copyright, Kellscraft Studio,
(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
DUSHAN and Yovan were together almost constantly during the winter and, when, in early spring, Yovan departed with his father for Belgrade, the capital of Servia, his friend felt very much deserted. He walked around with a woe-begone air which all the raillery of his schoolmates and sister could not change.
It was not until the third day after Yovan's departure that he came home in a happy, excited manner, waving a letter which he had just received from his friend. The whole family gathered around him as, with trembling hands, he tore open the envelope.
It was written in the queer Cyrillic characters used in Servia and several of the neighboring countries, and was as follows:
"BIELGOROD,1 March 29.
"MY DEAREST POBRATIME: Here I am, enjoying all the novel sights, although my heart aches that you are not with me, and I sadly miss my little village home,
"Bielgorod, as you know, is situated on high ground at the junction of the Danube and Save Rivers, and one has only to stand on the banks of the Danube to imagine the dark-skinned Magyars who live on the opposite shore, in Hungary.
"I hardly know what first to describe to you, dear Dushan. Perhaps you would like best the white fortress, high up on a hill at the junction of the two rivers--a magnificent location, commanding a view of miles of the Danube and the near-by, monotonous-looking plains of Hungary.
"Just back of it is the extinct volcano of Avala, where a vila is supposed to live. On its top is an old citadel, once white, but now dark with age, which probably belonged to some Servian of noble birth. If you were here I should be tempted to go with you to dig for the great treasure that is said to be hidden there.
"Near the fortress are some very pretty gardens, called the Kalemegdan, where we spent one afternoon admiring a famous view from the Fikir-Bair (the Slope of Dreaming).
"On the banks of the river, too, is a tower, called the Neboyscha (the Fearless), of which many terrible stories of the days of the Turks are related.
"Life in Bielgorod seems very different from that of our village. Electric tram cars and electric lights are everywhere. In the morning the people promenade the streets, among them very beautifully dressed ladies, and many officers in neat uniforms. Then, from one till three, all is quiet--people are at home, many of them taking an afternoon nap. From three till seven the streets again buzz with voices and the cafes are filled to overflowing.
"In these cafes I hear a great deal of French and Italian spoken, although my father tells me that there is much less than in former years. Every one who enters seems in the gayest spirits, and the air resounds with laughter.
"Most of the houses are small and white in color, with pretty gardens planted with acacias, lilacs and lime trees. I was interested in seeing that storks are permitted to build their nests in the chimneys, as with us.
"There are many public school buildings, and a university where I hope to study some time. The only Turkish houses I have seen, so far, are old dilapidated-looking ones, built of plaster, with red tiled roofs, on the river banks. These will probably soon be torn down.
"My uncle, with whom we are staying, introduced us to a Russian gentleman who could not express enough astonishment at there being no squalid quarters in our capital.
"'You are a fortunate people,' he said, ' not to be daily confronted with misery as we are in Russia, and as people are in most of the countries of the civilized world.'
"Then, turning to me, he remarked: ' I don't suppose you know what a pauper is!'
"I am afraid that I made a blundering answer, for he laughed and, patting me on the shoulder, exclaimed:
"'Be proud of that and not ashamed, my boy.'
"I wonder how we happen to be so fortunate. Can it be because of our Zadrugas, our Mobas, and other ways of helping one another?
"Yesterday my aunt took me with her to the market where the peasants sell their wares. There were crowds of country people under the great trees, all in Sunday finery. We saw many flat, sheep's-milk cheeses, piles of fruit, including enormous melons, and great masses of tomatoes. My aunt had to do considerable haggling before the prices suited her. While we were there two or three peddlers passed us with sweetened water for sale.
A Peddler of Sweetened Water, Belgrade.
"On the way home I bought a dozen picture post cards, one with the portrait of our beloved King Peter, and I shall surely send several to you.
"I have been to the National Museum, the Botanical Gardens and the National Library. I visited the last with the son of one of the professors of the Military Academy and saw many valuable old Servian manuscripts. My friend was very enthusiastic over them. He says that he is going to make an especial study, some day, of our old literature and that, if he has the ability, he will translate some of it into other languages.
"And O, Dushan, you should go to the theater and hear the singing! We saw there the drama written by His Majesty, King Nicola of Montenegro, called the 'Empress of the Balkans.' It shows very truly the great heroism of Montenegrin women.
"Father has been telling me something of the history of Bielgorod. It is wonderful to me to think that, after passing through the hands of many conquerors, after being besieged time and again by the Turks, it should still belong to us. One reason why it has been changing hands is because it has been considered the key to Hungary, and so an object of fierce contention between Austria and Turkey. Perhaps Austria still desires it. I learned, too, that the Turks used to call it Darol-i-Jehad, which means 'the home for wars of faith.'
"The people here are as fond of discussions as we are at home, and I have heard much regarding the jealousies that exist between us and our neighbor, Bulgaria. I had to laugh heartily at some of the absurd stories told to illustrate this; but, when I heard my uncle and the Russian talking of the many Austrian spies in the city, I felt a fear clutch at my heart, for Austria would foster any differences.
"This must do until I return to our quieter village life next week, my pobratime. I embrace you. My father joins in greetings to your family.
"Your ever true friend and brother,
1 The Servian name for Belgrade, meaning "the white city."
EDITOR'S NOTE: -- Servia and her allies, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro, declared war on Turkey in October, 1912. The history of the war was one of unbroken success on the part of the allies, and in a short time Turkey lost all of her territory in Europe except the narrow strip in the immediate vicinity of Constantinople, and Constantinople itself was in danger of capture.
At this point, the Great Powers of Europe intervened, and a treaty of peace was concluded whereby Turkey ceded to the allies all of her European possessions except the small territory extending along the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmora from the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea. The Great Powers required that the Kingdom of Albania should be created between Montenegro and Greece, but left to the allies the partition among themselves of the other territory ceded by Turkey.
This was a signal for dissension among the allies. Servia and Greece, with the moral support of little Montenegro, claimed that Bulgaria was demanding as her share more territory than had been originally stipulated in the treaty of alliance. Bulgaria, on the other hand, made counter charges, and matters went from bad to worse until finally, on July 8th, 1913, Servia formally declared war against Bulgaria, and similar action was promptly taken by Greece. The war, while of short duration, was one of the fiercest and most sanguinary in all history, and was only brought to a close when Roumania, which had remained inactive during the war with Turkey, suddenly took the part of Servia and Greece and prepared to invade Bulgaria from the north.
A treaty of peace was signed on August loth whereby the division of the territory ceded by Turkey is left to the arbitration of Belgium, Holland and Switzerland. Nothing has yet been settled, but it is hoped that the result will be not only the final freeing of Macedonia and Thrace from Turkish rule, but a lasting peace between the Balkan States.
September 23, 1913.
Click the icon to return to the Web-Textures Content Page: