The next day, early in the afternoon, Aleko duly took the Embros
to the little street off the Kolonaki Square, where the old, blind
schoolmaster sat waiting for him, just inside his door. The boy sat
down on the doorstep and read out all the news to him. Then he told
him all about his boxing lesson, and left only when it was time for the
evening newspapers to come out. And after that, the afternoon readings
became a regular thing. Sometimes the boy was tired after the long,
hot, hard-working morning, and would have willingly thrown himself down
on his mattress for an hour or two, but he never failed the old man.
Of course the readings were frequently interrupted by questions,
for Aleko soon discovered that Kyr Themistocli was of those who
“knew things when you asked them.”
“What is an ‘agonistes’?” he asked one day, after reading of the
death of an old veteran.
“An ‘agonistes’ is one who fights; but now it has come to mean one
who has fought in the Revolution of 1821. My father was one.”
The newspaper fluttered down on the doorstep and Aleko was on his
knees beside the old man, his eyes eagerly fixed on the sightless
ones above him.
“Your father! Did he kill Turks himself? Did he blow up a Turkish
ship? Did he come down from Souli with Marcos Botzaris? Did he see
Kanaris and Miaoulis? Did he fight at Missolonghi? Was he there when
the Turks passed the stake through Diakos?”
“Stop, stop, my child! you want the whole of the Revolution at once!”
However, he was very patient, the old man, and Aleko heard many of
those things which never get into the history books, at least into
those from which he read at school. Little incidents of the many
battles and sieges, tales of the misery and the hardships, and of
the braving of all the misery and the hardships, for the sake of
freedom. Of the Christian children who were stolen and turned into
infidels! Of the boys who were taken as babes and brought up to hate
and to fight against their own people; of the girls who were made
slaves in the harems; of the bloodshed, and the tortures, until at
last the day came at Navarino when even strangers joined in arms
against the cruel oppressors.
“I am afraid,” said Kyr Themistocli, “that you cannot quite understand
yet, how it all came to pass.”
“There is only one thing I cannot understand,” said Aleko slowly.
“When they had the strangers to help them, why they did not go
everywhere, and cut off all the Turks’ heads so that none should
The old man leaned back in his chair and laughed aloud.
“He is terrible, the little one!” and he tried to explain, but Aleko
remained rather unsatisfied on this point.
“Now, will you find me some water to drink. I have talked much.”
Aleko found the water, and was just putting the pitcher back
in its place, when he heard a series of short sharp barks in the
distance. Instead of passing out of the house door, before which the
old man was sitting, he vaulted out of the low kitchen window and
went tearing down the street.
“Aleko!” called Kyr Themistocli who heard the clatter. “Aleko! Where
are you?” But there was only silence. He sighed and leaned back in
his chair crossing his hands.
“Of course the boy cannot stay long; it is well he comes at all,”
and he sighed again.
Suddenly he felt something warm, and soft, and alive on his hands. He
“What is it?”
“It is only Solon,” said Aleko. “Did you not hear me return? He was
barking down the street and I knew he had strayed again from the
cook–Anneza–and I brought him for you to see.”
Kyr Themistocli always talked of “seeing” and Aleko had got into the
“Put your hands over him,–so,–Is he not soft? And clever! as clever
as a Christian! Whatever I tell him he understands.”
Kyr Themistocli smiled.
“He is not yours?”
“Mine! No! He belongs to the big house higher up, the one which has the
garden. Do you know it? Someone lives there who is called ‘Spinotti.'”
“Kyrios Spinotti, the banker; he is a very rich man.”
“Is he?” said Aleko indifferently. “Well, Solon is his dog, and he is
so fond of him that he fears lest the wind should blow or the rain
should drop on his body; and he often goes into the kitchen to see
what he eats, and Anneza says that if all poor people fared as well
as this dog does, it would be well. So that is why he is so fat, you
see! And when Anneza goes out, her master says she must take the dog
with her for exercise, and if she does not … bad luck to her! But
he is always straying. She is a stupid woman and Solon will not stay
with her. Some day she will lose him and never find him again, and
then there will be trouble. Now I must take him back.”
“His master,” said the old man slowly, “is so fond of the dog because
it was his wife’s dog, and she is dead.”
Aleko, with Solon contentedly tucked under his arm, stopped short.
“You know him then?”
“This house in which I live, is his, and because of that, I pay very
little rent for it. He, Nico Spinotti, is my old pupil from Cephalonia,
of whom I told you; he who took me to the oculists. Once, a long time
ago, when I first came to Athens, when I could still see, I went to
his house. His wife was alive then–a beautiful woman, of one of the
first names of the island–and as she was talking to me and smiling,
she had the little dog, who was but a puppy, in her arms. She died–God
rest her soul–of typhoid fever. Since then I have not seen Nico often,
but he never forgets his old master.”
“Of course not,” said Aleko, “why should he?”
“Many would, my boy; many would. But he is a good man; take his dog
back to him that he may not be anxious.”
After Aleko had left Solon at the big house, it was already dark. He
hurried down the Kiphissia Road and through the Square of the
Constitution, thinking he would have more chance of selling the few
papers he still held, if he went to school by that way.
It was getting cooler, and the streets were filled with people pouring
out of all quarters of the city to breathe the night air after the
weariness of the day spent behind closed shutters.
Crowded street cars and carriages crossed and recrossed, carrying
family parties down to Phalerum and the sea.
The little round tables at Yannaki’s, Doree’s, and Zacharato’s were
all occupied, in fact those of the latter had spread right out across
the square. All around rose the hum of summer night noises, of music,
of the cries of the café waiters, the tinkling of many glasses and
spoons, and the distant whistle of the Kiphissia train.
Groups of men lounged past, talking and laughing.
A man in one of the groups beckoned to Aleko, a young man with a
small dark moustache:–
“Here! Have you any newspapers left?”
Aleko looked up into the pleasant, laughing eyes of his boxing master.
“Oristé!” he cried eagerly. “Certainly, all you want.”
“Ah, is it you, Aleko! Good evening to you! Well, give me the Hestia,
the Astrapi, the Hesperini–and the Romios, if you have it.”
Then, when he had gathered them up, he asked laughingly:–
“Now, as we are old friends and I have bought so many newspapers,
surely you will take off a discount for me! What shall I give you?”
Aleko, being of pure Greek blood, answered in the good old Greek
“Whatever you please to give.”
The young man laughed and held out a five lepta copper coin, the
value of one newspaper alone.
“Suppose then I please to give only this.”
Not a muscle moved in Aleko’s face.
“You shall give it,” he answered, then taking the coin he dropped
it into his pocket, and was turning away, when the young man called
“Here! Stop! Did you take it seriously?” and while he was searching
for more coins, he asked, “Do you boys not have to account for all
the papers you sell?”
“Of course; the ‘big one’ keeps count of everything.”
“Well then, what would you have said when the ‘big one’ as you call
him, found fifteen lepta too little?”
“He would have found his money right.”
“How could he?”
“I would have put it there from my supper money.”
The young man looked at Aleko rather curiously, and two of the other
men who were with him laughed. The one of them, an older man, said:–
“This is an original little specimen!” and the other, an officer,
“And why should you be taking from your supper money to make this
gentleman a present of three newspapers? Do you not think he is richer
“That does not matter at all,” answered Aleko. “My father told me that
it is a shame always to take, and never to give, however poor you
are. He …” pointing with his thumb backwards, “has given me much;
may I not befriend him with three newspapers?”
“Ah, that of course alters the question,” remarked the officer.
“I assure you,” began the young man, “that I have never given the
child a single thing!” Then turning to Aleko, “Are you thinking of
the ‘tsourekia' and red eggs at Easter? but that was from all the
members of the Parnassos, not from me alone.”
“No,” said Aleko, “I mean that you have taught me many things, and
that is more than things which are eaten and finished.”
“Oh, ho!” laughed the officer, “this is a philosopher we have here.”
“No,” said Aleko gravely, “I have not enough learning; perhaps if I
could go to school all day, I might be one, some time.”
The older man shook his head.
“That is the way of the world. My son can go to school all day,
and every day, and his one object is to stay away.”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the officer of Aleko.
“I do not know … yet,” he answered slowly. “I want to learn how to
do many things, and then to go and do them.”
“You could not wish better,” said his boxing master. “I think you will
be a man anyway. Here is your money, and run off to the Parnassos;
I am not coming this evening; it is too hot for boxing.” Then turning
to the officer he quoted smilingly:–
hôs charien esth’ anthrôpos hotan anthrôpos ê
Aleko heard him, though he did not understand; and as he ran down
Stadium Street, he kept repeating the words to himself for fear of
forgetting them, and when he sat down in his place in the class,
the first thing he did was to borrow a stump of a pencil from his
neighbour, and write the words on the fly leaf of his reading book. Of
course they were spelled and accented all wrong, but they could be
read quite plainly. The arithmetic lesson came last, and Aleko was
the last pupil called up to the blackboard, so that when the boys were
leaving the class he ventured to show his sentence to the schoolmaster.
“What does this mean, master?”
The schoolmaster took up the book.
“Why do you write on your school books?” he asked sharply.
“I had no paper. What does it mean?”
The master read the sentence slowly.
“This is ancient Greek,” he said. “You have not done any yet: you
could not understand it. Even next year in the higher class, you
will only do Æsop’s fables, and a little Xenophon. Better leave it,”
he added laughing. “Do not trouble your head! It is not for you!”
But Aleko put his book into his shoeblack box to take away with him.
In the meantime the hours had gone by, and the afternoon was drawing
towards evening, and the grown people in the Red House, the father
and the mother of the Four, and Pavlo’s uncle, who had arrived that
morning and was to leave the next day, had been getting very anxious;
for there was no sign of the children, though they had promised to
be home early. And the Four got into plenty of mischief, but they
kept their promises.
So the mother of the Four walked from one window to another and
could not keep still, and Kyria Penelope wrung her hands and shook
her head, and Deko rushed about after them; whining and yelping and
limping on his bad foot, till they shut him up in a room upstairs,
and he had to stay there; and Athanasia the cook stationed herself
at the gate near the sea to watch for the children, and Anneza the
serving maid tore up through the pines to the top gate to see if they
were in sight on the hill.
The doctor and the master of the Red House were pacing nervously up
and down the terrace.
Suddenly the latter sent up a big shout.
“There they are!”
Everyone, from the mother of the Four to Yanni the boatman, rushed
down to the little landing stage.
“They are in that,” said the master of the house, pointing to a
puffing little steam launch which was fast approaching. “I heard
their voices shouting, and saw one of the girls’ frocks, but how the
little rascals got there is beyond me. I only hope they have not been
in any mischief.”
The steam launch had stopped alongside, and he caught sight of a
“… or in any danger!” he gasped.
When everyone had landed, Iason looking very pale under his white
bandage but walking without help, there was at first such confusion,
so many speaking all together and such a tangle of officers and
children and dogs, that it was very difficult for the grown-ups
to get any clear idea of what had occurred. But the mother of the
Four gathered at last that something out of the common had certainly
happened, that the children had certainly been in some peril, and that
the officers had rescued them and brought them home. So she tried,
though her voice shook a little, to thank the Chief.
“You must not thank us,” said the gray-haired admiral standing cap
in hand, before her. “We did nothing but arrive at a lucky moment,
and bring the children home. It is another you must thank, another
who deserves your deepest gratitude; one who by his presence of mind
and coolness saved them all in a moment of great danger, … of very
real danger. This is the boy!” he said, putting his hand on Pavlo’s
shoulder. “This is a real Zamana, who when he grows up will be an
honor to his glorious name! And in the meantime I for one, am proud
to know him!”
Oh, how they shouted for him when they heard it all! And while the
mother of the Four was holding him very tight to her, and while the
master of the house and Pavlo’s uncle were shaking each other’s hand
as though they would never stop, Deko, who had been set free, limped
nimbly down all the steps, and leaped upon Chryseis, and licked her
hands, and whined for joy, and caught hold of her skirt and shook it
so hard that he tore it.
But he was forgiven that time.
And joy followed for Pavlo as well as glory, for though his uncle
was obliged to leave for Athens the next day, no one in the Red House
felt as if Pavlo could be spared. So his uncle was persuaded to leave
him behind; to leave him indefinitely, till it should be autumn,
and school time, and everyone returned to town.
So it came to pass, that when the doctor was being rowed across the
bay the next morning, in the boat that was taking him to the steamer,
the Four and Pavlo stood all together on the little landing stage
and waved good-by to him.
They waved and waved, till he was a speck in the blue distance, and
then they turned and ran with cries and whoops of joy, back into the
pine woods, back to the sea, back to the hillside, back for a whole
long summer to all the manifold delights of the Red House on the Hill.
ALEXANDER THE SON OF PHILIP
On a very hot morning in May, at the corner of the Hotel de la Grande
Bretagne, in the Square of the Constitution, in Athens, a dirty little
boy with a sheaf of unsold newspapers under his arm was sitting on
a shoeblack’s box, alternately munching a piece of bread and wiping
his eyes with the back of his sleeve.
Another boy, not so dirty, stood beside him, with one foot on the
edge of the box, watching the people in the square. He was fair for
a Greek boy, with light hair which showed through the many holes of
his cloth cap.
There was a tug at his ragged tunic:–
“Aleko! Aleko! You are not listening!”
“What is it? I hear.” But he did not look down at the grubby little
fellow who continued sniffing:–
“I dreamt, I tell you, as truly as I see you here I did, that I went
away somewhere, and that I found a great big sweet shop, bigger than
Yannaki’s or Doree’s, ever so much bigger, and in the shop there
were dishes and jars and trays, and trays, and trays all around of
chocolates, and baklava, and kourabiedes, and little cakes with
pink and green and white sugar all over them; and there were piles of
comfits, and caramels,–oh, and heaps of other things; and …” warming
to his description, “bottles and bottles of cherry syrup and lemonade,
and I dreamt that the man of the shop waved his hand–so,–over
everything and said ‘Please,’–Aleko, do you hear? ‘Please eat all
the things you want.’ And then,” with a savage tug at the tunic,
“then you came and waked me!”
Aleko looked down at him for a minute:–
“Did I want to wake you? It was time to get up. The big one sent
me. And what are you crying about now, any way? For the sweets you
The small boy, Andoni, gulped down a sob.
“I only sold two newspapers; the other boys got before me; and the
big one will beat me when he sees all these left.”
Aleko shrugged his shoulders.
“You will cry when he beats you; what is the use of crying now?” Then
he looked out again, over the square.
Watching people and things always kept him very busy. There were so
many things going on at once. Two coachmen, on the side of the square
where the carriages stand, were swearing at each other, and they were
using swear-words quite different from those Aleko had heard in his
village. A man from Rhodes was trying to sell his embroidered bags to
some foreigners, of those who walk about with little red books in their
hands, at double the price he usually asked for them. Some men were
carrying big trunks down the steps of the hotel, and three ladies with
bright coloured sunshades were going towards the street of the shops.
Two men, an old white bearded one and a fat one who walked with his
legs wide apart and his hands behind his back, passed in front of
the two boys.
“Ah, my friend,” the older one was saying; “you are quite right,
but gnôthi seauton, know thyself, is a very difficult thing.”
Suddenly Aleko stooped and pushed Andoni off the box.
“Run!” he said, “they have no newspapers; run after them!”
The dirty little boy picked up his sheaf of papers and rushed after
the men, who had already turned the corner.
In a few minutes he returned, jingling some copper coins in his hand.
“They bought three,” he said, “the old one took the Acropolis and
the fat one the Embros, and the Nea Himera. Why did you not sell them
yours? You have some left.”
“Because I am waiting here for a man whose shoes I black every
morning. He always comes at this time, and I wait for him.”
“Do you mean,” asked Andoni eagerly, “a big man with a beard, who
wears a soft gray hat?”
“Because I saw him now at the corner where the flower boys
stand. Yoryi, the one who squints, had just polished his boots for him,
and the gentleman was paying him.”
Aleko wasted no words. He seized his box, and ran round the corner
of the square with such speed that his feet raised a cloud of dust
all around him.
A group of shoeblacks and flower boys were standing about the end of
the Kiphissia Road, but there was no sign of a client of any sort.
Aleko rushed up to a boy much bigger than himself, with squinting eyes,
and caught hold of his arm:–
“Did you clean the boots of the man with the black beard?” he
asked. “Do you not know he is my client?”
The elder boy shook him off roughly.
“You, with your clients!” he muttered.
The other boys sniggered.
“You are late, you see, to-day, Aleko; another got before you.”
The lad’s face reddened.
“He always asks for me, and I was waiting for him just there.”
“Oh,” said one of the flower boys, tying up a big bunch of scarlet
carnations as he spoke, “your client asked for you all right, but
Yoryi here, told him that you had been sent on a message and that he
was your partner.”
Yoryi laughed noisily.
“That is how I do business.”
But his laugh broke off in the middle. Aleko had come close to him,
and with one well-directed kick had sent the big shoeblack’s box
flying into the middle of the road.
Brushes flew here and there, bottles of yellow and black polish were
broken and their contents spilt in the dust, and round metal boxes
rolled in all directions. Yoryi seized hold of Aleko by the neck and
struck him savagely on the head.
“A bad year to you!” he shouted, as blow followed blow. “Did you not
know that you would eat stick if you played those tricks on me? Did
you not know it? Take that then! And that! And that! Did you think you
could touch me and go free?” and the blows came down like rain. At last
he flung the smaller boy away from him and began sullenly collecting
the scattered contents of his box.
Aleko picked himself up, staggering a little as he stood.
“Oh, I knew!” he shouted, staunching a bleeding nose on the sleeve
of his tunic. “Of course I knew. Do I not eat stick every day? Am I
not the smallest? But it was you who did not know! You who thought
you could cheat me and be safe! You did not know that your box would
be all over the road, that your bottles would be broken, that all
your things would be so spoiled that you could not steal other lads’
clients this morning again! Pick them up then! Stoop! Yes, stoop in
the dust and pick them up!”
The other boys were laughing at Yoryi now.
“He has played you a good trick, the little one!”
“Did you think,” shouted Aleko, “that you could touch me and go
free?” and before Yoryi, furious now with rage, could catch him a
second time, he doubled, and ran round the corner of the University
Being fleet of foot, he left Yoryi far behind him, and running up
one street and down another and across a third, he soon arrived safe
and unpursued at the top end of Stadium Street and back again in
A sound of music came from the direction of the Palace and he looked
up eagerly. The guard was changing; he could hear the measured tread
of the soldiers. Though he had been in Athens nearly two years the
spectacle had never lost its charm for him.
Pushing, stooping, dodging, he elbowed his way to the edge of the
pavement and waited.
On they came, the officer, the band, the marching men, the beautiful
blue flag held aloft by a white-gloved sergeant. Aleko knew all
about it, for a soldier had told him one day that you had to be a
good-conduct man to be allowed to carry the flag, and that you had
to wear white gloves: and the boy had long ago decided that when his
time came to serve as a soldier, he would always carry the flag.
Up sprang all the officers who happened to be sitting at the little
café tables in the square, and stood saluting. Civilians who were
passing stopped and uncovered; coachmen stood up on their boxes
bare-headed; Aleko pulled off his tattered cap in imitation and stood
with the hot sun shining on his tumbled fair hair.
An old man looked down on him and smiled. Then, catching sight of
the dust and smears of blood on the boy’s face, he remarked with a
“Ah! you have been fighting.”
“No,” answered Aleko, “I have been beaten.” Then emboldened he asked,
“Tell me, why do people take their hats off?”
The old man stared at the question.
“Why, to the flag, of course.”
“Yes, I know; but why?”
“Why? To show respect to the flag, of course.”
“Why does it show respect when one takes one’s hat off?”
The old man answered by another question:–
“From where are you my lad?”
“Ah, you do not see flags there, do you?”
“At Easter, and on the twenty-fifth of March, there was always a
flag put up at the Town Hall but no one took his hat off.”
“Well, in Athens you will learn many things,” said the old man walking
away. Aleko looked after him.
“I do not think,” he muttered, “that he knew why. How many people
do not know things when you ask them.” Then he ran up the steps of
the Hotel Grande Bretagne where one of the head servants, standing
on the verandah, had beckoned to him to clean his boots.
“Make them shine well,” said the man, putting his foot on the little
inclined rest of the box.
“Be easy,” answered Aleko, “you will see your face in them.”
He scraped, and rubbed, and polished vigorously; then when one foot
was changed for the other, he suddenly asked without looking up:–
“What does ‘Know thyself’ mean?”
“Where did you pick up that fine phrase?”
“One man who was passing said it to another, and he said it was a
very difficult thing. What does it mean?”
“If it be difficult how should I know it?” answered the head
servant. “Do poor folk have time to go beyond the municipal classes
“Does he know?” and Aleko with a backward jerk of his thumb indicated
another servant, stout and gray-haired, standing within the portal
of the hotel.
“He! He can scarcely read the newspaper!”
“Then who knows?”
“Do you not go to the Parnassos School every night?”
“Of course I go.”
“Well, ask your schoolmaster.”
“Oh, he has no time; we are many boys. You see I thought as you
stand here so often doing nothing, if you knew you would have time
to tell me.”
The man scowled.
“Enough words! There are your ten lepta. Go about your business and
leave me to mine.”
Aleko slung his box over his shoulder and descended the hotel steps
slowly. He was beginning to feel sore all over and his head ached. He
decided that he would go home and have a sleep. Home meant the
cellar which he shared with the other boy, Andoni, and with the older
shoeblack, “the big one” who had brought them over from Megaloupolis,
and for whom they worked, till such time as they should have earned
enough to set up for themselves.
Bells were ringing for noon, and after that no one would be out in
the sun-blaze of the streets to want boots cleaned; there would be
no work again until the sales of the evening newspapers began.
He trudged rather wearily up the steep streets towards the Square of
the Kolonaki, near which he lived; and as he went, he wondered once
more why so many people did not know things when you asked them.
There were so many things he wanted to find out.
Who lived in the Academy with the two statues on the tall columns,
which he passed two or three times a day, and what did people do
inside it? What was in the red books which the foreigners held in their
hands when they looked up at the old temples? What was that statue in
the Zappion Gardens where a woman was putting a crown of leaves on a
man’s head? And most of all, what made automobiles go without horses
when the driver turned that round wheel? The whole town was one great
“Why” to him.
When he reached the street behind the Kolonaki Square, and went down
the steps to the cellar, he found it empty. From a shelf in one corner
he took down the half of a loaf of bread, and a piece of white cheese
wrapped in a sheet of paper. His mother was renowned in Megaloupolis
as one of the tidiest housewives of the place, and it was from her
that he had learned not to leave food about uncovered; this was also
probably the reason why his face and hands were generally less grimy
than those of most of the other shoeblacks.
Nearly all the boys he knew were shoeblacks, or newspaper sellers and
messenger boys, or they combined the three trades; and nearly all came
from Megaloupolis in the charge of an older boy of eighteen or twenty
years old, “the big one,” as they called him. He paid them a yearly
wage and, except what was necessary for food, all their earnings went
to him. Aleko was paid one hundred and fifty drachmæ a year; next year
he was to have two hundred. Later on, he would work for himself, and
doubtless when he was old enough he would in his turn employ smaller
boys. He had no father, and the money was required to help his mother
and the two small sisters in Megaloupolis. How could they live else?
After he had eaten, he sat down and pulled out his morning’s earnings
from the breast of his tunic. The copper coins and nickels amounted to
one drachma and thirty-five lepta; of these, he put aside thirty lepta
for his supper, and screwing up the rest in a piece of old newspaper
pushed it underneath a painted wooden chest to give to “the big one”
when accounts were made in the evening. Then he threw himself on his
mattress, doubled his arm under his head, and slept till the loud
barking of a dog on the pavement outside awoke him with a start.
He rushed up the cellar steps which led to the pavement of the narrow
street, banging the door behind him, and nearly fell headlong over a
fox-terrier busily occupied with the rubbish tin of the next house. The
little dog yelped sharply as Aleko stumbled over him, and abandoning
the rubbish tin, trotted quickly off towards the square.
“Solon!” called Aleko. “Here Solon! Why do you run away? It is only I.”
Solon stopped short, listened for a moment with uplifted paw, and
then with a series of little joyful barks ran back towards the boy.
Aleko stooped, and catching him up by the middle of his well-fed,
white little body tucked him under his arm.
“You little rascal! What do you mean by rooting in the rubbish? Have
you not enough to eat in your house? I should be glad to have your
Two little ears were cocked on one side of Aleko’s arm and a short
tail wagged frantically on the other.
“I wonder how it happens that you are out alone? Has Anneza lost you?”
Just then, coming out on the Kolonaki Square, Aleko descried a young
woman carrying a basket, who was looking all around her and peering
under the bushes of the enclosure seemingly in great distress. He
put his fingers to his mouth and whistled sharply.
“Anneza! Eh! Here is your dog! It is I who have him!”
The young woman wheeled around and came rapidly towards him. She was
pretty, with black hair and a big white apron crossed over a pink
“Do you not feed him enough?” Aleko asked her as he put down the
dog. “I found him in my street with his nose in the rubbish tin.”
“Feed him, indeed?” snorted the young woman, “he has of the best. If
all poor people fared as he does, it would be well. The master is
so fond of him he fears lest the wind should blow or the rain should
drop on his body. He often comes himself into the kitchen to see what
I give him to eat. But all the same the dirty dog is always grubbing
in the rubbish tins. When I take him out he is always straying and
making me go cold with fright for fear the ‘boya' should catch him.”
“The ‘boya’ only takes dogs who belong to no one. He would not take
yours,” said Aleko, turning Solon over on his back with his foot as
“Do I know? Now, in this hot weather when dogs go mad, they say that
the ‘boya’ gets paid one drachma for every dog he catches; and all
he can lay hand on are thrown into his cart. If I had my way the dog
should never stir out, but the master says he must have exercise,
and if he sees me out without Solon, bad luck for me!”
“Take your dog now,” said the boy, “I must go for my newspapers.”
“Come to the house in the morning; there are some curtains to beat.”
“I will come.” Then, as he turned to go, he added, “Keep the dog by
you! Do not let him stray again.”
“I have no strap,” answered Anneza.
Aleko was already some way off, but he called back over his shoulder:–
“You need not tie him. Talk to him.”
Anneza looked after the boy, whose bare feet were raising a cloud of
dust as he ran, and tapped her forehead.
“A good boy,” she murmured, “but …”
It was nearly sunset when Aleko came up to the Kolonaki again with
his evening papers, after having sold all he could in the big squares
and at the little tables outside the cafés and confectioners’ shops
where people sit to eat ices and look at the passers-by.
He was walking slowly up the long straight street, dotted here and
there with trees, which leads out of the square, dragging his feet
as he walked, for the day had been long and hot. There were not
many papers left in his sheaf but every now and then he raised his
“Astrapi! Hesperini! Hestia!” These were the names of his newspapers.
Suddenly from a narrow side street which he had already passed he
heard an answering call.
He turned on his steps and looked down the alley. At the door of a
low house stood an old man leaning on a stick. He did not beckon nor
make any sign but continued to call, “Newspapers! Here!”
Aleko ran up.
“Which do you want?”
“Have you the Embros?”
“No, that is published in the morning.”
“I know it, but I thought you might have one left. I always take the
Embros, but no one passed here this morning.”
“I have only the evening papers.”
“Well, give me the Hestia, then.”
Aleko picked out one of his three remaining Hestias and held it out,
but the old man made no movement to take it. He was tall, straight,
and gray haired, and somehow it was not easy to imagine his face
as ever having been young. He wore shabby gray clothes, very frayed
“Here is your Hestia.”
“Put it down here on the step beside me. Take your five lepta,”
and from an inner pocket the old man produced a copper coin, but
as he held it out, his stick came into sharp contact with Aleko’s
elbow. The boy gave a little cry and began to rub it.
“I have hurt you, my lad,” said the old man, bending forward and
dropping his stick with a clatter. “You must forgive me! I cannot see;
I am blind.”
Aleko stopped rubbing his elbow and looked curiously into the old
man’s face. The wide open brown eyes seemed to be looking at him. He
remembered an old blind woman who used to go about asking for alms
in Megaloupolis, but her head was always sunk on her chest, and her
eyes were closed.
“Are you quite blind?”
“Your eyes do not look blind.”
“But they are.”
Aleko held up his hand, high above his head.
“Can you not see how many fingers I am holding up now?”
“Not even that you have lifted your hand; not even that you stand
“That is a pity you should be blind,” said the boy slowly. “You are
not very old yet. Have you been blind long?”
“Two years now.”
“That was before I came to the town. And how did you lose your light?”
“I had a bad fever for many months, and afterwards my eyes never got
well; then they grew worse and worse, till the darkness fell. There
is a good man who was once my pupil and who is rich now, and he took
me to the best oculists; but they said they could do nothing.”
Aleko passed his fingers through his hair and hesitated; but his
curiosity got the better of him.
“Tell me, master, why do you buy a newspaper if you cannot see to
“It is read to me.”
“Your children read it to you?” queried the boy.
“No, I have no children. There is a young man,–a student, who lives
in the next house,–and every day at noon I give him ten lepta to
read the whole newspaper to me. One must know the news and what the
outside world is doing.” Then half to himself he added, “Though the
eyes be blind the mind must see.”
But Aleko frowned.
“What! Pay lepta to have the news read to you! That is a sin! Better
keep the good money for bread. In our village, he who can read reads
aloud, and the others listen, but no one pays.”
“In the town it is different,” sighed the old man. “In small places
people are kinder. I know, for I taught school for many years at
Lixuri in Cephalonia and one helped the other when there was trouble.”
Aleko looked up suddenly.
“Give me your name, master.”
“My name is Themistocli.”
“Listen, then, Kyr Themistocli; now, with the sun-blaze, no one comes
out to have their boots cleaned after noon, so there is no work before
the evening newspapers are published. I will keep you an Embros every
day, and at two, or at three, after you have had your sleep, I will
bring it and read it to you, and then you need not spend your lepta.”
“But, my child …”
“Oh, I can read. I can read without stopping at the big words. Also
I do not sing when I read. It is not I who say so; it was one of
the members of the Parnassos at our examinations, when we all read
out aloud. He said to the master, ‘That boy there, with the yellow
hair, is the only one who can read without singing.’ Shall I come,
Kyr Themistocli? Shall I come to-morrow?”
The old man groped with his hand until he found Aleko’s arm and patted
“You are a good boy to a poor blind man.”
“No,” said Aleko wriggling a little, “I like to read, and since you
were a schoolmaster perhaps you will know things when I ask you.”
The old man, stooping, felt for the newspaper on the doorstep and
turned towards the house.
“Come inside with me for a minute, my lad.”
Aleko followed him through a narrow passage and into a little
living-room, containing a round table covered with a red and white
checked cloth, two cupboards, a high one and a low one, and three odd
chairs. On the floor were two or three torn newspapers, and on the low
cupboard was a pile of unwashed plates. The dust lay thick everywhere.
Just as they entered, a door leading to another room opened and a
stout woman with a dirty blue apron tied round her, looked in; she
held a pan in one hand and a plate of salad in the other.
“Your soup is ready,” she began, then catching sight of Aleko she
added quickly, “A loustro has followed you in. What does he want?”
“I brought him,” answered Kyr Themistocli. “Sit down, my child.”
But Aleko had been taught that one should never stay when people are
about to sit down to a meal.
“With your permission, master, I go to eat bread, and I shall return.”
“No, do not go. Stay and take your soup with me.”
The stout woman muttered something about a rat whose hole was too
small for him, but who would drag a pumpkin in as well.
“What is it, Kyra Katerina?” asked the old man sharply. “Is there
not sufficient soup for two?”
“As for that, yes, there is sufficient.”
“Then pour it into two soup plates, and stay … there was a dish
of potatoes left….”
“Those are for to-morrow,” said the woman sullenly.
“I wish for them to-night.”
The woman said nothing. She pushed the red and white cover half off
the table and put down the pan and the plate of salad on the yellow
oilcloth underneath. Then, opening the low cupboard, she produced two
soup plates and the half of a ring-shaped loaf. Then she poured the
thick rice soup into the plates: it was red with tomato and smelt very
good. Lastly, she took the empty pan into the back room and returned
with a dish of cold potatoes and a pitcher full of water.
“I have served,” she said. “Is there perhaps anything else you want?”
Her voice sounded angry, but Kyr Themistocli took no notice of it.
“No, there is nothing. You can go.”
The stout woman pulled down her sleeves, and untying her apron threw
it on the top of the unwashed plates.
“As you like.” Then, as she opened the door, she added, “A nice work it
will be in the morning to have to clean the floor after a shoeblack’s
dusty feet.” Then she passed out and shut the door quickly before
Kyr Themistocli could answer.
“Eat your soup, and do not mind her,” he said to Aleko.
“I do not mind her,” said Aleko, taking a big spoonful of soup; and
after swallowing it, he added sagely, “Women always make much noise.”
The blind man ate slowly and did not always find his mouth
exactly. Aleko saw, now, why there were so many stains on his
clothes. When he had finished he pushed his plate back.
“Tell me, now, what do they call you?”
“They call me Aleko.”
“My mother lives in Megaloupolis, and I was born there and the little
ones, but my father was not from there.”
Kyr Themistocli noticed the past tense.
“He is dead, your father?”
“Yes, it is two years ago that he died.”
“And from where was he?”
“Ah, a Macedonian! And what was his name?”
“So your name is Alexandros Vasiliou?”
“Alexander of the King! Alexander the son of Philip! Your master
has taught you about him at school?”
“Of course,” said Aleko frowning.
The old man smiled. “There is a story about him which you have not
heard perhaps. Do you know how Alexander the King got the Water
Aleko shook his head: “We have not reached such a part.”
“Well, I will tell you about it. Listen:–
“When Alexander the King had conquered all the Kingdoms of the world,
and when all the universe trembled at his glance, he called before
him the most celebrated magicians of those days and said to them:–
“‘Ye who are wise, and who know all that is written in the Book of
Fate, tell me what I must do to live for many years and to enjoy this
world which I have made mine?’
“‘O King!’ said the magicians, ‘great is thy power! But what is
written in the book of Fate is written, and no one in Heaven or on
Earth can efface it. There is one thing only, that can make thee enjoy
thy kingdom and thy glory beyond the lives of men; that can make thee
endure as long as the hills, but it is very hard to accomplish.’
“‘I did not ask ye,’ said the great King Alexander, ‘whether it be
hard, I asked only what it was.’
“‘O King, we are at thy feet to command! Know then that he alone who
drinks of the Water of Life need not fear death. But he who seeks this
water, must pass through two mountains which open and close constantly,
and scarce a bird on the wing can fly between them and not be crushed
to death. The bones lie in high piles, of the kings’ sons who have
lost their lives in this terrible trap. But if thou shouldst pass
safely through the closing mountains, even then thou wilt find beyond
them a sleepless dragon who guards the Water of Life. Him also must
thou slay before thou canst take the priceless treasure.’
“Then Alexander the King smiled, and ordered his slaves to bring
forth his horse Bucephalus, who had no wings yet flew like a bird. The
king mounted on his back and the good horse neighed for joy. With one
triumphant bound he was through the closing mountains so swiftly that
only three hairs of his flowing tail were caught in between the giant
rocks when they closed. Then Alexander the King slew the sleepless
dragon, filled his vial with the Water of Life, and returned.
“But when he reached his palace, so weary was he that he fell into a
deep sleep and left the Water of Life unguarded. And it so happened
that his sister, not knowing the value of the water, threw it away. And
some of the water fell on a wild onion plant, and that is why, to
this day, wild onion plants never fade. Now when Alexander awoke,
he stretched out his hand to seize and drink the Water of Life and
found naught; and in his rage he would have killed the slaves who
guarded his sleep, but his sister, being of royal blood, could not
hide the truth, and she told him that not knowing, she had thrown
the Water of Life away.
“Then the king waxed terrible in his wrath, and he cast a curse upon
his sister, and prayed that from the waist downward she might be
turned into a fish, and live always in the open sea far from all land
and habitation of man. And the gods granted his prayer, so it happens
that to this day those who sail over the open sea in ships often see
Alexander’s sister, half a woman and half a fish, tossing in the waves.
“Strange to say, she does not hate Alexander, and when a ship passes
close to her she cries out:–
“‘Does Alexander live?’
“And should the captain, not knowing who it is that speaks, answer,
‘He is dead,’ then the maid in her great grief tosses her white arms
and her long golden hair wildly about, and troubles the water, and
sinks the ship.
“But if, when the question comes up with the voice of the wind, ‘Does
Alexander live?’ the captain answers at once, ‘He lives and reigns,’
then the maid’s heart is joyful, and she sings sweet songs till the
ship is out of sight.
“And this is how sailors learn new love songs, and sing them when
they return to land.”
When the old man ceased speaking Aleko waited a moment and then
“That is not true–but I like it.”
“Do you know, my lad,” said Kyr Themistocli, “that with a name such
as yours you ought to grow up a great man.”
“But if one cannot?”
“That is only if one is not born so,” said the old man shaking his
head, “but if one is born with brains, and will, one always can.”
“No!” burst out Aleko, “without learning one cannot and when one is
poor how is one to get learning?”
“We live in a country, my boy, where learning is free.”
“And must not one live while one is learning? And must one not keep
one’s mother and the little ones who cannot work?”
“Did you not say that you go to the Parnassos School?”
“Of course I go, but already I am in the third class, next year I shall
be in the fourth, which is like the first Hellenic class in municipal
schools, and after that, there are no more classes at the Parnassos.”
Kyr Themistocli thought for a moment.
“How old are you?”
“In August, on the Virgin’s Day, I close my twelve years.”
“Why are you in the third class if you have only been here two years?”
“Oh, the first is only for those who cannot read, I did not pass
through it at all.”
“You could read already, when you came from your village?”
“Long before that.”
“Who taught you?”
Aleko shifted from one bare foot to another and thought for a moment.
“I do not know,” he said at last. “My father had three books, and
there were newspapers which the coffee-house keeper threw away,
and … I learnt.”
“If you finish the fourth class of the Parnassos, you will know a
good many things.”
“What will be the benefit? When there is no more night school and I
have to work with my hands all day, as the years pass I shall forget
all they have taught me, and I shall be an unlearned man. The member
who spoke at the examinations last year, told us that an unlearned
man is like wood that has not been hewn.”
The boy pushed back his chair and stood up.
“Why do they say such things to us? Can we help it if we are poor? It
is bad to know only the beginning of things! It is worse I think
than to know nothing. Sometimes I am sorry that I went to the
Parnassos!” And Aleko turned towards the window and began drawing
his finger over the dust on the pane. But the old schoolmaster
“Find the Hestia,” he said, “and read to me, will you?”
So Aleko read for some time by the fading light. He read of many
things, and amongst others of how a great big warship had been launched
and was soon to be brought to Greece … the Averoff.
“Why do they call it the Averoff? What does it mean?”
“It is the name of a very good, and very rich man, who gave the money
to build it.”
“Will it fight the Turks?” asked Aleko eagerly.
“Good grant it, my boy! And may I be alive to hear of it.”
“When it does, I will read all about it to you.”
“Thank you,” said the old man very seriously.
Then Aleko went on reading till he could see no longer.
“You read well,” said Kyr Themistocli slowly. “Will you come again? you
will give me pleasure.”
“I will come every day.” Then Aleko got up and began carrying the
plates off the table into the kitchen at the back. He returned with
a lighted candle.
“Now,” he said, “I will tidy up a little so that the cross woman will
not have so many words to say to-morrow. As for her floor …” and
he looked at it with disgust, “it is so dusty that anyone who walks
over it will take dust away instead of adding any! Does she come
every day?” he asked suddenly.
“Yes, she cleans and cooks for me.”
“And you pay her?”
“Kyr Themistocli, you must find another woman who will have a little
conscience; this one, because you cannot see … she lets you live
in dirt.” He took up the cover and shook it vigorously out of the
window. “But what dust! It is a sin to take money for such dirty
work! Ah,” he continued, polishing the window panes with a piece of
torn newspaper, “you ought to have my mother to work for you! Then
you would see what your house would be like!”
“Your mother is a good housewife?”
“She is the best in Megaloupolis; all say it. What would she say if
she saw this room? And my clothes also,” he added, looking at them
ruefully. “But when one works, what can one do?”
When he had finished, he blew out the candle. “Since it is useless to
you,” he remarked, “why should it burn in vain?” Then he came close
to the old man and laid his hand on his knee.
“I thank you for the good food. To-morrow, then, I shall come at
The old man stood up and felt for Aleko’s head.
“I want to see how tall you are. Ah, you are well above my shoulder,
that is a good height for twelve. Are you strong? Do you have
gymnastics at the Parnassos?”
“Yes, in the square outside. I know all the movements; and there is
one member–not the one who comes to the lessons, another who has
been abroad–and he is teaching us boxing.”
“Boxing?” echoed the old man. This was new for him.
“It is how to fight with your hands; and he says that I shall learn
well and soon.”
“That is not real learning,” objected Kyr Themistocli, “that is play.”
“I do not know,” answered Aleko, “but it is very useful for me,
because there are some of the boys who will not understand things
unless you explain with your fists. Now I go,” he added. “I must be
at the school at eight o’clock. Good night, master.”
“Good night, my child.”
But from the door he rushed back again.
“What is that statue in the Zappion Gardens, of the man who stands
at the woman’s knee; she who is putting a crown of leaves on his head?”
Kyr Themistocli put his hand to his forehead in a bewildered fashion.
“At the Zappion? A crown of leaves? Oh, I see; you mean Byron. Well,
he was a great poet–a stranger–and because he left his own country
and came and fought for us against the Turks, and helped us, and sang
about us, and loved us, the woman, who means Greece, is crowning him
“Is it like when you take your hat off–to the flag–to show respect?”
“Well, in a way, perhaps,” said the old man smiling.
“Is he dead now, that poet?”
Aleko thought for a moment.
“I will fight for his country when I grow up if they want me.”
Then he ran very fast because he was afraid he would be late for
school. In winter the hours were from seven to nine in the evening,
but in summer they were from eight to ten, for the members of the
Parnassos who arranged all about the night school, knew that the little
shoeblacks and newspaper boys could find work in the streets much
later, now that the days were long and people dined at such late hours.
Aleko rushed through the Kolonaki Square and all the length of the
street called after the brave Kanaris, into Academy Road, crossed
it, and tearing down two narrow streets one after the other, came
out into Stadium Street; this also he crossed, dodging in and out
between the tram-cars and the streams of people, and only slackened
his pace when he got into the short street that leads to the Church
of St. George and the building of the Parnassos.
He pushed open the big door, and dumping down his shoeblack’s box in
the outer hall beside a long line of others, was in the class room
and seated in his place, just one moment before the master took his.
Two members were present this evening. One of them heard the boys’
grammar and arithmetic lessons, and commented on them; the other,
a young man with a small dark moustache, leaned against the wall
and looked on without speaking. Just before the books were closed
he crossed the big room and exchanged a few words with the master,
who smiled, nodded his head, and gave up his place on the platform
to him. The whole class looked up with astonishment; members never
took the master’s place except to make speeches on the twenty-fifth
of March, or on examination day. This member was very tall, his back
was very straight, and his eyes were always laughing.
He leaned carelessly across the desk.
“Listen to me, boys!” he said. “Some people have been blaming me
for teaching you boxing. They say you are ready enough to fight
without being taught any more about it. So I want to explain, here,
why I think it such a good thing for you. Now–until all men become
saints, and I believe that we, at least, shall not see that day–a
boy will always need to defend himself, or his people, or his things,
by fighting, sometimes. Well, boxing makes a fine healthy animal of
him, ready to face anything that may happen.”
Some of the older boys scowled at the word “animal,” and the young
member saw it.
“I am sorry you do not like being called ‘animals,'” he continued,
“because in reality, you are far worse off than animals when it comes
to fighting, and that is why you must learn how to use your strength,
so as not to be at the mercy of any who choose to attack you. Why,
many insects, even, are stronger than you are!”
The boys laughed out loudly.
“An ant,” continued the young member gravely, “can bear nearly a
thousand times the weight of its own body over it, without being
crushed. How many times your own weight do you think you could
carry? But science can supply what nature has denied to us. We can
make our fists be to us just what its horns are to a bull, or its
claws and its teeth to a lion; only, you see, we have to learn how
to do this carefully, and systematically. When a horse kicks, or a
dog bites, no one in the world can teach them to do it better, but
most men have no idea how to hit straight from the shoulder with all
the strength of the body behind the blow. A boy who has learned how
to defend himself will be a thousand times less molested by others,
and more independent. When grown men, in a fit of passion, pull out
a knife to avenge an injury, it is, nine times out of ten, because
they have not learned the use of their fists.”
Then the young member, suddenly leaving the platform, came down
“Who will learn?” he asked smiling.
Not a boy but came pressing around him. Benches were pushed against
the walls, and the lesson began.
He made the boys who were to fight take off their tunics and roll
up the sleeves of their more or less ragged shirts. He placed them
in the correct attitude of defense, the right fist closed and held
near the body and the left slightly extended. He showed them how to
thrust straight from the shoulder for the right-hand stroke, and
for the left-hand stroke; then how to parry the right-hand stroke
with the left arm raised and slightly bent, and how to parry the
left-hand stroke with the right arm bent forward and protecting the
face. He showed them how to take their opponent’s head prisoner,
and he showed the imprisoned one how to get free.
“Now, Kosta!” he cried, “straight out from the shoulder! Follow your
blow! Come with it! Come with it! Be ready, Aleko! Raise your left
arm. There you see…. That is the way!”
When the lesson was over and the boys had shouldered their boxes,
Aleko lingered until the two members came out down the steps into
the street smoking their cigarettes. He stood himself right in the
way of the younger member.
“Tell me, Kyrie, if you please, when you strike straight out from
the shoulder and the other one does not know how to parry the blow,
The member laughed.
“Why, he will see stars, my boy, especially if your blow lands on
“Ah!” said Aleko. “Yoryi who squints shall not take my client from
“Does Yoryi ‘who squints’ come to school?” asked the member.
“Then I certainly think your client will remain yours.”
“Good night, Kyrie.”
“Good night to you, my lad.”
Then as Aleko ran off, the younger member turned to the older one.
“I wish a few more of the boys had his spirit.”
“How fair he is! From what part does he come, I wonder?”
“Oh, they all come from Megaloupolis, but I believe that this one’s
father is originally from Macedonia.”
“Ah, a good race,” said the older man. “One of our best.”
The big white caique at Piræus was ready laden, only waiting for its
captain, and an hour later, Mattina, in a little corner between two
planks of wood and a big case, lay curled up on the low deck, with
the cool night wind blowing salt and fresh on her face. She listened
to the water flap-flapping against the wooden sides of the boat,
and dimly saw the great white sails bellying out above her head. She
heaved a big sigh of content and stretched out her feet under a loose
piece of sack-cloth.
The harbor lights of Piræus were already far behind them when, rocked
by the softly swaying movement, she fell asleep.
And how good it was the next morning to awake at sea, with the sun
high above the horizon on a blue September day, to feel safe and free,
to lean over the side of the boat, munching the hunk of bread and the
piece of “touloumi” cheese which one of the sailors had given her,
while she watched the swish and sparkle of the water as the tall
prow of the caique divided it, and listened to Capetan Thanassi’s
loud orders to his men, as they tacked round by the lighthouse.
Ah! and how good it was, as soon as they turned the corner, to see
in the distance the white houses of Poros!
It was even better when she stepped down the plank thrown from the
boat to the shore and was treading Poros soil once more. Then it
was like dreams coming true! The caique had anchored far away from
the village, in a little creek before one came to the Beach of the
Little Pines. Someone from Athens was building a house there, a big
house with balconies and terraces. Capetan Thanassi had brought a
boat load of wood-work for the doors and windows, and the workmen
were busy unloading it almost before the anchor had been dropped.
“What will you do?” the old captain asked Mattina. “Before noon, when
this unloading is over, I shall sail into the village. Will you wait?”
“I thank you, Capetan Thanassi. For the good that you have done me,
may you find it from God; but I cannot wait. I will go along the shore,
and reach the house and the little one long before you have finished
“Go then, my girl! Go!” and Mattina ran up the slope of the hill
leading to the Beach of the Little Pines, and did not stop to take
breath until she reached the top.
There she stood still, waist-high in a tangle of bushes. The thyme
was all dried up of course, but the heather was in bloom and the
lentisk bushes were laden with thick clusters of red berries.
She dropped on her knees, with a little cry of joy, beside a big
bush on which the bright crimson berries seemed thicker than the tiny
leaves. “Fairy-cherries,” the children of the Red House on the hill,
called them. Mattina had never heard this, but she loved the little
tight bunches of red berries because they were so pretty and because
she had never seen them but in Poros. In a moment she got up and
began the descent of the hill.
The glorious curve of the Beach of the Little Pines seemed almost
entirely deserted. The morning sea in lines of deep golden green near
the pines of the shore, and of deep blue beyond, blue as the sky,
blue as the flag, bore not a single fisher boat on its surface. Only
far away in the distance under the big round fig tree Mattina could
distinguish a flock of sheep, and still farther away the figure of a
man coming down the next hill, but whether it was the shepherd or not
she could not tell. Down she came through the tall white spikes of the
dog-onions waving all over the hill side, till she stood at last on a
flat gray rock on the very edge of the sea. The perfectly smooth water
showed the shining yellow and green and gray pebbles lying below, as
though a sheet of glass had been placed over them. In and out between
the stones swam tiny black-striped fishes, and now and then a ripple
trembled over the surface and broke softly against the rock. And it
was clear and beautiful, and her very own sea, and she lifted her
face to its breath, and she fell on her knees and stretched out her
bare brown arms that the water might flow and ripple over them!
In the water close to the shore, every tiny green branch, and every
vein of the gray rocks, and every clump of red earth, was reflected
line for line, and tint for tint, and through these reflections ran
long straight lines of bright, bright blue. Suddenly Mattina remembered
Antigone, the serving maid of the next house, who had said to her,
“You! with your trees, and your rocks, and your sea!” And she thought,
“She has never seen them, the poor one! If she were only here now!”
But she did not know that Antigone was of those people who would never
see some things, even if she were to touch them with her hand. She
would find that the rocks hurt her feet and spoiled her Sunday shoes.
The morning light would never bring a light into her eyes, and
certainly a little cool soft breeze blowing in her face could never
have made her feel so entirely and unreasonably joyful.
Mattina could never have explained, nor did she understand as other
children might, who had read books, or who had lived with people
who had read books, that it was just the beauty of everything around
her that made her feel so happy, that for some moments wiped all her
troubles off her mind as though by a magic sponge. She had never heard
that her ancestors were of the race which above all other had always
worshipped beautiful things.
However, in a few moments she stood up, wiped her arms on her frock,
and walked along the shore more soberly. She must get on, she felt;
she must see the child–Zacharia. How he would laugh when he saw
her! “‘Attina! My ‘Attina!” he would cry. Kyra Sophoula would say a
good word to her also; but the others, her uncle Yoryi, and her aunt
Kanella, what would they say? They would ask why she had returned. They
would ask so many things; and what could she say? She had come back
not much richer than she went; and now what could she do? She thought
for a moment of the mayor and the doctor. Each of them kept a little
maid. If only one of them would take her! How good that would be! She
was stronger now, and had learned much in the town. But she knew it
was not likely that either of them would be requiring a new serving
maid just then. People here did not change their servants like shirts
as they did in Athens. In Poros, one took a little girl, one did
not even call her a servant, but a “soul-child”; one taught her, one
fed her, one dressed her, and in due time one prepared her dowry for
her. The doctor, she knew, had got Panouria, the widow’s daughter,
as a “soul-child.” No, it was not at all likely; and Mattina heaved
a big sigh as she filled her hands with cyclamen for Zacharia. Poros
had its troubles too.
She had nearly reached the end of the big beach, and was stooping to
pick a bright crimson cyclamen growing in the shadow of a lentisk bush,
when suddenly a flat pebble skimmed past her, touched the surface of
the water, and then flew from ripple to ripple like a thing alive.
“It is many years since I did that,” said a boyish voice just behind
her. But when she wheeled round, it was no boy who stood there laughing
and following the pebble with his eyes. It was a grown man, the one
whom she had seen in the distance, coming down the hill, and it was
certainly not a shepherd. It was a man wearing good clothes, like
the men she had seen in Athens in the fine streets; better far than
those her master wore; with a gold chain across his waistcoat. It was
a man whom she had never seen before; tall, with thick brown hair and
a small moustache, but whose sunburnt face did not seem strange to her.
He flung another pebble, swinging his arm well back and making it go
still farther than the last.
“Did you see that one, my girl?” he said without looking at her. “I
thought I had forgotten,… but see there,” as he flung a third and
began counting,… “eleven,–twelve,–thirteen,–fourteen! I wish
some of the lads from Lexington were here to see me. They never would
believe that I could make it go more than ten times.”
“Throw another,” said Mattina who was interested, picking up a good
The man held out his hand for it and, as he did so, looked at the
girl for the first time.
The pebble dropped to the shore between them.
“Why!” he said slowly, “Why! From where did you come? Not from the
Mattina, her empty hand stretched out as though still holding the
stone, looked at him.
“No,–I come from Athens. Only just now we have arrived.”
“Yes, in Capetan Thanassi’s caique.”
“You are from Athens?”
“Oh, no; from the island. I was only serving in the town.”
The man put his hand under Mattina’s chin, turned her face up, and
took a long look at her.
“If you are not Aristoteli’s daughter, may they never call me Petro
Mattina stared in wonderment. How came this well-dressed stranger to
“Yes; I am Aristoteli Dorri’s the sponge diver’s.”
“God rest his soul,” added the man, “and your mother’s also! Little
did I think to return to the island and find them both under the
soil. And when I looked for you, they told me you had gone to serve
in the town! How did this good thing happen that you should just
have come back today? Now I need not take the steamer for Athens to
go and search for you.”
“For who else? Do you think I mean to return to America all alone,
and leave my brother’s daughter working for strange folk in strange
Mattina was beyond speech.
The young man put his arm round her shoulders.
“So you do not know me? Your uncle Petro? Truly how should you? You
were a babe in swaddling clothes when I left the island. But look at
me! Look at me, then! Have I not the same face as your father–the
blessed one? All have told me so.”
A sudden enlightenment came into Mattina’s eyes. Of course he had
her father’s face! The hair which came down in a point, the eyes that
laughed; that was why he had not seemed strange. But her father had
never worn such fine clothes, and his back had not been so straight.
Timidly she crept a little closer.
“My uncle,” she whispered looking up into the laughing boyish eyes,
“are you my ‘family’ now?”
“Is it a question? Of course I am your family; and you are mine. Your
mother’s cousins here and her brother in Athens, they good people,
I do not say the contrary, but they have their own families for which
to provide. I have no one, and you are mine now, and I shall work for
you. It is ended now that you should work for strangers. You did well
to leave them!”
“I did not mean to leave them; I did not know you were here on the
island, my uncle, but I was afraid, and I ran away from their house.”
Mattina flushed very red.
“They said I stole their money.”
“They called you a thief! My brother’s daughter! A bad year to
them! But why did you run away as thieves run? You should have stayed
and told them that they lied.”
“I told them. But they would not believe me though I swore it on my
father’s soul; and the master was going to fetch the men to take me
to prison, and I was afraid.”
“It is true, you are but a little one. But rest easy; no one shall make
you afraid, now that I am here! We will go together to these people and
if the master dares to say you stole, I will break his face for him!”
And Mattina saw that her uncle’s laughing eyes could look very fierce.
“Have you the money for which you served?”
“No, they had not given it to me yet.”
“We will get it. Rest easy! And how much did they agree to pay you
for every month?”
“Are they not ashamed? It is not even two dollars. And doubtless they
made you work hard for it, eh?”
“There was always work, yes; but….”
“She said that … that at New Year I should have a present. And now
And Mattina suddenly realizing that the present, the long dreamed of
present, was lost for ever, burst into wild sobs.
“Bah! Bah! And is it for their miserable present that you are spoiling
your heart’s content? Am I not here to get you a far more beautiful
Mattina lifted streaming eyes, full of wonder.
“Who else? And what shall the present be?”
The heavens seemed opening in glory before Mattina’s dazzled eyes.
“Can I say whatever I like?”
“Then I want … there is a picture in a shop in Athens, with a broad
golden frame; it is the sea, and a boat on it with a white sail, and
you can see the sail in the water all long and wavy, and if you touch
the water, you think your finger will be wet. That is what I want.”
“You shall have your picture; we will hang it in our house in
Lexington, where there is no sea, and it will remind us of our island.”
“Shall we not live here in Poros, my uncle?”
“Here? Not yet! I am young still, and strong, and I mean to earn more
money in America than I have done already. Besides, I have to think
of providing your dowry now, you see. In good time, when I am older,
and you are a woman grown, then, if God wills it, we will return to
the island. It is not good to leave one’s bones in a strange land. No;
in eight days we go down to Piræus to leave for America in a great big
ship, bigger than you have ever seen before, even in your sleep, and
when we get there, to America, you shall see what your eyes will see!”
“Yes.” Then as no words came, he added, “Say what you want! You must
not fear to ask for whatever your heart desires.”
“My uncle, there is Zacharia too….”
“What? The little one? I saw him at Kyra Kanella’s. He is very
little.” Just for a second the young man hesitated, then–
“Can you care for him on the journey, my maid? A journey of many days,
mind you, with a sea which may make you ill; a rough green sea with
waves as high as houses; not like this blue joy here. Can you?”
“Surely,” said Mattina, “I can do many things.”
Her uncle looked at the sturdy little figure, and at the strong firm
“I believe you can,” he said. “Come!” holding out his hand, “let us
go and find the little rascal.”
THE FINDING OF THE CAVE
It is a great thing to be a Zamana, and of the right branch, too. At
least that is what little Pavlo Zamana had always been told.
Was it not his own great-grandfather who had fought at the siege of
Missolonghi? Was it not he who had suggested the famous message to
the Turks: “If you want our town, come and take it!” though it was
the sender who got the credit for it? Was not he one of the leaders
of the last heroic sortie, on the never-to-be-forgotten tenth of
April? And did not Botzari say of him, “Without my right hand, I can
do something, without Zamana, nothing”?
All this was most gratifying when Pavlo was at school; especially
when new boys arrived, for the old ones had heard the story pretty
often. And of course it was always a proud moment when the history
master came to the siege of Missolonghi, and rolled out the names of
Botzari, Palama, Tricoupi, Pappalouka, Razikotsika, Kapsali, Zamana,
to be able to whisper very audibly, “That was my great-grandfather!”
But it was less interesting at home, when he could never cry in peace
over a barked knee, or howl if there were a splinter to be dug out
which had gone in deeply, or feel very sad when a visit to the dentist
was projected, without being always told:–
“Shame! Shame! And you a Zamana!”
And the fact remained, whether it was that the blood had weakened
by the time it had come down to Pavlo, or whether some of his other
grandfathers or grandmothers had been built in a less heroic mould,
that when he had to go up into a dark attic to look for a book for
his uncle, or to face an aggressive band of schoolboys waiting with
stones in their hands round a street corner, he did not feel at all
as a Zamana should; oh, but not at all!
There had been a great many Zamanas, but they had all died, some at
home and some abroad, and only two were left now; a middle-aged doctor,
and a little boy.
The doctor was Pavlo’s uncle, and he lived in a gloomy house in Solon
Street, in Athens, and when he was at home he was always very busy
writing, and had to be called again and again when dinner or supper
“I have come; I have come!” he would answer impatiently, but he never
came till the pilaf was all sodden, or the “keftedes” had stuck
to the dish in little rounds of cold fat.
The little boy was Pavlo, and he lived with his uncle.
The house in Solon Street was not an interesting house to live in
one bit. It was tall and narrow, jammed in between another tall
narrow house on one side, and a green grocer’s shop on the other,
and one could only see the Acropolis, and Phalerum and the sea
if one got up to the terrace on the roof, where they hung out the
clothes to dry; and even from there it looked very far off. There
was not a scrap of garden, only a small paved courtyard at the back,
generally littered with empty cases which had come from abroad with new
instruments and new books for the doctor. Pavlo sometimes attempted
to play house or shop in the biggest of these, but Marina, the cook,
used to get very cross if he brought in damp straw on his shoes over
her freshly scrubbed kitchen, and the other maid, Aphrodite, would
screw up her ugly brown face, and bring her thick black eyebrows
together, and threaten that the next time he got another big tear
in his clothes from those great long packing nails for her to mend,
if she did not tell his uncle, they need never call her “Aphrodite”
again! His uncle heard her once, and said laughingly that they need
never have called her “Aphrodite” at all, but Pavlo got his scolding
all the same, for causing unnecessary work, so that the packing cases
had to be abandoned.
In winter it was better. After his preparation for next day’s school
was over, and before the long delayed supper, he would stay in the
little dining room, and lying flat on the floor in the warmth of the
big white Viennese stove, he would colour the pictures in the odd
numbers of an English illustrated medical journal, which his uncle had
given to be thrown away. There were very rarely what Pavlo considered
real pictures in them, and he got rather tired of colouring “thoracic
aortas” in bright orange, and “abdominal aortas” in pale green, and
“tracheæ” in stripes of purple and yellow; but now and then he would
come across some funny groups of little insects, and once there was
a picture of an operation in a hospital, where there were any amount
of doctors and nurses to be coloured, each one differently. That
picture lasted him three whole evenings, and would have been even
more successful than it was, if only the very best and softest of his
chalks, the crimson one, had not somehow got broken inside the wood,
so that it all came away in little pieces when he tried to sharpen it,
till at last there was nothing left but a little stump of chalk without
any wood, and anyone who has tried, knows how hard it is to colour
a whole dress with a little bit of chalk that one cannot hold properly.
But when the days grew longer and warmer the dining room was too hot
for comfort; the study, even when the doctor was out, was always kept
locked, and Pavlo’s own bedroom on the third floor was even hotter
than the dining room. So he would end by taking his books or his
chalks into the hall, where at least there was a little coolness to
be had from the chink under the front door. There he would sit on the
stairs, or lie flat on the floor, kicking up his heels as he read or
painted, till he knew every stringy part of the long strip of gray,
red-edged carpet that crossed the middle of the passage, and every
place where the paint, which had peeled off the once-painted floor,
had left curiously shaped patches, which only needed the touch of
a pencil here and there to turn into all sorts of faces. The yellow
walls, imitating veined marble, offered terrible temptation of the same
kind, but it was too dangerous; pencil marks on the walls would have
been seen at once. There was one spot, indeed, where the criss-cross
of veins made such an exact head of Hermes, winged cap and all, with
only the back of the head and one ear missing, that Pavlo absolutely
could not resist touching it up, one long hot afternoon. He rubbed
all the pencil marks very carefully off afterwards, with his piece of
india rubber, but this had got so mixed up in his pocket with odds and
ends of chalk and with half a “loucoumi” that the rubbing-away marks
were very red and sticky and showed worse than the pencil ones. So
Pavlo had been rather frightened, till he discovered that by pushing
the hat stand a little nearer the study door, the place was quite
hidden. However, he dared not make any more attempts on the wall,
and the afternoon dragged wearily.
Of course, no playing in the street was ever allowed, but sometimes
when Marina the cook slipped out late to buy a bowl of “yaourti” for
supper, or some chicory for salad, she would take him with her, and he
would stand about while she bargained, envying the blue-pinafored boys
of the neighborhood tearing and whooping down the street or gathered
together over their marbles on the edge of the pavement. Pavlo played
marbles at his school near the National Library, when he managed to
get there ten minutes before lessons began; but the class-bell always
rang in the middle of the most interesting game, and the ten minutes
between each lesson were of no good because no play was allowed then,
at that school. Only the bigger classes could do as they liked, the
little boys were marshaled in order of size by one of the overlookers
and marched round and round the big courtyard, so that, as Pavlo
heard the director explaining to his uncle one day, “the little pupils
should have all the benefit of fresh air and exercise during this short
interval, without any danger of their minds being distracted from the
lesson they had just been taught!” But the “little pupils'” minds
were as a rule more occupied with the secret exchange of pen nibs,
the recognized school currency, than in pondering over the last lesson.
And then, when June had passed into July, when summer in town was
at its hottest and dustiest, when the examinations were just over,
and there was not even school to break the monotony of the long empty
days, a wonderful change came into Pavlo’s life.
It happened like this.
One afternoon he had just got up from the enforced lying down with
a book, which he hated–especially as the book was not a new one,
but only Louki Laras which he had read already four times, so that
even if one skipped the descriptions, the exciting parts were too
familiar–and was wandering about the house, a piece of bread in
one hand and a piece of chocolate in the other, when he came across
Aphrodite packing his uncle’s valise. He was going away, she told
Pavlo, for some days. There was nothing extraordinary in that. People
were always sending for the doctor from one part and another of the
provinces, to come and cure them, and Pavlo was quite accustomed to
being alone in the house with the two maids, and having his dinner
and supper served on a tray at one end of the dining room table. The
only advantage of this was that Marina let him choose his dinners,
and that he could have pilaf or even “halva” two days running, and
need never touch soup or boiled meat all the time his uncle was away.
But the extraordinary thing happened a few moments later, when his
uncle let himself into the house, and walked right up into the room
where the packing was going on.
“Is the valise full?” he inquired.
Aphrodite straightened herself up.
“It is full, Kyrie. I have put three soft shirts at the bottom and
the little black box which you gave me last night; the rest of your
things are in the middle, and there are two starched shirts under
the covering, and your traveling cap at the very top.”
“Is it quite full?” he repeated.
“If there is any other small thing you have forgotten, I can slip it
in between the clothes.”
“No, …” and his eyes wandered round the room and rested on Pavlo
who was looking out of the window with great interest at two newspaper
boys having a fight. “No, … I meant if you could perhaps get a few
things of the child’s in with mine. I think that this time I shall
take him with me.”
The street fight was forgotten, and a flushed, bewildered Pavlo with
wide open eyes caught hold of his uncle’s hand.
“Me! Take me with you!”
“Yes. How does the idea seem to you? This time I am going to visit a
sick man in Poros, the deputy of the island; and in that same island
I have an old school friend who lives there all summer through with
his family, and who has asked me again and again to go to see him;
so, how would you like to come with me to Poros, and all day long,
while I am busy, to play on the hill and in the woods behind the
house with the children? There are three or four of them, I believe.”
“This evening shall we go?”
“No,” laughed his uncle, “early to-morrow morning.”
Even Aphrodite was quite nice about it, and turned all the doctor’s
things into a larger valise where there would be room for Pavlo’s
clothes also, without any grumbling or bringing together of her
thick black eyebrows as she did when she was cross; and Marina sat
up quite late mixing some “kourabiedes”–cookies–for him to eat
on the way. She gave them to him herself wrapped up in two papers
so that his clothes should not get “all over fine sugar” when he
was starting for the station in the open carriage with his uncle,
at six o’clock the next morning.
It was a wonderful day! The drive to the station through the
great empty squares and the half-awakened streets; the wait in
the railway station of the Monastiraki while his uncle bought the
tickets and Pavlo gazed open eyed at the little railed-in bookstall,
hung round with very brightly coloured pictures of various heroes
of the Revolution; the railway journey down to Piræus with all the
people getting out at Phalerum, towels in hand, for sea baths; the
landing stage at Piræus with the multitude of little blue and red and
green boats swaying on the sunny water; the climb up the side of the
white steamer; the fat kind-faced captain who greeted his uncle as
an old friend and himself as a new one and gave him the freedom of
his bridge; the steaming out of the harbour past the King’s Summer
House surrounded by its great aloes and its little baby pines,
past the grave of Themistocles gloriously placed in eternal view
of Salamis, past the long breakwater and the lighthouse, and so
out into the open sea; the stop at Ægina with its big-sailed boats
and shouting boatmen crowding all round the steamer; the sighting
opposite Methana of the “stone ship” and the breathless listening to
its legend, of its captain the nereid who was turned into stone with
all her ship for presumptuously attempting to surpass the moon in
swiftness; the thrill of seeing a real dolphin swimming alongside the
steamer, … all these and more, made the journey a dream of delight
to Pavlo, from which he was almost in fear of awaking to the ordinary
every-day life of Solon Street. He forgot to be hungry. It was his
uncle who after all reminded him of the packet of crushed and crumbly
“kourabiedes” which he had quite forgotten on a bench beside him;
and though he did eat them, they might as well have been dry bread
for all the pleasure he got out of them.
In a little while after leaving Methana they passed a lighthouse on
a rock, and the steamer turned round the corner of it.
“There is Poros!” said his uncle, suddenly laying his hand on Pavlo’s
shoulder and twisting him round; and there it was.
A little white village with red roofs, and here and there a big round
pine or a tall narrow cypress all climbing up a hill to an old ruined
mill at the top.
There was a glorious open bay, and red and orange-sailed fishing
boats were sailing about it, and there were tall hills covered with
olive trees to the right, and tall hills covered with pine trees to
the left. And in the pines nestled a red house, and Pavlo’s uncle
pointed it out to him.
“See, there is my friend’s house! There is where you will play with
the children; across there! Do you see?”
Pavlo saw, and his cup of happiness was full, for he saw no trimly
set-out garden with elaborate flower-beds such as he had once seen
at Kiphissia, with “Do not touch” plainly written all over it, but
hollows and crags where lentisk and thyme bushes grew strong and
thick, and open hillside, and trees and trees and trees around and
behind the house, from the top of the hill right down to the seashore,
promising endless possibilities for climbing and hiding.
The steamer stopped quite close up to the village, and Pavlo and his
uncle shook hands with the fat kind-faced captain and thanked him
and climbed down into a little swaying boat which in three or four
oar-strokes brought them to the side of the sea-wall. Doctor Zamana
“Stay there, Pavlo,” he said, “while I go up and keep a room at the
hotel, and then we shall go on at once to the Red House; and after
I leave you there, I can return and see my patient.”
So Pavlo stayed, dipping his hands over the side of the boat into
the sea, and watching the boy not much bigger than himself, and the
brown-faced, blind, old boatman, at their oars, but feeling too shy
to speak to them.
In a few minutes his uncle came out of the hotel door, crossed the
sea-road and stepped down into the boat. Then the oars were dipped
into the water, the shining drops ran off the long blades, and they
were off again.
Pavlo, who was more accustomed to carriages than to boats, pulled
timidly at his uncle’s sleeve.
“Will you not tell them, my uncle, to go to the Red House?”
His uncle looked at him and laughed.
“Is not the helm in my own hand, little stupid one?”
And the old blind boatman and the boy rowed right across the shining
bay, getting nearer and nearer to the Red House.
Pavlo’s eyes opened wider at each plash of the oars, and he quite
forgot to be shy at the thought that he was going to meet new people.
He had never seen such a pretty house before in all his life!
The villagers called it “the Red House on the hill”; but in reality
it was rather a soft old Venetian pink than red, and the blending of
this old pink into the masses of golden green around it, was a joy
to the eyes; even to the eyes of little boys, though they did not
exactly know why. The shape of the house was delightful, it was low,
wide, two-storied, with jutting stone balconies on the second floor. A
monster bougainvillea spread its dark leaves and regally purple flowers
round the southern windows, and the eastern ones looked out on the open
sea through the pretty paler green leaves of a wistaria, whose mauve
bunches of flowers reached up to the round balcony. The whole house
was set on a very long and very wide terrace, and at equal distances
along the balustrade of short columns, were placed big stone vases of
geraniums of all colours. There was a ruby one with the sunshine on it
which made Pavlo think with regret of his crimson chalk, the one that
had broken all to bits. A long broad flight of stone steps flanked
by more geraniums, by big flowering oleanders and great gray-green
aloes led down from the side of the terrace to the little landing
stage. It seemed to Pavlo that a whole multitude of people was coming
down these steps to meet them, and he felt very shy again; but after
he had stepped out of the boat helped by various outstretched hands,
the multitude resolved itself into five people and three dogs.
There was the master of the Red House, tall and broad, who looked,
Pavlo thought, like an officer without his uniform, and there were
four children, two little girls and two smaller boys; there was a big
black poodle, a fox-terrier, and a little white dog, of no particular
breed, with pointed ears. He was the special property of the eldest
girl, and when Pavlo first caught sight of him, he had got hold of
her skirt between his teeth and was shaking it vigorously, which he
always did whenever he felt excited.
When Pavlo’s uncle was also out of the boat, there was the usual
exchange of useless and embarrassing remarks, which according to
Pavlo’s experience grown-ups always make on first meetings. Later on,
when he came to compare impressions, he found that it was also the
painful experience of the Four!
“Oh, is this your little nephew?”
“Are all the four yours? Fine children truly! May they live to you,
my friend! Quite a Zamana, did you say? Well, yes; but is there not
something of his mother in the shape of the mouth? This boy now,
is you all over again, I think I see you at his age!”
“Yes, they tell me he is like me.”
“The little one also, I think.”
“Oh, no! Nikias has the long face of his mother’s family.” And
Nikias, the little boy, whose legs were too thin for his socks,
“The second girl is the image of your mother. What a fine woman she
was! And this one, what lovely fair hair, and how long!”
And Pavlo from the bottom of his heart pitied the poor eldest girl
who with a crimsoning face had to submit to be turned round and round
while the fair hair was duly admired and while she was told that she
was worthy of her name, which was Chryseis.
“You had a good journey?”
“Excellent. The sea was oil, not water.”
“You will stay long I hope.”
“It depends on my patient; I heard in the village that he was better
“This young man will stay with us, of course?”
“He will be delighted to come, as often as your children want him.”
“To come! Nonsense! He must stay here entirely. I only wish I had
room to keep you also, but he can sleep with the boys. What would he
do at the hotel or in the village while you are absent? Of course he
must stay here. There can be no question about it. What do you say,
little one? Will you not stay?”
The second girl, Andromache, whose hair had been cut short after a
fever, and now waved all round her head, nudged his arm.
“Say yes! Say yes! It will be splendid!”
Pavlo, wishing nothing better, nodded shyly, and was at once taken
possession of by the Four, the three dogs barking and yapping at their
heels, to be shown all the delights of the Red House and of its hill.
First of all he was taken into the long cool dining room to be
introduced to the mother of the Four, who had been arranging fruit in
glass dishes, and who hurried forward to greet his uncle. Then, with
a big bunch of grapes thrust into his bewildered hands by Andromache,
who declared that “Mother has plenty more in the basket,” they started
to see everything.
And what was Pavlo not shown on that first wonderful day?
Everyone knows how one’s nice things feel nicer when they are shown to
a stranger for the first time, and how even old things of which one
has tired regain something of their first charm. The Four were very
proud and very fond, each in his or her different way, of their house,
and their hill and their sea; so it seemed as though they would never
tire of showing little things to Pavlo.
First of all he was taken up to the big pine, the oldest tree on the
hill. Under this were benches and a round table where, as they told
him, they had their lessons out of doors when the governess was in
a particularly good mood. For there was a temporary summer governess
somewhere in the house, but as it was holiday time, she was not allowed
to make herself too much of a nuisance except for an hour or so every
morning. From the big pine, one could see all the hills around, and the
Monastery Road, and the open sea, and the Naval School, and the Narrow
Beach, on which as Pavlo was told, one could see the sailors drilling.
Behind the big pine was the wood of small pines, all over anemones
in the spring and cyclamen in the autumn. It was softly and greenly
dark in this little wood; the ground was strewn with pine needles,
so many of them that they made a thick carpet, and there were
shady corners where, as Chryseis told Pavlo, you could lie on the
pine needles and read, and read, and read, for ages before you were
discovered. Higher still was an open clearing and, at the end of it,
the little hill-gate through which one passed from the hill of the
Red House on to the other hills, and if one turned to the left,
one got down to the big Beach of the little Pines.
He was raced down to the bath cabin on the shore, and shown all the
extraordinary drawings which decorated the inside of it, to which
all the members of the family had contributed, but more especially
Chryseis and Iason the eldest boy. Pavlo, in fact, admired the funny
faces drawn by the latter so whole-heartedly as to make the artist
flush with pride.
“To-morrow you will bathe with us,” announced Andromache. For that
day the bath was already over; besides, the grown-ups had some sort
of an idiotic notion that one must let a day pass after a journey,
before beginning sea-baths.
Then up they raced again among the pines, scrambling through the
lentisk and thyme bushes, to show Pavlo the little house which they
had built themselves of stones and branches. One could really get
into this if one took care to stoop properly; and it was a splendid
place for the hoarding of biscuits and raisins, and for amateur
cooking of all sorts. By this time, it was getting too hot even for
the Four, so that they got under the wide-spreading shadow of the
big pine and sat around on the benches and talked, while the warm
pine smell filled their nostrils, and the tettix chirped loudly on
all sides. Andromache, who was of an uncanny cleverness in catching
them, swarmed up a pine tree and brought one down enclosed in her two
hands turned into an impromptu cage, through the fingers of which,
Pavlo peeped at the whirring prisoner. The black poodle, Kerberos,
threw himself panting loudly on the ground; Deko, the little dog,
sat on his haunches beside Chryseis, cocked his little pointed ears
and looked about him; while Philos, the fox terrier, dug vigorously
at the roots of the nearest lentisk bush. He scratched his face,
he stopped repeatedly to shake his head violently and to sneeze,
then he would begin again, snuffing and digging as if the work were
very important indeed, and there were no time to lose.
“Where do you live in Athens?” asked Iason, nursing a much scratched
Pavlo told them.
“Just alone with your uncle?”
“And your father and mother? Do you not remember them?”
“My mother, … no, … I was very small. My father just a little. I
remember playing with the tassel of his sword. You know that my
“Oh, stop! Stop!” cried the two boys and Andromache in chorus;
“we know all that!”
Chryseis told them that they were very rude, but they went on
“Four times yesterday, when they knew you were coming, did we hear
the story. Once father told us, once mother, once Kyria Penelope,
that is the governess, you know, and once we had it for a dictation
lesson out of the History of the Revolution; so we know all about
what your great-grandfather did, and all Botzari said about him,
and how brave you must be and everything.”
Pavlo flushed a little, and felt quite grateful to Chryseis who
changed the subject.
“What do you do all alone in the house?” she asked.
“Oh, just nothing; I paint sometimes, and once I went to Kiphissia,
and once to a circus.”
“Can you ride?”
Pavlo shook his head.
“Ride? Oh, no!”
“I can,” said Iason, “and she can, too,” nodding his head towards
Chryseis. “Father has another horse over on the mainland, besides
his own, which can be ridden; and we go with him in turns.”
“Mother says,” put in Andromache, “that when her ship comes in,
she will buy horses for all of us, and a real motor boat, too.”
“When I am big,” said Chryseis, whose stories “out of her head,” were
generally in request, “I shall write a lot of stories in a book, and
sell hundreds and thousands of it, and give all the money to mother,
and then she can buy anything, and a new grand piano, too, for father!”
“You cannot write a real book, if you cannot spell properly,” retorted
Andromache, whose spelling was her strong point.
“Yes, I can. The printers do all that part.”
“No, you cannot!”
“Yes, I can!”
“Well, try then! But when I am big I shall marry a very rich American
and I shall go away with him to America, and I shall send a whole
ship full of money back to mother, so that she will not need your
stupid old books.”
“No one will ever marry you,” put in Iason, “you are too cross!”
“Yes, they will, I tell you!”
“I know!” cried the little boy, Nikias; “I know why she is so sure,
because she has taught Katerina when she finishes washing her hair
instead of wishing her as she always used to, ‘And a fine bridegroom
some day,’ to say ‘And an American!’ I know because I heard her when
I was waiting my turn for the bath in mother’s room!”
There was loud laughter and Andromache flew at Nikias with tooth and
nail for telling overheard secrets, and the struggle which ensued,
and at which Pavlo looked on in secret dismay, was Homeric. Traces
of it were visible at lunch time but were attributed to “playing
soldiers.” The Four of the Red House were not tell-tales; that is
one good thing I can say of them.
After lunch they were condemned to afternoon rest. The reason given
being that Pavlo had been up so early, and they trooped sadly upstairs;
but Iason, who was nothing if not inventive, comforted them.
“When they are all asleep, you girls come into our room and we will
take all the sheets off the beds and fix them up with broom handles
and pretend we are deserters in a cave and soldiers coming after them.”
The sheets, with the aid of the broom handles and sundry wooden clothes
pegs, which Andromache managed to secure by a barefooted expedition to
the wash house, made a splendid cave, but the triumphant discovery of
the deserters by the soldiers was a little noisy, and the mother of
the Four coming unexpectedly on the scene, wisely chose the lesser
of two evils, and turned them all out of doors quite early in the
afternoon while the soft wind was still blowing,–the soft sweet sea
“batti” that makes a swish, swish in the pine branches and shakes
down the geranium petals from the stone vases on the terrace; that
blows coolly in one’s face while all the grown-ups are stupidly lying
down for afternoon sleeps.
The Four and Pavlo tore madly up the hill and, throwing themselves
down on the pine needles under the trees, graciously signified to
Chryseis that she “might tell stories.”
So the long fair hair was tossed back, the eyebrows were puckered
for a moment, and then the quick little voice began:–
“There was once upon a time a dryad who lived in a great big tree….”
Good old Kerberos had allowed Nikias to make a pillow of his soft
black body, Philos lay curled up with his nose between his paws,
and Deko stretched out his forelegs as far as they would stretch,
making a prodigious curve in the middle of his back; then suddenly
righting himself he sat back on his haunches, twitched his pointed
ears backwards and forwards and prepared to listen with the rest.
Over their heads the “batti” made a soft roar as of the sea, in the
pine branches the fir cones cracked in the heat, and far away over
the Narrow Beach there were white-tipped waves on the open sea, that
made Andromache whisper to Pavlo, “It will not be too hot later on;
they will let us go to the Monastery.”
It was glorious! glorious! glorious! Certainly the Four had no words
then to describe how they loved it all. Since then, Iason has turned
some of the glory of those days into verse, and those who read it,
feel the warm scent of the pine, the note of the tettix, and the
blue of that sea, but he and the other three know that only when
colour-words are invented can the real beauty of those sights and
sounds be expressed!
In the days that followed, Athens and Solon Street and the thick
dust of the streets and Aphrodite’s cross frown seemed very far away
indeed to Pavlo; even of his uncle he saw very little; now and then
the doctor came to luncheon or to dinner on the terrace, but already
he seemed to belong to a past life. There was so much to see and to
do! There were delightful torpedo boats to watch, steaming in and out
of the bay and sometimes passing quite close under the terrace; there
were the long narrow boats from the Naval School, full of new sailors
learning how to row; there was fishing with home-made bamboo rods
off the end of the landing stage, while the broad flapping straw hats
which they were all obliged to wear because of the sun were weighted
down on the ground with stones, so as to be better out of their way,
as soon as the grown-ups were not looking; there was fire-fishing
with spearing rods from the boat at nights when there was no moon;
there were rambling afternoon walks to the Monastery or to the beach
of the little pines; there were longer expeditions to the Devil’s
Bridge, to the lemon wood, or up to the Seven Mills; there were
visits to the funny little shops of the village in search of picture
post cards, or even of what sweets Poros could supply, when the town
stock ran out. For of course, visiting aunts and uncles and cousins
generally brought proper boxes of chocolates and sweets from Athens;
and though the grown-ups never failed to repeat the same stupid
remarks such as, “How you are spoiling the children!” or, “Indeed
that was quite unnecessary!” still visitors scarcely ever failed to
fulfill this elementary duty. Once, a certain absent-minded uncle so
far forgot his obligations, as to bring only some silly old caramels,
and Pavlo heard all the abuse that was lavished on him.
There were the delicious long-stretched-out sea baths, notwithstanding
the unfortunate governess’s cries of, “You are staying too long in
the water! Come out this very minute!” There were swimming matches
between Chryseis and Iason; and there was under water swimming by
Andromache. As for poor Nikias, his sea-bathing usually took place on
dry land, under the shelter of the pines, where he would flee wet and
naked for refuge, till his elders were safely out of the water. It is
true, the others were very merciless and he was only eight years old,
and when they caught him and dipped him, they dipped him so far down,
and kept him so long under!
There were endless games on the hill, of soldiers, of robbers, of
outlaws, of Turks, in which Pavlo for the first two or three days was
politely allowed to be Kanaris, Athanasios Diakos, Odysseus Androutsos,
Marcos Botzaris, or his own great-grandfather, according to the moment,
but afterwards was obliged to take his turn at being a Turk, or at
commanding a big Turkish frigate represented by three long planks
behind the servants’ quarters. Two of the Four were his crew, and the
two others,–for of course they always had to be inferior in numbers or
where would the bravery be?–were Miaoulis and his devoted followers,
heroically bent on blowing up the frigate, or perishing in the attempt.
Then there were stories read or told on the terrace in the hour before
dinner, by the mother of the Four, when Nikias would climb up on the
arm of her chair, or even sometimes, if it were getting pretty dark,
on her knees, and listen with both eyes and ears, and Iason would
draw funny men or officers while he listened. All the old tales of
Theseus and Heracles, and King Midas, and the winged Pegasus were
retold, and the fairy tales of the King’s daughter with her three
wonderful dresses, the Sea with its Fish, the Earth with its Flowers,
and the Heavens with their Stars; and the tale of the Pacha with his
three pairs of slippers. There were French tales too, of the heroes
who rode through the valley of Roncesvalles, of Roland, and Ganelon;
and even, for the mother of the Four had lived abroad in England in the
remote past, English tales, of knights and ladies with curious names,
of whom Pavlo had never heard; of Enid and Geraint, of Lancelot,
of Pelleas, and Gareth and the Lady Lyonors.
And while the tales were told the sky turned into a lovely golden pink
behind the pines, and the stars came out one by one. Iason knew many
of their names and would show Pavlo the exact spot on the terrace
from which one could see the whole of the Great Bear, and how the
Scorpion dipped its tail behind the hill over Galata.
Of course the shadow of lessons did occasionally fall across the
sunshine. The village schoolmaster came over in a boat twice a week
for the boys, and there was a family of friends living in the “Garden”
on the mainland who had a French holiday governess, and every other
day the Four went across in the small boat with Kyria Penelope, and
Greek and French lessons were exchanged. But even so, there were ways
and means. Pavlo overheard Chryseis early one morning reproaching
“You have only written half your verb, and you do not know your poetry
at all! Mademoiselle will be furious again. You will have pages and
pages to write afterwards.”
“No!” declared Andromache stoutly, “I shall not!”
“But you will. There is no time to learn anything now. It is time
“I shall learn nothing, and I shall have nothing to write.”
“How will you manage?”
“Wait, and you will see,” answered Andromache darkly, shaking her
short wavy hair.
They all ran down the long flight of steps to the sea, and Yanni the
boatman was already settling the boat cushions. The big clock of the
Naval School was just on the last stroke of eight and the boys had
entreated Kyria Penelope to wait till the flag went up on the tower, as
Iason wanted to run their boat flag up on its pole at the same moment.
His hand was holding the rope loosely, and all eyes were fixed on
the square tower of the Naval School, waiting for the signal.
Bam! Boum! went the morning gun, and the lovely old blue and white
flag rose majestically to the top of the flagstaff.
At the same moment, with naval precision, Iason pulled the rope, and
the little boat flag was waving at the top of its pole; and almost at
the same moment, Splash! went Andromache into the sea, books and all.
A shrill shriek followed, as Kyria Penelope went down on her knees
on the landing stage, and flapped helpless arms over the water.
But the boatman was there and the boys too, and the next moment a
drenched, dripping, sea-weedy Andromache was standing in the midst
of them, little pools of water rapidly forming all round her. Yanni
was reaching out for two floating books, and a soaked copy-book was
slowly sinking beyond recovery.
“If I could possibly imagine,” said the poor innocent governess, who
had no small brothers and sisters at home, “that you would jump into
the sea on purpose, I would keep all the others waiting, till you
changed your wet clothes; but as such a thing is quite impossible,
you may stay at home to-day and not delay us.”
And such a thing being quite impossible, naughty Andromache stayed
comfortably at home, finished all the chocolates out of her box;
successfully fished out a big bunch of grapes through a hole in the
wire netting of the store room window, carefully enlarged by the
boys; visited the kitchen and learned all about the cook’s little
nieces and nephews and what their names were and how old they were;
stood outside the gate watching the “trata” and did a whole host
of other equally pleasant and forbidden things.
That same afternoon they went to the Monastery with ten “lepta” each,
with which to buy and light a taper in the Chapel.
“Look at Kyria Penelope!” cried Chryseis. “She has stopped to tie her
shoe lace again; it is always coming untied. Let us run on to the cave;
we shall have time to get in before she reaches us!”
The magic word “cave” sufficed, and they were all off racing down
the hill and up again towards the second bridge.
It was not a real cave, Chryseis jerkily explained to Pavlo as they
ran; only a dark hole in the earth under the bridge, and it was
not mysterious at all and did not seem to lead anywhere, but the
governess would never let them look properly into it. Over on the
mainland there were some splendid real caves, that real robbers and
deserters had hidden in; and in the old days people who were escaping
from the Turks; but the Four had only been there once and then they
were with grown-ups.
“Lambro the shepherd told me,” panted Iason, “that there is one here
on the island over on the other side of the hills, near the beach
of Vayonia. A great big dark cave with a small opening, and you go
in and in and never find the end. He says there were old swords and
guns hidden there and … all sorts of things. I mean to look for it
“Will they let us?” asked Nikias, stooping to pull up a sock which
threatened to cover his shoe entirely.
“Let us!” said Iason contemptuously; “they never let us! But we
The cave under the bridge was nothing but a small hole full of cobwebs
and dry leaves. However, they all managed to wriggle in and wriggle
out again, dirty, but triumphant, before Kyria Penelope, hot and
protesting, came up to them.
Of course Pavlo’s uncle had finished all he had to do in Poros long
before this time, but it so happened that another summons had called
him on to Nauplia, and it had been settled that while he was there,
Pavlo should stay on at the Red House and that his uncle should spend
one more day in Poros on his way back, and then that both should
return together to Athens. There had been cries of delight over this
arrangement, and Andromache had expressed a wish that the patient in
Nauplia might have a nice proper illness. He need not die, of course,
she added, but just be ill enough to want to keep the doctor from
Athens near him for a long time.
So it was strange that the very day after this, Pavlo should have
been lying on his face under the pines in the small wood, crying his
For alas and alack, it had daily been getting more and more difficult
to live up to all that was expected of his name, and this particular
morning it had been worse than impossible. He had been at the gate
with the girls and the three dogs watching the “trata.” For him,
it was a new sight, and the Four were never tired of looking at the
fishermen and the fisher boys with their bare brown limbs, wet and
glistening in the sun, pulling all together at the ropes, and emptying
all the squirming little silver fishes out of the long net.
And while they were standing about and watching, a big yellow sheep
dog had rushed down the hill, and though at first he had contented
himself harmlessly enough with sniffing at ropes and the nets, Deko
who, it is true, was always very impertinent to big dogs, had provoked
him. Chryseis snatched Deko up in her arms, and Andromache seizing
Philos screamed for help, for the sheep dog was ready to spring at
them. Then the two boys rushing down to the rescue from the top of
the hill, instead of finding Pavlo standing in front of the girls,
found him behind the trunk of a mimosa tree, staring horror-struck
at the big snarling yellow brute, whom they drove howling away with
two well-directed stones.
Then Iason had turned fiercely on Pavlo:–
“You may be a Zamana as much as you like; you are a coward all the
same!” and even Nikias had echoed jeeringly:–
And then Pavlo had fled blindly to the shelter of the dark little wood.
He longed, as he lay there sobbing, that it might be possible never
to see any of them again. For he had found out from the first that
for the Four the great rule was, “Never be afraid, and if you are,
mind you hide it!” Of course they knew that Nikias shirked being
dipped far down, or being held long under water. That was a family
misfortune, never mentioned before strangers, but on the other hand
even Nikias had only two days ago boldly attacked a long snake when
it glided out of a thick bush, round which Philos had been sniffing
for so long. He had struck at it with all his might on its flat head,
and while Anneza, the Andriote serving maid, had picked up her skirts
knee-high and fled down the hillside shrieking loud enough to be
heard over at Galata, he had followed, his little long face flushed
with triumph, his socks hanging over his shoes, and the corpse of
the victim dangling horribly at the end of a long stick.
“Were you not afraid, you little one?” his father had asked; and
Nikias answered that he had been just a little afraid when it raised
its head and hissed, but that Chryseis was so stupid that he knew she
would never sit comfortably under the big pine again with her book,
if she felt there were a snake, however harmless, wriggling about
in the bushes beside her, so that he had to kill it all the same;
did they not understand? And the mother of the Four had looked rather
proud, and the father had said:–
“Of course I understand.”
And Nikias was not yet eight years old, and he, Pavlo, was over eleven!
So he lay there and sobbed, till Chryseis found him out and sat beside
him, and expressed her energetic opinion that her brothers were “Pigs”
because, of course, as she said, Pavlo had always lived in Athens, and
how was he to know that those fierce-looking sheep dogs only require
a stone thrown at them to run away; she even succeeded in making him
laugh a little, by relating how Andromache had once, when she was
quite little, called an officer who had offended her in some way “A
green pig!” No one had understood why, but the insult had evidently
been intended to be terrible. Then Chryseis had wiped his eyes with
a handkerchief which happened to be not so much “a rag of all work”
as the handkerchiefs of the Four generally were, and brought him down
to the house, to show him the pictures in the Doré Dante which was
usually reserved for rainy days or for convalescence. The mother of
the Four had wondered a little at this very peaceful occupation in
the middle of the morning, but was too wise to make awkward enquiries.
There was a prolonged visit that same afternoon from the children
of the house in the “Garden,” which had made matters easier for all,
and by the evening everyone was too busy making plans for the morrow,
to think of past disagreeables.
It was to be the last day of Pavlo’s stay, and a picnic had been
proposed, a real picnic, with no accompanying governess. There was
some hesitation over this, but Andromache had urged that it was
really only fair to the poor creature herself to give her a whole
day’s freedom now and then. “I suppose,” she added thoughtfully,
“we may be rather tiring sometimes.”
At last, consent was obtained on two conditions, the first being that
they should be back early, the second, that they must promise to obey
Chryseis. This, they did not mind much, knowing of old that her rule
was mild. The picnic was to be somewhere on the hills behind the Red
House, wherever a nice shady spot should be found. Eatables were to
be packed in small hand baskets, so that each might carry his share;
and everyone was to wear his very oldest clothes.
The master of the House wanted to know why the enjoyment would not be
just the same if they simply carried their food to the big pine and ate
it there? But this question was treated with the contempt it deserved.
Happily, the next morning was wonderfully cool, for July, for though
they had all got up at impossible hours, by the time all the baskets
were packed and all the last recommendations given to Kyria Penelope
to look after poor Deko who had run a big thorn into his foot and had
to be left behind, it was nearly nine o’clock. In fact the clock of
the Naval School had just boomed out the three-quarters when Iason
turned the big key in the lock of the hill gate.
They passed out in single file; all except Philos, who had found it
simpler to climb up the wall and jump down on the other side.
Iason hid the padlock safely in a big lentisk bush just outside the
gate, and then, standing up, faced the others, pointing up the thickly
“Listen you! We are going straight up there, and down on the other
side towards Vayonia. I am going to find that cave of which Lambro
the shepherd told me.”
Andromache and Nikias gave a united whoop of joy and were rushing
forward in the direction of the pointing finger, when Chryseis cried:–
“Stop! Stop! It will be ever so much too far. We had better go to
the little chapel of Saint Stathi.”
“We have been there hundreds of times; and I tell you we may never
get such a splendid opportunity for the cave again.”
“But to Vayonia! So far …!” objected Chryseis.
“Now, listen!” persisted Iason. “What did father say last week,
when I said we wanted to go to Vayonia?”
“He said, ‘We shall see.'”
“Well, that does not mean ‘no,’ does it? Only when the grown-ups say,
‘We shall see,’ sometimes it does not happen for a long time, and we
want this to happen now, to-day, at once!” Then as Chryseis still
hung back, he added, “Of course we will say where we have been,
directly we get back. Come, then!”
And Chryseis came.
The first part of the climb was uneventful. Kerberos plodded on heavily
and sedately, Philos of course stopped to dig round the roots of
nearly all the thyme and lentisk bushes on their way. Andromache, who
considered him her special dog, would catch him by the neck and pull
him off by main force, but in an instant he was back again, digging
frantically, shaking his head, sneezing and beginning all over again.
After some time there was a rest under a clump of pines, and Nikias
suggested opening the baskets. But when the others all told him he
was “A greedy little pig!” he explained that he had only wanted to
see if Athanasia had not forgotten the peaches which he had seen on
the pantry shelf.
“And of course you would run back for them if she had!” said Iason
“Wait till we get to the top,” said Chryseis.
So they started off again.
“Where shall you look for the big cave?” asked Andromache, who was
beginning to find her basket heavy and the sun hot. “Did Lambro say
if it were high on the hills above Vayonia, or to the right near
“Did you ever hear of a cave near vineyards, stupid?” answered Iason,
whose basket was heavier still as it had the bottles of water in
it. “Lambro said near the sea; so of course it will be to the left
in the big rocks.”
“You do not know really,” persisted Andromache, “you only say ‘it
“I never said I knew; I said ‘let us go and find it!'” Suddenly he
pointed some way above them, “There is a shepherd! No, not there; on
that little footpath where the hill is bare. Let us ask if he knows!”
“Perhaps,” suggested Pavlo hopefully, “it may be Lambro himself.”
“No,” answered the Four in chorus, “Lambro is lame. See how this man
jumps from one rock to another! Bah! Whatever is he doing?”
The distant shepherd who seemed taller than any man they knew, was
waving his arms above his head, and the movements looked curious and
almost startling against the sky. When he caught sight of the children,
instead of continuing on his way quietly and heavily as most peasants
do, he seemed to stop short, to hesitate, and then suddenly using
his long shepherd’s crook as a vaulting pole he leapt over a piece
of rock in his way, and came running towards them.
“Good-day to you!” cried all the children as soon as he was within
hearing distance. He swung himself down to the little plateau on
which they were standing.
“May your day be good!” he answered, but as he said it, he laughed
The children looked at him curiously. At first sight he seemed one of
the ordinary shepherds of the hills with his short “foustanella,”
his coloured kerchief knotted over his head, and the long “glitsa”
in his hand; but certainly they had never seen such a strange-looking
shepherd before. He was extraordinarily tall and broad, a matted
unkempt reddish beard covered most of his face, and round the pale
blue eyes nearly all the white seemed to show. The “foustanella”
was incredibly dirty and ragged, the red kerchief greasy with age,
half fallen off his head. A brightly striped “tagari” was slung
over his shoulder.
“Perhaps you know,” asked Iason, “where there is a big cave over on
the other side of the slope, near Vayonia?”
“A cave?” the man twisted his fingers in the tangled beard as he spoke,
“Who told you of a cave?”
“Lambro, the shepherd, told me.”
“Many things does Lambro, the lame one know! Did he tell you perhaps
how one enters into this cave?” and the pale blue eyes peered eagerly
into the boy’s face.
“No; why? One enters by the entrance I suppose.”
The shepherd laughed.
“You say well! By the entrance of course, … by the entrance. Ask
also of Lambro who is so wise, how you may find the road to the cave!”
Andromache pushed forward.
“And is Lambro here that we may ask him?” she said impatiently. “What
foolish talk is this? If you know where the cave is, speak!”
The man turned his pale blue eyes on her.
“I must speak, must I? The little hens are crowing to-day, as well
as the little cocks!”
Iason turned to the others.
“Come!” he said, speaking in French, “the man knows nothing, and he
is trying to amuse himself with us.”
And they turned to continue their way up the hill. But the shepherd
touched the last one, who happened to be Chryseis, on the shoulder,
and unslinging his “tagari” offered it to her.
“Take one!” he said; “let me befriend you with one.”
He was still laughing, and he pushed his face close to hers as he
spoke. Chryseis, who was rather dainty, shrank back a little, but the
familiar words reassured her. The tagari evidently contained figs, or
perhaps almonds; and she knew what an insult the peasants consider it,
that one should refuse anything with which they offer to “befriend”
you. So she stretched out her hand over the half-closed tagari,
but drew back in alarm. It was full of earth and stones!
The man threw his head back and laughed loudly and discordantly.
Iason turned on him, like the little cock he had been called.
“Now then!” he cried, pushing the huge man violently, “now then! What
foolishness is this? Leave us alone and go your way! Do you hear?” And
when he raised his voice Pavlo thought it sounded just like the master
of the Red House.
The shepherd’s laugh died off in a silly cackle, and he stood where
Iason had pushed him, looking after the children as they climbed on
rather hurriedly; but to Pavlo’s intense relief, he made no attempt
to follow them.
“Who was it?” asked Andromache.
“I am not sure,” said Iason, “but I think it must be one of the
Pelekas. His brother Yoryi had our pasture land for his sheep last
year. I saw him when I went up to the ‘stania' with father. They
are all red-haired, and there are many brothers; but I do not know
“He was horrid!” said Chryseis, shifting her basket to her other arm;
“he must have been drinking too much ‘ouzo.'”
“Father says they never drink, these shepherds, except on big holidays
when they come down to the villages,” said Iason, “but I suppose this
one must have.”
It was worth the long hot climb, when they reached the top of the
hill, to feel the cool air blowing in their faces. As they scrambled
over the very last ridge, Nikias, who was first, pulled at a falling
sock which threatened to cover his shoe, then stood up and pointing
far below, shouted triumphantly:–
“There is the other sea!”
And there, if not the “other sea” as the children called it, was the
other side of the island, where there were no houses, no gardens, no
lemon orchards, no olive trees, no signs of familiar every-day life,
nothing but pines, of all shapes and sizes, from the dark green rugged
old pines, to the pale green baby ones; and lentisk, and arbutus,
and thyme bushes on the slopes, and far below them the wide-sweeping
beautiful beach of Vayonia with the open sea beyond. The soft plash
of the little waves against the rocks came up to them where they stood.
Pavlo was told that on a bright clear winter day you could distinguish
all Athens and the Acropolis perfectly well, “over there,” and four
outstretched fingers pointed to the exact direction behind Ægina.
Just then a big white caique, all sails open to the wind, was
gliding majestically across the opening of the bay, its little
landing boat dancing and skipping on the waves behind it. And closer
to the shore was a tiny puffing steam launch belonging to the Naval
School. Andromache, whose eyes were the best, declared that she could
recognize the officers on board.
“I am sure that one there is the Admiral,” she said, “I can see his
hair white in the sun.”
“Now then!” jeered the others, “can you not count the stripes also
on the sleeve of his uniform?”
But Chryseis had been unpacking the baskets.
“We will eat now,” she announced quietly, and there was not one to say
“no” to her.
Before they had left the house even the children themselves had
exclaimed at the quantity of cold “keftedes” which Athanasia
had prepared for them, but there were very few left when they had
eaten as much as they wanted. There were some “skaltsounia” too,
smothered in fine sugar; and of these there were none left at all;
but there never are, of course. There were plenty of grapes, and the
peaches about which Nikias had been anxious. Pavlo amused himself by
digging holes in the hard sun-baked earth, and planting the kernels
as far down as he could reach,–
“So that when you come up here another time, you will find peaches
growing ready for you.”
The boys laughed at him.
“We had better not come here for two or three months, and by then
your trees will of course be laden with fruit.”
Pavlo had lived much alone, and he was accustomed to people who meant
exactly what they said.
“No,” he said slowly, “I did not mean in two or three months, but
“Even if they were ever to become trees, without watering or digging
or anything,” said Andromache, struggling with Philos, who had left
his dinner to attack the roots of a monster lentisk bush, “do you
think the shepherds would leave any peaches on them?”
But the word “shepherd” reminded Iason of their object.
“I am going down there,” he said, pointing to the left, where the
bushes were rarer and the gray crags began. “It looks cave-y. Leave
the baskets there under that bush. No one will touch them.”
The children began to scramble down towards the rocks, and the scent
of the thyme as they crushed it mingled little by little with the
fresh smell of the sea, as they got nearer and nearer the shore.
The search for the cave was very thorough. Every big bush growing
near a rock was pushed aside, every shadow was peered into.
“You never know,” as Iason said, “how small the entrance may be!”
But after all it was by pure accident that they found it.
They were pretty close to the shore, close enough for all to
distinguish that the officers from the steam launch had got into a
little boat and were being rowed to land. Chryseis was standing on the
top of a big stone, when she slipped on the pine needles which covered
it, and suddenly disappeared from view as entirely and completely as
though a trap door had opened and swallowed her up.
“Chryseis!” screamed Andromache, “Chryseis, where are you?” And the
boys and Pavlo rushed to the spot.
The stone had been on the edge of a sheep track, and as they looked
fearfully over, they saw Chryseis lying on her elbow on a little
ledge a few feet below.
“I am not hurt,” she called up at once, “not at all; but do not any of
you climb down this way; there are a lot of prickly pears and I have
got some of the thorns in my hand. Come round by those arbutus there!”
When they got round to her she was picking the tiny thorns out of her
hand, and wetting it in a little stream which seemed to come out of
the gray rock.
“Look!” she said, “there is water here!” She put her finger to her
mouth, “and it is fresh water, too. How funny! It is coming round
this side of the rock. See!”
“Why!” said Iason, leaning both hands on the top of the rock, and
bending his whole body round the corner, “why it is….”
And it was. When they all clambered on the big rock and slipped down
to the other side, they found Iason lifting up with all his strength
a tangled mass of wild ivy and other creepers which fell over it like
a thick curtain. And there was a hole; big enough for anyone to pass
through if he stooped a little.
It looked dark inside, and there was a step going down.
“No one need come,” said Iason, “if he feels afraid!”
And of course everyone said, “I am not afraid!” Pavlo first of
all. And he really and truly was not. He was far too excited to think
of being afraid.
The children went down two steps, bending their heads low, and then
They were in a high narrow cave; so long that it was impossible to
tell the depth. A cave like those of which they had often read, and
often dreamt of discovering, but in which they had very certainly
never before found themselves.
“It is quite a real cave!” said Nikias in an awestruck whisper. And
the others looked round in silence. It seemed a moment too great for
ordinary words. Their adventurous hearts were beating quickly.
Then Iason triumphantly produced a bit of candle and a box of matches
from his pocket, and when he lighted it the tiny flame cast rounds of
light and mysterious shadows over rough gray walls. This was for the
first moment after coming in from the blinding sunlight, but as soon as
their eyes got accustomed to the green darkness, Iason threw the candle
away and the flame sputtered as it fell into the little stream of water
which seemed to trickle down one end of the cave near the wall. The
whole place smelt rather nasty and musty, but as Chryseis said,–
“What do smells matter when we have found a real cave?”
And a real cave it was! There were curious niches in the walls; the
stone was fretted away into arches and hollows; in some parts natural
columns had formed themselves, and in others dimly seen stalactites
hung in the darkness above their heads.
Kerberos whined rather uncomfortably and kept very close to Chryseis,
but Philos sniffed round excitedly, bent on investigating every nook
and corner, till Andromache lifted him up struggling and barking and
insisted on carrying him, for fear he might fall into some “unseen
chasm.” Iason told her that Philos could take care of himself “a
thousand times” better than she could; but Andromache was never easy
They went along very cautiously in Indian file. Iason came first,
then the two girls, then Nikias, and Pavlo last of all.
After they had walked a little way in, they found a heap of charred
sticks and a broken necked pitcher.
“Perhaps,” suggested Chryseis, “they may have remained here ever since
the times when the women and children were hiding from the Turks. They
may have had to cook and sleep in here, you know, while the men were
outside fighting. And perhaps,” she added, stooping down to touch
the broken pitcher, “we may be the very first people to touch them
“Well,” put in Andromache, the practical, “I should not care to have
to eat or sleep in here. It smells just awful!”
“It is getting very dark too, and I cannot see where to step any more,”
suggested little Nikias; then he added hurriedly, “Perhaps it will
get lighter further in!”
“No, you little stupid, it will be darker further in,” said Iason,
“because it winds away from the entrance!”
Chryseis stopped short.
“Let us turn back! perhaps it turns and turns like the Labyrinth and
we may never be able to get out again.”
“And then,” added Nikias cheerfully, “people will come after many
years and find only our bones!”
“Stop that kind of talk, you horrid little pig!” cried Andromache.
“If only I had not thrown the candle away! Oh, well, never mind! I
suppose we had better turn back.”
And they retraced their steps in the same order. Pavlo who came
last lagged behind for a moment. About half way, on the left side,
was something he had not noticed when they had been going in; a
bright spot, a speck of light, something white and shining in the
dim twilight. But as he wondered what it could be, he saw that he
was alone and hurried on to join the others; and as soon as he had
taken two steps forward, the speck of light disappeared suddenly,
as though someone had blown it out.
He caught up with the others at the entrance.
“Listen!” he said, catching hold of Nikias, who was just stepping
out into the daylight, “Down there I saw….”
But they never heard what he saw, for at that moment he heard a series
of loud thuds, a scream from Chryseis who had been the first to get out
of the entrance, and a muttered exclamation from Iason as he sprang
forward and pushed both his sisters so violently backward into the
cave, that they fell over the two smaller boys, dragging them down.
At the same moment Pavlo, lifting himself up, saw two large stones
fall from above, right in front of the opening of the cave.
“What is it?”
“What was that?”
“What fell?” He and Nikias and Andromache all cried together.
“Stones! A great many,” Chryseis answered, lifting a pale face to
theirs as they pulled her up. “They nearly fell on our heads, but
Iason pushed us back. Iason! What is it? Iason!”
For Iason, flattened against the opening, was cautiously trying to
find out what had happened.
“I do not know,” he said, without turning round. “I cannot
think. Something must have loosened the stones from the top of the
rock above, and they fell. But what? The first rains have not begun
yet. Well,” he continued after a moment’s pause, “let us get out! That
But that was not all! At the step forward which he took, a shower of
earth and stones came rattling down on the ledge outside.
He sprang back only just in time.
“But what is it then? What can it be?”
They soon found out. No sooner had the last stone rebounded and rolled
over the ledge to the rocks below them, than a loud discordant laugh
sounded from above the opening of the cave.
“Come out of your hole, my little cockerels! Come out! You would not
have my stones before. Get them on your heads now! Come out! Come out!”
The children looked at each other in horror.
“The shepherd! The red-bearded man!”
There was a fresh shower of stones and the laugh again, which sounded
closer. Chryseis caught hold of her brother’s arm.
“Iason! He will get in! He will get in! Oh, what shall we do?”
“We will not let him!” cried little Nikias, running forward, “let us
push this big stone right in front of the opening! Here! This one;
if you push hard we can roll it down. Iason! Pavlo! Girls! Help me!”
“He is right, the little one,” said Iason, and they all pulled,
and pushed and tugged as they could never have done if they had not
been terribly frightened, and little by little the big rounded piece
of rock was rolled in front of the entrance to the cave, and the
green darkness grew darker and darker. The opening was not entirely
blocked. Any of the children could have squeezed in or out, but they
felt almost certain no grown man could.
“Besides, if he only puts his hand in, we will chop it off so! Like
the Persians and the man with the ship,” declared Andromache, becoming
“Where is your hatchet?” asked Iason. “No, I am sure he cannot get
in. Now we must sit and think what to do. It does no good to cry
“I am not crying!” sobbed Nikias. “It comes by itself,” and he sniffed
very hard for a few minutes.
“I expect this man is so drunk he does not know what he is doing,”
continued Iason. “At the very worst we shall have to stay in here
till he gets tired of waiting and goes away. We are safe in the cave.”
“I tell you what,” said Nikias rubbing his knuckles very hard into
his eyes, “it must be ‘the mad shepherd.'”
All the others stared at him.
“The mad shepherd? What do you mean?”
“I heard Kyra Calliope the other day telling Yanni. She said there was
a mad shepherd on the hills, and that he had killed a lot of sheep of
the other shepherds, and she said the mayor and the doctor wanted to
tie him up and send him to Athens in the steamer, but they could not
catch him, because he was so cunning and hid in the hills for days.”
“You little fool!” cried his brother, seizing him by the
shoulder. “You–You–Idiot–You–Why did you not tell us when we
first met him down there, so that we might have turned back. Do you
think it is a joke–a mad man?”
“Did I know?” whimpered Nikias. “Did I know when we met him? He looked
like all shepherds then.”
“If you had only …” began Iason, but he was interrupted by a shriek
of horror from Chryseis. She was pointed to the small opening left
above the rock that blocked the entrance.
There, clearly outlined against the sky, was a grinning, red-bearded
face. Part of a hairy hand could be seen pushing against the stone.
Iason lost no time. Stooping he seized hold of a big round pebble
and sent it crashing right on the fingers that were working round
There was a howl of pain and the face disappeared, then after a
moment came a sound of retreating footsteps and of broken bushes,
and stones rolling down the rock overhead.
The children huddled together, listened, pale and terrified, till
all was silence again. Then Iason pushed them aside and advanced to
“Listen!” he said, “I have just thought of it. Perhaps the officers
we saw are still on the shore. Now that the man is not there I shall
get outside and call to them.”
“No! No, Iason! Stop! Iason!…”
But before any of them could stop him, Iason was squeezing himself
round the side of the rock. He was out all but one leg, when a stone
bigger than any of those that had been thrown before, bounded against
the rock, and struck him on the side of the head. He fell forward
with a smothered “Ah!” and the others with a scream of fear rushed
to the blocked entrance.
Iason was lying half in and half out, and the short fair hair was
dabbled with blood.
Nikias and Pavlo were for trying to push out the rock, but Andromache
“No! No!” she cried, “we can drag him in without that.” And by combined
pulling and pushing they succeeded in getting Iason safely inside. He
opened his eyes and said, “It is nothing,” but he closed them again.
Chryseis lifted his head to her knees and looked round desperately.
“We must wash the place in the water from the stream,” she said,
“but I have no handkerchief.”
Andromache, the practical, lifted up her frock and tore a big strip
from the white petticoat underneath.
“Here, this is better, and there is plenty more,” and she dipped the
rag in the running water and washed off the blood that was trickling
down over Iason’s ear and neck, while Chryseis raised his head higher.
Nikias was at the entrance trying to push his thin little body round
“I will get out now,” he said, “and shout for the officers.”
“Nikias!” cried Chryseis, her voice shrill with terror,
“come back at once! You must not get out! I tell you, you must
not! Pavlo! Pavlo! Stop him!”
But she looked around in vain; Pavlo was not there. He seemed to have
“The coward!” exclaimed Andromache, in furious indignation. “The
coward! He has managed to slip out somehow, and left us here all
But she was quite wrong.
The moment poor Iason had been pulled back into the cave, Pavlo
suddenly remembered the speck of light in the wall that he had
noticed as they were coming out, and without saying a word to anyone,
he ran back into the depths of the cave to see if he could find the
spot. Almost at once he came upon it, like a little white star in
the dark wall of the cave.
Now Pavlo’s mind was of the kind that grown-up people call “logical,”
which means that he knew that something could not exist without a
reason for it; therefore he argued that if there was a light, there
must be an opening; and even if the opening were only large enough
for a head or even a hand to be passed through, it might be useful.
So he began feeling all over the rough damp wall with both hands.
He felt and he felt for some time in vain, then suddenly when he had
nearly given up, he came upon a hole.
Kneeling, he felt that a little barrier of stone divided the hole
from the floor of the cave, and that it was more than wide enough to
admit him. He scarcely hesitated a second before he climbed over the
barrier and found himself in a narrow tunnel at the end of which the
speck of light was shining.
Pavlo advanced a few steps very slowly. It was a dark, damp, up-hill
passage, and so narrow that he could feel the walls on either side
without stretching his arms.
Suddenly he gave a violent shudder.
Something alive, something that felt heavy and cold, a rat perhaps,
or a toad or a lizard, ran over his foot. Still he kept on. If the
light, which was growing larger, should prove to be a side opening
to the cave, he would run back for the others, and they would all
get out that way, managing somehow to carry Iason between them if he
could not walk, while the man went on throwing stones and waiting for
them at the big entrance. The idea of the man waiting there perhaps
all day, appealed to Pavlo, and he laughed a little to himself as he
got nearer to the light.
He found, as he had expected, that it came from a small hole in the
rock which led out to the hillside, and was almost quite hidden by
The opening was not large, but they could easily crawl out. In fact
it would have been safer had it been a smaller hole.
Pavlo could see the purple flowers of an osier bush waving in the open
air before he quite reached the opening. He was just on the point of
crawling out to make quite sure of his discovery before returning by
the same way, when his eye caught sight of some sort of a white rag,
fluttering above the osier bush. He drew back and, lying flat on the
ground of the passage so as to see better, peered cautiously out.
What he saw made him nearly scream out aloud with terror, in fact it
was really the horrible nightmare-ish sort of fear which came over him,
that prevented a sound escaping from his lips.
The fluttering white rag was a fold of the red-bearded man’s
His back was turned towards the narrow opening, and he looked gigantic
as he stood there in the light, a big stone poised in his hands
ready to fling over the rocks down on the ledge before the entrance
of the cave.
Pavlo lay in the dark passage, shaking all over and not daring to
move hand or foot lest he should be heard. What should he do? Oh,
what should he do? Suppose he were simply to wriggle back the way he
had come and tell the others what he had seen; what was the good? They
could never crawl all five out of this side tunnel while the shepherd
was standing so close to it. Poor Iason’s mishap had proved that it was
not possible to get through the blocked entrance without being struck
by the falling stones. What then? Must they stay in the cave till the
man was wearied out? All night perhaps? But what more probable than
that when the shepherd found that his stones were falling harmlessly,
he should discover this opening so close to his feet, and creep slowly
through it till he got to them? Pavlo shivered coldly all over.
Then a horrible thought came to him.
It might be possible for one alone to creep out very softly the first
moment that the shepherd moved a little off. It would not be difficult
to creep silently on all fours, till one was at a safe distance!
The next moment the thought turned him really sick. What! Leave them
alone? Leave them with Iason wounded and useless? Leave them and
let this horrible man creep on them unawares? On Chryseis who had
been so good to him? On all the brave bright little comrades? Oh,
no! No! No! No! The good old Zamana blood, weakened though it might
be, turned in revolt at the cowardly thought.
Just then the man outside in the light stooped to pick up another
stone, and as he did so, Pavlo saw the gleam of a long curved knife
in his belt. The Turks, thought the poor boy, the terrible Turks
of the times of the Revolution must have looked just like that. Oh,
if it only were in those days! If the dreadful man were a real Turk
and Pavlo’s great-grandfather or one of his brave companions were
in hiding as he was now! How they would spring out on him and seize
him. But no! If they were unarmed they would not “spring” out. They
were wise as well as brave, those old Greeks.
What would they do?
Palvo’s mind worked quickly.
They would creep slowly, slowly on all fours out of the hole, and
while the Turk’s back was turned they would seize hold of his ankles
and pull back, … pull hard.
The attack would be unexpected, and the “Turk” would fall forward on
his face. He would have to fall so; he could not fall in any other
way. And once he was on his face, it would be easy, before he could
see who had attacked him, to wrench back his arms and tie them. It
would be the best way! The only way!
Suppose he tried it!
No! No! Oh, no! It was brave men who feared nothing who did such
things, not little terrified boys.
Then a very curious thing happened.
Pavlo did not feel as though he were making up his mind to anything,
but quite suddenly he unwound a thin knitted belt which he wore round
his waist, and held it between his teeth, then he crawled noiselessly
out of the hole and looked around him with a look in his eyes which
no one had ever seen in them before.
Had he been in a street in Athens, the man who stood there would have
been simply a villainous looking peasant, and he, Pavlo, a small boy
half dead with fright. But now, on this calm Poros hillside, the man
became a Turk, a Turk of 1821 armed to the teeth with yatagan and
scimitar, and he, the little terrified boy, was a brave patriot of
the times of the Revolution, ready to do or die.
“Let us pretend,” had its uses; and Pavlo had not lived a week in
vain with the Four of the Red House.
He crept closer, closer still. His body was not brave at all; in
fact it was shaking and trembling in every limb, and the cold sweat
trickled down his face; but at that moment his heart was very brave,
and because the heart is greater than the body, there was a sudden
lightning spring forward, and two desperate little hands clutched
the shepherd’s bare ankles and pulled backwards, pulled strongly,
There was a helpless grasp at the empty air, a howl of dismay, and
a loud thud as the tall man’s body fell flat, face down, on the ground.
Pavlo with an excited, triumphant little shout rushed forward, and
caught hold of one outstretched arm which he pulled back with a jerk,
but already the shepherd was groaning, swearing, and moving, and how
could Pavlo hold the hand he had already seized, and manage to reach
the other one also?
“Children!” he screamed aloud, not knowing whether they could hear
him or not, below in the cave. “Children! Come quick! I have got him!”
And help came, though not from the children.
There were running footsteps behind him and many cries.
“Hold well! Hold fast! We are here!”
And in a moment Pavlo was surrounded by linen-clad, white-capped
officers, and someone’s arms had lifted him off the prostrate shepherd,
and stronger, though not braver hands than his had securely tied the
arms of the struggling man behind his back.