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In an enchanted Island., London, 1889

Chapter IV. The Thereshold of a new life

I stood on the deck. I found myself solitary in the opening morning. Bars of crimson and purple were brightening over unseen Palestine ; our white wake was a road reaching straight away towards them, with the black smoke from our funnel travelling back over it ; the waves splashed and tossed in a chorus of fresh whispers. My dress was of the scantiest, a thin overcoat and pygamas; and the air, breathing through all the fluttering folds, seemed to enter the skin as it enters a bird's pinions, and gave me a feeling as though I were akin to the wind and foam. And there Cyprus lay, stretching far along the horizon, a bank of hoary blue with curious pallid gleams on it, and dark purple markings that hinted of cliffs and headlands. At this distance, however, it had no definite meaning. I could only wonder what it would mean to me one day, and allow the sensations and fancies of the moment to play with me. In some ways they played delightfully, as if full of the spirit of the early, adventurous hour. But along with this elation I was conscious of a rising anxiety as to what was going to happen to me before the day was over. I was, on arriving, to be the guest of the Chief Secretary, who lived in Nicosia, the immemorial scat of government ; and so far as kindness went I was sure of a kind welcome : but as I neared the island I began to realise keenly how very little I, after all, knew about it, and to ask myself if in coining to it 1 had not been a fool for my pains. As an island of the imagination in the world of fable and history I could have recited a roll of magnificent names connected with it antique Egypt and Hellas, luxurious Borne, Byzantium, and crusading- Europe ; or, again, Adonis, who was wooed on its sloping hillsides; Balaam and Ezekiel, who sang of its power and riches; Solomon and Alexander the Great, St. Paul and St. George the dragon-slayer, Catharine Cornaro of Venice, and the conquering Sultan Selim. The mere catalogue would have come to the ear like a passage out of 'Paradise Lost.' But as for the dates and details which underlay all these associations, mv knowledge, I now found, was forlornly less than fragmentary. And what sort of present remained after all this past? My knowledge of this was more inappreciable still. Six weeks ago I was not even aware of the existence of the city in which I should p that night this obscure capital, Nicosia, hidden away far inland, and full, as I had learnt already, of Strange relics of antiquity. It was still the merest dream to me except as regards one point, that I should have, as soon as I landed, to drive some thirty miles to it.
The situation, as I gradually thought it over, caused me, I confess, a certain sinking of the heart; and presently, feeling chilly, I sought relief in my cabin, where, pulling a rug over me, I dropped off into a doze. When I awoke and emerged again things had quite a different aspect. The air was mild, the sky was a full-blown blue, and the coasts of Cyprus, hardly three miles away from us, met the eye like the canvas of a moving diorama. So far as I could see they were utterly bare and treeless, and they glittered from every facet with a pale dazzling brilliance, in some places colourless, in others suffused with pink, so that now and again one might have fancied them half transparent, as if with all their crags they had been formed out of solid amethyst. I looked long in vain for any sign of a human occupation, and was wondering for how many hours the process of coasting would continue, when, taking a turn forwards, I saw that right ahead of us, shining like snow, and apparently standing in the water, was a row of houses, with a cupola, a campanile, and a minaret, and at one side of it a dot of intensest green the green of a grove of palm trees. This I knew must be Larnaca, the port of landing. We were now Hearing it rapidly. Detail after detail began to grow more distinct. Hollow arches and quaint balconies were discernible ; the light of the morning began to flash in the windows, and soon we detected boats putting out to meet us.

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