Written by Raffi in 1878
Translated and Annotated by
Beyon Miloyan and Kimberley McFarlane
Sarhat only became aware of Město’s absence the morning after the terrible events at the Saint Bartholomew monastery. The gang had stayed there overnight and were preparing to leave before sunrise. His absence caused his friends to become suspicious, thinking that the Kurd might betray them. He was so cunning and bold that anything was possible in their minds.
“I have no reason to doubt Město’s loyalty,” Sarhat said. “All the more because he is Kurdish.”
Kurdish people are not two-faced. Neither in war nor friendship do they change their colors.
Město had been gone for three days before he reappeared. The first words he spoke as he embraced Sarhat were, “Found her.”
“Found who?” Sarhat asked in confusion.
“Aslı1, the one you love.”
Sarhat went into a state of ecstasy.
Město told him of the encounter with the Pasha’s messenger, how he had killed him and delivered the letter in his place, thus allowing him to enter the Sheikh’s campground where he found Aslı among the captives.
“Are you certain it was her with the Sheikh’s army?” Sarhat asked, now outraged.
“How could I not be certain? I saw her with my own eyes and even spoke to her,” Město replied confidently.
“She recognized you?”
“She was going to start running toward me as soon as she saw me, but I gestured to her and she became cautious.”
“How were you able to see her?”
Město explained that when he handed the letter to the Sheikh, the Sheikh had commanded that he remain in their camp for the day to give him time to discuss the matter with his princes and prepare a response. They housed him in a tent next to the Sheikh’s and gave him food. That’s when he noticed that there was a fellow Yezidi in the camp whom he knew. He was one of the servants who filled the Sheikh’s pipe. That man, being from the same tribe and village as Město, looked after him. Město was able to trust him as an old friend, and asked him to show him the captives, among whom he found Aslı. He then told him of his plan to take Aslı with him, explaining that she had once been engaged to his master and that his master had loved her dearly. Město’s friend promised to secretly remove the girl from the camp and hand her over to whomever he asked.
Sarhat was shocked to hear Město’s story and found it difficult to believe his ears. He asked, “Do you trust that your compatriot will fulfill his promise?”
“Yezidis do not make promises easily, but when they do, they keep their word,” Město answered proudly. Then he added that he also knew a secret about this fellow Yezidi, which gave him even more reason to trust him. “The man’s brother,” Město said, “was sentenced to death by the Sheikh a few years ago. He has infiltrated the Sheikh’s camp and is pretending to be a servant in order to avenge his brother’s death. The Sheikh does not yet know that he is the brother of a man he once killed, or that he is a Yezidi.”
“That’s the type of man who can be trusted,” Sarhat agreed, finally convinced. “But how it is possible to get her out of the army’s camp?”
“He will have Aslı dress in male uniform, and Aslı herself will leave. Město is not short on brains; everything has been organized as needed. We must be ready tonight in a valley not far away from their camp, near an old pear tree. Aslı will find us there.”
“Are there many captives?” Sarhat asked after giving it some thought.
“The Sheikh has taken around one hundred women and girls for himself. They are spread out in a few full tents near his own.”
“The other Kurds, too?”
“Everyone has at least a few, although many will sell them: the Ushneïan2 Jews are buying them to sell them back to the Armenians. They are very cheap; you can buy a girl for as little as one ruble and twenty kopeks.
Sarhat’s hopeful face darkened again and his heart was in pain.
The conversation between Město and his master had taken place in private next to a spring that stemmed from the mountain, while the rest of the gang were asleep on the grass. Once they had finished talking, Sarhat woke his friends up, shared Město’s news with them, and told them that he needed to get closer to Jalaleddin’s camp.
“We will go with you,” the gang said.