Bond of Friendship
By Hans Christian Andersen
We have lately taken a little journey
together, and now we want to take a longer
one. Whither ? To Sparta, to Mycene, to
Delphi ? There are a hundred places at whose
names the heart beats with the desire of
travel. On horseback we go up the mountain
paths, through brake and
through brier. A single traveller makes an
appearance like a whole caravan. He rides
forward with his guide, a packhorse carries
trunks, a tent, and provisions, and a few
armed soldiers follow as a guard. No inn
with warm beds awaits him at the end of his
tiring day's journey : the tent is often his
dwelling-place in the great wild region ;
the guide cooks him a pilau of rice, fowls,
and curry for his supper. A thousand gnats
swarm round the tent. It is a' miserable
night, and to-morrow the way will lead
across swollen streams ; sit fast on your
horse that you may not
be washed away !
What is your reward for undergoing these
hardships ? The fullest, richest reward.
Nature manifests herself here in all her
greatness ; every spot is historical, and
the eye and the thoughts are alike delighted.
The poet may sing it, the painter portray it
in rich pictures ; but the air of
reality which sinks deep into the soul of
the spectator, and remains there, neither
painter nor poet can reproduce.
The lonely herdsman yonder on the hills
would, perhaps, by a simple recital of an
event in his life, better enlighten you, who
wish in a few features to behold the land of
the Hellenes, than any writer of travel
' Then/ says my Muse, ' let him speak'
A custom, a good, peculiar custom, shall be
the subject of the mountain shepherd's tale.
It is called Our rude house was put together
of clay ; but the doorposts were columns of
fluted marble found near the spot where the
house was erected. The roof reached almost
down to the ground. It was now dark brown
and ugly, but it had originally consisted of
blooming olive and fresh laurel branches
brought from beyond the mountain. Around our
dwelling was a narrow gorge, whose walls of
rock rose steeply upwards, and showed naked
and black, and round their summits often
hung clouds, like white living figures.
Never did I hear a singing bird there, never
did the men there dance to the sound of the
bagpipe ; but the spot was sacred from the
old times : even its name reminded of this,
for it was called Delphi ! The dark solemn
mountains were all covered with snow ; the
highest, which gleamed the longest in the
red light of evening, was Parnassus ; the
brook which flowed from it near our house
was once sacred also. Now the ass sullies it
with its feet, but the stream rolls on and
on, and becomes clear again. How I can
remember every spot in the deep holy
solitude ! In the midst of the hut a fire
was kindled, and when the hot ashes lay
there red and glowing, the bread was baked
in them. When the snow was piled so high
around our hut as almost to hide it, my
mother appeared most cheerful : then she
would hold my head between her hands, kiss
my forehead, 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 Olympus, in the forest of
dwarf firs, lay an old stag. His eyes were
heavy with tears ; he wept red, green, and
even pale blue tears ; and there came a
roebuck by, and said, " What ails thee, that
thou weepest those blue, green, and red
tears ? " And the stag answered,
" The Turk has come to our village : 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 sank down the roebuck
was slain, and before night the stag was
hunted and dead.'
And when my mother sang thus, her eyes
became moist, and on the long eyelashes hung
a tear ; but she hid it, and baked our black
bread in the ashes. Then I would clench my
fist and cry,
1 We will kill the Turks ! '
But she repeated from the song the words, '
I will drive them across the islands into
the deep sea. But before evening sank down
the roebuck was slain, and before the night
came the stag was hunted and dead.
For several days and nights we had been
lonely in our hut, when my father came home.
I knew he would bring me shells from the
Gulf, of Lepanto, or perhaps even a bright
gleaming knife. This time he brought us a
child, a little half -naked girl, that he
carried under his sheep-skin cloak. It was
wrapped in a fur, and all that the little
creature possessed when this was taken off,
and she lay in my mother's lap, were three
silver coins, fastened in her dark hair. My
father told us that the Turks had killed the
child's parents ; and he told so much about
them that I dreamed of the Turks all night.
He himself had been wounded, and my mother
bound up his arm. The wound
was deep, and the thick sheep-skin was stiff
with frozen blood. The little maiden was to
be my sister. How radiantly beautiful 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 the old
custom which we still keep; They had sworn
brotherhood in their youth, and chosen the
most beautiful and virtuous girl in the
neighbourhood to consecrate their bond of
friendship. I often heard of the strange
So now the little girl was my sister. She
sat in my lap, and I brought her flowers and
the feathers of the mountain birds : we
drank together of the waters of Parnassus,
and slept, cheek to cheek, under the laurel
roof of the hut, while my mother sang winter
after winter about the red, green, and pale
blue tears. But as yet I did not understand
that it was my own countrymen whose many
sorrows were mirrored in those tears.
One day there came three Frankish men. Their
dress was different from ours. They had
tents and beds with them on their horses,
and more than twenty Turks, all armed with
swords and muskets, accompanied them ; for
they were friends of the pasha, and had
letters from him
commanding an escort for them. They only
came to see our mountains, to ascend
Parnassus amid the snow and the clouds, and
to look at the strange black steep rocks
near our hut. They could not find room in
it, nor could they endure the smoke that
rolled along the ceiling and found its way
out at the low door ; therefore they pitched
their tents on the small space outside our
dwelling, roasted lambs and birds, and
poured out strong sweet wine, of which the
Turks were not allowed 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 me, and
her too, as we stood there, so that we
looked like one creature. I never thought of
it before, but Anastasia and I were really
one. She was always sitting in my lap or
riding in the goat-skin at my back, and when
I dreamed, she appeared in my dreams.
Two nights afterwards, 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 only two silver coins in her hair. They
wrapped tobacco in strips of paper and
smoked it. I remember they were undecided as
to the road they were to take.
But "they had to make a choice. They went,
and my father went with them. Soon
afterwards we heard the sound of loud
firing, soldiers rushed into our tent, and
took my mother, and myself, and my sister
Anastasia prisoners. They declared that the
robbers had been entertained by us, and that
my father had acted as the robbers' guide,
and therefore we must go with them.
Presently I saw the bodies of the robbers
brought in ; I saw my father's body too. I
cried and cried till I fell asleep. When I
awoke, we were in prison, but the room was
not worse than ours in our own house. They
gave me onions to eat, and musty wine poured
from a tarry cask, but we had no better fare
How long we were kept prisoners I do not
know ; but many days and nights went by.
When we were set free it was the time of the
holy Easter feast. I carried Anastasia on my
back, for my mother was ill, and could only
move slowly, and it was a long way till we
came down to the sea,
to the Gulf of Lepanto. We went into a
church that gleamed with pictures painted on
a golden ground. They were pictures of
angels, and very beautiful ; but it seemed
to me that our little Anastasia was just as
beautiful. In the middle of the floor stood
a coffin filled with roses. ' The Lord
Christ is pictured there in the form of a
beautiful rose,' said my mother ; and the
priest announced, ' Christ is risen ! ' All
the people kissed each other : each one had
a burning taper in his hand, and I received
one myself, and so did little Anastasia. The
bagpipes sounded, men
danced hand in hand from the church, and
outside the women were roasting the Easter
lamb. We were invited to partake, and I sat
by the fire ; a boy, older than myself, put
his arms around my neck, kissed me, and said,
' Christ is risen ! ' and thus it was that
for the first time I met
My mother could make fishermen's nets, for
which there was a good demand here in the
bay, and we lived a long time by the side of
the sea, the beautiful sea, that tasted like
tears, and in its colours reminded me of the
song of the stag that wept for sometimes its
waters were red, and
sometimes green or blue.
Aphtanides knew how to manage a 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 sank down, the mountains were tinted
with a deeper and deeper blue, one range
peeped over the other, and behind them all
stood Parnassus with its snow-crowned summit.
The mountain-top gleamed in the evening rays
like glowing iron, and it seemed as though
the light came from within it ; for long
after the sun had set, the mountain still
shone through the clear blue air. The white
water-birds touched the surface of the sea
with their wings, otherwise all here was as
calm and quiet as among the black rocks at
Delphi. I lay on my back in the boat,
Anastasia leaned against me, and the stars
above us shone brighter than the lamps in
our church. They were the same stars, and
they stood exactly in the same positions
above me, as when I had sat in front of our
hut at Delphi ; and at last I almost fancied
I was back there. Suddenly there was a
splash in the water, and the boat rocked
violently. I cried out, for Anastasia had
fallen into the 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
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, from whose throat fire spurts
forth, or of the wolf and jackal ; for my
mother sat beside us, and I thought that
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, 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
A month afterwards he came again, and told
us that he 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 mobher.
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
up to him with a kind of veneration.
' How much you know ! ' I exclaimed ; ' what
wonders you can tell of ! '
' 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 was as costly as those worn
by rich lords. Every one could see that we
were about to go through a -solemn ceremony.
We stepped into the little simple church,
where the evening sunlight, streaming
through the door, gleamed on the burning
lamp and the pictures on golden ground. We
knelt down on the altar steps, and Anastasia
came before us. A long white garment hung
loose over her graceful form ; on her white
neck and bosom hung a chain, covered with
old and new coins, forming a kind of collar.
Her black hair was fastened in a knot, and
confined by a headdress made of silver and
gold coins that had been found in the old
temples. No Greek girl had more beautiful
ornaments than she. Her countenance glowed,
and her eyes were like two stars.
We all three prayed silently ; and then she
said to us, ' Will you be friends in life
and in death ? '
' Yes,' we replied.
' Will you, whatever may happen, remember
this : my brother is a part of myself. My
secrets are his, my happiness is his.
Self-sacrifice, patience everything in me
belongs to him as to me ? '
And we again answered, ' Yes.'
Then she joined our hands and kissed us on
the forehead, and we again prayed silently.
Then the priest came through the door near
the altar, and blessed us all three ; and a
song, sung by the other holy men, sounded
from behind the altar screen, and the bond
of eternal friendship was concluded. When we
rose, I saw my mother standing by the church
door weeping heartily.
How cheerful it was now, in our little hut,
and by the springs of Delphi ! On the
evening before his departure, Aphtanides sat
thoughtful with me on the declivity of a
mountain ; his arm was flung round my waist,
and mine was round his neck : we spoke of
the sorrows of Greece, and of the men whom
the country could trust. Every thought of
our souls lay clear before each of us, and I
seized his hand.
' One thing thou must still 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 and 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. I bent
towards him, kissed his forehead, and
whispered, ' I have never spoken of it 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 deceive thee, nor will I
do so. I also love her ; but to-morrow I
depart. In a year we shall see each other
once more, and then you will be married,
will you not ? I have a little gold of my
own : it shall be thine. Thou must, thou
shalt take it.'
And we wandered home silently across the
mountain. It was late in the evening when we
stood at my mother's door.
Anastasia held the lamp upwards as we
entered : my mother was not there. She gazed
at Aphtanides with a strangely mournful
' To-morrow you are going from us,' she said
: ' I am very sorry for it.'
Sorry ! ' he repeated, and in his voice
there seemed a trouble as great as the grief
I myself felt. I could not speak, but he
seized her hand, and said, ' Our brother
yonder loves you, and he is dear to you, is
he not ? His very silence is a proof of his
Anastasia trembled and burst into tears.
Then I saw no one but her, thought of none
but her, and threw my arms round her, and
said, ' I love thee ! ' She pressed her lips
to mine, and flung her arms round my neck ;
but the lamp had fallen to the ground, and
all was dark around us dark as in the heart
of poor Aphtanides.
Before daybreak he rose, kissed us all, said
farewell, and went away. He had given all
his money to my mother for us. Anastasia was
my betrothed, and a few days afterwards she
became my wife.