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Journey to Scutari—Atrocities—A runaway—The vale of Eieka—A Montenegrin sailor—The lions of Eieka—The perils of the night.
We left Cettinje early on a sunny, fresh October morning. Our baggage was strapped on the back of one of the sturdy little horses of the country, which was led by a diminutive native, not twelve years of age, yet armed with yataghan and loaded revolver. His father—a tall, fine fellow, who came to see us off—had been subjected to a horrible mutilation. His nose had been cut off by the Albanians, taking with it the whole upper lip, giving him a ghastly appearance. One meets with an astonishing number of men who have been victims of this barbarous custom. The Montenegrins are quite as great offenders in this respect as are their Albanian foemen. Indeed, I came across more mutilated men in Scutari alone than in all Montenegro.
In the last war, a handsome young Montenegrin was taken prisoner by the Turks. As he
was wounded, he was sent to the hospital at Scutari. Some of the ladies of the different consulates, who were doing all that lay in their power to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded, took great interest in this interesting young man. A curious and most offensive smell was noticed at his bedside; it increased, day by day, till it became quite unsupportable. At last its origin was discovered. Rolled up in his coat, which lay by his side, were eighteen Turkish noses!—the tokens of his valour in the field.
Our Montenegrin friends were not pleased to hear that we were going to Albania. "Stay with us," they said; "travel in our country. There is more to see than in Turkey. You will like us. Those beasts of Albanians will cut your throats of a certainty, devils that they are." But we wished to hear the other side of the question, and notwithstanding the warnings of our hosts, determined to visit the "beasts" and "devils," and form our own opinion about them.
A crowd of wild-looking mountaineers had assembled to see us off. We had scarcely got under weigh when an amusing incident happened. Our pack-horse, exhilarated by the fine fresh air of the morning, and a hearty breakfast, thought that a nice canter across the plain of Cettinje would be a pleasant way of beginning the day. So off he went at a canter over the low stone walls, across the potato-fields, through the dried torrent-beds, in a direction quite opposite to that which his compagnons de route had chosen. It must have been a ridiculous sight. First a saddle-bag fell off his back, then he would throw a blanket off, until our properties lay scattered all over the plain. We followed as fast as we could with our heavy boots and rifles. We at last caught him, readjusted our baggage, and once more turned his head to the mountain, where soon the narrow and precipitous path obviated all chance of his repeating the performance.
I was smoking a cigarette at the time of the mishap, and swallowed it by accident as I leaped over a wall. The result was an unwonted silence and solemnity on my part for the next half-hour or so.
I was much struck by the behaviour of our guide and the other Montenegrins, when the refractory horse was captured.
English carters, under the same circumstances, would have given vent to much foul language, and would probably have brutally belaboured the wretched animal. But these Montenegrins showed no sign of impatience, said not a word, but quietly repacked the horse and led it off. Turks, Albanians, Montenegrins, and all Easterns, whatever their other faults, are very good to the dumb animals that serve them, and never ill-treat them.
To shoot any animal wilfully, for the mere sake of killing, excites great indignation in the breast of an Albanian. An English naturalist, who travelled in their country in order to make a collection of birds, was looked upon as something not much better than a devil. His very servant was so horrified at the wholesale massacre of the innocents carried on by his master, that he gave him notice that he could serve such a fiend no longer, and left him on the spot. Yet these are the very people who feel no compunction in blowing your brains out from behind a fence, in satisfaction of some trifling quarrel.
It is an easy morning's march to Rieka. The rough path first ascends the rocky ridge which divides the plain of Cettinje from the valley of Rieka (Rieka = river). When we reached the summit of this ridge a most magnificent scene opened out before us.
The great valley lay at our feet. From the windy desolate height on which we stood we saw far beneath the silver stream of the Rieka, fringed with poplars, winding down a long fertile vale. From the edge of the water-side meads the great mountains rose sheer up on either side—of every form and colour—some barren, in curious strata which shone in the morning sun like successive rings of opal and Parian marble, others covered with woods, that had already assumed their autumn tints, and sent forth a perpetual moan as the strong highland wind passed over them.
From the lofty eminence on which we stood chain was seen rising over chain, valley behind valley, till, far away behind all, there gleamed a long broad sheet of water, the great lake of Scutari, backed by the fantastic-shaped rugged mountains of Albania, utterly barren, serrated and pinnacled like a gigantic gothic cathedral, and through the medium of the clear southern atmosphere appearing of a delicate pinkish hue.
This valley of Rieka is far the most fertile of Montenegro, and the village of the same name which is situated on the brink of the clear stream is the prettiest, cleanest, and seemingly most prosperous of the country.
The extreme smallness of some of the fields, if they can be so called, which is remarkable all over Montenegro, struck us much, on our descent down the rough slopes of the mountain.
Soil is scarce. We here saw walled enclosures so small that three or four potato-plants at the most filled them up. Our procession entered Rieka about mid-day. This village consists of one street along the river side. The houses are built tastefully of wood, something in the Swiss style. Outside each house was the usual stone bench, on which, again, as usual, half the family sat, smoking lazily, evidently with nothing on earth to