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CHAPTER XL

Our Lady of Scutari—A miracle—The fete—A funeral—A drunken Arnaut—Our escort—Two more Britons—-Warm discussion—War—Marco.

The morrow (October 18th) was the great holiday of North Albania, the day of Our Lady of Scutari.

Long ago all this country was Christian. In this city there then stood a beautiful wooden image of the Virgin Mary. Thousands of the faithful were wont to flock hither year by year to offer their devotions at her feet, and to be healed of their infirmities; for, no sick man that had faith was ever known to kiss the white feet of the image and not depart whole.

But it came to pass that a certain priest made himself very unpopular among the people. I do not quite know for what cause, but at any rate a large multitude came to the church one day, and declared that unless something that they desired was granted to them they would then and there abjure the religion of Christ and embrace Mohammedanism. Rightly or wrongly, the priest would not give in; whereupon the people tore their rosaries from their necks, and marched off to the nearest Mohammedan village, that the mollahs might receive the renegades into the fold of the Prophet; whereupon Our Lady of Scutari, sorrowful and angry at the desertion of those for whom she had wrought so many good things for so many years, left her shrine in this ungrateful land.

That night the wooden image disappeared. It was not heard of for months—when tidings came that on the very same night that this event happened, an image of the Virgin miraculously entered a church in a remote village of Italy, and there took up its abode. A loud voice was also heard, crying out over Scutari, that not till the last Turki (Mohammedan) had left-Albania would Our Lady of Scodra be appeased and forgive her children : then, and not till then, would she return to her old shrine.

This day was the anniversary of the miraculous departure of the image, long ago; and an impressive service was held in the great ugly square church of the Christians in this city.

The interior of this building is almost entirely devoid of any ornament whatever, and bears no resemblance to any church elsewhere.

The priests that minister to the spiritual wants of the Albanians are Franciscans and Jesuits, all AN ALBANIAN FftE. I 53

of whom are Italians. The Franciscan monks have a convent and schools. The Jesuits have tried their best to monopolize the education of the people, but are not much liked. It was difficult, standing in this bleak building, in the midst of so wild and outlandish though very devout a congregation, to imagine oneself attending a Christian service. The fierce-eyed shaven-headed Arnaut mountaineer jostled with the mild-looking Scutarine Christian and kilted Mussulman; for those of the other faith, curiously enough, offer their devotions on this day to the mother of the Christ whom they despise. Indeed though one half the Albanians call themselves Christians, and the other half profess to be Mohammedans, there is really little distinction between them. The Mohammedans worship the Virgin Mary; the Christians make pilgrimages to the sepulchres of Mussulman saints, and mingle all sorts of grotesque alien superstitions with their Christianity, which the priesthood in vain strive to eradicate. I was told that even some relics of the old Greek paganism linger in these mountains. I myself have seen the Arnauts attempt to read the future from the entrails of a sheep which they had slain for a feast. Before the service we had an opportunity of witnessing a Christian funeral. The coffin was

borne on the shoulders of men, while the women followed at a distance, crying and wailing, as is and has been the custom, in all the East, for all time:—

"He was strong in the chase, he was handsome, he was lovable, he was brave. Alas! no more will he be loved, no more will his swift feet carry him to the hunt. His enemies will rejoice, and throw away their fear. Alas! alas! he has gone • from us! he will be hidden in the cold earth."

In the evening a band played outside the church, and the jolly Franciscan monks tucked up their gowns, and proceeded to amuse the crowd with several balloons, which they filled with hot air and liberated, to the great delight of all.

It was a good-humoured though savage-looking mob, and would set a good example to many a gathering of Western civilization. The streets were gaily lit with many-coloured Chinese lanterns. As we walked home after the termination of the proceedings, I noticed that there were one or two cases of drunkenness.

There was one man, an Arnaut, pretty far gone. As I consider the different effects of alcohol on the brains of different races to be a very interesting and curious study, I stood and watched the mountaineer for some time, at a safe distance; for he bristled with arms of course; and if a drunken man, carrying with him two loaded pistols, a gun, A Drunken Arnaut. 155

and yataghan, should run amuck, or conceive a sudden dislike to the English foreigners, the consequences might be unpleasant. However, he did nothing of the kind. The sole effect of the raki was to make him exceedingly devotional. He knelt down, raised his hands, and prayed in a loud voice, and with a most intense and passionate earnestness. He swung backwards and forwards— wrung his hands, as he worked himself into a phrenzy of religious excitement. Then he kissed the .muddy ground over and over again with fervour, under the impression perhaps that he was still at the foot of the empty shrine of the Madonna.

Lastly, he fell prone, face down in the mud, dead drunk, when his friends raised him and carried him off, with looks of shame on their faces, for drunkenness is considered to be a beastly and degrading vice in this uncivilized country.

While we were breakfasting on the following morning, our friend the gendarme appeared, with a very downcast and despondent visage.

"The beasts!" he said. "0, these Turks! I cannot go with you, friends. I had obtained leave, as you know, to accompany you on your journey through Albania. Well, late last night I was sent for, and told that I must stay at Scutari. They had seen me often in your company, and, as is their custom, became jealous and suspicious; so

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