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by Mary E. Durham



We are apt to speak of the Serbs of Serbia as "the" Serbians, and to forget that modern Serbia is a recent state mapped out arbitrarily by the Powers, and that the truest representatives of the Great Serbian Empire are the Montenegrins, who for five centuries have fought "the foe of their faith and freedom" and have lived for an ideal, the redemption of the nation. It has been said that every nation gets the government that it deserves. If so, Montenegro has deserved greatly. Instances, it is true, have not been wanting of the Serb tendency to split into parties, which has been so fatal to the Serb people and now threatens to ruin modern Serbia; but in the hour of need Montenegro has always found a strong man to guide her and has had the sense to trust to his guidance. She can point with pride to a line of Petrovich princes who, even in the darkest and most hopeless days, have striven not only to maintain freedom, but to train their people worthily as a nation. And herein lies the main difference between Montenegrins and Serbians. The Montenegrins during all these years have been learning to obey, while the Serbians have learnt to oppose all forms of government. The subjects of Prince Nikola are disciplined and self-respecting; of those of King Peter it has been not inaptly remarked that where there are four soldiers there are five generals.

We have seen the Montenegrin in his towns, let us follow him into his mountains.

Kolashin (with a long "a") can be reached in one day of sixteen hours from Podgoritza. It is better to make two easy ones of it and to enjoy the way. With a very dark youth, one Boshko, and a chestnut pony, I left Podgoritza at five one morning in June. Up we went through the wild, rugged valley of the Moracha, where the green water hurries between huge limestone crags, and on up, up, over loose stones, till by midday we were in an aching wilderness of hot, limestone on the crest of the hill and were following the direction of the Mala Rjeka ("Little River"), a tributary of the Moracha, which flows in the valley below. One tree with an ink-black shadow cooled us for an hour. Boshko then began to discuss our chances of shelter for the night. Ljeva Rjeka, the usual halting-place, was bad, he said ; moreover, he knew no one there. His own home, on the other hand, was not far. It was not "very good," but "pretty good." Would I sleep "kod nas" ? (chez nous). I looked at Boshko, reflected that "kod nas" would have interesting peculiarities, and decided to risk it.

We started off again. I had three loaves of rye bread on my saddle, and milk, boiled and tasting strongly of wood smoke, can be got at every cottage, so that there was no fear of starvation. Goat, sheep, and cow milk is the staple food of the mountain people. We fell in with several caravans, and in company with a long string of men and beasts went down a green and fertile valley till we came to a point where the telegraph posts which had hitherto accompanied us and bound us to the outer world went one way and Boshko indicated another. "Our house is yonder." "Is it far, thy house?" - "One hour and a half." "And Ljeva Rjeka " - "One hour." We left the caravan, the path, and the telegraph posts, forded the stream and struck into a trackless wilderness - that is to say, that only a native could have found the way. It was far too bad for the horse to carry me over. On we scrambled. After an hour of it, I asked, "How far ?" "Yet one hour and a half," said Boshko cheerfully. It grew late and chilly; there was no sign that any human being had ever been this way before, and we were over 3000 feet up. We trudged on almost in silence for another hour. Then again, "How far ?" and again, "Josh jedan sahat i po," said Boshko thoughtfully, looking for landmarks in the waning light. I bore up as best I could. To the third "How far ?" he replied, "It is now but a little way." We walked another hour, and then made a rapid descent over loose stones into a forlorn and dark some valley fenced in by cliffs, the pony floundering badly. A white church gave promise of habitations. "My village," said Boshko, pointing to some scattered hovels, "Brskut." He proposed calling on the priest, "the handsomest popa in Montenegro." I, however, would not then have turned from my path to see the handsomest man in the world. "Kod nas" proved to be almost the best house in the valley.

We arrived at 7.30., I was so glad to see anything with a roof on that I did not even shudder at the sight of it. It was a shanty of loose stones. The family's room was reached by a wooden ladder, the cattle shed was below it. "Mother" came out to greet us, and was at first struck speechless by the sight of me. She reminded Boshko that they had no beds, to which he replied airily that it was of no consequence. I went up the ladder into pitch darkness. Someone lit a pine splinter in the ashes of the fire and dragged up the only chair. This serves as a sort of throne for the head of the family. It is large with widespread arms, and has legs not more than three or four inches high, to suit the comfort of gentlemen used to sitting cross-legged on the ground. "Mother" most kindly took my boots off and set a huge wooden bowl of fresh milk on my knees. People came out of dark corners, blew up the fire, slung the caldron over it, threw on logs, and as many flocked in to see me as the place would hold. It was a narrow slip of a room, about twelve feet by six, with the hearthstone at one end of it, and a barrel that served as larder. The smoke surged round the room. Father, mother, brother, brothers-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, uncles, and friends all shook hands with me and bade me welcome. They were all bare-legged, and their clothes were dropping off them in rags. I was vaguely conscious of a mass of faces haloed in wood smoke ; several huge warriors towered up to the roof; a very courteous and aged veteran, to whom the chair probably belonged, was smoking his chibouk by my side, then I nodded forward and should have been asleep in a minute, but they woke me by laughing. Not only had they the excitement of seeing me, but we had brought the latest news of the death of the King of Serbia, and the conversation was lively as they supped. Here as elsewhere, they said the deed was "strashno" (horrible), but that it was a good thing he was dead. But in most instances the extreme loyalty of the Montenegrins for their own Prince caused them to express disgust for the officers who betrayed their King while "still eating his bread."

Supper over, we went into the next room and went to bed. They gave me a large wooden bench against the wall. I put my cloak under me and my waterproof over me, and a man took off his strukka, folded it, and put it under my head. They swept the floor, spread sheets of thick felt, stripped the children and rolled them in pieces of blanket, took the cartridges out of their various weapons; I heard a murmured prayer, they lay down in rows on the floor, and the whole twelve of us were very soon asleep. I don't think I stirred till I was wakened by the family getting up, and found the owner of the strukka waiting to take it from under my head. I woke to a horrified consciousness that I had not wound up my watch. But it was still ticking, and said 3.30 a.m. I slept-sweetly till six, then washed my hands and face in the stream in Montenegrin style, and returned to have breakfast with Boshko, who, in elegant deshabille, was loading his revolver on the doorstep. His mother had captured and washed his only shirt and was now drying it at the fire, so that the upper part of his person was in a very airy condition. We breakfasted amicably out of the same bowl, and "Mother" boiled me a glassful of sugar and milk so sweet that I could hardly swallow it. But I had to, for it was meant for a great treat. Boshko was so pleased with his home comforts that he proposed we should stay "kod nas" for several days, and I had some difficulty in tearing him away.

It was half-past seven before he got into his shirt and saddled the pony. "Mother" kissed me when I left, and refused at first to take any payment, as she said I was a friend of Boshko. Poor thing, she had done all she could for me, and had even given me the last of their precious sugar. When the money was really in her hand, her joy was great, and she thanked me over and over again. We started in pouring rain. "You had better not mount," said Boshko cheerfully, and made straight for what looked like an inaccessible cliff. The path was the worst I have ever tried. We crawled up an awful zigzag. It was as much as he could do to urge the pony up it; twice it was near rolling over, for the streaming rain made the foothold precarious. Then I slipped over the edge, and Boshko was badly scared, but when I stuck on a bush and crawled up again, he proposed that we should add four hours to our journey by going to see a very beautiful lake which he vaguely said was "over there." I refused; we scrambled up about 1000 feet, and found ourselves safely on the top. We were soon over the pass and descending the other side into a magnificent wooded valley through dripping grass. The pony sat down and slid, and at the bottom we struck the proper track again. Boshko took stock of the heavens, foretold speedy sunshine, and suggested taking shelter meanwhile at the nearest house, he was a casual young thing, with no idea of either time or distance, and loved exhibiting me.

We were warmly welcomed in a big wooden chalet, and passed an hour with the most delightful people. The teacher, the captain (a beauty), the priest, and some dozen friends sat in a ring round the heap of logs that blazed in the centre. They made room, and insisted on boiling milk for me and roasting an egg in the wood ashes, because I had come so far to see them. "Where is King Peter ?" was the topic of the day. His election was not generally expected in Montenegro. Most folk I met thought the Serbs would proclaim a republic. I never could resist laughing at the idea of a Serbian republic, and was snapped at rather fiercely for doing so one day. "Why do you laugh? It is not a joke." "I laugh because everyone in Serbia will wish to be President. That will be a joke." There was a solemn silence. Then someone, with a twinkle in his eye, said, "There is no doubt she has been in Serbia!" But nobody liked the remark. The Montenegrin is hurt if things Serbian are criticised by an outsider. The Serbian, on the other hand, usually tries to glorify himself at the expense of his relations, and speaks of the Montenegrins as a savage tribe. In this he errs fatally.

A youth in an exceedingly bad temper came in, sat down and explained his wrongs - an affair of florins - at the top of a most powerful voice. The roof rang with his wrath. The company took it most stolidly, blew clouds of smoke, and let him finish. An elder then argued the matter through to him. All nodded approval. This annoyed him, and he fairly bellowed. Someone pointed him out to me with a smile, drew one from me, and cried out at once, "The Gospoditza is laughing at you !" which had the effect of stopping him suddenly. Then the girl who was sitting next me gave me a little poke, and looking up, said with a pleasant smile, "He is my husband; he is always like that !" and she seemed as much amused as everyone else. Nor did she display any emotion when he strode out still bubbling.

The rest of the journey along the beautiful valley of the Tara was easy and uneventful, and we reached Kolashin early in the evening. Kolashin is tiny, primitive, and most kindly. Rich grass meadows surround it; wooded hills, thick with fir and beech, ring it round, and over them tower the rugged blue peaks of the mountains; a new Switzerland waiting to be explored. Timber is cheap, the houses are wood-roofed with shingles which bleach to a warm silver-grey, and the upper storeys of such houses as possess them are mainly of wood. We pulled up at the door of a small drink-shop. Boshko, in great form and very important, explained me volubly to all inquirers. We went upstairs into a big guest-room ; Montenegrin, inasmuch as it contained bedsteads and rifles and a long divan ; Western, for it had a table and several chairs ; altogether sumptuous and luxurious as compared with "kod nas." To Boshko it was a sort of Cecil or Savoy. Mine host, ragged and excited, his wife, a dark lean woman with anxious eyes, a girl from next door who was always referred to as "the djevojka" (maiden), and Ljubitza, the thirteen-year-old daughter and maid-of-all-work, flocked in with rakija and suggestions. The telegraphist and another man, who were regular boarders, came to help. Then the djevojka came straight to the point. "Which bed shall you sleep in ?" she asked. I had been wondering this myself, for it is undoubtedly easier to be Montenegrin by day than by night. The telegraphist, one of the goodliest of Montenegro's many handsome sons, came to my rescue. "She is a stranger and does not know us," he said ; "perhaps she will wish to sleep alone." To the surprise of the rest of the company, I rose at once to this suggestion. "You are just like the Italian Vice-Consul at Skodra," they cried. "He came here once for ten days' shooting, and he had a room alone all the time!" There was luckily a second apartment, and I was soon installed in great state, and all the company too. My letter of introduction to the Serdar produced a profound impression. The simple-minded folk seeing that the envelope was open, thought it public property, and read it joyfully aloud. It was couched in complimentary terms. " What a beautiful letter!" they cried, and as the room was pretty full, I was thus favourably introduced wholesale. As for the jovial Serdar, nothing could exceed his kindness. He and the doctor, much-travelled men, asked me as to my journey and where I had slept en route. "Brskut" overpowered them, for they knew the sort of life to which I was accustomed. After Brskut, it did not matter where I went. "Lives in London and has slept at Brskut ' kod nas'! You are a Montenegrin now," cried the Serdar, and he and the doctor roared with laughter. But another man, who knew only Montenegro, could not see where the joke came in.

Kolashin, as I have said, is primitive, but that it should be civilised at all is greatly to its credit. Thirty years ago this out-of-the-way corner was under Turkish rule and as wild as is Albania today, for the whole energy of the people was devoted to wresting the land back from the Turk. Three limes did they take Kolashin, three times were they forced to yield it again to superior numbers. The grim persistency of the men of the Kolashin district succeeded, and since 1877 Kolashin has become the fourth in importance of Montenegrin towns. Cut off from the world by the lack of a road, snowed up for nearly four months of the year, its resources are at present unworked and unworkable, but its magnificent forests and its Sine pasture should spell money in the future. Montenegro has been blamed for not opening up more speedily her newly acquired hinds. It is possible that the delay is by no means an evil, for it has saved the people from being overwhelmed by a mass of Western ideas for which their minds are as yet unready; ideas which, ill assimilated and misunderstood, and forced with a rush upon Serbia, have worked disastrously in that unhappy land. The men of Kolashin are huge and extremely strong, and are good hewers of stone, road-makers, and builders, when shown how to set to work. With their splendid physique, they require a good deal of labour to work off their steam and keep them out of mischief. Inter-tribal blood-feuds are not yet quite extinct, but the rule of the present Serdar is fast putting a stop to them ; the place is growing under his hands, and the people look up to him as to a father.

The Serdar took me to the "weapon show " of the district. The battalion, 500 strong, was drawn up in a meadow outside the town, three companies of stalwart fellows, each company with its barjak (colours), a white flag with a red cross. A row of hoary old war-dogs had come out to sun themselves and see what sort of a show the younger generation made ; grand old boys - long, lean, sinewy, with white hair and bright deep-set eyes, their old war medals on the breasts of their ragged coats; some of them arrayed martially for the occasion with silver-mounted handjars, or flintlocks, thrust in their sashes. And about the Serdar's popularity with young and old there was no mistake. He introduced me to the old soldiers. The Montenegrins' pride in the veterans who have helped to redeem the land is very touching. "Look at him," they say, pointing to an old, old man who is sitting almost helpless at his door. "He is a 'veliki junak' (great hero); he fought," etc. etc. To be thought "veliki junak" is every man's ambition. "Junashtvo" (heroism) fills a large place in the mind of the Montenegrin, who is brought up on tales of the cool daring and extraordinary pluck of his forebears. "Be a brave boy, like Milosh Obilich," I heard a mother say to her little boy who was crying ; nor can I easily forget the mighty youth, clean-limbed, clear-eyed, and the pink of courtesy, who told me with great earnestness that he wished to be "a hero like Hayduk Veljko !"

Every man is a soldier. The "weapon show" takes place ten times a year, either on a Sunday or a saint's day. Marching and formal drill are hateful to file mountaineers, but they love their guns like their children, and it is the pride and joy of every man that he is always ready to fight for his country. The Serdar's five hundred were, so he told me, all splendid shots. As we were leaving, one of the veterans came forward and said that they thanked me for coming so far to see them, and thought I was "very brave." "Very brave" is what the Montenegrin likes best to be considered, so it was the poor old boy's prettiest idea of a compliment.

Every thing at Kolashin was kind to me but the weather. I was storm-bound for many days, and riding over the mountains was impossible. I resigned myself till the clouds chose to lift, and tried to see Europe through the eyes of Kolashin ; and learnt much of the earth and the bareness thereof ; and how little it requires to make life worth living, provided there are no Turks about; and of people who live looking death in the face on bloody frontiers ; and of simple, honest souls who have lived all their lives among these mountains, who burn with a patriotism that only death can destroy, men the guiding star of whose existence is the Great Serbian Idea, who would lay down their lives cheerfully any day to help its realisation. The nearer you come to the frontier, the more do you feel the ache of the old wound. "Old Serbia" lies but a few miles away crying to be saved, and such is the force of environment that you find yourself one day filled with a desire to sit behind rocks and shoot Turks for the redemption of that hapless land.

My companions all regarded Kolashin as a great centre of business and civilisation, for they had come from far wilder parts. My hostess was born at Gusinje, the stronghold of one of the fiercest Arnaout tribes. "It is a beautiful town," she says, "larger even than Kolashin ; but you cannot go there; they will shoot you." She and her friends spent a happy hour turning out the meagre contents of my saddle-bags, pricing all the articles, and trying some on. That none of my clothes were woven at home amazed them, "all made in a fabrik," they could scarce credit it. It seemed too good to be true. What with spinning, weaving, and making, they said they had hardly time to make a new garment before the old was worn out. More and more women came to see the show, and their naive remarks threw a strange light upon their lives.

The family's hut was a windowless, chimneyless, wooden shanty, devoid of all furniture save a few lumps of wood and a bench, and the rafters were black and shiny with smoke. Plenty of light came in, though there was no window, for no two planks met. A Singer's sewing-machine, which sat on the floor, looked a forlorn and hopeless anachronism, for all else belonged to the twelfth century at latest. Certainly the huge and shapeless meals did - the lumps of flesh, the lamb seethed whole in a pot, and the flat brown loaves of rye bread. A Montenegrin can go for a surprising time without food, can live on very little, but when food is plentiful his appetite is colossal. These worthy people used to serve me with enough food for a week. Because I could not clear it all up, Ljubitza used to run in at odd intervals with lumps of bread, bowls of milk, glasses of sliva, onions, and other delicacies, to tempt my appetite. My window gave on the balcony, so there was room for many people to look in, see me eat and urge me to further efforts. When they assembled also to see my toilet operations, about which the ladies were very curious, I had to nail up my waterproof by way of protection. Whereupon a baffled female opened the window. The establishment possessed one tin basin, which I shared with the gentlemen in the next room. I captured it over night and handed it out to them in the morning on the balcony, where they took it in turns to squat while Ljubitza poured water over their hands and heads and they scrubbed their faces. It is not the thing to wash in your room in Montenegro, and my hostess thought me very peculiar upon tin's point. And in spite of the " lick-and-a-promise " system, folk always looked clean.

On market day the inn was crammed. Supper in the big room went on till ten o'clock. Ljubitza hung around the door of my room and suggested that there were. two beds in it, did I still prefer sleeping alone? I said very firmly that I did, whereupon her mother came and threw out sketchy suggestions of a similar nature. For in these parts no one ever thinks of undressing to go to bed, and it never occurs to anyone that you could wish to do so. The "guest-room " is made to contain as many as it will; mattresses are spread on the floor and coverlets supplied ; nor did the regular boarders seem to have the least objection to sharing their room with ten or twelve strangers. But there are no "strangers" in Montenegro. You ask a man all his private affairs to begin with, address him as "my brother," and call him by his Christian name. Nor in spite of the overcrowding are the rooms ever stuffy, for all the windows, and possibly the door too, are left open. Not even the tiny cottages are close. At Cetinje one day I met two excited Frenchmen who had just been over the barracks, and their astonishment was so great that they imparted it to me. "Figure to yourself," they said, "two hundred men slept in there last night and the air is as fresh as upon the mountain ! But it is astonishing! Parole d'honneur, if you but put your nose into one of our casernes, you are asphyxiated, positively asphyxiated!" And I, who am acquainted with the rich, gamey odour of the French "Tommy," had no difficulty in believing it.

Life up at Kolashin is mainly a struggle to get enough to eat and a roof overhead. In the lamb season meat is cheap and plentiful. Corn comes chiefly from the lower plains, and there is often lack of bread ; in the winter folk fare very hardly. Even in fat times milk and maize-flour boiled in olive oil form the staple food of the peasantry. Nature is quite unthwarted by Science ; only the very fit survive, and those have iron constitutions.

A good deal has been written about the very inferior position of women in Montenegro. Some writers have even gone as far as saying that the Montenegrins despise their wives, apologise for mentioning their existence, and do not allow them to appear in company at all. My own experience does not bear out these reports, which possibly originate in the fact that most books on the Serb people have been written by men, and that centuries of experience of the Turk and his methods have implanted a deep distrust of every foreign man in the heart of the wild Montenegrin, both man and woman. Men I had never seen before used to say to me, "Good-night. Sleep safely, I shall be near," and I regarded it only as a formula until one night it was varied by "Good-night. Lock your door to-night. There is an Italian in the house!" 'But their belief in each other seemed to be great. The women were always telling me what wonderful men their husbands were, and the men were equally complimentary about their wives. They laid great stress on the part which the women had played in Montenegro's struggle for freedom, saying that the Montenegrins were fine soldiers because not only their fathers but their mothers were heroes. The conditions of life have been such that until twenty-five years ago defending his home and his flocks took up almost the man's whole time. All other work fell naturally to the women. The work is certainly very heavy, but so it was and is in every country where there is no labour-saving machinery. The women themselves do not appear to regard it as at all unfair. At any rate, they constantly advised me strongly to settle in the country and do as they did. It is very usual for many members of the same family to live together. The real thorn in the side of a Montenegrin woman, then, is a sister-in-law who does not do her full share of the work. "Is your sister-in-law good?" was a stock question. " Very good." The fervour of the immediate reply, "Thank God. How fortunate!" was most enlightening.

Kolashin was hospitable, and pressed me to stay. indefinitely. Boshko, gorged with lamb, was in great glory and in no hurry to go. But one day the clouds lifted, the mountain tops showed clear, and I issued marching orders. Armed with two letters of introduction to Voyvode Lakich, the head man of Andrijevitza, we started in the grey of the morning in the company of a ragged Mohammedan Albanian and a young Mohammedan tradesman from Podgoritza, a great swell, who Boshko assured me was one of his dearest friends. He rode a showy white pony and gave himself airs. Boshko admired him hugely, and referred to him always as the Turchin. Boshko had a great faculty for hero worship, and recommended several of the objects of his admiration to me as likely to make suitable husbands. All being ready for a start, the inevitable rakija appeared, and I had to drink, stirrup-cups with the friends I was leaving. I thought two sufficient. "You must take the third," said one of the regular boarders, "for the Holy Trinity." "She does not know about the Trinity," said someone hastily in an undertone ; " they do not have the Trinity in her land." The surprise and delight of the company on learning that we did was great. We all swallowed a third glass with enthusiasm, and I said adieu. Alat, my chestnut, was very cheerful after his long rest, but the steep path soon tamed him. We went up a thousand rugged feet quickly, Alat hurrying after the Turchin, who sang, shouted, and rode recklessly. Boshko panted behind. We drew rein at the top of the ridge and awaited him. The ragged man kept up with never a sob. Below, around, above, lay wild and wooded mountains and bare peaks. "Which way ?" said the Turchin. "Knowest thou, O Boshko?" "Not I, so God slay me! " was his cheerful answer ; "I thought that thou knewest!" "By the one God, not I." "This way or that, as there is a God above me, I know not." And so oil and so on. The Turchin, a reckless, feckless young thing, burst out laughing, dug a spur into his pony and swung him round, whipped out his revolver, fired it over my head out of pure light-heartedness, and saying, "We will go this way ; God grant it does not lead to the frontier," plunged into a wood on the left "God grant it doesn't," said Boshko fervently, for he had a mighty respect for frontiers.

The track was mud and loose rock. We dismounted and filed through the wood, winding higher and higher up the mountain side. From time to time all three men halloed to herdsmen above and below us, to learn if we were on the right track. Some said we were and some that we were not. The Turchin said it was less trouble to go on than to go back, but that we should probably arrive at Berani of the Turks, and then "God help us," which terrified Boshko. The ragged man observed the peaks carefully and said he thought he knew. Then down came a driving, drenching mist and hid everything. The Turchin shivered and got into a great-coat. I struggled, streaming, over slippery stones, and the loose ones bounded down the mountain side. At last we came to a wide level where the track branched, the fog lifted, and the ragged man was certain of the way. The rain was bitterly chill, snow lay in patches on the ground, and the aneroid registered 5200 feet. Above us rose the bare peak of Bach. We were on good turf, could mount again, and Alat was as tame as a snail. The ragged man steered us cleverly across country, and the sun came out. We put up at a bunch of incredibly wretched huts, mere lean-to's of planks, so low that one could only stand upright in the middle. The people, who were in rags that barely held together, brought us milk in a wooden bowl, out of which we all three ate with wooden ladles. For the Turchin, being Albanian, had no scruples about feeding with unbelievers. A very aged woman, ninety years old, crouched by the fire, which was stirred up to dry my wet clothes. When I wished to pay on leaving-, the master of the house flared up. He was a magnificent - looking fellow, who bore himself right kingly in spite of his rags. "I am a soldier," he said ; "nothing is sold in my house." I had to leave with thanks and handshakes, for they would take nothing at all, and I felt ashamed of having eaten their food, they were so poor. We tracked down to Andrijevitza, which we reached about four in the afternoon. The scenery when the mist rose was grand. Great snow peaks above and flowery grassy slopes below, with all the wild charm of an undiscovered country upon them.

Andrijevitza is a tiny, tiny place (2200 feet above the sea), nestled in a valley on the banks of the Lim, which hurries down from the lands of Plava and Gusinje, and is here joined by a little tributary. I put up at the baker's shop, a funny little house built on a slope. It accommodated a cow in the basement and fowls in the roof. These began to scrattle and peck about four in the morning, you woke with the feeling that they were raking for corn in your head, and tile baker's wife, who kindly let me share her bedroom and saved me from the general guest-room, used to hammer on the ceiling with my umbrella by way of quieting them. Life at Andrijevitza is somewhat rough, but I fared exceedingly well; for the kindness, courtesy, and hospitality of everyone more than made up for the barbaric simplicity of all domestic arrangements. Nor did it ever occur to anyone that I was not living in the lap of luxury, for I had every comfort that money can buy in Andrijevitza. Compared with Andrijevitza, Kolashin is large and wealthy. Andrijevitza is poor, proud, honest and selfrespecting - and it has a right to be proud, for it is the very last outpost of civilisation in that direction. The border and the Turk are but four miles away, the men of Andrijevitza are fighting frontiersmen, and their head is that "veliki junak," Voyvode Lakich.

Voyvode Lakich - the eagle-eyed, grey-headed warrior, the beloved of his people, a terror to the Turks - is a type of all that is fine in Old Montenegro. One of a long line of fighting men, his honest eyes, his hearty laugh, and the simple dignity of his bearing command entire trust at first sight, and the respect with which he is regarded tell that he is a born leader of men, a Duke (dux) in the old sense of the word. His courtly old wife called on me at once with her daughter-in-law, and proceeded to welcome me in the orthodox style with glasses of rakija. Poor old lady, she was really no more addicted to raw spirits than I am, and gasped between each glass; but in spite of my efforts the proper forms had to be observed, and we duly swallowed the three glasses required by Christianity and the laws of hospitality. She marvelled greatly over my journey, for she herself had never left the neighbourhood. Her nephew, she said, was a great traveller; "he had been to Nikshitje, Podgoritza, and Cetinje." She was the great lady of the land and much respected, but has lived a life of toil and poverty and danger compared with which the life of our own "working classes" is one of pampered luxury. I do not think that there is anyone in Montenegro whose soul is imperilled by great possessions. When I had once left Podgoritza, and the world, behind me, my two small saddlebags were regarded as an inordinate amount of luggage. "You have quite enough clothes on. What can you need these for ? Leave them here, and call for them on the way back." No one travels with more than can be tied up in a pocket-handkerchief, and what that minimum consists of I have never rightly fathomed.

Life at Andrijevitza is earnest; it is either quiet to dulness, or it is filled with very grim realities. For the Albanians across the border are an ever-present danger. The Powers of Europe, represented by many worthy gentlemen, met at Berlin in 1878, and together they swept and raked the Turkish Empire and bedded it out into states. Now, it is no light task to plant out nationalities about which you know little, in a land about which you possibly know less. Nor was the welfare of the said nationalities quite the only thing that absorbed the Council's attention. It is therefore not very surprising that the nationalities most concerned were not best pleased with the results. The nearest brothers of Montenegro are in Old Serbia, but the uniting of the Serb peoples did not fall in with Austria's aspirations. Montenegro cried for bread and her brothers ; she was given, largely, stones and Albanians. Gusinje and Plava were included in Montenegrin boundaries, and trouble began at once. Order was only restored by substituting Dulcigno for this robbers' nest. Gusinje and Plava were left to the Albanians, but the corrected frontier was not delimited for some time, was the source of much fighting, and to this day is not strictly observed. As someone picturesquely observed, "it floats" - mainly on blood. And the representations made on the subject to Constantinople by the Montenegrins have not been more successful than any other representations made in that quarter unbacked by ironclads. At Andrijevitza not only the Crimea but the Treaty of Berlin are writ up very large against us. And die apathy of England towards the suffering of the Balkan Christians is a bitter thing to all the Serb peoples. Down on a frontier with the enemy almost in sight, the feeling becomes intense. "Your people have been our enemies," said someone, "and you know it, but you have come alone all the way here among us. When you go home, you must tell the truth about us. It is all we ask of you." For that England can be really aware of what life under the Turk has meant for the Balkan people, none who have lived that life can credit.

The peasants and flocks had not yet gone to the upper pastures for the summer, and until they are there, travelling on the border heights is dangerous for solitary wanderers, owing to constant Albanian incursions. The murder of a Montenegrin herd-boy last year gave rise to a good deal of lighting, and at Mokra, on the very edge, things were still "not good."

Owing to the farce of Austro-Russian reform, and other reasons, Gusinje was apparently just then in a supersensitive frame of mind. I gave up Gusinje reluctantly, and planned to see Berani on a market day. The valiant Boshko was reluctant. "We must go without a revolver," he said, "and I do not know the road." "We go freely to market," said I. "O Boshko, thou art afraid." "I am not afraid," said Boshko indignantly, " but I dare not." So I consented to his engaging a second man, and relieved his mind. When the moment for departure came, he divested himself mournfully of his beloved six-shooter, hung it on a nail next my spare skirt, and looked ridiculously nude and ashamed.

We rode with a long string of pack-beasts on a good track down the valley of the Lim. Before we had been going an hour, grey clouds swept down upon us and rain began ; but everyone vowed it would be fine, and I foolishly pushed on. A guard of dirty Nizams cowered at the entrance of a loopholed shanty, and a Turkish "kula" (blockhouse) was perched on the hill on either side of the valley. The telegraph wire, which had hitherto run trim and straight between upright and regular poles, now drooped in limp festoons from one crooked "clothes-prop" to another. We were in Turkey. No place looks really jolly in the rain, but in many lands rain means new life, hope, and plenty. In Turkey it is grey desolation ; the unfilled land, the wretched Christian peasantry, the squalid huts, sodden and soaked, seem all rotting together in a land whereon the sun will never shine again. We splashed oil. No one took any notice of us, for we were going to market. The Turkish block-houses, "half an hour apart" along the frontier, were left behind us. We slopped past a yellow guardhouse and more gaunt Nizams and rode into Berani, a small town of, for the most part, crooked houses of timber and mud, a wide main street, a large market-place, two wooden mosques, and a fortress.

The inn, kept by a Serb, was far better than the look of the place led one to expect. The man was from Ipek and his wife from Novibazar, and they welcomed me warmly, A visit from a foreign Christian was an unusual event, and the question was what course it would be most diplomatic to pursue with regard to the authorities. I was begged not to seek them, but to leave them to hunt me, if they thought fit. A Czech who had come about a fortnight ago had gone straight to the Kaimmakam, had been promptly ordered back across the frontier, and a guard had been set to watch the inn and see that he did not leave it except to return whence he came. Mine host hoped I would not bring the police upon him. "But I have a letter and a passport," I said ; for, with the blood of the dominant race in me, the idea of sneaking in corners from the Ottoman eye was most unpleasing. To the Christian subjects of the Ottoman it seemed the only natural and sensible way of acting. "What is a letter or a passport ?" they cried ; "here you are with the Turks." There was a marked unwillingness on the part of everyone to take me to the Kaimmakam, and the Czech's plan had failed, so I decided, by way of experiment, to see Berani before I was hunted out of it. Meanwhile they pointed out the great man to me through the wooden grating that covered the window. He went into his official residence, and it was suggested that we should now go out. It was interesting to see how entirely suitable this furtive way of setting about things was considered.

The rain had ceased, and the market was crowded with Montenegrins and the Serb peasants of the neighbourhood. In this part of the country the peasantry is all Serb and Christian. The Mohammedans are the army of occupation that holds the land, the Nizams, Zaptiehs (police), and officials, and a certain amount of tradesfolk in the town. These latter are in many cases the descendants of Mohammedanised Serbs, as is also the Kaimmakam himself. The most remarkable fact about Berani is that the Montenegrin national cap is on sale in the main street. That this is permitted is astonishing, for it does not take one long to see that the Christian population is heart and soul with the Prince. In the course of the last war Berani was taken several times and was held by the Montenegrins. The people's hopes ran high. "But," they say, "it lies in good land, so the Council of Berlin gave it back to the Turks. See the fine meadows and the fields that should be ours ! And but little grows in them, for they gave it back to those devils."

Down came the rain like a fusillade, and I spent a cold, damp afternoon in the public room of the inn. A man who said he was German was waiting to interview me. He was a watchmaker by trade. He started at once on the death of King Alexander. Which of the Powers did I think had brought this about? Did I think it would affect the future of Old Serbia? He was so anxious to know my opinion on the subject that I had none. "Serbia" was the only word that the Serbs at the next table could understand, and it made them nervous. They ordered drinks and got me into their circle as soon as possible, asking, "What have you told him? He is a dirty German. He will denounce you to the authorities." They were a frank, hospitable, kindly set, of whom I afterwards saw much. I did my best to convince them that the manner of Alexander's death was worse than a crime - for it was a blunder; but though we remained very good friends, I never succeeded.

I went to Berani on purpose to see Giurgovi Stupovi, the monastery church of St. George; for in Turkey you should always have a harmless and suitable reason for travelling, and I watched the rain dismally. It looked like the Delude, and forty days of it would have settled the Eastern Question as far as the Turk is concerned. Monastery hunting was out of the question. I went upstairs, set cross-legged on a divan to warm myself, and nursed the cat for the same purpose. My hostess did her best to entertain me and called in any number of her friends, and I began to make the acquaintance of the women of Old Serbia, of whom I was to learn more later. These women came to see me whenever they had the chance; I was a stranger and quite a new sight:, and no matter what I was doing or how tired I might be, they questioned me with pitiless persistency. Such interviews on the top of a long day's ride are wearisome to the last degree, but in travelling in these lands there is only one road to success, and that is, never to lose patience with the people under any circumstances. They were extremely ignorant; England conveyed no idea to them. Beyond their own immediate surroundings they knew nothing at all, and their mental horizon was bounded by Turks. I asked no questions, and let the information dribble out unaided. Omitting a mass of childish and personal questions, the conversation was always more or less on this pattern : -

"Hast thou a father?"
"Did the Turks kill him?"
"No." This caused surprise.
"Hast thou brothers ?"
"Glory be to God! How many Turks have they killed ?" for my male relatives were always credited with a martial ardour which they are far from possessing. The news that they had killed none caused disappointment. Then
"Is thy vilayet (province) far off?"
"Very far."
"Five days?
"God help thee! Are there many Turks En thy vilayet ?"
"No Turks? Dear God, it is a marvel !" And so on and so on. Attempts to start a new topic brought back the old one. "What a pretty child !" elicited only "He has no father. The Turks killed him." And all these things are trivial details; but "little straws show which way the wind blows," and their dull "everydayness" is more eloquent of helpless suffering than are columns of disputed atrocities. And through it all these people cling with a doglike fidelity to their Church and the belief that the God of their fathers will one day give them back the land which should be theirs. I remember few grimmer things than these wretched women and their Turk-haunted lives.

Tired out, damp and chilled right through, I shrank from facing the ceaseless downpour, and to the great relief of my two men, stayed the night at Berani. The trouser-legged landlady made me a very respectable bed in a room with a lock on the door. Supper - which was always on the point of coming, but did not arrive till ten o'clock - consisted of a great chunk of flesh in a large tin dish full of funny stuff. The lady tore the shoulder-blade off with her finders and offered it me to begin on. It was a failure as a meal. I dismissed the whole company, to their infinite regret, locked t-he door, ate all my "siege ration" of chocolate, went to bed, and slept like a log. In the middle of the night a violent attempt to open the door woke me. I was too tired to worry at first. Then I cried, "What is it?" No answer and stillness. It was pitch dark, and there were no matches. In a little while the attempt began again. Then I recognised that the sound was inside the room, and grasped the situation. The cat I had been nursing was shut up inside the room, and her two kittens were squealing outside. She was making wild efforts to get to them. I let her out, and saw by a flickering lamp that the rain was streaming through the roof and the whole landing was a lake. Next morning my landlady said the cats had frightened her very much In the night Midnight noises were more alarming to her than to me, and probably for very good reason.

It was still drilling when I left Berani early for the monastery, which is but a little way outside the town. The church is celebrated as being the oldest in the Balkan peninsula. It was built by Stefan Nemanja, the first of that line of Nemanja kings who led Serbia to glory. He ruled from the middle of the twelfth century, abdicated a few years before his death (which took place in 1195 ?), and retired to Mount Athos. He was canonised, and as St. Simeons is still greatly revered. The old monastery was burnt by the Turks, but the church, wrecked of all decoration and robbed of its treasure, still stands. It is a long, barrel-vaulted building, with an apse at one end and a narthex at the other. The masonry is rough, coarse, and irregular. A Roman gravestone is built into the wail upside down near the side door. Inside no trace of wall painting remains, but one piece of an inscription in which Stefan's name appears. All is forlorn and melancholy. A large assembly of folk were there to welcome me, and we had to retire to the monastery and partake of rakija. The most interesting figures were the head of the monastery and a wild-eyed priest, whose long grey locks were twisted up under his cap. He wore striped Albanian leg-gear and had a revolver thrust in his sash, though Christians are forbidden to carry weapons in Turkey. He rode off on a pony, and had presumably leaked in over the frontier and evaded the authorities ; but I thought it would be useless to ask questions on such a delicate subject. We returned to Andrijevitza by another road, thus avoiding Berani and the guard at its entrance, which seemed to me a very unnecessary precaution, but pleased my guides extremely.

At Andrijevitza I found the Czech of whom I had heard at Berani, a Professor of botany who was making a detailed study of the flora of Montenegro, a good-natured, jolly man, who was a good friend to me, and to whom I am indebted for several interesting pieces of information. Commenting on the number of vipers which arc to lie met with on the hillsides, he told me that the people all still believe in the existence of serpents of enormous size, fabulous dragons in fact. A man once told him chat he had seen one, 20 metres long, and swore "By God, I saw it with these eyes." Nothing would convince him that his eyes had deceived him, and his comrades firmly believed the tale. They have many medicinal herbs, the secret of which they jealously guard. One plant in particular they consider an infallible cure for snake-bite, but he never succeeded in inducing them to show it him. It would lose its power, they said, if they told. Cats all know it, and go off and cat it if bitten.

The Montenegrin flora, which includes many plants peculiar to the district, had never been completely worked before, and beyond the frontier was quite unknown to science. He was wild to planthunt there, but his encounter with the Kaimmakam had been so unpleasant that he had reluctantly given up all hopes of doing so for the present. The Kaimmakam, lie said, and the Voyvode were friendly enough a short time back, but the political situation was Just then strained, and I had been lucky to escape an interview.

Everyone wanted to know how I had fared, and I was asked round to the Voyvode's house. The baker's lady took me. We went up an outside staircase into a tiny room with a hearthstone and an iron pot in it, and from this into another room, where the Voyvode's lady welcomed me cordially. Her daughter-in-law and her son came in, followed by the Voyvode and his secretary, the kapetan. It was a tiny whitewashed room with a bare wooden floor, a table, three wooden chairs, and a bench - quite devoid of all the comforts of an English labourer's cottage; and portraits of Prince Nikola and the Russian and Italian Royal Families were the only exceptions to its Spartan simplicity. Hospitality was the order of the day. Rakija was produced, a plate of cheese and another of tittle lumps of ham, and a fork. All clinked classes, took it in turns to eat little bits of ham off the ôork, and were very festive. I have seldom met more charming people. The Voyvode was loud in his contempt for Boshko, and vexed that I should have had to pay a second man. This sealed Boshko's fate. He was, though well-meaning, quite incompetent as a guide. I paid him off and dismissed him. Alat had to go too, and the saddle, as Boshko dared not return without them.

Events followed thick and fast. Sunday was Kosovo Day, and Monday market day. A crowd of strange beings flocked in from Gusinje, wild mountain Albanians, with heads swathed in white cloths and restless, watchful eyes. But the bringing of weapons to market has been lately forbidden, and they had nothing more lethal upon them than well-filled cartridge belts, with which even the little boys were equipped. Our interest in one another was mutual, and I spent most of the morning in the market and down by the river, where they were selling and slaughtering sheep and goats, and the purple puddles were so suitable to the scene that they ceased to be revolting. Gusinje, being forbidden, fascinated me exceedingly, and I was charmed to find a Gusinje man had put up for the night at my hostelry. Djoka was his name ; he was as stripey as a tiger ; his sun-tanned face was baked and weathered into lines, and his dark brown eyes glittered and sparkled. "Art thou Christian or Mohammedan?" he was asked when his "visitors' form" was being filled in. He looked up lazily from the bench where he was a sprawl, and "By God, I know not," was all the reply he vouchsafed. We entertained one another for most; or the afternoon. He had never seen drawing done before, and his interest was intense. He asked to be drawn so that people could see his new cartridge belt, and posed with a view to showing as much of it as possible. "But I must have a gun," he said. The idea of lending a Gusinje man a rifle even for the purposes of fine art was scouted by the Montenegrins, and we had to do without. He sat motionless and unblinking for twenty minutes ; then unluckily the onlookers told him it was quite finished. He jumped up, and so many came to see that further sitting was impossible.

The Botanik and I consulted him about going to Gusinje. He was in high good humour, for his portrait pleased him greatly. "We only want to see," said the Botanik. "I pick flowers and make them into hay, and the lady will draw you pictures. We will make no politik." " Thou art a man, and they will not believe thee," said Djoka firmly; "and for thee, lady, it is better not. Perhaps there is danger, perhaps there is not. In Gusinje there is no law. Next year thou shalt come, and thou also." "Why will it be possible next year and not now ?" I asked; but Djoka merely stared straight in front of him with a blank face and repeated what he had said before. And his final good-bye to me was an oracular " Next year, O lady."

Meanwhile, outside in the street people were busy putting up flags, for it was the eve of Prince Danilo's birthday. Night fell - it grows dark early in these valleys - and one Marko rushed in to say the Voyvode wanted me at once. We flew to the market-place, where flared a huge bonfire ringed round by all the men of the neighbourhood, squatting or standing in an expectant circle. On one side sat the Voyvode, with the priest on his right hand and all his officers round him. There was a table in front of him with five glasses and a huge flagon of rakija. Place was made for the Botanik and for me on the Voyvode's left. He turned to me. "My falcons !" he said in a voice of love and pride, as he glanced round his men. There was a blue-black night sky overhead with never a star in it. The petroleum-fed bonfire leapt into a waving banner of flame and threw hot light on the faces of veterans, stern frontiersmen, and eager boys, illuminating weapons, blue and crimson uniforms, medals and gold stitchery in one brave blaze. The kapetan, who was sitting next us, whipped out his revolver, fired it overhead, and the fun began. Anyone who felt inspired burst into song, and anyone that chose joined in. The village rang with national ballads shouted at the full pitch of huge voices, with the wildest enthusiasm, and a running fire of revolver shots marked time barbarically - ball cartridge, of course. Anyone who, carried away by his feelings, fired all six barrels in succession, was loudly applauded. The glasses were filled, and the rakija flowed with embarrassing profusion. The Montenegrins are very moderate drinkers, but it was etiquette for every man of rank to drink with the guests. The five glasses flew from hand to hand, and the Botanik and I were hard put to it as one captain after another filled a glass to us; for to refuse is an insult. "Drink," said the Botanik desperately, "drink. What must be, must." From time to time the fire was fed, and, as it blazed again, one youth with a wild yell would challenge another to dance. Leaping up into the air like young stags, they dashed into the middle of the ring, dancing madly a kind of Highland fling, with the flaming bonfire as background, yelling savagely the while they drew their revolvers, leapt higher and higher, and on the top of the leap fired over the heads of the shouting crowd, who in their turn beat time with a volley of bullets ; while against the darkness of the night, fire flashed from the muzzles of upturned weapons all round the ring. "Take care, brothers ! take care!" cried the Voyvode at intervals, when the angle of fire was dangerously low. And as each pair of youths finished their dance they threw their arms round each other's necks and kissed one another heartily on both cheeks before making room for another couple. When both cartridges and rakija were about exhausted, the Voyvode stood up. "Enough, brothers! Enough!" and he started the national hymn, "God save Montenegro," which was sung with a wild fervour about which there was no mistake. Glasses were filled for the final toast, and we drank to the Gospodar and all his family, and to the speedy restoration of the ruler of Great Serbia to his rightful throne at Prisren. "Now, my falcons, go !" said the Voyvode. The party abruptly dispersed, and the bonfire died away.

But the wave of patriotism had surged too high to subside at once. The musical talent of the neighbourhood flocked to the guest-room at the baker's, the gusle passed from hand to hand, and each man in turn vied with his comrades in long historic ballads. Those who meant to go home brought their rifles with them, "for it is dark"; those who meant to stay hung lip their revolvers and took their belts off. How those fellows sang ! - sang till the sweat glistened upon their brows, their faces flushed, and the veins stood out upon their throats. Nor did there seem to be any end to the number of verses each man knew. The gusle has but one string, and as a musical instrument it is about as poor a one as has ever been devised ; it wails monotonously on one or two minor notes varied only by a curious trill that recurs perpetually, but to the Montenegrin it is what the bagpipes are to the Highlander. It calls up all that is Montenegrin within him. They sang of Kosovo and of the Serbo-Bulgarian war and of the border fights of the neighbourhood. The song ended often in a yell of triumph, and the singer threw himself back exhausted by the emotions he had lived through. Djoka, the man from Gusinje, took his turn and varied the subject of song by singing the sorrows of a Turkish woman whose husband the Montenegrins had killed. He sang in a clear high voice, and manipulated the gusle more skilfully than any other man I have heard. "Dost thou hear the wailing of the cuckoo till the city echoes to her woe ? The snow is falling and the earth is frost-bound. That that thou hearest is no cuckoo ; it is the voice of a woman that cries for her murdered man," etc., and the Montenegrins retorted with a similar song in which the conditions were reversed. When everyone had sung himself hoarse we suddenly discovered it was one o'clock in the morning. The boy began hastily strewing- mattresses, and I retired into the back bedroom with the baker's wife, to find there the tired-out Botanik, who was sleeping the sleep of exhaustion and had to be aroused.

Next morning at nine o'clock there was a solemn service in the little church. The "heads," in gala costume, marched in front and the rest of the village trailed after. I could not follow the prayers accurately, but the name of Prisren recurred many times, and the church was filled with kneeling warriors who prayed with painful intensity for the redemption of Stara Srbija. For the saving of Old Serbia and the union of the Serb peoples is the star by which the Serb steers, the goal of his desires, the ideal for which he lives and is ready to die. We walked out serious and very silent into the sunshine, and the emotional strain was visible on many faces. The Voyvode introduced me to an officer who had arrived that morning and explained my tour to him briefly. "We want you to see Old Serbia," said the Voyvode. I was formed up in line with the "heads," and we marched back to the village, and on the way they talked of Stara Srbija and of Stara Srbija. "It was the heart of our empire, and you must see it," said the officer. This was a new idea to me and soared beyond my wildest plans. That hapless corner of the Turkish empire was left after the last war to be ravaged by the Albanians. Until the Russians insisted upon forcing a consul into Mitrovitza, none of the Powers knew or cared what was passing in that dark corner, and travellers were denied access. My map ceased at the Montenegrin frontier, and beyond was a blank. I pondered the question till we arrived at the village.

The market-place was arranged as on the night before; we took our seats and repeated last night's entertainment, minus the bonfire and revolvers, for the Voyvode said that more firing would make the Albanians think that fighting was taking place and bring them over the border in force. Patriotism was hotter than ever, and "the falcons" sang "Onamo, onamo !'"Yonder, yonder let me see Prisren," with great energy. We drank all the proper healths, we sang the national hymn, and the party broke up. This time, however, the "heads" adjourned to the Voyvode's and took the Botanik and me with them. The little room was quite full of men in festal garb covered with gold and medals ; we ate hot mutton and little bits of ham with our fingers, and drank rakija. The Voyvode proposed my health, said I was like the swallow that flew south, and that, like the swallow, I must come again next year. And they all drank to me but not to England, though I noticed that they drank to Bohemia as well as to the Botanik with much warmth. Then they turned their attention to urging me to Stara Srbija. I consulted the Botanik. "Go," he said ; "the only danger is from Albanians, and they never touch a woman." I looked at all the "heads," and trusted them. The Voyvode said he would give me a letter that would take me over, and the kapetan that he would find me a man and a horse. The "heart of our empire and the throne of our kings " began to exercise an irresistible fascination over me. I said I would start that very afternoon, and did. I was to ride to Berani, thence to Pech (Ipek), thence to Dechani; from Dechani to Prisren and back to Andrijevitza across country - or rather, I was to try to do so, but the whole expedition was pleasingly vague, as it depended entirely upon "circumstances," that were all Turks, and therefore uncontrollable. Everyone was full of enthusiasm, and told me above all thing's to go to Dechani, the most holy shrine in Stara Srbija. My belongings were then overhauled, for it was necessary to ride as light as possible. I tipped all my things on to the bed. Quite a number of people came to help. My idea was chocolate and underclothing. The Montenegrins thought otherwise. One stalwart fellow took my second skirt off the wall. "This," he said, "is very pretty and not heavy. Take it. Then if you meet any foreign consuls you can walk about with them." This bright idea pleased everyone, for your Montenegrin dearly loves "to peacock." They selected a scarlet silk necktie to complete the conquest of the consuls, and considered that this was all the outfit that was absolutely necessary. The kapetan arrived with the letter, the pony, and the guide. "I give you this lady to take care of," he said; "you will protect her and serve her well, or when you come back you will go to prison." I laughed. "I am not joking," he said sternly. I mounted with my gay light-heartedness rather dashed, waved "good-bye" and started. The pony was a wiry one, the wooden pack-saddle padded with a cape quite comfortable, except that loops of cord were its only stirrups, and the clean, honest eyes of Radovan, the man to whom I had been handed over, filled me with trust from the first. The road to Berani was now lonely. Near the border a man on horseback suddenly clattered across the valley. "Woman." he shouted, "stop !" "Go on, and do not speak," said Radovan ; "he is a Turk, and a bad one. If he wishes to ask something he knows that he should ask me." The Turk drew alongside. "Woman, answer me. What is the time ?" Radovan looked at the sky and gave the approximate hour. The Turk took no notice but shouted at me again. After this he said a good deal in a language I did not understand, and rode away. Radovan laughed. "I know that man," he said ; " he wanted to see if you had a good watch."

We reached Berani, and this time, as there was no market to explain our errand, were challenged at once and told to wait at the inn. The inn was amazingly excited at hearing my proposed route, and foretold failure. No foreigner had been passed through for many years. I awaited a summons before the Kaimmakam with anxiety. "There he is !" they cried, and I was suddenly shouted for to be interviewed in the middle of the main street. He was a long, lean, morose individual, who snapped, "What do you want?" in Serb, and was taken aback at my errand and nationality. He was doubtful, very doubtful. Inspired by previous experience of Turkish ignorance, I tried a bold bluff that was not "bakshish," and rather to my own surprise I scored a sullen permission. Having successfully played the empire, I gave him the Voyvode's letter. "Voyvode Lakich," he said, "h'm, Voyvode Lakich, Voyvode Lakich." He tore it open, read it, smiled grimly, indicated that he had had quite enough" of me for the present, and turned away with my passport and the letter, muttering "Voyvode Lakich " as he went. The inn and its customers were exultant. "You will be quite safe," said a woman ; " the Turks will not dare touch you. They are afraid of your friends across the frontier, and know you would be nobly avenged." She believed this piece of nonsense, poor thing, and her chance remark threw a swift sidelight on a dark life where "safety" depends on power of revenge. My host, hostess, Radovan, and I passed the evening together round a pan of food. They were in high good-humour, for I was expected somehow to champion the Christian cause! If England only knew she could not fail to act! "The Turks," said my host, "killed my father before my eyes when I was fifteen " - His wife, with a cry of alarm, shut the window lest he should be overheard.

I had planned to start early next morning, but had no such luck. My passport had not been stamped. This was explained by the fact that the gentleman to whose department it belonged had lost a daughter. He intended to weep all day, and could not be interrupted. I protested, and was told that two or three days could make no difference to anyone, and was kept in a pleasing state of uncertainty as to what was to happen.

Late in the evening I received orders to start next morning at four with some traders and a zaptieh as escort Radovan disguised himself as a Turkish subject, and we started punctually in the grey dawn. It was very cold, and the entire landscape was blotted out by driving rain. We crossed the Lim by a wooden bridge full of holes, which a portion of the Turkish army had been trying to mend by stuffing sticks into them. Half blinded by the rain, we breasted the hill and waited on the top for the "drushtvo" (company) and the zaptieh, who soon appeared like ghosts out of the fog. The track was pretty bad, the landscape quite invisible, and we rode through a wilderness in a ceaseless downpour. The way was enlivened only by murder stones, which were pretty frequent. "That's the Bohemian," said the zaptieh. "Who shot him?" said someone. "God knows," said the zaptieh stolidly, " how should I ? We slopped on. "Those were traders," said the zaptieh presently (there were two stones this time). "Were they robbed?" asked one of the drushtvo, a trader himself. " By God, I know not. There was nothing on them when they were found." And so on and so on. At eleven the weather cleared quite suddenly; the clouds rolled away and disclosed scenery that was startlingly magnificent. We had been mounting all the time and were on vast uplands. The huge peak of Kom of the Vassoievich towered from Montenegro and a border blockhouse showed clear on a ridge. "That's Mokra," said the zaptieh, and he laughed and tapped his rifle - an unnecessary pantomime, for the land told its own tale.

It is "a land that is not inhabited." There are miles and miles of the richest pasture, where no flocks feed, - they would cost the herdsman's life, - rich valleys where no man dwells, and great lonely forests of stately fir trees. We were in Arnaoutluk (Albania), a land where nothing is done and where under Turkish government nothing can be done. A few most wretched shanties - Albanian, of course - were the only human habitations I saw. The Albanian hordes who till lately had held the district and completely blocked the trade route had been for the time being driven back, and now the road was once again practicable. Radovan spoke Albanian fluently, as did also the zaptieh. We got some smoky milk and some coffee at an Albanian hut (which stank frightfully, for the walls were covered with raw ox-hides nailed up to dry), and sat on the floor and drank out of the same bowl while a party of weird wild men sprawled round and asked questions. They kindly threw logs nn the fire that I might dry my clothes, and only charged five pence for our refreshments. Then on, and we passed through Rugove, a small Albanian village consisting of a handful of cottages and a wooden mosque, a sinister spot, the scene of the recent arrest of some revolutionary chieftains and a good deal of bloodshed, and plunged into the valley of the Bistritza, thickly forested with fir trees. The steep hillside was a tangle of roots or streaming with liquid mud, through which I slithered on foot for some miles, and the pack-animals staggered along-with difficulty, pecking and stumbling. We got ahead of the drushtvo, but as the light was beginning to wane the zaptieh called a halt, and we waited for them. I had been told ten or twelve hours would take us to Ipek, and my heart sank. When we joined forces everyone was dead tired. Poor Radovan was so done that I begged him to ride my pony, but he refused, and the track was soon such that I too had to walk.

It was an extraordinarily wild and impressive scene. The cliffs on the opposite side rose in a perpendicular wall, there was a night sky overhead, and the moon came out and glittered on the torrent that spouted and roared below. It was pitch dark under the trees, and numberless tiny fireflies flashed and disappeared. We staggered and scrambled over the rocky path, which was too narrow in many places to let one animal pass another. I walked ahead with the zaptieh, who uttered loud yells to warn any other caravan of our approach. We heard yells ahead, and the narrow valley echoed with unearthly howls. We met, and as we were all cross and tired, we backed, scrambled, and shouted, in a tangle as each party tried to make the other give way. I divided the last lump of dry bread with the zaptieh and Radovan as we tramped out from under the trees, and the valley was wide and bare. On the steep cliff was an inscription in Turkish with a great blot of crimson under it - only paint, but it showed mysterious in the moonlight and struck awe into all beholders except myself. As no one could read it they called a halt, began to discuss its probable meaning, and were in no hurry to start again. I walked on and the zaptieh followed, and we came to the end of the gorge. "Pech very soon," said the zaptieh ; "ride, lady, ride, the way is good." I mounted reluctantly, for it was not, and very nearly came to grief in consequence.

At last, after sixteen and a half hours on the march, we clattered over a stony breakwater by the river's edge to tile big iron-faced gates of tile monastery, which is surrounded by a high stone wall. The zaptieh banged the heavy knocker, the gates were opened cautiously, I slid from my weary beast, and we entered. Here were some long white buildings, a fountain, and a group of men sitting on the ground. The Iguman came forward to welcome me. He proved later to be a friend indeed, but now he and the others were too much overcome by astonishment and curiosity to think of anything else but satisfying it. They gave me a chair, a rickety hard thing, and I sat stiff and tired in the chill moonlight and enumerated my brothers, sisters, and other relatives in answer to a flood of questions. One man who was gnawing a piece of meat kindly offered me a clammy lump by way of refreshment. Radovan asked if we could have some hay for the horse, and was told there was none at all and none could be got till the next day. I was so sorry for the poor brute that I forgot my own fatigues. It was turned loose In the monastery enclosure to pick up what it could, but as that had been fed over by geese the fare was very scanty. The Iguman meanwhile was arranging for me. It was lucky that there were other guests in the house or I should have fared hardly, for it was the fast of SS. Peter and Paul. As it was, supper was just ready. The company was most kind to me, and, when I had fed, the Iguman conducted me to the room which was reserved for the Vladika when he visited the monastery. It had a proper bedstead in it ! I wished the Iguman "good-night," tumbled into bed without further investigations, and did not find out till next morning that I had not only the Vladika's room but in all probability his sheets also.

The Iguman came early to see me, gave me a lump of sweet stuff and a tumbler full of boiled milk and sugar for breakfast, - for no one in these parts thinks of eating anything solid before midday, - and we went out to see the churches. The Patriarchia of Pech, formerly the seat of the Archbishop of Serbia, was, to the grief of the Serbs, made dependent on the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1766 by the Turkish Government. Of the four little churches neatly fitted together to form one large, irregular, dome-sprinkled building, three, including the Church of the Virgin and the Saborna Crkva (cathedral), were built by the Patriarch Arsenio, and are, I was told, nearly eight hundred years old. The fourth and smallest, St. Nikola, was added later by the Patriarch Makario. The churches are entered by a portico, the tiled roof of which is supported on wooden posts and which leads into a long narthex. The Saborna Crkva is by far the largest. Nor is it easy to give an idea of the interior of any of these churches. The general effect, made up of a mass of extraordinary detail, is old-world and barbaric in the extreme. The walls are entirely covered with frescoes of the most primitive description, a jumble of fierce colours toned by age into a rich harmony. Quantities of cut glass chandeliers hang from the roof, and from these again dangle numbers of ostrich eggs. Dim gilt ikons and holy pictures, blackened by the tapers that with pious zeal are stuck on their frames by a blob of hot wax, hang on the walls. Reading desks, taper stands, candle-sticks, all are of the most early pattern and the rudest make. A curious seat, under a canopy hung with dingle-dangles, is the throne upon which was crowned Stefan Dechanski, the Sveti Kralj. And this curious primitive art, that now looks exotic, Eastern, foreign, once swayed the art of all Europe. We find its traces in our own Norman architecture ; we find them in the early churches of Italy. It reached its highest stage of development in St. Sophia, and St. Mark's, Venice, but it is now dead and done for. Art is no exception to the rule, that all things are blighted in the land on which the Turk has laid a hand. After his arrival all further development was arrested.

The monastery covers a good deal of ground. There are long rambling guest-houses for the crowds that come on pilgrimage days, rooms with long fixed tables spreading out into a large round at one end for the accommodation of those of high degree. One of these buildings is of the same date as the church. Timbered, wide-eaved, and picturesque, it is a wonderful relic of medieval days. This was doubt less the sort of accommodation Chaucer's pilgrims put up with. Pilgrims in those days were as ready to sleep in rows on the floor as they are in the Balkans now, and their luggage was doubtless brought down to the same irreducible minimum.

Antivari | Contents | To Dechani and Back to Podgoritza
Serb Land of Montenegro