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The Shepherd’s Story of the Bond of Friendship

Author: Andersen Hans Christian | Genre: Tale | Year: | Catalogue: Global database Все варианты сказки на сайте

The little dwelling in which we lived was of
clay, but the door-posts were columns of fluted marble, found near the spot on
which it stood. The roof sloped nearly to the ground. It was at this time dark,
brown, and ugly, but had originally been formed of blooming olive and laurel
branches, brought from beyond the mountains. The house was situated in a narrow
gorge, whose rocky walls rose to a perpendicular height, naked and black, while
round their summits clouds often hung, looking like white living figures. Not a
singing bird was ever heard there, neither did men dance to the sound of the
pipe. The spot was one sacred to olden times; even its name recalled a memory
of the days when it was called “Delphi.” Then the summits of the
dark, sacred mountains were covered with snow, and the highest, mount
Parnassus, glowed longest in the red evening light. The brook which rolled from
it near our house, was also sacred. How well I can remember every spot in that
deep, sacred solitude! A fire had been kindled in the midst of the hut, and
while the hot ashes lay there red and glowing, the bread was baked in them. At
times the snow would be piled so high around our hut as almost to hide it, and
then my mother appeared most cheerful. She would hold my head between her
hands, and sing the songs she never sang at other times, for the Turks, our
masters, would not allow it. She sang,—

“On the summit of mount Olympus, in a forest of dwarf
firs, lay an old stag. His eyes were heavy with tears, and glittering with
colors like dewdrops; and there came by a roebuck, and said, ’What ailest thee,
that thou weepest blue and red tears?’ And the stag answered, ’The Turk has
come to our city; he has wild dogs for the chase, a goodly pack.’ ’I will drive
them away across the islands!’ cried the young roebuck; ’I will drive them away
across the islands into the deep sea.’ But before evening the roebuck was
slain, and before night the hunted stag was dead.”

And when my mother sang thus, her eyes would become moist;
and on the long eyelashes were tears, but she concealed them and watched the
black bread baking in the ashes. Then I would clench my fist, and cry,
“We will kill these Turks!” But she repeated the words of the song,
“I will drive them across the islands to the deep sea; but before evening
came the roebuck was slain, and before the night the hunted stag was
dead.”

We had been lonely in our hut for several days and nights
when my father came home. I knew he would bring me some shells from the gulf of
Lepanto, or perhaps a knife with a shining blade. This time he brought, under
his sheep-skin cloak, a little child, a little half-naked girl. She was wrapped
in a fur; but when this was taken off, and she lay in my mother’s lap, three
silver coins were found fastened in her dark hair; they were all her
possessions. My father told us that the child’s parents had been killed by the
Turks, and he talked so much about them that I dreamed of Turks all night. He
himself had been wounded, and my mother bound up his arm. It was a deep wound,
and the thick sheep-skin cloak was stiff with congealed blood. The little
maiden was to be my sister. How pretty and bright she looked: even my mother’s
eyes were not more gentle than hers. Anastasia, as she was called, was to be my
sister, because her father had been united to mine by an old custom, which we
still follow. They had sworn brotherhood in their youth, and the most beautiful
and virtuous maiden in the neighborhood was chosen to perform the act of
consecration upon this bond of friendship. So now this little girl was my
sister. She sat in my lap, and I brought her flowers, and feathers from the
birds of the mountain. We drank together of the waters of Parnassus, and dwelt
for many years beneath the laurel roof of the hut, while, winter after winter,
my mother sang her song of the stag who shed red tears. But as yet I did not
understand that the sorrows of my own countrymen were mirrored in those
tears.

One day there came to our hut Franks, men from a far
country, whose dress was different to ours. They had tents and beds with them,
carried by horses; and they were accompanied by more than twenty Turks, all
armed with swords and muskets. These Franks were friends of the Pacha, and had
letters from him, commanding an escort for them. They only came to see our
mountain, to ascend Parnassus amid the snow and clouds, and to look at the
strange black rocks which raised their steep sides near our hut. They could not
find room in the hut, nor endure the smoke that rolled along the ceiling till
it found its way out at the low door; so they pitched their tents on a small
space outside our dwelling. Roasted lambs and birds were brought forth, and
strong, sweet wine, of which the Turks are forbidden to partake.

When they departed, I accompanied them for some distance,
carrying my little sister Anastasia, wrapped in a goat-skin, on my back. One of
the Frankish gentlemen made me stand in front of a rock, and drew us both as we
stood there, so that we looked like one creature. I did not think of it then,
but Anastasia and I were really one. She was always sitting on my lap, or
riding in the goat-skin on my back; and in my dreams she always appeared to
me.


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  • Two nights after this, other men, armed with knives and
    muskets, came into our tent. They were Albanians, brave men, my mother told me.
    They only stayed a short time. My sister Anastasia sat on the knee of one of
    them; and when they were gone, she had not three, but two silver coins in her
    hair—one had disappeared. They wrapped tobacco in strips of paper, and
    smoked it; and I remember they were uncertain as to the road they ought to
    take. But they were obliged to go at last, and my father went with them. Soon
    after, we heard the sound of firing. The noise continued, and presently
    soldiers rushed into our hut, and took my mother and myself and Anastasia
    prisoners. They declared that we had entertained robbers, and that my father
    had acted as their guide, and therefore we must now go with them. The corpses
    of the robbers, and my father’s corpse, were brought into the hut. I saw my
    poor dead father, and cried till I fell asleep. When I awoke, I found myself in
    a prison; but the room was not worse than our own in the hut. They gave me
    onions and musty wine from a tarred cask; but we were not accustomed to much
    better fare at home. How long we were kept in prison, I do not know; but many
    days and nights passed by. We were set free about Easter-time. I carried
    Anastasia on my back, and we walked very slowly; for my mother was very weak,
    and it is a long way to the sea, to the Gulf of Lepanto.

    On our arrival, we entered a church, in which there were
    beautiful pictures in golden frames. They were pictures of angels, fair and
    bright; and yet our little Anastasia looked equally beautiful, as it seemed to
    me. In the centre of the floor stood a coffin filled with roses. My mother told
    me it was the Lord Jesus Christ who was represented by these roses. Then the
    priest announced, “Christ is risen,” and all the people greeted
    each other. Each one carried a burning taper in his hand, and one was given to
    me, as well as to little Anastasia. The music sounded, and the people left the
    church hand-in-hand, with joy and gladness. Outside, the women were roasting
    the paschal lamb. We were invited to partake; and as I sat by the fire, a boy,
    older than myself, put his arms round my neck, and kissed me, and said,
    “Christ is risen.” And thus it was that for the first time I met
    Aphtanides.

    My mother could make fishermen’s nets, for which there was a
    great demand here in the bay; and we lived a long time by the side of the sea,
    the beautiful sea, that had a taste like tears, and in its colors reminded me
    of the stag that wept red tears; for sometimes its waters were red, and
    sometimes green or blue. Aphtanides knew how to manage our boat, and I often
    sat in it, with my little Anastasia, while it glided on through the water,
    swift as a bird flying through the air. Then, when the sun set, how
    beautifully, deeply blue, would be the tint on the mountains, one rising above
    the other in the far distance, and the summit of mount Parnassus rising above
    them all like a glorious crown. Its top glittered in the evening rays like
    molten gold, and it seemed as if the light came from within it; for long after
    the sun had sunk beneath the horizon, the mountain-top would glow in the clear,
    blue sky. The white aquatic birds skimmed the surface of the water in their
    flight, and all was calm and still as amid the black rocks at Delphi. I lay on
    my back in the boat, Anastasia leaned against me, while the stars above us
    glittered more brightly than the lamps in our church. They were the same stars,
    and in the same position over me as when I used to sit in front of our hut at
    Delphi, and I had almost begun to fancy I was still there, when suddenly there
    was a splash in the water—Anastasia had fallen in; but in a moment
    Aphtanides has sprung in after her, and was now holding her up to me. We dried
    her clothes as well as we were able, and remained on the water till they were
    dry; for we did not wish it to be known what a fright we had had, nor the
    danger which our little adopted sister had incurred, in whose life Aphtanides
    had now a part.

    The summer came, and the burning heat of the sun tinted the
    leaves of the trees with lines of gold. I thought of our cool mountain-home,
    and the fresh water that flowed near it; my mother, too, longed for if, and one
    evening we wandered towards home. How peaceful and silent it was as we walked
    on through the thick, wild thyme, still fragrant, though the sun had scorched
    the leaves. Not a single herdsman did we meet, not a solitary hut did we pass;
    everything appeared lonely and deserted—only a shooting star showed that
    in the heavens there was yet life. I know not whether the clear, blue
    atmosphere gleamed with its own light, or if the radiance came from the stars;
    but we could distinguish quite plainly the outline of the mountains. My mother
    lighted a fire, and roasted some roots she had brought with her, and I and my
    little sister slept among the bushes, without fear of the ugly
    smidraki,1 from whose throat issues
    fire, or of the wolf and the jackal; for my mother sat by us, and I considered
    her presence sufficient protection.

    We reached our old home; but the cottage was in ruins, and
    we had to build a new one. With the aid of some neighbors, chiefly women, the
    walls were in a few days erected, and very soon covered with a roof of
    olive-branches. My mother obtained a living by making bottle-cases of bark and
    skins, and I kept the sheep belonging to the priests, who were sometimes
    peasants,2 while I had for my
    playfellows Anastasia and the turtles.

    Once our beloved Aphtanides paid us a visit. He said he had
    been longing to see us so much; and he remained with us two whole happy days. A
    month afterwards he came again to wish us good-bye, and brought with him a
    large fish for my mother. He told us he was going in a ship to Corfu and
    Patras, and could relate a great many stories, not only about the fishermen who
    lived near the gulf of Lepanto, but also of kings and heroes who had once
    possessed Greece, just as the Turks possess it now.

    I have seen a bud on a rose-bush gradually, in the course of
    a few weeks, unfold its leaves till it became a rose in all its beauty; and,
    before I was aware of it, I beheld it blooming in rosy loveliness. The same
    thing had happened to Anastasia. Unnoticed by me, she had gradually become a
    beautiful maiden, and I was now also a stout, strong youth. The wolf-skins that
    covered the bed in which my mother and Anastasia slept, had been taken from
    wolves which I had myself shot.

    Years had gone by when, one evening, Aphtanides came in. He
    had grown tall and slender as a reed, with strong limbs, and a dark, brown
    skin. He kissed us all, and had so much to tell of what he had seen of the
    great ocean, of the fortifications at Malta, and of the marvellous sepulchres
    of Egypt, that I looked up to him with a kind of veneration. His stories were
    as strange as the legends of the priests of olden times.

    “How much you know!” I exclaimed, “and
    what wonders you can relate?”

    “I think what you once told me, the finest of
    all,” he replied; “you told me of a thing that has never been out
    of my thoughts—of the good old custom of ’the bond of
    friendship,’—a custom I should like to follow. Brother, let you and I go
    to church, as your father and Anastasia’s father once did. Your sister
    Anastasia is the most beautiful and most innocent of maidens, and she shall
    consecrate the deed. No people have such grand old customs as we
    Greeks.”

    Anastasia blushed like a young rose, and my mother kissed
    Aphtanides.

    At about two miles from our cottage, where the earth on the
    hill is sheltered by a few scattered trees, stood the little church, with a
    silver lamp hanging before the altar. I put on my best clothes, and the white
    tunic fell in graceful folds over my hips. The red jacket fitted tight and
    close, the tassel on my Fez cap was of silver, and in my girdle glittered a
    knife and my pistols. Aphtanides was clad in the blue dress worn by the Greek
    sailors; on his breast hung a silver medal with the figure of the Virgin Mary,
    and his scarf was as costly as those worn by rich lords. Every one could see
    that we were about to perform a solemn ceremony. When we entered the little,
    unpretending church, the evening sunlight streamed through the open door on the
    burning lamp, and glittered on the golden picture frames. We knelt down
    together on the altar steps, and Anastasia drew near and stood beside us. A
    long, white garment fell in graceful folds over her delicate form, and on her
    white neck and bosom hung a chain entwined with old and new coins, forming a
    kind of collar. Her black hair was fastened into a knot, and confined by a
    headdress formed of gold and silver coins which had been found in an ancient
    temple. No Greek girl had more beautiful ornaments than these. Her countenance
    glowed, and her eyes were like two stars. We all three offered a silent prayer,
    and then she said to us, “Will you be friends in life and in
    death?”

    “Yes,” we replied.

    “Will you each remember to say, whatever may happen,
    ’My brother is a part of myself; his secret is my secret, my happiness is his;
    self-sacrifice, patience, everything belongs to me as they do to him?’

    And we again answered, “Yes.” Then she joined
    out hands and kissed us on the forehead, and we again prayed silently. After
    this a priest came through a door near the altar, and blessed us all three.
    Then a song was sung by other holy men behind the altar-screen, and the bond of
    eternal friendship was confirmed. When we arose, I saw my mother standing by
    the church door, weeping.

    How cheerful everything seemed now in our little cottage by
    the Delphian springs! On the evening before his departure, Aphtanides sat
    thoughtfully beside me on the slopes of the mountain. His arm was flung around
    me, and mine was round his neck. We spoke of the sorrows of Greece, and of the
    men of the country who could be trusted. Every thought of our souls lay clear
    before us. Presently I seized his hand: “Aphtanides,” I exclaimed,
    “there is one thing still that you must know,—one thing that till
    now has been a secret between myself and Heaven. My whole soul is filled with
    love,—with a love stronger than the love I bear to my mother and to
    thee.”

    “And whom do you love?” asked Aphtanides. And
    his face and neck grew red as fire.

    “I love Anastasia,” I replied.

    Then his hand trembled in mine, and he became pale as a
    corpse. I saw it, I understood the cause, and I believe my hand trembled too.
    I bent towards him, I kissed his forehead, and whispered, “I have never
    spoken of this to her, and perhaps she does not love me. Brother, think of
    this; I have seen her daily, she has grown up beside me, and has become a part
    of my soul.”

    “And she shall be thine,” he exclaimed;
    “thine! I may not wrong thee, nor will I do so. I also love her, but
    tomorrow I depart. In a year we will see each other again, but then you will be
    married; shall it not be so? I have a little gold of my own, it shall be yours.
    You must and shall take it.”

    We wandered silently homeward across the mountains. It was
    late in the evening when we reached my mother’s door. Anastasia held the lamp
    as we entered; my mother was not there. She looked at Aphtanides with a sweet
    but mournful expression on her face. “To-morrow you are going to leave
    us,” she said. “I am very sorry.”

    “Sorry!” he exclaimed, and his voice was
    troubled with a grief as deep as my own. I could not speak; but he seized her
    hand and said, “Our brother yonder loves you, and is he not dear to you?
    His very silence now proves his affection.”

    Anastasia trembled, and burst into tears. Then I saw no one,
    thought of none, but her. I threw my arms round her, and pressed my lips to
    hers. As she flung her arms round my neck, the lamp fell to the ground, and we
    were in darkness, dark as the heart of poor Aphtanides.

    Before daybreak he rose, kissed us all, and said
    “Farewell,” and went away. He had given all his money to my mother
    for us. Anastasia was betrothed to me, and in a few days afterwards she became
    my wife.



    1. According to superstition among the Greeks, this is a
      monster produced from the unopened entrails of slaughtered sheep, which have
      been thrown away in the fields.
    2. A peasant who can read is ofen made a priest; he is addressed
      as “Most holy sir,” and the other peasants kiss the ground on which
      he has stepped.