THE BOND OF FRIENDSHIP 193
water; but in a moment Aphtanides had sprung in after her, and was holding her up to me ! ^We took off her clothes, wrung out the water, and then dressed her again ; Aphtanides did the same for himself, and we remained on the water till they were dry ; and no one knew what a fright we had had for our little adopted sister, in whose life Aphtanides now had a part.
The summer came. The sun burned so hot that the leaves turned yellow on the trees. I thought of our cool mountains, and of the fresh water they contained ; my mother, too, longed for them ; and one evening we wandered home. What peace, what silence ! We walked on through the thick thyme, still fragrant though the sun had scorched its leaves. Not a single herdsman did we meet, not one solitary hut did we pass. Everything was quiet and deserted ; but a shooting star announced that in heaven tnere was yet life. I know not if the clear blue air gleamed with light of its own, or if the radiance came from the stars ; but we could see the outlines of the mountains quite plainly. My mother lighted a fire, roasted some roots she had brought with her, and I and my little sister slept among the thyme, without fear of the ugly Smidraki,1 from whose throat fire spurts forth, or of the wolf and jackal; for my mother sat beside us, and I thought that was enough.
We reached our old home ; but the hut was a heap of ruins, and a new one had to be built. A few women lent my mother their aid, and in a few days walls were raised, and covered with a new roof of oleander branches. My mother made many bottle-cases of bark and skins ; I kept the priest's little flock,2 and Anastasia and the little tortoises were my playmates.
Once we had a visit from our beloved Aphtanides, who said he had greatly longed to see us, and who stayed with us two whole happy days.
A month afterwards he came again, and told us that he
1 According to the Greek superstition, this is a monster generated from the unopened entrails of slaughtered sheep, which are thrown away in the fields.
2 A peasant who can read often becomes a priest; he is then called * very holy Sir,' and the lower orders kiss the ground on which he has stepped.