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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 130.djvu/450

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442
A LADY'S VISIT TO THE HERZEGOVINIAN INSURGENTS.

she said, she had given 20l. It was of massive silver, with ever so many chains and ornaments hanging to it. Besides this, she had at least forty or fifty shirts, embroidered in colored silks, for festa days. I particularly wanted one of these, and offered her a handsome price, but she would not sell. "No," she said, "I am keeping them all for my daughter, when she marries," pointing to the pretty little girl who held the lamp for us to examine the family splendors; "and she can read," she added, "so she ought to make a good match."

Niègush boasts of one building, a kind of khan, which is said to be superior to anything at Cetigne. We could not see much in it in the way of architectural merit, as it is a plain stone house, looking uncommonly like a stable. When we had seen all the public edifices of Cetigne, however, we knew why the inhabitants thought so much of it.

After our frugal meal was eaten, and the horses rested, we again mounted and continued our journey. It now lay over a most fatiguing road, ascending and descending a series of small hills, three or four feet deep in snow, until at last, on our reaching the top of the highest of them, a wonderful panorama burst upon the view. The lake of Scutari lay in the far distance, dark and mysterious, under the Albanian hills; whilst nearer we could descry the beginning of the plain of Cetigne, and even the smoke of the town.

In an hour we entered the principal street. The capital of Montenegro reminds one more of a large village in the Scotch Highlands than anything else. There is one main thoroughfare, intersected by a smaller one, each bordered by rows of, for the most part, straw-thatched cottages, none of which boast a chimney; nor is it till quite lately that it has occurred to a few of the more "advanced thinkers" to insert funnels into the windows in order to admit of the exit of smoke in that primitive fashion.

As we passed down the street, picturesque groups assembled at the doorways, for the arrival of a stranger is not an every-day occurrence in Montenegro. It was curious to see issuing from tenements, which in England would be designated hovels, warriors, gorgeous in green and gold, wearing senatorial badges on their hats. They did not exhibit any obtrusive curiosity, but offered a respectful salute.

Presently an individual, evidently high in office, introduced himself as aide-de-camp of the prince. He told us that apartments had been prepared for us in the old palace, where we were to be the guests of royalty. "If you wait a moment here," he added, "you will see his Highness pass." We did so, and were rewarded by as romantic a sight as this prosy nineteenth century has to show. It was like a scene out of a medieval romance. The prince and all his perianikes, or body-guard, were in their beautiful national dress; the prince being distinguished from his retainers by a light blue mantle thrown over his shoulders. All of them — and they numbered a hundred — were splendid-looking fellows, but none of them surpassed their chief. He was a man of about thirty-five, six feet four in height, and acknowledged as the strongest and most muscular person in his dominions, which is saying a great deal. His face was open and frank, and usually wore a very sweet smile, which conferred on it a look of singular gentleness. "E bello, il nostro principe? — eh?" said our guide, in broken Italian, and we certainly agreed with him.

As we passed the prince and his bodyguard, they saluted us with distinguished courtesy, and we continued our route to the hospitable quarters prepared for us, right glad to sit by a warm stove and forget the deep snow and bitter cold outside. After an hour of this luxury, however, we summoned up our courage and determined to sally out and see some of the sights of the place. Close to our quarters, and overshadowing the public fountain, stands the "tree of justice," for Montenegro is a happy country that knows neither parliament nor law court, and where the people address all their appeals and grievances to the ear of the prince himself, who sits underneath the tree, and either decides between the disputants or refers them to the Montenegrin code of laws. During fine and open weather, people come from all the country round to consult their prince, his decision on any point, we were told, never being disputed. Capital punishment, in the form of shooting, is inflicted for murder. It was instituted by Danilo, to put an end to the vendette which existed, and which were transmitted from father to son and from family to family.

Imprisonment follows theft and acts of violence; but the longest term is seven years, during which time the condemned are allowed to go about in the daytime, and although marked men, they are trusted to go even as far as Cattaro. They have to pay so much a day for their keep, and are