Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
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Mallock W. H. The Thereshold of a new life 


I found them delightful to a degree which I could hardly account for, and which must have been mainly due, at this time, to the sunshine and the enchanting air. I, who a week ago had been shivering in the gloom of Europe, was here moving under a sky of the softest turquoise. The sunlight was penetrating soul and body at once ; and my nostrils were touched by the smells of aromatic leafage. On three sides of me were low Government buildings, as raw and new as mortar and red tiles could make them ; but they were half hidden by a whispering fringe of pepper trees ; and on the other side was the town I had just left, with its white flat-roofed houses, the plumes of its feathery date-palms, and, blue above these, the crags of some distant inland mountains.
Presently, turning round at the end of my beat, I could hardly restrain a laugh at an object I saw be fore me. It was the carriage 'the good carriage' standing at the custom-house door, with my luggage, under Scotty's direction, already being placed upon it. This singular vehicle was a battered English waggonette, which had once been black, but was now a permanent dust-colour. It had been adapted to its present climate by the addition of an iron framework, roofed and enclosed by curtains of pink and white diaper, which exactly resembled a patchwork of housemaid's dusters. There was a lean negro on the box, with a pair of ropes for reins, and standing in front of him were three gaunt horses abreast, whose harness, I must say, showed traces of real care, for in every part it was mended indeed, kept together by string.
'Perhaps, sir,' said Scotty as I approached,' you like me come with you to Nicosia. This fellow, he not know the house.' I had been intending to make the same proposal myself to him, and was glad to find him already prepared to act on it. I climbed to my seat, in the transparent shade of the dusters ; and was beginning to wonder why we did not start, when my ear was caught, by some words- which, though strangely familiar to me, 1 had never before heard or expected to hear in conversation. 'Οκτω,' said Scotty's voice to some one I could not see. Then followed a murmuring, and then his voice said, 'Δεκα.' Then came 'Ενδεκα' and in a minute more 'Δοδεκα.' It like a page of the Eton grammar suddenly come. to life. My ear for the first time was catching the accents of modern Greek. I at once perceived what it meant. It was Scotty bargaining in shillings for the price of the carriage. The bargain was struck at thirteen thirteen shillings for something like thirty miles. Certainly, I thought, whatever else it may be, Cyprus at any rate is not an expensive place.
The next moment there was a noise from the negro's mouth, a whip cracked, the vehicle gave a jerk, my dressing-bag opposite me fell forward on my knees, and at a very decent pace we were moving away from Larnaca. We passed some gardens surrounded by tumble-down mud walls, above which appeared the dark leaves of orange trees ; we passed a Catholic convent, whose church had a pale pink dome on it ; and then, when these disappeared behind some sandy acclivities, we entered a country as bare as a Scotch deer forest. Slopes strewn with boulders descended towards the road or away from it ; rocky surfaces glittered as if they were wet with water ; and far and wide was growing some harsh brown vegetation, that seemed, as I passed it, like stunted and withered gorse. The patchwork of dusters was drawn so closely round me, that I had no view except through the opening above the door. I leaned out occasionally to see if on either side of me any prospect of a different kind was visible ; but I looked in vain. Everywhere the horizon was formed by low undulating ridges, whose summits broke occa sionally into fortresses of natural crag, and which here and there, where they receded, enclosed morasslike levels. In a northern climate it would all have formed a picture of dreariness ; but I found, to my surprise, that it did not do so here. The sunlight and the air lay on it, like a love philter endowing it with fascination. Everything shrub and boulder, brown soil, and naked rocky ridge was softly luminous, as if it were seen through water ; and every breath which I drew into my lungs excited me as if it had been drugged with some strange stimulant. The landscape itself, however, I soon felt, was monotonous ; so I gave up staring at it, and betaking myself to a map and to a guide-book, I tried to identify the road on which I was travelling, and I re-read a meagre description of Nicosia. The description told me of gardens, palaces, and minarets, Venetian fortifications, and mediaeval Christian churches, of the palaces of crusading kings and the tombs of Turkish warriors. The whole was comprised in a few mechanical paragraphs, and when I read it before it had conveyed very little to me ; but now the words seemed to become alive, and their very inability to satisfy my curiosity made them all the more powerful in exciting it. Occasionally my attention was called again to the road, by our passing some travelling group, or else some solitary figure.

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