"Chapter IX." by Edith Durham (1863-1944)
"For thrones and peoples are but waifs that swing,
And float or fall in endless ebb and flow."
A UNIVERSAL besa had been sworn till St. Dimitri (Nov. 6). I leapt at the chance of being the first foreigner to enter the "closed" districts under the new state of affairs, and applied properly, through the Consulate, for a teskereh to travel to Prizren. Djakova was my object. The Young Turk authorities, pleased to find a British female willing to test the new régime in her own person, gave permission at once. Personally, I put all my faith on the inviolability of the besa.
We were going to a Moslem land, so Marko arranged that we should travel with two Moslem kirijees bound for Prizren with a caravan. Leaving Scutari at 3 P.M. with one kirijee, Ren, a Djakova man, we crossed the plain by a fair road to the Drin, followed its right bank as far as Vaudys, and ferried over in the trappa. Vaudys is the frontier of Mirdita and the legendary capital of Paul Dukaghin, who, it is said, ruled from Vaudys to Djakova. But these tales are vague.
We rode up the valley of the Drin, fertile, rich in maize and grass, wood and water, caught up the caravan of ten packhorses heavily laden with bales of stinking goats' hides, and halted at dusk at Gomshiche, on a tributary of the Drin, Ljumi Gomshichet. The caravan camped in a field; Marko and I were put up at the church-house. Pack-saddling next morning was not done till 7 A.M.
We were on the old Prizren-Scutari trade-route–a right-of-way when nobody sees fit to close it–so were without local escort. It was therefore thought fit that, for safety, I should ride last of all the caravan. It was a hot day, and such air as there was bore the concentrated reek of all the ten packs of goat-hide straight at me. I objected. "It is very healthy," said Marko. "It stinks," said I. "With respect," said Marko, "it is not a stink. It is the smell caused by the way they are prepared."
I infinitely preferred to take the risk–which was nil –of being shot at by Mirdites, but my guardian angels insisted on at least two horses being ahead of me. We followed up the right bank of the Gomshiche River to the church of Dushaj, near which a tributary enters the main stream, and rode up the right bank of this tributary high on the hillside above the water, making many detours to head the streams that flowed to join it.
The wretched packbeasts were overladen. One hundred okas (over two hundred pounds) is a packload, without counting the heavy wooden saddle. They staggered downhill, had to be shoved and pulled up the worst places, and if they stumbled could with difficulty recover. Descending a stony track, one fell and would have turned a complete somersault downhill had not the pack jammed between the rocks of the narrow track. Tightly fixed, with its head twisted under it between its forelegs, it was in danger of strangulation, and was extricated with great difficulty. The men were stupid at the job, nor did they see, till I pointed it out, that the luckless brute could not possibly rise till a rock that jammed one hindleg was moved. It was badly cut on head and knee, but was reloaded, and we started again.
The track was rough. I walked, and was well ahead at the bottom of one of the narrow valleys, when a second packhorse, forced by the size of its pack to go on the very edge, crashed over, rolling over and over with its legs tucked tightly under it, and fell some thirty feet into the stream below, the heavy pack and saddle saving it from many blows. There it lay helpless and terrified, wedged in a pool among rocks. It was a three-quarters of an hour job to raise and reload it. The dry hides absorbed a lot of water, and were so heavy the loads had to be redistributed.
We crawled slowly on–a wearisome drag. Every pack shifted, and had to be readjusted after every descent. About 4.30 we arrived at a han not far from Puka, men and beasts all tired out, and camped for the night in a field. There was plenty of water. The horses, freed from their packs, were turned out to graze at twopence a head.
Two time-expired soldiers had joined our caravan, one a Moslem Serb from Plevlje, and the other an Albanian from Mitrovitza, both homeward bound. The Serb, a civil fellow, spoke little Albanian and kept quite apart from the others. He was deathly tired, groaned at the thought of the week's tramp yet before him, and rolled over fast asleep upon the ground as soon as we halted.
The hanjee provided hay for my bed and a stewed fowl for my supper. The hides were piled high, the horses picketed in line. We sat round a fire on the ground–the two beaky-nosed, grey-eyed Djakova men and the two soldiers. The Serb–though a Turkish subject and a Moslem–appeared to be considered as much a foreigner as myself. There was a red glow of firelight and a crackling shower of sparks as dry brushwood was piled on. The picketed horses munched steadily at a feed of maize. Over all was the intense blue depths of the cloudless night sky, ablaze with a myriad stars. I wondered why people ever lived in houses as I rolled up in my rug on the hay bed.
Two faithful dogs guarded us all night, and had they not chosen my hay as the most comfortable place to sleep in, and barked loudly close to my ear whenever an imaginary danger threatened, I should have slept very well. But to lie awake under the stars is not the misery of sleeplessness in a room–rather it is pure joy. I saw them fade slowly as the dawn crept up–the crescent moon hung low–there came a dash of brilliant yellow over the hills–another day had begun. We rose and shook ourselves, and those that wished went and dipped their hands and face in the stream.
The weary task of pack-saddling began again. I walked with Marko to the brow of one hill and saw over to the land of Berisha.
Puka is a very large tribe of seven bariaks–Puka, Komani, Dushaj, Cheriti, Chiri, Berisha and Merturi-Gurit, and Kabashi. It is partly Moslem and partly Christian. Puka is the gathering-place for all. Three days before they had celebrated "Constitution," and enjoyed themselves immensely, said the hanjee. Now they would like to know what Constitution was.
By six the caravan started; we swallowed the usual dose of black coffee by way of breakfast, and rode up the hill to Puka proper–a mere bunch of hovels, the Kaim-makam's little better than the rest. A few Nizams hung about it, but let us pass unquestioned.
We entered into a desolate wilderness of sandhills–or rather hills of earth so friable that it disintegrates at every shower, and no blade nor leaf can find a hold upon it. Nor was there any living creature–nothing but round bare hills, fantastically water-hewn, and dead as the mountains in the moon. Part of the track had to be taken very carefully–a narrow, friable ledge high along the mountain-side.
We got down into Arshi–a fertile valley, an arm of Mirdite land, the bariak of Spachi, that runs into Puka–and pulled up at midday at Han Arshit.
Han Arshit provided nothing–not even coffee.Marko and I ate the remains of last night's fowl which we had saved. The wretched horse that had fallen over the cliff the day before was dead lame, and had to be left at the han.
Trade, said the hanjee, was not what it was in the old days. Then a hundred horses at a time were often put up at the han. The railway to Salonika had ruined Albania by diverting all the traffic that used to go to Scutari and Durazzo. They were all being starved out; nothing but the long-talked-of railway to the Adriatic could save the land–let the Constitution hurry up with it.
Arshi lies on a river–Ljumi Gojanit. We followed it up a stony valley, steeper and steeper, to its source at the top of the pass, Chafa Malit.
There is a joy that never palls–the first glimpse into the unknown land. On the other side of the pass, a magnificent valley lay below us, thickly wooded with beech, and beyond were the lands which two rival races each claim as their birthright–one of the least-known corners of Europe.
I hurried eagerly down the steep descent on foot, by a rough track to Flet. Flet is Moslem, save for six families, all large; one, consisting of fifty members, showed quite an imposing group of stone houses. A church, but three years old, served occasionally by the priest of Dartha, showed trim and white.
We pushed on to Han Zaa. The han was shut up. The hanjee, on being summoned, said he could supply nothing–nothing at all, and that there were neither fowls nor eggs in the neighbourhood. He gave us leave, however, to pick as many beans as we liked from his field for twopence. The two soldiers started bean-picking, and I shucked industriously. Marko sent a child foraging for a fowl, and went to borrow a cauldron. An ancient hen was produced, and Marko, who is a perfect camp cook, had it simmering in a huge pot of beans within half-an-hour. The hanjee volunteered two wooden ladles and a large bowl, and in due time we fed the entire company off beans stewed with hen. As they would otherwise have had nothing but the remains of the day before yesterday's maize bread, this put all in high good humour. I declined a kind offer that I should sleep in the lee of the pile of odoriferous hides, lay down on a heap of hay about 10 P.M., and slept right through till half-past five next morning, when I was surprised to find I had rolled into a dry ditch, and had slept on top of Marko's thick walking stick and a large stone.
We were bound for Djakova, and the rest of the party for Prizren, so started at once with one kirijee. Free of the pack train, we pushed on quickly down the valley of the Goska, past Han Sakati, and by a steep descent to the Drin, which we successfully forded, led by a native who stripped and carried my saddlebags on his head. It was a ticklish job, and can only be crossed thus in very dry weather.
Following Drin down a short way to its junction with the Kruma, we struck up the valley of the Kruma, and were in the land of the Hashi. A great wall-like cliff, rising on the stream's left bank, is known as the fortress of Lek Dukaghin.
Hashi is a large tribe, variously reckoned at 600 to 1000 houses, the large majority of which are Moslem. It is separated by the White Drin from the Moslem tribe of Ljuma on the one side, and on the other marches with the Moslem Krasnich. Hashi land includes the Pestriku Mountains, which the Mirdites state to be their own ancestral home. They migrated to their present home, and the land was subsequently occupied by Hashi, which is no relation to Mirdita.
We left the Kruma, and rode on to a high undulating plateau of loose, friable soil, covered with stunted oak-scrub, parched and sun-scorched. There was neither shade nor spring. A Moslem friend of the kirijee's hailed him, and invited us all to take our midday rest at his place. The nearest spring on the track, he said, was two hours' distant, but he had plenty of water. We accepted gratefully, and followed him uphill. He had two houses side by side–ramshackle shanties made entirely of wood, save for the large chimney and fireplace of clay built up at the side.
He did not ask us in, but spread mats under a tree. His women–not veiled–stared at us from the doorstep of the farther house, and fetched a large jar of fresh water, but sent it to us by a boy. Several men joined us, and were very civil.
Our hosts had never seen a foreign woman dressed alla franga before in their land, and thought my coming rather a joke; for a Giaour to be riding openly through Hashi to Djakova unarmed was unusual, to say the least of it–only the besa made it possible. Had heard of "Constitution," but did not know what it was, only that there was a besa about it.
They were all of the same type as the Gusinje men–very tall, thin, and narrow-built, with large beaky nose and almost no chin, an odd bird-like pattern that seems to be wholly Moslem. They told us the land had once been all Christian, and that under the ruins of a church not far off was a vast treasure, but that it was impossible to find it–it was amanet.
They owned plenty of land, but it lay high, and lacked water. This year was a drought, and the pasture was all burnt up. The place they said was called Puka Zarisha. It is not marked in the Austrian staff map, which for all this neighbourhood is very faulty.
Returning to our track, we rode for over an hour through dull, dusty oak-scrub, then into a wood, where we watered the horses at the two-hour spring, and pushed on, as it was absolutely necessary to arrive before nightfall–passed a few wooden houses at Helshani, and met scarce a soul upon the road. It was a deserted wilderness. A long ascent brought us to the top of the pass, Chafa Prushit, and there lay Djakova on the plain below, with a long descent of rolling hill between us and it–red roofs glowing among green trees, slim white minarets twinkling delicate like lilies. Djakova–as are all Turkish towns–is beautiful from a distance. And when it is civilised and black factory-chimneys arise in place of white minarets, it will be lovely neither within nor without. You cannot have everything.
I beheld it as a dream city–thought of the aching days of toil I had gone through vainly five years before, only to be turned back. The pleasing sensation of attainment wiped out temporarily the fatigue of a long, hot day in the saddle, and two scrappy nights' rest, and I hurried down the stony track–too steep for riding–on foot, a painful job enough, as I had started in new opanke, and had foolishly neglected to soak them in oil. The heat of the sun had shrunk the raw hide tight on to my feet and made it hard as iron. But it is only when you fail to reach the goal you set out for that raws really count.
Finally, we came down to the banks of the Erenik and a great seven-arched stone bridge, the usual parapetless, steep, narrow Turkish bridge, whose bold elegance of design makes one pardon the fact that it can be used only by foot passengers, and is very inconvenient even for them. The majestic height of the middle arch raises it high above the wild floods of winter.
On the farther bank lay Djakova, golden in the evening glow. We rode up to the priest's house, where Marko, an old friend, was greeted heartily. Marko's cousin, the schoolmaster, turned up at once.
After twelve hours' almost continuous travel and very little food, I accepted gladly the orthodox cognac and black coffee, and contemplated a rest till supper-time. But there is no coping with Albanian hospitality; the schoolmaster had flown home as soon as he had greeted us, and I was told he was ready to receive us at once. I was plastered with dust and sweat–had not washed for three days, let alone had my clothes or even my footgear off–and begged to be excused. Marko insisted that I was perfectly clean and looked beautiful. The priest humanely gave me a bowl of water and a towel, and they allowed me five minutes.
I crawled wearily over the kaldrmi to the schoolhouse. Kaldrmi is large irregular stones jammed together to make a roadway. You cannot call it pavement. There is no word in any other European language to express it. It is kaldrmi. When a stone is missing–I do not know how it gets out, but it does–a hole is left deep enough to break the leg of man or beast that trips into it. Kaldrmi is a cheap way of making a road, it never wears out, for no one ever thinks of driving or walking on it if there is any way of dodging it, but when it wanders beyond a town it is apt to be removed by folk, who build houses with it.
Luckily the schoolhouse was near. A large company was assembled, very smartly dressed, all most kindly eager to welcome me. A daughter of the house, married in Prizren, was making her first visit home since marriage, and was in full Prizren bridal dress–quite wonderful.
Her hair was parted across the back of her head, and plaited into two plaits, one upward and one downward. The lower hung down as a pigtail and was ornamented with a few coins. The upper was made into a solid block on the top of her head, standing in a point over the forehead. (This is probably the origin of the pointed headdress of the Scutarene Catholic women.) On this foundation was a mass of sham gold coins–three bands of them and a big central gold medal. The side hair was cut short in two different lengths, and greased into two solid slabs, that hung on either side of the face. Over all were seven rows of pearl beads and coins that hung in loops to the shoulders.
A zouave, a solid mass of gold embroidery, an embroidered fine white silk shirt, yards and yards of a thick silk sash, striped green and orange, wound round her till she was a huge unwieldy lump, and big white bloomers with gold ankle-pieces, made up her costume. The other ladies, in Scutari dress, laughed at her. And the schoolmaster's wife–who was alla franga and looked quite out of place in the picture–was held up to her as a shining example. But the Prizren bride outshone them all. Bizarre and glittering, her many dingle-dangles forced her to sit stiff and still like a Byzantine ikon, and her pallid face and dead black hair gave decorative effect to the blaze of gold and colour.
It was not till I saw her next day that I realised her costume. Then I was too tired. The hospitable sofra was spread with the usual chopped hard eggs, sliced melon, cheese, grapes, sweetmeats, all their best, with true Albanian liberality. And the usual spirit-drinking and snack-nibbling began, a process most painful when one is tired and wants real food. I struggled to speak Italian with the bride and the schoolmaster, and to air my weak Albanian on every one, with aching limbs and a splitting head and an empty stomach, into which politeness demanded that I should pour rakia. The room was suffocating. Meze (titbits) and rakia were Marko's great delight. Many Albanians indeed prefer this part of an entertainment to the meal that it precedes. And all were happy. We returned at last to the priest's house, supped, and slept.
Djakova, like most Turkish towns that are not in a stone district, is built of mud. Two or three of the lowest courses of a wall only are of stone, then follows a beam, then eight or ten courses of sun-dried bricks (chepchi ) and another beam–all quite haphazard. If the beam be crooked, mud is bunged into the hole and the bricks are humped over all irregularities, regardless of the fact that the wall bulges. If it be too crooked to stand alone, extra supports are shoved against it. All houses are surrounded by walls, the tops of which are tiled to prevent the rain from melting them, and the eaves of all the houses project widely for a similar reason. The streets, kaldrmi in the middle, and a sea of mud or a bed of dust on either side, according to weather, are incomparably filthy and stinking. All the muck from the privies, and every sort of refuse, are thrown out on to any open spot–street corners and cross roads, and the river bank–and left to fester. The carcase of a dead horse rotted in the sun, while the hooded crows–the only scavengers–tore at its gaunt ribs. No windows look upon the streets, which are flanked with blank mud walls, the doors in whose gateways are often plated with iron and dinted with bullets.
Djakova was founded about four hundred years ago by two stocks from Bitush Merturi–Vula and Merturi. Of these two the Vula stock still flourishes; our kirijee belonged to it. Merturi is reputed one of the oldest Albanian tribes, known in Roman times as Merituri. It is fair in type, and fair men seemed not uncommon in Djakova.
Djakova was all Christian at first, but the Vula stock perverted early. The Merturi remained Christian, but have now no representatives left in the town. Many of the neighbouring villages perverted in a block one Easter, when an Italian priest foolishly celebrated mass so early that when the villagers arrived at the town it was over. As he could not comply with their angry demand to repeat it for them, they went over to the nearest mosque.
In the town the number of Catholics has been steadily diminishing. Twenty years ago there were still a hundred Catholic families in Djakova. Little more than twenty now remain, and of these many are not of old town stock, but recent refugees from neighbouring villages. Sixty villages still remain Catholic in the district, but have few churches and no priests. Three priests and one Franciscan, resident in Djakova, ride–often at very great personal risk–from one village to another, doing their best to aid their scattered flock. These villages are offshoots of various Christian tribes that came at different dates–from Berisha, Shala, Mirdita, &c. As the Serbs weakened in power, the Albanians surged back again over the plains from which tradition tells that they had originally come.
As I was the first traveller that had come to Djakova with Government permission for a long while, I decided to report myself and Marko, in person, at the Konak at once.
There was no Kaimmakam. The late one had belonged to the Young Turk party, but the cheery Moslems of Djakova–hearing that other towns were deposing their governors–promptly chivied him, Constitution having, to their minds, done away with the necessity of any Turkish representative. The Kaimmakam was temporarily replaced by a Bimbashi (Colonel).
The small Catholic population keeps mainly to its own quarters, and my wish to go through the town to the Konak caused much nervousness. The day after the Constitution had proclaimed a general amnesty, and it was announced that Christians were henceforth to be justly treated, a Christian had been shot dead in the bazar by a Moslem zaptieh (policeman) for no offence. His relatives had not obtained redress, and the zaptieh was unpunished. It was dreaded that Constitution was a trick for allaying the fears of the Christians and then massacring them.
A Catholic consented to guide Marko and me to the Konak, but he put on a loaded revolver before he ventured out. A crowd of Moslem boys gathered at once, and followed shouting and howling at us. Nor was it surprising, if it be true that (as I was afterwards told) I was the first quite unveiled woman that had walked through the town within any one's recollection, if ever. Marko and our guide were both horribly nervous. The latter kept his hand on the butt of his revolver all the time–to my annoyance, for under such circumstances fear should never be shown, whatever happens. I explained that lots of little London boys would jeer just as much at an Albanian woman in full dress. But this they would not believe, and hurried me along through narrow back streets, avoiding the bazar.
The Konak, a ramshackle, wood and mud building, stood in a big yard, through one of the walls of which an extra gateway had been made by simply smashing a hole. We passed through a ragged crowd of zaptiehs, suvarris, and their horses, and a general rag-tag and bobtail, and were shown up into a dingy room, where the Bimbashi, in uniform, sat alla franga on a chair, and the rest of the company, in native dress, squatted cross-legged on a wide seat that went all round the room. The most important–the head of the Moslem faith in Djakova–an old man in a white turban, with a long, white beard and immense white penthouse eyebrows, sat at the Bimbashi's right hand, and eyed me with marked displeasure.
The Bimbashi was very civil, but spoke no language I know. My remarks had, therefore, to be translated by Marko for the benefit of the whole company. They were all ears at once.
I showed my teskereh, and answered the usual questions. The Bimbashi who, as is the wont of Turkish officials, continued signing documents and giving instructions aside to various persons all the time he was conversing–(I have often wondered whether this is why Turkish affairs are always in a muddle)–expressed himself as delighted to see an English visitor. Of Djakova and neighbourhood he knew little. He reckoned that there were between two and three thousand houses in the town, but the number of inhabitants was quite unknown–a census must be taken under the new law. He was anxious to know how the conversion of England to Islam was proceeding, and regretted that press of business prevented his entertaining me at his house to discuss this question, but the laying of blood feuds, under the new besa, occupied him from dawn to dark. He hoped, however, to establish peace shortly.
Meaning to be polite, I wished all success to this beneficent work, and that the Constitution might spread peace and prosperity through the land.
At this the old white-beard, his eyes glaring stonily from their deep caverns, shouted something in a hoarse, deep voice. There was a general murmur. Marko looked uneasy, and interpreted: "Tell that Giaour woman it is no affair of hers. She is not to interfere in the Sultan's business. It is the Sultan's business alone. We want no Giaours."
Marko replied we had no wish to interfere; we had but agreed with what the Bimbashi said. Some one coming in on business, I rose and said good-bye to the Bimbashi, who very politely called up a zaptieh and told him to escort me back.
We passed through a crowd at the gate, who growled angrily, "We have only had this Constitution a month, and the Giaours have already begun to come."
The zaptieh hurried us back, this time through the bazar. I noticed that the numerous gunshops were heaped with Mauser cartridges. My escort was too nervous to allow me to stay–unnecessarily, I believe, for I doubt if any one would have really molested me–and we arrived back safely. The native Catholic took off his revolver with a sigh of relief, and swore that not for five pounds would he again cross the town with me.
For the past ten months things had been going from bad to worse, and the worst was now feared to be imminent.
In the previous October (1907) an Albanian Franciscan, Frate Luigi, resident in Djakova, started to ride from Djakova to Ipek, with a Moslem kirijee. He was captured when not far from Djakova by a large party of armed Moslems, taken to Smolitza, a Moslem village, and there imprisoned in the room of a house. No ransom was asked, but he was held as hostage for the release of a brother of one of his captors, who had been imprisoned by the Turkish Government.
The Turkish Government was at once informed, but took no step whatever. The Catholic Church in Albania is under the protection of Austria, and the Austrian Consulate at Prizren was applied to also, without result. The Frate was several times threatened with death if he would not turn Turk, to which he replied, they might kill him as soon as they liked. He was not otherwise molested, and was given enough to eat. The Catholics in the neighbourhood, exasperated, called on the Catholic mountain tribes to come to their help. A dead pig was then found in the mosque of Smolitza (this is the usual Christian way of declaring war on the Moslems), and Fra Luigi was suddenly released, after ten weeks' detention, though the man for whom he was hostage was not. No explanation of the affair has ever been forthcoming,
There was more in the affair than meets the eye, but by whom engineered we shall never know. The report, widely current in the Sanjak and Slavonic borderlands, that so soon as Austria was ready to move she would cause to be got up a massacre of Christians of sufficient magnitude to compel her to go to the rescue, and make Europe give her another mandate to "civilise" Balkan lands, occurred to my mind; more especially as in 1906 many Austrians in Bosnia had boasted to me that they meant to be in Saloniki, under the Austrian flag, by November 1909.
The pig in the mosque aroused at once an attack on the Christians. The village of Ramotzi was accused of the deed; but to this day the doer of it is not known. Nevertheless, Ramotzi was attacked, and thirty-one houses burned, with all their goods. One house was forced to surrender after forty-eight hours' siege. The defenders were promised safe-conduct, but were fired on when coming out–four killed, five wounded. In all, fourteen villages were attacked, and eighty-six houses burnt and plundered. Each contained from twenty to fifty inhabitants. When I was there, all were destitute and houseless. This went on through the spring of 1908. The Catholics were given till Ramazan (September) to turn Turk or be killed.
In Prizren also it was reported that a pig had been found in a mosque. This is believed to have been false. Even Hilmi Pasha said he did not believe it. The two men who said they had found it, declared they had at once thrown it in the river. On account of this alleged pig, a severe boycott was then started against all Catholics, who were almost reduced to starvation, and very many had to leave the town.
The worst case of persecution was that of the Bibez family at Bretkotzi. They had a group of very large houses, and great store of food and cattle. The head, though he had no quarrel with the Moslems, was told it was not seemly for a Christian to have such a large house, and that he must pull down a storey or it should be burnt. He asked the Kaimmakam for protection, and was given a hundred soldiers and some zaptiehs. He also appealed to the Austrian Consulate at Prizren.
After an anxious month, he received an ultimatum from the Moslems. He must turn Turk, or they would burn him out.
He hurried to Djakova, where the Kadi (the Kaimmakam being absent) swore to him that the soldiers should not be withdrawn, and that his goods were safe. He therefore did not remove any of them. A few days later the soldiers were suddenly all withdrawn by order of Shemsi Pasha (afterwards shot dead at Monastir), and a crowd of armed Moslems at once attacked. No lives were taken, but the entire group of houses, with the possessions of the whole family, were utterly destroyed. I made a vain attempt to draw the attention of the charitable in England to the piteous plight of these Catholic villages. The papers that had always space for the sufferings of the Orthodox in Macedonia had no corner to spare.
The people themselves thought their plight due to the European intervention in Macedonia, which had incensed the Moslems against Christians in other parts.
The aforesaid intervention did no good at all in Macedonia, and seems to have made matters worse elsewhere. It is possible that the Powers most interested intended that it should. At any rate, the English officers were carefully shoved into a corner where they could do least harm to other people's plans.
Djakova is in Kosovo vilayet. Kosovo vilayet was a most important part of the great Servian Empire of the Middle Ages. The Serb of to-day looks at it as part of his birthright, and of its recapture the young men see visions and the old men dream dreams.
Djakova, having been founded by Albanians after the fall of the Servian Empire, is naturally an Albanian town. Of its two thousand and odd houses, but one hundred are Serb Orthodox. These are segregated on the opposite side of the town from the Catholics, and have little or no communication with them. A Catholic actually told me he had never been in the Serb quarter. The two Churches distrust one another more than they do the Moslems.
There are no Serb villages near Djakova. But I heard that the feast of the Assumption would be celebrated by a great concourse of people at the Serb monastery of Devich, some twelve hours away, and arranged to go on pilgrimage with a Serb family of Djakova, and travel as they did, without escort, in a native cart–a strema. At 3.30 A.M. it clattered into the yard. I was asleep. It was pitch-dark. They could not wait, I was told. "Be quick, be quick! " I scrambled into my clothes, gulped a cup of black coffee, threw myself unwashen and uncombed into the cart, and we were off.
It was pouring with rain. The dawn had not yet broken as we plunged through Djakova in the dark. I braced my feet hard against one side of the cart, and my back against the other. Save a little hay, it was uncushioned, and rocked, reeled, and rebounded over boulders of kaldrmi, into yawning holes, almost falling over on one side, only to recover and stagger on to one wheel or the other.
Marko and I bumped together like dried peas in a pod. We drew rein at the door of the Servian school. Two stremas, full of men, women, and children awaited us, well wedged and padded in with cushions, dusheks, and yorgans, and heaps of coloured bundles–their best clothes and provisions.
The chill, grey dawn broke as we drove through the iron-plated, bullet-marked gate of the town, past stinking heaps of refuse, unutterable filth–horses' bones–black mud–a forlorn graveyard–the dismal barracks, with the great wall of a dismantled building alongside melting into mud–where half-clad Nizams wandered drenched and miserable, like damnèd souls forlorn in a circle of the Inferno.
The rain cleared as we came out on to the plain–the road, as usual in these lands, bad, but considered good–boulders, mudholes, gullies, which were taken at a canter and "switchbacked." Our driver was a Serb of the heavily-built, fair, very broad-headed type, that one finds in Bosnia but never in the mountains of High Albania. He, as indeed did my travelling companions, spoke a mixture of Serb and Albanian, even to each other, and when I questioned him in Serb replied sometimes wholly in Albanian. I noticed that they never inflected their adjectives, but said "dobro, po dobro, mnogo dobro," i.e. good, more good, much good, for "good," "better," "best," as do the Slavs of Macedonia.
At first the plain was mostly covered with oak-scrub. Farther on were a few houses and maize-fields. It is very sparsely inhabited. It was impossible to follow our route in the Austrian staff map, it being very faulty, which is not surprising if it be true, as I was assured, that no European had been before by this track. Roughly speaking, we followed up the right bank of the White Drin to its junction with the Dechanski Bistritza, which we crossed, crossing also the Drin rather higher up. We then followed up Drin's left bank on a narrow road some ten feet above the river. Here we pulled up to ask the way of some men, and one of the stremas at once fell over the bank. The driver left it at the very edge; the horses backed, and the whole thing capsized and rolled clean over, the horses and the front wheels remaining on the road above. The women screamed loudly, but as the tilt was very strong and they were well wedged in with cushions they were luckily not thrown out. Half-an-hour's repairing put all right. We left the river and struck uphill.
On the plateau on the top we found typical Servian zadrugas, family groups of houses enclosed in huge palisades (palanka ). Thick stakes, some nine or ten feet high, cut into spikes at the top, are driven into the ground about eighteen inches apart. These are wattled together, not with simple withies but with twisted ropes of branches, very thick and solid. Outside, this dense wall is buttressed at short intervals with small tree trunks. The top is roofed with thick masses of blackthorn, which project so widely as to make it quite impossible for any one to climb the fence from without. Above the blackthorn project the spiked stakes. The whole mighty wooden wall is one of the most primitive types of fortification. So, in all probability, did the ancient inhabitants of Britain defend their hill encampments–as do the Serbs now–against both men and wolves.
We saw but one church and no mosque, but were told there were many Moslem families. The ruins of one old church were pointed out. Money enough had been collected to rebuild it, but the Sultan had refused permission. The families in this part mostly owned and worked the land they lived on. Further on were, for the most part, Moslem chiftliks. The track in many places was really good, and a proper road could easily be made.
After six hours' travel, we halted for an hour and a half at Han Zaimit, a wretched clay-built shanty which I did not enter. A scattered village not far off was called Zaimit Pes. A crowd of gypsies made their lair near the han. The real wild Balkan gypsies rarely bother about a tent, but crouch in the lee of any bush or bank that is near a water and fuel supply. Swarthy, scarlet-lipped, with black brilliant eyes, long heavy elf-locks of dead black hair, and unspeakably filthy, they are scorned alike by Serb and Albanian. The scorn they return tenfold, for they hold that they are the chosen of all races, and that none other knows how to enjoy the gift of life. One came up and boasted that he was the father of thirty-two children. The Serbs, not to be outdone, told of a Serb near Ipek who is father of twenty-four sons all by one mother, and that all are grown up and pod oruzhja (bearing arms). To cap this we were told of a Moslem with forty-two children, but by how many wives was unknown. After these cheerful proofs that the country was not depopulating, we proceeded, and lost the way several times and were much delayed. Passing through a village, Kopilich, we crossed a stream, Reka Devichit, and got up into a plateau, all scrub-oak, and topped one hummock after another without ever seeming to get any farther. On slopes below were many palisaded zadrugas, some with very large houses within them. Many were said to be Moslem. Others had crosses on them.
The descent was awful; the driver lashed up his horses, and, once off, we had either to smash or come to the bottom whole, plunging at a break-neck pace down a narrow gully over loose boulders. The terrified horses kept their legs somehow, and landed trembling and drenched with sweat at the bottom. As for me, I was pitched violently across and across the strema. Giddy with concussion I alighted, joined the stream of pilgrims, and ascended on foot to the monastery in the oak forest above–a mass of irregular white buildings that scrambled at different heights haphazard round three yards.
We passed through the lower yard with a seething mass of pilgrims, and went straight into the church on one side of it. It was about 5 P.M. The tiny church was dark, and crammed with people. My appearance created the greatest excitement. As I passed the side where all flocked to light tapers, the glare fell on me, and I was at once surrounded, seized upon, and fingered all over by an eager crowd. My hat, my kodak, my bag all were examined; how much money was in it? from what vilayet was I? who was I? my name?–all regardless of the service which was in full swing. A man in European dress–the monastery secretary–hurried to the centre of hubbub, learnt that I was English, and dashed off to inform the officiating priests.
The heat was suffocating, and the fingering and pulling about more than I wanted after the twelve hours' jolting drive.
I left the church. Opposite it stood the house of the Archimandrite, or Hagi as they called him here. A steep flight of wooden steps led to a perfect rabbit-warren of pilgrims' rooms which were reached through a narrow door about four feet high. Beyond, a huge, white-washed, three-storeyed hospitium–with the usual big wooden balcony to each floor–surrounded two sides of a large yard. Below, on one side, was a smaller yard surrounded by stables. The whole was an indescribable confusion–a seething mass of pilgrims, babies, bundles, sacks, and rugs filled the entire space of the two yards, and each balcony and staircase, some seeking rooms, others camping where they were, all in search of some one or something–a deafening babel of voices. The third yard was a struggling tangle of packhorses, carts, draught-oxen, and buffaloes, and their owners. And no matter what any one was doing, they left off to come and examine me. The monastery servants, who preserved their wits wonderfully in the confusion, allotted a tiny room to our party, and I crowded into it with my Serb fellow-travellers, who proceeded to furnish it with their cushions and coverlets.
The Hagi himself visited me, so soon as he had concluded service in the church.
He was a tall, fair, handsome man, very friendly, and much relieved to find I understood Serb. Marko, who knows but little, asked him if he understood Albanian.
He laughed heartily, and replied, "I am an Albanian." Born of Albanian parents, he explained he had spoken Albanian only as a child. But having joined the Orthodox Church, he was now a Servian, and Servian was more familiar to him than his mother tongue.
So is it in the Debatable Lands. The Serbs have a converted Albanian as head of their monastery, and conversely, one of the most patriotic Albanian priests at Djakova was a Serb by birth–had spoken Serb only as a child, and now had almost forgotten it.
The Hagi at once said I was to be his guest. The Metropolitan of Prizren was there with some Servian schoolmistresses from Prishtina, and we should all be a party together. No foreigner, so far as he knew, had ever been to Devich with the exception of one Russian Consul–the good man was almost as excited over me as were the pilgrims. I came forth from the very temporary rest in the little room, and was introduced. To my amazement I found I was celebrated. Some one recognised me as having been in Dechani five years ago. "Ah, it is the Balkan Englishwoman, the friend of the Montenegrins!" The Metropolitan knew all about me–a schoolmistress, lately from Saloniki, retailed my Macedonian career. We had supper on the terrace under a pergola. Fast day–but an excellent meal of river-trout, tomato salad, balls of rice and herbs rolled in vine leaves (japrak ), and green paprikas stuffed with rice and frightfully hot. Plenty of kaimak (clotted cream), sheep-cheese, and fruit. It was the merriest party. You reached out and helped yourself to whatever was handy, and made the same plate do. And above, around, and beneath us was one vast picnic.
Rations were served out all hot from the kitchen, the air was heavy with the fumes of roast and baked, all food was gratis, and each had as much as he liked. People ran hither and thither with steaming bowls and trays. Save ourselves at the high table, every one fed off vessels of solid copper, tinned, of which the monastery had enough for the two thousand and more pilgrims.
It is characteristic of the Balkan man, be he Slav or Albanian, that he can enjoy himself thoroughly and wholeheartedly, without ever becoming rowdy or losing his self-respect. There was no one to keep order among this vast concourse of happy people, nor was any one required. It is to be hoped that what is called civilisation may never reduce them to the barbarous level of 'Arry and 'Arriet on Bank holiday. I was told off to sleep with the schoolmistresses, and we retired at 10.30, for which–having been on a pretty constant strain since 3 A.M., and having finished up with talking Servian all the evening, having had no practice for over a year–I was not sorry.
It was a small room, the floor entirely covered with mattresses. There were a great many of us. They kindly gave me the only bedstead. Unfortunately, however, one of the ladies was married, and her son and husband shared our room. So though I had a bedstead, it was impossible to go to bed in it properly. Fortunately, the only window was just above me, and I opened it surreptitiously.
The schoolmarms, declaring sleep was impossible, began to dance the kolo, but I was asleep from sheer exhaustion before they had done.
It was but a short sleep, for, suddenly, in plunged the djakon, telling us to get up and come to church. I wearily looked at my watch, It was 1 A.M. Only three ladies went. I slept again. In came the djakon again, this time to get medicine out of a drawer near my head. The floor being covered with sleepers, this made no end of commotion. At five, again the djakon –this time to do his hair! And then the Hagi for something or other. Further sleep was impossible.
My stable companions used a common comb. I was the proud possessor of a private one. I went out dirty, sticky, and staggering with sleep, and asked if it were possible to wash. When the Metropolitan was up, I could have his basin. Not before.
The great man having emerged, I was conducted to his washstand, and a serving-man poured two tablespoonfuls of water over my hands, which I rubbed on my face in the approved style–and my toilet was complete.
Outside, coffee was being served at the kitchen door (no food, of course). It waked me at once. I turned to the marvellous scene.
And it was truly marvellous–such costumes as I had never seen before and may never see again–many of them indeed museum pieces, all the best of every district.
The finest of all were from Ipek Caza. Ipek itself is almost entirely Moslem Albanian, the Serbs and Catholics form but a small minority; the villages around, however, are very largely Serb, and form a Serb island in an otherwise Albanian land.
The women's shirts are a mass of the very finest cross-stitch embroidery in dull red, blue, and green, the colours all native dyes. Cross-stitch (very common in Russia) is Slavonic and does not occur on Albanian costume. It makes, of necessity, angular patterns. Albanian patterns are all of flowing lines adapted for braiding and gold thread. The flowing line is similarly found on old Albanian carved chests and ceilings.
Over the richly-embroidered shirt is a very short petticoat–a mere waist-frill some 12 inches deep–of striped material, the stripes being almost always all hand-work in the finest stitches. A very broad binder is bound round the lower part of the body like an abdominal support. Over this is a heavy, leathern belt, with brass plaques on it studded with red and green "jewels" of glass, the workmanship poor. On the shoulders is a zouave of various colours, usually black, with scarlet or yellow braid. The breast is quite covered with a mass of large silver coins–Maria Theresas–and numbers of glass bead and coral necklaces and crosses, and hearts of glass like those popular in Bosnia. Some wore triangular leather amulet-cases on a string slung over one shoulder.
The married women wear a peaked head-dress, similar to that of mediæval ladies, but smaller. It is of white linen, with a finely embroidered edge in various colours, the ends hang down to the shoulders; over the top of the head, and hanging either side to the ear, is a broad band of turquoise-blue beads ending in a triangular dingle-dangle.
The hair is parted in the middle, and again lower down. The top section is twisted round a solid foundation to make a huge curl, a great sausage of hair stiff with grease, which curves forward on each side of the face, framing it completely. The end of the curl is sewn with coins–it is a head-dress that is made to last–some-times as many as five Maria Theresas on each, and to make all firm both curls are sewn down to a leather band which goes under the chin, and is thickly covered with blue beads. Such of the hair as is not used for the curl is plaited and used as a support behind the curl to which it is fastened. The whole makes a solid block of hair–grotesque and extraordinary; at least so I thought till I came back to England and found every one's head swollen to double its size with stuffings, frizettes, and "transformations."
I had just started drawing, and was getting on well, when one of the schoolmarms espied me. With the best of intentions in the world she summoned everybody to see what I was doing, and all my chances were over. I was the centre of a mob all striving to see me do it again, and attention being turned on me, I was hunted all day. Every peasant wanted to speak to me, and most of them did; I was questioned till I was on the point of exhaustion, and all the time I had a ridiculous feeling that it was a case of the biter bit. For months I had been incessantly questioning about manners and customs, now I was myself the victim. I was asked about all that I did, and then "why?" The thing that bothered everybody was my straw hat; they had never seen one before; "Why do you wear wheat on your head?" Every one broke a little bit off the brim to make sure it really was "wheat."
"Do you wear it in the house ? Do you sleep in it?" "Do you wear it to show you are married?" "To show you are not married?" "Did you make it?" "Are all the women in your vilayet (province) obliged to wear wheat on their heads?" "Is there a law about it?" "Or do you wear it per chef (for pleasure) ?"
"I wear it because of the sun," said I desperately. "Why because of the sun?" "It is hot," said I. "No, it isn't," said they. They did not wear wheat because of the sun. Would I tell them the real reason? It occurred to me that if there was a Devich Anthropological Society it might report that it had found traces of sun-worship in the English, and mysterious rites connected with it that no questioning could elicit. I fell back on the answer that has so often tried me in others: "I wear it because I do. It is nash obichaj (our custom)."
This satisfied them wholly, for there is a proverb which says: "It is better that a village should fall than a custom." The brim of my hat looked as though it had been gnawed by rats all round, and I felt justified in pulling every one about mercilessly in return, and examining all their ornaments; but it was very fatiguing–on an empty stomach.
Two gypsy bands played incessantly, both at once. One instrument was a cylinder of earthenware with a piece of hide strained on the top, and slapped with the hand; another was a big drum. The sun was nearly at full strength, the air was thick with the dust of many dancing feet; the perpetual pom-pom-pom, rhythmical, insistent, throbbed like a fever pulse in the sizzling heat. Only for one half-hour, when a service was held in the yard outside the church (it was far too small to hold the congregation), did the band stop, and then there was singing.
Midday brought the much-needed dinner in the Metropolitan's room. I sat next to him, and was excellently well fed. But even the meal was a long and stiff viva voce examination in Servian. His Grace was pleased to express his admiration for the physical strength of the English. He himself, for example, though he had not had such a long and exhausting journey as I had, and accustomed to the country, was quite tired out!
After dinner all went to rest. I had two hours' heavy sleep in the crowded room of the night before. Then we were all poked up. Tumblers of water were passed round; Serbs are always water-thirsty. I amused every one highly by pouring mine over my head and neck.
Thus roused I went out again, and, as the first excitement about me had somewhat subsided, managed to get some photographs and drawings made.
Then a long strip of mats and carpets was laid right across the yard. The Hagi, his secretary, and some monks sat on cushions at one end, and I was invited to join them. A number of heads of families then sat in a long row, cross-legged, on either side the carpet. Rakia and the usual snacks were served all round. Each man in turn came up, kissed the Hagi's hand, and made an offering to the church–from a few piastres to a pound Turk, and the secretary inscribed each in a book. They were nearly all townsfolk from Prizren, Prishtina, Ipek, and Mitrovitza. The peasants had already left or were leaving. It was a very long job; about a hundred and fifty napoleons were collected.
Then came gifts in kind, brought for the most part by women–shirts, drawers, towels, and sheets, and handkerchiefs, many finely embroidered in colours and gold.
Almost all these town women were dressed alla Turka, had their hair dyed black, and their eyebrows joined by paint in the middle. One in particular wore a magnificent white satin overcoat (koret ) brocaded with silver and stiff with raised silver embroidery–another, an equally fine one, of crimson velvet and gold. The apron, usually worn over the large bloomers, was of wonderfully fine silk tissue, embroidered in colour and gold. Native eye for colour, when let alone, rarely goes wrong, but alas, "civilisation" is working sad havoc, and hideous parrots and bunches of flowers in Berlin wool-work (as taught in the schools) were among the most admired of the offerings to the Church. The curse of "made in Germany" is already withering the land. The bad beginning, may be, of a bad end.
Supper was late. I was dog-tired, nor was there any corner where I could sit at peace. By this time two women from Andrijevitza, in Montenegro, two from Berani, a man from Ipek, and a young monk from the monastery of Miloshevo, in the sanjak of Novi-bazar, had all recognised and claimed acquaintance with me, and I sent greetings to all friends in each place.
It was strange, in the heart of the wilderness, to find so many that knew me.
The djakon took me to see the monastery library of old Slavonic church-books, both in print, from early presses, and in manuscript. They had been shockingly neglected, and, unluckily, no perfect copies remained of books that, even in their battered state, are of considerable value. It is possible that among the litter missing pages might be found. I begged that all that remained should be carefully preserved.
When it got quite dark, I sat on a stone by the wall, and got a rest for a few minutes. Then I was poked up to drink cognac with the Metropolitan. I would, by that time, gladly have drunk a quart. It kept me up till supper. Then we turned out again to see the kolo danced round bonfires, and sing national songs. We turned in at 11.30, I with orders to be ready to start at 3.30 A.M.
I seemed scarcely to have fallen asleep when the head of the Serb party I had come with knocked at the door. The carts were ready.
I collected my coat, belt, and boots, and crawled out over the sleeping schoolmarms into the chilly night air, reeling with sleep.
We swallowed our ration of coffee, and were soon off. The Serbs kindly lent us two sacks, which we stuffed full of hay, so that we were not so badly shaken on the return journey. The women of the Serb party reproached me with not having come to sit with them in their room in the monastery. I was sorry, for I felt that I had not been polite to them, and they meant most kindly. But all spare time–and it was not much–I had used in getting the opinion of as many different people as possible on the Constitution.
We arrived safely at Djakova about 6 P.M., said good-bye to our Serb friends at the entrance, and drove through the town, followed by a hooting, howling mob of Moslem boys, who hung on to the cart and poked up the cover with sticks–Marko and the driver very vexed and nervous, but bad words break no bones.
We found the priests as tired as we were. They had been out in the villages all the time we had been away. Typhoid had broken out in them. Water, on account of the drought, was scarce and bad, and all provisions short as a result of the recent persecutions. I could only prescribe complete rest, cleanliness, and a slop diet, and vainly strove to prevent the administering of the filthy local remedy–dogs' dung that has been dropped on a stone in the sun, powdered and given in water. Marko and one of the priests had absolute faith in it. They each knew cases which had survived it, and were reckoned as cures.
And I learnt that the only emetic known to the Albanian pharmacopoeia is human excrement and water–given in all cases of supposed poisoning; and that the remedy for dipsomania is the same, mixed with rakia.
So ended a weary day.
The Moslems of Djakova did not seem pleased with the Constitution, did not desire Turkish interference, and certainly objected to the visit of a Giaour. Subsequently I heard that there had been much talk about me, and that the Catholics were told that it was a good thing they had not harboured me a day longer.
The Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic, had not the smallest hope or faith in the Constitution.
Devich Monastery was founded after the great defeat of the Serb nation at Kosovo, and dates from the time of George of Smederevo (ob. 1457), who ruled a restricted Servia under Turkish suzerainty.
At that time the great emigration of Serbs to Hungary had not taken place, and the population must have been mainly Serb. The gathering at the monastery was unusually large, owing to the temporary peace. The very large majority were from Ipek caza, more than half of the whole gathering. And there, I was assured, was the largest Serb population. Near Djakova there was none. Those I questioned were much disappointed that the Government was to remain Turkish–had hoped for foreign intervention. They did not want a Turkish Government, because then the land would never be theirs. They wanted to own the land themselves, and not work on chiftliks. All Turkish Governments had been bad, and this would be also.
The Moslems of Ipek had not accepted the Constitution, and vowed they would accept no law that would interfere with their rights. The Serbs round Berana (part of the Vasojevich tribe) were very much disappointed about the Constitution. They did not want to be any more under any Turkish Government.
The report that in future they were all to be called Ottomans enraged Serb and Albanian alike. It was all another trick to keep them under the Turks. The Christian Powers ought not to permit it. At present all agreed it "was like a dream," but they expected a rude awakening, and the Serbs, regardless of the fact that in most places they are much in the minority, still had visions of the expulsion of all Moslems, and the reconstruction of the great Servian Empire.
I passed the rest of my time in the Catholic quarter. Djakova has always been renowned for its silver-workers. It is an interesting fact that throughout North Albania almost all silver-work is by Christians, and the trade is hereditary in families. The designs are therefore in all probability genuine Albanian, deriving from pre-Turkish times. In Djakova, Prizren, Prishtina, and Mitrovitza, I found all silver-workers Christians.
As might be expected, Djakova revels in the supernatural, and miraculous happenings are frequent. In a mountain-side hard by, on the left of the road to Prizren, is a magic cavern. For miles does it go underground; none knows how far, some say even beneath the Drin. In it is a large and ancient city where no man now lives; but the bazar, to this very day, is stocked with all that is finest and best–fruit, flesh, fish, jewels, and fair raiment. But should any man venture to touch one single thing, his torch at once goes out, serpents spring up and devour him in the darkness. And these are no serpents; they are oras (spirits) that guard the cavern. No man has ventured in for many years.
I said I would, and asked to be guided to the spot, but none dared take me. Nor is this the sole spot that is miraculously guarded.
Not far from Djakova, on a hill, are the ruins of a chapel. A Moslem tried to dig there for treasure, but was at once struck dead by lightning out of a cloudless sky. Not sufficiently warned, some men went to remove stones for building purposes, but a crowd of serpents at once leapt from the ground, and the intruders only just escaped. For oras can take what form they please–birds, beasts, women, or serpents.
Quite recently a man was driving past with an oxcart, when both the oxen fell on their knees before the ruins; and the holiness of the spot being now proved beyond all doubt, none dare meddle with it in future.
As for tales of adventure, enough could be collected to fill a volume. Here is the tale of a wedding that took place some thirty years ago:–
THE TALE OF THE UGLY BRIDE.
There was a young man in a village near Djakova. His father was dead. He lived with his mother and sister. Oh, how ugly his sister was! She was not engaged as a baby–town customs differ from mountain ones–and they really did not know how to get her married. Of course they never showed her; but somehow, when a girl is very ugly, every one knows.
One day the young man went to Prizren on business. There he met a Prizren youth, they made great friends at once, and each confided to the other that he was fairly well-to-do and wished to marry shortly.
"I will give you my sister!" cried he of Prizren.
The family lived in a village near Prizren, and was a desirable one to be connected with, so the Djakovan accepted at once. "And I," said he, "will give you my own dear sister in exchange!"
It was settled. Away went each home, highly pleased. But the Prizren mother was no fool.
"What do you know about this girl?" she asked. "Wait a while. I will go and see her."
Off went the old lady on a horse. When the Djakovan mother saw her, she knew quite well what brought her. "Leave it to me," she said to her son. Quickly she ran next door, and invited her neighbour's pretty daughter to come into the garden.
In came Mother Prizren. Mother Djakova received her nobly, with coffee and sweetmeats. They exchanged compliments, but the rules of good society prevented Mother Prizren from asking to see her future daughter-in-law. Finally, she was shown the garden and saw the pretty girl in it. Home she went and reported favourably. The bride was duly fetched and the wedding celebrated. When all was over, the expectant bridegroom raised the veil and saw his ugly bride. Furious, he vowed that he would never give his own pretty sister to the Djakovan in return. But that wedding also was fixed, and on the appointed day the Djakovan's bride leaders–thirty gallant men, armed and in their best–rode to the river half-way between the two villages to meet and fetch the bride. And no bride was there. They waited. Time was passing. If the bride did not come soon, it would be too late to get home that night. Two of the elders of the bridegroom's family crossed the river, and hastened to the bride's house. Arrived at the door, the chief drew his yataghan, and hammered on it with the hilt.
"What do you want?"
"I've come for the bride."
"Go away. There is no bride here."
"You give me that bride, or I'll cut your heart out."
"There's no bride here, I tell you!"
"They called down curses on one another and hurled insults: "Ken e bir kenit " (Dog and son of a dog).
The Djakovan thundered blows upon the door and delivered his ultimatum:
"I'll burn your house–I'll cut your liver out. You give me that bride, or I'll fetch up thirty men and we'll burn the whole village down."
The Prizren youth escaped by the back door and hurried to the head of the village. "Two men have come, and want to steal my sister," he said.
"Two! Drive them away."
"But they say thirty will come and burn down the village."
"Thirty! Have you promised her?"
"Yes; but–" He tried to explain.
"Can't help that. I can't have the village burnt because of your sister. You promised her. Hand her over at once."
Back he went.
"Look here, you shall have her all right, but not to-day. She isn't ready. Her hair isn't dyed black yet. She–"
"Oh, you go along! There is plenty of hair-dye in our place. Bring her out, or I'll fetch up the others!"
And brought out she was. And so the Djakovan acquired a beautiful bride and got rid of his ugly sister.
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