Tth Life and Adventures of Joseph Emin




XIV. JUNE, 1763.

[Emin with Heraclius’ permission goes to fight the Lezguis with 24 Armenians - Encounter with 52 of the enemy - The Lezguis cannot overcome them and finally march away - Heraclius failing to send supplies, Emin has to return to Tiflis - Heraclius now becomes excessively kind on account of Emin having held up the Lezguis - "No one can be cheerful in Tiflis for half an hour" - Emin goes with Heraclius to Kakhet, where he is well treated - Mischief-making priest Phillipos upsets everything. ]

About the month of June, Emin petitioned the prince, that if he would be pleased to grant him a firman, or patent, with 100 horse-load of flour, he would go with his twenty-four men just taken into service to the bishopric of Haghpat, two days journey to the south-west of Tifflis, the inhabitants of which district had been partly carried away by the inroaders, and had partly emigrated to Kakhet, the prince’s hereditary country, to live in the monastery. In this deserted and mountainous country, the Lazguis generally hold their rendezvous. The prince made no objection to the proposal; but favoured him with due authority by the following commission: "This is to give notice and certify, that I, by the grace of God, and Christ my Saviour, Heraclius, king of Cartuel and Kakhet, have, by my pleasure and authority, authorised my most beloved faithful servant Joseph Emin, with commission to go with his men to the inhabited bishopric of Haghpat, to take possession of, and to live in it; and also to annoy, kill, and destroy, without giving quarters, those Lazguis who are enemies to the faith and the country of Christians. We have been also pleased to command, that if any Armenian or Armenians should go to him from any part of the country, he shall receive and protect them as he shall think proper: and no person or persons shall stand in the way to prevent him, nor take them by force from him. We shall hear no complaint if any man’s subject should choose to go and put himself under Emin’s command: and such complaint shall expect no kind of redress from us. Given under my hand and seal &c. Dated at Tiffliz, in the month of June. "

In regard to the hundred horse-load of flour he told Emin to go to Beydar, about sixteen miles or more from Tiffliz; and that in a few days he would send an order for it to be given by the Musulman Cossack clans, in his way, about five miles from the place above-mentioned. The prince went to Kakhet, and the next day Emin, with his 24 men, marched out; but were not gone six miles from Tiffliz, when they discovered, at a great distance, a body of horse: who should they be, but fifty-two stout Lazguis. He and two more of the men were on horseback; the rest were on foot. The rogues drew nearer and nearer, while he took no notice, going on in the road till they came within 500 yards of him, making sure of Emin’s party, who were so few, and their charging and his dismounting happened at one time. He facing his men to the left, checked their coming to close quarter, who, firing their pieces all in a volley, dismounted directly, and led their horses to a ditch on the left side of the road, deep enough to cover them, leaving the horses behind it, and making the bridge of the ditch a breast-work, within fifteen yards of Emin, who stood in the road exposed with his men to the rogues’ fire, from eight in the morning till six in the afternoon. The loss on his side were only three wounded, one of his horses killed, and another one, the only Georgian among them not belonging to Emin, mounted in the heat of action, and rode away to save himself; but two of the Lazguis horse overtook him, and made him a slave. The enemy had none killed on the spot, only thirteen of them wounded, as Emin’s people were told. Three weeks after, they went home and all died.

The Lazguis finding it very difficult to overcome few Armenian boys, when both parties were tired of fighting, and in the heat of the sun, without a drop of water, they spoke to one another and asked if they were Russians who stood the brush so many hours? Emin’s little followers answered, "You, Mahometans, why do you stand asking questions? this is neither a hummum to wash, nor mejid to pray in; fight away till you bleed. " At that very time a big headed Lazguis called Emin bad names, besides Caffer, as is common with that nation, and at the same time aimed his piece at him; he missed three times; and at the same instant the fellow was answered by an English piece, the gift of the duke of Richmond, the ball of it took him just in the mouth, carried away the upper teeth and the jaw with half of the face. When this man was out of the way, they retreated, and carried their wounded about half a mile from the place of action. Emin perceiving by their motions, that they would not go away, easily formed his men all in one rank, charging them strictly not to fire at random, as they had done before; then having marched a great distance from the place, when the enemy took advantage of the ditch, they stood in an open field to receive them, who forming their body into a deep column, cried out, "Glory to Mahomet, and destruction to the Christians, " charged, and halted within a hundred yards. Being taken no notice of, they dispersed to the right and left about; and in about five minutes more, gathered again together to complete the third onset; coming a little nearer than they did the second time, but found it impossible to provoke Emin’s party to fire at that distance, as it was their wish they should, in hopes to frighten them into disorder, then to fall on them sword in hand. Emin’s men called to them to come nearer, and not be afraid, since they had neither powder nor ball left; and there were with them half a dozen pretty Georgian boys, who would sell for two hundred tumans each. "O ye Caffers!" said the Lazguis, "you want in that way to kill us all at once. We know you reserve your fire; but not because you have no powder; you are neither Georgians nor Armenians; you must be from the Caffers’ country, where the seven carolls and the rest of them reside: but we must tell you, that all our comrades will not survive, as their wounds are mortal; once more, farewel! " Then each party marched away, after a ten hours skirmish; since, when Emin’s men were in order, the enemy thought it advisable not to have any thing to say to them.

About nine o’clock they reached the place mentioned before, the Armenian village Baydar, and took quarters there; but, instead of forty-five days, the time limited by the prince, Emin waited five months for an order from him to get the promised flour, and was then obliged to dismiss the men, keeping only four to take care of two horses, and wait upon him. At the latter end of November 1763, the prince sent him an order in writing to receive one month’s provision only, to maintain twenty-four men and himself, with forage for four horses, of which two were destroyed; one ran away with the Georgian, and the other was killed in that little fight. Emin answered and thanked the prince for his liberality, and said, "Great Sir, this one month’s provision will be just enough to maintain four men for forty months to come; as the rest are gone away, there will be no more need of it till then; but, in a country like this, every eatable is so cheap, it surprizes me to find your Highness so niggardly as to disgrace the very name of economy; which puts me in mind of a merchant in Ispahan, who almost starved his own children to save his money; but as he was travelling in a caravan, a highway-man, with fifty companions, robbed him of all his riches, and left him on the road starving. He was sorry, " he added, "that he did not hearken to count Worronzoff’s friendly hint, when he said, that prince Heraclius was not the man to satisfy him: sure his prophecy was nearly coming to pass, and he was not far from being starved. " The prince, in his answer, comforted him, and desired him not to take it to heart, adding, "Every thing in good time, patience will conquer all; come to me, my dear Emin Aga! I will do all in my power to make you happy. Pater Philipus, your only friend and mine, translated every letter you sent into the Georgian language; when I read them, I swear by the grave of my father, it would be infinite pleasure to make Emin happy. " So it might; and he was able, at that time, to make all the Armenians both free and happy, if the dark angels had not stepped in the way with their black hearts, which made him at last lose his poor Emin for ever.

In obedience of the prince’s order, Emin immediately marched, with his four servants, from the Cossack clans, two days journey back to Tiffliz. In his way he convoyed a caravan to Telave, the capital of Kakhet Georgia, a pitiful town, containing twelve hundred mud houses. When he waited upon the prince, he was received with extraordinary kindness, more like that of an affectionate father than a prince. Heraclius thanked him for his behaviour against the Lazguis, expressing great surprize how, with a handful of boys, he could stand so many hours under so hot a sun, against fifty-two veteran mountaineers; and he added, "after your engagement, the same men robbed a caravan of five hundred men, well armed going from Tiffliz to Baydar, on the very same ground, killed several and carried away above a hundred of them. " Emin said, "If your Highness would have ordered the promised hundred horse-load of flour they would not have enslaved away an hundred good subjects, besides taking their arms, horses, and baggage, while their miserable families are groaning. May God in heaven direct your Highness’s heart to the right way of protecting them!" The prince said, "I, in firm belief, agree with you, that nothing can be done without Him: they deserve it very justly: if you knew them as well as I do, you would not be so great an advocate for them, or feel so much for their misery. I do all I can to defend and keep them happy; but go yourself, enter into them, and read their hearts, what is there written will soon bring you back to my way of thinking; and take this from me, it will not be long before they will do their utmost to divide my heart from you, and will glory in their wicked minds, as if they had effected a great thing: come, sit nearer to me, let us enjoy one another’s company, while we are in Kakhet, for Tiffliz is not a place in which we can remain cheerful for half an hour. " It had in fact become a common remark in every body’s mouth, that the Valy changed his temper as soon as he went out of town; and especially when he was in Kakhet, turned entirely to an angel, with good-nature, politeness, and pleasure. Emin enjoyed the prince’s company for several days, which was really very improving, as if it had been the conversation of a learned English nobleman, without the least pride, stiffness, or domineering deportment, which are so common to Asiatic princes; and with such a quickness of apprehension, that at the opening of any subject, he understood the whole extent of it. His voice, in pronouncing words, conversing or treating any topic, was so melodiously sweet, that the hearer, without seeing his greenish brown complexion mentioned before, would have thought an angel was haranguing. Of pride he had not the least particle; he never perhaps boasted in his life, though he overthrew in many battles almost every competitor since Nadir Shah; and it would have been all the same to him, if he had been in possession of all the kingdoms in the East.

One evening about nine o’clock, he sent for Emin and Pater Philipus; when they came, they found him sitting alone; he said, "Come, my dear Emin Aga, we are not in Tiffliz now, to be interrupted by any one of those great fellows; we can talk at our own pleasure. " He seemed to be very cheerful, and his fine eyes sparkled. The conversation turned on various subjects, till it rested upon religious matters. He said very wisely, that ever since the two brothers, meaning the Armenian and Georgian nations, differed on points of faith, they had become for that sole reason divided from each other; the consequence of which discord was so apparently effective, as to make them both fall headlong under the dominion of infidels; that unless they would join in one opinion, and unite in one body, like two hands (opening his fingers, and clasping them close into one another), they would never be able to form any noble design. These sentiments made Emin rise, lay hold of both his hands, which he kissed seven times. Heraclius returned the compliment, kissing his forehead, and both shed tears of sympathy; which Philipus seeing, he was no less affected with sensibility: and the sympathizing prince added, "I do not mean that your countrymen should entirely change their way of thinking, which is morally impossible; it will be only necessary to cut off some superfluous and useless ceremony on our side, and some on yours; that alone can make the two nations one: what do you say to that, my Emin Aga?" He answered, "I have already approved it by kissing your hands; and it is my humble opinion, that none but your Highness can effect that great design, being by God established both in fame and power; provided you will not hear the tales of those who will be ready to sacrifice your good mind, and make your sublime councils fall victims to the hostile ambition of men, who are entirely strangers to unity or peace between the two churches: the best way will be, to take no notice to them of so grand an enterprize. " The prince asked Emin, if he could give advice how to go about it? He said, "This moment give orders to 6000 horse and 10, 000 foot, which will be ready in five days time; put yourself at the head of them; march directly to Bujazid, the country of the Curds, without seeing Tiffliz; it is but a march of six days; invade that country first, where, see by this very letter, 4000 Armenians are ready to join you: pass thence to Arzerum, in three days: the next countries are Bassan, Susan, and Betlis; there you will have 12, 000 foot, before the Turks will rise from their everlasting drowsiness. The Armenians of Mush, with 10, 000 horse, will join you; the whole making 40, 000. Then issue a proclamation, that you are come to claim Armenia by hereditary right, as lawful heir to that kingdom; and that your ancestors in former days reigned 300 years over it. Do this, you will succeed; but your Highness will do nothing. This letter of bishop Jonas of the monastery of St. John the Baptist, will tell you, that the Armenian nation do acknowledge, and have acknowledged for these twenty years last past, that you are their sovereign; it was through necessity that they invited your Highness’s humble slave to enter into those parts; for by writing only he had awaked them to a noble zeal, and that not without your consent and permission; and that it is not possible for a layman like him to be their king. When you were angry last year at their calling him prince, who is the son of Hovsep the Armenian now in Calcutta; can he pretend to the sovereignty of Armenia, whose real sovereign (whom God preserve) is living, with seven princely sons, and five angelic daughters?"

By these words of Emin the prince was so roused, that his inward emotions made him, from sitting cross-legged like a taylor, change his position, and sit upon his knees. He began to twist his whiskers, resembling a fierce lion, and said to Philipus, "Christis madlema zalisuy utkhar; " that is, "By Christ, he speaks very strongly. " The priest said, "May it please your Highness, if he had not been extraordinary in every respect, how could the princes in Frankestan have esteemed him worthy to be recommended to your Highness’s favour: by what I can judge, without being partial to the Armenian nation, your Highness will never find another like him, even among your own people. I am told by Armenian merchants, that his father is in a good way, and himself might have lived very happy with great credit in England, but he must be inspired with love for your name and glorious actions; otherwise how could it have been possible for him, without seeing your person, to have so great an attachment for your Highness, whose life may the great God prolong, for the happiness of your subjects!" Then the prince said again, "My Emin Aga, every word you have spoken is a gun in my ears, and I hope we shall act with great satisfaction and success, provided God himself will be our conductor. I only wish my eldest son had been alive, whom the small-pox snatched away from my arms two or three years ago, and that at the age of twenty (saying this, he burst into tears); he would have joined you with hand and heart, and with all his might, to ease me of my troubles, which have almost worn me out for the last twenty years; I should then have lived at my ease. Can you recollect a letter, when you were last at Travan, sent by the archbishop Zachariah of Tiffliz, and the advice of your wise father, in regard to matrimony?" He was just going to complete the sentence, and to say that Emin had demanded his daughter, when Philipus thinking to do Emin service or honour, and well understanding the prince’s meaning, interrupted him, saying, "He has made an engagement already at Astrakan, to marry Avankhan’s rich grand-daughter, named princess Marian. " At this rapid, violent, and most imprudent speech of Philipus, the prince stopped, and never said a single syllable of what he with cheerfulness had begun, which brought on a profound silence of all three, like persons thunder-struck, looking down without speaking a word almost half an hour. This forwardness of a priest knocked on the head all his project of friendship and union; after he had taken so much pains, and gone through so many hardships, he was reduced at last to nothing by this over-hasty interruption of a man for being honoured with being admitted interpreter between prince Heraclius and the rough soldier Emin. The rejoicing prince was most bitterly dejected, and lifting up his head from deep thoughts, asked what hour it was? Then looking at his watch, he saw it was past three in the morning; and said to Emin, "I wish the old priest had not been here this night, he spoiled our council; I am very sleepy, are not you so, Emin Aga?" This was exactly twenty-four years ago, and no soul knew this secret, except Heraclius, Emin, and the priest. Emin cannot help thinking, that many who are not well acquainted with him, nor have seen him in that country, will suspect what passed between him and the prince to be fabulous; such a suspicion may be excusable in those who consider his present situation in life, which, though honourable, is not equal to the dignity he aspired to; or in those who are not well versed in the disposition of the Georgian nation, whose nobles sell their own children to the Turks; so that it would have been no great wonder if prince Heraclius had given his daughter in marriage to an Armenian Christian soldier, to fight and bleed for him. He remembers one day in Petersburgh, at the prince’s father’s house, the late king Tahmuras asked Emin, if he was married? He answered, "No. " The king said, he would take care to marry him to a handsome daughter of one of his Armenian merchants in Tiffliz. Emin said, his choice was to have a Georgian tavat’s (or noble’s) daughter, who would be handsomer. One of the tavats standing by, said in a tone of anger, "Do not you know that you are an Armenian; that our law abominates the very name of those who are as bad as heathens?" He said, "Yes, Sir, you would rather give away your daughters to circumcised Persian dogs, who are worse than heathens. For my part, if I were a king, and had an only daughter, and if the sultan of the Turks and a Christian young Georgian were rivals in her love, the Christian should have her sooner than that powerful Mahometan. " This shews the difference between Armenian Christians and those of the Greek church, who are full of malice. The good king, not understanding their conversation, as they spoke in Turkish, when it was explained to him, put his hand on his breast, and swore by Jesus Christ that Emin was in the right. He then added, "Never mind what he says, you shall have my daughter; " and if he had lived he would have been as good as his word, for he was the most pious king Georgia produced; but hard-hearted fortune was too cruel to let him succeed in either of his views. The late duke, his patron, hearing all this from his letters, comforted him in his answers, saying, "My dear Emin, fortune sports with you; go on, never mind her crossness, for one day or other she will favour you fully to your heart’s satisfaction. "