ページの画像
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

The honest fellow not only did so, but even went so far as to see that they gave us clean sheets at the hotel. How rarely is an eccentric to be met with whose eccentricity takes the form of a benevolent and agreeable whim !

After having once more testified our appreciation of the Greek cooking in a way that must have given to the proprietor a high opinion of the gastronomic powers of the English, we directed our steps to the hotel, and on entering our room discovered in it whai were apparently two pairs of legs lying on the white boarded floor, the bodies attached to them being hidden from us under the bed.

“What the deuce is this?" said one of our astonished selves. The explanation did not take long to flash upon our minds, and is as follows. Two of the hotel servants having opened a small handbag -our property-had heard, whilst so engaged, our footsteps on the stairs, and were now making frantic efforts to clasp its patent lock, under the pretence of dusting beneath the bed with their jacket sleeves. Not wishing for various reasons to create a disturbance about the occurrence, we satisfied ourselves with the state of alarm that their anticipation of what course we might pursue had put themi in, and which was testified by their trembling hands and decidedly agitated faces. The rest of the evening passed off without incident, except taking a short stroll round the town, and finding on our return to our sleeping quarters a drunken man in a rather maudlin state of mind sitting on one of the beds. As, though assuming a strictly negative manner, his position seemed likely to be prolonged for an indefinite period, and as no response was made to persuasive signs, gentle force was resorted to with a satisfactory result.

The second day of our sojourn at Chalcis was ushered in by a lovely sunrise, and the air becoming quite spring-like, at 11 o'clock we determined to take advantage of our friend's kind invitation to visit an orange grove close to the town. On our arrival there the honours of the place were shown to us by the gardener, who, with the tact and courtesy exhibited by all the peasants of this district, conducted us around the grounds, after which, in spite of it being November, we sat down in the open to a déjeuner of ripe oranges, plucked fresh from the tree, together with the golden Richenato wine of the country. What a glorious picture the country, lit up by the brilliant sunshine, presented, the grove with its glossy green leaves and golden fruit sloping down to the water's edge and the biue Eubean Channel beyond, while far away towered up snow-covered Mount Candili. In good sooth a pleasant spot in which to lounge away an hour and to indulge in the soothing influence of a pipe, or,

to follow the fashion of the country, of a cigarette, for pipe-smokers in Greece, except those who indulge in the chibouk or narghile, are few and far between. The preference which is shown for the cigarette is due to the fact that the tobacco of the country is too dry and hot when smoked in an ordinary pipe.

Whilst returning to the town we witnessed a solemn but far from uncommon sight in Greece. A small procession of people at a sort of half-run, half-walk, rapidly came towards us, singing a nasal dirge. The leader of the funeral, for such we soon perceived it to be, carried a coffin-lid, decorated with various coloured ribbons, upright in his hand, and following him came numerous bearers of banners with the portraits of saints depicted on their embroidered fronts; the next in order of procession were the Papathes, or priests, in long garments, the predominant colour of which was white; they appeared to rise above the rest of the mourners owing to the peculiar shape of their clerical head-gear, perched on their long hair, which was fastened up in a knot like a chignon behind their heads. After them came the corpse, an aged woman in a shallow coffin carried shoulder high. The feet and head were slightly propped up and were fully exposed to view ; they even seemed to possess a ghastly kind of vitality from the tremulous motion imparted to them by the bearers. The cortège having passed on along the white road towards the blue horizon in its front, we replaced our hats, which had been removed out of deference to the dead, and continued our way to Chalcis, which we entered by way of the market-place.

On market days the open space where most of the country people's business is transacted is closely packed with a lively, gesticulating crowd, in garments of various hues and cuts, from the clean or unclean foustanella to baggy blue Turkish trousers, from the handiwork of the local snip to the latest turn out of a Parisian tailor; then is to be seen much bargaining : fine chickens-for this is the land of hens-changing hands at 7£d. each, figs at 2}d. the octre (a little under 3 lbs.), and other provisions of equally good and cheap quality. As time was flying, and we had to secure our tickets for the boat to Limni, we made our way to the booking-office on the quay, and with the help of our good friend succeeded in making its occupant understand what was wanted; and in spite of the shibboleth of the English names, at length secured the precious pieces of paper, blotted with sand, and which at one time—as nobody seemed to know whether there was a steamer going to Limni or not, and if so where one could book or inquire about such steamer-had seemed almost unattainable.

The satisfaction we were indulging in, however, was rather premature, for it turned out that the steamer did not start till some time or other on the morrow. This was a blow, for it meant another evening in a bare, fireless room, with daylight-or rather moonlight --visible between the chinks of the boarded floor; for well we knew that, by stepping outside the office door, we could be half-roasted by the sun then shining, still by the evening the icycold wind would have resumed its sway.

The climate is indeed one of extremes, one day showing a marked preference for rain or snow, and the morrow boasting an unclouded sky and a burning sun. The effect of such a climate on the people enduring it is noticeable by the prevalence of diseases of the respiratory organs, a danger that is well understood at Athens, where the care and attention bestowed by the inhabitants upon wraps and changes of weather appear alınost superfluous to a newcomer. Under these atmospheric conditions peculiar to the Grecian nights, the prospect of tramping around the streets all the evening after dinner was not sufficiently attractive to admit of its being put into execution ; and not knowing how otherwise to dispose of ourselves, we returned to our quarters and went to bed, where we smoked, and speculated as to the mattress-like article that did duty for sheets, blanket, and quilt. The next morning at sunrise one of the twin brothers who had escorted us into Chalcis roused us from our slumbers, and made signs signifying an intention to remove the luggage--where he knew best ; but such energy, although perhaps praiseworthy, did not meet with our approval, and we deemed it best to rise and accompany him and our trunks. By the time half our toilet was completed quite a small crowd had assembled, who followed every detail of that interesting ceremony with anxious attention; when it came to the use of cold water an involuntary murmur of, perhaps, surprise-perhaps disgust-escaped them. Our "foreign customs” being concluded, and the hotel bill paid in paper money, the procession, including the dilapidated hand-cart, got under weigh, and finally stopped at the selfsame spot from where it had started on the day of our arrival. So far so good, and excellent of its kind was the bland smile on the faces of the brothers when they saw our inquiring gaze looking for the steamer, of which there were as yet no signs, not even a distant cloud of smoke in the blue sky. There was nothing to be done but to possess our souls in patience, albeit encased in bodies breakfastless and shivering with the biting wind. Half an hour thus agreeably passed when the benevolent little American-Greek appeared on the scene, and

made matters smooth by suggesting that we should adjourn to a café hard by, there to discuss a cup of coffee ; this was remarkably good and quite different in flavour from that obtained in countries further west, nor was the charge, ten lepta (id.) per cup, exorbitant, especially when compared with the quality and price of the same beverage (in name) at an English railway restaurant. Coffee is out here the favourite non-alcoholic drink, and, like tea in England, is taken indiscriminately at all times of the day, but the Oriental is a little more refined in his way of enjoying it. First of all he sips a little cold water from the glass that is handed to him together with the coffee on a tray, and having by this proceeding both cooled and cleansed his palate, his appreciation of the succeeding bonne bouche is increased. Strangers to the country, and especially Englishmen, generally vary this programme by swallowing the water after, instead of before the coffee, a reversal of the native method that is probably caused by some of the thick sediment at the bottom remaining on the tongue, and which may be disliked by those unprepared for it.

As the mode of preparing this favourite indulgence is the same all over the East, and differs from the French and English way of preparation, it may be worthy of note, especially as the result, in our opinion, is superior to either. Here is the recipe. Two spoonsful of coffee and one of very fine pounded sugar are placed in a little brass saucepan, and over it is poured a small teacupful of boiling water; this is heated over a charcoal fire till a light foam gathers on the surface; the mixture is then poured a third at a time into the cup, the saucepan being replaced on each occasion on the fire to enable the proper heat and mixture of the ingredients to be maintained. When finished, and it is made in two minutes, it fully repays the extra care that may seem to have been bestowed on its manufacture.

After a cup of this delectable liquid had been disposed of, a return was made to the wharf, now covered with a motley crowd of shepherds, Papathes, soldiers, &c., all waiting for the dilatory vessel, that finally appeared and anchored at some little distance from the shore for the purpose of embarking and landing passengers. Amongst the former, ourselves, who, with a hearty grasp of the hand to our trusty ally in the various dilemmas we had experienced, stepped into the boat, and after threading our way amongst the numerous caiques, drawn up in lines, at length reached the ship, alike freed from the hands and boat of the brothers, who had just been joined by two more, likewise twins, of the same family.

DOUGLAS WYNN WILLIAMS.

EELS.

“ IT is agreed,” says Izaak Walton, “that the eel is a most dainty

T dish.” We are not at all sure that anything of the sort is agreed amongst modern Englishmen, for it must be confessed that amongst us the eel is not held in too much estimation, either as a thing of beauty, a sportsman's joy, or an epicure's dish. Of course there are many eel-fisheries established in favourable situations in various parts of the country, but they are not by any means sufficient to cope with the almost inexhaustible supply of fish ; and Englishmen, therefore-and Frenchmen and Germans too, for the matter of that-miss too often from their tables an article of food which, notwithstanding the prejudice existing in some quarters against it, is at once wholesome and toothsome, and which only requires to be properly introduced to their notice to be appreciated at its real value. The objection to it—which exists very strongly among the conservative Scots-seems to be based upon an antipathy to the long, slimy, wriggling form of the creature, with its suggestion of serpents and, perhaps, temptations in Paradise ; but, once this is overcome, it is certain that even the Scot would allow that the eel is uncommonly tasty, and a very desirable “change ” from bannocks and so on.

The ancients were wiser in their generation than we are, at least so far as eels are concerned. They liked the fish, and found nothing repulsive in its shape ; and in some instances placed it on a pedestal of honour, which even the most rabid " eel-fancier" of our day will admit was far above its deserts. The Egyptians enrolled it among their gods—a compliment it shared with only one other fish, the lepidotus, which probably belonged to the carp family. The Greeks ridiculed them for this absurdly high estimation, and in Athenæus we find Antiphanes, one of the “illustrious obscure ” of antiquity, contrasting the value of the gods with the high price asked for the fish in the market of Athens. “In other respects,” he says, “men say that the Egyptians are clever, in that they esteem the eel to be equal to a god; but they are far more valuable than the immortals, for we

« 前へ次へ »