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"that is Maroula
"So it is," said Pepina, why I am not surprised. was half mad with fear, that she would never find a husband at all, for the whole village knew the honey had been stolen; so she went night and morning to ask one from Saint Nickolas, and she spent every lepta* she had to buy him candles, so at last he sent her one, from Maina, with five hundred olive trees of his Own."
"Oh, Aghios Nickolas! I am tired of living," supplicated old Elenko, crossing herself." "Perhaps he will do something for me, too," she added, winking aside to her neighbour. "Well, Maroula will have quiet to her soul now. How she tried to make her daughter beautiful, that people might forget about the hives! I have seen her hunting the woods all day for snakes, to get the serpent oil to make her daughter's hair grow long."
"And when did the serpent oil ever fail," exclaimed Pepina; "Xanthi's hair is twice as long as my arm. I measured it myself, that I might get a lepta from Spiro, her betrothed, for telling him such good
"Och, that was how you saw him, Kera Pepina. You are a wonderful woman for finding out how to get the leptas. He would give you much more, when told him how black you her eyes are.
"Not he, indeed; it was enough to vex a saint, to find how he knew all about her. His soul's sister told him, I suppose. You must know he is the Papas psycho pethi; but he is in such a hurry to see her for himself, they say, that the wedding is to be next week."
"Panagia mou! that is quick enough. Do they think the Turks are to be on us then?"
was two years old, so they are ready
"Kyrie eleison-kyrie eleison, there is the church bell," exclaimed Elenko, throwing herself down on her hands and knees, and crossing herself vigorously, as she somewhat abruptly commenced her evening devotions. "And there is the Papas himself riding to chapel on his donkey (excuse me, said his friend). I will go and kiss his hands before he gets off all your hours be good, kera Elenko!" And old Pepina, hurrying down from the cottage roof, hobbled away to attend the vesper service, leaving her more feeble neighbour to resume the work on which she was incessantly engaged, which consisted in spinning the cotton for her grave clothes, a task to which she was moved by a sort of desperate hope, that it might bring on the catastrophe of which she despaired.
Vervena was one of those happy little mountain villages, to whose peaceful inhabitants the foreign yoke which held their country in such abject slavery was little more than a name, until the war of independence actually burst over Greece, that fierce universal struggle, whose dire effects did indeed pierce to her innermost recesses. was a name of terror, it is true, for they well knew that they owed it to their position, alone, in the heart of the wild inaccessible mountains, that they lived from year to year unmolested by the indolent Turks; and the fatal experience of many a less fortunate village had amply proved to them that it needed but some casual incident which should bring them into contact with their masters; and the brand of the slavery, which as yet they bore in lightness of heart, would be stamped on their valleys, as it had been elsewhere, in characters of fire and of blood. Their valley lay within the range of the vast pashalik of Corinth, where Kyamil, formerly Bey of Negropont, now reigned supreme; but their more immediate governor was the Aga appointed to collect, or rather to extort the taxes levied by the Turks, and whose dwelling was a little fortified tower in a somewhat isolated
position. No town or village, however small, was at this period exempt
The smallest Greek coin in current use, in value less than a farthing.
from the authority of a similar functionary; and often did they, strong in their delegated power, with their single hand, make the burden of the foreign yoke intolerable to the broken-spirited and harassed people. But the aga of Vervena was a stupid, inoffensive old man, delighting in peace and quietness, however it might be obtained, and giving himself no trouble whatever about the proceedings in the village, provided he was left unmolested in his tower. If a Turkish aga could have a soul-for, considering they distinctly deny any such possession to their women, it may be permitted to doubt, from the details of their own domestic life, whether themselves do not share the anomalous position to which they reduce one-half of their fellow-creatures if, then, this old Aga could have any kind of soul, it was entirely bound up to the exclusion of all other affections in one precious treasure which he possessed. This was a remarkably fine Arabian horse, of admirable beauty, and whose pedigree gave him an undeniable claim to a direct descent from the milk-white steed of the Prophet-that is, he unquestionably belonged to the remarkable breed which has been so carefully preserved on account of that tradition; and so completely was the old Turk occupied in an unceasing attendance on this beautiful creature, that the good people of Vervena were entirely spared those ingenious devices of tyrannical oppression with which he would doubtless have solaced his leisure hours but for this engrossing occupation. Most devoutly did many of the peasants, such as Pepina and her friend, offer up their prayers that the horse might long outlive his master, and profound was the respect with which he was treated by all. It became, indeed, almost reasonable to conclude, that a Turkish aga could actually love something, notwithstand ing the exemplary discipline which he maintained in his household, by beating the women servants and strangling the men, when he was to be seen fondling and caressing the pretty Arabian from morning to night, preferring a couch by its side in the stable to his luxurious cushions, addressing him by no meaner title than that of "Effendi" (my lord), and even caring so much for his immortal welfare, that he forced
him to keep the fasts of the Ramazan and Bairam, lest he should fail to obtain an elevated post in the realms of Paradise!-for it is interesting to observe the complacency with which all Turks look forward to meeting their dogs and horses in those celestial regions, from which that portion of the brute creation who were their wives is so totally excluded. Greatly, therefore, were the villagers of Vervena indebted to the Aga's horse; but had they been deprived of the protection he so unconsciously afforded them, they would, in all probability, calmly have resigned themselves to any amount of tyranny, for they were of that humble grade in the scale of humanity, in whom submission to oppression is an instinct. Their security against annoyance from without was, as we have said, principally owing to the great mountains which encircled them on all sides, not only because the sleek, unwieldy Turks had an unconquerable antipathy to the rough-riding of these trackless hills, but also because their ravines and recesses had been, since the days of Hercules himself, who is said to have had a great partiality to the neighbourhood, absolutely infested by hordes of brigands, who, carrying on the trade from father to son, had made themselves extremely formidable. Thus then Vervena, so called from the great bushes of aromatic verbena which grew all round it, giving it a scented atmosphere peculiar to itself, might well, at this period, be termed one of the favoured places of the earth. True, the oppressor's rod of iron was held ever suspended over its inhabitants, and any day or any hour might fall to crush or torture them; but none need wonder that so dire a certainty should never have disturbed the happy tenour of their lives, who have ever looked out into this strange, giddy, reckless world, and seen how merrily everywhere, men dance to their graves, with their coffins by their sides, and wanton and frolic on the brink of a precipice, and that precipice eternity! These were the children of nature, and she was not less bountiful to them, that a stranger and a tyrant had arrogated to himself that whole bright land where most she seems to revel in her own exhaustless beauty! The silver crescent of the fair young moon shone
not the less brightly in their deep blue skies, that, as the symbol of their slavery, it floated on the banner of the Turkish tower, and from those skies, unclouded ever, no blighting rains but freshest dews came stealing down, causing the purple grapes to ripen on their trellised vines, and the golden seed to swell on the stalks of Indian corn. The seasons, each so beautiful in that delightful clime, failed not to bring the regular supply of all their daily wants, as well as the necessity for constant labour, that ballast to the human mind which it requires in some one shape or other, in every rank of life. For the living spark within their breasts, that craved a something more than the mere gratification of material wants, they had the great mysterious promises of the "Evangelia," whose pages truly their papas alone could read, but which, night and morning, they kissed with reverential awe, and trusted implicitly with a hope as undefined as it was firm; and for their earthly happiness, what asked they more than the common, never-dying affections of our mortal nature, which generations perpetuate unchanged, of which the inexhaustible life is fed in the very graves themselves, and renewed in every individual heart, whose first throb in infancy was the echo to a mother's voice. The villagers of Vervena married, and were given in marriage, as the commencement of this record proves, and children were born to them, who soon wove round them gentle bonds, that caused them scarce to feel the heavy chains of servitude; and, above all, they possessed at least as much of man's primeval innocence as may be retained, in the mere ignorance of all those licensed crimes, and privileged evils, that now walk unblushing over this earth, hand and hand with civilization.
Old Pepina hurried down the lane with the tortoise-like gait so characteristic of the women of the East, although she was now in that state of peculiar excitement into which old ladies of all countries are wont to fall, when craving for gossip they perceive a repast of suitable materials preparing for them. Independent of the sacerdotal blessing, which she succeeded in obtaining as the good old priest alighted from his ass, at the
church-door, she was firmly convinced that it was at vespers that evening that the betrothed couple were first to obtain a glimpse of each other, and she would not have missed such a scene for the world.
The bell had ceased, and the villagers were thronging to the church; the men laid aside their pipes, and doffed, for a single moment, on entering the sanctuary, the red caps, which at no other time were absent from their heads; the women gathered round them the heavy folds of the light-coloured mantle, which, in addition to the long veil, renders the Albanian costume so strikingly classical; and the little children, with their immense black eyes, who, during the hot season discard all superfluous garments, came tumbling after them, indefatigably making the sign of the cross with their tiny hands upon their sunburnt foreheads.
The churches in Greece are invariably of the Byzantine architecture, which approaches to the Moresque, and is more fantastic than graceful; yet there was something singularly pleasing in this little old chapel, darkened by the great olive trees which encircled it, with its low nave, its painted windows, rounded like the old Norman, and its fierce saints, staring down from the walls-most unearthly looking, certainly, inasmuch as they were drawn out of all human proportion! It was divided, according to custom, into three parts-one for the men, and another for the women, and, at the upper end, a portion, concealed by a low partition, was held sacred by the presence of the consecrated elements, and entered by the priest alone.
This good old Papas, whose long silver beard, and benign expression of countenance rendered his appearance at all times no ways derogatory to his sacred office, had passed a mantle of coloured brocade, on which the cross was richly emblazoned, over the humble costume which he daily wore as a common labourer, and now stood chaunting, in a nasal, monotonous tone, the psalms for the day. He held the book in his hands, but if the truth must be told, he was reciting them off by heart, for, although all priests of the Greek church acquire ostensibly the difficult art of reading,
they somehow, for the most part, seem to find it more convenient to commit to memory the various services they have to use than to attempt to decipher them. His next task, of perfuming with incense every individual in the church, was much easier, and was elaborately performed, and nothing could exceed the devotion of the villagers at this part of the ceremony, notwithstanding the temptation to wandering thoughts which they could not fail to find in the presence of the betrothed, still unknown to each other in their separate compartments.
When the service was over, the worshippers severally went round the church, deliberately kissing the feet and hands of each pictured saint, old Pepina, who was particularly devout, never failing to lavish as many of these tokens of respect on the dragon himself, as on the terrific St. George, who was driving a whole tree down his throat. The Greeks have a horror of image-worship, but pay their homage very freely to pictures.
This last ceremony concluded, the villagers gladly escaped from the hot atmosphere of the church, heavy with the strong incense, to breathe the soft fresh air of the evening hour-that one hour of relaxation and repose, whose anticipated joys make light the labour of the long toilsome day. They had gathered round the little quaint old fountain, whose construction, as well the peculiarities of its sculpture, proved it to be of very great antiquity. It is this which makes a residence in Greece, which was the burial place of the dead centuries, so totally different from existence anywhere else. Go where you will, over the wildest mountains, or the most deserted vales, some vivid, palpable relic of the past is sure to start up before you; and that not a modern past, such as draws, in our own country, its atmosphere around us, but one that carries you back, perhaps, thrice a thousand years, and makes your own world, with all its hopes and fears, to you of such deep import, shrink into shadowy insignificance. It is startling, when walking on a fine summer morning through a lonely forest, with nothing round you but the fragile flowers breathing away their little lives in fragrance, if wearied and heated you stoop to bathe your hands in the cool stream that is rushing by
you-it is startling, I say, to lift your eyes on the time-worn block of marble standing before you on the brink, and learn, by the solemn inscription which it bears, that this rivulet is the exclusive property of the goddess Diana, and that incalculable evils will befal the luckless mortal who has disturbed its crystal waters. Or if, in the still hour of sunset, you are riding over some quiet plain, your soul busy with its vain dreams, its great universe of joys and sorrows- weeping fretful tears for its regretted yesterday, and building up a gorgeous fabric on its hope-brightened morrow - suddenly your horse's feet ring hollow on a sculptured stone, and looking down you perceive a group exquisitely carved in marble-where the attitude of the principal figure, standing with the head covered, and the hand mercifully veiling the eyes of deadly brightness, proves to you, at once, that it represents a god, and that you are composedly riding over a portion of the altar dedicated to Pallas or to Jove. What is most strange in being thus ever surrounded with the very spirit of those departed days, that is continually dragging you against the current up the stream of time, is the gradual change that takes place in your own mind, till unconsciously you no longer regard these monuments as the lingering remnants of things that were and are not; but rather, by the strong power of association, you seem length to dwell yourself in these old, old times, and you feel as though you ever were walking about among the ancients, like a lonely humble pilgrim from another land. I question whether any one, after six months' residence in Greece, would be in the least surprised to meet a faun in a myrtle bower some morning, or suddenly to see the fantastic face of a satyr, grinning from amongst the bushes; at least I honestly plead guilty to having gone deliberately, one fine moonlight night, to the Grotto of Pan on the Acropolis, purposely to hear the wild music of that god's long-celebrated pipe, which I was assured might always be heard when the moon shone bright.
No satyr ever grinned so merrily as did old Pepina, when, tearing out of the church in such haste that she nearly left her yellow shoes behind her,
she perceived that she was still in time to witness the first interview of the pretty Mainote and her future husband, which was now about to take place. The young Xanthi stood, with her mother at her side, amongst a group of other women, from whom she was easily distinguished by her superior height-the peculiar charac teristic of the people of Maina. Nothing can be more striking than the marked distinctions, both moral and physical, which exist between the various races of the different provinces; not only are they totally dissimilar in appearance and character, but, in several instances, they are voluntarily separated by a hereditary animosity, whose origin is lost in the darkness of antiquity. And here again we often come in contact with all that is most dream-like in classical reminiscences, for it is said that the ancient hostility of the Ionic and Doric races may be distinctly traced in that which now causes incessant feuds between the Moreote and the Reoumeliote. Maina is the wildest and most mountainous district of Greece, and, as is generally the case, the character of the natives is quite analagous to that of the scenery. They are a bold, warlike, fearless race, handsome in person, and contrasting greatly in stature and strength of limb with the diminutive Albanians. There is much, of course, in their manners and customs, peculiar to themselves, but one of the most prominent features of their national character is the singular respect and deference with which they treat their women, which was probably the reason why Xanthi's wary mother had insisted on finding her a husband amongst her own countrymen, as in other parts of Greece the Turkish principles and practice, in this respect, has been a lesson somewhat too easily imbibed.
And now Maroula, all glowing with joy and pride, takes her handsome daughter by the hand, and leading her forward towards Spiro, bids her look on the man who is so soon to be her master. The young girl stood before him, her breast heaving violently beneath the folds of her long yellow veil, and her great black eyes, cast down with a very prettily-assumed shyness, which was not at all in accor
dance with the open, candid gaze most natural to them.
Xanthi was an admirable specimen of the Mainote race, with her frank, sunny countenance and ready smile, the very transcript of the warm, loving heart within; and there was a certain gay carelessness in her expression, which seemed to denote that she amply possessed the undaunted boldness, which is the prevailing characteristic of her people; not that there was anything in the slightest degree masculine in her appearance, but it was evident that she had as much of physical courage as a woman may ever possess, without belieing the nature which has gifted her with an instinctive timidity, as her surest safeguard, inasmuch as it gives her an undoubted claim to the protection of the strong. But with all her bravery, the cheek of the openhearted little Mainote grew very pale, as she at last stole a side-long glance from beneath her dark eye-lashes on her unknown betrothed.
It is no light matter for one human being to be so utterly in the power of another, as the young Greek wife is in that of her husband, as far, at least, as her earthly happiness is concerned. For it is not the mere vision of a distorted fancy which perceives, in the sharers of a common humanity, a singular tendency to rend from others the very joys their own hearts crave; and in this instance there was an additional insecurity, since it must be owned, that an inherent egotism is one of the distinctive peculiarities of the Greeks, at least of the men, for the women have an ample preservative from every self-centering principle in their maternal love, to which allabsorbing affection they sacrifice every other.
But as Xanthi looked up, a smile which she could not repress, though she was doing her best to look very demure, stole over her young face like a sunbeam, so thoroughly satisfactory was her examination. Not only was Spiro as tall and handsome as ever in her brightest dreams she had beheld her husband, but there was that in his honest, frank, and smiling face, which might have induced one far more sus picious and fearful than herself, to trust her fate into his hands without a struggle. Moreover, the keen, dark eyes of Spiro were fixed on her with