- 'Passing Through Serbia'
- by American reporter John Reed
- from his book 'the War in Eastern Europe', 1916
An American Reporter in the Balkans
two pages from a British magazine
The Eastern phases of the war are by far the most confusing and uncertain,a book explaining the political or military situations in Russia, the Balkans, and Turkey, however sound at the time of acceptance for publication, would probably be utterly misleading when it came from the press. But while physical circumstances change, human nature never does; and it was chiefly with humanity that John Reed and Boardman Robinson were concerned when they travelled through these countries for the Metropolitan Magazine: just as the novelist or the biographer presents the personality of a character so do they present the personality of a nation.
"As I look back on it all," says Mr. Reed, "it seems to me that the most important thing to know about the war is how the different peoples live; their environment, tradition, and the revealing things they do and say. In time of peace, many human qualities are covered up which come to the surface in a sharp crisis; but on the other hand, much of personal and racial quality is submerged in time of great public stress. And in this book Robinson and I have simply tried to give our impressions of human beings as we found them in the countries of Eastern Europe, from April to October, 1915."
So it is that though physical circumstances have in a number of instances changed in the fluctuations of political and military strife since this journey, the value of this account has not changed, but is now indeed enhanced by the increased importance of understanding what all these nations are and why and how they are fighting.
The book opens with a trip into Serbia, "then devastated," to quote the author, "by typhus and slowly recovering from the frightful consequences of the last Austrian invasion." This was just about the time of the great Russian Retreat. After that had begun, Mr. Reed obtained, from the American Minister at Bucarest, a list of American citizens to look up and, with this as an excuse, he and Mr. Robinson crossed the river Pruth at night in a small boat and landed at the Russian front. "It was unprecedented. The orders were very strict that no correspondents should be allowed in these regions, but the orders specified correspondents coming from the north. We came from the south, and so, not knowing what to do with us, they sent us north. We travelled behind the Russian front through Bucovina, Galicia, and Poland."
Naturally there were difficulties with the authorities and as a result of these after being arrested and released, Mr. Reed and Mr. Robinson journeyed to Petrograd; and the description of this journey across a landscape vast and grand in company with soldiers and officers will leave a permanent impression on the reader's mind, whenever he thinks of Russia he will be likely to envisage it accordingly.
"Once more in Bucarest," says Mr. Reed, "I determined to see Constantinople, which seemed calmer and safer than ever. Robinson could not go because he had a British passport. Enver Pasha first promised me that I should go to the Gallipoli front; but after two weeks' waiting he said that no more Americans would be allowed with the army, because one correspondent had gone back to Paris and there published a description of the Turkish forts. About this same time I was unofficially notified that I had better leave Turkey, because the police had seen me talking with too many Armenians."
Returning again to Bucarest, Mr. Reed met Mr. Robinson and then together they travelled through Bulgaria, then on the brink of war, and once more through Serbia, and after a few days' stay in Salonika they sailed for home.
The military operations they saw, except in the case of the Russian retreat, were not on the grand scale, "and for that very reason, perhaps," says Mr. Reed, "we were better able to observe the more normal life of the Eastern nations, under the steady strain of long-drawn-out warfare. In the excitement of sudden invasion, desperate resistance, capture and destruction of cities, men seem to lose their distinctive personal or racial flavor, and become alike in the mad democracy of battle. As we saw them, they had settled down to war as a business, had begun to adjust themselves to this new way of life and to talk and think of other things."
Portions of the war of Eastern Europe, as originally published in book form related to personal adventures, such as the arrest of Mr. Reed and Mr. Robinson in Poland, their experiences with the Cossacks, and their entanglement in diplomatic red tape at Petrograd. These and certain chapters of a general nature, though in themselves highly interesting, have been omitted for the sake of compression and in view of the single purpose of the series,to enable the reader to realize the character of the countries represented and of their peoples and purposes in the war.
see also by John Reed : An American Reporter Behind the Russian Front
The Country of Death
We rubbed ourselves from head to foot with camphorated oil, put kerosene on our hair, filled our pockets with moth-balls, and sprinkled naphthaline through our baggage; and boarded a train so saturated with formalin that our eyes and lungs burned as with quick- lime. The Americans from the Standard Oil office in Salonika strolled down to bid us a last farewell.
"Too bad," said Wiley. "So young, too. Do you want the remains shipped home, or shall we have you buried up there?"
These were the ordinary precautions of travellers bound for Serbia, the country of the typhusabdominal typhus, recurrent fever, and the mysterious and violent spotted fever, which kills fifty per cent of its victims, and whose bacillus no man had then discovered. Most doctors thought it was carried by clothing lice, but the British R. A. M. C. lieutenant who travelled with us was sceptical.
"I've been up there three months," he said, "and I've long ago stopped taking any pre- cautionary measures whatever except a daily bath. As for the liceone gets used to spending a quiet evening picking them off one." He snorted at the naphthaline. "They're really quite fond of it, you know. The truth about the typhus is that no one knows anything about it at all, except that about one-sixth of the Serbian nation is dead of it."
Already the warm weather and the cessation of the spring rains had begun to check the epidemic;and the virus was weaker. Now there were only a hundred thousand sick in all Serbia, and only a thousand deaths a daybesides cases of the dreadful post- typhus gangrene. In February it must have been ghastlyhundreds dying and delirious in the mud of the streets for want of hospitals.
The foreign medical missions had suffered heavily. Half a hundred priests succumbed after giving absolution to the dying. Out of the four hundred odd doctors with which the Serbian army began the war, less than two hundred were left. And the typhus was not all. Smallpox, scarlet fever, scarlatina, diphtheria raged along the great roads and in far villages, and already there were cases of cholera, which was sure to spread with the coming of the summer in that devastated land; where battle-fields, villages, and roads stank with the lightly buried dead, and the streams were polluted with the bodies of men and horses.
Our lieutenant belonged to the British Army Medical Mission, sent to fight the cholera. He was dressed in full service uniform, and carried a huge sword which got between his legs and embarrassed him frightfully.
"I don't know what to do with the bally thing," he cried, hurling it into a corner. "We don't wear swords in the army any more. But we have to out here, because the Serbians won't believe you're an officer unless you carry a sword."
As we crawled slowly up between barren hills along the yellow torrent of the Vardar, he told us how the English had persuaded the Serbian Government to stop all train service for a month, in order to prevent the spread of disease; then they ordered sanitary improvements in the filthy towns, compelled anti-cholera vaccination, and began to disinfect whole sections of the population. The Serbians sneeredthese English were evidently cowards. When Colonel Hunter, unable to secure decent quarters, threatened the authorities that if one of his men died of typhus he would abandon Serbia, a storm of irony burst. Colonel Hunter was a coward! And the Americans were cowards, too, when, with half their units infected, they abandoned Gievgieli. To the Serbians, the taking of preventive measures was a proof of timidity. They regarded the immense ravages of the epidemic with a sort of gloomy prideas mediaeval Europe regarded the Black Death.
The gorge of the Vardar, as if it were a sterile frontier between Greek Macedonia and the high valleys of New Serbia, broadened out into a wide valley rimmed with stony hills, beyond which lay mountains still higher, with an occasional glimpse of an abrupt snow peak. From every canyon burst rapid mountain streams. In this valley the air was hot and moist; irrigation ditches, lined with great willows, struck off from the river, across fields of young tobacco-plants, acres upon acres of mulberry-trees, and ploughed land of heavy, rich clay that looked like cotton country. Here every field, every shelf of earth, was cultivated. Higher up, on bare slopes among the rocks, sheep and goats pastured, tended by bearded peasants with huge crooks, clad in sheepskin coats, spinning wool and silk on wooden distaffs. Irregular, white, red-roofed villages meandered along rutted spaces where squat little oxen and black water-buffaloes dragged creaking carts. Here and there was the galleried konak of some wealthy Turk of the old regime, set in yellow- green towering willows, or flowering almond-trees heavy with scent; and over the tumbled little town a slender gray minaret, or the dome of a Greek church.
All sorts of people hung about the stations men turbaned and fezzed and capped with conical hats of brown fur, men in Turkish trousers, or in long shirts and tights of creamy homespun linen, their leather vests richly worked in colored wheels and flowers, or in suits of heavy brown wool ornamented with patterns of black braid, high red sashes wound round and round their waists, leather sandals sewed to a circular spout on the toe and bound to the calf with leather ribbons wound to the knees; women with the Turkish yashmak and bloomers, or in leather and woollen jackets embroidered in bright colors, waists of the raw silk they weave in the villages, embroidered linen underskirts, black aprons worked in flowers, heavy overskirts woven in vivid bars of color and caught up behind, and yellow or white silk kerchiefs on their heads. Many wore a black kerchiefthe only sign of mourning. And always and everywhere gypsiesthe men in a kind of bright turban, the women with gold pieces for earrings and patches and scraps of gay . rags for dresses, barefootedshuffling along the roads beside their caravans, or lounging about the rakish black tents of their camps.
A tall, bearded man in black introduced himself in French as a Serbian secret-service officer whose job was to keep us under observation. Once a dapper young officer came aboard and questioned him, nodding to us. The other responded.
"Dobra! Good!" he said, clicking his heels and saluting.
"That station," remarked the secret-service man as the train moved on again, "is the frontier. We are now in Serbia."
We caught a glimpse of several big, gaunt men lounging on the platforms, rifles with fixed bayonets slung at their shoulders, without any uniform except the soldier's kepi.
"What would you?" shrugged our friend, smiling. "We Serbians have no longer any uniforms. We have fought four wars in three yearsthe First and Second Balkan Wars, the Albanian revolt, and now this one. For three years our soldiers have not changed their clothes."
Now we were passing along a narrow field planted with small wooden crosses, that might have been vine poles, spaced about three feet apart; they marched beside the train for five minutes.
"The typhus cemetery of Gievgieli," he said laconically. There must have been thou- sands of those little crosses, and each marked a grave!
There came in sight a great, tramped-down space on a hillside beyond, honeycombed with burrows leading into the brown earth, and humped into round hutches of heaped-up mud.
Men crawled in and out of the holes, ragged, dirty fellows in every variety of half- uniform, with rifle-belts crisscrossed over their breasts like Mexican revolutionists. Between were stacked rifles, and there were cannon with ox-yoke limbers and half a hundred springless ox-carts ranged along the side, while farther on the hobbled oxen grazed. Below the mud huts, at the bottom of the hill, men were drinking from the yellow river that poured down from a score of infected villages up the valley. Around a fire squatted twenty or more, watching the carcass of a sheep turn in the flames.
"This regiment has come to guard the frontier," explained our friend. "It was here that the Bulgarian comitadjis tried to break through and cut the railroad last week. At any moment they might come again. Is the Bulgarian Government responsible, or did the Austrians pay them? One can never tell, in the Balkans."
And now, every quarter mile we passed a rude hut made of mud and twigs, before which stood a ragged, hollow-cheeked soldier, filthy and starved-looking, but with his rifle at present arms. All over Serbia one saw these men the last desperate gleaning of the country's manhoodwho live in the mud, with scanty food and miserable clothing, guarding the long-deserted railroad tracks.
At first there seemed no difference between this country and Greek Macedonia. The same villages, a little more unkempttiles gone from the roofs, white paint chipped from the walls; the same people, but fewer of them, and those mostly women, old men, and children. But soon things began to strike one. The mulberry-trees were neglected, the tobacco-plants were last year's, rotting yellow; corn-stalks stood spikily in weedy fields unturned for twelve months or more. In Greek Macedonia, every foot of arable land was worked; here only one field out of ten showed signs of cultivation. Occasionally we saw two oxen, led by a woman in bright yellow headdress and brilliantly colored skirt, dragging a wooden plough carved from a twisted oak limb, which a soldier guided, his rifle slung from his shoulder.
The secret-service man pointed to them. "All the men of Serbia are in the armyor deadand all the oxen were taken by the government to draw the cannon and the trains. But since December, when we drove the Austrians out, there has been no fighting. So the government sends the soldiers and the oxen over Serbia, wherever they are wanted, to help with the ploughing."
Sometimes, in details like these, there flashed before our imaginations a picture of this country of the dead: with two bloody wars that swept away the flower of its youth, a two months' hard guerilla campaign, then this fearful struggle with the greatest military power on earth, and a devastating plague on top of that. Yet from the ruins of a whole people, imperial ambitions were already springing, which might one day threaten all southern Europe.
Gievgieli shares with Valievo the distinction of being the worst plague-spot in Serbia. Trees, station, and buildings were splashed and spattered with chloride of lime, and armed sentries stood guard at the fence, where a hundred ragged people pressed murmuringfor Gievgieli was quarantined. We stared through the fence at a wide, rough street of cobbles and mud, flanked by one-story buildings white with disinfectant; at almost every door flapped a black flag, the sign of death in the house.
A stout, mustached man in a dirty collar, spotted clothing, and a smutty Panama pulled down over his eyes stood on the platform, surrounded by a dense circle of soldiers. He held a small wild flower on high, and addressed the secret-service man volubly and excitedly.
"See!" he cried. "This flower I found in that field beyond the river. It is very curious! I do not know this flower! It is evidently of the family of the orchidce!" He scowled and fixed the secret-service man with a menacing eye. "Is it not of the family of the orchidce?"
"It has certain characteristics, indeed," said the other timidly. "This tongue. But the pistil- -----"
The fat man shook the flower. "Nonsense! It is of the family of the orchidce!"
The soldiers round about broke into a hum of argument: "Da! Orchida /" "Ne je or- chida!" "But it is evidently an orchid!" "What do you know of orchids, George Georgevitch? At Ralya, where you come from, they haven't even grass!" There was a laugh at this. Above it rose the fat man's voice, insistent, passionate: "I tell you it is an orchid! It is a new kind of orchid! It is unknown to the science of botany------"
Robinson caught the infection of the argument. "Orchid?" he said to me with a sneer. "Of course it's not an orchid!"
"It is an orchid!" I returned hotly. "It is formed very like the lady's-slippers that we see in American woods------"
The fat man wheeled around and erupted into broken English, glaring at us. "Yes, yes!" he said eagerly. "The same. Are you Americans? I have been in America. I have tramped through Kansas and Missouri, working on the farms of wheat. I have walked through the Panhandle of Texas, with work at the cattle-ranch. I am on foot gone through Seattle to San Francisco, to Sacramento, crossing the Sierras and the desert to Yuma in Arizonayou know Yuma? No? I am studying all kind of farming from firsthand for to apply these experiences to Serbian farms. My name is Lazar Obichan. I am an Agro-Geolog, and secretary in Department of Agriculture in government at Belgrade. Yes." He cleared his throat, waved his elbows to make a space in the crowd, and seized us each by a lapel.
"I am sent here to study soil, climate, and crop conditions of New Serbia. I am an expert. I have invented a new method to tell what can be grown in any soil, in any country. It is automatic, simple, can be applied by anybodya new science. Listen! You give me the humidityI put her there" He poked Robinson stiffly in the shoulder-blade. "Then you give me the mean temperatoorI put him there" A jab near Robinson's kidney. "From humidity I draw a vertical line straight down, isn't it? From mean temperatoor I draw horizontal line straight across." He suited the action to- the word, furrowing the artist's diaphragm. His voice rose. "Until the two lines meet! And the point where they meet, there is the figure which gives the evaporation for one day!" He poked us simultaneously in the chest to emphasize each word, and repeated: "The Evaporation for One Day!" He threw both hands up and beamed upon us, pausing to allow this to sink in. We were impressed.
"But that is not all I have in my mind," he went on heavily. "There is a vast commercial and financial schemeimmense! Listen! After this war Serbia she will need much money, much foreign capitals. From where will he come? From England? No. England will need all at home. France and Russia will be absolute exhausticated. No capitals from Europe. Where then? I tell you. From America. America is rich. I have been in her and I know how rich. Listen! We will establish a Serbian-American Bank with American capitals and American managers. It will sit in Belgrade. It will lend money to Serbians big profit! Serbian law allows to charge twelve per cent interesttwelve per cent! It will loan to farmers at big interest. It will buy land from poor people, split up in small pieces and sell back at four hundred per cent profit. Serbians poor now, will sell land cheap but Serbians need land, must have land. We are bankrupted here nowyou can buy how do you'say?you can buy all Serbia for a music! Then these bank, she will open in Belgrade a permanent exhibition of American products and take ordersAmerican shoes, American machines, American clothand in New York she will open one of Serbian products and take orders. Make moneybig! You shall write about in your papers. If you have capitals put in these bank!"
On the station a bell was ringing. The station master blew a horn, the engine whistled, the train began to move. We tore our lapels from Mr. Obichan's thumbs and ran. He raced along with us, still talking.
"Serbia is very rich country in natural resources," he shouted. "Here there is soil for cotton, tobacco, silkvery fine alluvial lands. Southern slopes of hills for vineyards! Farther up in mountains wheat, plums, peaches, apples. In the Machva prunes" We swung on board. "Minerals" he yelled after us. "Goldcopper Labor cheap" And then we lost his voice. Later on we asked a Serbian official about him.
"Lazar Obichan?" he said. "Yes, we know him. He is under observationsuspected of selling military secrets to the Austrian Government!"
Late in the afternoon we halted on a siding to let a military train passtwelve open flat cars packed with soldiers, in odds and ends of uniforms, wrapped in clashing and vividly colored blankets. It had begun to rain a little. A gypsy fiddler played wildly, holding his one-stringed violin before him by the throat, which was carved rudely to represent a horse's head; and about him lay the soldiers, singing the newest ballad of the Austrian defeat:
"The Swabos came all the way to Ralya, But no further came they Hey, Kako to? Yoy, Sashto to?
"They won't soon forget Rashko Pol, For there they met the Serbs! Hey, how was that? Yoy, why was that?
"And now the Swabos know, How the Serbs receive intruders!
Hey, Toko to! Yoy, that was how!"
Every regiment has two or three gypsies, who march with the troops, playing the Serbian fiddle or the bagpipes, and accompany the songs that are composed incessantly by the soldierslove-songs, celebrations of victory, epic chants. And all through Serbia they are the musicians of the people, travelling from one country festa to another, playing for dancing and singing. Strange substitution! The gypsies have practically replaced the old-time travelling bards, the goosslari, who transmitted from generation to generation through the far mountain valleys the ancient national epics and ballads. And yet they alone in Serbia have no vote. They have no homes, no villages, no landonly their tents and their dilapidated caravans.
We tossed some packages of cigarettes among the soldiers in the cars. For a moment they didn't seem to understand. They turned them over and over, opened them, stared at us with heavy, slow, flat faces. Then light brokethey smiled, nodding to us. "Fala" they said gently. "Fala lepo! Thanks beautifully!"
The War Capital
We took a tumble-down cabwhose bottom-board immediately fell outattached to two dying horses and driven by a bandit in a high fur cap, and jolted up a wide street paved with mud and wide-set sharp cobbles. Round about the city the green hills rose, beautiful with new leaves and with every flowering fruit-tree, and over the wide-flung Turkish roofs, and the few mean plaster buildings in the European style, loomed the bulbous Greek domes of the cathedral. Here and there was the slender spire of a minaret, crisscrossed with telephone-wires. The street opened into a vast square, a sea of mud and cobbles bounded by wretched huts, across which marched steel poles carrying hundreds of wires and huge modern arc-lights. At one side an ox lay on his back, feet clewed up to a wooden beam, .while peasants shod him with solid iron plates, as they had done it for half a thousand years.
Austrian prisoners in uniform wandered freely everywhere, without a guard. Some drove wagons, others dug ditches, and hundreds loitered up and down in idleness. We learned that by paying fifty denars to the government, you could have one for a servant. All the legations and consulates were manned with them. And the prisoners were glad to be servants, for there was no decent place for them to live, and scanty food. Now and then an Austrian officer passed along, in full uniform and with his sword.
"Escape?" said one government official we interrogated. "No, they do not try. The roads are metres deep in mud, the villages are depopulated and full of disease, there is no food. It is difficult enough to travel by train in Serbiaon foot it would be impossible. And there are the guards all along the frontier."
We passed a big hospital where pale prisoners leaned from the windows upon dirty blankets, dragged themselves in and out of the doors, and lay propped up on piles of drying mud along the road. These were only survivors ; for out of the sixty thousand Austrians captured in the war, twelve thousand were already dead of typhus.
Beyond the square was the street again, between rough one-story houses, and we were in the market-place. A dull roar rose from the haggling of hundreds of peasants in ten different national costumeshomespun linen embroidered with flowers, high fur hats, fezzes, turbans, and infinite varieties and modifications of Turkish trousers. Pigs squealed, hens squawked; underfoot were heaped baskets of eggs and herbs and vegetables and red peppers; majestic old men in sheepskins shuffled along with lambs in their arms. Here was the centre of the town. There were two or three restaurants and foul-smelling cafes, the dingy Hotel Orient, the inevitable American shoe-store, and amid cheap little shops, sudden windows ablaze with expensive jewelry and extravagant women's hats.
Along the sidewalks elbowed a multitude of strangely assorted people: gypsies, poverty- stricken peasants, gendarmes with great swords, in red and blue uniforms, tax- collectors dressed like generals, also with swords, smart army officers hung with medals, soldiers in filthy tatters, their feet bound with ragssoldiers limping, staggering on crutches, without arms, without legs, discharged from the overcrowded hospitals still blue and shaking from the typhusand everywhere the Austrian prisoners. Government officials hurried by with portfolios under their arms. Fat Jewish army contractors hobnobbed with political hangers-on over maculate cafe tables. Women government clerks, wives and mistresses of officers, society ladies, shouldered the peasant women in their humped-up gay skirts and high-colored socks. The government from Belgrade had taken refuge in Nish, and a mountain village of twenty thousand inhabitants had become a city of one hundred and twenty thousandnot counting those who died.
For the typhus had swept the town, where people were living six and ten in a room, until everywhere the black flags flapped in long, sinister vistas, and the windows of the cafes were plastered with black paper death-notices.
We crossed the muddy Nishava River on the bridge which leads to the heavy, arabesqued gate of the ancient Turkish citadel, which was Roman before the Turks, and where Constan-tine the Great was born. On the grass along the foot of the great wall sprawled hundreds of soldiers, sleeping, scratching themselves, stripping and searching their bodies for lice, tossing and twisting in fever. Everywhere about Nish, wherever there was a spot of worn grass, the miserable people clustered, picking vermin from each other.
The stench of the city was appalling. In the side streets open sewers trickled down among the cobbles. Some sanitary measures had been takensuch as the closing of cafes and restaurants from two o'clock until six every day in order to disinfect thembut still it was an even chance of typhus if you stayed in a hotel or public building. Luckily the hospitable American vice-consul, Mr. Young, took us in at the consulate and introduced us at the Diplomatic Club, which had dining-rooms over an abandoned restaurant, and where good food was to be got when half the town was starving. The entrance was through a pigsty, after stepping across an open sewer; and when you opened the club-room door, your astonished eyes encountered tables, decorated with flowers and covered with silver and snowy linen, and a head waiter in smart evening dress, an Austrian prisoner by the name of Fritz, who had been head waiter at the Carlton in London before the war. To see the British minister sail majestically past the pigsty and mount the club stairs as if it were Piccadilly was a thing worth coming miles for.
Such was Nish, as we first saw it. Two weeks later we returned, after the rains had altogether ceased, and the hot sun had dried the streets. It was a few days after the feast of St. George, which marks the coming of the spring in Serbia. On that day all Serbia rises at dawn and goes out into the woods and fields, gathering flowers and dancing and singing and feasting all day. And even here, in this filthy, overcrowded town, with the tragic sadness of war and pestilence over every house, the streets were a gay sight. The men peasants had changed their dirty heavy woollens and sheepskins for the summer suit of embroidered dazzling linen. All the women wore new dresses and new silk kerchiefs, decorated with knots of ribbon, with leaves and flowerseven the ox- yokes and the oxen's heads were bound with purple lilac branches. Through the streets raced mad young gypsy girls in Turkish trousers of extravagant and gorgeous colors, their bodices gleaming with gold braid, gold coins hung in their ears. And I remember five great strapping women with mattocks over their shoulders, who marched singing down the middle of the road to take their dead men's places in the work of the fields.
We were received by Colonel Soubotitch, chief of the Red Cross, in his headquarters. He described the terrible lack of all medical necessities in Serbia, and painted us a graphic picture of people dying in the streets of Nish only a month before. I noticed a handsome peasant blanket on his bed.
"My mother wove that for me," he said simply, "in the village where I live. She is a peasant. We are all peasants in Serbia that is our pride. Voyvoda Putnik, commander- in-chief of the army, is a poor man; his father was a peasant. Voyvoda Michitch, who won the great battle that hurled the Austrian army from our country, is a peasant. Many of the deputies to the Skouptchina, our parliament, are peasants, who sit there in peasant dress." He stared at the bed. "And on that bed, on that very blanket which you so admired, I stood here where I now stand and watched my son die of the typhus, two months ago. What will you? We must do our duty."
He threw back his shoulders with a visible effort. "So you want to see a typhus hospital? Ah, they are not interesting now. The worst is over. But I will give you a letter to Stanoievitch, at Chere Kula."
We drove to Chere Kula, a mile out of town,, late one sombre afternoon in the pouring rain. The name is Turkish, meaning "Mound of Skulls"; it is literally a tower of skulls of Serbian warriors, erected near the site of a great battle fought more than a century ago, as a monument to the Turkish victory. Lieutenant Stanoievitch, in command of the hospital, unlocked the Greek chapel which the Serbians have built over the holy spot. In the dim light it loomed there, completely filling the chapel, a great round tower of clay with a few grinning heads still embedded in it, and draped with wreaths of faded flowers.
Around this sinister memorial were grouped the brick buildings of the typhus hospital, and the wooden barracks where the overflow was lodged. The wind set our way, carrying the stench of bodies sweating with fever, of sick men eating, of the rotting of flesh. We entered a barrack, along whose walls cots lay touching each other, and in the feeble light of two lanterns we could see the patients writhing in their dirty blankets, five and six crowded into two beds. Some sat up, apathetically eating; others lay like the dead; still others gave short, grunting moans, or shouted suddenly in the grip of delirium. The hospital orderlies, who slept in the same room, were all Austrian prisoners.
"I have been put in charge of this hospital only three days," said the lieutenant. "Before I came it was pretty bad. Now we have only twenty deaths a day. There are eight hundred patientsyou see, we have no room for even these."
We passed through fetid ward after fetid ward, smelling of decomposition and death, until we were wrung with the helplessness of these big men, and our stomachs were turned with the stench.
Later, we dined with Stanoievitch and his staff of young doctors and medical students. The good red wine of the country went around, and in a gay and lively argument about the war we forgot for a moment the poor devils dying on the other side of the wall. Stanoievitch, flushed with wine, was boasting of how the Serbians had smashed the Austrian army.
"What are these French and English doing?" he cried impatiently. "Why do they not beat the Germans? What they need there are a few Serbians to show them how to make war. We Serbians know that all that is needed is the willingness to dieand the war would soon be over!"
Toward the Front
Next morning early we were on our way to Kraguijevatz, the army headquarters. Our train was loaded with ammunition and American flour for the army at the front, and we carried five cars full of soldiers, in sheepskins, peasant dress, and Austrian uniforms picked up in the rout of Decemberone man even wore a German casque. They sang an interminable ballad to a minor air, about how old King Peter went to the trenches during the battle of Kolubara River:
"Krai Peter rose from his bed one morning And said to his dearly beloved son, Prince Alexander, 'O brave, courageous Prince, my son Who leads so well the army of Serbia, The Swabos have passed Kroupaign,Their powerful hosts, like the rushing Moraya, Have passed Valievo.
I shall go forth to conquer or to die with them!' He girt upon him his bright sword."
The railway line paralleled the Morava River. Here all was green, and in the black loam of the fields women were ploughing with oxen, and winding wool on distaffs as they ploughed. White, low, tiled houses, their balconies overhung with graceful Turkish arches, their corners painted in colored lozenges, lay hidden amid plum and apple trees in bloom. Beyond them stretched meadows under water, where thousands of frogs made a gigantic croaking chorus, audible above the roaring of the trainfor the Morava was in flood. We passed Teshitza, Bagrdan, Dedrevatz, Lapovo, smelling of formalin and spattered with sinister whitepest-holes all.
At Kraguijevatz we were met by a delegate from the Press Bureau, erstwhile lecturer on comparative literature at the University of Belgrade. He was a large-featured, absent- minded young man with fat knees incased in pearl riding-breeches, a bright-green felt hat over one ear, and a naughty twinkle in his eye.
Within two hours we were calling him "Johnson," which is a literal translation of his name. Johnson knew every one, and every one knew him. He kept up a running scandalous comment on the people that we passed, and would halt the cab for long periods while he got out and exchanged the latest spicy gossip with some friend. Finally, we would shout to him: "For Heaven's sake, Johnson, hurry up!"
"Excuse me, sair!" he would respond solemnly. "You must have patience. Thees is war- time!"
We found the chief of the Press Bureau, former professor of public law at the University of Belgrade, hard at work reading a novel of George Meredith. Johnson explained that the Press Bureau was a very important and active organization.
"We make here many jokes about prominent people, epigrams, and rhymes. For instance, one of the conspirators in the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand was an officer of the Serbian army during the retreat. He feared that he would be recognized if taken prisoner, so he shaved his beard. In the Press Bureau we have made a sonnet about him, in which we said that it was in vain to shave his beard when he could not shave his prominent nose! Yes, sair. In the Press Bureau we make sometimes two hundred sonnets a day."
Johnson was a dramatist of note. He had transplanted to the Serbian stage the Comedie Bosse of the Theatre Antoine, and had been ostracized by respectable society. "Because," he explained, "my play was obscene. But it was true to Serbian life, and that is the ideal of art, don't you think?"
Johnson was saturated with European culture, European smartness, cynicism, modernism; yet scratch the surface and you found the Serb; the strong, virile stock of a young race not far removed from the half-savagery of a mountain peasantry, intensely patriotic and intensely independent.
But many Serbian "intellectuals" are like the city of Belgrade, where only three years ago the peasants drove their creaking ox-carts along unpaved streets deep in mud, between one-story houses like the houses of Nishand which now puts on the buildings, the pavements, the airs and vices of Paris and Vienna. They affect modern art, modern music, the tango and fox-trot. They ridicule the songs and costumes of the peasants.
Sometimes these affectations are laughable. We rode during all one day on horseback over the battle-field of Goutehevo Mountain with a young officeralso of the university facultywho had lived for three years the life of a fighting nomad, such as no Englishman, Frenchman, or German could have endured. He had gone through the terrible retreat, and still more terrible attack of that winter campaign, sleeping out in the rain or in huts full of vermin, eating the coarse food of the peasants or no food, and thriving on it.
"I am so fond of the country," he said as we rode along. "It is so pastoral, don't you think? I am always reminded of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony when I am in the country." He whistled a few bars abstractedly. "No, I made a mistake. That is the Third, isn't it?"
We discovered afterward that his father was a peasant, and all his forebears since the Serbs first came down from the plains of Hungary had been peasants, and had lived in this "country" which reminded him only of Beethoven!
And in Serbia they are still sensitive about Shaw's "Arms and the Man."
We dined at the general staff mess, in the rude throne-room of the palace of Milan Obrenovitch, first of the Serbian kings; his gaudy red-plush-and-gilt throne still stands there, and on the walls are pictures of Milosh Obilich and the other heroes of Serbia's stormy history, and of the Serbian comitadji leaders who died by the hands of the Turks in Macedonia in the years before the Balkan War.
"This palace is one of our oldest national monuments," said Johnson. "It was built more than fifty years ago."
Astonishing, the youth of the kingdom of Serbia. Less than a hundred years have passed since she emerged as a free state from five centuries of Turkish domination and in that time what a history she has had!
The secret dream of every Serb is the uniting of all the Serbian peoples in one great empire: Hungarian Croatia, identical in race and spoken languageDalmatia, home of Serbian literatureBosnia, fountain-head of Serbian poetry and songMontenegro, Herzegovina, and Slovenia. An empire fifteen millions strong, reaching from Bulgaria to the Adriatic, and from Trieste, east and north, far into the plains of Hungary, which will liberate the energies of the fighting, administrative people of the kingdom of Serbia, penned in their narrow mountain valleys, to the exploitation of the rich plains country, and the powerful life of ships at sea.
Every peasant soldier knows what he is fighting for. When he was a baby, his mother greeted him, "Hail, little avenger of Kossovo!" (At the battle of Kossovo, in the fourteenth century, Serbia fell under the Turks.) When he had done something wrong, his mother reproved him thus: "Not that way will you deliver Macedonia!" The ceremony of passing from infancy to boyhood was marked by the recitation of an ancient poem:
"Ja sam Serbin,"
"I am a Serbian, born to be a soldier, Son of Iliya, of Milosh, of Vasa, of Marko."
(National heroes, whose exploits here followed at length)
"My brothers are numerous as grapes in the vineyard, But they are less fortunate than I, a son of free Serbia! Therefore must I grow quickly, learn to sing and shoot, That I may hasten to help those who wait for me!"
And in the Serbian schools the children are taught not only the geography of old Serbia, but of all the Serbian lands, in the order of their redemptionfirst Macedonia, then Dalmatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Banat, and Batchka!
Now Kossovo is avenged and Macedonia delivered, within the lifetime of these soldiers who listened to their mothers and never forgot their "brothers, numerous as grapes in the vineyard." But even while we were in Serbia, other complications threatened.
"What if Italy takes Dalmatia?" I asked a government official.
"It is very exasperating," he replied, "for it means that after we have recovered from this war we must fight again!"
An old officer that we met later said, with a sort of holy enthusiasm: "We thought that this dream of a great Serbia would come true but many years in the future, many years. And here it is realized in our time! This is something to die for!"
And the boy who sang "Son of Free Serbia" has made his country one of the most democratic in the world. It is governed by the Skouptehina, a one-chamber parliament elected by universal suffrage and proportional representationthe Senate, derisively known as the "Museum," was abolished in 1903. King Alexander tried to rule autocratically, and they murdered him; the present King is strictly a figurehead, limited by a liberal constitution. There is no aristocracy in Serbia. Only the King's brother and the King's sons are princes, and to the Crown Prince Regent the ultra-democrats and Socialists refuse even that title, referring to him always as the "Manifest-Signer." Queen Draga attempted to establish an order of nobility, "but," as Johnson said, laughing, "we keelled her!"
The great landlords of Rumania are unknown in Serbia. Here every peasant has a right to five acres of land, inalienable for debt or taxes; he joins fields with his sons and daughters and nephews and nieces, until all through Serbia there exist co-operative estates known as zadrougas, where generations of one family, with its ramifications, live together in communal ownership of all their property. And as yet there is no industrial population in Serbia, and few rich men.
That night we heard the dramatic story of the great Serbian victory of December. Twice the Austrians invaded the country, and twice were hurled back, and the streets of Valievo groaned with wounded lying in the rain. But the second time the enemy held Shabatz, Losnitza, and the two rich provinces of Machva and Podrigna, and the heights of Goutchevo. The Serbians could not dislodge them from their strongly intrenched positions. And then, in the bitter weather of December, the Austrians began the third invasion with five hundred thousand men against two hundred and fifty thousand. Pouring across the frontier at three widely separated points, they broke the Serbian lines and rolled the little army back among its mountains. Belgrade was abandoned to the enemy. Twice the Serbians made a desperate stand, and twice they were forced to fall back. Ammunition began to failthe cannon had less than twenty shells apiece. The enemy passed Krupaign and Valievo and was within forty-five miles of Kraguijevatz, headquarters of the Serbian general staff.
And then, at the last minute, something happened. New supplies of ammunition arrived from Salonika, and the younger officers revolted against their more cautious elders, shouting that it was as well to die attacking as to be slaughtered in the trenches. General Michitch ordered an offensive. The beaten Serbians, rushing from their trenches, fell upon the leisurely Austrian columns coming along narrow mountain defiles to attack. Caught on the march, burdened with big guns and heavy baggage-trains on roads almost impassable from mud, the Austrians resisted furiously, but were forced to recoil. The line was broken. Their centre, smashed by Michitch and the first army, broke and fled in panic across the country, abandoning baggage, ammunition, and guns, and leaving behind thousands of dead and wounded, and hospitals crammed with men raving with typhus. This is how the typhus, beginning somewhere up in the plains of Hungary, entered Serbia with the Austrian army. For a time the left wing tried to hold Belgrade, but the exultant, ragged Serbians drove them literally into the River Save and shot them as they swam across.
This great battle, which Voyvoda Michitch reported laconically with the proud telegram, "There remain no Austrian soldiers on Serbian soil except prisoners," has been given no name. Some call it the Battle of Kolubara River and others the Battle of Valievo. But it is, perhaps, the most wonderful feat of arms in all the great World War.
At the right hand of the colonel sat a pope in the long black robes of the Greek Church. He was not unctuous and sly like the Greeks, howevera great ruddy man who laughed uproariously and drank his wine with the officers. These Serbian priests are remarkable people. They are the teachers, the transmitters of patriotism among the peasants. They are elected to the Skouptchina as deputies of districts.
"Why not?" he said in French. "In Serbia there is no Clerical party. We are all one here eh?" He turned to the colonel, who nodded. "I have now been fighting in the army for three yearsnot as a priest, but as a Serbian soldier. Yes, we are the State Church, but the government also subsidizes the Protestant and Catholic Churches, and even the Mohammedan hadjis. Why, it is really extraordinary,, The government pays the Mohammedan mufti thirty thousand denars a year, and the metropolitan of the Serbian Church only gets twenty thousand! Our people do not forget that Milan Obrenovitch proclaimed the revolution against the Turks at a village church, with a pope at his side. We are Serbs and men first, and priests afterward." He laughed. "Have you heard the story of how the Serbian bishop, Duchitch, shocked the Bishop of London? No? Well, they dined together in England.
" 'You are fortunate,' said the Bishop of London, 'in your people. I am told they are very devout.'
" 'Yes,' said Mr. Duchitch, 'in Serbia we do not trust too much to God. We prayed God five centuries to free us from the Turks, and finally took guns and did it ourselves!' "
It was midnight when we took the train for Belgrade, less than a hundred kilometres away, but by morning we were still far from the city. We crawled slowly along, waiting hours on sidings for the passing of trains going north laden with soldiers and with supplies, and empty trains going south; for we were now within the lines of the Army of the Danube, and on the main military artery serving fifty thousand men. It was a region of high, rolling hills, and here and there a loftier mountain crowned with the ruined castle of some Dahee overlord, dating from Turkish days. There was no longer any pretense of cultivation. Hillside after hillside hollowed into caves or covered with huts of mud and straw housed the ragged regiments; trenches gashed in the sloping meadows crisscrossed that hard-fought groundand in spots where the battle had been particularly fierce, the jagged stumps of great oak - trees stood branchless and leafless, stripped bare by the hail of shells and rifle-bullets.
The railway-station of Belgrade had been destroyed in the bombardment, and one by one the searching Austrian cannon had wrecked the nearer stations, so we were forced to leave the train at Rakovitza, six miles out, and drive to the city. The road wound through a beautiful, fertile valley, with white villas and farmhouses smothered in thick blooming chestnuts. Nearer town we entered the shaded road of an immense park, where in summer the fashionable world of Belgrade comes to show its smartest carriages and its newest gowns. Now the roads were weedy, the lawns dusty and unkempt. A shell had wrecked the summer pavilion. Under the big trees at the edge of an ornamental fountain a troop of cavalry was picketed, and a little farther on the tennis- court had been disembowelled to make emplacements for two French cannonthe French sailors of the gun crew, lying around on the grass, shouted gayly to us.
Our carriage had taken a left-hand road, leading toward the River Save, when suddenly a distant deep booming fell upon our ears. It was like nothing else in the world, the double boom of big. cannon, and the shrill flight of shells. And now, nearer at hand, off to the left, other great guns answered. A two-horsed cab, its horses galloping, appeared around a turn ahead, and a fat officer leaned out as he passed us.
"Don't go that way!" he shouted. "Put-zaiyu! They are firing on the road! The English batteries are replying!"
We turned around and took a long detour that led around to the right. For about a quarter of an hour the far shooting continued then it ceased. A deep, steady humming had been growing more and more audible for some time, filling all the air. Suddenly there came the heavy, sharp crack of a detonation over our heads. We looked up. There, immeasurably high, gleaming like a pale dragon-fly in the sun, an aeroplane hovered. Her lower planes were painted in concentric circles of red and blue. "French!" said Johnson. She was already turning slowly toward the east and south. Behind her, not more than a hundred yards it seemed, the white puff of an exploding shrapnel slowly flowered. Even as we looked, another distant gun spoke, and another, and the shells leaped after her as she drifted out of our vision behind the trees.
We crawled up a steep hill and descended the other side along a straight, white, unpaved road. In front of us, perched on a high headland between the Danube and the Save, was Belgrade, the Beograd of the Serbians, the White City which was ancient when they first came down from the Hungarian mountains, and yet is one of the youngest of the world's cities. Down at the bottom of the hill a long double file of Austrian prisoners, dusty with the long march from Rackovitza, stood patiently in the sun while two Serbian officers questioned them.
"Of what race are you?"
"I am a Serb from Bosnia, gospodine" answered the prisoner, grinning.
"Kratti" (Croat) "of the mountains."
"Well, brothers," said the officer, "this is a nice thing for you to be fighting for the Swabos!"
"Ah!" answered the Croat. "We asked permission to fight with you, but they wouldn't let us." Every one laughed.
"And what race are you?"
"Italiano from Trieste."
"I am Magyar!" growled a sullen-faced, squat man with a look of hate. "And you?" "I am Rumaniassi" (Rumanian), said the last man proudly.
A few hundred yards farther along was a great shed stored with all sorts of provisions, fodder, hay, and grain for the army. Here in the hot sun the Austrian prisoners were sweating at their work of loading ox-carts with sacks of flour, their uniforms, hands, and faces caked with white meal. A sentry with a bayoneted rifle walked up and down in front of them, and as he walked he chanted:
"God bless my grandfather, Vladislav Wenz, who came to settle in Serbia forty years ago. If he hadn't, I would now be packing flour with these prisoners!"
Belgrade Under the Austrian Guns
Our carriage rattled, echoing through silent Belgrade. Grass and weeds pushed between the cobbles, untravelled now for half a year. The sound of guns had entirely ceased. A hot sun glazed down, dazzling on the white walls of the houses, and a little warm wind whirled spirals of white dust from the unpaved roadway; it was hard to imagine that the Austrian big guns dominated us, and that any moment they might bombard the city, as they had a dozen times before. Everywhere were visible the effects of artillery fire. Great holes fifteen feet in diameter gaped in the middle of the street. A shell had smashed the roof of the Military College and exploded within, shattering all the windows; the west wall of the War Office had sloughed down under a concentrated fire of heavy guns; the Italian legation was pitted and scarred by shrapnel, and the flag hung ragged from its broken pole. Doorless private houses, with roofs cascading to the sidewalks, showed window-frames swinging idly askew without a pane of glass. Along that crooked boulevard which is Belgrade's main and the only paved street, the damage was worse. Shells had dropped through the roof of the Royal Palace and gutted the interior.
As we passed, a draggled peacock, which had once adorned the Royal Gardens, stood screaming in a ruined window, while a laughing group of soldiers clustered on the sidewalk underneath imitating it. Hardly anything had escaped that hail of firehouses, sheds, stables, hotels, restaurants, shops, and public buildingsand there were many fresh ruins from the latest bombardment, only ten days before. A five-story office- building with the two top floors blown off by a 30.5-centimetre shell exhibited a half section of a room an iron bed hanging perilously in the air, and flowered wall-paper decorated with framed pictures, untouched by the freak of the explosion. The University of Belgrade was only a mass of yawning ruins. The Austrians had made it their special target, for there had been the hotbed of Pan-Serbian propaganda, and among the students was formed the secret society whose members murdered the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
We met an officer who belonged to this societya classmate of the assassin. "Yes," he said, "the government knew. It tried to discourage us, but it could do nothing. Of course the government did not countenance our propaganda." He grinned and winked. "But how could it prevent? Our constitution guarantees the freedom of assemblies and organizations. We are a free country!"
Johnson was unmoved by the wreck.
"For years we have been cramped and inconvenienced in that old building," he explained. "But the University was too poor to build again. Now we shall demand in the terms of peace one of the German universitieslibraries, laboratories, and all complete. They have many, and we have only one. We have not yet decided whether to ask for Heidelberg or Bonn."
Already people were beginning to drift back to the city which they had deserted six months before, at the time of the first bombardment. Every evening, toward sundown, the streets became more and more crowded. A few stores timidly opened, some restaurants, and the cafes where the true Belgradian spends all his time sipping beer and watching the fashionable world pass. Johnson kept up a flow of comment on the people who sat at tables, or went by along the street.
"You see that little, important-looking man with the glasses? He is Mr. R------, who is very ambitious and thinks himself a great man. He is editor of an insignificant newspaper called La Dépeche, which he published here every day under the bombardment, and imagined himself a great hero. But there is a little song about him which is sung all over Belgrade :
" 'An Austrian cannon-ball flew through the air. It said: "Now I shall destroy Belgrade, the White City";
But when it saw that it would hit E------
It held its nose, crying "Phoot!"and went the other way!'"
In the corner a stout, dirty man with the look of a Jewish politician was holding forth to a crowd.
"That is S------, editor of the Mali Journal.
There are three brothers, one of them a trick bicycle-rider. This man and the other brother founded a little paper here which lived by blackmailing prominent people. They were desperately poor. No one would pay the blackmail. So they published every day for two weeks a photograph of the bicycle-rider with his bare legs, bare arms, and medals on his chest, so that some heiress with millions of denars would become enamoured of his beautiful physique and marry him!"
We visited the ancient Turkish citadel which crowns the abrupt headland towering over the junction of the Save and the Danube. Here, where the Serbian guns had been placed, the Austrian fire had fallen heaviest; hardly a building but had been literally wrecked. Roads and open spaces were pitted with craters torn by big shells. All the trees were stripped. Between two shattered walls we crawled on our bellies to the edge of the cliff overlooking the river.
"Don't show yourselves," cautioned the captain who had us in charge. "Every time the Swabos see anything moving here, they drop us a shell."
From the edge there was a magnificent view of the muddy Danube in flood, inundated islands sticking tufts of tree tops above the water, and the wide plains of Hungary drowned in a yellow sea to the horizon. Two miles away, across the Save, the Austrian town of Semlin slept in radiant sunlight. On that low height to the west and south were planted the invisible threatening cannon. And beyond, following southwest the winding Save as far as the eye could see, the blue mountains of Bosnia piled up against the pale sky. Almost immediately below us lay the broken steel spans of the international railway bridge which used to link Constantinople to western Europeplunging prodigiously from their massive piers into the turbid yellow water. And up-stream still was the half-sunken island of Tzigalnia, where the Serbian advance-guards lay in their trenches and sniped the enemy on another island four hundred yards away across the water. The captain pointed to several black dots lying miles away up the Danube behind the shoulder of Semlin.
"Those are the Austrian monitors," he said. "And that low black launch that lies close in to shore down there to the east, she is the English gunboat. Last night she stole up the river and torpedoed an Austrian monitor. We expect the city to be bombarded any minute now. The Austrians usually take it out on Belgrade."
But the day passed and there was no sign from the enemy, except once when a French aeroplane soared up over the Save. Then white shrapnel cracked over our heads, and long after the biplane had slanted down eastward again, the guns continued to fire, miles astern.
"They have learned their lesson," said Johnson complacently. "The last time they bombarded Belgrade, they were answered by the big English, French, and Russian naval guns, which they did not know were here. We bombarded Semlin and silenced two Austrian positions."
We made the tour of the foreign batteries with the captain next day. The French guns and their marines were posted among trees on the top of a high, wooded hill overlooking the Save. They were served by French marines. Farther along Russian sailors lolled on the grass about their heavy cannon, and on the sloping meadows back of Belgrade lay the British, guarding the channel of the Danube against the Austrian supply-boats which were moored above Semlin, waiting for a chance to slip past down the Danube, with guns and ammunition for the Turks. The Serbian batteries were a queer mixture of ordnance; there were old field-guns made by Creusot in France for the First Balkan War, ancient bronze pieces cast for King Milan in the Turkish War, and all kinds and calibers captured from the AustriansGerman field-guns, artillery manufactured in Vienna for the Sultan, ornamented with Turkish symbols, and new cannon ordered by Yuan Shi Kai, their breeches covered with Chinese characters.
Our window looked out over the roofs of the city to the broad current of the Save, and the sinister highland beyond where the enemy's guns were. At night the great Austrian search-light would flare suddenly upon the stream and the city, blinding; sparks would leap and die among the trees of the river islands, and we would hear the pricking rifle- fire where the outposts lay in mud with their feet in the water, and killed each other in the dark. One night the English batteries roared behind the town, and their shells whistled over our heads as they drove back the Austrian monitors who were trying to creep down the river. Then the invisible guns of the highland across the Save spat red; for an hour, heavy missiles hurtled through the sky, exploding miles back about the smoking English gunsthe ground shook where we stood.
"So you want to visit the trenches," said the captain. We had driven out a mile or so through the outskirts of the city that lay along the Save, always in sight of the Austrian guns. Our carriages were spaced two hundred yards apart, for two vehicles together would have drawn fire. Where we stood the shore jutted out into the flooded river behind the trees of a submerged island that screened us from the Austrian bank. "It is not very safe. We must go in a boat and pass three hundred yards of open water commanded by an Austrian cannon."
The aged launch was supposed to be armored; a heavy sheet of tin roofed her engine- pit, and thin steel plates leaned against the bulwarks. As soon as we rounded the protecting curtain of trees, the soldier who was pilot, engineer, and crew stood up and shook his fist at the point of land where the Austrian gun lay.
"Oh, cowards and sons of cowards!" he chanted. "Why do you not fire, Swabo cowards? Does the sight of unarmed Serbians cause your knees to knock together?"
This he kept up until the launch slipped out of range behind Tzigalnia, alongside a huge cargo-scow, painted black and loophooled for rifles. On her bow in large yellow letters, was Neboysha, which is Serbian for "Dreadnought."
"That is the Serbian navy," laughed the captain. "With her we have fought a great battle. In January, one dark night, we filled her full of soldiers and let her float down the river. That is how we captured this island."
From the Neboysha a precarious plank footbridge on floating logs led between half- submerged willow-trees to a narrow strip of land not more than ten feet wide and two hundred yards long. Here the soldiers had dug their rude rifle-pits, and here they lay forward on the muddy embankment, unshaven, unwashed, clothed in rags, and gaunt with scanty, bad food. From head to foot they were the color of mud, like animals. Many of the trenches were below the flood level, and held water; you could see where, only two days before, the river had risen until it was up to the men's waists. We could not walk along the line of trenchessoldiers poled us up and down in little scows.
A score of shaggy, big men in fur caps, with rifle-belts crossed over their chests and hand bombs slung at their shoulders, were at work under an armed guard, surlily digging trenches. These were comitadjis, the captain saidirregular volunteers without uniform, drawn from the half-bandits, half-revolutionists, who had been making desperate guerilla war against Turks, Bulgarians, and Greeks in Macedonia for years.
"They are under arrest," he explained. "They refused to dig trenches or work on the roads. 'We have come to fight the Swabos,' they said, 'not to dig ditches. We are warriors, not laborers!'"
Removing our hats, we peered cautiously through the gaps made for the rifles; a similar barren neck of land appeared about four hundred yards away through the tree tops rising from the waterfor all this had once been landwhere the Austrians lay. A blue peaked cap bobbed cautiously upthe soldier beside me grunted and fired. Almost immediately there was a scattering burst of shots from the enemy. Bullets whined close over our heads, and from the trees green leaves showered down.
Our boatman thrust off from the Neboysha and headed the launch up-stream before he rounded into the channel swept by the Austrian artillery, a quarter of a mile away.
"We will go closer," said he, "perhaps it will tempt them."
The clumsy, chugging boat swept clear. He stood up in the stern, cupped his hands, and bellowed a satirical verse that the soldiers sang:
"The Emperor Nicholas rides a black horse, The Emperor Franz Joseph rides a mule And he put the bridle on the tail instead of the head, So now is the end of Austria!"
Hardly had he finishedthe boat was within fifty yards of the sheltering islandwhen a sudden detonation stunned us. We hit the bottom of the boat with one simultaneous thud just as something screamed three yards over our heads, and the roof of a building on the shore heaved up with a roar, filling the air with whistling fragments of tiles and lead pelletsshrapnel.
"Whoop!" shouted the steersman. "There's enough black balls to defeat any candidate!"
Now we were behind the sheltering trees. A row-boat full of soldiers put off from the bank, paddling frantically.
"Don't go out there!" cried the captain to them. "They are firing!"
"That's why we're going!" they cried altogether, like children. "Perhaps they'll take a shot at us!" They rounded the island with shouts and a prodigious splashing of oars.
Lunch was ready in the ruins of a great sugar factory, where the colonel in command of the island had his headquarters. To get to it, we crossed a bridge of planks laid on a quaking marsh of brown sugartons and tons of it, melted when the Austrian shells had set fire to the place.
The colonel, two captains, four lieutenants, a corporal, and two privates sat down with us. In Serbia the silly tradition that familiarity between officers and men destroys discipline apparently does not exist. Many times in restaurants we noticed a private or a non-commissioned officer approach a table where officers sat, salute stiffly, and then shake hands all around and sit down. And here the sergeant who waited on table took his place between us to drink his coffee and was formally introduced.
One of the privates had been secretary of the Serbian National Theatre before the war. He told us that the charter required fifty performances of Shakespeare a season, and that the Serbians preferred Coriolanus to all the other plays.
"Hamlet" he said, "was very popular. But we have not played it here for fifteen years, for the only actor who could do the part died in 1900."
One thousand feet up two French aeroplanes hummed slowly west, translucent in the clear morning sunlight. Below and to the left lazy shrapnel burst. The sound of the explosions and the humming of the motors drifted down, minutes later. Our carriages crawled up a hill strewn with villas hidden in new verdure and flowering fruit-trees; and, looking back, we had a last view of Belgrade, the White City, on her headland, and the Austrian shore. Then we plunged into a winding, rutted lane that wandered up beneath trees which met overheadpast low, white peasant houses roofed with heavy Turkish tiles, and fields where women in embroidered leather vests and linen skirts tramped the furrows, leading oxen lent by the army, and followed by soldiers who guided the wooden ploughs. Long strips of homespun linen hung from hedge and fence, bleaching in the sun. Except for the soldiers, the country was destitute of men.
We turned inland, along country roads that were little more than tracksnow one could not use the main road along the Save, for it lay directly under the guns of the Austrian trenches, three hundred yards away across the river. Many times the driver lost the way. We forded rapid mountain streams that washed to the wagon-bed, sank to the hubs in muddy sloughs, crept through winding, deep ravines along the dried beds of torrents, and rattled down steep hills through groves of immense oaks, where droves of half-wild pigs fled squealing before the horses. Once we passed three huge tombstones taller than a man, crowned with the carved turbans that ornament the cenotaphs of the hadjis. Immense scimitars were chiselled at their base. Johnson asked some peasants about them, but they answered "Heroes," and shrugged their shoulders. Farther on was a white stone sarcophagus lying in a hollow of the hillthe Roman tomb that once enclosed it had been broken up and carried away by the peasants, perhaps centuries ago. Then the track led through the middle of an ancient village graveyard, its moss- grown Greek crosses leaning crazily among dense brush. Everywhere along the way new crosses of stone, painted with gold, green and red, stood under little roofs; these, Johnson explained, were the memorials of men of the neighborhood who had died in unknown places and whose bodies had never been found. Trees and grass and flowers rioted over the hills. Last year's fields were jungles of weeds. Houses with doors ajar and gaping windows lay amid untended vines. Sometimes we bumped down the wide street of a silent country village where old men dragged themselves to their doors to see us pass, and children romped with wolfish sheep-dogs in the dust, and groups of women came home from the fields with mattocks on their shoulders. This was the rackia countrywhere the native plum brandy comes from; immense orchards of prunes and plums sweetened the heavy air.
We stopped at a mehana or village inn to eat the lunch we had brought with usfor in all this country there was not enough food even for the inhabitants. In the dim, cool interior, with its rough wooden tables set on the earthen floor, aged peasants with the simplicity of children took off their hats with grave politeness. "Dobar dan, gospodine!" they greeted us. "Good day, sirs! We hope your voyage is pleasant." The gnarled old proprietor stooped over his earthen oven, making Turkish coffee in brass cups and telling how the Austrians had come.
"A soldier with a rifle and a bayonet came through this door. 'I want money,' he said; 'all you havequick!' But I answered that I had no money. 'You must have money. Are you not an innkeeper?' Still I said I had none; then he thrust at me with his bayonet here. You see?" He tremblingly lifted his shirt and showed a long gash, yet unhealed.
"Typhus!" Johnson pointed to the fences before the houses on each side of the road. Almost every one was marked with a painted white cross, sometimes two or three. "Every cross means a case of typhus in the house." In half a mile I counted more than a hundred. It seemed as if this buoyant, fertile land held nothing but death or the memorials of death.
Late in the afternoon we topped a hill and saw again the wide-spread Save flooding all its valley, and beyond, foothills piling greenly up to the Bosnian mountains, range behind range. Here the river made a great bend, and half concealed in the middle of a wooded plain that seemed entirely under water lay red roofs, white swollen towers and thin minaretsObrenovatz. We drove down the hill and joined the main road, which rose just above the flood level, like a causeway through wastes of water. In the marshes on either side sacred white storks were solemnly fishing. The ground rose a little in a sort of island at the centre of the flooded country; we rattled along the rocky, unpaved street of a white little Serbian town, low houses set in clumps of green, with double windows to keep out the vampires.
They led us with much ceremony to the house of Gaia Matitch, the postmaster, a nervous, slight man with a sweet smile, who welcomed us at his door. His wife stood beside him, fluttered, anxious, and bursting with the importance of entertaining strangers. The entire family waved us before them into their bedroom, which they had ornamented with the whitest linen, the gayest embroideries, and vases full of flowers from the marsh. Two officers from the divisional headquarters stood around racking their brains for things to make us comfortable; a little girl brought plates of apples and preserved plums and candied oranges; soldiers fell on their knees and pulled at our boots, and another stood by the wash-stand waiting to pour water over our hands; Gaia Matitch himself wandered in and out of the room, a bottle of rackia in his hand., offering us a drink, tidying the chairs and tables, shouting shrill, exasperated orders to the servants.
"We are greatly honored," he managed to convey, in a mixture of garbled French, German, and English. "In Serbia it is the highest honor for a stranger to visit one's house."
This beautiful Serbian hospitality to foreigners we experienced many times. Once, I remember we were in a strange town where for weeks no new supplies had come in, and there was no tobacco. We went to a shop to try to find some cigarettes.
"Cigarettes?" said the shopkeeper, throwing up his hands. "Cigarettes are worth double their weight in gold." He looked at us for a moment. "Are you strangers?" We said we were. Whereupon, he unlocked an iron safe and handed us each a package of cigarettes. "The charge is nothing," he said: "You are foreigners."
Our friend Matitch, with the tears standing in his eyes, pointed to two photographs on the wallone of an old man with a white beard, and the other of a young girl.
"This man is my father," he said. "He was seventy-seven years old. When the Austrians took Shabatz they sent him to Buda-Pesth as a prisoner of war, and he is dead there in Hungary. As for my sister here, they took her alsoand since August I have heard noth- ing. I know not whether she is living or dead."
Here we first began to hear of Austrian atrocities along the western frontier. We could not believe them at first; but later, at Belgrade, at Shabatz, at Losnitza, they were repeated again and again, by those who escaped, by the families of those who were dead or in prison, by sworn statements and the Austrian official lists of prisoners sent to the Serbian Red Cross. At the taking of the border towns the Austrians herded the civil population togetherwomen, old men, and childrenand drove them into Austria- Hungary as prisoners of war. More than seven hundred were so taken from Belgrade, and fifteen hundred from Shabatz alone. The official war-prisoner lists of the Austrian Government read cynically like this: Ion Touphechitch, age 84; Darinka Antitch (woman), age 23; Georg Georgevitch, age 78; Voyslav Petronievitch, age 12; Maria Wenz, age 69. The Austrian officers said they did this because it was a punitive expedition against the Serbs, and not a war!
At the mess we heard that we must travel by night to Shabatz, for the road led along the river bank within range of the enemy's trenches. So after dinner the entire staff accompanied us back to Matitch's. Much sour native wine had been flowing, and we went arm in arm hooting and singing along the village street. When Matitch heard that we were not going to spend the night in his house, he almost wept.
"Please stay!" he cried, grasping our arms. "Isn't my house good enough for you? Is there anything you lack?"
At length, with a sigh he thrust us into the dining-room. There we sat, saying farewell, while Matitch and Mrs. Matitch brought wine and dried salt beef to make us thirsty. A courteous officer inquired from Johnson how one drank a health in French; but all he could get was "A votre sentir!" which he repeated over and over again. We drank Mrs. Ma-titch's health, at which the good women was furiously embarrassed. We sang American songs to uproarious applause. Some one stuffed Robinson's pockets full of dried beef, which fell out of his clothes for days afterward. It got along toward midnight, and we ought to have started at ten. Of a sudden Matitch rose to his feet. "Pobratim!" he shouted, and all the others echoed "Pobratim!" "I now make you my pobratimmy blood-brother," said he, glowing with friendliness. "It is the old Serbian ceremony. Your arm through mineso!"
One by one we linked elbows and drank thus, and then threw our arms about each other's necks; and embraced loudly on both cheeks. The company roared and pounded on the table. It was doneand to this day we are pobratim with Gaia Matitch.
At length we were in the carriages; the drivers snapped their whips, and we were off, to shouts of "S Bogom! Farewell! Laku Noch! Hagpy night!"
There was a bright moon. As we passed the outskirts of the village two silent, armed figures on horseback fell in behind the first carriage, riding along with us till the danger zone was passed. Now we pitched and tossed over rocks or wallowed through deep mud; again the horses were splashing in water that rose to the hubs, where the river- flood covered the road. The drivers cracked their whips no more, nor shoutedthey cursed the horses in low tones, for we were now within hearing of the Austrian trenches. No sound was heard except the beat of the horses' hoofs and the creaking of the carriage.
The moon sank slowly. The mounted guards vanished as mysteriously as they had come. Still we rocked on. Gently the wide, starry sky paled to dawn, and eastward, over the great mountains of Tser, where the Serbians broke the first invasion, came the white and silver dawn. Under a grassy hill crowned with an enormous white Greek church wrecked by artillery fire, a hundred ox-carts were scattered in the fields, their drivers sleeping wrapped in blankets of vivid colors, or squatting around early fires that painted their faces red. They were bound for Belgrade, a week's crawling journey away, to bring back food for the starving country where we were going.
Over the mountains leaped the sun, hot and blinding, and we rattled into the streets of Shabatz, between endless rows of smashed and gutted and empty houses, before the town was awake.
A cafe stood open. We made for it, and ordered coffee. Was there anything to eat? We were ravenous. The woman shook her head. "In Shabatz there is not even bread." "Eggs!" we cried.
Johnson lazily threw up his hands. "My dear sairs! Excuse me. There is no eggs. Thees is war!"
"But I saw hens up the street," I insisted. Finally Johnson consented to ask the woman. "There are no eggs for sale here," she replied. "But since the gospodine are strangers, we will give you some."
Shabatz had been a rich and important town, metropolis of the wealthiest department in Serbia, Machva, and the centre of a great fruit, wine, wool, and silk trade. It contained twenty-five hundred houses. Some had been destroyed by the guns; twice as many more were wantonly burned, and all of them had been broken into and looted. One walked along miles and miles of streetsevery house was gutted. The invaders had taken linen, pictures, children's playthings, furnitureand what was too heavy or cumbersome to move they had wrecked with axes. They had stabled their horses in the bedrooms of fine houses. In private libraries all the books lay scattered in filth on the floor, carefully ripped from their covers. Not simply a few houses had been so treated every house. It was a terrible thing to see.
At the time of the first invasion many people remained in Shabatz, trusting that they would be safe. But the soldiers were loosed like wild beasts in the city, burning, pillaging, raping. We saw the gutted Hotel d'Europe, and the blackened and mutilated church where three thousand men, women, and children were penned up together without food or water for four days, and then divided into two groups one sent back to Austria as prisoners of war, the other driven ahead of the army as it marched south against the Serbians. This is not unsupported rumor or hysterical accusation, as it is often in France and Belgium; it is a fact proved by a mass of sworn testimony, by hundreds of people who made that terrible march. We talked with several; one a very old woman who had been forced at the point of the -bayonet to go on foot before the troops more than thirty-five miles to Valievo. Her shoes had rotted from her feet for ten miles she walked barefoot over the stony road. In the Prefecture we went over hundreds of reports, affidavits, and photographs, giving names, ages, addresses of the sufferers, and details of the horrible things the Austrians had done. There was one picture taken at the village of Lechnitza, showing more than a hundred women and children chained together, their heads struck off and lying in a separate heap. At Kravitza old men, women, and children were tortured and fiendishly outraged, then butchered. At Yvremovatz fifty people were herded into a cellar and burned alive. Five undefended towns were razed to the groundforty-two villages were sacked, and the greater part of their inhabitants massacred. The typhus, brought into the country by the Austrian army, still ran riot through Shabatz and all the region. And here there were no doctors nor hospitals.
To be perfectly fair, let me say that everywhere we were told it was the Hungarians, and not the Austrian Germans, who had committed these atrocitiesthe Hungarians, who have always been enemies of the Serbs, in Croatia as well as here. The Austrians themselves seem to have behaved fairly well; they paid for what they took and did not bother peaceable civilians.
But the Hungarians reverted to their savage ancestors, the Huns. When they retreated from Shabatz, in December, they gathered together in the courtyard of Gachitch's pharmacy three hundred Serbian soldiers taken prisoners in battle, shot them slowly and then broke their necks. Belgium can show no horrors as black as these. The cold- blooded fiends who committed them gave as an excuse that the townspeople had harbored comitadjiswho, they had been told by their officers, were savage bandits, to be shot on sight. But in all this region there were no comitadjis, nor ever had been. In the country they pretended to believe that the Serbian peasant costume was the comitadji uniform and since every civilian, man, woman, and child, wore it, they butchered them all. The slaughter of the prisoners of war had no excuse.
In this once flourishing and pleasant city hardly two hundred people now lived, camping miserably in their ruined houses, without enough to eat. We wandered in the hot sun through deserted streets, past the square where once the great market of all northwest Serbia had been held, and the peasants had gathered in their bright dress from hundreds of kilometres of rich mountain valleys and fertile plains. It was market-day. A few miserable women in rags stood mournfully by their baskets of sickly vegetables. And on the steps of the gutted Prefecture sat a young man whose eyes had been stabbed out by Hungarian bayonets. He was tall and broad-shouldered, with ruddy cheeksdressed in the dazzling homespun linen of the peasant's summer costume, and in his hat he wore yellow dandelions. He played a melancholy tune upon a horse- headed Serbian fiddle and sang:
"I am sad, for I have lost the sight of the sun and the green fields and the blossoming plum-trees. God's blessing to you who have given me a grosh (four cents). Blessing to all who are about to give------"
The prefect pointed to the broken buildings. "When the war is finished we shall make a new Shabatz," he said. "The government has already ordered that no one shall repair the old ruined houses. They must be rebuilt entirely new."
American Red Cross commission in Serbia
A Nation Exterminated
Next morning we boarded the train of the narrow-gauge railroad which taps the richest part of the Machva, and connects the valley of the Drina with the valley of the Save. Four box-cars followed our carriage, crammed with miserable refugees, chiefly women and childrenreturning to the homes from which they had fled, destitute and on foot, six months ago, before the Austrian scourge. We went slowly along a vast fertile plain, white with fruit orchards in bloom and green with tall grass and new foliage, between uncultivated fields rank with weeds, and past white houses blackened with fire. All this country had been burned, looted, and its people murdered. Not an ox was seen, and for miles not a man. We passed through little towns where grass grew in the streets and not a single human being lived. Sometimes the train would halt to let the refugees descend; they stood there beside the track, all their possessions in sacks over their shoulders, gazing silently at the ruins of their homes.
The prefect came with us, stopping the train for an hour or so at different villages, to show us the sights. So we visited Prnjavor, once a rich little place of three thousand people, now a waste of burned and smashed dwellings. At the station was a tall, rugged old farmer in peasant costume of rough brown wool, who was introduced to us as Mr. Samourovitch, deputy to the Skouptchina. He pointed down into a pool of muddy water beside the railroad track, from which emerged the top of a heap of earth, crowned with two wooden crosses.
"That is the grave of my old father and mother," he said without emotion, "the Swabos shot them for comitadjis." We walked on into the town, to a place where once a house stood, that now was a black heap of ashes and burnt timbers. "In this place," he went on, "the Hungarians gathered together a hundred citizens of Prnjavorthey could not cram them all into the house, so they made the rest stand close and bound them to it with ropes and then they set fire to the house, and shot those who tried to escape. This long, low pile of dirt is their grave." The story seemed too, horrible for any possibility, and I made particular inquiries about it. But it was literally true. Swiss doctors examined the spot and took photographs of the bodies before they were buried; they were all old people, women, and children.
Stagnant pools from the recent rains, covered with green slime, stood in the streets. A. smell of decaying bodies and neglected filth was in the air. Before almost every house at least one sinister white cross was painted on the fence to show where typhus was or had been. In the dooryard of one place, where the grass had been dug up to make one huge grave for many people, a wrinkled, limping woman stood surrounded by nine children, all under fifteen. Two were almost unable to stand, dead-white and shaking from some fever; three others, one only a baby, were covered with huge running sores and scabs. The woman pointed to the grave-mound.
"I have lost every one but thesethere are my husband and my sister and my father, and my brother-in-law and his wife. And we have nothing fit to feed these sick children. The condensed milk that the government sends for the childrenthe president of the town gives it only to his political constituents, the dishonest Socialist!"
This woman and her children, living in miserable squalor, were all that remained of a powerful zadrouga. Two long, one-story white houses, fronting on the street where it turned at right angles, embraced a sort of patio, carpeted with long grass and wild flowers, and shaded by an ancient oak. The entrance to the houses was from the garden, and there was another house behind, with offices, stables, and the rackia distillery, where the family made its own plum brandy. Here lived three generations, the women with their husbands, the men with their wives, and each couple with its childrennot to mention cousins, aunts, uncles more than forty people in all, who shared their land and all their property in common. The buildings were wrecked and burned; of the people, some had died in battle, others had been murdered by the Hungarians, and the typhus had done the rest.
"They did terrible things," said old Samourovitch as we walked back to the train. "We are happy that we paid the Austrians for all this by beating them so badly in December." This extraordinary lack of bitterness we found everywhere in Serbia; the people seemed to think that the smashing Austrian defeat revenged them for all those black enormities, for the murder of their brothers, for the bringing of the typhus.
Through meadows gorgeous with purple larkspur and buttercups, through orchards heavy with peach, apple, cherry, and plum blossoms we went; here the Turkish influence entirely died out, and the mud houses became entirely Serbcapped no longer with red tiles, but with peaked roofs of rough wooden shingles. Then appeared once more over the westward plain the green Bosnian mountains, and we were at Losnitzaagain under the Austrian guns across the Drina.
There was a typhus hospital, which we visited. It had once been a school. As the Serbian doctor opened the doors of room after room, a sickening stench of dirt, filthy clothing and airlessness came. out. The windows were all closed. The sickmostly soldiers in the wreck of their uncleaned uniformslay packed closely shoulder to shoulder upon foul straw spread on the floor. There was no sign of disinfectant. Some leaned weakly on their elbows, scratching feebly for vermin; others tossed and chattered in delirium, and others lay whitely still, their eyes half open, like the dead.
"It gets better every day," said the doctor, rubbing his hands. "Two weeks ago we had four hundred herenow there are only eighty-six." He glanced meditatively at the sick men, jammed so close together that they almost lay upon one another. "Then we were crowded."
At dusk we sat at a cafe table in the great square of Losnitza, drinking Turkish coffee and eating black bread and haymakdelicious yellow cheese-butter. In the dim evening light oxen knelt by their carts, and peasants all in white linen stood in bright groups, talking. From ten different doors of drinking-shops about the immense space, floods of yellow light poured, and there came bursts of violin music and singing. We got up and strolled over to one; the proprietress, a scrawny woman with yellow hair, caught sight of us, and raised a shrill yell: "Why do you stand there in the street? Why do you not come here and sit at my tables? I have all sorts of good wine, beer, and koniak!" We meekly obeyed.
"We are Americans," I explained as best I could, "and we do not know your language."
"That's no reason why you can't drink!" she cried brazenly, and slapped me on the back. "I don't care what language you drink in!"
Inside two gypsies were playing, one a fiddle and the other a cornet, while an old peasant, his head thrown back, intoned through his nose the ballad of the Bombardment of Belgrade:
THE BOMBARDMENT OF BELGRADE
"A dream had Madame Georgina, The faithful spouse of Nicola Pachitch, The well-known Serbian prime minister; In her palace in the centre of Belgrade She had a dream, and this was her dream:
- "Northward the earth trembles
- Trembled Srem, Batchka and Hungary
- And a terrible darkness
- Rolls south upon Belgrade,
- The White City that rides the waters.
- Athwart the gloom lightnings cross,
- And thunder follows after,
- Smiting the houses and the palaces,
- Wrecking the villas and hotels
- And the fine shops of Belgrade.
- From the Save and the Danube
- Soar the roaring water-dragons;
- Spitting thunder and lightnings
- Over Belgrade, the White City;
- Blasting houses and streets,
- Reducing to ruin hotels and palaces,
- Smashing the wooden pavements,
- Burning the pretty shops,
- And upsetting churches and chapels;
- Everywhere the screams of children and invalids
- Everywhere the cries of old women and old men!
- As if the last terrible Day of Judgment
- Broke over Belgrade!
- "Then in the night Madame Georgina awoke,
- Asking herself what had happened, And began to weep,
- For she knew not how to interpret her dream.
- Then awoke Nicola Pachitch also And addressed his faithful spouse:
- " 'What is the matter with thee, faithful spouse,
- That thou risest in the night
- And wettest thy cheek with tears?
- Of what art thou frightened?
- Tell it me, my faithful spouse,
- Whom God bless!'
- "Then spoke Madame Pachitch:
- " 'My master! Pachitch, Nicola!
- This night have I had a terrible dream.
- I have dreamed, and in my dream have seen many things,
- But I cannot interpret them,
- Therefore am I miserable and worried.'
- And she began to tell her dream..."
(Three hundred lines more, consisting mostly of accurate prophecy by Mr. Pachitch on what actually occurred.)
Over the sharp, crumpled house roofs westward the swollen cupola of a Greek church rose black against the warm yellow sky. And there were great trees, spread like lace across the firmament, where already faint stars glittered. A thin crescent moon floated up over the shadowy Bosnian mountains, the heart and birthplace of Serbian song dear land so long an exile.
Back to Index