CHAPTER XVI. THROUGH THE SIVAS VILAYET INTO ARMENIA.
"Hi hi-hi-hi! you'll never overtake him." the Vali shouts enthusiastically to the two horsemen as they start at full gallop after me, and which they laughingly repeat to me shortly afterward. A very pleasant evening is spent at Mr. Hubbard's house; after supper the ladies sing "Sweet Bye and Bye," "Home, Sweet Home," and other melodious reminders of the land of liberty and song that gave them birth. Everything looks comfortable and homelike, and they have English ivy inside the dining-room trained up the walls and partly covering the ceiling, which produces a wonderfully pleasant effect. The usual extraordinary rumors of my wonderful speeding ability have circulated about the city during the day and evening, some of which have happened to come to the ears of the missionaries. One story is that I came from the port of Samsoon, a distance of nearly three hundred miles, in six hours, while an imaginative katir-jee, whom I whisked past on the road, has been telling the Sivas people an exaggerated story of how a genii had ridden past him with lightning-like speed on a shining wheel; but whether it was a good or an evil genii he said he didn't have time to determine, as I went past like a flash and vanished in the distance. The missionaries have four hundred scholars attending their school here at Sivas, which would seem to indicate a pretty flourishing state of affairs. Their recruiting ground is, of I course, among the Armenians, who, though professedly Christiana really stand in more need of regeneration than their Mohammedan neighbors. The characteristic condition of the average Armenian villager's mind is deep, dense ignorance and moral gloominess; it requires more patience and perseverance to ingraft a new idea on the unimpressionable trunk of an Armenian villager's intellect than it does to put up second-hand stove-pipe; and it is a generally admitted fact - i.e., west of the Missouri Elver - that anyone capable of setting up three joints of second-hand stove-pipe without using profane language deserves a seat in Paradise. "Come in here a minute," says Mr. Hubbard, just before our I departure for the night, leading the way into an adjoining room.; I "here's shirts, underclothing, socks, handkerchiefs-everything;.! help yourself to anything you require; I know something about I travelling through this country myself. " But not caring to impose too much on good nature, I content myself with merely pocketing a strong pair of socks, that I know will come in handy. I leave the bicycle at the mission over night, and in the morning, at Miss Chamberlain's request, I ride round the school-house yard a few times for the edification of the scholars. The greatest difficulty, I am informed, with Armenian pupils is to get them to take sufficient interest in anything to ask questions; it is mainly because the bicycle will be certain to awaken interest, and excite the spirit of inquiry among them, that I am requested to ride for their benefit. Thus is the bicycle fairly recognized as a valuable aid to missionary work. Moral: let the American and Episcopal boards provide their Asia Minor and Persian missionaries with nickel-plated bicycles; let them wheel their way into the empty wilderness of the Armenian mind, and. light up the impenetrable moral darkness lurking therein with the glowing and mist-dispelling orbs of cycle lamps. Messrs. Perry, Hubbard, and Weakley accompany me out some distance on horseback, and at parting I am commissioned to carry salaams to the brethren in China. This is the first opportunity that has ever presented of sending greetings overland to far-off China, they say, and such rare occasions are not to be lightly overlooked. They also promise to send word to the Erzeroum mission to expect me; the chances are, however, that I shall reach Erzeroum before their letter; there are no lightning mail trains in Asia Minor. The road eastward from Sivas is an artificial highway, and affords reasonably good wheeling, but is somewhat inferior to the road from Yennikhau. Before long I enter a region of low hills, dales, and small lakes, beyond which the road again descends into the valley of the Kizil Irmak. All day long the roadway averages better wheeling than I ever expected to find in Asiatic Turkey; but the prevailing east wind offers strenuous opposition to my progress every inch of the way along the hundred miles or so of ridable road from Yennikhan to Zara, a town at which I arrive near sundown. Zara is situated at the entrance to a narrow passage between two mountain spurs, and although the road is here a dead level and the surface smooth, the wind comes roaring from the gorge with such tremendous pressure that it is only by extraordinary exertions that I am able to keep the saddle.