Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker

Part 7 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"This is a matter, Your Majesty, that the women naturally have a say
in, so we have, of course, consulted them. They have discussed the
matter by themselves, and then with us, and they are agreed without a
flaw that it will be good for the Nation and for Womankind that you
do this thing. You have shown to them, and to the world at large,
what women should do, what they can do, and they want to make, in
memory of your great act, the Shroud a garment of pride and honour
for women who have deserved well of their country. In the future it
can be a garment to be worn only by privileged women who have earned
the right. But they hope, and we hope with them, that on this
occasion of our Nation taking the lead before the eyes of the world,
all our women may wear it on that day as a means of showing overtly
their willingness to do their duty, even to the death. And so"--here
he turned to the King--"Rupert, we trust that Her Majesty Queen Teuta
will understand that in doing as the women of the Blue Mountains
wish, she will bind afresh to the Queen the loyal devotion which she
won from them as Voivodin. Henceforth and for all time the Shroud
shall be a dress of honour in our Land."

Teuta looked all ablaze with love and pride and devotion. Stars in
her eyes shone like white fire as she assured them of the granting of
their request. She finished her little speech:

"I feared that if I carried out my own wish, it might look arrogant,
but Rupert has expressed the same wish, and now I feel that I am free
to wear that dress which brought me to you and to Rupert"--here she
beamed on him, and took his hand--"fortified as I am by your wishes
and the command of my lord the King."

Rupert took her in his arms and kissed her fondly before them all,
saying:

"Tell your wives, my brothers, and the rest of the Blue Mountain
women, that that is the answer of the husband who loves and honours
his wife. All the world shall see at the ceremony of the Federation
of Balka that we men love and honour the women who are loyal and can
die for duty. And, men of the Blue Mountains, some day before long
we shall organize that great idea, and make it a permanent thing--
that the Order of the Shroud is the highest guerdon that a noble-
hearted woman can wear."

Teuta disappeared for a few moments, and came back with the Crown
Prince in her arms. Everyone present asked to be allowed to kiss
him, which they did kneeling.

THE FEDERATION BALKA.
By the Correspondents of "Free America."

The Editors of Free America have thought it well to put in
consecutive order the reports and descriptions of their Special
Correspondents, of whom there were present no less than eight. Not a
word they wrote is omitted, but the various parts of their reports
are placed in different order, so that, whilst nothing which any of
them recorded is left out, the reader may be able to follow the
proceedings from the various points of view of the writers who had
the most favourable opportunity of moment. In so large an assemblage
of journalists--there were present over a thousand--they could not
all be present in one place; so our men, in consultation amongst
themselves, arranged to scatter, so as to cover the whole proceeding
from the various "coigns of vantage," using their skill and
experience in selecting these points. One was situated on the summit
of the steel-clad tower in the entrance to the Blue Mouth; another on
the "Press-boat," which was moored alongside King Rupert's armoured
yacht, The Lady, whereon were gathered the various Kings and rulers
of the Balkan States, all of whom were in the Federation; another was
in a swift torpedo-boat, with a roving commission to cruise round the
harbour as desired; another took his place on the top of the great
mountain which overlooks Plazac, and so had a bird's-eye view of the
whole scene of operations; two others were on the forts to right and
left of the Blue Mouth; another was posted at the entrance to the
Great Tunnel which runs from the water level right up through the
mountains to the plateau, where the mines and factories are situate;
another had the privilege of a place on an aeroplane, which went
everywhere and saw everything. This aeroplane was driven by an old
Special Correspondent of Free America, who had been a chum of our
Special in the Japanese and Russian War, and who has taken service on
the Blue Mountain Official Gazette.

PLAZAC,
June 30, 1909.

Two days before the time appointed for the ceremony the guests of the
Land of the Blue Mountains began to arrive. The earlier comers were
mostly the journalists who had come from almost over the whole
inhabited world. King Rupert, who does things well, had made a camp
for their exclusive use. There was a separate tent for each--of
course, a small one, as there were over a thousand journalists--but
there were big tents for general use scattered about--refectories,
reading and writing rooms, a library, idle rooms for rest, etc. In
the rooms for reading and writing, which were the work-rooms for
general use, were newspapers, the latest attainable from all over the
world, Blue-Books, guides, directories, and all such aids to work as
forethought could arrange. There was for this special service a body
of some hundreds of capable servants in special dress and bearing
identification numbers--in fact, King Rupert "did us fine," to use a
slang phrase of pregnant meaning.

There were other camps for special service, all of them well
arranged, and with plenty of facility for transport. Each of the
Federating Monarchs had a camp of his own, in which he had erected a
magnificent pavilion. For the Western King, who had acted as
Arbitrator in the matter of the Federation, a veritable palace had
been built by King Rupert--a sort of Aladdin's palace it must have
been, for only a few weeks ago the place it occupied was, I was told,
only primeval wilderness. King Rupert and his Queen, Teuta, had a
pavilion like the rest of the Federators of Balka, but infinitely
more modest, both in size and adornments.

Everywhere were guards of the Blue Mountains, armed only with the
"handjar," which is the national weapon. They wore the national
dress, but so arranged in colour and accoutrement that the general
air of uniformity took the place of a rigid uniform. There must have
been at least seventy or eighty thousand of them.

The first day was one of investigation of details by the visitors.
During the second day the retinues of the great Federators came.
Some of these retinues were vast. For instance, the Soldan (though
only just become a Federator) sent of one kind or another more than a
thousand men. A brave show they made, for they are fine men, and
drilled to perfection. As they swaggered along, singly or in mass,
with their gay jackets and baggy trousers, their helmets surmounted
by the golden crescent, they looked a foe not to be despised.
Landreck Martin, the Nestor of journalists, said to me, as we stood
together looking at them:

"To-day we witness a new departure in Blue Mountain history. This is
the first occasion for a thousand years that so large a Turkish body
has entered the Blue Mountains with a reasonable prospect of ever
getting out again."

July 1, 1909.

To-day, the day appointed for the ceremony, was auspiciously fine,
even for the Blue Mountains, where at this time of year the weather
is nearly always fine. They are early folk in the Blue Mountains,
but to-day things began to hum before daybreak. There were bugle-
calls all over the place--everything here is arranged by calls of
musical instruments--trumpets, or bugles, or drums (if, indeed, the
drum can be called a musical instrument)--or by lights, if it be
after dark. We journalists were all ready; coffee and bread-and-
butter had been thoughtfully served early in our sleeping-tents, and
an elaborate breakfast was going on all the time in the refectory
pavilions. We had a preliminary look round, and then there was a
sort of general pause for breakfast. We took advantage of it, and
attacked the sumptuous--indeed, memorable--meal which was served for
us.

The ceremony was to commence at noon, but at ten o'clock the whole
place was astir--not merely beginning to move, but actually moving;
everybody taking their places for the great ceremony. As noon drew
near, the excitement was intense and prolonged. One by one the
various signatories to the Federation began to assemble. They all
came by sea; such of them as had sea-boards of their own having their
fleets around them. Such as had no fleets of their own were attended
by at least one of the Blue Mountain ironclads. And I am bound to
say that I never in my life saw more dangerous craft than these
little warships of King Rupert of the Blue Mountains. As they
entered the Blue Mouth each ship took her appointed station, those
which carried the signatories being close together in an isolated
group in a little bay almost surrounded by high cliffs in the
farthest recesses of the mighty harbour. King Rupert's armoured
yacht all the time lay close inshore, hard by the mouth of the Great
Tunnel which runs straight into the mountain from a wide plateau,
partly natural rock, partly built up with mighty blocks of stone.
Here it is, I am told, that the inland products are brought down to
the modern town of Plazac. Just as the clocks were chiming the half-
hour before noon this yacht glided out into the expanse of the"
Mouth." Behind her came twelve great barges, royally decked, and
draped each in the colour of the signatory nation. On each of these
the ruler entered with his guard, and was carried to Rupert's yacht,
he going on the bridge, whilst his suite remained on the lower deck.
In the meantime whole fleets had been appearing on the southern
horizon; the nations were sending their maritime quota to the
christening of "Balka"! In such wonderful order as can only be seen
with squadrons of fighting ships, the mighty throng swept into the
Blue Mouth, and took up their stations in groups. The only armament
of a Great Power now missing was that of the Western King. But there
was time. Indeed, as the crowd everywhere began to look at their
watches a long line of ships began to spread up northward from the
Italian coast. They came at great speed--nearly twenty knots. It
was a really wonderful sight--fifty of the finest ships in the world;
the very latest expression of naval giants, each seemingly typical of
its class--Dreadnoughts, cruisers, destroyers. They came in a wedge,
with the King's yacht flying the Royal Standard the apex. Every ship
of the squadron bore a red ensign long enough to float from the
masthead to the water. From the armoured tower in the waterway one
could see the myriad of faces--white stars on both land and sea--for
the great harbour was now alive with ships and each and all of them
alive with men.

Suddenly, without any direct cause, the white masses became eclipsed-
-everyone had turned round, and was looking the other way. I looked
across the bay and up the mountain behind--a mighty mountain, whose
slopes run up to the very sky, ridge after ridge seeming like itself
a mountain. Far away on the very top the standard of the Blue
Mountains was run up on a mighty Flagstaff which seemed like a shaft
of light. It was two hundred feet high, and painted white, and as at
the distance the steel stays were invisible, it towered up in lonely
grandeur. At its foot was a dark mass grouped behind a white space,
which I could not make out till I used my field-glasses.

Then I knew it was King Rupert and the Queen in the midst of a group
of mountaineers. They were on the aero station behind the platform
of the aero, which seemed to shine--shine, not glitter--as though it
were overlaid with plates of gold.

Again the faces looked west. The Western Squadron was drawing near
to the entrance of the Blue Mouth. On the bridge of the yacht stood
the Western King in uniform of an Admiral, and by him his Queen in a
dress of royal purple, splendid with gold. Another glance at the
mountain-top showed that it had seemed to become alive. A whole park
of artillery seemed to have suddenly sprung to life, round each its
crew ready for action. Amongst the group at the foot of the
Flagstaff we could distinguish King Rupert; his vast height and bulk
stood out from and above all round him. Close to him was a patch of
white, which we understood to be Queen Teuta, whom the Blue
Mountaineers simply adore.

By this time the armoured yacht, bearing all the signatories to
"Balka" (excepting King Rupert), had moved out towards the entrance,
and lay still and silent, waiting the coming of the Royal Arbitrator,
whose whole squadron simultaneously slowed down, and hardly drifted
in the seething water of their backing engines.

When the flag which was in the yacht's prow was almost opposite the
armoured fort, the Western King held up a roll of vellum handed to
him by one of his officers. We onlookers held our breath, for in an
instant was such a scene as we can never hope to see again.

At the raising of the Western King's hand, a gun was fired away on
the top of the mountain where rose the mighty Flagstaff with the
standard of the Blue Mountains. Then came the thunder of salute from
the guns, bright flashes and reports, which echoed down the hillsides
in never-ending sequence. At the first gun, by some trick of
signalling, the flag of the Federated "Balka" floated out from the
top of the Flagstaff, which had been mysteriously raised, and flew
above that of the Blue Mountains.

At the same moment the figures of Rupert and Teuta sank; they were
taking their places on the aeroplane. An instant after, like a great
golden bird, it seemed to shoot out into the air, and then, dipping
its head, dropped downward at an obtuse angle. We could see the King
and Queen from time waist upwards--the King in Blue Mountain dress of
green; the Queen, wrapped in her white Shroud, holding her baby on
her breast. When far out from the mountain-top and over the Blue
Mouth, the wings and tail of the great bird-like machine went up, and
the aero dropped like a stone, till it was only some few hundred feet
over the water. Then the wings and tail went down, but with
diminishing speed. Below the expanse of the plane the King and Queen
were now seen seated together on the tiny steering platform, which
seemed to have been lowered; she sat behind her husband, after the
manner of matrons of the Blue Mountains. That coming of that
aeroplane was the most striking episode of all this wonderful day.

After floating for a few seconds, the engines began to work, whilst
the planes moved back to their normal with beautiful simultaneity.
There was a golden aero finding its safety in gliding movement. At
the same time the steering platform was rising, so that once more the
occupants were not far below, but above the plane. They were now
only about a hundred feet above the water, moving from the far end of
the Blue Mouth towards the entrance in the open space between the two
lines of the fighting ships of the various nationalities, all of
which had by now their yards manned--a manoeuvre which had begun at
the firing of the first gun on the mountain-top. As the aero passed
along, all the seamen began to cheer--a cheering which they kept up
till the King and Queen had come so close to the Western King's
vessel that the two Kings and Queens could greet each other. The
wind was now beginning to blow westward from the mountain-top, and it
took the sounds towards the armoured fort, so that at moments we
could distinguish the cheers of the various nationalities, amongst
which, more keen than the others, came the soft "Ban Zai!" of the
Japanese.

King Rupert, holding his steering levers, sat like a man of marble.
Behind him his beautiful wife, clad in her Shroud, and holding in her
arms the young Crown Prince, seemed like a veritable statue.

The aero, guided by Rupert's unerring hand, lit softly on the after-
deck of the Western King's yacht; and King Rupert, stepping on deck,
lifted from her seat Queen Teuta with her baby in her arms. It was
only when the Blue Mountain King stood amongst other men that one
could realize his enormous stature. He stood literally head and
shoulders over every other man present.

Whilst the aeroplane was giving up its burden, the Western King and
his Queen were descending from the bridge. The host and hostess,
hand in hand--after their usual fashion, as it seems--hurried forward
to greet their guests. The meeting was touching in its simplicity.
The two monarchs shook hands, and their consorts, representatives of
the foremost types of national beauty of the North and South,
instinctively drew close and kissed each other. Then the hostess
Queen, moving towards the Western King, kneeled before him with the
gracious obeisance of a Blue Mountain hostess, and kissed his hand.

Her words of greeting were:

"You are welcome, sire, to the Blue Mountains. We are grateful to
you for all you have done for Balka, and to you and Her Majesty for
giving us the honour of your presence."

The King seemed moved. Accustomed as he was to the ritual of great
occasions, the warmth and sincerity, together with the gracious
humility of this old Eastern custom, touched him, monarch though he
was of a great land and many races in the Far East. Impulsively he
broke through Court ritual, and did a thing which, I have since been
told, won for him for ever a holy place in the warm hearts of the
Blue Mountaineers. Sinking on his knee before the beautiful shroud-
clad Queen, he raised her hand and kissed it. The act was seen by
all in and around the Blue Mouth, and a mighty cheering rose, which
seemed to rise and swell as it ran far and wide up the hillsides,
till it faded away on the far-off mountain-top, where rose
majestically the mighty Flagstaff bearing the standard of the Balkan
Federation.

For myself, I can never forget that wonderful scene of a nation's
enthusiasm, and the core of it is engraven on my memory. That
spotless deck, typical of all that is perfect in naval use; the King
and Queen of the greatest nation of the earth {3} received by the
newest King and Queen--a King and Queen who won empire for
themselves, so that the former subject of another King received him
as a brother-monarch on a history-making occasion, when a new world-
power was, under his tutelage, springing into existence. The fair
Northern Queen in the arms of the dark Southern Queen with the starry
eyes. The simple splendour of Northern dress arrayed against that of
almost peasant plainness of the giant King of the South. But all
were eclipsed--even the thousand years of royal lineage of the
Western King, Rupert's natural dower of stature, and the other
Queen's bearing of royal dignity and sweetness--by the elemental
simplicity of Teuta's Shroud. Not one of all that mighty throng but
knew something of her wonderful story; and not one but felt glad and
proud that such a noble woman had won an empire through her own
bravery, even in the jaws of the grave.

The armoured yacht, with the remainder of the signatories to the
Balkan Federation, drew close, and the rulers stepped on board to
greet the Western King, the Arbitrator, Rupert leaving his task as
personal host and joining them. He took his part modestly in the
rear of the group, and made a fresh obeisance in his new capacity.

Presently another warship, The Balka, drew close. It contained the
ambassadors of Foreign Powers, and the Chancellors and high officials
of the Balkan nations. It was followed by a fleet of warships, each
one representing a Balkan Power. The great Western fleet lay at
their moorings, but with the exception of manning their yards, took
no immediate part in the proceedings.

On the deck of the new-comer the Balkan monarchs took their places,
the officials of each State grading themselves behind their monarch.
The Ambassadors formed a foremost group by themselves.

Last came the Western King, quite alone (save for the two Queens),
bearing in his hand the vellum scroll, the record of his arbitration.
This he proceeded to read, a polyglot copy of it having been already
supplied to every Monarch, Ambassador, and official present. It was
a long statement, but the occasion was so stupendous--so intense--
that the time flew by quickly. The cheering had ceased the moment
the Arbitrator opened the scroll, and a veritable silence of the
grave abounded.

When the reading was concluded Rupert raised his hand, and on the
instant came a terrific salvo of cannon-shots from not only the ships
in the port, but seemingly all up and over the hillsides away to the
very summit.

When the cheering which followed the salute had somewhat toned down,
those on board talked together, and presentations were made. Then
the barges took the whole company to the armour-clad fort in the
entrance-way to the Blue Mouth. Here, in front, had been arranged
for the occasion, platforms for the starting of aeroplanes. Behind
them were the various thrones of state for the Western King and
Queen, and the various rulers of "Balka"--as the new and completed
Balkan Federation had become--de jure as well as de facto. Behind
were seats for the rest of the company. All was a blaze of crimson
and gold. We of the Press were all expectant, for some ceremony had
manifestly been arranged, but of all details of it we had been kept
in ignorance. So far as I could tell from the faces, those present
were at best but partially informed. They were certainly ignorant of
all details, and even of the entire programme of the day. There is a
certain kind of expectation which is not concerned in the mere
execution of fore-ordered things.

The aero on which the King and Queen had come down from the mountain
now arrived on the platform in the charge of a tall young
mountaineer, who stepped from the steering-platform at once. King
Rupert, having handed his Queen (who still carried her baby) into her
seat, took his place, and pulled a lever. The aero went forward, and
seemed to fall head foremost off the fort. It was but a dip,
however, such as a skilful diver takes from a height into shallow
water, for the plane made an upward curve, and in a few seconds was
skimming upwards towards the Flagstaff. Despite the wind, it arrived
there in an incredibly short time. Immediately after his flight
another aero, a big one this time, glided to the platform. To this
immediately stepped a body of ten tall, fine-looking young men. The
driver pulled his levers, and the plane glided out on the track of
the King. The Western King, who was noticing, said to the Lord High
Admiral, who had been himself in command of the ship of war, and now
stood close behind him:

"Who are those men, Admiral?"

"The Guard of the Crown Prince, Your Majesty. They are appointed by
the Nation."

"Tell me, Admiral, have they any special duties?"

"Yes, Your Majesty," came the answer: "to die, if need be, for the
young Prince!"

"Quite right! That is fine service. But how if any of them should
die?"

"Your Majesty, if one of them should die, there are ten thousand
eager to take his place."

"Fine, fine! It is good to have even one man eager to give his life
for duty. But ten thousand! That is what makes a nation!"

When King Rupert reached the platform by the Flagstaff, the Royal
Standard of the Blue Mountains was hauled up under it. Rupert stood
up and raised his hand. In a second a cannon beside him was fired;
then, quick as thought, others were fired in sequence, as though by
one prolonged lightning-flash. The roar was incessant, but getting
less in detonating sound as the distance and the hills subdued it.
But in the general silence which prevailed round us we could hear the
sound as though passing in a distant circle, till finally the line
which had gone northward came back by the south, stopping at the last
gun to south'ard of the Flagstaff.

"What was that wonderful circle?" asked the King of the Lord High
Admiral.

"That, Your Majesty, is the line of the frontier of the Blue
Mountains. Rupert has ten thousand cannon in line."

"And who fires them? I thought all the army must be here."

"The women, Your Majesty. They are on frontier duty to-day, so that
the men can come here."

Just at that moment one of the Crown Prince's Guards brought to the
side of the King's aero something like a rubber ball on the end of a
string. The Queen held it out to the baby in her arms, who grabbed
at it. The guard drew back. Pressing that ball must have given some
signal, for on the instant a cannon, elevated to perpendicular, was
fired. A shell went straight up an enormous distance. The shell
burst, and sent out both a light so bright that it could be seen in
the daylight, and a red smoke, which might have been seen from the
heights of the Calabrian Mountains over in Italy.

As the shell burst, the King's aero seemed once more to spring from
the platform out into mid-air, dipped as before, and glided out over
the Blue Mouth with a rapidity which, to look at, took one's breath
away.

As it came, followed by the aero of the Crown Prince's Guard and a
group of other aeros, the whole mountain-sides seemed to become
alive. From everywhere, right away up to the farthest visible
mountain-tops, darted aeroplanes, till a host of them were rushing
with dreadful speed in the wake of the King. The King turned to
Queen Teuta, and evidently said something, for she beckoned to the
Captain of the Crown Prince's Guard, who was steering the plane. He
swerved away to the right, and instead of following above the open
track between the lines of warships, went high over the outer line.
One of those on board began to drop something, which, fluttering
down, landed on every occasion on the bridge of the ship high over
which they then were.

The Western King said again to the Gospodar Rooke (the Lord High
Admiral):

"It must need some skill to drop a letter with such accuracy."

With imperturbable face the Admiral replied:

"It is easier to drop bombs, Your Majesty."

The flight of aeroplanes was a memorable sight. It helped to make
history. Henceforth no nation with an eye for either defence or
attack can hope for success without the mastery of the air.

In the meantime--and after that time, too--God help the nation that
attacks "Balka" or any part of it, so long as Rupert and Teuta live
in the hearts of that people, and bind them into an irresistible
unity.

Footnotes:

{1} Vladika, a high functionary in the Land of the Blue Mountains.
He is a sort of official descendant of the old Prince-Bishops who
used at one time to govern the State. In process of time the system
has changed, but the function--shorn of its personal dominance--
remains. The nation is at present governed by the Council. The
Church (which is, of course, the Eastern Church) is represented by
the Archbishop, who controls the whole spiritual functions and
organization. The connecting-link between them--they being quite
independent organizations--is the Vladika, who is ex officio a member
of the National Council. By custom he does not vote, but is looked
on as an independent adviser who is in the confidence of both sides
of national control.

{2} EDITORIAL NOTE--We shall, in our issue of Saturday week, give a
full record of the romantic story of Queen Teuta and her Shroud,
written by Mr. Mordred Booth, and illustrated by our special artist,
Mr. Neillison Browne, who is Mr. Booth's artistic collaborateur in
the account of King Rupert's Coronation.

{3} Greatest Kingdom--Editor Free America.

Book of the day: