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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/497

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THE CIRCASSIAN SLAVE IN TURKISH HAREMS.

aging the bargain" This affords a double gratification, that of being rarely valued for themselves, and of being most highly profitable to the family left behind in the mountains. Great was the astonishment of the first Russian crew which "rescued" a vessel-load of Circassians on their way to Turkey, to have the rescued ones entreat not to be returned to their homes, but to be forwarded to their destination. In spite of the combined efforts of Russian and English, their attempts at prohibition of slavery among the Turks have merely driven the trade into an appearance of secrecy here and there, without at all diminishing either demand or supply.

But a more effectual mode of changing human conditions is at work, silently and subtly undermining the whole system of slavery, polygamy, and concubinage in Turkey. Two remarkable letters, written by a Turkish inmate of a harem, appeared in the Nineteenth Century (of August and December, 1890), which give an interesting view of the transformation slowly fermenting in that last stronghold of extreme conservatism on the woman question—the seraglio. The writer, who signs herself "Adalet" (and who therein makes her first essay at writing), explains that the foreign education of Turkish boys inevitably paved the way for that of Turkish girls; that now sons and brothers are being educated at Oxford or in Paris, and have thus learned that "when her intellect is not crushed by continual fear and impotent ignorance, woman can become the helpmate and support of man"; that "the view also of the cheerful homes existent in Europe has taught them that one wife is better than twenty slaves; and as the Turkish girls are better adapted by nature to second their views than the Circassians, it is to them that they turned for help. It needed but little time to teach the Turkish mothers what was needed at their hands; and where before a little French was the maximum of learning acquired by a Turkish girl, she was now taught to read and write in several languages, to play the piano, to draw, to paint—in a word, to have as complete an education as any young lady destined to appear in society. This system, of course, included novel-reading; and in them the young girl, who before believed that the highest happiness for her was to be tyrannized over by a man she did not know, in common with five or six rivals, suddenly saw opened before her a long vista of unknown bliss, which, to her dazzled eyes, seemed more beautiful than anything promised in paradise. She heard of balls, fêtes, parties, where women spoke openly with men who were not doctors or cousins; she heard, for the first time, that a woman is considered as highly as a man, and may even claim from him the homage which, till now, she thought had been exclusively his prerogative; she saw in them the description of happy homes, where one wife alone