as we later learned, intended to raise and subdue an insurrection, which he hoped to do easily, and then, on the strength of his Greek blood and the protection he had at Stamboul, to be named the Prince of Crete. The Egyptian plan was, on the contrary, conciliatory, and depended mainly on direct bribery and the promise of concessions to the Cretans. It had been, as I learned from Constantinople, concocted between the Turkish government, the Marquis de Moustier, the French ambassador, and the viceroy, and proposed to coax or hire the Cretans to ask for the Egyptian protection, when, on the application of the plebiscite, the island was to be transferred to the viceroy on the payment of 400,000 down and a tribute of 80,000. The French diplomatic agent in Egypt had arranged the details in consultation with Derch, but none would fit. Derch thought that all the Cretan chiefs could be bought, and the Egyptian pasha began by distributing 16,000 amongst the churches, mosques, and schools, without forgetting handsome baksheesh to the leading chiefs, who accepted the money, but promised nothing, and made no responsive move. Ismael, meanwhile, was doing his best to provoke hostilities, and finally succeeded in getting up a collision between Cretan Christians and Mussulmans at Candanos, in the southwestern part of the island.
As the Egyptian overtures did not seem to succeed, Schahin Pasha consulted some of the principal merchants of Canea, and was informed that Derch was of no weight or influence, and that if he wanted to move the Cretans he must do so through the American or Russian consuls; whereupon he came to me and frankly told me the whole plan, and that the viceroy proposed to build a great arsenal and naval station at Suda, and fortify the bay, the work being already planned by French engineers. He promised me whatever compensation I should ask if I could help him out. I sent the details to our minister at Constantinople, who laid them before Lord Lyons, the English ambassador, who, I presume, put his foot on the whole affair, as it was never heard of more in the island; but the condition of active hostilities which had supervened at Candanos continued.
An Egyptian division of 4000 men had been posted at Vrysis,—a very important point in the Apokorona, near the position to which the committee of the assembly had retreated,—under a pretext of Schahin Pasha that it would facilitate negotiations and protect the committee. The agitation increased, and isolated murders began to take place at various points. The exodus of the Christians to Greece went on, and of the poorer class, who had not the means of emigrating, great numbers took refuge at the friendly consulates, chiefly the Italian, as my premises were very small and offered little shelter. Multitudes also fled to the mountain, pursued by the Mussulman rabble, and many were killed on the plain in their flight. I had taken a little house in Kalepa (a suburb of Canea where most of the consuls lived) adjoining that of the Greek and near that of the Italian consul, whose wife, being an American, strengthened the alliance which held good between us to the end. The Mussulman populace, already supplied with arms and ammunition ad libitum, chafed at being confined within the cities, for the pasha, aware of the danger of an open outbreak at the capital, had several times shut the gates to prevent a sortie en masse of the rabble intent on attacking the consulates, for we were now known as divided into two parties; the Russian, the Italian, the Greek, and myself friendly to the Cretans, and Derch and Dickson to the pasha; the Austrian and Swedish completing the corps,—both old men, the latter having witnessed the insurrection of 1827-30,—taking little part in the discussions. The Russian, Dendrinos, a Greek by race and also an old man, was of a timidity which prevented him from taking any initiative even in discussion, while he was intensely active in the intrigues which kept up a running accompaniment to the fight between the pashas.
I had not long before received a present from my brother of some samples of a new revolver and breech-loading hunting rifles, with ammunition, some of which I had, at his request, given Schahin Pasha, as they were novelties to him. With the rest I provided for the defense of my house, barricaded the windows with mattresses, took another cavass guaranteed as faithful by my old one,—Hadji Houssein,—put a rifle and a box of cartridges at each window, besides organizing, with Colucci, a strong patrol of Cretans from the refugees in the consulate, to watch the roads, and waited events. We had written urgently for the dispatch of a man-of-war of one of the European powers, without the protection of which there was imminent danger that an accident might precipitate a fight, and all the friendly consuls be murdered. In this request Derch and Dickson refused to join, on the ground that the presence of a man-of-war of a Christian power (we had plenty of Turkish at Suda) might encourage the Christian Cretans. These on their side gathered, with such arms as they had, to protect the committee, sitting in the Apokorona, and face to face with the Turkish-Egyptian troops, a movement of whom forward would at once bring on the collision we were working to prevent and Ismael and Derch to bring on, but which was really prevented by the discord between Ismael and Schahin. The irregulars, proud of their new rifles, were firing in every direction, and one heard balls whistling through the air, falling on the roofs. On one occasion, when my wife, with other ladies of the consular circle, was walking between Canea and Kalepa, some of the Mussulmans amused themselves by firing as near their heads as it was safe to do. I begged Laura to take the children and go to Syra until the troubles were over, but she refused, saying that the women gathered around the friendly consulates, seeing her yielding to the panic, would lose all courage and fly to the mountains.
We were then at the end of August, 1866. My vice-consul lived in the city and provided for our communications, and when I had to go to the konak I went armed, and with a cavass also armed cap—pie, but I received several warnings not to be out after nightfall, as the Turks had decided to kill me, though my known and often ostentatiously displayed skill with the revolver made them timid in any attempt in broad daylight, lest if their first shot failed I might have the second.
Weeks passed. The nervous strain became very great. I found myself continually going unconsciously to my balcony, which commanded a wide range out to sea, telescope in hand, to see if the sail so long implored was in sight, though five minutes before I had seen nothing. Finally there came a loathing at the sight of the masts of a steamer on the horizon, feeling that it would be only a Turkish man-of-war. My children, for months, did not pass the threshold, though Laura insisted on showing her indifference to the danger by walking out; and one night when some mischievous Mussulmans started a cry of "Death to the Christians," in the streets of Kalepa, and the entire Christian population in a few minutes were at our doors, beating to be admitted, the cavasses refusing to open without orders, she had flown to the door in her night-dress and thrown it open to the crowd, who passed the rest of the night sitting on the floor of the consulate. The sentinel at the city gates, whose duty it was to salute as I passed, turned his face the other way, with a muttered "Dog of a Christian," on which I called back Hadji Houssein, who was marching in front of me, and, ordering him to look the soldier well in the face, so that he might remember him, sent him directly to the governor to repeat what had passed, and demand summary punishment for the insult. I was informed that the man had six weeks of prison. I don't believe he had a day, but the insults were stopped, which was what I wanted. Of those weeks of intense, prolonged anxiety the impression remains indelible to this day.
The relief from the tension, grown almost unendurable, came with the arrival at Suda of the Psyche, with Admiral Lord Clarence Paget, direct from Constantinople, to inform us that the Arethusa frigate had been ordered to Crete. If the Psyche had been a reprieve the Arethusa was a pardon. The hilarious blue-jackets flying over the plains of Crete brought all the Mussulman world to its senses, and we took down our barricades; but for the poor Cretans there was no change,—the Turks were so fully persuaded that England was with them that the severities towards the Christians underwent no amelioration, unless it be that the ostentatious brutality ceased, as the chiefs knew that they must keep up appearances. We attended service on Sunday on board the Arethusa and stayed to luncheon, in the midst of which an orderly came down and whispered to Captain MacDonald, on which he turned to me, saying, "If you would like to see something pleasant, Mr. Stillman, you may go on deck." I reached the deck just in time to see the Ticonderoga round the point of the Suda island, entering Suda Bay. Commodore Steedman, her commander, was an old friend, and, hearing at Trieste of the insurrection, came on his own initiative to give me the support my government had not thought worth its while to accord me. He stayed a few days and sailed direct for Constantinople, which so impressed the authorities that I was no longer annoyed. The Arethusa was followed a few days later by the Wizard,—a small gunboat which could lie in Canea harbor,—where, for the next few months, its commander, Murray, was our sole and sufficient protector. In him and his successors I learned to honor the British navy as a force in civilization whose efficiency few not situated as we were can understand. I have ever since been ready to take off my hat to an English sailor.
Meanwhile the dissension between Schahin and Ismael intensified. The Egyptian wanted a show of force with effective conciliation, hoping still to effect his object of bringing the Cretans to him, and he looked to the consular body for support, while Ismael was urging on the collision, hoping to defeat the Egyptian plan. We were constantly doing all in our power to lead the Cretans to conciliation and submission, though the hotheads among them were indignant with us. I found on my table one morning a message written in fair English, saying that if I continued to oppose the Cretans, I should lose my influence; to which I replied by a messenger, who knew the provenance of the message, that I was indifferent to my influence if it did not help to keep peace. The committee insisted on the withdrawal of the Egyptian troops from Vrysis, where they offered constant danger of a collision. This request we urged on Schahin, and he asked permission of the governor, who replied by withdrawing the Turkish division which had supported him.
At this juncture the pressure of Ismael had produced a serious fight at Candanos, where the Mussulmans made a sortie and were defeated. Ismael then called on Schahin for a battalion of his troops to support the garrison of Selinos. Schahin sent for me to advise him. My advice was that, as the matter was an affair between the Cretans of the two religions, it was not advisable for him to identify himself with either party, on which he refused the battalion. But the testiness of the Cretans on the other side developed a collision where none need have occurred. They insisted on the withdrawal of the Egyptians from Vrysis, and Schahin came again to demand the good offices of Dendrinos and myself, promising that if his men were left unmolested he would take no part in the action of the Turkish troops. We sent messengers to the Cretan camp, urging this course, but they were not allowed to pass the Turkish lines; and the committee, not receiving the message, repeated the summons to the Egyptians to leave Vrysis immediately or take the consequences. Schahin refused to withdraw them, and the insurgents, for such they now became, closed on them, cut off all supplies and water, and compelled them to surrender at discretion. They were permitted to march out with their arms and equipments and send the next day for their artillery.
This was the end of all hopes of peace. I do not know what the real influence of Dendrinos had been, for he was a man not to be believed, but we,—the Italian, the Greek, and myself,—had done everything in our power to keep the Cretans within the legal limits. In the face, however, of such provocations as those of Ismael, and vacillation like that of Schahin, our efforts were useless. The state of the country on the occurrence of another defeated sortie of the Mussulmans from Candanos was terrible. Two Christians were murdered in the streets of Canea, and the remainder in the villages round about fled precipitately to the mountains. Many were killed, and Mussulmans coming in from the country reported groups of dead bodies in houses, in chapels where they had taken refuge, and by the roadside. The new Greek consul rode out to Galata, a village three miles from Canea, and counted seven dead bodies naked by the roadside. The public slaughterhouses were midway between Canea and Kalepa, and there were always large flocks of ravens battening on the offal which was thrown out on the ground; but for weeks the ravens abandoned the place entirely, and the flocks were seen only hovering over certain localities on the great plain between Canea and the nearest hills. None of the Christians dared take the risk of a voyage of exploration to see what they were feeding on there.
The Egyptian troops, humiliated at their surrender, attacked the villages around their camp in the plains, killing the peaceable inhabitants; the governor-general lost his head and gave contradictory orders, and the confusion became anarchy. The few remaining Christians in the cities were then forbidden to emigrate, and the Mussulmans in the city met in their quarter and organized a sortie to massacre all the Christians outside; the Wizard in the port protecting those in Canea, otherwise it had gone hardly with them. The Christians in the interior, encouraged by the victories over the Egyptians and Turks, took such arms as they had, and raided down to the plain about Canea, carrying off as prisoners a number of Mussulmans who were gathering the grapes in their vineyards. There was no longer any hope of peace, and though I still refused to offer any encouragement to the Cretans, I was obliged to hold my peace, for I saw that there was no room longer for negotiations. Neither was there any hope for the insurrection, Schahin Pasha was recalled, and the great Egyptian plan utterly collapsed.
At this moment arrived Mustapha Kiritly Pasha, the Imperial Commissioner, appointed because he had once governed Crete and had a great clientle there, with relatives by marriage. Had he come three months before, he might have saved the situation, for then the blood was cold. He was a man of merciless rigor, but with a strong sense of justice, and was much respected in the island; but now only his rigor was in place, for there was no room for compromise. Ismael was dismissed in disgrace, and ordered off to Constantinople, not even being allowed to pack up his furniture. Mustapha enrolled the Cretan Mussulmans regularly as bashi-bazouks to the number of 5000, gave the Christian population the choice of going into the mountains or submitting and taking the written protections of the government, and made vigorous preparations for a serious campaign. He found the Egyptian army, which had increased by reinforcements to the number of 22,000, utterly demoralized by defeat; but he had 12,000 Turkish regulars, indifferently equipped, but disciplined, and a few hundred Albanians. Organizing from these a force of 10,000 men, he marched to the relief of Candanos, always closely beleaguered by the insurgent force, which had no artillery and could not attack the fortress, but had brought it into great straits for food.
The insurgents retired before the advance of Mustapha, who gathered the garrison and all the Mussulman families and began his return. I had from my balcony followed his course going out by the smoke of burning villages, and after two weeks, during which we had no authentic information of his progress, all messengers having been intercepted by the Christians, I got the first intimation of his return by the same ominous signal in the distance. At Kakopetra, a very difficult pass in the extreme west of the island, he was beset by the bands of the insurrection, and had they been armed adequately there had been an end of Mustapha and his army, who managed to struggle through only after a running fight of several days, with losses amounting, as one of the surgeons in the hospital assured me, to 120 killed and 800 wounded, most apparently with pistol balls, the Cretans having only the old tufeks and smooth-bored pistols of their fathers. At that moment, there was probably not a rifle in the ranks of the insurgents.
There was, of course, now no question of conciliation. Both sides had their blood up, and the successes had been mainly for the insurgents. They held the hills above Canea, whence all their movements were visible, and the next operation of Mustapha was to clear the road to their headquarters at Theriso, a very strong position in the foothills of the Sphakian mountains, from which the insurgents raided the plain. From my balcony I could see all the operations, and that the two battalions sent out, after fighting all day over the first line of defenses, were obliged to retire, having effected nothing. The next day a force of 5000 men went out, before whom the Cretans made a fighting retreat to Theriso, where they held their own during the rest of the day, the Turks returning to the city after nightfall. The next movement was a turning one, taking the position of Theriso on the flank, by Lakus, a strong position, but at which no defenses had been prepared. The insurgents moved their depot and hospital across the valley to Zurba, a village high on the mountain-side and impregnable to direct attack, but which Mustapha proceeded to bombard with mountain guns for two days. I could hear every gun-fire, Zurba being only nine miles in a direct line from my house, and I counted fifteen shots a minute during a part of the time.
Three attempts at assault were repelled, and then Mustapha moved on to Theriso, now abandoned by the Cretans, who had just then received the news of the arrival of the Panhellenion blockade-runner with arms and ammunition, the first open aid they had received from Greece. A considerable body of Hellenic volunteers also came, and the resistance became more solid, and the influence of Athens assumed the direction. Up to this time, and indeed much later, I had persistently urged submission, considering the event as hopeless; but with the encouragement from Athens it was wasted breath. I went to see Mustapha, and pointed out to him that his severity was making the position beyond conciliation, and that every village he burned only added to the number of desperate men who had nothing more to lose by war and nothing to hope in peace. I saw that he was prejudiced as to my sincerity, and perhaps I only influenced him to act against my counsels, though I was ready to do anything in my power to stop what I considered a hopeless struggle.
To add to the confidence of the Cretans, at this juncture arrived the Russian frigate General-Admiral, Captain Boutakoff, who took a most important part in the subsequent development of the affair. I was never able to see that the Russian government did anything at that stage to stimulate the insurrection, though Boutakoff expressed in the most unreserved manner his sympathies. Later I became convinced that Dendrinos did secretly, and more from antagonism to Derch than from any orders from his government, advise against concession, as Parthenios used to come secretly by night to him for consultation. But I am persuaded that at that time the Russian government had not urged the movement, though a secret visit from Jonine on the Russian dispatch boat at an early stage of affairs was evidence that the position was being studied by Russia. With Boutakoff I was for several years in the closest sympathy, and we subsequently acted together, but never did I discover any indication of his taking an active part, or being aware that Dendrinos had taken one, in the early movement. In fact, the anxiety of the latter that I should keep secret, even from Boutakoff, his action in the matter, indicated the contrary. What Russia had done at Athens I had no opportunity to learn, but in Crete I am convinced that she then did little or nothing.
Having scoured the plains and lower hilly district west of Canea, Mustapha now organized an expedition against Sphakia, defended by the Hellenic volunteers and the bands of the Apokorona and Sphakia at Vaf. He obtained a decisive victory with heavy loss of the Egyptian contingent, but his courage failed him before Askyph, the great natural fortress of Sphakia, and he waited a month at Prosnero in the Apokorona, negotiating to gain time, but offering no concessions. At this juncture arrived the only man who made any military mark in the war, Colonel Coroneos, a Greek veteran, and competent commander of such a force as Crete could furnish. As Zimbrakaki, who commanded the Greek volunteers, had assumed the command of the western section, while the chiefs of the eastern section, around and beyond Ida, had their own organization, Coroneos went to Retimo and established the headquarters of the district at the fortified convent of Arkadi, a building of Venetian construction and of sufficient strength to resist any attack not conducted with heavy artillery. Here he established his depot, and here the families of the Cretans took refuge when menaced by the Turkish bands. Coroneos himself kept the field and harassed the Turks everywhere in the province, and so annoyed Mustapha that after a month's indecision he suddenly marched off to the attack of Arkadi, which Coroneos, after having harassed him on the march as much as was possible, was obliged to leave to its fate, as neither his organization nor his outfit, which included no artillery, permitted him to shut himself up in the little fortress. He had provided as garrison a small body of Greek volunteers and 150 Cretan combatants, including the priests. Besides these there were about 1000 women and children, whom Coroneos had tried to induce to return to their homes, succeeding, however, owing to the opposition of the hegumenos to the departure of his own relatives, with only about 400, the rest being shut in by the sudden investment. To prepare for resistance, the great gate of the convent had been solidly walled up, and when Mustapha opened fire with his mountain artillery on the walls he made no impression on them or on the gate, and, the rifle fire from the convent being terribly hot and effective, he made the investment complete and sent to Retimo for heavy artillery. It came accompanied by nearly the entire garrison of Retimo and the Mussulman population, making his total force about 23,000 men, of whom the most zealous combatants were the Cretan Mussulmans.
By this time I had become the recognized official protector of the Cretans, although I had always done my best to discourage hostilities and persuade the Cretans to leave their wrongs to diplomatic treatment; not that I had great faith in that, but because I could see no hope for a success for the insurrection. Around me had spontaneously formed an efficient service for information, the runners of the various sections coming to me at Kalepa with the earliest information on every event of importance, and I communicated with the legations at Athens and our own minister at Constantinople. The exactness of my news was so well recognized that even the grand vizier sent regularly to our minister for information, remarking that he got nothing reliable from his own officials. Now happened one of those curious cases of mysterious transmission of news which have often been known in the East. Arkadi was at least forty miles, as the roads go, from Kalepa,—a long day's journey as travel goes there; but I received news of the fight soon after it began, and information of the progress of the combat during the day, one of my customary informants coming every few hours with the details. This service I subsequently checked by the information given me by Mustapha's Cretan secretary, who lived in the house next to mine at Kalepa, and by the accounts given by some Italian officers of the Turkish and Egyptian regulars engaged in the siege for the final struggle, and found to be correct. I believe the account which I gave the world by the next post, and which was the only complete one ever given, is as near the true history as history is ever told.
The heavy artillery soon breached the great gate, and an assault was ordered, but being met by a murderous fire from the convent walls, it was repulsed with great slaughter; and the succeeding attempts on the part of the Turkish regulars faring no better, a battalion of Egyptians was put in the front and driven in at the point of the bayonet by the Turkish troops behind them. The convent was a hollow square of solidly built buildings, the inner and outer walls alike being of a masonry which yielded only to artillery, and from the windows and doors of these a hail of bullets at close quarters met the entering crowd of regulars and swarms of bloodthirsty Cretan irregulars, all furious at the resistance and wild with fanaticism. The artillery had to be brought in to break down the divisions between the houses and cells, and the fight was one of extermination until all the buildings were taken except the refectory, the strongest of the buildings. At this juncture one of the priests fired the magazine, with an effect far greater on the outside world than on the combatants, for it did not kill over a hundred Turks. The insurgents in the refectory were then summoned to surrender, and, having exhausted their ammunition, they complied, on the solemn promise of Mustapha that their lives should be spared; but, having handed out their rifles, they were all immediately killed.
One of the Egyptian officers—an Italian colonel—told me many incidents of the fight, of a sufficiently horrible nature, but he said that he saw things which were too horrible to be repeated. Thirty-three men and sixty-one women and children were spared, mostly through personal pleas to Mustapha of ancient friendship. The secretary told me of a fanatic of Canea who had volunteered in the hope of being killed in a war with the infidel, and who had been in all the fights of the insurrection, and, escaping from Arkadi unhurt, went home and hung up his sword, saying that Kismet was against him and he was not permitted to die for the faith. He also told me that all the ravines near Arkadi were filled with the dead, while Retimo was filled with the wounded; and from the report of the hospital surgeon at Canea, I learned that four hundred and eighty were brought to our hospital, being unable to find shelter at Retimo.
Mustapha immediately returned to Canea, but having sworn not to enter the city till he had conquered the island, he camped outside. He called a council to devise some means of subduing the insurrection before the effect of the siege of Arkadi should provoke intervention, for he saw that that had been a mistake. The enthusiasm of the insurgents rose, and for the first time it seemed to me that there was a chance of the Powers taking their proper position as to Crete, and I began to hope that the bloodshed would not have been entirely wasted. But no effect was produced on the Powers by the horrible event, except that Russia made some effort to provoke intervention; England and France, who held the solution in their hands, showing the most stolid indifference, and Russia, as afterwards became clear, only looking at the occasion as creating more trouble for the Sultan. Greek influence took entire control of affairs, and the Cretan committee at Athens began to pour in volunteers, rifles, and ammunition, without any attempt at organization or intelligent direction.
The pasha saw that the situation was critical and demanded his greatest energy, and, with one hand offering bribes to the Sphakiot chiefs, with the other he hurried his military preparations. Leaving his second in command, Mehmet Pasha, at Krapi, the ravine which approached Sphakia from the east, he marched all his remaining forces round to the west, hoping, as he said, to sweep all the rebels and their Greek allies into the mountains and either starve or otherwise compel them to submission. The chiefs of the Greek bands refused to submit to a common plan or authority, and wasted their strength in a series of little combats, Coroneos and Zimbrakaki alone, and only for a very brief period, coperating for the defense of Omalos, which was the depot and refuge of the families, and where the cold of the approaching autumn and the want of supplies would act as Mustapha's best allies. He moved along the coast to the west, relieving Kissamos,—a seacoast walled town to which a band of Greek volunteers had, in an insane effort, laid siege,—and, sweeping families and combatants together before him, drove them all into the high mountains, where the snow had already begun to fall. In the rapidity of his movements he carried no tents or superfluous baggage, and the poor Egyptians, clad still in the linen of their summer uniforms, perished in hundreds by cold alone, and even the beasts of burden left their bodies in quantities by the way, forage and shelter for man and beast alike failing. The volunteers held the pass of St. Irene, by which alone from the west the approach to Omalos was practicable; but, ill provided for the rigor of the season, they grew negligent, and, after two weeks of waiting, Mustapha made a sudden dash and took them by surprise in a fog, and occupied Selinos, the volunteers and Cretans retreating to the pass of Krustogherako, which lies between Omalos and Selinos.
The story of Arkadi had begun to move public opinion all over Europe, but it had no power on the governments, although the consuls friendly to the Cretans had continually appealed to their governments with the report of the barbarities which accompanied the march of the Turkish army. For myself, under the advice of our minister at Constantinople, I had thrown off all reserve within my consular rights and used all my influence with my colleagues, especially the honest, if too pro-Turkish, Dickson, and at the same time disseminated the truth as to the condition of the island in every possible way. The Turkish authorities naturally retaliated to the best of their power, and patrols of zapties watched my house in front and rear, for the idea had entered the mind of the governor that I was the postman of the insurrection. But I held no direct communication with the insurgents, and no letter ever passed through my hands, while the Greek and Russian consuls, unwatched, kept up a regular postal service. Our minister at Constantinople, who, in the beginning, had been in the closest personal relations with his English colleague, the just and humane Lord Lyons, replaced at this juncture by Sir Henry Elliott, finding that nothing was to be expected from England, joined forces with General Ignatieff, and thenceforward my action was directed by the Russian embassy.
In communicating the news of the affair of Arkadi to our government, I had fully explained my actual position and my proposed action on behalf of the insurgents, and begged that a man-of-war might be sent to convey from the island the refugee families who were dying of cold and hunger in the mountains, or being murdered in the plains. In reply I received the following dispatch (December 25, 1866):—
W.J. STILLMAN, ESQ., U.S. Consul, Canea:—
Sir,—Your dispatch No. 32, with regard to the Cretan insurrection and the attitude you have assumed in the matter, has been received.
Your action and proposed course of conduct, as set forth in said dispatch, are approved. Mr. Morris, our minister resident at Constantinople, will be informed of the particulars set forth in your dispatch, and of the approval of your proceedings. Rear-Admiral Goldsborough has been instructed to send a ship-of-war to your port. I am, sir, your most obedient servant,
Meanwhile the Wizard gunboat had been relieved by the Assurance,—a larger vessel,—the commander of which (Pym) had an American wife, and perhaps had been influenced by her, and certainly shared her sympathy with the Cretans. I showed him Seward's dispatch and fired him with the desire of distinguishing himself by taking the initiative in the work of humanity. I then made the strongest possible appeal to Dickson, who had by this time come through his own informants to recognize the atrocity of Mustapha's plan of campaign, to order Pym to obey his good impulse; and Pym at the same time informed me that he intended to go, with Dickson's order if possible, but in any case to go. Meanwhile he ran down to Candia to watch events there and protect the Christians. Dickson in the end obtained the consent of Mustapha to the deportation of the families, and sent the order to Candia, on which the Assurance went to Selinos and took on board three hundred and fifteen women and children and twenty-five wounded men, menaced by the approach of Mustapha's army, and carried them to Peiraeus. Mustapha Pasha had given his permission for the ship to take the refugees, and Dickson had given the order, so that Pym's action was regularized; but he was, nevertheless, punished by his government, being ordered to the coast of Africa, and shortly after retired. I saw him on his return from the trip, and there was not a man or officer who would not have given a month's pay to repeat the expedition, but it was peremptorily disapproved by the English government.
There were at Suda at the time two Italian corvettes, an Austrian frigate and gunboat; the Russian General Admiral, and a French gunboat; all of which, with the exception of the Frenchman, were anxious to follow the example of Pym. But the prompt disapproval of Pym's expedition by the English government, and the withdrawal of the permission given by Mustapha, prevented any of them from repeating the feat. Ignatieff had, on hearing of Pym's exploit, obtained from the grand vizier the permission that other ships might follow him, and dispatched at once the embassy dispatch boat with orders to Boutakoff to follow. But a violent storm coming on, the boat had taken refuge at Milos, where she lay four days, and by the time she arrived another post was due from Constantinople. Both Boutakoff and Dendrinos hesitated to execute the order, having learned of the disapproval of Pym and the revocation of his permission. Dendrinos was a timid, irresolute man, always afraid of assuming responsibility, and Boutakoff's orders were to go only on the requisition of the consul. I was very much afraid that under the circumstances the order would be revoked, and had in vain urged the two Russian officials to move.
At this moment came another act of the Turkish brutality, which carried me through. A Turkish man-of-war ran in to the shore where Pym had taken his refugees, flying the English flag, and, when the refugees poured out from their rocky shelter, opened its broadsides on them. One of my runners came in with the news of this atrocity, in the morning of the day the post should arrive, and I went at once to Dendrinos and insisted on his sending the order to Boutakoff to go to the relief of the Cretan families at Selinos. The frigate lay at Suda, and I dictated the letter to Boutakoff, saw it consigned to the messenger, and never left Dendrinos alone till time had elapsed sufficient for the delivery of the message on the frigate, being certain that if I left the timid man to himself he would send a counter order. Boutakoff, nothing loath, got up his anchor, and came round to the roadstead of Canea to await the post and the last advices, but I hurried him off without delay, apprehensive of the counter order from Ignatieff. This did in fact arrive by the post, but three hours too late. The General Admiral carried 1200 women and children to the Greek ports, but the repetition was forbidden.
The insurrection flamed up anew, however, and negotiations were broken off, though the deportations were stopped. Mustapha, finding it impossible to force his way into Sphakia from the west, ordered the fleet round, and transported the army entire to Franco Castelli on the southern shore, and bribed the chief of the district to allow him to pass to Askyph without resistance. In this great plain, which is the stronghold of eastern Sphakia, as Omalos of western, he encamped to negotiate and try a last effort at conciliation. The next day one of the captains of the section bordering on Askyph came to me for advice as to accepting Mustapha's propositions. I told him I could not advise him to fight or make peace, but I translated Mr. Seward's dispatch, and assured him that when the ship arrived I would send it at once to the relief of the families. On his return, resistance was decided on, and all the men of the vicinity gathered to attack the Turks. The pass of Askyph could have been easily blocked, and the army compelled to surrender, being scantily provisioned, but some spy in the Cretan councils warned the pasha, and he broke up his camp at midnight and crowned the heights at the head of the ravine, so that his army was able to pass, though with terrible losses.
It was the most disastrous campaign of the whole war, for the troops were slaughtered almost without resistance, killed by rolling down boulders on them. Bewildered in the intricacies of the defiles, without guides or provisions, and in small parties, they were dispatched, for days after. The army which had set out 17,850 strong, Egyptian and Turkish regulars, according to Dickson's official information, beside several thousand irregulars, was reported by Mustapha, after its return and reorganization, as amounting to 6000 men. We saw them as they defiled past Suda coming in, and the commander of one of the Italian ships took the trouble to count some of the battalions, one of which, consisting of 900 men when it set out, returned with only 300. The losses were certainly not less than 10,000 men, not counting the irregulars.
What had become evident, even at Constantinople, was that Mustapha and his influence, as well as the policy of repression by cruelty and devastation, had failed. Barbarities continued, and were met by active resistance on a small scale wherever the Turks attempted to penetrate. Small Turkish detachments were beaten here and there, but no general plan of operation appeared to offer a chance of ultimate success to either party. The Porte, therefore, sent its best diplomatic agent, Server Effendi, with a magniloquent and mendacious proclamation and a summons for the election of a deputation of Cretans of both religions, to meet at Constantinople to receive the promises of the well-intentioned Turkish government for their pacification and contentment. Server Effendi was an intelligent and liberal man, and we became very good friends, and if he had been permitted to treat on the basis of accomplished facts he might have attained something. But he was compelled to assume that the island had been subjected by arms to the will of the Porte, and must accept as concession what they had won a right to from an effective resistance, as yet not even partially subdued. He was not himself deceived, but the Sultan had passed into a condition of insane fury, and could not be induced to listen to any concessions or entertain any proposition but complete surrender. He had, Mr. Morris wrote me, had a model of the island made, which he used to bombard with little cannon, to give vent to his rage. All the powers, with the exception of England, now advised the Porte to concede a principality. The English policy in this case has always seemed to me mistaken, and in questionable faith, for by the protocol of February 20, 1830, the signatory powers bound themselves to secure for Crete a principality like that of Samos. For this defection of England from the general accord of the powers, Greece was, probably, mainly responsible, for at that juncture the influence of Greek demagogues prevailed in the island to make a compromise difficult, and the principality would certainly have been refused; still, England was pledged to the offer of it. I find in the record I made at the time the following passage:—
"The tactics of Greece were of a nature to make the chances of Crete more precarious than they need have been. The policy of Crete for Greece, rather than Crete for her own good, made confusion and jealousy in the conduct of the war much greater than they need have been. What the Cretans wanted was a good leader, arms, and bread. Greece sent them rival chiefs without subordination, a rabble of volunteers, who quarreled with the islanders, and weakened the cause by deserting it as soon as they felt the strain of danger and hardship; and if, after the first campaign, they were more wise in enrolling men to go to Crete, they still allowed the jealousies and hostilities of the leaders to go unchecked by any of those measures which were in their power. But the radical fault of the Hellenes was that they compromised the question by the introduction of the question of annexation, and forced it into the field of international interests, disguising the real causes and justification of the movement, and making it impossible for England consistently with her declared policy to entertain the complaints of the Cretans without also admitting the pretensions of the Hellenes. If the latter had not intruded their interests into the discussion, the former might have been heard; but from the moment in which annexation to Greece became the alternative of the reconquest of Crete, the English government could clearly not interfere against the Porte without upsetting its own work; and, if in some minor respects, especially the question of the principality, it had been more kind to Crete, no one could have found fault with a policy which was in its general tendency obligatory on it."
This opinion, formed and expressed while all my sympathies were with the Greek government, and in complete knowledge of all that it was doing for the Cretans, remains as the mildest criticism I can make on the policy of Athens. At this time, looking over the events of the thirty years which have lapsed since the end of that unhappy affair, I can see more clearly the matter as a whole, and that the miseries of Crete especially, and of the Greeks in the Levant in general, have been mainly due to the want of commonsense in the race, and the incapacity of individuals to subordinate their personal views and interests to the general good. The Italians have a proverb, "Six Greeks, seven captains," which in a pithy way expresses the reason why the Greeks have never been able to succeed in any national movement—the necessary subordination and self-effacement needed for civic or military solidity are, and always have been absolutely out of the character of the people. Courage they had, but discipline they never would submit to, nor will they now.
Server Effendi got his deputies, some by compulsion, some by bribery, and some with good-will, and most of them he succeeded in getting to Constantinople. One escaped and came to my house for asylum, and there he remained six weeks, and then was smuggled on board a Russian corvette, in sailor's costume, and carried to Greece; the rest of the Christians when they got to Constantinople took refuge at the Russian Embassy, declaring that they came against their own free will and that of the Cretans. At this time a change for the better took place at Athens, the incompetent ministry which had neither known how to do nor how not to do giving place to that in which Comoundouros was prime minister and Tricoupi minister of foreign affairs; and, while the paralysis of utter failure rested on the Turkish administration in Crete, the policy in Greece became comparatively energetic and intelligent. Comoundouros was a demagogue, without any scruples as to the means of success, but he was intelligent enough to understand the position and that a positive policy was necessary. He had opposed any encouragement to the insurrection in the beginning, seeing no hope for its success; but public opinion all over Europe and in America had by this time become so pronounced, and committees were beginning so widely to form to aid the Cretans, that there seemed a chance of intervention and a certainty of large assistance in money and moral encouragement. He took the responsibility of openly giving aid to the insurrection, but he still had not the clear understanding of the want of a concentrated direction in Crete. The bands refused to coperate, and while Coroneos in the central districts carried on a brilliant system of harrying and raiding the Turkish detachments, the chiefs in the eastern and western sections remained inert, getting the principal portion of the supplies (as the blockade runners went mostly to the coasts of those districts) but doing the least of the work. Comoundouros dared not risk offending the many political partisans by imposing on the volunteers whom he sent over a competent and concentrated command. But as a collateral means of pressure the new ministry set to work organizing a movement on the Continent, and it had the courage to face all the probabilities of a war with Turkey.
At this juncture came the famous blockade runner, the Arkadi, a most successful contrabandist of the American war, and at every trip she made she carried away a number of women and children. Meanwhile we waited for the arrival of the American man-of-war which was to put the machinery of relief to the non-combatants in operation. She never came, and in reply to a telegram to Commodore Goldsborough, who was at Nice, I received the information that he knew nothing of any orders for Crete. Intrigues had supervened at Constantinople, chief mover in which was the dragoman of our legation, a Philo-Turkish Levantine, and the persistent assailant in various American journals of Mr. Morris and myself. As the result of these intrigues the order to the admiral was recalled. In March a corvette, the Canandaigua, came for a short stay, but the manner of the officers towards me, and the observations of most of the officers on what they considered a sort of "slave trade," i.e. the carrying of women and children, made me very glad to see her sail again. I made a little use of her, however, by persuading the captain to run down to Retimo with me to inspect the condition of the refugees in that town, and to distribute the money, etc., with which I had been furnished by the committee at Athens for that purpose. I also induced the captain to run over to Peiraeus to reorganize the consulate there, the consul having run away, leaving the office in the hands of his creditors, from whom I rescued the archives, the only property on the place, and not liable to seizure for his debts. I took the same opportunity to exchange views with the Greek ministers, and began a friendship with Tricoupi which lasted as long as he lived. The captain sympathized with me, but he had had his orders, and the officers in general (two of the younger ones took an opportunity to tell me how glad they would have been to aid the Cretan families) were pro-Turkish. But the Turks did not know all the facts, and the visit of the Canandaigua was a moral support to me.
The hostility between Mustapha Pasha and myself had now become so open that all intercourse ceased. For months my children had not gone beyond the threshold, and I myself was openly threatened with assassination; the butchers in the market were forbidden to serve me with meat, and I got supplies only indirectly. Canea was so well beleaguered by land by the insurgents that we had scanty provision of produce at the best, nothing being obtainable from the territory beyond the Turkish outposts. The Austrian steamer brought weekly a few vegetables, but the cattle within the lines were famished and diseased, and there was no good meat and little fish, the fishermen, who were Italians, all going home. I finally sent to Corfu for the little yacht on which I had made quarantine, and, pending her arrival, sent Laura and the children to Syra. When the Kestrel arrived, we spent most of our time on board, running between the ports of Crete and between Crete and the Greek Islands, generally followed by a Turkish gunboat, for Mustapha persisted in regarding me as the go-between in Greco-Cretan affairs, and while the zapties watched my door, the Cretan post went to and fro through the gates of the city unsuspected.
I was no longer of any importance except as a witness of events and was disposed to resign and go to Greece, for the expense of living had become greater than I could bear, with my income of $1000. The Porte threatened to revoke my exequatur, than which nothing could have pleased me more, for the support of my government had become merely nominal, though I had never varied from my instructions. The grand vizier seemed to understand that, and the threat was withdrawn, while pressure was applied at Washington to induce the government to recall me, a minister ad hoc being appointed to the United States. Mr. Seward at first consented, being probably by that time thoroughly tired of the Cretan, question, but, the Russian legation applying pressure on the other side, the consent was revoked and I remained. The Turkish demand included the recall of Morris, but as his operations were carried on through me my removal was the principal object. I had now the satisfaction of seeing the disgrace of Mustapha Kiritly, who was recalled as a failure, and Hussein Avni came out as locum tenens for the Sirdar, Omar Pasha, the Croat. With Hussein Avni I made another attempt to enter into conciliatory relations with the government, and offered my services for any negotiations it might be desirous of entering into, but the conviction of my hostility to the Turkish government was so rooted that I saw clearly that no belief was entertained in my good faith.