Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

We had chosen a gala day for our entry into Montenegro—for following, us a mile or so behind, were the Duke of Wittemburg and a numerous cortege on horseback, on their way to Prince Nikita's palace.

We turned a rocky bluff, and a stone marked the frontier of the huge Empire and little Principality.

Here, drawn up on the left side of the rough track, two deep, were about eighty armed, splendid-looking Montenegrins, awaiting to serve as guard of honour to the duke as far as the capital.

They were magnificent men, giants—all considerably above six feet in height, and broad in proportion. Each wore the long snowy coat of Montenegro—tied in with a broad sash. Their vests were red, and richly embroidered with gold and silk. Heavy plates formed of silver buttons covered their chests, well calculated to offer good resistance to sabre cut or bayonet.

They wore the national head-dress, which deserves a special description.

It is a round flat-topped cap of red cloth; round its side, and just overlapping its upper surface, is stitched a black band. In a corner of the red circle thus left at the top is embroidered a semicircle, in gold thread, into which is also often worked the initial letters of Prince Nikita's

[merged small][ocr errors]

name in Sclav characters. This cap has a symbolical meaning. When the old Servian kingdom was broken up, and the South-western Sclavs became subject to strange races, the wild mountain district of Montenegro alone preserved its independence; so its inhabitants draped their red caps with black, in mourning for their enslaved brethren. The corner of gold on the red cloth is meant to represent Montenegro—the one corner of liberty on the field of blood—the one free spot of the old Sclav kingdom.

The sashes of these highlanders were stuck full of yataghans and pistols. Some were the richlyworked pistols of Albania, some the long Austrian grasser revolvers. This is the favourite small arm of the Montenegrins, who invariably scrape off the bluing when they purchase one of these weapons, as they consider it looks dirty, and prefer the bare steel.

Their guns were the Austrian breech-loading rifles of the old pattern; very fair weapons, but not to be compared to the Martini-Henrys which are so common in Albania.

These fine men—their plaids blowing to and fro with the fresh highland breeze, drawn up here on the savage mountain side, while the strains of the military band at Cattaro rose up from the abyss beneath—looked very imposing.

At Neigoussa, a miserable little village, there is a Khan. Here we halted, gave our horses a feed, and sitting on the stone bench outside, lunched off goat's milk, cheese, and sausage, while thejsiLd people, all armed to the teeth, crowded round us, and respectfully asked to be allowed to inspect our arms. His arms are the only things a Montenegrin loves and takes an interest in. He spends half his time in cleaning and polishing them. Our guns and revolvers were always much admired, and their systems had to be carefully explained at every halt. My revolver was the new army weapon, with patent extractor. This was something entirely novel to them. How often in this country or in Albania would some chief, covetous of the. Pushka Inglisi, bring out a handful of coin, and say eagerly, "Goliko, gospodine," or "Sa pare, Zutni?" (How much, sir ?), as the case might be. Our little guide had mastered its system, and would borrow it and proudly dilate on its excellencies to the men we met on the way.

At this Khan—having a large and appreciative audience round him—he favoured it with a lengthy lecture, with detailed explanations, followed, as far as I could make out, by a biography of the two English travellers. Startling it must have been, too, judging from the admiring and awe-struck way in which the men turned and stared at us during the narrative.

Early in the afternoon we marched down the

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »