Puslapio vaizdai

And they passed through the land of the King of Armenia, and they passed Ararat, the mountain where Noë brought his ark to anchor, and where it still is, and where it can be seen still, but cannot be reached, so cold and high and terrible is that mountain.

And they passed ruined Babel, that was built of Nimrod, the first king of the world, and now is desolation. They passed it on a waning moon. And out of the ruins the dragons came and hissed at them, and strange, obscene birds flapped their wings in the air and pecked at them, and over the desert the satyr called unto her mate.

And they passed through the Kingdom of Georgia, whose kings are born with the mark of an eagle on their right shoulder. They passed through Persia, where the magicians worship fire. And they passed through the city of Saba, where sleep the three magi who came to worship at Jerusalem, and their names were Kaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior.

And they passed through Camadi, where great ruins are and robbers roam through the magical darkness. And they passed northward of the Perilous Valley, where the Devil's Head is in black stone, and that is one of the nine entrances to hell; and passed the Valley of the Cockadrills, where there are serpents five fathoms in length; and passed the Valley of Cruel Women, who have precious stones in place of


And they went through the Dismal Desert, where no stream sang

And in the desert they passed the Trees of the Sun and Moon, which speak with the voices of men. And it

was from the Speaking Tree that Alexander heard of his death. And it was near there that he and Darius fought. And they passed the Arbre Sec, the Dry Tree, which has a green bark on one side and white on the other, and there are no trees within a hundred miles of that tree, and it is sprung from the staff of Adam.

And they passed through Balkh, the Mother of Cities. And they passed through Taihan, where the great salt mountains are. And they passed through Badashan, where the mountains of the rubies are. And they passed through Kashmir, whose women are very beautiful, and whose magicians weave the strongest spells in the world.

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Now this is the tale told of the Old Man of the Mountain.

Whenever within his dominions there was a fine young horseman, the

Old Man would put a spell on him and draw him to the Castle of Alamoot, and outside of the castle sleep would come on him. And when he woke up, he would be inside the castle, in the wonderful gardens. And they'd tell him he was dead and in paradise. And paradise it would be for him, what with the lovely women and the great playing on the flutes, the birds singing, and the sun shining, the crystal rivers and the flowers of the world. And after a while the Old Man of the Mountain would call for him, and tell him he was sending him back on earth again on a mission to punish Such-and

Such. And the Old Man would put sleep on him and a knife in his hand, and when he woke he would be outside the Castle of Alamoot. And he would start on his mission. And when he came back he would be readmitted to paradise. And if he did n't come back, there were others to take his place.

The Old Man of the Mountain always kept one hundred and one assassins and four hundred and four women to tend them.

Now when the caravan of the Polos had come to rest for the day, the Old Man of the Mountain put out white, not black, magic, and he drew Marco Polo to the castle as a magnet draws a needle. And Marco Polo galloped up to the castle in the waning moon, and the Old Man looked down on him from the battlements and stroked his long white beard.

"Do you know me, Marco Polo?" "I know you and I have no fear of you, Old Man of the Mountain."

"And why have you no fear of me, Marco Polo?"

"Because the cross of the Lord Jesus is between me and harm. Because it protects me night and day."

"I know Eesa ben-Miriam," said the Old Man. "He was a great prophet. But whether he would have protected you from me, we will differ about that. I've often thought of you, Marco Polo, and you coming this way. I could have used you in my work of keeping the kings and chieftains of the world in fear and subjection."

who was before Eve; and there is a tall, blond woman, and she is like a queen; and there is a slim, coppercolored woman, and she is like an idol in a shrine; and there is a little brown-haired woman, and she is like a child. But none of those women could make you believe you were in paradise while there's a face in your heart. Not the cross of the Lord Jesus is between you and me, but the face of little Golden Bells of China."

"But I am not going to China to woo Golden Bells, Old Man of the Mountain. I am going to convert the men of Cathay."

The Old Man of the Mountain laughed, and stroked his beard.

"You had a sermon from Gregory before you came away. Did he tell you you were to convert the men of Cathay?"

"He did not."

"Ah, Gregory 's a sound man. He knew you can't make saints in a day. Why, child, I've seen the beginning of the world, and I 've seen the end of it. I've seen the beginning in a crystal glass, and I 've seen the end in a pool of ink in a slave's hand. I've seen mankind begin lower nor the gibbering ape, and I've seen them end the shining sons of God. Millions on millions

on millions of years, multiplied unto dizziness, crawling, infinitesimal work, overcoming nature, overcoming themselves,

"Then why am n't I in your garden, overcoming the princes of the powers

Old Man of the Mountain?"

"The four most beautiful women in the world are in my garden. There is a tall, black-haired woman, and she is fairer and more adroit than Lilith,

of darkness, one of whom I am. But this is too deep for you, Marco Polo. Now, you can go on your way without hindrance from me, Marco Polo, because of the memory of an old time,

when the courting of a woman was more to me than the killing of a man, when beauty meant more nor power.

"Let you be on your way, Marco Polo, while I sit here a lonely old man, with wee soft ghosts whispering to him. Let you be hastening on your way before I remember I am a prince of the powers of darkness and should do you harm


And so they went on eastward, ever eastward, and the moons were born, grew, waned, and died

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tents on wheels. There passed them the black-jowled, savage idolaters. There passed them the pretty whitefaced women. There passed them huge, abominable dogs.

And they came to the town of Lob, and a new moon arose, and they entered the Desert of the Singing Sands.


Wherever they went now was sand, and a dull haze that made the sun look like a copper coin. And a great silence fell on the caravan, and nothing was heard but the crunch of the camels'

They passed through Khotan, where pads and the tinkle of the camels'

the divers bring up jade

from the rivers, white jade and black jade, and green jade veined with gold. They passed through Camal, the shameful city, whose women are fair and wanton, whose


men are cuckolds. And they passed through the province of Chitingolos, where are the mountains of the Salamanders. They passed through the city of Campicha, where there are more idols than men. And they passed through the great city of Samarkand, where the Green Stone is on which Timur's throne was set moons were born and died They passed through Tangut, where the men will not carry the dead out through the door of a house, but must break a hole in the wall. And they passed through Kialehta, where there are snow-white camels. And they passed through the lands of Prester John.

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And now they were in the Tatar lands. There passed them lowing musk oxen. There passed them the wild asses of Mongolia. There passed them the barbarians, with their great

bells. And no green thing was seen.

And a great terror fell on the caravan, so that one night a third of the caravan deserted. The rest went on in silence under the dull sun. And now they came across a village of white skeletons grinning in the silent sand. And at night there was nothing heard, not even the barking of a dog. And others of the caravan deserted, and others were lost.

And now they had come so far into the desert that they could not return, but must keep on their way, and on the fifth day they came to the Hill of the Drum. And all through the night they could not sleep for the booming of the Drum. And some of the caravan went mad there, and fled screaming into the waste.

And now there was only a great haze about them, and they looked at one another with terror, saying: "Were we ever any place where green was, where birds sang, or there was sweet water? Or maybe we are dead. Or maybe this was all our life, and the pleasant towns, and the lamplight in the villages, and the apricots in the garden, and our wives and children,


maybe they were all a dream that we woke in the middle of. Let us lie down and sleep that we may dream again."

But Marco Polo would not let them lie down, for to lie down was death. But he drove them onward. And again they complained: "Surely God never saw this place that He left it so terrible. Surely He was never here. He was never here."

And now that their minds were pitched to the height of madness, the warlocks of the desert took shape and jeered at them, and the white-sheeted ghosts flitted alongside of them, and the goblins of the Gobi harried them from behind. And the sun was like dull copper through the haze, and the moon like a guttering candle, and stars there were none.

And when the moon was at its full, they came to the Hill of the Bell. And through the night the Bell went gongh, gongh, gongh, until they could feel it in every fiber of their bodies, and their skin itched to screaming with it. They would stop their ears. But they would hear it in the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet. Gongh, gongh, gongh.

And when they left the Hill of the Bell there were only six of the caravan left, and a multitude of white-sheeted ghosts. And the caravan plodded onward dully. And now the warlocks of the desert played another cruelty. Afar off they would put a seeming of a lake, and the travelers would press on gladly, crying: "There is water! water! God lives! God lives!" But there was only sand. And now it would be a green vision, and they would cry: "We have come to the edge of the desert. After the long night, dawn. God lives! God lives!" But there

would be only sand, sand. And now it would be a city of shining domes in the distance. And they would nudge one another and croak, "There are men there, brother, secure streets, and merchants in their booths; people to talk with, and water for our poor throats." But there would be only sand, sand, sand. And they

would cry like children. "God is dead! Have n't you heard? Don't you know? God is dead in His heaven, and the warlocks are loosed on the land!"

And on the last day of the moon they were all but in sight of the desert's edge, though they did n't know. And the goblins and the warlocks took counsel, for they were now afraid Marco and his few people would escape. They gathered together and they read the runes of the Flowing Sand.

And suddenly the camels rushed screaming into the desert with sudden panic, and a burning wind came, and the sands rose, and the desert heeled like a ship, and the day became night.

And young Marco Polo could stand no more. That was the end, the end of him, the end of the world, the end of everything. There was red darkness everywhere, and he could see nobody. "O my Lord Jesus!" he cried. cried. "O little Golden Bells!" The wind boomed like an organ. The sand screamed. "O my Lord Jesus! O little Golden Bells!" And the voices of his father and uncle were like the tweeting birds. "Where's the lad, Matthew? Where's our lad?" "Mark, Mark, where have you got to? Lad of our heart, where are you?" But they could n't find each other. The sand buffeted them like shuttlecocks. "Boy Mark!" The sand snarled like a dog; the wind hammered like drums. "O

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