THE first stage of my trip was now accomplished. When I left Athens on foot, you will recollect that I was not certain of reaching Marathon ; but Marathon now lies behind me a conquered territory, and I am resolved to push forward to some other destination ; where it is, I do not exactly know, but I am going to follow the image. Up the Euripus lies Aulis, the port where the hosts of Agamemnon embarked for Troy; perchance some ancient shapes may still haunt the spot ; thither accordingly let us turn our steps. It will be a fair walk of two days ; at the end of the first day is a convenient town called Marcopoulo, where there is reported to be a khan or Greek inn. Aristides, the merchant, is going part of the way ; him we shall accompany with fresh delight.
So favorable had the trip been thus far that all thought of danger from brigands had quietly passed out of mind. There was an unconscious assurance on every side that the country was perfectly safe ; people were seen at work every-where, and people who work are not robbers and will not tolerate robbery. Men were manifestly the same here as in other parts of the world just as honest and just as orderly; it would have been a contemptible piece of cowardice to have felt insecurity any longer.
A little after daylight I rose daylight does not come too early at this season and took my position before the wine-shop, observing the people pass to their labor in the fields. All were hastening toward the plain-men, women, and children ; it was the season for trimming the vines and picking the olives ; every hand could find something to do. The long-haired Papas went by with his pruning-hook, leading a little girl whom he in fatherly pride showed to me as a future Cleopatra ; his wife, with a babe in her arms and a large grubbing-hoe on her shoulder, passed, adjusting more closely her head-wrappage as she approached. Also the Dicast, the village judge, went by, bearing an implement of labor, dressed to-day in his old clothes, yet keeping on his Parisian hat. It was a working day at Marathon.
Soon the merchant appeared with his store upon the back of the little donkey ; from the small company which had gathered before the wineshop we started on our way up the valley amid friendly farewells. The pleasant waters of the Marathonian river met us with the incessant babble of a baby, and a baby of a river it is. The village slowly re-cedes ; one turns around often and looks at the houses lying along the banks of the stream and sending up blue wreaths of smoke in idyllic tranquility. Beyond the village let us glance once more into the plain where the battle was fought, and whither groups of peasants are now moving ; still further beyond let us catch at intervals the faint blue sparkle of the surface of the sea. But look at the skies yonder ; clouds are gathering over the plain, sullen squadrons of them are hurrying along, preparing for a Marathonian battle of the elements. Yet one must pass on, though hesitatingly ; there is a peculiar emotion, as one separates from this historic spot ; he has a feeling of weight, the weight of a mighty past, which, though departed forever, still casts a dark out-line upon the soul ; it is a monument whose very shadow is heavy and burdens with its presence.
But not ancient story alone is found here ; some traces are left of intervening times. Yonder at the entrance to the valley is the ruin of a Turkish tower erected for the purpose of watching this region. It is now wholly deserted, but it stands as one of the mementos of centuries of hateful oppression. The merchant tells me that three hundred Greeks were murdered there during the Revolution by the Turks. It is a spot haunted and accursed shunned by the country people who in that locality can still hear at the middle of the night the curses of the infidels with the groans of dying men. Now it is left to decay the sign of odious tyranny which also has fallen to ruin; and the prayer which the traveler puts up, as he passes it, is, that never again this or any other tower may watch over an enslaved Marathon.
At the turn of the road the town disappears, though the chattering stream is still leaping merrily along at our side. But the clouds which all morning have threatened village and plain, now overtake us and begin to dash down large drops of water into our faces. This was at first regarded merely as a sportive sprinkle from Zeus, but the matter continued to grow more serious, and it soon became manifest that the God was in earnest, if not in anger. My great coat became saturated and very heavy, so my obliging companion loosened from his pack a shaggy capote and handed it to me for a change. This garment is very useful for such weather ; it is made of goat’s hair so compactly woven that it sheds rain. It has joined to it at the top a pointed cap of the same material, into which the head is thrust and protected. My friend also insisted upon taking my bundle and laying it on the back of that poor heavy-laden donkey, but I protested and continued to carry it myself.
I have already told you that my companion is called by the classic appellation of Aristides ; he informs me that he has an uncle at Oropus who is a schoolmaster by the name of Aristoteles. These ancient designations are not without their effect; I rejoice that the Marathonian name Aristides still lingers here and seeks my company, having returned to its former haunts ; for ancient Aristides, called the Just, was in the battle of Marathon and notably commanded a detachment of Athenians. So I walk along with a veritable Aristides, talking Greek to me, and revealing, one will think, certain spiritual outlines of his great namesake. But he is a man of business and herein has a decidedly modern tinge ; his main characteristic is brightness, coupled with a youthful manner which is peculiarly Greek, though he be over thirty. A quick nervous action accompanies all his movements, showing a spirit restless and struggling with its limits ; of steady patience he has but little, particularly for his patience-trying donkey. His friendliness is unbounded, yet not ostentatious ; he has already invited me to put up with him at Oropus and see his uncle Aristoteles the schoolmaster, who, he claims, is no unworthy representative of the illustrious name.
At this point we may notice an honorable trait of the modern Greek : it is the desire of inheriting the greatness as well as the fame of his ancient kinsmen. Hence these names of the distinguished worthies of antiquity are very common at present ; sometimes they make an incongruous impression. One meets with Plato in baggy blue breeches and pointed red moccasins carrying greasy oil-skins ; one beholds De mosthenes in fez and fustanella belaboring his refractory mule ; in a country town I saw two women engaged in furious combat, using their distaffs as weapons they were Penelope and Clytemnestra.
Also my friend Aristides, like his ancient namesake, is a true patriot with a keen insight into the evils and dangers of Greece. The smallness of her territory, her dependance on the whims and interests of the Great European Powers, her lack of internal development, her manifold governmental ills are subjects of the sharpest regret; still, he has hope and thinks that in the fifty years of independance she has done wonders. Just at present the political outlook seems gloomy ; he feels certain that Turkey will not yield the limits ceded by the Treaty of Berlin. ‘ Patience, oh just Aristides ! ” is all that the sympathizing stranger can say to him, far more difficult things have been accomplished even in our day.” Whereat with dark eyes brimming and with a nervous twitch he pokes his stick into the sides of the don-key, which has taken advantage of the interesting conversation to come to a full pause.
Nor should we pass by this occasion without noticing another leading trait of the modern Greek. Not only does he look up to the ancient worthies of his nation and seek to inherit their celebrity and culture, but he has also a modern Idea, which constitutes the very marrow of his being. That Idea is the enfranchisement and regeneration of the entire Greek race; in fact, the whole Orient is to receive a new birth through the new Greece. The Greek Revolution failed to emancipate the Greek ; only a little over one million out of twelve were then freed. “But,” says Aristides, “we did not win by force of arms ; now we shall conquer by intelligence. We intend to kindle such a light here in the East that the Turk will have to get out of its glare. Thessaly is already ours by the consent of Europe ; then Macedonia will follow ; Constantinople is the goal and we shall soon be there in our ancient imperial seat. To-day our university educates the brain of the Turkish empire ; those barbarians would be helpless without Greek intellect. Yes, the Orient must be-come Hellenic again, and Constantinople is to be the cap-ital.”
Such is the great modern Idea of which o& modern Aristides is a most zealous expounder. But it is just this Idea which Western Europe from various causes has refused to accept. England, in particular, has set herself against the hopes of a whole race allied in religion and civilization in favor of the barbarous Ottoman. Assuredly the Oriental policy of England has been a mistake ; it is always a mistake to run counter to the struggles of a great people for enfranchisement and unity. Yet such has been hitherto the attitude of England in the East. If she had put herself at the head of this strong national aspiration instead of stifling it, the vexed Oriental question would now have been solved, or have looked to a happy solution in the near future.
Indeed, upon an inspection of some of these Oriental transactions of the English, one is inclined to ask them strange questions ; among others this one obtrudes itself into the soul: Do you then believe that there is a God in the universe? If there be, he is with the people who are with deepest longing and agony struggling for light and freedom, however awkward and absurd these attempts may be. England does not believe in the deity of ignorance and slavery ; yet she persists in doing that which she does not allow her God to do. She preaches at home the divinity of liberty and humanity, and will defend the same with the last drop of English blood ; but abroad she upholds the Mahomedan Tar-tar against the Christian Greek. Strange that England has still any faith in a God. Yet she is to-day the most religious country in Europe, it is said ; her upper classes are often declared to be the only upper classes who are generally imbued with a strong feeling of religion. The Englishman has certainly a high conception both of deity and humanity ; he would scout a God who could create the institution of slavery or make heaven a harem. But looking at this East-ern question and its history can any one doubt that he will retain his fellowman in bondage to strangers in faith and race, that he will give himself privileges which he refuses to his God? The worship of the highest, most universal type ought to produce the highest, most universal conduct ; but it must be set down as characteristic of England, and also of New England, indeed of the whole Anglo-Saxon consciousness, to divorce speculation from action, to nurse conviction with effeminate fondness just one day of the week, then care-fully to lock it up the remaining six as something too tender and impracticable for daily use in this exceedingly practical world of ours. So the Greek Idea is theoretically very fine, even merits our sympathy, but it is not practical. Ah yes; what we worship as truth in God, we put down as a lie, or at least as a delusion in Man.
Who, therefore, can blame Aristides if he has no love for England? I believe that he has a right to his indignation; therein many an Englishman, I would fain believe the majority, would join him and me. So we go on discussing in the rain the Great Idea, which is the matter always upper-most in the heart of the Greek, and which, I imagine, he pours out more freely to an American, who can not help being sympathetic. But from the Great Idea he suddenly fails to punching the donkey which takes many a little liberty during the time we are absorbed in conversation, and will not suffer us to forget its important presence.
This is the picture which I would have you look at with a little interest: two persons in shaggy capotes are walking up the valley of a small stream, amid the gray drizzle ; they often slip on the wet stones with their soggy shoes which are continually getting broader and threaten to go to pieces ; they slowly wind around in the tortuous mule-path through the many folds of the hills covered everywhere with under-brush and rocks ; their two voices can always be heard, in question and response, wandering through the deserted glens which, affrighted at times, send back a fleeting answer ; one of the voices is strewing curious fragments of broken Greek through all these solitudes, to the repeated horror of fair nymph Echo. Clouds at intervals descend to the earth and enwrap the two pedestrians in a moist sheet of mist; then they rise again having discharged their watery burden, and for a moment break into silvery translucent fleeces beneath which gleams the sun, whom they now promise to un-veil; but there follows a new gathering of the cloudy squadrons over Marathon, which pass heavily above and throw down a pitiless shower. Aristides turning nervously around and looking up at the skies, sees the fresh storm coming ; getting in a hurry he pokes the donkey.
And that donkey, the third one of our goodly company, must not be omitted. Patiently it steps along before us, selecting always the securest way through the slippery rocks, while we blindly follow. Not infrequently it will prick up its long ears and look intelligently at some object by the side of the road, then it will calmly lay them back at a change of thought. That play of the donkey’s ears backwards and forwards what is the meaning of it? That were a new and curious subject of speculation; to me it is one of the great mysteries of creation. Once he turned around his big head and with jeering eye looked at us engaged in animated talk, then mingled a loud bray with the Great Idea ; so the two notes went echoing together over the hills.
The donkey is small, not much larger than a Newfoundland dog, but he is every inch a donkey. He has a sort of dry humor in him which always makes him a good companion. Imperturbable, almost indifferent to blows, in lead-colored coat of hair he plods on, playing backwards and for-wards his ears, having some secret inner entertainment all to himself. He is an indispensable beast of burden mid these stony mountain paths ; no horse could ever travel over this road with safety. The donkey is not rapid, but he sets those little round hoofs of his down on the earth with a swiftness and dexterity that make his four feet twinkle like so many dancing stars. See how mincingly he treads, picking out the way so daintily, never making a false step a solid joy to the sympathetic companion behind him. But at times he unaccountably stops right in the road, stops us, stops the conversation ; then comes another fateful punch from the hand of Aristides.
On the back of the little animal is the store of Aristides who has just supplied the women of Marathon with dry goods, in return for which he takes the fruits of the earth ; he has now a large quantity of almonds in an enormous package lashed to the crupper of the donkey. Thus the greater portion of internal trade is carried on through these regions. The traveling merchant is one of the main figures in the social organism. He is usually capable and well-informed ; he scatters not only goods but ideas, especially the Great Idea. He knows everybody, he brings information to these villages in regard to the latest diplomatic relations between Greece and Turkey ; he scores early every approach toward Constantinople. New thoughts, new hopes, new political catchwords he sets in circulation among the people, all of which in their own good time will bear fruit ; but his chief yet self-imposed duty is to be the unflinching advocate of the Great Idea. Sharp at a bargain this Greek trader is without a doubt; but my Aristides, I do not believe, is dishonest, he is just, I affirm, notwithstanding the bad name which many folks give the Greeks. Certainly he is very friendly, and I should call him tender-hearted, were it not for the way in which he pokes his stick into the withers of our third companion, the don-key. This fact I have repeated to you before, I believe ; still my repetitions are scarce as one in a hundred to the thrusts of Aristides.
Down comes a heavy shower again; we pass through a wild mountain glen in which is situated an old lonely mill with mossy wheel ; we reach a grove of beautiful plane-trees and ford the Marathonien brook, now somewhat swollen with the rains. In this secluded spot a man dressed in white fustanella approaches and talks with us ; Aristides tells me that it is a neighboring land-owner. I was surprised to find in him a person of an exquisitely refined address, with an ease and grace worthy of the most cultivated society. The wild scenery around us was in marked contrast to his courtly manners. He inquired the news, was deeply interested in politics, as all Greeks are ; on learning my nationality he spoke in friendly terms of America, and at parting he put the two latest newspapers from Athens into my hands. His polished address seemed like a brilliant gem lost amid those solitudes ; I would have picked up the gem and brought it along, if I had been able.
Still Aristides and myself converse, walking defiantly through the passing showers, and many are the things which he tells me. His characterisation of the various peoples of Greece is good and trustworthy, for it the result of long intercourse. Implicitly he places the Greek first of all races ; he is himself of pure Greek blood and takes pride in his line-age. He says that there are very few genuine Greeks in these parts, that there are more at Oropus, his town, than elsewhere. He considered the Wallachians to be a more capable people than the Albanians, though he thought well of the latter ; for Albanians, besides making the best soldiers in the East, had turned out excellent scholars, philologists and theologians.
I liked the talk of Aristides much ; there was in it no excess of any kind, it had the Greek moderation as well as the Greek aspiration after an ideal ; his condemnatory judgments of men and things would always in the end brighten into hopefulness. Only concerning a very few of the country-women in these regions his report, given in response to a question of mine, was not favorable. But his statement in regard to the morals of the Greek peasantry in general may be taken as true, and coincides with the declaration of many observers, that in this respect they are the most exemplary of all peoples in Europe.
At one place he suddenly stops, shouting a halt to the don-key which willingly obeys. With great deliberation reaching his hand into his pocket, he takes out a pentari a coin worth not quite one cent and deposits it in a square hole hewn into a stone which stood at the side of the road. I asked him what he did that for? He pointed to a small dilapidated building in the distance and said it was for the repairs of that church. The offerings of the pious wayfarers were placed here ; accordingly I went up and laid down my cent too, then continued my journey, feeling much better, I thought. There lie the two cents exposed on the stone along-side of the road, without danger, it seems, of being pilfered. I thought to myself : Where in the neighborhood of my town could two cents lie exposed in that way without being snapped up by one of her bank presidents, perhaps, or at least by ruthless urchin who would bring them in all speed to the nearest candy shop?
Then Aristides gives the donkey a smart poke, and we are off again, having performed our work of charity. Not with-out a happy jollity, not without an internal feeling of unassailableness by the tempest do we draw our meandering line around the hills, through the vales, over swollen brooks, dashing into walls of clouds and showers. At last the storm gives up the task of subduing us, the squadrons flee, the sun bursts out of the sky with shining face and laughs in a chorus with us.
In the meantime Aristides becomes also more confiding ; he tells me the story of his courtship and marriage : how he fell in love with a pair of eyes jet-black and of infinite sparkle but without any money, though there were wealthy brothers ; how he succeeded in getting the wealthy brothers to give a marriage portion to the sister, 3,000 drachmas say 600 dollars cash ; how he then pounced down and carried off both maiden and money, the lucky man! Thereupon in the pride of success he embarked in an unfortunate speculation, lost all, all his, all hers, and more too, the unlucky man ! Now the black eyes, no longer so sparkling as they were, he possesses still, but without the beautiful drachmas ; nay, he has in addition two small mouths, making four altogether, which must have bread. At present he is reduced to being a pedlar, to going about the country and selling by the cent’s worth, it is a lot too hard, too humiliating! “Alas! Aristides,” cries the condoling companion at his side, “such is the common destiny of us all; thou hast indeed seen better days, so have I, so has the donkey.”
But Aristides can not be melancholy for more than a moment, he always turns the darkest thoughts of the past into bright gleams of hope. He is not weary of life, far from it; nor does he love his wife the less because he has lost her money, as is the case with some men whom I know. The only failing I have found in him is the energy and persistency with which he punches the ribs of our patient third companion, the donkey. The brave little animal still moves its ears backwards and forwards with a silent humor ; it still trips along with an inner complacency, although I notice that with heavy burdens and bad roads it is beginning to give out. At last out of so many steps taken today it makes one false step Aristides and I have made a dozen such at least, without any load, and we have slipped and slid quite to the ground on the wet stones ; but that one misstep brings it to its knees, then down prostrate under the superincumbent weight. Thereupon follow still sharper punches than ever; I had to cry out: Be just, oh Aristides, be just even to the donkey ; see what a burden of yours it is carrying, think how courageously it has held out to-day, show your-self now worthy of your great namesake; be just.
So with kindly hands we help up our fallen companion ; passing a little hill we enter the small hamlet of Capandriti where we hasten to take off all his fardels and give him rest. Then we go into the wineshop and sit down on the bench ; we are still wet, but we dry ourselves with abundant draughts of the golden recinato that wonderful liquid, which wets the dry man and dries the wet man. It is already high noon ; we order a dinner of eggs fried in oil, and black bread ; no Parisian dinner, according to my taste, ever equaled the luxury of that repast. There are also two merry Greek hunters at the wineshop who at once take a share in the talk and in the viands.
Let us now look at Aristides with our two new associates, squatting at the flue and making a cup of coffee. Each of them has a small tin pot, holding hardly as much as the ordinary teacup ; this is filled with water and shoved into the coals by its long handle till the water boils ; then a couple of spoonfulls of coffee with some sugar is thrown into it, when it is shoved back into the coals and brought to a boil the second time. Thus they squat there before the fire, pre-paring their warm beverage and talking politics. All Greek men do likewise, and indeed all Greek men cook, and often cook well ; if the wife happens to be in the fields at some task, the man will go to work and get a dinner, and a good one too. Many a Palicari have I seen twirling before the fire a spit filled with meat or laden with a turkey ; he knew what he was about. But the coffee of Aristides is done ; it is not discolored with milk, nor is it strained or settled ; he pours it off into a cup and sips it with a decided relish. I have already said that a cup of coffee of this kind, prepared by the keeper, is usually sold for one cent in the provinces ; but often it is prepared by the drinker himself for the sake of greater economy.
Such is the picture, then, which the traveler will carry away with him from many a hearth in this country: several men are grouped around the fire, cooking their coffee ; each has his long-handled cup which he manipulates with a curious dexterity, in the mean time talking in animated gestures of the Treaty of Berlin or discussing the last phase of the Great Idea. I hold that those old fellows, politicians and even philosophers, were of a similar cast and had similar ways. A political ideal is still a part of the intellectual inheritence of the modern Greek ; it belongs to him as much as it did to ancient Plato. I should say that these people are still the children, rustic though genuine children, of the father of the Platonic Republic. They have not his notions exactly, but they are like him ; they are forever building the gorgeous commonwealth of new Hellas in the pure etherial blue of their own heavens. What man will not take pleasure in looking at it, moving there in the skies amid gold-bordered clouds, will not shout applause at the lofty structure afloat, crying out : Bring it down to the earth and set it firmly on eternal rock, if ye can ! Nay, what one of us would not give, if we could only catch the rope, a good pull to help fetch it down into solid reality? Poverty may cramp into helpless fetters, writers may scoff with bitter satire, the Great Powers may violently repress, still the Greek is going to Constantinople, if not by land, then through the air.
But alas ! now I have to part company with the merchant Aristides who has to attend to business, selling his wares from door to door and haggling with the women of the village. I would be glad to go with him through the country here, which he knows so well, if I could wait for him; still I have promised to visit him, if convenient, at Oropus and see the worthy schoolmaster Aristoteles. I have spoken so much about Aristides because I believe him to be a typical man of his class, being a kind of mediatorial character among those towns on his route, and carrying on not only a commercial but also an intellectual exchange. For he brings them not goods alone, but light. He may some-times be made the instrument of political partisanship, still every throb of his heart beats for his country. – After he had put me into the right road, we parted with renewed hopes of seeing each other at Oropus.
So I am alone again yet, I maintain, in good company ; with package slung over my shoulder and heavy staff in hand I pass down the road to Marcopoulo. The town is, according to report, about three hours distant; the Greeks measure distance by hours. The great coat is no longer wet and unwieldy ; hunger and thirst have been fully satisfied ; the clouds above are breaking into golden shreds which race joyously through the sunbeams and attune the beholder to their sport ; with light-hearted buoyancy he looks off before him-self up to the green summits over which he is to pass. This traveling in Greece is of itself intoxication, were there no recinato.
But the sunshine was of short duration. Once more the clouds began to gather in heavy black masses and dash against the tops of the mountains ; then the battle in Heaven opened with new energy. One may well imagine that the scene was somewhat similar to that which the old Greek be-held over these ridged summits and wrought into fable ; it was one form of the combat between the Giants and the Gods. Zeus, the pure ethereal sky, Diespiter, the father of day, is surrounded by the conflict of dark, many-shaped monsters of Briareus the hundred-handed, of Typhon, fire-spitting, reaching to the skies ; but in the end the father of light sends them down to gloomy Tartarus and asserts anew his place on the sunny throne of Olympus.
Thus one looks at the angry gathering of the tempest with its many shapes and transmutations, and he can not help thinking that he beholds the natural source of the highest principle of Greek Mythology the conflicts of its supreme God. Off there m the sky in serene light Zeus is seated ; mostly he dwells in happy repose, but sometimes is involved in dire struggle with the gloomy powers. To-day is one of his gigantic battles; he is the cloud-compeller, rejoicing in the swift lightning, he is the heavy thunderer, as the Iliad often calls him, indicating his realm as well as his origin. Nature may be taken at this hour as the symbol of conflict within itself, as a mirror of all spiritual conflicts. Zeus is fighting the old dark Gods, the mere demons of chaos, and will put them down ; then he will bring back the light and become the deity of moral order, law, and institutions, such as he was worshipped in Greece. Thus his conflicts are made the types of the conflicts of man, of struggles external and internal, of revolutions moral and political.
Greek Mythology is an utterance, the supreme poetic utterance of the race, taken from Nature directly and true to her in the highest degree, yet always reflecting therein a spiritual visage. Olympus is made up of Gods, who from physical have become also internal divinities ; they have been victorious over the frantic worship of Nature whose deities now lie in Tartarus, though with many rebellious attempts to rise. So Apollo is still the sun, was once the outer sun, till he became the inner and brighter sun, transferring his seat from the East to Delphi, whither I begin now to see this path of ours is tending through many sinuosities.
But we are still here in the mountains amid the undecided battle of Zeus ; in other words it is raining, raining with pitiless energy, as if this solitary pedestrian were some hundred-handed Titan to be swept down into Tartarus. The great coat has become heavier than ever ; there is no tree for shelter, only a thick growth of low brushwood can be seen ; there is not a single farm house for refuge along the road. Clouds collide and roll, like two contending dragons twisted together, right over me, throwing down their contents ; sometimes I can see a short distance before me, sometimes a mountain of vapor falls upon me and cuts off all vision. Am I actually then some earth-born Titan, that I arouse such anger in the breast of Zeus? The modest conclusion is, that I am not, though you may think I am mounting up dizzily near to his throne in the clouds.
But what is that sound off to one side, heard very distinctly through the mist? It is a human voice, and, as it seems to me, is an utterance of pain. What can be the matter? I stop and listen but it ceases ; then I pass on through the driving rain. But there ! I hear it again, off to the left ; it is a child’s voice, a young boy’s one would conjecture. Very disagreeable it is to go out of the road; yet that voice surely has the tone of distress. So I push through the wet bushes in search of it a most uncomfortable business in Greece, and savagely discordant with the Greek mood. I shout, shout in high Greek through the storm ; but the piercing cry never seems to penetrate the thick walls of vapor shutting me in. Again the voice ceases for a time and I return to the beaten track.
I go straight into a dense cloud which has collapsed over the road ; this road is now filled with a little river through which I wade up stream. Rain, Rain ; the wet now touches the skin, the great coat has its full capacity of water and overflows everywhere at the edges into small cataracts. I stoop under a bush; but what is the use, the bush is as wet as I am, with pearly cascades spouting from the tip of every Ieaf. Such is traveling, such the traveler ; but I affirm that the Greek mood is not by any means drowned out of him, he still has high company, the very highest Jupiter Tonans with the red right hand is his next neighbor.
But there is one disturbance, I hear again that wretched voice which distresses me. Still I shall not stop ; one may be excused for not being inclined to benevolence with such an overcoat. But the dolorous cry continues, coming out of the mist ; it may be some human being who is worse off than even I am. So I start after it once more through the dripping brushwood, not at all in a good humor with the voice which is spoiling the Greek mood far more than the showers of Jove. But listen ! in the opposite direction on the right side of the road can be heard another and similar voice from the vaporous distance ; it has the same wail, it may be an answer to the first. Are these people then all in grief, shepherds perchance, wailing over the mountains? It is impossible to help so many of them, therefore the just tourist will lean toward impartiality and help none so onward through the falling water-walls ! But the mystery of those voices coming out of the fog what can it mean? what can it mean?
Still up the mountain the road passes, higher and higher ; now the heavy rain slackens and one comes into the region of pure fog with a continuous light drizzle. One winds around peaks and gets faint views into tremendous chasms beneath, wrapped in magnifying mists ; it is the world of dewy vapors and undefined shapes. Peasants I find cutting brushwood up here. How far to Marcopoulo? One hour. On, on, the distance is not long ; patience, thou much-enduring, wet skinned man ! Fill thy imagination with antique clear visions and forget this outer foggy world ; think of old Ulysses, the long-sufferer, who in the brine of the sea was tossed about by a storm, clinging to a billet of wood for two days, and was rewarded on shore by seeing the fairest of earthly maidens, that sweet Phaeacian girl Nausicaa. Some such shape may be waiting for thee, when thou comest again into sunlight.
Thus the traveler in Greece passes through fierce storms and dense fogs, unconquerable, unassailable ; descending the rock-strewn slope he leaps from stone to stone, with an occasional slip, but always accompanied by a bright image or perchance by a God who will help him up if he falls. If he have brought the material along, he can weave many a radiant fabric out of ancient lore, as he tramps away, up hill and down over the wet rough thoroughfare. Now he descends, and the fog lifts ; passing by a little church he stands on the ridge and beholds the long sweep of the mountain slanting into the green valley. Lying on the slope just below him is Marcopoulo breaking suddenly into view ; its chimneys are sending up thin curls of bluish smoke which spread out at the top and join the clouds. There are bright fires in those hearths; the mere thought sends hope and gladness into the heart of the dripping traveler.
I was not slow in reaching the khan or Greek inn, which was pointed out to me by a rude-looking but friendly Albanian ; this, too, is an Albanian town, though the inn-keeper is a Greek. I drank a raki with my informant at the usual rate of one cent a glass, and then sat down on a bench in my heavy wet garments. It was a most dismal place for a rainy day dark, damp, chilly, uncanny. The bench on which I sat was soon covered with little streams of water, whose fountain head was my overcoat, finding their way down the grooves, and filling the worm holes. I can say with truth that I was uncomfortable ; in a fit of sinful weakness I was quite ready to curse all traveling, and harbored for an instant the thought of giving up the great tour of Greece afoot and alone. As I look back, I now consider that to have been a decisive moment, for just then the landlord came and asked me : Would you like to have a fire?
He took me to his own blazing hearth around which the children of the household were playingbright-eyed, dark-haired little ones, full of impudence, merriment and mockery. It is true that no small portion of the smoke refused to pass out of the room through the chimney ; but who can describe the luxury of that fire, the old fire in the hearth, on the evening of a chill rainy day? I sat down before It and dried myself ; soon the waters of the wet garments began to rise up around me in great clouds of vapor somewhat like those of the mountains. I sat there and steamed, as if I were some aqueous shape and were boiling in my own kettle ; no aroma of incense or of burnt-offering could be more delightful than that steam as it ascended to the nostrils. The old fire-place of boyhood came back, with the merry sports of the long winter evening ; but that was without the luxury of this exhalation wrapping me in my own clouds. Now I wish to be only a traveler and to travel on rainy days.
The landlord made the first preparation for supper: he placed an ample pot of beans over the fire. The mother was absent on a visit ; the father went out to his wineshop, and a pretty Greek girl entered to tend to the children; jet sparkling eyes, fair features, gentle innocence were there, yet with flashes of sadness through her young face that stole down into the emotion of the beholder. She was called Euphrosyne, that is cheerfulness, and moreover, the name of one of the Graces. I could not succeed in getting the young Grace to talk much ; she was shy and doubtless understood very little of my high Greek, though I toned it down as well as I could with the popular Romaic.
But those children were not sad three of them together capering around the bright hearth. They were soon acquainted, nay, familiar with the stranger and began to play him little pranks. Euphrosyne, herself hardly more than a child, could not restrain them but had to laugh along when they tipped him over as he sat on the three-legged stool enveloped in the steam of his garments. Their Greek nature showed itself in their little Aristophanic mockeries; I could say no word, make no movement, without their throwing it back into my face in caricature. Particularly Zacharias, a little fellow of four years, showed his inborn genius in mocking my broken Greek, then all three would repeat what he said in a chorus of infant laughter.
Well, what of it? you ask. Do not all children do the same? It may be so, but I was unwilling to entertain such a thought. You must recollect I was, and you ought now to be, in Greece, hence I could see and you must see in these children the infant germs of those supremest merry-makers and mockers of the world Aristophanes and Lucian. Into such ancient shapes the little ones grow before me while I sit here at the fire, with no pleasant vapor rising now, for the garments are completely dry.
The mother comes home ; it is time for supper ; I congratulate myself on the prospect of taking a meal with a Greek family. The host was going to give me a place at one side, all to myself, but I asked the favor of eating with the wife and children, and he gave his consent with manifest pleasure. First a large mat was spread out on the floor upon which we all sat down in a circle ; a stool was offered to me as a special honor to the guest, but I refused it and took my place on the mat with the others. The table was brought and placed between us ; it was circular, without support, and lay flat on the floor. Thus we were squatted around it ; the rest took off their shoes as they sat down, and crossed their legs. I followed their example. Stocking feet, nay stockingless feet appeared there at the table, while we lapped our limbs over like so many tailors. The position was not an easy one for me, the sartorius muscle soon began to twitch and squirm with pain at his unaccustomed duty.
The large crock of bean-soup was placed upon the table, redolent with oil and steam, sending up a fragrance not ungrateful to the hungry traveler. Kalos oriste they all muttered, crossing themselves several times ; this was their way of saying grace, as the landlord explained. I repeated the same words and went through the crucial motions too, rather mechanically I think. I did not want to excite any religious questioning again, as I had unfortunately done at Marathon. My special distinction was to have a plate of soup all to myself ; the others dipped freely into the common dish. Our bill of fare was as follows : good black bread, very palatable and nutritious, crumbled into the bean-soup ; cured fish from Constantinople ; goat’s cheese ; but the supreme delicacy of the meal was a species of clam taken from the neighboring Euripus, which was roasted in the hot ashes of the hearth and flavored with a drop of lemon juice. Finally, let it not be forgotten, for we did not forget it: a huge demijohn of recinato stood at the side of the host, its delightful gurgle would always come to our assistance and wash down the most obstinate mouthful.
Besides myself there was present another guest, a Greek from Thebes, a jolly old fellow, in a rather besmirched fustanella; he took his place on the mat bare-footed, having removed his red moccasins at the door, according to custom. He sat next to the hearth, and while doing full justice to his supper, he found time to superintend the roasting of the clams. Varvouillya everybody familiarly called him. I ad-mired and highly praised his expertness in his present occupation, whereat he exerted anew both skill and speed, of which I derived the chief benefit. Then there was the host with the demijohn at his side, a man naturally of a jovial temperament, now becoming more jovial with the minutes. The wife placed herself a little to one side with the children, squatting like the rest of us ; she was very quiet, though I insisted on drinking repeatedly to the health of our hostess. She, too, probably did not understand my Greek very well ; certainly I did not understand hers. The husband excused her, saying she spoke a peculiar dialect ; but he would never fail to answer the toast himself, with a full bumper. He spoke Greek well; he had been a student of one of the Greek gymnasiums, and had read the ancient classics.
So we sat there around the low table, and feasted and chatted with many a merry dash at waspish old Time, pro-posing healths to one another with lofty compliments, not failing to drink long prosperity to our dear Hellas and dear America. The host became illuminated, he dropped unaccountably his native Greek tongue and insisted upon talking Italian with me a most unintelligible broken Italian, to which for the life of me I could get no clew ; either he or I or both of us had become dazed. Still Varvouillya kept raking the clams out of the hot ashes and we ate them ; while the host on the other side of the table replenished our mugs with recinato from the demijohn; between the twain I sat and received from both directions. Meantime the children had finished their supper ; they nodded, rolled over on the floor beside the hearth, and were soon asleep. The host talked louder, faster, in a still more unintelligible Italian ; Varvouillya raked out the last of the clams ; but there was still recinato in that demijohn.
The wife, who, if I had read her aright, had begun to grow a little sulky at our prolonged and ever-increasing festivity, now interfered, she declared that she wished to retire, and as this was her bed-room as well as parlor and kitchen, we had to vacate. Varvouillya slipped into his moccasins and slid off into the darkness somewhither, like a bat ; I was shown to my chamber by the merry host who had grown very affectionate and embraced me with an unexpected kiss, not uncommon in Greece, as we parted for the night.
It requires a little touch of anger against future generations to be a writer, and I felt in altogether too good a humor to take even a note that evening ; the wise and foolish things said and done must now be handed over to oblivion. But as I lay in bed and reflected on the battle of the day, I concluded that after many fluctuations, after temporary defeats even, it had ended in a glorious victory. In the forenoon I had been assailed with no little energy, but I was fortunate in having valiant Aristides as a fellow-soldier at my side ; in the afternoon the enemy, enveloping me in thick clouds had attacked me alone from all quarters within and without ; still I had won the day. On the whole this was my Marathon ; I felt that henceforth I would pass through Greece from end to end in a kind of triumphal march. List! the rain is now beating on the roof, still the elements are angry, to-morrow threatens to be again a day of battle ; but to-night at least I shall not borrow any trouble.