My dogs found several hares among the clumps upon the sand-dunes, which gave them some exercise and amusement, but I did not obtain a shot.
Upon my arrival at the camping-place I found my wife surrounded by a large crowd of women and children beneath a shady tree, all of whom had brought presents of eggs and bouquets of wild flowers. It was difficult to persuade these good simple people that we did not require presents as an etiquette of introduction; they would insist upon placing their little offerings upon the ground, and leaving them if we declined to accept them. The principal wild flowers were cyclamen, narcissus, and anemone. The cyclamen completely covered the ground throughout all the low woods and thickets. I could only find two varieties, the snow-white, with claret-coloured centre, and the rose-colour; but the blossoms were quite equal in size to those usually grown in our glass-houses in England. We had passed through several hundred acres of open ground that were as white from the abundance of narcissus as an English meadow might be yellow from the presence of buttercups.
Our camp was pitched upon a small level plateau of rock, in the centre of which was a well, cut completely through the stone from top to bottom. It appeared to be about twenty-five feet deep, but was devoid of water and contained a considerable amount of rubbish. The people assured me that a dead Greek lay beneath, as a few years ago some Turks had killed one of their people and thrown him into the well; they had concealed the body by stones and rubbish, and no further steps had been taken in the matter. As a large crowd of children of both sexes were sitting round us doing nothing but stare, I set them to work to clear the surface ground from loose stones and to sweep the plateau clean with boughs from the wild cypress. When this was finished I gave them a scramble for several handfuls of copper coins upon the cleared area, to impress them pleasantly upon their work of cleanliness; this new game became very popular, and might be introduced by the British government with a certainty of gaining the admiration of the Cypriotes, especially during the collection of taxes; the latter being an Anglo-Turkish game which is not yet sufficiently appreciated.
The women were of the same type that we had seen in other districts, but they appeared sickly, and many of the children were extremely delicate. There was the usual protuberance of the abdomen to which I have before alluded; and I found upon examination of the children that an enlargement of the spleen was a chronic complaint. This is due to repeated attacks of ague. I drew the attention of the people to the so general mistake in this island of selecting a site for their villages in the most unhealthy localities. We were now camped upon a height about eighty feet above the valley, which resembled a basin beneath our feet; the village was on the lower level of this basin, and as near the level of the sea as possible. In heavy rains the valley became a temporary swamp, and it seemed unaccountable that human beings endowed with common sense should have selected the low ground instead of the immediate heights. The explanation was "that as the village was built of mud-bricks, the houses had been erected as near as possible to the source of the material, MUD!" to avoid the difficulty of carriage in the absence of carts.
The people were as usual dressed in cotton stuffs of home manufacture, and were ignorant of such a material as flannel; the children were only half-clad, and shivering; their food was generally raw, comprising olives, oil, onions, and wild vegetables, such as artichokes, wild mustard, and a variety of trash that in England would only be regarded as "weeds." There were some pretty intelligent little girls and boys; some of these were chewing mastic gum, a white leathery substance which they gathered from incisions in the bark of this common shrub. My wife found fault with the neglect of cleanliness, as their teeth, although even, were totally uncared for. On the following morning they all assembled and exhibited a show of nice white teeth, as they had followed her advice and cleaned them with wood-ashes and their forefingers, in lieu of a toothbrush. We saw these children again a month afterwards upon our return, and they ran across the fields to meet us, at once opening their mouths to show that they had not forgotten the lesson, and that their teeth were properly attended to. I pitied all these poor people: they are downtrodden and miserable in mind and body. Instead of squeezing them for taxes they should be supported and encouraged by government assistance in every manner possible. Centuries of oppression and neglect in addition to a deceptive climate have rendered them the mere slaves of circumstances, but they exhibit a patience and stolid endurance which is beyond all praise; and when Cyprus shall belong absolutely to Great Britain, so that the Cypriotes shall feel that they are British subjects, they will become the most amenable and contented people in the Empire.
The usual difficulty exists in passing through this island which is felt by most English travellers in wild countries. The sick invariably assemble, believing that your medical knowledge will produce miraculous cures; and the lame, halt, and blind besiege you even cripples from their birth are brought by their hopeful mothers to receive something from your medicine-chest that will restore them to strength. It was in vain that I explained to these afflicted people that spleen-disease required a long course of medicine, and could not be cured in a day. It was equally in vain that I assured them that raw vegetables were unwholesome for children, and that sea-bathing was invigorating to the system: they hated bathing; so did the children; and they liked raw vegetables. I was obliged to give them some trifle which could neither do harm nor good; and they went away contented.
I now discovered from the head-men of the village the cause of the wreck which was lying in the bay. An Austrian steamer was conveying 1200 Circassians from Constantinople to some port on the coast of Asia Minor, when the wild horde of emigrants mutinied and threatened to murder the chief officers. The captain accordingly ran the vessel ashore upon this coast, having ordered the engineer to blow up the boilers.
A great number of the mutineers perished in the attempt to land, but the captain and officers were hospitably received by the people of Volokalida and forwarded to Famagousta. The vessel was pierced amidships by a rock that had completely impaled her, otherwise she might have been saved and repaired.
We left this village on March 4th, a heavy but welcome shower on the preceding day having laid the dust and freshened the vegetation. The route lay through a hilly and rocky country covered with the usual evergreens. We quickly lost our way and arrived at a complete cul-de-sac in the corner of a narrow swampy valley. Retracing our steps we met two men mounted on donkeys, who with extreme civility turned from their own direction and became our guides. We passed over a hill of solid crystallised gypsum, which sparkled in the sun like glass, and after a march of about ten miles through a lovely country we ascended to the plateau of Lithrankomi and halted at the monastery. The priest was an agreeable, well-mannered man, and as rain had begun to fall he insisted upon our accepting his invitation to await the arrival of our luggage under his roof. We visited his curious old church, which is sadly out of repair, and the mosaic, of a coarse description, which covered an arched ceiling, has mostly disappeared.
This was the most agreeable position that I had seen in Cyprus. A very extensive plateau about 400 feet above the sea formed a natural terrace for seven or eight miles, backed by the equally flat hill-tops which rose only half a mile behind the monastery. These were covered with the Pinus Maritima, none of which exceeded twenty feet in height, and resembled a thriving young plantation in England. From the flat pine-covered tableland I had a very beautiful view of the sea on either side this narrow portion of the island, and of the richly-wooded slopes both north and south, cut by deep and dark water-riven gorges, with white cliffs which descended to the shore. Villages and snow-white churches lay beneath in all directions, and the crops had a far more favourable appearance than those of the Messaria, as this portion of the country had experienced a superior rainfall.
It is much to be regretted that the total absence of roads excludes this district from general communication. We were struck by the fantastic scenery of deep ravines, rocks covered with evergreens of varying colours, and handsome caroub-trees which would have ornamented an English park; mulberry-trees were very numerous, but at this season they were barren of leaves; the only want lay in the absence of oranges and lemons, which the priest assured me would not thrive in this locality. For the last two months I had cordially detested Cyprus, but I was now converted to a belief that some portions of the country were thoroughly enjoyable, provided that a traveller could be contented with rough fare and be accustomed to the happy independence of a camp-life with a good tent and hardy servants. The temperature was a little too low for out-door existence, as it averaged 48 degrees at 7 A.M. and 54 degrees at 3 P.M., which is the hottest hour of the day; but we were all well, and free from colds; the servants had plenty of warm blankets, and the false floor that I had arranged added greatly to their comfort when camping upon the sodden ground.
I had become convinced that "the man of ability" Theodori had deceived me, and that it would be impossible for the two-wheeled carts, or any other conveyance, to travel through this country. Our last two marches had proved that not only would the delay be serious, but the luggage would be destroyed by the extreme jolting over rocks and ruts, which had already injured several of our boxes and broken some useful articles. Every package seemed to assume an individual vitality and to attack its neighbour; the sharp-cornered metal boxes endeavoured to tunnel through the cases of wine and liquors, which in retaliation bumped against and bruised their antagonists, and a few marches had already caused more mischief than a twelvemonth's journey by camels. The priest assured me that it would be madness to attempt a march beyond Gallibornu, about eleven miles in advance, and that he doubted the possibility of the carts reaching that point, which certainly had never been visited by any wheeled conveyances. The honest, strong, but unintelligent driver Georgi was innocent, and he was at the time as ignorant as myself that the true object of the "man of ability" Theodori was to deal in cattle, which was his reason for persisting in accompanying me into the Carpas country and declaring that the route was practicable for carts. We left Lithrankomi on 5th March after a shower which made the earth slippery and the dangerous portions of the route rather exciting for the carts. The first two or three miles lay along the level terrace commanding a splendid view of the sea about four miles distant. We passed through several villages, and the crops looked well. At length we emerged upon a wild portion of the plateau which resembled a park, the surface being green and diversified by ornamental clumps of evergreens; upon our left was the cliff-like higher terrace which formed the table-top from which the usual huge blocks had been detached and fallen like inverted cottages to the lower level. The view on our right was exceedingly interesting, as we had now arrived upon the extreme verge of the terrace, which broke down suddenly into a horseshoe-shaped amphitheatre, the steep sides covered with bushes and trees, to the bottom of a valley some 300 feet below, which drained through a narrow and richly-wooded gorge into the neighbouring sea.
This scooping-out of the country was due to the action of water, and the same process was gradually wearing away the upper plateaux, which by absorbing rain became undermined as it percolated through and dissolved the marly substratum. The foundation of the rock surface being softened by the water, oozed in the form of mud, and was washed down the steep declivities, followed by the breaking-down of the unsupported upper stratum. This district was an admirable illustration of the decay and denudation of surface which has produced the plain of Messaria, to which I have already alluded, but as no sufficient area exists at a lower level the deposit of soil is carried to the sea. We now arrived at a dangerous pass that defied all attempts to descend by carts. A succession of zigzags at an inclination of about one foot in two and a half led down the soil of a cliff into a succession of exceedingly narrow valleys about three hundred feet below. In many places this narrow path had been washed away by the same natural process that was gradually reducing the upper level, and in the sharp angles of the zigzags there were awkward gaps with only a few inches of slippery soil rendered soapy by the morning's rain, a slip of the original path having crumbled down the precipice below. The animals were wonderfully careful, and although a nervous person might have shuddered at some awkward points, both mule and ponies were thoroughly self-confident and safely carried us to the bottom. But the carts? These were making a circuit of some miles across country in the endeavour to discover a practicable route.
Although the way was difficult, it was the more agreeable as the scenery was extremely picturesque. The narrow valleys were without exception cultivated, which formed a striking contrast to the exceedingly wild heights by which they were surrounded, and I remarked that not a yard of available land was neglected, but that small and precipitous hollows were banked by rough stone walls, to retain the soil that would otherwise be washed away, and to form terraces of insignificant extent for the sake of cultivation. Our animals could amble at five or six miles an hour along these narrow bottoms, which made up for the delay in descending the bad places. My dogs were in the best spirits, as they had moved a considerable number of partridges during this morning's march, and they heard the peculiar loud "chuck-a-chuck, chuck-a-chuck," of the red-legs in all directions. As we advanced the hills increased in height, and we passed through a valley, bordered on the right by abrupt cliffs, forming a wall-like summit to the exceedingly steep slope beneath, which had been created by the debris from the wasting face of rock. This flat-topped height may have been about 500 feet above the valley, and the white cliff, which was quite perpendicular from the summit for about one hundred feet to the commencement of the steep green slope beneath, was in one place artificially scarped, and had been cut perfectly smooth like the wall of a stone building. In the centre of this smooth face we could plainly distinguish a square-cut entrance, to which an exceedingly narrow ledge cut in the rock formed a most dangerous approach, more adapted for wild cats than for human occupants. I halted to examine this with a good glass, and I could perceive that the greatest care had been taken in the formation of a smooth perpendicular front, and that the narrow ledge which formed the approach was a natural feature that had been artificially improved. There were several similar lines observable at unequal distances nearly parallel with each other: these were the natural limits of overlying strata in the sedimentary rock, which, as the general surface had fallen through decay, still preserved their character, and formed ledges. My guide assured us that the entire cliff was honey-combed by internal galleries, which had been constructed by the ancients as a place of refuge that would contain several thousand persons, and that a well existed in the interior, which from a great depth supplied the water. I have never seen a notice of this work in any book upon Cyprus, and I regret that I had no opportunity of making a close examination of the artificial cave, which, from the accounts I received, remains in a perfect state to the present moment.
It was a wild route to Gallibornu, through a succession of small valleys separated by wooded heights, and bounded by hills, either bare in white cliffs, or with steep slopes thickly covered with evergreens. We passed a few miserable villages, one of which was solely inhabited by gipsies, who came out to meet us clad in rags and extremely filthy, but the faces of the women were good-looking. We crossed numerous watercourses in the narrow bottoms between the hills; their steep banks were fringed with bushes which formed likely spots for woodcocks, but my dogs found nothing upon the route except a few partridges and francolin, although, as usual, they hunted throughout the march. After crossing a series of steep hills, and observing a marked contrast in the habits of the people, who constructed their dwellings upon the heights instead of in the unhealthy glens, we arrived in the closely pent-in valley that forms the approach to Gallibornu. This village is of considerable extent, and is inhabited exclusively by Turks. We entered the valley through a narrow gap between the hills, which on our left formed perpendicular cliffs, with the usual steep slopes of debris near the base. The upper cliffs, about 400 feet above the lower level, were marked with numerous parallel ledges and were full of blue-rock pigeons, which built their nests in the clefts and crevices; the summits of these heights were the table-tops which characterise this formation.
It was difficult to select a camping-place, as the valley would become mud in the event of heavy rains. We had experienced daily showers since we left Volokalida, and the lower grounds were damp; I disliked the immediate neighbourhood of a village, and the only available spot was rather dangerous, as it was situated upon a flattish knoll, so near the base of the cliff that enormous blocks of stone many tons in weight lay in all directions, which had fallen from the impending heights. I examined these, and found some that were comparatively recent; I had also observed upon our entrance to the valley that a great portion of the cliff face had lately fallen, forming an avalanche of rocks that would have destroyed a village: this my guide informed me was the result of last year's excessive rain. I examined the heights above us with my glass, and observed some crags that Polyphemus would have delighted to hurl upon Acis when courting his Galatea; but as no Cyclops existed in this classical island I determined to risk the chances of a rock-displacement and to pitch the tent upon a flat surface among the fallen blocks. As a rule such localities should be avoided. It is impossible to calculate the probable downfall of a crag, which, having formed a portion of the cliff, has been undermined by the breaking away of lower rocks, and, overhanging the perpendicular, may be secure during dry weather, but may become dislodged in heavy rain, when the cement-like surroundings are dissolved: the serious vibration caused by thunder might in such conditions produce an avalanche. We dug a deep trench round the tents, as the weather looked overcast and stormy.
The village of Gallibornu was about half a mile beyond our camp at the extreme end of the valley, but situated on the heights. The people were extremely civil, and it would be difficult to determine the maximum degree of courtesy between the Turks and Greeks of Cyprus. I strolled with my dogs up the steep hill-sides, and the Turks, seeing that I was fond of shooting, promised to accompany me on the following morning to some happy hunting-ground, which, from my Cyprian experience, I believed was mythical.
On waking the next day I found the Turks, true to their promise, already assembled by the servants' tent, and eight men were awaiting me with their guns. They had a sporting dog to assist them, which they described as "very useful for following a wounded hare; only it was necessary to be quick in securing it, otherwise the dog would eat it before your arrival."
I advised them to leave this "useful dog" behind, as hostilities might be declared by my three English spaniels in the event of his swallowing a wounded hare. This being agreed to, we all started, and, crossing the valley, entered a gorge upon the other side. We now ascended naked hills of pure crystallised gypsum; the strata were vertical, and the perfectly transparent laminae were packed together like small sheets of glass only a few inches in width. It was easy to walk up the steep slopes of this material without slipping, as the exterior edges, having been exposed to the weather, had become rough, and were exactly like coarse glass placed edgeways. We spread out into a line of skirmishers extending up the hills upon both sides of the gorge, and quickly arrived in very likely ground covered with dwarf-cypress. Here the dogs immediately flushed partridges, and a Turk having wounded one, a considerable delay took place in searching for it at the bottom of a deep wooded hollow, but to no purpose. We now arrived at lovely ground within a mile of the sea, forming a long succession of undulations, covered, more or less, with the usual evergreen brushwood as far as the eye could reach. This uneven surface, broken by many watercourses, was about eighty feet above the water-level, and descended in steep rocky ledges to within a few hundred yards of the sea, where the lower ground was flat and alternated in open glades and thick masses of mastic scrub; the beach being edged by drift sand-dunes covered by the dense jungle of various matted bushes.
There was a fair amount of game in this locality, and had the Turks shot well we should have made a tolerable bag; but they did not keep a good line, and many birds went back without being shot at, while others were missed, and altogether the shooting was extremely wild. The sun was hot by the time we had concluded our beat; I had shot five brace and one hare, including some francolins; and the rest of the party had collectively bagged three brace. It was late in the season for shooting, but the birds were not all paired, and I have no doubt that in the month of September this portion of the island would afford fair sport, although no great bags could be expected. I was surprised at the absence of woodcocks; throughout my rambles in Cyprus I had only seen one, although they were cheap in the market of Larnaca. The fact is that every bird shot by the natives is sent straight for sale; therefore an immense area is hunted for the small supply required by the Europeans in the principal towns. Upon our return homewards we passed through a considerable space occupied by ancient ruins. Among the masses of stones and broken pottery were two stone sarcophagi, which appeared to have been converted into drinking-troughs for cattle. As with all the ruins of Cyprus, nothing of interest exists upon the surface, and the tombs having been for many centuries excavated and despoiled, it is probable that the sarcophagi had been brought to light by treasure-seekers many years ago.
As we approached Gallibornu by a mountain path the Turks assured me that we should find good drinking-water; we were all thirsty, including the dogs, who had drunk nothing for some hours. At length, at a considerable elevation between two hills, we reached a spring, and I was shown a well where the water was only a few feet from the surface. The Turks now pointed to the perpendicular face of a cliff and desired me to follow them; at the same time I could not understand their attempted explanations either by word or pantomime. We kept on an extremely narrow path which skirted the steep side of the slope, and presently arrived at a ledge about sixteen inches wide upon the perpendicular face of the cliff, which descended sheer for a considerable depth beneath. I was requested to leave my gun against a rock and to follow. It was all very well for these people, who knew exactly where they were going, but I had not the slightest idea of my destination, unless it should be the bottom of the cliff, which appeared to me most probable, if I, who was many inches broader in the shoulders than my guides, should be expected to join in the game of "follow the leader" upon a narrow ledge against the face of the rock which afforded no hold whatever. I was not so fond of climbing as I had been thirty years ago, and to my infinite disgust the ledge, which was already horribly small, became narrower as we proceeded. There was a nasty projecting corner to turn, and at this point I saw my guides look down below, and I fancied they were speculating upon the depth. Instead of this, the leader began to descend the perpendicular face by small ladder-like steps hewn in the rock, and in this manner gained another ledge not quite six feet below. We all reached this precarious shelf, and the guide, having turned, continued for some twenty or thirty yards in an exactly contrary direction to the ledge above us, by which we had just arrived; we were thus retracing our steps upon a similar ledge at a lower level. Suddenly the leader stopped, and stooping low, crept into a square aperture that had been carefully cut out of the rock face to form an entrance. This passage inclined slightly inwards, and after a few paces forward, with the body curved in the uncomfortable form of a capital C, we arrived in a spacious gallery cut into a succession of arches, the centre of which was six feet high. A small window, about three feet by two, was cut through the rock to admit light and air, from which I could with a rifle have completely commanded the glen below and the approach to the left. There was no ledge beneath the window, but simply the sheer precipice of the smooth cliff, and there was no other approach to this extraordinary place of refuge except that by which we had arrived. The gallery was neatly cut, and extended for an unknown distance: several other galleries, arched in the same manner and of the same size, branched off at right angles with that we had entered. I was led to a well, which was represented as being deep, and I was informed that the hill was perforated with similar galleries, all of which communicated with each other. I much regretted that we were unprovided with candles; one of the Turks lighted a match, but it only served to increase the uncertainty of the surrounding darkness.
This must be a similar cave-refuge to that we had passed about four miles distant when on our way from Lithrankomi to Gallibornu, and it deserves a minute investigation. As I could see nothing beyond about thirty feet from the window, owing to the darkness, I cannot give any account of the actual dimensions, which may be much inferior to the unlimited descriptions of my informants. Upon my return to camp I had the benefit of my interpreter, and the story was repeated that no one knew the extent of the excavations, either of these galleries or those we had passed during our journey. I have never seen a very large natural cave in Cyprus, although the caverns beneath the superficial stratum of sedimentary rock are so general. The presence of these hollows, and the soft nature of the calcareous stone, has suggested artificial caves to the ancients, both for tombs and for places of refuge. Before the invention of gunpowder it would have been impossible to reduce a fort such as I have described, except by starvation. A mine sunk vertically from above would in the present day destroy the subterranean stronghold at the first explosion.
It rained more or less every day during our stay at Gallibornu, and thunder rolled heavily in the neighbourhood; but in the narrow valley between lofty hills the sky view was so limited that it was impossible to judge of the impending weather. The earth was too slippery for camels, which I had engaged with an excellent Turk, who for some years had been a zaphtieh, therefore it was necessary to wait patiently until the surface should become dry. I amused myself with wandering over the hills with my dogs, examining the rocks, and shooting sufficient game for our own use. I could generally bag enough for my lad to carry home conveniently over this rugged country, and a hare or two in addition to partridges were more appreciated when stewed than when carried up the precipitous hills. I never tasted any game so delicious as the Cyprian hares; they are not quite so red or curly as the European species, but the flesh is exceedingly rich, and possesses a peculiarly gamey flavour, owing to the aromatic food upon which they live. It is difficult to obtain a shot in the thick coverts of mastic bush, and without dogs I do not think I should have shot one, as they were generally in dense thickets upon the mountain sides, through which beaters could have hardly moved.
The high cliffs above us formed an excellent example of an old sea-bottom, showing—the various strata of sedimentary deposits at different periods. I made a collection of fossil shells, which were in great numbers but in limited variety, and chiefly bivalves.
Although the village of Gallibornu was more important in size than many we had passed, there was a total lack of supplies. It was impossible to purchase bread, and we were obliged to send messengers to considerable distances to procure flour, which we subsequently employed a woman to bake. The people generally were very poor throughout the country, and the cultivated area appeared insufficient for the support of the population. Every yard of land was ploughed, but the entire valley of Gallibornu was fallowed, and did not possess one blade of corn, as the soil required rest after the yield of the previous season. None of these people have an idea respecting a succession of crops in scientific rotation, therefore a loss is sustained by the impoverishment of the ground, which must occasionally lie inactive to recover its fertility. There is absolutely no provision whatever for the cattle in the shape of root-crops or hay, but they trust entirely to the bruised barley-straw and such seeds as the cotton and lentil. At this season the Carpas district possessed an important advantage in the variety of wild vegetables which afforded nourishment for man and beast; the valleys teemed with wild artichokes and with a variety of thistles, whose succulent stems were a favourite food for both oxen and camels.
The leaf-stems of the artichokes were peeled and eaten raw by the inhabitants, but as these people are accustomed to consume all kinds of uncooked vegetables and unripe fruits few civilised persons would indulge in the Cypriote tastes. We found the artichoke stems uneatable in a raw state, but remarkably good when peeled and stewed, with a sauce of yolk of egg beaten up with oil, salt, pepper, and lemon-juice; they were then quite equal to sea-kale. There is a general neglect in the cultivation of vegetables which I cannot understand, as agriculture is the Cypriote's vocation; it can hardly be called laziness, as they are most industrious in their fields, and expend an immense amount of labour in erecting stone walls to retain a small amount of soil wherever the water-wash from a higher elevation brings with it a deposit. The insignificant terraces thus formed by earth caught in its descent while in solution appear disproportioned to the labour of their construction, and the laborious system would suggest an extreme scarcity of land suitable for agricultural operations. I believe this to be the case, and that a serious mistake has been made in assuming that the Crown possesses large areas of land that may eventually become of great value. There are government lands, doubtless, of considerable extent, but I question their agricultural importance, and whenever the ordnance-map of the island shall be completed a wild confusion will be discovered in the discrepancy of title-deeds with the amount of land in possession of the owners. I have, whilst shooting in the wild tracts of scrub-covered hills and mountains, frequently emerged upon clearings of considerable extent, where the natives have captured a fertile plot and cleared it for cultivation, far away from the eyes of all authorities.
I believe that squatting has been carried on for many years, as during the Turkish administration a trifling annual present would have closed the eyes of the never-too-zealous official who by such an oversight could annually improve his pay. Land suitable for cultivation cannot possibly be in excess of the demand, when plots of only a few yards square are carefully formed by the erection of stone walls to retain the torrent-collected soil.
We were pestered with beggars throughout this district, and even the blind saw their opportunity; their number was distressing, and they could not account in any way for the prevalence of ophthalmia. Some endeavoured to explain the cause by referring it to the bright reflection from the sea, to which they were so frequently exposed; I assured them that sailors were seldom blind, and they proved the rule. Dirty habits, dwellings unwashed, heaps of filth lying around their houses and rotting in their streets, all of which during the hot dry summer is converted into poisonous dust, and, driven by the wind, fills the eyes, which are seldom cleansed—these are the natural causes which result in ophthalmia.
The new camels were ready, and with six of these animals we left Gallibornu and felt relieved to have parted with the carts, as for several marches they had caused great delay and inconvenience. Although Theodori had deceived me by agreeing to conduct us direct to Cape St. Andrea I did not like to discharge the thick-headed but innocent Georgi, therefore I offered to pay them a certain sum which they themselves named, per day, for the keep of their oxen, provided they should return with their empty carts to Lithrankomi (one march) and await my return there; after which, we would resume the original contract, and their oxen would once more draw the vans from their station at Kuklia.
This was an extra expense, as the camels were now engaged in lieu of carts, notwithstanding that I should have to pay for the oxen; on the other hand, these animals were beautiful specimens of their kind, and were thoroughly accustomed to the gipsy-van, therefore it was advisable to retain them. The two owners were delighted with the arrangement, and we started for Cape St. Andrea, while they were to return to Lithrankomi.
The country was now thoroughly enjoyable; the recent daily showers had freshened all vegetation, and the earth was a carpet of wild flowers, including scarlet ranunculus, poppies, a very pretty dwarf yellow cistus resembling bunches of primroses, cyclamen, narcissus, anemones—purple, white, and a peculiarly bright yellow variety.
The route from Gallibornu was extremely wild and picturesque, combining hills, glens, and occasional short glimpses of the sea between the gorges which cleft the precipitous range upon our right. The rounded and sparkling tops of gypsum hills were common for the first few miles; emerging from these, we threaded a ravine, and arrived upon the sea beach, and continued for a considerable distance upon the margin of the shore; the animals scrambling over fallen rocks and alternately struggling through the deep sand and banks of sea-weed piled by a recent gale. We now entered upon the first pure sandstone that I had seen; this was a coffee-brown, and formed the substratum of the usual sedimentary limestone which capped the surface of the hill-tops. The appearance was peculiar, as the cliffs of brown sandstone were crusted for a depth of about eight or ten feet by the white rock abounding with fossil shells, while the substratum of hard sand was perfectly devoid of all traces of organic matter. The upheaval of a sea-bottom was clearly demonstrated. As the sandstone had decayed, vast fragments of the surface rock had broken down when undermined and had fallen to the base of the steep inclines, from the interstices of which a dense growth of evergreens produced an agreeable harmony of colouring, combining various shades of green with brown cliffs and white masses of disjointed limestone. The deep blue of the sea was a beautiful addition to this wild scenery, and after threading our way sometimes between narrow gorges, at other places along sequestered glens which exhibited young crops of cereals and cultivated olive-trees, we at length arrived at a halting-place upon the seashore, where a well of excellent water about ten feet from the surface had been sunk upon the sea-beach within fifty yards of the waves.
This was the best camping-ground we had had in Cyprus; for the first time we stood upon real turf, green with recent showers, and firmly rooted upon a rich sandy loam. A cultivated valley lay a few hundred yards beyond us, completely walled in by high hills covered with wild olives, arbutus, and dwarf-cypress, and fronted by the sea. Some fine specimens of the broad-headed and shady caroub-trees gave a park-like appearance to the valley, through which a running stream entered from a ravine among the hills, and, winding through deep banks covered with myrtles and oleanders, expended itself upon the shingly beach in the centre of the bay. This sheltered cove, about 300 yards across the chord of the arc, formed rather more than a semicircle by the natural formation of the coast, and was further improved by a long reef of hard sandstone, which extended from either point like an artificial breakwater.
At first sight the little bay was a tempting refuge, but upon closer examination I observed ominous dark patches in the clear water, which betokened dangerous reefs, and other light green portions that denoted sandy shallows. The cove is useful for the native small craft, but would be unsuitable to vessels of more than seven feet draught of water. I had observed that francolins were more numerous since we had arrived upon the sandstone formation, and the cock birds were calling in all directions; the locality was so inviting that we felt inclined to remain for a few days in such a delightful spot; but the season was too far advanced for shooting, and I therefore confined myself to killing only what was absolutely necessary for our food, and I invariably selected the cock-birds of francolins. I do not think these birds pair like the partridge, but I believe the cock is polygamous, like the pheasant, as I generally found that several hens were in his neighbourhood. It is a beautiful game bird, the male possessing a striking plumage of deep black and rich brown, with a dark ring round the neck. It is quite a different variety to the mottle-breasted species that I have met with in Mauritius, Ceylon, and the double-spur francolin that I have shot in Africa. It is considerably larger than the common partridge, but not quite so heavy as the red-legged birds of Cyprus, although when flying it appears superior. The flesh is white and exceedingly delicate, and it is to be regretted that so valuable a game bird is not introduced into England. I generally found the francolin in the low scrub, although I have often shot it either in the cultivated fields or in the wild prickly low plants upon the open ground which have been misnamed heather. The habits of this bird have nothing in common with those of the red-legged partridge, as it is never found upon the bare rocky hill-sides, which are the general resort of the latter annoying species, and although the scrub bush may contain both, there is a marked difference in their character. The red-leg is a determined runner, and therefore a bad game bird for the shooter, as it will run ahead when first disturbed and rise far beyond shot range, instead of squatting like the grey partridge and permitting a sporting shot. The francolin is never found upon the bare hill-sides, neither is it a runner in the open, although it will occasionally trouble the dogs in the bush by refusing to rise until they have followed it for some distance, precisely as pheasants will run in covert until halted by the "stops" or by a net. I am not sure of the power of resistance to cold possessed by the francolins, as they are seldom met with upon the higher mountains in Cyprus, but are generally found upon the inferior altitudes and low grounds: still the hazel-huhn of Austria is a species of francolin which resists the intense cold of a central-European winter.
Only one march remained to the extreme eastern limit of Cyprus, Cape St. Andrea, distant fourteen miles. The country was exactly similar to that which we had recently passed through, and although alike, it could hardly be called monotonous, as the eye was never fatigued. The few inhabitants were poor to the last degree; the dwellings were mere hovels. We passed deep holes in the ground, the sides of which were baked by fire, so as to resemble earthen jars about ten feet deep and seven in diameter, with a small aperture; these were subterranean granaries, the sure sign of insecurity before the British occupation. The flat-topped hovels had the usual roofs of clay and chopped straw, and projected two or three feet as eaves beyond the walls, which were of stone and mud, exhibiting the crudest examples of masonry. The projecting eaves were curiously arranged by hooks of cypress, like single-fluked anchors laid horizontally, which retained beams, upon which the mud and straw were laid; the heavy weight of the earthen roof upon the long shanks of these anchors prevented the eaves from overbalancing. Enormous heaps of manure and filth were deposited opposite the entrance of each dwelling, and in the Christian villages the most absurd pigs ran in and out of the hovels, or slept by the front door, as though they were the actual proprietors. These creatures were all heads and legs, and closely resembled the black and white representative of the race well known to every child in the Noah's Ark.
It was rather disheartening to approach the extremity of the island, and upon entering a long narrow valley our guide assured us that although no apparent exit existed, we should ascend a precipitous path and immediately see the point of Cape St. Andrea. The valley narrowed to a point without any visible path. A few low hills covered with bush were backed by cliff-like heights of about 300 feet also clothed by evergreens. Upon our right, just below the steep ascent, were sand-dunes and the sea. We now observed the narrow streak of white upon the hillside, amidst the green which marked the path. We had left the brown sandstone, and once again were upon the white calcareous rock. Our animals could barely ascend the steep incline, and several times we halted them to rest; at length we reached the summit, the flat rocky table above the valley. The view was indeed lovely; we looked down upon the white monastery of Cape St. Andrea, two miles distant, and upon the thin eastern point of Cyprus about the same distance beyond, stretching like a finger from a hand into the blue sea: the elevation from the high point upon which we stood gradually inclining downwards to the end of all things. A short distance from the cape were two or three small rocky islands and reefs protruding from the sea, as though the force of the original upheaval had originated from the west, and had expended itself at the extreme east, where the heights above the sea-level had gradually diminished until the continuation became disjointed, and the island terminated in a sharp point, broken into dislocated vertebrae which formed islets and reefs, the last hardly appearing above the waves. This ended Cyprus on the east. The lofty coast of Asia Minor was distinctly visible.
CAPE ST. ANDREA.
The promontory of Cape St. Andrea at the broadest portion is about five miles, and from this base to the extreme end is nearly the same distance. The whole surface is rocky, but the interstices contain a rich soil, and at one time it was covered with valuable timber. There is no portion of the island that presents a more deplorable picture of wholesale destruction of forests, as every tree has been ruthlessly cut down, and the present surface is a dense mass of shrubs and young cypress, which if spared for fifteen years will again restore this extremity of Cyprus to prosperity. I examined the entire promontory, and ascended the rocky heights, about 500 feet above the sea upon the north side. It was with extreme difficulty that I could break my way through the dense underwood, which was about seven or eight feet high, as it was in many places more than knee-deep in refuse boughs, which had been lopped and abandoned when the larger trees had been felled. The largest stumps of these departed stems were not more than from nine to twelve inches in diameter: these were the dwarf-cypress, which would seldom attain a greater height than twenty feet at maturity.
Fine caroubs had shared the fate of all others, and many of the old stumps proved the large size of this valuable tree, which, as both fruit-producing and shade-giving, should be sacred in the usually parched island of Cyprus. At an elevation of about 350 feet above the sea a spring of water issues from the ground and nourishes a small valley of red soil, which slopes downwards towards the monastery, two miles distant. The shrubs were vividly green, and formed so dense a crest that several partridges which I shot remained sticking in the bushes as they fell. I never saw such myrtles as those which occupied the ravines, through which it was quite impossible to force a way. The principal young trees were Pinus maritima, dwarf-cypress, mastic, caroub, arbutus, myrtle, and wild olive. The name Cupressus horizontalis has been given to the dwarf-cypress, but in my opinion it is not descriptive of the tree: a cypress of this species, if uninjured, will grow perfectly straight in the central stem for a height of twenty feet without spreading horizontally. It is probable that the misnomer has been bestowed in ignorance of the fact that an uninjured tree is seldom met with, and that nearly every cypress has been mutilated for the sake of the strong tough leader, which, with one branch attached, will form the one-fluked anchor required for the roofs of native dwellings already described. In the absence of its leader the tree extends laterally, and becomes a Cupressus horizontalis. The wood of this species is extremely dense and hard, and when cut it emits a resinous and aromatic scent; it is of an oily nature, and extremely inflammable. The grain is so close that, when dry, it somewhat resembles lignum vitae (though of lighter colour), and would form a valuable material for the turner. There are two varieties of cypress in this island; the second has been erroneously called a "cedar" by some travellers, and by others "juniper." This tree is generally met with, at altitudes varying from three to six thousand feet, upon the Troodos range; it seldom exceeds a height of thirty feet, but attains a girth of six or even seven. The wood is by no means hard, and possesses a powerful fragrance, closely resembling that of cedar (or of cedar and sandal-wood combined), which may have given rise to the error named. It splits with facility, and the peculiar grain and brownish-red colour, combined with the aroma, would render it valuable for the cabinet-maker in constructing the insides of drawers, as insects are believed to dislike the smell. The foliage of this species exactly resembles that of the Cupressus horizontalis. The cedar may possibly have existed at a former period and have been destroyed, but I should be inclined to doubt the theory, as it would surely have been succeeded by a younger growth from the cones, that must have rooted in the ground like all those conifers which still would flourish were they spared by the Cypriote's axe. The native name for the cypress is Kypreses, which closely resembles the name of the island according to their pronunciation Kypris. The chittim-wood of Scripture, which was so much esteemed, may have been the highly aromatic cypress to which I have alluded.
After a ramble of many hours down to the monastery upon the rocky shore, along the point, and then returning through the woods over the highest portions of the promontory, I reached our camp, which commanded a view of the entire southern coast with its innumerable rocky coves far beyond telescopic distance. From this elevation I could distinguish with my glass the wreck of the stranded steamer in the bay at Volokalida. We were camped on the verge of the height that we had ascended by the precipitous path from the lower valley. As the country was a mass of dry fire-wood we collected a large quantity, and piled two heaps, one for the camel-owners and the servants, and another before the door of our own tent to make a cheerful blaze at night, which is a luxury of the bivouac seldom to be enjoyed in other portions of this island. While we were thus engaged an arrival took place, and several people suddenly appeared upon the summit of the pass within a few yards of our tent. An old woman formed one of the party, and a handsome but rather dirty-looking priest led the way on a remarkably powerful mule. Upon seeing us he very courteously dismounted, and I at once invited him to the tent. It appeared that this was the actual head of the monastery and the lord of all the promontory who was thus unexpectedly introduced. Cigarettes, coffee, and a little good cognac quickly cheered the good and dusty priest (who had travelled that day from some place beyond Rizo-Carpas), and we established a mutual confidence that induced him to give me all the information of his neighbourhood.
I had observed hundreds of cattle, goats, sheep, and many horses, donkeys, &c., wandering about the shrub-covered surface during my walk, and I was now informed that all these animals were the property of the monastery. These tame creatures are the objects described in some books upon Cyprus as "the wild oxen and horses of the Carpas district, the descendants of original domestic animals"! The monastery of Cape St. Andrea forms an exception to all others in being perfectly independent, and beyond all control of bishops. This wild country, far from all roads, and forming the storm-washed extreme limit of the island, was considerately out of the way of news, and the monk was absolutely ignorant of everything that was taking place in the great outer world. He had heard that such mischievous things as newspapers existed, but he had never seen one, neither had that ubiquitous animal the newspaper-correspondent ever been met with in the evergreen jungles of Cape St. Andrea. His monastery was his world, and the poor inhabitants who occupied the few miserable huts within sight of his church were his vassals. Although the bell of the monastery tolled and tinkled at the required hours, he informed me that "nobody ever attended the service, as the people were always engaged in looking after their animals." During the conversation a sudden idea appeared to have flashed upon him, and starting from his seat, he went quickly to his mule, and making a dive into the large and well-filled saddle-bags, he extracted an enormous wine-bottle that contained about a gallon; this he triumphantly brought to us and insisted upon our acceptance. It was in vain that we declined the offering; the priest was obdurate, and he placed the bottle against the entrance of the tent, which, if any one should have unexpectedly arrived, would have presented a most convivial appearance.
Upon questioning the good monk respecting the destruction of forests upon his domain, he informed me that "during the Turkish administration he had been annually pillaged by hundreds of vessels which arrived from the neighbouring coasts of Asia Minor and of Egypt for the express purpose of cutting timber to be sold by weight as fire-wood at their various ports. He had protested in vain, there were no police, nor any means of resistance at Cape St. Andrea, therefore the numerous crews had defied him; and small presents from the owners of the vessels to the Pacha at headquarters were sufficient to ensure immunity." I asked him "why they wasted so much excellent fire-wood, and left the boughs to hamper the surface?" He replied, "that as the wood was sold by weight, the dealers preferred to cut the thick stems, as they packed closely on board the vessels, and, being green, they weighed heavy; therefore they rejected the smaller wood and left it to rot upon the ground." He declared "that on several occasions the crews had quarrelled, and that from pure spite they had set fire to the thick mass of dried boughs and lighter wood which had spread over the surface, and destroyed immense numbers of young trees." I had observed that large tracts had been burnt during the preceding year. He was delighted at the English occupation, as his property would now be protected, and in a few years the trees would attain a considerable size.
Having passed an interesting afternoon with the new ecclesiastical acquaintance, and tasted, immediately after his departure, the contents of his enormous bottle (which was as instantly presented, as a "great treat," to the servants), we lighted our big bonfires, and enjoyed the blaze like children, although the showers of red sparks threatened the destruction of the tent in the absence of Captain Shaw and the London Fire Brigade. After this temporary excitement in this utter-lack-of-incident-and-everyday-monotonous-island, the fires gradually subsided, and we all went to sleep. There is no necessity in Cyprus for sentries or night-watchers, the people are painfully good, and you are a great deal too secure when travelling. As to "revolvers!" I felt inclined to bury my pistols upon my first arrival, and to inscribe "Rest in peace" upon the tombstone. It would be just as absurd to attend church in London with revolvers in your belt as to appear with such a weapon in any part of Cyprus. Mine were carefully concealed in some mysterious corner of the gipsy-van; where they now lie hidden.
We had been two days at Cape St. Andrea, and it was necessary to right-about-face, as we could go no farther. The monk proposed to guide us to Rizo-Carpas, the capital of the Carpas district; therefore on 14th March we started.
This ride of fourteen miles was the most interesting we had made since our arrival in the island. After returning upon our old route for about nine miles, we struck off to the right (north) and ascended a steep gorge between precipitous wooded heights, where the light green foliage and the exceedingly bright red stems of numerous arbutus contrasted with the dense masses of dark greens which entirely clothed the surface. Upon arrival, about 600 feet above the sea we obtained a splendid view, as a table-topped hill of nearly equal height, with the usual steep cliff-like sides all covered with verdure, stood prominently in the foreground, and the deep valleys upon either side, abounding in rich caroub-trees and olives, led directly to the sea, about six miles distant and far below. We now crossed the watershed, and the view increased in beauty as it embraced a complete panorama, with the sea upon three sides, to the north, south, and east, with the mountains of Asia Minor in the far distance.
We arrived at Rizo-Carpas, which is situated in a gently-sloping vale about 450 feet above the sea-level, but surrounded upon all sides by superior heights, from which the coast of Caramania is distinctly visible during clear weather. The valley and slopes are highly cultivated with cereals, and plantations of mulberry-trees for the support of silkworms; numerous caroub-trees throughout the district give an agreeable and prosperous appearance. Although there is no actual town, native dwellings are dotted over the face of the country for some miles, ornamented by three churches, which present an air of civilisation and prosperity. The inhabitants were, as usual, very polite, and as Lady Baker and myself were sitting upon a rug beneath a tree which we had selected for the evening's halt, and waiting for the arrival of our camels, a crowd of women and children arrived with the ugliest and most witch-like old hag that I have ever seen. This old creature had brought fire and dried olive-leaves in a broken pot, with which she immediately fumigated us by marching round several times, and so manipulating her pot as to produce the largest volume of smoke. This custom, which is so general throughout Cyprus, is supposed to avert the evil-eye; but I imagine that it originated during a period when the plague or some other fatal epidemic was prevalent in the island, and fumigation was supposed to act as a preventative.
There is no medicinal property in the olive-leaf, but as the tree is practically undying, I attribute the use of the leaves as incense to be symbolically connected with the blessing of a long life expressed to a welcomed guest. It is one of those vestiges of tree-worship which may be traced in almost every country, both savage and civilised, and may be seen exhibited in Egypt, where the almost everlasting species of aloe is suspended above the doorway of a house as a talisman or safeguard to the family within: the idea thus expressed, "As the plant never dies, may your family last for ever." We got rid of the old hag and her smoky offering, and she became lost in the crowd which thronged around us; this was composed of the ugliest, dirtiest, shortest, and most repulsive lot of females that I ever saw: it was painful to look at them.
There was a general complaint that the silkworms had deteriorated, and that the mulberry-trees had suffered from a disease which had killed great numbers. It appeared to me that the decay of the trees was a sufficient reason for the inferiority of the silkworms. This was a serious loss to the inhabitants, as Rizo-Carpas was celebrated both for the quality and quantity of its silk-production.
From the watershed a few hundred yards behind our camp we had a good view of the northern coast below, which extended in a series of rocky bays and prominent points to the west, while the entire country from the shore to the rising ground formed a rich picture of caroub-trees and plots of cultivation. The hills upon which we stood, about 450 feet above the sea, were the continuations of the long Carpas range, where the force of the upheaval had become expended towards the east. As we looked westward the line of hills gradually heightened, until the well-known points of the compact limestone were clearly distinguished among the rugged outlines of the greater altitudes.
There was nothing of interest to induce a longer stay in Rizo-Carpas, therefore we started on the following morning upon our return journey, and after a lovely march of twenty miles, partly along an elevated plateau which commanded a view of both seas north and south, and then descending some 700 or 800 feet by a steep and interesting pass, we arrived at Lithrankomi, after passing through Gallibornu.
To my astonishment the oxen and their drivers, instead of awaiting me at Lithrankomi, were still at the latter village, and hearing that we had passed through, they came on to join us, but only arrived some hours later, at nightfall. I discharged my camels that evening, as the carts would begin their new contract on the following morning.
I rose early on the next day, as we had a long march of twenty-two miles before us to Trichomo; but as the oxen had been resting for many days, and I had been paying highly for their food while they had been doing nothing, I knew they must be in first-rate condition, and in spite of bad roads they would accomplish the distance. There was always a difficulty in inducing the carters to start early, but this morning there was a greater delay than usual, and I myself went to superintend the loading of the carts. I could hardly believe my eyes! In Georgi's cart the oxen had been yoked. There was a black creature about half a foot shorter than its fellow, and composed of skin and bones. The horns of this animal were antiquities: a drawn appearance about the head and face, and deeply sunken eyes, denoted extreme age. The fellow ox I recognised after some time as our old friend in reduced circumstances; it had been going through a course of wild artichokes and prickly thistles since I had seen it last, which had brought it into racing condition by the loss of at least a hundredweight of flesh; the poor beast looked starved. Georgi had accordingly saved the whole of the allowance I had paid for food of the best quality, which he had pocketed while his animal was turned out to graze. "Where are my oxen?" I inquired of the conscious Georgi; who wisely remained silent. I now turned to Theodori's team, and I at once perceived that he also had exchanged one of the superb oxen which I had hired, and upon which I had depended for drawing the gipsy-van; but the new purchase was a very beautiful animal, although inferior in height to its companion, which had much fallen off in condition, having been fed upon the same unnutritious food. I had been regularly done, as the animals for which I had paid highly had not only been neglected, but had been exchanged.
I very quickly explained to the proprietors that they had no right whatever to exchange the oxen which I had engaged, and for which I was paying in my absence, therefore I should refuse to accept them, as the contract was broken; and I immediately ordered the camels to be loaded with the contents of the carts. Fortunately the discharged animals were grazing within a few yards of our camp.
My servants now explained that Georgi the thick-headed had been done by his dear friend and companion Theodori, "the man of ability," who had accompanied me into the Carpas with the sole intention of cattle-dealing. It appeared that after my departure from Gallibornu, Theodori had suggested to his friend that a saving might be effected in the keep of four animals by reducing them to two, and he advised that they should at once sell each one ox, and arrange to purchase new animals by the time that I should return; they would by this method pocket half the sum which I had agreed to pay daily for four oxen during my absence at Cape St. Andrea. They subsequently came to the conclusion that their remaining oxen should live upon their wits and thistles, instead of causing an expense in the purchase of cotton-seed, lentils, and tibbin (broken barley-straw). Theodori informed Georgi that he knew of two beautiful animals that might be obtained by the exchange of two of their oxen with a small sum of money in addition, and he would arrange the matter if Georgi would part with the dark cream-coloured ox with black points (his best). Of course the innocent-minded, broad-shouldered, herculean Georgi knew that his friend would protect his interests, and he left the matter in his hands. The unmitigated rascal Theodori knew that the beautiful fat red ox that he wished to purchase was some years younger than the old well-trained oxen which formed his pair, and therefore it would be more valuable; he accordingly agreed to give one of his oxen and one of Georgi's FOR A PAIR from the proprietor of the fat red animal, who consented to the exchange, receiving the two fine animals which I had hired and, giving the valuable young red ox together with the miserable old creature that I had seen that morning in the yoke. This worn-out old skeleton was to be Georgi's share of the bargain! I told Georgi that my dogs would not eat the animal if it should die, as it was too thin. My servants burst out laughing when Christo the cook translated the account of the transaction. The shameless scoundrel Theodori, who was present, SMILED at the relation of his shrewdness; and the big Georgi burst out crying like a child at the loss of his fine ox, the duplicity of his friend, and the want of sympathy of the bystanders, who made a joke of his misfortune. I was very sorry for poor Georgi, as he was really an excellent fellow; he had been only foolish in trusting to the honour of his friend, like some good people who apply for assistance to Lord Penzance; however, there was no help for it, and he departed crying bitterly.
My servants were fond of the man, and their hearts began to soften after they had enjoyed the first hearty laugh at Georgi's expense, and Christo, who was always the factotum, shortly came with a suggestion, that, "If I would write an order for the immediate return of Georgi's bullock, on the plea that as I had hired the animal no one had a right to exchange it until the expiration of my contract," there would be no difficulty, as "the purchaser would be afraid to retain the animal upon seeing Georgi armed with a written paper." "But," I said, "what is the use of my writing in English, which no one can understand?" Christo assured me that it would have a better effect if nobody could read the contents, as Georgi could then say anything he pleased. I wrote an order for the return of the ox as belonging temporarily to me by contract, and Georgi having wiped his eyes, immediately set off on foot towards Gallibornu, full of confidence and hope.
Theodori declared that it would be impossible for his oxen to reach Trichomo in one day; I therefore loaded the camels, and advised him to await Georgi's return; should they re-appear at Kuklia, where the vans were lying, I would re-engage them as far as Lefkosia, and in the meantime I would pay them for the daily keep of their animals, who were to be well fed, and to discontinue the course of wild artichokes and thistles.
We took a different route upon leaving Lithrankomi, by keeping upon the high plateau instead of the lower valleys through which we had arrived on our way from Volokalida. We accordingly left this village some miles to the south, but as we were passing through a broad cultivated plain, a portion of which had recently been ploughed, we observed a crowd of women and girls who were engaged with baskets in collecting wild artichokes, which the plough had dislodged. As we approached a sudden rush was made in our direction, the baskets were placed upon the ground, and a race took place over the heavy soil to see who would be the first to greet us. We discovered that these were our friends of Volokalida, who had walked across the hills in a large party to collect wild vegetables; they seemed delighted to see us, and insisted upon shaking hands, which, as they had been grubbing in the freshly-turned ground, was rather a mouldy operation. We shook hands with about thirty members of this primitive agricultural society, and were glad to waive an adieu before the arrival of the older women in the rear, who with their heavy nailed boots were running towards us, plunging about in the deep ground in clumsy attempts at juvenile activity. A few of the young women were very pretty, but, as usual in Cyprus, their figures were ungainly, and their movements, hampered by baggy trousers and enormous high boots, were most ungraceful.
On arrival at Trichomo we pitched our tent at some distance from the dwelling in which we had fed some thousand fleas upon our former visit; and on the following morning I determined to go straight Famagousta, about twelve miles distant.
The route from Trichomo is for the most part along the seashore, but occasionally cutting off the bends by a direct line. The plain is a dead level, as it has been entirely deposited by the floods of the Pedias river. We rode tolerably fast, the sun being hot and the country most uninteresting; we had left the shrub-covered surface of the Carpas with its romantic cliffs and deep valleys rich in verdure, and once more we were upon the hateful treeless plain of Messaria. During our sojourn in the Carpas district the rainfall by our gauge had been 1.28 inches, but in this unattractive region there had only been one or two faint showers, hardly sufficient to lay the dust. The crops about five inches above the ground were almost dead, and the young wheat and barley were completely withered.
About four or five miles from Famagousta we arrived at the ruins of ancient Salamis. The stringent prohibition of the British authorities against a search for antiquities in Cyprus had destroyed the interest which would otherwise have been taken by travellers in such explorations. As I have before remarked, there are no remains to attract attention upon the surface, but all ancient works are buried far beneath, therefore in the absence of permission to excavate, the practical study of the past is impossible, and it is a sealed book. Fortunately General di Cesnola has published his most interesting volume, combining historical sketches of ancient times with a minute description of the enormous collection of antiquities which rewarded his labours during ten years' research; so that if our government will neither explore nor permit others to investigate, we have at least an invaluable fund of information collected by those whose consular position during the Turkish rule enabled them to make additions to our historical knowledge. Mr. Hamilton Lang has also published his experiences of a long residence in the island, during which his successful excavations brought to light valuable relics of the past which explain more forcibly than the leaves of a book the manners, customs, and incidents among the various races which have made up Cyprian history. General di Cesnola, after quoting the legend which connects the origin of Salamis with the arrival of a colony of Greeks under Teucer (the son of Telamon, king of the island of Salamis) from the Trojan expedition, continues, "Of the history of Salamis almost nothing is known till we come to the time of the Persian wars; but from that time down to the reign of the Ptolemies it was by far the most conspicuous and flourishing of the towns of Cyprus." "Onesius seized the government of Salamis from his brother, Gorgus, and set up an obstinate resistance to the Persian oppression under which the island was labouring, about 500 B.C. In the end he was defeated by a Persian army and fell in battle, and it was about this time, if not in consequence of this defeat, that the dynasty of Teucer was, for a period, removed from the government of Salamis. As to the length of this period there is great obscurity. It seems, however, to be certain that with the help of the Persians a Tyrian named Abdemon had seized the throne, and not only paid tribute to Persia, but endeavoured to extend the Persian power over the rest of the island. To Salamis itself he invited Phoenician immigrants, and introduced Asiatic tastes and habits." Following upon this usurpation came the revolt and the restoration of the Teucer dynasty, under Evagoras, B.C. 374, and eventually upon the partition of the empire of Alexander the Great it fell to the lot of Antigonus, after the severe contests between Demetrius and Menelaus.
Like all ancient sea-ports of importance, Salamis was the object of continual attacks, and by degrees its prosperity declined. In addition to the damage and loss by sieges, it was seriously affected by an earthquake, and a portion disappeared beneath the sea. The sand has submerged a large area of the ruins which face the sea, but General di Cesnola was able to trace the ancient wall for a distance of 6850 feet. It is quite possible that the earthquake may have altered the conditions of the harbour, which in former days was of considerable importance. It has now entirely changed, and the bay near the shore is extremely shallow, although good anchorage exists in the roadstead in ten to sixteen fathoms.
The high masonry piers which had supported the arches of the ancient aqueduct from Kythrea looked like spectres of past greatness among the silent ruins, made doubly desolate by the miserable aspect of the withered plain around them. A short distance from these is the church of St. Barnabas, raised upon the site where it is believed that the body of the Saint was discovered, together with the Gospel of St. Matthew. How the Saint and the Gospel had been preserved in the damp soil of that neighbourhood must be left to the imagination.
Passing through the ruins of the old town with the line of the wall distinctly visible upon the sea front, we shortly arrived at the spot where the river Pedias should have an exit to the sea. No sign of a river-bed existed, but a long series of swamps, composed chiefly of bare mud, would during wet weather have made a considerable detour necessary; they were now dry, with the exception of two or three holes full of muddy water, which were unconnected with any perceptible channel. A long stone causeway proved that occasionally the hardened mud upon which we rode would become a lake, but from the numerous tracks of animals the earth was preferred to the uneven and slippery pavement of the artificial road. The enormous quantity of mud brought down by the Pedias during its fitful inundations had completely obliterated all signs of an ordinary river-bed, and the deposit had produced a surface that was scored in numerous places by the rush of water, without in any way suggesting that we were in the neighbourhood of the largest river in Cyprus. The width of this muddy swamp was about two miles, and terminated by a shallow lake upon our left. We were now within a mile and a quarter of Famagousta, and the ground began to rise. It struck me that an eminence upon our right was superior to the height of the city walls, and I rode up to examine the position. There was no doubt that it commanded the lower portion of the fortress, and that a direct shell- fire could be plunged into the rear of the guns which protect the entrance of the harbour. In the event of modifications being introduced when restoring the defensive works of Famagousta, it would be necessary to erect a powerful detached fort upon this position, which would be an immense addition to the defences of the city, as it would enfilade the approaches upon two sides.
The walls of Famagousta are most imposing; they are constructed of carefully-squared stone joined with cement of such extreme hardness that the weather has had no destructive effect. The perimeter of the fortress is about 4000 yards; the shape is nearly a parallelogram. The fosse varies in depth and width, but the minimum of the former is twenty-five feet, and of the width eighty feet, but in some places it exceeds one hundred and forty. This formidable ditch is cut out of the solid rock, which is the usual calcareous sedimentary limestone, and the stone thus obtained has been used in the construction of the walls. The rock foundation would render all mining operations extremely difficult. The fire from the ramparts is increased by cavaliers of great size and strength, capable of mounting numerous heavy guns at a superior altitude. The only entrance from the land side is at the south-west corner; this is exceedingly striking, as the fosse is about 140 feet wide, the scarp and counter-scarp almost perpendicular, being cut from the original rock.
A narrow stone bridge upon arches spans this peculiar ditch, the communication depending upon a double drawbridge and portcullis. Immediately facing the entrance outside the fortress is an old Turkish churchyard, through and above which the closed masonry aqueduct is conducted into the town. Following the course of the aqueduct along a straight line of sandy heights which somewhat resemble a massive railway embankment, we arrived at a mosque in which is the venerated tomb of the Turkish soldier who first planted the flag upon the walls of Famagousta when captured, in 1571, from the Venetians. This tomb is in a small chamber within the building and is covered with green silk, embroidered; but as the city was never taken by assault, and capitulated upon honourable terms after a protracted defence, the fact of establishing the Turkish flag upon the walls after their evacuation by the garrison would hardly have entitled the standard-bearer to a Victoria Cross; however he may have otherwise distinguished himself, which entailed post-mortem honours, perhaps by skinning alive the gallant Venetian commandant Bragadino, whose skin, stuffed with straw, was taken in triumph to Constantinople hanging at the yard-arm of the victorious general's ship.
Quitting the mosque, we continued along the aqueduct, always upon the same sandy heights, which gradually increased, until we arrived at a position about 200 yards from a windmill. This formed a prominent object at the back of the large village of Varoschia, situated upon the slope beneath facing the sea, about a quarter of a mile distant. I selected the highest position for a camp; this was close to the aqueduct and about 600 yards from the entrance of the fortress. I counted the embrasures of six guns that could have been brought to bear exactly upon our tent, but at the same time I remarked that we commanded the lower portion of the fortress, and could fire into the rear of the batteries upon the sea-wall within the water-gate at a most destructive range. This position would require a detached fort with a line of works along the heights flanked by a small fort at the extremity. Three detached forts upon as many points which now exist would render Famagousta impregnable, should the present works be repaired, and improved by some slight modifications.
I had been through the fortifications upon a former occasion, when I had the advantage of Captain Inglis the chief commissioner's guidance, but they are so extensive and of such exceeding interest that many days might be expended in a study of the details.
Upon entering the fortress by the drawbridge we passed through the arched and dark way beneath the ramparts, and emerged into a narrow street, which was swept and free from the usual impurities of a Turkish town, thus exhibiting proofs of a British occupation. A perfect labyrinth of narrow lanes, bordered by most inferior dwellings, confused a stranger, but with the assistance of a guide I reached the residence of the chief commissioner and the various officers attached to the establishment. Beyond this all modern buildings ceased, and Famagousta was presented as it must have appeared after the sack and utter destruction by the Turks in 1571. It looked as though a town had been shattered and utterly destroyed by an earth-quake, whose terrible tremblings had shaken every house to its foundation, and left nothing but shapeless heaps of squared stones. O Turk! insatiable in destruction, who breaks down, but never restores, what a picture of desolation was here! Three centuries had passed away since by treachery the place was won, and from that hour the neglected harbour had silted up and ceased to be; the stones of palaces rested where they fell; the filth of ages sweltered among these blood-sodden ruins; and the proverb seemed fulfilled, "The grass never grows on the foot-print of the Turk." I never saw so fearful an example of ruin.
Although the town was in this hideous state, the fortifications were in very tolerable repair, and had guns been mounted an enemy would quickly have acknowledged their formidable importance. Time appeared to be almost harmless in attacks against these vast piles of solid masonry. The parapets in the angles of the embrasures were twenty-five and twenty-seven feet in thickness. From these we looked down forty-five and fifty feet into the ditch beneath. As we walked round the ramparts and various bastions we remarked the enormous strength of the commanding cavaliers to which I alluded from the outside appearance of the forts. There were also vast subterranean works, store-houses, magazines, cannon-foundries, and all the appliances of a first-class fortified town and arsenal; but these were of course empty, and with the exception of a small chamber near the water-gate, which contained a number of rusty helmets and breastplates, there was no object of interest beyond the actual plan of the defences.
The water-gate was approached by a winding entrance beneath a powerful circular bastion from an extremely narrow quay, from which the remains of a once powerful mote projected about 120 yards into the sea and commanded the inner harbour. This was now a mere line of loose and disjointed stones. A citadel that is separated from the main fortress by a wet ditch which communicates with the sea by an adit beneath the wall commands the harbour on the east side. This ditch is as usual scarped from the rock, and otherwise of solid masonry; should the fortress have been successfully carried by assault on the land side, a vigorous defence might have been maintained in this independent citadel until either reinforcements should arrive by sea, or an escape might be effected to friendly vessels.
It is commonly asserted that Famagousta under the Lusignans and Venetians "counted its churches by hundreds and its palatial mansions by thousands." It would certainly have been impossible that they could have existed within the present area, as a large extent must have been required for barrack accommodation for the garrison, parade-grounds, &c. There are ruins of several fine churches with the frescoes still visible upon the walls. The Cathedral of St. Nicholas is a beautiful object in the Gothic style. Although dismantled and converted into a mosque by the Turks, the roof is in good repair, and its magnificent proportions remain, but they are marred by the stopping of the windows with rough stones and mortar. The total length of the cathedral is 172 feet 6.5 inches. Length of apse (included in above) 30 feet 9 inches; breadth of apse 32 feet 3 inches; breadth of cathedral 74 feet 1 inch; circumference of pillars 15 feet 3 inches, there being 12 pillars in all.
On the outside walls are the marks of various cannon-shot which appear to have been successfully resisted by the soft but tough sedimentary limestone, which is of similar quality to that used in the construction of the fortress. I observed that the impact of the shot has been confined to the immediate neighbourhood of the blow, and that the concussion has not been communicated to the adjoining stone, but has expended itself in crumbling the opposing surface to the depth in which it was eventually imbedded. It would be interesting to try some experiments upon those walls of Famagousta (which may already require repair or alteration) with modern heavy artillery, as should this stone exhibit unusual powers of resistance it may become valuable. Nothing would be easier than to fire a few rounds from a ship's battery to prove the question.
The courtyard of an ancient Venetian palace now forms the British parade-ground. This faces the cathedral entrance, and is ornamented by piles of marble cannon-shot, which are upwards of ten inches in diameter; these were the Venetian relics of the siege of 1571.
From Cape Greco to Cape Elaea, south to north, is about twenty-five miles; these points form the bay, nine miles in extreme width. Although open to the east and south-east, Famagousta is the only real harbour in Cyprus that can be available for large vessels, and there can be no doubt that a very moderate outlay would not only restore its ancient importance, but would make those additions of modern times that are required for a first-rate and impregnable coaling-station and arsenal.
It was blowing a fresh gale from the south-east when I was standing on the ramparts facing the sea above the water-gate, and an admirable example was displayed in the wave-breaking power of the long line of sunken reefs which form a continuation of those natural breakwaters above the surface that have formed the harbour. A tremendous surf exhibited a creamy streak along the margin of comparatively still water within the reefs for about a mile parallel with the shore, comprising an area of about 700 yards' width at the extremity of the sunken rocks, and 500 from the existing breakwater exactly opposite the water-gate. Within this secure haven several native vessels were snugly at anchor, but ships of war would hardly venture among the varying shallows caused by centuries of silt; such large vessels generally anchor in seventeen fathoms about a mile from the shore, but they are completely exposed to wind from east and south-east. The inner harbour is formed by the artificial connection of raised heads of projecting reefs by stone jetties. At right angles with this complete defence of limestone rock is a wall or jetty from the shore, which for a distance of 170 yards incloses the basin of perfectly still water within. The entrance to this snug little port is about forty yards in width, and the depth is most irregular, varying from dry silt close to the south end of the reefs up to twelve feet beneath the walls of the fortress. There were many small coasting-vessels and caiques which trade between the various ports of Syria and Asia Minor, all having sought shelter from the bad weather within the port; and the picture presented during the strong gale was thoroughly illustrative of the natural advantages and the future requirements of the harbour. The long line of reefs which form the outer protection would, were they exposed in their whole length, represent an irregular incline from about twelve feet above the sea level at the southern end to three fathoms below water at the northern extremity. A wedge laid with its broad base to the south would represent the inclination of this long line of useful reef, which can be converted into a sea-wall by simply filling-in with blocks of concrete to a sufficient height above the extreme water-mark. The ancient jetty which connects the small islands that form the northern head of the reef is in itself an example of the necessity of such an extension throughout the line. A natural headland terminating in disconnected rocks upon the north boundary of the reef about half a mile above the fortress is a secure protection from the sea, but it admits the silt. This has completely filled in a considerable portion of the original harbour, and were this sea-communication destroyed by connecting the various reefs with the main headland, the evil would be at once prevented, and the inclosed area might be cleansed by dredging. This would not only add to the accommodation of the inner harbour by a considerable extension, but it would afford an admirable position for a series of docks, and yards for the repairing of vessels. I walked through the whole of this confined mass of rocks, silt, and water only a few inches deep, and was much impressed with the capabilities of the locality. Such powerful dredgers as are used in the Suez Canal would clear away the deposit, with an outlay that could be calculated by the cubic contents, and the large margin that must generally be allowed in all estimates for harbour works would, in the case of Famagousta, be superfluous.
There are two enemies to be resisted—the sea, and the silt. The latter has been and still is brought down by the Pedias river; this has entirely blocked the ancient harbour of Salamis, and partially destroyed that of Famagousta. The engineer has to repel these enemies, and he possesses a great advantage in the fact that Famagousta has already existed as a most important harbour, therefore he is not experimenting upon an unknown bottom. The line of reefs affords the engineer's chief desideratum, "a sound foundation," and the materials for his concrete blocks are close at hand in the chaotic mass of stone now choking with ruins the area of the city, in the neighbouring ruins of Salamis, and, nearer still, in the native rock from which Famagousta has been quarried. The island of Santorin from whence the pozzolano is supplied for hydraulic cement, is only three days distant. Few places possess in so high a degree the natural advantages for becoming a first-class harbour, and it has been computed that about 300 acres of water can be converted into a wall-locked basin, with an entrance from the south that would be secure during all weathers. The Bay of Famagousta is extremely deep, exceeding 150 fathoms which affords an additional facility for getting rid of the contents of the lighters, as the mud from the dredgers could be discharged at sea without danger of its return.
All competent persons who have examined the present harbour are unanimous in the opinion that "a very moderate outlay would secure a first-class port, which would, as an impregnable coaling-depot and arsenal, complete the links of the chain of fortresses which are the guardians of the Mediterranean. In a war with any maritime Power the first necessity is an uninterrupted line of fortified coaling-stations, at intervals not exceeding five days' steaming at ten knots. A naval war will depend entirely upon the supply of coal, which will in all probability be declared "contraband of war." In the absence of a dependable chain of stations THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, the action of the most powerful cruisers will be extremely limited, as they will be rendered helpless when their supply is reduced to the minimum sufficient to carry them to a friendly port.
Where oceans must be traversed, the difficulty will be increased, as the coal-capacity of the vessel will only command a given mileage; she will therefore be in her weakest condition after a long voyage, and as her fighting power must depend upon her steam, precisely as the strength of man depends upon his food, she must be absolutely certain of obtaining a supply of coal in every sea where her presence is required.
Should the most powerful vessel afloat, after a long cruise during which she has encountered head-winds and weather that had caused delay and a great consumption of fuel, be reduced to only a few hours' steaming, she would be at the mercy of an inferior antagonist whose bunkers might be well filled. The commerce and the colonies of Great Britain demand the presence of our vessels in every sea; the greater part of that enormous carrying-power is now represented by steamers which have replaced the sailing-vessels of old: therefore in the event of war we must possess coaling-depots which in case of necessity could meet the demands of any of our ships, whether naval or commercial.
The attention of the usually far-seeing public is seldom directed to this important question of coaling-stations, but an examination of a recently constructed globe will discover the apparently insignificant red dots which represent the dominant power of England in every portion of the world. The smallest island may become the most impregnable and important coaling-depot. It is the fashion for some modern reformers (happily few) to suggest a curtailment of the British Empire, on the principle that "by pruning we should improve the strength of the national tree." If there are rotten boughs, or exhausting and useless shoots, the analogy might be practical; but if we examine carefully a map of the world it would puzzle the Royal Geographical Society to determine the point that we should abandon. An example of temporary insanity was displayed in the evacuation of Corfu; which would under our present foreign policy have become invaluable as a powerfully fortified coaling-station, commanding the entrance of the Adriatic and the neighbouring seas. It is this unfortunate precedent which is paralysing all the natural elasticity of commercial enterprise in Cyprus, as the inhabitants and English alike feel their insecurity, and hesitate before the uncertain future, which may depend upon a party vote in the distant House of Commons.
There can be no doubt that Cyprus or Crete was requisite to England as the missing link in the chain of our communications with Egypt. As a strategical point, Cyprus must be represented by Famagousta, without which it would be useless for the ostensible purpose of its occupation. Many persons of great practical experience would have preferred Crete, as already possessing a safe harbour in Suda Bay, with a climate superior to that of Cyprus, while according to our assumed defensive alliance with Turkey in the event of a renewed attack by Russia, we should have acquired the advantage of Cyprus whenever required, without the expense or responsibility, and we should in addition have established a station on the coast of Asia Minor at the secure harbour afforded by the Gulf of Ayas at Alexandretta.
These geographical questions are a matter of opinion, but now that we actually have occupied Cyprus it is absolutely necessary to do something. Without Famagousta, the island would be worthless as a naval station; with it, as a first-class harbour and arsenal, we should dominate the eastern portion of the Mediterranean, entirely command the approach to Egypt, and keep open our communications with the Suez Canal and the consequent route to India. In the event of the Euphrates valley line of railway becoming an accomplished fact, Cyprus will occupy the most commanding position. But, all these advantages will be neutralised unless Famagousta shall represent the power of England like Malta and Gibraltar. The more minutely that we scrutinise the question of a Cyprian occupation, the more prominent becomes the importance of Famagousta; with it, Cyprus is the key of a great position; without it, the affair is a dead-lock.
There is unfortunately a serious drawback in the extreme unhealthiness of this otherwise invaluable situation, Famagousta, which would at present render it unfit for a military station. There are several causes, all of which must be removed, before the necessary sanitary change can be accomplished. The vast heaps of stones, all of which are of an extremely porous nature, have absorbed the accumulated filth of ages, and the large area now occupied by these ruins must be a fertile source of noxious exhalations. During the rainy season the surface water, carrying with it every impurity, furnishes a fresh supply of poison to be stored beneath these health-destroying masses, which cannot possibly be cleansed otherwise than by their complete obliteration. It may be readily understood that the high ramparts of the walls to a certain extent prevent a due circulation of air, which increases the danger of miasma from the ruin-covered and reeking area of the old Venetian city. Should the harbour works be commenced, all this now useless and dangerous material will be available for constructing the blocks of concrete required for the sea-wall, and the surface of the town will be entirely freed from the present nuisance without additional expense. The few modern buildings should be compulsorily purchased by the Government, and entirely swept away, so that the area inclosed by the fortification walls should represent a perfectly clean succession of levels in the form of broad terraces, which would drain uniformly towards the sea. Upon these purified and well-drained plateaux the new town could be erected, upon a special plan suitable to the locality, and in harmony with the military requirements of a fortified position. The value of the land thus recovered from the existing ruin would be considerable, and, if let on building leases, would repay the expense of levelling, draining, and arranging for occupation. In this manner one of the prime causes of the present unhealthiness would be removed; by the same operation, the ditch of the citadel would be pumped dry, and all communication shut off from the sea, which now produces a stagnant and offensive pool, breeding only reeds, mosquitoes, and malaria.
We now arrive at the most formidable origin of the Famagousta fever—the marshes caused by the overflow of the Pedias river. The description that I have already given of the delta formed by the deposit of mud during inundations, and the total absence of any exit for the waters by a natural channel, will convey to the minds of the most inexperienced an extreme cause of danger. I can see only one practicable method of surmounting this great difficulty. The Pedias river must be conducted to the sea through an artificial channel, and it must (like the Rhone) be confined between raised banks of sufficient height to prevent any chance of overflow, and of a width arranged to produce a rapid current, that will scour the bed and carry the mud to deposit far beyond the shore. This work would be expensive, but, on the other hand, the collateral advantages would be great. The land, which is now almost valueless, owing to the uncertainty of inundations, would be rendered fruitful, and by an arrangement of cattle-wheels the irrigation could always be ensured, as the water exists within five feet of the present surface. At this moment, neither drains are made, nor any control of nature is exercised by the fever-stricken population, who trust entirely to the uncertain chances of the seasons. We have an example in the original fens of Lincolnshire, which, by a system of drainage, have been brought into agricultural value; a series of large and deep open ditches, such as are seen in every marsh or river-meadow throughout England, would not only drain the surface of the Famagousta delta, but would supply the water, to be raised by cattle-lifts and wind-pumps, for the purposes of irrigation. There is much work for the agricultural engineer, but if this important enterprise is seriously commenced the future results will well repay the outlay.