The Lady of the Shroud (Chapter 6, page 1 of 1)


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Chapter 6

RUPERT'S JOURNAL--Continued.

July 3, 1907.

There is no anodyne but work to pain of the heart; and my pain is all of
the heart. I sometimes feel that it is rather hard that with so much to
make me happy I cannot know happiness. How can I be happy when my wife,
whom I fondly love, and who I know loves me, is suffering in horror and
loneliness of a kind which is almost beyond human belief? However, what
is my loss is my country's gain, for the Land of the Blue Mountains is my
country now, despite the fact that I am still a loyal subject of good
King Edward. Uncle Roger took care of that when he said I should have
the consent of the Privy Council before I might be naturalized anywhere
else.

When I got home yesterday morning I naturally could not sleep. The
events of the night and the bitter disappointment that followed my
exciting joy made such a thing impossible. When I drew the curtain over
the window, the reflection of the sunrise was just beginning to tinge the
high-sailing clouds in front of me. I laid down and tried to rest, but
without avail. However, I schooled myself to lie still, and at last, if
I did not sleep, was at least quiescent.

Disturbed by a gentle tap at the door, I sprang up at once and threw on a
dressing gown. Outside, when I opened the door, was Aunt Janet. She was
holding a lighted candle in her hand, for though it was getting light in
the open, the passages were still dark. When she saw me she seemed to
breathe more freely, and asked if she might come in.

Whilst she sat on the edge of my bed, in her old-time way, she said in a
hushed voice:

"Oh, laddie, laddie, I trust yer burden is no too heavy to bear."

"My burden! What on earth do you mean, Aunt Janet?" I said in reply. I
did not wish to commit myself by a definite answer, for it was evident
that she had been dreaming or Second Sighting again. She replied with
the grim seriousness usual to her when she touched on occult matters:

"I saw your hairt bleeding, laddie. I kent it was yours, though how I
kent it I don't know. It lay on a stone floor in the dark, save for a
dim blue light such as corpse-lights are. On it was placed a great book,
and close around were scattered many strange things, amongst them two
crowns o' flowers--the one bound wi' silver, the other wi' gold. There
was also a golden cup, like a chalice, o'erturned. The red wine trickled
from it an' mingled wi' yer hairt's bluid; for on the great book was some
vast dim weight wrapped up in black, and on it stepped in turn many men
all swathed in black. An' as the weight of each came on it the bluid
gushed out afresh. And oh, yer puir hairt, my laddie, was quick and
leaping, so that at every beat it raised the black-clad weight! An' yet
that was not all, for hard by stood a tall imperial shape o' a woman, all
arrayed in white, wi' a great veil o' finest lace worn o'er a shrood.
An' she was whiter than the snow, an' fairer than the morn for beauty;
though a dark woman she was, wi' hair like the raven, an' eyes black as
the sea at nicht, an' there was stars in them. An' at each beat o' yer
puir bleeding hairt she wrung her white hands, an' the manin' o' her
sweet voice rent my hairt in twain. Oh, laddie, laddie! what does it
mean?"

I managed to murmur: "I'm sure I don't know, Aunt Janet. I suppose it
was all a dream!"

"A dream it was, my dear. A dream or a veesion, whilka matters nane, for
a' such are warnin's sent frae God . . . " Suddenly she said in a
different voice:

"Laddie, hae ye been fause to any lassie? I'm no blamin' ye. For ye men
are different frae us women, an' yer regard on recht and wrang differs
from oors. But oh, laddie, a woman's tears fa' heavy when her hairt is
for sair wi' the yieldin' to fause words. 'Tis a heavy burden for ony
man to carry wi' him as he goes, an' may well cause pain to ithers that
he fain would spare." She stopped, and in dead silence waited for me to
speak. I thought it would be best to set her poor loving heart at rest,
and as I could not divulge my special secret, spoke in general terms:

"Aunt Janet, I am a man, and have led a man's life, such as it is. But I
can tell you, who have always loved me and taught me to be true, that in
all the world there is no woman who must weep for any falsity of mine.
If close there be any who, sleeping or waking, in dreams or visions or in
reality, weeps because of me, it is surely not for my doing, but because
of something outside me. It may be that her heart is sore because I must
suffer, as all men must in some degree; but she does not weep for or
through any act of mine."

She sighed happily at my assurance, and looked up through her tears, for
she was much moved; and after tenderly kissing my forehead and blessing
me, stole away. She was more sweet and tender than I have words to say,
and the only regret that I have in all that is gone is that I have not
been able to bring my wife to her, and let her share in the love she has
for me. But that, too, will come, please God!

In the morning I sent a message to Rooke at Otranto, instructing him by
code to bring the yacht to Vissarion in the coming night.

All day I spent in going about amongst the mountaineers, drilling them
and looking after their arms. I could not stay still. My only chance
of peace was to work, my only chance of sleep to tire myself out.
Unhappily, I am very strong, so even when I came home at dark I was quite
fresh. However, I found a cable message from Rooke that the yacht would
arrive at midnight.

There was no need to summon the mountaineers, as the men in the Castle
would be sufficient to make preparations for the yacht's coming.

Later.

The yacht has come. At half-past eleven the lookout signalled that a
steamer without lights was creeping in towards the Creek. I ran out to
the Flagstaff, and saw her steal in like a ghost. She is painted a
steely blue-grey, and it is almost impossible to see her at any distance.
She certainly goes wonderfully. Although there was not enough throb from
the engines to mar the absolute stillness, she came on at a fine speed,
and within a few minutes was close to the boom. I had only time to run
down to give orders to draw back the boom when she glided in and stopped
dead at the harbour wall. Rooke steered her himself, and he says he
never was on a boat that so well or so quickly answered her helm. She is
certainly a beauty, and so far as I can see at night perfect in every
detail. I promise myself a few pleasant hours over her in the daylight.
The men seem a splendid lot.

But I do not feel sleepy; I despair of sleep to-night. But work demands
that I be fit for whatever may come, and so I shall try to sleep--to
rest, at any rate.

July 4, 1907.

I was up with the first ray of sunrise, so by the time I had my bath and
was dressed there was ample light. I went down to the dock at once, and
spent the morning looking over the vessel, which fully justifies Rooke's
enthusiasm about her. She is built on lovely lines, and I can quite
understand that she is enormously fast. Her armour I can only take on
the specifications, but her armament is really wonderful. And there are
not only all the very newest devices of aggressive warfare--indeed, she
has the newest up-to-date torpedoes and torpedo-guns--but also the
old-fashioned rocket-tubes, which in certain occasions are so useful.
She has electric guns and the latest Massillon water-guns, and Reinhardt
electro-pneumatic "deliverers" for pyroxiline shells. She is even
equipped with war-balloons easy of expansion, and with compressible
Kitson aeroplanes. I don't suppose that there is anything quite like her
in the world.

The crew are worthy of her. I can't imagine where Rooke picked up such a
splendid lot of men. They are nearly all man-of-warsmen; of various
nationalities, but mostly British. All young men--the oldest of them
hasn't got into the forties--and, so far as I can learn, all experts of
one kind or another in some special subject of warfare. It will go hard
with me, but I shall keep them together.

How I got through the rest of the day I know not. I tried hard not to
create any domestic trouble by my manner, lest Aunt Janet should, after
her lurid dream or vision of last night, attach some new importance to
it. I think I succeeded, for she did not, so far as I could tell, take
any special notice of me. We parted as usual at half-past ten, and I
came here and made this entry in my journal. I am more restless than
ever to-night, and no wonder. I would give anything to be able to pay a
visit to St. Sava's, and see my wife again--if it were only sleeping in
her tomb. But I dare not do even that, lest she should come to see me
here, and I should miss her. So I have done what I can. The glass door
to the Terrace is open, so that she can enter at once if she comes. The
fire is lit, and the room is warm. There is food ready in case she
should care for it. I have plenty of light in the room, so that through
the aperture where I have not fully drawn the curtain there may be light
to guide her.

Oh, how the time drags! The clock has struck midnight. One, two! Thank
goodness, it will shortly be dawn, and the activity of the day may begin!
Work may again prove, in a way, to be an anodyne. In the meantime I must
write on, lest despair overwhelm me.

Once during the night I thought I heard a footstep outside. I rushed to
the window and looked out, but there was nothing to see, no sound to
hear. That was a little after one o'clock. I feared to go outside, lest
that should alarm her; so I came back to my table. I could not write,
but I sat as if writing for a while. But I could not stand it, so rose
and walked about the room. As I walked I felt that my Lady--it gives me
a pang every time I remember that I do not know even her name--was not
quite so far away from me. It made my heart beat to think that it might
mean that she was coming to me. Could not I as well as Aunt Janet have a
little Second Sight! I went towards the window, and, standing behind the
curtain, listened. Far away I thought I heard a cry, and ran out on the
Terrace; but there was no sound to be heard, and no sign of any living
thing anywhere; so I took it for granted that it was the cry of some
night bird, and came back to my room, and wrote at my journal till I was
calm. I think my nerves must be getting out of order, when every sound
of the night seems to have a special meaning for me.

July 7, 1907

When the grey of the morning came, I gave up hope of my wife appearing,
and made up my mind that, so soon as I could get away without exciting
Aunt Janet's attention, I would go to St. Sava's. I always eat a good
breakfast, and did I forgo it altogether, it would be sure to excite her
curiosity--a thing I do not wish at present. As there was still time to
wait, I lay down on my bed as I was, and--such is the way of
Fate--shortly fell asleep.

I was awakened by a terrific clattering at my door. When I opened it I
found a little group of servants, very apologetic at awaking me without
instructions. The chief of them explained that a young priest had come
from the Vladika with a message so urgent that he insisted on seeing me
immediately at all hazards. I came out at once, and found him in the
hall of the Castle, standing before the great fire, which was always lit
in the early morning. He had a letter in his hand, but before giving it
to me he said:

"I am sent by the Vladika, who pressed on me that I was not to lose a
single instant in seeing you; that time is of golden price--nay, beyond
price. This letter, amongst other things, vouches for me. A terrible
misfortune has occurred. The daughter of our leader has disappeared
during last night--the same, he commanded me to remind you, that he spoke
of at the meeting when he would not let the mountaineers fire their guns.
No sign of her can be found, and it is believed that she has been carried
off by the emissaries of the Sultan of Turkey, who once before brought
our nations to the verge of war by demanding her as a wife. I was also
to say that the Vladika Plamenac would have come himself, but that it was
necessary that he should at once consult with the Archbishop, Stevan
Palealogue, as to what step is best to take in this dire calamity. He
has sent out a search-party under the Archimandrite of Spazac, Petrof
Vlastimir, who is to come on here with any news he can get, as you have
command of the signalling, and can best spread the news. He knows that
you, Gospodar, are in your great heart one of our compatriots, and that
you have already proved your friendship by many efforts to strengthen our
hands for war. And as a great compatriot, he calls on you to aid us in
our need." He then handed me the letter, and stood by respectfully
whilst I broke the seal and read it. It was written in great haste, and
signed by the Vladika.

"Come with us now in our nation's peril. Help us to rescue what we most
adore, and henceforth we shall hold you in our hearts. You shall learn
how the men of the Blue Mountains can love faith and valour. Come!"

This was a task indeed--a duty worthy of any man. It thrilled me to the
core to know that the men of the Blue Mountains had called on me in their
dire need. It woke all the fighting instinct of my Viking forbears, and
I vowed in my heart that they should be satisfied with my work. I called
to me the corps of signallers who were in the house, and led them to the
Castle roof, taking with me the young messenger-priest.

"Come with me," I said to him, "and see how I answer the Vladika's
command."

The National flag was run up--the established signal that the nation was
in need. Instantly on every summit near and far was seen the flutter of
an answering flag. Quickly followed the signal that commanded the call
to arms.

One by one I gave the signallers orders in quick succession, for the plan
of search unfolded itself to me as I went on. The arms of the semaphore
whirled in a way that made the young priest stare. One by one, as they
took their orders, the signallers seemed to catch fire. Instinctively
they understood the plan, and worked like demigods. They knew that so
widespread a movement had its best chance in rapidity and in unity of
action.

From the forest which lay in sight of the Castle came a wild cheering,
which seemed to interpret the former stillness of the hills. It was good
to feel that those who saw the signals--types of many--were ready. I saw
the look of expectation on the face of the messenger-priest, and rejoiced
at the glow that came as I turned to him to speak. Of course, he wanted
to know something of what was going on. I saw the flashing of my own
eyes reflected in his as I spoke:

"Tell the Vladika that within a minute of his message being read the Land
of the Blue Mountains was awake. The mountaineers are already marching,
and before the sun is high there will be a line of guards within hail of
each other round the whole frontier--from Angusa to Ilsin; from Ilsin to
Bajana; from Bajana to Ispazar; from Ispazar to Volok; from Volok to
Tatra; from Tatra to Domitan; from Domitan to Gravaja; and from Gravaja
back to Angusa. The line is double. The old men keep guard on the line,
and the young men advance. These will close in at the advancing line, so
that nothing can escape them. They will cover mountain-top and forest
depth, and will close in finally on the Castle here, which they can
behold from afar. My own yacht is here, and will sweep the coast from
end to end. It is the fastest boat afloat, and armed against a squadron.
Here will all signals come. In an hour where we stand will be a signal
bureau, where trained eyes will watch night and day till the lost one has
been found and the outrage has been avenged. The robbers are even now
within a ring of steel, and cannot escape."

The young priest, all on fire, sprang on the battlements and shouted to
the crowd, which was massing round the Castle in the gardens far below.
The forest was giving up its units till they seemed like the nucleus of
an army. The men cheered lustily, till the sound swung high up to us
like the roaring of a winter sea. With bared heads they were crying:

"God and the Blue Mountains! God and the Blue Mountains!"

I ran down to them as quickly as I could, and began to issue their
instructions. Within a time to be computed by minutes the whole number,
organized by sections, had started to scour the neighbouring mountains.
At first they had only understood the call to arms for general safety.
But when they learned that the daughter of a chief had been captured,
they simply went mad. From something which the messenger first said, but
which I could not catch or did not understand, the blow seemed to have
for them some sort of personal significance which wrought them to a
frenzy.

When the bulk of the men had disappeared, I took with me a few of my own
men and several of the mountaineers whom I had asked to remain, and
together we went to the hidden ravine which I knew. We found the place
empty; but there were unmistakable signs that a party of men had been
encamped there for several days. Some of our men, who were skilled in
woodcraft and in signs generally, agreed that there must have been some
twenty of them. As they could not find any trail either coming to or
going from the place, they came to the conclusion that they must have
come separately from different directions and gathered there, and that
they must have departed in something of the same mysterious way.

However, this was, at any rate, some sort of a beginning, and the men
separated, having agreed amongst themselves to make a wide cast round the
place in the search for tracks. Whoever should find a trail was to
follow with at least one comrade, and when there was any definite news,
it was to be signalled to the Castle.

I myself returned at once, and set the signallers to work to spread
amongst our own people such news as we had.

When presently such discoveries as had been made were signalled with
flags to the Castle, it was found that the marauders had, in their
flight, followed a strangely zigzag course. It was evident that, in
trying to baffle pursuit, they had tried to avoid places which they
thought might be dangerous to them. This may have been simply a method
to disconcert pursuit. If so, it was, in a measure, excellent, for none
of those immediately following could possibly tell in what direction they
were heading. It was only when we worked the course on the great map in
the signaller's room (which was the old guard room of the Castle) that we
could get an inkling of the general direction of their flight. This gave
added trouble to the pursuit; for the men who followed, being ignorant of
their general intent, could not ever take chance to head them off, but
had to be ready to follow in any or every direction. In this manner the
pursuit was altogether a stern chase, and therefore bound to be a long
one.

As at present we could not do anything till the intended route was more
marked, I left the signalling corps to the task of receiving and giving
information to the moving bands, so that, if occasion served, they might
head off the marauders. I myself took Rooke, as captain of the yacht,
and swept out of the creek. We ran up north to Dalairi, then down south
to Olesso, and came back to Vissarion. We saw nothing suspicious except,
far off to the extreme southward, one warship which flew no flag. Rooke,
however, who seemed to know ships by instinct, said she was a Turk; so on
our return we signalled along the whole shore to watch her. Rooke held
The Lady--which was the name I had given the armoured yacht--in readiness
to dart out in case anything suspicious was reported. He was not to
stand on any ceremony, but if necessary to attack. We did not intend to
lose a point in this desperate struggle which we had undertaken. We had
placed in different likely spots a couple of our own men to look after
the signalling.

When I got back I found that the route of the fugitives, who had now
joined into one party, had been definitely ascertained. They had gone
south, but manifestly taking alarm from the advancing line of guards, had
headed up again to the north-east, where the country was broader and the
mountains wilder and less inhabited.

Forthwith, leaving the signalling altogether in the hands of the fighting
priests, I took a small chosen band of the mountaineers of our own
district, and made, with all the speed we could, to cut across the track
of the fugitives a little ahead of them. The Archimandrite (Abbot) of
Spazac, who had just arrived, came with us. He is a splendid man--a real
fighter as well as a holy cleric, as good with his handjar as with his
Bible, and a runner to beat the band. The marauders were going at a
fearful pace, considering that they were all afoot; so we had to go fast
also! Amongst these mountains there is no other means of progressing.
Our own men were so aflame with ardour that I could not but notice that
they, more than any of the others whom I had seen, had some special cause
for concern.

When I mentioned it to the Archimandrite, who moved by my side, he
answered:

"All natural enough; they are not only fighting for their country, but
for their own!" I did not quite understand his answer, and so began to
ask him some questions, to the effect that I soon began to understand a
good deal more than he did.

Letter from Archbishop Stevan Palealogue, Head of the Eastern Church
of the Blue Mountains, to the Lady Janet MacKelpie, Vissarion.

Written July 9, 1907.

HONOURED LADY,

As you wish for an understanding regarding the late lamentable
occurrence in which so much danger was incurred to this our Land of
the Blue Mountains, and one dear to us, I send these words by request
of the Gospodar Rupert, beloved of our mountaineers.

When the Voivode Peter Vissarion made his journey to the great nation
to whom we looked in our hour of need, it was necessary that he
should go in secret. The Turk was at our gates, and full of the
malice of baffled greed. Already he had tried to arrange a marriage
with the Voivodin, so that in time to come he, as her husband, might
have established a claim to the inheritance of the land. Well he
knew, as do all men, that the Blue Mountaineers owe allegiance to
none that they themselves do not appoint to rulership. This has been
the history in the past. But now and again an individual has arisen
or come to the front adapted personally for such government as this
land requires. And so the Lady Teuta, Voivodin of the Blue
Mountains, was put for her proper guarding in the charge of myself as
Head of the Eastern Church in the Land of the Blue Mountains, steps
being taken in such wise that no capture of her could be effected by
unscrupulous enemies of this our Land. This task and guardianship
was gladly held as an honour by all concerned. For the Voivodin
Teuta of Vissarion must be taken as representing in her own person
the glory of the old Serb race, inasmuch as being the only child of
the Voivode Vissarion, last male of his princely race--the race which
ever, during the ten centuries of our history, unflinchingly gave
life and all they held for the protection, safety, and well-being of
the Land of the Blue Mountains. Never during those centuries had any
one of the race been known to fail in patriotism, or to draw back
from any loss or hardship enjoined by high duty or stress of need.
Moreover, this was the race of that first Voivode Vissarion, of whom,
in legend, it was prophesied that he--once known as "The Sword of
Freedom," a giant amongst men--would some day, when the nation had
need of him, come forth from his water-tomb in the lost Lake of Reo,
and lead once more the men of the Blue Mountains to lasting victory.
This noble race, then, had come to be known as the last hope of the
Land. So that when the Voivode was away on his country's service,
his daughter should be closely guarded. Soon after the Voivode had
gone, it was reported that he might be long delayed in his
diplomacies, and also in studying the system of Constitutional
Monarchy, for which it had been hoped to exchange our imperfect
political system. I may say inter alia that he was mentioned as to
be the first king when the new constitution should have been
arranged.

Then a great misfortune came on us; a terrible grief overshadowed the
land. After a short illness, the Voivodin Teuta Vissarion died
mysteriously of a mysterious ailment. The grief of the mountaineers
was so great that it became necessary for the governing Council to
warn them not to allow their sorrow to be seen. It was imperatively
necessary that the fact of her death should be kept secret. For
there were dangers and difficulties of several kinds. In the first
place it was advisable that even her father should be kept in
ignorance of his terrible loss. It was well known that he held her
as the very core of his heart and that if he should hear of her
death, he would be too much prostrated to be able to do the intricate
and delicate work which he had undertaken. Nay, more: he would never
remain afar off, under the sad circumstances, but would straightway
return, so as to be in the land where she lay. Then suspicions would
crop up, and the truth must shortly be known afield, with the
inevitable result that the Land would become the very centre of a war
of many nations.

In the second place, if the Turks were to know that the race of
Vissarion was becoming extinct, this would encourage them to further
aggression, which would become immediate should they find out that
the Voivode was himself away. It was well known that they were
already only suspending hostilities until a fitting opportunity
should arise. Their desire for aggression had become acute after the
refusal of the nation, and of the girl herself, that she should
become a wife of the Sultan.

The dead girl had been buried in the Crypt of the church of St. Sava,
and day after day and night after night, singly and in parties, the
sorrowing mountaineers had come to pay devotion and reverence at her
tomb. So many had wished to have a last glimpse of her face that the
Vladika had, with my own consent as Archbishop, arranged for a glass
cover to be put over the stone coffin wherein her body lay.

After a little time, however, there came a belief to all concerned in
the guarding of the body--these, of course, being the priests of
various degrees of dignity appointed to the task--that the Voivodin
was not really dead, but only in a strangely-prolonged trance.
Thereupon a new complication arose. Our mountaineers are, as perhaps
you know, by nature deeply suspicious--a characteristic of all brave
and self-sacrificing people who are jealous of their noble heritage.
Having, as they believed, seen the girl dead, they might not be
willing to accept the fact of her being alive. They might even
imagine that there was on foot some deep, dark plot which was, or
might be, a menace, now or hereafter, to their independence. In any
case, there would be certain to be two parties on the subject, a
dangerous and deplorable thing in the present condition of affairs.

As the trance, or catalepsy, whatever it was, continued for many
days, there had been ample time for the leaders of the Council, the
Vladika, the priesthood represented by the Archimandrite of Spazac,
myself as Archbishop and guardian of the Voivodin in her father's
absence, to consult as to a policy to be observed in case of the girl
awaking. For in such case the difficulty of the situation would be
multiplied indefinitely. In the secret chambers of St. Sava's we had
many secret meetings, and were finally converging on agreement when
the end of the trance came.

The girl awoke!

She was, of course, terribly frightened when she found herself in a
tomb in the Crypt. It was truly fortunate that the great candles
around her tomb had been kept lighted, for their light mitigated the
horror of the place. Had she waked in darkness, her reason might
have become unseated.

She was, however, a very noble girl; brave, with extraordinary will,
and resolution, and self-command, and power of endurance. When she
had been taken into one of the secret chambers of the church, where
she was warmed and cared for, a hurried meeting was held by the
Vladika, myself, and the chiefs of the National Council. Word had
been at once sent to me of the joyful news of her recovery; and with
the utmost haste I came, arriving in time to take a part in the
Council.

At the meeting the Voivodin was herself present, and full confidence
of the situation was made to her. She herself proposed that the
belief in her death should be allowed to prevail until the return of
her father, when all could be effectively made clear. To this end
she undertook to submit to the terrific strain which such a
proceeding would involve. At first we men could not believe that any
woman could go through with such a task, and some of us did not
hesitate to voice our doubts--our disbelief. But she stood to her
guns, and actually down-faced us. At the last we, remembering things
that had been done, though long ages ago, by others of her race, came
to believe not merely in her self-belief and intention, but even in
the feasibility of her plan. She took the most solemn oaths not to
betray the secret under any possible stress.

The priesthood undertook through the Vladika and myself to further a
ghostly belief amongst the mountaineers which would tend to prevent a
too close or too persistent observation. The Vampire legend was
spread as a protection against partial discovery by any mischance,
and other weird beliefs were set afoot and fostered. Arrangements
were made that only on certain days were the mountaineers to be
admitted to the Crypt, she agreeing that for these occasions she was
to take opiates or carry out any other aid to the preservation of the
secret. She was willing, she impressed upon us, to make any personal
sacrifice which might be deemed necessary for the carrying out her
father's task for the good of the nation.

Of course, she had at first terrible frights lying alone in the
horror of the Crypt. But after a time the terrors of the situation,
if they did not cease, were mitigated. There are secret caverns off
the Crypt, wherein in troublous times the priests and others of high
place have found safe retreat. One of these was prepared for the
Voivodin, and there she remained, except for such times as she was on
show--and certain other times of which I shall tell you. Provision
was made for the possibility of any accidental visit to the church.
At such times, warned by an automatic signal from the opening door,
she was to take her place in the tomb. The mechanism was so arranged
that the means to replace the glass cover, and to take the opiate,
were there ready to her hand. There was to be always a watch of
priests at night in the church, to guard her from ghostly fears as
well as from more physical dangers; and if she was actually in her
tomb, it was to be visited at certain intervals. Even the draperies
which covered her in the sarcophagus were rested on a bridge placed
from side to side just above her, so as to hide the rising and
falling of her bosom as she slept under the narcotic.

After a while the prolonged strain began to tell so much on her that
it was decided that she should take now and again exercise out of
doors. This was not difficult, for when the Vampire story which we
had spread began to be widely known, her being seen would be accepted
as a proof of its truth. Still, as there was a certain danger in her
being seen at all, we thought it necessary to exact from her a solemn
oath that so long as her sad task lasted she should under no
circumstances ever wear any dress but her shroud--this being the only
way to insure secrecy and to prevail against accident.

There is a secret way from the Crypt to a sea cavern, whose entrance
is at high-tide under the water-line at the base of the cliff on
which the church is built. A boat, shaped like a coffin, was
provided for her; and in this she was accustomed to pass across the
creek whenever she wished to make excursion. It was an excellent
device, and most efficacious in disseminating the Vampire belief.

This state of things had now lasted from before the time when the
Gospodar Rupert came to Vissarion up to the day of the arrival of the
armoured yacht.

That night the priest on duty, on going his round of the Crypt just
before dawn, found the tomb empty. He called the others, and they
made full search. The boat was gone from the cavern, but on making
search they found it on the farther side of the creek, close to the
garden stairs. Beyond this they could discover nothing. She seemed
to have disappeared without leaving a trace.

Straightway they went to the Vladika, and signalled to me by the
fire-signal at the monastery at Astrag, where I then was. I took a
band of mountaineers with me, and set out to scour the country. But
before going I sent an urgent message to the Gospodar Rupert, asking
him, who showed so much interest and love to our Land, to help us in
our trouble. He, of course, knew nothing then of all have now told
you. Nevertheless, he devoted himself whole-heartedly to our
needs--as doubtless you know.

But the time had now come close when the Voivode Vissarion was about
to return from his mission; and we of the council of his daughter's
guardianship were beginning to arrange matters so that at his return
the good news of her being still alive could be made public. With
her father present to vouch for her, no question as to truth could
arise.

But by some means the Turkish "Bureau of Spies" must have got
knowledge of the fact already. To steal a dead body for the purpose
of later establishing a fictitious claim would have been an
enterprise even more desperate than that already undertaken. We
inferred from many signs, made known to us in an investigation, that
a daring party of the Sultan's emissaries had made a secret incursion
with the object of kidnapping the Voivodin. They must have been bold
of heart and strong of resource to enter the Land of the Blue
Mountains on any errand, let alone such a desperate one as this. For
centuries we have been teaching the Turk through bitter lessons that
it is neither a safe task nor an easy one to make incursion here.

How they did it we know not--at present; but enter they did, and,
after waiting in some secret hiding-place for a favourable
opportunity, secured their prey. We know not even now whether they
had found entrance to the Crypt and stole, as they thought, the dead
body, or whether, by some dire mischance, they found her
abroad--under her disguise as a ghost. At any rate, they had
captured her, and through devious ways amongst the mountains were
bearing her back to Turkey. It was manifest that when she was on
Turkish soil the Sultan would force a marriage on her so as
eventually to secure for himself or his successors as against all
other nations a claim for the suzerainty or guardianship of the Blue
Mountains.

Such was the state of affairs when the Gospodar Rupert threw himself
into the pursuit with fiery zeal and the Berserk passion which he
inherited from Viking ancestors, whence of old came "The Sword of
Freedom" himself.

But at that very time was another possibility which the Gospodar was
himself the first to realize. Failing the getting the Voivodin safe
to Turkish soil, the ravishers might kill her! This would be
entirely in accord with the base traditions and history of the
Moslems. So, too, it would accord with Turkish customs and the
Sultan's present desires. It would, in its way, benefit the ultimate
strategetic ends of Turkey. For were once the Vissarion race at an
end, the subjection of the Land of the Blue Mountains might, in their
view, be an easier task than it had yet been found to be.

Such, illustrious lady, were the conditions of affairs when the
Gospodar Rupert first drew his handjar for the Blue Mountains and
what it held most dear.

PALEALOGUE,
Archbishop of the Eastern Church, in the Land of the Blue
Mountains.



RUPERT'S JOURNAL--Continued.

July 8, 1907.

I wonder if ever in the long, strange history of the world had there come
to any other such glad tidings as came to me--and even then rather
inferentially than directly--from the Archimandrite's answers to my
questioning. Happily I was able to restrain myself, or I should have
created some strange confusion which might have evoked distrust, and
would certainly have hampered us in our pursuit. For a little I could
hardly accept the truth which wove itself through my brain as the true
inwardness of each fact came home to me and took its place in the whole
fabric. But even the most welcome truth has to be accepted some time by
even a doubting heart. My heart, whatever it may have been, was not then
a doubting heart, but a very, very grateful one. It was only the
splendid magnitude of the truth which forbade its immediate acceptance.
I could have shouted for joy, and only stilled myself by keeping my
thoughts fixed on the danger which my wife was in. My wife! My wife!
Not a Vampire; not a poor harassed creature doomed to terrible woe, but a
splendid woman, brave beyond belief, patriotic in a way which has but few
peers even in the wide history of bravery! I began to understand the
true meaning of the strange occurrences that have come into my life.
Even the origin and purpose of that first strange visit to my room became
clear. No wonder that the girl could move about the Castle in so
mysterious a manner. She had lived there all her life, and was familiar
with the secret ways of entrance and exit. I had always believed that
the place must have been honeycombed with secret passages. No wonder
that she could find a way to the battlements, mysterious to everybody
else. No wonder that she could meet me at the Flagstaff when she so
desired.

To say that I was in a tumult would be to but faintly express my
condition. I was rapt into a heaven of delight which had no measure in
all my adventurous life--the lifting of the veil which showed that my
wife--mine--won in all sincerity in the very teeth of appalling
difficulties and dangers--was no Vampire, no corpse, no ghost or phantom,
but a real woman of flesh and blood, of affection, and love, and passion.
Now at last would my love be crowned indeed when, having rescued her from
the marauders, I should bear her to my own home, where she would live and
reign in peace and comfort and honour, and in love and wifely happiness
if I could achieve such a blessing for her--and for myself.

But here a dreadful thought flashed across me, which in an instant turned
my joy to despair, my throbbing heart to ice:

"As she is a real woman, she is in greater danger than ever in the hands
of Turkish ruffians. To them a woman is in any case no more than a
sheep; and if they cannot bring her to the harem of the Sultan, they may
deem it the next wisest step to kill her. In that way, too, they might
find a better chance of escape. Once rid of her the party could
separate, and there might be a chance of some of them finding escape as
individuals that would not exist for a party. But even if they did not
kill her, to escape with her would be to condemn her to the worst fate of
all the harem of the Turk! Lifelong misery and despair--however long
that life might be--must be the lot of a Christian woman doomed to such a
lot. And to her, just happily wedded, and after she had served her
country in such a noble way as she had done, that dreadful life of
shameful slavery would be a misery beyond belief.

"She must be rescued--and quickly! The marauders must be caught soon,
and suddenly, so that they may have neither time nor opportunity to harm
her, as they would be certain to do if they have warning of immediate
danger.

"On! on!"

And "on" it was all through that terrible night as well as we could
through the forest.

It was a race between the mountaineers and myself as to who should be
first. I understood now the feeling that animated them, and which
singled them out even from amongst their fiery comrades, when the danger
of the Voivodin became known. These men were no mean contestants even in
such a race, and, strong as I am, it took my utmost effort to keep ahead
of them. They were keen as leopards, and as swift. Their lives had been
spent among the mountains, and their hearts and souls on were in the
chase. I doubt not that if the death of any one of us could have through
any means effected my wife's release, we should, if necessary, have
fought amongst ourselves for the honour.

From the nature of the work before us our party had to keep to the top of
the hills. We had not only to keep observation on the flying party whom
we followed, and to prevent them making discovery of us, but we had to be
always in a position to receive and answer signals made to us from the
Castle, or sent to us from other eminences.

Letter from Petrof Vlastimir, Archimandrite of Spazac, to the Lady
Janet MacKelpie, of Vissarion.

Written July 8, 1907.

GREAT LADY,

I am asked to write by the Vladika, and have permission of the
Archbishop. I have the honour of transmitting to you the record of
the pursuit of the Turkish spies who carried off the Voivodin Teuta,
of the noble House of Vissarion. The pursuit was undertaken by the
Gospodar Rupert, who asked that I would come with his party, since
what he was so good as to call my "great knowledge of the country and
its people" might serve much. It is true that I have had much
knowledge of the Land of the Blue Mountains and its people, amongst
which and whom my whole life has been passed. But in such a cause no
reason was required. There was not a man in the Blue Mountains who
would not have given his life for the Voivodin Teuta, and when they
heard that she had not been dead, as they thought, but only in a
trance, and that it was she whom the marauders had carried off, they
were in a frenzy. So why should I--to whom has been given the great
trust of the Monastery of Spazac--hesitate at such a time? For
myself, I wanted to hurry on, and to come at once to the fight with
my country's foes; and well I knew that the Gospodar Rupert, with a
lion's heart meet for his giant body, would press on with a matchless
speed. We of the Blue Mountains do not lag when our foes are in
front of us; most of all do we of the Eastern Church press on when
the Crescent wars against the Cross!

We took with us no gear or hamper of any kind; no coverings except
what we stood in; no food--nothing but our handjars and our rifles,
with a sufficiency of ammunition. Before starting, the Gospodar gave
hurried orders by signal from the Castle to have food and ammunition
sent to us (as we might signal) by the nearest hamlet.

It was high noon when we started, only ten strong--for our leader
would take none but approved runners who could shoot straight and use
the handjar as it should be used. So as we went light, we expected
to go fast. By this time we knew from the reports signalled to
Vissarion that the enemies were chosen men of no despicable prowess.

The Keeper of the Green Flag of Islam is well served, and as though
the Turk is an infidel and a dog, he is sometimes brave and strong.
Indeed, except when he passes the confines of the Blue Mountains, he
has been known to do stirring deeds. But as none who have dared to
wander in amongst our hills ever return to their own land, we may not
know of how they speak at home of their battles here. Still, these
men were evidently not to be despised; and our Gospodar, who is a
wise man as well as a valiant, warned us to be prudent, and not to
despise our foes over much. We did as he counselled, and in proof we
only took ten men, as we had only twenty against us. But then there
was at stake much beyond life, and we took no risks. So, as the
great clock at Vissarion clanged of noon, the eight fastest runners
of the Blue Mountains, together with the Gospodar Rupert and myself,
swept out on our journey. It had been signalled to us that the
course which the marauders had as yet taken in their flight was a
zigzag one, running eccentrically at all sorts of angles in all sorts
of directions. But our leader had marked out a course where we might
intercept our foes across the main line of their flight; and till we
had reached that region we paused not a second, but went as fast as
we could all night long. Indeed, it was amongst us a race as was the
Olympic race of old Greece, each one vying with his fellows, though
not in jealous emulation, but in high spirit, to best serve his
country and the Voivodin Teuta. Foremost amongst us went the
Gospodar, bearing himself as a Paladin of old, his mighty form
pausing for no obstacle. Perpetually did he urge us on. He would
not stop or pause for a moment, but often as he and I ran
together--for, lady, in my youth I was the fleetest of all in the
race, and even that now can head a battalion when duty calls--he
would ask me certain questions as to the Lady Teuta and of the
strange manner of her reputed death, as it was gradually unfolded in
my answers to his questioning. And as each new phase of knowledge
came to him, he would rush on as one possessed of fiends: whereat our
mountaineers, who seem to respect even fiends for their thoroughness,
would strive to keep pace with him till they too seemed worked into
diabolic possession. And I myself, left alone in the calmness of
sacerdotal office, forgot even that. With surging ears and eyes that
saw blood, I rushed along with best of them.

Then truly the spirit of a great captain showed itself in the
Gospodar, for when others were charged with fury he began to force
himself into calm, so that out of his present self-command and the
memory of his exalted position came a worthy strategy and thought for
every contingency that might arise. So that when some new direction
was required for our guidance, there was no hesitation in its coming.
We, nine men of varying kinds, all felt that we had a master; and so,
being willing to limit ourselves to strict obedience, we were free to
use such thoughts as well as such powers as we had to the best
advantage of the doing.

We came across the trail of the flying marauders on the second
morning after the abduction, a little before noon. It was easy
enough to see, for by this time the miscreants were all together, and
our people, who were woodlanders, were able to tell much of the party
that passed. These were evidently in a terrified hurry, for they had
taken no precautions such as are necessary baffle pursuit, and all of
which take time. Our foresters said that two went ahead and two
behind. In the centre went the mass, moving close together, as
though surrounding their prisoner. We caught not even a single
glimpse her--could not have, they encompassed her so closely. But
our foresters saw other than the mass; the ground that had been
passed was before them. They knew that the prisoner had gone
unwillingly--nay, more: one of them said as he rose from his knees,
where he had been examining of the ground:

"The misbegotten dogs have been urging her on with their yataghans!
There are drops of blood, though there are no blood-marks on her
feet."

Whereupon the Gospodar flamed with passion. His teeth ground
together, and with a deep-breathed "On, on!" he sprang off again,
handjar in hand, on the track.

Before long we saw the party in the distance. They this were far
below us in a deep valley, although the track of their going passed
away to the right hand. They were making for the base of the great
cliff, which rose before us all. Their reason was twofold, as we
soon knew. Far off down the valley which they were crossing we saw
signs of persons coming in haste, who must be of the search party
coming from the north. Though the trees hid them, we could not
mistake the signs. I was myself forester enough to have no doubt.
Again, it was evident that the young Voivodin could travel no longer
at the dreadful pace at which they had been going. Those blood-marks
told their own tale! They meant to make a last stand here in case
they should be discovered.

Then it was that he, who amongst us all had been most fierce and most
bent on rapid pursuit, became the most the calm. Raising his hand
for silence--though, God knows, we were and had been silent enough
during that long rush through the forest--he said, in a low, keen
whisper which cut the silence like a knife:

"My friends, the time is come for action. God be thanked, who has
now brought us face to face with our foes! But we must be careful
here--not on our own account, for we wish nothing more than to rush
on and conquer or die--but for the sake of her whom you love, and
whom I, too, love. She is in danger from anything which may give
warning to those fiends. If they know or even suspect for an instant
that we are near, they will murder her . . . "

Here his voice broke for an instant with the extremity of his passion
or the depth of his feeling--I hardly know which; I think both acted
on him.

"We know from those blood-marks what they can do--even to her." His
teeth ground together again, but he went on without stopping further:

"Let us arrange the battle. Though we are but little distance from
them as the crow flies, the way is far to travel. There is, I can
see, but one path down to the valley from this side. That they have
gone by, and that they will sure to guard--to watch, at any rate.
Let us divide, as to surround them. The cliff towards which they
make runs far to the left without a break. That to the right we
cannot see from this spot; but from the nature of the ground it is
not unlikely that it turns round in this direction, making the hither
end of the valley like a vast pocket or amphitheatre. As they have
studied the ground in other places, they may have done so in this,
and have come hither as to a known refuge. Let one man, a marksman,
stay here."

As he spoke a man stepped to the front. He was, I knew, an excellent
shot.

"Let two others go to the left and try to find a way down the cliff
before us. When they have descended to the level of the valley--path
or no path--let them advance cautiously and secretly, keeping their
guns in readiness. But they must not fire till need. Remember, my
brothers," said, turning to those who stepped out a pace or two to
the left, "that the first shot gives the warning which will be the
signal for the Voivodin's death. These men will not hesitate. You
must judge yourselves of the time to shoot. The others of us will
move to the right and try to find a path on that side. If the valley
be indeed a pocket between the cliffs, we must find a way down that
is not a path!"

As he spoke thus there was a blaze in his eyes that betokened no good
to aught that might stand in his way. I ran by his side as we moved
to the right.

It was as he surmised about the cliff. When we got a little on our
way we saw how the rocky formation trended to our right, till,
finally, with a wide curve, it came round to the other side.

It was a fearful valley that, with its narrow girth and its towering
walls that seemed to topple over. On the farther side from us the
great trees that clothed the slope of the mountain over it grew down
to the very edge of the rock, so that their spreading branches hung
far over the chasm. And, so far as we could understand, the same
condition existed on our own side. Below us the valley was dark even
in the daylight. We could best tell the movement of the flying
marauders by the flashes of the white shroud of their captive in the
midst of them.

From where we were grouped, amid the great tree-trunks on the very
brow of the cliff, we could, when our eyes were accustomed to the
shadow, see them quite well. In great haste, and half dragging, half
carrying the Voivodin, they crossed the open space and took refuge in
a little grassy alcove surrounded, save for its tortuous entrance, by
undergrowth. From the valley level it was manifestly impossible to
see them, though we from our altitude could see over the stunted
undergrowth. When within the glade, they took their hands from her.
She, shuddering instinctively, withdrew to a remote corner of the
dell.

And then, oh, shame on their manhood!--Turks and heathens though they
were--we could see that they had submitted her to the indignity of
gagging her and binding her hands!

Our Voivodin Teuta bound! To one and all of us it was like lashing
us across the face. I heard the Gospodar's teeth grind again. But
once more he schooled himself to calmness ere he said:

"It is, perhaps, as well, great though the indignity be. They are
seeking their own doom, which is coming quickly . . . Moreover, they
are thwarting their own base plans. Now that she is bound they will
trust to their binding, so that they will delay their murderous
alternative to the very last moment. Such is our chance of rescuing
her alive!"

For a few moments he stood as still as a stone, as though revolving
something in his mind whilst he watched. I could see that some grim
resolution was forming in his mind, for his eyes ranged to the top of
the trees above cliff, and down again, very slowly this time, as
though measuring and studying the detail of what was in front of him.
Then he spoke:

"They are in hopes that the other pursuing party may not come across
them. To know that, they are waiting. If those others do not come
up the valley, they will proceed on their way. They will return up
the path the way they came. There we can wait them, charge into the
middle of them when she is opposite, and cut down those around her.
Then the others will open fire, and we shall be rid of them!

Whilst he was speaking, two of the men of our party, who I knew to be
good sharpshooters, and who had just before lain on their faces and
had steadied their rifles to shoot, rose to their feet.

"Command us, Gospodar!" they said simply, as they stood to attention.
"Shall we go to the head of the ravine road and there take hiding?"
He thought for perhaps a minute, whilst we all stood as silent as
images. I could hear our hearts beating. Then he said:

"No, not yet. There is time for that yet. They will not--cannot
stir or make plans in any way till they know whether the other party
is coming towards them or not. From our height here we can see what
course the others are taking long before those villains do. Then we
can make our plans and be ready in time."

We waited many minutes, but could see no further signs the other
pursuing party. These had evidently adopted greater caution in their
movements as they came closer to where they expected to find the
enemy. The marauders began to grow anxious. Even at our distance we
could gather as much from their attitude and movements.

Presently, when the suspense of their ignorance grew too much for
them, they drew to the entrance of the glade, which was the farthest
place to which, without exposing themselves to anyone who might come
to the valley, they could withdraw from their captive. Here they
consulted together. We could follow from their gestures what they
were saying, for as they did not wish their prisoner to hear, their
gesticulation was enlightening to us as to each other. Our people,
like all mountaineers, have good eyes, and the Gospodar is himself an
eagle in this as in other ways. Three men stood back from the rest.
They stacked their rifles so that they could seize them easily. Then
they drew their scimitars, and stood ready, as though on guard.

These were evidently the appointed murderers. Well they knew their
work; for though they stood in a desert place with none within long
distance except the pursuing party, of whose approach they would have
good notice, they stood so close to their prisoner that no marksman
in the world--now or that ever had been; not William Tell
himself--could have harmed any of them without at least endangering
her. Two of them turned the Voivodin round so that her face was
towards the precipice--in which position she could not see what was
going on--whilst he who was evidently leader of the gang explained,
in gesture, that the others were going to spy upon the pursuing
party. When they had located them he, or one of his men, would come
out of the opening of the wood wherein they had had evidence of them,
and hold up his hand.

That was to be the signal for the cutting of the victim's
throat--such being the chosen method (villainous even for heathen
murderers) of her death. There was not one of our men who did not
grind his teeth when we witnessed the grim action, only too
expressive, of the Turk as he drew his right hand, clenched as though
he held a yataghan in it, across his throat.

At the opening of the glade all the spying party halted whilst the
leader appointed to each his place of entry of the wood, the front of
which extended in an almost straight across the valley from cliff to
cliff.

The men, stooping low when in the open, and taking instant advantage
of every little obstacle on the ground, seemed to fade like spectres
with incredible swiftness across the level mead, and were swallowed
up in the wood.

When they had disappeared the Gospodar Rupert revealed to us the
details of the plan of action which he had revolving in his mind. He
motioned us to follow him: we threaded a way between the tree-trunks,
keeping all the while on the very edge of the cliff, so that the
space below was all visible to us. When we had got round the curve
sufficiently to see the whole of the wood on the valley level,
without losing sight of the Voivodin and her appointed assassins, we
halted under his direction. There was an added advantage of this
point over the other, for we could see directly the rising of the
hill-road, up which farther side ran the continuation of the mountain
path which the marauders had followed. It was somewhere on that path
that the other pursuing party had hoped to intercept the fugitives.
The Gospodar spoke quickly, though in a voice of command which true
soldiers love to hear:

"Brothers, the time has come when we can strike a blow for Teuta and
the Land. Do you two, marksmen, take position here facing the wood."
The two men here lay down and got their rifles ready. "Divide the
frontage of the wood between you; arrange between yourselves the
limits of your positions. The very instant one of the marauders
appears, cover him; drop him before he emerges from the wood. Even
then still watch and treat similarly whoever else may take his place.
Do this if they come singly till not a man is left. Remember,
brothers, that brave hearts alone will not suffice at this grim
crisis. In this hour the best safety of the Voivodin is in the calm
spirit and the steady eye!" Then he turned to the rest of us, and
spoke to me:

"Archimandrite of Plazac, you who are interpreter to God of the
prayers of so many souls, my own hour has come. If I do not return,
convey my love to my Aunt Janet--Miss MacKelpie, at Vissarion. There
is but one thing left to us if we wish to save the Voivodin. Do you,
when the time comes, take these men and join the watcher at the top
of the ravine road. When the shots are fired, do you out handjar,
and rush the ravine and across the valley. Brothers, you may be in
time to avenge the Voivodin, if you cannot save her. For me there
must be a quicker way, and to it I go. As there is not, and will not
be, time to traverse the path, I must take a quicker way. Nature
finds me a path that man has made it necessary for me to travel. See
that giant beech-tree that towers above the glade where the Voivodin
is held? There is my path! When you from here have marked the
return of the spies, give me a signal with your hat--do not use a
handkerchief, as others might see its white, and take warning. Then
rush that ravine. I shall take that as the signal for my descent by
the leafy road. If I can do naught else, I can crush the murderers
with my falling weight, even if I have to kill her too. At least we
shall die together--and free. Lay us together in the tomb at St.
Sava's. Farewell, if it be the last!"

He threw down the scabbard in which he carried his handjar, adjusted
the naked weapon in his belt behind his back, and was gone!

We who were not watching the wood kept our eyes fixed on the great
beech-tree, and with new interest noticed the long trailing branches
which hung low, and swayed even in the gentle breeze. For a few
minutes, which seemed amazingly long, we saw no sign of him. Then,
high up on one of the great branches which stood clear of obscuring
leaves, we saw something crawling flat against the bark. He was well
out on the branch, hanging far over the precipice. He was looking
over at us, and I waved my hand so that he should know we saw him.
He was clad in green--his usual forest dress--so that there was not
any likelihood of any other eyes noticing him. I took off my hat,
and held it ready to signal with when the time should come. I
glanced down at the glade and saw the Voivodin standing, still safe,
with her guards so close to her as to touch. Then I, too, fixed my
eyes on the wood.

Suddenly the man standing beside me seized my arm and pointed. I
could just see through the trees, which were lower than elsewhere in
the front of the wood, a Turk moving stealthily; so I waved my hat.
At the same time a rifle underneath me cracked. A second or two
later the spy pitched forward on his face and lay still. At the same
instant my eyes sought the beech-tree, and I saw the close-lying
figure raise itself and slide forward to a joint of the branch. Then
the Gospodar, as he rose, hurled himself forward amid the mass of the
trailing branches. He dropped like a stone, and my heart sank.

But an instant later he seemed in poise. He had clutched the thin,
trailing branches as he fell; and as he sank a number of leaves which
his motion had torn off floated out round him.

Again the rifle below me cracked, and then again, and again, and
again. The marauders had taken warning, and were coming out in mass.
But my own eyes were fixed on the tree. Almost as a thunderbolt
falls fell the giant body of the Gospodar, his size lost in the
immensity of his surroundings. He fell in a series of jerks, as he
kept clutching the trailing beech-branches whilst they lasted, and
then other lesser verdure growing out from the fissures in the rock
after the lengthening branches had with all their elasticity reached
their last point.

At length--for though this all took place in a very few seconds the
gravity of the crisis prolonged them immeasurably--there came a large
space of rock some three times his own length. He did not pause, but
swung himself to one side, so that he should fall close to the
Voivodin and her guards. These men did not seem to notice, for their
attention was fixed on the wood whence they expected their messenger
to signal. But they raised their yataghans in readiness. The shots
had alarmed them; and they meant to do the murder now--messenger or
no messenger

But though the men did not see the danger from above, the Voivodin
did. She raised her eyes quickly at the first sound, and even from
where we were, before we began to run towards the ravine path, I
could see the triumphant look in her glorious eyes when she
recognized the identity of the man who was seemingly coming straight
down from Heaven itself to help her--as, indeed, she, and we too, can
very well imagine that he did; for if ever heaven had a hand in a
rescue on earth, it was now.

Even during the last drop from the rocky foliage the Gospodar kept
his head. As he fell he pulled his handjar free, and almost as he
was falling its sweep took off the head of one of the assassins. As
he touched ground he stumbled for an instant, but it was towards his
enemies. Twice with lightning rapidity the handjar swept the air,
and at each sweep a head rolled on the sward.

The Voivodin held up her tied hands. Again the handjar flashed, this
time downwards, and the lady was free. Without an instant's pause
the Gospodar tore off the gag, and with his left arm round her and
handjar in right hand, stood face toward his living foes. The
Voivodin stooped suddenly, and then, raising the yataghan which had
fallen from the hand of one of the dead marauders, stood armed beside
him.

The rifles were now cracking fast, as the marauders--those that were
left of them--came rushing out into the open. But well the marksmen
knew their work. Well they bore in mind the Gospodar's command
regarding calmness. They kept picking off the foremost men only, so
that the onward rush never seemed to get more forward.

As we rushed down the ravine we could see clearly all before us. But
now, just as we were beginning to fear lest some mischance might
allow some of them to reach the glade, there was another cause of
surprise--of rejoicing.

From the face of the wood seemed to burst all at once a body of men,
all wearing the national cap, so we knew them as our own. They were
all armed with the handjar only, and they came like tigers. They
swept on the rushing Turks as though, for all their swiftness, they
were standing still--literally wiping them out as a child wipes a
lesson from its slate.

A few seconds later these were followed by a tall figure with long
hair and beard of black mingled with grey. Instinctively we all, as
did those in the valley, shouted with joy. For this was the Vladika
Milosh Plamenac himself.

I confess that, knowing what I knew, I was for a short space of time
anxious lest, in the terrific excitement in which we were all lapped,
someone might say or do something which might make for trouble later
on. The Gospodar's splendid achievement, which was worthy of any
hero of old romance, had set us all on fire. He himself must have
been wrought to a high pitch of excitement to dare such an act; and
it is not at such a time that discretion must be expected from any
man. Most of all did I fear danger from the womanhood of the
Voivodin. Had I not assisted at her marriage, I might not have
understood then what it must have been to her to be saved from such a
doom at such a time by such a man, who was so much to her, and in
such a way. It would have been only natural if at such a moment of
gratitude and triumph she had proclaimed the secret which we of the
Council of the Nation and her father's Commissioners had so
religiously kept. But none of us knew then either the Voivodin or
the Gospodar Rupert as we do now. It was well that they were as they
are, for the jealousy and suspicion of our mountaineers might, even
at such a moment, and even whilst they throbbed at such a deed, have
so manifested themselves as to have left a legacy of distrust. The
Vladika and I, who of all (save the two immediately concerned) alone
knew, looked at each other apprehensively. But at that instant the
Voivodin, with a swift glance at her husband, laid a finger on her
lip; and he, with quick understanding, gave assurance by a similar
sign. Then she sank before him on one knee, and, raising his hand to
her lips, kissed it, and spoke:

"Gospodar Rupert, I owe you all that a woman may owe, except to God.
You have given me life and honour! I cannot thank you adequately for
what you have done; my father will try to do so when he returns. But
I am right sure that the men of the Blue Mountains, who so value
honour, and freedom, and liberty, and bravery, will hold you in their
hearts for ever!"

This was so sweetly spoken, with lips that trembled and eyes that
swam in tears, so truly womanly and so in accord with the custom of
our nation regarding the reverence that women owe to men, that the
hearts of our mountaineers were touched to the quick. Their noble
simplicity found expression in tears. But if the gallant Gospodar
could have for a moment thought that so to weep was unmanly, his
error would have had instant correction. When the Voivodin had risen
to her feet, which she did with queenly dignity, the men around
closed in on the Gospodar like a wave of the sea, and in a second
held him above their heads, tossing on their lifted hands as if on
stormy breakers. It was as though the old Vikings of whom we have
heard, and whose blood flows in Rupert's veins, were choosing a chief
in old fashion. I was myself glad that the men were so taken up with
the Gospodar that they did not see the glory of the moment in the
Voivodin's starry eyes; for else they might have guessed the secret.
I knew from the Vladika's look that he shared my own satisfaction,
even as he had shared my anxiety.

As the Gospodar Rupert was tossed high on the lifted hands of the
mountaineers, their shouts rose to such a sudden volume that around
us, as far as I could see, the frightened birds rose from the forest,
and their noisy alarm swelled the tumult.

The Gospodar, ever thoughtful for others, was the first to calm
himself.

"Come, brothers," he said, "let us gain the hilltop, where we can
signal to the Castle. It is right that the whole nation should share
in the glad tidings that the Voivodin Teuta of Vissarion is free.
But before we go, let us remove the arms and clothing of these
carrion marauders. We may have use for them later on."

The mountaineers set him down, gently enough. And he, taking the
Voivodin by the hand, and calling the Vladika and myself close to
them, led the way up the ravine path which the marauders had
descended, and thence through the forest to the top of the hill that
dominated the valley. Here we could, from an opening amongst the
trees, catch a glimpse far off of the battlements of Vissarion.
Forthwith the Gospodar signalled; and on the moment a reply of their
awaiting was given. Then the Gospodar signalled the glad news. It
was received with manifest rejoicing. We could not hear any sound so
far away, but we could see the movement of lifted faces and waving
hands, and knew that it was well. But an instant after came a calm
so dread that we knew before the semaphore had begun to work that
there was bad news in store for us. When the news did come, a bitter
wailing arose amongst us; for the news that was signalled ran:

"The Voivode has been captured by the Turks on his return, and is
held by them at Ilsin."

In an instant the temper of the mountaineers changed. It was as
though by a flash summer had changed to winter, as though the yellow
glory of the standing corn had been obliterated by the dreary waste
of snow. Nay, more: it was as when one beholds the track of the
whirlwind when the giants of the forest are levelled with the sward.
For a few seconds there was silence; and then, with an angry roar, as
when God speaks in the thunder, came the fierce determination of the
men of the Blue Mountains:

"To Ilsin! To Ilsin!" and a stampede in the direction of the south
began. For, Illustrious Lady, you, perhaps, who have been for so
short a time at Vissarion, may not know that at the extreme southern
point of the Land of the Blue Mountains lies the little port of
Ilsin, which long ago we wrested from the Turk.

The stampede was checked by the command, "Halt!" spoken in a
thunderous voice by the Gospodar. Instinctively all stopped. The
Gospodar Rupert spoke again:

"Had we not better know a little more before we start on our journey?
I shall get by semaphore what details are known. Do you all proceed
in silence and as swiftly as possible. The Vladika and I will wait
here till we have received the news and have sent some instructions,
when we shall follow, and, if we can, overtake you. One thing: be
absolutely silent on what has been. Be secret of every detail--even
as to the rescue of the Voivodin--except what I send."

Without a word--thus showing immeasurable trust--the whole body--not
a very large one, it is true--moved on, and the Gospodar began
signalling. As I was myself expert in the code, I did not require
any explanation, but followed question and answer on either side.
The first words the Gospodar Rupert signalled were:

"Silence, absolute and profound, as to everything which has been."
Then he asked for details of the capture of the Voivode. The answer
ran:

"He was followed from Flushing, and his enemies advised by the spies
all along the route. At Ragusa quite a number of
strangers--travellers seemingly--went on board the packet. When he
got out, the strangers debarked too, and evidently followed him,
though, as yet, we have no details. He disappeared at Ilsin from the
Hotel Reo, whither he had gone. All possible steps are being taken
to trace his movements, and strictest silence and secrecy are
observed."

His answer was:

"Good! Keep silent and secret. Am hurrying back. Signal request to
Archbishop and all members of National Council to come to Gadaar with
all speed. There the yacht will meet him. Tell Rooke take yacht all
speed to Gadaar; there meet Archbishop and Council--give him list of
names--and return full speed. Have ready plenty arms, six flying
artillery. Two hundred men, provisions three days. Silence,
silence. All depends on that. All to go on as usual at Castle,
except to those in secret."

When the receipt of his message had been signalled, we three--for, of
course, the Voivodin was with us; she had refused to leave the
Gospodar--set out hot-foot after our comrades. But by the time we
had descended the hill it was evident that the Voivodin could not
keep up the terrific pace at which we were going. She struggled
heroically, but the long journey she had already taken, and the
hardship and anxiety she had suffered, had told on her. The Gospodar
stopped, and said that it would be better that he should press on--it
was, perhaps, her father's life--and said he would carry her.

"No, no!" she answered. "Go on! I shall follow with the Vladika.
And then you can have things ready to get on soon after the
Archbishop and Council arrive." They kissed each other after, on her
part, a shy glance at me; and he went on the track of our comrades at
a great pace. I could see him shortly after catch them up,--though
they, too, were going fast. For a few minutes they ran together, he
speaking--I could note it from the way they kept turning their heads
towards him. Then he broke away from them hurriedly. He went like a
stag breaking covert, and was soon out of sight. They halted a
moment or two. Then some few ran on, and all the rest came back
towards us. Quickly they improvised a litter with cords and
branches, and insisted that the Voivodin should use it. In an
incredibly short time we were under way again, and proceeding with
great rapidity towards Vissarion. The men took it in turns to help
with the litter; I had the honour of taking a hand in the work
myself.

About a third of the way out from Vissarion a number of our people
met us. They were fresh, and as they carried the litter, we who were
relieved were free for speed. So we soon arrived at the Castle.

Here we found all humming like a hive of bees. The yacht, which
Captain Rooke had kept fired ever since the pursuing party under the
Gospodar had left Vissarion, was already away, and tearing up the
coast at a fearful rate. The rifles and ammunition were stacked on
the quay. The field-guns, too, were equipped, and the cases of
ammunition ready to ship. The men, two hundred of them, were paraded
in full kit, ready to start at a moment's notice. The provision for
three days was all ready to put aboard, and barrels of fresh water to
trundle aboard when the yacht should return. At one end of the quay,
ready to lift on board, stood also the Gospodar's aeroplane, fully
equipped, and ready, if need were, for immediate flight.

I was glad to see that the Voivodin seemed none the worse for her
terrible experience. She still wore her shroud; but no one seemed to
notice it as anything strange. The whisper had evidently gone round
of what had been. But discretion ruled the day. She and the
Gospodar met as two who had served and suffered in common; but I was
glad to notice that both kept themselves under such control that none
of those not already in the secret even suspected that there was any
love between them, let alone marriage.

We all waited with what patience we could till word was signalled
from the Castle tower that the yacht had appeared over the northern
horizon, and was coming down fast, keeping inshore as she came.

When she arrived, we heard to our joy that all concerned had done
their work well. The Archbishop was aboard, and of the National
Council not one was missing. The Gospodar hurried them all into the
great hall of the Castle, which had in the meantime been got ready.
I, too, went with him, but the Voivodin remained without.

When all were seated, he rose and said:

"My Lord Archbishop, Vladika, and Lords of the Council all, I have
dared to summon you in this way because time presses, and the life of
one you all love--the Voivode Vissarion--is at stake. This audacious
attempt of the Turk is the old aggression under a new form. It is a
new and more daring step than ever to try to capture your chief and
his daughter, the Voivodin, whom you love. Happily, the latter part
of the scheme is frustrated. The Voivodin is safe and amongst us.
But the Voivode is held prisoner--if, indeed, he be still alive. He
must be somewhere near Ilsin--but where exactly we know not as yet.
We have an expedition ready to start the moment we receive your
sanction--your commands. We shall obey your wishes with our lives.
But as the matter is instant, I would venture to ask one question,
and one only: 'Shall we rescue the Voivode at any cost that may
present itself?' I ask this, for the matter has now become an
international one, and, if our enemies are as earnest as we are, the
issue is war!"

Having so spoken, and with a dignity and force which is
inexpressible, he withdrew; and the Council, having appointed a
scribe--the monk Cristoferos, whom I had suggested--began its work.

The Archbishop spoke:

"Lords of the Council of the Blue Mountains, I venture to ask you
that the answer to the Gospodar Rupert be an instant 'Yes!' together
with thanks and honour to that gallant Englisher, who has made our
cause his own, and who has so valiantly rescued our beloved Voivodin
from the ruthless hands of our enemies." Forthwith the oldest member
of the Council--Nicolos of Volok--rose, and, after throwing a
searching look round the faces of all, and seeing grave nods of
assent--for not a word was spoken--said to him who held the door:
"Summon the Gospodar Rupert forthwith!" When Rupert entered, he
spoke to him:

"Gospodar Rupert, the Council of the Blue Mountains has only one
answer to give: Proceed! Rescue the Voivode Vissarion, whatever the
cost may be! You hold henceforth in your hand the handjar of our
nation, as already, for what you have done in your valiant rescue of
our beloved Voivodin, your breast holds the heart of our people.
Proceed at once! We give you, I fear, little time; but we know that
such is your own wish. Later, we shall issue formal authorization,
so that if war may ensue, our allies may understand that you have
acted for the nation, and also such letters credential as may be
required by you in this exceptional service. These shall follow you
within an hour. For our enemies we take no account. See, we draw
the handjar that we offer you." As one man all in the hall drew
their handjars, which flashed as a blaze of lightning.

There did not seem to be an instant's delay. The Council broke up,
and its members, mingling with the people without, took active part
in the preparations. Not many minutes had elapsed when the yacht,
manned and armed and stored as arranged, was rushing out of the
creek. On the bridge, beside Captain Rooke, stood the Gospodar
Rupert and the still-shrouded form of the Voivodin Teuta. I myself
was on the lower deck with the soldiers, explaining to certain of
them the special duties which they might be called on to fulfil. I
held the list which the Gospodar Rupert had prepared whilst we were
waiting for the yacht to arrive from Gadaar.

PETROF VLASTIMIR.



FROM RUPERT'S JOURNAL--Continued.


July 9, 1907.

We went at a terrific pace down the coast, keeping well inshore so as to
avoid, if possible, being seen from the south. Just north of Ilsin a
rocky headland juts out, and that was our cover. On the north of the
peninsula is a small land-locked bay, with deep water. It is large
enough to take the yacht, though a much larger vessel could not safely
enter. We ran in, and anchored close to the shore, which has a rocky
frontage--a natural shelf of rock, which is practically the same as a
quay. Here we met the men who had come from Ilsin and the neighbourhood
in answer to our signalling earlier in the day. They gave us the latest
information regarding the kidnapping of the Voivode, and informed us that
every man in that section of the country was simply aflame about it.
They assured us that we could rely on them, not merely to fight to the
death, but to keep silence absolutely. Whilst the seamen, under the
direction of Rooke, took the aeroplane on shore and found a suitable
place for it, where it was hidden from casual view, but from which it
could be easily launched, the Vladika and I--and, of course, my
wife--were hearing such details as were known of the disappearance of her
father.

It seems that he travelled secretly in order to avoid just such a
possibility as has happened. No one knew of his coming till he came to
Fiume, whence he sent a guarded message to the Archbishop, which the
latter alone would understand. But this Turkish agents were evidently on
his track all the time, and doubtless the Bureau of Spies was kept well
advised. He landed at Ilsin from a coasting steamer from Ragusa to the
Levant.

For two days before his coming there had been quite an unusual number of
arrivals at the little port, at which arrivals are rare. And it turned
out that the little hotel--the only fairly good one in Ilsin--was almost
filled up. Indeed, only one room was left, which the Voivode took for
the night. The innkeeper did not know the Voivode in his disguise, but
suspected who it was from the description. He dined quietly, and went to
bed. His room was at the back, on the ground-floor, looking out on the
bank of the little River Silva, which here runs into the harbour. No
disturbance was heard in the night. Late in the morning, when the
elderly stranger had not made his appearance, inquiry was made at his
door. He did not answer, so presently the landlord forced the door, and
found the room empty. His luggage was seemingly intact, only the clothes
which he had worn were gone. A strange thing was that, though the bed
had been slept in and his clothes were gone, his night-clothes were not
to be found, from which it was argued by the local authorities, when they
came to make inquiry, that he had gone or been taken from the room in his
night-gear, and that his clothes had been taken with him. There was
evidently some grim suspicion on the part of the authorities, for they
had commanded absolute silence on all in the house. When they came to
make inquiry as to the other guests, it was found that one and all had
gone in the course of the morning, after paying their bills. None of
them had any heavy luggage, and there was nothing remaining by which they
might be traced or which would afford any clue to their identity. The
authorities, having sent a confidential report to the seat of government,
continued their inquiries, and even now all available hands were at work
on the investigation. When I had signalled to Vissarion, before my
arrival there, word had been sent through the priesthood to enlist in the
investigation the services of all good men, so that every foot of ground
in that section of the Blue Mountains was being investigated. The
port-master was assured by his watchmen that no vessel, large or small,
had heft the harbour during the night. The inference, therefore, was
that the Voivode's captors had made inland with him--if, indeed, they
were not already secreted in or near the town.

Whilst we were receiving the various reports, a hurried message came that
it was now believed that the whole party were in the Silent Tower. This
was a well-chosen place for such an enterprise. It was a massive tower
of immense strength, built as a memorial--and also as a "keep"--after one
of the massacres of the invading Turks.

It stood on the summit of a rocky knoll some ten miles inland from the
Port of Ilsin. It was a place shunned as a rule, and the country all
around it was so arid and desolate that there were no residents near it.
As it was kept for state use, and might be serviceable in time of war, it
was closed with massive iron doors, which were kept locked except upon
certain occasions. The keys were at the seat of government at Plazac.
If, therefore, it had been possible to the Turkish marauders to gain
entrance and exit, it might be a difficult as well as a dangerous task to
try to cut the Voivode out. His presence with them was a dangerous
menace to any force attacking them, for they would hold his life as a
threat.

I consulted with the Vladika at once as to what was best to be done. And
we decided that, though we should put a cordon of guards around it at a
safe distance to prevent them receiving warning, we should at present
make no attack.

We made further inquiry as to whether there had been any vessel seen in
the neighbourhood during the past few days, and were informed that once
or twice a warship had been seen on the near side of the southern
horizon. This was evidently the ship which Rooke had seen on his rush
down the coast after the abduction of the Voivodin, and which he had
identified as a Turkish vessel. The glimpses of her which had been had
were all in full daylight--there was no proof that she had not stolen up
during the night-time without lights. But the Vladika and I were
satisfied that the Turkish vessel was watching--was in league with both
parties of marauders--and was intended to take off any of the strangers,
or their prey, who might reach Ilsin undetected. It was evidently with
this view that the kidnappers of Teuta had, in the first instance, made
with all speed for the south. It was only when disappointed there that
they headed up north, seeking in desperation for some chance of crossing
the border. That ring of steel had so far well served its purpose.

I sent for Rooke, and put the matter before him. He had thought it out
for himself to the same end as we had. His deduction was:

"Let us keep the cordon, and watch for any signal from the Silent Tower.
The Turks will tire before we shall. I undertake to watch the Turkish
warship. During the night I shall run down south, without lights, and
have a look at her, even if I have to wait till the grey of the dawn to
do so. She may see us; but if she does I shall crawl away at such pace
that she shall not get any idea of our speed. She will certainly come
nearer before a day is over, for be sure the bureau of spies is kept
advised, and they know that when the country is awake each day increases
the hazard of them and their plans being discovered. From their caution
I gather that they do not court discovery; and from that that they do not
wish for an open declaration of war. If this be so, why should we not
come out to them and force an issue if need be?"

When Teuta and I got a chance to be alone, we discussed the situation in
every phase. The poor girl was in a dreadful state of anxiety regarding
her father's safety. At first she was hardly able to speak, or even to
think, coherently. Her utterance was choked, and her reasoning palsied
with indignation. But presently the fighting blood of her race restored
her faculties, and then her woman's quick wit was worth the reasoning of
a camp full of men. Seeing that she was all on fire with the subject, I
sat still and waited, taking care not to interrupt her. For quite a long
time she sat still, whilst the coming night thickened. When she spoke,
the whole plan of action, based on subtle thinking, had mapped itself out
in her mind:

"We must act quickly. Every hour increases the risk to my father." Here
her voice broke for an instant; but she recovered herself and went on:

"If you go to the ship, I must not go with you. It would not do for me
to be seen. The Captain doubtless knows of both attempts: that to carry
me off as well as that against my father. As yet he is in ignorance of
what has happened. You and your party of brave, loyal men did their work
so well that no news could go forth. So long, therefore, as the naval
Captain is ignorant, he must delay till the last. But if he saw me he
would know that that branch of the venture had miscarried. He would
gather from our being here that we had news of my father's capture, and
as he would know that the marauders would fail unless they were relieved
by force, he would order the captive to be slain."

"Yes, dear, to-morrow you had, perhaps, better see the Captain, but
to-night we must try to rescue my father. Here I think I see a way. You
have your aeroplane. Please take me with you into the Silent Tower."

"Not for a world of chrysolite!" said I, horrified. She took my hand and
held it tight whilst she went on:

"Dear, I know, I know! Be satisfied. But it is the only way. You can,
I know, get there, and in the dark. But if you were to go in it, it
would give warning to the enemies, and besides, my father would not
understand. Remember, he does not know you; he has never seen you, and
does not, I suppose, even know as yet of your existence. But he would
know me at once, and in any dress. You can manage to lower me into the
Tower by a rope from the aeroplane. The Turks as yet do not know of our
pursuit, and doubtless rely, at all events in part, on the strength and
security of the Tower. Therefore their guard will be less active than it
would at first or later on. I shall post father in all details, and we
shall be ready quickly. Now, dear, let us think out the scheme together.
Let your man's wit and experience help my ignorance, and we shall save my
father!"

How could I have resisted such pleading--even had it not seemed wise?
But wise it was; and I, who knew what the aeroplane could do under my own
guidance, saw at once the practicalities of the scheme. Of course there
was a dreadful risk in case anything should go wrong. But we are at
present living in a world of risks--and her father's life was at stake.
So I took my dear wife in my arms, and told her that my mind was hers for
this, as my soul and body already were. And I cheered her by saying that
I thought it might be done.

I sent for Rooke, and told him of the new adventure, and he quite agreed
with me in the wisdom of it. I then told him that he would have to go
and interview the Captain of the Turkish warship in the morning, if I did
not turn up. "I am going to see the Vladika," I said. "He will lead our
own troops in the attack on the Silent Tower. But it will rest with you
to deal with the warship. Ask the Captain to whom or what nation the
ship belongs. He is sure to refuse to tell. In such case mention to him
that if he flies no nation's flag, his vessel is a pirate ship, and that
you, who are in command of the navy of the Blue Mountains, will deal with
him as a pirate is dealt with--no quarter, no mercy. He will temporize,
and perhaps try a bluff; but when things get serious with him he will
land a force, or try to, and may even prepare to shell the town. He will
threaten to, at any rate. In such case deal with him as you think best,
or as near to it as you can." He answered:

"I shall carry out your wishes with my life. It is a righteous task.
Not that anything of that sort would ever stand in my way. If he attacks
our nation, either as a Turk or a pirate, I shall wipe him out. We shall
see what our own little packet can do. Moreover, any of the marauders
who have entered the Blue Mountains, from sea or otherwise, shall never
get out by sea! I take it that we of my contingent shall cover the
attacking party. It will be a sorry time for us all if that happens
without our seeing you and the Voivodin; for in such case we shall
understand the worst!" Iron as he was, the man trembled.

"That is so, Rooke," I said. "We are taking a desperate chance, we know.
But the case is desperate! But we all have our duty to do, whatever
happens. Ours and yours is stern; but when we have done it, the result
will be that life will be easier for others--for those that are left."

Before he left, I asked him to send up to me three suits of the Masterman
bullet-proof clothes of which we had a supply on the yacht.

"Two are for the Voivodin and myself," I said; "the third is for the
Voivode to put on. The Voivodin will take it with her when she descends
from the aeroplane into the Tower."

Whilst any daylight was left I went out to survey the ground. My wife
wanted to come with me, but I would not let her. "No," said I; "you will
have at the best a fearful tax on your strength and your nerves. You
will want to be as fresh as is possible when you get on the aeroplane."
Like a good wife, she obeyed, and lay down to rest in the little tent
provided for her.

I took with me a local man who knew the ground, and who was trusted to be
silent. We made a long detour when we had got as near the Silent Tower
as we could without being noticed. I made notes from my compass as to
directions, and took good notice of anything that could possibly serve as
a landmark. By the time we got home I was pretty well satisfied that if
all should go well I could easily sail over the Tower in the dark. Then
I had a talk with my wife, and gave her full instructions:

"When we arrive over the Tower," I said, "I shall lower you with a long
rope. You will have a parcel of food and spirit for your father in case
he is fatigued or faint; and, of course, the bullet-proof suit, which he
must put on at once. You will also have a short rope with a belt at
either end--one for your father, the other for you. When I turn the
aeroplane and come back again, you will have ready the ring which lies
midway between the belts. This you will catch into the hook at the end
of the lowered rope. When all is secure, and I have pulled you both up
by the windlass so as to clear the top, I shall throw out ballast which
we shall carry on purpose, and away we go! I am sorry it must be so
uncomfortable for you both, but there is no other way. When we get well
clear of the Tower, I shall take you both up on the platform. If
necessary, I shall descend to do it--and then we shall steer for Ilsin."

"When all is safe, our men will attack the Tower. We must let them do
it, for they expect it. A few men in the clothes and arms which we took
from your captors will be pursued by some of ours. It is all arranged.
They will ask the Turks to admit them, and if the latter have not learned
of your father's escape, perhaps they will do so. Once in, our men will
try to open the gate. The chances are against them, poor fellows! but
they are all volunteers, and will die fighting. If they win out, great
glory will be theirs."

"The moon does not rise to-night till just before midnight, so we have
plenty of time. We shall start from here at ten. If all be well, I
shall place you in the Tower with your father in less than a quarter-hour
from that. A few minutes will suffice to clothe him in bullet-proof and
get on his belt. I shall not be away from the Tower more than a very few
minutes, and, please God, long before eleven we shall be safe. Then the
Tower can be won in an attack by our mountaineers. Perhaps, when the
guns are heard on the ship of war--for there is sure to be firing--the
Captain may try to land a shore party. But Rooke will stand in the way,
and if I know the man and The Lady, we shall not be troubled with many
Turks to-night. By midnight you and your father can be on the way to
Vissarion. I can interview the naval Captain in the morning."

My wife's marvellous courage and self-possession stood to her. At half
an hour before the time fixed she was ready for our adventure. She had
improved the scheme in one detail. She had put on her own belt and
coiled the rope round her waist, so the only delay would be in bringing
her father's belt. She would keep the bullet-proof dress intended to be
his strapped in a packet on her back, so that if occasion should be
favourable he would not want to put it on till he and she should have
reached the platform of the aeroplane. In such case, I should not steer
away from the Tower at all, but would pass slowly across it and take up
the captive and his brave daughter before leaving. I had learned from
local sources that the Tower was in several stories. Entrance was by the
foot, where the great iron-clad door was; then came living-rooms and
storage, and an open space at the top. This would probably be thought
the best place for the prisoner, for it was deep-sunk within the massive
walls, wherein was no loophole of any kind. This, if it should so
happen, would be the disposition of things best for our plan. The guards
would at this time be all inside the Tower--probably resting, most of
them--so that it was possible that no one might notice the coming of the
airship. I was afraid to think that all might turn out so well, for in
such case our task would be a simple enough one, and would in all human
probability be crowned with success.

At ten o'clock we started. Teuta did not show the smallest sign of fear
or even uneasiness, though this was the first time she had even seen an
aeroplane at work. She proved to be an admirable passenger for an
airship. She stayed quite still, holding herself rigidly in the position
arranged, by the cords which I had fixed for her.

When I had trued my course by the landmarks and with the compass lit by
the Tiny my electric light in the dark box, I had time to look about me.
All seemed quite dark wherever I looked--to land, or sea, or sky. But
darkness is relative, and though each quarter and spot looked dark in
turn, there was not such absolute darkness as a whole. I could tell the
difference, for instance, between land and sea, no matter how far off we
might be from either. Looking upward, the sky was dark; yet there was
light enough to see, and even distinguish broad effects. I had no
difficulty in distinguishing the Tower towards which we were moving, and
that, after all, was the main thing. We drifted slowly, very slowly, as
the air was still, and I only used the minimum pressure necessary for the
engine. I think I now understood for the first time the extraordinary
value of the engine with which my Kitson was equipped. It was noiseless,
it was practically of no weight, and it allowed the machine to progress
as easily as the old-fashioned balloon used to drift before a breeze.
Teuta, who had naturally very fine sight, seemed to see even better than
I did, for as we drew nearer to the Tower, and its round, open top began
to articulate itself, she commenced to prepare for her part of the task.
She it was who uncoiled the long drag-rope ready for her lowering. We
were proceeding so gently that she as well as I had hopes that I might be
able to actually balance the machine on the top of the curving wall--a
thing manifestly impossible on a straight surface, though it might have
been possible on an angle.

On we crept--on, and on! There was no sign of light about the Tower, and
not the faintest sound to be heard till we were almost close to the line
of the rising wall; then we heard a sound of something like mirth, but
muffled by distance and thick walls. From it we took fresh heart, for it
told us that our enemies were gathered in the lower chambers. If only
the Voivode should be on the upper stage, all would be well.

Slowly, almost inch by inch, and with a suspense that was agonizing, we
crossed some twenty or thirty feet above the top of the wall. I could
see as we came near the jagged line of white patches where the heads of
the massacred Turks placed there on spikes in old days seemed to give
still their grim warning. Seeing that they made in themselves a
difficulty of landing on the wall, I deflected the plane so that, as we
crept over the wall, we might, if they became displaced, brush them to
the outside of the wall. A few seconds more, and I was able to bring the
machine to rest with the front of the platform jutting out beyond the
Tower wall. Here I anchored her fore and aft with clamps which had been
already prepared.

Whilst I was doing so Teuta had leaned over the inner edge of the
platform, and whispered as softly as the sigh of a gentle breeze:

"Hist! hist!" The answer came in a similar sound from some twenty feet
below us, and we knew that the prisoner was alone. Forthwith, having
fixed the hook of the rope in the ring to which was attached her belt, I
lowered my wife. Her father evidently knew her whisper, and was ready.
The hollow Tower--a smooth cylinder within--sent up the voices from it
faint as were the whispers:

"Father, it is I--Teuta!"

"My child, my brave daughter!"

"Quick, father; strap the belt round you. See that it is secure. We
have to be lifted into the air if necessary. Hold together. It will be
easier for Rupert to lift us to the airship."

"Rupert?"

"Yes; I shall explain later. Quick, quick! There is not a moment to
lose. He is enormously strong, and can lift us together; but we must
help him by being still, so he won't have to use the windlass, which
might creak." As she spoke she jerked slightly at the rope, which was
our preconcerted signal that I was to lift. I was afraid the windlass
might creak, and her thoughtful hint decided me. I bent my back to the
task, and in a few seconds they were on the platform on which they, at
Teuta's suggestion, lay flat, one at each side of my seat, so as to keep
the best balance possible.

I took off the clamps, lifted the bags of ballast to the top of the wall,
so that there should be no sound of falling, and started the engine. The
machine moved forward a few inches, so that it tilted towards the outside
of the wall. I threw my weight on the front part of the platform, and we
commenced our downward fall at a sharp angle. A second enlarged the
angle, and without further ado we slid away into the darkness. Then,
ascending as we went, when the engine began to work at its strength, we
turned, and presently made straight for Ilsin.

The journey was short--not many minutes. It almost seemed as if no time
whatever had elapsed till we saw below us the gleam of lights, and by
them saw a great body of men gathered in military array. We slackened
and descended. The crowd kept deathly silence, but when we were amongst
them we needed no telling that it was not due to lack of heart or absence
of joy. The pressure of their hands as they surrounded us, and the
devotion with which they kissed the hands and feet of both the Voivode
and his daughter, were evidence enough for me, even had I not had my own
share of their grateful rejoicing.

In the midst of it all the low, stern voice of Rooke, who had burst a way
to the front beside the Vladika, said:

"Now is the time to attack the Tower. Forward, brothers, but in silence.
Let there not be a sound till you are near the gate; then play your
little comedy of the escaping marauders. And 'twill be no comedy for
them in the Tower. The yacht is all ready for the morning, Mr. Sent
Leger, in case I do not come out of the scrimmage if the bluejackets
arrive. In such case you will have to handle her yourself. God keep
you, my Lady; and you, too, Voivode! Forward!"

In a ghostly silence the grim little army moved forwards. Rooke and the
men with him disappeared into the darkness in the direction of the
harbour of Ilsin.



FROM THE SCRIPT OF THE VOIVODE, PETER VISSARION,

July 7, 1907.

I had little idea, when I started on my homeward journey, that it would
have such a strange termination. Even I, who ever since my boyhood have
lived in a whirl of adventure, intrigue, or diplomacy--whichever it may
be called--statecraft, and war, had reason to be surprised. I certainly
thought that when I locked myself into my room in the hotel at Ilsin that
I would have at last a spell, however short, of quiet. All the time of
my prolonged negotiations with the various nationalities I had to be at
tension; so, too, on my homeward journey, lest something at the last
moment should happen adversely to my mission. But when I was safe on my
own Land of the Blue Mountains, and laid my head on my pillow, where only
friends could be around me, I thought I might forget care.

But to wake with a rude hand over my mouth, and to feel myself grasped
tight by so many hands that I could not move a limb, was a dreadful
shock. All after that was like a dreadful dream. I was rolled in a
great rug so tightly that I could hardly breathe, let alone cry out.
Lifted by many hands through the window, which I could hear was softly
opened and shut for the purpose, and carried to a boat. Again lifted
into some sort of litter, on which I was borne a long distance, but with
considerable rapidity. Again lifted out and dragged through a doorway
opened on purpose--I could hear the clang as it was shut behind me. Then
the rug was removed, and I found myself, still in my night-gear, in the
midst of a ring of men. There were two score of them, all Turks, all
strong-looking, resolute men, armed to the teeth. My clothes, which had
been taken from my room, were thrown down beside me, and I was told to
dress. As the Turks were going from the room--shaped like a vault--where
we then were, the last of them, who seemed to be some sort of officer,
said:

"If you cry out or make any noise whatever whilst you are in this Tower,
you shall die before your time!" Presently some food and water were
brought me, and a couple of blankets. I wrapped myself up and slept till
early in the morning. Breakfast was brought, and the same men filed in.
In the presence of them all the same officer said:

"I have given instructions that if you make any noise or betray your
presence to anyone outside this Tower, the nearest man is to restore you
to immediate quiet with his yataghan. It you promise me that you will
remain quiet whilst you are within the Tower, I can enlarge your
liberties somewhat. Do you promise?" I promised as he wished; there was
no need to make necessary any stricter measure of confinement. Any
chance of escape lay in having the utmost freedom allowed to me.
Although I had been taken away with such secrecy, I knew that before long
there would be pursuit. So I waited with what patience I could. I was
allowed to go on the upper platform--a consideration due, I am convinced,
to my captors' wish for their own comfort rather than for mine.

It was not very cheering, for during the daytime I had satisfied myself
that it would be quite impossible for even a younger and more active man
than I am to climb the walls. They were built for prison purposes, and a
cat could not find entry for its claws between the stones. I resigned
myself to my fate as well as I could. Wrapping my blanket round me, I
lay down and looked up at the sky. I wished to see it whilst I could. I
was just dropping to sleep--the unutterable silence of the place broken
only now and again by some remark by my captors in the rooms below
me--when there was a strange appearance just over me--an appearance so
strange that I sat up, and gazed with distended eyes.

Across the top of the tower, some height above, drifted, slowly and
silently, a great platform. Although the night was dark, it was so much
darker where I was within the hollow of the Tower that I could actually
see what was above me. I knew it was an aeroplane--one of which I had
seen in Washington. A man was seated in the centre, steering; and beside
him was a silent figure of a woman all wrapped in white. It made my
heart beat to see her, for she was figured something like my Teuta, but
broader, less shapely. She leaned over, and a whispered "Ssh!" crept
down to me. I answered in similar way. Whereupon she rose, and the man
lowered her down into the Tower. Then I saw that it was my dear daughter
who had come in this wonderful way to save me. With infinite haste she
helped me to fasten round my waist a belt attached to a rope, which was
coiled round her; and then the man, who was a giant in strength as well
as stature, raised us both to the platform of the aeroplane, which he set
in motion without an instant's delay.

Within a few seconds, and without any discovery being made of my escape,
we were speeding towards the sea. The lights of Ilsin were in front of
us. Before reaching the town, however, we descended in the midst of a
little army of my own people, who were gathered ready to advance upon the
Silent Tower, there to effect, if necessary, my rescue by force. Small
chance would there have been of my life in case of such a struggle.
Happily, however, the devotion and courage of my dear daughter and of her
gallant companion prevented such a necessity. It was strange to me to
find such joyous reception amongst my friends expressed in such a
whispered silence. There was no time for comment or understanding or the
asking of questions--I was fain to take things as they stood, and wait
for fuller explanation.

This came later, when my daughter and I were able to converse alone.

When the expedition went out against the Silent Tower, Teuta and I went
to her tent, and with us came her gigantic companion, who seemed not
wearied, but almost overcome with sleep. When we came into the tent,
over which at a little distance a cordon of our mountaineers stood on
guard, he said to me:

"May I ask you, sir, to pardon me for a time, and allow the Voivodin to
explain matters to you? She will, I know, so far assist me, for there is
so much work still to be done before we are free of the present peril.
For myself, I am almost overcome with sleep. For three nights I have had
no sleep, but all during that time much labour and more anxiety. I could
hold on longer; but at daybreak I must go out to the Turkish warship that
lies in the offing. She is a Turk, though she does not confess to it;
and she it is who has brought hither the marauders who captured both your
daughter and yourself. It is needful that I go, for I hold a personal
authority from the National Council to take whatever step may be
necessary for our protection. And when I go I should be clear-headed,
for war may rest on that meeting. I shall be in the adjoining tent, and
shall come at once if I am summoned, in case you wish for me before
dawn." Here my daughter struck in:

"Father, ask him to remain here. We shall not disturb him, I am sure, in
our talking. And, moreover, if you knew how much I owe to him--to his
own bravery and his strength--you would understand how much safer I feel
when he is close to me, though we are surrounded by an army of our brave
mountaineers."

"But, my daughter," I said, for I was as yet all in ignorance, "there are
confidences between father and daughter which none other may share. Some
of what has been I know, but I want to know all, and it might be better
that no stranger--however valiant he may be, or no matter in what measure
we are bound to him--should be present." To my astonishment, she who had
always been amenable to my lightest wish actually argued with me:

"Father, there are other confidences which have to be respected in like
wise. Bear with me, dear, till I have told you all, and I am right sure
that you will agree with me. I ask it, father."

That settled the matter, and as I could see that the gallant gentleman
who had rescued me was swaying on his feet as he waited respectfully, I
said to him:

"Rest with us, sir. We shall watch over your sleep."

Then I had to help him, for almost on the instant he sank down, and I had
to guide him to the rugs spread on the ground. In a few seconds he was
in a deep sleep. As I stood looking at him, till I had realized that he
vas really asleep, I could not help marvelling at the bounty of Nature
that could uphold even such a man as this to the last moment of work to
be done, and then allow so swift a collapse when all was over, and he
could rest peacefully.

He was certainly a splendid fellow. I think I never saw so fine a man
physically in my life. And if the lesson of his physiognomy be true, he
is as sterling inwardly as his external is fair. "Now," said I to Teuta,
"we are to all intents quite alone. Tell me all that has been, so that I
may understand."

Whereupon my daughter, making me sit down, knelt beside me, and told me
from end to end the most marvellous story I had ever heard or read of.
Something of it I had already known from the Archbishop Paleologue's
later letters, but of all else I was ignorant. Far away in the great
West beyond the Atlantic, and again on the fringe of the Eastern seas, I
had been thrilled to my heart's core by the heroic devotion and fortitude
of my daughter in yielding herself for her country's sake to that fearful
ordeal of the Crypt; of the grief of the nation at her reported death,
news of which was so mercifully and wisely withheld from me as long as
possible; of the supernatural rumours that took root so deep; but no word
or hint had come to me of a man who had come across the orbit of her
life, much less of all that has resulted from it. Neither had I known of
her being carried off, or of the thrice gallant rescue of her by Rupert.
Little wonder that I thought so highly of him even at the first moment I
had a clear view of him when he sank down to sleep before me. Why, the
man must be a marvel. Even our mountaineers could not match such
endurance as his. In the course of her narrative my daughter told me of
how, being wearied with her long waiting in the tomb, and waking to find
herself alone when the floods were out, and even the Crypt submerged, she
sought safety and warmth elsewhere; and how she came to the Castle in the
night, and found the strange man alone. I said: "That was dangerous,
daughter, if not wrong. The man, brave and devoted as he is, must answer
me--your father." At that she was greatly upset, and before going on
with her narrative, drew me close in her arms, and whispered to me:

"Be gentle to me, father, for I have had much to bear. And be good to
him, for he holds my heart in his breast!" I reassured her with a gentle
pressure--there was no need to speak. She then went on to tell me about
her marriage, and how her husband, who had fallen into the belief that
she was a Vampire, had determined to give even his soul for her; and how
she had on the night of the marriage left him and gone back to the tomb
to play to the end the grim comedy which she had undertaken to perform
till my return; and how, on the second night after her marriage, as she
was in the garden of the Castle--going, as she shyly told me, to see if
all was well with her husband--she was seized secretly, muffled up,
bound, and carried off. Here she made a pause and a digression.
Evidently some fear lest her husband and myself should quarrel assailed
her, for she said:

"Do understand, father, that Rupert's marriage to me was in all ways
regular, and quite in accord with our customs. Before we were married I
told the Archbishop of my wish. He, as your representative during your
absence, consented himself, and brought the matter to the notice of the
Vladika and the Archimandrites. All these concurred, having exacted from
me--very properly, I think--a sacred promise to adhere to my
self-appointed task. The marriage itself was orthodox in all
ways--though so far unusual that it was held at night, and in darkness,
save for the lights appointed by the ritual. As to that, the Archbishop
himself, or the Archimandrite of Spazac, who assisted him, or the
Vladika, who acted as Paranymph, will, all or any of them, give you full
details. Your representative made all inquiries as to Rupert Sent Leger,
who lived in Vissarion, though he did not know who I was, or from his
point of view who I had been. But I must tell you of my rescue."

And so she went on to tell me of that unavailing journey south by her
captors; of their bafflement by the cordon which Rupert had established
at the first word of danger to "the daughter of our leader," though he
little knew who the "leader" was, or who was his "daughter"; of how the
brutal marauders tortured her to speed with their daggers; and how her
wounds left blood-marks on the ground as she passed along; then of the
halt in the valley, when the marauders came to know that their road north
was menaced, if not already blocked; of the choosing of the murderers,
and their keeping ward over her whilst their companions went to survey
the situation; and of her gallant rescue by that noble fellow, her
husband--my son I shall call him henceforth, and thank God that I may
have that happiness and that honour!

Then my daughter went on to tell me of the race back to Vissarion, when
Rupert went ahead of all--as a leader should do; of the summoning of the
Archbishop and the National Council; and of their placing the nation's
handjar in Rupert's hand; of the journey to Ilsin, and the flight of my
daughter--and my son--on the aeroplane.

The rest I knew.

As she finished, the sleeping man stirred and woke--broad awake in a
second--sure sign of a man accustomed to campaign and adventure. At a
glance he recalled everything that had been, and sprang to his feet. He
stood respectfully before me for a few seconds before speaking. Then he
said, with an open, engaging smile:

"I see, sir, you know all. Am I forgiven--for Teuta's sake as well as my
own?" By this time I was also on my feet. A man like that walks
straight into my heart. My daughter, too, had risen, and stood by my
side. I put out my hand and grasped his, which seemed to leap to meet
me--as only the hand of a swordsman can do.

"I am glad you are my son!" I said. It was all I could say, and I meant
it and all it implied. We shook hands warmly. Teuta was pleased; she
kissed me, and then stood holding my arm with one hand, whilst she linked
her other hand in the arm of her husband.

He summoned one of the sentries without, and told him to ask Captain
Rooke to come to him. The latter had been ready for a call, and came at
once. When through the open flap of the tent we saw him coming,
Rupert--as I must call him now, because Teuta wishes it; and I like to do
it myself--said:

"I must be off to board the Turkish vessel before it comes inshore.
Good-bye, sir, in case we do not meet again." He said the last few words
in so low a voice that I only could hear them. Then he kissed his wife,
and told her he expected to be back in time for breakfast, and was gone.
He met Rooke--I am hardly accustomed to call him Captain as yet, though,
indeed, he well deserves it--at the edge of the cordon of sentries, and
they went quickly together towards the port, where the yacht was lying
with steam up.

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