Page images

hidden by a clump of old trees. Here we watered our mules with bent heads, as the straggling branches threatened to carry off our hats at least.

The rest of our party had gone by boat to Kalavarda, and occasionally we had a glimpse of the caïque beating against the wind.

In the early part of the day we passed the lepers' huts. Those unfortunate people have a few wretched cottages, and a garden by the wayside, and are kept apart from the rest of the world. On passing, one of our party placed a few pieces of money on a little Greek altar at the end of the path leading to the cottages. As we moved away, a leper stole timidly to the spot for the little offering. Standing in the garden, and dressed in rusty black, another of those miserables, a woman, stood gazing at us, as we rode slowly on. God help them ! there is no Saviour on earth now to heal them with a word !

In misgoverned Rhodes, little is done to help the poor and wretched. Unhappy island, where of old, stately forests, waving cornfields, and fruitful orchards filled the land; where Phænician ships floated in the ports, where Greek temples crowned the hills, and where the great men of Rome delighted to retire for study and repose. With the knights of St. John died away the lingering glory of Rhodes. The inhabitants, faulty though they be-and who would lay the whole burthen of blame on them, with their illiterate priesthood, their grasping rulers have no inducement to better their lot by cultivating their fields, by engaging in commerce, by the introduction of anything that would improve agriculture, or encourage manufacture. A spirit of enterprise, a love of industry, immediately calls forth for fresh taxes, for fresh exactions and injustice.

Thus does the Moslem trample on the people, and ruin the land he conquers, and thus does he lay the foundation of his own ruin, ere many generations pass.

As we drew near Kalavarda, the church bells welcomed us with a joyous peal, and bright-eyed women, and smiling children, gathered round, and accompanied us over the braes, and across a broad torrentbed, that must make a noble river when the rain falls, till we alighted at “ Les Baraques.” You must come to Kalavarda ere you can realise its peaceful beauty, its freedom from care and world-engrossing vanities. “ Ici on ecoute le silence."

Nestling beneath a picturesque hill, where sweet-scented herb and luxuriant shrub vie with each other in decking its rugged side, are two small wooden houses, a draw-well, a tent, a hammock suspended beneath the branches of an old fig-tree, and an iron stove in the open air.

Overshadowing this primitive home, are noble platane and figtrees ; a gigantic vine, after twisting round the platane and clambering up the hill

, has found a resting-place round the trunk, and among the branches of a stately pine-tree that overlooks the principal“ baraque.”


You know this is the country residence of our good friends who are making excavations in that neighbourhood. The rest of our party had not arrived ; it was getting dark and the wind was unfavourable. One of the workmen told us the boat was approaching. After refreshing ourselves with strong coffee, we sallied forth to meet her, across arid fields, where prickly plants tore our boots, and scourged us unmercifully, making us do penance whether we would or no. There is neither pier nor landing-place at this point. As we scrambled down to the shore, a striking scene met our sight. Huge crackling signal-fires, throwing an unearthly light around; myriads of sparks and clouds of dust making us retreat to the windward side ; groups of villagers, a Greek priest among the rest, with high cap and long cloak, gathered round the fire. The church bell again sent forth its voice across the hills; the waves broke crashingly against the beach ; dogs roved about and barked wildly; the excited people talked loudly and gesticulated. The boat was coming in !

But it was long of coming! We stood watching it making its way slowly towards the beach ; the unruly waves disputed its progress inch

by inch.

Our friends had left the “barque," and were now rowing towards us in the little boat. Pietro, the head workman, a stalwart man, with a fine Italian face, swam boldly into the sea, and catching a rope from one of the sailors, fastened it round his waist, and, in defiance of surf and wind, gallantly drew the little craft ashore. Imagine the shouts of welcome from the people, the glad meeting of our party!

The signal-fires roared and blazed; the waves, unheeded now, murmured hoarsely, and somehow the prickly plants had more mercy on us as we wended our steps homewards.

Ten pleasant days I spent at Kalavarda-a charming gipsy life-a life of freedom and of peace! In the early morning, ere the sun had risen high with “fervent heat,” the view from the hill-tops was splendid; the blue sea, with white-winged caïques, tiny fishing and sponge boats, dancing over its glittering waters; the bold grey mountains of Anatolia; the sterile isles of Symi, Halki, and other sister islets, dimly seen in the distance ; the lofty mountains of Taïyros, the Atabyros of the ancients, frowning afar off ; rugged brown hills; broad plains stretching far away; herds of cattle seeking for pasture; mules laden with firewood; here, a falcon chasing its prey; there, broad-winged pelicans on their way to the south. Strange birds winged past me; strange trees waved their branches in the morning air ; strange flowers nestled at my feet. And the glorious pine trees—those regal evergreens, whose aromatic perfume and soughing melody filled the air ! One could have listened by the hour to that unearthly music, sung of old by the poets, and altogether different from the sound made by the wind among other trees.

Sometimes of a morning we took our books and work, and, crossing over the heights till we came in view of the site of Camirus, seated ourselves under a spreading juniper tree. Here we had breakfast or luncheon, Schelling, the Flemish servant, sending everything up in the nicest order and well cooked, with a carte of the viands, spelt according to his notions of orthography. Virtue---so her name signitied in Greek --the wite of one of the workmen, in short white gown, and red scarf round her waist, brought us our luncheon, and did messages for us. She had her needlework, too-embroidering, in bright colours and neat pattern, the border of a home-woven strong white cotton petticoat. Often while we were at our mid-day meal, the workmen came and offered us olives and gherkins, and water from their skin bottles; these bottles they hung on trees in the shade. While we talked and worked, we watched the workpeople busy at the excavations, which I leave to abler pens than mine to describe.

One day, after sitting for some time in the sun, by the side of a tomb where the men were at work, my head ached so violently I was obliged to leave the spot and rest under a tree. Half-an-hour's sleep removed the pain, and warned me to avoid the noon-day sun again. One morning, when the men were excavating, I saw taken from the grave of a Phænician woman a small round bronze mirror, with a short handle. it had been placed beneath her head, as was the Phænician custom. There lay the skull and the rust-eaten mirror, more than two thousand years old. Beside them stood people of many a race and many a clime—from east and west, from the sunny south and far northern shores. Beckoning to a Greek workman to accompany me with a spade, I carried that skull and two others to a green bank under a shady tree, where the man dug a little grave, and there I buried them with their faces turned to the sea they loved so well. The foreheads were low, and the heads small.

Some of the excavators were Turks, others Greeks ; a negro, a Mahometan, ate apart from the rest. Of an evening, this tall African, in the gaudy colours so dear to his race, used to seat himself under a fig tree in the court, and eat his solitary meal.

Clear and sparkling, and almost hidden in the nook of a wooded ravine, between the sea and the Phænician and Greek burying ground, was a well of exquisite water. Good water is so scarce in many parts of the island, the discovery of a spring is hailed as a blessing. I call this spring the Tammerhinda Well, in memory of my friend Madame S—'s love for that sweet-scented flower of her native Egypt.

The juniper trees grow luxuriantly, making quite a leafy tent; their berries are quite different from those of the juniper tree at home, being large and brown, and tasting somewhat like a medlar. In the fields VOL. VI.


around were many of the tiny ant-lion traps, ready to entrap any unwary insect that might venture near them.

From the hill one morning we saw the Pacha of Egypt's yacht pass, en route for Alexandria. The village supplied us with good darkcoloured bread, the top strewed with sesame seeds, fresh eggs, and the best of honey. Our sugar having come to a low ebb, we sent to the village for more; no sugar was to be had there, but one poor woman begged our acceptance of five lumps, all her little store.

Of a Sunday morning the Kalavarda villagers, and others from a greater distance, came and sat in the court inspecting all our movements. Some of the women, bolder than the rest, came and peeped into the windows, and one, with bare head and necklace of gold coins round her throat, actually walked into the house, and would have poked into every corner, had she not been summarily sent away.

We visited the village church, whose bell began to ring as we drew near; the bell was presented to the people of Kalavarda by Mr. S-, and this is why it is always ready with its voice of gratitude, when any of his family or friends arrive. The church is good, its floor of grey and white mosaic stone work, so common in Rhodes and the other islands, which gives a clean gay look, some of the patterns are prettily and ingeniously done. Our hall and summer-house in town are paved in a similar way. The Rhodiote villagers vie with each other in trying to see which will have the best church, and as the inhabitants of each village are always ready to help either in the transport of materials or in building, the expense of constructing a church is not really so great as one would suppose.

We had seats in front of the café, and being a fête day, groups of villagers gathered round as usual to stare at us. The café is kept by a gigantic Albanian with a bad countenance. He served us with excellent coffee. A stately girl passed, drest in blue, bearing a jar of water on her head and slightly supported by one hand. Her expression was pensive, her every movement graceful; she might have stood for a Rebekah. Another fete day found us in one of the best houses in the village, where dancing was going on right merrily. Men and women crossing their hands, formed a circle, and beating time heavily with their feet, performed a monotonous dance to monotonous music. One man led the dance vigorously, snapping his fingers and keeping time. Most of the women were drest in strong white calico, the border of their petticoats, and sometimes their jackets, prettily embroidered in coloured silk; their heads were kerchiefed, gaudy colours predominating ; strong black or red shoes, and no stockings. Many of them wore ornaments and had flowers in their hair, a red scarf round the waist. Very shortwaisted and somewhat unshapely most of the women were, their teeth were superb, and white as snow, fine eyes, and good feet and ankles.

[ocr errors]

The men wore the usual Greek dress, and some of them had also a flower stuck behind the ear. In the midst of this circle was seated the musician, jingling zealously on a small wooden lyre. Beside him stood the improvisatore, singing loudly and making grimaces. A few of the men in the circle took up the song, which they sang verse about. Some of the verses were thus translated to me.

“Fourteen young girls are seated under a fine tree,

The most beautiful among them is chosen to crown the tree with flowers." “A young girl sits beside the king and spins cotton,

Other girls come and throw perfume round her." Then they sang of the pleasure the villagers have in the dance ; of the village maidens, with their beautiful eyes and pretty dresses. And they sang too of the strangers who were present, and wished them bright and happy days.

At Symi the dances are more varied, and the people dance better.

Many of the women present were taking care of their children ; everyone of the little creatures had something attached to his or her cap to keep away the evil eye, a shell, a cross, a sprig of garlic, or some equally efficacious protection.

The large room in which this village ball took place, served as bedroom, kitchen, reception-room, and all. In one corner was a raised platform, piles of cushions at one side to make shake-downs for the family. The furniture was very simple

a large wooden chest, a clumsy dresser, and a few chairs. In another corner were several sacks of cotton, and a weaving apparatus ; the village families grow and weave their own cotton. A partial partition at one side of the room contained the primitive quern, jars of wine, water, and provisions. Over the fireplace and round the walls were arranged quantities of earthenware jars and plates of common brown crockery. Among those homely dishes was an antique plate of Lindos china. This rare and quaint china was made at Lindos some three hundred years ago, and specimens are still to be had in that ancient city. It is a good time to buy Lindos china immediately after an earthquake, as the people will then sell it cheap in their anxiety to make something of it ere another earthquake comes and destroys the little store they have left.

Over a few embers in the fireplace was a little iron tripod, the hot hearth, oven and stove of those simple villagers.

The Rhodiote villagers will not take a mate from any village but their own, thus causing constant intermarriages. The inhabitants of Kalavarda are descended from two families who settled there ages ago. On our way homewards, some of the dancers presented us with fruit and flowers. An old blind man coming slowly along the road with a bunch of tobacco leaf in his hand begged some one to prepare it for him. A

« PreviousContinue »