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CHAPTER X: A RASH ADVENTURE
It was all very well to decide to leave the country; to get safely away was a different matter. There were two ways out. One of these--the land route by Constantinople--could not be considered. The other way was to board one of the American cruisers which, by order of Ambassador Morgenthau, were empowered to assist citizens of neutral countries to leave the Ottoman Empire. These cruisers had already done wonderful rescue work for the Russian Jews in Palestine, who, when war was declared, were to have been sent to the Mesopotamian town of Urfa--there to suffer massacre and outrage like the Armenians. This was prevented by Mr. Morgenthau's strenuous representations, with the result that these Russian Jews were gathered together as in a great drag-net and herded to Jaffa, amidst suffering unspeakable. There they were met by the American cruisers which were to transport them to Egypt. Up to the very moment when they set foot on the friendly warships they were robbed and horribly abused by the Jaffa boatmen. The eternal curse of the Wandering Jew! Driven from Russia, they come to seek shelter in Turkey; Turkey then casts them from her under pretext that they are loyal to Russia. Truly, the Jew lifts his eyes to the mountains, asking the ancient and still unanswered question, "Whence shall come my help?"
The Turkish Government later repented of its leniency in allowing these Russian Jews to escape, and gave orders that only neutrals should leave the country--and then only under certain conditions. I was not a neutral; my first papers of American citizenship were valueless to further my escape. I had heard, however, that the United States cruiser Tennessee was to call at Jaffa, and I determined to get aboard her by hook or by crook. One evening, as soon as darkness had fallen, I bade a sorrowful farewell to my people, and set off for Jaffa, traveling only by night and taking out-of-the-way paths to avoid the pickets, for now that the locust campaign was over, my boyouroulton was useless. At dawn, two days later, I slipped into Jaffa by way of the sand-dunes and went to the house of a friend whom I could trust to help me in every possible way, and begged him to find me a passport for a neutral. He set off in search and I waited all day at his house, consumed with impatience and anxiety. At last, toward evening, my friend returned, but the news he brought was not cheering. He had found a passport, indeed, but his report of the rigors of the inspection at the wharf was such as to make it clear that the chances of my getting through on a false passport were exceedingly slim, since I was well known in Jaffa. If I were caught in such an undertaking, it might mean death for me and punishment for the friends who had helped me.
Evidently this plan was not feasible. All that night I racked my brain for a solution. Finally I decided to stake everything on what appeared to be my only chance. The Tennessee was due on the next day but one, early in the morning. I gave my friend the name of a boatman who was under obligations to me and had sworn to be my friend for life or death. Even under the circumstances I hesitated to trust a Mohammedan, but it seemed the only thing to do; I had no choice left. My friend brought the boatman, and I put my plan before him, appealing to his daring and his sense of honor. I wanted him to take me at midnight in his fishing-boat from an isolated part of the coast and wait for the appearance of the Tennessee; then, on her arrival, amid the scramble of boats full of refugees, I was to jump aboard, while he would return with the other boats. The poor fellow tried to remonstrate, pointing out the dangers and what he called--rightly enough, doubtless--the folly of the plan. I stuck to it, however, making it clear that his part would be well paid for, and at last he consented and we arranged a meeting-place behind the sand-dunes by the shore.
I put a few personal belongings into a little suit-case and had my friend give it to one of the refugees who was to sail on the Tennessee. If I succeeded, I was to recover it when we reached Egypt. The only thing I took with me was the paper which declared my "intention of becoming an American citizen," the "first paper." From this document I was determined not to part. I shall not tell how I kept it on me, as the means I used may still be used by others in concealing such papers and a disclosure of the secret might bring disaster to them. Suffice it to say that I had the paper with me and that no search would have brought it to light.
Arrived next morning at the appointed place, I gave the signal agreed upon, the whine of a jackal, and, after repeating it again and again, I heard a very low and muffled answer. My boatman was there! I had some fear that he might have betrayed me and that I should presently see a soldier or policeman leap out of the little boat, but my fears proved groundless, the man was faithful.