Difference between revisions of "The Fool - Chapters 36-40"
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"He has died," said Vartan.
"He has died," said Vartan.
"Poor creature," the sisters exclaimed.
"Poor creature," the sisters exclaimed.
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Latest revision as of 05:28, 15 October 2018
The night was half gone. The lamp still burned in the Kurd's small hut. The simple patriarchal family slept. All within the same four walls. On one side the old mother-in-law snored. Next to her the children, who tossed uneasily and talked constantly in their sleep. Next to them lay the mother. This free and simple mountain girl thought it quite natural to go to bed in sight of a strange guest. Because of the warmth of the hut, she had thrown off the quilt and her beautiful bosom was half-exposed, over which her heavy tresses fell like a veil. Her sleep was quiet, like the sleep of an innocent lamb.
"Now I understand why the first human pair lived quite naked," thought Vartan. "They began to cover themselves when they felt what sin is. This people does not yet know what sin is, and for this reason, the idea which in the language of the world is called shame is unknown to them. Behold a beautiful race in its primitive simplicity. It is possible to make something wonderful of them. The wild plant grafted upon a more cultivated plant yields remarkable fruit. What would result if this vigorous strain were to be mingled with the Armenian race?"
All were sleeping. Only Vartan was awake. He sat thus for a long time, and sad disconnected thoughts arose in his mind. Sometimes, in his heated fancy, he seemed to be seeing the emigration of the people of Alashgerd. A transplanted tree does not often take root in another spot, and grow as it should, but withers away. This people was withering away owing to its many migrations during the centuries. It had not settled permanently as yet. Behold still another migration! That is according to Nature. A tree which has not taken deep root in Mother Earth, is not able to withstand the tempest. When fierce winds blow, it is torn out by its roots, cast into the abyss, and destroyed.
Sometimes, in his fancy, he beheld the animated countenance of Salman. He seemed to hear the young man's eloquent discourses. He was talking unceasingly, in a sweet, reasonable way. Although the ideas he expressed were immature, they gushed from a warm heart, filled with earnest faith.
Sometimes Vartan's mind pictured in fancy Melik-Mansoor, that powerful adventurer, who was always eager to plunge into every stormy dangerous disturbance that presented itself to him.
Sometimes he thought of old Khacho, that virtuous patriarch, who had so much love and pity for all who were committed to his care; who was always denying himself of rest and comfort, in order to wipe away the tears from the eyes of some unfortunate person.
Sometimes he thought of the old man's sons some of whom, under the heavy burdens they bore laid upon them by circumstances, had lost all expectation, or hope of individual freedom, or of better conditions, while others made a protest against the prevailing irregularities, injustice and oppression. His mind was agitated and, wandering about, laden with all these thoughts and passing through immeasurable darkness, at last paused at one point, from which it did not deviate. That point was Lila.
Now the Effendi occupied his attention. His breathing had grown steadily heavier, his hands moved constantly and from his compressed lips, indistinct words and deep groans were heard. He was delirious. Vartan could hear him but could not understand anything. He appeared to be tormented as by spiritual conflict. That continued for a few moments, then he began to grow easier little by little. At that point he raised his head, sat up in his bed, opened his eyes, and looking wildly about, laid his head down once more and closed his eyes.
"Oh, if there were only an Armenian here," Vartan heard him cry.
"There is," replied Vartan coming near.
"Give me your hand."
Vartan drew back in revulsion.
"Now where am I? Who brought me here? Why did they bring me out of Hell so soon? It was good there, very good. In waves of f ire, in a fiery ocean, I floated. The thousand-headed vipers choked and throttled me in their embrace. I see them now, alas. Behold, they writhe in the burning flames there. They heap themselves upon one another. How sweet it is for a criminal to be tormented in the claws of such monsters! To be torn, but to be unable to protect himself and to know himself deserving of still more horrible torments."
He opened his dim eyes once more, gazed at Vartan, but did not recognize him, and turning to him continued, "To me was assigned, my friend, the most horrible part of Hell, and I am proud of it. I was unable to attain a high position on this earth, but there I succeeded. No one was able to dispute my right. I saw Vasag, Metiroozhan, Vesd Sarkis, Cain and other criminals like them - they envied my glory. Oh, what great satisfaction there is in floating in waves of fire, to feel their frightful heat: to burn, to roast, and never be consumed to ashes. It is fine, that it is endless. Everything is good in eternity.
It was not difficult for Vartan to understand of what these imaginary phantoms were the expressions. But in these words he observed the confession of a repentant heart. For this reason he forgot all his hatred towards this wretched man, and taking his hand he said, "Restrain yourself, Effendi. You will soon be well. Your wounds are not so dangerous."
"I hear a familiar voice."
"The voice of Vartan."
He shuddered and pushing away Vartan's hand, he said, "Take your hand away from me. I may pollute it. Go away from me. I may poison you. Vartan, I know you. You are good, but at the same time you have a hardened heart. Exercise all your cruelty and kill me this moment. You will have rendered me a great kindness. Leave my carcass in the fields of Alashgerd, which I myself turned into a desert. Let the wild beasts tear it to bits. Oh, be so kind as to throw my carcass into a ditch and cover it with earth. I will find a way from there to the abyss, to the place of everlasting and unquenchable fire and torment. But no, no, I am not worthy of the soil of Armenia. My odious carcass would pollute its purity."
"Compose yourself," repeated Vartan. "You will not die. I will use every effort to keep you alive."
"I thought it would be easy for me to die and close my eyes forever in order not to see the evil I have done. But no, the vengeance of Heaven is more powerful than worthless man. It has left me that I might longer see these lands of which I have become the first destroyer; that I might longer see the huts of the wretched villagers, which I emptied of inhabitants, to see and to be tormented with the bitter sting of conscience; that is a fearful torment. I became the tool of the destruction of the entire province, but I was unable to kill myself." He uttered the final words with deep and melancholy bitterness which revealed his spiritual suffering, showing how weary he was of life, and how he longed for the oblivion of the grave.
Just then the hostess awoke.
"Your patient appears delirious," she said. "Don't you want something?"
"Nothing is needed. He is feverish. It may pass soon."
The Kurdish woman approached the patient, and looking at him attentively, asked, "I think I know this man. Isn't he Thomas Effendi?"
"It is he."
"Poor man! A few days ago I saw him, barefoot, bareheaded and ragged, wandering about near us. When anyone went near him, he screamed, cried aloud and fled. They said he was crazy."
Vartan then for the first time recollected that he had seen the Effendi in just the condition the Kurdish woman described when he first saw him. He showed all the signs of lunacy even then, before he had thrown himself down from the top of the crag. But why bad he become insane? In a character as demoralized as the Effendi's were mental torments able to cause that degree of suffering?
"They say that the Effendi loved a girl and in the emigration of the people of Alashgerd, the girl was lost. They said that unknown persons had stolen the girl."
"What men? What girl?" exclaimed Vartan deeply agitated, and a frightful look appeared on his face.
"I don't know. That is what they said"
Vartan's question was superfluous. It was forced by his curiosity which he could not restrain, which happens to hopeless men. Vartan knew who was the object of the Effendi's raving. Now he had lost her. Now they had stolen her. With this the remaining sparks of hope in Vartan's breast were extinguished, leaving in his stricken heart only the ashes of sad memories.
The night had passed imperceptibly. Day was breaking. The joyous song of birds was heard from outside. The stormy, rainy night was succeeded by a roseate summer morn.
Suddenly a girl ran in joyously through the door of the hut. It seemed that she had come far, for she was wet from head to foot, and the edges of her long skirt were bedraggled with mire.
"Chavo," exclaimed the woman of the house, embracing her.
"Sister," cried the girl, presenting her rosy cheeks to her lips.
Vartan seemed to forget his sorrow for a moment and began to watch the two sisters embrace one another. The new-comer was a tall girl, slender and quite good looking. She had also her sister's bright black eyes, which were now made more bright and sparkling with happiness. Both her face and her name seemed familiar. to Vartan, but where and when had he seen her? It was difficult for him to recall her.
"Do you know what has happened," asked the pretty girl. "After this Chavo is going to stay with you. She will stay with you a long time. The mistress has set Chavo free."
Glad as she was to hear that her sister Chavo would remain with her for a long time, she was puzzled when she heard that her mistress had dismissed her. Why had she dismissed her when formerly she had spared Chavo with great difficulty whenever she begged to visit her sister.
"What has occurred?"
"Don't be frightened, nothing bad has happened." And Chavo began to relate that her mistress had dismissed her only temporarily, to dwell with her sister, until she should send for her again. The mistress had given Chavo money, clothing and many fine gifts and Chavo had brought them all with her.
"See, I will show them all to you," she said.
She began to open the bundle she had brought with her to show the gifts she had received. But the older sister, not content with the explanation Chavo had given, asked, "What has happened? Why did she dismiss you?"
"Chavo will tell you afterwards. It is a long story. As long as the story of Leyly and Majnoon." Then she said she was very tired. She had traveled all night. The cursed rain had given her much trouble, and now she was very hungry and tired. She begged her sister to give her a little milk to drink. Her sister hastened to take the milk pail and ran to the corral to milk the cow and bring her sister fresh milk.
Only at this moment did Chavo observe that there were guests in the house, and her eyes met Vartan's interested gaze.
"Charming Chavo, you are Koorsit's handmaid, are you not?"
"That is correct."
"The wife of Fattah Bey."
Vartan now found the end of the tangled thread, and asked, "Has the Bey a second wife - an Armenian girl ?"
"He would have had one if Chavo had not stolen her away."
"The Armenian girl?"
"The Armenian girl, Lila, Stephanie; she had two names."
Vartan's heart began to beat with joy. Where did Chavo take the stolen girl? Chavo took her to her mistress and her mistress sent her secretly to the Russian boundary. Vartan's countenance brightened with inexpressible joy, and forgetting himself, he embraced Chavo not knowing how else to express his boundless gratitude.
"Kiss Chavo. Chavo saved her."
"Chavo is my sister," said Vartan and he gave her another brotherly kiss. The elder sister entered, bringing the foaming milk-pail. Chavo took it from her band, and drank half of it without stopping. The warm milk satisfied her hunger and thirst.
"Now tell me," said the older sister to her.
Chavo began to tell in her own peculiar manner how her mistress' husband, Fattah Bey, had long loved the Armenian girl who was the daughter of landlord Khacho of O.... . The mistress did not wish the Armenian girl to become the wife of the Bey, for she was beautiful and might possibly rule over his heart. Incited by jealousy and envy, the mistress had tried in every way to prevent that marriage, but the Bey had violently opposed her, and when the Bey returned from the fighting at Bayazid, he had made ready to go and bring the Armenian girl. Then the mistress sent Chavo with two of her trusty servants beforehand to the village of 0.... to go and take Lila out of the country before the Bey could reach there.
Chavo found Lila in the house of the priest of that village in hiding with her brother's wife, Sara. Sara knew already of the intention of the Bey and when Chavo told her Koorsit's plan, she agreed to it gladly, to take Lila and escape from the village that night with the servants sent for her. They conducted Lila to the Russian boundary and the Bey was left "cursing and raging". His wife began to laugh at him in secret, and to rejoice at having snatched the beautiful Lila away from him. The servants returned after a few days and reported that they had taken the girl in safety. But Chavo's mistress told her to go and stay with her sister temporarily till the Bey's anger should cool.
Chavo's story so much interested her sister, and more especially Vartan, that not one of them noticed that the sick man was equally interested in it. When Chavo concluded, they heard him say, "Now I can die in peace. Lila is saved."
Vartan went to him and held his trembling head, which after a shudder, dropped to the pillow.
"The starving ass smelt barley, but before he reached it, he breathed his last," - these were the Effendi's last words. The Kurdish woman and her sister also drew near.
"He has died," said Vartan.
"Poor creature," the sisters exclaimed.
The July sun was burning hot. The whole expanse of the heavens seemed filled with fiery needles, which were scattered in all directions like sparks and scorched everything. The heat was intense. The birds, weary and faint, hid among the thickest of the trees on which not a leaf stirred in the dead stillness of the air. Only flies, insects, and tiny microscopic gnats entered the fortress shamelessly, and millions of groups buzzed and hissed. They entered men's mouths, noses and ears, when they breathed or stung exposed parts of men's bodies worse than did the fiery beams of the sun. A strange scene was presented to old Vagharshabad then. In whatever direction one looked, an immense multitude was gathered together, women, girls, old and young, all half-naked, all poor. They were spread out there. The streets were full of beggars outside and inside the wall of the monastery of Echmiadzin, under the shade of the trees around I,ake Nerses as far as the monastery of Kayaneh to the end of the forest kept by the same Catholicos. Wherever there was a patch of shade, sufficient to protect one from the burning rays of the sun, everywhere one could see the same pitiable, wretched groups. These were the emigrants from Alashgerd.
Three thousand families, leaving their native land, their homes, lands, all their possessions had tried to escape from the sword and fire of the Turks and had found an asylum here. There was not a house in Vagharshabad where ten to twenty families of these wretched people were not piled one on top of the other. The stables, hay-lofts and court-yards were full of them. It was not sufficient to feed this immense multitude, but it was necessary to cure them as well. Leaving the highlands of Alashgerd, this unfortunate people had descended into Ararat in the frightful heat of July and had succumbed to all kinds of illnesses.
It was midday, that hour when in summer the peasant ceases from his work in the field, when the plowman and the oxen stop in some shady spot to rest. The more fortunate creatures, after an abundant meal, have retired to their cool rooms. At that hour of the day, among the great number of Alashgerd poor people who begged from door to door, one claims our special attention. This is a young girl not more than sixteen years old. Her face was thin and drawn, and having lost her natural color, she had become a jaundice-like yellow, and she looked like a faded rose, near its sad dissolution. In her black eyes, deep melancholy was depicted. Her pale lips showed that she had not entirely recovered from illness. This mournful face, which must once have been of wonderful beauty, even in its present state was attractive.
The demon of misfortune seemed to have played a mischievous trick upon this delicate creature and concealing her in tattered rags, had tried to caricature and obscure her beauty and grace. But with this it had made her more interesting and attractive. The worn and tattered clothing barely draped her half naked body. She seemed to have received each separate garment from a different person, for they differed from each other in style and color. Besides this, some portions were too large and some too scant, one shorter than usual, another too long.
She went with slow tottering steps down one of the village streets. Her bare feet were burned by the earth, heated so by the rays of the sun that it was like red-hot irons. She had with her two little children who clung to her hands like two cherubs. She walked far, her head bent, silent, without a word she stood at the doors of houses and without venturing to enter she waited for hours until some of the people of the house should notice her and give her a piece of bread. It would seem as though her proud lips had not yet learned to beg for, charity. She appeared to have been born and bred in more fortunate circumstances, but now by reason of sad conditions, she had fallen into a different state.
Misery, humiliation, loss of former comforts, all filled her heart with indescribable bitterness which wore upon her body and marred her face more than the disease which had already begun to destroy her body.
She passed from door to door, but no one paid her any attention. At last overcoming her bashfulness, she stepped over the sill of a house and meeting the mistress, she said timidly, "A bit of bread."
There was in her tone notes which expressed the sorrow of her heart. The mistress replied, "Curse you! which one of you can we give to?"
The girl looked about her, and saw, it is true, there were many like herself. She was ready to depart instantly but she delayed. She did not think about herself, although she was hungry; but she thought of the two little children, who had eaten nothing and she thought about their sick mother who lay in her bed, half famished.
She wiped the tears from her eyes and tried to repeat her entreaty. Just then a little house-dog leapt out from the door and attacked the poor girl's skirts with his sharp teeth. She ran out in terror, leaving a portion of her clothing in the dog's jaws. The two little ones lifted up their voices wailing; they were nearly heart-broken.
Tying up the loose ends of her clothing, she now turned toward the monastery. The two little ones forgot their tears and fright in their joy over a piece of watermelon rind they found lying in the road. One of them ran and picked it up, and wiping off the dust and dirt on his skirts, began to gnaw on it. The other child tried to snatch it from him saying, "Give me some, I am hungry too." A battle waged between the two. The young girl pacified them by dividing the rind equally between them.
Just then a young man was passing hastily by them. Seeing the girl with the two children, he recognized them and said, "You are not entirely well yet. I told you not to go out; you have walked out again."
The girl was embarrassed and did not know what to reply. It was true, she was not well. She was so weak, she was hardly able to stand on her feet. The young man looked at the children who were still munching on the watermelon rind. He snatched the rind from them and tossed it away and said, "How can you eat that?"
The children were less bashful than the girl and with the tears running down their faces, they replied, "We are hungry."
"Don't they feed you at the monastery?" the young man inquired of the girl.
Instead of replying to the question, looking downward with her beautiful eyes, she said with difficulty, "If it is possible, could you provide some other place for us so that we might leave the monastery?"
"It seems that the good-for-nothing bishop doesn't take good care of you."
The girl made no reply, and continued to look downward as she did not wish to turn her revealing gaze toward the inquisitive young man, taking care lest he should read from her face what she was obliged to hide in her heart.
"I understand," replied the young man greatly disturbed. "Now go. It is not wise to walk around in this steamy heat; you are ill. You may grow worse I will come to you in an hour and I will arrange everything so that you shall receive good care. How is your brother's wife?"
"She is still the same. She was more restless last night," replied the girl mournfully. And now raising her bashful eyes to the young man, she asked, "You will not leave us at the Vank, will you, sir?"
"Very well. I will find some other place for you," said the young man, as he hastened away saying to himself, "Poor creature, how soon you have tired of your Vank."
The Young man was a physician, the son of a wealthy landowner of Vagharshabad. He had completed his course of studies in the University of St. Petersburg and like a knight who has just entered the order, he had set out to seek adventure and to show his heroism in his profession. The emigrants. from Alashgerd with their multitude of sick, opened before him a wide field of activity. The fresh, unwearied zeal of the young man full of good purposes found great satisfaction in the labor of helping those miserable creatures. In him was united skill as a physician, with kindness. He not only visited them without pay, and distributed medicine free to the sick, but he also looked after their lodging places and their food. This was the reason why the young girl appealed to him so earnestly begging him to provide some other place for them.
After the physician left them, the girl continued toward the Vank. Swaying, tottering, she was barely able to drag her feet along. She stopped a few times, and sat down in a few places to rest. They called to her, from cafes and bars opposite the Vank, promising to give her money. "Those men are worse than Kurds," she said to herself, and rising to her feet, continued her journey.
She went on into the garden, passed near the principal entrance of the Vank, circled the western side of the wall, and came out by the gate which leads to the lake and the forest. She entered Ghazarabad by this gate. That portion of the Vank, on feast days, served as a guest-hotel for the numerous pilgrims, but now it was filled with the sick from Alashgerd. She entered one of the cells in the lower story. In that damp cellar, deprived of air and light, on the red brick floor, lay a woman. She had no bed, nor bedstead. She had a bag of straw under her and a piece of sacking over her.
The two children ran to embrace their sick mother and began to kiss her emaciated hands. But she did not reply to her children's caresses for she was asleep or rather in a stupor. The young girl motioned the two children not to disturb their sick mother, but to go and play outside. They went obediently, and sitting near the door of the cell, began to build houses for themselves of dirt, pebbles and sticks and amused themselves.
But the girl herself lay down on the bare floor and propping her head on her arms in place of a pillow, turned her tearful eyes toward the sick woman and gazed at her. She was so weary and weak, and in such anguish of spirit, that she longed to sleep a little and rest a little, but unwillingly her tears choked her and she was unable to close her sorrowful eyes.
She longed to close her eyes forever and not see the light of the world, which had become darkness for her. What misfortunes had she not borne, what sufferings had she not endured! She had lost father, brothers, relatives, and a comfortable home, all that was valued by her, all that was dear to her. While now, in a strange land, alone, unprotected, left to the will of destiny she wandered from door to door. Her only support and her only protector, on whom she placed her hope, was now sick and might die today or tomorrow. What would her condition be after that? Who would care for the unfortunate children of the unfortunate mother? If only she were well, if only she were able to work, then she would do everything. She would care for the orphans. But she had no strength, she was weak and ill also, and daily was growing more worn and emaciated and she awaited her longed for final moment, which delayed its coming.
The wretched girl was struggling with these sorrowful thoughts and her hot tears rolled down her pale cheeks when a cry was raised outside and a harsh voice disturbed her still more.
The two little children had made little houses near the door of the cell and were amusing themselves. Just then a thick-set monk with black robe, black cowl and black face, there was nothing white about him, seeing the two little ones roared fiercely, 'Begone, brats. Why are you spoiling the floor?"
The children were slow to move, and the monk rushing upon them was on the point of trampling them under his feet if they had not hastened into the cell screaming. The screams of her children brought the unconscious mother to herself. She embraced them both and began to quiet them without knowing the reason of their tears. Just then the troubled face of the monk appeared at the door of the cell.
"Begone this moment from here," he shouted angrily. "How many days is it since I have told you to find a place for yourselves and to get away from here, and you still stay?"
To whom did he speak these words? The sick mother heard nothing. She held her children in her embrace, whom she seemed to see for the first time. For two days she had been in a state of stupor. Now the voices of her darling children had aroused her. To whom did the monk speak?
No one in the cell was able to hear or understand his words. The young girl was terrified by his voice and fainted. While the little children huddled, in fright, in their mother's arms, trembling. Another voice interrupted the monk's anger.
"What thunder-bolts are these, Holy Father?"
"Welcome, Mr. Doctor, how are you? Are you well?" How are you feeling?" asked the monk smiling, and putting on an ingratiating smirk.
"Never mind how I am feeling just now," said the head-physician, looking the monk straight in the eye. "Tell me this, what grievance have you, Holy Father? Why were you so angry at these poor creatures?"
"May you be my witness, there are no grievances here. I only said they should find a place for themselves and leave here. You know that it has been agreed not to keep emigrants more than two days at the Vank. New emigrants arrive every day. The first must go to give room to the second."
"Where shall they go? You can see that they are dying."
"What can I do? These are my orders."
The holy father was the supervisor of the Vank, a loud-mouthed monk, with whom every man liked to jest, especially the head doctor who took special delight in ridiculing the clergy.
"You don't deceive me with these words," he said. "Speak out, Holy Father. What has given you a pain? Is it the light in the girl's eyes?"
"Oh, let me alone blessed one. What things you talk!"
"Begone, begone," said the chief physician and entered the cell. The visit of the physician was especially comforting to the wretched family when after giving the necessary medicines and instructions, he told them that he had arranged to have them removed speedily to a priest's dwelling where they could find every convenience, both as to lodging and food.
"But quickly, if possible, very quickly," begged the sick woman with a grateful voice.
"Rest easy, in a few moments they will take you there," replied the physician and went out to see the other patients in the Vank.
"Lila, do you see, my child," said the sick woman to the young girl who sobbed with her hands over her eyes. "In the bitterest moments of misfortune, still God does not forget the needy, and He sends His angels to comfort them. Do not weep, my child. The dark and stormy night is followed by a glorious morn. A day will come when you will find joy once more."
"After all this, dear Sara," replied Lila with bitter tears, "after all this, only death remains for me."
Two men entered the door of the cell. The conversation between Sara and Lila was interrupted. The newcomers were the physician's servants who had brought bread and food. Besides this, they had brought a bundle of women's clothing for Lila and Sara, and children's clothing for the two little ones. Sara and Lila did not touch the food, they had no appetite, but the two little ones pounced upon it and began to eat greedily. The servants waited outside till the meal was over.
Lila dressed herself and changed Sara's rags and the two half-naked children were clothed. Then the transformed family emerged from the polluted atmosphere of the Vank and turned their footsteps towards the dwelling prepared for them by the head physician.
"The Illuminator's wind" arose and the fierce heat of midday gave place to the cool of evening. This kindly wind was the life-giving spirit not only of Vagharshabad, but also of the whole province of Ararat, which blew towards evening every day during the summer. And it is not unbelievable - this popular tradition - that our father, the Illuminator, appointed it to keep his people from sickness.
The monks of the Vank, after their comfortable noon naps, came out of their cells and enjoyed themselves strolling two by two around Lake Nerses, in beautiful walks which were shaded by the thick branches of the trees. One noticed immediately that the fathers taking their ease did not form groups, but walked in pairs, or entirely alone. They resembled those creatures who keep themselves aloof from social life, only because they are afraid to go near each other. Suspicion and disagreement separated them, and this was called brotherly union!
The lake was situated near an artificial mound which had been built of hewn stones. From its foot to the Vank extended an old cemetery. New graves had been dug in some places, and in others the bodies thrown into a ditch and covered with earth. They used spades and pick axes. The priest, reading the service, or reading nothing, ran from grave to grave and had at last found rest in the grave. They were lence. No friends to weep, no relatives to mourn and conduct the spirit of the departed to the realm of the dead. One would think they were rejoiced that wretched men were released from the troubles of life and had at last found rest in the grave. They were burying the emigrants from Alashgerd.
"How many have died?" asked one monk to another walking beside him.
"It is all the same for them," replied the other indifferently. "There they would be killed by the Kurds and the Turks. Here they can die themselves. But we have strayed from the question," said he, taking up their interrupted conversation. "I repeat, that it is not necessary to believe him, not in the least. He has approached us and has posed as an intimate friend, he has shown sympathy and has a thousand and one tricks, but that's all hypocrisy. He tries in this way to discover our secrets and make them known in certain quarters. He is a spy, simply a spy, and that is the reason why he is so well received 'in the upper Jerusalem'. It is very probable, as he hopes, that he will soon be made a bishop, and the head of a rich diocese."
"All you say is correct, but he will not secure the last two honors. 'The Fourth' is very generous with promises but exceedingly niggardly in performance. He intends only to give that fool's head the reins, temporarily, as long as he is needed; afterward, they will cut off his tail and turn him loose, and give his office to a more suitable person. See, they are bringing in two more bodies to bury."
"Let alone your dead as you love God."
"But he isn't one of those foxes who is easily deceived."
"The crafty fox falls into the trap with both feet."
"Be careful. Let them pass."
On the opposite side of the terrace appeared two other monks who approaching the first, likewise discontinued their conversation. They were both members of the Synod. When they had moved some distance away, they continued their conversation once more.
"We must appoint the auction now. It is the best time."
"Because we know who those are who have taken possession of those lands belonging to the church through taxes. Messrs. N., M., and K. who have always been the tax collectors of those lands, now have gone into private business, one in Alexandrapol, another to lktir and the third, the devil knows where, perhaps to his own place. In their absence we can profit. If we set the auction for now, it is very simple. The tax will remain charged to Mr. Satarlian, who will take it in his own name, necessarily, but we will be his secret partners."
"But as far as I know, Mr. Satarlian has not sufficient ready money to be able to show the correct amount."
"I know that, but that will not upset the transaction. We will give the pledge and he will present it as his."
"Have you any ready money?"
"I have interest-bearing notes."
"It is all the same. Therefore, we will raise the question of the auction at the next meeting. But I am afraid that 'the superiors' will interfere."
"They are not able. Have they not done the same thing themselves that we are thinking of doing? If the 'little devil' puts in his finger, I will speak a word in his ear, and he will shut up."
Thus some in the brotherhood were talking about intrigues they practiced, others talked of their secret speculations, but none gave a thought to what was occurring around them. None thought about the people of Alashgerd, who having lost their homes, left friendless and uncared for, were dying off like flies. No one was interested in the question as to what had been the reason for the emigration of these poor creatures, or what their fate would be in a foreign land.
Several monks, seated together, according to their daily custom, were drinking tea as they sat on fine Persian rugs. The young novices a little distance from them were gambling together and laughing and jesting as they made elaborate preparations for tea. There was cream, butter, white bread, rum and everything else.
The cool of the evening and the pure air of the forest whetted the appetites of the holy fathers. They drank, they ate, they made merry without reflecting that under the trees of the same forest, by the damp riverside, hundreds of hungry families were huddled.
"This is fine rum. What a rich aroma it has. Where did you get it, Holy Father?" asked one of the monks tasting the cup of tea mixed with rum, with great enjoyment.
"Where did I get it?" repeated the holy father from whose cell had been brought the fragrant drink. "Don't you know that my cell is one of those shrines where gifts come on their own feet?" (There is a legend that wild beasts come voluntarily to the door of half ruined shrines in desert places, and the shepherds catch them and offer them as sacrifices.)
"I understand. It is fine to have such powers of attraction."
The sun had already set. The mist was growing heavier in the forest, although the gilded clouds were still brilliant with the last rays of the sun. "The Illuminator's wind" had grown gentler, and the leaves of the trees hardly stirred. The deep silence of the forest was occasionally broken by mournful cries.
Night drew near. In the darkness, bitter enemies, awaken more easily. In the open air, lying on the ground, the naked, hungry people of Alashgerd, like a man startled by a frightful dream had only just begun to realize the misery of their condition. They had thought that they were rich, but now they were forced to live by begging. They had thought that they had houses and homes but now they lived under the open sky. They had thought that they had children, but now they were gone. Who took them? What has become of them? No one knows. All were lost in a confused and frightful disturbance when mother forgot son, when brother forgot sister, when husband forgot wife, when every person driven by the sword of the Turk and by fire, tried only to save himself. Everyone had incurable wounds in his heart, each had lost something which to him was the dearest thing in the world and which could not be replaced. This was the reason why all Vagharshabad echoed with the cries of the emigrants tonight. They were mourning and they could not be comforted.
At this time, a tall handsome young man passing among the trees of the forest, looked at the emigrants with attention, approached and spoke with them, and then resumed his journey. The sad distressed looks of this young man, the burning look of his face, his fearless and confident movements, drew one's attention to him in spite of oneself. He came out of the forest, passed the Vank of K... and stood near the cemetery. Labor had not ceased here yet - they still were burying the dead.
The sound of singing reached his ears.
"The nightingale is wearing shoes upon its feet He seeks the rose - his love, so sweet."
"Curse you," said the young man to himself as he continued his way. The sound of singing came from the depths of the forest where now the monks, after their enlivenment by reason of the rum, performed their nightly pilgrimages. The unknown young man approached the lake. Here also several monks were still enjoying themselves, looking like black specters. But one was seated alone, as if he was mourning alone, as though he found comfort in that position, where no one asked him anything and no one touched his wounded heart. Sun-burned, his dusky face and ragged clothing indicated that this monk must be a stranger. The brethren of the Vank, in their neat rich robes, did not come near him as though they feared they would be polluted by his garments although in that plain dress of a shepherd was concealed a body which bore within it noble traits.
The unknown young man, observing the strange monk in the obscurity, approaching him. "Ah, Holy Father John, is it you?"
"Ah, Vartan," cried the monk, embracing him.
The monk, John, was the head of the Vank of St. John and at the same time the bishop of Alashgerd, who had come with the emigrants to Russia, not wishing to be separated from his flock.
Vartan and the Bishop sat upon a stone which served as a seat beside the lake.
"When did you arrive?" inquired the Bishop.
"Today. This very hour," replied Vartan looking about him lest they should be overheard.
"Have you seen no one?"
"No one yet. Whom is it possible to find in all that crowd? I wished to see Melik-Mansoor especially. I bear that he also was among the emigrants."
"I saw him two days ago." replied the Bishop. "He must be in Erivan by now. I think he was obliged to see some men there who are planning to form a committee to look after the condition of the emigrants."
"There has been a committee formed at Tiflis, already. That at Erivan must be a branch of it."
"How are affairs here?"
"Very bad," replied the Bishop, mournfully. "I have been here a week. They have given me a corner in Ghazarabad. No one pays me any attention; no one has cared to inquire what circumstances brought us here. They promised to conduct me to the reception room of the Catholicos and question me there, but unfortunately I have passed these days in inaction. I was obliged to present the story of the unfortunate people in writing, and I hoped that after that they would call me and demand oral explanations. That attempt also bore no fruit. Is it possible to be so indifferent and so cruel? I observed how of 3,000 families, 1,500 have died, some of sickness, some of hunger. The remainder will die likewise if their condition continues like this."
Sad as these last statements were still they did not make a marked impression upon Vartan. He considered it only natural. He knew already the loss entailed by such emigrations.
"Are all the emigrants located here at Vagharshabad?"
"No, they came from Iktir to Vagharshabad and they have scattered in all directions from here. Now, beginning with the province of Sourmali, the emigrants are scattered as far as New-Bayazid, and to Old-Nakhitchevan. You will find them everywhere in every village."
"How do the people of the place behave toward these emigrants?"
"The people have been very kind. They have given shelter, food and clothing and have not spared whatever they might give in aid. We must say that the people here are themselves in great poverty. Everything is expensive because of the war. But the emigrants need the aid of physicians especially, rather than bread. Many sicknesses have been destroying them mercilesssly."
The shades of night had by this time entirely obscured the region around the Vank. The monks had retired to their cells. But the sound of singing was heard once more. "The nightingale, etc.."
"Where are you going now?" asked the Bishop of Vartan, rising.
"I don't know myself."
"Come with me."
"I did not wish to be seen here."
'No one will recognize you at the Vank now."
The lodging of Holy Father John was situated in the upper story of Ghazarabad. Vartan felt cold chills run over him when he crossed the threshold of the Vank again. It was more than ten years since he had gone away from here. Now mournful circumstances had brought him here once more. Why did this monastery, separated from the world and this community, sworn to devote their lives to prayer and a hermit-life, produce such an unpleasant impression upon the young man?
He remembered his youth - that youth filled with folly and evil, which he had passed here. He remembered that dark past which now filled him with disgust and horror.
Holy Father John did not fail to notice Vartan's unwillingness and agitation, and he asked sympathetically, "What is it? Why are you so silent?"
"Nothing. Sometimes I am subject to such agitation."
There was a small cot in the room where the father and his guest seated themselves. On the other side stood a common wooden table on which a candle burned and near it a small samovar with boiling water. The father prepared two cups of tea with his own hands. He gave one to Vartan and began to drink the other himself. The hot drink invigorated the young man's excited nerves. For a long time an irksome silence reigned. Conversation was not resumed until it turned to the object so near the heart of each.
"How do they regard the 'work' here?" asked Vartan.
"A short story will enable you to understand," replied the father. "A Vartabed Preceptor from Turkey had come here to be ordained Bishop. He is still here, you may possibly meet him. At first, when he had just come, when speaking of the Armenians in Turkey, he pictured their condition in the most terrible colors. He told of the cruelties and barbarities of the Kurds. He told of the cruelties and barbarities of the Kurds. thousand and one proofs of the crimes perpetrated in Armenia. It was impossible not to believe him, for all that he said was verified by incontrovertible proofs. But since that man was interviewed by the superiors he has changed his tune. Since then he has begun to praise the humanity of the Turks, to defend their justice and to admire their magnanimity and nobility.
"What could the poor fellow do? If he had not changed his tune, if he had not justified them contrary to his convictions, although it was horrible and hateful to him, perhaps he would not have received the coveted Bishopric. Another example also. Another preceptor from Turkey, whose Vank was spoiled by Kurds, came here to beg for protection. This poor fellow related the story of his people's misery in still more moving terms, what sufferings they endured from the Government and the Kurdish outlaw chieftains. When his words reached the authorities, they not only paid no attention to the Vartabed's request for which he had come, but they ordered him driven out of the Vank. The wretch was obliged to change his tune and after that he was received with honor. He forgot his Vank, he forgot his flock and did not mention the oppression caused by the Kurds.
"I will add this. This Vartabed, in order to please them still more, drank to the health of the Sultan on a feast day, just at the time when the Turks were massacring the Armenians in Bayazid and Alashgerd. After all this, I think it is very clear how the 'work' is regarded here."
Vartan could not believe his ears. It seemed to him that he was dreaming this. He could not imagine such a degree of cruelty which amounted to a terrible conspiracy. In the critical crises of a nation when its life and its future hang on a thread which might break and cast it into an everlasting abyss - at such a crucial moment when the eyes of an entire people were turned toward the Ararat of salvation, it, the nation, met the indifference of its clergy and found them inclined toward their enemies and their murderers!
"Are all of the same mind?" asked Vartan much disturbed.
"No, only the superiors, they see everything as being just and right in the Turkish Government. And if Armenians have protested or evinced discontent that is all a lie and a slander."
"It is easy to understand. They are a kind of Thomas Effendi. The irregularities of the Turks are very profitable for Thomas Effendis. But let them at least consider the example of Nerses the Patriarch, the Khrimians and others - whoever wishes to leave an honorable name in Armenian history."
"You speak very childishly, friend," replied the Father. "I assure you, if they could they would destroy all the works of Nerses today, and perhaps they have tried to do so. Here they have tried to have it believed that Nerses and his satellites are all charlatans, that they have deceived the people, that they have not considered the welfare of the Armenians, that they are the despicable tools of various European governments, who have worked for their personal profits, in order to load more sins on the neck of poor Turkey. Here they laugh about the fickle-mindedness of Nerses. Here they say that it would be wrong for the Armenians to demand what they need, and they are not worthy of more. If anything is lacking, they say, the Turk is so kind that he will kindly grant it, so what need is there of wearying the merciful Government?"
"Is the whole brotherhood of this opinion?" asked Vartan angrily.
The father did not answer immediately. He went out of the room, looked out into the dark, and returning to his seat said in a lowered voice, "We have been speaking too carelessly. Here the walls have ears. The head of the Vank occupies the next room and he has a scent as keen as the Devil's. If he heard anything, he will tell it tomorrow."
"I asked the position taken generally by the brotherhood," said Vartan without paying any attention to the father's last remarks.
"The Superiors are the only exception. Aside from them the whole brotherhood is not Turkophile. There are men among them of noble desires and perhaps they would be able to sacrifice everything to wipe the tears from the eyes of the Armenians in Turkey if - 'If the Superiors would permit'."
"Yes, what can the poor things do? They are bound so fast that they are not even allowed to speak, much less to act. There is one here named Mangooni, an actual monster who crushes and throttles all by his oppressive measures."
"Still I can not understand what infernal policy this is which sees an entire people crushed under the oppression of Turkey to the point of annihilation, and still defends the destroyer."
"It is a puzzle to me also, neither can I understand it," replied the Father, at his wit's end.
"But how do they explain the emigration of the people from Alashgerd or the destruction of the Armenians at Bayazid? How do they explain the conflagration at Van?"
"They always have a set of phrases ready at the ends of their tongues with which to defend the Turks. They cast the blame on the Armenians saying that the Armenian are a restless, discontented and ungrateful people. They say, 'the wolf is not to blame when the lamb angers him'. And in the emigration from Alashgerd, they see not the sword of the Turk and Kurd that forced an entire people to leave its fatherland, but they try to show a secret and powerful hand which drew the wretched people away from their fatherland. How wrong this is you must understand better than anyone, Vartan, You, who have been engaged in the 'work' ever since the beginning."
"After all this, it is incomprehensible to me what hopes keep you here, Father. Tell me I beg, what protection or what help can be found from them?"
"None. I myself am persuaded that there is none. But what can I do, to whom can I appeal? Where can I go? I am puzzled."
"Appeal to the common people."
The Father made no reply, and after a momentary reflection, be said, as though speaking to himself: "It is hard to make it all clear now, but a day will come when time will reveal the shameful facts." It was as though these words sprang from the heart of the unfortunate monk like a gush of blood. He was so discouraged, so indignant , that he was unable to restrain himself ' and what need was there of concealment with Vartan. Vartan was no stranger to him. He had worked with Vartan. He had shared many confidences with Vartan.
The conversation turned once more to the emigrants. The Bishop of the Alashgerd people told of the wretchedness of the exiled people. He depicted the sufferings they bore. He proposed means for preserving them from entire destruction and annihilation.
"It is astonishing to me that there is such an immense number of sick among the emigrants," interrupted the guest. "According to that estimate more than half are sick. How did that happen?"
"If you were to hear the frightful details of the emigrants, you would be astonished that the emigrants have been able to live until the present. That is the miracle - an actual miracle. But I have not power sufficient nor a tongue able to relate it all to you. I will give you only a few special instances.
"After the siege of Bayazid, the details of which you know, General Lord Lucasoff was forced to withdraw the Russian Army. In that interval, he performed two great acts of gallantry. On the one hand he was obliged to fight the immense Turkish Army with his small number of troops. On the other hand it was necessary to rescue the inhabitants of the province of Alashgerd and Bayazid from the slaughter of the Turks. Both of these required great military strategy in which the General exhibited his skill. He was able to stem the frightful tide of the Turkish troops long enough to enable the Armenians to emigrate before their arrival.
"But the time was very short and the people totally unprepared to emigrate. Word was given suddenly that the Russian Army must leave the country, 'Emigrants flee from the country - if you remain, the Turks will massacre you., That news traveled like lightning through all the provinces. Terror and confusion reigned. The enemy stood at their doors. It was impossible to vacillate or delay. It was necessary to leave their loved fatherland. It is hard for me to depict that frightful sight, when the people were tom from their own firesides. Frightful confusion, and disorder reigned over the crowds,. They were obliged to emigrate in the night.
"Most of the cattle remained in the fields. The men did not have time to bring them along. Father did not wait for son, absent from home. Brother forgot brother. The household utensils and furniture were left in their places or set fire to by their owners. Mothers took their children on their backs while the fathers, loaded with a few necessary articles, took their sons by the hand and set out. Very few families had carts, for the carts had been taken to transport the provisions of war. There was no time to wait, for the enemy was upon their heels. Those who were left were sacrificed to the barbarities of the Turks. Those who came away, thought they escaped, but here they met new difficulties more cruel than the Kurds or Turks, famine and sickness. And these sicknesses are the result of the privations which the people endured in their emigration. They had to travel a distance requiring some weeks, in a few days, without resting or stopping.
"Women, girls, children, old and young, all came afoot. Very few had beasts to ride. Many fainted, weakened, and remained by the wayside. Who paid attention to relative, friend, or even beloved child? General confusion reigned. Every man had lost heart and feeling. Add to this hunger, thirst, the climate of a new country, and you find sickness very natural. In order not to meet the enemy, they led us over infernal roads that were very difficult for the women and children. And this is the reason why a quarter of the emigrants remained on the way and were lost. In short, the story of the Armenian slaves carried off by Shah Abas to Ispahan, which is depicted in such horrid colors in our literature, must be reckoned a very ordinary affair compared with this emigration."
During this sad narrative, Vartan's mind was occupied with an entirely different subject - he scarcely heard him. He was thinking of his beloved Lila. She should certainly be among those emigrants and she also must have been exposed to the same trials. Although Chavo had told him that Lila had been taken to Russian territory by means of the servants of Koorsit, the wife of the Kurdish Bey, her servants were not able to cross the Russian boundary, for they were Kurds and subjects of a hostile country. So they must have left Lila and Sara, her brother's wife, among the emigrants. But how could he find them? Were they alive? These questions began to torment the young man.
"Father, do you know anything about the family of old man Khacho?" he asked. "I think they must also have been among the emigrants. Where can they be found?"
"It will be rather hard for you to find them for the emigrants are scattered in various places. But their priests and landlords have come with them. I have commissioned the latter to prepare a census of their people, how many, and where they live, in order to be able to care for and relieve them. It will be easy to find from those lists in which group the family of old Khacho is found."
"When will they present the lists?"
"Perhaps tomorrow or the next day. I do not know exactly."
That "tomorrow or the next day" seemed an eternity to poor Vartan. For this reason he passed the night in insupportable agony.
The sweet chimes of the Vank bell made known it was morning. The monks who were well off slept still in their comfortable rooms, but the more unfortunate monks hastened to the house of God to pray.
Father John awakened very early this morning and leaving Vartan asleep, he left his lodging and went out. He did not go to pray, but he was accustomed to visit the emigrants in Vagharshabad every morning to see what their condition was. This morning the wretchedness he saw was so heartbreaking that he had not the strength left to visit the remainder of the unfortunates. Everywhere he observed frightful scenes. Whole families sick, uncared for, living in dirty stables, not even one was well enough to care for the others.
In mournful despair, he returned toward the Vank, and he had determined by some means to penetrate the court and beg for speedy aid f or the poor people so nearly dead. Just then a carriage passed him. The occupant, seeing the monk, ordered it to stop.
"Good news," he said approaching. "The Government of Erivan has appointed a committee to help the emigrants. Reliable persons were chosen. From Tiflis also the same good news has been received. The committee there has been very zealous. They promise to send money and physicians soon and remedies."
"That is cause for rejoicing," replied the monk.
"Here also they are thinking of writing orders to the leaders in spiritual affairs to collect offerings."
"Where will they be written?"
The monk pointed toward the Vank. The young man began to laugh. "That can have no significance. What they collect will not feed the Alashgerd people." The newcomer was Melik-Mansoor.
"You made me happy with the news you brought," said the monk, "and I will make you happy in return."
"Vartan is here, in my room."
"Really? Where has that devil come from now? I did not believe that people came back from the other world. Let us go."
They went together toward the Vank. On the way, Melik-Mansoor asked the monk, "Do you know Vartan well?"
"It is more than five years since I became acquainted with him. In our parts he is known as a fearless contrabandist, but for a long time I could not understand that his profession was not one engaged in for personal profit. He transported arms and often gave them freely to the villagers, and if he occasionally brought goods, it was only to cover the track of his actual merchandise. His motive was good, but unfortunate circumstances rendered them futile."
"I was able to meet him only a few times," replied Melik-Mansoor, "but till now I never met a man who won my sympathy so greatly as this zealous youth. I saw how brave and cruel he was in bloody work, and yet kind and faithful in friendship."
"Besides this, Vartan is remarkable for his astuteness. He has accomplished much in his life, as much as some would accomplish in a hundred years. Only he is very honest and always tries to minimize his achievements as nothing remarkable."
Vartan, upon awakening in the morning, found himself alone in the Father's room. The rays of the sun shone in through the narrow window of the cell, and lighted it up most brilliantly. But the heated air was suffocating. 'He stepped near one of the windows and opened it. A refreshing current of fresh, breezy air struck his heated f ace. But something seemed still to weigh upon him. He waited a short time for his host to return, but he delayed. Now Vartan became impatient. He stepped out to breathe a little fresh air, and as he did not wish to be seen or recognized by any at the Vank, he left by the back gate which led toward the lake. Then he found an old bishop whom he recognized immediately. He was one of the noted antiquities of the Vank.
"Good-day, Father." The entire brotherhood called him Babi. Babi was sitting in the hot sunlight warming his frozen limbs. He resembled the Hindu fakirs, who do not bathe, nor comb themselves, nor cut their finger-nails, nor wear decent clothing, for they think those things sinful.
Hearing the voice of the young man, he placed his hand on his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun, and looking up, said, "I recognize your voice, but my eyes do not see well. Who are you, my son?"
"I am Vartan."
"Well, well, my son. Come, let me embrace you. How you have grown, my son!"
Vartan allowed himself to be embraced.
"Sit down son, here, beside me. There, that is fine. What a fine fellow you have become, son! Do you remember how you slipped into my cell like a cat and stole fruit? Then you were small, very small."
"Do you remember, Father," replied Vartan grinning, "that it was here I learned to steal?"
"Who hasn't stolen? They all steal now. Righteousness is as scarce as the milk of swallows; you can find it nowhere. Only two days ago, some cursed fellows stole several hundred rubles from my cell. I had kept it for my soul's salvation. How did they find it? I don't understand it. The devil couldn't have found it. I had put it behind the boards of the ceiling. The devils will have to take lessons from them. Ah, the accursed ones!"
It was such a common occurrence to have money stolen from Babi's cell that Vartan was not much interested. This man, nearly a hundred years old, never spent anything and would only collect and save whatever came into his hands. When his savings mounted up to the hundreds or thousands, suddenly some invisible hand would snatch it all away, and carry it off. But lately the frequent stealing had made Babi quite artful. He had hundreds of biding places in his room, and he kept a part of his money in each, so it never happened that he lost all his hoard at once, although he always used to swear that he had lost all.
Babi was a typical miser, and Vartan had known him from boyhood and his miserliness had attained legendary proportions in the brotherhood. Babi was considered one of the rich monks only with this difference, that others bad accumulated their wealth by shady means, but he only by great self-denial.
"You love money too much, Babi. What are you going to do with so much?"
"What my son! 'There is a fox which swallowed a camel but the wolf is blamed for it'. Now who doesn't love money? This is a money market and all work for money." With his trembling hand he drew his snuffbox from his bosom, opened it and saw that it was empty. He may have opened it a hundred times that day, only to find each time that it was empty, but still he could not believe his eyes, and seemed to think that it might have been filled by some miracle.
"Curse that preceptor Simon! Do you know him? I gave him 20 kopecks and gave him my tin box to go and get me some snuff from the city. He went and kept both the money and the box. Haven't you some snuff, Vartan?"
"I don't use it, Babi."
A cigarette butt had been dropped not far from where Babi sat. He pounced upon it and tearing off the paper covering he crushed the burnt tobacco in his palm with his trembling fingers and inhaled the acrid powder into his nostrils.
"Is that the way they treat you Babi, so that you don't get even money enough for snuff ?"
"Ah, my son. The world has changed. Where are the days of His Beatitude Nerses? Then there was love, then there was brotherhood, then there were great and small. But now everything is topsy-turvy. Whoever can lie the best, whoever can cheat well, he gets ahead. Who cares for fools like me? Now we have new hens which lay iron eggs."
Babi was one of the most ardent worshippers of Nerses. The name of that Catholicos, worthy of everlasting remembrance, was sacred to him. When he saw corruption on every side, when his head was sore, be used always to speak of the times of Nerses which were to him the Golden Age of Echmiadzin.
Babi mentioned the Golden Age now with special satisfaction. He showed the beautiful lake, and explained for what object that great man had caused the lake to be made. He pointed to a ruin near the lake which was intended for a paper factory so that the monastery need not bring paper from abroad, but now the peasants who worked for the Vank tied their donkeys there.
He pointed to other ruins across the lake, which were to have been silk factories for which the Catholicos had caused an immense portion of the forest planted, which consisted of mulberry trees. When he mentioned the forest, he was unable to restrain his tears, and he told Vartan that the Catholicos loved this forest as much, as a father loves his children. When he went to the forest, he always carried a small pruning knife and he would cut away the superfluous branches of the trees with his own hands. He knew each tree and knew how much each grew during the year, and he would rejoice over their growth as a father rejoices over the growth of his children.
Vartan, observing that the story was going to be very tedious, wished to leave him.
"Bring your head near me, Vartan", said Babi.
Vartan drew near and heard the following words, "Go away from here quickly son. They look askance at you here."
"No one here has seen me yet, Babi."
"It is sufficient that one has seen you. I heard bad things about you."
"Your ears don't hear very well, Babi. How did you hear?"
"It is only when the conversation doesn't concern him that Babi's ears don't hear well, but he hears the important things easily."
Vartan laughed and left him. Babi called after him. "Listen, Vartan, if you go to the city, don't forget to send me a little snuff. Didn't you see that my box is empty?"
Just then Melik-Mansoor and Father John appeared.
"What were you talking about with this Babi," asked the latter.
"He is the only decent man here," replied Vartan. and turning to Melik-Mansoor, he said "I should like to speak with you alone. Are you acquainted with any families here?"
Vartan was not alarmed by Babi's words, but he tried generally to keep aloof from monasteries. Besides this he was uneasy about Lila. He must go to her. He must learn something about her. He begged Father John to inform him when he obtained any news whatsoever through the priests.
"I received word that the priests will bring their lists today, by noon", said the father. "I will inform you then."
"Do you know our place?" asked Melik-Mansoor.
"Then let us go, Vartan."
Just then a small group appeared upon the plain, moving slowly toward the graveyard. A few Alashgerd people were carrying a bier. There was no priest for they would find a priest already on the grounds. He did not leave the spot, knowing that more biers might be coming at any moment. A woman supported by two other women, followed the bier. She did not weep, and there were no tears in her dry eyes. She was in a terrible state of confusion, which is peculiar to that state of mind when all feelings are overwhelmed by a heavy and unexpected blow. It seemed that this woman must be a near relative of the deceased. None of the Vank people had accompanied the bier except a well-known physician, who stood out prominently in that half-naked group.
Vartan and Melik-Mansoor saw this sad procession from a distance, but paid no attention to it, and passed on. And who would pay any attention to it? Every day, every moment, such scenes were repeated and they had become mere every day occurrences.