Page images

and I didn't seem to know much about it then, from what he said. We were all stirred up with knowledge, brought face to face with history, as we were, and bound to unload it on somebody. Only the Music-Master wasn't. A little apart from any group, he stood clutching the rail, his face shining with a light that was not all of the morning, gazing in silence at his hill of dreams.

We went ashore in boats that had pretty Greek rugs in them, and took a little train on which all the cars were smoking-cars (there are no other kind in Greece), and we looked out the windows trying to imagine we were really in Greece where once the gods dwelt; where Homer sang and Achilles fought; where the first Argonauts set sail for the Golden Fleece. I wish we could have met those voyagers before they started. They wouldn't have needed to go then. They could have taken the Golden Fleece off of this crowd if they had anything to sell in that Argosy of theirs, and their descendants are going to do it yet. I know from the conversation that is going on behind me. The Mill and a lot of her boon companions are doing the talking, and it is not of the classic ruins we are about to see, but of the lace they bought in Malta and Gibraltar, and of the embroidery they are going to buy in Greece.

Our chariots were waiting at the station-carriages,

minute, and suddenly there was the Theseum, the best preserved of Greek ruins, I believe, right in front of us, though we did not stop for it then. But it was startling—that old, discolored temple standing there unenclosed, unprotected, unregarded in the busy midst of modern surroundings.

We went swinging away down a fine street, staring at Greek signs and new types of faces; the occasional native costume; the little panniered donkeys lost in their loads of fruit. I was in a carriage with Laura and the Diplomat, and the Diplomat translated Greek signs, rejoicing to find that he could make out some of the words; also that he could get a rise out of the driver when he spoke to him, though it wasn't certain whether the driver, who was a very jarge person in a big blue coat (we christened him the Blue Elephant), was talking to him of the horse, and we were all equally pleased, whichever it was.

The Acropolis was in sight from points here and there, but we did not visit it yet. Instead, we turned into a fine boulevard, anchored for a time at the corner of a park, waiting for guides, perhaps, then went swinging down by the royal gardens and the white marble palace of the king.

It is King George First now, a worthy successor to the rulers of that elder day when Greek art and poetry and national prosperity set a standard for the world. Athens was a pretty poor place when King George came to the throne in 1863. He was only eighteen years old, then-the country was bankrupt, the throne had gone begging. In Innocents Abroad Mark Twain says:

“It was offered to one of Victoria's sons, and afterwards to various other younger sons of royalty who had no thrones and were out of business, but they all had the charity to decline the dreary honor, and veneration enough for Greece's ancient greatness to refuse to mock her sorrowful rags and dirt with a tinsel throne in this day of her humiliation—till they came to this young Danish George, and he took it. He has finished the splendid palace I saw in the radiant moonlight the other night, and is doing many other things for the salvation of Greece, they say.”

This was written in 1867, four years after King George ascended the throne. For the good of Greece he has been spared these forty years and more to continue the work which in this noble palace he began. Athens is no longer a mendicant and a reproach, but a splendid marble city, preserving her traditions, caring for her ruins, re-establishing her classic tongue.

The Diplomat told us some of these things as we drove along and the others we could see for ourselves. Then suddenly we were brought face to face with the most amazing example of Athens renewed. We were before a splendid marble entrance-a colonnade of white pentelican stone, pure and gleaming in the sun. We entered and were in the vastest amphitheatre I ever saw—the mightiest ever built, I should thinkall built of the pure white pentelican, the marble seats ranging tier upon tier and stretching away until it looks as if the audiences of the world might be seated there. It was the Stadium, the scene of the Pan-Hellenic games, restored upon the spot where the ancient stadium stood-renewed in all its splendor by a rich Greek named George Averof, a monument such as no other Greek has left behind.

Yet it was King George, I believe, who was chiefly responsible for this noble work. The ancient stadium

[graphic][ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »