Published in The New York Times, October 3, 1897
A NIGHT WITH A GREEK PRIEST
From The Contemporary Review.
I crossed the snowy and crumbling mountain which still bears the old Greek name of the Drum, and so entered a region where the water flows by long courses into the Gulf of Corinth, instead of to Tempe. That night I spent on a mud floor in fine Chaucerian chaos with a priest and his numerous household of human beings and live stock, all gathered round an open hearth, from which the smoke blew in clouds about the blackened room till it escaped by the windows and other suitable holes. Long after I had crept under my rug in the place of honor furthest from the pet goat, the shaggy man, with the zeal of a university extension lecturer, kept bringing in members of his flock to stare at this object lesson in anthropology, and I felt with joy that, like a lantern slide, I was at last diffusing culture. At midnight he went out to gabble a service in his dejected little church, where the deep carving had been mutilated, and the calm faces of stiff Byzantine Saints had been slashed and scored by Turkish knives in long-forgotten slaughters.
Next morning I left him heaping a manure cart, and but for his tall hat and plaited hair he would have been indistinguishable from the souls of whom he had the cure. Meantime, his daughters, barefooted and unwashed, splashed about in the liquid mud, driving the goats to the mountains with stones and barbaric cries. They were indeed finely barbaric themselves, for in Pindus it is not thought worth while to send girls to school, and a man will tell you he has two sons and three “unregistered,” and by the unregistered he means his daughters.
Amused at the contrast of such a life with the life of an English priest, with his faultless clothes, clean sheets, numerous bedrooms, charming wife and children, lawn tennis courts, humble but presentable vehicle, and quiet library where hardly a blue-bottle dares to hum, and wondering what might be the loss and gain of those different conditions, I scrambled down a rocky path and over a narrow bridge, which with a single span leaps high above the young Achelous at the mouth of an unimaginable gorge, and as I climbed the opposite mountain I saw a man hastening down the path, and knew at once that, like the messenger in some old play, he bore the tidings of fate. His message, for a Greek, was brief: “I was in Arta on Sunday,” he said. “The war began in the afternoon. The Turks tried to cross the river by tying Christian women in front of them, in hopes the Greeks would not fire. All were killed. Their shrieks were frightful. The town lies flat in ruins. To go on is death.”
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