'Upon the Breaking and Shivering of a great State and Empire, you may be sure to have Warres. For great Empires, while they stand, doe enervate and destroy the Forces of the Natives which they have subdued . . . and when they faile also, all goes to Ruine and they become a Prey.'BACON.
FROM Vienna to Semlin I suffocated in a cruelly overheated carriage. My companions, all young Magyars, played cards and quarrelled at the top of their voices, and the corridor was crammed with sheepskin-clad peasants who had overflowed from the already packed third-class. They were said to be refugees from Turkish territories who had fled from the wrath to come, and were to be dumped in the Slav-speaking districts.
One of the Magyars spoke to me in his native tongue, and was surprised that I did not know it. Another tried German upon me, and translated for the benefit of the company. 'The Freulein,' he asked, 'is learning English ?' I had an English book in my hand. 'I can read it very easily,' said I. They were astonished, for they had been told it was a very difficult language, and were still more so when I explained my nationality, which none of them had suspected. This has happened to me often before, but never without giving me a curious sense of having lost my identity, and I am always taken for something Slavonic. Now I was supposed to be a Croat: 'Naturally, for you look quite Croatian.' The Croat hates the Magyar, and the Magyar despises the Croat, so this statement amused me vastly.
They left shortly afterwards. The train rushed on through the dark. There was a blast of cold air from the corridor, a loud yell and a scramble. One of the peasants, unused to railway travelling, tried to get out of the train, and was collared only just in time by a gentleman in the next compartment.
Passports were inspected on the Hungarian frontier, and restored on leaving Semlin. I was already in the lands where everyone is 'suspect.' The train thundered over the iron bridge that joins the banks of the Save, and drew up in Belgrade. The soft Servian accent rang familiarly in my ears, West Europe faded away like a dream, and I plunged into the Near East and the whirlpool of international politics.
It was the night of December 23, 1903. A great black funeral car was drawn up in the lamplit station; black-robed ecclesiasts moved on the platforms; a mourning crowd hung about and candles twinkled. Firmilian, Bishop of Skoplje (Uskub) was dead, and his mortal remains were to be borne back for burial to the seat of that bishopric which Servia had regained after long years of struggle. Now, after less than two years' triumph, he was dead, and Servia lamented not because he was beloved as an individual, but because he had represented a national principle and a political victory. So, as we whirled across Servia in his funeral train, my comrades spoke much of the dead, and used him as a text on which to preach Great Servia. They were all Serbs, young and aflame with patriotism.
I found that my acquaintance with the clan Vassoievich was a passport, and the name of its leader one to conjure with. Talk all ran on unredeemed Servia and King Peter, who is to realize the national ideal. 'Now we have a King who is as good as yours,' they said, 'and Servia will have her own again.' And on the whole long track folk turned out in crowds with priests, candles, and banners, and wailed funeral chants.
This began at Nish, in the black before the dawn with never a star overhead. It went on all day at station after station; wenever forgot that Firmilian was dead, and that Old Servia had yet to be redeemed. This was rubbed into us hard on the frontierat the best of times there is something uncanny about the Turkish frontiernowwhere we stayed for an hour and three quarters, and were searched for dynamite. There was no time even to offer backshish; the whole of everybody's possessions were tipped out on to the dirty ground, and we waded knee-deep in one another's worldly goods, in which the officials sought for contraband with the minute industry of monkeys after fleas. Then followed pocket-searching, punching, poking, pommelling, astrict personal examination from which I alone was exempt, and our passports were taken.
We started again, more than an hour late, in the land of the Turka land that was all agrin like a dog before a fight. Pickets of lean, ragged Nizams guarded all the line, and were thick by the bridges; officers and men bristled in the stations and crowded the train.
My companions lauded the skill which had twice enabled Boris Sarafov to run the gauntlet of military, passport offlcials, and gendarmes, and escape under the enemy's eyes; and this is noteworthy, for it was the only word I ever heard in favour of Boris in the land where I had expected to find him a hero.
And from every soldier-guarded station rose the harsh, penetrating Servian wail; a black-robed crowd lamented Firmilian, and burned candles for his soul's salvation among the enemy's guns. With the highlystrung and imaginative Serbs, patriotism is almost a nervous disease, and the air was full of ' electricity.'
A gunshot rang out suddenly from beyond the railway bank, there was a rush of officers down the corridor, who tumbled over our legs in their hurry to get to a window. Everyone started visibly, and said, 'It has begun!' But it had not.
We reached Skoplje hours late, and as the authorities dared not run trains after dark, had to stay the night there. The funeral procession formed up, and, with a brave show of banners and candles and golden consular kavasses, the Serbs of Skoplje received their dead Bishop with the bitter knowledge that unless Russia supported their claim this hard-won outpost might be lost to them. And they buried Firmilian on Christmas Day in the morning.
The hotel was filled to overflowing, but I found quarters with a friendly Austrian railway-man, and my kindly host and hostess were grieved for mealone in a strange land on Christmas Eve, and took me with them to a Christmas-tree party. It was a glorious tree, all glitter and twinkle, with a pink Christkind on the top. The children played at railway-trains on the floor, and their elders talked of the expected outbreak. They, as did my friends in the train, timed it for the end of March for certain. We thought neither of peace nor goodwill. A man who often drove the train to AIitrovitza vowed he would not do so much longer, and we drank to each other's long life in little glasses of cognac as if we really meant it. I had never been in a land in a state of war before, and felt as if I were acting charades. No one as yet, here or elsewhere, reckoned Japan as an all-important influence in the affairs of the Near East.
'Things are quiet just now,' they said; you can take off your breeches when you go to bed. But some months ago, oh my God ! we were ready to fly to the first consulate at a moment's notice. When the rising begins anywhere the Turks will massacre every Christian they find, and make sure they never rise again in this world. And they will begin here.' Thus the foreign Christians, and they foretold I should return home by sea. At five next morning I slopped through mud ankle deep, with a man and a lantern which only made the darkness blacker, tumbled up against a sleepy sentry, and scrambled up a slippery bank to the station, where a stout and good-natured Jew insisted on standing me a cup of salep. It is a treacly drink made of a species of orchis-root, and was, I believe, a popular drink in England before the days of tea and coffee. Beyond being wet and warm it had no attractions.
Christmas Day dawned marvellously in a blaze of gold over purple mountains, but quickly faded into gray dulness. I spent it wedged between Turkish officers, for the ladies' coupe said it was full, which was a lie, and hurt my feelings. So along a picketed line all down the Vardar River, with no friendly and amusing Gavros and Bogdans to talk to, and over the dull, dull plain till we reached Salonika uneventfully.
'To-day,' remarked the hotel porter with the air of someone imparting information'to-day is a feast-day of the Catholics!'
Greece put in a claim but a few days later for the bishopric, Bulgaria eyed the spot enviously, but the precedent instituted was followed, andSkoplje's new Bishop is Serb.
ROUND ABOUT RESNA
TRAVELLING in the Near East has been said by many to be difficult, dangerous, and, which is even more alarming to the Cook-reared touristuncomfortable. It may be so. I am not capable of judging. When I am there, the only difficulty is to tear myself loose from its enchantments and return Westwards. As for dangers or discomforts, they are all forgotten in the all-absorbing interest of its problems. Its raw, primitive ideas, which date from the world's well-springs, its passionate strivings, its disastrous failures' grip the mind; its blaze of colour, its wildly magnificent scenery hold the eye. Crowded together on one small stage, five races, each with its own wild aspirations, its insistent individuality, its rightful claims and its lawless lusts, are locked together in a life and death strugglea struggle that never ceases, though it is only now and then that it reaches such a bloody climax that it fills the front columns of the 'Latest Intelligence' sheet. No Roman Emperor ever planned a spectacle on half such a scale.
Salonika lay blotted and smudgy in a gray drizzle, far too much accustomed to alarming rumours to worry about them till obliged. And I hastened up-country to the scene of the latest developments of the international drama.
In many ways the Macedonia of Philip has not progressed in any remarkable degree since his time, butfor the Balkan Peninsula is a land of bizarre incongruities and anachronismsit is traversed by a railway, and I travelled in the 'dames seules' with two veiled Mohammedan women, who ignored my presence entirely, moved my bag to make room for eight bundles, a cupboard, a chiming clock, and some toys, and considered that my unveiledness put me so completely beyond the pale that, to my amusement, they invited a male relative to travel with them. The train crawled slowly up among great snow-capped mountains and desolate stretches of bare rock with scrub, oak, and juniper. Philip's old capital, Edessa, stood somewhere near Vodena, which lies on the left of the line. Now, far from being the home of a conquering people, the landlay drear and abject, every station crammed with troops, and the whole line picketed by wretched Tommies, standing forlornly by their sodden tents in a condition little less pitiable than that of the refugees from the burnt villages, save that they were at liberty to loot food if any were handy. We skirted the beautiful lake of Ostrovo, and steamed into Monastir as night was falling.
Monastir, called by the Slavs Bitolia, lies snugly against the hills on a big plain some thousand feet above sea-level. It bristles with slim, white minarets, and is boiling over with rival churches. Greek, Bulgar, Serb and Vlah build schools that are surprisingly fine and large, and the place reels with propaganda. For in a school in Turkish territory you do not merely learn the usual subjects: you are taught to which nationality you really belong, and each school is indeed a factory of 'kanonen futter,' which may some day enable the government which supports it to obtain territory. That which is able to invest most money in the business will, in all probability, come out as winner in the end.
To further complicate the already tangled knot of religions, there is a Roman Catholic mission and a Protestant one, each ready to receive all comers. Most of the Powers have consulates here. The Russian and the Austrian, as representing the two parties most interested in future developments, naturally attract much attention. Russia, ' the only Christian nation,' the beloved of the Slavs and the protector of the Bulgarian Church, is very heartily hated of the Albanian. Austria, by being affable and obliging to everybody, doubtless hopes to include the lot in Austrian territory later, and is meanwhile a popular character with all except the Slavs. But I never met anybody who believed that either had the smallest desire the 'reform' scheme should succeed, except for their own private ends.
The movements of all the Consuls, both great and small, are carefully watched; all the town knows when they call on one another, and ponders the political import of their walks abroad, and each and all spend weary hours in a vain endeavour to get questions answered by Turkish officials, a labour as endless as that of the Danaides, especially in the case of the luckless representatives of countries that have no navy nor army worth mentioning.
Monastir was perfectly quiet outwardlythat is to say, the surface of the lava was cool for the time beingand I walkedabout alone without any trouble. All trade was said to be at a standstill, and some folk were afraid to go outside the town to cultivate their fields, lest they should fall into the hands of Bulgarian bands. The streets were full of soldiers. Officers pervaded the billiard-rooms, baggage-waggons clattered firewood on the mountain with two other lads, and there came a Mohammedan Bey from Dibra with a large hunting-party. They carried off the three boys to Dibra and shut them in a cellar, and threatened to kill them all unless their friends paid £T.lOO for each of them within six months. My mother was in despair. I came home. We sold all our beasts, but with that and all my savings we had only £60. When the time was nearly gone I managed to borrow £40 from X; he is very rich, and says he is a patriot, but he made me pay 20 per cent. for it. We bought my brother back. He was nearly dead and covered with sores. He had been in the dark all the time. My mother washed his shirt four times, and still little beasts came out of it. He swore he would be revenged some day. When the bands were made he joined. The Turks in Constantinople were very frightened about the bands. All Macedonians were ordered to leave at once. I had to go. My master said it was nonsense, and that all would be over in a few weeks, and he would take me back. Now it is four months, and still we may not return! It is my wife's fault. She is a stupid woman of my village. She has no intelligence. Many times I have begged her to live with me in Constantinople. They are stupid, like animals, these women. She and my mother were afraid to leave the village. If they had come I should not now be a Macedonian. We should be in Constantinople, and I should be having good pay. Also I should have more sons. I came home one evening. In the village was a band, and my brother was already a 'chetnik.' They permit one man in a family to take care of the women. I remained. Next day the fight began. The band was beaten. They escaped to the mountains. Then the Turks came and burnt the village to the ground. All my goats and beasts were stolen. I lost everything! even twelve new shirts I had never worn. House and all I have lost to the value of £200. We escaped to the mountains. My poor old mother suffered very much. When it grew cold we came down and found a room in another village. One night my brother comes. He says his life is not safe, and he must fly to Bulgaria. He weeps and kisses me. "Danil," he says, "I leave my wife and children to your care."Now he is safe in Sofia. He writes it is a very nice place. And here am I with three women to take care of and five children. And my sister's husband is shot, and she has three small children. But for the English flour we should all be dead. It would be better to die. How can one live in such a land? Even in peace they rob us! Last time my field was sown with maize the tax-gatherers reckoned two kilos as twelve. They took toll of us at that rate, and we had scarcely any corn left.'
A doleful tale that is typical of this wretched land.
Resna is a dirty little place of recent date. About half the inhabitants are Moslem, most Albanian, some Slav. The Christians, as usual, are split into parties. My landlady was a Vlah, a bright and rather nicelooking woman, and her husband a polyglot mongrel who, when he went to church at all, preferred the Greek variety. Madam's sympathies were emphatically Greek. Of the two churches, the Greek was the smaller and by far the older; the Bulgarian large, brand-new, and, for such a hole of a place, surprisingly gorgeous. Cakes and sweet-stuff were on sale near the door of each on feast-days.
With a desire to be strictly impartial, I attended each upon Christmas Day of the Orthodox, lighted a twopenny candle in each, and bestowed a similar sum upon the priest who begged for contributions at the door. Each treated me with kind consideration, and classed me as a malethat is, I was conducted to a spot near the front. The women in this land are usually either left outside in a sort of covered passage that frequently surrounds the church, whence they can only see and hear what is taking place through the windows, or they are shut behind a fine lattice screen at the further end of the building. There they while away the time by chattering loudly; the babies squall, and the place is thick with candle-smoke. From my exalted masculine position I observed that chattering and the sucking of sweets was the rule in our department also. And all the time the priest's long, yowling intonation rose above the general talk, the congregation crossed itself, we bowed our heads, were censed and splattered with holy water, and nobody showed the smallest reverence or devotional feeling. Nor was there anything to distinguish the ´Greek´ congregation from the ´Bulgarian.´
The attendance at one or the other is merely a case of party politics. Istared at the chattering, careless crowd and the slovenly priest as he helter-skeltered the service, and remembered, with a start at the contrast, the last Orthodox service I had attended but aix months before, upon St. Peter's Day, in the heart of the Montenegrin mountains, the rapt attention of the mountaineers, their almost painfully intense devotion, the lordly figure of the Archimandrite, and the reverence with which he read the words. My two Bulgarian comrades got a good deal more of the service than they had at all bargained for. I was too much interested to come away before the end; but as it was in the Bulgarian church that I had spent most of my time, they were quite satisfied. My land lady, meanwhile, was herded with the other women in the back part of the Greek church. A Balkan man is very well aware of his superior position. When he wishes to pay me a compliment he generally says I am as good as a man; when he has added that it is a pity I am not a gendarme or a soldier his imagination is exhausted. Some have even told me, ingeniously, that the views held by the American missionary ladies about Woman were very dangerous, and have expected me to sympathize.
Life up at Resna was rough but wholly fascinating. I lived a very 'native ' life, sharing two rooms with an Albanian and his wife, our assistants in the work, and using mine, the larger one of the two, as an office by day. It opened into a wide balcony, which was the correct place to wash in; the wind whistled through the door at night, and the pitcher in my room was a-clink with ice in the morning. Rolled in a native blanket on the floor, the cold did not trouble me, but I was bitterly aware what it meant for the destitute refugees. These often began to bang at my door and try to force an entrance as early as seven in the morning, when the chill gray dawn was breakingunhappy wretches, clad only in rags, part of whose object in coming was to squat by my stove as soon as it was lit.
From dawn to dark I was never alone; case followed case. Now a headman and a priest to beg help for their village, now a woman with a sick child; some times a wretched old woman, blue with cold, who cried and prayed for a little bit of blanket, and occasionally a well-fed youth, who demanded a gift because he had fought in the insurrection and was dismissed with difficulty. They all spoke at once. My interpreter and the Albanian translated simultaneously into French and Servian of a sort. Those who were refused would never take ' No ' as an answer, but sat down and prepared to spend the day.
The local doctora little man of the Greek persuasion, who was rumoured to possess a kind of diploma discovered the hour when I was likely to be chewing my hungry way through a lump of boiled mutton, and used the opportunity to bring in patients and strip them, that I might see for myself that suppuration had diminished, and I had one day the pleasure of seeing him dress a small sore with saliva and cigarettepaper. Resna had possessed a properly qualified man, but he was shot in the last rising, and the Greek dared not visit patients outside the town without an armed escort.
Serious cases we sent up to Ochrida, and we mitigated the lot of incurables by the gift of bedding and food in their own homes. There was in this district little illness as the results of the rising, but a number of chronic cases of many years' standing. If ever a gap of a few minutes occurred in the stream of villagers, my landlady hastened up with her mother and the baby to console my solitude, for she was a kindly soul and had a horror of being alone. She meant it so well that I rarely had the heart to object, but I confess that, when I returned one night after a hard day's ride to find ten people and five young children waiting to cheer me up, I was not so pleased as they expected.
It may appear to the reader that the obvious way to secure quiet was to lock the door. I thought so myself at first. But the only result was a sort of bombardment, in which everyone took part. The life of the peasant has deadened his intellect, blunted his feelings, blackened his morals, but he has saved himself from extinction by developing a peculiar mulish, persistent, boring obstinacy. It is a blind instinct, which can scarcely be dignified by the name of perseverance, for he applies it irrationally to every circumstance. It leads not infrequently to his undoing, but, properly directed, will doubtless play a large part in his ultimate liberation. It invariably caused me to open the door after a short resistance, but by no means always secured him the gifts he demanded.
Such was a day in the towna drama in which most of the human passions turned up, good, bad, and indifferent, and all in the rough, with never asmear of Western varnish.
Then the villages had to be visited, and the truth of the tales sought for. There was a great charm about these expeditions. I swallowed a bowl of hot milk, having first put salt and pepper in it to hide the taste of buffaloes, and was in the saddle about eight. A chill white fog hid all the land; the roadsmere tracks pounded into deep pitswere frozen hard as iron, and need was to ride warily. I let my horse down twice before I had learnt this, but he recovered, luckily, without throwing me. We plunged across country, over hoary grass, cut off from all the world; the gendarme loomed ahead through the fog, sitting loose in his saddle, his rifle across his knees, the collar of his great-coat turned up. My man joggled behind, unhappily, for he was no horseman. We passed a heap of blackened ruins'that was a "kafana"'; another by the stream, hung thick with great spears of ice'that was the mill.' We rode under bare and dripping trees at the entrance of a valley, and a village showed dim in the mist.
Then came a fierce onslaught of great shaggy dogs, with bared white teeth, followed by the stoning of them and their retreat, vowing vengeance in thunderous undertones. We dismounted the gendarme, in whom I always took a great interest, for he was as yet innocent of European officers and reform, and generally an excellent fellow, sat in a shed with the horses and smoked. Then followed the house-to-house visit in company with my man, the headman of the village, and often the priest. We squished and slopped through mud or slipped on ice, according to whether it froze or thawed, climbed rickety wooden ladders to the upper floors, ducked our heads under low doorways.
I choked in the pungent wood-smoke, questioned, listened, tried in a tangle of contradictory statements to strike an average of truth; shuddered, was wrung with pity; wondered and was disgusted in turn as adversity cast a fierce searchlight on human nature, and exposed its best and its worst with pitiless impartiality. Now and then we had a joke, and I caught women taking off and hiding their silver waistclasps and ornaments, in order to look as poor as possible.
Then came the writing of the list, on which everyone clamoured to be placed. We remounted and left the village, with its sins and sorrows, for there was yet another to visit before we turned our horses homewards, and cantered back in the dusk over ground now soft, that would freeze again ere morn.
It is ill riding in the dark on such tracks, and we clattered into Resna soonafter the Turkish clock on the tower struck twelve, and told that the sun had set. My landlady flew to put wood in the stove, sprawled on her stomach before it, and blew violently into the hot ashes. There was a rush of folk who were waiting to see me, and, having dropped my man at his village, I wrestled with them single-handed. My meal was either cold or frizzled, for my landlady cooked it casually at any hour that occurred to her, and it either waited by the stove or did not, as Fate ordained. But I was so hungry that a lump of solid food was all I required. I became a mainly carnivorous animal, and after seeing the dirt of the neighbourhood never tasted water.
Asquat on the floor, I wrote lists for the morrow's flour-distribution regardless of the talk carried on all round by people who were paying a visit either to one of my assistants, my host, or myself, and their oft expressed belief that so much writing would make my head ache. My landlady, in answer to numerous inquiries, explained that I intended washing later in the water that was warming on the stove. This was a topic of never-failing interest. Then good-night, and, with the exception of a dog-fight or two under the window, peace and quiet.
But not always. One dree night I was waked, about one o'clock, by a portentous battering at the outer gate. Trusting it was in honour of some saint or otherfor they had ushered in Christmas Day with similar cheerinessI turned to go to sleep again ! No such luck. I heard scrambling below. Someone went to the door; there was a parley. Worse and worse; they were coming upstairs! I vowed that I would not receive a visitor at that hour, even if it were the Vali himself. They knocked. I took no notice. They hammered; I still lay low. They banged, thumped, thundered and shouted. It occurred to me suddenly that to feign sleep under the circumstances was absurd, and laughing, in spite of myself, I cried:
' What is it?'
' Open the door,' they cried.
In these lands everyone sleeps fully clad in all his day garments, therefore it did not occur to them that I was not in a completely presentable condition. My neglect to open the door instantly produced efforts which threatened to force it. I scrambled into an overcoat and let in an icy blast, my host, my hostess, her mother, and a man with a lantern. There was a 'telegramma' for me, they all said at once.
'To-morrow,' said I, in my limited vocabulary, for I guessed it would be in Turkish and unreadable.
'No, no,' said everyone.
It appeared that I must sign the receipt. Barefoot and frozen, I fumbled in the dark for a pencil, only to learn that it must be signed in ink. This I accomplished. Then the man proposed to translate the message, and the whole party squatted on the floor round the lantern.
After a long pause I was told that all he could understand was that it was for 'Hamham,' and had come from 'Brer.' I got rid of the whole party.
Fortunately few nights were so lively, for next morning meant boot and saddle again, and more tales of miseryhopeless, blank misery. In the burnt villages a few people were still living in the ruins under temporary 'lean-tos ' of wattle and thatch. In some cases they had rebuilt their houses. And where the stone ground-floor was only partly ruined this was not a difficult task, as the larger part of the houses in this district are built of mud and wattle on timber frames, and all the necessary material was plentiful. Ten pounds, I was told, built a good house, five, a small one; a habitable shanty was even less. But few started rebuilding, though the Government had given money for the purpose; and they seemed unwilling to help one another. Some said they would only be burnt out again, others that summer and fine weather would soon be coming. Some left the neighbourhood; the majority crowded into villages that had escaped.
If they had moneyand some hadthe house-owner charged them rent. If they had none, he not infrequently demanded flour of us as compensation. For one another's troubles they had, as a rule, very little sympathy. Four large families were often crowded into one cowshed, with their few goods, saved from the burning, piled around, the cattle, stabled at one end, providing a grateful warmth. I have seen a party of women warming themselves by sitting in amanure heap with their legs buried up to the knee, but people did not seem to think this an out-of-the-way thing to do.
When first travelling in the Balkan Peninsula, I was struck with the fact that the natives all seemed to feel both heat and cold far more than I do. When, however, I became acquainted with the mysteries of their costume, there was no room for astonishment. I smiled when I read a pathetic tale in the papers about refugee women who had run away 'in their nightgowns.' I knew those 'nightgowns.' Saving a shirt of coarse, handwoven linen, the Christian women of these parts wear nothing at all to cover their legs but a short pair of socks. On their arms and shoulders, however, they crowd as many wadded garments as they can obtain, and they protect the lower part of the body from the chill to which it would otherwise be dangerously exposed, by girding themselves with 20 metres of goat's-hair cord, knotting it all the way up the front so that it projects hideously and forms a sort of shelf upon which the lady rests her arms.
Half the amount of clothing, evenly distributed, would keep them warm, but they pile on garments above and shiver below. I have often stood out of doors bareheaded, and with nothing on my arms but the sleeves of a flannel shirt, interviewing women clad each in a wadded waistcoat and two wadded coats and head-wraps, but I was the only one that was warm. When hot weather arrives, however, they gasp and perspire, for it rarely occurs to them to shed a garment, and anyone who possesses a fur-lined coat continues to wear it. To give them their due, I am bound to confess that, in the matter of suffering heroically for the sake of the fashion, they are quite up to the highest civilized standards.
In the winter they explain me by saying that I come from a far land where it is always cold. In the summer the highly educated talk of the well-known cold blood of the English.
Those who possessed sound garments felt the cold; those who had been burnt out in the summer, and whose clothes were now reduced to a mass of rags, suffered most bitterly, and there could be no possible doubt of their dire distress. I remember the wild gratitude of a woman, with two little children, who was absolutely destitute, as she sobbed, clung to me, and cried, ' You have saved us!'
In general, the horrors they had seen appeared to have had but slight effect upon them. The three or four intervening months had cured all nervous shock, if 'shock' there had been, for they are people of very low nervous organization. Nor, with their past history, is this to be wondered at. Once only did I find a case of 'terror' in the Resna viIlages.
A -wretched woman sitting at a cottage door, when she saw my gendarme, threw herself at my feet with a blood-curdling shriek, clung to my knees, and prayed to be saved, and then fell on the ground, stiff and only partially conscious. She had seen her husband's brains battered out, and the sight of a man in uniform always brought on an attack, I was told. But as the fit appeared to be of an epileptic nature, she was probably subject to such before. The gendarme, whose presence caused it, seemed much overpowered. He possibly knew better than any of us what manner of sights she had seen.
One has to be careful about ascribing such cases to the effects of the insurrection, however. I heard harrowing tales, which were published in some of the papers, about women who had been driven mad, and went about barking like dogs. The only one of these I had the chance of examining proved not to be insane at all, but suffering from a peculiar form of hysteria which I have met with before in other parts of the Peninsula. It is not at all uncommon among the Balkan Slavs, and also, I am told, in Russia, and the so-called 'barking' is a sort of hiccough, caused by rapid and spasmodic contractions of the diaphragm. The local remedy, often efficacious, is to direct the patient to go to church on some special saint's day, to pray for relief and to abstain from making the noise while the service is going on. If she succeeds in doing so she is generally cured. This is an interesting example of cure by suggestion.
In most cases the result of the insurrection had filled them with a dull astonishment. They said they had been told that in the late Greco-Turkish War the Turkish soldiers had behaved very well, and that they had not expected any outrages or deeds of violence. They seemed to think they might kill without exciting reprisals. With their experience of long years and the tradition of centuries this sounds incredible, but they told me sorepeatedly. Of the future they seemed to take no heed, and the past was already dulled. They lived from day to day with a sort of bovine stolidity, heavy, apathetic, interested chiefiy in petty quarrels, and seeing that they got as much 'relief' as the people next door.
In the villages that were half Mohammedan, there had, as a rule, been no fighting, and therefore little looting, and these were crowded with refugees. When visiting them, I was able to see what the unrobbed houses were like. They, of course, contain nothing at all that West Europe considers necessary for comfort, but are very much better than the mass of the huts in which the peasants of Montenegro and North Albania live. I never, even in a burnt village, had to rough it in Macedonia as I have had to do in normal circumstances in the two other lands. Here the ground is so fertile that even with the rudest cultivation it yields abundantly, and but for the heavy and irregular taxation to which the poor wretches are liable they would, as peasants go, be well off. Even as it is they make a good living, for one of the leading Bulgarians declared to me that before the outbreak there was not a beggar near Resna. The Macedonian Committee has much to answer for. Judged by Balkan standards, the housing and living was a very great deal better than I had expected after reading the published accounts. And the poor physique and bad health of the people appeared to be brought about largely by their ignorance and their habits than by want.
ON THE SHORES OF LAKE PRESBA
MEANWHILE doleful tidings poured ill from the villages round Lake Presbaappeals for help from those yet unvisited, and rumours of small-pox. When you have once made up your mind to be Balkan you are always ready to start anywhere, at any minute. I rolled a native blanket in a waterproof sheet, put a spoon, a tin cup, a few medicines, etc., in a little bag, trusted entirely to luck that I should find food and not get wet through, and was ready for a week's travel. Every extra pound is a bother on horseback.
The Mudir decided that I must have two gendarmes, and as he had hitherto let me do just as I liked, I asked for Christianschiefly because the Bulgars I was working with declared he would never allow it, also in orderto 'sample' the new Christian gendarmes. However, he made no difficulty, and the only Christian in the local force was allotted to me.
The start took some time. Almost every man in this land, not excepting troopers and gendarmes, rides upon a fat and squashy pillow, which he straps on his saddle. In default of this he piles up rugs or blanketing, and no one could understand my taste for the bare leather. Regularly every day the pony came round with a 'pernitza' upon it, and regularly every day I had it removed and said it was not to come tomorrow. But it always did, and they argued the point. A Montenegrin or Albanian horse-boy rarely requires telling a thing of this sort twice. It requires a week's hard labour to drive the glimmer of a new idea into a 'Macedonian.' On the sixth day the pony arrived pillowless, and I thought they had learned. But now, after three days' interval, here it was again. This time the populace was firm. A large crowd had come to see me off, and there was quite an excitement about it. I was not made of leather, they said, and the pillow was to stay where it was. They even brought a larger and fatter one. I began unbuckling the girth, and someone buckled it up again. A dozen people talked at once. According to Danil, they recounted the shocking state of their own persons when fate had deprived them of a pillow.
I learnt the great lesson that the native can be circumvented, but never reasoned with, climbed on top of the 'pernitza,' and, perched squashily, high above my beast, rode from the town. Safely outside, I got rid of the pillow, and the toughness of English hide formed a pleasing topic of conversation for many days. Danil and the gendarmes had to take care of that pillow, and long before the end of the tour said they were sorry they had insisted on its coming.
We left even the semblance of civilization that Resna possesses behind us, and made straight across country at a canter for the shores of the lake; for the gendarmes were in a sportive frame of mind, and poor Danil was left far behind. It was a casual sort of an expedition. Neither of my men knew the way after the first village or two. There are, of course, no roads, often no tracks. We followed trails of misery, picked up guides from place to place, and did not usually know in the morning where we should spend the night.
The Christian gendarme, a large and jovial Vlah, was a great invention. He had been a tradesman at Resna, had enlisted because all trade was at a standstill, and had friends and clients in almost every village. He wanted me to help everybody, and to rebuild all the churches. He was greeted with great enthusiasm, and was wildly and aggressively Christian. He kissed the priest's hand, got himself blessed and sprinkled with holy water, when there was any about, and crossed himself industriously.
His excessive Christianity and his numerous friends led to his overshooting the mark badly on 'mastic,' the local drink, the second night, and a wild and drunken sing-song raged till past midnight. Next morning, overcome with shame, he came to me and said he had behaved like a pig; that he was sorry, and while he was with me he would drink no more mastic, because when he once began he could never leave off. To my surprise, he kept this promise faithfully, in spite of very great temptation, and Danil explained that the joy of the villagers on seeing for the first time a Christian who was allowed to carry a gun was the cause of the outburst! The gentleman himself was obviously quite unaccustomed to carrying a weapon. He alternately spent much energy cleaning it and forgot all about it. On one occasion he left it behind him, to the vast amusement of his comrade, and we had to send back for it. He was a liberal-minded man, was bringing up one son as a Serb in Belgrade and the other as a Bulgarian, and his daughter was married to some other nationality, I forget which. His comrade, a Mohammedan Albaniana long lean man deeply pitted with small-pox, which gave him an unpleasantly moth-eaten appearancewas rather 'out of it' in this Christian company. The two kept up an endless argument about the rights and wrongs of the insurrection. They never agreed, but they never lost their tempers. The Christian pointed out the awful devastation, and the Moslem earnestly defended it.
'Tell the lady,' he would say, 'that we were obliged to. They began it; they attacked us. They would kill every Turk (i.e., Moslem) in the land if they could. It is our land. We must defend ourselves.' To which Danil added: 'He does not understand. The land is really ours Naturally it is we that must kill them.'
And no one knew when the killing must begin again. The land was raw withrecent fightingit was, so to speak, an aching wound, and either party lived in terror of the other.
We started often before it was quite light in the morning, whether it were rain, snow, or storm, and we rode till sundown. In all, we visited nineteen villages and two monasteries. I went into more than a thousand houses, and interviewed deputations from four other villages. At night we arrived, if possible, at an unburnt village, and slept and supped at the headman's house. The horses were stabled below. We climbed up a ladder into the family dwelling. A crowd of women, who called me their 'golden sister,' kissed me on both cheeks, unless I resisted violently. They spread rush mats on the mud floor. We took of our boots and squatted round the hearth, and the master of the house threw on brushwood till the fire blazed high, and I could see to write out the necessary lists. In the better houses there was a big hooded hearth of mediæval pattern; in the poorer the rafters overhead glittered black with smoke, and were festooned with dried fish, and, in houses that had escaped looting, with onions and salt meat cut into dice and threaded on string; often with bunches of plaits of hair, hung on a nailends to prolong ladies' pigtails on bazar days.
Then the priest in his high black cap and shaggy locks and all the chief men of the village flocked in and settled down to hard drinking and tales of the rising. Even in burnt villages where it was hard to find a meal there was always mastic. Everyone drinks from the same bottlea quaint pewter one decorated with red glass beads. It flew from mouth to mouth, pausing every few minutes for refilling, and the company sucked the bottle and chewed leaves from a bowl of raw salt cabbage, hard and woody pickled in strong brine, or ate 'paprika,' the local pepper pod, and raised a colossal, incredible thirst. Weak mastic has little alcohol in it, but the strong variety is potent and fiery, and they tipped it down like water.
Many people came to see me, for they said, in most places, I was the only European who had stayed there except the Russian Consul. He had worked the land pretty thoroughly, and had left a tradition of fabulous wealth. The talk ran mostly on 'bands ' and 'committees.' Of their poor little victories they were very proud. When they had surprised a small body of soldiers they killed the lot, and poured petroleum on the bodies and burnt them. Then no one would ever know where they had fallen, and they could not be avenged.
' I hope they were all dead when you burnt them,' I said.
' Who knows?' they replied oracularly.
About the committees they were usually very bitter. 'They took all our money, and are safe in Sofia. We have lost all.'
Sarafov was very unpopular. The local leader, Arsov, many of them still believed in. But as a whole they dreaded the committee almost as much as they did the Turks.
I heard the same tale day after daya hideous, squalid tale of wrong. Each village had been visited by secret agents, and the people lured by promises or forced by threats to join the movement. Each family had to pay heavy toll in cash or kind. The guns were mostly smuggled in by women, who carried them hidden in firewood or other goods. Then the rising took placefutile, disastrous, and foredoomed to failure. The wretched peasants, most of whom had rarely handled a gun, were led often by the schoolmaster, who, save that he could read and write, was but little better trained than themselves. They burned a Moslem house or two, made a plot to blow up the mosques which failed, allowed themselves to be trapped in a narrow valley; the survivors fled after a desperat struggle for life, and the troops fell on the village. Chiefty women, children, and old men remained in it and a few insurgents in hiding. There was a wild sauve qui peut when the soldiers came; a volley was fired into the thick. Some were killed, others suffered outrages at the hands of the enraged soldiery; the majority got away into the mountains, and stayed there till the cold drove them down. The women went into the villages at night to make bread from the pretty numerous stores of corn which, hidden in holes, had escaped looting. In some cases where the band had given much trouble the village was burnt to the ground, and the wrecking was so complete that all the pots and pans were piled in heaps and smashed. The church was usually plundered and desecrated. Sometimes its floor was torn up in search of hidden treasure. And the whole rising fizzled out like wet powder. It seemed, in truth, when one was on the spot, to have been planned solely with a view to bringing about a wide-spread slaughter ofthese unhappy peasants. Had there been anything like a general conflagration planned for a particular day it might have stood a chance of at any rate temporary success. But it was a long drawn out series of petty bonfires. The troops extinguished one and rode on to the next.
The Macedonian Committee's action appeared to me marvellously ill-devised. Had the Moslems chosen they could easily have annihilated every village that rose. Perhaps this was what the Committee hoped.
Round Presba, too, it seemed that the people had believed there would be no reprisals. Their total inability to learn from experience staggered me. This time all was to have been different. 'And what was to have been the end of it?' They were to have had no taxes to pay, and would be allowed to carry guns and shoot Turks. This was their only idea of liberty. Even Danil and the gendarmes were surprised to hear we paid taxes in England. Lastly, they were to be repaid the money that the 'Committee' had 'borrowed' from them. In the whole long tour through the Presba villages, to my astonishment, I did not meet one single patriot (in truth, poor wretches ! they had no 'patria'), and I found no trace of knowledge of the Great Bulgarian Empire. Out on the great lake in full view of the villages lies the tiny wooded island called Grad, and here Samuel, the last Tsar of the Bulgarian Empire, built his palace.
I asked, by way of picking up local tradition, whether anyone lived on it. No, but there must have been a monastery once, for there were ruins of a church. That was all they knew, and the ubiquitous Russian Consul had been there. Nor in Resna, among the better informed, did I find any more knowledge. Samuel and his empire were dead and forgotten, and I did not revive their story.
Danil, who was a town-made patriot of recent construction, was vexed with the villagers' apathy; but his efforts at rousing them had little effect. He tried hard to persuade them they were hardly used, because their Church service was in most cases conducted in Greek. But they bolted raw cabbage and washed it down with mastic, and only said it did not matter; many of them spoke Greek. The priest took a suck at the bottle, and was of the same opinion. He spoke the local Slav dialect himself for ordinary purposes, but he had learned all the services in Greek. It was a good service, and what did it matter? Danil was annoyed, and told me that they were very ignorant; really they were all Bulgarians,and ought to have Bulgarian priests, but they did not know. Nor, as far as I could see, did they care here. Once or twice when a man told me that he was a Serb Danil was put out, and told him he was not. A few said they were Greeks, but they all appeared 'much of a muchness.' In type they differed from the people of the Ochrida district. They were, as a whole, better looking the farther south one got. The aquiline nose and well-cut jaw that is common in Albania began to replace the broad flat face, the long upper lip, and the high cheek-bones of the folk farther north; and in the villages at the lower end of the lake the shirt worn outside became fuller and fuller in the skirt and developed into the 'fustanella' worn alike by Greek and Albanian. They confided largely in the Christian gendarme, and the local fight was fought again for his benefit.
He and the Moslem generally came in with supper. The 'sofra,' a round piece of wood on legs 3 or 4 inches high, was brought in by the women of the house, and while we washed our hands the meal was laid upon it. A bowl of broth, the fowls it was made of scarlet with paprika, often a fish from the lake, a large flat loaf of steaming hot bread, and, if the house were at all well-to-do, a 'komad.' We ate with our fingers and a wooden ladle as tools, and I was the only one who made a mess and slopped things about. 'Komad,' the local idea of a delicacy, is calculated to upset the digestion of a hippopotamus. A huge mass of pastry is whacked and thumped till all possibility of rising is knocked out of it. Then it is rolled between the hands into a long, long rope, and this is coiled round and round in a large flat dish till the dish is full. It is covered with an iron plate, shoved in the ashes, and set to bake. When it is half cooked a quantity of sugar and water is poured over it, and the baking is finished. It comes to table a sodden mass, sticky, slab, leathery, and of incredible weight.
The peasants have suffered from many misfortunes, and 'komad ' is one of them. Their diet table is, indeed, an odd one. Meat they seem to prefer heavily salted and dried into chips; some said it was the only way they ate it. Eggs they boiled stone-hard as a rule. Milk they do not care about, unless sour. Of bread, hot and heavy, they eat enough for an elephant, and of salt cabbages and onions cooked in pepper they never tire. I never saw people eat so enormously and get so little good from it. In peace times, and even after the insurrection, in the villages that had not suffered, the people have a far better food-supply, and are better housed than the mass of Montenegrin peasants, even than some of the Voyvodes.
Barring the effects of the rising indeed, I saw nowhere the dire poverty that I met in Montenegro and the vilayet of Kosovo. But the Montenegrin is fit and strong on milk and maize porridge, while the better supplied 'Macedonian' is a chronic dyspeptic, and the hardest drinker I know. Often too much accustomed to drink to get honestly drunk, he is soaked and soddened with alcohol so that he cannot do without it. Nor is this surprising, for mothers give mastic to sucking infants, and tiny children drink a heavy dose with no apparent effect.
When I asked how they had lived on the mountains, people almost always said they could not get enough mastic, and had undoubtedly felt the deprivation keenly.
After supper, mastic drinking as before, they discussed politics. No one wanted war, not even the Moslem.
' Everyone would be killed next time,' he said.
'The only thing,' said the Vlah, 'would be for a foreign country to save them. Greece had been freed by a miracle. Why not they?'
I knew nothing about the miracle, and they were astonished. The Turks, they said, outraged a little girl, and threw her body into the sea. Then God made the wind to blow, and the sea carried the corpse, uncorrupted, and threw it up on the shores of England. The people of England came down to the shore and found the dead child. Filled with horror, they went and told their King, and he sent his warships, and Greece was freed. Everyone knew the story, even the Moslem, and believed it firmly, nor could I shake them. I trust it is not equally well known on the coast, for, driven by superstition, I believe there are many who would not shrink from an attempt to summon the British navy in the same way.
They all gave me messages for the various Consuls one about his son in prison, another about his stolen pigs, and Danil told about the twelve new shirts he had never worn. The gendarmes begged that the British Consul would apply for their pay.
The Christian, being only newly-enlisted, was but two months in arrears, and the joy of carrying a gun made up somewhat for the deficiency, but the Moslem wanted seven months' pay, and was very unhappy about it. They all discussed what would be the best thing for the Christian gendarmes to do at the next rising, and decided that they would all take their rifles and be off, which the Moslem considered a good joke. One night we talked of the Sultan. He, said the company, had murdered Abdul Aziz, and locked up his brother Murad. Murad was not mad, but was locked up because he wished to be just to the Christians. I remarked that Abdul Aziz was said to have killed himself. Moslem and all, they scouted the idea. It was well known that he had been heard shrieking for help, but the palace guards had kept the doors, and no one had been allowed to enter till there was silence. Danil vowed that his grandfather had been in Constantinople at the time, and had heard it from one of the men employed to sweep up in the palace. Another proof was that the Sultan would kill anyone; ´but naturally !' said Danil. ' So why not Abdul Aziz?'
When I had had enough of the conversation I rolled up in my blanket and went to sleep. Sometimes almost the whole party slept in the room, sometimes they didn't. It depended how many rooms there were. I believe I was generally favoured with the company of the more exalted.
To detail the tramp from house to house, the inspection of flour-bins and blankets, and the search for disease, the dull monotony of misery in every village, would weary the reader. I will mention only the more striking events of the tour.
Four villages had small-pox. In this almost unvaccinated land you have small-pox before you are five, and either die or are afterwards immune. No doctor visits these outlying parts. No precautions of any kind are taken to prevent the disease spreading, and the family shares the blanket of the patient. I had conscientious scruples about carrying infectionmyself at first, but came to the conclusion that in the general mix-up one more or less could make no difference. I found few adult cases; those were of a virulent type, semi-conscious, and with confluent pocks. The epidemic was passing over, and the surviving children were beginning to run about scarred, but recovering.
The doctor, indeed, who was sent up, on my report, to vaccinate around the infected area, said it could hardly be called an epidemic; there had not been more than thirty deaths in any place. I thought of the people at home, who are afraid to ride in a St. John's Wood omnibus if they hear of a case at Willesden, and smiled.
The small-pox chase, in fact, was not without a certain grim humour. At one village, when I was leaving, I was asked to give a little backshish to the priest's wife.
'Poor woman !' they said; 'two of her little children are ill of the small-pox, one has died, she has had it herself and is not yet well, but she cooked your supper in her own house and brought it here for you!' Another time a woman rushed out of a house, seized me in her arms, and kissed me upon either cheek until I struggled free. Her three children were down with small-pox, and this warm greeting was an appeal to me to give help.
That a certain percentage of children must always die of this disease was an accepted fact, as it was in prevaccination days in England, and the people took it stolidly. At one village there were even signs of a festivity. Hardly were we settled round the fire when a lad, very gay and smart in a red sash and a clean white fustanella, came in with a troop of friends. Shyly he offered me a glass of hot mastic.
'Take it,' said Danil; 'he is a bridegroom. You must drink his health.'
He looked about fifteen. As a matter of fact, he was just seventeen and the bride fifteen. ´They are very young,' said I, as the company chaffed him.
'It is true they are young,' said Danil philosophically. ' But it is better so, they say. Twenty children have just died of the small-pox. Maintenant on fera des autres, mais naturellement.'
And the bridegroom withdrew in a storm of jokes which Danil discreetly left untranslated.
A bride is far from holding the exalted position that she does in the West. In one house was a young woman in gaudy costume.
A silver waistclasp and strings of obsolete Austrian kreutzers, roughly silvered, gave her an air of importance. But the poor thing had to wait on everybody, women included. She kissed our hands with painful humility, and, as far as I could see, was not even allowed to sit down without permission.
'But naturally,' said Danil, 'she is the son's wife. They have only been married a few months !'
Sometimes I found traces of the old Slavonic family communities. Once a man, with the popular Servian name Milosh, gave sixty-three as the number of his family, and I found they formed the greatest part of the village. But I only found five other instances (families of from twenty to twenty-nine) in this district.
Many villages had a tale of horror. It is hard to arrive at the truth on this subject, for my experience is that these people are hopelessly inaccurate in reporting everyday affairs even when they have nothing to gain by it and do not mean to be untruthful. It is not so much a wish to deceive as a very low intelligence, which does not know what accuracy is. For instance, 'five' means a few; 'a hundred,' a great manyquite loosely. Also you may hear of the same murder in several villages from various friends of the deceased, and reckon it as four, if not careful.
I avoided leading questions as likely to suggest answers, and noted the information which dribbled out in the course of conversation. I do not guarantee numbers, but that the usual atrocities of a wild soldiery had been committed was beyond doubt. Podmacheni headed the list with forty-five killed, including twenty women outraged and disembowelled; the village partly burnt and wholly plundered, and the church wrecked. Krani came next with ten women stripped and outraged. There were four villages burnt out, and for dree misery Nakolech was the worst. Save some Moslem houses nothing was left of it, and its wretched inhabitants, squatting in mud-and-wattle huts, were living on the English flour and the fish they caught in the lake.
To add to their misfortunes a number of soldiers had been camped alongside the village since the summer, and stabled their horses in the church.
The state of the church was such that people doubted if I should be allowed to see it. An employe of the relief agency had already been refused. Some soldiers were washing clothes at the entrance. The gendarmes said I had come to see the church. I added, 'Tell them to be quick,' and after a short delay it was opened for me. It was not only littered with stable manure, but had also been recently and filthily defiled in every way, and was entirely wrecked. The wreckers had even been at the trouble of scratching out the eyes of all the saints they could reach.
The Vlah took off his cap and crossed himself boldly before a group of soldiers who crowded round the door and looked black at us. The state of the church was so disgraceful that it was beyond all words.
I think the Moslem gendarme spoke first. 'Tell the lady,' he said very eagerly, 'they were obliged to, else we should all have been killed. We must do these things to frighten them. They would kill us all and take our land.'
There was a certain feeling of thunder in the air. I withdrew as soon as I had looked well round. Outside were the commanding officer and another, who did not look pleased, but said nothing, and turned away abruptly. The gendarmes went to water the horses, and I went into the priest's hut.
Several men were waiting here to speak to me. They were terrified of the soldiers, and prayed me to have them moved. They accused them of no violence, but said they stole the washing put out to dry, and so the few poor garments saved from the burning were lost. (Here Danil told about his twelve shirts.) What they dreaded was that some day they would all be massacred. The state of the church was bad enough to report, but no one could tell me the name of either officer or regiment.
However, I learnt it later, and the Russian consulate took up the affair. I believe the officer was transferred.
The churches had suffered heavily, and it appeared that the Moslemgendarme's idea about the moral effect of church-wrecking was correct. The people were deeply affected by it. Until the churches were repaired and consecrated all religion was at a standstill. It was impossible to pray.
I asked if they could not hold a service in a room.
The priest was astonished.
It was perfectly impossible, he said. Without the proper apparatus nothing could be done.
Christianity here consisted entirely, apparently, in the ceremonial performed by the priest and a hatred of Mohammedanism.
I do not think I ever saw the picture of a saint in any of these houses. The ikon and lamp so conspicuous in the houses of the Serbs, the Montenegrins, and the Orthodox Albanians, was wanting. Nor did the people invoke Christ or the saints, or cross themselves at meal-times or before going to rest for the night. They seemed to possess none of the religious fervour that usually is so marked a characteristic of Orthodox peasants. They had more faith, apparently, in the amulets they wore than in anything else. Some of these were very odd. One was a green glass heart, two pink beads, and an English sixpence.
At German, named after St. German, one of the first missionary priests to the Slavs, we came across the one cheery episode of that nine days' tour. The village is a 'chiftlik' belonging to the Sultan's mother.
It had been but partially looted, and the church had not suffered. A festival was in full swing in honour, Danil said, 'of St. John, who did things with water.' Gay in their best clothes, the people came in procession from church, the women carrying sheaves of straw prettily plaited, and we followed up the valley. The Moslem thought he would not come, but the Vlah made him.
It was freezing hard, and a white fog spoilt the quaint scene. The priest, robed all in blue and gold, blessed the little stream which ran black between its frosted banks. He threw in a crucifix; there was a great scramble of men and boys to be first at the stream; the women dipped in their sheaves, and everyone crossed themselves three times with the holywater. The Vlah made all the responses in a loud voice, rushed wildly for the water, and came back very wet with his fez full of it for me. I made the proper signs, to the delight of the company, and he threw the rest over his Moslem comrade, who took it calmly.
Shortly after my return to Resna I read an English newspaper article, in which an impassioned young journalist described the crushed condition of the Christian gendarmes, who, he said, were made to black the boots of their Moslem confreres. I don't think I ever saw any gendarmerie boots that had been blacked by anybody, and the Christian gendarmes I had were all very cheerful; but things look so different when seen from newspaper offices.
The priest filled a caldron, and we processed back to the village. Here, I was told, he would like to bless me. I said I should be very pleased, but nothing happened. Then, it appeared, he could not bless me till he knew my name and that of my father. I supplied them; he murmured a few words; he dabbed holy water on my face with a bunch of dried, sweet basil (the holy 'vasilikon '), signed me with the cross, gave me the crucifix to kiss, I dropped a coin in the waterpot, and the ceremony was complete. When we rode away the Vlah carried a bunch of the holy basil stuck triumphantly in the muzzle of his gun.
At Rambi the usual state of affairs was reversed. It was a mixed village, and the Moslem half, with the exception of the mosque, had been looted and burnt by the Christians. The Moslems had retorted later by looting the Christians pretty completely, but I was told of no outrages. The place appeared to have been a very well-to-do one. It was once the local seat of Government. The headman's house was a really good one, and he valued his losses at £T1,000. They included two gold-coin necklaces. In this house was a mysterious Albanian in a cartridge-belt, who was very polite to me and made me coffee. I asked about him in private.
'He is a good Turk,' I was told. 'The owner of the house pays him to live here, and gives him all his food. He protects the house from being burnt. But all his friends come to feed here, too; and now the master has hardly any money left, and does not know what to do. If he tells the good Turk to go, the house may be burnt down next day.'
When I left, three friendssmart young fellows, with guns and sporting dogswere occupying the best room. We met many such on our journey. Then the Christians said: 'To-day we dare not gather firewood; the Turks are out on a hunting-party. They would shoot us, and say it was an accident.' But I heard of no such thing taking place.
On the shores of the lake I was promised a wonderful sight; it was the one great sight of the neighbourhood the hoof-prints of Marko's horse! Did I know about Marko? He was once a great King, and he rode upon a winged horse. Marko Kraljevich, the brave and greatly-admired hero of the Servian ballads, who was the last Serb ruler of this district (fourteenth century), was not forgotten. Christian and Moslem alike knew of his exploits. It was a fine wild scenefit background for a mediæval warrior on a winged steed - and the fact that the marks bore no resemblance to hoof-prints was of no moment, for Sharatz was a magic horse.
We scrambled by a stony mountain-track to Nivitza, a wretched little fishing village on the other side of the lake. The people here had fled to the island of Grad during the insurrection, so had escaped; but the village had been robbed, their fishing-tackle destroyed, they had an outbreak of small-pox, and were in great distress. It was a miserable hole of a place, but possessed a large new church that was surprisingly fine. This had been robbed of its silver candles and altar-plate, but was otherwise intact. One day, said the people enthusiastically, that great and good man the Russian Consul had come here with some friends to shoot birds. He had stayed a week, paid them lavishly, and had asked if they would like to have a church of their own. Here was the church. He must undoubtedly have been immensely rich.
They begged me to visit the island and see the ruined churches on it. The priest promised to go with me next morning, and I arranged to cross the lake and send the horses round. Unluckily it blew hard when the time came, and the lake was fringed with breakers. It did not look very terrible, but the caiks were cranky affairs, and no one, even for a bribe, dared put to sea. I was very much disappointed, and had, reluctantly, to return the way I came, meaning, when I had finished my list of villages, toreturn at once from Resna to explore the island. But the gods thought otherwise.
Children in the villages told curious tales. They played at insurrections, and, oddly enough, the parents found it amusing. At one place a tiny boy of four came straight up to the gendarmes and asked for a 'fisik' (cartridge). This he solemnly wedged into the handle of the tongs, and, at the word of command, went down on one knee and brought his weapon smartly to his shoulder.
'Oganj bit' !' ('Fire !') cried his grandfather, and the child dropped flat behind a cushion and aimed at us over the top.
Arsov, the local leader, had taught him this trick, and he repeated it over and over again to the admiration of the company. Even after we had ceased talking to him he wandered round the room uncannily, and continued to cover us with his weapon from different points of vantage till the gendarme restored the 'fisik ' to his belt.
Poor little 'oganj bit' '! his father had been shot, his mother was quite destitute. I almost volunteered to take him home with me. But in the next village was a little girl who called me 'auntie' straight off and went to sleep in my lap, and I nearly took her too. Danil was delighted with her, and translated all her chatter.
The Turks, she said, were very naughty people, and had stolen her new red stockings and the little shirt her mother had made her. Now she had to wear odd stockings, and was very cross about it. If the Turks came again she should hit them very hard.
They had burned down her house, and her father had gone to build it up again, but she would stay where she was, lest the Turks should steal her new earrings, of which she was very proud.
I was asked to adopt any number of children. I might teach them any religion I pleased if I would only take them to a land where there were no Turks, and give them enough to eat. Some of these unfortunate little things, I am glad to say, have found a home and excellent training in the orphanage started for the purpose at Salonika by the Rev. E. Haskell.
The whole tour was pretty gruesome, and Pretor, the last place on mylist, was one of the most miserable. It was a little hole of a place, and all plundered. Even the best house had no glass windows, holes in the floor and a huge hole in the roof for chimney.
The master of the house, a broken old man, pointed to a spot near the door. This was where his wife was shot; the blood ran down there by the steps; she died almost at once. Then they had to fly for their lives, and had no time to bury her. When, after three months, they returned, he collected her bones and buried them, but someone, he regretfully added, had broken them. He made no complaint; he simply related the occurrence, and asked that I should be told. Here everyone was in great terror. Tax-collecting had begun. The burnt villages were exempt from taxation, but to make up for the expenses caused by the rising, the taxes were raised everywhere elsethe cow tax to 10 piastres per cow per annum, and the pig tax to 122 (two shillings and sixpence), for only the Christians keep pigs. 'Ici,' as poor Danil said, though it was not quite what he meant'ici, seulement les cochons sont Chretiens.' There is a certain grim humour, too, about taking two shillings and tenpence per head road tax in villages which have no road anywhere near them. Plundered of nearly all their belongings, the poor wretches had been unable to pay the rates they were assessed at, and were in terror lest the gendarmes should return for it. One woman, who came in sobbing, said she had offered her children to the tax-gatherers, for they were all she possessed. Another, old and blind, said the soldiers had taken all her oats in the autumn for their horses, and now she was to pay tax for them.
When night came I found that no one in the village dared sleep with my two guardian angels, so there was nothing for it but to have them myself. This had happened once before. They were very civil, and came and wrapped my feet up tenderly when they thought I was asleep. But the Vlah snored like a thunderstorm, and the Moslem got up and made coffee when ever it occurred to him. So it was about as peaceable as sleeping in a kennel of hounds. When at last I slept, I was wakened by a gentle patting, and there was the Moslem with a cup of coffee he had made for me. It was 3.30 a.m.! I growled and went to sleep again, but the kind creature made me another at five. They were both wide awake, so it was useless to try to sleep. We piled on fuel, and they smoked by the fire. It was freezing hard, and we could see the stars brilliant through the big chimney-hole. They said they feared I had slept badly, but that one soon got used to this sort of thing, and with a month in barracks and a Martini, I should make an excellent gendarme. Then by the firelight, Danil interpreting, the Moslemsaid he had something to tell me.
He had a great friend, a Mohammedan Albanian, who came from his own town (a place, by the way, that has a wild, bad reputation for brigandage). This friend had lived for years near Resna. When the rising took place he said he had always been friends with the Christians, and would not desert them. He joined Arsov's band, fought gallantly, and did much message-carrying, and, being a Moslem, was not suspected by the authorities. Finally, he escaped over the borders with the band. The Government learnt of his doings, captured his three small children, and threatened to cut their throats if he did not appear by a given date. He thereupon returned and gave himself up. He was sent into Asia as an exile, and all his property was confiscated. Now, his wife and children were in hiding near Resna, were entirely dependent on charity, and in dire want. Would I help them?
It was true they were Moslems, but they had acted like Christians, said the gendarme naively. He was very eager. We talked it all round till the clammy gray dawn crept through the holes in the walls, and having breakfasted on bread and raw mastic, we rode back to Resna through a bitter, icy wind without my having made any promises. I was pretty dirty when I got there, as I had not had my clothes off for eight days, but I learned I was wanted almost at once at Ochrida, and there was such a lot to do that I had to leave such details till the evening.
Resna entirely corroborated the gendarme's tale, and wished help to be given. I asked to see the woman and children, but was told it was impossible; my visit would arouse suspicion. The gendarme came next day, bringing a ragged little boy with him as a specimen. I asked for the woman's name. He told me, but prayed me not to put it in our list, because, as he ingenuously said, the police might find her out. None of our Christian employes had the least fear that the goods would go astray, so the conveying of them was finally left to the Moslem gendarme, who fetched them in the evening, in order that the Government, of which he was a fanatical supporter, might not find out.
I was asked by the Christians to help this case. Just afterwards I had avery different appeal. Would I knock two names off the list ? They had been put on before I came, and had drawn rations once, but they were spies, and must not have any more. They had been in Arsov's band, and had gone with him to bury the guns before leaving for Bulgaria. They left with the band at night, but doubled back in the dark, and were seen next day leaving the town with the Mudir and some troopers. A hundred and fifteen rifles was the result of the ride. Arsov sent a message that they had deserted, and he suspected them, but the deed was already done.
'I wonder,' said the man who had come to take my place'I wonder that they are alive !'
'Monsieur,' said Danil earnestly, 'there is no one here now that can do it. But later, I swear to you, it will be done. Mais naturellement.'
I had been over a month in the district, and was sorry to leave Resna and all the people I was interested in, and especially sorry to give up the visit to the island of Grad, but I was needed urgently, and left for Ochrida next day.
"Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays.'
OCHRIDA hangs on a hillside, and trails along the shores of a lake that half Europe would flock to see were it not in this distressful countrya lake of surpassing beauty, second to none for wild splendour. The purple-and-silver glory of its snow-capped mountains fades into a mauve haze beyond the dazzle of its crystal waters. Its awful magnificence grips the imagination, and, in mad moments, awakes a thrill of sympathy for the unknown men who painfully hewed out tiny chapels in its flanking cliffs, and lived and died alone above its magic waters. There were times when I should not have been surprised to hear the white Vila of the ballads shriek from the mountains; and the tale of the two brothers, as told by the boatman, explained the structure of the rocks better than geology.
Upon that mountain-side there lived a man many years agowho knows how long. He was very rich. He had many hundreds of sheep; some saythousands. When he died he left them to be divided between his two sons. But the elder was a very wicked man. He took all the finest sheep, and gave only a few that were weakly to the younger. Then God was angry with the elder brother, and struck his flock with barrenness; but the ewes of the younger all bore twins. Soon the flock of the elder was the smaller of the two. In great wrath he sent for his brother, and demanded to exchange flocks, and the younger refused. Then they fought on the point of that great rock which you see above you. They fought all day until they were both killed, and their blood ran down the cliff into the lake, and the rocks are red to this day, as any man can see.
'If there were only another Government here, how beautiful this lake might be !' sighed my comrade. 'We might have a steamboat with coloured lights and a band!'
One should even give the Devil his due; there is one point, and one only, for which I am grateful to the Sultan: so long as he reigns there will never be a road by which a trip tourist can get up-country, nor a hotel in which he can stay and play 'Arry.
Ochrida, the town, is mean and squalid. The houses, though modern, have a strangely mediæval appearance, for they are built of timber and plaster with widely-projecting upper storeys, and in the a narrower streets folk can almost shake hands with their neighbours over the way. But they are for the most part nineteenth-century buildings hastily run up. The lath and plaster work is of the most gimcrack sort, and tumbles fast to pieces; the place is poor; few repairs are undertaken, and modern ruins moulder on all sides. As for the streets, they are steep, narrow, and crooked on the hillside in the Christian quarter, and rugged with the usual Turkish pavement of odd-shaped stones jammed haphazard together. When it rains it pours. Then garbage of every kind is hastily shovelled into the street, and races down to the lake in stinking torrents. After rain the people drink water that is turbid and yellow 'la soupe dysenterique,' as the doctor pleasantly called it. It is not surprising that Ochrida's death-rate is about four times that of London. There are awful centralgutters, and black, unspeakable intervals haunted by the unlaid ghosts of the stench of all the centuries; for it is an old, old site, and is claimed by all the peoples of the Balkans with such jealous ardour that I doubt, for example, if the Bulgars would allow a single one even of its foul odours to date from anything but the Great Bulgarian Empire.
It is a town in which you can scarcely look out of a window without being suspected of doing it for political purposes; a town in which each party strives to prevent your views from becoming 'prejudiced' by telling you the 'truth' (that is, horrible tales) about everybody else. I do not know a spot where 'earth hunger' can be better studied and observed. At Resna I was only on the edge. At Ochrida I had a most exhilarating feeling of being in the thick of the fray.
All the land around was a hell of misery! We lived on a thin crust of quiet, beneath which surged a lava-bed of raw primæval passions and red-hot race hatreds into which no Power dare thrust its fingers for fear of having them burnt off. It was a position of such absorbing interest that, with apologies to my friends, I must confess I never wanted either European comrades or books. Someone lent me a George Meredith and a Maeterlinck, but, compared with the human documents around, they were masses of dilute drivel, and unreadable. The study of the forces that underlay the mass of surrounding suffering seemed the only thing worth living for; its temporary relief but court-plaster on a cancer.
War between Russia and Japan, not yet declared, was expected daily. I had wandered about the Balkan Peninsula for four summers, and I had struck recent Russian trails. I believed that the immediate history of the Near East hung on the issue of the inevitable Far Eastern struggle, and I waited to see which would draw first blood with almost savage interest.
Ochrida is gloriously in the thick of things. It has belonged in turn to everyone that has ruled in the Peninsula. First to Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great; then to Rome, when it was an important station on the Via Egnatia. Rome, it is true, does not claim it now, but it lies within Austria's possible line of march to Salonika, and Italy watches her own and Albanian interests with a jealous eye. She has recently, with great skill, planted her own gendarmerie officers in this district, and by thus checking for the time being the designs of bothAustria and Russia upon it, has caused them both to explain loudly to Europe that they do not like having an Italian General at the head of the reform scheme.
Ochrida next was included in the Byzantine Empire. Then it was part of Simeon's Big Bulgaria. It was even the capital of Samuel's Western Bulgaria for seventeen years, and the residence of the Bulgarian Patriarch. Therefore, say the Bulgars, it is clearly Bulgarian.
'But we took it then,' say the Greeks. ' We smashed your big Bulgaria, and destroyed your Patriarchy. It was never re - established here. Ochrida is clearly Greek.'
The Normans even held Ochrida for a little while, and they make themselves quite peculiar by being the only ones of its former possessors who do not hanker for it now. I am sure, if they only knew it, they would like it, for the smaller towns of Normandy are the only ones I know that at all approach it in filth.
Ochrida next belonged to the Despots of Epirus, whose principality, together with North Albania, corresponds fairly well with modern Albanian aspirations, for there is nothing new under the Balkan sun. John Asen came along, and swept the whole territory, Despot and all, into his Bulgar-Vlah Empire. And then it became Servian along with almost all the rest of the Peninsula. Even after the fall of the Servian Empire it formed part of the realm of the beloved Marko Kraljevich, and, to come to quite modern days, Ochrida supplied a chieftain who fought under Kara- george for the freeing of Servia. Moreover, the Slavs' were there before ever the Bulgar arrived. Ochrida is, therefore, clearly Servian. But if it comes to ar prior claim, the Illyrians were there before anyone.Therefore Ochrida belongs to their descendants, the Albanians. Moreover, it was held and fortified by the great Ali Pasha. As we have seen, when Slav power waned the Albanians spread back over the lands from which they had been driven, and regained power.
Ochrida has been more or less Albanian ever since, and, until quite lately, both Ochrida and Presba were rightly described by travellersas the Albanian lakes.
Everyone's claim to Ochrida is perfectly clear, but no one else will admit it. Meanwhile, Ochrida is the Sultan'still the others agree about it. Rather more than half the inhabitants are Moslem, mostly Albanian, and possession is nine points of the law.
The situation would be farcical were it not so bloody. I vow the place is dizzy with propaganda. Even the Vlahs, not to be out of the fashion, have a church (a Greek one, that is) of their own here. The dear little Vlahs! They claim no lands, but they keep planting little schools wherever they go, and no one knows on which side they mean to play ultimately. Meantime, they are as interesting and as valuable to all parties as is the Irish vote at home, and everybody says fervently, 'For Heaven's sake, don't let us quarrel with the Vlahs!' Even the Sultan, aware that he exists on the differences of his Christian subjects, has smiled upon them recently, and rather encourages their propaganda. As there is money in it, we may confidently expect the number of Vlahs to increase. I heard, for instance, of a priest who had been a Bulgarian for years, but who has now discovered that he is really a Vlah. As the Vlahs pay their priests at a higher rate, the discovery was a very fortunate one for him.
The Vlahs are waiting to see 'which way the cat hops,' and meanwhile do odd jobs all round. They did a certain amount of letter-carrying for the Bulgars in the insurrection, but they live on very good terms with the Albanians and Turks, and, I fancy, are likely to throw in their lot with Albania ultimately.
Nor is this hurly-hurly of history and politics peculiar to Ochrida. It is common, with variations, to every town of any importance in no man's land. While this state of things continues it is useless for anyone to put labour or money into any commercial enterprise. The population lives, like Mr. Micawber, in a constant state of 'waiting for something to turn up,' and, not unnaturally, becomes more and more demoralized. Ochrida boasts of several antiquities all jealously (* On February 1, 1905, the Turkish Government granted permission to the Vlahs to have a church in which their own language is used. This puts them politically on a level with the Greeks and Bulgars, and is likely to have a marked effect in Balkan politics) claimed by everyone. On the top of the hill stands the fine old Byzantine red-brick church of St. Klima (Clement), whose body is enshrined within. He was one of the seven wandering priests from Thessalonica who bore Christianity into this wild land, and converted the Slav peoples. His brethren are not far off. St. Naum sleeps at the other end of the lake; the ruined church of St. Zaum on the lakeside and the rockhewn chapel of St. Spaso (or Erasmo) commemorate others, and bear witness to the fact that it was to Greece primarily that the Slav peoples owed their civilization.
I was amazed to hear a tale that the church was a Bulgarian building of the seventh century. The church itself said it was quite middle-aged, and could not be earlier than the twelfth or thirteenth century, but I had not the knowledge requisite for reading the inscriptions. Germans, however, know everything, and from a heavy archæological work I have since unearthed a translation:
'This church was built (rebuilt?) in the time of Andronikos Paleologos and Irene and Makarios, Archbishop of Justiniana Prima and all Bulgaria, in 1331.' It was probably rebuilt, and the fragments of marble in the walls and some of the piers of the porch, which have 'Ravenna cushions,' belonged to the earlier structure.
Justiniana Prima was the birthplace of Justinian, who was of Slavonic blood. It was the seat of an Archbishop and of a Prefect. Its exact situation is uncertain. Some have identified it with Ochrida itself or with Struga; other authorities place it at Kostendil, near Sofia. The occurrence of the name in this inscription, and the fact that it comes before Bulgaria in the Bishop's title, is of very great interest. The church is said to possess a valuable old library, notably a church codex extending over very many years, an examination of which led Von Hahn to doubt whether the Bulgarian tongue had ever again overpowered the Greek in the church at Ochrida.
I was especially anxious to see the old Slavonic books, but though I applied for permission the first week of my arrival, and both the Bishop and his secretary said there would be no difficulty about it, I was put off everyweek with most childish excuses, and in the end told I might see only the catalogue. Such was the chattering and mystery about it that I wondered at last whether the library, or the Slavonic part of it, had secretly flitted to St. Petersburg, as so many others have done, and should like to hear of someone who has seen it recently.
Down below, nearer the lake, defaced by a minaret, and much mutilated, stands all that is left of Ochrida's old cathedral, St. Sofia. How much truth there is in the tale that it is one of the many built by Justinian, and contemporary with St. Sofia at Constantinople, I cannot ascertain, but the body of the church, now used as a mosque, is undoubtedly very old, and the eagles of Byzantium appear on the pavement.
The Hodja who admitted me told me of a miraculous oil that flows from a certain stone, and also of a part of the roof which no one dare enter for fear of a great evil befalling. It appears to be haunted by a Christian ghost, who defends a little stronghold up aloft. Both miracles maybe, are connected with its former use as a church. The few fragments of fresco that remain are too faded to tell anything. The Hodja further volunteered that he would have visited me, but feared, for in the present state of things it was not safe for a Moslem to be friends with a Christian. The trouble was all the fault of the Turks, who had treated the Christians very badly. Whether this sentiment was intended to increase his backshish or was genuine I do not know.
Joined to the main body of the church at the west end is a large building, which seems to be a later addition. A long Greek inscription in big brick letters forms a frieze, and has been deciphered as: 'Erecting this tent, he taught in all ways the divinely revealed law to the people of Mysia. Mæsia being the Roman name of Bulgaria and Servia, this building must have been one of the early missionary schools for the Slav people. It is used for military stores, and I could not go inside it. On the hill to the west of the town in a ruined mosque, obviously the remains of a very early church, and on the promontory is a picturesque red-brick church, which is mediteval. None of these buildings, to my mind, belong to Dushan's days.
The last and most disputed of all Ochrida's monuments are the great walls and castle which in old days guarded it from land attack. Massive andmajestic, they are built of large irregular gray stones, with round towers, heavy square buttresses, and barrel vaulted gateways. And nowhere is there any inscription to fix the date. I took a daily tramp, to blow away the hospital iodoform with which I reeked, and climbed, scrambled, nosed, and prodded all over the ruins, except the eastern part, which was occupied by the garrison, and forbidden ground.
The height of the hill, its position at the lakeside, and its very steep slopes make it a place which the first man who came along would choose as a stronghold; and it has been fortified since Roman days. Boué, indeed, in the forties found two Roman statues and a Latin inscription in the eastern castle. The mass of the present buildings are probably mediæval, and founded at the beginning of the eleventh century, when Ochrida was for some years the capital of Western Bulgaria. But such an important site would have been strengthened by each conqueror in turn, and the present remains are doubtless partly Servian, Turkish, and Albanian.
Much of the rough, irregular masonry is like that of the castle at Uzhitza, in Servia, and Tsar Lazar's tower at Krushevatz. The Bulgarian yarn that it, as well as St. Klima, is Bulgarian work of the seventh century, can be put forward only by a people who have still very much to learn about architecture and other things.
I called on the Bulgarian Bishop once, when his table was adorned with a large white sugar church, a hideous caricature of Gothic style. It was, he said, a correct model of the church of the Exarchate at Constantinople. So childishly delighted was he with his new toy that, when he said the church was made entirely of iron, and there was nothing like it in all England, I agreed, and did not add, 'God forbid !' He then grew eloquent, and declared that to Bulgaria alone of all the other nations had there come the great idea of building churches of iron! He defied me to mention another example.
I told him of the ordinary corrugated iron affairs, and explained that they were not similarly magnificent, for I was far from wishing to hurt his feelings. But at the mention of any other iron structure he lost his temper.
'His Grace,' said his secretary, who spoke English, 'says that what you sayis quite untrue. In no other land has another iron church ever been seen.'
It was a frontal attack, but I did not want to fight; I looked at the bastard Gothic edifice, bred of Bulgars and cast-iron, and saw it was an allegory of ´progress.'
Alas for Western ideas planted untimely upon Eastern soil! Perhaps the greatest foes of the Balkan peoples are those well-meaning people who wish to hurry them on.
It was very obvious, within a week of my arrival at Ochrida, that all parties except the Bulgar were not a little anxious lest the British relief work meant that Great Britain would ultimately support Bulgarian claims. Greek and Serb lost no time in assuring me that, sooner than be handed over to Bulgarian rule, they would remain Turk. Then, at any rate, there would be some hope of getting their rights in the end. The Greeks, if they could not have the land themselves, would prefer it to be Servian, and the Serbs similarly made no objection to the Greeks. The Serbs received me with enthusiasm. They said I ' understood' them and at the feast of St. Sava they photographed me with the school-children in the middle of a Servian group, a copy of which, inscribed to 'Her Excellency,' I still possess. I was the only person at this 'slava ' who had been to the shrine of St. Sava's father, St. Simeon, and this was rather a feather in my cap.
A Greek told me that the Greeks were very pleased about this photograph, and it was soon clear that the Bulgars were not. They used to ask to see it when they called on me, and it made them snort. The virulence of the Bulgar party against the Serbs, with whom for all reasons they should be allied, disgusted me extremely.
'I teach the children to be Servian patriots,' said the active little Servian schoolmaster to me; 'their parents are Serb, and they wish their children also to be Serb, but unluckily this is only an elementary school. Those who cannot afford to go elsewhere to finish their education must finish in the Bulgarian as a photographer, and then went through Servia as a strolling player. One day he wrote and demanded more cash. He had already got through a gooddeal, and old P. refused to supply any more. The son thereupon returned to Ochrida minus a 'teskereh' (permit to travel). There is, of course, a penalty attached to this. Great excitement Old P. refuses to pay.
Enter gendarmes, who arrest son. Son halts in street, vows vengeance, and swears to burn down the paternal establishment. Son removed swearing. Then old P., seriously alarmed, hastens to the Kaimmakam (the representative of the Government, against which he and his party have been industriously conspiring), and prays him on no account to release his son at Ochrida, but, when his term of imprisonment has expired, to let him loose in some distant spot where he cannot slay his father. And the Kaimmakam kindly consents. In Turkey prisoners fare but leanly. It is customary for their families to supply them with clothes and extra food. Old P. cheerfully declines to do anything of the sort, and when I meet him a few days later is in a remarkably fine state of preservation, and as jovial as ever. In spite of his patriotism, he has no kind of shame about exposing his family squabbles to the enemy. Under the Kaimmakam's protection, he goes on cheerfully humming the popular patriotic street-song of the day. This, in fact, was the only way in which he and others displayed their 'patriotism,' and the authorities listened calmly with a fine air of 'It amuses them, and it does not hurt us.'
I was unlucky everywhere in the types of 'Bulgarian patriots' I met. They quite decided me that if Ochrida were mine to give away they would be the very last people upon whom I would bestow it. And the cultivated and courteous Albanian Kaimmakam sat in the 'konak' and ruled this menagerie with considerable tact. He deprecated all European intervention, but afforded us every facility for relief work, though I gathered from some remarks he let fall that he did not entirely approve of it. Nor was it likely he should, for every Albanian hopes that Ochrida will be his in the end as it was in the beginning, and no support of the loudly-advertised Bulgarian claim is likely to meet with Albanian approval. If the peasants had any complaints to make, he said they should come straight to him, and not to relief agents. Like 'le bon Dieu,' he was accessible to everyone all day long, and an intermediary priest was no more necessarv than he was in every sensible man's religion.
Bishops in Turkey are very much fishers of men, and to place Bishops is the chief aim of each party. Bulgaria planted one in Ochrida about twelve years ago; therefore of all the Christian factions the Bulgarian is now the largest. My work entirely concerned this, and brought me into contact with both its leaders and its rank and file. The latter crowded our premises daily for relief, and I was also in charge of them at the hospital.
The care of the hospital, started for the wounded by Mrs. Brailsford, and the visiting of all the sick refugees in the town, took up the greater part of my time. Surgery can be as interesting as politics, and the wrestle with disease as exciting as circumventing the Turks. Suppurating gunshot wounds, which were what we chiefly had in the hospital, were a quite new experience to me, and I found them most fascinating. Nevertheless, as they do not appeal to the general public, the hospital work, except inasmuch as it throws light on the manners and customs of the people, is better omitted here. But I owe a passing tribute to the skill and perseverance of our young Greek doctor, an Athens-trained man, to whose untiring care the patients were very much more indebted than they had any idea of.
Here, as well as round Resna, chronic dyspepsia was rife among the Christian peasants. Hot bread, red pepper, raw cabbage, and the passion for sour food is quite enough to account for it without taking into consideration the enormous amount of alcohol consumed. So great, I was told, is the love of sour food that dilute oxalic acid, when obtainable, is used as a flavouring. Every day, and especially bazar-day, brought out-patients to see the 'hakimo,' and 'My belly aches ' was their usual complaint. 'How long has your belly ached?' brought an answer that varied from 'Always' or 'Fifteen years' to 'Four or five years.' They all gave similar accounts of their diet, and were angry if advised to change it.
Scrofulous and tuberculous subjects were very common; enlarged and broken glands in neck and armpits, white tumours in knee and other joints, and very many cases of diseased bone, especially in the hands and feet. These for the most part were too advanced for anything but amputation, and that no one would hear of. I believe the cutting off of heads is the only form that is common in Turkey, and can be performed without fear of scandal. Overcrowdingfor sixteen or twenty people think nothing of sleeping in one room if they can crowd into it, and this from choice, not necessityfilth, and the intermarriage of diseased subjects is working far more havoc among the Christian peasants than are the Turks.
People would insist on keeping limbs that were mere black and offensive lumps of suffering. But though they could only sit in a corner and die of slow poisoning, nothing would induce them to part with a limb, or a portion of one. At the suggestion of amputation all the relatives set up loud shrieks. When told death was the alternative, they cried, 'Let him die if it is his Kismet!' and the patient echoed the sentiment. The poor wretch had usually come a long day's ride on a pack-animal, and the only thing we could do was to pay his fare back. He invariably preferred death to mutilation. It was a dree scene enough: the man, long, lean, and pallid, with black, sad, sunken orbits, who clung with both hands to his discoloured and suppurating limb, crying, 'Leh! leh! leh! let me die! let me die!' as he sat in a heap on the floor of a dirty hovel, and his friends chorused round him. I remember several such.
One day a hump-backed woman appeared. She was terribly distressed when told we could do nothing for her, and burst into tears. I was surprised, for it was a case of spinal disease that probably dated from childhood.
She explained that, if we could not cure her, her husband would divorce her. I asked how this was possible, and was told that a divorce could be bought for a small fee from the Bishop. None of the women attendants seemed to think it at all out of the way, and the episode produced a crop of anecdotes about Bishops of a most unholy nature.
One odd superstition, for which I cannot account, is that it is fatal for the wounded to taste fish. The wound will never heal. The lake supplied magnificent trout, but not one of our wounded dared touch it. Two refused fowl for the same reason. Most wore amulets. One boy wore an old silver Slavonic coin which I wanted to buy. He consulted his family, forhe was afraid to sell it. They decided that it was on no account to be parted with. As a matter of curiosity, I asked them to name a price, and, to my surprise, was told that they would not sell on any terms, as it had cured many people.
There are also some peculiar customs about the wearing of finger-rings. Village women who have brothers wear their ring on the first finger; those who have not wear it on the middle finger. They regarded this as important, but there seemed to be no particular custom as to where a wedding-ring should be worn.
Marriage is apt to be a vague and floating sort of affair. Many women had not heard of their husbands for years, the gentlemen in question having gone to Roumania or Bulgaria in search of work. It was taken for granted that they had all married again, and would never come back. Their wives, however, were unable to follow their example, as divorces are not sold to women. The women employed as servants in the hospital were all in this unpleasant predicament, and, on the strength of it, asked me almost every day to make them presents with the frankness and pertinacity of young children. Their very rudimentary minds were an odd compound of childish simplicity and animal craftiness, but a craftiness that was apt to fail because there was no intelligence behind it. The study of it amused me exceedingly. If I dropped in at an unexpected hour, I almost always had to 'tell them they must not.' Then they said, first, that they had not been doing it; secondly, that it was what they always did; thirdly, that the doctor had told them to; fourthly, that they did not know what had been ordered; and, lastly, that they had been just about to carry out the orders when I had arrived. Then we all laughed, for they did not in the least mind being found out, and the original order was fulfilled in the end. Their inability to learn was noteworthy. The doctor used an ordinary douche that had an indiarubber tube with a tap at the end. It was used every day for five months, but they never succeeded in learning how to turn the tap off, let alone in perceiving whether it were 'on' or ´off.' They persistently filled it when turned on unless the sharpest eye was kept on them, and then shrieked and squirted dilute carbolic about, crying 'Stop it ! stop it !'
They seemed to have the intelligence of tortoises, and I began to believe that if their brains were extracted they would go on boiling onions by reflex action.
It would have been no use getting rid of them, for they were fair average specimens. The native can be obstinate, but so also can the Briton, and by persistent efforts I got the rooms cleaned, the bandages boiled, the muckremoved, and the odours mitigated with chloride of lime, and a pleasing atmosphere of iodoform. But it was a matter of daily hammering.
One day, ten days after I arrived, we had quite an excitement. A whole ward went out on strike, and said it would not be cleaned again. Neither would it have the window open. Even Vasilika, the head attendant, was on the side of the patients. 'They did not like having the room cleaned,' she said; 'it was a thing they were not accustomed to, and they had quite decided that in future a gentle sweeping was all that the room should have.' I pointed out that even this detail had been omitted. There was a grand chattering. The patients threatened to leave. I said they might, and started the cleaning operations at once. Of course, none of them did leave. They squatted happily round the fire in Vasilika's room; we got rid of the rich monkey-house odour which they treasured, and they never struck again.
Patients safely inside the hospital could be tackled. Out-patients in the town were a far harder task; if they were very bad I had to go more than once a day, for, like animals, these people, when they feel ill, will make no effort at all to take food, and their friends make no attempt to give them any, but let them die of exhaustion. They did not even lift the patient's head by way of helping him. In order to prove to me that he really required no food, they poured something into his mouth, and triumphed when he choked, and both patient and friends assured me he was about to die. I had to go round resuscitating people with raw eggs, milk, broth, etc. It is a simple matter to beat up an egg in England and give it to an invalid. Here, however, no one possesses either a vessel in which to beat it nor anything to beat it with. The whole family drinks from a great earthen jar with a spout, and eats out of a large bowl, and has neither cup, glass, nor small basin. Fingers and a clasp-knife and huge wooden ladles are the only table implements, and I had to take round the necessary 'plant.'
The comic element in the midst of all this was supplied by the 'doctoress,' a stout and very voluble lady whose handsome fur-lined coat and general air of well-being spoke of a remunerative practice. She was, of course, the bête noire both of our doctor and of the municipal doctor, for she claimed all the cures and credited them with an appalling death-rate, and a ceaseless war raged between them. She had an infallible ointment for everything, especially cancer. We kept her out of the hospital, but she gotat the out-patients and killed a case of typhoid by filling it with parboiled horse-beans. Women of this sort practise in most of the villages. They had 'first go' at most of the wounds, which only came on to us when they were nice and septic, and we were then asked to pay the doctoress's bill, which was often heavy.
The municipal doctor had a rusty set of instruments in a dirty case, a truly alarming sight, but I think they were more for show than use. His position was an unenviable one. He was supposed to receive £T6 a month to attend the poor of the district, but he only got £T4, and that at irregular intervals, and after he had signed a receipt for £T6.
Turkish Government appointments are unsatisfactory things to hold, except for the pickings, and there are not many to be gathered by a medical man in a poor district. However, he did his best. When the English reported small-pox, and intimated it was a complaint that required fussing about, the Turkish officials, who had previously ignored it, announced suddenly that they were about to start small-pox hospitals. They collected a few cases and put them in a house in the town, but, of course, made no pretence at isolation or anything European of that sort. The poor 'municipal' had to attend them all, included in his £T4. This did not suit him at all. So, when the first batch was worked off, he made an inspection in the neighbourhood, and found no more.
Now, the 'municipal' was also public vaccinator. There are public vaccinators in most towns, I believe; their chief drawback is that they have no vaccine; so, though the people are willing, and even anxious, to be vaccinated, few are. The municipal really could not be expected to throw in vaccine along with medical attendance for £T4. The people therefore brought their children to us, saying that their next-door neighbours had small-pox, and revealed the true state of affairs. But there was nothing to be gained by causing more cases to be stored in the town in a Turkish, haphazard manner, so our doctor did a large quantity of vaccinations, and we left the municipal to make up his £T6 by attending people in their own houses.
His methods formed a half-way house between those of the doctoress and the properly-qualified Greek, an odd mixture of the various mysteriousointments beloved of the people and recent inventions. He had a perfect passion for antitoxin, even when it was three years old and thick. There was a good deal of diphtheria about, so we sorted out all the swaddled-up throats at once from the crowd of out-patients. The fame of the injection had already spread, and people used to ask to 'be given the needle.'
Their necks were generally stained with purple ink. The priest writes a text on two pieces of paper, which are applied, ink downwards, on each side of the throat and bandaged on. They infallibly cure an ordinary 'sore throat' in a fortnight or so. 'Neck' and 'throat' are the same in the local dialect. Sometimes 'My neck hurts' meant inflamed glands. One woman was told to come next day to have them opened. She met the 'municipal,' the rival practitioner, outside.
'Neck hurts ? Diphtheria,' said the municipal, and without further investigation he took her off and made an injection, and we saw her no more.
Filled with pride for his superior powers of diagnosis, he came and told us. He and our man had words on the subject. A day or two afterwards the municipal announced that, as the glands had broken of themselves, and an operation had been avoided, his treatment was undoubtedly correct, and that antitoxin was wonderful stuff.
Medicine under the Turkish Government is very odd, but then, so are most things.
Wherever I went I tried to interview the doctors. At one place I met a man who had been trained in Berlin. He was in great despair. All his things, including a good microscope and an electrical apparatus, had been confiscated on the frontier. His most important medical books he had recovered by paying full value for them. His electrical apparatus was refused, because such a thing had never been used before, so why now? The microscope he was to have when the authorities had satisfied themselves it was not dangerous. This was three years ago, and after repeatedly applying for it, he had given up all hope.
'Alles ist verloren !' he cried'alles, alles! All my bacteriology studyeverything! It is a lost land. What can I do here? Give quinine to a fever the nature of which I am not permitted to investigate!'
I was not surprised when he told me he was leaving shortly, and hoped never to return. If the Government had spent only half the energy in encouraging knowledge that it has in suppressing it, I really think Turkey might be one of the best-informed nations in Europe.
The Turk will set his back to the wall and die hard, but he will never learn. 'Alles ist verloren.' The only thing that can develope freely is evil.
Among the refugees in the town was an unhappy little boy dangerously ill of typhoid fever. His village was burnt, his father had been shot, and he had no relatives but a devoted little sister of about sixteen. She, poor child ! against all orders, gave him the coveted delicacy, 'koniad,' to eat. He had a violent relapse; all our efforts to save him were in vain, and a few nights later the long-drawn wails of his sister and the old women of the neighbourhood shrilled weirdly in the dark. He was dead. The little sister was bitterly distressed, and had no friends to help her. I paid for the dish of boiled wheat which she believed a necessary aid to his soul's salvation, and, learning it was the proper thing to do, I advised the Bishop at once, that a priest might be sent.
The old women and the little sister waited by the corpse, and no priest came. I sent again. Finally, after fruitless waiting, to his sister's distress he was buried priestless. I had been anxious not to add to the troubles of these poor people by trampling on their religious prejudices, and had mismanaged the affair hopelessly. The explanation was volunteered at once.
'When you sent for a priest you forgot to tell the Bishop you would pay for him.' Alas ! it was true. On a third and revised message a priest was forthcoming, who read the correct prayers. He was drunk, but that was a matter of detail.
Every Saturday there was a little crowd up at the church, in front of which is a stone table, where folk commemorated their dead by eating boiled wheat, handfuls of which they offered to the passers-by, for here the funeral feast does not, as in Servia, take place on the grave. But the people, for the most part, took little apparent interest in church-going. I suggested to such of our patients as could walk that they might go to church, but they never did, nor did any priest visit them. It was not til Lent that the power of the Church appeared. Sunday, February 21, was the last day of Carnival. This isusually celebrated by a good deal of gaiety and dressing-up, but this year, naturally, there were no rejoicings.
The two correct things to do were to wash your head and to eat 'komad.' My landlady appeared in the morning without her sham pigtails and with her locks dripping. She was rather upset to find me dryheaded, and seemed to think I had lost the only chance of a wash for the year. The hospital patients had a head-wash, and I found them all agog for dinner-time and 'komad.' The doctor had gone round with me the day before, and had sorted out those who might eat this delectable delicacy from those who might not. It was impossible to forbid 'komad' altogether, for 'komad ' eating was the one religious observance that interested everyone. Vasilika was given strict orders. You might, however, as well give orders to a cat. They all had 'komad.'
Next day our convalescent typhoid, whose temperature had been normal for three days, was in high fever, and so it was with three other patients. They were much surprised when accused of 'komad,' and wondered how the doctor had found out.
We 'went for' Vasilika. She was very pleased with herself, and said they had had their 'komad ' in spite of us. Nor, unless I had stayed in the hospital all day and all night, could I have prevented this. Even then they would no doubt have eaten 'komad' in one room while I was in another. But I am afraid it cost the typhoid man his life.
That was the end of Carnival. We began a fortyeight days' fast. On the first day nothing at all is eaten till evening; after that there is complete abstinence from all animal food. Even olive oil is only allowed twice a week, and not at all in the first week. Diet was limited to bread, onions, and dried beans. Beans should be very nourishing, but it is the custom here to only partially boil them. After a heavy feed on 'komad,' a day's abstinence, and (literally) a 'blow-out' of parboiled beans, 'belly-ache' became epidemic among the out-patients. As to the hospital patients, I was on the edge of despair, for they all appeared to be about to commit suicide under my eyes. The low diet told upon them almost at once; wounds ceased healing, andsuppuration that had almost ceased began again merrily. Even the arguments of the doctor, who belonged to the Greek Church, were of no avail. One or two consented to take broth, chiefly because they did not consider it food, and we gave a few doses of cod-liver oil under the name of physic, but milk and eggs were totally barred. Some sat up and prayed, with tears in their eyes, not to be made to break the fast, saying the food would go bad in their insides, and such was their nervous terror that it probably would have done so. To add to the difficulty, Vasilika and all the attendants were on the fasting side, and set their energies resolutely to thwart the doctor.
There was an unhappy little boy of four whose foot had been shattered with a Martini ball. A fortnight before I had with difficulty kept him alive by pouring milk down his throat, for he was too weak to move, and refused all food. When the fast started he had just begun to eat with appetite, but liked only soup and meat. His mother then said that I had saved him once, and might give him what I pleased, soup, milk, and all. But I had to ask every day if he had had it.
No, he had had nothing at all since yesterday.
'Vasilika says there is none to-day.'
Then to the kitchen. Vasilika all smiles.
'Why has not Jonche had his soup ?'
'Because there is none, lady; it is not required. There are plenty of beans.'
'You have been told to make soup every day.'
'It is impossible. There is no meat in the Christian shops.'
I sent Leonidas out to buy some in the Turkish bazar, and returned in an hour to see if the soup was being made.
Then the same story: 'There is no meat, but plenty of beans. Also we have asked Jonche, and he says he is not hungry.'
I sent for a Moslem fowl, and Jonche got his soup at last.
To add to my difficulties, the result of low diet was that everyone craved for and obtained raw spirits.
I was on friendly terms with the Bulgarian Bishop, and went to petition him. I explained that I was not a missionary, and did not wish to go against anyone's religion. What was his rule about food under these circumstances, and would he relax it for a few cases that the doctor considered urgent?
The Bishop folded his hands upon his stomach, gazed at the ceiling, and delivered his episcopal opinion with an unctuous piety that was a dramatic masterpiece.
Faith, he said, was better than food. Judging by his well-nourished appearance, his faith, I redected, must be really very great. For his own part, he could not imagine that milk was of any importance if the people truly believed. I did not like to suggest to His Grace that he had, as yet, taken no steps to promote belief among themfor he had never either visited them himself or sent a priestbut I thought about it. For his own part, he said, he did not believe in doctors. You got well or you did not according to the will of God. He was sorry that money which might have been spent in helping 'the cause' should have been
wasted on a hospital. After a little more I perceived that the root of the matter was the usual 'Burden of the Balkans.' The doctor was a Greek! His Grace, however, ended by saying that he would send a priest to convince such patients, for whom it was really necessary, that the fast might be broken. But he never did.
However, to my relief, most of the patients succumbed by degrees to the attractions of animal food. The few who bravely persisted suffered in consequence, and, in the end, I was sorry to leave one girl unhealed, who previous to the fast had been mending steadily and well. But enough of hospitals.
The sick I visited. The sound visited me. The relief lists here had been all drawn up previous to my arrival, but this made no difference in the mass of applicants; if anything, it increased them. The yard was full of them daily, and they called me their 'golden sister.' Plainer and heavier built than the Presba women, with faces like Dutch cheeses, they prolonged their draggled pigtails with string or wool, and ornamented them at the ends with old brass buttons, obsolete Austrian coins, bits of steel chain, or the handle of a broken pair of scissors.
'Give, give, give!' they cried from morning till night.
'I have received nothing,' says one, throwing her arms round me' nothing at all ! Oh, my golden sister, tell them to give to me!'
I take the name of her village. It has been burnt; she is on the list. 'Thou hast received flour.' She admits it reluctantly. Her ticket shows she has also had a blanket and a 'mintan' (wadded coat). This, too, she admits. But all these were given her by another madama.' This one (myself) has given her nothingnothing at all. She expects a new outfit from me. 'To-day thou hast taken flour for a month! Go, there is no more for thee.' She is very indignant. Someone else has had wool for socks or linen for a shirt. She is well clad, but she has made up her mind to have what the other woman has had, and is left declaiming. When I return at mid-day she will begin again, 'Another woman has had,' etc. Very few families get more than their sharetheir neighbours see to that; but it is impossible to see that the right member of a family gets the garment, for the stronger ones annex them.
The able-bodied press forward; I search in the background for the aged and infirm. Some of these, who are not on the listfor their villages are not burntare more grateful for a small gift of flour than are those who have been receiving it for weeks. One poor old lady crossed herself and threw up her hands heavenward before shouldering her little sack, and some murmured blessings. Two stout and dumpy brides whose marriage coffers had been looted were so overcome with the gift of a length of good cloth apiece that one burst into tears, and both were loud in their thanks. Most, I am sorry to say, on receiving a gift, asked for another.
Twice I was asked for help by women who said their husbands had been roasted to death in the oven by soldiers. 'Like bread!' added a man who thought I did not understand. The ovens are large buildings separate from the houses, and are heated by burning wood inside them. The tale was a possible one, and their manner of telling it inclined me to belief, for mediæval manners prevail in this land. Of excessive flogging inflicted during the search for hidden weapons I had plenty of evidence.
And the terror that the Moslems have of a Christian rising will drive them to great lengths in order to suppress it. It is indeed a wonder that any Christian village was left standing. If they cannot get what they want at the depot, my 'golden sisters' track me to the hospital, and appear as out-patients. They say they have a pain. When this statement breaks down under the doctor's examination, they say it is not the 'hakim' they want, but 'madama'; they have a ticket for flour, and my servant has refused to give them any. They shout, cry, and all talk at once.
An examination of their tickets shows that a week ago they received flour for a month. They must wait for three more bazar days. This has already been explained to them at the depot, but we explain it all over again. They begin again: 'Listen, my golden sister: I have a ticket for flour, but your servant will not give it to me.' More explanations; but you might as well argue with a cow. Before you have finished speaking they begin again: 'My golden sister, I have come for flour,' etc. After three or four more explanations I tell them to go.
They squat on the ground, and prepare to spend the day. They admit that they have plenty of flour at home, but they know we have flour in the depot, so they mean to have more; and there they squat, and begin again every time I pass, till it is time to return to their village.
Their slow-wittedness and inability to grasp a new idea is almost incredible, their dogged obstinacy even more so. They will probably return every week until the flour is again due. When the doctor has written a prescription and given his instructions, trouble is apt to begin. All his eloquence sometimes fails to make the patient understand that she must take the paper to the pharmacy and get the 'bilka' there. She does not know where the pharmacy is. It is in the bazar, where the folk of her village are now selling firewood. She has only to go to the bazar, and anyone can point it out to her. 'My golden brother,' she begins (this to the doctor), 'I have come for bilka; you have given me only paper,' etc. Benewed explanations. She is to go straight to the bazar; she leaves reluctantly.
When all the work is finished at the hospital I return to my quarters for lunch. There she is, squatting in the yard, with her prescription still in her hand. She has not been to the bazarnot she though she will have to go there in the end on her way home. She has come straight to the depot, and she begins at once: 'Listen, my golden sister. I am a poor woman. I have come for bilka,' etc. Not all the eloquence of two interpreters, my landlady, her neighbours, and her mother, can make some women understand.
Their male-folk are only a fraction more intelligent, but, under orders, carrying and dealing out flour-sacks, they worked hard and well. They usually sent their women out to do the begging. My dealings with them were mainly political; and whenever I got the chance I tried to point out to them that the expected rising must not take place.
After what I had seen and heard, it seemed to me that they possessed about as much power of military organization as guinea-pigs, and that if another insurrection took place on the lines of the last they would be slaughtered wholesale; for both Greek and Serb, alarmed lest a new rising should cause Europe to support Bulgarian aspirations, and in many cases maddened by having blackmail forced from them, would probably aid in suppressing it. Also, unless the country remained fairly quiet, the Turkish troops could not be withdrawn, and it would be impossible to get the reform scheme into working order.
Not that I greatly believed it was meant to succeed by either Austria or Russia, but because I hoped that other Powers might enforce it in spite of them. And I looked forward vainly to the day when a French, Italian, or British officer should ride into the town. A Russian would only mean more Pan-Slavonic money and extension of Russianinfluence (for at this time the Japanese War was but just begun, and the drain on Russian finances not marked), and as for an Austrian, he would only help to smooth the road from Vienna to Salonika.
The peasants here also were torn between fear of the Turks and of the 'Committee.' A man came one day and asked me to take charge of a lot of ammunition. He was tired of living in hiding with it, and wished to return to work, and did not know what to do. If he gave it up to the Kaimmakam the Committee would kill him; if the Turks found it in his possession they might kill him. He thought it would be safe with me. I was to hand it back again if wanted. I was sorry for him, but could not turn our premises into a storehouse for the Committee.
Politics here cover a multitude of sins. One night a man turned up mysteriously. In his village there were three traitors. Before anything further could be done they must be destroyed. They could not be shot, for this would probably bring down the authorities, and it was impossible to buy poison because the law on the sale of it was very strictly enforced. (This is interesting, as it shows that it is possible to enforce a law in Turkey when expedient.) But 'madama' (myself) was a friend of the doctor. No doubt if she asked him he would write her something that could be put in coffee. Then the three gentlemen could be asked to supper, and their political differences quietly arranged. Nor had he any doubt that I should fulfil this humble request. An episode such as this is vividly interesting. It is possible to ride hastily through the Balkan Peninsula and credit the people with Western twentiethcentury feelings. A short residence among them reveals the Middle Ages, their sentiments, morals, and point of view, all preserved alive by the overlaying stratum of Oriental rule.
There was a man in the town, a refugee from over Dibra way. When he was sober he talked Slav, but when he was drunk enough to straddle on his heels, which was not infrequently, he talked Albanian. He was a Bulgarian patriot. One day he came and begged my protection. Some soldiers had threatened last night to kill him. 'Why did the soldiers want to kill him ?' I asked. ' Because they suspected him.' 'What of, and why?' Then he related with pride that he was the man who had made the poisoned bread that had killed fifteen Turkish soldiers. I advised him to clear out, saying that if he did such things I could not possibly help him. He was astonishedthat I was not aware of his great achievement, and still more so that I did not admire it. This was just before I left Ochrida, so I never knew if he took my advice. Later I learnt whence the poison had beenobtained, and also that few, if any, of the soldiers, had really died, though they had all been very ill.
This type of patriot I had no sympathy for, but there were other poor fellows for whom I was very sorry. They had lost their all, and possessed only paper notes given them in exchange for their corn and cattle impounded by the Committee. This was in-
genious, as it gave the Committee a lever for raising another revolt, for the notes are not payable till Macedonia is free.
Meantime, what were they to do? Would I cash the notes? A patient in the hospital treasured one in a knot in his handkerchief. It was a printed form, signed by the leader of a band who had made him kill three oxen and turn 'chetnik.' The note was for £5, but the man vowed his cattle had been worth £12. Fortunately, he added, he had not had to fight, as he had been left as a reservist elsewhere, and the fight had taken place while he was away, but the village and all his goods were burnt.
Daily I marvelled more at the crass stupidity of the Turkish Government. Such a very little common-sense and ordinary justice would have saved all this trouble. The Christian peasant here is not a fighting man; if he were allowed to till his fields in peace without having more than the legitimate tax raised off his labour, and were guaranteed the security of himself and his women, revolutions are the last things he would be likely to undertake.
Of the outside world he is absolutely ignorant so ignorant that it was impossible to make a deputation from a village understand that English or Italian officers were expected at Monastir soon who would ride about the country and see that justice was done. They had heard of Russians, but of no other foreigners. Then the interpreter suggested 'kaurski' officersthat is, giaours, unbelievers and they grasped that the officers would not be Turks, and cheered up. All that the peasant knows is that his life is wretched under the present state of things. Oppressed by the Government and terrorized by the Committee, he rises, and will continue to rise so long as there is anything left of him, and he is used, poor wretch ! as the cat's-paw to help some Power or other extract territory from the burning. That he rose on behalf of Bulgaria is owing to the fact that the Bulgar party, though Bulgaria is a poor country, has for the last thirty years outbid easily all others. He would have risen as willingly for Servia or Greece had they been able to finance the matter as liberally. When Von Hahn visited Ochrida in 1868 he found one Slav school and four Greek, and the people expressed their preference for the Greek party. Since then money has been poured into the land with a lavishness that is amazing. It comes from 'outside,' and is paid to the Exarch Josef. Or it is a handsome present from the Russian Consul to the neighbourhood. It is called 'Pan-Slavonic,' but it works against the Serb, who is as Slav as anybody. I remembered the bitter cry of Servia as I had heard it eighteen months before: 'Europe did not consider us as peoples; she mapped the Balkan Peninsula out into spheres of influence, and we are in the Austrian sphere.'
At Ochrida it was certainly not the Austrian sphere that I was in. The dismay of the people on learning that Russia was not conquering speedily was great. Japanese victories were following one another in quick succession. The local outbreak that had been promised for the end of March was put off. All I could learn from the villagers was that they had had no orders and did not know, and there were only two small bands in the neighbourhood.
Once troops were sent out to search Vekchani for band of twenty-five. The soldiers, who have a poor time in garrison, made, it seems, a sort of picnic of the affair, and were entertained by the Moslem part of the village with coffee and 'tambooras' (guitars) and sing-song. They came back empty-handed. A rumour reached Monastir that an affair with troops had taken place. The foreign Consuls made inquiries, and the Vali, not unnaturally, refused to give any details of the affair. After this the 'cheta' was spoken of as very powerful, and my landlady, Maria, told me triumphantly that it had consisted of no less than 250 men, who had all escaped.
Talk turned on 'chetas.'
'Do you know what they are doing?' asked Achilles bitterly.
I did not.
'They are killing Greeks,' he said fiercely.
'Killing Greeks!' said I in amazement.
'Yes,' he replied; 'they are not fighting Turks, but Greeks. They go armed to a village, and they offer the people a petition to sign. It is to ask for a Bulgar priest, and to say they are Bulgars. They do not wish to change their priest, but if they do not sign they will be shot! We Greeks have had enough of this. I myself have had to give money to them. Otherwise I should have been shot from behind a wall the first time my business took me outside the town. Now we have sworn an oath we will stand it no longer. We shall organize Greek bands, and for every Greek that is shot we shall kill ten Bulgars.' He stripped his right arm and slapped it dramatically. 'With this arm I will myself do it,' he said fiercely, 'car vous savez, mademoiselle, nous autres, nous sommes aussi un peu extraordinaire!'
Nor has there been another attack upon the Moslems, but the Bulgars have occupied themselves throughout the summer by making attacks upon Greek villages, which the Greeks have continued to avenge. My life, in fact, at Ochrida was no more dull than a 'penny dreadful.' Something lively happened in each chapter.
I tried to get it in the Greek, the Bulgar, and the Turkish edition; also in the Albanian and Serb if possible, and there was a perfect library of tales all quite different. Then at night, when it was dark outside, and the night-watchman cheerfully went tap taptapping round the town with a staff and a lantern, I squatted by the stove and compared the lot with the accounts given in the English papers I received now and again.
Something happensthe Lord alone knows what. It appears a different colour to each beholder. The report of it floats through bazars and gathers additions; it reaches a town, and is black or white, small or gigantic, according to the nationality which retails it to the correspondent, also in accordance with the sympathies of hisinterpreter. But it is not finished yet. It has to be painted Radical or Conservative to suit the paper it is going into, for not one of the said papers cares twopenny jam about the good of the Balkan peoples; they merely use them as a lever for tipping home Governments in or out, and thereby building or blowing up the British Empire.
Poor Balkan peoples ! the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but to him that is most heavily financed by an outside Power. Still, their position is not hopeless, for when Nature is chivied with a pitchfork she comes back with a repeating-rifle, and in time the fittest will probably survive, in spite of European intervention.
At midnight, when all good people are abed, the troops were shiftedtramp, tramp in the dark. Whither or whence ? I was keen on knowing, for the Balkans had got into my blood, and I could not bear to leave when the relief work should be finished. I had an idea that the Albanian question was the one that was most pressing. All the unknown beyonds were a-calling, but I must plan my route to suit political developments. News dribbled through that the last battalion to make a midnight flitting had gone, not south, as was said at first, but up Dibra way, to persuade the Albanians to pay cattle-taxa vain task. Why should they pay increased tax to make up for damage done by odious Bulgars? On second thoughts, why pay tax at all? They got no return for it; it only paid Turkish governors that they would rather be without. Second thoughts are best, and not even artillery modified their views. It did mine, though, for I knew that the Turkish authorities would find me much easier to tackle than the Dibra Albanians, and that I should be turned back ignominiously and hunted out of the Empire if I appeared near a spot where anything really funny was happening. I gave up a plan to dash through the hottest part of Old Servia to the back door of Montenegro as foredoomed to failure.
But having lived now with the Montenegrins, the Serbs, and the 'Bulgarian Macedonians,' I clung to the idea that somehow or other I must get right into Albanian territories, and see what the political situation looked like from that side, too.
A day or two after the reports of fighting at Dibra, excitement was nearer home. An old man was shot in the bazar just after sunset. Maria brought the news with my morning milk. Now we were all going to be killed. No Christian could go to the bazar. It was the beginning of the end, etc. The Christian version was that a Moslem had entered the old man's shop and asked for 'rakija'; as he had not paid for some previous drinks, he was refused. He then whipped out a revolver and shot the old man dead. The Moslem version was that the old man was met in the streets after sunset by the night patrol minus the lantern enforced by law. They challenged him, but as he was unfortunately deaf, he did not hear, so they fired, and he was unfortunately killed. That he was killed was the only part in which the tales corresponded, and as he had two bullets through his chest and one through his arm, it was a fact not easily got over. The result was that the man who sold rakija round the corner mixed a special blend with petroleum especially for Moslems. He said he was very sorry, but he had upset the lamp into it, and the demand for gratis drinks fell off.
Next time it was the turn of a Moslem to figure on the death-list. Two officers were riding over from Monastir, and quarrelled on the way, whereupon one shot the other dead. They were both said to have been drunk.
Oh, it is a gay land for law and order !
I got so used to these episodes that, when one night I heard a row, a running about, and Dooley, the oddjob man, who was rather cracky, screaming, I only half woke up, and went to sleep again at once. Next morning my interpreter explained it.
'I had very bad bellyache,' he said, 'so I cried out " Help!" Then the "kavas" thought something was happening, and he came running in with his rifle and revolver. Then Dooley, when he saw the rifle, was very frightened, so the kavas pretended he would shoot him, and he ran after Dooley with his rifle, and Dooley screamed, and we hope you were not disturbed !'
'Not at all,' said I,
Then more excitement. A man was shot over at Vekchani, a Christian. Who shot which this time? Other Christians. The recent military raid on Vekchani was connected with this latest death, rumour said. The word 'traitor' was mentioned. The Kaimmakam himself went over hotfoot, but no arrest was made.
The Bishop had been very indignant about the man who was shot in the bazar, and wanted me to act in the matter. So I asked him what should be done in the present case. Oddly enough, though it was much talked about, the Bishop had heard nothing merely that a man had been shot, that was all; a Christian, he believed. He did not see that anything could be done. Nor did I, for it seemed to be one of those little affairs in which there is more than meets the eye; and iI1 Turkish territory the arranging of who is to be ' removed' is said to be an episcopal function.
The problem of the Bishop fascinated me from the beginning: the old-young man with his inscrutable smile, his veneer of courtesy, and his capacity for flat contradiction; his unctuous piety as he posed as one of the Lord's elect, and his taste for Munich beer; his palace well, even luxuriously, furnished in European style; himself, made Bishop at the callow age of twenty-flve, swarthy, black-eyed, with the puffy flesh and dull skin of a man who lives well and takes no exercise. What was his relationship to this mass of miserable peasantry? How did he regard them, and to what end was he working?
The wretched refugees he neither heeded nor helped. I discovered early that he had a terror of infection, and he was not even aware till the end of our stay that the sick, other than those in the hospital, had had British relief. That, being Bulgar, neither Serb, Greek, nor Albanian had a good word to say for him was a matter of course. I waited patiently for the Bishop to explain himself. Messages flowed constantly between our depot and the palace. I called on the Bishop and the Bishop on me. His Grace's secretary, trained in an American college, a dire example of the mental indigestion caused by rashly overdosing the East with Western ideas it cannot assimilate, haunted my premises and swoopedgreedily on all my newspapers, which he bore off to the palace. He was European outside, and spoke English very fairly.
The Bishop began to explain himself. He wanted me to supply rations for various 'chetniks.' I perceived that if I were not careful we should have revolutionary schemes carried on under the shelter of the British flag. We were being trusted by the Turkish Government to play no tricks, and were allowed quite extraordinary liberty of action. I replied that our business was to care for the wounded and feed the inhabitants of villages that had been burnt out. I must see the parties and hear particulars. I was told I could not see them. This was the little rift within the lute. His Grace made many similar requests, until at last his secretary was afraid to deliver the message to me, and left it with the interpreter with the remark that he knew it would be of no use. It appeared the relief was not going the way the Bishop had intended. That the peasants had been saved from starvation gave him no pleasure.
'We had expected quite half the population would die as a result of the insurrection,' said his Jackal, 'and not one quarter have. Next time a great many more must die, and Europe will have to listen to us. Next time there will be a great slaughter. Every foreign Consul will be killed as well as every foreigner. It will be their own faults!'
'You propose to set the people free by sending them to heaven!' I said; 'it is certainly one way.' I added: 'You are not only wrong, but very silly, especially about the Consul-killing.'
And he was much annoyed. We speedily got to the root of the matterthat Great Bulgaria had to be constructed at any cost. What became of the peasants for whose 'freedom' the scheme was supposed to be worked was a matter of small moment. I gathered he had as yet taken no part in the fighting, and intended to be one of the survivors.
At the beginning of March we gave out the last distribution of flour that the funds permitted of, enough to last till the end of April (O.S.). After this, in view of the expected rising, the British Ambassador gave notice that it would be well to wind up the hospital work shortly, and that all agents who stayedup-country must do so at their own risk. At Ochrida it seemed clear, however, that nothing would happen just yet, so, as there were still some wounded to see to, I arranged to stay on a bit, and called on the Bishop to tell him of our plans. He was very angry to hear we were leaving soon, and bade me write to England for more money; he had expected us to feed the people all the summer. If an outbreak took place my presence was the more necessary, as a martyr to the cause would be invaluable.
'You are afraid !' he cried'you are afraid !'
Up till now I had not entered into party politics with him, but had taken his advice whenever it did not entail active support of 'chetas.' Except for his habit of contradicting flatly, he had always been elaborately polite. Now the natural man burst through the ecclesiastical varnish.
'You are afraid!' he repeated; 'you are running away. You think we shall take you as we did Miss Stone. And it would be quite possible!' he added wrathfully.
Now, the kidnapping of Miss Stone was one of the most mean and dirty political 'jobs' ever perpetrated. I wonder if the public has any idea how dirty. I had not credited the Bishop with a lofty moral standard, but this was lower than I expected. Also it was silly.
'I like travelling,' said I, ' and it would be cheap. You would never have a piastre for me.'
His Grace and the Jackal were taken aback.
'Fourteen thousand pounds was paid for Miss Stone,' they said.
'Miss Stone was an American,' I answered. 'I am English. I can't afford to pay ransoms.'
' But the British Government would pay.'
' Oh no, it would notnot a piastre.'
'Miss Stone,' said the Bishop sententiously, 'might have been killed!'
There is something highly farcical in being threatened with brigandage and murder in the course of a morning call with a background of European furniture, and I laughed.
'You kill me,' said I, 'and there is the end of your Bulgaria. No civilized Power will help you. I am not going because I am afraid of you. The work is finished here, and I am going to ride through Albania.'
'You can't,' cried the Jackal; 'it is most dangerous.'
'Oh no it isn't,' said I; ' the Albanians won't want to take me like Miss Stone." '
Check to the Bishop. He changed the subject.
I had been astonished at his outbreak; the cause now appeared. I was black sheep for my nation. England, he said, was attacking Russia under the Japanese flag, with English ships, English officers, English weapons. England had provoked the declaration of war. The news in the papers I had lent him were lies, English lies. England had never liked the Balkan Slavs, and now she was attacking their only friend.
Blood is thicker than water. 'Scratch a Russian and you find a Tartar,' seemed to apply to Bulgars. He threw off all pretence of friendship for England, and displayed a bitter Balkan hatredraw and fierce. I was vividly interested. I wanted, of all things to learn what part Russia plays in Bulgaria's scheme for territorial aggrandisement. Weeks ago I had been convinced that the peasants were only tools. Now, at last, I had it from the Bishop, a head centre of Bulgarian propaganda, that Russia was of paramount importance to their plans. I threw only enough doubt on his information to keep him going, and bore his abuse of my own country with equanimity. He felt better when he had let off steam, and we parted quite politely.
Our depot was empty, and I remained alone with an interpreter to finish the hospital work. My surprise, therefore, was great when, coming home at an unusual hour, I found the yard filled with pack-horses and 'kirijees,' who were busy stowing bales in our basement, and I learnt they containedmen's clothes and shoes, had been consigned to the Bulgarian Bishop, and were to be put in the English premises by his orders.
I waived the usual etiquette of sending to know if it were convenient, went straight to the palace, and asked if His Grace would kindly see me at once on an urgent matter. His Grace and the Jackal seemed flurried. I explained that, doubtless by mistake, goods belonging to the Bishop had been delivered to me. No, there was no mistake. The depot was no longer ours. The Bishop had taken it. He was going to make a distribution of clothing, and it was more convenient to make it at our place. There was no room at the palace. I added up the situation mentally. Why had I not been told beforehand? Why had the goods been 'dumped' at an hour when I was usually out? Why was there 'no room' in the extensive palace ? Why was it more convenient to distribute from what were recognised as British premises? Above all, why were His Grace and his secretary so upset? They conversed together in rapid whispers, and I have rarely felt more uncomfortable. So long as I was in the depot I was bound to see that there was no possibility of a 'cheta' being fitted out under our protection. The Bishop was an adept at wire-pulling, but I would see him somewhere before he wire-pulled Great Britain.
'The house is ours till the end of the month,' I said, 'and has been paid for.'
They were vexed, for it overthrew their first point.
'The distribution can take place while you are out, and will not inconvenience you,' said the secretary, after more whispering.
The situation was unpleasantly strained.
'It is not the inconvenience,' said I, scraping up my courage; 'the difficulty is that so long as I am here any distribution that takes place on our premises will be considered by the authorities to be English, and I know nothing either about the goods or the people who are to have them. I am sorry to disoblige His Grace.'
This left little more to be said, for they did not think fit to enlighten me about their plan. I had it on my mind that I ought to ask for the removal of the bales, for the manner of both men suggested 'there was more thanmet the eye.' But I did not. I believe I 'funked it.'
With apologies for troubling His Grace, I withdrew from the somewhat thunderous atmosphere of his study. And at a distance from the palace my interpreter and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. The bales remained where they were, and in order to make all ' square and above-board' so far as the British Relief Fund was concered, I told the Kaimmakam on leaving that our distribution work had been quite completed.
My last week was a crowded one. I had some money to give away; the question was, how? I thought of buying plough-oxen for one or two villages to aid the spring sowing. This was impossible, as the headmen I interviewed insisted that the beasts must be presents to individuals ( = themselves), and not for ploughing land to feed the village. The owner could let them out to his neighbours, and so make money. I had already learnt how the leading men of the villages made money by capturing the flour-tickets and selling them back to the ownersone gang even charged so much a head for letting the people have the flour; and I should have handed them over to the Kaimmakam had I discovered the fraud in time to see the matter through. Then I offered a few sheep and goats to certain villages to start a flock. Everyone quarrelled, and was certain that no one who had them would let anyone else have even one lamb. It was but another example of the 'Burden of the Balkans.' They were too much occupied in 'doing' each other to be able to work together for a common end. I therefore chose three very poor villages, gave money to each widow and child to buy one month's flour, and had almost accomplished the task, which gave very great pleasure, when a 'bazar rumour' raged through the town that 16,000 had arrived from England, and was to be distributed broadcast! An Eastern bazar rumour is a fearsome thing.
Within twenty-four hours every woman in the neighbourhood was a widow and every child an orphan, and we were besieged by them. A few enterprising men joined the throng, and said they were widowers. A parley failed utterly. The yard was crammed, and they tried to get into the house. It was an anxious time. The crowd was such, I feared childrenwould be hurt.
We fastened the doors, and from an upper window I roared to them that we had nothing leftneither flour, linen, clothes, nor money. They must go.
The scene beggars descriptions. They refused to believe me, struggled to get in, and cried out in the crush. It was getting unpleasant. I went down with the kavas, managed to squeeze out, ordered every child to leave at once, collected them, and drove them out of the gate, which the kavas shut after them. This caused many women to go in search of their offspring. They were let out with difficulty, as a crowd was trying to get in. The women remaining then squatted on the ground, and declared they would remain till they received something, no matter what. So long as any remained in the yard those outside believed a distribution was going on. More flocked up and tried to get in.
The Moslem kavas was getting excited; he was itching to play the part of chucker-out. The air was thick with abuse. It had been going on for a couple of hours. The only way to avoid a catastrophe was to evict everyone, so that they might spread a counterrumour and stop the affair; but I could not employ a Moslem man to chuck out Christian women.
There was a final and futile parley. Then I turned to the nearest woman, pointed to the gate, and said:
'No,' said she.
I took her by the belt and collar and ran her down the slope; the kavas whipped open the gate, and she was outside and the gate shut before she had got over her surprise.
I hoped this would be enough, but never a bit. I was not educated for a policeman, and, as I evicted the fourth, feared they meant to tire me out. However, to my relief the fifth turned the scale, and the rest got up and went. It was one of the most trying episodes I ever had to tackle.
The next bazar rumour proved true. Ochrida was agog with the news thata Russian newspaper correspondent was coming. His possible mission was much canvassed. He arrived from Kastoria with a military escort, and was chaperoned carefully about Ochrida between two Turkish officers. When I called next morning on the Bishop, to make my final farewells, the Russian was coming out, and His Grace, 'Pan-Slavonically' consoled, was in high spirits, and adorned once more with his inscrutable smile.
We arranged that the hospital plant should be handed over to him, and he then asked how I was going to Monastir.
'On horseback over the mountains to-morrow,' said I.
His Grace was horrified. It was impossible: the fatigue would be terrible. He himself always drove by the carriage road. I preferred riding. He smiled fatuously, and said he was growing old, and horseback was only for the very young.
'Exercise is good,' said I. 'His Grace is younger than I am, but I am English.'
His Grace expressed a total inability to comprehend me. Sporting instincts were naturally beyond him.
'I am going,' he said, 'to ask you a great many questions on your religion, which no doubt is what has caused you to take up this work, and live alone in a wild land.'
Here followed an excursus on faith.
'I came,' said I, 'to help the victims of the insurrection, and to see the Eastern Question from a fresh side. I hope in time to explore the whole Peninsula, and see all its peoples.'
The Bishop folded his hands and cast up his eyes. He could look very holy when he chose.
'I continue to believe,' he said, ' that it was religion that sent you.'
I assured him I had not troubled about my body or my soul; I had come to learn as much as I could of the truth about recent events, and see what could be done.
The Bishop was nonplussed. I do not fancy truth was an article he greatly valued, and he certainly was not afflicted with a thirst for knowledge. He had not even learnt to speak Turkish.
"'Knowest thou aught a Corsaint that men call Truth ?
Couldst thou aught wissen us the way, where that wight dwelleth ?"
" Nay, so God help me," said the gome then.
" I saw never palmer, with pike nor with scrip
Axen after him ere, till now in this place!"
The lines, vaguely remembered, sketched the situation fairly.
'What have you learned ?' said the Bishop eagerly.
I hesitated. The Bishop was persistent; so was his secretary. They questioned and requestioned. I looked at the Bishop, young, smug, unctuousthe man who had faced no bullets, visited no sick - beds, comforted no dying; who had fared softly in his palace while his flock rotted and starved. I thought of his cowardly dread of infection, the priestless burial of the little boy; I heard again the words, ' Not a quarter of the population are dead,' etc.; I saw the helpless mass of wretched humanity with whose blood this man and his friends meant to paint red the frontiers of Big Bulgaria. Then I told quite frankly what I had seen of the game. Their interruptions only showed it more clearly, and I tried by questions to make them tell the tale themselves. The bitter sufferings of the people under the Sultan's Government were nothing to them: better that they should continue to suffer than that Greece or Servia should gain an inch of territory. Both nations they abused freely. The European intervention which they demanded was to support only Bulgarian claims; ' autonomy for Macedonia ' was to be a half-way house to Great Bulgaria. I wished Bulgaria a fair share of the Sultan's territories, but I did not admit the justice of all her claims, and I most strongly condemned her methods.
Then it was the Bishop's turn, and he was equally outspoken. Christianity, he said, was the greatest power in the world, and would eventually triumph. England was not a Christian country, and would be wiped out by Holy Russia; the sooner the better. He had a piece of news for me: Russia had conquered Japan, and wasoccupying half of it. The other half was occupied by the English, who would shortly be forced to withdraw. We had dropped from tragedy to farce, and I laughed aloud.
'As England wishes to take Japan herself, you will be sorry to hear this !' he said. 'Also that Russia is going to occupy all the rest of India.'
Here we had an excursus on geography, concerning which his ideas were suitably mediæval. I explained that for the sake of the human race I always wanted the best man to win. When we were no longer able to defend ourselves we should go, and not before.
'You will,' said the Bishop, 'you will. All the world knows you have no army. You are very proud of your navy. What is a navy ?
Nothing, I tell younothing ! I have seen a navy, and I know!'
'His Grace,' said I, ' has perhaps seen the Bulgarian one.'
The audience had now lasted quite long enough. I thanked the Bishop for all he had done for me, and took what I hoped was a last farewell of him. But etiquette had to be maintained. I was told His Grace would return my call that afternoon.
When he arrived I was parleying with two widows of the town, each with an orphan. Maria rushed in: 'The Bishop, the Bishop!'
His Grace entered solemnly, Maria kissed his hand humbly, and retired, so did one widow; the other sat firm and ignored His Grace completely. She was a stout, elderly party, with a good deal of presence. I perceived she intended to sit the Bishop out. The Bishop looked at her. She gazed over his head. For a little while he ignored her. Then he said suddenly to the child:
'What school do you go to?'
'The Greek,' said the widow.
'That is a pity,' said the Bishop.
'No, it isn't,' said the widow. 'Greek is more useful.'
'Children should learn the language of their father and their nation,' said the Bishop severely.
'This child's father was an Armenian,' retorted the widow triumphantly. 'It is my daughter's child, and I am Greek.'
The Bishop tried to be clever. 'What did you speak at home ?' he asked the child.
'Turkish !' came the answer smartly.
The widow regarded the discomfited Bishop with unspeakable contempt. He arose, made his adieus, and fled.
We wrestled for the last time with the greedy demands of the pharmacy man, and the provision dealer, who was very drunk and more than usually obstreperous, went to bed early, to be ready to start at dawn, and spent a truly Balkan night.
Dooley, the odd-job man of the depot, had been promised work in Monastir, and was to ride there with us. In the black hours before dawn came an awful row in the streetbattering on the gates, shouts, screams, soldiers and what not, all mixed up in the dark. Dooley was arrested by the night patrol and taken to prison. I dressed hastily; friends flocked in. It was a brutal outrage: poor Dooley had been merely coming to make final arrangements; had been attacked and beaten by the soldiers. I was called on to act promptly and save him from a Turkish prison.
Day dawned and our horses were ready, but the Kaimmakam, who had to be appealed to, was naturally not yet up. My chances of getting through to Monastir that night were slipping away, and my plans depended on it. Finally, when, to everyone's joy,
Dooley was released-for the Kaimmakam acceded at once to my requestthe victim of the brutal outrage was crazy drunk. Riding on horses was very cruel, he spluttered; he had gone out at three in the morning to hire a carriage; he didn't mind the expensenot he; he wouldn't ridenot he; was looking for a carriage when thesoldiers arrested him ! I made a final effort to save the poor devil, but it was in vain. He was too drunk to sit in a saddle even could we induce him to try.
We left him behind, and, owing to this final piece of local colour, had a stiff ride to Monastir; for though we pushed on as fast as the mountain-tracks allowed, the sun went down before we got in. A bitter wind arose, and we crawled along at a foot's pace, for it was pitch-dark, and the road a mass of loose stones and holes; also it was freezing hard. I clung to the saddle-peak, and comforted myself only by reflecting what fun it would have been to have brought the Bulgarian Bishop along.
Finally the lights of Monastir came in sight. I dismounted, cold and stiff, at the door of the Hotel Stamboul; high time, too, for my luckless interpreter, who was no horseman, was about done up, and my landlord, who had taken advantage of our escort to come to Monastir too, had had quite enough.
But I was in a tearing, raging hurry, for an unique chance had offered itself for getting right through Albania, and I did not wish to lose it. A well-known society was sending an agent from one end of the country to the other on business, and was willing that I should accompany him. He was an Albanian, and spoke some French. The one drawback was that I had never seen him; he had already started, and I must pick him upan unknown quantity in a quite unknown land. As, however, I was going alone and on my own account, and so was responsible for no one's money or life, I was free to take any risk. The one thing necessary was to obtain Turkish Government permission for the expedition. Without this I should be fairly certain to be turned back somewhere, and the society might get into trouble, as Turkish officials were very suspicious of strangers. Some of my friends on the relief work were of opinion that to ask permission was to court failure, and that a refusal was certain. The British Consul, however, knew best he advised me to call by myself on the Vali, and predicted success.
Calling by yourself at a Government Konak is a nervous task. There is a yard full of soldiers and gendarmes, and several staircases more or less muddy that lead to unknown heights, and, naturally, all the directions are scribbled up in Turkish. Upstairs there are corridors where o~cers hangabout and smoke, and messengers hurry from one heavily-curtained door to another. No one took the faintest notice of me, so I addressed the most gorgeous in French. He did not understand, but called someone who did, and in two minutes I was in the presence of His Excellency. He was much amazed at my request, but very affable, and gave me leave to wander as long as I liked, though he was sure that cold and hardships would prevent my carrying out my proposed route. I fancy the fact that we both painted in water-colours was a bond of sympathy. He hoped I had my apparatus with me, and assured me I should see ´des choses très bizarres.´ I thanked him, and was about to leave, when he said that, as I had been on hospital work at Ochrida, I should perhaps like to see the Turkish hospital, over the arrangements of which he had taken much trouble and he called up a soldier to take me there.
It is a very decent building, airy, clean, and bright, with good wards, big windows, and a large garden. Mine was a surprise visit, and I found the bed-linen all clean. I do not know what the doctoring is like, but the patients almost all looked cheery and comfortable, with the exception of some in the typhoid ward, where there were some very bad cases. The pharmacy man took me round, and told me the prescriptions. Patients of every race and religion are received, but lack of funds prevent it from opening all its wards.
I had now nothing left to do but buy a second-hand gendarmerie saddle and bridle, with a blue saddlecloth adorned with scarlet crescents, cram the necessaries of life into a pair of saddle-bags, roll up my blanket in a waterproof sheet, and be off.