ATHENS, March 30, 1893. DEAR MOTHER:
I am now in Athens, how I got here is immaterial. Suffice it to say that never in all my life was I so ill as I was in the two days crossing from Alexandria to Piraeus, which I did with two other men in the same cabin more ill than I and praying and swearing and groaning all the time. "It was awful."
"I have crossed in many ships upon the seas And some of them were good and some were not; In German, P & O's and Genoese, But the Khedive's was the worst one of the lot. We never got a moment's peace in her For everybody'd howl or pray or bellow; She threw us on our heads or on our knees, And turned us all an unbecoming yellow."
Athens is a small town but fine. It is chiefly yellow houses with red roofs, and mountains around it, which remind you of pictures you have seen when a youth. Also olive trees and straight black pines and the Acropolis. There is not much of it left as far as I can see from the city, but what there is is enough to make you wish you had brushed up your Greek history. I have now reached the place where Pan has a cave, where the man voted against Aristides because he was humanly tired of hearing him called the Just and where the Minotaur ate young women.
What was in the Isle of Crete but the rock from which the father of Theseus threw himself--is still here! Also the hill upon which Paul stood and told the Athenians they were too superstitious. You can imagine my feelings at finding all of these things are true. After this I am going to the North Pole to find Santa Claus and so renew my youth.
I regret to say that it is raining very hard and Athens is not set for a rainstorm. It is also cold but as I have not been warm since I crossed the North River with Chas. amid cakes of ice that is of no consequence. When I come here again I come in the summer. The good old rule that it is cold in winter and warm in summer is a good enough rule to follow. You have only to travel to find out how universally cold winter is. last night I was in Cairo, I got in a carriage and drove out alone to the Pyramids. It was beautiful moonlight. I got a donkey and rode up around them and then walked over to the Sphinx. I had never understood or seen it before. It was the creepiest and most impressive thing I ever had happen to me, I do believe. There was no one except the two donkey-boys and myself and the Sphinx. All about was the desert and above it the purple sky and the white stars and the great negro's head in front of you with its paws stretched out, and the moonlight turning it into shadows and white lines. I think I stood there so long that I got sort of dizzy. It was just as if I had been the first man to stumble across it, and I felt that I was way back thousands of years and that the ghosts of Caesar and Napoleon and Cleopatra and the rest were in the air. That was worth the entire trip to me. This place promises to be most exciting, the New York artists are all here, they are the most jauntily dull people I ever met. Do you know what I mean? They are very nice but so stupid. I don't let them bother me. Who was the chap who wrote about the bottle of Malvoisie? because I got a bottle of it for BREAKFAST and it is NO GOOD. It is like sweet port. But on account of the poem and its being vin du pays I got it.
Dear Mother, I wish you were here now and enjoying all these beautiful things. I got you a present in Cairo that will amuse you. Had I stayed on in Cairo I should have had much and many marks of distinction from the English. Lady Gower-Browne, who found out from them that I had called and that they had done nothing except to be rude, raised a great hue and cry and everything changed. What she said of me I don't know but it made a most amusing difference. General Walker galloped a half mile across the desert to give me his own copy of the directions for the sham battle, and I was to have met Cromer at dinner tete-a-tete, and General Kitchener sent apologies by two other generals and all the subalterns called on me in a body. That was the day before I left. I don't know what Lady Gower-Browne said, but it made a change which I am sorry I could not avail myself of as I want politics as well as memories.
The next time I come I shall go to even fewer places and see more people.