While the ship was at anchor a boat was lowered and I whiled away the time, nominally in fishing, but really in cruising about close to the forts and fishing for information rather than for fish by observing the different types of the guns employed and sketching their position and the radius of fire allowed to take them by the splay of their embrasures; also we took soundings where necessary and made sketch maps of possible landing places for attacking or other purposes.
Bosnia and Herzegovina were under Austrian protection and were supplying a new contingent of infantry to the Austrian army. This force was said to have most marvellous powers of marching and endurance, something hitherto unheard of among European nations. I was told off to ascertain how great these powers might be and what was the secret of their success.
I visited them in their own country. But before I arrived there I had passed through Montenegro, and I had there received reports from Montenegrins, which to some extent discounted the high praise given to them. When I asked a Montenegrin his opinion of his neighbours in the matter of marching and hill climbing, he could only contemptuously spit. And then he explained to me that any fool can go uphill, but a Montenegrin is the only man who can go downhill.
He pointed to the round tower in Cettinje, and told me within it lay several piles of Turks’ head, for the reason that every Montenegrin who could show a heap of nine Turks’ heads gathered by himself was entitled to a gold medal from the Prince.
Their method of gaining Turks’ heads was this:
A party of them would make a raid into Turkish territory and get a few cattle or women. They would then be pursued by the Turks into the mountains, and they would make their way hurriedly up the mountain side just sufficiently far ahead to lead the Turks on to pursue them eagerly. When the Turks had become well strung out in the pursuit, the Montenegrins would suddenly turn on them and charge down the mountain side.
There was no escape for the Turks. They were only ordinary mortals, and could not run downhill. And he showed me his great bare knee, and slapping it with pride, he said: “That is what takes you downhill, and no other nation has a knee like the Montenegrins. And as for the Bosnians—” then he spat!
However, as the Bosnians were reported to be doing such great things in the marching line for the Austrian army, my next step was to visit the Austrian manoeuvres and watch them.
It is usual for a military attache to be sent officially to watch such manoeuvres, and he is the guest of the Government concerned. But in that position, it is very difficult for him to see behind the scenes. He is only shown what they want him to see. My duty was to go behind the scenes as much as possible and get other points of view.