This year a law was made forbidding the exportation of timber from the forests. A German merchant in the town who had or was about to purchase timber from a neighbouring forest was approached personally by the governor, who gave him to understand that in return for a present of £20 or £30, I forget which, no notice would be taken of any infringement of the law !
There are no roads, no bridges, no law, no protection, no justice for anybody.
I have myself heard a Bey offer a man £5 to swear falsely that a Christian, whom he named, was guilty of a recent murder. The offer was refused, not at all on the ground of its being a false charge, but solely because it wasn't enough. For £10 he said he would do it willingly! It is true I didn't understand what they said, as they spoke in Albanian, but B- understood, although they thought that he didn't know Albanian, but only Turkish ; and he translated their conversation to me afterwards.
Here is another case of Turkish justice. A governor of an inland town, having a grudge against a man, asked him, as a favour, to take care of some gunpowder for him. Having done so, he was denounced to the police for having explosives concealed in his house, and imprisoned. Being offered his freedom on payment of a certain sum, he indignantly refused to pay a penny for two years. Then the horrors of a Turkish prison broke down his resolution, and he paid up the sum demanded. But he didn't long enjoy his freedom, for on the second day after his release he died suddenly. The official report was to the effect that excessive joy at his release had affected his heart; but at the time it was strongly suspected that poison was the real cause of his so sudden death.
A gentleman, whom I knew well, an Albanian landed proprietor, told me he was imprisoned once for murder. There was not the slightest foundation for the charge, and after some months he was released without having been tried. He didn't say so, but I have no doubt he effected his release by a backsheesh to the authorities.
And these Turkish governors, governor-generals, and other officials whom I have met, are to all appearance charming and most courteous gentlemen. Speaking perfect French, they talk most eloquently and plausibly on education, the reforms they are effecting, and similar matters, until one begins to doubt the evidence of one's senses, to forget the abuses which are so palpably visible everywhere, and to think that this must be at all events an honest man, who is trying to do his duty. But they are all alike. There is really no room in such a system for an honest man ; he simply couldn't exist.
The roads are abominable. They certainly make a pretence at leaving a town, but soon become a mere track. The bridges are the rudest structures of rough, wooden planks, extremely rickety and shaky, and almost invariably with holes big enough to lame a horse if he doesn't pick his way carefully. In early spring the country in the plains is completely water-logged and saturated, the mud is terrible, and the frequent puddles nearly deep enough to engulf a horse. The roads are so bad that nobody attempts to keep to them, but it is customary to make your way over the fields on each side, keeping a careful eye on the tracks so as to follow the most lately-used passage over the streams and ditches and bad, boggy places. Through the forests a man on foot would have to wade nearly up to his middle, besides having his clothing nearly torn off his body by the terrible thorns, while on horseback it is only possible to proceed very slowly, and with great exertion to the horse, which sinks into the sticky mud about a foot at each step.