PART II. -- GREECE
On the 21st of the Eleventh Month John and Martha Yeardley left Ancona, and had a safe but suffering voyage of two days to Corfu, the capital of the island of that name.
The atmosphere in this place, writes J.Y., soon after they landed, is different from Ancona in every respect. It has to us a feeling of home, and our minds are clothed with peace and, I trust, gratitude to the Father of mercies. What we may find to do is yet a secret to us, but He who has brought us here will in his own time open the way before us.
Isaac Lowndes of the London Missionary Society received us with much affection and kindness, and his wife and daughter are very desirous to promote our comfort. They took us to see a furnished house in the town, a part of which will suit us remarkably well. We think it a providential thing to have such comfortable quarters to come to.
Some extracts from the Diary and the Journal letters will show in what kind of service they were engaged during their three months' residence in this island.
11 mo.24. -- I went with J. L. to the First-day school in the village about a mile from the town. A delightful morning, and a delightful sight to see about sixty fine Greek children reading the New Testament in the modern language. Their countenances are lovely and interesting, and their anxiety to hear and answer questions is great; their aptitude in comprehending the subjects offered to them exceeds all I have hitherto seen in any class of children of similar standing. The little group was composed of nearly all girls, clean and neatly dressed in the costume of the country.
27th. -- To-day we received a long visit from Lord Nugent, President of the Ionian Government, who had heard of our arrival on the island, and was anxious to see us. He is very kind and extremely open with respect to his plans for the improvement of the jail, and for cottage cultivation. He desired me to go and see some unoccupied land without the gate.
28th. -- According to appointment we went to the palace, and were received by Lady Nugent with marked simplicity and kindness. We were introduced to Lord L. and other persons of influence, took tea, and spent a most agreeable evening, and I hope a profitable; for all our conversation was on the subject of bettering the condition of the poor and destitute children.
12 mo.3. -- This morning we received a visit from a roomful of Greeks. We are desirous to cultivate the acquaintance of the Greeks as the object of our visit of gospel love. Yesterday we were visited by several of the military officers and their wives, who will I hope co-operate with our plans of benevolence. Lord Nugent's taking us by the hand opens the way to all others of rank and standing.
11th, -- This morning we had a visit from Dapaldas, Greek professor of theology in the university. He is a pleasing and enlightened man, and speaks French well, which gave us the opportunity of conversing with him pretty freely. I feel to love him much. He is one of the laborers in translating the Old Testament.
13th. -- To-day we have received letters from England. Many of our beloved friends have been called from this state of being to another world. How much my heart feels humbled; how unworthy I am of the least of the mercies daily received at the hand of a bountiful Creator. Since we have been here I have been favored with a strong conviction that we are here in the ordering of Divine Providence. What may in time open before us in the way of gospel labor I know not. It requires time, caution, and much perseverance, to find a way to the hearts and best feelings of the Greeks. I greatly desire that we may be found in humble watchfulness and prayer; and that, if found worthy to be the feeble instruments of declaring the way of salvation to the natives of these islands, we may embrace every opportunity to preach repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, for this is the great object for which we have left our native land and all that is dear to us in this world.
26th. -- Argyri left us and is gone to Syra. She was very sorrowful, and the parting to us all was painful. Although reserved and timid, she has become extremely attached to us, and we trust the three months we have passed together will not soon be forgotten. Her company has often been sweet and cheering, and in our little meetings for worship her heart has not unfrequently been tendered with religious feeling. She is desirous of being useful in schools, and of making a stand against the many superstitions which prevail, influencing others by her example, and through the aid of divine grace leading them to that vital religion in which she was instructed at Locle, and which is now a strength and comfort to her own mind.
1834.1 mo.6. -- To-day we received a visit from the young Count Francois Sardina. We had much conversation with him on the subject of the intercession of saints. He could not admit that they practiced the adoration of saints, they only meant to hold them up as examples of piety and virtue, and to induce others to follow them. We pointed out to him the importance of taking Him for our example who spake as never man spake, and has left us an example that we should follow his steps. This young man is very inquisitive and inclined to be sceptical, but under all has serious impressions. Many of the Greeks who are not entirely built up in their superstitions are inclined to doubt respecting the truths of Christianity. We were glad to put into his hand J. J. Gurney's Evidences.
23rd. -- This evening we had another long visit from the Count. We entered very fully into Church discipline, and left few points of faith and doctrine untouched, either in his Church or ours. I do not remember ever to have been more closely questioned; but I think this young person sincere in his inquiries. I believe it is a precious time of visitation to his soul; he is very amiable and affectionate, and acknowledges the evils and vanity of the world.
27th. -- This evening we have had a long conversation with Pathanes, our teacher in the language, and a deacon in the Greek Church. He is much attached to the rites of his own Church, but acknowledges the necessity of regeneration. They have a fatal error in the ceremony of baptism, positively asserting that when the child (or individual) has received this, he is really born again, and a fit heir of salvation. Such is the efficacy which they attach to this ceremony, that their creed sets forth, in the most unqualified manner, that whoever receives not the form cannot enter the kingdom. We could not forbear lifting up our testimony against the injurious effects of such a creed.
28th. -- We have had a ride to-day with I. Lowndes and family across the island, sixteen miles, to the sea on the other side. Our road led us through a perfect wood of olive-trees, thickly planted and loaded with fruit. The hills are often variegated with the cypress, &c., and near to the sea are beautifully romantic. We dined at the fortress of Paleocastazza, on the top of a high hill, on provisions we took with us, -- the air good, and the prospect delightful. This place was formerly a convent; the church still remains in use, and we visited two of the old Greek priests. One of them is ninety-five years old; he was lying on a dirty hard couch in a miserable apartment; the other performs the liturgy. I. L. gave him the book of Genesis, which he could read but very indifferently. He was besides extremely cross, full of complaints of the soldiers who were stationed there. What a proof that to those who are in the gall of bitterness there is no peace, even in such a remote place.
2 mo.1. -- Another long and pleasant visit from Count Sardina. He is mild and condescending, but close in argument His mind appears gradually to become impressed with the truths of the gospel; and I trust the notions he has received from sceptical writers are giving way to a hope of salvation through Christ Jesus our Lord. Fearful of doing anything to make the members of his own Church his enemies, he comes to us by night, -- not for fear of the Jews, but for fear of the Greeks.
9th. -- How often our hearts are ready to sink within us in the midst of this dark and superstitious people. We have now been here nearly three months, and have not had one opportunity of publicly preaching the gospel. The power of prejudice in favor of their own superstitious rites, and the overwhelming influence of moral evil, seem entirely to close our way in this line. We have had much conversation with our friend, Isaac Lowndes, who has resided on this island thirteen years, on the subject of publicly preaching the gospel to the people; and he says that such is their attachment to the ceremonies of their own church that they cannot be prevailed upon to attend the ministry of any other denomination. I. Lowndes is a character with whom we feel much Christian unity, and his family is like a little lamp shining in the midst of gross darkness.
This darkness, adds Martha Yeardley, is increased by the dissipation of the greater part of the English. The military have great influence here, and their practices tend greatly to demoralize the unhappy people. We have just heard that they have obtained leave of the Senate to hold a ball in the new school-rooms, and to break down the partition-wall between them for this purpose, which will prevent the school from being opened for another month.
On the 23rd John Yeardley continues: --
To-day my drooping spirit has been refreshed by six precious letters from England, expressing the interest of our dear friends in our mission; but oh, how my heart is humbled in the sense of how little we do. During our stay here I have been closely engaged in translating Judson's Questions on Scripture. The correction is nearly finished, and we propose having a number printed for the school.
Ignorance of the language was a perpetual hindrance in their way. Although they devoted a very large portion of time to acquiring it, the difficulty was almost insurmountable. They learned to read and translate; but to converse in Greek was for a long time almost entirely beyond their power.
Although to preach and teach the gospel was the primary object of John and Martha Yeardley's errand, the temporal improvement of their fellow-men was by no means foreign to their mission; and we have often seen that plans for the promotion of industry and self-support were to the former objects of peculiar interest. During their residence at Corfu no small portion of his time was occupied with the establishment of a model farm, which seems to have been a joint scheme on his part and that of the administration. A grant of land was obtained from the Senate, and the prisoners, with some of the poor, were set to work to cultivate it. Some of the landowners watched the progress of the experiment, with the intention, if it should be successful, of introducing the plan upon their estates.
We may conclude this account of their residence in Corfu with some general remarks on the religious character and condition of the inhabitants.
We trust, say they, our sojourn in Corfu may not have been in vain: if we may only be permitted to prepare the way for the further enlargement of the Saviour's kingdom on the earth, we may well be content. Preparing the way it may truly be called, for there is a great deal to be done among a people just emerging from barbarism, and bringing with them all the fixed habits of ignorance and superstition, before a door can be opened for the direct preaching of the gospel. Their mode of reasoning is strong and wily, and they ask questions which can only be answered in private conversation and by Scripture proof. A great means of affording help must be by educating the rising generation and by the diffusion of Scriptural knowledge. Many of the priest are extremely ignorant, and some of them have only learned by rote the service of their own church in the ancient Greek; their knowledge, therefore, cannot be founded on their own search for Scriptural truth, seeing they have not had the opportunity of examining for themselves. In some instances when we have presented to them the New Testament in the modern language, they have said, with a look of anxious gratitude, This is what we want; we priests teach in the churches what we do not ourselves understand.
On the 26th of the Second Month they crossed the sea to Santa Maura, having a delightful passage of eight hours. Captain McPhail, the governor, a friend of William Allen's, met them himself with a boat, and conducted them to his house. He showed them every attention during their short sojourn, and introduced them to those persons whom they desired to see. They made an interesting call on the bishop; --
A nice old man, who was many years priest in a village in the mountains, and, what is a wonder, he has been promoted on account of his virtuous life. He was a good example in his own village, and a great promoter of schools. The old man is candid enough to confess that he was happier among his rustic peasants than he is now in more refined society. We gave him the book of Genesis in Modern Greek; and it was highly gratifying to us to see the surprise and pleasure of his countenance on being presented with an account of the Creation and works of the Almighty in his native tongue. We thought the opportunity favorable for proposing the Scriptures to be read by the clergy in the modern instead of the ancient language. He made no objection, and appeared to see the great utility which might arise from it.
Something has been said about the semi-barbarism of the Greeks. What our friends learned respecting crime and violence, whilst in this island, places the manners of the people in a very strong light.
Nothing can show more strongly the demoralized state of these islands than the frightful acts of cruelty done to the cattle out of pure revenge. One shudders to think of the skinning of beasts alive, cutting off the ears of asses, breaking the legs of horses; yet of these sorts of cruelty not less than 500 acts have been committed in the last four years, and the offenders have escaped being brought to conviction!
This dark picture is happily relieved by some traits of moral beauty. The narrative of a ride into the mountains of Santa Maura, which J.Y. made under the escort of the governor, proves to how great a degree virtuous and gentle manners grew and flourished in the remoter parts of this island.
3 mo.1. -- This morning we set out for a ride about nine miles up the mountains to a village called Caria, which contains about 1200 inhabitants, and in the surrounding hamlets there are about the same number.
About half-past 9 o'clock we started; Captain McPhail and myself on his two sure-footed horses, and another English gentleman on a fine mule. After we had left the newly-made road, we pursued a track perfectly unequalled in any part where I have travelled; rugged precipices, shelving rocks, and large loose stones, which assailed the feet of the poor beasts every step they took. However, for my part, I was well rewarded; it gave me an opportunity not only of seeing the interior of the island, but also a specimen of the disposition of the natives. Before we reached the village, I observed, with some surprise, a tribe of people assembled on the top of the cliffs to see us come in, and on ascending a few more paces of rock, we found the children of the boys' school arranged like a little army, with myrtle branches in their hands to welcome us to their sequestered hamlet. After greeting us with great respect, they followed us to the country-house of our English friend.
The mountain multitude waited with patience until we had made our repast, when a few of the leading villagers were introduced to our room. And what was their request? A school for their daughters. They were asked what they would give towards its support. They answered, Whatever we can afford; we that are able will pay for the poor, and they shall go free. It was then intimated to them, that their friends would assist them in establishing a school; but that they themselves must join in the effort, and that it would be well to consult together, and put down their names and the number of children they would send. Here the town-crier came forward, and said he had for the last twenty years cried everything the government wished to be made known in the town, free of cost, and he would now go round and cry for the benefit of the school. Next came forward the father of the young woman proposed for the mistress, who it was proposed should be further instructed in the village, and then sent to the town to learn the system. We asked them if they were sensible of the advantages of a school for girls, of having them brought up to be good wives, capable of managing their households, and able to read the precious things in the New Testament. One of them replied, Without instruction what are we? -- we are like the beasts. One peasant had been so anxious for his daughter to learn to read, that he had made interest to send her to the boys' school. When we asked why he did so, he said, Because I had no other means, and I wished to have her read the New Testament to us; now I have the advantage of hearing that precious book read to me by my own daughter. It was delightful to witness a feeling like this in a people so uncultivated; surely the friends of education in Greece have encouragement to go on and prosper.
After this pleasing interview we proceeded to the boys' school, followed by as many as could get into the room. When the boys had read, I desired that questions might be put to them on what they had been reading, but soon found that this important mode of instruction was neglected; the master promised to introduce the questions which we are having printed, if we would send him the books. On returning to our quarters, we found among the crowd who were still present, the three priests, come, I suppose, to pay their respects to the governor. We were glad of an opportunity of conversing with them. On asking their opinion as to a school, one of them said, in Greek, It is good, blessed and honorable. I could not let this favorable opportunity pass without impressing on them, through McPhail, the advantage of reading the Scriptures to the people in the modern tongue which they could understand, telling them that the book of Genesis was already printed in Modern Greek. They could hardly believe me, and on my showing them a new copy of this and of the Psalms, their eyes sparkled with pleasure. Our friend the governor read aloud a portion of Genesis, and one of the priests a little out of the Psalms. The long-robed, patriarchal looking man said, Ah, this is what we want! We priests read in the churches what we don't understand ourselves, and how can we explain it to others. They modestly asked if they might have the books for a while; and when we said they were given to them, there was a little jealousy who should have them; this we removed by saying that more should be sent. Many of the kind-hearted people accompanied us to the precipice, and ran before to clear the way; and, through divine mercy, we reached the dwelling of our kind host in safety; not without a steeping of mountain rain.
When the good Bishop of Santa Maura heard the result of our interview with the peasants, he sent one of his most influential priests with a subscription book for his people to put down their names towards a fund for the schools, thus promptly giving his sanction to general education.
3 mo.2. -- First-day. After breakfast we read a chapter and held our meeting with Captain McPhail and his wife, and felt a little comfort in holding up the standard of religious worship. Something was given us to utter, both in testimony and supplication.
The next evening we dined with the governor. It was a state dinner, given to the judges and persons of rank in the town; about twenty of us sat down; the repast was splendid and the dishes innumerable. At the head of the table was Captain McPhail in full uniform; on his right our hostess in a rich Greek dress; on his left a young lady in the full Italian style; my M.Y. and myself were not the least singular in appearance. All was done in good order, and a sweet feeling prevailed.
4th. -- We are like prisoners at large, not being able to leave the island till the steamer returns. Captain McPhail has kindly proposed our paying a visit to the continent to see a little colony of the natives who live in wigwams. These people like many others suffered greatly from the Turks, and took refuge in Santa Maura, which has excited in them a feeling of gratitude for the protection of their English neighbors.
About 9 o'clock we started in the Captain's boat, a family party, not leaving even the baby at home. We had a pleasant sail of less than an hour, and found seven ponies waiting for us at the landing-place. The ponies were brought into the sea, and we mounted the pack-saddles; some of our company being carried from the boat on men's backs. Thus arranged we set out, one by one, along the narrow goat-paths, accompanied by our retinue, some going before, and some following with the baggage. We winded our way among bushes of myrtle and mastic till we reached the willow-city. It consists of about sixty perfect wigwams of one room each, with no other light but what is admitted by the doorway, four feet high, with here and there a glimpse that makes its way through the wattles.
The people having received notice of our visit had made a general-holiday, and were all assembled, with lively good-humor in their countenances, to greet our arrival. This in the first year that they have been left to enjoy their lands in peace since the destruction by the Turks of their little town, which stood at about half an hour's distance. Some of them possess property in land and cattle, and all live on the produce of their own farms, and produce their own clothing. These simple-hearted people show their good sense by avoiding all lawsuits, so common among the Greeks. They choose one upright old man, with two assistants, to govern them, to whose judgment they submit, and the greatest punishment is to be shut up for two or three days in a solitary room in the convent.
The wigwam where we alighted was soon filled with visitors. We were served with coffee by our hostess, -- an interesting woman, with much expression of mildness in her countenance. After conversing awhile with the villagers, and satisfying their curiosity as well as we could, I thought it a suitable time to bring about the primary object of our visit, and inquired who among them could read. A young man came forward who had been educated in the school at Santa Maura; we gave him a New Testament, and he read the greater part of a chapter in the Gospels. Those who were in the room listened with surprise and attention, and many without looked eagerly in at the doorway to hear what was going on. This was probably the first time they had heard the gospel in their own language. We gave them a few copies of the New Testament and some tracts, for which they hardly knew how to express their gratitude; and we requested the reader to continue the practice he had commenced.
When this scene of interest was over we took a turn round the other huts. They are situated on the side of the hill, among myrtles, and command a delightful view of the valley. We passed by the common oven, and on looking in saw our dinner preparing. The table was spread in the hospitable wigwam which we first entered, a clean white tablecloth and napkins on a large board, with cushions around on boxes for chairs. The repast consisted of a whole lamb, well roasted, and two sorts of Yorkshire-pudding, one of which was particularly good.
This patriarchal repast being finished, we again went forth, and visited the convent of Plija, distant from the wigwams about ten minutes' walk. Many of our new friends accompanied us, the judge with great solidity of manner leading the way. We passed a beautiful fountain at the head of the glen, and entered the monastic edifice, which is built of stone. The abbot, a fine old man, met us at the door with a pleasant countenance. He invited us into his cell; we had to stoop very low to save our heads, and the door-case was rubbed bright on all sides by the friction of this solitary inmate passing in and out. The hermitage consists of one room with a bed in the corner, screened by a slight partition; a lattice-window admitted a peep into the rich and lovely vale below, and the pure air of the mountain was not obstructed by glass. I had often heard of the Eastern custom of sitting cross-legged, but never till now experienced it in reality. We were desired to sit on cushions spread on the floor for our reception, and were served with the finest walnuts and honey I ever tasted; and while we partook of this hermit-like repast, there was a precious feeling of good, and I believe we had the secret prayers of the good abbot, as he had ours. When we presented him with the New Testament, Genesis, and the Psalms, he kissed the books and pressed them to his bosom, expressing his gratitude for the treasure.
Our next visit was to the habitation of the judge, which is of the same description as the rest, where we were served again with coffee. What pleased us was the sweet feeling of quiet which prevailed, of which I think some of them were sensible; one woman, our first hostess, put her hand to her heart and said very sweetly, "I love you."
They would not let us depart without showing us their ancient custom of taking hold of hands and dancing round, singing meanwhile a sort of chant. Many of them came with us to the water's edge, and prayers were raised in our hearts for their good, and thanksgiving to our Divine Master for the comfort and satisfaction of the day.
3 mo 8. -- Under the hospitable roof of Captain McPhail we have felt much at home. His wife said our coming had been a blessing to her; she is near to us in gospel love. The captain accompanied us in his boat to the steamer.
From Santa Maura they proceeded to Argostoli, the chief town of Cephalonia.
We arrived about five o'clock in the morning. The entrance to the town for a considerable distance is like a perfect lake: the white houses along the side of the harbor, and the craggy hill with the olives growing out of the rocks, had a pretty appearance at the break of day. Our young Greek interpreter, Giovanni Basilik, was with us. We had to call up the inhabitants of the only inn in the place before we could get shelter. At first the host refused to receive our little company, but after some explanation he consented to arrange the desolate-looking rooms into habitable order.
They visited the schools and the prison, and they received from the Resident, H.G. Tennyson, and the schoolmaster and mistress, a friendly reception; but the islanders are generally careless of instruction, and progress of all kinds is slow.
From Cephalonia they traversed the sea to the beautiful island of Zante. Though they had ten men to row, the passage occupied thirteen hours.
Contrary wind, writes John Yeardley, compelled us to approach the island slowly, which gave us an opportunity of viewing the villages and scattered houses at the foot of the mountain. The town of Zante is very long; the main street has piazzas on each side for a considerable distance. In many of the windows (I suppose a Turkish custom) there are something like cages, through which the women peep without being seen, under the pretence of modesty; but it is horrid to hear of the wickedness committed in-doors. However, I am glad to find the custom is dying away, and that the young women are now permitted to walk in public more than they were a few years ago. This island is by far the finest we have visited; it is very fertile and well cultivated, and supplies England with currants; but, like their neighbors, the people have the character of being immoral, treacherous, and revengeful. It is sorrowful to think that, under the system of picture-worship, there is scarcely a sin of which the poor Greek is not guilty to an enormous extent. With God all things are possible -- he can change the hard heart of man by the power of his Divine Spirit; but, morally speaking, it must be some great convulsion that can work a real change in the nation. W.O. Croggon has labored here more than seven years, and knows not of one conversion among the rich Greeks -- not one attends the service for worship. He is the Methodist missionary here, and is called the friend of every man: he has been a real friend to us.
The Governor and his wife have paid us marked attention. The former took us to see the prison, which is well conducted, and the prisoners are classed. We suggested the benefit likely to result from the prisoners being employed, and Major Longley [the Governor] intends to introduce basket-making. We have, in addition to the public schools, visited several private ones, and are pleased to find so many children receiving education: this is really the chief source of hope for improving the morals of the Greeks, and dispersing the gross darkness which surrounds this people, whose long servitude and sufferings under very hard masters have almost driven them back to barbarism.
17th. -- There was a shock of earthquake, more violent than has been felt for some years in this place. Our room shook almost like a ship at sea; the walls, beds, tables, and glasses were all in motion, and the sensation, while it lasted, was that of sea-sickness. The noise may be compared to the rolling of a carriage with many horses coming at full speed, and suddenly stopping at the dwelling. (See Eastern Customs, p.78.)
Having thus explored the four principal islands of the Ionian Archipeligo. John and Martha Yeardley turned their course towards the Morea.
30th. -- At 6 o'clock in the morning we put ourselves once more at the mercy of the waves of the Mediterranean, and had a quick passage of fourteen hours. The landing at Patras was frightful; a sudden squall threw us off the shore, and caused us to lose part of the rudder, so that we were obliged to get into a very small boat, which threatened to upset every moment. We were, however, favored to land in safety on a projecting rock: it was nearly dark, and the whole had a terrific appearance.
The plains near Patras, once beautifully planted with currants, olives and vines, are now perfectly desolate. The castle was in possession, of the Turks eight years, who made continual sallies from it for provision and firewood; while, in order to disappoint them, the Greeks themselves assisted in the destruction of all vegetation; so that there is scarcely any green thing to be seen. The old town is a scene of ruins; the site of the new town is near the sea, where temporary shops and houses have been erected.
It was difficult to find a shelter for the night; but a kind fellow-traveller assisted us, and at length we were pressed into a miserable dirty room, with only a board for a bedstead.
At Patras we had abundance of consultation, whether to undertake the journey to Corinth and Athens by land, or to encounter the gulf. We concluded to venture on the latter, and contracted with the captain of a little boat to depart at five the next morning. He deceived us by not sailing at the time proposed; but we made an agreement with other sailors to go off in the evening, hoping to get to Corinth the next morning: but, after tossing all night, we found in the morning the ship had only made twenty miles; and about mid-day the captain declared he could not get to Corinth, and must put into a small port on the opposite side of the gulf, called Galaxidi, and wait for better weather. We were so exhausted as to feel thankful in the prospect of being once more on land. Nothing can be more comfortless than these small Greek vessels; in the cabin you can neither stand nor lie at full length.
After some difficulty in getting on shore, we were led to the khan, a very large room with a fire in one corner for boiling water, and a wine store; and round the side were benches which served for sitting by day, and on which the traveller spreads his mattress for the night, if he has one; if not, he must go without. We were desired to mount a ladder to a loft like a corn-floor, badly tiled in, and divided into four parts by boards about five feet high. The one division of this place assigned to us had no door, and when the windows were shut, which were of wood, there was no light what shone through the tiling or was admitted between the boards. The place was soon furnished, for the boy brought us a mat and spread it on the floor, which was all we had a right to expect; but as we seemed to be visitors who could pay pretty well, they brought also a rough wooden table and three wooden stools.
2nd. -- Galaxidi is in ruins, presenting only mud cottages and temporary wooden houses; ships also are in building.
4th. -- This morning we walked among the huts of the town, and found an old man keeping school near the ruins of his own school-room, which had been destroyed by the Turks. It happened to be his dinner-time, and he was seated cross-legged on a stone, with a footstool before him, enjoying a few olives and a morsel of bread. Around him stood his ragged pupils, reading from leaves torn out of old books, some of which were so worn and dirty that the poor boys could scarcely discover what they had once contained. The weather was by no means warm, yet we could not wonder at his choosing the open air for the place of instruction, when we saw his dwelling, which was a mud hut not quite nine feet square, with no opening for light but through the doorway. In this hovel he taught his forty scholars when the inclemency of the weather did not permit their being out of doors. The grey-headed father was surprised that his humble company had attracted the notice of strangers; but, seeing the interest we manifested in his calling, he inquired for a New Testament, which we gladly furnished, with the addition of some tracts to such of the children as could read them. This sight was gratifying to us as showing a disposition to teach and to learn, even under the most disadvantageous circumstances.
Our quarters at the khan became more uncomfortable; the people were so uncivil they would hardly give us cold water without grumbling. The second night we witnessed one of the most dreadful storms we ever remember to have seen. Violent gusts of wind shook our desolate abode, while the rain poured down in torrents and found entrance in various parts of our apartment.
They intended, as we have seen, to go to Athens by way of Corinth, and when they were disappointed of sailing to that city, and thrown upon the opposite shore of the gulf, they still seem to have supposed it impossible to reach the capital by any other route.
5th. -- Being, says John Yeardley, on the contrary side of the gulf, and thus deprived of helping ourselves by means of horses, we gave up all hope of reaching Athens, and thought we must of necessity return to Patras. We therefore inquired for a vessel to take us thither; but never shall I forget my feelings of horror while trying to contract with a man for a boat. I said in my heart, O that I might be permitted to try the fleece once more in turning our faces towards Athens. The man was exorbitant in his demands, and it was too late to reach Patras without risking the night on the sea. To stay where we were was next to impossible without serious injury, especially to my dear Martha. Strong indeed was our united prayer for direction and help in this time of distress, and ever-blessed be the name of our adorable Lord who heard and answered our prayer. Out of the depths of distress a little light sprung up, and we thought if we could take a boat and cross over to Scala, a little port on the opposite side of the creek, we might then take mules to [Castri the ancient] Delphi, and if not able to proceed further on our way, the change we hoped would be use to M.Y. We did make the effort, and were favored to get to Scala, where we found only a few scattered mud houses; but on landing, there was a change of feeling immediately experienced. We were rescued from ship-builders and sailors, the vilest of the vile, and placed among a simple country people.
The master of the custom-house, to whom we had a few lines of recommendation, invited us to his house and gave us coffee. He provided us with four mules; three for the interpreter and ourselves, and the fourth for the baggage. It was about eight miles, or two and a half hours' ride, to Delphi; and no sooner had we begun to feel the mountain air than my dear M. began to revive. We had to climb precipices where nothing but mules could have carried us. At the foot of the mountain we came in company with two camels, which was a new sight to us.
The situation of Delphi is the most beautiful that eyes can behold: mountains of rock, such as we never before saw, and in the back ground the far-famed Parnassus, covered with snow. The village consists of about one hundred cottages, some of them built in the rock. We were conducted to one of the best of these rustic dwellings, and met with a very friendly reception from the inmates. The house consisted of two rooms, and we were offered the use of one of them; they furnished us with mattresses laid upon a sort of dresser, where we slept much better than for many previous nights; even the hen and her thirteen chickens under our bed did not disturb us. The novelty of the visiters soon brought in several of the neighbors, who did not leave us, even while we took our tea. As there was a good feeling, we thought it well to improve the opportunity, and inquired who could read. The master of the house, a sensible man, said there were only about twenty in the village who know anything of letters, but that he could both read and write, for his father was a priest.
After tea we produced a New Testament and the book of Genesis, and our interpreter read aloud the first two chapters of Genesis. Our host had never seen the Scriptures in his own language, and we think we never beheld a countenance more full of delight and intelligence than his was during the reading. After a short explanation of what had been read, and a word of exhortation, we thought to close; but the company were so pleased with hearing the account of the creation and fall of man [from the sacred record itself], that they requested us to read more. I desired them to ask any questions on the subject they might wish; and the first which our host put was, What kind of tree it was, the fruit of which Adam was forbidden to eat? We answered that it was translated in our language apple. He said they thought it was a fig. We told them it might be a fig, or it might be an apple; but that the object of the Almighty was to try Adam's obedience. They at once agreed to this; and the master of the house wisely observed, Jesus Christ came to restore to us what was lost by Adam's transgression. He then said, It would have been better if Adam, after his transgression, instead of hiding himself, had confessed his sin to God, and begged his forgiveness. We all agreed that it was a natural act for man, in his fallen state, to wish to seek excuse, rather than to confess his sin and repent. We then made some remarks on the prophecy of the Saviour in the third chapter of Genesis, and ability was given us to preach the Gospel of life and salvation. All hearts seemed touched, and our own overflowed with gratitude. We may in truth say, Our Heavenly Father has plucked our feet out of a horrible pit and out of the miry clay, and set them upon a rock, and put a new song into our mouth, even praise to his glorious name. On considering afterwards our situation, we could not but behold the hand of a gracious Providence which had led us to this spot; had we attempted to go by Corinth to Athens, we should [as they afterwards learned] have been stopped by the waters, and have missed seeing this interesting people; but from hence the way was passable, and only four days' journey by land.
After dinner we walked through the village up to the rock. We came to a fountain where several women were washing; one of them, a young-looking person, suddenly left her companions, and with hasty step and entreating air advanced towards us, as we supposed to ask something; but she bowed her head almost to the ground, and then kissed our hands; after which she withdrew in a cheerful and diffident manner. The reason of this salutation was, that the young woman had lately been married, and it was customary for the last bride of the village to kiss the hands of strangers.
The temple of Apollo once occupied nearly half an acre of ground: a great many of its marble pillars are still to be seen, half buried by the plough, and corn growing over them. About a hundred yards from this temple is the cave in the rock from whence the priestess pronounced the oracle. Among the curiosities of this wonderful place, the tombs in the rocks are not the least remarkable. They are built of the most beautiful white marble; the entrance is by a large archway, and round the circle are several recesses in the stone, one above another, where the dead had evidently been deposited. They illustrate the history of the maniac dwelling among the tombs (Mark v.3.), for these caves formed a perfect sort of house in which persons might dwell.
8th. -- We were not able to leave Delphi on account of the high wind with some rain. In the evening we again enjoyed our Scripture reading on the hearth. We continued the book of Genesis, and our host inquired whether those who died before the birth of the Saviour were lost. He was informed they were saved through faith in the promise. He had supposed they went into hell, and that when Christ came he released them. We asked him if Enoch, who walked with God and was translated, could have been sent to hell. Of this he knew nothing, never having read the Scriptures.
9th. -- This morning we procured four mules and four men, and proceeded on our pilgrimage towards Livadia, thirty-three miles from Delphi. Our kind host recommended us to the special care of one of the muleteers, who put his hand to his heart, and feelingly accepted the trust. We were most of the day winding round Parnassus, whose height above us was tremendous. The road was frightful; over rocks, waters, and swampy ground; we could hardly have believed it possible to pass through the places where our mules penetrated. The muleteer performed his trust faithfully, rendering us all the assistance in his power. On parting we presented him with some tracts; he could read, and was much gratified with the gift.
At Livadia we were badly lodged, in a smoky room, and suffered much from extreme fatigue; but we found ourselves with an interesting family, to whom we read the Scriptures, seated with them on the floor; and we could not but feel grateful to our Divine Master, for leading us among those who were thirsting to receive the Holy Scriptures in a language they could understand.
10th. -- We travelled on horses through a comparatively flat country, despoiled of all its verdure by the ruthless hand of war. The evening was wet; we reached the once celebrated Thebes in the dark, and were glad to take shelter in a smoky room, in the first house that could receive us. The situation is fine, but the present town occupies only the part which was the fortress of ancient Thebes.
11th. -- This day we had much mountain country to pass through. Every tree we could see was either partly burnt or partly cut away. Towards the end of our day's travel we went through an immense wood, difficult of passage, on leaving which the Gulf of Aegina appeared in view. We rested for the night at a little settlement of Albanians near the coast. We obtained shelter in the cottage of an old woman, who seemed a little startled at the appearance of strangers, whose language she could not understand. Concluding, however, that we had the common wants of nature, and having no bread to offer us, she quickly prepared a little meal, made a cake, and baked it on the hearth under the ashes. We made signs to be furnished with a vessel in which we might prepare a little chocolate, our frequent repast under such circumstances; and, at length, a very rough homely-looking pitcher was produced; but the greater difficulty was to find something in which to boil the milk and water. After waiting till their own soup had been prepared, we obtained the use of the saucepan. These difficulties overcome, we enjoyed our meal; and offered some to a Greek woman who had walked beside our mules for the sake of company, on her dreary journey to Athens; but she refused, with thanks, saying, I am not sick; for the Greeks seldom take beverage of this sort, except when they are indisposed. As the inmates of this homely cottage, as well as the neighbors, who usually come in to see travellers of our uncommon appearance, did not understand Greek, we were deprived of the opportunity of reading the Holy Scriptures to them, or of conversing with them on the subject of religion. All that we could do was to prepare for rest, of which we stood in great need, having had a very fatiguing ride through the woods to this place. The room in which we had taken shelter was also to be our sleeping-place, in common with the old woman and her family and the Greek traveller; in another part of the room were also a sheep and several other animals. We swept as clean as we could a space in the neighborhood of the quiet sheep, and spread what bedding we had upon the mud floor, surrounding it with our baggage, except our carpet-bags, which served us for pillows; and after commending ourselves and the household to the protecting care of the great Shepherd of Israel, we obtained some refreshing repose. (See Eastern Customs, pp.17-19.)
12th. -- We started with tired bones. After a pleasant ride of four hours the Acropolis of Athens burst upon our view. The city is beautifully situated in a plain bounded by mountains, and near to a rich grove of olive-trees, which has been spared amid the ravages of war. I felt, says John Yeardley, low and contemplative; many and various thoughts crowded into my heart. Every foot we set in Greece, we Bee desolation. I can scarcely believe that I am in the place where the great Apostle of the Gentiles desired to know nothing but Christ crucified; and in sight of Mars Hill, from which the same apostle preached to the Athenians the true God.
We reached the only inn in the town, much worn by fatigue and bad accommodation, yet very grateful for having been preserved from any serious accident during our perilous journey, and under a precious sense that it was in right ordering we persevered in coming to this place.
We introduced ourselves to the American missionaries, Hill and King, and met with a hearty reception. The schools under their care are the most gratifying sight we have seen. J. Hill and his wife have nearly 500 children on their list. We were much pleased with the arrangements of the schools: the classification is the best I have ever seen, and the children exhibit intelligence and thirst for instruction. The effect of Scriptural instruction on the minds of the Greek children is very gratifying. A young girl whom the directors had taken into the school as an assistant teacher, entered the family with a mind fortified in the superstitions taught in her own church, observing scrupulously the feast and fast-days, the making the sign of the cross before eating, and the kissing of pictures. The mistress wisely avoided interfering with what the girl considered to be her religious duties; but after she had attended the Scriptural reading and the family worship for a short time, the light of divine truth broke in upon her heart; and as she embraced the substance of the religion of Jesus Christ, her attachment to the superstitious forms became gradually weakened, until at length she left them altogether. The mistress one day said to her, I observe you do not keep the fast-days, nor cross yourself before eating, nor kiss the pictures. No, replied the child, I am convinced that making the outward sign of the cross cannot purify the heart from sin; and as to meat and drink, I read in the Scriptures, that it is not that which goeth into the mouth that defiles the man.
15th. -- Visited the schools under the direction of Jonas King, of the Boston mission. He has an academy for young men, and a school for mutual instruction, containing together 150. I think the mode of Scripture lessons particularly efficient. The instruction given in the schools at Athens seems more complete than in any we have visited during the journey. J.K. has service in modern Greek three times on First-days, at which some of the young men attend, along with other Greeks, but not many.
During our stay in this city we visited many Greek families, and distributed among them religious tracts and portions of the Holy Scriptures, and exhorted them to the observance of their religious duties, often calling their attention to those points in which their own practices are at variance with the doctrine of Holy Scripture.
The ancient ruins are exceedingly grand, and raise mingled feelings in the heart not easily described, but tending to humble the pride of human greatness. We saw the Temple of Theseus, the prison of Socrates, the famous Temple of Minerva; but the spot that most nearly interested us was Mars Hill, whose rocky mount was in view from lodgings, where we sat and conversed together of the Apostle Paul preaching the true God; and in the sweet stillness which covered our spirits, earnestly desired that the pure Gospel might again be freely preached and received throughout this interesting but desolated country.
There are not more than sixty really good houses built in the town; but, including great and small, there may be 1500 dwellings. It is settled that Athens shall be the seat of the Greek government; and the young king, Otho, laid the foundation-stone of the new palace in his last visit to this place.
18th. -- Being anxious to get to Patras in time to sail by an English packet to Corfu, we set off for the port. J. Hill met us, to see us embark in a boat for Kalimichi. The Greek sailors have a superstition against sailing at any time but in the night; but after being deceived by one captain, we prevailed, on another to set sail [in the daytime], in the full hope of reaching Kalimichi the same evening. A favorable gale wafted us on for some time, but a slight storm coming on, the cowardly captain ran us into a creek, and kept us tossing all the night in his open boat. About eight o'clock the next morning we were favored to reach Kalimichi in safety, where we procured mules and reached Corinth to dinner.
Here there are only a few houses standing in the midst of ruins. We took up our abode at the only inn, from the windows of which we looked upon the busy scene of a fair. Our hearts were not enlarged, as the great Apostle's was; for our spirits were clothed with mourning in contemplating the darkness of the place. Many persons to whom we spoke could not read; and on offering a Testament to the man of the inn he refused to receive it.
We pursued our travels, and at mid-day met with a trying detention from the muleteer having neglected to obtain a permission. We were at length suffered to proceed, but arrived late at a miserable khan, where we passed the night in a loft. This poor place could only furnish two mules and a donkey, with a man to attend them; but we were encouraged to hope we should find four horses about two hours further on; but here we were disappointed, and could get no horses to proceed. We felt truly destitute, and took refuge in a loft from the scorching rays of the sun. We had very little food with us, and saw no probability of quitting our desolate abode till the next day at any rate. Thus situated we were endeavoring to be reconciled to our allotment, when most unexpectedly, about two o'clock, we espied a small fishing-boat sailing towards Patras, and immediately ran down to the shore, a considerable distance, to make signals to the boat-man, and inquire whether he would convey us to Vostizza, a place within a day's journey of Patras. We directly procured a mule to convey our baggage to the shore, and descended by a very rough path to a creek where the boat lay to. Here we were again detained by the guard making great difficulty in allowing the boatman to take passengers without a permit, which could only be obtained in the town, so strict and perplexing are the regulations for travellers under the new government. However, after detaining us an hour and causing us to lose most of the fair wind, he suffered the man to take us. We sailed along pretty well for a time, when the wind suddenly changed, and the boatman told us we could not get to Vostizza that night, but added they would put us on shore where we should be within an hour's walk of it, and that we could readily find a mule to carry our baggage. This we gladly accepted, and were soon landed and on our way.
Although sick and weary on board, we seemed to receive new strength for our walk, and arrived at Vostizza at about eight o'clock. Here our accommodation for the night was much like our former lodging; for this large town has also been, burned by the enemy, and presents a scene of ruins. We engaged horses for the next day to convey us to Patras, and were a little cheered with the prospect of being near that place of attraction. The man of the house where we lodged could not read, but informed us there was a school in the town of fifty boys. We saw a person in the next shop writing, and offered him a Testament, which he very gratefully received, and sent for the schoolmaster, who seemed much pleased with our offer to send him books and lessons. We also gave books to several we met with, who began eagerly to read them aloud, and soon obtained hearers, so that it became a highly interesting scene: boys who received tracts from us showed them to others, and numbers crowded about us, even to the lust moment of our stay. If we had had a thousand books we could have disposed of them. What a difference between this place and poor Corinth!
Our trying journey through Greece has given us an opportunity of judging of the state of things, and I hope will enable us to relieve some of their wants. It is cause of humble thankfulness to the Father of mercies that he has preserved us in the midst of many dangers, and brought us in safety so far back on our way with hearts filled with love and praise.
They arrived at Patras on the 22nd, but found that the English steamer had sailed two days before. They employed the interval before the sailing of another packet in establishing a girls' school, which was commenced soon after their departure. At Corfu they received information of the opening of the school, conveyed in a letter from the sister of the English consul in the following encouraging terms: --
I am sure you will be gratified to hear that the school which was established by your benevolent exertions has been opened under the most favorable auspices. The first day we had twenty-two girls; we have now forty-eight. Nothing can exceed the eagerness shown by the children to be admitted, and their parents seem equally anxious to send them; with very few exceptions they come clean, and on the whole are attentive and well behaved. Of the forty-eight there are only nine who can read. The little Corfuot you recommended is first monitor, and of great use.
They reached Corfu on the 12th of the Fifth Month, and were kindly accommodated at the office of the Commissary Ramsay.
Immediately on our arrival at Corfu, our young friend the Count Sardina renewed his visits. We saw him almost daily; our conversations were often truly spiritual; he opened his heart to us, and we rejoiced to believe that he had attained to a degree of living faith in his Redeemer.
It will be recollected that their inability to collect the inhabitants in a meeting for worship was a source of discouragement to John and Martha Yeardley in their former visit to Corfu. Now, on revisiting this island, they had the satisfaction of holding two meetings for worship with Isaac Lowndes' congregation.
6 mo. 1. -- Isaac Lowndes had now obtained leave to hold his meeting for worship in the large school-room, and I felt at liberty to propose having an opportunity to address the congregation. This he gladly accepted, and gave notice of our intention. It was pretty well attended, but not full; a good feeling prevailed.
15th. -- We had another meeting with the little company who meet in the school-room. The room was better filled than on the former occasion: it was a precious season of divine favor; utterance was given to preach the word, and I trust there were some into whose hearts it found entrance.
A few days before we left the island, I.L. took us to visit the Jewish Rabbi, who, though full of argument, appears extremely dark and bewildered, dwelling on mysterious words whose interpretation is confined to the rabbinical office. He said they looked for a temporal king, who should give a temporal kingdom to Israel. It was a truly painful visit, and we left him with the desire that he might be instructed even out of his own law, which, if properly understood, would prove as a schoolmaster to bring him to Christ.
After spending about five weeks at Corfu on this second visit, they again crossed the Adriatic to Ancona.