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568 HOW to CATC in A MU i.e.
The tars, however, were not to be beaten by a mule. Off they set, and tilting at him, from different directions, not unlike the efforts of Clown and Pantaloon, more frequently encountered each other than the object of their pursuit, which, like a nimble Harlequin, still skipt out of the way. Seeing no hope of retaking him left, they loaded their carabines with small shot, and very deliberately fired several rounds at the enemy—whom, to use their own words, they soon “brought to," for after having two or three rounds lodged in his hinder parts he fell back on his haunches, and rushing in, they captured him, and carried off their prize to Jaffa. They might have relinquished the pursuit for all the mule was worth ; but, as it had a handsome carpet strapt upon it of as much value as itself—that could not be lost. The animal was not, however, very much hurt, as the shot, which was very small, only entered the skin, the distance being considerable.
The whole scene was ludicrous in the extreme; but to me its consequences were any thing but agreeable—for, when I arrived at the port, almost in a state of fever, I very injudiciously exposed myself to a cold draft of air, while resting on the housetop of the consul's residence. The Crusader had put to sea on our first landing, but was now ready to take us aboard; as soon therefore, as the baggage was shipped and the mule-owner satisfied, we once more set sail for Europe. My feverish symptoms, however, increased; I was confined to bed for several days, and did not recover from the effects of mule-hunting for a long time.
Having now completed the narrative of our eastern travel, and turned our back upon that land of wonders—the prospects that seemed in store for it, and the reflections suggested by the scenes that we had witnessed, kept our minds upon the stretch, till we gained the shores of Cyprus.
ON leaving Jaffa it blew a gale of wind, during which numbers of flying fish came aboard. It was then evident to all who observed the flight of these curious little animals, that, although they cannot, as some writers have stated, stop and turn back in their flight, they yet possess the power of making a considerable curve, nearly half a circle either to the right hand or to the left, in their transit through the air. We arrived at Cyprus on the 28th, but finding that the plague had just broken out there, proceeded on our course to the bay of Symi, in Asia Minor, where we remained till the weather moderated. On the 2nd of April we made the Grecian Archipelago, and cast anchor on the 4th at Syra, the Liverpool of modern regenerated Greece. The island of Syra is picturesque, but barren ; the town is not unlike Jaffa, being built on a conical hill, which is covered to the very summit with white-washed buildings, and crowned by a monastery. Below this, the town spreads out along the water's edge, where the crowds of busy traders, the number of boats lading and unladingaand the mul
570 Th E GRECIAN ISLANDS.
titude of sailors and porters that swarm on the wharfs and land. ing-places, tell of the rising condition, and commercial importance of this flourishing place. The harbour is one of the best in Greece, and generally exhibits a vast assemblage of the vessels of nearly every nation trading in the Mediterranean. There is a good light-house and safe anchorage. The streets of the town are narrow, and the houses small and dirty; yet the number of shops, stalls, and bazaars, and the several happy faces that you meet in your walks through the town, speak, if not of wealth, at least of comfort and comparative independence. I know of no place that has risen so rapidly as this. Its population in 1838 was above 21,000, though, but ten years before, it did not reach 6,000. The port is free; and all the steamers that ply in this portion of the Levant touch here. Not the least important item of the daily increasing trade of Syra is its pigs, which are the very finest I have seen out of Ireland. We left Syra the next morning for Athens; but, owing to the baffling winds and partial calms that are met with among the numerous islands of this sea, we were in the evening but a short distance from the place we had left. At day-break next morning we were roused by the welcome information, that we were within a short distance of Cape Colonna. The cold, thin, morning air was just beginning to usher in the dawn as we descended the vessel's side, and proceeded in our boat to visit the ruins of the famed temple of Minerva Sunias, that crowns the summit of this bare, steep, and rocky promontory. Standing, as it does, so lone and drear above that wild and sea-washed shore, it forms one of the most awakening objects that Greece presents, to remind us of her by-gone days and glory; and it is still as noted a land-mark to the modern mariner, as in other times it was to the steersman of the trireme. Independent of its classic associations, it will be ever memorable to the Englishman, as the scene of “Falconer's Shipwreck.” The hour at which we visited it, was one seldom chosen by the traveller; but one that, although piercingly cold, we had no cause to regret, for all around us was in unison with the feelings the place called up. The sea remained a perfect mirror; and the birds of the ocean had not yet risen on the wing to skim its placid waters, or disturb the silence and solemnity of the moment by their fishing song.
The sun rose almost directly behind the noble cluster of white marble columns that still remain, until his broad disk appeared a crown of burnished gold above its head. We spent an hour or two in examining the ruins, and enjoying the glorious and exciting prospect which its site affords of that island-studded ocean, that lay stretched beneath and around us. The same weather as that of yesterday succeeded, alternate calms and breezes, so that at night-fall we were still some leagues from our destination. This day was the anniversary of the revolution of Greece, and we could hear the firing of cannon, and the rejoicing of its people on all sides. At night a thousand lights sprung up around us, and the whole sea became illuminated, from the numerous bonfires on the different islands. There was one in particular that had the grandest and most imposing effect; it was a series of lights placed in the form of a cross, on the side of Mount Anchesmus that faces the city of Athens, and which, owing to the clearness of the night, was perfectly visible to us even at that distance. We entered the harbour of the Piraeus early next morning, and “brought up” among a large fleet of the Austrian, English, Russian, and French navies, besides some small Greek brigs and corvettes. We found the port of Athens in a much more thriving condition than accounts had led us to expect. Several good houses have sprung up, with the usual accompaniments of stores and wine-shops; besides a handsome building lately erected for a military college. One of the first objects that caught our attention on landing, was a stand of cars, hackney coaches, and several omnibuses, that ply from the port to the city. In one of these we set forward to Athens, upon a good level road that runs in nearly a direct line to the city; and for the most part, upon the site of the long walls of Pausanias, part of the foundations of which are still discoverable near the Piraeus. The distance is about five miles, and the prospect during the entire way is most imposing; for the Acropolis rises in monarchical grandeur in the centre, and every pillar of the Parthenon is clearly defined against the azure sky that forms the back-ground of the picture. On either side of the road is an extensive plain, watered by the streamlets of the Cephissus and Ilissus; it is fast coming under cultivation, bearing some good crops of well-grown barley, and
572 PRESENT CON DItio N OF ATHENs.
several groves of olives, which yet remain, despite the desolating hand of Turkish tyranny and misrule, that had attempted to destroy them prior to the revolution. We took up our quarters at the Hotel de France, and shortly after strolled out to inspect the antiquities, having for our cicerone, Mr. George Finlay, now a resident in Athens, than whom few possess more knowledge of the classic lore of ancient Greece, or, from actual observation and participation in it, are better acquainted with the late revolution, or the present condition of that country. Notwithstanding its bad government, Athens continues to improve and to progress; its population is now nearly 20,000, though it was but 5,000 six or seven years ago. Alas! many of the sacred associations and illusive charms that surrounded the most refined city of the ancients, are dissolved by an inspection of the capital of modern Greece. To climb the acropolis, we must wade through the mud and dirt of narrow streets and lanes. The Lantern of Demosthenes is in the back yard of a miserable hovel; and several of the finest specimens of architecture form the sides and gables of modern buildings. The streets are long, straggling, and irregular; and it is very much to be regretted, that some plan has not been laid down for the construction of the new town, so as not to interfere with the remains of all that makes Athens valuable to the scholar, the traveller, or the antiquary. What an interesting object would not the Temple of the Winds form in one of the squares that may yet beautify the rising city; when the wretched houses that now obscure it and other like structures, shall very likely have to be purchased by a “board of wide-street commissioners.” With the antiquities of Athens I shall not trouble my readers. So many splendid works have been published on that subject; and so many proud names that note the genius and learning of our own countrymen, have gone before us, that unless he would plagiarise from the works of Stuart or Dodwell; quote the accurate and critical Colonel Leake; or draw from the able sketches of the chaste and classical Mr. Wordsworth, little remains for the passing traveller to notice, except its present condition under its Bararian government. Not that we did not visit every scene of interest; make copious notes of its past purpose and present state; and, in the enthusiasm of the place and hour, pen