[Illustration: THE CHURCH, NIKSIC]
[Illustration: THE CHURCH AND PALACE]
The platform on which the church stands commands a view of the country. The simplicity of Prince Nicolas’ palace is thus accentuated, for it is situated on perfectly open ground, and there is no garden or any railings round it. Naked and forlorn, it gives the spectator a sad impression of poverty. On another side is the old Church of Niksic, ridiculously small and half-ruined. The Russians did a good deed, for the comparison is absolutely absurd if a comparison can be drawn between a hovel and a S. Peter’s.
The town is a long straggling collection of small houses, very uninteresting and plain, and beyond lies the historical ruin of the old fortress, stormed by Prince Nicolas in person.
In the town itself, broad streets and an enormous market-place are the only features.
We spent a few days in Niksic, but in this instance we were never able to rid ourselves of the first impressions, and we left gladly, though the town was not without its humour. It contains the only brewery in Montenegro, a ramshackle place and producing very poor beer. The post office is a tumble-down outhouse, also we were shown the house which would in the course of time be the Bank of Montenegro.
It is hard to realise that Niksic is the coming town, in spite of its gaudy cathedral, but progress makes sometimes wonderful strides.
Our visit to Niksic was a failure all round. We arrived to see the Prince ride out of the town at the head of a great cavalcade for the mountains, and again missed the opportunity of presenting ourselves.
Our intended tour to the Durmitor, Montenegro’s highest mountain, was frustrated, owing to the Prince’s retinue having taken every horse in the place, in addition to the weather having completely broken up, and so we missed one of the finest parts of the country.
The Club and its members—Gugga—Irregularities of time—The absence of the gentle muse and our surprise—The musician’s story and his subsequent fate—The Black Earth—A typical border house—The ordeal of infancy—A realistic performance which is misunderstood—Concerning a memorable drive—A fervent prayer.
Before we leave Podgorica for good our readers must be introduced to the Club. It was not a club in the English sense of the word, but P. and I always called that hour or two at sunset so delightfully spent in the company of that cosmopolitan gathering, the Club. Podgorica was our base, from which we made all our trips and excursions, so that we were there off and on during the whole of our lengthy sojourn amongst the sons of the Black Mountain. From the “members” we gleaned many stories of past and present vendettas and quaint customs which we had not had the good fortune to witness ourselves. Amongst the regular members was of course Dr. S.,