Monday, May 18, 2015


China is a land where the great masses of the people have to toil and
struggle incessantly in order to obtain even the bare necessities of
daily existence.  Unnumbered multitudes never enjoy a sufficiency of
food, but have to be contented with whatever Heaven may send them; and
profoundly thankful they are when they can be sure of two meals a day
to stave off the pangs of hunger from themselves and their children.

How many there are who cannot by the severest toil obtain even these
two meals is evident from the organized beggar communities, which are
to be found in connection with every great city in the Empire, and from
the vast numbers of tramps, who wander over the country on the highways
and byways with pale and sodden faces and with garments nearly falling
to pieces, picking up a scanty livelihood from the benevolent as they
pass from village to village.

Whatever may be their inmost thoughts, the Chinese bear their terrible
hardships and privations with a splendid heroism, with little
complaining, with no widespread outbreaks of robbery, and with no
pillaging of rice-shops and public granaries by organized mobs driven
mad by hunger.

There is one beautiful feature about the Chinese that has been an
important factor in steadying the nation.  They are imbued with at
least one great ideal, which touches their common life in every
direction.  Every man in the Empire, rich or poor, learned or
unlearned, has a profound respect for what he calls Tien-Li, or Divine
Righteousness.  By this the Chinese judge all actions.  It is the
standard by which Kings and Princes and common people direct their
conduct, whether in the highest affairs of state, or in the ordinary
engagements of common every-day life.

In addition to this, the minds of the Chinese are filled with romance
and poetry, so that to them the invisible world is peopled with fairies
and all kinds of spirits, both good and bad, the former relieving in
mysterious ways the dull greyness that sorrow and disaster often shed
upon the lives of men.

The story of Kwang-Jui is a remarkable evidence of the unbounded faith
which the Chinese have in the intervention of these mysterious beings
to deliver men from calamities which would otherwise prove fatal to

When we first meet with Kwang-Jui, he is living with his widowed mother
in a retired part of the country.  His father had been dead for some
time, and Kwang-Jui was now the only one upon whom the fortunes of the
home could be built.  He was a very studious lad, and was possessed of
remarkable abilities, the result being that he successfully passed the
various Imperial Examinations, even the final one in the capital, where
the Sovereign himself presided as examiner.

After this last examination, as the men were waiting outside the Hall
for the names of those who had satisfied the Emperor to be read out a
considerable crowd had collected.  Most of these people had come from
mere curiosity to see the Imperial Edict, and to discover who the
scholar was that stood first on the list.  The excitement was intense,
and speculation ran rife as to which of the candidates, who had come
from almost every province in the Empire, was going to obtain the place
of honour which was the dream and the ambition of every scholar in the

At last every breath was hushed, and every voice stilled in silence, as
one of the high officials of the Palace, attended by an imposing
retinue, came out of the great central doors, which had been flung wide
open at his approach.  In a clear voice he began to read the list.  It
was headed by the name of Kwang-Jui.

At this precise moment occurred an incident which was destined to
change the whole current of Kwang-Jui's career.  As he was standing
overcome with emotion in consequence of the supreme honour which had
been conferred upon him by the Emperor's Edict, a small round ball,
beautifully embroidered, was thrown from an upper window of a house
across the way, and struck him on the shoulder.

It may here be explained that it was a custom in the early days of the
history of China to allow any young maiden who was reluctant to have
her husband chosen for her by her parents, to make use of what was
called "The throwing of the embroidered ball" in order to discover the
man whom the gods intended her to marry.  This ball was made of some
soft material, wrapped round with a piece of red silk which was covered
with variegated figures, worked by the damsel's own hands and
emblematic of the love by which the hearts of husband and wife are
bound indissolubly to each other.  It was firmly believed by every
maiden of this romantic type that the man who was struck by the ball
from her fair hands was the one whom Heaven had selected as her
husband; and no parent would ever dream of refusing to accept a choice
made in this way.

Whilst Kwang-Jui was gazing in amused wonder at the symbol which he
understood so well, a messenger from the house from which it had been
thrown requested him in respectful tones to accompany him to his
master, who desired to discuss with him a most important subject.

As Kwang-Jui entered the house, he discovered to his astonishment that
it belonged to the Prime Minister, who received him with the utmost
cordiality, and after a long conversation declared that he was prepared
to submit to the will of the gods, and to accept him as his son-in-law.
Kwang-Jui was of course in raptures at the brilliant prospects which
were suddenly opening up before him.  The day, indeed, was a red-letter
one--an omen, he hoped, that fate was preparing to pour down upon him
good fortune in the future.  In one brief day he had been hailed as the
most distinguished scholar in the Empire, and he had also been
acknowledged as the son-in-law of the Empire's greatest official, who
had the power of placing him in high positions where he could secure
not only honours but also wealth sufficient to drive poverty away for
ever from his home.

As there was no reason for delay, the hand of the beautiful daughter
who had thrown the embroidered ball, and who was delighted that Heaven
had chosen for her such a brilliant husband, was bestowed upon him by
her parents.  Times of great rejoicing succeeded, and when Kwang-Jui
thought of the quiet and uninteresting days when he was still unknown
to fame, and contrasted them with his present life, it seemed to him as
though he were living in fairy-land.  His wildest dreams in the past
had never conjured up anything so grand as the life he was now leading.
In one bound he had leaped from comparative poverty to fame and riches.

After a time, through the influence of his father-in-law, and with the
hearty consent of the Emperor, who remembered what a brilliant student
he had been, Kwang-Jui was appointed to be Prefect of an important
district in the centre of China.

Taking his bride with him, he first of all proceeded to his old home,
where his mother was waiting with great anxiety to welcome her now
famous son.  The old lady felt rather nervous at meeting her new
daughter-in-law, seeing that the latter came from a family which was
far higher in rank and far more distinguished than any in her own clan.
As it was very necessary that Kwang-Jui should take up his office as
Prefect without any undue delay, he and his mother and his bride set
out in the course of a few days on the long journey to the distant
Prefecture, where their lives were destined to be marred by sorrow and

They had travelled the greater part of the way, and had reached a
country market-town that lay on their route, when Kwang-Jui's mother,
worn out with the toilsome journey, fell suddenly ill.  The doctor who
was called in shook his head and pronounced that she was suffering from
a very serious complaint, which, whilst not necessarily fatal, would
necessitate a complete rest for at least two or three months.  Any
further travelling must therefore be abandoned for the present, as it
might be attended with the most serious consequences to the old lady.

Both husband and wife were greatly distressed at the unlucky accident
which placed them in such an awkward position at this wayside inn.
They were truly grieved at the serious sickness of their mother, but
they were still more puzzled as to what course they should pursue in
these most trying circumstances.  The Imperial Rescript appointing
Kwang-Jui to his office as Prefect commanded him to take up his post on
a certain definite date.  To delay until his mother would again be able
to endure the fatigues of travel was out of the question, as
disobedience to the Emperor's orders would be attended by his grave
displeasure.  Eventually his mother suggested that he and his wife
should go on ahead, and that after taking up the duties of his office
he should then delegate them for a time to his subordinates and return
to take her home.

This advice Kwang-Jui decided to carry out; though with great
reluctance, as he was most unwilling to abandon his mother to the care
of strangers.  He accordingly made all the arrangements he possibly
could for her comfort whilst they were parted from each other; he had
servants engaged to attend upon her, and he left sufficient money with
her to meet all her expenses during his absence.

With a mind full of consideration for his mother, and wishing to show
how anxious he was to give her pleasure, he went out into the market of
the town to see if he could buy a certain kind of fish of which she was
passionately fond.  He had hardly got outside the courtyard of the inn,
when he met a fisherman with a very fine specimen of the very fish that
he wished to purchase.

As he was discussing the price with the man, a certain something about
the fish arrested his attention.  There was a peculiar look in its eyes
that seemed full of pathos and entreaty.  Its gaze was concentrated
upon him, so human-like and with such intensity, that he instinctively
felt it was pleading with him to do something to deliver it from a
great disaster.  This made him look at it more carefully, and to his
astonishment the liquid eyes of the fish were still fixed upon him with
a passionate regard that made him quiver with excitement.

"Fisherman," he said, "I want to buy this fish, and here is the price
that you ask for it.  I have but one stipulation to make, and that is
that you take it to the river from which you caught it, and set it free
to swim away wherever it pleases.  Remember that if you fail to carry
out this part of the bargain, great sorrow will come upon you and your

Little did either of them dream that the fish was the presiding God of
the River, who for purposes of his own had transformed himself into
this form, and who, while swimming up and down the stream had been
caught in the net of the fisherman.

After travelling for some hours Kwang-Jui and his wife came to the bank
of a considerable river, where they hired a large boat to convey them
to their destination.

The boatman they engaged was a man of very low character.  He had
originally been a scholar and of good family, but, utterly depraved and
immoral, he had gradually sunk lower and lower in society, until at
last he had been compelled to fly from his home to a distant province,
and there to engage in his present occupation in order to earn his
living.  The large amount of property which Kwang-Jui had with him
seemed to arouse the worst passions in this man, and while the boat was
being carried along by a fair wind and a flowing tide, he planned in
his mind how he was to become the possessor of it.  By the time that
they reached the place where they were to anchor for the night, he had
already decided what measures he should adopt.

A little after midnight, accordingly, he crept stealthily towards the
place where Kwang-Jui was sleeping, stabbed him to the heart and threw
his body into the fast-flowing river.  He next threatened the wife that
if she dared to utter a sound, he would murder her also and send her to
join her husband in the Land of Shadows.  Paralyzed with terror, she
remained speechless, only a stifled sob and groan now and again
breaking from her agonized heart.  Her first serious idea was to commit
suicide, and she was preparing to fling herself into the water that
gurgled along the sides of the boat, when she was restrained by the
thought that if she destroyed herself, she would never be able to
avenge her husband's death or bring punishment upon the villain who had
just murdered him.

It was not mere robbery, however, that was in the mind of the man who
had committed this great crime.  He had bigger ideas than that.  He had
noticed that in personal appearance he very much resembled his victim,
so he determined to carry out the daring project of passing himself off
as Kwang-Jui, the mandarin whom the Emperor had despatched to take up
the appointment of Prefect.

Having threatened the widow that instant death would be her portion if
she breathed a word to anyone about the true state of the case, and
having arrayed himself in the official robes of the man whom he had
stabbed to death, the boatman appeared at the yamen, where he presented
the Imperial credentials and was duly installed in his office.  It
never entered his mind that it was not cowardice which kept the widow
silent, but the stern resolve of a brave and high-minded woman that she
would do her part to see that vengeance should in time fall upon the
man who had robbed her of a husband whom she looked upon as the direct
gift of Heaven.

Now, immediately after the body of Kwang-Jui had been cast into the
water, the customary patrol sent by the God of the River to see that
order was kept within his dominions, came upon it, and conveyed it with
all speed into the presence of the god himself.

The latter looked at it intently for a moment, and then exclaimed in
great excitement, "Why, this is the very person who only yesterday
saved my life, when I was in danger of being delivered over to a cruel
death!  I shall now be able to show my gratitude by using all the power
I possess to serve his interests.  Bring him to the Crystal Grotto," he
continued, "where only those who have distinguished themselves in the
service of the State have ever been allowed to lie.  This man has a
claim upon me such as no one before him ever possessed.  He is the
saviour of my life, and I will tenderly care for him until the web of
fate has been spun, and, the vengeance of Heaven having been wreaked
upon his murderer, he shall once more rejoin the wife from whom he has
been so ruthlessly torn."

With the passing of the months, the widow of Kwang-Jui gave birth to a
son, the very image of his father.  It was night-time when he was born,
and not long after his birth, a mysterious voice, which could not be
traced, was heard distinctly saying, "Let the child be removed without
delay from the yamen, before the return of the Prefect, as otherwise
its life will not be safe."

Accordingly, on the morrow, the babe, about whose destiny even Heaven
itself seemed concerned, was carefully wrapped round with many
coverings to protect it against the weather.  Inside the inmost dress,
there was enclosed a small document, telling the child's tragic story
and describing the danger from a powerful foe which threatened its
life.  In order to be able to identify her son, it might be after the
lapse of many years, the mother cut off the last joint of the little
finger of his left hand; and then, with tears and sighs, and with her
heart full of unspoken agony, she took a last, lingering look upon the
face of the little one.

A confidential slave woman carried him out of her room, and by devious
ways and secret paths finally laid him on the river's bank.  Casting a
final glance at the precious bundle to see that no danger threatened
it, she hurried back in the direction of the city, with the faint cries
of the abandoned infant still sounding in her ears.

And now the child was in the hands of Heaven.  That this was so was
evident from the fact that in a few minutes the abbot of the monastery,
which could be seen crowning the top of a neighbouring hill, passed
along the narrow pathway by the side of the river.  Hearing a baby's
cry, he hastened towards the place from which the sounds came, and
picking up the little bundle, and realizing that the infant had been
deserted, he carried it up to the monastery and made every arrangement
for its care and comfort.  Fortunately he was a man of a deeply
benevolent nature, and no more suitable person could have been found to
take charge of the child.

We must now allow eighteen years to pass by.  The child that had been
left on the margin of the river had grown up to be a fine, handsome
lad.  The abbot had been his friend ever since the day when his heart
had been touched by his cries, and his love for the little foundling
had grown with the years.  The boy had become a kind of son to him, and
in order not to be parted from him he had taught him the temple duties,
so that he was now a qualified priest in the service of the gods.

One morning the young man, whose name was Sam-Choang, came to the abbot
with a restless, dissatisfied look on his face, and begged to be told
who his father was, and who his mother.  The old priest, who had long
been aware of the tragic story of Kwang-Jui's murder, felt that the
time had come when the lad ought to know what he had hitherto concealed
from him.  Taking out the document which he had found upon him as a
baby, he read it to him, and then the great secret was out.  After this
a long and serious discussion took place between the two as to the
wisest methods to be adopted for bringing the Prefect to justice and
delivering the lad's mother from the humiliating position which she had
so heroically borne for all these eighteen years.

The next day a young priest, with shaven head and dressed in the usual
slate-coloured gown, appeared at the yamen of the Prefect to solicit
subscriptions for the neighbouring monastery.  As the Prefect was
absent on some public business, he was ushered into the reception-room,
where he was received by his mother, who had always been a generous
supporter of the Goddess of Mercy.

At the first sight of this striking-looking young bonze, she found her
heart agitated in a strange and powerful way, such as she had not
experienced for many a long year; and when she noticed that the little
finger on his left hand was without the last joint, she trembled with
the utmost excitement.

After a few words about the object for which he had come, the young
priest slipped into her hand the very paper which she had written
eighteen years ago; and as she looked at her own handwriting and then
gazed into his face and saw the striking likeness to the man at whom
she had thrown the embroidered ball, the mother-instinct within her
flashed suddenly out, and she recognized that this handsome lad was her
own son.  The joy of the mother as she looked upon the face of
Sam-Choang was reflected in the sparkling eyes and glowing look of
pleasure that lit up his whole countenance.

Retiring for a short time his mother returned with a letter which she
handed to him.  In a low voice she told him that it was to her father,
who still lived in the capital, and to whom he was to take it without
any delay.  In order to prevent suspicion on the part of the Prefect,
he was to travel as a priest, who was endeavouring to obtain
subscriptions for his monastery.  He was to be sure, also, to visit the
place where his grandmother had been left, and to try and find out what
had become of her.  In order to defray his expenses she gave him a few
bars of gold, which he could exchange for the current money at the
banks on the way.

When Sam-Choang arrived at the inn where his father had parted with his
grandmother, he could find no trace of her.  A new landlord was in
possession, who had never even heard her name; but on enquiring amongst
the shopkeepers in the neighbourhood, he found to his horror that she
was now a member of the beggars' camp, and that her name was enrolled
amongst that degraded fraternity.

On reaching the wretched hovel where she was living, he discovered that
when her money was exhausted and no remittance came to her from her
son, she had been driven out on to the street by the innkeeper, and
from that time had tramped the country, living on the scraps and bits
which were bestowed upon her by the benevolent.  Great was her joy when
her grandson led her away to the best inn in the place, and on his
departure gave her an ample supply of money for all her needs until
they should meet again.

When Sam-Choang reached the capital and handed his mother's letter to
his grandfather, the most profound excitement ensued.  As soon as the
Emperor was officially informed of the case, he determined that the
severest punishment should be inflicted upon the man who had not only
committed a cruel murder, but through it had dared to usurp a position
which could only be held at the Sovereign's command.  An Imperial Edict
was accordingly issued ordering the Prime Minister to take a
considerable body of troops and proceed with all possible speed to the
district where such an unheard-of crime had been committed, and there
to hand over the offender to immediate execution.

By forced marches, so as to outstrip any private intelligence that
might have been sent from the capital, the avenging force reached the
city a little before the break of day.  Here they waited in silence
outside the city gates, anxiously listening for the boom of the early
gun which announces the dawn, and at the same time causes the gates to
be flung wide open for the traffic of the day to commence.

As soon as the warders had admitted the waiting crowd outside, the
soldiers, advancing at a run, quickly reached the yamen, and arrested
the Prefect.  Without form of trial but simply with a curt announcement
from the Prime Minister that he was acting upon instructions from the
Emperor, the mandarin was dragged unceremoniously through the gaping
crowds that rushed from their doors to see the amazing spectacle.

The feet of Fate had marched slowly but with unerring certainty, and
had at last reached the wretched criminal.

But where was he being taken?  This road did not lead to the execution
ground, where malefactors were doomed to end their careers in shame.
Street after street was passed, and still the stern-faced soldiers
forced the mandarin down the main thoroughfares, whose sides had often
been lined with respectful crowds as he swept by with his haughty
retinue.  At last they reached the city gate, through which they
marched, and then on towards the river, which could be seen gleaming
like a silver thread in the distance.

Arrived at its bank, the troops formed into a square with the prisoner
in the centre.  Addressing him, the Prime Minister said, "I have
selected this spot rather than the public execution ground where
criminals are put to death.  Your crime has been no common one; and so
to-day, in the face of high Heaven whose righteousness you have dared
to violate, and within sound of the flowing waters of the stream that
witnessed the murder, you shall die."

Half a dozen soldiers then threw him violently to the ground, and in a
few minutes the executioner had torn his bleeding heart from his bosom.
Then, standing with it still in his hand, he waited by the side of the
Prime Minister, who read out to the great multitude the indictment
which had been drawn up against the Prefect.  In this he described his
crimes, and at the same time appealed to Heaven and to the God of the
River to take measures to satisfy and appease the spirit of him who had
been cut off in the prime of life by the man who had just been executed.

As soon as the reading of the document had been concluded, it was set
fire to and allowed to burn until only the blackened ashes remained.
These, together with the criminal's heart, were then cast into the
river.  They were thus formally handed over to the god, who would see
that in the Land of Shadows there should come a further retribution on
the murderer for the crimes he had committed on earth.

The water patrol happened to pass by soon after the ashes and heart had
been flung into the river, and picking them up most carefully, they
carried them to the official residence of the god.  The indictment was
at once formally entered amongst the archives of the office, to be used
as evidence when the case was in due time brought before the notice of
Yam-lo: and after looking at the heart with the intensest scrutiny for
some little time, the god exclaimed, "And so the murderer has at last
received some part of the punishment he so richly deserved.  It is now
time for me to awake the sleeping husband, so that he may be restored
to the wife from whom he has been separated for eighteen years."

Passing into the Crystal Grotto, where the unconscious form of
Kwang-Jui had reposed for so many years, the god touched the body
gently with his hand, and said:--"Friend, arise!  Your wife awaits you,
and loving ones who have long mourned you.  Many years of happiness are
still before you, and the honours that your Sovereign will bestow upon
you shall place you amongst the famous men of the State.  Arise, and
take your place once more amongst the living!"

The Prime Minister was sitting with his daughter, listening to the sad
story of the years of suffering through which she had passed, when the
door was silently opened, and the figure of her long-lost husband
glided in.  Both started up in fear and amazement, for they believed
that what they saw was only a restless spirit which had wandered from
the Land of Shadows and would speedily vanish again from their sight.
In this, however, they were delightfully disappointed.  Kwang-Jui and
his wife were once more reunited, and for many a long year their hearts
were so full of gladness and contentment, that the sorrows which they
had endured gradually became effaced from their memories.  They always
thought with the deepest gratitude of the God of the River, who for
eighteen years had kept the unconscious husband alive and had finally
restored him to his heart-broken wife.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

[Armenian Tale] The Vacant Yard

Several days ago I wished to visit an acquaintance, but it chanced he
was not at home. I came therefore through the gate again out into the
street, and stood looking to right and left and considering where I
could go. In front of me lay a vacant yard, which was, I thought, not
wholly like other vacant yards. On it was neither house nor barn nor
stable: true, none of these was there, but it was very evident that this
yard could not have been deserted long by its tenants. The house must,
also, in my opinion, have been torn down, for of traces of fire, as, for
example, charred beams, damaged stoves, and rubbish heaps, there was no

In a word, it could be plainly perceived that the house which once stood
there had been pulled down, and its beams and timbers carried away. In
the middle of the premises, near the line hedge, stood several high
trees, acacias, fig, and plum-trees; scattered among them were
gooseberry bushes, rose-trees, and blackthorns, while near the street,
just in the place where the window of the house was probably set, stood
a high, green fig-tree.

I have seen many vacant lots, yet never before have I given a passing
thought as to whom any one of them belonged, or who might have lived
there, or indeed where its future possessor might be. But in a peculiar
way the sight of this yard called up questions of this sort; and as I
looked at it many different thoughts came into my mind. Perhaps, I
thought to myself, a childless fellow, who spoiled old age with sighs
and complaints, and as his life waned the walls mouldered. Finally, the
house was without a master; the doors and windows stood open, and when
the dark winter nights came on, the neighbors fell upon it and stripped
off its boards, one after another. Yes, various thoughts came into my
head. How hard it is to build a house, and how easy to tear it down!

While I stood there lost in thought, an old woman, leaning on a staff,
passed me. I did not immediately recognize her, but at a second glance I
saw it was Hripsime. Nurse Hripsime was a woman of five-and-seventy,
yet, from her steady gait, her lively speech, and her fiery eyes, she
appeared to be scarcely fifty. She was vigorous and hearty, expressed
her opinions like a man, and was abrupt in her speech. Had she not worn
women's garments one could easily have taken her for a man. Indeed, in
conversation she held her own with ten men.

Once, I wot not for what reason, she was summoned to court. She went
thither, placed herself before the judge, and spoke so bravely that
everyone gaped and stared at her as at a prodigy. Another time thieves
tried to get into her house at night, knowing that she was alone like an
owl in the house. The thieves began to pry open the door with a crowbar,
and when Nurse Hripsime heard it she sprang nimbly out of bed, seized
her stick from its corner, and began to shout: "Ho, there! Simon,
Gabriel, Matthew, Stephan, Aswadur, get up quickly. Get your axes and
sticks. Thieves are here; collar the rascals; bind them, skin them,
strike them dead!" The thieves probably did not know with whom they had
to deal, and, when at the outcry of the old woman they conceived that a
half-dozen stout-handed fellows might be in the house, they took
themselves off. Just such a cunning, fearless woman was Aunt Hripsime.

"Good-morning, nurse," said I.

"God greet thee," she replied.

"Where have you been?"

"I have been with the sick," she rejoined.

Oh, yes! I had wholly forgotten to say that Nurse Hripsime, though she
could neither read nor write, was a skilful physician. She laid the sick
person on the grass, administered a sherbet, cured hemorrhoids and
epilepsy; and especially with sick women was she successful. Yes, to her
skill I myself can bear witness. About four years ago my child was taken
ill in the dog-days, and for three years my wife had had a fever, so
that she was very feeble. The daughter of Arutin, the gold-worker, and
the wife of Saak, the tile-maker, said to me: "There is an excellent
physician called Hripsime. Send for her, and you will not regret it."
To speak candidly, I have never found much brains in our doctor. He
turns round on his heels and scribbles out a great many prescriptions,
but his skill is not worth a toadstool.

I sent for Hripsime, and, sure enough, not three days had passed before
my wife's fever had ceased and my children's pain was allayed. For three
years, thank God, no sickness has visited my house. Whether it can be
laid to her skill and the lightness of her hand or to the medicine I
know not. I know well, however, that Nurse Hripsime is my family
physician. And what do I pay her? Five rubles a year, no more and no
less. When she comes to us it is a holiday for my children, so sweetly
does she speak to them and so well does she know how to win their
hearts. Indeed, if I were a sultan, she should be my vezir.

"How does the city stand in regard to sickness?" I asked her.

"Of that one would rather not speak," answered Hripsime. "Ten more such
years and our whole city will become a hospital. Heaven knows what kind
of diseases they are! Moreover, they are of a very peculiar kind, and
often the people die very suddenly. The bells fly in pieces almost from
so much tolling, the grave-diggers' shovels are blunt, and from the
great demand for coffins the price of wood is risen. What will become of
us, I know not."

"Is not, then, the cause of these diseases known to you?"

"Oh, that is clear enough," answered Hripsime. "It is a punishment for
our sins. What good deeds have we done that we should expect God's
mercy? Thieves, counterfeiters, all these you find among us. They snatch
the last shirt from the poor man's back, purloin trust moneys, church
money: in a word, there is no shameless deed we will not undertake for
profit. We need not wonder if God punishes us for it. Yes, God acts
justly, praised be his holy name! Indeed, it would be marvellous if God
let us go unpunished."

Hripsime was not a little excited, and that was just what I wished. When
she once began she could no longer hold in: her words gushed forth as
from a spring, and the more she spoke the smoother her speech.

"Do you know?" I began again, "that I have been standing a long while
before this deserted yard, and cannot recall whose house stood here, why
they have pulled it down, and what has become of its inhabitants? You
are an aged woman, and have peeped into every corner of our city: you
must have something to tell about it. If you have nothing important on
hand, be kind enough to tell me what you know of the former residents of
the vanished house."

Nurse Hripsime turned her gaze to the vacant yard, and, shaking her
head, said:

"My dear son, the history of that house is as long as one of our
fairy-tales. One must tell for seven days and seven nights in order to
reach the end.

"This yard was not always so desolate as you see it now," she went on.
"Once there stood here a house, not very large, but pretty and
attractive, and made of wood. The wooden houses of former days pleased
me much better than the present stone houses, which look like cheese
mats outside and are prisons within. An old proverb says, 'In stone or
brick houses life goes on sadly,'

"Here, on this spot, next to the fig-tree," she continued, "stood
formerly a house with a five-windowed front, green blinds, and a red
roof. Farther back there by the acacias stood the stable, and between
the house and the stable, the kitchen and the hen-house. Here to the
right of the gate a spring." With these words Nurse Hripsime took a step
forward, looked about, and said: "What is this? the spring gone, too! I
recollect as if to-day that there was a spring of sweet water on the
very spot where I am standing. What can have happened to it! I know that
everything can be lost--but a spring, how can that be lost?" Hripsime
stooped and began to scratch about with her stick. "Look here," she said
suddenly, "bad boys have filled up the beautiful spring with earth and
stones. Plague take it! Well, if one's head is cut off, he weeps not for
his beard. For the spring I care not, but for poor Sarkis and his family
I am very sorry."

"Are you certain that the house of Sarkis, the grocer, stood here? I had
wholly forgotten it. Now tell me, I pray, what has become of him? Does
he still live, or is he dead? Where is his family? I remember now that
he had a pretty daughter and also a son."

Nurse Hripsime gave no heed to my questions, but stood silently, poking
about with her stick near the choked-up spring.

The picture of Grocer Sarkis, as we called him, took form vividly in my
memory, and with it awoke many experiences of my childhood. I remembered
that when I was a child a dear old lady often visited us, who was
continually telling us about Grocer Sarkis, and used to hold up his
children as models. In summer, when the early fruit was ripe, she used
to visit his house, gather fruit in his garden, and would always come to
us with full pockets, bringing us egg-plums, saffron apples, fig-pears,
and many other fruits. From that time we knew Sarkis, and when my mother
wanted any little thing for the house I got it for her at his store. I
loved him well, this Sarkis; he was a quiet, mild man, around whose
mouth a smile hovered. "What do you want, my child?" he always asked
when I entered his store.

"My mother sends you greeting," I would answer. "She wants this or

"Well, well, my child, you shall have it," he usually answered, and
always gave me a stick of sugar candy, with the words, "That is for you;
it is good for the cough." It never happened that I went out of the
store without receiving something from him. In winter-time he treated me
to sugar candy, and in summer-time he always had in his store great
baskets full of apricots, plums, pears, and apples, or whatever was in
season in his garden. His garden at that time--some thirty or
thirty-five years ago--was very famous. One time my mother sent me to
Sarkis's store to procure, as I remember, saffron for the pillau. Sarkis
gave me what I desired, and then noticing, probably, how longingly I
looked toward the fruit-baskets, he said:

"Now, you shall go and have a good time in my garden. Do you know where
my house is?"

"Yes, I know. Not far from the Church of Our Lady."

"Right, my son, you have found it. It has green blinds, and a fig-tree
stands in front of it. Now take this basket and carry it to Auntie, and
say that I sent word that she was to let you go into the garden with my
son Toros. There you two may eat what you will."

He handed me a neat-looking basket. I peeped into it and saw a sheep's
liver. I was as disgusted with this as though it were a dead dog, for at
that time liver-eaters were abhorred not less than thieves and
counterfeiters; they with their whole family were held in derision, and
people generally refused to associate with them. In a moment I forgot
entirely what a good man Sarkis was; I forgot his fruit-garden and his
pretty daughter, of whom the good old lady had told me so many beautiful
things. The liver had spoiled everything in a trice. Sarkis noticed
this, and asked me smiling:

"What is the matter?"

"Have you a dog in your yard?" I asked, without heeding his words.

"No," he said.

"For whom, then, is the liver?"

"For none other than ourselves. We will eat it."

I looked at Sarkis to see if he were jesting with me, but no sign of
jesting was to be seen in his face.

"You will really eat the liver yourselves?" I asked.

"What astonishes you, my boy? Is not liver to be eaten, then?"

"Dogs eat liver," I said, deeply wounded, and turned away, for Sarkis
appeared to me at that moment like a ghoul.

Just then there came into the store a pretty, pleasing boy. "Mamma sent
me to get what you have bought at the Bazaar, and the hearth-fire has
been lit a long time." I concluded that this was Sarkis's son, Toros. I
perceived immediately from his face that he was a good boy, and I was
very much taken with him.

"Here, little son, take that," Sarkis said, and handed him the basket
which I had set down.

Toros peeped in, and when he spied the liver he said, "We will have a
pie for dinner." Then he put on his cap and turned to go.

"Toros," called his father to him, "take Melkon with you to our house
and play with him as a brother."

I was exceedingly pleased with the invitation, and went out with Toros.
When we arrived at Sarkis's house and entered the garden it seemed as
though I were in an entirely new world. The yard was very pretty, no
disorder was to be seen anywhere. Here and there pretty chickens,
geese, and turkeys ran about with their chicks. On the roof sat doves of
the best kinds. The yard was shaded in places by pretty green trees, the
house had a pretty balcony, and under the eaves stood green-painted tubs
for catching rain-water. In the windows different flowers were growing,
and from the balcony hung cages of goldfinches, nightingales, and canary
birds; in a word, everything I saw was pretty, homelike, and pleasant.

In the kitchen cooking was going on, for thick smoke rose from the
chimney. At the kitchen-door stood Sarkis's wife, a healthy,
red-cheeked, and vigorous woman, apparently about thirty years old. From
the fire that burned on the hearth her cheeks were still more reddened,
so that it seemed, as they say, the redness sprang right out of her. On
a little stool on the balcony sat a little girl, who wore, according to
the prevailing fashion, a red satin fez on her head. This was Toros's
sister. I have seen many beautiful girls in my time, but never a
prettier one. Her name was Takusch.

Getting the mother's consent, we entered the garden, where we helped
ourselves freely to the good fruit and enjoyed the fragrance of many
flowers. At noon, Sarkis came home from the store, and invited me to
dinner. My gaze was continually directed toward the beautiful Takusch.
Oh, well-remembered years! What a pity it is that they pass by so
quickly! Two or three months later I journeyed to the Black Sea, where I
was apprenticed to a merchant, and since that time I have not been in my
native city--for some twenty-four years--and all that I have told was
awakened in my memory in a trice by my meeting with Hripsime.

The old woman was still standing on the site of the choked-up spring,
scratching around on the ground with her stick.

"Nurse Hripsime, where is Sarkis and his family now?" I asked.

"Did you know him, then?" she asked, astonished.

"Yes, a little," I replied.

"Your parents were acquainted with him?"

"No. I was only once in his house, and then as a boy."

"Oh, then! That was his happiest time. What pleasant times we had in his
garden! Formerly it was not as it is now--not a trace of their pleasant
garden remains. The house has disappeared. Look again: yonder was the
kitchen, there the hen-house, there the barn, and here the spring."

As she spoke she pointed out with her stick each place, but of the
buildings she named not a trace was to be seen.

"Ah, my son," she went on, "he who destroyed the happiness of these
good, pious people, who tore down their house and scattered the whole
family to the winds, may that man be judged by God! He fell like a wolf
upon their goods and chattels. I wish no evil to him, but if there is a
God in heaven may he find no peace in his house, may his children bring
no joy to him, and may no happiness find its way within his four walls.
As he ruined those four poor wretches and was guilty of their early
death, so may he roam over the wide world without rest nor find in sleep
any comfort! Yes, may his trouble and sorrow increase with the abundance
of his wealth!

"I knew Sarkis when he was still a boy. When you knew him he must have
been about forty years old. He was always just as you saw him: reserved,
discreet, pious, beneficent to the poor, and hospitable. It never
occurred that he spoke harshly to his wife or raised his hand against
his children. He was ever satisfied with what he had; never complained
that he had too little, or coveted the possessions of others. Yes, a
pious man was Sarkis, and his wife had the same virtues. Early in
childhood she lost her parents, and relatives of her mother adopted her,
but treated her badly. Yes, bitter is the lot of the orphan, for even if
they have means they are no better off than the poor! They said that
when her father died he left her a store with goods worth about 3,000
rubles, and beside that 2,000 ducats in cash; but he was hardly dead
when the relations came and secured the stock and gold as guardians of
the orphan. When she was fourteen years old, one after another wooed
her, but when the go-betweens found out that there was nothing left of
her property they went away and let the girl alone.

"Happily for her, Sarkis appeared, and said: 'I want a wife; I seek no
riches,' Of course, the relations gave her to him at once, and with her
all sorts of trumpery, some half-ruined furniture, and a few gold
pieces. 'That is all her father left,' they said, and demanded from him
a receipt for the whole legacy from her father. That was the way they
shook her off!

"At that time Sarkis himself had nothing, and was just as poor as his
wife. He was clerk in a store, and received not more than 150 rubles in
notes yearly, which were worth in current money scarcely one-third their
face value. Yes, they were both poor, but God's mercy is great and no
one can fathom his purposes! In the same year the merchant whom he
served suddenly died after making over to Sarkis the whole store and all
that was in it, on condition that a certain sum should be paid every
year to the widow.

"Sarkis took the business, and after three years he was sole owner of
it. He increased it continually, and on the plot of ground he had
inherited from his father he built a pretty house and moved into it. In
the same year God gave him a daughter, whom he named Takusch, and four
years later his son Toros came into the world.

"So these two orphans established a household and became somebodies;
people who had laughed at them now sought their society, and began to
vie with each other in praising Sarkis. But Sarkis remained the same
God-fearing Sarkis. He spoke evil of no one, and even of his wife's
relatives, who had robbed him, he said nothing. Indeed, when they had
gone through that inheritance and were in want he even helped them out.

"As I have said, Sarkis refused no one his assistance, but his wife had
also a good heart. The good things she did cannot be told. How often she
baked cracknel, cakes, rolls, and sweet biscuit, and sent great plates
full of them to those who could not have such things, for she said, 'May
those who pass by and smell the fragrance of my cakes never desire them
in vain.'

"About this time my husband died--may God bless him!--and I was living
alone. Sarkis's wife came to me and said, 'Why will you live so lonely
in your house? Rent it and come to us.' Of course, I did not hesitate
long. I laid my things away in a large chest and moved over to their
house, and soon we lived together like two sisters. Takusch was at that
time four years old, and Toros was still a baby in arms. I lived ten
years at their house, and heard not a single harsh word from them. Not
once did they say to me, 'You eat our bread, you drink our water, you
wear our clothing,' They never indulged in such talk: on the contrary,
they placed me in the seat of honor. Yes, so they honored me. And, good
heavens! what was I to them! Neither mother nor sister nor aunt, in no
way related to them. I was a stranger taken from the streets.

"Yes, such God-fearing people were Sarkis and his wife. The poor
wretches believed that all mankind were as pure in heart as they were. I
had even at that time a presentiment that they would not end well, and
often remonstrated with them, begging them to be on their guard with
people. But it was useless for me to talk, for they sang the old songs

"Like a sweet dream my years with the good people passed. Surely pure
mother's milk had nourished them! I knew neither pain nor grief, nor did
I think of what I should eat to-morrow, nor of how I could clothe myself.
As bounteous as the hand of God was their house to me. Twelve months in
every year I sat peacefully at my spinning-wheel and carried on my own

"Once during dog-days--Takusch was at that time fifteen years old and
beginning her sixteenth year--toward evening, according to an old
custom, we spread a carpet in the garden and placed a little table there
for tea. Near us steamed and hissed the clean shining tea-urn, and
around us roses and pinks shed their sweet odors. It was a beautiful
evening, and it became more beautiful when the full moon rose in the
heavens like a golden platter. I remember that evening as clearly as
though it were yesterday. Takusch poured out the tea, and Auntie Mairam,
Sarkis's wife, took a cup; but as she lifted it to her lips it fell out
of her hand and the tea was spilled over her dress.

"My spirits fell when I saw this, for my heart told me that it meant
something bad was coming. 'Keep away, evil; come, good,' I whispered,
and crossed myself in silence. I glanced at Takusch and saw that the
poor child had changed color. Then her innocent soul also felt that
something evil was near! Sarkis and Mairam, however, remained in merry
mood and thought of nothing of that sort. But if you believe not a
thousand times that something is to come, it comes just the same!
Mairam took her napkin and wiped off her dress and Takusch poured her a
fresh cup. 'There will come a guest with a sweet tongue,' said Sarkis,
smiling. 'Mairam, go and put another dress on. You will certainly be
ashamed if anyone comes.'

"'Who can come to-day, so late?' said Mairam, smiling; 'and, beside, the
dress will dry quickly.'

"Scarcely had she spoken when the garden door opened with a rush and a
gentleman entered the enclosure. He had hardly stepped into the garden
when he began to blab with his goat's voice like a windmill.

"'Good-evening. How are you? You are drinking tea? That is very fine for
you. What magnificent air you have here! Good-evening, Mr. Sarkis.
Good-evening, Mrs. Mairam, Good-evening, Hripsime. What are you doing? I
like to drink tea in the open air. What a beautiful garden you have.
Dare I taste these cherries? Well--they are not bad; no, indeed, they
are splendid cherries. If you will give me a napkin full of these
cherries I will carry them home to my wife. And what magnificent
apricots! Mr. Sarkis, do you know what! Sell me your house. No, I will
say something better to you. Come to my store--you know where it
is--yonder in the new two-storied house. Yes, yes, come over there and
we will sit down pleasantly by the desk and gossip about Moscow

"We were as if turned to stone. There are in the world many kinds of
madmen, chatterboxes, and braggarts, but such a creature as this I saw
for the first time in my life, and do you know who it was? Hemorrhoid

"Have you heard of him? Have you seen this hostage of God? Hripsime

"No, I do not know him," I said.

"What! and you live in our city? Is there anyone who does not know the
scoundrel? Go to the brokers, and they will tell you many he has thrown
out of house and home by fraud and hunted out of the city. Have you ever
seen how a bird-catcher lures the birds into his net--how he whistles to
them? That's the way this John gets the people into his traps. To-day he
will act as if altogether stupid. To-morrow he is suddenly shrewd, and
understands the business well. Then he is simple again and a pure lamb.
Now he is avaricious, now generous. And so he goes on. Yes, he slips
around among the people like a fox with his tail wagging, and when he
picks out his victim, he fastens his teeth in his neck and the poor
beggar is lost. He gets him in his debt and never lets him get his
breath between interest payments, or he robs him almost of his last
shirt and lets him run. But see how I run away from my story!

"'Good-evening,' said Sarkis, as soon as he perceived Hemorrhoid Jack,
and offered him his hand. 'What wind has blown you here? Mairam, a cup
of tea for our honored Mr. John.'

"'Mr. Sarkis, do you know why I have come to you?' began Jack. 'The
whole world is full of your praise; everywhere they are talking about
you, and I thought to myself, "I must go there and see what kind of a
man this Sarkis is." And so here I am. Excuse my boldness. I cannot help
it: I resemble in no way your stay-at-home.

"'I am somewhat after the European fashion, you know. Who pleases me, I
visit him quite simply. Present myself and make his acquaintance. Then I
invite him to my house, go again to his and bring my family with me.
Yes, such a fellow am I, let them laugh at me who will,'

"'Oh,' I thought, 'poor Sarkis is already fallen into the net, and his
family with him.'

"Meanwhile, Mairam had poured the tea, placed the cup on a tray, and
Takusch had put it before Jack.

"'Where did you buy the tea?' he began, taking the cup. 'When you want
tea, buy it of me, I pray. You know, I am sure, where my store is. I can
give you every desirable brand, and at low price. The tea that cost two
rubles I will give to you for one ruble ninety-five kopecks. Yes, I will
sell it to you at a loss. Oh, what bad tea you drink!' At the same time
he began to sip and in a moment emptied the cup. 'Be so good as to give
me another cup,' he said. 'In the fresh air one gets an appetite. If I
am to enjoy tea-drinking, let me hitch up my carriage and drive out to
the Monastery Gardens. There, out-of-doors, I drink two or three glasses
and settle for them. Yes, such European customs please me,'

"'May it benefit you!' said Sarkis.

"'Now, now, Mr. Sarkis, are you coming to my house to-morrow?' asked
Hemorrhoid Jack.

"'I will see,' answered Sarkis.

"'What is there to see? If you want to come, come then. We will sit
behind the counter, drink our glass of tea, and chat. Now and then, we
will talk about European affairs, bookkeeping, news, and other things,'

"'All right, I shall surely come. I shall not forget.'

"'Good. And now it is time for me to be gone, for I must make two more
visits to-day,' remarked Hemorrhoid Jack.

"'Do they pay visits at this hour?' responded Sarkis. 'It must be
nearly ten o'clock. Takusch, get a light.'

"Takusch went into the room, and soon returned with a light. Sarkis took
out his watch, and coming near the light said: 'Look, it is already a
quarter to ten.'

"John looked, and at once cried out: 'Oh, Mr. Sarkis, what a magnificent
watch you have! Where did you get it? It appears to me to be a costly
one. Let me see it.'

"'This watch I received as a gift from our late Czar. You know that
several years ago our late Czar visited Taganrog. On this occasion the
people of Taganrog wished to give him a magnificent horse, but they
could not find an appropriate saddle. It happened that I had one that
would do, and when they heard of it, they came to me and told me for
what they needed the saddle. Who would not be ready to make such a
sacrifice for the Czar? Indeed, who would not only sacrifice a costly
saddle (and this one was not worth much), but even his life, gladly, if
need be? Therefore, I immediately hired a wagon, and taking this
extraordinary saddle with me and then on to Taganrog to the governor's.

"'"Your Highness seeks a saddle?" I asked.

"'"Yes, indeed," he answered.

"'"Here it is," said I.

"'"Thank you," he said, and pressed my hand. Then he led me into his own
room. By George! it looked like one in a king's castle. He had me sit
down, served me with tea, invited me to dine at his table: in a word, he
treated me well. At my departure, he took out of a drawer a ring set
with genuine brilliants, gave it to me, and said, "Take this from me as
a gift, and what I receive from the Czar I will give to you also." And
he kept his word. The Czar really came, and they gave him the horse with
my saddle. His Majesty thanked me for it and gave me this watch. Look,
now, what a beautiful one it is!'

"'Yes, truly, it is a pretty thing. Show me it again. I wish to see what
kind of a watch it is,' said Hemorrhoid Jack, examining the watch. 'And
have you the ring by you? Can I see it? Oh, let me see what kind of a
thing it is. I like to see such things, particularly if they come from
persons of high rank.'

"'Is the ring not in the chest of drawers?' said Sarkis, looking around
toward his wife.

"'Yes, I keep it there,' answered Mairam, faintly, for she might well
foresee something evil. 'Who is it routs about in the chest of drawers
in the night?'

"'Good Auntie Mairam,' began Jack, in a wheedling tone, 'I beg of you,
bring the ring, that I may see it. Be so kind! When I see such a rare
thing my heart leaps in my breast with delight. It is true joy for me to
hold such things in my hand and look at them. Bring me the ring, I beg
of you.'

"I looked at him at that moment, and he seemed to me like a veritable
gypsy. Had I not been obliged to consider those present, I should
certainly have spit in his face, so great was my aversion to this
scoundrel. Yes, what the proverb says is true: 'If a rich man becomes
poor, he is scented for years with his wealth; if a poor man grows rich
he stinks of poverty for forty years!' That was the way with this
Hemorrhoid Jack. Oh, if it had been in my power I would have seized the
scoundrel by the collar and thrown him out of the gate. But Sarkis was
not of my temperament; he had a gentle heart and was meek as a lamb. I
went up to him, pushed his elbow, and whispered:

"'What are you doing, you good-natured fool? Why did you let him take
the watch in his hand? And are you going to show the ring, too? You will
see, he has bad intentions. I'll bet my head he will bring misfortune on
yours. Do you not see his greedy eyes? He will ruin you altogether, you
and house, and ground,' I said.

"I had my trouble for my pains. Although a man of ripe years, Sarkis was
nevertheless like a mere boy, believing all people as honest as
himself. Heaven knows! perhaps such a fate was destined for him, and it
was impossible for him to get out of the way of misfortune.

"Mairam brought the ring, and as soon as the scoundrel saw it he grabbed
it from her hand and put it on his finger.

"'What a pretty thing it is!' he said, smirking. 'How it glistens! What
a precious ring! What wonderfully beautiful brilliants! What ought I to
give you for such a ring? Tell me. It pleases me exceedingly. Yes,
without joking, sell it to me. No, we will arrange it otherwise: I will
give you all kinds of goods out of my store at a very low price, yes,
very cheap. May the apoplexy strike me if I make anything out of you! I
will sell you everything at cost price, and if you wish, will give you
ten kopecks rebate on the ruble.'

"'No, my dear sir,' said Mairam, embarrassed. 'Can one sell a souvenir
of the Czar, and one of such great value? We have no occasion to do it.
We are no Jews, to sell off everything, to turn into money whatever
comes into our hands. Are we such poor beggars that we cannot have
something good and valuable in our chest? No, Mr. John, what you say
seems to me to be very singular. You are rich, yet you say that you have
never in your life seen a gold watch nor a ring set with brilliants. It
seems to me a fine new custom that one must immediately have what one
sees. No, dear sir, cast not your eyes upon our property; be content
with what you have.'

"'Mrs. Mairam,' said the scoundrel, smirking, 'why are you so angry? May
one not joke with you?'

"'A fine joke!' I said, putting in my oar. 'You looked at the trees, and
you will at once tear them down. You fell on the fruit like a wolf. You
saw the garden, and at once wanted to buy. Now you want the ring, and
will exchange for it your wares. What sort of tomfoolery are you talking
to us? You are either crazy yourself or will make others so. The apple
falls not far from the stem--one sees that in you.'

"'Aunt Hripsime, why are you so cross? Dare one not jest?'

"'Enough, enough; I understand your joke very well,' I cried

"Yes, we women scolded him right well, but Sarkis said no earthly word.
He sat there dumb and speechless as the stick in my hand. The Lord God
gave him a tongue to speak with, but, dear heaven, he sat there like a
clod and never uttered a syllable. I was like to burst with wrath.

"Then that unscrupulous fellow repeated his speech. 'Don't you
understand a joke? Have you, then, no sense of fun?' He would have
struck us over the ear, and that the fellow called a joke! And how the
creature looked! His face was like a drum-skin. It was as though someone
had wiped off the holy oil from this grimacing mask with a butcher's
sponge. Yes, here you see how people become rich; how they get hold of
other people's property. Conscience hunts the scoundrel to the deuce: he
lets his skin grow thick; feigns outwardly to be dull; if anyone spits
in his face he regards it only as a May-shower; if anyone goes for him
for his rascality, he takes it as a joke. And so the rascals become
rich! One must be born to those things, that's the way I see it.

"If you knew all that we said to this scoundrel's face! We all but
seized him by the collar and threw him out the gate. We belabored him
well, but the fellow stood as if dumb, remained silent, and laughed in
our faces as if we had been speaking to each other and not to him. He
neither took the watch out of his pocket nor the ring from his finger.
Finally, I thought to myself, 'I will wait a little and see what will

"And do you know what this bad fellow said to our Sarkis after a short
silence? 'Your watch and ring please me well, old fellow. Let me take
them for a month or two. I will send them to Moscow and have some like
them made for myself. As soon as I get them back I will give them back
to you unhurt.'

"Our stupid Sarkis dared not say no, and he had his way.

"'Take them,' said Sarkis, 'but take care that they do not go astray,

"'But what are you thinking about?' answered the scoundrel. 'Am I
then--. Where do you buy your calico?' the scoundrel began after a
pause. 'How much do you pay an ell? Where do you buy your linen cloth?
How high does it come by the ell? Where do you buy your silk and satin?'

"Heaven knows what all he prated about, and Sarkis answered him and told
everything just as it really was.

"'We buy our manufactured goods of Yellow Pogos,' and told the prices
of everything without reserve.

"'Have you lost your wits, man?' cried Hemorrhoid Jack. 'Can any man in
his full senses buy anything of Yellow Pogos? Don't you know that he is
a swindler? Why don't you buy your goods of me? I will give them to you
cheaper by half,'

"To this Sarkis answered, 'When I need something again I will buy it of

"I knew well enough that Sarkis needed nothing at the time, and that he
said this only to get rid of the fellow. But Jack did not or would not
understand, and began again.

"'No, do not put it that way,' he said. 'Come to-morrow and pick out
what pleases you. Do not think for a minute that I wish to make money
out of you. Let the goods lie in your closet, for, between ourselves,
goods were very cheap in Moscow this year, and I cleverly threw out my
line and bought everything at half price. This year is a lucky one for
my customers. If one of them will let his goods lie a little while he
will certainly double his money on them. Yes, buy, I tell you, but not
by the ell. Buy by the piece and you will not regret it, I assure you. I
will send you in the morning five or six different kinds of goods.'

"'But why such haste?' said Mairam. 'My chest of drawers is full of
stuff for clothes, and what I am wearing is still quite new. If we need
anything we will come to you.'

"'What are you talking about, Auntie Mairam?' answered Hemorrhoid Jack.
'Do you not believe me? I tell you, you can get double for the goods,
and if you cannot use everything yourself, give it to your neighbors.
You will do good business. On my word of honor, I swear to you, you will
make double on it. Would I lie for the sake of such a trifle? Whom do
you think you have here? But that is a small matter: I have still
something better to propose. You must take a shipment of tea from me. In
the winter the price will rise, and you can make enormous profits out of
it. To-morrow I will send you one chest--for the present. Well? Now,
really, I will send it to you.'

"'My dear John,' exclaimed Sarkis, 'you must know how risky it is to
begin a new business. I have never handled tea, and the thing appears
to me somewhat daring. I know no customers for tea, and understand
nothing about the goods. If it remains lying by me and spoils--'

"'What empty straw are you threshing now?' cried Hemorrhoid Jack. 'As
soon as the people know that you have tea to sell they will of their own
accord come running into your store. Do you think that you will have to
look up customers? In a week or two not a trace of your tea will remain.
I speak from practical experience. This year little tea has been brought
from Siberia, and what they have brought has almost all fallen into my
hands. Do not think that I seek a buyer in you! God forbid! When I
learned what a good man you were, I thought to myself, "I must give him
a chance to make something. Yes, I want him to make a few kopecks." Do
you think I am in need of purchasers? Now, Sarkis, to-morrow I will send
you the goods. What?'

"'By heaven, I know not how I ought to answer you. Do you know, I am
afraid,' said Sarkis.

"The poor fellow could say nothing farther, for he was such an honest,
good-natured fellow that it was hard for him to refuse anybody anything.
The word 'no' did not exist for him.

"'You are talking nonsense,' began Hemorrhoid Jack anew. 'Give up your
grocery and set up a wholesale business. Manage it according to the
European plan, and you shall see how thankful to me you will be in time.
Do you believe that I am your enemy? Would I advise you badly? Now, the
matter is settled. In the morning I will send you several chests of tea
and put them in your store. You will find out that Hemorrhoid Jack
wishes you no ill. Yes, I will say something even better. You know what
machorka is?--a cheap tobacco that the poor folk smoke. What do you
think of this stuff? Do you think that there is a class of goods more
profitable than this? People make thousands from it, and build
themselves fine houses. And what expenses have they with it? Put the
tobacco in an empty stable or shed and it may lie there. A chest of it
put on sale in your store and I tell you, if you do not make ruble for
ruble out of it, then spit in my face.

"'Last spring most of this stuff was in the hands of a Cossack. The
stupid fellow didn't know what he ought to expect for it, and he needed
money--this gander! I brought him home with me; had brandy, bread, and
ham set out; and, after a little talk back and forth, I bought 400
chests at half price. Half I paid in cash, the rest in eighteen months.
Now, wasn't that a good trade? If I don't make my 3,000 rubles out of
it, I shall be a fool. If you like, I will send you some of these goods.
Put it in your shop or in your shed and let it lie there; it eats and
drinks nothing. Now, I tell you, if you do not make 100 per cent, out of
it, spit in my face. Shall I send you a few chests of it?'

"'By heaven, I cannot go into it,' answered Sarkis. 'Do you know, I am
afraid to undertake a new trade? If the stuff does not go off or spoils
on my hands or the price falls, what shall I do? You know that our
capital consists of only a few kopecks. We spend as we earn. If I run
after the rubles and lose the kopecks thereby, who will give me
something to eat?' concluded the poor wretch, as if he scented some

"But could he free himself from that Satan of a Hemorrhoid Jack? Like a
leech he had fastened himself on his neck and demanded that he should
buy the goods.

"'Now, Sarkis,' he began again, 'the thing is settled. I am to send you
in the morning manufactured goods, tea, and tobacco. Well?'

"'I will see; I must turn it over in my mind,' stammered Sarkis. He
wanted to be rid of him, but he knew not how to begin.

"'What does that "I will see!" mean? Nothing,' the other continued. 'You
may see a thousand times and you will not find again such good goods and
such a favorable opportunity. I speak from experience. You must not let
this chance slip by or you will throw gold out of the window with your
own hands. I am talking about great gains, great profits; do you think
it is a joke?'

"'We shall see,' said poor Sarkis. 'We have many days before us. Yes, we
will surely do something.'

"'What you do now is not worth much,' cried Hemorrhoid Jack. 'I see that
if I leave the thing to your decision, in five years you will not have
reached one. Isn't that true? In the morning I will send you one load of
goods and the rest later.'

"With these words he seized his cap, quickly made his adieus, and went

"It was nearly one o'clock; Mairam and Takusch were sitting there asleep
and I also was very sleepy, but I fought against my sleepiness to watch
that devil of a Hemorrhoid Jack. Mankind can be a priest to
mankind--also a Satan!

"When he was in the street, Sarkis said to me: 'What a wonderful
conversation we have had this evening. Of all this man has said, I
understand nothing. His purposes are not exactly bad, but I don't know
how it happens--my heart presages something of evil.'

"I was just going to answer him when suddenly I sneezed; but only once.

"'See now,' I said to Sarkis; 'I was right in saying he was going to
trick you. Now it has proved itself.'

"'If one sneezes only once by day that is a bad sign, but at night it
means something good,' he interrupted me.

"'Oh,' I said, 'do not, I pray, give me lessons; don't teach me what a
sneeze is the sign of. Whether it is in the daytime or at night it is a
bad sign, and if one just made up his mind to do anything, he should let
it drop.'

"Sarkis would not give in that I was right, but began to chatter about a
sneeze at night being a good thing. I said no and he said yes, and so it
went on until I finally gave it up."

"'Oh, 'I said, 'have your own way, but when misfortune comes to you do
not blame me for it.'

"'I have really begun nothing,' he observed. 'That was only a talk. We
have only discussed something. I have really no desire to try my hand
with the tea and tobacco.'

"That he said to me, but heaven only knows! perhaps in his thoughts he
was already counting the thousands he hoped to earn. Money has such
power that my blessed grandmother always said that the devil had
invented it. He had racked his brains to find a way to lead mankind into
wickedness and did not succeed until he invented money. Then he was
master of our souls. How many men money has deprived of reason! Sarkis
was not of so firm a mind that he would be able to stand out against
such rosy hopes.

"The next day, early in the morning, the shop-boy came running into the
house in a great hurry, and said that nine cart-loads of goods were
standing at the gate. The man who was in charge of them was asking for

"'What kind of an invasion is this!' cried Sarkis. 'I must go and see
who it is. Perhaps the loads are not for me at all. God knows for whom
they are!'

"He went out, and we after him. Although I had not seen the loads of
goods, I knew the whole story in a moment.

"Before we had reached the gate a man met us and said:

"'My master sends you greeting and begs you to take these nine
wagon-loads of goods and sign for them.'

"'Who is your master?' we asked, all together.

"'Hemorrhoid Jack. Don't you know him? He was at your house last

"I was ready to burst with anger.

"'You fellow,' I said, 'who told your master to send these goods here?
Have we ordered anything? Turn at once and get out of the room.'

"'Is that so!' said the man. 'After a thing is settled you can't take
back your word. Where shall I put the goods now?'

"'Where you brought them from, take them back there!'

"'The coach-house is closed.'

"'That does not concern us; that is your master's affair.'

"'If he were here I would tell him, but he is not here.'

"'Where is he then?' I asked.

"'He has gone to Taganrog.'

"'When did he start?'

"'About two hours ago. He will not be back for two months, for he has
very important business in the courts.'

"It could not be doubted now that this villain of a John had already
begun his tricks; but that innocent Sarkis did not see through his
devilish purposes. Had I been in his place I would have run immediately
to the City Hall and told every detail of the business, and the thing
would have come out all right. But Sarkis was not the man for that.

"'Well, if that is the case drive into the yard and unload. The goods
cannot stand in the street. When Jack comes back from Taganrog I will
arrange things with him in some way.'

"The wagons came into the yard with a clatter and the driver unloaded
the goods and piled them up in the coach-house. I stood as if turned to
stone and silently watched this move in their game. 'What will come of
it?' I thought to myself.

"Ah, but I would rather have died than see what did come of it!

"When the goods were unloaded the clerk demanded a receipt, which Sarkis
gave him without hesitation, whereupon the clerk went away satisfied.

"Later we heard that Jack had not gone to Taganrog at all, and had only
ordered the clerk to say so.

"That same day when we were sitting at dinner, Sarkis turned to me and
said: 'See, Hripsime, your sneeze has cheated you. Did you not say that
Jack was going to play a trick on me? You see something very different
has happened. This forenoon four or five persons came into my shop who
wished to buy tea and tobacco. I told them the matter was not yet
settled; that we had not agreed on the price; as soon as the agreement
was made I would begin business. Do you see? I have not advertised that
I was going to handle the goods, yet everybody knows it and one customer
after another comes into my store. How will it be when the goods are put
on sale?--they will fight for them. It will give me a great deal to do;
I must only go to John and settle on the terms. Yes, little mother, such
a wholesale trade is not to be despised; the wholesaler can often make
more money in a moment than the retailer makes in two years. Yes, my
love, in business that is really so!'

"'God grant that it may be so!' I said, and nothing more was said about

"Several months passed by and November came. One evening we were sitting
together chatting comfortably when the door opened softly and an old
woman entered. I knew immediately that she was a matchmaker. In three
days Takusch was betrothed to a plain, middle-rate man. The wedding was
to take place the next winter on her father's name-day. As a dowry her
parents promised 3,000 rubles--1,500 in cash, and the rest in jewels.

"Tagusch was at that time fifteen years old. Although I had lived in her
parents' house I had never looked right attentively at her face,
scarcely knew, in fact, whether she was beautiful or ugly; but when on
her betrothal day she put on a silk dress and adorned herself as is
customary at such a festive time; when she had put on her head a satin
fez with gold tassels and a flower set with brilliants, I fairly gaped
with admiration. I am almost eighty years old, but in all my life I have
never seen a more beautiful girl.

"I am no dwarf, but she was a few inches taller than I. She was slender
as a sweet-pine tree. Her hands were delicate and soft, her fingers were
like wax. Hair and eyebrows were black, and her face like snow. Her
cheeks were tinged rose-red, and her glance! that I cannot forget even
to this day. It was brighter than a genuine Holland diamond. Her
eyelashes were so long that they cast shadows on her cheeks. No, such a
charming creature I have never seen in dreams, let alone reality. She
was--God forgive my sins--the pure image of the Mother of God in our
church; yes, she was even more beautiful. When I looked at her I could
not turn my eyes away again. I gazed at her and could not look enough.
On the betrothal day I sat in the corner of the room with my eyes nailed
on Takusch.

"'How sorry I am,' thought I, 'that you with that angel face are to be
the wife of a commonplace man, to be the mother of a family and go into
a dirty, smoky kitchen. Shall your tender hands become hard as leather
with washing, ironing, kneading, and who knows what housework beside?
Shall your angel cheeks fade from the heat of the oven and your eyes
lose their diamond-shine from sewing?' Yes, so thought I, and my heart
bled within me for this girl who ought to wear a queen's crown and live
in a palace. Surely, if this rose maiden had lived in olden times she
would certainly have married a king or a king's son. And the poor thing
stood there like a lamb, for she did not understand what life was. She
thought marriage would be nothing more than a change in her
dwelling-place. Oh, but I was sorry that evening that she was going to
marry only an ordinary, but still eligible, young man, and yet it would
have been a great good fortune for her if this had come to pass. Had we
thought at that time that great misfortunes were in store for the poor
child! And that cursed Hemorrhoid Jack was the cause of them all!

"That betrothal day was the last happy day of the poor wretches. I
never afterward saw smiles on their faces, for from that day their
circumstances grew worse and worse and their business became very bad.
They lost house and ground, moved about for several months from one
rented house to another, until finally they disappeared from the city.

"The day after the betrothal Hemorrhoid Jack sent word to Sarkis by his
clerk that Sarkis must pay 2,700 rubles for the tobacco and tea and 184
rubles for the manufactured goods. I have forgotten to tell you that
among the latter were old-fashioned dress-goods, taxed cloth, linen,
satin, and some silk. The clerk also said that if Sarkis did not pay the
184 rubles the ring and watch would be retained.

"Poor Sarkis was completely dazed.

"'Have I bought the goods?' he asked.

"'Certainly you have bought them,' answered the unscrupulous clerk.
'Otherwise you would not have sold a chest of tea and a bale of tobacco.
Beside, the coat your boy is wearing was made from our cloth.'

"This was true. On the third day after receiving the goods, Sarkis had
sold a bale of tobacco and a chest of tea, and had cut off several yards
of cloth. It was very singular that in the course of three months Sarkis
had not once caught sight of Hemorrhoid Jack to call him to account for
the delivery of the goods. He had been several times to his house, where
they said, 'He is at the store.' At the store they said Jack was at
home. It was very evident that he wished to defraud Sarkis. After much
talk back and forth the matter came into the courts, and since Sarkis
had sold part of the goods and had given a receipt for them, he had to
pay the sum demanded.

"For several months past business had been going very badly with the
poor fellow and he could not raise the required sum, so he had to give
up his property. First they drove the poor man out of his house and
emptied his store and his storehouse. Then they sold the tobacco and the
tea, for which no one would give more than fifty rubles, for both were
half rotten. The store and all that was in it were then auctioned off
for a few hundred rubles, and finally the house was offered for sale. No
one would buy it, for among our people the praiseworthy custom rules
that they never buy a house put up at auction till they convince
themselves that the owner sells it of his own free-will. The household
furniture was also sold, and Sarkis became almost a beggar, and was
obliged, half naked, to leave his house, with his wife and children.

"I proposed that they should occupy my house, but he would not have it.
'From to-day the black earth is my dwelling-place,' he said, and rented
a small house at the edge of the town near where the fields begin.

"When the neighbors found out the treachery of Hemorrhoid Jack, they
were terribly angry, and one of them threw a note into his yard in which
was written: that if he took possession of poor Sarkis's house they
would tear or burn it down. That was just what John wished, and he
immediately sent carpenters to tear down the house and stable and then
he sold the wood.

"At this time I became very sick and lay two months in bed. When I got
up again I thought to myself, 'I must go and visit the poor wretches!' I
went to their little house, but found the door locked and the windows
boarded up. I asked a boy, 'My child, do you know where the people of
this house are?' 'Two weeks ago they got into a wagon and drove away,'
answered the lad. 'Where are they gone?' I asked. 'That I don't know,'
he said.

"I would not have believed it, but an old woman came up to me on the
street, of her own accord, and said:

"'They all got into a wagon and have moved away into a Russian village.'

"What the village was called she could not tell me, and so every trace
of them was lost.

"Many years later a gentleman came from Stavropol to our city, who gave
me some news of the poor wretches. They had settled in a Cossack
village--he told me the name, but I have forgotten--where at first they
suffered great want; and just as things were going a little better with
them, Mairam and Sarkis died of the cholera and Takusch and Toros were
left alone. Soon after, a Russian officer saw Takusch and was greatly
pleased with her. After a few months she married him. Toros carried on
his father's business for a time, then gave it up and joined the army.
So much I found out from the gentleman from Stavropol.

"Some time later I met again one who knew Takusch. He told me that she
was now a widow. Her husband had been a drunkard, spent his whole nights
in inns, often struck his poor wife, and treated her very badly. Finally
they brought him home dead. Toros's neck had been broken at a horse-race
and he was dead. He said also that Takusch had almost forgotten the
Armenian language and had changed her faith.

"'That is the history of the Vacant Yard."

Translated by E.B. Collins, B.S.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

[Arabian Tale] The Three Princes and the Princess Nouronnihar

There was once a sultan of India who had three sons. These, with
the princess his niece, were the ornaments of his court. The eldest
of the princes was called Houssain, the second Ali, the youngest
Ahmed, and the princess his niece, Nouronnihar. The Princess
Nouronnihar was the daughter of the younger brother of the sultan,
to whom the sultan in his lifetime allowed a considerable revenue.
But that prince had not been married long before he died, and left
the princess very young. The sultan, out of brotherly love and
friendship, took upon himself the care of his niece's education,
and brought her up in his palace with the three princes, where her
singular beauty and personal accomplishments, joined to a sprightly
disposition and irreproachable conduct, distinguished her among all
the princesses of her time.

The sultan, her uncle, proposed to get her married, when she
arrived at a proper age, to some neighbouring prince, and was
thinking seriously about it, when he perceived that the three
princes his sons had all fallen in love with her. He was very much
concerned, owing to the difficulty he foresaw whether the two
younger would consent to yield to their elder brother. He spoke to
each of them apart; and after having remonstrated on the
impossibility of one princess being the wife of three persons, and
the troubles they would create if they persisted, he did all he
could to persuade them to abide by a declaration of the princess in
favour of one of them; or to suffer her to be married to a foreign
prince. But as he found them obstinate, he sent for them all
together, and said to them, 'Children, since I have not been able
to persuade you no longer to aspire to marry the princess your
cousin; and as I have no inclination to force her to marry any of
you, I have thought of a plan which will please you all, and
preserve union among you, if you will but follow my advice. I think
it would be best, if every one travelled separately into a
different country, so that you might not meet each other: and as
you know I delight in every thing that is rare and singular, I
promise my niece in marriage to him that shall bring me the most
extraordinary curiosity; and for travelling expenses, I will give
each of you a sum befitting your rank and the purchase of the
curiosity you search.'

As the three princes were always submissive and obedient to the
sultan's will, and each flattered himself that fortune would favour
him, they all consented. The sultan gave them the money he
promised; and that very day they issued orders in preparation for
their travels, and took leave of the sultan, that they might be
ready to set out early the next morning. They all went out at the
same gate of the city, each dressed like a merchant, attended by a
trusty officer dressed like a slave, all well mounted and equipped.
They went the first day's journey together; and slept at the first
inn, where the road divided into three different tracks. At night
when they were at supper together, they agreed to travel for a
year, and to make that inn their rendezvous; that the first that
came should wait for the rest; that as they had all three taken
leave together of the sultan, they should all return together. The
next morning by break of day, after they had embraced and wished
each other good success, they mounted their horses, and each took a
different road.

Prince Houssain, the eldest brother, who had heard wonders of the
extent, strength, riches, and splendour of the kingdom of Bisnagar,
bent his course towards the Indian coast; and, after three months
travelling with different caravans, sometimes over deserts and
barren mountains, and sometimes through populous and fertile
countries, he arrived at Bisnagar, the capital of the kingdom of
that name and the residence of its king. He lodged at a khan
appointed for foreign merchants; and having learnt that there were
four principal quarters where merchants of all sorts kept their
shops, in the midst of which stood the castle, or rather the king's
palace, as the centre of the city, surrounded by three courts, and
each gate two leagues distant from the other, he went to one of
these quarters the next day.

Prince Houssain could not see this quarter without admiration. It
was large, and divided into several streets, all vaulted and shaded
from the sun, and yet very light. The shops were all of the same
size and proportion; and all that dealt in the same sort of
merchandise, as well as the craftsmen, lived in one street.

The multitude of shops stocked with the finest linens from several
parts of India, some painted in the brightest colours, with men,
landscapes, trees, and flowers; silks and brocades from Persia,
China, and other places; porcelain from Japan and China, foot
carpets of all sizes,--all this surprised him so much that he knew
not how to believe his own eyes; but when he came to the shops of
the goldsmiths and jewellers (for those two trades were exercised
by the same merchants), he was dazzled by the lustre of the pearls,
diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones exposed for
sale. But if he was amazed at seeing so many riches in one place,
he was much more surprised when he came to judge of the wealth of
the whole kingdom by considering that except the Brahmins and
ministers of the idols, who profess a life retired from worldly
vanity, there was not an Indian, man or woman, through the extent
of that kingdom, who did not wear necklaces, bracelets, and
ornaments about their legs and feet, made of pearls and other
precious stones.

Another thing Prince Houssain particularly admired was the great
number of rose-sellers, who crowded the streets; for the Indians
are such lovers of that flower, that not one will stir without a
nosegay in his hand, or a garland on his head; and the merchants
keep them in pots in their shops, so that the air of the whole
quarter, however large, is perfectly perfumed.

After Prince Houssain had run through the quarter, street by
street, his thoughts fully occupied by the riches he had seen, he
was very much tired, and a merchant civilly invited him to sit down
in his shop. He accepted the offer; but had not been seated long
before he saw a crier pass by with a piece of carpet on his arm,
about six feet square, and cry it at thirty purses. The prince
called to the crier, and asked to see the carpet, which seemed to
him to be valued at an exorbitant price, not only for its size, but
the meanness of the stuff. When he had examined it well, he told
the crier that he could not comprehend how so small and poor a
piece could be priced so high.

The crier, who took him for a merchant, replied, 'Sir, if this
price seems so extravagant to you, your amazement will be greater
when I tell you I have orders to raise it to forty purses, and not
to part with it for less.'

'Certainly,' answered Prince Houssain, 'it must have something very
extraordinary about it, which I know nothing of.'

'You have guessed right, sir,' replied the crier, 'and will own as
much when you come to know that whoever sits on this piece of
carpet may be transported in an instant wherever he desires to go
without being stopped by any obstacle.'

At this the Prince of the Indies, considering that the principal
motive of his journey was to carry some singular curiosity home to
the sultan his father, thought that be could not meet with anything
which could give him more satisfaction. 'If the carpet,' said he to
the crier, 'has the virtue you assign it, I shall not think forty
purses too much but shall make you a present besides.'

'Sir,' replied the crier, 'I have told you the truth; and it will
be an easy matter to convince you of it, as soon as you have made
the bargain for forty purses, by experiment. But as I suppose you
have not so much with you, and that I must go with you to the khan
where you lodge, with the leave of the master of the shop we will
go into his back shop, and I will spread the carpet; and when we
have both sat down, and you have formed the wish to be transported
into your room at the khan, if we are not transported thither it
shall be no bargain. As to your present, as I am paid for my
trouble by the seller, I shall receive it as a favour, and be very
much obliged to you for it.'

The prince accepted the conditions, and concluded the bargain; and
having obtained the master's leave, they went into his back shop;
they both sat down on the carpet, and as soon as the prince wished
to be transported into his room at the khan, he found himself and
the crier there, and as he wanted no more convincing proof of the
virtue of the carpet, he counted to the crier forty purses of gold,
and gave him twenty pieces for himself.

In this manner Prince Houssain became the possessor of the carpet,
and was overjoyed that on his arrival at Bisnagar he had found so
rare a treasure, which he never doubted would gain him the Princess
Nouronnihar. In short he looked upon it as an impossible thing for
the princes, his younger brothers, to meet with anything to compare
with it. It was in his power, by sitting on this carpet, to be at
the place of rendezvous that very day; but as he was obliged to
wait for his brothers, as they had agreed, and as he was curious to
see the King of Bisnagar and his court, and to learn about the
laws, customs, and religion of the kingdom, he chose to make a
longer abode there.

It was a custom of the King of Bisnagar to give audience to all
strange merchants once a week; and Prince Houssain, who remained
incognito, saw him often; and as he was handsome, clever, and
extremely polite, he easily distinguished himself among the
merchants, and was preferred before them all by the sultan, who
asked him about the Sultan of the Indies, and the government,
strength, and riches of his dominions.

The rest of his time the prince spent in seeing what was most
remarkable in and about the city; and among other things he visited
a temple, all built of brass. It was ten cubits square, and fifteen
high; and the greatest ornament to it was an idol of the height of a
man, of massy gold: its eyes were two rubies, set so artificially,
that it seemed to look at those who looked at it, on whichever side
they turned. Besides this, there was another not less curious, in a
village in the midst of a plain of about ten acres, which was a
delicious garden full of roses and the choicest flowers, surrounded
with a small wall breast high, to keep the cattle out. In the midst
of this plain was raised a terrace, a man's height, so nicely paved
that the whole pavement seemed to be but one single stone. A temple
was erected in the middle of this terrace, with a dome about fifty
cubits high, which might be seen for several leagues round. It was
thirty cubits long, and twenty broad, built of red marble, highly
polished. The inside of the dome was adorned with three rows of fine
paintings, in good taste: and there was not a place in the whole
temple but was embellished with paintings, bas-reliefs, and figures
of idols from top to bottom.

Every night and morning there were ceremonies performed in this
temple, which were always succeeded by sports, concerts, dancing,
singing, and feasts. The ministers of the temple and the inhabitants
of the place had nothing to live on but the offerings of pilgrims,
who came in crowds from the most distant parts of the kingdom to
perform their vows.

Prince Houssain was also spectator of a solemn feast, which was
celebrated every year at the court of Bisnagar, at which all the
governors of provinces, commanders of fortified places, all the
governors and judges of towns, and the Brahmins most celebrated for
their learning, were obliged to be present; and some lived so far
off that they were four months in coming. This assembly, composed of
innumerable multitudes of Indians, met in a plain of vast extent, as
far as the eye could reach. In the centre of this plain was a square
of great length and breadth, closed on one side by a large
scaffolding of nine stories, supported by forty pillars, raised for
the king and his court, and those strangers whom he admitted to
audience once a week. Inside, it was adorned and furnished
magnificently; and on the outside were painted fine landscapes,
wherein all sorts of beasts, birds, and insects, even flies and
gnats, were drawn as naturally as possible. Other scaffolds of at
least four or five stories, and painted almost all alike, formed the
other three sides.

On each side of the square, at some little distance from each other,
were ranged a thousand elephants, sumptuously harnessed, each having
upon his back a square wooden castle, finely gilt, in which were
musicians and actors. The trunks, ears, and bodies of these
elephants were painted with cinnabar and other colours, representing
grotesque figures.

But what Prince Houssain most of all admired was to see the largest
of these elephants stand with his four feet on a post fixed into
the earth, two feet high, playing and beating time with his trunk
to the music. Besides this, he admired another elephant as big,
standing on a board, which was laid across a strong beam about ten
feet high, with a great weight at the other end which balanced him,
while he kept time with the music by the motions of his body and

Prince Houssain might have made a longer stay in the kingdom and
court of Bisnagar, where he would have seen other wonders, till the
last day of the year, whereon he and his brothers had appointed to
meet. But he was so well satisfied with what he had seen, and his
thoughts ran so much upon the Princess Nouronnihar, that he fancied
he should be the more easy and happy the nearer he was to her.
After he had paid the master of the khan for his apartment, and
told him the hour when he might come for the key, without telling
him how he should go, he shut the door, put the key on the outside,
and spreading the carpet, he and the officer he had brought with
him sat down on it, and, as soon as he had wished, were transported
to the inn at which he and his brothers were to meet, where he
passed for a merchant till they came.

Prince Ali, the second brother, travelled into Persia with a
caravan, and after four months' travelling arrived at Schiraz,
which was then the capital of the kingdom of Persia, and having on
the way made friends with some merchants, passed for a jeweller,
and lodged in the same khan with them.

The next morning, while the merchants were opening their bales of
merchandise, Prince Ali took a walk into that quarter of the town
where they sold precious stones, gold and silver work, brocades,
silks, fine linens, and other choice and valuable merchandise,
which was at Schiraz called the bezestein. It was a spacious and
well-built place, arched over, and supported by large pillars;
along the walls, within and without, were shops. Prince Ali soon
rambled through the bezestein, and with admiration judged of the
riches of the place by the prodigious quantities of most precious
merchandise there exposed to view.

But among all the criers who passed backwards and forwards with
several sorts of things to sell, he was not a little surprised to
see one who held in his hand an ivory tube about a foot in length
and about an inch thick, and cried it at thirty purses. At first he
thought the crier mad, and to make sure, went to a shop, and said
to the merchant, who stood at the door, 'Pray, sir, is not that man
mad? If he is not, I am very much deceived.'

'Indeed, sir,' answered the merchant, 'he was in his right senses
yesterday, and I can assure you he is one of the ablest criers we
have, and the most employed of any when anything valuable is to be
sold; and if he cries the ivory tube at thirty purses, it must be
worth as much, or more, for some reason or other which does not
appear. He will come by presently, and we will call him; in the
meantime sit down on my sofa and rest yourself.'

Prince Ali accepted the merchant's obliging offer, and presently
the crier passed by. The merchant called him by his name; and
pointing to the prince, said to him, 'Tell that gentleman, who
asked me if you were in your right senses, what you mean by crying
that ivory tube, which seems not to be worth much, at thirty
purses: I should be very much amazed myself, if I did not know you
were a sensible man.'

The crier, addressing himself to Prince Ali, said, 'Sir, you are
not the only person that takes me for a madman on account of this
tube; you shall judge yourself whether I am or no, when I have told
you its peculiarity. First, sir,' pursued the crier, presenting the
ivory tube to the prince, 'observe that this tube is furnished with
a glass at both ends; by looking through one of them you see
whatever object you wish to behold.'

'I am,' said the prince, 'ready to make you all proper reparation
for the scandal I have thrown on you, if you will make the truth of
what you say appear'; and as he had the ivory tube in his hand, he
said, 'Show me at which of these ends I must look.' The crier
showed him, and he looked through, wishing at the same time to see
the sultan, his father. He immediately beheld him in perfect
health, sitting on his throne, in the midst of his council.
Afterwards, as there was nothing in the world so dear to him, after
the sultan, as the Princess Nouronnihar, he wished to see her, and
saw her laughing, and in a pleasant humour, with her women about

Prince Ali needed no other proof to persuade him that this tube was
the most valuable thing, not only in the city of Schiraz, but in
all the world; and he believed that, if he should neglect it, he
would never meet again with such another rarity. He said to the
crier, 'I am very sorry that I should have entertained so bad an
opinion of you, but hope to make you amends by buying the tube, so
tell me the lowest price the seller has fixed upon it. Come with
me, and I will pay you the money.' The crier assured him that his
last orders were to take no less than forty purses; and, if he
disputed the truth of what he said, he would take him to his
employer. The prince believed him, took him to the khan where he
lodged, counted out the money, and received the tube.

Prince Ali was overjoyed at his bargain; and persuaded himself
that, as his brothers would not be able to meet with anything so
rare and marvellous, the Princess Nouronnihar would be his wife. He
thought now of visiting the court of Persia incognito, and seeing
whatever was curious in and about Schiraz, till the caravan with
which he came returned back to the Indies. When the caravan was
ready to set out, the prince joined them, and arrived without any
accident or trouble at the place of rendezvous, where he found
Prince Houssain, and both waited for Prince Ahmed.

Prince Ahmed took the road to Samarcand; and the day after his
arrival there went, as his brothers had done, into the bezestein.
He had not walked long before he heard a crier, who had an
artificial apple in his hand, cry it at five-and-thirty purses. He
stopped the crier, and said to him, 'Let me see that apple, and
tell me what virtue or extraordinary property it has, to be valued
at so high a rate.'

'Sir,' said the crier, putting it into his hand, 'if you look at
the outside of this apple, it is very ordinary; but if you consider
the great use and benefit it is to mankind, you will say it is
invaluable. He who possesses it is master of a great treasure. It
cures all sick persons of the most mortal diseases, fever,
pleurisy, plague, or other malignant distempers; and, if the
patient is dying, it will immediately restore him to perfect
health; and this is done after the easiest manner in the world,
merely by the patient smelling the apple.'

'If one may believe you,' replied Prince Ahmed, 'the virtues of
this apple are wonderful, and it is indeed valuable: but what
ground has a plain man like myself, who may wish to become the
purchaser, to be persuaded that there is no deception or
exaggeration in the high praise you bestow on it?'

'Sir,' replied the crier, 'the thing is known and averred by the
whole city of Samarcand; but, without going any further, ask all
these merchants you see here, and hear what they say; several of
them would not have been alive this day if they had not made use of
this excellent remedy. It is the result of the study and experience
of a celebrated philosopher of this city, who applied himself all
his life to the knowledge of plants and minerals, and at last
performed such surprising cures in this city as will never be
forgotten; but he died suddenly himself, before he could apply his
own sovereign remedy, and left his wife and a great many young
children behind him in very indifferent circumstances; to support
her family, and provide for her children, she has resolved to sell

While the crier was telling Prince Ahmed the virtues of the
artificial apple, a great many persons came about them, and
confirmed what he said; and one among the rest said he had a friend
dangerously ill, whose life was despaired of, which was a
favourable opportunity to show Prince Ahmed the experiment. Upon
which Prince Ahmed told the crier he would give him forty purses if
he cured the sick person by letting him smell at it.

The crier, who had orders to sell it at that price, said to Prince
Ahmed, 'Come, sir, let us go and make the experiment, and the apple
shall be yours; it is an undoubted fact that it will always have
the same effect as it already has had in recovering from death many
sick persons whose life was despaired of.'

The experiment succeeded, and the prince, after he had counted out
to the crier forty purses, and the other had delivered the apple to
him, waited with the greatest impatience for the first caravan that
should return to the Indies. In the meantime he saw all that was
curious in and about Samarcand, especially the valley of Sogda, so
called from the river which waters it, and is reckoned by the
Arabians to be one of the four paradises of this world, for the
beauty of its fields and gardens and fine palaces, and for its
fertility in fruit of all sorts, and all the other pleasures
enjoyed there in the fine season.

At last Prince Ahmed joined the first caravan that returned to the
Indies, and arrived in perfect health at the inn where the Princes
Houssain and Ali were waiting for him.

Prince Ali, who was there some time before Prince Ahmed, asked
Prince Houssain, who got there first, how long he had been there;
he told him three months: to which he replied, 'Then certainly you
have not been very far.'

'I will tell you nothing now,' said Prince Houssain, 'but only
assure you I was more than three months travelling to the place I
went to.'

'But then,' replied Prince Ali, 'you made a short stay there.'

'Indeed, brother,' said Prince Houssain, 'you are mistaken: I
resided at one place over four or five months, and might have
stayed longer.'

'Unless you flew back,' replied Prince Ali again, 'I cannot
comprehend how you can have been three months here, as you would
make me believe.'

'I tell you the truth,' added Prince Houssain, 'and it is a riddle
which I shall not explain till our brother Ahmed comes; then I will
let you know what curiosity I have brought home from my travels. I
know not what you have got, but believe it to be some trifle,
because I do not see that your baggage is increased.'

'And pray what have you brought?' replied Prince Ali, 'for I can
see nothing but an ordinary piece of carpet, with which you cover
your sofa, and as you seem to make what you have brought a secret,
you cannot take it amiss that I do the same.'

'I consider the rarity which I have purchased,' replied Prince
Houssain, 'to excel all others whatever, and should not have any
objection to show it you, and make you agree that it is so, and at
the same time tell you how I came by it, without being in the least
apprehensive that what you have got is better. But we ought to wait
till our brother Ahmed arrives, that we may all communicate our
good fortune to each other.'

Prince Ali would not enter into a dispute with Prince Houssain, but
was persuaded that, if his perspective glass were not preferable,
it was impossible it should be inferior, and therefore agreed to
wait till Prince Ahmed arrived, to produce his purchase.

When Prince Ahmed came, they embraced and complimented each other
on the happiness of meeting together at the place they set out
from. Then Prince Houssain, as the elder brother, said, 'Brothers,
we shall have time enough hereafter to entertain ourselves with the
particulars of our travels: let us come to that which is of the
greatest importance for us to know; let us not conceal from each
other the curiosities we have brought home, but show them, that we
may do ourselves justice beforehand and see to which of us the
sultan our father may give the preference.

'To set the example,' continued Prince Houssain, 'I will tell you
that the rarity which I have brought from my travels to the kingdom
of Bisnagar, is the carpet on which I sit, which looks but ordinary
and makes no show; but, when I have declared its virtues to you,
you will be struck with admiration, and will confess you never
heard of anything like it. Whoever sits on it as we do, and desires
to be transported to any place, be it ever so far off, is
immediately carried thither. I made the experiment myself before I
paid down the forty purses, and when I had fully satisfied my
curiosity at the court of Bisnagar, and had a mind to return, I
made use of no other means than this wonderful carpet for myself
and servant, who can tell you how long we were coming hither. I
will show you both the experiment whenever you please. I expect you
to tell me whether what you have brought is to be compared to this

Here Prince Houssain ended, and Prince Ali said, 'I must own,
brother, that your carpet is one of the most surprising things
imaginable, if it has, as I do not doubt in the least, that
property you speak of. But you must allow that there may be other
things, I will not say more, but at least as wonderful, in another
way; and to convince you there are, here is an ivory tube, which
appears to the eye no more a rarity than your carpet. It cost me as
much, and I am as well satisfied with my purchase as you can be
with yours; and you will be so just as to own that I have not been
cheated, when you know by experience that by looking at one end you
see whatever you wish to behold. Take it,' added Prince Ali,
presenting the tube to him, 'make trial of it yourself.'

Prince Houssain took the ivory tube from Prince Ali, and clapped
that end to his eye which Prince Ali showed him, to see the
Princess Nouronnihar, and to know how she was, when Prince Ali and
Prince Ahmed, who kept their eyes fixed upon him, were extremely
surprised to see his countenance change suddenly with extraordinary
pain and grief. Prince Houssain would not give them time to ask
what was the matter, but cried out, 'Alas! princes, to what purpose
have we undertaken long and fatiguing journeys? In a few moments
our lovely princess will breathe her last. I saw her in her bed,
surrounded by her women and attendants, who were all in tears. Take
the tube, behold for yourselves the miserable state she is in.'

Prince Ali took the tube out of Prince Houssain's hand and after he
had looked, presented it to Prince Ahmed.

When Prince Ahmed saw that the Princess Nouronnihar's end was so
near, he addressed himself to his two brothers, and said, 'Princes,
the Princess Nouronnihar, the object of all our vows, is indeed at
death's door; but provided we make haste and lose no time, we may
preserve her life.' Then he took out the artificial apple, and
showing it to the princes his brothers, said to them, 'This apple
which you see here cost as much as either the carpet or tube. The
opportunity now presents itself to show you its wonderful virtue.
Not to keep you longer in suspense, if a sick person smells it,
though in the last agonies, it restores him to perfect health
immediately. I have made the experiment, and can show you its
wonderful effect on the Princess Nouronnihar, if we make all haste
to assist her.'

'If that is all,' replied Prince Houssain, 'we cannot make more
haste than by transporting ourselves instantly into her room by the
means of my carpet. Come, lose no time; sit down on it by me; it is
large enough to hold us all three: but first let us give orders to
our servants to set out immediately, and join us at the palace.'

As soon as the order was given, Prince Ali and Prince Ahmed went
and sat down by Prince Houssain, and all three framed the same
wish, and were transported into the Princess Nouronnihar's chamber.

The presence of the three princes, who were so little expected,
frightened the princess's women and attendants, who could not
comprehend by what enchantment three men should be among them; for
they did not know them at first, and the attendants were ready to
fall upon them, as people who had got into a part of the palace
where they were not allowed to come; but they presently recollected
and found their mistake.

Prince Ahmed no sooner saw himself in Nouronnihar's room, and
perceived the princess dying, than he rose off the tapestry, as did
also the other two princes, and went to the bed-side, and put the
apple under her nose. Some moments after, the princess opened her
eyes, and turned her head from one side to another, looking at the
persons who stood about her; she then rose up in the bed, and asked
to be dressed, just as if she had awaked out of a sound sleep. Her
women informed her, in a manner that showed their joy, that she was
obliged to the three princes her cousins, and particularly to
Prince Ahmed, for the sudden recovery of her health. She
immediately expressed her joy to see them, and thanked them all
together, and afterwards Prince Ahmed in particular, and they then

While the princess was dressing, the princes went to throw
themselves at the sultan their father's feet, and pay their
respects to him. The sultan received and embraced them with the
greatest joy, both for their return and for the wonderful recovery
of the princess his niece, whom he loved as if she had been his own
daughter, and who had been given over by the physicians. After the
usual compliments, the princes presented each the curiosity which
he had brought: Prince Houssain his carpet, which he had taken care
not to leave behind him in the princess's chamber; Prince Ali his
ivory tube, and Prince Ahmed the artificial apple; and after each
had commended his present, when they put it into the sultan's
hands, they begged him to pronounce their fate, and declare to
which of them he would give the Princess Nouronnihar for a wife,
according to his promise.

The Sultan of the Indies having kindly heard all that the princes
had to say, without interrupting them, and being well informed of
what had happened in relation to the Princess Nouronnihar's cure,
remained some time silent, as if he were thinking what answer he
should make. At last he broke silence, and said to them in terms
full of wisdom, 'I would declare for one of you, my children, with
a great deal of pleasure, if I could do so with justice; but
consider whether I can. It is true, Prince Ahmed, the princess my
niece is obliged to your artificial apple for her cure, but let me
ask you, whether you could have been so serviceable to her if you
had not known by Prince Ali's tube the danger she was in, and if
Prince Houssain's carpet had not brought you to her so soon?

'Your tube, Prince Ali, informed you and your brothers that you
were likely to lose the princess your cousin, and so far she is
greatly obliged to you. You must also grant that that knowledge
would have been of no service without the artificial apple and the

'And for you, Prince Houssain, consider that it would have been of
little use if you had not been acquainted with the princess's
illness by Prince Ali's tube, and Prince Ahmed had not applied his
artificial apple. Therefore, as neither the carpet, the ivory tube,
nor the artificial apple has the least preference one over the
other, but, on the contrary, there is a perfect equality, I cannot
grant the princess to any one of you, and the only fruit you have
reaped from your travels is the glory of having equally contributed
to restore her to health.

'If this be true,' added the sultan, 'you see that I must have
recourse to other means to determine with certainty in the choice I
ought to make among you, and as there is time enough between this
and night, I will do it to-day. Go, and get each of you a bow and
arrow, and repair to the great plain outside the city, where the
horses are exercised. I will soon come to you, and I declare I will
give the Princess Nouronnihar to him that shoots the farthest.

'I do not, however, forget to thank you all in general, and each in
particular, for the presents you brought me. I have a great many
rarities in my museum already, but nothing that comes up to the
carpet, the ivory tube, and the artificial apple, which shall have
the first place among them, and shall be preserved carefully, not
only for show, but to make an advantageous use of them upon all

The three princes had nothing to say against the decision of the
sultan. When they were out of his presence, they each provided
themselves with a bow and arrow, which they delivered to one of
their officers, and went to the plain appointed, followed by a
great concourse of people.

The sultan did not make them wait long; and as soon as he arrived,
Prince Houssain, as the eldest, took his bow and arrow, and shot
first. Prince Ali shot next, and much beyond him; and Prince Ahmed
last of all; but it so happened, that nobody could see where his
arrow fell; and, notwithstanding all the search of himself and
everybody else, it was not to be found far or near. And though it
was believed that he shot the farthest, and that he therefore
deserved the Princess Nouronnihar, it was necessary that his arrow
should be found, to make the matter evident and certain; so,
notwithstanding his remonstrances, the sultan determined in favour
of Prince Ali, and gave orders for preparations to be made for the
wedding, which was celebrated a few days afterwards with great