The Lady of the Shroud (Chapter 7, page 1 of 1)


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Chapter 7

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 under?"

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
request."

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 your
question."

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 act accordingly."

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 the port.



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 mysterious crab.

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 grey crab.

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 men.

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, he saluted.

"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.

"Admiral?"

"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 world."

"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
tumultuous cheering.

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 Voivode.

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
strength."

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 in thanks."

The speech of the Voivode was received with the honour of the Blue
Mountains--the drawing and raising of handjars.

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
failure.

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 waters."

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 is.

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 morning.

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 right."

"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 from me.

"I'm afraid I have deceived you, Aunt Janet, and that you will
not--cannot--forgive me."

"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 disconcerted.

"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 answered
sadly:

"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' this?"

"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 her.

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 "substituted service."

Your affectionate Cousin,
ERNEST ROGER HALBARD MELTON.

Letter from Admiral Rooke to the Gospodar Rupert.

August 1, 1907.

SIR,

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
man!

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,
ROOKE.



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
arrival.

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 his steering-gear.

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 replied:

"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 he
spoke.

"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."



RUPERT'S JOURNAL.

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.

When I read Rooke's report of Ernest Melton's abominable conduct I was
more angry with him than I can say. Indeed, I did not think before that
that I could be angry with him, for I have always despised him. But this
was too much. However, I realized the wisdom of Rooke's advice, and went
away by myself to get over my anger and reacquire my self-mastery. The
aeroplane Teuta was still housed on the tower, so I went up alone and
took it out.

When I had had a spin of about a hundred miles I felt better. The
bracing of the wind and the quick, exhilarating motion restored me to
myself, and I felt able to cope with Master Ernest, or whatever else
chagrinable might come along, without giving myself away. As Teuta had
thought it better to keep silence as to Ernest's affront, I felt I must
not acknowledge it; but, all the same, I determined to get rid of him
before the day was much older.

When I had had my breakfast I sent word to him by a servant that I was
coming to his rooms, and followed not long behind the messenger.

He was in a suit of silk pyjamas, such as not even Solomon in all his
glory was arrayed in. I closed the door behind me before I began to
speak. He listened, at first amazed, then disconcerted, then angry, and
then cowering down like a whipped hound. I felt that it was a case for
speaking out. A bumptious ass like him, who deliberately insulted
everyone he came across--for if all or any of his efforts in that way
were due to mere elemental ignorance he was not fit to live, but should
be silenced on sight as a modern Caliban--deserved neither pity nor
mercy. To extend to him fine feeling, tolerance, and such-like
gentlenesses would be to deprive the world of them without benefit to
any. So well as I can remember, what I said was something like this:

"Ernest, as you say, you've got to go, and to go quick, you understand.
I dare say you look on this as a land of barbarians, and think that any
of your high-toned refinements are thrown away on people here. Well,
perhaps it is so. Undoubtedly, the structure of the country is rough;
the mountains may only represent the glacial epoch; but so far as I can
gather from some of your exploits--for I have only learned a small part
as yet--you represent a period a good deal farther back. You seem to
have given our folk here an exhibition of the playfulness of the hooligan
of the Saurian stage of development; but the Blue Mountains, rough as
they are, have come up out of the primeval slime, and even now the people
aim at better manners. They may be rough, primitive, barbarian,
elemental, if you will, but they are not low down enough to tolerate
either your ethics or your taste. My dear cousin, your life is not safe
here! I am told that yesterday, only for the restraint exercised by
certain offended mountaineers on other grounds than your own worth, you
would have been abbreviated by the head. Another day of your fascinating
presence would do away with this restraint, and then we should have a
scandal. I am a new-comer here myself--too new a comer to be able to
afford a scandal of that kind--and so I shall not delay your going.
Believe me, my dear cousin, Ernest Roger Halbard Melton, of Humcroft,
Salop, that I am inconsolable about your resolution of immediate
departure, but I cannot shut my eyes to its wisdom. At present the
matter is altogether amongst ourselves, and when you have gone--if it be
immediately--silence will be observed on all hands for the sake of the
house wherein you are a guest; but if there be time for scandal to
spread, you will be made, whether you be alive or dead, a European
laughing-stock. Accordingly, I have anticipated your wishes, and have
ordered a fast steam yacht to take you to Ancona, or to whatever other
port you may desire. The yacht will be under the command of Captain
Desmond, of one of our battleships--a most determined officer, who will
carry out any directions which may be given to him. This will insure
your safety so far as Italian territory. Some of his officials will
arrange a special carriage for you up to Flushing, and a cabin on the
steamer to Queenboro'. A man of mine will travel on the train and
steamer with you, and will see that whatever you may wish in the way of
food or comfort will be provided. Of course, you understand, my dear
cousin, that you are my guest until you arrive in London. I have not
asked Rooke to accompany you, as when he went to meet you, it was a
mistake. Indeed, there might have been a danger to you which I never
contemplated--a quite unnecessary danger, I assure you. But happily
Admiral Rooke, though a man of strong passions, has wonderful
self-control."

"Admiral Rooke?" he queried. "Admiral?"

"Admiral, certainly," I replied, "but not an ordinary Admiral--one of
many. He is the Admiral--the Lord High Admiral of the Land of the Blue
Mountains, with sole control of its expanding navy. When such a man is
treated as a valet, there may be . . . But why go into this? It is all
over. I only mention it lest anything of a similar kind should occur
with Captain Desmond, who is a younger man, and therefore with probably
less self-repression."

I saw that he had learned his lesson, and so said no more on the subject.

There was another reason for his going which I did not speak of. Sir
Colin MacKelpie was coming with his clansmen, and I knew he did not like
Ernest Melton. I well remembered that episode of his offering one finger
to the old gentleman in Mr. Trent's office, and, moreover, I had my
suspicions that Aunt Janet's being upset was probably in some measure due
to some rudeness of his that she did not wish to speak about. He is
really an impossible young man, and is far better out of this country
than in it. If he remained here, there would be some sort of a tragedy
for certain.

I must say that it was with a feeling of considerable relief that I saw
the yacht steam out of the creek, with Captain Desmond on the bridge and
my cousin beside him.

Quite other were my feelings when, an hour after, The Lady came flying
into the creek with the Lord High Admiral on the bridge, and beside him,
more splendid and soldier-like than ever, Sir Colin MacKelpie. Mr.
Bingham Trent was also on the bridge.

The General was full of enthusiasm regarding his regiment, for in all,
those he brought with him and those finishing their training at home, the
force is near the number of a full regiment. When we were alone he
explained to me that all was arranged regarding the non-commissioned
officers, but that he had held over the question of officers until we
should have had a suitable opportunity of talking the matter over
together. He explained to me his reasons, which were certainly simple
and cogent. Officers, according to him, are a different class, and
accustomed to a different standard altogether of life and living, of
duties and pleasures. They are harder to deal with and more difficult to
obtain. "There was no use," he said, "in getting a lot of failures, with
old-crusted ways of their own importance. We must have young men for our
purpose--that is, men not old, but with some experience--men, of course,
who know how to behave themselves, or else, from what little I have seen
of the Blue Mountaineers, they wouldn't last long here if they went on as
some of them do elsewhere. I shall start things here as you wish me to,
for I am here, my dear boy, to stay with you and Janet, and we shall, if
it be given to us by the Almighty, help to build up together a new
'nation'--an ally of Britain, who will stand at least as an outpost of
our own nation, and a guardian of our eastern road. When things are
organized here on the military side, and are going strong, I shall, if
you can spare me, run back to London for a few weeks. Whilst I am there
I shall pick up a lot of the sort of officers we want. I know that there
are loads of them to be had. I shall go slowly, however, and carefully,
too, and every man I bring back will be recommended to me by some old
soldier whom I know, and who knows the man he recommends, and has seen
him work. We shall have, I dare say, an army for its size second to none
in the world, and the day may come when your old country will be proud of
your new one. Now I'm off to see that all is ready for my people--your
people now."

I had had arrangements made for the comfort of the clansmen and the
women, but I knew that the good old soldier would see for himself that
his men were to be comfortable. It was not for nothing that he
was--is--looked on as perhaps the General most beloved by his men in the
whole British Army.

When he had gone, and I was alone, Mr. Trent, who had evidently been
waiting for the opportunity, came to me. When we had spoken of my
marriage and of Teuta, who seems to have made an immense impression on
him, he said suddenly:

"I suppose we are quite alone, and that we shall not be interrupted?" I
summoned the man outside--there is always a sentry on guard outside my
door or near me, wherever I may be--and gave orders that I was not to be
disturbed until I gave fresh orders. "If," I said, "there be anything
pressing or important, let the Voivodin or Miss MacKelpie know. If
either of them brings anyone to me, it will be all right."

When we were quite alone Mr. Trent took a slip of paper and some
documents from the bag which was beside him. He then read out items from
the slip, placing as he did so the documents so checked over before him.

1. New Will made on marriage, to be signed presently.

2. Copy of the Re-conveyance of Vissarion estates to Peter Vissarion, as
directed by Will of Roger Melton.

3. Report of Correspondence with Privy Council, and proceedings
following.

Taking up the last named, he untied the red tape, and, holding the bundle
in his hand, went on:

"As you may, later on, wish to examine the details of the Proceedings, I
have copied out the various letters, the originals of which are put
safely away in my strong-room where, of course, they are always available
in case you may want them. For your present information I shall give you
a rough synopsis of the Proceedings, referring where advisable to this
paper.

"On receipt of your letter of instructions regarding the Consent of the
Privy Council to your changing your nationality in accordance with the
terms of Roger Melton's Will, I put myself in communication with the
Clerk of the Privy Council, informing him of your wish to be naturalized
in due time to the Land of the Blue Mountains. After some letters
between us, I got a summons to attend a meeting of the Council.

"I attended, as required, taking with me all necessary documents, and
such as I conceived might be advisable to produce, if wanted.

"The Lord President informed me that the present meeting of the Council
was specially summoned in obedience to the suggestion of the King, who
had been consulted as to his personal wishes on the subject--should he
have any. The President then proceeded to inform me officially that all
Proceedings of the Privy Council were altogether confidential, and were
not to be made public under any circumstances. He was gracious enough to
add:

"'The circumstances of this case, however, are unique; and as you act for
another, we have thought it advisable to enlarge your permission in the
matter, so as to allow you to communicate freely with your principal. As
that gentleman is settling himself in a part of the world which has been
in the past, and may be again, united to this nation by some common
interest, His Majesty wishes Mr. Sent Leger to feel assured of the
good-will of Great Britain to the Land of the Blue Mountains, and even of
his own personal satisfaction that a gentleman of so distinguished a
lineage and such approved personal character is about to be--within his
own scope--a connecting-link between the nations. To which end he has
graciously announced that, should the Privy Council acquiesce in the
request of Denaturalization, he will himself sign the Patent therefor.

"'The Privy Council has therefore held private session, at which the
matter has been discussed in its many bearings; and it is content that
the change can do no harm, but may be of some service to the two nations.
We have, therefore, agreed to grant the prayer of the Applicant; and the
officials of the Council have the matter of the form of Grant in hand.
So you, sir, may rest satisfied that as soon as the formalities--which
will, of course, require the formal signing of certain documents by the
Applicant--can be complied with, the Grant and Patent will obtain.'"

Having made this statement in formal style, my old friend went on in more
familiar way:

"And so, my dear Rupert, all is in hand; and before very long you will
have the freedom required under the Will, and will be at liberty to take
whatever steps may be necessary to be naturalized in your new country.

"I may tell you, by the way, that several members of the Council made
very complimentary remarks regarding you. I am forbidden to give names,
but I may tell you facts. One old Field-Marshal, whose name is familiar
to the whole world, said that he had served in many places with your
father, who was a very valiant soldier, and that he was glad that Great
Britain was to have in the future the benefit of your father's son in a
friendly land now beyond the outposts of our Empire, but which had been
one with her in the past, and might be again.

"So much for the Privy Council. We can do no more at present until you
sign and have attested the documents which I have brought with me.

"We can now formally complete the settlement of the Vissarion estates,
which must be done whilst you are a British citizen. So, too, with the
Will, the more formal and complete document, which is to take the place
of that short one which you forwarded to me the day after your marriage.
It may be, perhaps, necessary or advisable that, later on, when you are
naturalized here, you shall make a new Will in strictest accordance with
local law."



TEUTA SENT LEGER'S DIARY.

August 19, 1907.

We had a journey to-day that was simply glorious. We had been waiting to
take it for more than a week. Rupert not only wanted the weather
suitable, but he had to wait till the new aeroplane came home. It is
more than twice as big as our biggest up to now. None of the others
could take all the party which Rupert wanted to go. When he heard that
the aero was coming from Whitby, where it was sent from Leeds, he
directed by cable that it should be unshipped at Otranto, whence he took
it here all by himself. I wanted to come with him, but he thought it
better not. He says that Brindisi is too busy a place to keep anything
quiet--if not secret--and he wants to be very dark indeed about this, as
it is worked by the new radium engine. Ever since they found radium in
our own hills he has been obsessed by the idea of an aerial navy for our
protection. And after to-day's experiences I think he is right. As he
wanted to survey the whole country at a glimpse, so that the general
scheme of defence might be put in hand, we had to have an aero big enough
to take the party as well as fast enough to do it rapidly, and all at
once. We had, in addition to Rupert, my father, and myself, Sir Colin
and Lord High Admiral Rooke (I do like to give that splendid old fellow
his full title!). The military and naval experts had with them
scientific apparatus of various kinds, also cameras and range-finders, so
that they could mark their maps as they required. Rupert, of course,
drove, and I acted as his assistant. Father, who has not yet become
accustomed to aerial travel, took a seat in the centre (which Rupert had
thoughtfully prepared for him), where there is very little motion. I
must say I was amazed to see the way that splendid old soldier Sir Colin
bore himself. He had never been on an aeroplane before, but, all the
same, he was as calm as if he was on a rock. Height or motion did not
trouble him. Indeed, he seemed to enjoy himself all the time. The
Admiral is himself almost an expert, but in any case I am sure he would
have been unconcerned, just as he was in the Crab as Rupert has told
me.

We left just after daylight, and ran down south. When we got to the east
of Ilsin, we kept slightly within the border-line, and went north or east
as it ran, making occasional loops inland over the mountains and back
again. When we got up to our farthest point north, we began to go much
slower. Sir Colin explained that for the rest all would be comparatively
plain-sailing in the way of defence; but that as any foreign Power other
than the Turk must attack from seaward, he would like to examine the
seaboard very carefully in conjunction with the Admiral, whose advice as
to sea defence would be invaluable.

Rupert was fine. No one could help admiring him as he sat working his
lever and making the great machine obey every touch. He was wrapped up
in his work. I don't believe that whilst he was working he ever thought
of even me. He is splendid!

We got back just as the sun was dropping down over the Calabrian
Mountains. It is quite wonderful how the horizon changes when you are
sailing away up high on an aeroplane. Rupert is going to teach me how to
manage one all by myself, and when I am fit he will give me one, which he
is to have specially built for me.

I think I, too, have done some good work--at least, I have got some good
ideas--from our journey to-day. Mine are not of war, but of peace, and I
think I see a way by which we shall be able to develop our country in a
wonderful way. I shall talk the idea over with Rupert to-night, when we
are alone. In the meantime Sir Colin and Admiral Rooke will think their
plans over individually, and to-morrow morning together. Then the next
day they, too, are to go over their idea with Rupert and my father, and
something may be decided then.



RUPERT'S JOURNAL--Continued.

August 21, 1907.

Our meeting on the subject of National Defence, held this afternoon, went
off well. We were five in all, for with permission of the Voivode and
the two fighting-men, naval and military, I brought Teuta with me. She
sat beside me quite quietly, and never made a remark of any kind till the
Defence business had been gone through. Both Sir Colin and Admiral Rooke
were in perfect agreement as to the immediate steps to be taken for
defence. In the first instance, the seaboard was to be properly
fortified in the necessary places, and the navy largely strengthened.
When we had got thus far I asked Rooke to tell of the navy increase
already in hand. Whereupon he explained that, as we had found the small
battleship The Lady of an excellent type for coast defence, acting only
in home waters, and of a size to take cover where necessary at many
places on our own shores, we had ordered nine others of the same pattern.
Of these the first four were already in hand, and were proceeding with
the greatest expedition. The General then supplemented this by saying
that big guns could be used from points judiciously chosen on the
seaboard, which was in all so short a length that no very great quantity
of armament would be required.

"We can have," he said, "the biggest guns of the most perfect kind yet
accomplished, and use them from land batteries of the most up-to-date
pattern. The one serious proposition we have to deal with is the defence
of the harbour--as yet quite undeveloped--which is known as the 'Blue
Mouth.' Since our aerial journey I have been to it by sea with Admiral
Rooke in The Lady, and then on land with the Vladika, who was born on
its shores, and who knows every inch of it.

"It is worth fortifying--and fortifying well, for as a port it is
peerless in Mediterranean seas. The navies of the world might ride in
it, land-locked, and even hidden from view seawards. The mountains which
enclose it are in themselves absolute protection. In addition, these can
only be assailed from our own territory. Of course, Voivode, you
understand when I say 'our' I mean the Land of the Blue Mountains, for
whose safety and well-being I am alone concerned. Any ship anchoring in
the roads of the Blue Mouth would have only one need--sufficient length
of cable for its magnificent depth.

"When proper guns are properly placed on the steep cliffs to north and
south of the entrance, and when the rock islet between has been armoured
and armed as will be necessary, the Mouth will be impregnable. But we
should not depend on the aiming of the entrance alone. At certain
salient points--which I have marked upon this map--armour-plated sunken
forts within earthworks should be established. There should be covering
forts on the hillsides, and, of course, the final summits protected.
Thus we could resist attack on any side or all sides--from sea or land.
That port will yet mean the wealth as well as the strength of this
nation, so it will be well to have it properly protected. This should be
done soon, and the utmost secrecy observed in the doing of it, lest the
so doing should become a matter of international concern."

Here Rooke smote the table hard.

"By God, that is true! It has been the dream of my own life for this
many a year."

In the silence which followed the sweet, gentle voice of Teuta came clear
as a bell:

"May I say a word? I am emboldened to, as Sir Colin has spoken so
splendidly, and as the Lord High Admiral has not hesitated to mention his
dreaming. I, too, have had a dream--a day-dream--which came in a flash,
but no less a dream, for all that. It was when we hung on the aeroplane
over the Blue Mouth. It seemed to me in an instant that I saw that
beautiful spot as it will some time be--typical, as Sir Colin said, of
the wealth as well as the strength of this nation; a mart for the world
whence will come for barter some of the great wealth of the Blue
Mountains. That wealth is as yet undeveloped. But the day is at hand
when we may begin to use it, and through that very port. Our mountains
and their valleys are clad with trees of splendid growth, virgin forests
of priceless worth; hard woods of all kinds, which have no superior
throughout the world. In the rocks, though hidden as yet, is vast
mineral wealth of many kinds. I have been looking through the reports of
the geological exports of the Commission of Investigation which my
husband organized soon after he came to live here, and, according to
them, our whole mountain ranges simply teem with vast quantities of
minerals, almost more precious for industry than gold and silver are for
commerce--though, indeed, gold is not altogether lacking as a mineral.
When once our work on the harbour is done, and the place has been made
secure against any attempt at foreign aggression, we must try to find a
way to bring this wealth of woods and ores down to the sea.

"And then, perhaps, may begin the great prosperity of our Land, of which
we have all dreamt."

She stopped, all vibrating, almost choked with emotion. We were all
moved. For myself, I was thrilled to the core. Her enthusiasm was
all-sweeping, and under its influence I found my own imagination
expanding. Out of its experiences I spoke:

"And there is a way. I can see it. Whilst our dear Voivodin was
speaking, the way seemed to clear. I saw at the back of the Blue Mouth,
where it goes deepest into the heart of the cliffs, the opening of a
great tunnel, which ran upward over a steep slope till it debouched on
the first plateau beyond the range of the encompassing cliffs. Thither
came by various rails of steep gradient, by timber-shoots and
cable-rails, by aerial cables and precipitating tubes, wealth from over
ground and under it; for as our Land is all mountains, and as these tower
up to the clouds, transport to the sea shall be easy and of little cost
when once the machinery is established. As everything of much weight
goes downward, the cars of the main tunnel of the port shall return
upward without cost. We can have from the mountains a head of water
under good control, which will allow of endless hydraulic power, so that
the whole port and the mechanism of the town to which it will grow can be
worked by it.

"This work can be put in hand at once. So soon as the place shall be
perfectly surveyed and the engineering plans got ready, we can start on
the main tunnel, working from the sea-level up, so that the cost of the
transport of material will be almost nil. This work can go on whilst the
forts are building; no time need be lost.

"Moreover, may I add a word on National Defence? We are, though old in
honour, a young nation as to our place amongst Great Powers. And so we
must show the courage and energy of a young nation. The Empire of the
Air is not yet won. Why should not we make a bid for it? As our
mountains are lofty, so shall we have initial power of attack or defence.
We can have, in chosen spots amongst the clouds, depots of war
aeroplanes, with which we can descend and smite our enemies quickly on
land or sea. We shall hope to live for Peace; but woe to those who drive
us to War!"

There is no doubt that the Vissarions are a warlike race. As I spoke,
Teuta took one of my hands and held it hard. The old Voivode, his eyes
blazing, rose and stood beside me and took the other. The two old
fighting-men of the land and the sea stood up and saluted.

This was the beginning of what ultimately became "The National Committee
of Defence and Development."

I had other, and perhaps greater, plans for the future in my mind; but
the time had not come for their utterance.

To me it seems not only advisable, but necessary, that the utmost
discretion be observed by all our little group, at all events for the
present. There seems to be some new uneasiness in the Blue Mountains.
There are constant meetings of members of the Council, but no formal
meeting of the Council, as such, since the last one at which I was
present. There is constant coming and going amongst the mountaineers,
always in groups, small or large. Teuta and I, who have been about very
much on the aeroplane, have both noticed it. But somehow we--that is,
the Voivode and myself--are left out of everything; but we have not said
as yet a word on the subject to any of the others. The Voivode notices,
but he says nothing; so I am silent, and Teuta does whatever I ask. Sir
Colin does not notice anything except the work he is engaged on--the
planning the defences of the Blue Mouth. His old scientific training as
an engineer, and his enormous experience of wars and sieges--for he was
for nearly fifty years sent as military representative to all the great
wars--seem to have become directed on that point. He is certainly
planning it all out in a wonderful way. He consults Rooke almost hourly
on the maritime side of the question. The Lord High Admiral has been a
watcher all his life, and very few important points have ever escaped
him, so that he can add greatly to the wisdom of the defensive
construction. He notices, I think, that something is going on outside
ourselves; but he keeps a resolute silence.

What the movement going on is I cannot guess. It is not like the
uneasiness that went before the abduction of Teuta and the Voivode, but
it is even more pronounced. That was an uneasiness founded on some
suspicion. This is a positive thing, and has definite meaning--of some
sort. We shall, I suppose, know all about it in good time. In the
meantime we go on with our work. Happily the whole Blue Mouth and the
mountains round it are on my own property, the portion acquired long ago
by Uncle Roger, exclusive of the Vissarion estate. I asked the Voivode
to allow me to transfer it to him, but he sternly refused and forbade me,
quite peremptorily, to ever open the subject to him again. "You have
done enough already," he said. "Were I to allow you to go further, I
should feel mean. And I do not think you would like your wife's father
to suffer that feeling after a long life, which he has tried to live in
honour."

I bowed, and said no more. So there the matter rests, and I have to take
my own course. I have had a survey made, and on the head of it the
Tunnel to the harbour is begun.

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