CHAPTER IV

THE LAST GREAT SELAMLIK

(1911)

 

A PICTURESQUE incident in the process of “Turkifying” took place in Macedonia in May and June of 1911. Mehmet V arrived in Saloniki on May thirty-first of that year on a battle-ship escorted by the greater part of the Turkish fleet. It had been known for some days that he was coming, as his advance guard, in the shape of tall flabby eunuchs, cooks, etc., began to appear and lounge about in front of the principal hotels. The town was liberally beflagged, and the different communities made demonstrations in his honor, the Bulgarians showing especial enthusiasm. He visited Uskub and Monastir and, from the former place, proceeded to the Plain of Kossovo, where the decisive battle was fought, which brought the Turks and the Turkish blight into Europe. There on June 15, 1389, the Sultan Amurath defeated the heroic Lazarus, King of the Serbians. This Turkish victory, whose evil consequences have lasted down into our own times, was made possible by treachery of Christian allies, the real cause of all Turkish triumphs.

Amurath himself was slain, and it was in the plain where are found his simple monument and a mosque in commemoration of his name, that Mehmet V, the witless dotard and befuddled puppet of the Young Turk Committee, called together all the various picturesque tribes of Turkey in Europe for a grand selamlik, or service of prayer.

Besides civilians, some of whom are said to have walked for days to be present, there were thousands of troops, and many famous regiments, carrying ancient battle-torn flags. A huge tent had been erected for the sultan, and the vast throng seated itself upon the ground. As the priests recited the service and the thousands of worshippers bent their foreheads to, the earth and sat up again, the sea of red fezzes rose and fell rhythmically like a wide field of poppies swayed by the wind.

There have been in the world’s history few more picturesque and impressive sights than this last selamlik on the ill-omened “Plain of Blackbirds.”

I was presented to Mehmet (or Mohammed V) at Saloniki, and a more flabby, pitiful, witless countenance it would be difficult to imagine. The bleary eyes were puffy underneath, the lower lip dropped in slobbery fashion. His Imperial Majesty was accompanied by several shrewd-faced prompters, of the Europeanized type, and he never uttered a word without turning to one of them with a helpless and infantile expression for directions as to what to say or do. When the interview was finished, Mehmet turned his back and started to walk away. He had gone but a few steps when one of the prompters whispered to him, whereupon he faced about ponderously and slowly twisted his features into a ghastly and mechanical grin. It was as clear as any pantomime could be made that he had been instructed to smile when taking leave, and had forgotten a part of his lesson.

Mehmet V had been kept in confinement all his life, practically, by his brother, the great and cruel Abdul, by whom it was said that he had been encouraged to absorb daily incredible quantities of raki. He was a kindly harmless soul, who bad been selected by Enver and the rest because he had become practically an imbecile.

The great selamlik made a strong appeal to the Turks, deeply stirring their religious feelings, but it is needless to say that it did not accomplish much “Turkeifying” the Christian element. And all this time the crafty Abdul, the fatuous “Sick Man’’ of Europe, one of the greatest diplomats and murderers in the history of the world, was confined with a small array of wives in the Villa Allatini at Saloniki.

 

 

 

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