He that Prepareth the Way can be found in






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.

II

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' Revolution...

This is only a preview of this story. The site administrator is evaluating methods to bring it to you.