Such is the state of affairs to-day along the whole Albanian frontier, but nowhere to such a degree as in the provinces bordering on Gusinje.
The Voivoda’s invitation—Concerning an episode on our ride to Velika—The fugitive from a blood-feud and his story—We arrive at Velika—The men of Velika—The menu—Border jurisdiction—A shooting-match—The Kom—Pleasant evenings—A young philosopher—Sunset.
One evening the Voivoda invited us to ride with him on an official visit to Velika, an offer which we eagerly accepted.
Velika is a narrow strip of Montenegrin territory lying practically in Albania, or rather Gusinje, for the men of Gusinje owe and give no allegiance. Velika is not cut off from Montenegro, but the mountain connecting it with, so to speak, the mainland is steep and almost inaccessible, besides entailing a long and weary detour of many hours. Therefore our path to-day would lead us across an intervening strip of Gusinje territory.
Next morning at an early hour saw us in our saddles, the Voivoda having first ascertained that our arms were in good order. “Not that there is any danger,” he said. “But we never know if anything may happen, and it is well just to be prepared.”
Besides the Voivoda, we were accompanied by his adjutant, a lieutenant in the standing army, who had studied in Italy, and an escort of about six men, armed with modern magazine rifles. Later on, this escort was materially increased.
About three hours’ ride up the magnificent valley of the Lim brought us to a khan, and here we found another half-dozen men awaiting us, and another officer. These preparations seemed rather formidable for a journey of about an hour through a friendly country, but we knew already the uncertainty of the Albanian temper, and did not wonder.
As we led our horses across a rickety wooden bridge, the Voivoda called to us and said we were now about to enter Albania, and spoke of the temporary armed alliance between England and Montenegro, which remark seemed to please him greatly. A great cairn of stones marked the border, and the adjutant reined in his horse, for we were going to ride in single file, to tell us that it would be better to unsling our carbines. “It looked better,” he said. Many Albanians could be seen working peacefully in their fields, and huts dotted the mountain-sides. It was a scene of agricultural peace, enhanced by magnificent scenery.
Suddenly, at some distance, two rifle-shots were distinctly heard, and the calm of the picture was as rudely and suddenly disturbed as if an earthquake had happened. The peaceful peasants stooped, throwing away the spade, and in exchange each had a Martini rifle in his hand, which he rapidly loaded from the bandolier of cartridges round his waist. Men rushed out of the slumbering cottages, and a great shouting commenced.