« PreviousContinue »
Ephesians would make when they found that bit of marble on my person, and what kind of advertising I would get.
We were almost to the little hotel now, and, lo! right at the gates we were confronted by a file of men with muskets. Here it was, then, at last. My moral joints turned to water.
“I didn't do it, gentlemen,” I said. “I am without a flaw. It was Laura-you can see for yourself she looks guilty."
But they did not search Laura. They did not even search me. They merely looked us over and talked about us in strange tongues. We reached the shelter of the hotel and the comfort of food in safety. Neither did they inspect us at the station, and as we glided back to Smyrna I impressed upon Laura the value of keeping one's conscience clear, and how one is always rewarded with torsos and things for pursuing a straightforward, simple course through life.
I suppose a man could take away marble from Ephesus to-day by the wagon-load if he had any place to take it to. Nobody is excavating there—nobody seems to care for it, and never was such a mine of relics under the sun. At Ayasaluk, the Arab village, priceless treasures of carving and inscription look out at you from the wall of every peasant's hut and stable -from the tumbling stone fences that divide their fields. Wonderful columns stick out of every bank and heap of earth. Precious marbles and porphyry mingle with the very macadam of the roads. Rare pieces are sold around the hotel for a few piastres. Remember, a mighty marble city perished here. Earthquakes shook it down, shattered the walls of its temples, overthrew the statuary, tumbled the inscriptions in the dust. The ages have spread a layer of earth upon the ruin, but only partially covered it. Just beneath the shallow plough of the peasant lie riches uncountable for the nation that shall bring them to the light of day. Historical societies dig a little here and there, and have done noble work. But their means run low before they can make any real beginning on the mighty task. Ephesus is still a buried city.
The day will come when Ephesus will be restored to her former greatness. It will take an earthquake to do it, but the spirit of prophecy is upon me and I foresee that earthquake. The future is very longI am in no hurry-fulfilment may take its time. I merely want to get my prophecy in now and registered, so when the event comes along I shall get proper credit. Some day an earthquake will strike Ephesus again; the bottom will drop out of that swamp and make it a harbor once more; ships will sail in as in the old days, and Ephesus, like Athens, will renew her glory.
Back to Smyrna—a modern city and beautiful from any high vantage, with its red-tiled roofs, its domes and minarets, its graceful cypress-trees, its picture hillsides, and its cobalt sky. It is clean, too, compared with Constantinople. To be sure, Smyrna has its ruins and its historic interest, with the tomb of Polycarp the martyr, whc was Bishop of Smyrna in the second century, and died for his faith at the age of eighty-six. He was burned on a hill just outside the city on the Ephesus road, and his tomb, guarded by two noble cypresses, overlooks the sea.
But it is busy, bustling Smyrna that, after Ephesus, most attracted us. It is more truly the Orient than anything we have seen. Fully as picturesque as Constantinople in costume, it is brighter, fresher, healthier-looking, and, more than all, its crowded streets are perpetually full of mighty camel trains swinging in from the deeper East, loaded with all the wares and fabrics of our dreams. Those camels are monstrously large—twice the size of any circus camels that come to America, and with their great panniers they fill an Oriental street from side to side.
They move, too, and other things had better keep out of the way when a camel train heaves in sight if they want to remain undamaged. I was examining some things outside of a bazaar when suddenly I thought I had been hit by a planet. I thought so because of the positive manner of my disaster and the number of constellations I saw. But it was only one side of a loaded camel that had annihilated me, and the camel was moving straight ahead without the slightest notion that anything had interfered with its progress.
It hadn't, as a matter of fact. Nothing short of a stone wall interrupts a camel-a Smyrna camelwhen he's out for business and under a full head of steam. Vehicles and other things turn down another street when there is a camel train coming. You may squat down, as these Orientals do, and get below the danger line, for a camel is not likely to step on you, but his load is another matter—you must look out for that yourself.
I was fascinated by the camel trains; they are a part of the East I hardly expected to find. I thought their day was about over. Nothing of the sort. The camel trains, in fact, own Smyrna, and give it its commercial importance. They bring the great bulk of merchandise-rugs, mattings, nuts, dried fruits, spices, and all the rare native handiwork from far dim interiors that railroads will not reach in a hundred years. They come swinging out of Kurdistan–from Ispahan and from Khiva; they cross the burning desert of Kara Koom.
A camel train can run cheaper than the railway kind. A railway requires coal and wood for fuel. A camel would like those things also. But he is not particular—he will accept whatever comes along. He will eat anything a goat can, and he would eat the goat, too, if permitted-horns and all. Consequently, he arrives at Smyrna fit and well fed, ready for the thousand miles or so of return trip at a moment's notice.
They run these camel trains in sections—about six camels in each. An Arab mounted on a donkey that wears a string of blue beads for luck leads each section, and the forward camel wears against his shoulder a bell. It is a musical compound affair — one bell inside the other with a blue bead in the last one to keep off the evil eye. I had already acquired some of the blue strings of donkey beads, and I made up my mind now to have a camel bell.
By-and-by, at the entrance of a bazaar, I saw one. It was an old one-worn with years of chafing against the shoulder muscle of many a camel that had followed
the long track from the heart of Asia over swamp and steep and across burning sands. At the base of the outer bell was a band of Arabic characters—prayers, no doubt, from the Koran, for the safety of the caravan. I would never leave Smyrna without that bell.
However, one must be cautious. I gave it an indifferent jingle as I passed in and began to examine other things. A murmuring, insinuating Moslem was at my elbow pushing forward the gaudy bits of embroidery and cheaply chased weapons in which I pretended an interest. I dallied and priced, and he grew weary and discouraged. Finally, hesitating at the doorway, I touched the bell again, scarcely noticing it.
“How much?” “Sixtin franc-very chip.” My impulse was to fling the money at him and grab the treasure before he changed his mind. But we do not do these things-not any more—we have acquired education. Besides, we have grown professionally proud of our bargains.
"Ho! Sixteen francs! You mean six francs—I give you five.”
“No-no-sixtin franc—sixtin! What you think? Here—fine!” He had the precious thing down and was jingling it. Its music fairly enthralled me. But I refused to take it in my hands—if I did I should surrender. “See,” he continued, pointing to the inscription. “Oh, be-eautiful. Here, fiftin francthree dollar!”
He pushed it toward me. I pretended to be interested in a wretchedly new and cheaply woven rug. I had to, to keep steadfast. I waved him off.