THE Monastery of Penteli is situated in a beautiful dell surrounded on all sides by mountains, with the exception of the narrow pass which leads us into the sacred enclosure. Streams of clear water play through the grounds, and are conducted in artificial channels mid a grove of fine plane-trees ; then they gather into a single current and dash off into the valley below through the passage up which we have just come, turning in their course the wheel of an old mill. The entire locality bears the impress of some large fountain head which lies in the spacious bosom of the mountains, whence it sends its benignant streams and overflows the thirsty plains. Nature in her very conformation suggests here the inward gathering, the contemplation of the soul, and also its outpouring of charity and blessing upon the world.
The building which encloses the court looks neat and unpretentious ; but the first and most satisfying impression is the perfect repose of the spot. It is a quiet green cradle of Tranquility set down between these rugged summits which overlook it not without a touch of rude tenderness. The rills, the trees, the verdure are always refreshing to the human eye, but here they seem to have a new virtue as being an off-set to the wild towering rocks. The hospitality of the monastery is offered to the stranger ; something to eat and a place of rest for the night are now at his disposal ; they will be accepted if Pentelicus will but clear up his cloudy brow.
No monks are to be seen just now ; they are at prayer in their cells, and all around the building as one makes the circuit of it, can be heard the low mumble of reading and of devotion. They are indeed at work, at their work in this world. Now, of all questions which arise in the mind surveying the scene, this question is uppermost: What means this monastery here amid these hills? Fifteen men, as I learn on inquiry, dwell in it, of able body and sound mind, separated from all society and domestic life, divorced from the institutions of the world what business has such a thing to be? Here they remain, passing their lives in this secluded nook, manifestly doing two works with great assiduity: whitewashing their house and praying. Praying for what? For dear life, at least, if one may judge by that confused multitude of low voices which now float on the air up toward the summits.
They have made this little vale a delightful spot, a beautiful thing amid ruggedness, and the eye rests upon it with joy: so much is a manifest gain. Also they give to the weary traveler and to the poor beggar hospitable shelter and food ;but is this all? This could be done without prayer, or at least without such an organized quantity of it and without such a life. A little city they have built with its walls and cells for houses ; a little world, indeed a spiritual world they have here all to themselves. Why, one asks again, has this thing appeared in the course of time, and why does it remain with us still? Having such a problem in his soul, the reflective traveler turns away, and begins to climb the mountain slowly ; then he will stop and look around at the old structure again, calmly nestled there in the dell mid the plane-trees. For what purpose, then, is it here?
This problem rays out in all directions, and embraces many other problems. Here is Pentelicus, there is Athens ; now this monastory, rude, helpless, barbarous edifice, though it be tidy enough has it anything to do with yonder Parthenon which one can see in full distinctness from this slant, resting upon its sunny elevation in happy repose and perfection? Yes, there is a connection, indeed the one is a descendant of the other, remote, degenerate, but still a descendant. This is the question then : to derive the Monastery from the Parthenon, by an inner spiritual genealogy, which is written down in Architecture as in any book. Not merely the structures are to be traced, one from the other, they are only the outermost shell, but the spirit which resides in them, which built them, and which vivifies them still. Both have been erected for the dwelling-place of divinity ; both therefore express what is strongest and deepest in man ; both give some utterance to the spiritual principle which animated their builders.
It is on the ideal side that we must connect the modern Greek world with the ancient. There is still here an ideal realm of striving, of hope and faith. But the modern Greek, smitten with the curse of Turkish supremacy, perhaps above all other Christian peoples, has flung the real side of life to the winds. Earth, man, comfort, even cleanliness, he toa often casts away as unnecessary externals belonging to this world. Anthropos einai skolex man is a worm continually repeated my sometime humble bedmaker, pious Spiridion. How different the old Greek ! Instead of man being a worm, for him the divine entered the human body, trained it to su_ preme perfection by all sorts of exercise, and made it beautiful. With him divinity came down to earth, entered even this. Pentelic marble, and molded it into forms that revealed the Highest. Thus there was the happy union, the complete equipoise between the Real and the Ideal, such as has been seen the one time upon our Earth All became harmonious, beautiful ; herein ancient Greece educates the human race today.
But short was the festive May-day of that old world ; Time soon split the happy unity into a warring dualism. The Ideal overbalanced the Real and cast it out ; flesh became sin, the Earth became the abode of the Devil, Parthenon fell into ruins, and there arose the Monastery. And what is stiff the doctrine of the Monastery? Man has his home not on Earth but in Heaven ; the Ideal belongs not here, but beyond ; what, therefore, is the use of a comfortable, not to speak of a beautiful house, when we have to move out of it so soon, and pass into an infinitely better one ? The Monastery represents this indifference to the sensuous appearance in which Art reveals itself ; the world is not indwelt of the divine, but of the diabolic.
Also we have prayer here, incessant prayer which is the soul’s aspiration and indeed momentary elevation into that realm beyond. To this solitary spot human beings have re-tired where they live wholly for their Ideal, live in a prayer, sometimes in an ecstasy which almost raises the body into the heavenly Beyond. Thus the break between the Real and the Ideal is pushed to its extreme consequences, and is still further manifested in the fact, that the most aspiring and often the most noble natures flee from the world and deliver it over to Satan, who in such case is quick to take possession. That ancient Greek instinct which sought to form both the State and the Individual, nay the whole universe, into an harmonious work of Art, is now lost in the devilish reality.
Everywhere in Greece these monasteries are to be found ; every district of any extent has one of them. They doubt-less answer a need of the human heart, also a need of the community. The Ideal must have some place of protection, some refuge when it is driven out of society and institutions by Turkish oppression or other untoward visitation ; else man himself would relapse into savagery. It is a very important matter, this preserving the Ideal to a nation. As long as even a corrupt and subjugated people retain it, there is in them the seed of regeneration. Many and curious are the ways in which it seeks to preserve itself. Often it flees to literature, to poetry, to romance, to the construction of imaginary commonwealths in which it sits upon its own throne, and reigns triumphant, far away from the miserable reality around it. Often, too, it goes to the cloister and there prays. In this way, every large community has, we may justly affirm, its idealists locked up and thus preserved for they are the seed of the good time coming, and an example of renunciation for the sake of the Beyond. In turbulent periods as in the Middle Ages, the monastery is the calm green island amid the tossing and tenebrous ocean, where upon a firm foundation a light-house may be built ; but in halcyon days in too often attracts the idler, who, sure of his dinner, gazes slothfully into vacuity. Modern society also drives some lofty spirits to monasticism, but its general tendency is to call them back into life, where they are sorely needed.
One is at first surprised to learn that there were far more monasteries in Greece under Turkish rule than at present, and that they were then more encouraged. Yet the second thought will show us that this is simply the fruit of tyranny. In such a wretched reality as the Turkish, men were doubt-less very eager to quit the world ; the better the men, the more ready to preserve their Ideal in the only way possible. Institutions were the instrument of oppression ; who would not seek to get away from them and pass life in the shady retreat of a cloister? Equally to the interest of the Turkish oppressor was it to furnish some outlet for the more aspiring as well as some shelter for the more timorous of their enslaved subjects. So monasticism has flourished in the Greek provinces of Turkey, it culminates in Mount Athos or Holy Mountain in Macedonia, where the monks burrow all over a range of mountains, like a vast colony of prairie dogs. To such a state has the Greek Ideal come ! Not a woman is al-lowed to set foot upon that Holy Mountain ; Helen herself, instead of causing a Trojan war for her restoration, would now be banished from the ideal realm, were she to appear there, in all her antique beauty.
Therefore we must turn aside from Penteli, with no ill feelings for it, yet with the fervent hope that the state of society which rendered monasticism a necessity and a blessing will rapidly pass away. Come out, ye mountain hermits, and again as of old be conciliated with the Real ; put a little of your idealism into the world into society, into politics, into dress, and above all into Art, and build us, if you can, another Parthenon, hew us out another Jupiter Olympius. Here at your very sill lies Pentelicus, praying, if I mistake not the voice, to be made into things of beauty once more ; long enough has the old mountain, sighed with the imprisoned forms of Gods shut up in its chaotic dungeons. Set them loose, and be reconciled with us, the outsiders give to us, wallowing in Satanic mire, a breath of your hope and ideal striving, not for Heaven’s sake, but for Earth’s sake.
From the spur of the hill where I am standing, I can see another house, of imposing magnitude for this region, but at the present time deserted and falling to ruin. It is situated on a beautiful spot overlooking the plain below which extends across to Mount Parnes and is dotted with frequent villages. Above the door can still be read the name Plaisance. I asked a peasant about it, he said simply that it was the palace of the Duchess. She, though long since deceased, yet haunts, it is said, the spot where she once dwelt and worshiped in her peculiar way. Combining what I have seen in a book with the legends respecting her, I am able to give you the following account.
The Duchess of Plaisance seems to have been one of those strong female characters for which European Society has hitherto not found any outlet in a rational avocation. One frequently finds them stranded in the oddest places and in the most outlandish ways. This woman was the daughter of a minister of Napoleon, was married early and unhappily, was divorced, when she set out on her wanderings. After many an adventure and fierce tempest, she came to Athens to spend her remaining days. She possessed a large income which enabled her to indulge in colossal caprices ; these chiefly took a turn for building ; one of them was the edifice before us. Here she lived with five or six huge dogs, the favorite one of which, rumor says, was sometimes invited to table with her guests.
But the most remarkable fact in the career of this remark-able woman was the religion which she was going to found. Seeing that all the great systems of belief are now old and somewhat effete, she resolved to confer upon the world the blessing of a new one. Exactly what its tenets were has never been known, and they were perhaps but dimly conceived by herself But some of its more definite doctrines turned on the institution of marriage, as was natural to a faith founded by a woman ; though unable to manage her own marital matters, she could tell all about it to others, even settle it by religious precept. A great altar she constructed, or was going to construct, somewhere on Pentelicus, from which she was to consult Deity and receive responses. The altar may be a myth, but here before our eyes is the house with her name upon it, built right at the mouth of the defile which leads up to the monastery. It is just in the spot to catch every monk and ecclesiastic who might enter this pas-sage, seeking the way to the religious retreat. I imagine that the old spider put her web at this place in order to net the whole church, or the younger monastic portion thereof as they passed by toward an ascetic life. A strong character she was at any rate, strong enough to have her own God.
Such are the three houses with their associations which Pentelicus has, somehow or other, woven into our narrative : the Parthenon, the Monastery, and the Belvidere of the Duchess the ancient, the medieval and the modern ; each of them is characteristic of its inmates, each designates epochs and religions.
I turned around and again looked up toward the summit of the mountain ; it still has that close-wrapped turban on its head. All day have I watched the bank of clouds, resting there defiantly on the top and sides ; it is thick, growing thicker; its boundary now is so definite, that it seems to be a part of the mountain a white marble precipice rising aloft to the heavens. On the other side lies Marathon, which one will be eager to get a glimpse of, though it be only in the dim distance. On that spot our Western world opened ; the sight of it, along with what it signifies, must still possess some great virtue, one may well imagine. But I may never be able to reach there on account of the brigands ; so a view of it must be sought, even under difficulties.
I go up into those new mountains those foggy crags piled on Pentelicus reaching to the skies ; the almost solid boundary I pass, and enter the lofty realm of cloudland. Nothing can be seen, every outline is lost, I lose myself. But, as you may know, I have been lost before in the clouds ; also I have been often supposed to be lost by the people below, who were unable to see me, while I was really enjoying the clearest of sunlight which lay tranquilly over the summits. In the present case, however, as in all similar cases of fog, the way out is not difficult, one has only to follow straight down the slope of the mountain, when he will come into clear day on the low plains. Not as fair nor as far-reaching is this light as that above ; but on foggy days what else can one do?
Accordingly I came down, and crossed again into sunshine. Scarcely had I passed the cloud-wall, when I heard not far from me a cracking of bushes followed by the bark of dogs. Very soon a man with a gun came to view creeping through the brushwood ; his outward appearance was chiefly made up of a wild unshaven face, shaggy capote, and dirty fustanella. What did I think of at that moment? Brigands, you will easily guess. He had a flintlock and two large dogs, I had no weapon. There was no use of trying to avoid him, so without hesitation I advanced straight towards him ; to my surprise he did not raise his gun. His dogs fiercely rushed at me, but he even went so far as to pick up a stone and drive them off. Leaning on his old flintlock he calmly awaited my approach, and then at a distance of about five paces saluted me in the most friendly manner. I re-turned the salute, and asked him quickly where was the road to Kephissia. He pointed it out to me, nay, he went a mile out of his way to put me into the best path. In the mean-time, we chatted, asked and answered the questions which were natural under the circumstances, and soon were on terms of intimate friendship.
Of course the man might have robbed or murdered me with impunity, had he been so disposed. Yet he showed only kindness, only the most generous endeavor to befriend me. At separation he warmly shook my hand with the best wishes, and raised to my lips his flagon of recinato. My thought of the man was then changed ; I believed that under his shaggy capote made of course goatshair, there beat not only an honest but a warm heart. He was a shepherd, he told me, and his flock was feeding at that time on the other side of the mountain. It is true that he slept out of nights the whole year round, that like these shepherds generally he could not live in a house without getting sick ; it is also true that he ought to have put that fustanella of his to soak in a brook some weeks, if not months ago ;still he was a man, a true man, not a brigand, not even a rude boor. This incident was an important turning-point in my journey; with it much of my anxiety passed away ; and I could not help laughing a little to myself at a certain person, who, I am sure, if he had seen this shepherd half a mile distant up the mountain among the brush, would have run off to Athens and said that he had seen a brigand out on Pentelicus. In some such way that scare has been kept up.
So, in musing mood, accompanied by the declining sun I walk over the fields to the road and soon enter the village of Kephissia. It was famous in antiquity for its pleasant rills and agreeable air, and it is still a great resort during the summer ; the diplomatic body generally adjourn hither from the intolerable heat of Athens. It is dusk, I pass through the main street, which always leads to that shining beacon of he Greek village, the wine-shop. The hunger and thirst of the weary traveler can here be stilled. This was my first Greek lunch in the country, so it may be of interest to tell you what it was composed of. Recinato, of the best quality and in the greatest abundance at the smallest prices ; dark bread, coarse, of unbolted flour, but well-baked and good ; such were the two staples, bread and wine. For something by way of luxury I called for goat’s cheese. This cheese is brought in little granulous balls which easily crumble and then it looks like our dry hand-cheese. It is made by the shepherds on the mountains in a not very tidy way ; one ingredient is often found scattered through it, the reason for which I never learned namely, the goat’s-hairs. I always picked them out of mine, thinking that they had no business there, but it must be confessed that they are pretty generally included in this cheese and seem to share in the very idea of it.
Butter, in the occidental sense of the word, is not to be found in Greece ; yet I am always afraid that you will think of the pun, and will try to confute me by pointing triumphantly to oleomargyrine. But this last article I do not think has yet come into Greece, even though it may sometimes have come out of it. Butter-eating Thracians certain barbarians were anciently called with contempt, in contrast to the oil-consuming Greeks, civilized men. To be sure there are a few cows here ; Boeotia and Euboea have fine cattle. But the small picking from the mountains will not produce butter ; only goats and sheep yield milk from such slender nourishment. For sheep are milked in Greece, and their milk is made into various products of the dairy. Nothing will better illustrate the extreme economy of this country than the fact that sheep are milked. The American farmer has never heard of such a thing, and sheep’s cheese and but-ter, brought into an American market might possibly be sold as rare curiosities.
There is quite a detachment of soldiers stationed in the town, for the purpose of guarding the road to Marathon lest timid excursionists get a fright. As it is a holiday, the most of the soldiers are gathered into the wineshop, and are quite merry. They are singing Romaic songs with that jolly whine peculiar to Greek music. All the talk is about the treaty of Berlin, the new boundary of Greece, the prospect of war with the Ottoman. The keeper of the wineshop is flourishing a huge knife, showing the manner in which he is going to sever the Turkish head from the Turkish body, should he only get a chance. Patriotic exhiliaration does indeed prevail, but there is no drunkenness, according to the American conception of the word and the deed. The Greek certainly deserves his reputation of being the most temperate of men ; for he is not intemperate even in his temperance.
A soldier observing me sits down on the bench at my side and talks with me ; he speaks Italian well, and, as it seems to me, likes to show off his beautiful acquirement to his astonished comrades. He is a good patriot, not a grumbler ; he is willingly serving out the time of his conscription, though with privation and pecuniary loss as he affirms, and as one may well believe. But his dear Hellas can have his time and his life, if necessary ; he is full of her glories, though he deeply laments her weakness and her small territory. Still he thinks that she has performed wonders of progress during the short period of her independence, and he believes that she is destined to be the bearer of light and liberty to the East. She is to rule the Orient once more, her goal is Constantinople.
, Thus thinks the common soldier, representing, in my opinion, the average intelligence and character of the Greek. For in his character there is still a high aspiration, an ideal striving after improvement, although the reality may be discouraging. I hail him as a comrade, and tell him that I too was a soldier and give him a short bit out of my campaigning. He ends by inviting me to bunk with him that night in his quarters an invitation which I gladly accept. I wanted to see how the Greek soldier fared ; I felt perfectly able to endure whatever quarters he had to bestow, even down to sleeping on the feathery side of a board, though I confess that I have been a little enervated in recent years by the luxury of a bed.
The bugle blew, my soldier had to go to roll-call ; he said he would return in fifteen or twenty minutes,, and conduct me to my place of repose for the night. But he did not come back so soon ; I was sleepy and tired, and could not wait ; accordingly I went off to a large hotel which has been built here for the purpose of accommodating the high guests of the summer ; but at the present season it has only an excursionist now and then from the city. I need not say any-thing about this hotel except that when you enter it, you step out of Greece into Western Europe. You will get there a fair bed and a fair meal in quite the same fashion as in other parts of the world. It is arranged on the principle of causing the traveler to live quite in the same manner that he lives at home ; so that in this way he may travel over the whole world without experiencing anything of it, substantially without going out of his own house. My regret is that I did not get to bunk with that soldier, and to take a little glance at the inside of things in his quarters, all of which would help to fill up the picture of Greek life. In return for which I can now only tell you that I obtained a bed and a beefsteak both of them doubtless old acquaintances of yours that need not be further described.
But as soon as I was comfortably seated in my chair be-fore the fire, who, do you think, came in from a belated journey? None other than my friend Achille, the gay Frenchman, a native of Paris, with whom I had become acquainted at Athens. A merry mocking fellow, of exhaust-less pleasantry ; he had no faith in any God except Voltaire, the mocker of all Gods ; for Achille, the scoffer at authority, delighted nevertheless to call himself a Voltairian. One other authority indeed he recognized as supreme : his Parisian cook. I had before noticed that Achille always snarled at his dinner, and then fell to and ate it with a relish. It seems that he had taken to-day a short excursion from Athens to the country, and that missing the road he had been compelled to dine with a peasant on black bread, salted olives, an oil fry, with recinato. Good luck ! we shall now have a merry evening, I exclaimed on seeing him; but Achille at once began to swear violently, employing his customary French oath: By the twenty-five names of God! What is the matter, heroic Achille? He told his story ; al Greece, what she is now and what she was in the past, her literature, art, history were on the spot judged and condemned in the light of that dinner. He even went back to old Homer and damned him and his Helen, whereat I was touched, and attempted to reply about as follows, according to my recollection :
“My dear friend, why do you lay so much stress upon what goes into your stomach, when you exhibit such contemptible brain-work as the final outcome of digestion? Socrates had quite the same kind of food as you have had, probably not so good with Xanthippe as cook yet what a remarkable difference between him and you ! Indeed Plato himself fared no better in all likelihood, yet the sweetest philosophy of the world he extracted therefrom, while you extract the sourest. But think of Homer whom you calumniate he could have had only bruised barley meal, bruised between two stones in a sort of mill, and a little occasional meat at some festival of the Gods, with wine, likely enough just this recinato ; yet out of his bruised barley-meal, and meat roasted before the fire on a spit together with the wine he has constructed the most beautiful of all poetical worlds a world which stands a good chance of being the most enduring as well as the most beautiful. I ask, has any man like him come out of Parisian cookery? Take the old Greeks what a glorious result they produced from their oil, olives and barley ! Man is what he eats is your favorite saying ; then give me the food of those old Greeks and it will not hurt you to take not one but many dinners of it. Therefore be not so particular what you put into your mill unless you can improve the flour. I tell you whom you most resemble–that crazy man who once thought Jupiter had descended from Olympian heights and and was seated on a throne in his stomach. Only too many such lunatics are running loose in these days people who have their Gods in their bellies. Achille, let us now go to bed, in the morning you may turn back to the city for your dinner, but I am going to continue the journey and the pursuit ; to-morrow I shall ascend some Greek mountain and look from its clear heights, or possibly march with the old Hoplites to Marathon.”
But Achille long continued his satirical banter ; particularly my enthusiasm for Helen was the theme of his infinite mockery. Under his hand her story was transformed into a modern French novel of illicit love ; her character grew ten-fold more dubious than I had ever dreamed of, as he poured into it with subtle piquancy all the details of the latest Parisian scandal. Thus with no small skill and with very manifest relish he told her tale anew, bristling now with keen points of ambiguous ribaldry. Nor did he spare me ; he more than intimated that I had come to Greece to play the part of Paris, and was now going up the country to run away with the wife of some peasant Menelaus. Overwhelmed with his jibes, I could only answer : O Achille, thy name is deserved, thou art indeed the French Achilles.
I set out early the next morning, long before Achille my tormenter was awake ; about sunrise I was in full walk for some further destination, having resolved to go on ; the anxiety from brigands, too, had quite subsided. I know of nothing more exhilarating than a morning walk at this season of the year in Greece. There is some secret intoxication in the air ; every mental and physical energy sports of itself in frolicsome mood, yet in full tension. The body seeks for its wings, every step is an attempt to fly, man has become a festival of delightful sensation. That morning still lives in memory, with its exuberance of happy music within, its symposium of joyous moods. Yet it all was about nothing in particular ; I can only recollect how easily my feet raised in the air, and how hard it was to bring them down to the earth again.
Pentelicus, not far from whose base the road winds along, is still capped with a cloud which rests on it with adamantine stubbornness. There is no use trying to go to the summit ; you can see nothing and will lose yourself in addition. But on the other side of this valley, distant but a few miles lies Mount Parnes ; not a cloud dares touch its tops ; the snow glistens from its peaks with an unusual keen brilliancy which cuts through to the eye, as it glances that way. Now solve for me this riddle : Why is Pentelicus always covered with a cloud, while Parnes stands forth free and shines with unsullied splendor? Locality, height, configuration can not ac-count for the difference ; there is some secret which nature whispers to set you at work in a deeper vein. Then answer this other question of a spiritual kind : Why are some men’s brains wrapped in an eternal fog, while at a much greater elevation other men’s thoughts rest in everlasting sunshine? It is so because it is ; at any rate I am done with foggy Pentelieus, for I now intend to cross over to Parnes where it is clear on the highest height.
Thither I shall try to take you along with me, if you think the company good, shall let you have a fresh breath of the mountain air, furnish you the exhilaration of climbing the sides of the steep, but above all give you a look from the top over this Attic land ; for a look from the top of a mountain in Greece is the best way of seeing the country as a whole and of feeling its highest characteristic influence. Thus we can to a certain extent look down into this honeycomb of mountainous walls and green valleys which constitutes the physical individuality of Grecian territory ; thus too we be-hold, through the transparent atmosphere, the gently swaying curves and outlines which Nature, the first Greek Artist, has filed down into tender lines of beauty.
But here I pass by the bridge of Pekirmes, small and insignificant, yet its name has been printed in every language of Europe. Near it was committed that famous act of brigandage which has done more than anything else to give to the Greeks of to-day a bad name throughout the civilized world. As it is the chief text from which all detractors of the Greeks preach, as it has deterred and still deters the majority of tourists from leaving Athens or its immediate vicinity, as it was the main cause of my hesitation in regard to this trip, I shall deem it worth while to give a little account of it here, and to introduce it hereafter on suitable occasion. For we shall find the affair still lives among the peasantry, in the most vivid recollection, and with many a mythical addition which recalls the ancient heroic legend ; everywhere along our path we shall see it bubbling up spontaneously and demanding some notice from the observant traveler.
Near the spot where we have arrived, on the 11th day of April, 1870, a party of English excursionists composed of Lord Muncaster and wife, Mr. Herbert and Mr. Vyner, Mr. Lloyd with wife and little girl, Count De Boyl of the Italian embassy, were passing in two carriages, on their return from a visit to Marathon. Two cavalrymen rode before them, two behind them, for the purpose of escort. Suddenly there was heard a discharge of fire-arms, the two troopers in front fell from their horses dangerously wounded. The carriages were then halted, and the company found itself surrounded by twenty-one armed men who at once hurried their captives up the mountain into the brush with many demonstrations of joy at the successful capture. After a rapid walk of two hours the brigands stopped on the top of the mountain ; they sent back to Athens the two ladies and little girl as being obstacles to the sudden and speedy marches in prospect.
The ladies were bearers of notes from the prisoners, announcing the ransom demanded by the brigands-$160,000; which sum was afterwards reduced to $125,000 with new conditions of a harder kind than even gold. Also a threat was sent to the Greek government that in case of pursuit the lives of the prisoners would be at once taken. Not without a touch of gallantry coupled with audacious avarice were these wild men of the mountains. When the ladies set out for Athens, the chieftain asked for some precious reminder of the event; he preferred a gold chain which the lady could buy and send from the city. She on her part with a co quettish dash worthy of the ballroom, asked of the chieftain a souvenir of their agreeable intercourse. Being a pious man, he gave her a religious token : an ornament of silver wrought with the head of the Virgin. The chain was in due time transmitted to the brigand, who sent it back by the same messenger, stating it was not heavy enough.
On the third day after the capture, Lord Muncaster himself appeared at Athens, having been released on parole to arrange for ransom or free pardon of the offenders ; such was the alternative which he brought. There was little question which of the two things ought to be done ; the money, $125,-000 in gold, was soon packed in boxes, ready for transport to the mountains in proper business fashion. Behold, how-ever, a new turn given to the proceedings by the arrival of another message from the chieftain who now insists upon ransom and pardon ; amnesty is his new word, that is, forgetfulness, forgetfulness of this and all his past crimes and those of his band, during a life of outlawry. Clearly brigandage has become a power, a Great Power, and is claiming recognition among the governments of the world. The chieftain also demanded the release of several members of his gang who had been previously captured and who were then in prison at Athens.
So a new European Power has suddenly sprung up on the declivity of Pentelicus, and is determined to treat with the other Great Powers on terms of equality. Beside the Greek government, the English and Italian embassies send messages, and all the other embassies at Athens take a hand in the game, sending representatives to the court of Takos Arvanitika, King of Pentelicus. The diplomats have got the matter in their toils ; what hand will now be able to disentangle the complication? Like all diplomacy, the affair be-comes a highly intricate kitten-dance ; the employment of the diplomatic kittens being chiefly to run after their own tails perchance to catch the same in their mouths, and then Iet go again. During this play of the kittens, otherwise harmless and even amusing at times, who can hope for any serious rat-catching, now imperatively needed? You may perhaps ask : Who would expect such work from kittens any-how? The point seems well taken.
Meanwhile the prisoners are roughing it out on the mountain sleeping on bushes, eating black bread and goat’s cheese, with occasional roast lamb or roast goat, and drinking that horrible recinato which tastes like a mouthful of sealing-wax. Well-fed Johnny Bull has certainly a good reason for making wry faces at such a meal. Think of him out there as he squats down to his repast in the open air, with that fat face of his, through which the red fibres run as through a thick beefsteak. We would like to help him, though we laugh at him a little ; for everybody says that there is no danger, and the first London newspaper has called the whole affair a comedy, at which the world is supposed to have the right of being merry.
One of the party, let us give thanks, is safe, Lord Muncaster did not return to the chieftain, though he had promised to do so. There is no man of a generous soul who will not be glad, if the noble Lord shall be able to find some moral peg stout enough to hold that violation of his parole. I have heard of two such pegs: first, that the brigands changed their terms after he had been sent and obtained the money, thus fulfilling his part of the agreement and being thereby re-leased from his word. Another peg not so strong apparently : that the brigands had changed their locality in his absence while he had promised to return only to a given spot-Query: ought he to have returned any how? You, my hearers each one of you what would you have done? Would you have gone back, like Regulus to Carthage, or would you have cried : Alas, I am no hero, I am not anxious for posthumous fame among unknown future generations.
Here we shall have to leave the prisoners exposed to the raw weather of Pentelicus, complaining of the hard fare and of the cold rains. One of the brigands has to sleep close to young weakly Mr. Vyner to keep him warm, out of compassion, we hope, and not for fear of losing his ransom through his death. Not a desirable bedfellow, one thinks, is that dirty fustanella. The affair must struggle on in the diplomatic web till some outside power brush the obstacle away. Mean-while we shall trudge forward, at our customary slow gait, yet often stopping to look over the pleasant landscape, wholly dismissing the problem concerning what we should do if such a band of wild men should suddenly pounce down upon us from the mountain. We shall repeatedly cross the track of these brigands with their captives ; then we shall tell something more about them, as one thread of our little novel here interwoven ; being careful not to tell all at once, for that would destroy curiosity.
We have already crossed over the intervening valley watered by the Athenian Kephissus, and have begun the ascent of Parnes. Let us take a long step uphill, and set our feet down at Tatoe, ancient Dekeleia, which was fortified by the Lacedemonians during the Peloponesian war. From this mountain nest the enemy darted down and laid waste the Attic territory, at the same time controlling important roads leading to Athens. In recent years the King of Greece has built a summer residence here, with beautiful grounds and well-made roads. The royal family is at present in the city, but the grounds are open to the visitor. To the rear of the dwellings are the barracks of the soldiers who are here to guard the persons of their majesties. I am sorry that I shall not have an opportunity of introducing you to King George and Queen Olga with their interesting group of children. Still I can not help whispering to you my doubt about having such an opportunity, even if they were here. Notice these broad, thick-soled shoes, this knapsack and knotted staff, this long stride of the pedestrian ; clearly there is not dignity enough to appear before royalty. Notice, too, this unceremonious narrative, defying all conventionality ; quick, let us get out of these royal grounds, so regular, so rectilinear ; let us mount, through nature’s brushwood and boulders, to the rugged top of old Parnes.
But here quite a large company passes twenty persons or more on an excursion from Athens. They are English chiefly, and are carefully guarded by a platoon of soldiers. Let them pass rapidly, for their rear is brought up by a Scotch lassie, straggling at her own sweet will, and quite in-dependent of the rest of the company; then I follow, at some distance at first, but gradually approaching, with the intent of finding a pretext for getting acquainted. All strangers thrown together in a foreign land have a natural right of acquaintanceship without an introduction, subject of course, to the refusal of either party. This is my unwritten law, at least, and I am trying to obey it now.
Why should I recount to you all the details the first glance, the first little act of attention, the first little wordthe English word spoken in a strange land to a native ear sympathetically attuned to its sweet sound? But do not expect too much, my hearers ; nor should you love gossip. The Scotch lassie is a hard-headed, imperturbable person, who is going to fight her own battle, and just now she is going to climb this mountain in her own fashion without any assistance from anybody. Plump, with red-faced energy, she grapples the shaggy sides of the old monster determined to ride him, and not be thrown. Not much poetry there is in her, but there is plenty of raillery ; over the mountain rings her merry laugh which reveals rows of teeth overlapping each other like Scotch granite. Under her very laugh you can see granitic virtues of many kinds.
As we gradually ascend, the country unrolls before us. All the mountain ranges can now be distinguished ; even the high peaks of Euboea we behold running along and finally gathering into one highest summit, like the hunchback of a dromedary. The Scotch lassie tugs up through the bushes, puffing, growing redder; she is sometimes caught and held fast in the arms of a rude bramble as if an old satyr, hidden there, had reached out from the twigs and sought to embrace her, the rascal ? She refuses all assistance, she can help her-self, and takes pride in showing it, as she clambers up the rough sides of a rock, getting down on all fours. Yet she can not be said to be unfriendly; does she not point out to me the scenery which changes every moment with the change of the clouds and sunshine now light, now dark, in hurrying patches over the landscape? She does indeed want somebody to enjoy with her: so much of human frailty she still dimly reveals.
Under a strong wind a dense cloud drives against the side of the mountain where we are standing ; we see it approaching and covering us with thick folds ; it sheds upon us a little of its moisture, then like a huge ball it is rolled topsy-turvy up the slope, over the summit, and disappears on the other side, leaving the summit as bright as ever. Parnes manifestly will suffer no obscuration, but Pentelicus yonder still sullenly wraps its head in fog.
Finally we arrive at the top where are the foundations of an ancient temple. What a beautiful situation for a religious edifice, to be seen from afar, shining up here in white Pentelic marble ! Every old Greek into whose eye it fell from this high spot as it were from the Heavens, would experience a new joy at its quiet beauty, as he looked up at it from yonder valley. From the summits of the highest mountains these temples must have spoken to the man below of aspiration, of the labor of attaining the end, of the beautiful harmony when that end is attained. Let the aim be high behold, it can be realized, if he but climb. Hither he laboriously toiled up to worship the ascent being a part of his devotion, the toil being a part of his prayer. Else why is this temple placed up here?
The Scotch lassie is not satisfied to go back with me into the old structure, build it anew, and worship with me there she is a rigid Scotch Presbyterian. Instead of enjoying these ancient serene harmonies, she wishes to struggle up higher, and points to the top of a very steep precipitous cliff which even overlooks the site of the temple. That rock seemed to be the last and strongest convulsion of Parnes in the ancient of days there it quivers upward in an agony frozen to stone, jagged, distorted, unfriendly. Thither accordingly we go ; upon the point of a rocky splinter she sits down and seems for the moment to be happy. I straighten myself up beside her.
Now my hearers, imagine me perched up there on the very highest peak of the last throe of Parnes ; on tiptoe I stand, looking down into the plain of Kephissus what do you think I behold ? Far to the right I can see Athens ; the Parthenon rises to view there ; even from this distance its whole plan and character can be grasped and felt. There it lies in the sun, small but joyous as ever; though no larger than your hand it produces the same happy harmonious impression as if you stood on the Acropolis itself. I believe this to be a supreme characteristic of that edifice : its proportions can not be obliterated by distance. Nor forget, ere it passes out of sight, another distinction which it possesses above all structures : it is not a mathematical measurement, but it has the spontaneity of a lyric, it is an impulse in stone.
But there is something else which I see, and see very distinctly, though the Scotch lassie laughs at me when I try to point it out to her. Yonder just across the valley a long line of men is marching round the base of Pentelicus ; the line extends down the road toward Kephissia ; those men have evidently come from Athens within the last few hours. The shining helm and buckler flash across the vale ; the spears in serried ranks with sharp brilliant points glitter above their heads ; fair youths on plunging war-steeds bring up the rear. Rapid is their tread ; those men are manifestly in a great hurry, yet they set their feet down on the earth with a firmness that makes old Parues quake to the very top. But behold another miracle : the clouds lift from the sides of Pentelicus and slowly vanish into the clear sky above : there is revealed beyond it the plain of Marathon. Innumerable beings are swarming there like ants ; thousands of white sails are making pale the sparkling face of beautiful blue Euripus. Still the Scotch lassie laughs, laughs contemptuously, and call me a dreamer.
Nevertheless, the line of men continues marching with steady tread, I affirm, for they have a purpose, indeed rather the greatest purpose in the world’s history. Several persons who might be named, can be distinguished from this distance ; still their names are often rehearsed as a sort of sacred symbols of the race. But incontestably the first man of them all, the embodiment of his nation, the bearer of Europe’s hopes is marching yonder at the head of that column. See, now they have turned around Pentelicus, and are wheeling toward the Euboic Straits. Who are they, do you ask? They are Miltiades and his 10,000 Hoplites, hastening to the plain of Marathon. Not long ago the news arrived at Athens that the Persian had landed there ; the trumpet sounds, the soldiers rush to arms, the command is given : Fall in and close ranks march ! In six hours from Athens, with a sharp gait, we shall meet the foe.
What shall I do, what would you do, standing tiptoe on the top of Parues and seeing that body of men pass up the valley not far away? I at once bid good-bye to the Scotch lassie, leaping down from my position, and hastening along the bushy slope; I do not believe that Helen herself could have kept me there any longer. I am going to follow those soldiers round the spur of the mountain whither they have gone, with as little delay as possible ; of all soldiers that have marched in our world, they are most worthy of being followed. Next then is the campaign to Marathon, and I see that you all every one of you, if my vanity does not blind me have taken your places in the ranks and are eager to march. Forward, then, to Marathon.