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Wonderland could hardly have had a more surprising adventure.
Our party being free after luncheon, Laura and I engaged Lykabettos on our own account and drove out to the Bay of Salamis, where Xerxes made his great mistake in the matter of fleets.
Perhaps Lykabettos had taken a fancy to us, for he engaged a carriage that had been awarded a prize last year in the games, he said, and the team with it. We believed Lykabettos—anybody would-and anyway it was a beautiful outfit, and we cantered away over a fine road, past wayside shrines, past little huts and houses, past a little memorial that marks the place on a hill where Xerxes placed his silver-footed throne so that he might sit comfortably and watch the enemy's ships go down. Only, the programme didn't work out that way, Lykabettos said:
“Zen Xerxes he pretty soon see zat it was not ze Greek ship zat sink, and he mus' run pretty quick or he will be capture; and hees ship zay try to escape, and he not take away hees army from zat little island you see over zere; zay stay zere and are all massacre by ze Greek—by ze men and ze women, too, who have watch ze battle from here and go over and kill zem.” · The little island Lykabettos pointed out was Psyttalleia, and the flower of Persia perished there. It was a tiny bit of barren land then, and it is to-day. The hills around Salamis are barren, too, covered only with a gray weed like the sage-brush of Nevada, and stunted groves of scrubby pine and ground cedar -referred to by Lykabettos as “ze forest."
We came to the tiny hamlet on the water's side, a collection of two or three huts, and Lykabettos engaged a lateen-sailed lugger (I should call it that, though its name was probably something else), and with a fresh wind half-ahead we billowed over the blue waters of Salamis, where twenty-five hundred years ago the Persian ships went down. It was a cloudy afternoon and there was a stormy feeling in the sky. It seemed just the time to be there, and there was nothing to dispel the illusion of imminent battle that was in the air.
I was perfectly sure, and so was Laura, that the Persian fleet was likely at any moment to round the point and land troops on Pysttalleia; also that the Greek fleet was hiding somewhere in the Bay of Eleusis, and that there were going to be very disagreeable happenings there in a few minutes. There was a hut where we landed on the Island of Salamis and a girl making lace at the front door. She might have been there twenty-five hundred years ago, as well as not-perhaps was-and saw the great victory.
We sailed back then, crossing again the exact spot where the battle raged, and drove home through the gathering evening, while Lykabettos recounted in that sad voice of his the history of ancient days. We are on the ship now, with anchor weighed, looking to the Farther East. Athens with its temples and its traditions drops below the horizon. Darkness and silence once more claim the birthplace of gods and heroes as we slip out of these quiet waters and head for the Ægean Sea.
INTO THE DARDANELLES
W E saw but little of the Isles of Greece. It
VV was night and we were tired after a hard day; most of us, I think, turned in early. Now and then a light-a far tiny speck—appeared in one quarter or another-probably a signal beacon; that was all.
But in the morning—it was soon after breakfasta gray bank rose up out of the sea, and the word went round that it was Asia. That was a strange thing for a boy who had been brought up on the prairies of the Middle West — to look across the bow and see Asia coming up out of the sea. It brought back a small, one-room, white district schoolhouse, dropped down on the bleak, level prairie, and geography-class of three, standing in a row and singing to the tune of Old Dan Tucker the rhymes of the continents:
“ Asia sixteen millions,
The largest of the five grand divisions."
It was not much of a rhyme, nor much of a tune, but there was a swing in the way we did it which fixed those facts for life. They came back now, and I had to get hold of myself a little to realize that this was the same Asia with all those square miles—the land
of the Arabian Nights, of the apostles and the patriarchs—the wonderful country I had one day hoped to see. And presently we were off the Plains of Troy, passing near where the ships of the Greeks lay anchored, all of which seemed very wonderful, too, I thought. We were in the Dardanelles, then, following the path of those first Argonauts who set sail with Jason, and of that later band who set out in the Quaker City, forty-two years ago. No lack of history and tradition and old association here.
But how one's information does go to seed; all of us knew something, but none of us knew much. Not one of us knew positively whether the Hellespont was the same as the Dardanelles or as the Bosporus, and when, with the help of the guide-book, we decided that it was the former, we fell into other luminous debates as to where Leander swam it when he was courting Hero and where Xerxes built his bridge. The captain said that both these things took place at Abydos, which he pointed out to us, and then we were in trouble right away again as to whether this was the Abydos of Lord Byron's poem, or merely another town by the same name. At all events it was not much of a place.
On the whole, the shores of the Dardanelles are mostly barren and uninteresting, with small towns here and there and fortifications. At one place some men came out in a boat and went through the formality of letting us enter the country. It did not seem much of a permission; I could have given it myself. But I suppose we had to have theirs; otherwise they might have reached us with some kind of a gun. We entered the Sea of Marmora, passed a barren island or two; then the shores fell back beyond the horizon, and most of us put in the rest of the day pretending to read up on Constantinople. It was dark when we dropped anchor in the mouth of the Bosporus, and we were at dinner — a gala dinner,
after which we danced. A third of the way around the world to the westward, in a country called America, a new President would be inaugurated to-morrow, and in the quiet dusk of our anchorage, with the scattered lights of Asia blinking across from one side and a shadowy, mysterious grove and a fairy-lighted city on the other, we celebrated that great occasion in the