Last Train to Istanbul(6)

By: Ayse Kulin



Had it been left to Macit, he would not have lifted a finger for any of them. Let the Europeans go at each other’s throats. Wasn’t it enough that they were dragging each other into this war? Macit had no doubt that if, for some reason, Turkey was eventually forced to join the war, she would have to foot the bill for the ambitions of the great powers.

During a meal on the train on the way back from Paris, Macit learned that the foreign minister was concerned about another thing. He addressed the delegation. “Gentlemen, as I see it, the British haven’t got enough weapons and the French have none. They aren’t able to deliver the goods because they have bad intentions. It is simply impossible. I became fully aware of this situation during our talks in Paris. There are all sorts of questions in my mind. I have doubts about their eventual victory. I wonder if we are backing the wrong horse, signing these agreements that will make us their allies.” After a year of endless discussions—who would win the war? Which side should Turkey support?—it had been decided that Turkey should support the French and British. Now, in Paris, they had found out about France’s lack of weapons. Gradually they had begun to realize that they may have chosen the wrong partner. Although they didn’t return to Ankara empty-handed, they were very disappointed that less than half their expectations had been met.

At the end of the talks, on the evening of their last day in Paris, Macit had managed to keep a promise he had made to Sabiha to meet up with Selva. He had told his friends that he had to see a relative who lived in Paris, and they were courteous enough not to ask questions.

Macit chose to meet Selva at the Café de Flore, because it was tucked away out of sight. Selva arrived with an armful of gifts for her mother, sister, and niece. She hugged Macit tightly and kissed him on both cheeks. It was obvious how happy she was to see someone from home. She asked about everyone in great detail: Was Sabiha still tying Hülya’s hair with huge satin ribbons? Had they been inviting the same old friends to their Friday soirees? Who was Sabiha’s bridge partner? Did her mother close down the summer house at the end of the season, or when it got cooler? She even asked about her father, who was so disappointed in her.

Macit looked at all the presents his sister-in-law had piled on a chair. With an embarrassed look on his face, he said, “I really can’t take all this back with me, Selva. I only have a small suitcase.”

“Please, Macit, don’t deny me the pleasure of sending a few things to my family. I might not get another opportunity. I can duck out and get another little bag from Lafayette.”

“No, for God’s sake, don’t! What will my colleagues think? We are here on official business. They’ll say I have done so much shopping for myself and my family that I had to buy an additional suitcase to carry everything.”

“At least take the lavender perfumes I got for my mother and sister. There are also some chocolates for Hülya…”

“I wish you hadn’t gone to all this trouble; you must have spent quite a bit of money. What a shame.”

After exchanging news, suddenly there was a lull in the conversation. It was only then that Macit noticed the dark circles under Selva’s eyes. In the evening sun, he realized how pale and haggard she looked. She was still wearing the green raincoat that Macit knew so well—which indicated that she couldn’t afford a new one here in Paris. This was Fazıl Reşat Paşa’s daughter, who had been born with a silver spoon in her mouth! The things one does for love! Macit couldn’t help wonder if Sabiha would have had the courage to act the same way if her parents hadn’t approved of him. Macit wasn’t sure that he wanted to know the answer. Sabiha might not have chosen to endure hardship for the sake of love. Would she have married him had he been of another religion, been Armenian, for instance? No! Not in a million years. No doubt his coming from an old respected Istanbul family, well educated and with a good career, contributed considerably to her choice. But why should he feel disappointed? Hadn’t he made similar choices? Wasn’t Sabiha a beautiful, intelligent, educated girl, well brought up in a respected family, and well adjusted to boot? He remembered the sensible advice Sabiha had given to her sister in those days when Selva was head over heels in love. It had not had much effect, but that was beside the point.

“Love is like a flame; it burns itself out eventually,” Sabiha had told Selva. “What will you do then? When you finally come to your senses, if you repent and wish to divorce Rafo, it won’t be the same as divorcing someone else. No one will want to marry you after that. I swear you’ll end up an old maid.”

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