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porter, wiping his brow with his sleeve, went
away murmuring: " O prince, O generous

For a long time matters continued in this
position, so that, although the population of
the Cassar continued uneasy, and mothers no
longer fearful but spiteful, still maliciously
affected to count their children morning and
evening, they sank back perforce into their
old jog-trot style of life. The three tradesmen
alone persisted in making the old house
and its servants the object of their conversation,
because they had nothing else to talk
about; and their eyes were often raised
towards the vast silent walls that overlooked
like a precipice the whole of the Cassar. At
length, new food was supplied to their

Strangers began to make their appearance,
sometimes guided by the old black man;
sometimes alone. The latter would ask for
the House of Gamadel, by which outlandish
came it appeared the new tenant, whom
nobody had ever seen after the first day, was
known. All seemed eager to arrive, and
not by any means eager to go away. At
whatever time they came, it was never until
long after dark that they departed; and one
of the earliest observations made in the Cassar
was, that the more remarkable the visitor, the
later the hour of departure. Sometimes the
porter who slept on a bench behind the door,
always closed at nightfall, tried to keep awake
until some very noble stranger issued forth;
but it always happened that the bars were
taken down before he could well open his eyes.
He never, therefore, saw more than a robe or
the back of a turban, disappearing through
the door; and the old black man, with the
rolling eyes and bright teeth, preparing to
shut it. On these occasions, however, the
steward was particularly soft-spoken and even
humble in his politeness. He seemed afraid
to excite the anger or the curiosity of
Bawab Ali; and now and then dropped a
piece of money into his hand, saying: "This
is from my master's guest."

Now, it happened that near the very ancient
and sacred mosque of Sitt Zeyneb, within the
gate of the city, dwelt an old man who had
an only son named Cathalla, celebrated in the
quarter for his singular disposition. In
Cairo, as elsewhere, reputations are oftener
based on reprehensible than on admirable
qualities. Cathalla became talked of among
the neighbours, because, his father being
moderately rich, he took it into his head that he
was not bound to enter into the contest for
wealth. Some foolish old book had told him
that the sole object of life was not to add
piastre upon piastre, and heap dollar upon
dollar. Man, according to him, was created
for other objects than to gather stores which
he could never consume. The pursuit of
knowledge and the acquisition of wisdom, the
search after the nature and the reasons of
things, were not to be abandoned only to men
of feeble body and wandering intellects,
incapable of overreaching a customer or grappling
with the intricacies of a bargain. Study was
not quite unworthy of a noble spirit; and the
sentences garnered up by the wise, of times
gone by, were sometimes of more value than
gold and silver.

These odd notions led Cathalla to adopt a
singular kind of life. His father, whose
approval he had won as much by obstinacy as by
reason, allowed him to purchase all the old
manuscripts he could find, and to fit up a
room in a retired part of the house they
inhabited, where he spent the greater portion of
his time, growing paler as he grew wiser.
What he learned it would be too long to
relate. The general result was that he
acquired a very different mode of viewing
thoughts and actions from all around him,
and came to consider things unlawful, which
everybody else regarded as perfectly proper.
But he did not crave happiness. It is a terrible
thing to make a code of morals for oneself,
and to quit the path of custom. Meditation
easily finds truth; but the will is not
always strong enough to obey it. Cathalla.
became soon dissatisfied with himself as he
was with the world. He lost the health
of his mind as well as that of his body.

Suddenly, he threw his books aside and
took to wandering forth through the city,
especially by night, when the narrow streets
were deserted, save by some unhappy man in
search of rest or booty, or by an occasional
party of worthy citizens protected by lanterns
and the loudness of their voices, or by the
watch moving along with heavy tramp. At
such times, when the tranquil moon threw
down patches of silver between the near
houses, and the starry sky could be seen in
strips over head; when the sound softly shook
the leaves of the palm trees that drooped
over the lofty walls, and the owl hooted from
the pinnacle of some ruined building; Cathalla
thought that he felt his mind enlarge and rise
in stature, so that high-placed truth was
nearer to his grasp. But, he did not quite
understand all the emotions that troubled
him. There were times when he yearned after
something different from the old aphorisms of
philosophywhen " to know " appeared no
longer all in all, and he aspired likewise " to
be." " Is this existence? " he would say.
"What purpose do I fulfil in this world? The
men whom I disdain, belong to the great
machine of humanity. They buy, they sell, they
cultivate, they go forth in ships, they tread
the desert, they govern and give judgment in
causes. When they disappear, there is joy
or sorrow. But, if I go to sleep under this
dark archway, who will miss me but the old
man living in a lonely house, too far on the way
to Paradise for bitter regret? " In truth,
Cathalla yearned to love and to be loved; and in
such moods of mind, from every lattice
overhead, he thought he heard passionate
whispers, and soft salutations, and tender sighs,