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He that Prepareth the Way

by Radoslav A.Tsanoff

THE Apostle was what the people were calling Father Boyan, the comitaji who had abandoned his little church and his fat deaconry in Vodena, to muddle the swineherds and charcoalmen with his notions of Human Rights and Freedom. A gospel of fire and sword he was preaching throughout Macedonia, and he had so far managed to eel his way through all the nets of the Turkish police. The standing reward of 1000 pounds, offered by the Sublime Porte for his head had been accumulating interest at the Ottoman Bank for the past twenty-five months. The rascal was well-nigh ubiquitous. Every one knew of him, but somehow or other nobody seemed to know him.

But news does leak out in spite of the best precautions. Somebody had blabbed, and Enver Pasha of Tetino had it on reliable information that the Macedono-Adrianopolitan Revolutionary Committee was planning a Winter congress to be held some time in January for the purpose of deciding upon the advisability of an early Spring uprising. How it reached the ears of the police no one perhaps will ever know definitely; but Enver Pasha's entire machinery of sentries and spies was set in motion, and the thousand-fingered hand of the Ottoman police reached out ravenously for the master organizer, who was said to be preparing to begin the canvass of the Tetino district. Rumors had it even that he was hiding in the city that identical third week of November.

Late Sunday night, November 20th, Enver Pasha's chief assistant, Selim Effendi, otherwise known in Tetino as "The Tipsy Bloodhound," saw a suspicious-looking peasant attempting to cross the cordon of police that girdled the city. With the assistance of his zaptieh, Osman, Selim Effendi overpowered the peasant, tied and gagged him. A search of his clothes made Selim the possessor of the following message, hand-printed in good Bulgarian:

To Robespierre in Poliany:—From the Den of Lions, Greeting! He that Prepareth the Way will gurgle over a cup of coffee in Stanko's Inn in Livady village on Tuesday afternoon next, to meet you for obvious reasons, with tidings from the Great on High.

"Of a priest's cassock and a flowing beard,
Nor Turk nor Moslem ever is afeared!"

To Selim Effendi the meaning was plain. What conceited idiot in Poliany had assumed the revolutionary pseudonym of "Robespierre" Selim knew little and cared less. "He that Prepareth the Way," however, could refer to but one person; and "If I could intercept his way," the Effendi thought, "I would be richer by exactly 1,000 pounds, and who knows but that Enver Pasha's own boots might be none too big for me!" The arrangements for the rendezvous were precision itself: Stanko's Inn, Livady, Tuesday afternoon, the Apostle's disguise being a priest's cassock and a flowing beard. So much was plain. Another thing equally plain was that Tetino did actually hold the Apostle.

Selim Effendi was thinking hard. Three courses were open to him. He might apprise Enver Pasha of his find—and be sent at once on a special mission to Salonica, while the Pasha turned Tetino upside down, captured the Apostle and kept the 1000 pounds. Or he might try to catch the Apostle himself, on his way to Dobridol; but this was uncertain, and would also involve the cooperation of more allies than Selim Effendi cared to share the money with. Or else "He that Prepareth the Way" could be trusted to see his way clear to Livady, and then find in Stanko's Inn a trap waiting for him, in the form, say, of a dealer in ikons, or else a merchant, or an American missionary. The choice was a minor matter.

To Selim's mind there was no question about the relative merits of the three courses. In order to follow the third course, however, it was necessary that the identity of "Robespierre" should be established, and the letter forwarded to its destination without exciting any suspicion. The captured peasant was stolidly stubborn during the first fifteen minutes of Selim Effendi's argumentation down in the cellar of the Tetino jail. But the Tipsy Bloodhound was a past master in the art of exquisite torture, and by the time the third beech-splinter had been hammered under the finger-nails of the captive's left hand, his right hand had traced upon a blood-stained scrap of paper the name of the Poliany schoolmaster. Having copied the letter, Selim carefully resealed it and, putting it into another envelope, directed it to the onbashi at Poliany, with instructions that it be left secretly on Dascal Zoeff's desk in the schoolhouse, and that the onbashi make certain of it that Zoeff got it, also that Zoeff be not interfered with in any way for the length of a week.

"Much rather would I have you go with it, Osman," he turned to his zaptieh, "but if you were missing to-morrow, I'd have to answer questions. And I care little what happens Tuesday, once we get to Livady. For we shall meet our man—you can trust Apostle Boyan to make his way through the Tetino sentry-watches."

Then he turned to the peasant:

"There are some Christian curs that give the wrong name. But after the beechsplinter I always try the hot olive oil, and there is quicksilver a-plenty to dance up and down your ear-drums, and burning charcoal to make your soles sizzle. This cellar I lock and I unlock, do you hear, you giaour? In a couple of days I'll know whether you have been lying to me or not; then you may learn to know some things that your mother never taught you!"

Monday passed as usual, but on Tuesday morning Enver Pasha did not see Selim Effendi kick the konak gates open as was his custom, with Osman managing to rush in after him just in time to escape being hit by the gate as it slammed to.

"Off on a spree again, like as not, drunk as a seaman," Enver Pasha remarked, and thought little about it.


LIVADY is a village at the foot of the Payak Mountains, about five hours' ride on muleback from Tetino. The road from the city zigzags along the bank of the Vardar River, which here spreads its bed lazily and sprawls over the entire valley, making the country a rich rice-growing region but also one abounding in boggy swamps and treacherous morasses. Its close proximity to the Payak Mountains made the village a favorite rendezvous of insurgents, who found the mountain crags as hospitable as the fens of the Vardar in offering hiding-holes to the enemies of Islam. But there was no branch organization of the' Revolutionary Committee in Livady. Maybe the primitive life of the natives and their low level of intelligence could account for the fact. Their humble poverty and their superstitious character made hard any attempt to instill new ideas or inspire a spirit of opposition to the established order. They were mostly charcoalmen. Their skinny mules, grunting under huge loads of charred timber, formed an integral part of the Tetino landscape on market-days. Mules and bullocks were the only automobiles to be had in Livady; there was scarcely one horse in the whole village.

The mountainside was dotted with smoking charcoal-hills that looked at night like a hundred monstrous slumbering fireflies. Charred, as it were, for ages, all physiognomies had gloomed. From tanned youth one graduated to tawny manhood before attaining to that midnight ebony that marked the neck of the charcoal patriarch.

A foggy, glum, sullen day it was. The city merchant, wrapped in furs, with a shawl around his ears in regular Tetino fashion, nodded sociably at each peasant he met pacing the muddy road beside his mule, and, cursing the weather by all the saints in the Greek calendar, stopped his horse every little while to chat with some of the charcoalmen that looked more intelligent. The unsuspecting way in which the peasants answered his inquiries about Livady and recent church doings in the village, assured Selim Effendi of the complete success of his disguise. His man Osman, also on horseback, played his part of zaptieh-servant irreproachably.

Another half-hour's ride brought the two men to the main street of Livady, in front of the village livery-stable and within shouting distance of Stanko's Inn. Selim Effendi dismounted.

"Now, Osman," he turned to the zaptieh, "here is your chance. If we catch that rascal, you'll be an iuzbashi in a week, with enough gold jingling in your pockets to make anybody dance to your music. Three elbow-lengths tall, Osman, and as for girth, neither a grasshopper nor a hog. Gray eyes, dark hair; had French tailored clothes when last seen in Salonica, the time when he fooled Azni Pasha's entire police force. But no one outside the revolutionary organization knows exactly how the Apostle looks. So keep your eyes open for a priest's cassock and a flowing beard—those are his own words, Osman:

"Of a priest's cassock and a flowing beard,
Nor Turk nor Moslem ever is afeared!

"I'll be on the watch for him at the Inn. But you sort of look after the horses, like a real zaptieh-servant, and scan the face of each that passes down the street."

And then, turning toward the café barber shop in Stanko's courtyard, he yelled at the zaptieh in regular city-merchant style: "Don't you let my horse starve, either, do you hear? Give him plenty of oats, and have him ready to start back in a couple of hours. I must be back in Tetino by sundown. And come over to Stanko's by-andby; I may need you. Wake up, you flatfooted zany! Why are you staring at me like an ox at a painted door?"

Stanko's was not a pretentious caf6 even for a village of Livady's size. A squarish box of brick and pine boards in front of the inn proper, it might have reminded one of a gateman's lodge at a Salonica palace. One side was given over to Stanko's coffeeplace and bar-counter combined, and behind it was a door connecting with a sleeping-room for the innkeeper and his help. The corner on the other side of Stanko's bar was occupied by the barber-shop end of the establishment. An old armchair, with the back sawed off and hinged to the seat, the top part being attached to a rope which could be pulled and regulated by means of a pulley fastened to the wall, served just as well as a Salonica leather-covered, hydraulic-power contraption; and, if the mirror was fly-specked, the razor at least was never dull and there was always lather enough on hand to shave a grizzly.

Some sentimental chromos of French or Italian descent, pasted on the walls, lent some color to the whitewashed interior, and in one corner an ikon of St. George killing the Dragon added the finishing touch of art. Cigarette-box etiquettes were glued in rows over the smoking divan, and on the low tabourets in front were earthen ash-trays, boxes of matches and empty wine-bottles. A mangal piled high with charcoal glowed in the center of the shop, and its sparks were a welcome sight on such an afternoon.

Stanko, the innkeeper, was tending his coffee-pot by the fire, and greeted the furclad city merchant with the typical village cafeji's bow.

"St. Demeter bless your liver this afternoon, traveler; may you stay here long and like it!"

"Your Livady is colder than ice to-day," Selim grumbled by way of response. " Get me a hot brandy and some Prespa wine; I am three-quarters frozen."

"Stanko keeps no traveler waiting; so help me St. Petka, you shall have it all in a twinkle!" and the innkeeper stepped down through the trap-door to where he kept his liquors.

Selim was no Mohammedan teetotaler; he gulped down his brandy with as much zest and as little water as any Christian toper in all Tetino, and got drunk as often. His desire to justify an irrepressible craving had taken the form of a sort of fixed idea that brandy cleared his brain when he wanted to be alert and snappy in his movements; and this fixed idea persisted in spite of abundant proof of many a sad experience to the contrary. So when Stanko returned from his cellar Selim Effendi for a moment forgot the object of his journey to Livady. Having shaken himself up a little bit, the Effendi looked about the place. A younker, evidently Stanko's apprentice in the tonsorial art, was lathering some one's face. Apparently dozing on the divan, however, his face turned toward the window, was a priest in a cassock. The beard was flowing enough. At the sound of Selim's voice the priest had sleepily turned toward him and half-opened his eyes, then turned back and dropped into a doze again.


NOT in Selim Effendi's most optimistic dreams had it occurred to him that he would stumble upon the Apostle napping the moment he entered Stanko's precincts.

Now the Tipsy Bloodhound was no fool, and he knew that Apostle Boyan had equally little claim to membership in the category of idiots. That a man who knew himself to be so fiercely hounded should be so reckless as to indulge in the luxury of a public nap was hard to explain on any other supposition than, perhaps, complete physical and mental exhaustion. But, was he really asleep? For the one hasty glance the apparently dozing priest had given him before resuming his slumbers was far too keen and intelligent for a man just disturbed in his nap.

The entire situation flashed on Selim. The Apostle was on the watch for his man from Poliany, and was simulating sleepiness in order to avoid unnecessary and undesirable conversations with other parties. Evidently he had full faith in the completeness of his incognito. The Turkish police might be on the lookout for him in Tetino, in places like Dedov Rid and Poliany, where comitajis were plenty; but not in a charcoal-hole like Livady.

"You ubiquitous rascal!" Selim thought, "if you only knew that your messenger is starving in my cellar this minute and that a copy of your letter to 'Robespierre' is in my pocket!" He sat down on the divan next to the priestly-clad figure and, absorbing Stanko's intoxicants to thaw his blood, beat his brains to hatch out some scheme of making sure of the Apostle.

Selim Effendi had come to Livady in the guise of an ikon-dealer. The choice of this particular form of disguise had suggested itself by the disguise dictated by the Apostle himself in his letter to the Poliany schoolmaster, for it seemed to him that an ikon-dealer had natural claims on the attention of a man in cassock. And, once he could get at his man without exciting suspicion, he could trust his "twelve-shot-straight" revolver and the steel grip of Osman's paw. A plan was slowly assuming definite shape in his mind—a plan that appealed to Selim's sense of humor, besides being safe and effective.

He had Stanko move the mangal to the corner of the room nearer the barber shop, where he could look into the street, and, seating himself à la Turque on a cushion in front of it, went on sipping at his brandy and looking out of the low, grimy window. Then his eyes turned to the "St. George Killing the Dragon" which beautified the corner diagonally opposite.

"Innkeeper," he asked, "who is that half-naked bully that's trying to tickle a lizard with his goad in your picture over there?"

"Half-naked bully tickling a lizard! Good Lord deliver us poor sinners!" Stanko began, crossing himself piously. " Be you a Catholic or an unbeliever, traveler, that you don't recognize St. George and the Dragon? St. George of all saints, sir!"

" Oh, it is St. George killing the Dragon, eh? Well now, innkeeper, I meant no harm by my question, but my eyes are giving out, and I just couldn't tell what it stood for. The St. Georges I sell, to be sure, are a different matter. You can tell my St. Georges at a hundred paces."

" So 'tis an ikon-pedler you be, traveler? " Stanko inquired.

"An ikon-merchant, right you have it. My brother is the Archdeacon of the St. Panteleimon monastery in the holy Athos; his hermits paint those ikons between midnight and sunrise, and every blessed one is blessed with holy-water from the fountain of St. Panteleimon under the altar. I sell them, but only to good Christians, to priests and .deacons and pious innkeepers, as I may chance to find one in a week's journeying. Our ikons are sanctified, and if an unbeliever or a rascal touches them, wo betide the house where the holy ikon has been thus insulted! Why, innkeeper, my St. Georges are almost alive, and the Dragon spits real fire! If you touch him during Lent with greasy hands it would burn your fingers!"

"Virgin Mary and Holy St. Calliope have mercy on our souls and deliver us from fires everlasting!" Stanko was a pious idiot and made use of a vide acquaintance with the celestial community in his exclamations.

"You are a good Christian, innkeeper? Stanko is your name?"

"Stanko is my name, traveler."

"Well, here comes my zaptieh-servant. Now then, you Armenian tortoise, where have you been lolling all this while? Didn't I tell you that there was a pious innkeeper here that wanted one of our real live St. Georges with the fire-spitting dragons? Hurry up and bring a couple of them over here, and have him choose the one he likes best!"

The reclining figure in the cassock hardly stirred during this speech of Selim's. "Yes, Stanko," the Effendi continued, "if you wish to find out whether a man is cheating you, just get him to touch the dragon's tongue with his third finger, and watch it blister! My ikons never lie. Fact is, I can't sell you any, no matter how much money you may offer for it, until you have touched the dragon yourself while chanting the 'Gospody pomiluy' of the holy liturgy. If it doesn't burn you, you can have it free for nothing and without cost."

"What! The St. George ikon?"

"Why, yes, provided you do your share in an experiment I am going to try."

The door opened and Osman walked in noisily, with a package bulging out from under his coat. Selim noticed the napping priest suddenly turn around and shoot a glance at the new-comer, and then continue his snoring. Stanko grinned at Selim Effendi and nodded toward the dozing figure:

"A priest's son is the devil's grandson nowadays, traveler. God alone knows where he has been last night. Said he came from Tetino, where he had been visiting some sick parishioners, and then he said he was going on a pilgrimage to the Great on High! Well, I don't know about that—and far be it from me, merchant, to speak ill of a priest in cassock, the Virgin Mary bless my sinful heart!"

"Well, that's what I was coming to, Stanko," the Effendi continued. He relieved the servant of his package. Then, beckoning to the innkeeper to sit down, Selim Effendi moved his cushion closer to him and began whispering in his ear:

"Here is what I think, Stanko. When I was at St. Panteleimon's last time, my brother, Archdeacon Azarias, told me: 'Look out wherever you go, brother; the Evil One is abroad.' 'The Evil One?' says I. 'Yes,' he answered, ' the very Satan himself. The Lord has given him leave to travel all over Macedonia in the garb of a priest and see whomsoever he can snare. The Lord wishes to find out how many of his servants can tell each other from the Devil. Pretty hard thing to do with some of them, brother!' That's what my brother the Archdeacon told me."

"By St. Onuphry and by St. Sophrony! And have you seen him anywhere in your travels?" Stanko was crossing himself and mumbling the "Gospody pomiluy."

"Shhh!" Selim Effendi cautioned. "Not so loud! I asked my brother the Archdeacon: 'And how can I recognize him? Shall I try my dragon on him and blister his fingers?' 'By no means,' says he, 'the St. Georges are no good except for mortal men. But I had a dream last night, and,' my brother the Archdeacon said, ' I saw the Holy Parchment of St. Panteleimon curl up on the thirty-third page. I opened the book first thing after liturgy, and this is what I read: "By his beard shalt thou know him, the Evil One that keepeth awake in the night and sleepeth in the daytime with the owl. By his beard and his cassock shalt thou know him. Thou shalt bind his feet and his eyes shalt thou put to confusion, and his beard shalt thou pluck and cast away. For a sleeping servant is unto the Lord an abomination." Whatever that means, brother,' my brother the Archdeacon says, 'whatever that means, I have not pondered yet.'

"Well, Stanko," the Effendi continued, "you feel where the wind is blowing? I have been watching him over there on the smoking-divan, and if he doesn't answer the Holy Book of St. Panteleimon to an iota! Now, innkeeper, as you are a Christian and an honest man, help me capture the Devil, and the St. George is yours for nothing."

"Holy St. John of Rylo, traveler! I must go and fix up some things in the inn—excuse me!"

"If you don't, Stanko,"—Selim ignored his remark,—"if you don't help, your inn will be accursed from this day forth and forever more; for the Devil damns every spot that he lays his head upon!"

" Good Lord and Virgin Mary have mercy on our souls! What do you want me to do, kind brother of the Archdeacon?"

"Talk about something else, and get me some strong hempen rope and a dish of red pepper. Then, when I try to bind him, if he should put up a fight, you just throw the red pepper in his eyes and my zaptieh will be on hand to give him all he wants. And listen, innkeeper,"—Selim spoke aloud for effect—"get me some cucumber pickles while you are about it."

"In a second, traveler. The Lord have mercy!" Stanko answered.

A raucous voice from the barber chair scolded at the apprentice:

"Steady, you green-haired little monkey, steady! What do you think you are about—plucking a rooster or sheep-shearing? Just dare scratch me, and I'll skin your hide for you!" And then, as Stanko returned: "Innkeeper, you've got to do it yourself! I am not going to let that puppy scratch at my face another minute!"

"There, there, customer," the innkeeper answered; "he is doing his best. I can't shave you myself, because my right thumb is sore. Ivan, don't you cut the customer, else I'll pack you off to your father again!"

Selim Effendi barely glanced at the splenetic city man in the barber chair. But the Effendi's eyes were fixed on the napping priest, who was beginning to get restless. It was not a mere matter of overpowering him; that was easy enough, with Osman on hand. But Selim Effendi wished to capture his man and get away without any one's being the wiser. He had reasons for moving in the dark. His very expedition to Livady, undertaken as it was without Enver Pasha's knowledge, was a plain breach of Tetino police regulations, which only a spectacular move—like walking in the konak first thing Wednesday morning with the Apostle tied and bound—could atone for.

Moreover, Selim did not know the political leanings of his superstitious innkeeper, or, for that matter, of the city man in the chair. It was safer to make an ally of Stanko in a holy war against the Devil than risk having him as an enemy in a plot to catch the Apostle. Once he had his man tied and helpless, he could afford to assert his police authority.

Before the napping man in cassock had had a chance to realize what was happening, one quick blow on the part of Osman had pinned him to the divan and, while the innkeeper dashed a handful of red pepper into his face, Selim Efffendi bound him hand and foot with his long rope. At the cry of the prisoner, the city man in the chair made a sudden jerk, and the apprentice almost slashed off his ear. Ivan had overheard part of his master's conversation with the ikon-dealer, which partly accounted for his nervousness, for the lad was as superstitious as his master.

The city man did not interfere. It would have done no good anyway; he was alone against a lot of religious fanatics. Or did he have reasons of his own for not caring to mix in? In Macedonia people often have reasons for minding their own business.

"Now hurry up!" he snapped at the apprentice. "Do you think I am going to camp in this chair? 'Tend to your shaving!"

"Na zdravie, sir, good-luck to you!" murmured Ivan the apprentice as he wiped his customer's neck with a hot towel. "I don't mean any harm, sir, but one gets nervous sometimes."

The shaved man tossed a piaster on the chair and turned toward the other side of the room.

It was a spectacle. The man in cassock was on the floor, sneezing and cursing in his impotence. The three men laughed derisively at him. Ivan looked from a distance; the Devil had terrors for his superstitious heart even when a captive.

"Here, lad!" Selim cried to the apprentice. "Don't be afraid—he can't bite you now. Pull his beard, and see it come off! If you pull it loose, you'll marry into a rich family."

Ivan approached, hesitated a moment, then made for the man on the floor, and the next moment the impetus of his own lurch backwards sent him toppling over, with the mass of hair in his hands.

The prisoner's face was smooth; there was barely one day's growth of beard on it.

"Ha!" Selim exclaimed, "there we have him, plucked and peppered! Let me have his feathers, Ivan! Now then, Devil Effendi, we've got you where we want you—eh, Stanko?"

"The Lord is too high and the Czar is too far, they say," the innkeeper sagely reflected. "But who'd have thought, ikon-dealer, that I was born to see the very Devil right in my own café!"

"Such is life, Stanko. 'Of a priest's cassock and a Devil's beard, what ikon-dealer ever is afeared?'—if he has a brother like my brother the Archdeacon!"

"How long till sunset, innkeeper?" the city man inquired.

Stanko consulted his timepiece: "Four hours, traveler."

"You are going somewhere, sir?" Selim inquired, anxious to have as few people as possible around while he examined his prisoner's pockets.

"Yes, I must be in Tetino by sundown."

"Let me go, I tell you, madman!" the man in cassock was protesting. "What in God's name do you take me for?"

"In God's name we take you for the Devil," Selim derisively explained. "But in my own name I take you for a shoveler in the Den of Lions, for one that has dealings with some 'Great on High.' Do you ever remember your love-letters, Devil Effendi?"

"Oh-ho! That's who I am, eh?" He looked at his captor in amazement. Then the steely eye of the city man caught his and the prisoner grasped the unspoken message. A mere shoveler more or less did not matter; but He that Prepareth the Way could not be spared.

"So that's who I am!" repeated the Poliany schoolmaster.

"So that's who you are!" retorted the Effendi, "and this is what you have!" He pulled out of an inside pocket from under the victim's shirt a bundle of papers and some sealing-wax.

"Don't look at these papers, innkeeper," Selim cautioned; "they'll give you bad dreams! You are going to Tetino soon, friend?" He turned to the city man, who was apparently hesitating near the doorway.

"Yes, must be going pretty soon," the latter answered. " Gulbenk Effendi is waiting for me in Tetino, to close a deal in rice."

Selim Effendi offered the rice-merchant a glass of brandy. The latter merely touched it with his lips.

"You also are going back this evening."

There was no question in his voice, but Selim answered:

"Yes, as soon as I have made heads or tails of this devilish scribble in his papers."

"So you reaily think you have the Devil there?"

"Ivan, go and get me another bottle of Stanimuka wine," Selim ordered the apprentice. Stanko had gone to the inn proper to look after the wants of a peasant who was to stay overnight. "The Devil he is for these cattle," he explained, "but, my name being Selim Effendi of Tetino, you can guess who this man is. The capturing of this man was worth some original maneuvering. It will be a sensation in the konak to-morrow morning when Selim Effendi kicks the iron gates open and walks in with the trophy—what?"

"It will be a sensation, yes. Well, good road to you, Effendi; Allah take care of you, and the Devil will look after your baggage."


SELIM was losing patience. "For the third time: Did you see your man from Poliany or didn't you?"

But the prisoner did not look up.

"I could open that clam-shell mouth of yours on short notice, but when I do I want to be your whole audience. There has been hardly any one here to-day, but who knows what a rabble of charcoal devils will be around here by sundown!"

Slowly the minutes passed as the Effendi was struggling with the meaningless jargon of his victim's papers. He turned to his zaptieh in a low voice:

"What do you think, Osman? I'd rather be through with the farce and have this thing tied to the post next to that low peasant in our cellar. That idiotic innkeeper may catch on to our game, and I don't know his persuasion on matters political. Besides—that rice-merchant; we should have held on to him. I was foolish to blab so much. I want to try my monkey-wrench argument with this Devil and see whether it will loosen his jaw. Ho, you little one, we are going!"

Ivan loaded up with half a dozen bottles of brandy and Prespa vintage, and the Effendi and Osman dragged out the man in cassock.

"I wonder whether that schoolmaster of his from Poliany is coming here after all. I'll wager you the onbashi never delivered the Apostle's letter as I ordered him. What do you think, Osman?"

"The onbashi did deliver it; don't you worry." It was almost the first time the prisoner had spoken.

"You fool, answer my questions when you are the one asked!" and Selim's boot dug into his prisoner's stomach. They were just outside the gate when the innkeeper appeared from the other side of the courtyard.

"Hola, Stanko, can you guess what I am going to do with him? Take him straight to my Bishop in Tetino and have him branded as the Devil in public, then send an account of it all to the Patriarch in Constantinople. They'll make me an archdeacon for it, and maybe an abbot. If they do, I'll take you over to my monastery to look after the winery—what?"

"But the St. Georges?" Stanko inquired.

"I did not wish to open the package in the Devil's presence. But you will find them there on the divan. They'll pay for your brandy and Prespa bottles!"

"St. Onuphry and St. Sophrony preserve you, and St. Panteleimon multiply your children! Na dobur put!"

"Zbogom!" the Effendi replied in peasant fashion, and Stanko entered the cafe. The others turned down the street towards the livery-stable.

"Where is your horse, Effendi?" Osman noticed the empty stall the moment he entered the stable. A folded piece of paper was nailed on the stall-bar. Selim snatched it, and the same hand-printed sort of message in Bulgarian greeted his eyes:

To the Devil in Stanko's Inn, Care of Archdeacon Ananias's brother. From the Den of Lions—Greeting! He that Prepareth the Way sent you a message last Sunday by a man who never returned. Yours is not a coward's heart, Robespierre; fear not. It was a wise whim of mine, to change my disguise; I knew you without being recognized myself. But the little fool that shaved me took too long a time to it, else the Effendi would have found us together. That brat's slow bungling caused your capture. But fear not, my Robespierre. The ikondealer will never take you to the bishop. You are worth nothing to him, and Selim Effendi won't have Enver Pasha laugh at his story. It is not cowardice that makes me desert you; I am too much needed now. Keep your mouth locked; and may your papers be never deciphered by Selim and his like. I leave you in your captor's pocket, but fear not. Nobody wants you; you are useless baggage now, and that's your safety. I have bartered my twomule carriage for the Effendi's horse. A fine animal. It will carry me where Bloodhounds can't even sniff me.

"Of a rice-merchant with a shaven beard,
Nor Turk nor Moslem ever is afeared!"

Selim Effendi reread the message, non-plused, but only for a moment. Then he stuck the letter in front of the Poliany schoolmaster's nose.

"Read it, you crafty fox! Read this, and see if you haven't found your match! Who'd have ever thought that rice-merchant was your man! Oh no, you are not the Apostle, you are just plain 'Robespierre' of Poliany! That is, if I am idiotic enough to believe what the real 'Robespierre' of Poliany has written on this rag of paper! But you won't eel out this time by any such trickery! When I hang you upside down in my cellar you'll tell me a different story!"

"Robespierre of Poliany" did not reply. His surprise at the Apostle's daring letter was second only to his amazement at the Turk's wrong interpretation of it. Of one thing at least he felt sure—He that Prepareth the Way was safe.

"Robespierre's" spirits rose, and the efficient way in which he met Selim's threats made the latter waver a little. Who could tell but that the letter in his hands was actually penned by the Apostle? Which one was the real bird? If the thief of his horse were the real Apostle, he had gone to Poliany, the nearest insurgent center where assistance could be obtained. Selim had heard too much of the Apostle's trickeries to believe in the final way in which the writer of the letter consigned the prisoner of Stanko's Inn to the kindness of destiny.

However, even in case his first interpretation of the message was the correct one, still the schoolmaster of Poliany could have all the better reason for rousing up a relief party in Poliany to save the captured Apostle. If only the onbashi there could be stirred into action! Selim Effendi thought longingly of the Tetino telegraph-office. He wished the apostolic baggage were safely caged in his Tetino cellar.

It was fast thinking, and the conclusion reached was a bold one.

"Osman," Selim shouted to the zaptieh, "mount your horse and gallop the life out of him straight to Poliany! Rouse the onbashi to turn the whole village downside up and capture that rice-merchant! Also describe this man to him, and let us see whether you and I have been chasing a swarm of bees or a cloud of beetles. I shall drive right back to the city with this baggage and wait for you and your news in my jail-cellar. Off with you, Osman! Think of the stake and don't lose a minute!"

But hardly had Osman vanished down the road when Selim Effendi realized the complexity of his situation, for inside of two minutes he discovered the immediate reason for the rice-merchant's making away with his horse. One of the two mules that was to drive him and his prisoner to Tetino was lame and would not budge an inch!

It was growing gloomier every minute. A thick pulpy fog was settling all around. Mud-bespattered peasants with their charcoal-laden donkeys kept passing down the street, all bound for Tetino, to sleep in the city and be on time bright and early for the Wednesday bazaar on the morrow. A couple of them stopped for a moment or two in front of the stable and stared at the puzzled police magistrate. In a flash the Turk had reached a decision. He jumped at one of the peasants whose donkey looked the sturdier of the two:

"Here, you, come with me!"

The charcoal was accordingly dumped on the street, the rice-merchant's mule and the peasant's were mated to tug the rickety carriage, and the charcoal-pedler turned driver. The latter needed only to look from the barrel of Selim's long revolver to the bound figure of the man in cassock right inside the door to lose any idea of opposition which may have at first suggested itself to his peasant brain.

The Turk lined his conveyance with Stanko's bottles; and then a Mohammedan fancy suggested a move characteristic of his failing for the humorous.

"Here, you priest, listen to me! Wasn't there a bishop once that rode into Jerusalem on the back of an ass?" There was in his voice the scornful note of pretended ignorance.

The Poliany schoolmaster did not look up.

"You don't answer, cur? You, charcoal dirt, can't you talk either?"

"Once I heard the priest chant something about that, Effendi."

"Well, this time we'll have the Devil himself riding into Tetino on your donkey's back!" And the charcoalman had to assist the Effendi while the latter piled the bulky frame of his prisoner on the donkey's back and fastened him on like a load of Livady charcoal. For the first time Dascal Zoeff of Poliany loudly proclaimed his identity, but the Turk would not listen.

"I don't want to hear another word from you till we enter my cellar! Shut up!" and he pulled out a dirty, greasy rag from inside the stable and gagged his helpless victim.

"Now off with you as fast as you can drive, right straight to Tetino!" he yelled to the charcoalman. "I'll hold this revolver pointed at your neck, so don't you dare play any dirty games on me!"

The peasant's donkey announced the departure of the improvised train in shrill, plaintive whinnies.


"SO YOU are a charcoal-pedler, eh?" The team was at the outskirts of the village.

"My face would give me the lie if I said nay, Effendi!" The peasant spoke in the Payak dialect, a mixture of Bulgarian and Vlakh, which the Effendi understood but did not speak. A tawny charcoalman he was; his sooty, smoky face, plastered with the carbon dirt of a hundred charred pinetrees, bore but a distant resemblance to a human countenance. A black, greasy sheepskin kalpak covered the major part of his cranium. Sunken beneath his singed eyebrows, a pair of glassy orbs blinked with the colorless stupidity that only five centuries of thraldom can stamp upon the physiognomy of a race. He was taciturn, and conversed readily only with his donkey.

The rickety patter of the carriage disposed the Effendi for the taste of Stanko's vintages. Bottle after bottle dropped by the roadside.

The last bottle would have followed its predecessors, but the revolver slipped by the roadside instead, without the Turk's being any the wiser. The brandy and the Prespa vine were a stupefying combination. Selim could think of nothing but Tetino, and his tongue rattled continually:

"Listen here, look, how is it now, how is it—far to Tetino? Is it far to Tetino?—Tetino, look you, or I'll blow your brains out for you!" and the Effendi brandished the empty brandy-bottle. The charcoalman noted the weapon, and answered in his Payak drawl:

"Three turns, a down-you-go, and there you be, Effendi!"

Twilight fell over the Vardar valley, and in less than an hour the evening fog was so impenetrable that the driver could see hardly more of the Effendi than a pair of alcohol-glowing eyeballs. The turnpike was deserted and the Turk was drunk. Enver Pasha's guards were nowhere to be seen; it was too raw a night for sentry-watches.

"Get up there! Get up! Just a little while longer, brother!" the charcoalman yelled to his donkey, and before Selim could open his eyes the carriage had turned to the left from the Tetino road and was creaking down a lane across muddy pastures and rice-fields and past the bog-marshes of the Vardar River. The mismated team had some trouble in pulling the carriage in concord. A mudhole that almost upset the carriage "roused the drunken Turk, and he yelled at the peasant:

"Hey there, you, I'll blow out your brains! How is it—far to Tetino?"

"One more turn, the down-you-go, and there you'll lie, Effendi."

The Moslem grunted and relapsed into taciturnity.

"Cheer up, my donkey, cheer up, my brother!" the driver called to his donkey. Except for an occasional nasal grunt, the gagged schoolmaster on the donkey's back called no attention to his location. Pretty soon the loose-jointed carriage began pattering down a rather steep incline. Through the fog the brandy-dimmed orbs of Selim Effendi saw a flash of water some hundred elbow-lengths below.

"Look out there!" he yelled. "Down there, you, I'll blow out your brains! See how it flickers! What's that—hidden treasure-lights?"

"Hidden frogs' eyes!" the driver laughed back. "That's the 'down-you-go' I was talking about."

" It didn't shine that way to me this morning when I came from Tetino—Tetino—how—is it far to Tetino?"

"Don't suppose it did. Get up, my donkey! Cheer up, my brother, we're almost there!" and the peasant lashed the rice-merchant's mule.

The charcoalman's donkey did not seem to like his comrade's company. As a result, the improvised team had no definite policy in their work.

"Get up there!" bellowed the driver. Splash-splash went the team, and the carriage seemed to sink all of a sudden into a quicksand quagmire.

"Look out, you charcoal devil! Are you bogging me? I'll blow out your brains for you!" and the intoxicated Turk jammed the empty bottle against the peasant's neck. "Is this Tetino—or Vardar River?"

"Both are pretty close, Effendi, but this is just a mud-pool. Haw there!"

For some little time the driver busied himself with the carriage wheels; hammering at one in particular; then he jumped to his seat again, lashed the mule savagely and let go.

The team plunged ahead and the carriage sailed a thousand elbow-lengths into the fen.

Then suddenly, without any warning whatever, something snapped. The left front wheel splashed into the marsh, the rig lost equilibrium, and the Turk yawped:

"Hey, you charcoal devil!"

"There we are, my donkey! Here we are, my brother!" the driver yelled, and there was a new ring in his voice. He jumped on to the carriage-pole, cursing and shouting in turns, but not for very long. The peasant with the mud-bespattered face and the colorless blinking eyes had unharnessed the team, mounted the rice-merchant's mule and was leading away his own donkey with the human baggage loaded thereon before the inebriate could realize what was happening.

The carriage began filling up with clammy, creepy fen-mire that gripped Selim's feet in an icy clutch and shook him from his brandy-stupor. The Moslem leaped from his seat with an oath and aimed his empty wine-bottle at the dark figures in the mist. But empty bottles do not pop.

"Cool your head, Effendi! Cool your head and warm your feet!" The voice was a little way off to the left, and it was no longer Payak dialect that the charcoalman spoke, but pure Bulgarian, the Bulgarian of Selim's two messages. "You are half-an-hour's swim from dry land, and another two hours' walk from a living soul after we are gone. It is almost freezing now, Effendi, but the Evil One doesn't bother folks in cold weather!"

"Hey there, you charcoalman! You'll grease the rope for this!"

"Don't slander the trade, Selim. I am a priest by training, a revolutionist by faith, and an Apostle by profession. You remember that old priest in Vodena whom you roasted on a spit like a lamb-chop? That was my father—God rest his soul! That was the story that greeted me when I came home from the seminary. And those two girls, the daughters of Stephan the miller in Novoselo? And the carpenter's bride of two months in Ridovy? Yours is a long, long story, Selim Effendi; and here is the last chapter! You couldn't read those papers in the schoolmaster's pocket? Here is something to satisfy your curiosity, Selim. On the fifteenth of January, in Novoselo, a congress will decide to light the fuse that will blow to smithereens your whole Government. But my brother-in-freedom is groaning on my donkey's back. A cold nightmare to you, Effendi, and may the charcoalmen bless me for ridding the land of another bloodsucker!"

And the two figures vanished into the fog.

The wheel-rims had sunk out of sight. The Turk stared wildly around. He could see nobody, hear nobody. Far away in the distance his eyes could catch the faintest glimmer of what he imagined was Tetino. All around him was that glassy, creepy, serpentine ice-glaze of the treacherous Livady Morass.

And the carriage slowly sank, sank.