194 THE BOND OF FRIENDSHIP
was going in a ship to Corfu and Patras, but must bid us good-bye first; and he had brought a large fish for our mother. He had a great deal to tell, not only of the fishermen yonder in the Gulf of Lepanto, but also of Kings and heroes, who had once ruled in Greece, just as the Turks rule now.
I have seen a bud on a rose bush gradually unfold through days and weeks, till it became a rose, and hung there in its beauty, before I was aware how large and beautiful and red it had become ; and the same thing I now saw in Anastasia. She was now a beautiful grown girl, and I had become a stout stripling. The wolf-skins that covered my mother's and Anastasia's bed, I had myself taken from wolves that had fallen beneath my shots.
Years had gone by, when one evening Aphtanides came in, slender as a reed, strong and brown. He kissed us all, and had much to tell of the great ocean, of the fortifications of Malta, and of the marvellous sepulchres of Egypt. It sounded strange as a legend of the priests, and I looked up to him with a kind of veneration.
' How much you know !' I exclaimed ; ' what wonders you can tell of !'
c But you have told me the finest thing, after 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 went before us : your sister Anastasia is the most beautiful and most innocent of girls ; she shall consecrate us ! No people has such grand old customs as we Greeks.'
Anastasia blushed like a young rose, and my mother kissed Aphtanides.
A couple of miles from our house, there where loose earth lies on the hill, and a few scattered trees give a shelter, stood the little church ; a silver lamp hung in front of the altar.
I had put on my best clothes : the white fustanella fell in rich folds round my hips, the red jacket fitted tight and close, the tassel on my fez cap was silver, and in my girdle gleamed a knife and my pistols. Aphtanides was clad in the blue garb worn by Greek sailors; on his chest hung a silver plate with the figure of the Virgin Mary ; his scarf