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What power, what fiendishly intense power, that instrument had ! No concert-room of smaller dimensions than a valley surrounded by high mountains was worthy to contain such astoundingly penetrating notes; the big drum, which was belaboured with all the vigour of a strong man's arm, composed such an accompaniment to it as an infant's wail would make with the roar of a bull. I survived two airs and felt in a misty, vague way, that here at last was a chance for me to make my fortune by taking out a patent for a new foghorn. But human flesh is weak, the boy showed signs of distress, and with a shake that would have moved even the heart and heels of an obstinate mule, he brought the final bar to a close.
The guests, by their pleased and excited glances, evidently appreciated and were educated up to this classical performance, which would have been caviare to the musician from further west. Whilst the executant, with a wreath of drachmas stuck in his hat like a bookmaker waiting for business, was resting himself after his exertions in the cause of Art, somebody proposed a song. This song, of which I understood but a word here and there, had as its subject a certain hard-hearted clepthiss (brigand), who eventually met with the reward due to his misdeeds, by being shot; there seemed but little melody in its composition, and the little there was to be almost entirely concealed by the drone which did duty as chorus, and which was introduced at the end of every few bars. The next song, which, I fancy, was partly extempore, was dedicated to myself. In it I was portrayed as "the young man with the thin moustache”; I was furthermore described as a very good young man, who would be rewarded for his sundry virtues by having a horse to ride, and last, but not least, by five young ladies falling in love with him at the same time. After this touching and imaginative effusion had come to an end, the table was removed out of the way and preparations for a dance commenced.
The first on the programme was what, for the moment, I will describe as the “circular dance.” The performers, men and women, joined hands and stood in a circle broken by a gap at one spot; the leader of the figure, who was the tallest individual present, held in his hand a bright scarlet kerchief and led the circle in its gyrations, which were slow and always about the same centre ; this particular movement was brought about by each dancer in the ring taking a certain number of steps to the right, a half turn, and then a certain number to the left, with the final result that each person at the end of a bar or two had moved on a little, although still retaining his original place as regarded his companions on either side.
This dance, which is the great amusement in the Eubean villages, is generally executed to the usual monotonous nasal chorus, sung by all those joining in the dance-a duller or more insipid performance either to participate in or to witness as a spectator cannot be imagined, yet it seems to be greatly appreciated by the peasants, who never tire of it, and who would think anything in the nature of a waltz highly indecorous and improper.
On this particular occasion fustanellas and petticoats footed it with the same conscientious energy and becoming gravity as usual ; and being curious of trying my hand, or rather feet, with the others, I joined the circle, which after my irruption into it lost most of its pristine dignity, and the whole of its regularity through my hops, skips and jumps being uncommonly high and out of time. This was taken in good part--allowance doubtless being made for barbaric customs -and a hearty laugh from the lookers-on betokened that my exertions were ludicrous if not artistic.
The next figure was a spirited performance, somewhat like a sword dance, executed by two men. The steps were danced very neatly, and showed to advantage their fine stalwart figures and whirling fustaneilas, the latter in the pirouetting movements looking like a ballet dancer's skirts. At this siage, as the hour waxed late, I withdrew, not forgetting to observe the custom of presenting the bride with a few drachmas when wishing her Adio.
IN 1890 I happened to be staying on a visit to a friend of mine, whose residence was in a picturesque village in Eubea, an island in which he had possessed a very large estate for many years. Though an Englishman, there was no lack of sympathy between him and the natives, and the love which was felt for him by his own and the surrounding peasantry, on account of the numerous kindly acts that he was constantly devising and carrying out on their belalf, showed itself in many ways.
He was frequently asked to act as godfather to their children, an office which, while it implies friendship and confidence on the side of the parents, nevertheless necessitates certain duties and attentions on the part of the person to whom the compliment is paid. The force of this truism is to be felt in England, but, as the following account will show, infinitely more so in Greece.
On the occasion that I am about to describe, he invited me to be present at the ceremony which was to take place on Thursday
evening at the village church-a modest-looking building that was situated upon a small knoll, from the summit of which a fine view of the scenery betwixt the far-off mountains and the village could be obtained.
In the foreground there was a broad, winding valley, whose glittering torrent showed itself here and there whenever the massive old plane trees which fringed its course permitted a glimpse of its shining waters to be caught; the sides of this valley were clothed with a dense fir forest, whose green foliage seemed to rise and fall in waves as the ground which it covered rose into higher and yet higher hills, till in the distance the before-mentioned mountains showed their delicate opalescent hues outlined against the glorious blue sky.
The architecture of the holy edifice was of the plainest description both internally and externally—bare stone walls looking spotlessly clean from their coating of whitewash, pierced here and there by a few narrow windows, and surmounted by a plain pantile roof whose sole projection was a small belfry containing a solitary bell; the floor was paved with rough flagstones which gave a cold and cheerless aspect to the interior, owing to their being unrelieved by either benches or chairs. This want of sitting accommodation was due to the fact that the Greeks perform their devotions standing, and there. fore make no provision for resting the body, with the exception of a row of seatless stalls arranged against either side of the church, and on which the worshippers can, if they so will, support their arms.
Facing the main entrance and at the opposite end of the church was the Bema, or sanctuary, which was separated from the main body of the building by a screen, the Iconastasis, on the panels of which were numerous paintings of saints; hence its name. Within this sanctuary was the altar, to which the Papas (priest) gained access when the service commenced by means of an arched doorway in the Iconastasis, this doorway at other times being closed by a heavy curtain. There was but little else in the church to strike the eye of a foreigner, unless it were a gallery for the use of the women, who worship apart from the men, and a noteworthy absence of all images, which are forbidden by the canons of the Greek Church.
At the appointed hour the christening party punctually entered the building and took their stand around a large tin font which had been carried in and placed in the centre of the open, flagged space; this font, more especially when it had been filled with lukewarm steaming water, put me in mind of nothing so much as a large souptureen. The infant, a well-grown male child, was carried in by its mother, who was accompanied by the father, the future godfather,
the midwife, an old woman of eighty, and sundry friends, some of whom had come long distances to be present at the service.
The ceremony was performed by two Papathes, or priests, each arrayed in the usual high hat, which resembles a brimless “chimney pot” flattened out at the top, and white, shapeless linen robe with a large gold cross embroidered on the back. Their long black hair, glistening from the generous use of the oil with which it had been anointed, was gathered up in a tuft at the back of their heads, and was more especially noticeable when they uncovered themselves at certain periods in the service.
Viewed as a whole the group, including the little boy bearing the incense burner, was a striking one ; the variety and singularity of the dresses, the dark, swarthy faces of the men, each with his little armament of knives and pistols, and the long elfish locks and flowing garments of the priests, contrasting strangely though not unpleasantly with the bare white walls, gaudily-painted screen, and kindly-looking English gentleman holding the helpless little child that was the cause of so much commotion.
The priests having smilingly intimated to the mother that the service might now proceed, commenced with a long prayer recited in a high nasal voice, which was now and then varied by a peculiar chant unlike anything that I had previously heard. At certain places in the prayer the Papas, the most advanced in years, approached the infant, who was still being held by its mother, and blowing gently in its face, made the sign of the cross over its wistful little countenance ; at intervals also he bowed himself before the pictures of the holy saints, swinging the censer to and fro before them till the whole church was fragrant with the sweet, penetrating scent. Although everything was being conducted with due propriety and an absence of anything approaching levity, yet, nevertheless, there were many smiling faces around, not excepting the worthy priests' in the fulfilment of their office. The godfather, who, but for a preliminary dandling of the infant, had up till this time taken no active part in the service, now commenced his onerous duties by receiving the child from its mother, which he did in such a cautious and even clever manner as to lead the spectator to infer that he was no novice at baby handling, even if it had not been further demonstrated by his talented manipulation of the infant, who raised no audible objection to the transfer. But both godfather and godson had certain tribulations to pass through ere the end came. Those of the former commenced forthwith, through the agency of his little charge, who after mutely blinking at the lighted candle held in its custodian's disengaged hand, turned its attention to that personage's moustache, one of the waxed ends of which it managed to secure. After twisting and twirling about the prize, the unhappy owner of which assumed an appearance of unconcern, the small tormentor tickled his chin with his chubby fingers-a further attention which caused the victim to wriggle and relax his attentions to the taper, which thereupon deviated from its proper perpendicular deportment. Now, from the chin to the ear is not very far, and when at the ear why not examine its interior, although it is a sensitive spot? I am not prepared to state that such was the child's reasoning, but, be the cause what it may, this inquiring infant's finger found its way to my friend's ear, round which it hovered like a moth round a candle. A stop was put to these youthful speculations by a move being made to the far end of the church, where the godfather, having made certain responses, blew and spat at the devil. After thus flaunting and scoffing at his Satanic Majesty, the priests and godfather returned to the font, where the infant was handed to its mother, who forthwith sat down upon the floor of the church and proceeded, with the assistance of the aged midwife, to divest it of its garments. Judging from sundry grunts on the part of the child during this public removal of its robes, it did not seem to properly appreciate the maternal attentions.
Meanwhile the Papas was not idle--far from it : he was superintending the pouring of cans of hot and cold water into the font, and anxiously testing for the right temperature by plunging his hand beneath the surface of the contents; at last, having satisfied himself on this point, he withdrew this natural thermometer and presented it to a small boy in attendance, by whom it was dried and kissed.
The olive-coloured little morsel of humanity, still behaving in an exemplary manner, was then wrapped in a white cloth and handed once more to its patient and long-suffering godfather, who, after a prayer had been offered up, delivered it to the priest to be deposited gently on a mat. Making a sign to 'the mother to advance, she came forward, and having knelt down, addressed herself to the task of holding the mite's legs, which evinced symptoins of resistance against this coercion. While retained in this position it was rubbed with myrrh by the Papas on the back and breast. The most exemplary care was taken against the infant catching cold, and as soon as this particular form was gone through it was wrapped in its clothes and again confided to the care of its mother. The priest now rose to his feet, and producing a bottle of holy oil, dipped his fingers therein and with them made a sign of the cross on the child's forehead ; the remainder of the oil he poured into the font, the contents