The Vintage / A Romance of the Greek War of Independence

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available by the Internet Archive.)

THE VINTAGE

A Romance of the Greek War of Independence.

By

E. F. BENSON

Author of “Limitations” “Dodo” “The Judgment Books” etc.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY G.P. JACOMB-HOOD


“And the wine-press was trodden without the
city, and blood came out of the wine-press”


HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
1898


THIS ROMANCE

DEALING WITH THE REGENERATION OF HER PEOPLE

IS DEDICATED BY PERMISSION

TO

HER MAJESTY

OLGA

QUEEN OF THE HELLENES


CONTENTS

PART I

THE VINEYARD




ILLUSTRATIONS

“‘COME AND SIT DOWN'”
“‘I AM FATHER ANDRÉA,’ HE SHOUTED”
“HALF CARELESSLY SHE THREW INTO THE BOAT THE ROSES SHE HAD PICKED”
“SHE KISSED HIM LIGHTLY ON THE FOREHEAD”
“MITSOS SURVEYED HIM WITH EASY INDIFFERENCE”
“YANNI WAS STRUGGLING IN THE GRASP OF TWO MEN, THE GREEK AND THE TURK”
“KATSI AND A FINE SELECTION OF COUSINS ACCOMPANIED THE TWO”
“AFTER SUPPER MITSOS EXPOUNDED”
“IN THE CENTRE OF THE GREAT CHAMBER STOOD ONE WHOM IT DAZZLED HIS EYES”
TO LOOK UPON”
“‘AH, BUT IT IS GOOD TO BE WITH YOU AGAIN'”
“MITSOS TORE UP GREAT HANDFULS OF UNDERGROWTH AND THREW THEM ON”
“MIXED WITH THE NOISE OF THE SINGING, ROSE ONE GREAT SOB OF A THANKFUL
PEOPLE BORN AGAIN”
“BOTH THE BOYS, SEIZING THEIR OARS, ROWED FOR LIFE”
“CASTING HIMSELF DOWN THERE, IN AN AGONY BITTER SWEET, HE PRAYED”
“MITSOS, FLYING AT HIM LIKE A WILD-CAT”
“BORNE IN A CHAIR ON THE SHOULDERS OF FOUR MONKS”
“HE HAD CLAMBERED UP AND DROPPED DOWN ON THE OTHER SIDE”
“UNBUCKLING HIS SWORD, HE LAID IT ON THE TABLE”
“YANNI WAS BY HIM WITH A BRILLIANT SMILE ON HIS FACE”
“‘WOULD YOU SLAY ME, FATHER?’ SHE CRIED AGAIN”
“BY AN EFFORT HE RAISED HIMSELF ON HIS ELBOW”
“‘SULEIMA!’ CRIED MITSOS”


THE VINTAGE

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!”

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