The Turk and His Lost Provinces
Chapter XI: The Kidnapping of Miss Stone
The capture and detention for five months and twenty days--from the 3d of September, 1901, to the 23d of February, 1902--of Miss Ellen M. Stone, a representative of the American Board of Foreign Missions, and her companion, Mrs. Katarina Stephanova Tsilka, wife of the Rev. Gregory Tsilka, has excited much interest in Bulgarian affairs and the cause of Macedonian liberty, but failed to provoke intervention on the part of the United States or the European nations, as the conspirators hoped it might do. That was undoubtedly their chief purpose, and it was successful only so far as it attracted public attention to the condition of anarchy that prevails in Rumelia and the dangers with which missionaries and other foreigners are surrounded.
Miss Stone is well known in Sofia and throughout all the Balkan Provinces. She has been engaged in missionary work in that region ever since the independence of Bulgaria was established at the close of the Russo-Turkish war. Her headquarters have been at Salonika, a Turkish port on the Mediterranean, which was formerly known as Thessalonica. St. Paul addressed his Epistle to the Thessalonians to its inhabitants, and the city is otherwise identified with important events in the history of Christianity. Rev. John H. House of Painesville, Ohio, whose influence and usefulness extend beyond the borders of Bulgaria, where he was a pioneer in missionary work, has charge of the headquarters at Salonika, and Miss Stone has been associated with him for many years. Her especial duties have been to supervise the educational work, and it has been her habit to travel on horseback throughout the country, opening schools, establishing native teachers and looking after their work. In this way she has acquired a wide acquaintance and is universally respected and beloved, not only by the Protestant converts, but by all classes. In her own personal narrative she says:
"During the frequent missionary tours which I have made in Macedonia during the last twenty years and more, I have often been conscious of danger from the brigands who have long infested that country. Thrice before my capture I had come into personal contact with them. Once I spent the night in the common room of a khan or inn with a brigand sleeping on the other side of the fire; once two horses were stolen from the party with which I was traveling; and the third time two bandits stopped us on the road, but hesitated as to what manner of people we were, and so let us pass. On our journey in September, however, we had no thought of fear. Only three weeks before, I had come to Bansko by way of Strumitza and Djumia with two Bulgarian ladies, teachers in our village schools, accompanied only by a muleteer and a young native boy. We had ridden through a wild and rugged country, spending four days on the road, sleeping one night in a native house, and two in khans, all without molestation. I had, indeed, traversed the road on which we were finally captured many times before, and, knowing the people and their ways, I was conscious of all the safety of long familiarity." Mr. Tsilka is an Albanian by birth, from the province adjoining Macedonia on the west, was educated in the missionary schools at Monastir and Samakov, and afterwards took a course in Union Theological Seminary, New York City. He is pastor of a native church at Kortcha, Albania, and for several years, with the assistance of his wife, has conducted a school there. Mrs. Tsilka, a Bulgarian, and a native of Bansko, was visiting her parents in that town for several weeks before her capture. Like her husband, she is a graduate of the mission school at Samakov, completed her education at Northfield, Massachusetts, and afterwards graduated from the Presbyterian Training School for nurses in New York City.
They had been attending a summer school for teachers at Bansko, and, with several members of the class, started on horseback for their respective homes on the 3d of September, 1901. Miss Stone's journey led her towards the railway which runs from Budapest to Salonika. Mr. and Mrs. Tsilka and Mr. Dimitsoff, her father, were on their way to Albania, and the rest of the party expected to leave them at various stations on the road which crosses the Perion range of the Balkan Mountains. Seven of the party were men, but only one of them was armed. Upon a rough mountain trail between Bansko and Djumia, after three hours' journey, they sat down under the forest trees to eat their luncheon and feed their animals, when they were captured by a band of alleged brigands variously estimated from twelve to forty. Miss Stone says:
"They were of various ages --some bearded, fierce of face and wild of dress; some younger, but all athletic and heavily armed. Some wore suits of brown homespun, some Turkish uniforms with red or white fezzes, while others were in strange and nondescript attire. One had his face so bound up in a red handkerchief as to be unrecognizable; others with faces horribly blackened and disguised with what looked like rags bobbing over their foreheads-the knotted corners of their handkerchiefs, as we afterwards learned.
"Their rifles and accouterments seemed fresh and new, and they also carried revolvers and daggers in their belts, with a plentiful and evident supply of cartridges. They had undoubtedly intended to fill us with terror at the sight of them-and truly horrible they looked.
"Mr. Tsilka had given his wife his watch and money; the latter she secreted in her mouth, and tucked the watch under her belt, as she supposed, but it slipped below and showed. One of the brigands called her attention to it, sarcastically remarking that she had better put it away more securely. He could not have alarmed her more; if the brigands did not want our money and watches, what could be their purpose!"
The brigands seemed to be on friendly terms with George Toderoff, the guide of Miss Stone's party, who had been employed at Bansko, and was afterwards arrested as an accomplice, but was released by the Bulgarian government without trial or examination and against the protest of the diplomatic agent of the United States. They showed no disposition to rob or injure any member of the party, although they promptly and in cold blood murdered an unarmed Turk who happened to be passing along the trail, and who, they no doubt feared, might communicate their movements to the authorities. As soon as a convenient place was reached, the brigands instructed the party to go into camp, and repeatedly assured them that they need fear no harm. No threats of violence were made and no insults offered, as is customary when Turks encounter Christians. No Christian woman can expect to escape insult and seldom injury if she meets a Turkish soldier in Macedonia; but Miss Stone, being an American of strong character and past middle age, has usually been treated with respect. If her captors had been Turks the proceedings would have been entirely different from what actually occurred, and the three young women teachers, especially, would have had an entirely different experience. This circumstance is the strongest kind of evidence that their captors were Bulgarians. The party went into camp, and during the evening the brigands disappeared, taking with them Miss Stone and Mrs. Tsilka and two horses. If they had been Turks their captives would have been stripped of everything valuable and their animals would have been stolen, but not an article was missing. The luggage was undisturbed and the brigands did not even help themselves to the food supplies provided for the journey.
During the remainder of the fall and the succeeding winter, until February 23, 1902, the captives were kept moving from place to place in the mountains, suffering considerable privation and discomfort, but, as both Miss Stone and Mrs. Tsilka testify, they were treated with invariable respect and kindness, and were as well supplied with the necessaries of life as was possible in that primitive country. They seemed to appreciate the value of their captives and took a great deal of care and trouble to protect them from exposure and injury, and in November, when Mrs. Tsilka's child was born, they brought an old woman from some unknown quarter to assist as a nurse.
In the meantime there was great excitement in Sofia and other parts of Bulgaria. In the United States public meetings were held in many places and liberal contributions made towards a fund to ransom Miss Stone and her companion, and the secretary of state ordered Mr. Charles M. Dickinson, the American consul general at Constantinople, to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, with instructions to use his best efforts to secure the release of the captives.
On the morning of September 4, after the disappearance of their captors with Miss Stone and Mrs. Tsilka, that lady's husband and father, with the other men in the party, made a careful examination of the country around them, but could find no trace of the women or the brigands except their trail, which led over the mountains back towards Bulgaria. The entire day was spent in the search. The husband and the father of Mrs. Tsilka, almost overcome with grief and consternation, pursued their fruitless search through the next night, and as there were no further signs of the brigands decided to return to Bansko and give an alarm. Messengers had already been sent there, and to notify the missionary colony at Samakov, but, strange to say, the news of the capture preceded them and was whispered about the streets by Cyril Vaciloff and other Macedonian revolutionists, who appeared to know all about it. They also predicted the amount of ransom that would be demanded before anything had been heard from the brigands. The demand, which was contained in a letter written by Miss Stone in the Bulgarian language to the treasurer of the missionary board, was dictated by some person of intelligence. The language and the forms of expression used were very unlike her literary style. There was no doubt, however, of the penmanship. That letter was thrown into the window of the house of missionary Haskell at Samakov during the night, and his daughter identified Vaciloff in the moonlight while trying to open the window. A local newspaper friendly to the Macedonian cause published the important part of the contents of the letter before they were made known by the missionaries, including the amount of ransom demanded.
This and other circumstances make it very clear that Vaciloff intended or expected to be the medium of negotiation for Miss Stone's release, and his failure was undoubtedly due to his arrest, which frightened him and induced him to deny all knowledge of the affair. The missionaries and the United States consul-general were not allowed to question him or communicate with him while he was in jail. He was released by the order of the authorities at Sofia upon the pretext that no evidence had been offered against him, although no one had been invited to present evidence. No attempt was made by anybody to secure evidence. The missionaries and Consul-general Dickinson were not informed of the decision to release him, and they did not know of his release until they saw the announcement in the newspapers. The only inference to be drawn from this unusual procedure was that the officials and the managers of the Macedonian Revolutionary Committee realized the complications that might ensue with the United States, the damage their cause would suffer before the world and the odium they would be compelled to endure if Vaciloff's plans were carried out.
Cyril Vaciloff is a young adventurer, who had been acting as president of the Macedon ian Committee at Samakov, a small town near the border, about fifty miles south of Sofia, in the foothills of the Balkan Mountains. That is the missionaries' headquarters, where a large school for young men and women has been conducted ever since Bulgarian independence. its graduates may be found occupying important positions in every part of the country, and the good it has accomplished directly and indirectly is incalculable. Cyril Vaciloff was educated at this school. His father was formerly a man of some importance, but intemperance ruined him. His mother was a good woman and was quite intimate with the missionary families up to her death. Although she remained a member of the Greek Church, she frequently attended Protestant worship and sent her children to the Protestant school. Young Vaciloff was a bright scholar and a fluent speaker, with considerable literary talent, but was always wild and restless, fond of notoriety and unreliable in character. He never earned a dollar in his life, but went into politics while a mere boy, and for several years lived off the contributions for Macedonian freedom. He is a popular cafe' orator, writes pamphlets in support of the Macedonian cause, and is an active, eloquent and effective agitator. In the spring of 1901, after the reorganization of the Macedonian Committee, he called upon Mr. Clark, superintendent of the mission at Samakov, and requested a contribution for the Macedonian cause. Mr. Clark explained that while his sympathies were with the Macedonians in their struggle for liberty, it would be impolitic and unwise for foreigners, and especially for missionaries, to subscribe to political funds. They were working in Turkey, as well as in Bulgaria, and must keep on terms with the Sultan. Vaciloff was not satisfied with this explanation, and shortly after his visit Mr. Clark received a written warning that unless a prompt contribution was made to the Macedonian cause the missionaries would regret it. This threat was followed by an incendiary fire and the destruction of the barn attached to the mission establishment. Mr. Clark then received another letter from Vaciloff saying that the barn caught fire from an electric spark, and that another would soon fall in the same neighborhood unless $2,500 were immediately forthcoming. No notice was taken of this threat except to solicit police protection, and nothing happened.
During the summer of 1901 the missionaries frequently heard of threats made by him and by others associated with the Macedonian cause, and Vaciloff frequently remarked that the Protestants would soon be compelled to pay a large sum into the treasury whether they wanted to or not. He was the first to learn of the capture of Miss Stone; he was the first to announce that $110,000 was the sum fixed for her ransom, and as I have said, he was identified as the man who threw the letter from Miss Stone into the window of Mr. Haskell's residence.
It is believed that the actual leader of the bandits who captured Miss Stone was Ivan Zandanski, formerly keeper of the Bulgaria penitentiary, who resides at Dubnitza, a little town near the scene of the incident. He is also active in connection with the Macedonian movement, is associated with Vaciloff, and is a notorious desperado. He is known to have followed Miss Stone during the summer on several of her journeys, and usually appeared wherever she was. This was noticed and commented upon, without suspicion at the time, but is remembered as of significance since the outrage. Shortly before the kidnapping Zandanski started ostensibly upon an expedition to visit and organize the Bulgarian sympathizers on the Turkish side of the boundary in the Balkan Mountains, and took with him hventy or more guns from the arsenal of the Macedonian Committee at Samakov. He returned on the 11th of October, surrendered the guns to their proper custodian, and reported that he had met with great success. It is current gossip among the peasants in that part of the country that he was the leader of the band, and he was actually identified by several of Miss Stone's companions. He was arrested and released for want of evidence, without consulting the missionaries or the United States' consul-general.
George Toderoff, the mule driver who was in charge of the animals used by Miss Stone's party, and acted as their guide, is believed to be implicated. Upon his return from the mountains he told several conflicting stories concerning the event, which caused his arrest, but he also was released by order of the government at Sofia because of supposed threats from Macedonian patriots. It is established by abundant evidence that a number of members of the local Macedonian organization around Samakov disappeared the last of August, shortly before the capture, gradually returning to their homes during September. They claimed to have been engaged, like Zandanski, in organizing revolutionary bands in Macedonia, but the natives generally believe that they were members of the party.
The presence of a military force which was sent to the neighborhood, ostensibly to capture the brigands and rescue Miss Stone, also aided to defeat that purpose, because it prevented people who might have furnished valuable information from communicating with the missionaries or lending them aid. Every man who showed signs of knowledge was arrested, imprisoned for a few days, and then released without any opportunity having been offered to the friends of Miss Stone to communicate with him. These proceedings terrorized the neighborhood, and balked every effort made by the missionaries. Another reason for the delay to open communication was the refusal of the missionaries to offer money as ransom or for information. The inhabitants of that part of the country are very poor, they are naturally avaricious, and some of them might have been persuaded by the judicious use of money to defy the authorities and furnish information and assistance. The missionaries, however, were exceedingly scrupulous in refusing to appeal to mercenary motives. At the beginning they declared that no ransom would be paid, and all offers to them and to Consul-general Dickinson involving payments of money were promptly rejected. The wisdom of this policy was seriously questioned by those who know the Bulgarian character and the customs of the country, and it afterwards proved to be a mistake and was abandoned. Natives and foreigners in the neighboring country are in the habit of paying blackmail and ransom. Custom has overcome their scruples on this point, and in several of the Turkish provinces brigandage is regarded as a legitimate occupation. It is, of course, impossible to say what might have happened if the customs of the country had been followed at the start in this respect, but the missionaries took the same high ground as the merchants of New York in 1775, when they declared that they would pay "millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."
There have been a large number of kidnapping cases in the Turkish provinces during the last few years. People in this country have heard very little about them because the means of communication are limited and we seldom have newspaper letters or dispatches from that part of the world. Miss Stone's case was exceptional in this respect, because of the missionary colonies that communicated with their friends at home and the interest taken in the matter by the American public. The following is a partial list of the persons kidnapped and the amount of ransom paid for their release, since 1880. There have been other cases, but I have not been able to obtain the facts:
1880, Colonel Singe, ransomed for $50,000.
The missionaries almost unanimously opposed the payment of ransom. They abhor blackmail as a matter of principle, and argued that submission in the Stone case would establish a precedent that would be disastrous to the cause of missions not only in Turkey but in all semi-civilized countries. They feared that it would result in a new industry; that all the idle desperadoes would engage in the business of kidnapping missionaries, and one good man went so far as to declare that "God would prefer Miss Stone to perish of hunger in the mountains than endanger the lives of his servants elsewhere."
The latest foreigner kidnapped before Miss Stone was Gerasim Kirias, an Albanian Protestant preacher, a naturalized subject of Great Britain and agent for the British Bible Society. He was captured under circumstances similar to those of Miss Stone and carried into the mountains, where he was kept for three months, while negotiations were conducted by the British consul-general. He was finally released upon the payment of 500 Turkish pounds, which is equivalent to about $2,000. The exposure and privation cost him his life. He became ill of rheumatism while in the hands of the bandits and never recovered.
Mr. Landler, engineer in-chief of the railroad which runs through Bulgaria to Constantinople, was seized by brigands and carried into the mountains several years ago. The Austrian government, backed by Italy and Germany, attempted to force Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria to secure his release, but as with Miss Stone the government made no attempt to capture the brigands or rescue the prisoner, although it was not shown that the Macedonian Committee or any other political organization was involved in the outrage. Austria finally paid $15,000 ransom, Mr. Landler was released, and the Bulgarian government was compelled to refund the money and pay a handsome indemnity. Other men of prominence and wealth have been kidnapped and the government has refused to intervene. I cannot ascertain that any brigand has been punished in Bulgaria since the retirement of Stambouloff, late prime minister.
Mr. Dickinson, agent of the United States, assuming that the government of Bulgaria was responsible for the safety of foreigners within its jurisdiction, and for the good behavior of its subjects, undertook to compel its authorities to compel the Macedonian Committee to compel the Samakov local committee to compel the conspirators to call in the brigands and release Miss Stone, but his efforts were useless because the Macedonian Committee was determined to avoid the odium of the kidnapping, and is much more powerful than the government. It was not believed then, or now, by those who are well informed, that the present managers of the Macedonian movement had any part in or knowledge of the conspiracy, but there was abundant circumstantial evidence that the plot was arranged and carried out by the former leaders, "the old committee," as it is called, of which a desperate adventurer named Boris Sarafoff was the chairman and leader. Sarafoff was removed as head of the central committee because he was indicted for murder and gambled away the funds in the treasury. He was also engaged in several blackmailing conspiracies which brought discredit upon the cause. Nevertheless he is one of the most popular heroes in Bulgaria and has more influence with the people than any official of the government or any respectable member of the community.
Sarafoff was suspected of complicity with the conspiracy as soon as Miss Stone's abduction was reported. The British minister, acting in behalf of the United States, because we have no official representative at Sofia, notified the Bulgarian minister of foreign relations of his suspicions that Sarafoff was implicated and demanded officially that he either be arrested and locked up or placed under surveillance, so that he could not leave the country until an investigation could be made. The government did not touch him, and probably did not dare to do so. Sarafoff left Sofia within a few days and went to Budapest. He was afterwards reported to be in Paris. The police knew his whereabouts, but were more afraid of him than he was of them.
Mr. Dickinson is a gentleman of ability and integrity, and has the entire confidence of the American colony in Constantinople, but from the beginning of the negotiations in behalf of Miss Stone he adopted a policy which was calculated to prevent instead of secure her release. He seems to have imagined that diplomacy could solve the problem, and instead of dealing with the brigands he endeavored to compel the Bulgarian government to interfere, when he should have known that it was absolutely powerless to do so. After two months had passed, and having fully demonstrated his inability to deal with the case, Mr. Dickinson was recalled from Bulgaria and Mr. Leishman, the United States minister at Constantinople, who had been on leave, was ordered back to his post of duty. He arrived at Constantinople about the 1st of January, and, after informing himself as to the situation, proceeded to undertake Miss Stone's release by the application of business methods and common sense. He abandoned the diplomatic controversy, and, recognizing that the officials of the Bulgarian government were impotent, endeavored to open communication directly with the brigands. He appointed a committee consisting of Mr. Gargiulo, chief dragoman and interpreter of the United States legation at Constantinople; Rev. John Henry House, D.D., formerly of Painesville, Ohio, and for twenty-five years in charge of the mission work of the American Board in Macedonia, with headquarters at Salonika; and W. W. Peet, treasurer of the Bible Society and Missionary Board at Constantinople. These gentlemen managed the business with great skill and tact.
Dr. Peet was the custodian of the fund contributed by citizens of the United States for the ransom, and it amounted to $65,000. Rev. Dr. House commands the confidence of the people of Macedonia to a degree beyond that of any other American, and for that reason Mr. Leishman selected him to negotiate with the brigands. Mr. Gargiulo is more familiar with the methods and habits of the natives of Turkey than any other man whose services could be obtained. He is also upon familiar terms with the officials and knows how to deal with both classes.
Mr. Leishman invited these three gentlemen to take charge of the case, and they went directly to the scene of Miss Stone's capture.
On the 18th of January Dr. House succeeded in opening communication with Miss Stone from a town called Razlog. She wrote that she was well and kindly treated, and that the alarming reports about Mrs. Tsilka and herself were unfounded. But the brigands would not release her except upon the payment of $65,000 which they were aware had been contributed for the ransom, and was in the hands of the missionaries at Constantinople. They knew to a dollar the extent of the funds raised, and would not listen to any proposition except the payment of the full amount. They had been in constant communication with friends at Sofia and elsewhere, who kept them advised of all the movements of our government and of Mr. Dickinson, and were familiar with the newspaper publications concerning the case in the United States. They declined to surrender Miss Stone in advance of payment and insisted that the money should be paid first.
Mr. Leishman investigated the precedents and found that this had always been customary and that in every case on record the brigands had acted honorably and carried out their part of the agreement. In the case of Colonel Singe, an Englishman who was kidnapped some years ago, his captors not only demanded $60,000 ransom money in advance, but required that his wife and daughter should be delivered as hostages and detained until they had been given twenty-four hours to escape. The money and the women were delivered to a representative of the bandits at a place agreed upon. The hostages remained in absolute seclusion until the following day, when, at the hour appointed, they left the cabin in which they had been placed and returned to their home. If they had attempted to leave before or to communicate with anybody during that time they undoubtedly would have been shot, but they submitted to the exactions of the bandits, and on the following day Colonel Singe was released.
Mme. Branzian, a French lady who was kidnapped in 1896, was released under similar conditions. Her captors demanded 10,000 pounds in advance and three days' time in which to escape with the money. If they were molested in the meantime they gave notice that she would be killed. Ten thousand dollars was paid as agreed and the conditions were complied with, but at the end of the three days soldiers started in pursuit, four of the brigands were captured and $8,000 of the money recovered.
In every other case that Mr. Leishman could hear of the conditions were the same, and, upon the advice of Dr. House, he decided to accept the terms and authorized the payment of the ransom. There was a little difficulty at first as to the place and the manner in which the money was to be delivered, but in this, as in every other particular, the committee was compelled to submit to the demands of the brigands. The result justified their confidence, and Miss Stone and her companion were surrendered according to the stipulation. On October 25 Dr. Haskell and Dr. Baird, of the Congregational mission at Samakov, had an interview with one of the so-called brigands, and he knew everything that Consul-general Dickinson had done up to that date, as well as the exact amount of the ransom fund that had been contributed in the United States. Rev. Dr. House met three of them by appointment January 22. Two days later Messrs. House, Peet and Gargiulo met several others, discussed the matter of ransom as business men usually discuss commercial transactions, and arranged for the payment of the money on the following day, January 25. The brigands demanded payment in gold coin, and swore the Americans to perpetual secrecy concerning their individuality, the place where the ransom was paid and other circumstances connected with the case. They insisted that the place of payment should remain a secret for fear the people in the neighborhood might be suspected of complicity and be punished by the Turks. The unexpected appearance of a company of Turkish soldiers, who were always on the alert to watch the movements of the rescue committee, prevented the payment of the ransom until the 13th of February. Three men were waiting around the place of rendezvous all this time for a chance to receive the money safely; and, in order to throw the Turkish soldiers off the scent, the missionaries removed the gold from the packages in which it had been brought from Constantinople, filled the packages with stones and sent them back under guard to the railway station.
This ruse proved successful. The Turkish officials and detectives who were watching the missionaries supposed that they had failed to connect with the brigands and had shipped the money to Constantinople. Their vigilance was, therefore, relaxed, and on February 13 the rescue committee paid over $65,000 in gold coin to four brigands, who insisted upon counting it piece by piece, to be sure that they received the full amount demanded. Twelve other brigands were in the immediate neighborhood, within call and on guard, and several of them are known to the missionaries.
Two days later, in a cabin in the mountains, Miss Stone received a letter from Dr. House, brought in by the brigands, containing the welcome news that the ransom had been paid, and was informed by her captors that she would be released as soon as their safety would permit. After several days of impatient waiting the bandits started upon a journey with their captives. They traveled through the mountains two nights and part of three days, and about dusk on the evening of the third day, February 23, Miss Stone, Mrs. Tsilka and her baby were left in the woods and were told that they were free to go their way, and would find a village within five minutes' walk. The women thanked their captors for their kindness, expressed the natural degree of relief at the end of their captivity and soon found themselves in the village of Gradshortsky, where the natives received them hospitably and notified the governor of the town of Stronmitza, only a few miles away.
On the following morning Miss Stone and Mrs. Tsilka were taken to Stronmitza, where the governor received them with considerable ceremony and notified the missionaries. Dr. House, Mr. Peet and Mr. Gargiulo, who had been patiently waiting for this news, soon joined the ladies and conducted them to Salonika, where Dr. House lives. From there, after a few days of rest, they went to Constantinople.
There is a decided difference of opinion among the European colony and the missionaries as to the moral effect of the transaction, but the proceedings of the American minister and his committee are generally approved. It is also the almost unanimous sentiment that the same methods should have been adopted at once after Miss Stone's capture. A few members of the missionary colony still insist that it would have been better to sacrifice Miss Stone's life than to "compromise with wrong," as they term it. They predict that the lives and liberty of American missionaries will be imperiled from this time on and that it will be unsafe for any foreigner to travel without an armed escort. The people of the United States, having shown their willingness to pay a large sum of money to ransom one missionary, will be called upon frequently hereafter to pay blackmail to protect others, and they argue that the establishment of such a precedent is not only fatal as a matter of policy but a shameful surrender of the dignity of a powerful Christian nation.
No demand has been made upon Turkey for indemnity or other reparation because it is clear that the crime was committed by Bulgarians, and not by Turks, although upon Turkish soil, and in Turkish disguises and it is equally clear that the conspirators desired an intended to involve Turkey in complications with United States. No demand has been made upon Bulgaria since the release of Miss Stone because she declines to make a complaint or furnish any clues to the identity of her captors or any evidence upon which a claim can be based. She intends to return to her mission field in Macedonia and Bulgaria, and therefore does not wish to impair her popularity or usefulness among the people of those countries. She is intensely sympathetic with the Macedonian cause, notwithstanding her sufferings at the hands of its advocates, and she is evidently under pledges to her captors not to do, or say anything that might interfere with their peace of mind or pursuit of happiness, for she has declined, or at least neglected, to furnish the department of state any information concerning them. She is also so confident that her deliverance is due to the intercession of Providence, in answer to her prayers, that she has entirely overlooked all the human agencies that were engaged in her behalf.
Mrs. Tsilka made a brief statement at the request of Mr. Leishman, the United States minister at Constantinople, but it furnishes little information, and it is of no value whatever for official purposes. The United States government intended to make some sort of a demonstration in order to assert its dignity and show its disapproval of the liberties the brigands of Bulgaria have taken with American citizens, but it cannot do very much unless the parties of the first part make complaint or furnish some ground for action, which they both seem disinclined to do.
To those who are familiar with the facts and the situation in Macedonia, Miss Stone 5 narrative in McClure's Magazine is more remarkable for what she omits than for what she tells. It is very clear that she is determined to furnish no clew to her captors, for with great care and skill she avoids giving any information that may reveal their identity or disclose the places in which she and Mrs. Tsilka were detained during their captivity.
Nevertheless, she makes one or two slips, evidently unconscious of their significance. For example, she expresses her relief at finding that her captors were not "black shirts" or regular brigands. She says that their arms and equipments were all new; that they were in communication with friends in Sofia and received regular and prompt information from that city. She speaks well of them, appreciates their kindness and courtesy, and in her letters to Dr. House and others certifies that they are "entirely trustworthy." Dr. House, Dr. Peet and Mr. Gargiulo, who had several interviews with her captors, testify that they were "neither shepherds nor husbandmen, but men of education and some polish," especially the chief, who knew some English. Mr. Gargiulo calls attention to a singular circumstance. He says that it is the custom for brigands to give their captives a liberal contribution from the ransom paid for their release. He mentions that when Colonel Singe, an Englishman, was ransomed in 1880, each brigand in. the band gave him a handful of gold, from 20 to 25 pounds sterling, before leaving him. In other cases of abduction by regular brigands the same practice has been followed, but in Miss Stone's case her captors were not so generous. They gave her no money whatever, which, Mr. Gargiulo argues, indicates that they are unfamiliar with the etiquette of brigandage; that it was new business for them, and therefore they are not regular brigands. This confirms the belief that they are members of the Macedonian Committee.
Assuming that the conspiracy to kidnap Miss Stone was hatched and carried out by the Macedonian Committee, the motives are easily understood;
(1) The Macedonian Committee, having an empty treasury, needed
money for arms and ammunition.
There is strong ground for the belief that there was a quarrel between the old and new Macedonian Committees, although the facts are not known. Miss Stone was captured by the old committee, which, as I have already said, was composed of desperate and disreputable adventurers. The new committee is composed of respectable and honorable men, who did not approve of the abduction and were very anxious lest it should injure the cause of Macedonian freedom among the Christian people of Europe. Miss Stone, in her narrative in McClure's Magazine, tells of a fight between her captors and another band of brigands who, she thinks, were trying to recapture Mrs. Tsilka and herself for the sake of securing the ransom. Private information from Sofia, which was not credited at the time, referred to such an attempt upon the part of the new committee, but it has never been made clear whether they intended to release the prisoners, if captured, or whether they intended to demand the ransom for themselves instead of allowing it to be collected by the members of the old committee.
Richard M. Cochran, Ph.D. |