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HISTORY OF CYPRUS

Mallock W. H. The Thereshold of a new life 

4

So far as I could see they were shepherds or peasants mostly, with scarlet caps and long shaggy capotes; and once or twice came a rude cart drawn by bullocks. The men, as we went by them, all glanced back at the carriage, showing bronzed wild faces and dark eyes and moustaches, and were presently lost to sight, like images seen in a dream.
After two hours or so of this kind of progress I gathered from the map that we were approaching a place named Dali the site of the old Idalium, where a hundred altars once were fragrant to Idalian Aphrodite. Presently the carriage stopped, and Scotty's voice through the curtains explained to me that the horses would rest here for twenty minutes. I descended and looked about me. We were on the summit of a low ridge of hills. Close at hand was a cluster of flatroofed mud cottages, and on the opposite side of the road some corresponding outhouses. A few cocks and hens were strutting amongst fragments of broken crockery; a mule's head protruded through a dark crack in a wall, and from the door of the principal cottage a man came with cups of coffee. Scotty informed me that we were now half-way to Nicosia. ' It over there, sir,' he said. ' We get there in two hours.' I looked, but no town was visible. It was hidden behind intervening ridges.
The country now before us had the character of an open plain, littered with low brown hills and bounded by purple mountains. The outline of these last was singularly bold and fantastic, cutting the sky with summits like spires or isolated citadels; and I presently realised that amongst them was one eminence, curiously splitting itself into five several peaks, which I at once knew must be Pentedactylon the Mountain of the Five Fingers. The recognition, in its reality, of what was already familiar to me in words this seeing of the object which I had heard of in homely Devonshire actually towering in its far-off native air sent an odd thrill through me; it was like seeing a dream come true.
In a few minutes more it was time to be off again, and the curtains of the carriage again narrowed my view. I saw, howr ever, that we wrere getting into a district which was somewhat more fertile. The road soon began to show a border of asphodel, and on wide tracts I had glimpses of goats and sheep wandering. So the time wore on an hour and then two hours but, though I looked out anxiously, there was still no Nicosia. The only new feature was a number of isolated hills, perfectly flat at the top and looking like artificial fortifications. At last, against the side of a bare yellowish cliff, I detected a mud village squalidly simmering in the sunshine. ' Good heavens ! 'I thought,' and is this the city of the Crusaders ?' But the carriage passed on. My alarm was, happily, groundless. Presently by the roadside was a stream and a grove of palm trees. A mile farther on was a group of men who were road-mending. I cannot say that I thought their expression agreeable ; nor is this to be wondered at, as I learnt afterwards they were convicts. Then after another mile or so was a group of another character three young men in tweeds, with the air of Government clerks, who looked after me with a smile of suburban curiosity, and exhibited British freckles and British briar-wood pipes. Then came Scotty's voice saying something or other through the curtains, which I took to mean that we were nearing the end of our journey. I stretched my head out to see if the environs of any town were about us, but I still saw nothing but rocks and open country. I was wondering at this and beginning to be a little impatient, when suddenly a shadow for a moment fell over everything. On each side appeared masses of ancient masonry. We had passed through some thick walls ; we were next in an open space, surrounded by a vision of vague mud-coloured buildings : a moment more, and with a hollow echoing rumble we were rapidly moving along a narrow shadowy street, and at last abruptly the carriage came to a standstill.
On descending I found myself before a large arched doorway, with heavy folding doors in a blind whitewashed wall, and above it a mass of overhanging roofs and windows. But I had no time to distinctly realise anything before, in response to Scotty's efforts and the bell-pull, the doors were opened, and revealed a smart-looking Greek servant in a dark braided jacket and dark voluminous trousers. I was a little apprehensive that we might have come to the wrong house, but the man, who spoke English, instantly reassured me. Crossing the threshold, I found myself in a wide passage, open ing into cloisters supported on pointed arches. These last ran round two sides of a garden, green with orange and lemon trees and the tall fronds of bananas. There was a murmur of water somewhere softly splashing into a basin, and the air was full of a faint but delightful smell of violets. I was conducted along the cloisters to a flight of stairs that led from them, and was just preparing to mount when my hostess came down to meet me. By way of a thin disguise I will speak

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