Page images
PDF
EPUB

neighbourly old dame sat down by the wayside to arrange the precious weed, while the man standing in the middle of the road, and opening his mouth to its fullest extent, began a nasal chant-more startling than agreeable. All the people sing through their nose.

On the fete day of the Emperor of Russia, we went to one of the churches in Rhodes where all the singing and chaunting was nasal.

The archbishop and bishops were in gorgeous robes, the priests in picturesque costume, the mosaic Hoor strewed with evergreens.

It had altogether a fine effect, if one could have been deaf to the singing! In the Greek churches the men and women sit apart as they do in the Temple church. The Rhodiote priesthood is extremely illiterate ; some of the priests, I am told, can neither read nor write, and can only repeat the prayers. The people in consequence, poor souls, are ignorant and superstitious, their fast days forming the chief part of their religion. To eat meat on a fast day is a deadly sin, to pick an employer's pocket a trifling offence. There is no end of fast days; you want a washerwoman ; it is a fête day, she cannot come. You want a workman, the same excuse offers. Any man may be made a priest. The peasant who is tilling the ground to-day may minister to the people to-morrow.

I was amused by hearing a peasant express a strong wish to become a priest--one thing alone deterred him, his love of dancing, and a priest should not dance !

The priests are poorly paid, and labour in the fields like the rest of the peasants. Most of the peasants have a field of their own which they cultivate, and it descends from father to son. Oxen are employed for the cultivation of the land. After collecting the taxes in one of the villages, some time ago, the tax-gatherer proposed a new exaction to requite him for his trouble in coming so far to collect taxes, and finished his duty by carrying off some fowls belonging to a poor woman. Having a spirit of her own, she made such an outcry that the fowls were got back, at least the value of them was returned.

We saw a beautiful meteor one evening—it glided over the baraques, and disappeared behind the great pine tree.

How beautiful those days were ! by the sea-shore, where not a sound broke the silence, save the “eternal murmur, the everlasting psalm” of the sea. On the hill-side those moonlight nights, when the wind and the pine trees made sweet music together, and every fantastic bush seemed to take a human form. . We were alone one evening, and eerie, for the men had not come back from town, and stirring stories of the Zeibecks and their barbarous doings helped to make one remember that the house was not very secure, and that one dog was ill, the other too small and youthful to be of any service. There was a loaded gun, but in the hour of need, who could use it ?

If a Zeibeck had come and frightened us, my letter would have been more interesting ; but, honestly, nothing save a platane branch rustling against the roof, or a solitary rat scampering below the floor-the baraques are on castors—disturbed our rest that moonlight night.

The Zeïbecks are robbers and murderers, who infest the mountains of Anatolia. Like the ticket-of-leave men, they have their intervals of apparent respectability, and are sometimes employed as servants or cavasses. A Zeibeck proves a faithful servant to his master, though he may not think it a crime to rob anyone else, should a convenient occasion occur.

I was told of a Zeïbeck servant, whose employer trusted him with large sums of money, which had to be conveyed to different places. He never wronged his master of a farthing !

Those men will not injure anyone who has broken bread with them ; they profess the Mahometan religion, say their prayers at the appointed times, fast at the Ramazan, and commit robbery and murder when opportunity offers. They wear a peculiar dress : short trousers reaching to the knee; very short embroidered jacket and waistcoat ; elaborately worked greaves, and strong shoes ; an extremely high cap; the sash or waistband about half a yard wide. Thus equipped, two men passed our house in Rhodes one afternoon. They had been to the Konak for a passport, where they astonished the officials by not knowing one word of Turkish ; they could only speak French. The bewildered authorities were amazed to see Zeïbecks who could not speak their own mother tongue. They were taken to the French consul, where the enigma was solved. They were respectable European merchants, who, being obliged to travel through a wild part of Anatolia, had donned the Zeibeck dress as a protection.

Among my recollections of Kalavarda, I must not omit special mention of Schelling—the factotum of “les baraques,the most handy of servants.

One morning, having prepared breakfast in an incredibly short space of time, he exclaimed, in triumph—“Voila Schelling qui n'est jamais embarrassé !” Another evening, when he was going off to meet some of our party who were out in the boat, he placed his hand on his heart, and, assuming an attitude, exclaimed—"Ayez confiance en Schelling.' Another time, after clambering up to the loft to look for something, he turned round from his perch, and said gravely—“Quand il y a quelque chose à faire, il faut appeler Schelling."

Tears, smiles, odd phrases in French, English, German, and Flemish, were always at his command. On coming to Rhodes, he candidly told his mistress that he was betrothed, so that she might have no anxiety on account of her female domestics.

Years may go on, other countries be visited, and other scenes pass before me, but Kalavarda, with its memories, will never be forgotten.

[ocr errors]

The sunny mornings, when Madame Sand I sat at work within the tent at home, or under our leafy canopy over against Camirus ; the cheery evenings, when, gathered round the lamp, stores of information were kindly tendered to me by my hospitable and gifted friends. There I learned fully to appreciate the search for knowledge and truth; and there I listened to many a story of beautiful Egypt, with its holy associations, its noble river, and its far-famed Arab race.

TROUBLE AT THORNHILL.

CHAPTER XL.

“A NEAR SHAVE."

ROGER reached the Cosham station in time; the train was late, one piece of good luck to start with.

“Had good sport ?” asked a man in the carriage, spying the pink under Roger's overcoat.

“A glorious finish,” replied Roger, as he pulled his hat down on his forehead, lay back, and shut his eyes. The man winked at his companions, raising his elbow significantly, at which the other two laughed, and went on with their conversation in a tone which, do what he could, would pierce Roger's ears, and make itself audible.

They were by no means a refined-looking trio, either ; one had the unmistakable swagger and flavour of a ring man, the other two might have been merchant sailors, one they called captain doubtless was; and was also evidently outward bound, as he gave an elaborate description of his parting with a fair friend, and showed her carte, much to the admiration of the others. This opened a mutual confidence in such matters; the “horsy” man wore smart locket, inside which was a likeness, and beside which hung a massive-looking seal.

“Ah, that's a curiosity," he volunteered ; " belonged to a feller with a handle to his name.”

“A what ?" asked the captain, with a wink at Roger, whose eye he caught. “What's that ?"

“A title, a swell, you know-a Scotch nobleman ; I bought it cheap." “Pretty thing, but not much use, is it?"

Roger tried again to shut his eyes and ears, but it was no use. The "horsy” man pulled out a handful of watches, snugly wrapped up in their chamois leather nightcaps.

“Do a stroke of trade, you see, captain," he said, laughing ; "nothing like sticking to business. See, here's a chronometer, dirt cheap, I'll warrant it for a twelvemonth. Oh, I daresay you've got one. Well, here's a neat thing for a lady, pretty present to send back with your first letter ; let you have it for a sov., just for the sake of the pretty face that will look at it. Come !” and he held up a gaudy little watch.

The captain buttoned up his coat, as if afraid to trust himself; he could resist the chronometer, but his eyes sparkled at the sight of the little glittering trinket, and he thought the man was right, it would be a pretty present to send to his sweetheart.

“Come, let me send it for you, you can pay at six months, or when

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

you come back; d-- the money, I'd rather lose it, than that the lady shouldn't have the watch. Give me her address, and I'll post it, registered, all regular, to-night, writing—“To my angel, from J. B. Butler, Captain of the “Bengal Tiger.”

“Good Heaven ! I say, sir, are you captain of the ship advertised to sail from Liverpool to-night ?” and Roger, fairly roused now, leant forward as he spoke.

'Yes, sir, I am.”

“ To sail at six, wind and weather permitting," went on Roger, reading, from Harry's letter, which he had pulled from his pocket.

And it's four, or close on it, now,” put in Captain Butler ; “with half England between me and my ship, and wind and tide wait for no man. You are not going with us, are you?'

“No, but I am going down to see a friend who is, and I was afraid I would not catch him.”

The gentleman with the watches had looked hard at Roger for a minute, then whispering something into the sailor's ear, put away his trade mark, and became absorbed in contemplation of the landscape.

“ Then you aren't sorry to find I am not up to time,” laughed Captain Butler ; "I am not often behindhand, and it's lucky for you I am this time, for if the engine had not broken down last night between Penzance and Plymouth, I'd have been tripping anchor by this ; we won't sail till to-morrow night, now, so you'll be in plenty of time : you didn't stay to make a change in your trim, I see ; well you'll be able to

I do that in London, if you like, I have to call in at the owner's office, and will run down by the forenoon train, to-morrow."

“Can I get through to-night ?”

“Oh, yes ; if we are up to time, which is not often, and you've the luck to get a smart hansom. Passengers will be on board likely, unless it's a gent you are after, then you'd best ask the steward.”

“ How long did you say I'd to spare in London ?"

"Nothing, sir ; it'll be a run for the train, and you'll only do it if luck helps you."

Roger pulled out a handful of loose money, and began counting it, a puzzled expression coming over his face as he did so.

“What's the charge for a ticket, captain, can you tell me? I only heard that my friend was going, at the meet, or rather half through the run, and I've only thirty shillings in my pocket, and you say no time to spare in London."

“Mr. Wimborne, sir, if you'll allow me, I shall be very happy, very proud to let you have any money I've about me; not much that is, but enough for the journey, and I'll give you a cheque for any sum you want.”

It was the gentleman who had been exhibiting the watches who

« PreviousContinue »