Tth Life and Adventures of Joseph Emin





[How Ganja came under Heraclius through the death of Shaverdy Khan, his rival, at the hands of a young Armenian repentant apostate - Battle between Lezguis and Georgians - Michael the centurion, an Armenian captive from infancy, commanding the Lezguis – Heraclius, treachery again - Emin ordered to charge alone - Both sides aiming at him - His miraculous escape - Michael’s glorious death - Lezguis entrenched fighting desperately but outnumbered - A captive Armenian boy - Emin’s rebuke to Heraclius for his betrayal of the Lezguis - Movses goes to Tiffliz - Heraclius for the second time drives Emin out - Narrow escape from drowning - Dangerous roads infested by robbers. ]

It was then the beginning of autumn; and, in the latter end of December, Shaverdy Khan of Ganja began again his undermining politics, writing letters to the Lazguis for troops to reduce the great tribe of Shamsadin, who had put themselves under the prince’s protection; but Heraclius, fearing some ill consequence, sent five hundred Georgian horse to Ganja, in order to keep the khan quiet. He, not minding them much, laid a scheme, on the arrival of the Lazguis, to put them all to the sword in cold blood. Since the Shamsadin tribe, like others, was divided into two parties, one for the prince, and the other for the khan, one party would have joined to put the design into execution; but, luckily for the Georgians, a young Armenian mountaineer, a new apostate to the Mohamedan faith, had been a few days before made a servant to Shaverdy; who being in bed and asleep, the young man, not contented with his new religion, took the gun hanging in the same room, and shot the khan to death, which ended all the mischief, and saved the lives of many thousands. The young man was put to the sword by the khan’s son, called Agajar Beg; and from that time Ganja by degrees became a province under Heraclius. The young Armenian, before he was put to death, being asked what was his motive for so doing? said, "He did it, that by killing the khan, and leaving a good fame behind, he might be killed himself afterwards for having renounced his own divine religion. "

It may not be improper to recapitulate here three remarkable circumstances in regard to the Armenian nation, which were of service to Heraclius. The first was, David his subject, discovering the horrid conspiracy of thirty-two Georgian noblemen, headed by Heraclius’s own uncle by his mother’s side, Prince Pala: the second, that Emin, when commanding the Lazguis, discomposed Shaverdy Khan’s government, by freeing the Colan Curd tribe mentioned before: the third, that the young mountaineer put an end to the khan’s life, when he was near recovering his dominions from disorder, and preparing to overset the prince’s power, who being just on the brink of downfal, was fortunately saved from one of his greatest rivals.

The Armenian merchants or tradesmen of Tiffliz have served the prince and his family, on all occasions, with troops, money, quarters, provisions, and forage, for forty years last past, most truly and affectionately; yet the prince was never mindful of them, nor shewed them any regard. Emin cannot in conscience blame the poor prince on that head; he is rather to be pitied; since the force of his religion, and the holy ministers of the sacred Greek church, being predominant in his mind, he was not endowed with probity sufficient to shake off its spiritual influence; not resembling those great-souled heroes, who disdained partiality, and rewarded merit wherever it was found. Such has been the chief curse to some Christian powers, for the vengeance of the Almighty falling upon them, when Mahomed mounted on a camel from Arabia came to scourge them; and they are treated with indignity by all nations.

Emin, from day to day, flattered himself, through the smooth words of the prince, that he would assist him, by giving the command of a detachment to him. In this manner full nine months passed; but Heraclius could not afford to bestow on him a single abasy, nor any thing else, except half a Tabriz maund, or pound, of bread, (little more than three English penny loaves, ) half a maund of mutton, and half a maund of weak wine, for the allowance of two hungry persons. Emin and his relation Mussess, who through necessity were thankful for being taught economy by His Highness. Emin did not much mind it; having inured himself to living by that rule all his lifetime. Poor Mussess persevered as well as he could; but it must be supposed that he suffered greatly. This way of victualling was on feast days; but on fast days they had no more than half a maund of bread and half a maund of wine: for the Armenians feast six months in the year, and fast six months without eating either fish or flesh. Those who can afford it, may have all sorts of fruits, fine olives, and pilau with oil; but God help those that are poor; they can enjoy nothing. In any part of Armenia they may have plenty of fruits, but not at Tiffliz where everything is proportionably dear; it being in some sort a metropolis.

In one of the last battles against the Lazguis, in the depth of winter, they were no more than a hundred men, each having an Emeral: the Georgians were commanded by Michael the Centurion, an Armenian by birth, who had been taken captive when an infant, and brought up in Dagistan. This brave man happened to be one of the captains of the Lazguis sent to Solomon, prince of Emeral, as auxiliary troops. He came from Dagistan, joined his troops, and defeated 40, 000 Turks and Dadians belonging to a petty Georgian prince of the Turks party, whose country the Lazguis ruined and took slaves for their pay, to the number of one hundred, chiefly females. Others, more prudent, staid where they were, in Emeral Georgia, till the melting of the snow, knowing that prince Heraclius would not keep his covenant, made when they were invited by his son-in-law prince Archil, brother to Prince Solomon. But this Michael being originally an Armenian, and credulous by nature, trusted to prince Heraclius’s honour, who having intelligence before of his intention to march through the snow on the Plain of Samigory (or the Three Miles, ) lay in his way near a forest, half a mile’s distance from the river Chabry, one the branches of the Cur. There he remained a fortnight, with four thousand chosen Georgians, cavalry and infantry. In the afternoon the Georgian centries brought word that the Lazguis were coming, upon which every man mounted readily, but without any order, making a confused effeminate noise, with the sound of a long i, as far as their breath could go. The Lazguis not apprized of the prince’s hostile intention, took it to be a hunting party. Before they came up, prince Heraclius’s eshikagesies, or aids du-camp, said to Emin, "It is his Highness’s express command that you go out of his band to charge the enemy before. " He instantly obeyed, spurring and whipping his horse; but he was hardly gone ten yards, when the Georgians began firing behind him, and the Lazguis scarce fifty yards from him in front; so that he was between two fires, both taking aim at him. The Lazguis took him to be a Georgian, and the Georgians were glad of the opportunity to make an end of a poor single Armenian, whose great faith was his armour and shield. He called upon God, and rushed through the enemy without being hurt, so that he went round and stood at some distance to see the operation. While he was between, those two savages fired balls that flew close to his ears, and killed fifty Georgians, with some men of note, and as many of the Lazguis. Being opposite, he then fell upon them sword in hand, surprizing them in close quarter; while the Lazguis, fighting like tigers, laughed and spit in the Georgians faces, calling them treacherous Caffers, for not keeping true to their word. Michael the Centurion signalized himself in a most surprizing manner, as he was surrounded by three hundred Georgians for his share, and firing his piece, he killed one first, and not having time enough to load again, he clubbed it, and holding it by the muzzle, fell among the Georgians, and knocked down six or seven of them. When his firelock was broken, he drew his sword, and with his dagger in his left hand, defended himself, fighting and calling Heraclius by all manner of bad names. The prince took care to go upon a high eminence. Michael received nine balls through his body before he fell, pronouncing, Lallah, Ilalah, &c.: then he laid himself down with as much composure as if he was going to sleep, and with his right hand under his head, looked as fresh as a rose. The Georgians behaved like savages; for when he was dead and gone, some of them came and took his head off, some his hands, some his feet, and others ripped open his chest to see his heart, which was amazingly large, and his liver was as black as jet; which puts me in mind of an expression of the sailors as a rebuke to a cowardly man, Go your way, you white-livered fellow! The appellation signifies that a black liver belongs to a brave man. When his son was taken he said that his father was seventy-two years of age. Forty of the Lazguis fought retreating composedly till they got to the top of an eminence, the ground being soft and mixed chiefly with saltpetre. In five minutes they dug holes with their daggers deep enough to entrench themselves; in the mean time the whole army of Georgians formed a circle round them. The Lazguis fought desperately. When any of them had exhausted his ammunition, he left his post, drew his sword, or clubbed his firelock like Hercules, came out of the entrenchment, rushed among the Georgians, and fought till he was destroyed. This continued till eleven o’clock at night, when the snow began to fall very thick, each flake being as big as an English shilling. Both sides were tired, partly by the cold, partly by the fatigue; those left in the entrenchment having no more powder or ball, cried out, Barish! (or peace, ) on condition that the prince would grant quarter, and not molest them, to which his Highness consented; but after they came out, they were stripped stark naked; and after the army had marched back to the camp seventeen of them were put to the sword, and three only left, whom the prince ordered to receive a Tabriz maund of flour for four or five days journey, through snow half a yard deep, to the foot of Dagistan. Among them an Armenian boy, sixteen years of age, was taken prisoner and preserved. Emin had the curiosity to ask him, "Who were those twenty-four men among the dead, and not circumcised?" He said, "They are Armenians, brought from Armenia when children, and brought up as Lazguis in Dagistan; for the Lazguis seldom sell the Armenian boys to the Turks as they do the Georgians. The Armenian infants brought up by the Lazguis, turn out brave, and faithful to their masters; whereas the Georgians are not so, but false and treacherous. There is no occasion to say more; you have been in Dagistan, where you hardly saw a Georgian male slave made free, as we emancipate the Armenians, who live there like princes, and when they descend from Dagistan into Georgia for plunder, a few of them stand against thousands of Georgians. You have seen a proof of their behaviour to-day, by Michael our leader; who, trusting to Heraclius’s false word, lost his life bravely. " Emin then said, "Why did not those Lazguis keep the grown men and women as well as the children?" Then he said, "O, good Sir, how can you be so ignorant of the world. The Armenians will never turn Mahomedans, if they were cut to pieces; nor are their women so beautiful as the Georgians; and in their slavery they are most unhappy; they are therefore ransomed by their own countrymen, and become free again. "

That very night the prince asked Emin the reason of his not bringing the heads of two Lazguis, which, as he had been told, he killed in the action. Emin swore by his honour that it was not true; and declared honestly, that he did not even fire his piece at them; when he had an opportunity, shewing the pan of it to the prince, that it was fresh and the muzzle not at all dirty. The prince said, "Why so, my Emin Aga?" Emin said, "May it please your Highness, they are my best friends. I have been treated by them like their own eyes, as it is known to all men; it would be dastardly in any man of the least principle, to hurt his friends without provocation; especially as it is against the law of nations, to attack these brave men who were called at the desire of prince Solomon and your son-in-law prince Archil his brother, and became the chief instruments of rescuing their principalities out of the hands of the cruel Turks. " The prince, at this reasonable answer, hung his head, and after casting his eyes five minutes on the ground, said to him, "May God reward you according to your heart!" The next morning the prince marched with the heads of the Lazguis on mules backs. They were skinned after his arrival at Tiffliz, stuffed with chopped straw, and sent to Akhaltzikhas Pasha, to be dispatched by him to Constantinople, as a token of friendship to the Sultan, and a proof of his important victory over the Lazguis. This small piece of policy, though childish in its kind, made as much noise in those parts of Turkey, as any one of the famous victories of the late Frederick King of Prussia made in Europe, which is owing mostly to the effeminacy or ignorance of the sinking power of the Othomans.

In the following spring, and till the middle of summer, Emin staid in Georgia, with the same short allowance mentioned before, and even that was gotten with great difficulty; for his poor relation Mussess used to go early in the morning to attend upon the prince’s nazir, or steward, bending his neck at his door till three in the afternoon for an order to procure that paultry provision.

The prince, for his recreation every year, as well as to lie in wait for Lazgui inroaders, at the head of some thousand horse, went to the town of Gory, with his haram, or family; the first short stage was about seven or eight miles, from Tiffliz to Kheta, where their principal church stands, to the west of the river Cur. In the afternoon Mussess appeared somewhat fatigued by marching on foot, and seemed to be in despair; having more sense than like Emin to follow the prince in vain, without any fair prospect of benefit. Though naturally modest, he abruptly asked Emin’s permission to go away; the poor fellow made some trifling excuses; that he had forgot his linen, and left some other necessary things behind: he wished therefore to go back to Tiffliz for them. Emin perceiving his intention, made no objection. Thus he departed, and Emin being left alone, on the next morning followed the prince and reached the town of Gory.

Five or six days after, prince Ivani Abasachi, Heraclius’s brother-in-law, came and spoke to Emin with a good-natured tone of voice, but with threatening words, from Heraclius, to the following effect: "I am commanded by his Highness, (for which I am heartily sorry, ) to acquaint you with his severe order, that you prepare immediately to go out of his dominions which way you chuse; but in case of your delay, he will put an end to your life. " The good man burst into tears like a child, exclaiming against Heraclius for his barbarity; and adding, "The greatest part of his subjects are Armenians, trained up in wars against the Lazguis; he is very suspicious, and even afraid of a revolt from them, the consequence of which may be fatal to him; therefore I must advise you, my dear Emin, to set out immediately, and save your life from his tyranny; for he is a man of so bad a disposition, and so full of envy, that he cannot bear to see or hear of any merit. He is ungrateful, like the Persians, and false to his very marrow; no doubt he will lose his kingdom, and all his pains will prove vain. "

Emin thanked Abasachi for his friendly concern, and said, "There is no occasion for many words: " then he saddled his horse and set out for Emeral Georgia, to try what sort of metal prince Solomon was made of. He asked some men the way to it, and had himself learned in England, from maps lent him by his friend Mr. Edmund Burke, that it was to the westward of Cartuel. After marching about five miles he reached the bank of an unfordable river, one of the branches of the Cur, then much swelled by the late fall of rain, and the melting of the snow in the mountains. Being at a loss in what manner to pass, yet trusting in God, he pushed the horse into the terrible current, which carried him like lightning down the river, where himself, from his waist to the head, and only the head of his horse, might have been seen, like two gourds floating on the surface of the water. The only prayer he could pronounce to Providence was this, "O, my God; let not prince Heraclius rejoice at the death of your sinful creature!" He cannot recollect how many minutes had passed when his poor beast touched the ground, and came out of the water: but when he looked back at the distance between the two stations, he guessed it to be almost two miles. He then glorified the Great Maker of all for his narrow escape - and, an hour or two before sun-set, came to the door of a mud house in a beautiful plain, without any other building or village near it: there he saw an elderly woman sitting down and spinning cotton, and not guessing her temper he asked her, if she could tell the way to such a place? No sooner had she heard him, than she flew into a furious passion, scolding like a mad witch, ready to rush against his face; but fortunately a sweet angelic Georgian girl, who was standing by, interposed, and pacified the old dame with her amiable charming voice and sensible expostulation, telling her that she should not behave so roughly to the gentleman, who was a stranger in their country, and without any companion. "Do not you see, " she said, "that his cloaths are wet? I dare say he is saved from being drowned in the river, which an elephant could not pass at this time of the year: " then turning her dear self to Emin, she gave him an account of the road to Kertzkhilvan, the last frontier town of Cartuel. The words of her lovely mouth were these: "My dear stranger brother, be not uneasy; let not your good heart be in the least discomposed at the thoughtless expressions and unbecoming behaviour of this old woman - she knows no better, else she would not act in such a manner. O, my God! if you had been drowned, what would have been the condition of your poor relations when they heard of it? Pray go to your journey’s end, for it will be soon dark, lest you should not find your way easily. " Emin thanked the sweet angel and departed; but, now and then turning his face back, he saw her standing in the same posture in which he left her, till he was out of sight. The emotion of his mind, excited by the natural humanity of that innocent lovely creature, was not to be wondered at. Let no brave man be blamed for endeavouring at the danger of his single life, nor the richest man at the hazard of his fortune, to obtain such a woman as she was; for she would study to make him pass his life happily, and her agreeable society, continuing always the same, ought to be esteemed a singular felicity, while she would set a commendable example for others to follow, and would teach them to be contented in the short passage through this visionary world. Emin cannot with a good conscience avoid saying, that this kind of happiness, as he has by many observations found, exists among a number of European Christian couples; but among few, very few indeed, of the Asiatics, whose usage towards the fair sex cannot be compared to any thing but the conduct of devils: the law allowing a plurality of wives, has been the very cause of their never enjoying peace of mind, but continually destroying one another ever since the beginning of their empire. Any law or custom against nature, must ruin cities, depopulate kingdoms, and leave nothing behind but a desert, as wild as if it had never been inhabited by men.

Emin, in this manner was contemplating on horse-back quite fatigued, till two hours after sun-set he reached the same river, over which was made a fascine bridge woven with branches of trees, the butt end of whose sticks was not thicker than an inch; it was pretty strong and tough, but was moved up and down in the middle by the wind, like a spring, and was there no broader than two feet and a half. He was going to pass it on horse-back, but the poor beast blowing with his nostrils, started back: - fortunately an Armenian happened to be on the other side of the river, just at the end of the bridge, and discovering him in the dark to be Emin, called out to him in a frightened tone of voice, "Pray, Sir, for God’s sake dismount, and lead the beast, for fear of its falling in with you!" Emin did as he was advised, went over safe, and thanked the friendly Armenian for giving him caution, otherwise he might have been lost. The village town of Kertzkhilvan being almost close to him he was conducted by the same young man his deliverer to the church, where he supped, and slept that night. As a great part of the inhabitants were Armenians, when they knew what ill-treatment he had received from Heraclius, they were grieved to the heart, and were afraid to entertain him long in their houses, though they wished to enjoy his company some weeks.