The Lady of the Shroud
Part 5 out of 7
cost may be! You hold henceforth in your hand the handjar of our
nation, as already, for what you have done in your valiant rescue of
our beloved Voivodin, your breast holds the heart of our people.
Proceed at once! We give you, I fear, little time; but we know that
such is your own wish. Later, we shall issue formal authorization,
so that if war may ensue, our allies may understand that you have
acted for the nation, and also such letters credential as may be
required by you in this exceptional service. These shall follow you
within an hour. For our enemies we take no account. See, we draw
the handjar that we offer you." As one man all in the hall drew
their handjars, which flashed as a blaze of lightning.
There did not seem to be an instant's delay. The Council broke up,
and its members, mingling with the people without, took active part
in the preparations. Not many minutes had elapsed when the yacht,
manned and armed and stored as arranged, was rushing out of the
creek. On the bridge, beside Captain Rooke, stood the Gospodar
Rupert and the still-shrouded form of the Voivodin Teuta. I myself
was on the lower deck with the soldiers, explaining to certain of
them the special duties which they might be called on to fulfil. I
held the list which the Gospodar Rupert had prepared whilst we were
waiting for the yacht to arrive from Gadaar.
FROM RUPERT'S JOURNAL--Continued.
July 9, 1907.
We went at a terrific pace down the coast, keeping well inshore so as
to avoid, if possible, being seen from the south. Just north of
Ilsin a rocky headland juts out, and that was our cover. On the
north of the peninsula is a small land-locked bay, with deep water.
It is large enough to take the yacht, though a much larger vessel
could not safely enter. We ran in, and anchored close to the shore,
which has a rocky frontage--a natural shelf of rock, which is
practically the same as a quay. Here we met the men who had come
from Ilsin and the neighbourhood in answer to our signalling earlier
in the day. They gave us the latest information regarding the
kidnapping of the Voivode, and informed us that every man in that
section of the country was simply aflame about it. They assured us
that we could rely on them, not merely to fight to the death, but to
keep silence absolutely. Whilst the seamen, under the direction of
Rooke, took the aeroplane on shore and found a suitable place for it,
where it was hidden from casual view, but from which it could be
easily launched, the Vladika and I--and, of course, my wife--were
hearing such details as were known of the disappearance of her
It seems that he travelled secretly in order to avoid just such a
possibility as has happened. No one knew of his coming till he came
to Fiume, whence he sent a guarded message to the Archbishop, which
the latter alone would understand. But this Turkish agents were
evidently on his track all the time, and doubtless the Bureau of
Spies was kept well advised. He landed at Ilsin from a coasting
steamer from Ragusa to the Levant.
For two days before his coming there had been quite an unusual number
of arrivals at the little port, at which arrivals are rare. And it
turned out that the little hotel--the only fairly good one in Ilsin--
was almost filled up. Indeed, only one room was left, which the
Voivode took for the night. The innkeeper did not know the Voivode
in his disguise, but suspected who it was from the description. He
dined quietly, and went to bed. His room was at the back, on the
ground-floor, looking out on the bank of the little River Silva,
which here runs into the harbour. No disturbance was heard in the
night. Late in the morning, when the elderly stranger had not made
his appearance, inquiry was made at his door. He did not answer, so
presently the landlord forced the door, and found the room empty.
His luggage was seemingly intact, only the clothes which he had worn
were gone. A strange thing was that, though the bed had been slept
in and his clothes were gone, his night-clothes were not to be found,
from which it was argued by the local authorities, when they came to
make inquiry, that he had gone or been taken from the room in his
night-gear, and that his clothes had been taken with him. There was
evidently some grim suspicion on the part of the authorities, for
they had commanded absolute silence on all in the house. When they
came to make inquiry as to the other guests, it was found that one
and all had gone in the course of the morning, after paying their
bills. None of them had any heavy luggage, and there was nothing
remaining by which they might be traced or which would afford any
clue to their identity. The authorities, having sent a confidential
report to the seat of government, continued their inquiries, and even
now all available hands were at work on the investigation. When I
had signalled to Vissarion, before my arrival there, word had been
sent through the priesthood to enlist in the investigation the
services of all good men, so that every foot of ground in that
section of the Blue Mountains was being investigated. The port-
master was assured by his watchmen that no vessel, large or small,
had heft the harbour during the night. The inference, therefore, was
that the Voivode's captors had made inland with him--if, indeed, they
were not already secreted in or near the town.
Whilst we were receiving the various reports, a hurried message came
that it was now believed that the whole party were in the Silent
Tower. This was a well-chosen place for such an enterprise. It was
a massive tower of immense strength, built as a memorial--and also as
a "keep"--after one of the massacres of the invading Turks.
It stood on the summit of a rocky knoll some ten miles inland from
the Port of Ilsin. It was a place shunned as a rule, and the country
all around it was so arid and desolate that there were no residents
near it. As it was kept for state use, and might be serviceable in
time of war, it was closed with massive iron doors, which were kept
locked except upon certain occasions. The keys were at the seat of
government at Plazac. If, therefore, it had been possible to the
Turkish marauders to gain entrance and exit, it might be a difficult
as well as a dangerous task to try to cut the Voivode out. His
presence with them was a dangerous menace to any force attacking
them, for they would hold his life as a threat.
I consulted with the Vladika at once as to what was best to be done.
And we decided that, though we should put a cordon of guards around
it at a safe distance to prevent them receiving warning, we should at
present make no attack.
We made further inquiry as to whether there had been any vessel seen
in the neighbourhood during the past few days, and were informed that
once or twice a warship had been seen on the near side of the
southern horizon. This was evidently the ship which Rooke had seen
on his rush down the coast after the abduction of the Voivodin, and
which he had identified as a Turkish vessel. The glimpses of her
which had been had were all in full daylight--there was no proof that
she had not stolen up during the night-time without lights. But the
Vladika and I were satisfied that the Turkish vessel was watching--
was in league with both parties of marauders--and was intended to
take off any of the strangers, or their prey, who might reach Ilsin
undetected. It was evidently with this view that the kidnappers of
Teuta had, in the first instance, made with all speed for the south.
It was only when disappointed there that they headed up north,
seeking in desperation for some chance of crossing the border. That
ring of steel had so far well served its purpose.
I sent for Rooke, and put the matter before him. He had thought it
out for himself to the same end as we had. His deduction was:
"Let us keep the cordon, and watch for any signal from the Silent
Tower. The Turks will tire before we shall. I undertake to watch
the Turkish warship. During the night I shall run down south,
without lights, and have a look at her, even if I have to wait till
the grey of the dawn to do so. She may see us; but if she does I
shall crawl away at such pace that she shall not get any idea of our
speed. She will certainly come nearer before a day is over, for be
sure the bureau of spies is kept advised, and they know that when the
country is awake each day increases the hazard of them and their
plans being discovered. From their caution I gather that they do not
court discovery; and from that that they do not wish for an open
declaration of war. If this be so, why should we not come out to
them and force an issue if need be?"
When Teuta and I got a chance to be alone, we discussed the situation
in every phase. The poor girl was in a dreadful state of anxiety
regarding her father's safety. At first she was hardly able to
speak, or even to think, coherently. Her utterance was choked, and
her reasoning palsied with indignation. But presently the fighting
blood of her race restored her faculties, and then her woman's quick
wit was worth the reasoning of a camp full of men. Seeing that she
was all on fire with the subject, I sat still and waited, taking care
not to interrupt her. For quite a long time she sat still, whilst
the coming night thickened. When she spoke, the whole plan of
action, based on subtle thinking, had mapped itself out in her mind:
"We must act quickly. Every hour increases the risk to my father."
Here her voice broke for an instant; but she recovered herself and
"If you go to the ship, I must not go with you. It would not do for
me to be seen. The Captain doubtless knows of both attempts: that
to carry me off as well as that against my father. As yet he is in
ignorance of what has happened. You and your party of brave, loyal
men did their work so well that no news could go forth. So long,
therefore, as the naval Captain is ignorant, he must delay till the
last. But if he saw me he would know that THAT branch of the venture
had miscarried. He would gather from our being here that we had news
of my father's capture, and as he would know that the marauders would
fail unless they were relieved by force, he would order the captive
to be slain."
"Yes, dear, to-morrow you had, perhaps, better see the Captain, but
to-night we must try to rescue my father. Here I think I see a way.
You have your aeroplane. Please take me with you into the Silent
"Not for a world of chrysolite!" said I, horrified. She took my hand
and held it tight whilst she went on:
"Dear, I know, I know! Be satisfied. But it is the only way. You
can, I know, get there, and in the dark. But if you were to go in
it, it would give warning to the enemies, and besides, my father
would not understand. Remember, he does not know you; he has never
seen you, and does not, I suppose, even know as yet of your
existence. But he would know me at once, and in any dress. You can
manage to lower me into the Tower by a rope from the aeroplane. The
Turks as yet do not know of our pursuit, and doubtless rely, at all
events in part, on the strength and security of the Tower. Therefore
their guard will be less active than it would at first or later on.
I shall post father in all details, and we shall be ready quickly.
Now, dear, let us think out the scheme together. Let your man's wit
and experience help my ignorance, and we shall save my father!"
How could I have resisted such pleading--even had it not seemed wise?
But wise it was; and I, who knew what the aeroplane could do under my
own guidance, saw at once the practicalities of the scheme. Of
course there was a dreadful risk in case anything should go wrong.
But we are at present living in a world of risks--and her father's
life was at stake. So I took my dear wife in my arms, and told her
that my mind was hers for this, as my soul and body already were.
And I cheered her by saying that I thought it might be done.
I sent for Rooke, and told him of the new adventure, and he quite
agreed with me in the wisdom of it. I then told him that he would
have to go and interview the Captain of the Turkish warship in the
morning, if I did not turn up. "I am going to see the Vladika," I
said. "He will lead our own troops in the attack on the Silent
Tower. But it will rest with you to deal with the warship. Ask the
Captain to whom or what nation the ship belongs. He is sure to
refuse to tell. In such case mention to him that if he flies no
nation's flag, his vessel is a pirate ship, and that you, who are in
command of the navy of the Blue Mountains, will deal with him as a
pirate is dealt with--no quarter, no mercy. He will temporize, and
perhaps try a bluff; but when things get serious with him he will
land a force, or try to, and may even prepare to shell the town. He
will threaten to, at any rate. In such case deal with him as you
think best, or as near to it as you can." He answered:
"I shall carry out your wishes with my life. It is a righteous task.
Not that anything of that sort would ever stand in my way. If he
attacks our nation, either as a Turk or a pirate, I shall wipe him
out. We shall see what our own little packet can do. Moreover, any
of the marauders who have entered the Blue Mountains, from sea or
otherwise, shall never get out by sea! I take it that we of my
contingent shall cover the attacking party. It will be a sorry time
for us all if that happens without our seeing you and the Voivodin;
for in such case we shall understand the worst!" Iron as he was, the
"That is so, Rooke," I said. "We are taking a desperate chance, we
know. But the case is desperate! But we all have our duty to do,
whatever happens. Ours and yours is stern; but when we have done it,
the result will be that life will be easier for others--for those
that are left."
Before he left, I asked him to send up to me three suits of the
Masterman bullet-proof clothes of which we had a supply on the yacht.
"Two are for the Voivodin and myself," I said; "the third is for the
Voivode to put on. The Voivodin will take it with her when she
descends from the aeroplane into the Tower."
Whilst any daylight was left I went out to survey the ground. My
wife wanted to come with me, but I would not let her. "No," said I;
"you will have at the best a fearful tax on your strength and your
nerves. You will want to be as fresh as is possible when you get on
the aeroplane." Like a good wife, she obeyed, and lay down to rest
in the little tent provided for her.
I took with me a local man who knew the ground, and who was trusted
to be silent. We made a long detour when we had got as near the
Silent Tower as we could without being noticed. I made notes from my
compass as to directions, and took good notice of anything that could
possibly serve as a landmark. By the time we got home I was pretty
well satisfied that if all should go well I could easily sail over
the Tower in the dark. Then I had a talk with my wife, and gave her
"When we arrive over the Tower," I said, "I shall lower you with a
long rope. You will have a parcel of food and spirit for your father
in case he is fatigued or faint; and, of course, the bullet-proof
suit, which he must put on at once. You will also have a short rope
with a belt at either end--one for your father, the other for you.
When I turn the aeroplane and come back again, you will have ready
the ring which lies midway between the belts. This you will catch
into the hook at the end of the lowered rope. When all is secure,
and I have pulled you both up by the windlass so as to clear the top,
I shall throw out ballast which we shall carry on purpose, and away
we go! I am sorry it must be so uncomfortable for you both, but
there is no other way. When we get well clear of the Tower, I shall
take you both up on the platform. If necessary, I shall descend to
do it--and then we shall steer for Ilsin."
"When all is safe, our men will attack the Tower. We must let them
do it, for they expect it. A few men in the clothes and arms which
we took from your captors will be pursued by some of ours. It is all
arranged. They will ask the Turks to admit them, and if the latter
have not learned of your father's escape, perhaps they will do so.
Once in, our men will try to open the gate. The chances are against
them, poor fellows! but they are all volunteers, and will die
fighting. If they win out, great glory will be theirs."
"The moon does not rise to-night till just before midnight, so we
have plenty of time. We shall start from here at ten. If all be
well, I shall place you in the Tower with your father in less than a
quarter-hour from that. A few minutes will suffice to clothe him in
bullet-proof and get on his belt. I shall not be away from the Tower
more than a very few minutes, and, please God, long before eleven we
shall be safe. Then the Tower can be won in an attack by our
mountaineers. Perhaps, when the guns are heard on the ship of war--
for there is sure to be firing--the Captain may try to land a shore
party. But Rooke will stand in the way, and if I know the man and
The Lady, we shall not be troubled with many Turks to-night. By
midnight you and your father can be on the way to Vissarion. I can
interview the naval Captain in the morning."
My wife's marvellous courage and self-possession stood to her. At
half an hour before the time fixed she was ready for our adventure.
She had improved the scheme in one detail. She had put on her own
belt and coiled the rope round her waist, so the only delay would be
in bringing her father's belt. She would keep the bullet-proof dress
intended to be his strapped in a packet on her back, so that if
occasion should be favourable he would not want to put it on till he
and she should have reached the platform of the aeroplane. In such
case, I should not steer away from the Tower at all, but would pass
slowly across it and take up the captive and his brave daughter
before leaving. I had learned from local sources that the Tower was
in several stories. Entrance was by the foot, where the great iron-
clad door was; then came living-rooms and storage, and an open space
at the top. This would probably be thought the best place for the
prisoner, for it was deep-sunk within the massive walls, wherein was
no loophole of any kind. This, if it should so happen, would be the
disposition of things best for our plan. The guards would at this
time be all inside the Tower--probably resting, most of them--so that
it was possible that no one might notice the coming of the airship.
I was afraid to think that all might turn out so well, for in such
case our task would be a simple enough one, and would in all human
probability be crowned with success.
At ten o'clock we started. Teuta did not show the smallest sign of
fear or even uneasiness, though this was the first time she had even
seen an aeroplane at work. She proved to be an admirable passenger
for an airship. She stayed quite still, holding herself rigidly in
the position arranged, by the cords which I had fixed for her.
When I had trued my course by the landmarks and with the compass lit
by the Tiny my electric light in the dark box, I had time to look
about me. All seemed quite dark wherever I looked--to land, or sea,
or sky. But darkness is relative, and though each quarter and spot
looked dark in turn, there was not such absolute darkness as a whole.
I could tell the difference, for instance, between land and sea, no
matter how far off we might be from either. Looking upward, the sky
was dark; yet there was light enough to see, and even distinguish
broad effects. I had no difficulty in distinguishing the Tower
towards which we were moving, and that, after all, was the main
thing. We drifted slowly, very slowly, as the air was still, and I
only used the minimum pressure necessary for the engine. I think I
now understood for the first time the extraordinary value of the
engine with which my Kitson was equipped. It was noiseless, it was
practically of no weight, and it allowed the machine to progress as
easily as the old-fashioned balloon used to drift before a breeze.
Teuta, who had naturally very fine sight, seemed to see even better
than I did, for as we drew nearer to the Tower, and its round, open
top began to articulate itself, she commenced to prepare for her part
of the task. She it was who uncoiled the long drag-rope ready for
her lowering. We were proceeding so gently that she as well as I had
hopes that I might be able to actually balance the machine on the top
of the curving wall--a thing manifestly impossible on a straight
surface, though it might have been possible on an angle.
On we crept--on, and on! There was no sign of light about the Tower,
and not the faintest sound to be heard till we were almost close to
the line of the rising wall; then we heard a sound of something like
mirth, but muffled by distance and thick walls. From it we took
fresh heart, for it told us that our enemies were gathered in the
lower chambers. If only the Voivode should be on the upper stage,
all would be well.
Slowly, almost inch by inch, and with a suspense that was agonizing,
we crossed some twenty or thirty feet above the top of the wall. I
could see as we came near the jagged line of white patches where the
heads of the massacred Turks placed there on spikes in old days
seemed to give still their grim warning. Seeing that they made in
themselves a difficulty of landing on the wall, I deflected the plane
so that, as we crept over the wall, we might, if they became
displaced, brush them to the outside of the wall. A few seconds
more, and I was able to bring the machine to rest with the front of
the platform jutting out beyond the Tower wall. Here I anchored her
fore and aft with clamps which had been already prepared.
Whilst I was doing so Teuta had leaned over the inner edge of the
platform, and whispered as softly as the sigh of a gentle breeze
"Hist! hist!" The answer came in a similar sound from some twenty
feet below us, and we knew that the prisoner was alone. Forthwith,
having fixed the hook of the rope in the ring to which was attached
her belt, I lowered my wife. Her father evidently knew her whisper,
and was ready. The hollow Tower--a smooth cylinder within--sent up
the voices from it faint as were the whispers:
"Father, it is I--Teuta!"
"My child, my brave daughter!"
"Quick, father; strap the belt round you. See that it is secure. We
have to be lifted into the air if necessary. Hold together. It will
be easier for Rupert to lift us to the airship."
"Yes; I shall explain later. Quick, quick! There is not a moment to
lose. He is enormously strong, and can lift us together; but we must
help him by being still, so he won't have to use the windlass, which
might creak." As she spoke she jerked slightly at the rope, which
was our preconcerted signal that I was to lift. I was afraid the
windlass might creak, and her thoughtful hint decided me. I bent my
back to the task, and in a few seconds they were on the platform on
which they, at Teuta's suggestion, lay flat, one at each side of my
seat, so as to keep the best balance possible.
I took off the clamps, lifted the bags of ballast to the top of the
wall, so that there should be no sound of falling, and started the
engine. The machine moved forward a few inches, so that it tilted
towards the outside of the wall. I threw my weight on the front part
of the platform, and we commenced our downward fall at a sharp angle.
A second enlarged the angle, and without further ado we slid away
into the darkness. Then, ascending as we went, when the engine began
to work at its strength, we turned, and presently made straight for
The journey was short--not many minutes. It almost seemed as if no
time whatever had elapsed till we saw below us the gleam of lights,
and by them saw a great body of men gathered in military array. We
slackened and descended. The crowd kept deathly silence, but when we
were amongst them we needed no telling that it was not due to lack of
heart or absence of joy. The pressure of their hands as they
surrounded us, and the devotion with which they kissed the hands and
feet of both the Voivode and his daughter, were evidence enough for
me, even had I not had my own share of their grateful rejoicing.
In the midst of it all the low, stern voice of Rooke, who had burst a
way to the front beside the Vladika, said:
"Now is the time to attack the Tower. Forward, brothers, but in
silence. Let there not be a sound till you are near the gate; then
play your little comedy of the escaping marauders. And 'twill be no
comedy for them in the Tower. The yacht is all ready for the
morning, Mr. Sent Leger, in case I do not come out of the scrimmage
if the bluejackets arrive. In such case you will have to handle her
yourself. God keep you, my Lady; and you, too, Voivode! Forward!"
In a ghostly silence the grim little army moved forwards. Rooke and
the men with him disappeared into the darkness in the direction of
the harbour of Ilsin.
FROM THE SCRIPT OF THE VOIVODE, PETER VISSARION,
July 7, 1907.
I had little idea, when I started on my homeward journey, that it
would have such a strange termination. Even I, who ever since my
boyhood have lived in a whirl of adventure, intrigue, or diplomacy--
whichever it may be called--statecraft, and war, had reason to be
surprised. I certainly thought that when I locked myself into my
room in the hotel at Ilsin that I would have at last a spell, however
short, of quiet. All the time of my prolonged negotiations with the
various nationalities I had to be at tension; so, too, on my homeward
journey, lest something at the last moment should happen adversely to
my mission. But when I was safe on my own Land of the Blue
Mountains, and laid my head on my pillow, where only friends could be
around me, I thought I might forget care.
But to wake with a rude hand over my mouth, and to feel myself
grasped tight by so many hands that I could not move a limb, was a
dreadful shock. All after that was like a dreadful dream. I was
rolled in a great rug so tightly that I could hardly breathe, let
alone cry out. Lifted by many hands through the window, which I
could hear was softly opened and shut for the purpose, and carried to
a boat. Again lifted into some sort of litter, on which I was borne
a long distance, but with considerable rapidity. Again lifted out
and dragged through a doorway opened on purpose--I could hear the
clang as it was shut behind me. Then the rug was removed, and I
found myself, still in my night-gear, in the midst of a ring of men.
There were two score of them, all Turks, all strong-looking, resolute
men, armed to the teeth. My clothes, which had been taken from my
room, were thrown down beside me, and I was told to dress. As the
Turks were going from the room--shaped like a vault--where we then
were, the last of them, who seemed to be some sort of officer, said:
"If you cry out or make any noise whatever whilst you are in this
Tower, you shall die before your time!" Presently some food and
water were brought me, and a couple of blankets. I wrapped myself up
and slept till early in the morning. Breakfast was brought, and the
same men filed in. In the presence of them all the same officer
"I have given instructions that if you make any noise or betray your
presence to anyone outside this Tower, the nearest man is to restore
you to immediate quiet with his yataghan. It you promise me that you
will remain quiet whilst you are within the Tower, I can enlarge your
liberties somewhat. Do you promise?" I promised as he wished; there
was no need to make necessary any stricter measure of confinement.
Any chance of escape lay in having the utmost freedom allowed to me.
Although I had been taken away with such secrecy, I knew that before
long there would be pursuit. So I waited with what patience I could.
I was allowed to go on the upper platform--a consideration due, I am
convinced, to my captors' wish for their own comfort rather than for
It was not very cheering, for during the daytime I had satisfied
myself that it would be quite impossible for even a younger and more
active man than I am to climb the walls. They were built for prison
purposes, and a cat could not find entry for its claws between the
stones. I resigned myself to my fate as well as I could. Wrapping
my blanket round me, I lay down and looked up at the sky. I wished
to see it whilst I could. I was just dropping to sleep--the
unutterable silence of the place broken only now and again by some
remark by my captors in the rooms below me--when there was a strange
appearance just over me--an appearance so strange that I sat up, and
gazed with distended eyes.
Across the top of the tower, some height above, drifted, slowly and
silently, a great platform. Although the night was dark, it was so
much darker where I was within the hollow of the Tower that I could
actually see what was above me. I knew it was an aeroplane--one of
which I had seen in Washington. A man was seated in the centre,
steering; and beside him was a silent figure of a woman all wrapped
in white. It made my heart beat to see her, for she was figured
something like my Teuta, but broader, less shapely. She leaned over,
and a whispered "Ssh!" crept down to me. I answered in similar way.
Whereupon she rose, and the man lowered her down into the Tower.
Then I saw that it was my dear daughter who had come in this
wonderful way to save me. With infinite haste she helped me to
fasten round my waist a belt attached to a rope, which was coiled
round her; and then the man, who was a giant in strength as well as
stature, raised us both to the platform of the aeroplane, which he
set in motion without an instant's delay.
Within a few seconds, and without any discovery being made of my
escape, we were speeding towards the sea. The lights of Ilsin were
in front of us. Before reaching the town, however, we descended in
the midst of a little army of my own people, who were gathered ready
to advance upon the Silent Tower, there to effect, if necessary, my
rescue by force. Small chance would there have been of my life in
case of such a struggle. Happily, however, the devotion and courage
of my dear daughter and of her gallant companion prevented such a
necessity. It was strange to me to find such joyous reception
amongst my friends expressed in such a whispered silence. There was
no time for comment or understanding or the asking of questions--I
was fain to take things as they stood, and wait for fuller
This came later, when my daughter and I were able to converse alone.
When the expedition went out against the Silent Tower, Teuta and I
went to her tent, and with us came her gigantic companion, who seemed
not wearied, but almost overcome with sleep. When we came into the
tent, over which at a little distance a cordon of our mountaineers
stood on guard, he said to me:
"May I ask you, sir, to pardon me for a time, and allow the Voivodin
to explain matters to you? She will, I know, so far assist me, for
there is so much work still to be done before we are free of the
present peril. For myself, I am almost overcome with sleep. For
three nights I have had no sleep, but all during that time much
labour and more anxiety. I could hold on longer; but at daybreak I
must go out to the Turkish warship that lies in the offing. She is a
Turk, though she does not confess to it; and she it is who has
brought hither the marauders who captured both your daughter and
yourself. It is needful that I go, for I hold a personal authority
from the National Council to take whatever step may be necessary for
our protection. And when I go I should be clear-headed, for war may
rest on that meeting. I shall be in the adjoining tent, and shall
come at once if I am summoned, in case you wish for me before dawn."
Here my daughter struck in:
"Father, ask him to remain here. We shall not disturb him, I am
sure, in our talking. And, moreover, if you knew how much I owe to
him--to his own bravery and his strength--you would understand how
much safer I feel when he is close to me, though we are surrounded by
an army of our brave mountaineers."
"But, my daughter," I said, for I was as yet all in ignorance, "there
are confidences between father and daughter which none other may
share. Some of what has been I know, but I want to know all, and it
might be better that no stranger--however valiant he may be, or no
matter in what measure we are bound to him--should be present." To
my astonishment, she who had always been amenable to my lightest wish
actually argued with me:
"Father, there are other confidences which have to be respected in
like wise. Bear with me, dear, till I have told you all, and I am
right sure that you will agree with me. I ask it, father."
That settled the matter, and as I could see that the gallant
gentleman who had rescued me was swaying on his feet as he waited
respectfully, I said to him:
"Rest with us, sir. We shall watch over your sleep."
Then I had to help him, for almost on the instant he sank down, and I
had to guide him to the rugs spread on the ground. In a few seconds
he was in a deep sleep. As I stood looking at him, till I had
realized that he vas really asleep, I could not help marvelling at
the bounty of Nature that could uphold even such a man as this to the
last moment of work to be done, and then allow so swift a collapse
when all was over, and he could rest peacefully.
He was certainly a splendid fellow. I think I never saw so fine a
man physically in my life. And if the lesson of his physiognomy be
true, he is as sterling inwardly as his external is fair. "Now,"
said I to Teuta, "we are to all intents quite alone. Tell me all
that has been, so that I may understand."
Whereupon my daughter, making me sit down, knelt beside me, and told
me from end to end the most marvellous story I had ever heard or read
of. Something of it I had already known from the Archbishop
Paleologue's later letters, but of all else I was ignorant. Far away
in the great West beyond the Atlantic, and again on the fringe of the
Eastern seas, I had been thrilled to my heart's core by the heroic
devotion and fortitude of my daughter in yielding herself for her
country's sake to that fearful ordeal of the Crypt; of the grief of
the nation at her reported death, news of which was so mercifully and
wisely withheld from me as long as possible; of the supernatural
rumours that took root so deep; but no word or hint had come to me of
a man who had come across the orbit of her life, much less of all
that has resulted from it. Neither had I known of her being carried
off, or of the thrice gallant rescue of her by Rupert. Little wonder
that I thought so highly of him even at the first moment I had a
clear view of him when he sank down to sleep before me. Why, the man
must be a marvel. Even our mountaineers could not match such
endurance as his. In the course of her narrative my daughter told me
of how, being wearied with her long waiting in the tomb, and waking
to find herself alone when the floods were out, and even the Crypt
submerged, she sought safety and warmth elsewhere; and how she came
to the Castle in the night, and found the strange man alone. I said:
"That was dangerous, daughter, if not wrong. The man, brave and
devoted as he is, must answer me--your father." At that she was
greatly upset, and before going on with her narrative, drew me close
in her arms, and whispered to me:
"Be gentle to me, father, for I have had much to bear. And be good
to him, for he holds my heart in his breast!" I reassured her with a
gentle pressure--there was no need to speak. She then went on to
tell me about her marriage, and how her husband, who had fallen into
the belief that she was a Vampire, had determined to give even his
soul for her; and how she had on the night of the marriage left him
and gone back to the tomb to play to the end the grim comedy which
she had undertaken to perform till my return; and how, on the second
night after her marriage, as she was in the garden of the Castle--
going, as she shyly told me, to see if all was well with her husband-
-she was seized secretly, muffled up, bound, and carried off. Here
she made a pause and a digression. Evidently some fear lest her
husband and myself should quarrel assailed her, for she said:
"Do understand, father, that Rupert's marriage to me was in all ways
regular, and quite in accord with our customs. Before we were
married I told the Archbishop of my wish. He, as your representative
during your absence, consented himself, and brought the matter to the
notice of the Vladika and the Archimandrites. All these concurred,
having exacted from me--very properly, I think--a sacred promise to
adhere to my self-appointed task. The marriage itself was orthodox
in all ways--though so far unusual that it was held at night, and in
darkness, save for the lights appointed by the ritual. As to that,
the Archbishop himself, or the Archimandrite of Spazac, who assisted
him, or the Vladika, who acted as Paranymph, will, all or any of
them, give you full details. Your representative made all inquiries
as to Rupert Sent Leger, who lived in Vissarion, though he did not
know who I was, or from his point of view who I had been. But I must
tell you of my rescue."
And so she went on to tell me of that unavailing journey south by her
captors; of their bafflement by the cordon which Rupert had
established at the first word of danger to "the daughter of our
leader," though he little knew who the "leader" was, or who was his
"daughter"; of how the brutal marauders tortured her to speed with
their daggers; and how her wounds left blood-marks on the ground as
she passed along; then of the halt in the valley, when the marauders
came to know that their road north was menaced, if not already
blocked; of the choosing of the murderers, and their keeping ward
over her whilst their companions went to survey the situation; and of
her gallant rescue by that noble fellow, her husband--my son I shall
call him henceforth, and thank God that I may have that happiness and
Then my daughter went on to tell me of the race back to Vissarion,
when Rupert went ahead of all--as a leader should do; of the
summoning of the Archbishop and the National Council; and of their
placing the nation's handjar in Rupert's hand; of the journey to
Ilsin, and the flight of my daughter--and my son--on the aeroplane.
The rest I knew.
As she finished, the sleeping man stirred and woke--broad awake in a
second--sure sign of a man accustomed to campaign and adventure. At
a glance he recalled everything that had been, and sprang to his
feet. He stood respectfully before me for a few seconds before
speaking. Then he said, with an open, engaging smile:
"I see, sir, you know all. Am I forgiven--for Teuta's sake as well
as my own?" By this time I was also on my feet. A man like that
walks straight into my heart. My daughter, too, had risen, and stood
by my side. I put out my hand and grasped his, which seemed to leap
to meet me--as only the hand of a swordsman can do.
"I am glad you are my son!" I said. It was all I could say, and I
meant it and all it implied. We shook hands warmly. Teuta was
pleased; she kissed me, and then stood holding my arm with one hand,
whilst she linked her other hand in the arm of her husband.
He summoned one of the sentries without, and told him to ask Captain
Rooke to come to him. The latter had been ready for a call, and came
at once. When through the open flap of the tent we saw him coming,
Rupert--as I must call him now, because Teuta wishes it; and I like
to do it myself--said:
"I must be off to board the Turkish vessel before it comes inshore.
Good-bye, sir, in case we do not meet again." He said the last few
words in so low a voice that I only could hear them. Then he kissed
his wife, and told her he expected to be back in time for breakfast,
and was gone. He met Rooke--I am hardly accustomed to call him
Captain as yet, though, indeed, he well deserves it--at the edge of
the cordon of sentries, and they went quickly together towards the
port, where the yacht was lying with steam up.
BOOK VII: THE EMPIRE OF THE AIR
FROM THE REPORT OF CRISTOFEROS, WAR-SCRIBE TO THE NATIONAL COUNCIL.
July 7, 1907.
When the Gospodar Rupert and Captain Rooke came within hailing
distance of the strange ship, the former hailed her, using one after
another the languages of England, Germany, France, Russia, Turkey,
Greece, Spain, Portugal, and another which I did not know; I think it
must have been American. By this time the whole line of the bulwark
was covered by a row of Turkish faces. When, in Turkish, the
Gospodar asked for the Captain, the latter came to the gangway, which
had been opened, and stood there. His uniform was that of the
Turkish navy--of that I am prepared to swear--but he made signs of
not understanding what had been said; whereupon the Gospodar spoke
again, but in French this time. I append the exact conversation
which took place, none other joining in it. I took down in shorthand
the words of both as they were spoken:
THE GOSPODAR. "Are you the Captain of this ship?"
THE CAPTAIN. "I am."
GOSPODAR. "To what nationality do you belong?"
CAPTAIN. "It matters not. I am Captain of this ship."
GOSPODAR. "I alluded to your ship. What national flag is she
CAPTAIN (throwing his eye over the top-hamper). "I do not see that
any flag is flying."
GOSPODAR. "I take it that, as commander, you can allow me on board
with my two companions?"
CAPTAIN. "I can, upon proper request being made!"
GOSPODAR (taking off his cap). "I ask your courtesy, Captain. I am
the representative and accredited officer of the National Council of
the Land of the Blue Mountains, in whose waters you now are; and on
their account I ask for a formal interview on urgent matters."
The Turk, who was, I am bound to say, in manner most courteous as
yet, gave some command to his officers, whereupon the companion-
ladders and stage were lowered and the gangway manned, as is usual
for the reception on a ship of war of an honoured guest.
CAPTAIN. "You are welcome, sir--you and your two companions--as you
The Gospodar bowed. Our companion-ladder was rigged on the instant,
and a launch lowered. The Gospodar and Captain Rooke--taking me with
them--entered, and rowed to the warship, where we were all honourably
received. There were an immense number of men on board, soldiers as
well as seamen. It looked more like a warlike expedition than a
fighting-ship in time of peace. As we stepped on the deck, the
seamen and marines, who were all armed as at drill, presented arms.
The Gospodar went first towards the Captain, and Captain Rooke and I
followed close behind him. The Gospodar spoke:
"I am Rupert Sent Leger, a subject of his Britannic Majesty,
presently residing at Vissarion, in the Land of the Blue Mountains.
I am at present empowered to act for the National Council in all
matters. Here is my credential!" As he spoke he handed to the
Captain a letter. It was written in five different languages--
Balkan, Turkish, Greek, English, and French. The Captain read it
carefully all through, forgetful for the moment that he had seemingly
been unable to understand the Gospodar's question spoken in the
Turkish tongue. Then he answered:
"I see the document is complete. May I ask on what subject you wish
to see me?"
GOSPODAR. "You are here in a ship of war in Blue Mountain waters,
yet you fly no flag of any nation. You have sent armed men ashore in
your boats, thus committing an act of war. The National Council of
the Land of the Blue Mountains requires to know what nation you
serve, and why the obligations of international law are thus broken."
The Captain seemed to wait for further speech, but the Gospodar
remained silent; whereupon the former spoke.
CAPTAIN. "I am responsible to my own--chiefs. I refuse to answer
The Gospodar spoke at once in reply.
GOSPODAR. "Then, sir, you, as commander of a ship--and especially a
ship of war--must know that in thus violating national and maritime
laws you, and all on board this ship, are guilty of an act of piracy.
This is not even piracy on the high seas. You are not merely within
territorial waters, but you have invaded a national port. As you
refuse to disclose the nationality of your ship, I accept, as you
seem to do, your status as that of a pirate, and shall in due season
CAPTAIN (with manifest hostility). "I accept the responsibility of
my own acts. Without admitting your contention, I tell you now that
whatever action you take shall be at your own peril and that of your
National Council. Moreover, I have reason to believe that my men who
were sent ashore on special service have been beleaguered in a tower
which can be seen from the ship. Before dawn this morning firing was
heard from that direction, from which I gather that attack was made
on them. They, being only a small party, may have been murdered. If
such be so, I tell you that you and your miserable little nation, as
you call it, shall pay such blood-money as you never thought of. I
am responsible for this, and, by Allah! there shall be a great
revenge. You have not in all your navy--if navy you have at all--
power to cope with even one ship like this, which is but one of many.
My guns shall be trained on Ilsin, to which end I have come inshore.
You and your companions have free conduct back to port; such is due
to the white flag which you fly. Fifteen minutes will bring you back
whence you came. Go! And remember that whatever you may do amongst
your mountain defiles, at sea you cannot even defend yourselves."
GOSPODAR (slowly and in a ringing voice). "The Land of the Blue
Mountains has its own defences on sea and land. Its people know how
to defend themselves."
CAPTAIN (taking out his watch). "It is now close on five bells. At
the first stroke of six bells our guns shall open fire."
GOSPODAR (calmly). "It is my last duty to warn you, sir--and to warn
all on this ship--that much may happen before even the first stroke
of six bells. Be warned in time, and give over this piratical
attack, the very threat of which may be the cause of much bloodshed."
CAPTAIN (violently). "Do you dare to threaten me, and, moreover, my
ship's company? We are one, I tell you, in this ship; and the last
man shall perish like the first ere this enterprise fail. Go!"
With a bow, the Gospodar turned and went down the ladder, we
following him. In a couple of minutes the yacht was on her way to
FROM RUPERT'S JOURNAL.
July 10, 1907.
When we turned shoreward after my stormy interview with the pirate
Captain--I can call him nothing else at present, Rooke gave orders to
a quartermaster on the bridge, and The Lady began to make to a little
northward of Ilsin port. Rooke himself went aft to the wheel-house,
taking several men with him.
When we were quite near the rocks--the water is so deep here that
there is no danger--we slowed down, merely drifting along southwards
towards the port. I was myself on the bridge, and could see all over
the decks. I could also see preparations going on upon the warship.
Ports were opened, and the great guns on the turrets were lowered for
action. When we were starboard broadside on to the warship, I saw
the port side of the steering-house open, and Rooke's men sliding out
what looked like a huge grey crab, which by tackle from within the
wheel-house was lowered softly into the sea. The position of the
yacht hid the operation from sight of the warship. The doors were
shut again, and the yacht's pace began to quicken. We ran into the
port. I had a vague idea that Rooke had some desperate project on
hand. Not for nothing had he kept the wheel-house locked on that
All along the frontage was a great crowd of eager men. But they had
considerately left the little mole at the southern entrance, whereon
was a little tower, on whose round top a signal-gun was placed, free
for my own use. When I was landed on this pier I went along to the
end, and, climbing the narrow stair within, went out on the sloping
roof. I stood up, for I was determined to show the Turks that I was
not afraid for myself, as they would understand when the bombardment
should begin. It was now but a very few minutes before the fatal
hour--six bells. But all the same I was almost in a state of
despair. It was terrible to think of all those poor souls in the
town who had done nothing wrong, and who were to be wiped out in the
coming blood-thirsty, wanton attack. I raised my glasses to see how
preparations were going on upon the warship.
As I looked I had a momentary fear that my eyesight was giving way.
At one moment I had the deck of the warship focussed with my glasses,
and could see every detail as the gunners waited for the word to
begin the bombardment with the great guns of the barbettes. The next
I saw nothing but the empty sea. Then in another instant there was
the ship as before, but the details were blurred. I steadied myself
against the signal-gun, and looked again. Not more than two, or at
the most three, seconds had elapsed. The ship was, for the moment,
full in view. As I looked, she gave a queer kind of quick shiver,
prow and stern, and then sideways. It was for all the world like a
rat shaken in the mouth of a skilled terrier. Then she remained
still, the one placid thing to be seen, for all around her the sea
seemed to shiver in little independent eddies, as when water is
broken without a current to guide it.
I continued to look, and when the deck was, or seemed, quite still--
for the shivering water round the ship kept catching my eyes through
the outer rays of the lenses--I noticed that nothing was stirring.
The men who had been at the guns were all lying down; the men in the
fighting-tops had leaned forward or backward, and their arms hung
down helplessly. Everywhere was desolation--in so far as life was
concerned. Even a little brown bear, which had been seated on the
cannon which was being put into range position, had jumped or fallen
on deck, and lay there stretched out--and still. It was evident that
some terrible shock had been given to the mighty war-vessel. Without
a doubt or a thought why I did so, I turned my eyes towards where The
Lady lay, port broadside now to the inside, in the harbour mouth. I
had the key now to the mystery of Rooke's proceedings with the great
As I looked I saw just outside the harbour a thin line of cleaving
water. This became more marked each instant, till a steel disc with
glass eyes that shone in the light of the sun rose above the water.
It was about the size of a beehive, and was shaped like one. It made
a straight line for the aft of the yacht. At the same moment, in
obedience to some command, given so quietly that I did not hear it,
the men went below--all save some few, who began to open out doors in
the port side of the wheel-house. The tackle was run out through an
opened gangway on that side, and a man stood on the great hook at the
lower end, balancing himself by hanging on the chain. In a few
seconds he came up again. The chain tightened and the great grey
crab rose over the edge of the deck, and was drawn into the wheel-
house, the doors of which were closed, shutting in a few only of the
I waited, quite quiet. After a space of a few minutes, Captain Rooke
in his uniform walked out of the wheel-house. He entered a small
boat, which had been in the meantime lowered for the purpose, and was
rowed to the steps on the mole. Ascending these, he came directly
towards the signal-tower. When he had ascended and stood beside me,
"Well?" I asked.
"All well, sir," he answered. "We shan't have any more trouble with
that lot, I think. You warned that pirate--I wish he had been in
truth a clean, honest, straightforward pirate, instead of the measly
Turkish swab he was--that something might occur before the first
stroke of six bells. Well, something has occurred, and for him and
all his crew that six bells will never sound. So the Lord fights for
the Cross against the Crescent! Bismillah. Amen!" He said this in
a manifestly formal way, as though declaiming a ritual. The next
instant he went on in the thoroughly practical conventional way which
was usual to him:
"May I ask a favour, Mr. Sent Leger?"
"A thousand, my dear Rooke," I said. "You can't ask me anything
which I shall not freely grant. And I speak within my brief from the
National Council. You have saved Ilsin this day, and the Council
will thank you for it in due time."
"Me, sir?" he said, with a look of surprise on his face which seemed
quite genuine. "If you think that, I am well out of it. I was
afraid, when I woke, that you might court-martial me!"
"Court-martial you! What for?" I asked, surprised in my turn.
"For going to sleep on duty, sir! And the fact is, I was worn out in
the attack on the Silent Tower last night, and when you had your
interview with the pirate--all good pirates forgive me for the
blasphemy! Amen!--and I knew that everything was going smoothly, I
went into the wheel-house and took forty winks." He said all this
without moving so much as an eyelid, from which I gathered that he
wished absolute silence to be observed on my part. Whilst I was
revolving this in my mind he went on:
"Touching that request, sir. When I have left you and the Voivode--
and the Voivodin, of course--at Vissarion, together with such others
as you may choose to bring there with you, may I bring the yacht back
here for a spell? I rather think that there is a good deal of
cleaning up to be done, and the crew of The Lady with myself are the
men to do it. We shall be back by nightfall at the creek."
"Do as you think best, Admiral Rooke," I said.
"Yes, Admiral. At present I can only say that tentatively, but by
to-morrow I am sure the National Council will have confirmed it. I
am afraid, old friend, that your squadron will be only your flagship
for the present; but later we may do better."
"So long as I am Admiral, your honour, I shall have no other flagship
than The Lady. I am not a young man, but, young or old, my pennon
shall float over no other deck. Now, one other favour, Mr. Sent
Leger? It is a corollary of the first, so I do not hesitate to ask.
May I appoint Lieutenant Desmond, my present First Officer, to the
command of the battleship? Of course, he will at first only command
the prize crew; but in such case he will fairly expect the
confirmation of his rank later. I had better, perhaps, tell you,
sir, that he is a very capable seaman, learned in all the sciences
that pertain to a battleship, and bred in the first navy in the
"By all means, Admiral. Your nomination shall, I think I may promise
you, be confirmed."
Not another word we spoke. I returned with him in his boat to The
Lady, which was brought to the dock wall, where we were received with
I hurried off to my Wife and the Voivode. Rooke, calling Desmond to
him, went on the bridge of The Lady, which turned, and went out at
terrific speed to the battleship, which was already drifting up
northward on the tide.
FROM THE REPORT OF CRISTOFEROS, SCRIBE OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE
LAND OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS.
July 8, 1907.
The meeting of the National Council, July 6, was but a continuation
of that held before the rescue of the Voivodin Vissarion, the members
of the Council having been during the intervening night housed in the
Castle of Vissarion. When, in the early morning, they met, all were
jubilant; for late at night the fire-signal had flamed up from Ilsin
with the glad news that the Voivode Peter Vissarion was safe, having
been rescued with great daring on an aeroplane by his daughter and
the Gospodar Rupert, as the people call him--Mister Rupert Sent
Leger, as he is in his British name and degree.
Whilst the Council was sitting, word came that a great peril to the
town of Ilsin had been averted. A war-vessel acknowledging to no
nationality, and therefore to be deemed a pirate, had threatened to
bombard the town; but just before the time fixed for the fulfilment
of her threat, she was shaken to such an extent by some sub-aqueous
means that, though she herself was seemingly uninjured, nothing was
left alive on board. Thus the Lord preserves His own! The
consideration of this, as well as the other incident, was postponed
until the coming Voivode and the Gospodar Rupert, together with who
were already on their way hither.
THE SAME (LATER IN THE SAME DAY).
The Council resumed its sitting at four o'clock. The Voivode Peter
Vissarion and the Voivodin Teuta had arrived with the "Gospodar
Rupert," as the mountaineers call him (Mr. Rupert Sent Leger) on the
armoured yacht he calls The Lady. The National Council showed great
pleasure when the Voivode entered the hall in which the Council met.
He seemed much gratified by the reception given to him. Mr. Rupert
Sent Leger, by the express desire of the Council, was asked to be
present at the meeting. He took a seat at the bottom of the hall,
and seemed to prefer to remain there, though asked by the President
of the Council to sit at the top of the table with himself and the
When the formalities of such Councils had been completed, the Voivode
handed to the President a memorandum of his report on his secret
mission to foreign Courts on behalf of the National Council. He then
explained at length, for the benefit of the various members of the
Council, the broad results of his mission. The result was, he said,
absolutely satisfactory. Everywhere he had been received with
distinguished courtesy, and given a sympathetic hearing. Several of
the Powers consulted had made delay in giving final answers, but
this, he explained, was necessarily due to new considerations arising
from the international complications which were universally dealt
with throughout the world as "the Balkan Crisis." In time, however
(the Voivode went on), these matters became so far declared as to
allow the waiting Powers to form definite judgment--which, of course,
they did not declare to him--as to their own ultimate action. The
final result--if at this initial stage such tentative setting forth
of their own attitude in each case can be so named--was that he
returned full of hope (founded, he might say, upon a justifiable
personal belief) that the Great Powers throughout the world--North,
South, East, and West--were in thorough sympathy with the Land of the
Blue Mountains in its aspirations for the continuance of its freedom.
"I also am honoured," he continued, "to bring to you, the Great
Council of the nation, the assurance of protection against unworthy
aggression on the part of neighbouring nations of present greater
Whilst he was speaking, the Gospodar Rupert was writing a few words
on a strip of paper, which he sent up to the President. When the
Voivode had finished speaking, there was a prolonged silence. The
President rose, and in a hush said that the Council would like to
hear Mr. Rupert Sent Leger, who had a communication to make regarding
certain recent events.
Mr. Rupert Sent Leger rose, and reported how, since he had been
entrusted by the Council with the rescue of the Voivode Peter of
Vissarion, he had, by aid of the Voivodin, effected the escape of the
Voivode from the Silent Tower; also that, following this happy event,
the mountaineers, who had made a great cordon round the Tower so soon
as it was known that the Voivode had been imprisoned within it, had
stormed it in the night. As a determined resistance was offered by
the marauders, who had used it as a place of refuge, none of these
escaped. He then went on to tell how he sought interview with the
Captain of the strange warship, which, without flying any flag,
invaded our waters. He asked the President to call on me to read the
report of that meeting. This, in obedience to his direction, I did.
The acquiescent murmuring of the Council showed how thoroughly they
endorsed Mr. Sent Leger's words and acts.
When I resumed my seat, Mr. Sent Leger described how, just before the
time fixed by the "pirate Captain"--so he designated him, as did
every speaker thereafter--the warship met with some under-sea
accident, which had a destructive effect on all on board her. Then
he added certain words, which I give verbatim, as I am sure that
others will some time wish to remember them in their exactness:
"By the way, President and Lords of the Council, I trust I may ask
you to confirm Captain Rooke, of the armoured yacht The Lady, to be
Admiral of the Squadron of the Land of the Blue Mountains, and also
Captain (tentatively) Desmond, late First-Lieutenant of The Lady, to
the command of the second warship of our fleet--the as yet unnamed
vessel, whose former Captain threatened to bombard Ilsin. My Lords,
Admiral Rooke has done great service to the Land of the Blue
Mountains, and deserves well at your hands. You will have in him, I
am sure, a great official. One who will till his last breath give
you good and loyal service."
He had sat down, the President put to the Council resolutions, which
were passed by acclamation. Admiral Rooke was given command of the
navy, and Captain Desmond confirmed in his appointment to the
captaincy of the new ship, which was, by a further resolution, named
The Gospodar Rupert.
In thanking the Council for acceding to his request, and for the
great honour done him in the naming of the ship, Mr. Sent Leger said:
"May I ask that the armoured yacht The Lady be accepted by you, the
National Council, on behalf of the nation, as a gift on behalf of the
cause of freedom from the Voivodin Teuta?"
In response to the mighty cheer of the Council with which the
splendid gift was accepted the Gospodar Rupert--Mr. Sent Leger--
bowed, and went quietly out of the room.
As no agenda of the meeting had been prepared, there was for a time,
not silence, but much individual conversation. In the midst of it
the Voivode rose up, whereupon there was a strict silence. All
listened with an intensity of eagerness whilst he spoke.
"President and Lords of the Council, Archbishop, and Vladika, I
should but ill show my respect did I hesitate to tell you at this the
first opportunity I have had of certain matters personal primarily to
myself, but which, in the progress of recent events, have come to
impinge on the affairs of the nation. Until I have done so, I shall
not feel that I have done a duty, long due to you or your
predecessors in office, and which I hope you will allow me to say
that I have only kept back for purposes of statecraft. May I ask
that you will come back with me in memory to the year 1890, when our
struggle against Ottoman aggression, later on so successfully brought
to a close, was begun. We were then in a desperate condition. Our
finances had run so low that we could not purchase even the bread
which we required. Nay, more, we could not procure through the
National Exchequer what we wanted more than bread--arms of modern
effectiveness; for men may endure hunger and yet fight well, as the
glorious past of our country has proved again and again and again.
But when our foes are better armed than we are, the penalty is
dreadful to a nation small as our own is in number, no matter how
brave their hearts. In this strait I myself had to secretly raise a
sufficient sum of money to procure the weapons we needed. To this
end I sought the assistance of a great merchant-prince, to whom our
nation as well as myself was known. He met me in the same generous
spirit which he had shown to other struggling nationalities
throughout a long and honourable career. When I pledged to him as
security my own estates, he wished to tear up the bond, and only
under pressure would he meet my wishes in this respect. Lords of the
Council, it was his money, thus generously advanced, which procured
for us the arms with which we hewed out our freedom.
"Not long ago that noble merchant--and here I trust you will pardon
me that I am so moved as to perhaps appear to suffer in want of
respect to this great Council--this noble merchant passed to his
account--leaving to a near kinsman of his own the royal fortune which
he had amassed. Only a few hours ago that worthy kinsman of the
benefactor of our nation made it known to me that in his last will he
had bequeathed to me, by secret trust, the whole of those estates
which long ago I had forfeited by effluxion of time, inasmuch as I
had been unable to fulfil the terms of my voluntary bond. It grieves
me to think that I have had to keep you so long in ignorance of the
good thought and wishes and acts of this great man.
"But it was by his wise counsel, fortified by my own judgment, that I
was silent; for, indeed, I feared, as he did, lest in our troublous
times some doubting spirit without our boundaries, or even within it,
might mistrust the honesty of my purposes for public good, because I
was no longer one whose whole fortune was invested within our
confines. This prince-merchant, the great English Roger Melton--let
his name be for ever graven on the hearts of our people!--kept silent
during his own life, and enjoined on others to come after him to keep
secret from the men of the Blue Mountains that secret loan made to me
on their behalf, lest in their eyes I, who had striven to be their
friend and helper, should suffer wrong repute. But, happily, he has
left me free to clear myself in your eyes. Moreover, by arranging to
have--under certain contingencies, which have come to pass--the
estates which were originally my own retransferred to me, I have no
longer the honour of having given what I could to the national cause.
All such now belongs to him; for it was his money--and his only--
which purchased our national armament.
"His worthy kinsman you already know, for he has not only been
amongst you for many months, but has already done you good service in
his own person. He it was who, as a mighty warrior, answered the
summons of the Vladika when misfortune came upon my house in the
capture by enemies of my dear daughter, the Voivodin Teuta, whom you
hold in your hearts; who, with a chosen band of our brothers, pursued
the marauders, and himself, by a deed of daring and prowess, of which
poets shall hereafter sing, saved her, when hope itself seemed to be
dead, from their ruthless hands, and brought her back to us; who
administered condign punishment to the miscreants who had dared to so
wrong her. He it was who later took me, your servant, out of the
prison wherein another band of Turkish miscreants held me captive;
rescued me, with the help of my dear daughter, whom he had already
freed, whilst I had on my person the documents of international
secrecy of which I have already advised you--rescued me whilst I had
been as yet unsubjected to the indignity of search.
"Beyond this you know now that of which I was in partial ignorance:
how he had, through the skill and devotion of your new Admiral,
wrought destruction on a hecatomb of our malignant foes. You who
have received for the nation the splendid gift of the little warship,
which already represents a new era in naval armament, can understand
the great-souled generosity of the man who has restored the vast
possessions of my House. On our way hither from Ilsin, Rupert Sent
Leger made known to me the terms of the trust of his noble uncle,
Roger Melton, and--believe me that he did so generously, with a joy
that transcended my own--restored to the last male of the Vissarion
race the whole inheritance of a noble line.
"And now, my Lords of the Council, I come to another matter, in which
I find myself in something of a difficulty, for I am aware that in
certain ways you actually know more of it than even I myself do. It
is regarding the marriage of my daughter to Rupert Sent Leger. It is
known to me that the matter has been brought before you by the
Archbishop, who, as guardian of my daughter during my absence on the
service of the nation, wished to obtain your sanction, as till my
return he held her safety in trust. This was so, not from any merit
of mine, but because she, in her own person, had undertaken for the
service of our nation a task of almost incredible difficulty. My
Lords, were she child of another father, I should extol to the skies
her bravery, her self-devotion, her loyalty to the land she loves.
Why, then, should I hesitate to speak of her deeds in fitting terms,
since it is my duty, my glory, to hold them in higher honour than can
any in this land? I shall not shame her--or even myself--by being
silent when such a duty urges me to speak, as Voivode, as trusted
envoy of our nation, as father. Ages hence loyal men and women of
our Land of the Blue Mountains will sing her deeds in song and tell
them in story. Her name, Teuta, already sacred in these regions,
where it was held by a great Queen, and honoured by all men, will
hereafter be held as a symbol and type of woman's devotion. Oh, my
Lords, we pass along the path of life, the best of us but a little
time marching in the sunlight between gloom and gloom, and it is
during that march that we must be judged for the future. This brave
woman has won knightly spurs as well as any Paladin of old. So is it
meet that ere she might mate with one worthy of her you, who hold in
your hands the safety and honour of the State, should give your
approval. To you was it given to sit in judgment on the worth of
this gallant Englisher, now my son. You judged him then, before you
had seen his valour, his strength, and skill exercised on behalf of a
national cause. You judged wisely, oh, my brothers, and out of a
grateful heart I thank you one and all for it. Well has he justified
your trust by his later acts. When, in obedience to the summons of
the Vladika, he put the nation in a blaze and ranged our boundaries
with a ring of steel, he did so unknowing that what was dearest to
him in the world was at stake. He saved my daughter's honour and
happiness, and won her safety by an act of valour that outvies any
told in history. He took my daughter with him to bring me out from
the Silent Tower on the wings of the air, when earth had for me no
possibility of freedom--I, that had even then in my possession the
documents involving other nations which the Soldan would fain have
purchased with the half of his empire.
"Henceforth to me, Lords of the Council, this brave man must ever be
as a son of my heart, and I trust that in his name grandsons of my
own may keep in bright honour the name which in glorious days of old
my fathers made illustrious. Did I know how adequately to thank you
for your interest in my child, I would yield up to you my very soul
The speech of the Voivode was received with the honour of the Blue
Mountains--the drawing and raising of handjars
FROM RUPERT'S JOURNAL.
July 14, 1907.
For nearly a week we waited for some message from Constantinople,
fully expecting either a declaration of war, or else some inquiry so
couched as to make war an inevitable result. The National Council
remained on at Vissarion as the guests of the Voivode, to whom, in
accordance with my uncle's will, I had prepared to re-transfer all
his estates. He was, by the way, unwilling at first to accept, and
it was only when I showed him Uncle Roger's letter, and made him read
the Deed of Transfer prepared in anticipation by Mr. Trent, that he
allowed me to persuade him. Finally he said:
"As you, my good friends, have so arranged, I must accept, be it only
in honour to the wishes of the dead. But remember, I only do so but
for the present, reserving to myself the freedom to withdraw later if
I so desire."
But Constantinople was silent. The whole nefarious scheme was one of
the "put-up jobs" which are part of the dirty work of a certain order
of statecraft--to be accepted if successful; to be denied in case of
The matter stood thus: Turkey had thrown the dice--and lost. Her
men were dead; her ship was forfeit. It was only some ten days after
the warship was left derelict with every living thing--that is,
everything that had been living--with its neck broken, as Rooke
informed me, when he brought the ship down the creek, and housed it
in the dock behind the armoured gates--that we saw an item in The
Roma copied from The Constantinople Journal of July 9:
"LOSS OF AN OTTOMAN IRONCLAD WITH ALL HANDS.
"News has been received at Constantinople of the total loss, with all
hands, of one of the newest and finest warships in the Turkish fleet-
-The Mahmoud, Captain Ali Ali--which foundered in a storm on the
night of July 5, some distance off Cabrera, in the Balearic Isles.
There were no survivors, and no wreckage was discovered by the ships
which went in relief--the Pera and the Mustapha--or reported from
anywhere along the shores of the islands, of which exhaustive search
was made. The Mahmoud was double-manned, as she carried a full extra
crew sent on an educational cruise on the most perfectly
scientifically equipped warship on service in the Mediterranean
When the Voivode and I talked over the matter, he said:
"After all, Turkey is a shrewd Power. She certainly seems to know
when she is beaten, and does not intend to make a bad thing seem
worse in the eyes of the world."
Well, 'tis a bad wind that blows good to nobody. As The Mahmoud was
lost off the Balearics, it cannot have been her that put the
marauders on shore and trained her big guns on Ilsin. We take it,
therefore, that the latter must have been a pirate, and as we have
taken her derelict in our waters, she is now ours in all ways.
Anyhow, she is ours, and is the first ship of her class in the navy
of the Blue Mountains. I am inclined to think that even if she was--
or is still--a Turkish ship, Admiral Rooke would not be inclined to
let her go. As for Captain Desmond, I think he would go straight out
of his mind if such a thing was to be even suggested to him.
It will be a pity if we have any more trouble, for life here is very
happy with us all now. The Voivode is, I think, like a man in a
dream. Teuta is ideally happy, and the real affection which sprang
up between them when she and Aunt Janet met is a joy to think of. I
had posted Teuta about her, so that when they should meet my wife
might not, by any inadvertence, receive or cause any pain. But the
moment Teuta saw her she ran straight over to her and lifted her in
her strong young arms, and, raising her up as one would lift a child,
kissed her. Then, when she had put her sitting in the chair from
which she had arisen when we entered the room, she knelt down before
her, and put her face down in her lap. Aunt Janet's face was a
study; I myself could hardly say whether at the first moment surprise
or joy predominated. But there could be no doubt about it the
instant after. She seemed to beam with happiness. When Teuta knelt
to her, she could only say:
"My dear, my dear, I am glad! Rupert's wife, you and I must love
each other very much." Seeing that they were laughing and crying in
each other's arms, I thought it best to come away and leave them
alone. And I didn't feel a bit lonely either when I was out of sight
of them. I knew that where those two dear women were there was a
place for my own heart.
When I came back, Teuta was sitting on Aunt Janet's knee. It seemed
rather stupendous for the old lady, for Teuta is such a splendid
creature that even when she sits on my own knee and I catch a glimpse
of us in some mirror, I cannot but notice what a nobly-built girl she
My wife was jumping up as soon as I was seen, but Aunt Janet held her
tight to her, and said:
"Don't stir, dear. It is such happiness to me to have you there.
Rupert has always been my 'little boy,' and, in spite of all his
being such a giant, he is so still. And so you, that he loves, must
be my little girl--in spite of all your beauty and your strength--and
sit on my knee, till you can place there a little one that shall be
dear to us all, and that shall let me feel my youth again. When
first I saw you I was surprised, for, somehow, though I had never
seen you nor even heard of you, I seemed to know your face. Sit
where you are, dear. It is only Rupert--and we both love him."
Teuta looked at me, flushing rosily; but she sat quiet, and drew the
old lady's white head on her young breast.
JANET MACKELPIE'S NOTES.
July 8, 1907.
I used to think that whenever Rupert should get married or start on
the way to it by getting engaged--I would meet his future wife with
something of the same affection that I have always had for himself.
But I know now that what was really in my mind was jealousy, and that
I was really fighting against my own instincts, and pretending to
myself that I was not jealous. Had I ever had the faintest idea that
she would be anything the least like Teuta, that sort of feeling
should never have had even a foothold. No wonder my dear boy is in
love with her, for, truth to tell, I am in love with her myself. I
don't think I ever met a creature--a woman creature, of course, I
mean--with so many splendid qualities. I almost fear to say it, lest
it should seem to myself wrong; but I think she is as good as a woman
as Rupert is as a man. And what more than that can I say? I thought
I loved her and trusted her, and knew her all I could, until this
I was in my own room, as it is still called. For, though Rupert
tells me in confidence that under his uncle's will the whole estate
of Vissarion, Castle and all, really belongs to the Voivode, and
though the Voivode has been persuaded to accept the position, he (the
Voivode) will not allow anything to be changed. He will not even
hear a word of my going, or changing my room, or anything. And
Rupert backs him up in it, and Teuta too. So what am I to do but let
the dears have their way?
Well, this morning, when Rupert was with the Voivode at a meeting of
the National Council in the Great Hall, Teuta came to me, and (after
closing the door and bolting it, which surprised me a little) came
and knelt down beside me, and put her face in my lap. I stroked her
beautiful black hair, and said:
"What is it, Teuta darling? Is there any trouble? And why did you
bolt the door? Has anything happened to Rupert?" When she looked up
I saw that her beautiful black eyes, with the stars in them, were
overflowing with tears not yet shed. But she smiled through them,
and the tears did not fall. When I saw her smile my heart was eased,
and I said without thinking: "Thank God, darling, Rupert is all
"I thank God, too, dear Aunt Janet!" she said softly; and I took her
in my arms and laid her head on my breast.
"Go on, dear," I said; "tell me what it is that troubles you?" This
time I saw the tears drop, as she lowered her head and hid her face
"I'm afraid I have deceived you, Aunt Janet, and that you will not--
"Lord save you, child!" I said, "there's nothing that you could do
that I could not and would not forgive. Not that you would ever do
anything base, for that is the only thing that is hard to forgive.
Tell me now what troubles you."
She looked up in my eyes fearlessly, this time with only the signs of
tears that had been, and said proudly:
"Nothing base, Aunt Janet. My father's daughter would not willingly
be base. I do not think she could. Moreover, had I ever done
anything base I should not be here, for--for--I should never have
been Rupert's wife!"
"Then what is it? Tell your old Aunt Janet, dearie." She answered
me with another question:
"Aunt Janet, do you know who I am, and how I first met Rupert?"
"You are the Voivodin Teuta Vissarion--the daughter of the Voivode--
Or, rather, you were; you are now Mrs. Rupert Sent Leger. For he is
still an Englishman, and a good subject of our noble King."
"Yes, Aunt Janet," she said, "I am that, and proud to be it--prouder
than I would be were I my namesake, who was Queen in the old days.
But how and where did I see Rupert first?" I did not know, and
frankly told her so. So she answered her question herself:
"I saw him first in his own room at night." I knew in my heart that
in whatever she did had been nothing wrong, so I sat silent waiting
for her to go on:
"I was in danger, and in deadly fear. I was afraid I might die--not
that I fear death--and I wanted help and warmth. I was not dressed
as I am now!"
On the instant it came to me how I knew her face, even the first time
I had seen it. I wished to help her out of the embarrassing part of
her confidence, so I said:
"Dearie, I think I know. Tell me, child, will you put on the frock .
. . the dress . . . costume you wore that night, and let me see you
in it? It is not mere idle curiosity, my child, but something far,
far above such idle folly."
"Wait for me a minute, Aunt Janet," she said, as she rose up; "I
shall not be long." Then she left the room.
In a very few minutes she was back. Her appearance might have
frightened some people, for she was clad only in a shroud. Her feet
were bare, and she walked across the room with the gait of an
empress, and stood before me with her eyes modestly cast down. But
when presently she looked up and caught my eyes, a smile rippled over
her face. She threw herself once more before me on her knees, and
embraced me as she said:
"I was afraid I might frighten you, dear." I knew I could truthfully
reassure her as to that, so I proceeded to do so:
"Do not worry yourself, my dear. I am not by nature timid. I come
of a fighting stock which has sent out heroes, and I belong to a
family wherein is the gift of Second Sight. Why should we fear? We
know! Moreover, I saw you in that dress before. Teuta, I saw you
and Rupert married!" This time she herself it was that seemed
"Saw us married! How on earth did you manage to be there?"
"I was not there. My Seeing was long before! Tell me, dear, what
day, or rather what night, was it that you first saw Rupert?" She
"I do not know. Alas! I lost count of the days as I lay in the tomb
in that dreary Crypt."
"Was your--your clothing wet that night?" I asked.
"Yes. I had to leave the Crypt, for a great flood was out, and the
church was flooded. I had to seek help--warmth--for I feared I might
die. Oh, I was not, as I have told you, afraid of death. But I had
undertaken a terrible task to which I had pledged myself. It was for
my father's sake, and the sake of the Land, and I felt that it was a
part of my duty to live. And so I lived on, when death would have
been relief. It was to tell you all about this that I came to your
room to-day. But how did you see me--us--married?"
"Ah, my child!" I answered, "that was before the marriage took place.
The morn after the night that you came in the wet, when, having been
troubled in uncanny dreaming, I came to see if Rupert was a'richt, I
lost remembrance o' my dreaming, for the floor was all wet, and that
took off my attention. But later, the morn after Rupert used his
fire in his room for the first time, I told him what I had dreamt;
for, lassie, my dear, I saw ye as bride at that weddin' in fine lace
o'er yer shrood, and orange-flowers and ithers in yer black hair; an'
I saw the stars in yer bonny een--the een I love. But oh, my dear,
when I saw the shrood, and kent what it might mean, I expeckit to see
the worms crawl round yer feet. But do ye ask yer man to tell ye
what I tell't him that morn. 'Twill interest ye to know how the
hairt o' men can learn by dreams. Has he ever tellt ye aught o'
"No, dear," she said simply. "I think that perhaps he was afraid
that one or other of us, if not both, might be upset by it if he did.
You see, he did not tell you anything at all of our meeting, though I
am sure that he will be glad when he knows that we both know all
about it, and have told each other everything."
That was very sweet of her, and very thoughtful in all ways, so I
said that which I thought would please her best--that is, the truth:
"Ah, lassie, that is what a wife should be--what a wife should do.
Rupert is blessed and happy to have his heart in your keeping."
I knew from the added warmth of her kiss what I had said had pleased
Letter from Ernest Roger Halbard Melton, Humcroft, Salop, to Rupert
Sent Leger, Vissarion, Land of the Blue Mountains.
July 29, 1907.
MY DEAR COUSIN RUPERT,
We have heard such glowing accounts of Vissarion that I am coming out
to see you. As you are yourself now a landowner, you will understand
that my coming is not altogether a pleasure. Indeed, it is a duty
first. When my father dies I shall be head of the family--the family
of which Uncle Roger, to whom we were related, was a member. It is
therefore meet and fitting that I should know something of our family
branches and of their Seats. I am not giving you time for much
warning, so am coming on immediately--in fact, I shall arrive almost
as soon as this letter. But I want to catch you in the middle of
your tricks. I hear that the Blue Mountaineer girls are peaches, so
don't send them ALL away when you hear I'm coming!
Do send a yacht up to Fiume to meet me. I hear you have all sorts of
craft at Vissarion. The MacSkelpie, I hear, said you received her as
a Queen; so I hope you will do the decent by one of your own flesh
and blood, and the future Head of the House at that. I shan't bring
much of a retinue with me. _I_ wasn't made a billionaire by old
Roger, so can only take my modest "man Friday"--whose name is
Jenkinson, and a Cockney at that. So don't have too much gold lace
and diamond-hilted scimitars about, like a good chap, or else he'll
want the very worst--his wyges ryzed. That old image Rooke that came
over for Miss McS., and whom by chance I saw at the attorney man's,
might pilot me down from Fiume. The old gentleman-by-Act-of-
Parliament Mr. Bingham Trent (I suppose he has hyphened it by this
time) told me that Miss McS. said he "did her proud" when she went
over under his charge. I shall be at Fiume on the evening of
Wednesday, and shall stay at the Europa, which is, I am told, the
least indecent hotel in the place. So you know where to find me, or
any of your attendant demons can know, in case I am to suffer
Your affectionate Cousin,
ERNEST ROGER HALBARD MELTON.
Letter from Admiral Rooke to the Gospodar Rupert.
August 1, 1907.
In obedience to your explicit direction that I should meet Mr. Ernest
R. H. Melton at Fiume, and report to you exactly what occurred,
"without keeping anything back,"--as you will remember you said, I
beg to report.
I brought the steam-yacht Trent to Fiume, arriving there on the
morning of Thursday. At 11.30 p.m. I went to meet the train from
St. Peter, due 11.40. It was something late, arriving just as the
clock was beginning to strike midnight. Mr. Melton was on board, and
with him his valet Jenkinson. I am bound to say that he did not seem
very pleased with his journey, and expressed much disappointment at
not seeing Your Honour awaiting him. I explained, as you directed,
that you had to attend with the Voivode Vissarion and the Vladika the
National Council, which met at Plazac, or that otherwise you would
have done yourself the pleasure of coming to meet him. I had, of
course, reserved rooms (the Prince of Wales's suite), for him at the
Re d'Ungheria, and had waiting the carriage which the proprietor had
provided for the Prince of Wales when he stayed there. Mr. Melton
took his valet with him (on the box-seat), and I followed in a
Stadtwagen with the luggage. When I arrived, I found the maitre
d'hotel in a stupor of concern. The English nobleman, he said, had
found fault with everything, and used to him language to which he was
not accustomed. I quieted him, telling him that the stranger was
probably unused to foreign ways, and assuring him that Your Honour
had every faith in him. He announced himself satisfied and happy at
the assurance. But I noticed that he promptly put everything in the
hands of the headwaiter, telling him to satisfy the milor at any
cost, and then went away to some urgent business in Vienna. Clever
I took Mr. Melton's orders for our journey in the morning, and asked
if there was anything for which he wished. He simply said to me:
"Everything is rotten. Go to hell, and shut the door after you!"
His man, who seems a very decent little fellow, though he is as vain
as a peacock, and speaks with a Cockney accent which is simply
terrible, came down the passage after me, and explained "on his own,"
as he expressed it, that his master, "Mr. Ernest," was upset by the
long journey, and that I was not to mind. I did not wish to make him
uncomfortable, so I explained that I minded nothing except what Your
Honour wished; that the steam-yacht would be ready at 7 a.m.; and
that I should be waiting in the hotel from that time on till Mr.
Melton cared to start, to bring him aboard.
In the morning I waited till the man Jenkinson came and told me that
Mr. Ernest would start at ten. I asked if he would breakfast on
board; he answered that he would take his cafe-complet at the hotel,
but breakfast on board.
We left at ten, and took the electric pinnace out to the Trent, which
lay, with steam up, in the roads. Breakfast was served on board, by
his orders, and presently he came up on the bridge, where I was in
command. He brought his man Jenkinson with him. Seeing me there,
and not (I suppose) understanding that I was in command, he
unceremoniously ordered me to go on the deck. Indeed, he named a
place much lower. I made a sign of silence to the quartermaster at
the wheel, who had released the spokes, and was going, I feared, to
make some impertinent remark. Jenkinson joined me presently, and
said, as some sort of explanation of his master's discourtesy (of
which he was manifestly ashamed), if not as an amende:
"The governor is in a hell of a wax this morning."
When we got in sight of Meleda, Mr. Melton sent for me and asked me
where we were to land. I told him that, unless he wished to the
contrary, we were to run to Vissarion; but that my instructions were
to land at whatever port he wished. Whereupon he told me that he
wished to stay the night at some place where he might be able to see
some "life." He was pleased to add something, which I presume he
thought jocular, about my being able to "coach" him in such matters,
as doubtless even "an old has-been like you" had still some sort of
an eye for a pretty girl. I told him as respectfully as I could that
I had no knowledge whatever on such subjects, which were possibly of
some interest to younger men, but of none to me. He said no more; so
after waiting for further orders, but without receiving any, I said:
"I suppose, sir, we shall run to Vissarion?"
"Run to the devil, if you like!" was his reply, as he turned away.
When we arrived in the creek at Vissarion, he seemed much milder--
less aggressive in his manner; but when he heard that you were
detained at Plazac, he got rather "fresh"--I use the American term--
again. I greatly feared there would be a serious misfortune before
we got into the Castle, for on the dock was Julia, the wife of
Michael, the Master of the Wine, who is, as you know, very beautiful.
Mr. Melton seemed much taken with her; and she, being flattered by
the attention of a strange gentleman and Your Honour's kinsman, put
aside the stand-offishness of most of the Blue Mountain women.
Whereupon Mr. Melton, forgetting himself, took her in his arms and
kissed her. Instantly there was a hubbub. The mountaineers present
drew their handjars, and almost on the instant sudden death appeared
to be amongst us. Happily the men waited as Michael, who had just
arrived on the quay-wall as the outrage took place, ran forward,
wheeling his handjar round his head, and manifestly intending to
decapitate Mr. Melton. On the instant--I am sorry to say it, for it
created a terribly bad effect--Mr. Melton dropped on his knees in a
state of panic. There was just this good use in it--that there was a
pause of a few seconds. During that time the little Cockney valet,
who has the heart of a man in him, literally burst his way forward,
and stood in front of his master in boxing attitude, calling out:
"'Ere, come on, the 'ole lot of ye! 'E ain't done no 'arm. He honly
kissed the gal, as any man would. If ye want to cut off somebody's
'ed, cut off mine. I ain't afride!" There was such genuine pluck in
this, and it formed so fine a contrast to the other's craven attitude
(forgive me, Your Honour; but you want the truth!), that I was glad
he was an Englishman, too. The mountaineers recognized his spirit,
and saluted with their handjars, even Michael amongst the number.
Half turning his head, the little man said in a fierce whisper:
"Buck up, guv'nor! Get up, or they'll slice ye! 'Ere's Mr. Rooke;
'e'll see ye through it."
By this time the men were amenable to reason, and when I reminded
them that Mr. Melton was Your Honour's cousin, they put aside their
handjars and went about their work. I asked Mr. Melton to follow,
and led the way to the Castle.
When we got close to the great entrance within the walled courtyard,
we found a large number of the servants gathered, and with them many
of the mountaineers, who have kept an organized guard all round the
Castle ever since the abducting of the Voivodin. As both Your Honour
and the Voivode were away at Plazac, the guard had for the time been
doubled. When the steward came and stood in the doorway, the
servants stood off somewhat, and the mountaineers drew back to the
farther sides and angles of the courtyard. The Voivodin had, of
course, been informed of the guest's (your cousin) coming, and came
to meet him in the old custom of the Blue Mountains. As Your Honour
only came to the Blue Mountains recently, and as no occasion has been
since then of illustrating the custom since the Voivode was away, and
the Voivodin then believed to be dead, perhaps I, who have lived here
so long, may explain:
When to an old Blue Mountain house a guest comes whom it is wished to
do honour, the Lady, as in the vernacular the mistress of the house
is called, comes herself to meet the guest at the door--or, rather,
OUTSIDE the door--so that she can herself conduct him within. It is
a pretty ceremony, and it is said that of old in kingly days the
monarch always set much store by it. The custom is that, when she
approaches the honoured guest (he need not be royal), she bends--or
more properly kneels--before him and kisses his hand. It has been
explained by historians that the symbolism is that the woman, showing
obedience to her husband, as the married woman of the Blue Mountains
always does, emphasizes that obedience to her husband's guest. The
custom is always observed in its largest formality when a young wife
receives for the first time a guest, and especially one whom her
husband wishes to honour. The Voivodin was, of course, aware that
Mr. Melton was your kinsman, and naturally wished to make the
ceremony of honour as marked as possible, so as to show overtly her
sense of her husband's worth.
When we came into the courtyard, I held back, of course, for the
honour is entirely individual, and is never extended to any other, no
matter how worthy he may be. Naturally Mr. Melton did not know the
etiquette of the situation, and so for that is not to be blamed. He
took his valet with him when, seeing someone coming to the door, he
went forward. I thought he was going to rush to his welcomer. Such,
though not in the ritual, would have been natural in a young kinsman
wishing to do honour to the bride of his host, and would to anyone
have been both understandable and forgivable. It did not occur to me
at the time, but I have since thought that perhaps he had not then
heard of Your Honour's marriage, which I trust you will, in justice
to the young gentleman, bear in mind when considering the matter.
Unhappily, however, he did not show any such eagerness. On the
contrary, he seemed to make a point of showing indifference. It
seemed to me myself that he, seeing somebody wishing to make much of
him, took what he considered a safe opportunity of restoring to
himself his own good opinion, which must have been considerably
lowered in the episode of the Wine Master's wife.
The Voivodin, thinking, doubtless, Your Honour, to add a fresh lustre
to her welcome, had donned the costume which all her nation has now
come to love and to accept as a dress of ceremonial honour. She wore
her shroud. It moved the hearts of all of us who looked on to see
it, and we appreciated its being worn for such a cause. But Mr.
Melton did not seem to care. As he had been approaching she had
begun to kneel, and was already on her knees whilst he was several
yards away. There he stopped and turned to speak to his valet, put a
glass in his eye, and looked all round him and up and down--indeed,
everywhere except at the Great Lady, who was on her knees before him,
waiting to bid him welcome. I could see in the eyes of such of the
mountaineers as were within my range of vision a growing animosity;
so, hoping to keep down any such expression, which I knew would cause
harm to Your Honour and the Voivodin, I looked all round them
straight in their faces with a fixed frown, which, indeed, they
seemed to understand, for they regained, and for the time maintained,
their usual dignified calm. The Voivodin, may I say, bore the trial
wonderfully. No human being could see that she was in any degree
pained or even surprised. Mr. Melton stood looking round him so long
that I had full time to regain my own attitude of calm. At last he
seemed to come back to the knowledge that someone was waiting for
him, and sauntered leisurely forward. There was so much insolence--
mind you, not insolence that was intended to appear as such--in his
movement that the mountaineers began to steal forward. When he was
close up to the Voivodin, and she put out her hand to take his, he
put forward ONE FINGER! I could hear the intake of the breath of the
men, now close around, for I had moved forward, too. I thought it
would be as well to be close to your guest, lest something should
happen to him. The Voivodin still kept her splendid self-control.
Raising the finger put forward by the guest with the same deference
as though it had been the hand of a King, she bent her head down and
kissed it. Her duty of courtesy now done, she was preparing to rise,
when he put his hand into his pocket, and, pulling out a sovereign,
offered it to her. His valet moved his hand forward, as if to pull
back his arm, but it was too late. I am sure, Your Honour, that no
affront was intended. He doubtless thought that he was doing a
kindness of the sort usual in England when one "tips" a housekeeper.
But all the same, to one in her position, it was an affront, an
insult, open and unmistakable. So it was received by the
mountaineers, whose handjars flashed out as one. For a second it was
so received even by the Voivodin, who, with face flushing scarlet,
and the stars in her eves flaming red, sprang to her feet. But in
that second she had regained herself, and to all appearances her
righteous anger passed away. Stooping, she took the hand of her
guest and raised it--you know how strong she is--and, holding it in
hers, led him into the doorway, saying:
"You are welcome, kinsman of my husband, to the house of my father,
which is presently my husband's also. Both are grieved that, duty
having called them away for the time, they are unable to be here to
help me to greet you."
I tell you, Your Honour, that it was a lesson in self-respect which
anyone who saw it can never forget. As to me, it makes my flesh
quiver, old as I am, with delight, and my heart leap.
May I, as a faithful servant who has had many years of experience,
suggest that Your Honour should seem--for the present, at any rate--
not to know any of these things which I have reported, as you wished
me to do. Be sure that the Voivodin will tell you her gracious self
aught that she would wish you to know. And such reticence on your
part must make for her happiness, even if it did not for your own.
So that you may know all, as you desired, and that you may have time
to school yourself to whatever attitude you think best to adopt, I
send this off to you at once by fleet messenger. Were the aeroplane
here, I should take it myself. I leave here shortly to await the
arrival of Sir Colin at Otranto.
Your Honour's faithful servant,
JANET MACKELPIE'S NOTES.
August 9, 1907.
To me it seems very providential that Rupert was not at home when
that dreadful young man Ernest Melton arrived, though it is possible
that if Rupert had been present he would not have dared to conduct
himself so badly. Of course, I heard all about it from the maids;
Teuta never opened her lips to me on the subject. It was bad enough
and stupid enough for him to try to kiss a decent young woman like
Julia, who is really as good as gold and as modest as one of our own
Highland lassies; but to think of him insulting Teuta! The little
beast! One would think that a champion idiot out of an Equatorial
asylum would know better! If Michael, the Wine Master, wanted to
kill him, I wonder what my Rupert and hers would have done? I am
truly thankful that he was not present. And I am thankful, too, that
I was not present either, for I should have made an exhibition of
myself, and Rupert would not have liked that. He--the little beast!
might have seen from the very dress that the dear girl wore that
there was something exceptional about her. But on one account I
should have liked to see her. They tell me that she was, in her true
dignity, like a Queen, and that her humility in receiving her
husband's kinsman was a lesson to every woman in the Land. I must be
careful not to let Rupert know that I have heard of the incident.
Later on, when it is all blown over and the young man has been got
safely away, I shall tell him of it. Mr. Rooke--Lord High Admiral
Rooke, I should say--must be a really wonderful man to have so held
himself in check; for, from what I have heard of him, he must in his
younger days have been worse than Old Morgan of Panama. Mr. Ernest
Roger Halbard Melton, of Humcroft, Salop, little knows how near he
was to being "cleft to the chine" also.
Fortunately, I had heard of his meeting with Teuta before he came to
see me, for I did not get back from my walk till after he had
arrived. Teuta's noble example was before me, and I determined that
I, too, would show good manners under any circumstances. But I
didn't know how mean he is. Think of his saying to me that Rupert's
position here must be a great source of pride to me, who had been his
nursery governess. He said "nursemaid" first, but then stumbled in
his words, seeming to remember something. I did not turn a hair, I
am glad to say. It is a mercy Uncle Colin was not here, for I
honestly believe that, if he had been, he would have done the
"cleaving to the chine" himself. It has been a narrow escape for
Master Ernest, for only this morning Rupert had a message, sent on
from Gibraltar, saying that he was arriving with his clansmen, and
that they would not be far behind his letter. He would call at
Otranto in case someone should come across to pilot him to Vissarion.
Uncle told me all about that young cad having offered him one finger
in Mr. Trent's office, though, of course, he didn't let the cad see
that he noticed it. I have no doubt that, when he does arrive, that
young man, if he is here still, will find that he will have to behave
himself, if it be only on Sir Colin's account alone.
THE SAME (LATER).
I had hardly finished writing when the lookout on the tower announced
that the Teuta, as Rupert calls his aeroplane, was sighted crossing
the mountains from Plazac. I hurried up to see him arrive, for I had
not as yet seen him on his "aero." Mr. Ernest Melton came up, too.
Teuta was, of course, before any of us. She seems to know by
instinct when Rupert is coming.
It was certainly a wonderful sight to see the little aeroplane, with
outspread wings like a bird in flight, come sailing high over the
mountains. There was a head-wind, and they were beating against it;
otherwise we should not have had time to get to the tower before the
When once the "aero" had begun to drop on the near side of the
mountains, however, and had got a measure of shelter from them, her
pace was extraordinary. We could not tell, of course, what sort of
pace she came at from looking at herself. But we gathered some idea
from the rate at which the mountains and hills seemed to slide away
from under her. When she got over the foot-hills, which are about
ten miles away, she came on at a swift glide that seemed to throw the
distance behind her. When quite close, she rose up a little till she
was something higher than the Tower, to which she came as straight as
an arrow from the bow, and glided to her moorings, stopping dead as
Rupert pulled a lever, which seemed to turn a barrier to the wind.
The Voivode sat beside Rupert, but I must say that he seemed to hold
on to the bar in front of him even more firmly than Rupert held to
When they had alighted, Rupert greeted his cousin with the utmost
kindness, and bade him welcome to Vissarion.
"I see," he said, "you have met Teuta. Now you may congratulate me,
if you wish."
Mr. Melton made a long rodomontade about her beauty, but presently,
stumbling about in his speech, said something regarding it being
unlucky to appear in grave-clothes. Rupert laughed, and clapped him
on the shoulder as he answered:
"That pattern of frock is likely to become a national dress for loyal
women of the Blue Mountains. When you know something of what that
dress means to us all at present you will understand. In the
meantime, take it that there is not a soul in the nation that does
not love it and honour her for wearing it." To which the cad
"Oh, indeed! I thought it was some preparation for a fancy-dress
ball." Rupert's comment on this ill-natured speech was (for him)
quite grumpily given:
"I should not advise you to think such things whilst you are in this
part of the world, Ernest. They bury men here for much less."
The cad seemed struck with something--either what Rupert had said or
his manner of saying it--for he was silent for several seconds before
"I'm very tired with that long journey, Rupert. Would you and Mrs.
Sent Leger mind if I go to my own room and turn in? My man can ask
for a cup of tea and a sandwich for me."
August 10, 1907.
When Ernest said he wished to retire it was about the wisest thing he
could have said or done, and it suited Teuta and me down to the
ground. I could see that the dear girl was agitated about something,
so thought it would be best for her to be quiet, and not worried with
being civil to the Bounder. Though he is my cousin, I can't think of
him as anything else. The Voivode and I had certain matters to
attend to arising out of the meeting of the Council, and when we were
through the night was closing in. When I saw Teuta in our own rooms
she said at once:
"Do you mind, dear, if I stay with Aunt Janet to-night? She is very
upset and nervous, and when I offered to come to her she clung to me
and cried with relief."
So when I had had some supper, which I took with the Voivode, I came
down to my old quarters in the Garden Room, and turned in early.
I was awakened a little before dawn by the coming of the fighting
monk Theophrastos, a notable runner, who had an urgent message for
me. This was the letter to me given to him by Rooke. He had been
cautioned to give it into no other hand, but to find me wherever I
might be, and convey it personally. When he had arrived at Plazac I
had left on the aeroplane, so he had turned back to Vissarion.
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