ARACHOBA is just now in the midst of a hot political contest over the election of Demarch. True to their ancient instincts, the Greeks of opposing political parties cannot live together without fighting one another; in fact if there were no supreme authority outside of the town, I believe that the successful party would banish the unsuccessful one, and confiscate the property of its members. But each community is not autonomous now as of old; there is a central power of the State which keeps it in restraint. In no respect does the ancient political character of the Greek manifest itself more plainly than in these elections; the possibilities of those terrible massacres at Kerkyra and Argos are felt still; indeed, Arachoba furnishes at present many an excellent comment on Thucydides.
It was Sunday, and your traveler was sitting by the fire engaged in conversation about distant things, when an acquaintance came in breathless and announced that a fight had occurred in the market-place, confessed that his party had been driven in and compelled to take to their houses, and that he himself was one of the fugitives. I hurried out to see this new phase of Greek affairs, and was passing down to the market-place, when a man ordered me and all others to leave the street and go home. Loukas, who met me, said, that it was the Superior Judge, that he had the right to give such commands and that we must obey. There was still wild expitement, men were talking violently, women were rushing anxiously through the crowd looking for their husbands ; imperfect obedience was rendered to the Judge on the part of all, myself included. But the fighting was over for that day, and the campaign had fairly opened in its first contest.
These struggles usually take place on Sundays after church. It is curious to observe persons uniting in the same worship, performing the same genuflections, making the same crosses over breast and ‘forehead, and singing the service in the same dreary whine through the nose, and then an hour afterwards to see these very same persons trying to mash one another’s noses as if not whining enough already.
The peasants are all collected in the village on Sundays, for there are no dwellings in the country ; thus they are open to the fermentation of contact and to mutual friction. We think again of old Greek Aristotle, who defines man to be a political animal ; such is still the modern Greek particularly the animal. But assuredly his American brother will not be able to cast a stone at him, without the same stone’s coming back and inflicting a greater bruise upon himself.
These fights I heard humorously termed agones Olumpikoi Olympic contests. There was no little pride in them as exhibitions of prowess. The palicari is still unwilling to let his principle rest inactive without giving a blow for it; indeed he sometimes likes to give the blow with-out any principle. So it is said the old Greeks did at Olympia, they fought one another for mere sport; the same is true of us modern Greeks; we like to fight so well that, when we cannot get a chance at the Turk, we take a bout at one another.
The great issue at present is, then, who shall be the next Demarch? The opposing parties have set up two candidates, whose magnificent names are, Pappayohannes and Pappakosta. The principle at stake is not at all easy to fathom ; it has a very remote connection with national politics; a little closer bond it has with some local issues a clean marketplace and clean streets were two of the things which were sometimes mentioned, and which predisposed the impartial stranger somewhat in favor of the party out of power. But the vital governing principle seems to lie in the fact, that the Demarch controls the appointments to about twenty little offices in his district. Pappayohannes is the present incumbent and candidate for re-election, of course ; he has been compelled to set aside one hundred and twenty applicants, all of whom are now violent supporters of his opponent Pappakosta.
The wineshop, where the traveler will loiter among the people, blazes up in the hottest political discussion. There I always meet Odysseus, that is Ulysses a middle aged bachelor, who has never found his Penelope, he says. A satrical rogue, at no moment wanting in banter which is tipped with a sarcastic sting; he has therewith a kind of squint-eyed chuckle ; full of curiosity he is, too, about other nations. I seldom fail to find him in the wineshop, where he and I have formed a decided attachment. Whenever anything of a new or exciting character occurs, Odysseus is always at my side with the question : Einai tetoia eis ten patrida sas? Are there such things in your country ? Thus the study of Comparative Politics, especially the Politics of Greece and America, seem just now to be his delight.
A loud supporter of Pappakosta enters, who had been an equally loud supporter of Pappayohannes at the last election. But he has changed sides ; it is whispered that Pappayohannes failed to give him the position of Kerux or Town Crier, or some such place, after having promised to do so. Now it is declared that Pappakosta will give him the appointment, and that the wily office-seeker this time has extorted the promise in writing. But it is wonderful how keen is the vision of this man toward the shortcomings of the present administration. Says he : Look at our’ filthy streets, a donkey can hardly get through them in muddy weather; incompetent officials burden the town; the public revenue is squandered; we have no road with the rest of the world. Elect Pappakosta and all these things will be rectified; then we shall have clean streets, paved roads, honest and capable officials. Hurrah for Pappakosta! But you have changed; how is that ? Yes, he replied, I have changed. As for that traitor and demagogue, Pappayohannes, I elected him once, but he has turned out so badly that I am compelled to go against him this time; the public welfare demands it. Such was the disappointed place-seeker at Arachoba, whose words seemed to have a familiar note, but were followed by sharp contradiction from friends of the incumbent, and the wineshop resounded with angry disputation. In the meantime Odysseus appeared at my elbow and asked with squint-eyed leer : Have you such things in your country ?What, men who change for an office ?Yes, Odysseus; there are such things in my country.
The women, though they have no vote, play a peculiar and important part in the canvass ; they rush in and drag out their husbands when engaged in the combat. Herein they show a courage and strength which astonishes the stranger and makes him at first believe them to be angels of peace and mercy. Yet the women are the most violent politicians in Arachoba, as they are elsewhere in the world; they break off friendly relations with the neighbors of the opposite party; savage alter-cation between them takes place on the street, and at the pool where many come together on washing-day, they fight and fight desperately, all for those glorious names, Pappayohannes and Pappakosta. White Parnassian robes become soiled in the dirt, soft blue eyes change to balls of shooting flame ; golden-glancing tresses, reminding the traveler of fair-haired Helen, become sadly disheveled or are plucked out by handfuls and strown over the ground. Still, they will not allow their husbands and brothers to fight; if there is any fighting to be done, they are going to do it themselves.
The second Sunday the party of Pappayohannes, which had been defeated on the previous Sunday, determined not to be left in the lurch again, but to take every pre-caution for winning the day. Accordingly, just after church, the agora and the street which leads to it, were filled with his partisans, who there surged to and fro, yelling for their candidate and defying Pappakosta. The house of the Demarch is on this street, and after many calls he appeared at a window, and made a speech in which he counseled peace and good order, with the ad-vice that they retire to their homes. The crowd answered with approving yells, but with still greater disorder; it refused to disperse, but continued to vociferate and call for another speech from Pappayohannes. A second time he came to the window and counseled them all to go home and keep the peace. Bravo, hurrah for Pappayohannes, our next Demarch, they all shouted unanimously, but failed to stir from the spot, or to check in the least the unruly Greek member.
Bosh, said one of the opposite party standing at my side, this advice is mere sham ; Pappayohannes himself is stirring up all the confusion through his strikers and secret agents. See that tall fellow yonder gesticulating in the midst of the crowd, I know him to be a paid partisan.
It is certain that the multitude kept increasing rather than diminishing, and kept growing louder, instead of getting quiet in accordance with the counsel of the Demarch. Nor did the Judge appear, as on the former occasion, and order the people home. The narrow street presented a variegated appearance ; it was full of fustanellas and fezes, waves of white with crests of red. Old balconies hung over the street from the second story; these were filled with spectators. Outside the crowd, from the end of each alley converging into the market-place, women looked on, not without anxiety, ready to play their part in the approaching conflict. Thus the multitude surged and roared and hissed, calling for another speech and more advice from Pappayohannes. A man from the crowd touched my elbow; it was Odysseus with his satirical leer, and with insatiable thirst for a knowledge of Comparative Politics, asking me : Echete tetoia eis ten patricia sas ? Have you such things in your country ?Yes, Odysseus, there are such things in my country.
After an hour or so the adherents of Pappakosta appeared in force, and took up position at the lower end of the market-place. They built a narrow platform out of tables ; on this platform two palicaris mounted and sang a song celebrating the glories of their candidate Pappakosta; by its quality, it must have been chiefly extemporaneous. They whirled and yelled and sang, accompanied by a heavy chorus of male voices massed around their platform ; the recinato, too, put in appearance, and the drinking began. Merry Greeks they were, and al-ways growing merrier ; one of the singers poured wine upon the head of the other, as if they desired to be soaked outside as well as inside. This was indeed a sin against Bacchus a profanation, thus to waste that precious juice of Arachoba, said to be the best in Greece. The God will punish you today for your contempt of his gift such is the prophecy of the indignant stranger.
But the other party are not idle. They erect a similar stand on the opposite side of the narrow street in front of a wineshop, where they go through with similar extravagances. The song in praise of Pappakosta they try to drown with cheers for Pappayohannes; then they strike up a lay of their own; thus the Muses still sing in rivalry on the slope of Parnassus, with incessant burden of these two far-sounding names, Pappayohannes, Pappakosta, Pappayohannes, Pappakosta. In this way the singers pass the time, under the inspiration of the Sisters and Wine-god, dancing on the table, rhapsodizing in rude verse, with good humor on the surface at least an incessant bubbling from boundless seas of wild whimsicality. Nor must we forget the peaceful note ; a shepherd has his pipe and seems to be lulling himself with its soft sounds amid all the din; with admiration I looked at him sitting there in the sunshine not far from the plat-form, enticing pastoral notes from his reed, and wholly absorbed in its simple tones, without paying any attention to the din around him. He seemed to be dreaming that he was alone with his flock on the sunny hills.
Thus the traveler lounges about, observing ; a lively Greek notices him among the crowd, and hands him a beaker of wine, saying : Here is to the success of Pappayohannes. But another rushes up with a cup of the same precious drops and invites : Drink with me to the health of Pappakosta. I answered : To Hades with both of your Pappas, I don’t understand your politics ; but I will drink both your cups with this toast Long live Hellas ; and I wish each of you to join me. They did so, grasping my hand ; they were good Greeks, remembering that they had a country above party, if only reminded of the fact. So the three men there emptied the four cups.
Thus for several hours I watched the human waves there, observing the endless bubbles rising out of those capricious waters, and then bursting into vacuity. At first I tried to count them, and mark them carefully, to see if they had some law of their own; but one gets tired of bubbles though they reflect all the colors of the rainbow. It was a wild riot of fancies, an unweeded garden of luxuriant oddities. Finally I grew weary of the play, concluding that there would be no Olympic contest that day, but only a farcical battle of animal spirits. I started home, but scarcely had I passed into an upper street, when I saw the group of women who stood at a distance, looking always down to the market-place, in great commotion, and beginning to rush for the scene of action. No pleasing sight were those anxious faces; mothers and sisters of the men below were there, but mainly wives with little children clinging to their skirts, with babes at the breast and yet unborn. A cry of anguish and then a mother would clasp her infants and hurry off; it was enough to curse any election.
As I turned around and looked after a number of these woman darting by, there was the following view : chairs were flying through the air, the tables were broken into clubs, stones were hurled at random, and some forty or fifty neighbors were kicking, gouging, pounding one another with mutual zeal and edification. The Olympic contest has then opened at last ; I hasten toward the spot, but the narrow street which leads to the market-place is choked up with spectators, and there is no Judge to send them home. Following a woman, I take another way far around, and have to ascend a hill to reach the place of combat. But here comes a mass of men and women rushing down the steep descent, with stones flying after them, and shouting, Run, run for life. I re-treated a short distance with them, borne by the torrent I might say, but I am afraid that it was a clear ease of panic. I soon turned about, however, no enemy pursuing, and went up boldly into the midst of the fight a little to one side perhaps.
Stones and tiles were on the wing, somewhat ; long knives were drawn and slashed about, wounding only the innocent air, as far as I saw ; everybody was doing terribly, yet nothing terrible was done. ” Leave here, leave here, oh stranger,” said one excited Greek who came rushing up to me with a stone in one hand and a knife in the other which words of his were not intended as threats, but only as a friendly admonition. I laughed at him, and jested at his excitement, when he went away to meet the foe. The schoolmaster also warned me, beckoning to me from the distant window of a wineshop, the doors of which were locked to all save friends. His was the defeated party to-day, and he had been compelled to take to cover. But it was manifest that there was no great danger to anybody, least of all to me. Not a man there would touch a stranger, I knew ; a stray stone might not be so considerate, but that would be an accident. So I stayed and saw the struggle ended, for it is not every day that one can see an Olympic contest on the soil of Greece itself.
Two or three men with bloody heads are led off by their wives or friends ; other combatants suddenly disappear ; one palicari, the grand protagonist of the day, with long knife drawn, and with engeance in his look, pursues the last retreating foe down an alley out of sight; the field is won, victory for Pappayohannes. The enemies had all fled to their homes or had secreted them-selves; the market-place was in the possession of one party, with hurrahs and great jollification. Gunpowder, which had hitherto kept wholly out of the fight, now enters merely for noise, an old blunderbuss is touched off, and the Parnassian dells re-echo with detonations which must have put all the Muses to flight. Again the crowd shouts for a speech from the victorious Pappayohannes, who a third time comes to the window, counseling peace, and good order, and less noise. Odysseus, too, was there, participating in the general jubilation, for he was a partisan of Pappayohannes; with a squint-eyed chuckle he twitched my arm, shouting : Glorious victory, the day is ours; have you such things in your country ?Yes, Odysseus, there are such things in my country.
The crowd now began to disperse, it was getting dark, the combat was over for one week, and quiet rapidly settled down upon the market-place with the rising stars. The result of the battle, as I learned, was about as follows : three or four gashes, five or six bruises, two or three hundred cases of hoarseness. One irate woman was reported to have thrown from her door or balcony some water not very hot upon an approaching foe; she took this way of defending her husband and her party. All accounts agreed, that there were no serious wounds. The most painful that I saw, was inflicted by a woman, who summarily led off a full-grown man by the ear, he in the mean time squirming and crying with bitter tears. I went over the field of conflict before going home; the platform had disappeared, shreds of fustanellas and torn caps lay around ; but what touched my heart with sorrow was to see the fragments of the shepherd’s pipe, the sweet pipe of peace, lying there on the stones where the shepherd had sat not long before, wooing its dulcet notes; the shepherd had disappeared, and the soft-tuned reed had manifestly been broken in the mad conflict of the day. Such was the outcome of the idyllic strain on Parnassus to-day.
As I was going to my quarters, I met a group of maid-ens dressed in their white garments with red apron and sash, in a back street overlooking the market-place. Evidently for the benefit of the stranger, they began a sham fight in mockery of the one which they had just seen fought by the men. They pretended to throw stones and to strike one another, shouting and leaping about with much banter and sport. It went off very well, till a big girl pushed over a plucky little red apron ; down fell the snow-white smock into the dust with a broad sprawl, and was sadly soiled, quite ready for the wash to-morrow. The knee of the unfortunate maiden must have been slightly bruised too, one may modestly venture to think, by the way she rubbed it. But plucky little Red-apron was soon up and ready for an aggressive onset; this prit a phase of earnestness into the contest, which threatened to bring the resemblance into complete reality, to elevate the counterfeit into the genuine article itself. But the whole matter happily went no further than loud mutual volleys of words.
At this juncture a man with a long venerable beard came along one of the elders of the town and thus addressed the company : Shame on you Arachobites and Arachobitzas ! How will you appear before the world ! Do you not see that there is a stranger here who is going to write a book about us, and scatter our names over the whole earth ? He is a scribe, I have often seen him taking notes on the wayside and in the Olives; he will be sure to give an account of this day to his people ; the Franks will think that we are still barbarians, no better than the Turks. How will the treaty of Berlin ever be fulfilled if he should write a book in which these re-ports about Arachoba are published ? Let us now behave ourselves.
At this time, the news of the Treaty with Berlin, with all its hopes and new problems, had permeated the remotest corner of Greece, and stirred the heart of the Greek people to its very bottom. Even the unlettered peasant rolled the strange word through his lips awkwardly, yet reverently, as if it were a prayer that would bring about the unity of the whole Hellenic race. But one thing I did not disturb; I left the old man with all his exaggerated notion about the importance of my book. I knew that never again could it by any possibility receive such a world-embracing compliment.
In the course of the evening I visited the houses of the leaders of both political parties. In the one there was joy and untold effervescence; a grand reception of the victorious heroes of the day was held ; they continued to drop in, till a large company of men were assembled, talking, gesticulating, laughing, with many an anecdote of the triumphant day, and with many a taunt over the defeated foe. It was a veritable war-dance of the big chieftains; all the details of the fight were fought over again, in speech, action and animated gesture.
The climax was reached when the hero of the day appeared the grand protagonist, whom we saw chasing off the last man from the field of battle. Proudly he entered, still bare-armed, with torn shirt dangling at the sleeves, but triumphant, with the laurels of victory invisibly wreathing his brow. He was greeted as he came in with a shout of triumph ; he began to describe the event, and in the description of his own glories, he grew so excited that he again drew his dagger and slashed his enemies by the dozen, skipping about the room till he be-came more dangerous to his friends than he had ever been to his foes. Odysseus, too, was there, jubilating, throwing sarcasms upon the beaten party amid the merry crowd; feeling some one touch my elbow, I looked about and saw those inevitable eyes with the inevitable question : Have you such things in your country ?Yes, oh Odysseus, very similar things we have in our country.
Through the darkness I sought my way to another house where one of the leaders of the defeated party lived, with whom I was on friendly terms. Alas, alas ! what a melancholy change ! A number of chieftains were assembled there too, but they sat around in gloom ; there was no light in the house save the pale flicker sent from the coals in the hearth, which made the white costumes look like a row of sheeted ghosts. Not a word those men uttered, not a sign of life they gave, but sat there in monumental silence. I wished to retire at once, begging par-don for my intrusion, as I thought that I was the cause of all this reticence; but I was detained by friendly assurances that there was no intrusion on my part, nor any secret deliberation on their part. It was the gravest, most tomb-like body of men that I saw in Greece a very cemetery in the night. Where now is the Greek joy which once swayed so gayly Parnassus ?
Soon from one of those sepulchral shapes a voice broke forth into bitter speech; it accused some of its party of cowardice, others of treason; reproaches of all kinds followed, with that most insulting taunt of being no true Palicari. The silent chamber of what seemed white monuments, was at once filled with a stunning confusion of voices ; each pale ghost began to move violently in every limb ; recrimination pursued crimination, till a second Olympic combat appeared imminent. But the storm passed, and the happy Greek temperament broke into sunshine out of its clouds, at the suggestion of one of its leaders : “Next Sunday we shall whip them; let us pre-pare now.” Hope at once arched the sky with her rain-bow, each man smote his thigh vehemently, with a shout of applause, and they all adjourned to the next room for consultation, the question being, How shall we wallop our neighbors next Sunday after going to church with them, and take care not to get walloped ourselves ?
I heard citizens repeatedly express their disapproval of these disorders; the Demarch himself implied in his speech, you will recollect, that he disapproved of them, when he advised the people to go home. As already said, political enemies charged the Demarch with being at the bottom of the disturbance; it was his method of conducting an election, they declared. What stranger can disentangle the truth? The real cause, however, lies deep in the spirit of the people; the latter are proud of their prowess and love of fight. True Greeks they are, delighting in Olympic contests, and determined to fight one another, if they can not fight the barbarian.
But this was not the end of the conflict. The next day, Monday, was wash-day; early in the morning all the fountains of Arachoba were surrounded by a busy multitude of women, and by huge winrows of soiled garments. The white file continues to issue from every alley and by-path of the town, each woman bears her batlet and tub, often too a kettle for boiling the clothes ; thus the squadrons gather with stout determined tread, and evidently mean business. That restless Greek tongue can not, of course, be restrained; usually it is the last wed-ding or the last betrothal which forms the staple of their talk, often with tinges of gossip more malicious. But to-day the new topic comes up first the approaching election, and above all, the combat of yesterday.
At one of these places a servant belonging to the household of a leader of the Pappakostites met a woman of the faith of Pappayohannes, who was exulting in the victory of the preceding day, and triumphed defiantly over the bloody heads of her enemies. This was too much, there followed bitter words and then blows, or rather a tearing of clothes and hair. Other women ran up and took sides, and the combat became general. One wife with her distaff stood there spinning; this distaff is a long stick, which she brought down heavily upon the back of a sister. This sister was not without a weapon at hand; she picked up a wet garment which she was about to wring out, and flung it with water and all upon her opponent, who in her turn, the distaff now being broken, raised an immense Homeric stone (such as not two men of this generation could lift), but she did not throw it, and in-deed was unable to throw it straight, but hurled a mighty epithet instead.
The combat continued to get more intricate. The large bat used for pounding the wash was raised by a sturdy Amazonian arm; this caused an utter fight of all the enemy, when the bat fell harmless to the ground. The combatants, however, returned once more, they punched one another a little, pulled hair, and flung wet garments. But the distaff was the favorite weapon on Parnassus, as the broomstick is in this country; still the war was mainly one of words, all spoken in holy Greek, right under the seat of the sacred Nine.
Not the least curious to the spectator will be the names which he will hear interspersed among the blows of the .conflict. Clytemnestra fights Penelope ; the latter has still her ancient distaff, though she puts it to a use unknown in the Odyssey; Euphrosyne, that joyful name of one of the Graces, you will see engaged in the unpoetical act of upsetting the washed folds of one of her sisters, not a Grace, and dragging them in the dust. Look now at the white-flowing robes of the Parnassian chorus which were to appear next Sunday ; with sorrow one beholds them, changed almost to weeds of mourning. Eurydike is here, having returned from ancient Hades to modern Greece, full of life, a beautiful maiden, blue-eyed, golden-haired still; nor can I, beholding her, wonder at Orpheus, who was so filled with the desire of possessing her that he descended to the Lower Regions with his lyre, and sought by music to restore her to the Upper World. Finally laughter-loving Aphrodite appears on the battlefield, not loving the laugh to-day but stern combat; bare-footed even she runs along the stony highway, in angry pursuit of another Goddess, whose name is unknown, but whom we may call Here; thus to-day on Parnassus is repeated that ancient Homeric contest which was once kindled between the two Goddesses on Olympus. In this way, too, the old still manifests itself in the new.
There are at least a dozen of these washing places in Arachoba; at all of them were bickerings on that Mon-day ; at several of them were scuffles, at one a pitched battle bloodless, but not hairless. Sunday has to be fought over again; the victory, lost by the men, must be redeemed by the women of the defeated party. But the strange thing is, that the women will rush in and drag their husbands and brothers out of the struggle; so we may infer that if there is any fighting to be done, they are going to do it themselves.
Rumors of these various conflicts at the pools, soon flew to the men assembled in the market-place; party was forgotten, and loud was the merriment among the jolly Greeks. Partisans of Pappayohannes and of Pappakosta, who were trying yesterday to crack one another’s skulls, adjourned together to the wineshop, and united in a universal guffaw over the Aristophanic battle of the women. Mark the roll of names : Plato was there in baggy breeches, Plutarch was there in white folds and red fez, heroic Achilles was present indeed, is eternally present in Greece. With these heathens were many saints Athanasius, Spiridion, my friend Loukas, the Didaskali, or Saint Luke; emperors, too, lent their presence, Basilius, Constantinus. But the true monarch of the company was Odysseus, an inveterate misogynist, a man who had never found his Penelope, and who had a sort of crabbed humor in consequence of his failure to find her. He was now in his element, and began acting the feminine conflict; he grasped my staff and used it as the distaff in the fight ; he mocked the language and attitude of the leading female combatants. The hilarity overflowed the wineshop into the very street where the passers roared ; the threatened tragedy has turned not merely into a comedy, but into an acted comedy; to-day there will be no fight in Arachoba ; the political collision has received a comic solution, Pappayohannes and Pappakosta are united in one brotherhood of laughter. Odysseus is the victor, the grand peace-maker; after he had exhausted himself, again I felt his touch upon my elbow, I saw the triumphant but squint-eyed leer, and heard the old question : Have you such things in your country ? No, Odysseus, we have not ; the world possesses but one Odysseus; and he is in Arachoba.
Such was the lively whirl of local politics in the thrifty village of Arachoba ; one might think its people were lost to all national interest in the narrow circle of their own neighborhood. But there were deeper cur-rents which needed only a good opportunity to rise to the surface. The Greek is a politician still, local as well as universal; his political relations start with the little affairs of his own town ; but they rise in natural gradation to the profoundest and most abiding struggle in History, that between the East and the West, whose bearers are at present the Turk and the Greek.
While I was at Arachoba word came that the Austrian and German embassadors at the court of Greece, with the British and Italian Secretaries of Legation, would pay a visit to the town. These gentlemen were making a rapid tour of inspection through the inland parts of Greece, combining some secret business probably, with momentary glances at the antiquities still remaining, and at the people. They had arrived at Delphi on their way back to Athens, and had spent there some hours in viewing the ruins of Delphic magnificence. Great was the ,expectation and curiosity of the Arachobites at the unusual visit; yet for no small portion of the citizens it would be attended with one decided pang. Pappayohannes, as Demarch and official head of the town, would reap the honors of entertaining such high guests. As candidate for re-election he was bound to make the reception a brilliant affair.
On the evening before their arrival the shrill-voiced herald, like that one of Agamemnon, was heard going round the town announcing the great event to take place on the morrow, with the request that the Arachobites should turn out and do honor to the distinguished visitors. But not a few of the town’s-people resolved at once to go to their work in the fields, and not stick a new feather in the political cap of Pappayohannes. But the maidens who belonged to the party of Pappakosta, caused the chief difficulty ; they determined not to dance with their political enemies at the grand reception. So there would be no chorus the chief attraction of a visit to Arachoba. As the day turned out a fine day for labor, many of the men and women of the town were seen early in the morning hastening to the Olives and vineyards.
Still quite a number of people remained behind, and it was announced that the visitors would arrive in the afternoon from Delphi. Not long after dinner the caramousa and drum resounded through the streets, followed by a small procession of patriotic villagers, who, after parading a little while and gathering up those who were still in town, marched out to the western entrance, there to await the approach of the guests. The schoolmaster and myself hastened out of the house to see the spectacle ; as the line filed past our abode we dropped into rank and went with the procession. The band was wisely dismissed by the Demarch, as soon as it had performed this service, for that music in European ears might have spoiled the reception and endangered the election of the Demarch. The embassadors might have continued their journey after hearing it, for it was not hard to mistake this music as the preluding strains of another sort of reception.
As usual there was a long delay, and much impatience was expressed at the visitors for their failure to appear on time. Groups of people dotted the hill-side, or were perched on protruding rocks; the pleasantest view was always the red and white bevy of maids in the distance. But the select company were gathered in the road at the entrance. The elders of the town were there : some had fought in the Greek Revolution, some had been present at the famous battle here or not far from here; others recollected the grand reception given to King Oho in his youth when he passed through this region ; it was a day of fond old memories. The Judge who had ordered me home on that Sunday of Olympic contest was present; I had the honor of an introduction, when I mentioned the fact that I had seen him before, but he did not seem to remember me. Finally the little fat Demarch Pappayohannes was present, everywhere darting through the crowd, puffing, big with something which I afterward found out to be a speech ; a fussy man, but capable and public spirited.
But the man who shone that day with a peculiar splendor was the Capitanos, thus familiarly called by the people. An aged son of Mars, yet full of fire and youthful energy with a springy step ; he had fought in the War of Greek Independence, and afterwards had served in the body-guard of King Otho, who conferred upon him the Order of the Savior. The badge of this order he now wore; he had also put on his old Greek uniform, tinseled and bedizened with barbaric splendor, yet dim with the dust of time. At his side dangled an antique sword, or rather scimetar, which he would draw and shake at the boys when they were noisy or came too near the road along which the grand cavalcade was to pass. He sprang through the company, fiercely looking around, ready to pounce upon the enemy, if that enemy were only there.
It was indeed a great day for the Capitanos. He fought his battles over again, and with that crooked scimetar of his he whisked off thousands of Turkish heads, to the intense delight of the assembled Greeks. Particularly he loved to give his version of the battle of Arachoba, when the Greeks under their chieftain Karaiskakis did actually capture some 5,000 Turks not far from the town, and at once proceeded to sever head from body. Then the monument that they raised was described by the Capitanos a new kind of trophy, a pyramid of Turkish heads hewn off and piled up as high as Parnassus. The Capitanos pointed out the spot: there they were all heaped together. “How many?” “Pollas myriadas many myriads,” said the Capitanos.
But the chief event of that battle, as it comes from the mouths of the people, was the divine appearance of St. George, patron Saint of Arachoba. The mighty dragon-slayer was now needed to slay a new dragon spitting fire and death from these mountains; earnest was the prayer for his coming, and of a sudden he sprang out of the air in person to help his people in the hour of their affliction. There he was most certainly, in the midst of the fight, mounted on a white charger of enormous size, with shield raised and lance poised, quite as we behold him in the picture of the combat with the old dragon whose place is now taken by the Turk, also a veritable dragon. Hundreds of eyes saw him skewering Turkish bodies on that lance and flinging them one after another high into the air, like sheaves of wheat from the pitchfork of the strong-boned agriculturist. In such manner the Saint went through that army; there lay the foe scattered all over the slopes of Parnassus; but when his work was done he suddenly disappeared. To-day the new Cathedral stands yonder in the upper town of Arachoba, overlooking our group; it is just about to be finished, having been built in commemoration of the divine event, on a spot connected, I believe, in some way with the great epiphany of the Saint.
So the good people of Arachoba believe and narrate in pious exaltation, not however without a little skeptical shaking of the head on the part of the illuminated. Even a Papas has been known to hint that it is probably a ” symbol.” ” Do you believe it ? ” I was asked. ” Certainly I do ; St. George fought along with you, and of it there are many evidences. Far otherwise had been the story, if he had not fought for you and with you on that and other days. There would have been no free Greece, no flourishing Arachoba; there would have been no Capitanos here today to tell us the story. There are some days during that war on which he did not fight in your ranks; they read differently; hence I believe that he was with you.”
Suddenly at this point we were interrupted with the shout : Here they come, here they come ! Not far away a small cavalcade was seen emerging from one of the folds of the mountain side; it consisted of some ten or twelve persons mounted on mules and donkeys, with drivers afoot. The crowd hastened to the brow of the hill to witness the grand approach, and the legend of St. George dropped at once into utter oblivion ; the women and maids rose up along the slopes, showing their Arachobite costume to the best advantage. Thus several hundred people were picturesquely grouped at various points within easy sweep of the eye.
The road from Delphi winds along the side of the mountain, clasping it close like a girdle ; for a long distance it can be seen swaying up and down, through the depressions and over the ridges. The cavalcade seemed to ride like a vessel over the billows of the sea, as it sank into the little dells and rose out of them again. It was seen by the people at their work far above on the mountain . and far below; soon they began to quit their toil, one by one, and find their way into the nearest path which led to the main road, thence they hastened to the town. After all, they could not stay away on such an important occasion for the sake of political partisanship. Some deeper interest throbbed in their bosoms than a village election.
The guests arrive and dismount, headed by the German embassador, while the little Demarch is pushing through the crowd to meet them and to receive them in the name of the town, full of perspiration and his big speech. Here occurred an interference of which I was the unwilling instrument. I was standing on the outer rim of the multitude which had gathered around, and I was doing my share of staring, when some one shouted, Kyrie Zene, empros, Mr. Stranger, forward. I think that it was Loukas who started that shout, let him be confounded, the mischievous schoolmaster. At once the cry was taken up by the crowd with looks all turned toward me, though I waved my hand in dissent. Two strong palicaris grasped me, each one holding an arm, and hustled me forward to the center of the group; there I was in the presence of the German embassador, to whom I addressed a salutation, to which he gave a friendly response, and we began to converse.
But this incident had entirely interrupted the course of the reception. The Demarch had not made his speech, upon which possibly was staked the success of his election. The little man elbowed his way through the bystanders, and with triple rows of sweat-beads upon his forehead said to me: two words, two words, oh friend. I at once slunk back out of the crowd, ashamed of having been the means of disturbing the order of the ceremonies. Of course I was innocent, but I am in some doubt concerning those who started the shout.
It is true that there was not a man, woman or child in all Arachoba who did not know me, nay, who did not know much more of nie than I knew of myself. I passed for a Professor in the Great Columbian University of America to which the University of Athens was a mere drop in the ocean, which had 400,000 students or so, and covered a territory half as large as the whole of Greece. Though I always tried to stick to my honest title, that of Didaskali, or Schoolmaster, I never could get anybody to address me otherwise than as Kathegetes, or Professor, somewhat as it is in my own country. It was also taken for granted apparently that I could speak the native tongue of the embassadors ; so the people thought that I should be the spokesman of their town, in which I had now resided for nearly three weeks, with many an evidence of delight. Such was probably the motive of this strange, but friendly outburst of theirs.
Still I have a lurking doubt that with two or three persons the affair was premeditated ; I suspect that they intended to play one of their shrewd Greek tricks, making me the instrument of confounding the arrangements of Pappayohannes and possibly of jostling him out of his place at the reception. That would be a good political point and make a theme for many a jest against an opponent. Certain it is that the adherents of Pappakosta seemed to have the chief hand in the matter. The whole thing is insignificant except as giving a slight touch of Greek political cunning and partisanship.
Still the reception was a success, a great success; the Demarch was equal to the occasion, and his speech was, I thought, admirable in every way, in feeling, style, de-livery, but above all, in the fact that it was a true utterance of his people at that moment, expressing their strongest aspiration. It was of course in Greek, and ran about as follows : “Honored Guests, Representatives of the Great Powers of Europe; it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the town of Arachoba, a town not unknown in the annals of Greek independence. We make no claim to the refined civilization of Western Europe, but you will find us a simple and honest peasantry whose hearts beat warm for the welfare of our fatherland. It is our boast that we still possess many of those peculiarities which belonged to the old Greeks, whose works you study and admire so much. For they were our ancestors there can be no doubt of it, though some have tried to deprive us of that honor. But we can make good the claim ; look around you, and you can not help seeing evidences on every side. We, their children, pray that you will not forget us; recollect that off here in a small corner of Europe the descendants of that people to whom Europe may be fairly said to owe its civilization are now living in poverty and weakness, and in addition, are deprived of their just rights. They are longing once more to rise into a new life, to be again a great Hellenic people. The ancient example still spurs us on by its eternal presence, for even in our town you will notice many a reminder of antiquity, indeed of old Homer himself. We pray that you will not deem it improper if we tell you the fervent hope of our hearts, and call to your minds the debt which you owe our fathers.
Greece now needs the help of Western Europe in acquiring a portion it is but a small portion of her just territory. The treaty of Berlin has acknowledged the claim, and adopted it as one of the provisions of Europe’s peaceful settlement; but the Turk perfidiously refuses to fulfil his promise, and will continue to refuse till he be compelled by you. We ask your sympathy, for we well know how much you can do for us; we pray for your aid as Greeks who have transmitted to you the beginnings of culture and have always stood as Europe’s barrier against the deluge from the Orient. We are also your fellow Christians ; many of our countrymen have still to groan under the barbarian’s yoke. By the ties of civilization, of religion, of humanity, we ask you to help us. By the feeling of nationality which you cherish most deeply within your bosoms, we beg you to aid us to rise to a nation. Arachoba is ready to show its hospitality to you, yet I would not have you go away without having heard her prayer, nay the prayer of all Greece, and of the whole Hellenic race.”
At the conclusion of the speech, the people broke forth into rapturous applause ; even the Pappakostites, of whom many had come from the fields, pronounced it excellent, being carried away by their enthusiasm for a united Hellas. Political discord disappeared in the common Hellenic note struck by the Demarch; in repeated cheers its vibrations were heard echoing over the billowy slope of Parnassus. They all then felt they had a country above their party, a principle higher than clannish allegiance; hateful partisanship everywhere dissolved for the time into the harmony of soul-uniting patriotism. Such is the true solution of those Olympic combats upon the market-place they have vanished, at the sound of the golden word, into that higher unity which makes all Greek souls one throbbing aspiration.
A worthy speech, a genuine expression of the people’s heart, proving the Demarch to be no mere village politician, but a man of Pan-Hellenic patriotism : such is the comment which the sympathetic stranger, not an embassador, will make. But it was utterly blank to the embassadorial intelligence, for that did not understand Greek, probably did not want to understand it. At the termination of the speech, the interpretor of the embassy dispatched the whole of it in two or three broken sentences of German, which the embassadors received with a truly diplomatic politeness and secretiveness. I do not blame them, it was probably the only part they could play, being without emotion, without any ideal, without color in their conduct, selling their political souls to Satan in the service of the home government. Personally I liked them, they were gentlemen, but I detest the system.
Such, however, was the volcanic question which suddenly burst up red-hot on that day from Mount Parnassus in substance still that oldest question of Greece : Orient against Occident. Little Greece is seeking again to liberate and unite the Hellenic race; to redeem it from the barbarian is her prayer now as of old. There, too, she stands a bulwark against the Oriental man to-day as in the Persian War of Xerxes, ready even to make hostile reprisals on Asiatic soil as in the still more ancient Trojan War. Not now with a strong right arm do the Greeks stand there, it is true, but with something perdurably tougher their spirit, their faith, their religion. Bodily they have submitted and are weak, but spiritually they are still as unyielding as were the old Marathonian soldiers. Thus the spiritual rampart remains yet, behind which Europe has lain and still lies in security to be sure, not without some fighting on her part. No dragonading, no tyranny, no bribery has ever made the Greeks lapse to Mahomedanism, or other Oriental forms of spirit; through untold suffering they still remain firm the adamantine wall which keeps out the Orient. Powerful Occident, so long protected behind that bulwark, both spiritually and physically, Greece now asks to disenthrall her politically asks with fervent petition, but without much hope.
It is a consideration which must outweigh all others in the present question; this Greek spiritual realm the Turk has never been able to conquer. It is a barrier which he can not surmount, it stands before him high as heaven ; he has assailed it with a rough, barbarous hand, has en-slaved it, tortured it; but destroyed or absorbed it he has not, and can not. The salvation of Europe, one may certainly affirm, her security has been this Greek spiritual toughness; Turkey has always had to march West with the indigestible Greek stone in her stomach; with that unassimilated the Turk has never been able to make any lasting conquest in the Occident.
Still as of old the Greek looks across the sea toward the East in sullen defiance; here on Parnassus to-day the trump of war will draw every peasant from his hamlet, will nerve his heart to a supreme degree of energy and en-durance for the Great Cause whose burden he has borne since the beginning of History. As you see him muster on the mountains, and train through the villages, you will feel that it is still the old Marathonian spirit, and you will think what a destiny has been laid upon him, the poor peasant a destiny greater than that of his nation, the destiny of a new world. In the valleys the Greek may have become degenerate, in the cities, corrupt; but seek him in his mountain fastnesses, and you will find the same ring as of old in his actions, and the same instinctive readiness to take his place in the ranks, and do duty in the vanguard of Western civilization against the barbarous hordes of the East.