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Humanitarian corner
by Mary E. Durham



Having shown me all over the monastery, the Iguman suggested that Dechani was only three hours' ride, and that, as my pony was fed and refreshed, I could easily ride over in the cool of the afternoon. Dechani was his joy, and no English traveller had been allowed to go there for twelve or fifteen years. Though my interest in the churches of the Patriarchia pleased him much, "You must see Dechani," was his constant cry, and he spared no pains to get me there. But my passport had been taken off to the Sud (police bureau.) by the zaptieh, and without a passport even a three hours' ride was, I was told, an impossibility. It is one thing to give up a passport and quite another thing to get it back. It was a Friday, moreover, the Turkish holy day, and the passport department refused to act till the evening. I proposed to employ the afternoon by a walk through Pech, and evoked a chorus of dismay and horror. Radovan said briefly, "It is better that thou goest not"; the monastery people prayed me not to go. And the reason was "the Nizams." It was Friday, and the streets would be full of them. The fear of the Christians as to the fate of a woman among Nizams off duty amounted to terror ; they offered instead to take me up a little hill whence I could sec the town in safety. They would not hear of my going to town with only one protector, and as, in event of "a row," the blame would probably fall most heavily upon any local Christian mixed up in it, I gave up my plan reluctantly.

Now the Nizams were part of the much-vaunted Austro-Russian reform scheme, and were supposed to be there in the interests of the Christian population.

The story of Old Serbia is one of uninterrupted misery. The suffering of the Christian peoples in the Balkans is no new thing. It began with the advent of the Turk, and will continue while he remains. As long ago as 1690 the intolerable lot of the Serbs of Old Serbia induced no less than 37,000 zadrugas (family groups, including uncles and cousins) to migrate to Hungary. The Albanians then spread over the vacated lands, which they have been permitted to harry with impunity ever since. A small unarmed Christian population "regulated" by Albanians is not merely unable to rise, it is unable to cry loudly enough to be heard, and there was no foreign consul to make reports. It was not until the Russians (who with extraordinary diplomatic skill lose no opportunity of winning the love of the Slavs of the Balkans) forced Stcherbina into Mitrovitza in 1902 that any light was shed upon the condition of this hapless land. The Albanians promptly shot him. The Christians regard him as the man that died to save them, and cherish his portrait. Until Stcherbina came they lived in a state of terror, and all that the tax-gatherers spared the Albanians looted. Owing to his death, the Government had sent the Nizams to subdue the Albanians.

There were some 30,000 Nizams quartered in and around Pech, I was told, and from the "safe little hill" the vast camps around the town were very visible. It was only the presence of these troops that made it possible to go from one place to another; the pass I had ridden had been open a bare two months. The situation, as I found it, was that the people lived in present terror of the Nizams and in future terror of the Albanians, who would return as soon as they were withdrawn. The town had to feed the troops, and bread and hay were dear. All Friday afternoon Turkish officers came sight-seeing to the Patriarchia, dashed into the courtyard, shouted for someone to hold their horses, were supplied with coffee and tobacco, and were conducted round the churches by the Iguman. Gangs of Tommies, too, swarmed in, and the monastery people, who, I noticed, never let them enter the church unattended, were quite tired out. By request I sat well apart on the farther side, for "the Turks will say bad things to you." Knowing no Turkish, I thought this would not matter; but as the others could not see things from this point of view, I spent the afternoon with the various Christian visitors who came in. Among these were a schoolmaster and a young theological student who came from Dechani.

By the evening, as nothing had been heard of my passport, the Iguman became very anxious ; folk seemed to think there was going to be trouble, and told me that the Pasha was a "ljuta zmija" (a fierce serpent). A final message to the Sud brought the reply that the passport and two zaptiehs would arrive at the monastery at eight next morning. Eight came and passed, and nothing happened. The monastery decided I must go myself to the Sud. The Iguman, another monk, the schoolmaster, the theology student, Radovan, and the pony all came too. I was very much ashamed of giving so much trouble, but they would not hear of my going with less escort. We first went round outside the town, as "our Catholic brethren" wished to see me before I left. They were Franciscans, mostly Italian, and were exceedingly civil. Their house was far better found and evidently much wealthier than the Orthodox establishment, and the rakija which they pressed upon me with lavish hospitality was most alarmingly strong, I was glad to find that the representatives of the two Christian Churches were on very friendly terms, and was given to understand that the Frati were the only people who had any civilising effect upon the Albanians. Unfortunately, their flock is but small, the mass of the Albanians here being Moslem.

From the Catholic house we went through the town. It Is a fairly large place, too dirty to be picturesque. Filthy and awful with a frowsy squalor, it swarms with street dogs, dogs that explain why the dog is called an unclean animal in the East, great wolfish beasts, a mass of unhealed scars, scabby, covered with mange, hairless, horrible. The shops are all mean little booths with little in them and nothing of interest; water, fairly clean, flows in a channel down all the main streets. Most of the houses are built of mud, and are mere hovels. The pavement, of course, is vile, and there are a dozen or more small mosques. It was bazaar day, and crowds of filthy, ragged people were swarming in, but seemed to have little for sale. Weapons bad recently been prohibited in the town, so, said the Iguman, there was now no danger on bazaar day. Of well-armed zaptiehs and of Nizams there was no lack - the place swarmed with them.

At last we arrived at the Sud, went into a yard full of zaptiehs and armed men, were sent into an office by the entrance, and told to wait a little. We did. A man came in and said he knew nothing about an English passport. The Iguman and I were sent up a ramshackle wooden staircase on to a large landing crowded with awful filthy people, stinking and a-buzz with files, wild-eyed and apparently half starved. The air was hot and heavy, and the constant clamour of imploring voices ceased only when from time to time a zaptieh bounced in and bellowed. Streaming with perspiration, I pulled out my handkerchief, and with it a little hard crust of the day before yesterday's bread. A man snatched it almost before it touched the floor, and bolted it like a wild beast. It was terrible; but I dared not offer money, nor show that I had any. At last an official asked us into an office, a stuffy den, but better than the Inferno outside. Clerks who tried to look European on chairs, but spoilt the effect by sitting cross-legged, were scratching backwards writing, and passing it through "buttery hatches" with desperate energy. We were told to "wait," and were given coffee. The Iguman up till now had shown no signs of impatience. "They must give you permission; you are English," was his constant cry. Now he began to ask questions of everyone that came in. And no one had heard of an English passport. I told him I would give up Dechani. He replied that the Turks were always like this, "and you must see it, you must"

Then we were ordered to another office. This belonged to a very great personage, the Pasha himself, I believe. After a hurried and whispered conversation between several people, I was told to wait outside the door. A voice was loudly raised within, and the Iguman came flying out. We were to return to the first office again! We went. It was crowded, and we were told to wait.

By this time I felt so strongly that Oriental methods did not suit me at all that I said "No, thank you" to coffee, and told the official that if he did not give me my passport at once I would go back to Berani without it. This great linguistic effort amazed him so much that he explained the delay. They had sent a telegram about me, and were awaiting the reply. A voice from the crowd said suddenly in French, "Mademoiselle is without doubt English! They do not know what to do about you. They are afraid to stop you, but they dare not let you travel farther. They have sent for instructions to Uskub. I too am waiting for my teskereh, but you will have yours first; you are English. No one here understands French ; one may talk. If you had been here a few weeks ago you could have gone to Uskub, and met the newspaper correspondents. Now they are all gone." He came nearer, and added in a lower voice, "They think it is all over, and it has not begun." I was aware of this, and hastily squashed his remarks on such a dangerous subject. The official was occupied in bellowing at the crowd of poor wretches who were applying for passes. And they were all told to wait. One luckless boy who had two women with him cried out wildly that they had nothing to eat, that they wished to go to work as reapers, and had waited many days. "By God, it is true," cried a voice from the crowd ; but the official only bellowed at him, and he had to give place to the next applicant. They were all Serb-speaking peasants in the last stages of misery. Finally, I was told that my passport should be sent me very soon, and that I was to go.

We went to a house in the Christians' quarter of the town, where the men who had accompanied me were waiting with many others. Everyone was absorbed in a handful of newspaper cuttings that had just been brought in a dirty, much-worn envelope. They contained an account of the Serbian murders. It was the 6th of July, and till then no details of the affair had come through! Even then the accounts were so meagre that they appeared to be some of the first published. They were grim and brief. "Death of Queen Draga," ran one. "Queen Draga is dead. The circumstances of her death are not exactly known, but there were many revolver wounds in her body." A piece of journalism which requires some beating.

Two mounted zaptiehs clattered into the yard at one o'clock, and I was told to start at once. They were to take me to Dechani and bring me back. I was to go nowhere else, and the Pasha would keep my passport. I had hoped to push right on to Prisren from Dechani, but was outwitted. As for returning across country to Andrijevitza, that, I was told, was out of the question. The Albanians were up, and even with an escort of Nizams we should probably not get through without a fight. We set off for Dechani at once. The school teacher and the student both rode with me, and the former most kindly lent me his horse, a very good one. We rode over the undulating plain, and they showed me where Kosovo lay, where Mitrovitza, and where Prisren. The two zaptiehs, both Moslem, were apparently as much interested in Kosovo as were the Christians. One, Yakoub, was a Bosnian, and his Mohammedanism sat exceeding light upon him. He was delighted with the job of riding about with me ; his discourse was all of the Montenegrins, and their great valour, and of that hero, Milosh Obilich, who slew the wicked Sultan Murad. "He was a veliki junak! Come with me, and I will show you his grave," said Yakoub enthusiastically. But he wore the Sultan's uniform, and of his two uncles one was a Pasha and the other a Kaimmakam ! He was a fair-haired, blue-eyed young fellow bubbling with animal spirits, singing songs and making his horse plunge out of pure light-heartedness. The conversion of his forefathers, doubtless for the sake of peace and quiet, to Islam had placed him in the class of the rulers and not of the ruled. It therefore naturally never occurred to him to doubt the superiority of Mohammedanism, but the heroes that he cherished in his heart were all Christian, and belonged to the days of Tsar Lazar and the great Serbian empire.

The ride was a short and easy one. The land is rich and fertile but little cultivated, for it is constantly liable to be raided. Such crops as there were, were splendid, and the grass grew thick in the fields. It was hard to believe that the country had been impassable two months before, or that there was any present danger, but the few peasants who were going our way clung to our party carefully; all the houses, and there were very few, were more like blockhouses, had no windows on the ground floor and none larger than loopholes above, and Yakoub thought it necessary to assure us every few minutes that nothing would happen today. The monastery, which lies about 1500 feet above sea-level, appeared as a white church surrounded by outbuildings at the entrance of a magnificently wooded valley, through which flows a small river, the Dechanski Bistritza, the one slope rich with stately chestnuts and the other fir-clad. Robbed of its broad lands, which have been swooped on by the Albanians, who at the time of my visit made further progress up the valley impossible, it lies precariously on the bloody edge of things, and only the wonderful white marble church tells of its former glory. It was being used as a military outpost, and twenty-five Nizams and an officer were quartered on the monastery, which had also a guard of its own, a set of Mohammedan Albanians, who were said to be very loyal. They looked like a wild-beast show, spoke nothing but Albanian, had the most elegant manners, and I was never allowed outside the monastery gate without a couple of them.

Dechani dates from the palmy days of the Serbian empire, and is its finest monument. The church, built by a Dalmatian from Cattaro, is of white and dull red marble, striped in the manner familiar to us in Italy, and would be a fine building anywhere. Here, a unique specimen in a land almostly entirely given over to barbarism, it is looked upon as something almost miraculous, and is regarded with a veneration which has not improbably worked upon the superstitious souls of the Albanians and saved it from destruction. And to the Serb it is an outward and visible sign that this land is his. Though it has been the Turk's for five hundred years, he has set no such mark upon it. Roughly speaking, he has spent those five centuries in camping out on it temporarily as an army of occupation ! Nothing is more surprising about him than the speed with which all visible signs of his existence can be wiped out, but the stain he has left upon the souls of the people is, alas! harder to erase.

Stefan VII, King of Serbia, known on account of his pious works as the Sveti Kralj (holy king), built Dechani in the first half of the fourteenth century. Medieval Serbia, like the rest of Medieval Europe, was a place were careers were apt to be brief, bloody, and brilliant. The Turks did not find a highly civilised people and overwhelm them with barbarism. They found a people who, though steadily progressing, were no better than their neighbours, and they arrested their further development. Stefan VII 's career as king was covered with glory - he subdued the Bulgarians and was successful against the Greeks - but It came to an abrupt and untimely end. He was murdered in 1336 in his castle, Zvechan, near Mitrovitza. It is said by some that he was strangled by order of his son Stefan, whose nickname, Dushan, has been interpreted to mean the Strangler (dushiti, to strangle). But the patriotic Serb, who cannot bear to cast a slur on the maker of great Serbia, states simply that he "was murdered," and derives Dushan from "dusha," the soul, Stefan the Soul of the nation. The dead king was canonised as St. Stefan Dechanski and is extraordinarily celebrated as a miracle worker. His death is pictured upon his shrine ; two men tug the ends of a cord that is twisted round his neck, and an angel fetches his soul. He is, I was told, exceedingly good, and it is of no use to approach him in prayer if you have any bad thought in your heart. He helps the poor and performs the most marvellous cures. The belief in his power is far spread, even Yakoub had a sort of sneaking respect for him, and I was bidden to prepare my mind for the visit to the Sveti Kralj even before I had left Berani. Nor does he, alone, protect the church. Once a Turk stole a jewel from a picture of the Holy Mother of God. Shortly afterwards he was found dead and unwounded ! Then the jewel was found upon him, and it was known that the Holy Mother of God had slain him, for to die of anything but a wound was clearly a great marvel. I stood by the shrine of the murdered Sveti Kralj in the church that he had built, and thought of Alexander and his end as reported in the dirty newspaper cuttings of that morning. The school teacher talked of Stcherbina's death at Mitrovitza, and the old world and the new seemed very close together.

The whole interior of the church is elaborately frescoed. All the faces that are within reach from the ground have been poked out, but those above are very well preserved. The line of Nemanja kings that covers one wall of the narthex is especially interesting. The magnificent old Ikonostasis is of carved and gilt wood (cleverly restored). Its pillars are all wreathed and twined with plants, birds, and beasts elaborately coloured and carved in very high relief, and the whole mass or brown gold and colour is very rich in effect. The floor is paved with white and dull red marble, and the piers which support the roof are in several instances monolithic. The tomb of the Sveti Kralj's sister Helena (also, I believe, canonised) stands in the body of the church, and a big cross from Russia, recently presented.

The two marbles from which the church is entirely built were quarried in the immediate, neighbourhood. It is thirty metres high to the base of the cupola. Doors and windows are all elaborately and splendidly carved, and the whole is in such a wonderfully good state of preservation that it is small wonder that the people have deep faith in the protecting power of the Sveti Kralj, and believe that in the whole world there is no building quite so beautiful. The treasures of the monastery are all dispersed, and its books and MSS. relating to the old kings of Serbia are scattered. The folk at the monastery are now miserably poor, and toil in their few fields for a bare living. The feeding of the soldiers quartered upon them strained their resources sadly.

Having seen the church, I was taken to see a spring of effervescent mineral water which rises on the bank of the river opposite the monastery, and is considered a great wonder. To get at it we had to walk up the valley for about ten minutes and cross a bridge. The student and the. schoolmaster took me, and the two Albanian zaptiehs and Yakoub came too. It was very hot, and they all felt the heat much more than I did. When we had duly drunk of the water and cooled a bit, Yakoub remarked it was a pity to go all the way back in the sun, when the monastery was so near; if the lady would only take her boots off, we could all cross the river. This tender care for his own comfort was very characteristic of Yakoub. The student asked me timidly if I had ever done such a thing. I had. They were delighted, and we all took to the water. It was very much deeper and swifter than I expected, and the bottom very slippery. I narrowly escaped having the bath that I was greatly in need of, but we all got through, climbed the hedge into the monastery orchard, and lay out in the shade. Yakoub being warm, took off his cartridge belt, threw down his rifle, strewed his weapons about, bared his chest, spread a wet handkerchief on it, and sighed with satisfaction. Weapons as worn by him were certainly uncomfortable. He had a large revolver and a sheath-knife with a blade some ten inches long shoved down inside his trousers, and could not bend till he had fished them out. He gave me the lot to play with, and took my lock-backed pocket-knife to examine in return. His knife was a beauty, with a broad, deeply grooved blade, "for the blood," he explained. It tapered to a fine point, slid into a leather silver-mounted sheath, and had belonged to his grandfather. He pointed out its fine edge, spat on the blade, and shaved the tip of his chin delicately.

The Albanians contributed their silver-mounted revolvers to the collection, for they were most anxious to assist in entertaining me, and the conversation ran entirely on murdered monarchs. Yakoub was in his element. He ran through all the recent assassinations, including that of President McKinley. "And not one in England!" he said regretfully. Not wishing to be out of it, I contributed Charles the First. No one had heard of him, and it excited great interest. "How did you kill him ?" asked Yakoub eagerly. "We cut his head off." He roared with laughter. Shooting is a death for soldiers and gentlemen ; head-cutting is a way of triumphing over a contemptible foe. The idea of cutting off a king's head pleased him so that he passed it on to the Albanians, whose faces became wreathed in smiles. "But we killed one," said Yakoub, for he felt that I at present held the record, and did not wish to be cut out. "We killed Abdul Aziz like this," and. he turned up his sleeve and prodded the veins of his arm with his knife tip. Alexander's death struck him as very humorous, but he disapproved most strongly of the shooting of Draga. He pondered some minutes on the list of dead rulers, then he cried suddenly, "I would not be a king; if I could, I would not be a king! A king lives in a prison. Everyone wishes to kill him. He is always afraid. Day and night he is afraid. I would be like thee, O lady. I would have enough money to live, and I would see the world. Thou goest everywhere, seest all things, and no one wishes to kill thee. Thou art a woman, but men serve thee. By God, that is a marvel !"

We returned to the monastery, and I went to evening service in the church. The tiny congregation consisted of the half-dozen men of the monastery and a few Christian peasants. I was put in a conspicuous place, had a special censing all to myself, and felt much embarrassed. The evening was exhausting, as the whole party, zaptiehs and all, took it in turns to keep me company and ask me questions, and displayed endless patience in making me understand and reply. I did not get supper till half-past nine, and then, dead tired, begged the company to leave me. They all left but the student, who had been specially instructed to look after me. He was a very civil, gentlemanly youth of Serbian blood, with a sad face and a timid, hunted air. He waited till the footsteps died away down the corridor ; then he said anxiously, "Lock the door tonight. The Nizams will come. They are very, very bad ; all from Asia." I had, of course, intended to lock the door, Nizams or no Nizams, and thought he was nervous, so did not pay much attention to this. As he left, Radovan came in. He looked all round, tried the iron window bars, the lock, and the staple the bolt shot into. "All is strong," he said; "lock the door and turn the key twice. The Nizams will come in the night. They have been talking about you. They are devils. All from Asia. They have long knives." He drew his finger across his throat, dropped his head on one side, and gave a clicking gasp so horribly realistic that I suspect it was studied from nature. "They will do 'that,' Just for what is in your saddlebag. They will say the Christians have done it, and the officer will believe them." Radovan was in grim earnest. He waited outside till he heard the lock shoot twice, said "Sleep safely," and left me. I had no weapon of any kind, and was excessively tired, so I decided that there was no object in sitting up to have one's throat cut, and that violent surgical operations are better performed under chloroform. I slept heavily till morning, and shall never know if that door were tried. Personally, I think that the clanger was exaggerated. People, after all, are mainly governed by expediency, and killing a British subject was really not worth the trouble. I tell the facts as they occurred, to show the estimation in which the army of the reformers is held. To put the position briefly : no man's life or property is considered safe from the Albanians, and no woman's honour from the Nizams, in "Old Serbia." Savage as are the Albanians, I have been told repeatedly that they never assault women.

Next morning I woke up and shook myself, and the student brought a quarter of a pint of water, and kindly superintended the washing of my hands and face. The arrangements were all primitive: towel and table-napkin were one and the same, and the spoon and fork were cleaned on my pillow ; but then it is a great thing to have a spoon, fork, or pillow at all.

I went down into the yard and began drawing. Out came the Turkish officer, a young lieutenant. I was scared, for Turks are said to disapprove of all drawing, and I feared to lose all my notes. As luck would have it, he had never seen anybody sketch before, and was childishly delighted. He looked at everything I had done, and then wanted to see a drawing made. Yakoub, the enterprising, at once suggested sitting for his portrait, and did so. The lieutenant was now enthusiastic, made no objection to my little camera, which I had hitherto carefully concealed from all but Christian eyes, and would, I believe, have let me photograph him had I dared ask. He left to drill his men, but his curiosity soon brought him back again. This time we had a formal interview in my room. The monastery people attended humbly, the officer came in style with several zaptiehs; there was much saluting and salaaming. Radovan stood in the background and listened. I alone knew that he was a Montenegrin. The lieutenant was quite a young fellow - small, slim, and dark, with clean-cut, good features. He was smart and dapper as to his uniform, and wore tight, shiny boots of a most unpractical nature. He spoke nothing but Turkish, of which I know no word. He had never before, I believe, talked with a foreign lady, seemed to find my unveiledness most embarrassing, and spoke with his eyes discreetly cast down. He preferred speaking sideways over my shoulder. In striving to understand him I once looked him squarely in the eyes, and he turned his head abruptly.

The conversation was sufficiently droll. Yakoub stood at attention and translated. Turkish is a flowery tongue. The lieutenant began glibly with many bows and smiles, using his hands to gesticulate freely. He had very good hands and neat joints. After some minutes he paused. "The officer says," said Yakoub briefly, "that it is a great pleasure to him that you have come." "I thank the officer very much," said I. Yakoub enlarged this into a speech three minutes long, punctuated with salaams and gesticulation, and the lieutenant again expressed himself as highly delighted. He himself was from Stamboul, and was in this part of the country for the first time. It was a great wonder to him to find it so savage. He hoped I did not think all Turkey was like this. In Constantinople it was very different. There all was good; Christians and Turks lived together as friends, and there was no danger, "no more than with you in England." I accepted this statement, and thought of the Armenian massacre. "The officer," said Yakoub, "hears that you have been before among the Albanians. He sees them for the first time. He wishes to know what you think of them." "They are brave," I replied, "and intelligent, but they are wild, they know nothing, and they live like animals." I dared not add, "They have no government and no law." This, edited by Yakoub, met with great approval. "The officer says that is true. They have great intelligence, they must have schools in all the towns and villages. There will be schools, and all will be reformed." It occurred to me that the Turks, having held Albania for some four centuries, might have thought out some plan of the sort before, but I merely replied that schools were truly necessary. The officer was great on reform. The Sultan of Turkey, the King of England, and the Emperor of Germany were, he said, the only sovereigns in Europe who had intelligence, and, between them, all would soon be reformed. I was overcome with the company with which we were classed, and struck dumb, but Yakoub expressed the delight which I ought to have felt. There was much more of reform, of which the lieutenant seemed very sanguine. Already all was very well. He was young and enthusiastic, and I felt sorry for him, for I knew of the storm that was about to burst in Macedonia, and had already been warned to travel in no train on Turkish territory, more especially in non that contained troops. And all the time, the people of the monastery sat round and said nothing, and all the while the lieutenant babbled on. Then to my surprise Yakoub said, "The officer wishes you to see everything. Take as many Nizams as you wish, and go to Gusinje if it is pleasing to you, and thence back into Montenegro." This was a handsome offer, and I wanted badly to go. But the officer did not propose to come himself, and I remembered the warnings of the night before. My passport was in the hands of the Pasha at Pech, and I felt I was responsible for Radovan. If Radovan were detected as a Montenegrin in the heart of Albania, it might cost him his life; if anything happened to me he had been promised prison. I glanced at him for a casting vote, and the haggard anxiety of his face left no room for doubt. I thanked the officer, and said I should return to Pech. Whereupon he gallantly said that he would escort me thither, and I returned in great style with five zaptiehs and an officer. Conversation was difficult, for he considered it polite to ride so that his horse's head was level with my knee, and Yakoub had to ride by him and shout it all on. He pointed out that I was being well taken care of, and begged that I would tell my people of the reformed state of the country. I must therefore emphasise the fact that it was possible to ride for three hours without being shot at, for this he admired greatly. He was exceedingly kind, and said he would see that I had zaptiehs to take me back to Berani. When we came to the parting of the ways - for he was going to the camp and I to the monastery - he suddenly rode up alongside, and with a valiant attempt at being European, looked me full in the face, shook hands rather shyly, said, "Bon voyage, mamzelle," and clattered off. We rode through the Christian side of the town, and the people came to their doors and said, "Welcome, lady," as I passed. Yakoub followed me in high good-humour, to say that the officer had promised him the job of escorting me to Berani. This had been manoeuvred by Radovan. "Yakoub," he said, "is a Turk, but he is a good Turk. He has no money. Give him a bakshish, then he will come to Berani with us."

The gay Bosnian, with his crude views and the schoolboy glee with which he accepted his "tip," was such an amusement to me that I was glad of his further society. His conversation was often quaint to excess. At the monastery he was severely Turkish. They offered him a glass of wine, which he refused with contempt. "I am a Turk ! I drink no wine," and the conscious virtue upon his countenance was a sight to see. He, however, expended my gift on copious libations of rakija, which he tipped clown like so much water, and he came furnished with a large bottleful in his saddlebag for the return trip. Rakija, it seems, is not mentioned in the Koran. Not that what is or is not mentioned in it seemed to trouble him. I spent almost the whole of three days with him, and I never saw him make the least attempt at a prayer. The foreign Nizams, on the other hand, prayed about the country freely. But he was very certain that he was a good Mohammedan. He told me one day, with a wicked grin, that he was on the side of the Boers. "Why ?" I asked. "Because they are Turks," said Yakoub promptly. The student and the schoolmaster were present, and we all roared with laughter. Yakoub was disconcerted. "What are they, then ? Catholic or Pravoslavni ?" "Prodesdan," said I. This was a blow to him, for it seems that " Prodesdan is quite the lowest form of Christian. " But war is always between Turks and Christians," he objected ; "they must be Turks. How many mosques are there in the Transvaal?" "None." He thereupon lost all further interest in the Boers. He came from near Prijepolje, and had great contempt for Bosnians who live under Austrian rule. As for the Austrians - he made a face and spat. But in spite of his Turkish sympathies he had acquired none of the Turk's imperturbability, and leapt from one emotion to another. Over his wife he was quite sentimental; over the fact that he was childless he was greatly depressed. "I am twenty-eight," he said gloomily, "and in three months I shall be an officer, but I have no son." He counted on his fingers, and did a little arithmetic. "I might have three by now," he added simply, "but there is not one, not one." "Dost thou very much wish a son?" I asked. Yakoub was very much in earnest. "By God," he cried, "it would be a great delight to me. I wish a son that shall be a veliki junak !" and he entered into some very quaint particulars. No longer the rollicking gendarme, he sat on the floor, an unhappy man who required comforting. "Thou are yet young," I said; "I hope thou wilt have a son that is a veliki junak." "'Mashallah I will and I hope that thou wilt too!" said Yakoub politely. After which I considered the subject sufficiently thrashed out.

The return ride to Berani was easier than the previous journey. Unhampered by a caravan, and provided through the lieutenant's kindness with two mounted gendarmes, we made good progress. The Pasha stuck to my passport till the last minute, as Yakoub pointed out with a grin when he returned it to me as we were starting. He also volunteered that it was a good thing that I had not gone with the officer's Nizams, but gave no answer when I asked "Why?" The Pasha, it may be of interest to note, has, according to the papers, been recently dismissed from his post. Yakoub's relatives are, for all I know to the contrary, still in power.

The defile by daylight was extraordinarily beautiful. About half-way through it Yakoub announced that he thought it was safe now, and that if I were not afraid the second zaptieh might go back. I told him I was quite willing, as I had had but one man before, and he was on foot. This seemed to surprise him much. They pulled up at the only hut in the pass, and had a long consultation with its Albanian owners, the result of which was that the second man rode with us to the top. I was glad that when riding this road in the dark I had not realised it was in quite such a touch-and-go condition. "No danger now," said Yakoub cheerfully as we rode out into the open, and the second man returned with a party of four zaptiehs and an officer that we here fell in with. "Three months ago I would not have dared ride that way with only one other man ; by God, no! Not if the officer had told me. All the woods filled with wild Arnaouts, perhaps a man behind every rock. Piff-paff and you are dead, shot in your living heart! As there is a God I would not have dared it. If one had to go, it was with thirty men or more. Now the caravans can pass again." But he continued to ride with his rifle ready on his knees until we were almost at Berani.

A sudden and most violent thunderstorm on the hilltop drove us in a hurry to the stinking "Han," and the rain came down in such sheets that I was glad to be under cover, even in such a hole. It was full of Albanians. We waited full three-quarters of an hour and drank coffee. I was anxious to start as soon as the rain slackened, but Yakoub did not mean to get a wetting. He was very happy discoursing in Albanian to a large and admiring circle, to whom he was a great man. He told them, so he explained to me, that in my country the men always waited on the women, which they all agreed was a most extraordinary state of things. They all sat round and gazed at me as though I were possessed of peculiar power, and I returned their unblinking stare. "He and I both serve her," said Yakoub, pointing at Radovan, and Radovan murmured, "They think you are like an officer."

The rain lifted. Radovan went out with my saddlebag. Yakoub rolled up his overcoat, and went down to strap it on his saddle. His parting words of affection, and the kisses which he lavished on the most casual acquaintances, always took much time ; so to hurry matters I picked up the rest of our belongings, followed out on to the balcony, and handed down my waterproof and cape. Yakoub looked up from his saddle-girths. "Give me my Martini and my cartridges," he said. I dangled the belt down to him, tucked the rifle under my arm with my umbrella, and descended. He took his Martini with a beaming smile and a twinkle, most humorous, in his eyes. "Now thou hast served me," he said; "it is right." He got off his little trick with great neatness, and was vastly pleased with himself. I have no doubt he left the rifle on purpose. He considered it a very-fine weapon. It was of American make - Peabody - Martini. All the Turkish gendarmerie are thus armed. It carries only one cartridge, and according to Radovan is very inferior to the repeating rifles of the Montenegrins. The ride over the grassy uplands was splendid ; the ground was ablaze with flowers, and the peaks rose violently blue from a black belt of pinewood. Yakoub hopped off his horse and played like a child. The hill sloped away steeply below us in a great incline of grass, down, down for full a thousand feet. His joy was to balance flat rocks on edge, and to send them spinning into the depths. He shouted with laughter as they leapt and span. Even Radovan, the serious, found it amusing, and we wasted some minutes over this pleasing pastime, which people who are inclined to giddiness would not have enjoyed.

It was quite dark when we got into Berani. The landlady rushed out when she heard our horse hoofs, for she was expecting her husband, who had also gone to Pech. Their only daughter, who had married and gone there a year ago, had just had her First child. It was a boy. The happy grandfather, on hearing the news (brought through by a caravan), leapt on his horse and rode over in hot haste. The joy of grandmamma, aged thirty-one, was boundless. It is a grand thing for a woman to have a son, she said. Then all the men in the place go to her room and sing and dance and drink rakija, for joy that another man is born ! Having- seen "grandpapa," I was able to report that all was well ; and she took us in and fed us on eggs and milk, for nothing else could be got at that time of night. I bakshished Yakoub for the last time, and told him it was "for coffee," which delighted him immensely, and he filled himself up with rakija until Radovan, who was exceedingly temperate, was scandalised. But no amount of liquor seemed to affect the Moslem's hard head.

We left for Andrijevitza early next morning, Radovan once more a happy man in a Montenegrin cap. As we passed the guard-house Yakoub flew out for a final farewell, and discovered, for the first time, that Radovan was a Montenegrin. This he considered a splendid joke; he slapped his thigh and shouted with laughter, and we parted very good friends. Frontier life contains many mysteries which I am unable to unravel. Radovan was much relieved when we had crossed the Montenegrin border, and I too felt that I had come home again. The vague, indescribable, ever-present dread of "something" ; the sense of general insecurity that leads people to shut the window before speaking, to glance mechanically round to see who is within earshot; the general sense of oppression hanging like a cloud over all things, rolled away. We were in a land which is wild and rough, if you will, but safe and free.

I have no space to tell of .all the fun I had on my return. Andrijevitza was pleased with me, and was lavishly hospitable. Time was flying, and I was due home. The herdsmen had driven their flocks to the summer pasturage, and I arranged that Radovan should pilot me over the mountains on the first fine day. We had a final grand night with the gusle, and then, having kissed the ladies and drunk stirrup-cups with the men, I tore myself away with extreme reluctance, and started up Kom of the Vassoievich shortly after the "white" dawn, with the knowledge that I might wander many leagues over the face of the earth before I met a set of kinder friends than the fighting frontiersmen of Montenegro. Proud, self-respecting, fiercely unyielding by long inheritance of temper, they are outwardly very gentle and courteous, so courteous that it is only on very rare occasions that a certain grim tightening of a strong, square jaw, a gleam of very white teeth, and a sudden leap of lightning to the eye reveal in a flash their possibilities as foes. With an extraordinary lot of strength in their physique, they have very little knowledge how to apply it and hardly any enterprise. This is due mainly to entire ignorance of how to set about things. In the one branch of industry they understand, "junashtvo," they are certainly not deficient in energy. They are very pious, and never say they are going to do anything without adding, "God willing." If you forget to say this, someone generally puts it in for you very seriously. They are very honest, and their standard of morality is high. And they are extraordinarily visionary, and dream dreams of the great Serbian empire that is to be, where everyone will be free and happy. Exceedingly poor, they are also exceedingly hospitable, and will share with a friend as long as they have anything to share. It is true that they have the defects of their qualities, but their qualities are such that there are many more civilised places that would be the better for a leavening of them.

Radovan and I started up the slopes of Kom of the Vassoievich, and I was promised a fine day. I owed a good deal to this strong, ragged, level-headed man who had piloted me safely through a somewhat risky enterprise, and was glad of his further company. He had displayed the most extraordinary tact throughout the tour, and, while playing the part of a humble horseboy who asked for my orders, had managed and arranged everything. Silent and watchful, he was always in the background ; he slipped in his pieces of information quietly, told me what to pay, whom to pay, had very definite ideas as to whom I was to speak to or could be left alone with ; ascertained, when buying forage for the horse in the town, the state of the country, and passed me the news in three words when he handed me the change. But he never spoke a word unless it was required. On his native hills he was conversational. He had been again to Berani, and told me with a grin that the "ljuta zmija," the Kaimmakam, had asked, "Where is that Englishwoman ?" and had been very angry when told, "She has eaten, has fed her horse, and is gone." "It was better so," said Radovan oracularly, and he added, with a laugh, "and Yakoub knew." I was unaware that I had been spirited, back across the frontier, and it gave me much food for reflection.

The ascent was easy over steep grass slopes, Radovan pointing out all the landmarks. He told of the Voyvode's prowess. He loved the Voyvode, and showed me down below at the head of the valley the old home of the Voyvode's family. He told me of this own little cottage, his field of corn and his plum trees, and of his wife and three children, one, thank God, a boy.

We had just reached the shoulder of the mountain, and were about 5300 feet up, when a thick fog swept down upon us and driving rain. "We must go to a friend's hut," said Radovan ; "it is poor but dry." We forged on through the most awful weather; dense mist-wreaths swathed everything, and all the world was blotted out. We came to a collection of tiny hovels, Radovan's friend welcomed us, and we crawled in out of the wet. His hut was a shed made of a few planks ; I could only stand upright in the middle. The mud floor was dug out about six inches and a heap of logs blazed in a hole at one end. Near the fire a very young calf was tethered ; there was also a half-blind woman, three girls, and two hens. We were warmly greeted ; my host spread a straw mat for me to sit on, brought in my saddlebags, and threw wood on the fire. "This is how we live in the 'katun,"' said he. "We are poor, and it is the best we can give you. You are very welcome." He made me a couch with his greatcoat and my saddlebags, and started cooking the dinner, for it was midday. He slung a big pot, poured olive oil in it, and stirred in coarse maize flour as it boiled. "My poor wife cannot see well," he said, "and I do all this. We went all the way to Cetinje to the doctor, but he did nothing to the eye that is blind, nothing at all ; he only did things to the eye that she can still see a little with." He finished making the porridge, sprinkled some sugar on it, and poured it into a bowl. "Here we never see bread or meat; we eat milk and maize. It is good food. Up on the mountains it is very healthy, thanks be to God and St. Peter, and the water is good." He insisted on my eating his food and not my own, saying, "You will need that tomorrow." And as it was warm, and I was cold and hungry, I found it not unpalatable, and finished up with a bowl of milk. The rest of the party found it very good, as it was extra sweet on my account.

The youngest girl, a child of fourteen, I had not noticed much before, as she had sat all the time huddled in a heap on the other side of the fire, and the hut was full of smoke. Now she began rocking to and fro, crying, "Oh, my foot, my foot!" Her father explained that a few days before she had upset the caldron of boiling milk over her foot, and that it pained her so that she could not sleep. An old woman from the next hut came in to look at it. The poor girl drew up her skirt and showed the foot swathed in the filthiest handkerchief. I was horrified, jumped up, and hurried round to the wind side of the fire where she lay and there was no smoke and one could see. The people here have enormous faith in the healing power of any stranger, and they were most delighted when I offered to look at the injury. She peeled off the dirty rags. The skin was off the whole instep ; it was dressed with mud and grass, and the edges were angry and forming matter. It evidently pained her horribly. She was a plucky little thing, and let me strip off the pudding of mud and matter, clear the place of grass, and dress it with clean handkerchiefs and lanoline. Her skin was very thick and as hard as leather. The fresh dressing relieved her greatly, and as the rain had just lifted I went out to have a look round.

For a few minutes the view was incomparably grand. The huge jagged summit of Kom rose up abruptly from the grass not a quarter of a mile away, and stood all bare and lonely, quite white on an angry purple sky, for the fog had frozen upon it. Down below great snakes of mist clung and crawled, and the distant peaks rose one behind the other, violently and vividly blue. It was extraordinarily majestic and as silent as death. Down swept the storm again with a fusillade of chill hail. Even the hut a few yards away was invisible. We struggled back to it, my host remarking, "You will have to stay the night 'kod nas.' If you try to go farther you will be lost on the mountains."

The little girl with the bad foot was much happier and her father greatly pleased. "Here," he said, "we either get well or we die. There is no help for us. But, thanks be to God and St. Peter, we are very healthy. We have had much trouble. My only son is dead ; my poor wife nearly blind. My three brothers are all dead and have left no sons ! " He sat down by the injured child and cuddled her. "She is very brave," he said ; "I call her my little son." The child smiled with pleasure. They begged me to do something to the woman's eye, but that, of course, was impossible. The rain fell in torrents! We huddled round the fire. At Radovan's request I gave them my sketch-book to look at, and was surprised at the rapidity with which they recognised everything, telling the names of all the people who lived in the houses, and laughing heartily over the Gusinje man and Yakoub. The wind whistled between the planks, the dense smoke eddied round the little hut; they piled on sticks and began preparations for supper. Then a terrible thing happened. The woman threw down a little maize and called the hens. They came, a white and a yellow one. There was a whispered talk, and I heard "the pretty one." The yellow hen was caught and given to the lame child to hold. "Now we shall have no more eggs!" she said sadly. I was horrified, for I grasped at once that the hen was to be sacrificed to me. I begged for its life. " Thou must eat meat," said my host. I pleaded vainly that I had eggs and cheese in my bag. "Thou hast given," he said, pointing to the child's foot, " and we must give. This night thou shalt eat meat." The child caressed the hen. I cannot tell how unhappy I felt. Two cows, a little flock of sheep, and these two hens were all they had in the world. Last year they had had to eat ferns, and they were braver and better and in all ways more deserving than I. " He that hath, to him shall be given," is a bitter thing. My prayers shook the man's resolution for a moment, but so anxious was he to do what he believed to. be his duty, that without more ado, and before he should alter his mind, he suddenly whipped out a big knife and sliced off the hen's head with one swift stroke. The neck twitched convulsively. We sat round and watched the blood drip, dripping in silence. Everyone felt it was a rather serious event. He tore the bird to pieces with his fingers with great dexterity, and put it to boil in a tin basin. As it had no lid, he went out and picked dock leaves to cover the pot with and replaced them as fast as they were burnt. Meanwhile he gave me the liver, warmed through in the wood ashes, as a snack. In due time I was seated before the fowl's remains spread on a piece of board, and the family sat round to see me enjoy it. Alas! the muscular bird, swiftly boiled, was like the hardest indiarubber, and I knew not what to do. Eat of it I must somehow. With the little blade of my penknife I minced it fine, and said that the English did so. Then I swallowed pellets of it, and everyone was much pleased. I handed round bread, which was a rare luxury, and they polished off the rest of the fowl in a jiffey, drank up the broth, and were quite lively after their meal.

I dressed the bad foot again,, and was pleased to find that the rest of the dirt came off with the dressing and the place looked healthy. The child lay down and went to sleep at once. Outside all was blackness and wet, and I began to feel that the rest of my life was going to be spent storm-bound on Kom of the Vassoievich. They pitched wood on the fire. The man said it would be a cold night. We lay down with our feet towards the blaze. I wrapped my head in my waterproof to keep off the bitter blast that whistled through the wide crannies. Radovan went to the next hut. There was not room for us all on the floor. My host took off his coat and spread it over me, wrapped himself in his greatcoat, and lay down by my side. "So thou shalt sleep warm," he said. His wife and daughters cuddled up on the other side of him, and in five minutes they were all asleep. I lay and listened to the drip of the rain outside and the steady grind of the calf chewing cud in the corner. The surviving hen roosted on a peg and muttered softly to herself, and I slept, and slept soundly. We woke in the chill grey dawn, and they kindled the fire. The lame child had slept the whole night through. I dressed the wound a third time, gave them the lanoline and most of my handkerchiefs, and told them to keep the place clean and it would soon be well. Their gratitude was painful, and they thanked God and St. Peter who had sent me. The death of the hen lay heavy on my soul, and I succeeded in making the woman accept a little money. She refused at first, but when she found I really meant it, the tears came to her eyes and they all kissed my hands and dress. I rode away feeling much overcome. The sun had not struggled out, and we tracked through dripping beech woods dim with mist, out on to lone slopes and into solemn valleys, where we were the only living things, till in the evening I saw once more the little shingled houses of Kolashin, and drew rein at the inn door.

There is little more for me to tell. On my return journey I was deeply touched by the reception we met everywhere, and filled with amazement. Now at last, people said, England would know what life was in Stara Srbija. Many of them considered I had risked my life for the cause, and could not thank me enough. They even sent their greetings to the mother who had let me come to help them. I felt very humble, and had to accept hospitality that was undeserved, for I knew that I had done very little and the results would be still less.

After Stara Srbija the route seemed absurdly easy. I avoided Brskut and went by way of Morachki Monastir. It is the oldest monastery in Montenegro, and was founded by Vuk, governor of the Zeta, brother of Stefan Prvovenchani and St. Sava, which makes it six hundred years old. It stands in a lonesome valley, sheltered and fertile but quite cut off from all the rest of the world, and has successfully resisted the Turks, who have more than once attacked it furiously. Like all the other monasteries that have had to struggle for existence, it is surrounded by a high wall. It was the eve of St. Peter's day, and the courtyard was filled with mountain men, who had come to take the communion on the morrow. The Archimandrite, a man of splendid stature and military bearing, and courteous as they all are, came out and welcomed us right royally. He was vividly interested in our journey, gave Radovan the praise he so well deserved, and filled him with joy. For the Archimandrite is a "veliki junak," and praise from his lips was very sweet. I rejoiced that Radovan was getting his due.

This monastery church is of very great interest to the archaeologist, as it has never fallen into Turkish hands and is in perfect preservation. The inner doors of black wood inlaid with ivory are very beautiful and the frescoes which cover the walls are in excellent condition. The church is whitewashed without and roofed with wooden shingles. The outer wall is boldly frescoed on either side the main door, St. George slays the dragon decoratively from a white steed, and a large picture of the Last Judgement shows souls struggling to ascend the ladder to heaven, aided by angels above and torn at by devils below. The doorway and whole group of paintings are protected by a big wooden porch. Service on St. Peter's day was very solemn, and the crowd of communicants made it last for several hours. I came out from it, more deeply than ever impressed with the fact that it is largely her loyalty to her church that has, so far, saved Montenegro.

I dined at midday with the Archimandrite, who was most hospitable and jovial, and gave me a massive, solid meal, to tackle which required a good deal more heroism than a trip to Stara Srbija.

He saw me off next morning with a stirrup-cup of rakija so potent that neither Radovan nor I could manage the Trinity in it, and we made our way back to Podgoritza. Podgoritza was a surprise to me. I came to it out of the wilderness, and was astonished at its size, luxury, and magnificence. Then I understood the point of view of the man who had asked me a quantity of questions about London, its population, whether it were really true that there were a hundred trains a day, bazaar every day, electric light, etc., and ended by saying, "And do the potatoes grow well there ?" " London is a large town," I said, " all houses, houses." "I know that," he replied; "I asked, do the potatoes grow well in London?" "Do potatoes grow in London? What extraordinary ignorance! One can scarcely believe it possible," said an Englishman in a London suburb when he heard this tale. He is "culchawed," and devotes time and labour to improving the minds of "our parish." "And what were the theatres like in these out-of-the-way places ? " he asked. We were talking of Stara Srbija.

Now I sat under the white mulberry trees at the door of the inn and admired Podgoritza. For a few weeks I had looked at civilisation across a gap of centuries from the "back of beyond," and things look very different from that point of view, more different than anyone who has lived at one end of Europe only can ever realise. And, still in the grip of the wilderness, I parted from Radovan with regret and many promises to return next year for a tour so wild and extensive that it is to resemble a young campaign.

It was the end of July ; Podgoritza was sizzling and sweltering in the summer sun. It received me warmly in every sense of the word. But the change from the chilly heights of Kom to the baking plain was too trying to induce a long stay. Besides, as everyone said, "you are coming back next year." I made a pilgrimage one morning to the grave of Marko Drekalovich, the "dobar junak " to whose wild valour, military skill, and indomitable spirit this corner of Montenegro largely owes its freedom, and who now sleeps on the rugged heights of Medun that he tore from the Turks, and I returned to Cetinje. A carriage and a road were a strange enough experience, and as for Montenegro's joy, the only motor car, I admired it almost as much as do the Montenegrins. Once at Cetinje the spell was broken, and from Cetinje to London one whirls in a few clays in the lap of luxury, second class.

I left the Balkan peninsula not with "good-bye" but with "do vidjenja" (au revoir). The story of its peoples is tragic, their future looks black, and they have few friends. It is the fashion just now to make a great deal of capital out of the fact that these Christian peoples do not love one another as, of course, all Christians should, and to say that each one is so jealous of the other that it is impossible to help them. This is rather idle talk, and not unlike that of the pot that called the kettle black. Race instinct, one of the strongest of the human passions, has as yet shown no tendency to die out anywhere. It seems, therefore, a little unreasonable to expect the Balkan peoples to be the ones to set an example to the rest of the world by dropping all international jealousies and national aspirations. After all, they do but love one another as France does Germany. International jealousy is certainly at the root of the present grievous condition of affairs in the Balkans, but It is the jealousy not only of the Balkan peoples but that of other nations which are supposed to be older and wiser and whose quarrels are of even longer standing.

I have no patent medicine to offer for the present trouble. It has got beyond pillules and homeopathic doses, and nothing but the extirpation of the centre of disease can have any lasting effect. As long as the Turk is permitted to "govern" Christian peoples, so long will there be trouble in the Balkans. That the Balkan Slavs are not as black as they have often been painted I have tried to show by telling how they have treated me. If they do not possess all the virtues of civilisation they are free from many of its vices. I have found them kindly, generous, and honest, and I wish them very well.

Kolashin-Andrijevitza-Berani-Pech | Contents
Serb Land of Montenegro