Tth Life and Adventures of Joseph Emin




XXX. 1780-1783.

[Condition of Julfa and risks run by Emin - Inducements to Armenians from Turkey to go and settle there - Taxes on merchants - After 6 years’ residence Emin leaves with his eldest son - Severe illness at Bushire - In an Arab vessel reaches Charaki, on the coast of Persia - Mahomed Ben Efy - His wife’s kindness - Romantic history of Ben Efy and his courtship of his wife - Amongst Arabs only the brave can win the fair, but amongst Armenians only the rich. ]

It will be proper here to describe the disposition of the present inhabitants of Julpha, whose ancestors, from their first settlement, had set bad examples of informing against and accusing each other, and of defrauding and oppressing the poor. The reason why Emin was not openly injured by them, nor forced to pay them a single penny, was, that he did not care for nor associate with them, nor did they dare to enter his gates. In Aly Naky Khan’s miserable reign of forty days in Ispahan, a dozen of the worst sort of them, who are called catkhadas, or burgh-masters, by express orders from Aly Naky, and to their great joy (as they are always glad of an opportunity to ruin the poor), were joined to Aly Naky Khan’s Mahomedan officers in a commission to search for two young women. They got drunk together, and began at night to break open almost all the doors in Julpha, in order to discover the concealed females, to gratify their abominable covetousness, and at the same time satisfy the diabolical officers, in a place where there are no more rich merchants left. It was proved that they had exacted the sum of 15, 000 rupees from carpenters, weavers, butchers, shoemakers, coblers, and even of blind beggars. But they did not dare to pass the street where Emin’s house was, he having warned them beforehand, that if they offered to come near his habitation, he would do his utmost to kill the Mahomedan officers with his firelock, which would be a just pretence to Aly Naky to kill him first, and then to put to the sword both his family and the other inhabitants of Julpha. By this desperate declaration he saved himself from absolute poverty, and his family from being frightened out of their senses; for they well knew from his character that he would be as good as his word, and that he was well armed with three firelocks loaded, a brace of pistols, a scymitar and a Lazgui dagger; he having watched sometimes behind the door, but mostly on the top of the terrace, on purpose that they should take notice of his arms. In case he had been easy, and had not taken that precaution from the beginning to the end, in all probability they would have found means to impoverish him the very first year. Julpha will never be peopled while such abominable wickedness shall continue in it. It is moreover to be observed, that by the standing law of the late Shah Abbas the First, the Armenians (who are superstitiously fond of ecclesiastical ceremonies) have been allowed to have their weddings and christenings in public, their priests singing or rather bawling out hymns, with the congregation coming out of the church and going through the streets, or when the bridegroom and bride enter the house with a pompous procession. This stupid formality is an inducement for the foreign Armenian unmarried merchants, who are subject to the Turks, to come and settle there, as they dare not do the same in any part of Turkey. They are even glad to agree with the inhabitants, according to their circumstances, to pay a reasonable tax; but that destructive system of policy soon disgusts them. No sooner are they married, than an officer is sent by the catkhada to demand the tax-money, though they dare not come near unmarried merchants in Ispahan. Many of them begged of Emin to interpose with the Calauter Makertish to make some regulation on that point, so as not to oppress them; but it was to no purpose, neither he nor the catkhadas would condescend to make any regulation. Thus in a few years, with the help of continual civil wars, the fine suburb of Julpha, once inhabited by 12, 000 rich families, contain at present hardly 500 houses, and may soon be deserted and left for the Musulmans of Ispahan.

To resume the principal subject. - Emin enjoyed life pretty tolerably above two years, without any uneasiness of mind during that time. Aly Murad almost firmly established himself there, and after nine months preparation marched to Shiraz, which after a siege of thirteen months he took, destroyed his father Saduk Khan and his brother, and put out the eyes of the two sons of the late Carim Khan, namely, Abdulfat Khan, and Mahomed Aly Khan; after which he returned again to Ispahan, and sat on the throne of the Safi’s. The country appearing now to be in peace, Emin with no small difficulty obtained a patta (or passport), and took his eldest son Arshac with him, leaving his wife and three children (a son and two daughters) with his father and mother-in-law, and several other relations. He joined a small caravan, and in eight days reached Shiraz, not without many obstacles, caused by different rahdars (or turnpike-men) on the road. After halting there eighteen days, he joined another caravan, and in the way caught a violent cold; his disorder was mixed with a complaint in the liver, caused by a pin. In six days he reached Cazran, and stayed there about a week; thence in five days more with exquisite pain in his right side, so that he could hardly breathe, he came to Bushir, where the severe disorder continued upon him forty days. There was no one to give him any advice, he was therefore his own doctor; he paid a piastre to a Persian barber to bleed him; but the man took such a quantity of blood from him, as to throw him into a swoon. He fell from his seat, and laid on the ground about an hour. The barber (or rather the butcher) and some Armenians were frightened, and did not expect he would live. When by degrees he recovered and opened his eyes, he saw the poor boy shedding tears, and heard him say in a most feeling manner, "Dear father, what is come to you?" Emin, to encourage him, said, "Never mind it, my dear child, I am well again. " Then raising himself, he sat up, and after two days more was cupped by an Armenian barber, as clumsy as the Persian. Finding himself somewhat relieved, he dined at Mr. Gally’s two or three times. Three or four Julpha Armenians, who were at Bushir, did not shew him any hospitality.

Emin and his son, with Gabriel a mountaineer of Caucasus, who had been his comrade from Ispahan, took their passage in an Arab daur, commanded by Mahomed Ben Efy, and sailed in four days to Charaky on the coast of Persia, where they came to an anchor. The sailors with the master went on shore to their families, but four of them stayed on board with Ben Efy’s brother. A week after, a westerly wind arose, and blew so hard for about an hour, with rain and a little thunder, as to make them give over all hopes of escaping a wreck. Had it continued a quarter of an hour longer, in all probability the terrible wind and sea would have driven the Arab vessel against a rock quite opposite to the wind, but it fortunately ceased. That day, and several days besides, Gabriel was on shore; his small capital, with the money of the other Armenians, was in Emin’s chest, to the amount of 12, 000 rupees. He was frightened out of his senses, and pretended he had some business to do; but it soon came to be known that he was afraid of being lost on board, where they had better accommodations than in Charaky, and had fresh water to drink.

One or two nights, when Emin went on shore with his son, Mahomed Ben Efy’s invisible lady shewed them great kindness, and sent provisions, dates, and fresh water, in compassion to the young Emin, whose innocence had often been of service both to himself and to his old father; but it was afflicting to see Gabriel’s envy, though he shared equally with them the hospitality of that amiable lady. Though she was not to be seen, yet she was celebrated by everybody in the place for virtue and beauty. There is an anecdote worth relating: Her husband Mahomed Ben Efy, before he was in easy circumstances, sent messengers to her father, a renowned Arab chief, to demand her in marriage. The old gentleman resented the proposal; and finding an opportunity of catching the suitor alone, had him seised by many Arabs, tied up, and bastinadoed so severely, that he kept his bed for some time. The young lady, knowing his suffering to have been for her sake, declared. openly for Ben Efy, and threatened to destroy herself if her father should refuse to consent. Ben Efy some time after sailed across the gulph, with some passengers to Bahrain, where pearls are found; and having finished his voyage, put again to sea; but when he was out of sight of land, he was attacked by seven Arab vessels, some of them galvats, and others daurs. Ben Efy finding their intention to be hostile, since they sailed on and pursued him, when near enough to be heard, begged more than a hundred times that they would got away in peace; alleging, that both parties being Musulmans, it would be unjust to shed one another’s blood. All his expostulations signified nothing; when finding that no sort of rhetoric could pacify them, he barricadoed the top of the archway of his vessel, having only twenty-five fighting sailors, all his relations. The enemy, too proud of their superior force and numerous crew, without firing their great guns, thought it the surest way to board them, to kill all the men, and to take the vessel; well knowing that the merchants had entrusted to Mahomed Ben Efy some bags of pearls for the Bushir merchants. The pirates drew near, yard-arm to yard-arm, and soon boarded Ben Efy, who very wisely had reserved his fire all the while, till the vessel was crowded with them sword-in-hand, he then gave orders, and a bloody slaughter ensuing, he killed 400 of the enemy, took two of their vessels, with several bags of pearls and ready money. The rest had much ado to make their escape back to their country. Ben Efy very prudently left the two vessels behind which he had emptied of their riches, lest his own should be weakened, and returned safe to Charaky, where there happened to be a great famine in that year. He maintained for twelve months, with dates and other provisions, all the inhabitants, to the number of 600, men, women, and children. Such were his bravery and his wealth, obtained by victory and his humane disposition! Yet farther to prove the greatness of his mind: a very rich man on the coast of Arabia, with whom Ben Efy had a slight acquaintance for some years past, by eating bread and salt with him, sent him a messenger with a letter, some time after that affair; a zinbil (or date basket) of pearls happened to be taken by Ben Efy in the action from one of those abandoned vessels which had been this man’s property. The substance of his letter was, "O! Mahomed Ben Efy, if you will restore the pearls to me, they will be the means of preserving my credit, and saving my family from total ruin; if not, the light of their existence may be for ever extinguished. " On the receipt of this letter, Mahomed Ben Efy restored the pearls untouched, without any hesitation. Emin was told, when at Charaky, by an Armenian merchant, that the basket had been restored, and was valued at some lacks of rupees; for which Ben Efy received only a present of 2000 rupees from its owner, or bread and salt as a friend. Besides his great joy on having an opportunity to obey the laws of Arabian hospitality, Ben Efy did this to shew to the world the justice and firm friendship of that famous nation, once master of all Asia, Africa, and part of Europe. When his manly conduct came to the hearing of the sheick who was father to his faithful love, he was reconciled to him immediately, declaring that he was worthy of his beautiful daughter. Ben Efy paid 12, 000 rupees for her shirboha (or the price of milk), and married the lady, to his infinite joy. Here it must be observed, that, among the Arabs, no one can obtain a handsome virgin without being signalized by some noble enterprize, not even among the common people; and a young man is not to be called by his proper name, but only such-a-one, unless he has performed some military exploit. The Armenians never take any notice of the bravest or best man, unless he is very rich, can pay exorbitant taxes to the Mahomedans, and give lapfuls of money to the holy fathers, in order to domineer like tyrants over the poor people. In all the different nations in those parts of Asia where Emin has travelled, the higher natives are taught from infancy many noble principles, which often make them considerable in the eyes of the world; but the poor Armenians, on the contrary, are entirely deprived of such advantages, and imbibe nothing but horrid superstitions, which of course have made them entirely strangers to those commendable virtues which lead to sweet liberty, and enlighten the human mind. They resemble the natives of Bengal, who never in their lives tasted English apples; or the Laplanders, who never saw a mango fruit.