Page images

its white fragments and its poor ruined harbor, lay at our feet. Earthquakes shook the city down and filled up the splendid harbor. If the harbor had been spared the city would have been rebuilt. Instead, the harbor is a marsh, the city a memory.

From where we stood we could survey the sweep of the vanished city. We could look across into the library and the market-place and follow a marble road —its white blocks worn smooth by a million treading feet-where it stretched away toward the sea. And once more we tried to conjure the vision of the pastto close our eyes and reproduce the vanished day. And once more we failed. We could glimpse a picture, we could construct a city, but it was never quite that city-never quite in that place. Our harbor with its white sails and thronging wharves was never quite that harbor-our crowded streets were never quite those streets. Here were just ruins-always ruinsthey could never have been anything but ruins. Perhaps our imaginations were not in good working order.

We descended again into the great theatre, for it fascinated us, nearly breaking our necks where vines and briers tangled, pausing every other minute to rest and consider and dream. Pawing over a heap of rubbish—odd bits of carving, inscriptions, and the like—the place is a treasure-trove of such things—I found a little marble torso of a female figure. Head and arms and the lower part of the body all gone, but what remained was exquisite beyond words — a gem, even though rubbish, in Ephesus.

Now, of course, the reader is an honest person. He




NOTE.—In this picture the theatre where St. Paul fought is in the foreground: the library just beyond; the market-place to the right. Bits of water show where the harbor once lay.

would have said, as I did: “No, it does not matter, rubbish or no rubbish, it is not mine. It belongs to the government-I cannot steal. Besides, there is Laura, age fourteen: I cannot set her a bad example. Also, there are the police. No, my conscience is perfect; I cannot do it.”

I know the reader would have reflected thus, and so did I, as stated. Then I found I could crowd it into my inside coat-pocket, and that by cramming my handkerchief carefully on top of it, it did not distress me so much, especially when I gave it a little support with my forearm, to make it swing in a natural way. But when I remembered that the Quaker City pilgrims had been searched on leaving Ephesus, my conscience began to harass me again, though not enough as yet to make me disgorge.

Our party had all trailed back to the hotel when we got to our donkeys, and it was beginning to sprinkle rain. The sky was overcast and a quiet had settled among the ruins. When our donkey-driver gave me a sharp look I began to suffer. I thought he was a spy, and had his eye on that pocket. I recalled now that I had always had a tender conscience; it seemed unwise to torture it in this way.

I began to think of ways to ease it. I thought five francs might do it, so far as our donkey-boy was concerned. But then there was the official search at the other end; that, of course, would be a public matter, and the five francs would be wasted. I was almost persuaded to drop the little torso quietly by the roadside-it discomforted me so.

We rode along rather quietly, and I spoke improvingly to Laura of how St. Paul had travelled over this very road when he was making his good fight, and of several other saints and their works, and how Ephesus had probably been destroyed because of its sinfulness. Near a crumbling arch a flock of sheep grazed, herded by a shepherd who had been there when the apostles came—at least his cape had, and his hat-and everything about him was Biblical and holylike, and so were the gentle rain and the donkeys, and I said how sweet and soothing it all was; after which I began to reflect on what would be proper to do if anything resembling an emergency should conclude our peaceful ride. I decided that, as we had just come from Smyrna, I had bought the bit of heathen marble on the way to the station. That was simple and straightforward, and I felt a good deal strengthened as I practised it over and tried it on Laura as we rode along. The Kurfürsters had been with me and would stand by the statement -any Kurfürster would do that whether he flocked with the forward-cabin crowd or the unregenerates of the booze-bazaar. I felt reassured and whistled a little, and then from the roadside a man rose up and said something sharp to our donkey-driver. It was sudden, and I suppose I did jump a little, but I was ready for him.

"No," I said, “I didn't steal it. I bought it in Smyrna on the way to the train. I can prove it by Laura here, and the other passengers. We are incorruptible. Go in peace.”

But it was wasted. This creature had business only with our donkey-driver and his tobacco. He didn't understand a word I said.

« PreviousContinue »