Opis

This is a historical novel. The plot of the struggle of the Greek people against the Turks for independence. All actions revolve around the clan Maniot, Mavromihalov, who are central to the revolution. The action especially focuses on Nicholas Vidalis, a revolutionary leader, and his nephew, Mitsos, who is 18 years old at the beginning of the book, and becomes a fierce fighter.

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Contents

Part I

THE VINEYARD

CHAPTER I. THE HOUSE OF THE ROAD TO NAUPLIA

CHAPTER II. THE COMING OF NICHOLAS VIDALIS

CHAPTER III. THE STORY OF A BRIGAND

CHAPTER IV. THE MIDNIGHT ORDEAL

CHAPTER V. MITSOS PICKS CHERRIES FOR MARIA

CHAPTER VI. THE SONG FROM THE DARKNESS

CHAPTER VII. THE PORT DUES OF CORINTH

CHAPTER VIII. THE MENDING OF THE MONASTERY ROOF

CHAPTER IX. THE SINGER FROM THE DARKNESS

Part II

THE EVE OF THE GATHERING

CHAPTER I. MITSOS MEETS HIS COUSINS

CHAPTER II. MITSOS AND YANNI FIND A HORSE

CHAPTER III. MITSOS HAS THE HYSTERICS

CHAPTER IV. YANNI PAYS A VISIT TO THE TURK

CHAPTER V. THE VISION AT BASSAE

CHAPTER VI. THREE LITTLE MEN FALL OFF THEIR HORSES

CHAPTER VII. MITSOS DISARRANGES A HOUSE-ROOF

CHAPTER VIII. THE MESSAGE OF FIRE

Part III

CHAPTER I. TE DEUM LAUDAMUS

CHAPTER II. TWO SILVER CANDLESTICKS

CHAPTER III. THE ADVENTURE OF THE FIRE-SHIP

CHAPTER IV. THE TRAINING OF THE TROOPS

CHAPTER V. THE HORNETS' NEST AT VALTETZI

CHAPTER VI. THE ENTRY OF GERMANOS

CHAPTER VII. THE RULE OF THE SENATE

CHAPTER VIII. THE SONG FROM TRIPOLI

CHAPTER IX. PRIVATE NICHOLAS VIDALIS

CHAPTER X. THE FALL OF TRIPOLI

CHAPTER XI. FATHER AND DAUGHTER

CHAPTER XII. THE SEARCH FOR SULEIMA

CHAPTER XIII. NICHOLAS GOES HOME

CHAPTER XIV. THE HOUSE ON THE ROAD TO NAUPLIA

Part I

THE VINEYARD

CHAPTER I

THE HOUSE OF THE ROAD TO NAUPLIA

Nauplia, huddled together on the edge of its glittering bay, and grilled beneath the hot stress of the midsummer noon, stood silent as a city of the dead. Down the middle of the main street, leading up from the quay to the square, lay a scorching ribbon of sunshine, and the narrow strips of shadow, sharp cut and blue, spoke of the South.

Along one side of the square ran the barracks of the Turkish garrison of occupation, two-storied buildings of brown stone, solid but airless, and faced with a line of arcade. These contained the three companies of men who were stationed in the town itself, less fortunate in this oven of heat than the main part of the garrison who held the airier fortress of Palamede behind, overlooking the plain from a height of five hundred feet. Down the west side stood the quarters of the officers, and opposite, the prison, full as usual to overflowing of the native Greeks, cast there for default of payment to the Turkish usurers of an interest of forty or fifty per cent. on some small loan; for these new Turkish laws of 1820 with regard to debt had made the prisons more populous than ever. A row of shops and a couple of cafés along the north struck a more domestic note.

A narrow street led out of the square eastwards, and passing the length of the town, burrowed through the wall of Venetian fortification in the manner of a tunnel. On the right the outline of the gray fortress hill, precipitously pitched towards the town in a jagged edge like forked lightning, rose steep and craggy, weathered by the wind in places to a tawny red, and peppered over with sun-dried tufts of grass. Along the base of this the road ran, cobbled unevenly in the Turkish fashion, and after passing two or three villas which stood white and segregate among their gardens of flowering pomegranate and serge-clad cypress, struck out into the plain. Vineyards and rattling maize fields bordered it on one hand; on the other, beds of rushes and clumps of king-thistles, which peopled the little swamp between it and the bay. The spring had been very rainless, and these early days of June saw the country already yellow and sere. The clumps of succulent leaves round the base of the asphodels were dried and brown; only the virile stems with their seeding sprouts remained green and vigorous.

The blinding whiteness of the forenoon gave place before one of the day to a veiled but unabated heat, and sirocco began to blow up from the south. Furnace-mouthed, it raised mad little whirlwinds, which spun across the road and over the hot, reaped fields in petulant eddies, and powdered all they passed with fine white dust. Two or three hawks, in despair of spying their dinner through this palpable air, and being continually blown downwind in the attempt to poise, were following the example of the rest of the world, and seeking their craggy homes on the sides of Palamede till the tempest should be overpast. A few cicalas in a line of white poplars by the wayside alone maintained their alacrity, and clicked and whirred as if sirocco was of all airs the most invigorating. The hills of Argolis to the north were already getting dim and veiled, and losing themselves in an ague of heat.

By the roadside, a mile from the town, stood a small wine-shop, in front of which projected a rough wooden portico open to the air on three sides, and roofed with boughs of oleander, plucked leaf and flower together. A couple of rough stools and a rickety table stood in the shade in order to invite passers-by to rest, and so to drink, and the owner himself was lying on a bench under the house wall in wide-mouthed sleep. A surly-looking dog, shaggy and sturdy, guarded his slumbers in the intervals of its own, and snapped ineffectually at the flies.

Directly opposite the wine-shop stood a whitewashed house, built in a rather more pretentious style than the dwellings of most Greek peasants, and fronted by a garden, to which a row of white poplars gave a specious and private air. A veranda ran around two sides of it, floored with planks, and up the wooden pillars, by which it was supported, streamed long shoots of flowering roses. A low wooden settee, cushioned with two Greek saddle-bags, stood in the shade of the veranda, and on it were sitting two men, one of whom was dressed in the long black cassock of a priest–both silent.

Then for the first time a human note overscored the thundering of the hot wind, and a small gray cat scuffled round the corner of the veranda, pursued by a great long-limbed boy, laughing to himself. He was dressed in a white linen tunic and tight-fitting linen trousers; he had no shoes, no socks, and no hat. He almost fell over the settee before he saw the two men, and then paused, laughing and panting.

“She was after the fish,” he explained, “and I was after her. She shall taste a slapping.”

One of the two men looked up at the boy and smiled.

“You’ll get into mischief if you run about in the heat at noonday without your cap on,” he said. “Come and sit down. Where are your manners, Mitsos? Here is Father Andréa.”

Mitsos knelt down, and the priest put his hand on the boy’s rumpled black hair.

“God make you brave and good,” he said, “and forgive all your sins!”

“Now sit down, Mitsos,” said his father. “Who is going to taste a slapping?”

The boy’s face, which had grown grave as he received the priest’s blessing, dimpled into smiles again.

“Why, my cat, Psepséka,” he said. “The greedy woman was going down to the cellar where I put the fish, and I went after her and caught her by the tail. She spit at me like a little she-devil. Then she scratched me, and I let go. But soon I will catch her again, and she shall pay for it all twice over, Turkish fashion. See!”

He held out a big brown hand, down which Psepséka had scored three red lines.

“What a fierce woman!” said his father. “But you’re overbig to run about after little cats. You’re eighteen now, Mitsos, and your uncle comes here this evening. He’ll think you’re a boy still.”

The boy looked up from his examination of his hand.

“Uncle Nicholas?” he asked.

“Yes. Go and wash your hand, and then lay the table. Put some eggs to boil, and get out some bread and cheese, and pick some cherries.”

Mitsos got up.

“Will the father eat with us?”

“Surely; and put your shoes on before you come to dinner.”

And without waiting the boy was off into the house.

The priest looked up at Mitsos’ father as he disappeared.

“He is full young yet,” he said.

“So I think, and so perhaps Nicholas will think. Yet who knows what Nicholas thinks? But he is a good lad, and he can keep a secret. He is strong too; he walked from here to Corinth last week, and came back next day, and he grows like the aloe flower.”

The priest rose and looked fiercely out over the garden.

“May the God of Justice give the Turks what they have deserved!” he cried. “May He send them bitterness to eat and death to drink! May their children be fatherless and their wives widows! They had no mercy; may they find none! The curse of a priest of God be upon them!”

Mitsos’ father sat still watching him. Eleven years ago Father Andréa had been obliged to make a journey to Athens to settle about some plot of land belonging to his wife, who had lately died, and, if possible, to sell it–for under the Turkish taxes land was more often an expense than a revenue. He had taken with him his only daughter, a girl of five or six years of age, pretty even then, and with promise of wonderful beauty to come. On his way home, just outside Athens, he had been attacked by some half dozen Turks, and, after a desperate, hopeless resistance, had been left on the road more dead than alive, and his daughter had been carried off, to be trained, no doubt, to the doom of some Turkish harem. He must have lain there stunned for some hours, for when he awoke again to an aching consciousness of soul and body, the day was already reddening to its close, and the shadow of the hills of Daphne had stretched itself across the plain to where he lay. Wounded and bleeding as he was, and robbed of the money he had got for the land, he had dragged himself back to Athens, and stayed there for weeks, until his hope of ever finding his Theodora again had faded and died. For it was scant justice that was given to the Greeks by their masters, who treated them as a thoughtless man will scarce treat an animal that annoys him. Rape, cruelty, robbery was their method of rule, and for the unruly a noose.

Since that time one thought, and one only, possessed his brain, a thought which whispered to him all day and shouted to him in sleep–the lust for vengeance; not on one Turk alone, on those who had carried Theodora off, but on the whole of that race of devils. For eleven years he had thought and schemed and worked, at first only with nothing more than wild words and bloody thoughts, but of late in a soberer belief that his day would come; for organized schemes of throwing off the Turkish rule were on foot, and though they were still things only to be whispered, it was known that agents of the Club of Patriots were doing sure and silent work all over the country.

Father Andréa was a tall, finely made man, and, to judge from his appearance, the story that he would tell you, how he and his family were of pure Greek descent, had good warrant. He came from the southwest part of Argolis, a rough, mountainous land which the Turks had never entirely subdued. His father had died five years before, but when Andréa went home after the capture of his daughter, the old man had turned him out of the house and refused to see him again.

“A child is a gift which God has given the father,” said he; “it were better for him to lose himself than lose God’s gift; and now we, who are of the few who have not mixed with that devil-brood–we are fallen even as others. You have brought disgrace on me, and on our dead, and on our living, and I would sooner have seen you dead yourself than hear this from your lips!”

“They were six to one,” said Andréa, “and they left me for dead. Would to God they had killed me!”

“Would to God they had killed you,” said his father, “and her too.”

“The fault was not mine. Will you not forgive me?”

“Yes, when the fault is wiped out by the death of Theodora.”

“Of Theodora? What has she done?”

“She will grow up in shame, and mate with devils. Go!”

Five years passed before they met again. But one day Andréa’s father, left lonely in his house, moved by some vague desire which he hardly understood himself, saddled his mule and went to Nauplia, whither Andréa had gone. He was very old and very feeble in body, and perhaps he felt that death could not be far from him; and to Andréa’s cry of welcome and wonder–”I have come to you, my son,” said the old man, “for otherwise we are both alone, and–and I am very old.”

Day by day he used to sit looking up and down the road for Theodora. There was a bend in it some quarter of a mile farther up, and sometimes, when the spring days were warm to his bones, he would hobble up to the corner and sit waiting for her there, where he could command a longer stretch of country. But Theodora came not, and one evening, when he came back, he sank into a chair without strength and called Andréa to him.

“I am dying,” he said, “and this is no season to waste idle words. When Theodora comes back”–he always clung to the idea that she would come back–”tell her that I waited for her every day, for I should have loved to see her again. And if you find it hard, Andréa, to forgive her, forgive her for my sake, for she was very little and the fault was not hers; nor is it yours, and I was hard on you; yet if I had loved you not, I should have cared the less. But if, when the day comes, you spare your hand and do not take vengeance on the Turks to the uttermost, then may my ghost tear you limb from limb, and give you to the vultures and the jackals.”

The old man rose from his chair.

“Vengeance!” he cried; “death to man, woman, and child. Smite and spare not, for you are a priest of God and they are of the devil. Smite, smite, avenge!”

He sank back in his chair again, his head fell over on to his shoulder, and his arms rattled against the woodwork. And with vengeance on his lips, and the desire of vengeance in his heart, he died.

From that day a double portion of his spirit seemed to have descended on Father Andréa. One hope and one desire ruled his life–to help in wiping out from Greece the whole race of Turks. To him innocent or guilty mattered not; they were of one accursed brood. But though the longing burned like fire within him, he kept it in, choking it as it were with fresh fuel. He was willing to wait till all was ready. For a year or two large organizations had been at work in North Greece collecting funds, and, by means of secret agents, feeding and fanning the smouldering hate against their brutal masters in the minds of the people. Soon would the net be so drawn round them that escape was impossible. And then vengeance in the name of God.

Mitsos had encouraged a small charcoal fire to heat the water, and he went to fetch the eggs. Two minutes of puckered brow were devoted to the number which he was free to boil. His father usually ate two, the priest–and he cursed his own good memory–never ate more than one, and he himself invariably ate as many as he could possibly get. He looked at the basket of eggs thoughtfully. “It is a hungry day,” he said to himself, “and the hens are very strong. Perhaps father might eat three, and perhaps Father Andréa might eat two. Then I am allowed three, a tale of eight.”

Mitsos drew a sigh of satisfaction at this liberal conclusion, and his eyes began to smile; his mouth followed suit, and showed a row of very white teeth.

“It is such a pity that I am always hungry,” he said to himself; “but when Uncle Nicholas measures me he will see I have grown.”

And putting the eight eggs into the pot, he ran off to pick the cherries.

For the last year both Constantine, Mitsos’ father, and the boy had worked the little land he owned, like common laborers. Two years before a Turkish pasha, Abdul Achmet by name, in passing through the country had been struck by the Avilion climate of Nauplia, and had built a house on the shore of the bay. The land belonged to Constantine, and the Turk had promised him a fair price for it, feeling that a less scrupulous man would have taken it off-hand. At the same time he intimated that if he would not take a fair price for it, he would get no price at all. The money, of course, was still owing, and on Constantine’s old vineyard stood the house, now finished. Abdul Achmet, who was Governor of Argos, took up his quarters here permanently, with his harem; for it was within easy distance of Argos, and on warm evenings the women were often seen in the garden looking over the sea-wall which separated it from the bay, a wall some ten feet high, over which creepers sprawled and flamed. Abdul himself was a fat, middle-aged Turk, slow of movement and sparing of speech. In temper of mind he was a Gallio, and his neglect to pay Constantine the money he owed him was as much due to negligence as to the usual Turkish method of dealing with Greeks, which was not to pay at all. His harem, for the years had long since quenched the ardor of his body, were given a good deal of freedom, and were allowed to wander about the garden, which was walled off from the country road, as they pleased.

Constantine had applied several times for payment, but had already given up hopes of securing any equivalent for the land seized. He was a Greek of the upper peasant class–that is to say, of the first class of the country–who lived on their own land and employed labor. Like his race, he was thrifty and industrious; but now, between the loss of his vineyard and the iniquitous increase in the last year’s taxes, which promised to grow indefinitely, he found it difficult to do more than make a sparing livelihood. He and Mitsos worked all the spring with the laborers in the harvest-field, and in the autumn, when they had finished making the wine from a half-acre of vines still left them, as laborers in the neighboring vineyards.

Constantine felt the change in his position acutely. Instead of being a man with men under him, he was himself obliged to work for his bread, and, what was an added bitterness, it was by gross injustice, and through no fault of his own, that he was thus reduced. Every year the taxation became more and more heavy; only six months before he had been obliged to sell his horse, for a new tax was levied on horses, and all that remained were an acre or two of ground, a pony, his house, and his boat. But of late he seemed to have taken up a patient, uncomplaining attitude, which much puzzled the growling Greeks whom he met at the cafés. While others grumbled and cursed the Turks beneath their breath, Constantine would sit with a quiet smile on his lips, looking half amused, half indulgent. Only two nights before a neighbor had said to him, point blank:

“You have suffered more than any of us, except perhaps those who have daughters. Why do you sit there smiling? Are things so prosperous with you?”

The question was evidently prearranged, for the two or three men sitting round stopped talking and waited for him to answer.

Constantine knocked the ashes out of his chibouk before replying.

“Things are not prosperous with me,” he said; “but I am a man who can hold his tongue. This I may tell you, however: Nicholas Vidalis comes here in three days.”

“And then?”

“Nicholas will advise you to hold your tongues, too. He will certainly tell you that, and it may be he will tell you something besides. I will be going home. Good-night, friends.”

And now, when Father Andréa was cursing the Turks in the name of God, though Constantine crossed himself at that name, he watched him with the same smile. Then he said:

“Father Andréa, I ask your pardon, but Nicholas does not like too much talk. He says that talking never yet mended a matter. You know him–in these things he is not a man of many words, save where it serves some purpose.”

The priest turned round.

“You are right and wrong,” he said; “Nicholas is a man of few words; but I have made a vow that for every time the sun rises, and at every noonday and every sunset, I will curse the Turk in God’s name. That vow I will keep.”

Constantine shrugged his shoulders slightly.

“Well, here is Mitsos. Do not curse before the boy. Mitsos, is dinner ready?”

Mitsos wrinkled up his forehead till his eyebrows nearly disappeared under his curly hair.

“Yes, it is ready; but for me, I can find one shoe only.”

“Well, look for the other.”

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