National Geographic : 1910 Oct
THE LOST WEALTH OF THE KINGS OF MIDAS BY ELLSWORTH HUNTINGTON IT was the lazy hour just after noon in the square, sunny court-yard of the great khan at Eregli, the present terminus of the Bagdad Railway. A line of round-topped, long-bodied wagons, black or white, was drawn up on one side of the yard, while on the other a group of travelers and guests squatted on their heels in the shade, rehearsing the time worn gossip of the ages. Now and again a wagoner in skin-tight trousers and a girdle reaching nearly to his armpits stirred up the buzzing flies, as he sauntered to the well in the midst of the hot court to draw water for his pa tient horses. The "odabashi", or "chief of the rooms", emerged from the steamy at mosphere of the coffee-seller's shop be side the wide street door, and went aloft to a flagged porch on the second story, bearing on his uplifted hand a tray laden with blue bowls of curdled milk, flat cakes of bread, a plate of cool, insipid mulberries, and some tiny cups of un sweetened coffee thick as pea soup. Through the outer door one caught a glimpse of the inevitable oriental bazaar, where peasants in dirty white drawers bargained with leisurely merchants in baggy blue trousers, who sat contented in their little shops selling cloth, raisins, peas, rice, and strange brown substances with lingering, indescribable odors. Turks, Greeks, and Armenians were there, but not a man of any race showed signs of haste. Why should a man hurry at noon of a summer's day with the ther mometer over 90? or why, in fact, should he ever waste the precious hours of life by haste? The stillness was broken by Luiso, the wily Greek wagoner, whom I had hired to drive me out into the Axylon, the great dry plain which occupies the center of Asia Minor north of Eregli. He looked very clean, as he reported that he had been to the public Turkish bath at my expense, according to orders, but he could not see the sense of such a proceeding, for he had been there only two months before. LIBERTY FROM A SOLDIER'S VIEWPOINT Early the next morning we started off, accompanied by a mounted gendarme, a needless encumbrance taken to add to our dignity. He was a gruff old Turk, who soon began to grumble about his wrongs. "What's all this talk about liberty and a constitution?" he growled. "Look at my gray hairs. Haven't I served the gov ernment faithfully for 40 years? And now, just because there's liberty, little boys with piping voices are put in our places-mere school boys, 17 or 18 years old, with soft cheeks, who cannot even raise a mustache. They can read and write and all that, but what do they know? When they have to ride o1hours with the post some night they don't even know the road, and shiver and shake like frightened women. What's this liberty good for? It hasn't brought me the 20 months' pay that the government owes me, and now I shall be thrown out to starve because they say we old men make the villagers support us. Hasn't a man got to live? I don't want liberty. I want to be free to get a good living." Thus he talked as he rode beside the wagon through the pretty gardens of the oasis of Eregli, past the miles of reed beds which form the miscalled Lake of Ak Gyol, and out into the great dreary plain of the Axylon. When he fell be hind for a space the Greek took up the complaint, and said that liberty might be all right, but so far as he could see it was liberty for the Moslem and not for the Christian.