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Full text of "In the desert of waiting; the legend of Camel-back mountain"

NYPL RESEARCH LIBRARIES 




V 3433 08235409 7 









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Desert of Waiting 

THE LEGEND OF 
CAMEL-BACK MOUNTAIN 



THE HEW TORK 

PUBLIC LIBRARY 



ASTOF. ! 

DATLONS 

R L 



IN 

THE DESERT 
OF WAITING 

THE LEGEND OF 
CAMEL-BACK MOUNTAIN 



BY 



Annie Fellows Johnston 

Author of "The Little Colonel Series," " Big 
Brother," " Joel: A Boy of Galilee," etc. 



" Thy alchemist Contentment be " 

— SADI 



BOSTON 

L. C. PAGE fr COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 

D^ ( 




9 




Copyright, 1904, by L. C. PAGE& COMPANY 

(Incorporated) 

Copyright, 1905, by L. C. PAGE& COMPANY 
{Incorporated} 



A U rights reserved 



Fifth Impression, October, 1907 




THE NEW YORK 

PUBLIC L T BRARY 

92S125A 

ASTOR, LENOX AND 

FOUNDATIONS 

1937 L 



f 



^ <3 



WH"^ 








O ye, who vainly question 
Why there must ever lie twixt 

man 

And the far City of his Desire 
Some desert waste of disap- 
pointment, 
Where he must watch the 

Caravan 

Pass on and leave him with 

his baffled hopes, 

Here is the reason, 

By the grace of Allah, 

Read! 



[I] 



ONCE upon a time, 
a caravan set out 
across the desert, 
laden with merchandise 
for a far distant market. 
Some of the camels bore 
in their packs wine-skins 
that held the richest vin- 
tage of the Orient. Some 
bore tapestries and some 
carried dyestuffs and the 
silken fruits of the loom. 




On Shapur's camel was a 
heavy load of salt. 

The hope of each mer- 
chant was to reach the 
City of his Desire before 
the Golden Gate should 
close. There were other 
gates by which they 
might enter, but this one, 
opening only once a year 
to admit the visiting Ra- 
jahs from sister cities, af- 
forded a rare opportunity 
to those fortunate enough 
to arrive at the same 
time. It was the privi- 
lege of any who might 
fall in with the royal 

» 





jn t&t 2De0ert ot 



retinue, to follow in the 
train to the palace of the 
ruling Rajah, and thus 
gain access to its court- 
yards. Wares displayed 
there for sale often 
brought fabulous sums, 
a hundred fold greater, 
sometimes, than when 
offered in the open 
market. 

Only to a privileged 
few would the Golden 
Gate swing open at any 
other time. It would turn 
on its hinges for a mes- 
senger sent at a king's 
behest, or to any one bear- 




[3] 



3n tljt SDWtt of flfllaftfng; 

ing wares so rare and 
precious that only princes 
could purchase, but no 
common vendor could 
hope to pass its shining 
portal, save in the rear of 
the train that yearly fol- 
lowed the Rajahs. 

So they urged their 
beasts with all diligence. 
Foremost in the caravan 
and most zealous of all 
was Shapur. In his heart 
burned the desire to be 
the first one to enter the 
Golden Gate, and the first 
one at the palace with his 
wares. But half way 



**IIr 

a 



Jn tfre SDegert of dfllaitmg 

across the desert, as they 
paused at an oasis to rest, 
a dire lameness fell upon 
his camel, and it sank 
upon the sand. In vain 
he urged it to continue its 
journey. The poor beast 
could not rise under its 
great load. 

Sack by sack he les- 
sened its burden, throw- 
ing it off grudgingly and 
with sighs, for he was 
minded to lose as little as 
possible of his prospec- 
tive fortune. But even 
rid of the entire load the 
camel could not rise, and 




[5] 



3Jn t&e SDegfett ot 



So he sat upon the 
ground, his head bowed 
in his hands. Water there 
was for him to drink, and 
the fruit of the date palm, 
and the cooling shade of 
many trees; but he 
counted them all as 
naught. A fever of un- 
rest consumed him. A 
baffled ambition bowed 
his head in the dust. 
When he looked at his 
poor camel kneeling in 
the sand he cried out, 
" Ah, woe is me ! Of all 
men I am most miser- 
able ! Of all dooms mine 




[8] 



Hit tttf 2De0m of 



is most unjust! Why 
should I, with life beating 
strong in my veins, and 
ambition like a burning 
simoon in my breast, be 
left here helpless on the 
sands, where I can achieve 
nothing and make no 
progress towards the City 
of my Desire ? " 

One day, as he sat thus 
under the palms, a bee 
buzzed about him. He 
brushed it away, but it 
returned so persistently 
that he looked up with 
languid interest. 

Where there are bees 



" 




[9] 



Jn tfje SDegert of Waiting; 

there must be honey/' he 
said. " If there be any 
sweetness in this desert, 
better that I should go in 
its quest than sit here 
bewailing my fate." 

Leaving the camel 
browsing by the foun- 
tain he followed the bee. 
For many miles he pur- 
sued it, till far in the dis- 
tance he beheld the palm 
trees of another oasis. 
He quickened his steps, 
for an odor rare as the 
perfumes of Paradise 
floated out to meet him. 
The bee had led him 




[10] 



3fn t&e 2De0ert of 



to the rose gardens 
of Omar. 

Now Omar was an 
Kg alchemist, a sage with 
the miraculous power of 
transmuting the most 
common things of earth 
into something precious. 
The fame of his skill had 
travelled to far countries. 
So many pilgrims sought 
him to beg his wizard 
touch, that the question, 
"Where is the house of 
Omar?" was heard daily 
at the gates of the city. 
But for a generation that 
question had remained 




of 



ii ^ 

fi 



ii w 

fi 



unanswered. No man 
knew the place of the 
house of Omar since he 
had taken upon himself 
the life of a hermit. Some- 
where, they knew, in the 
solitude of the desert, he 
was practising the mys- 
teries of his art, and prob- 
ing deeper into its secrets, 
but no one could point to 
the path leading thither. 
Only the bees knew, 
and, following the bee, 
Shapur found himself in 
the old alchemist's pres- 
ence. Now Shapur was 
a youth of gracious mien, 





3Jn tfce SDesert of Waiting; 

and pleasing withal. 
With straightforward 
speech he told his story, 
and Omar, who could 
read the minds of men as 
readily as unrolled parch- 
ments, was touched by 
his tale. He bade him 
come in and be his guest 
until sundown. 

So Shapur sat at his 
board and shared his 
bread, and rose refreshed 
by his wine and his wise 
words. And at parting, 
the old man said with a 
keen glance into his eyes: 
"Thou thinkest that be- 




[13] 



3n 



of 



cause I am Omar, with 
the power to transmute 
all common things into 
precious ones, how easily 
I could take the remnant 
of salt that is still left to 
thee in thy sack, and 
change it into gold. Then 
couldst thou go joyfully 
on to the City of thy De- 
sire, as soon as thy camel 
is able to carry thee, far 
richer for thy delay." 

Shapur's heart gave a 
bound of hope, for that is 
truly what he had been 
thinking. But at the next 
words it sank. 






3Jn tfje 2De0ett ot 



"Nay, Shapur, each 
man must be his own 
alchemist. Believe me, 
for thee the desert holds 
a greater opportunity 
than kings' houses could 
offer. Give me but thy 
patient service in this 
time of waiting, and I 
will share such secrets 
with thee that when thou 
dost finally win thee to 
the Golden Gate, it shall 
be with wares that shall 
gain for thee a royal en- 
trance." 

Then Shapur went 
back to his camel, and in 



B iBT 

il 



In tyt SDmrt ot 



cause I am Omar, with 
the power to transmute 
all common things into 
precious ones, how easily 
I could take the remnant 
of salt that is still left to 
thee in thy sack, and 
change it into gold. Then 
couldst thou go joyfully 
on to the City of thy De- 
sire, as soon as thy camel 
is able to carry thee, far 
richer for thy delay." 

Shapur's heart gave a 
bound of hope, for that is 
truly what he had been 
thinking. But at the next 
words it sank. 



^>- _— •- < 

§ 



3n tfie 2De0ett ot Qfllatting 



" 



Nay, Shapur, each 
man must be his own 
alchemist. Believe me, 
for thee the desert holds 
a greater opportunity 
than kings' houses could 
offer. Give me but thy 
patient service in this 
time of waiting, and I 
will share such secrets 
with thee that when thou 
dost finally win thee to 
the Golden Gate, it shall 
be with wares that shall 
gain for thee a royal en- 
trance." 

Then Shapur went 
back to his camel, and in 




[15] 



2fn t&e SDegert ot Mlaiting 

the cool of the evening 
urged it to its feet, and 
led it slowly across the 
sands; and because it 
could bear no burdens 
he lifted the remaining 
sack of salt to his own 
back and carried it on 
his shoulders all the way. 
When the moon shone 
white and full in the 
zenith he reached the 
rose gardens of Omar. 
He knocked on the gate, 
calling, "Here am I, 
Omar, at thy bidding, 
and here is the remnant 
of my salt. All that I 





[16] 



3fn t&e SDegert of 



have left I bring to thee, 
and stand ready now, to 
yield my patient service." 
Then Omar bade him 
lead his camel to the 
fountain, and leave him 
to browse upon the herb- 
age around it. Pointing 
to a row of great stone 
jars he said, " There is thy 
work. Every morning, 
before the sunrise, they 
must be rilled with rose- 
petals plucked from the 
myriad roses of the gar- 
den, and the petals cov- 
ered with water from the 
fountain. 



" 



3n t&e SDmrt of 



"A task for poets," 
thought Shapur, as he 
began. "What more de- 
lightful than to stand in 
the moonlighted garden 
and pluck the velvet 
leaves?' 

But after awhile the 
thorns tore his hands 
and the rustle and hiss 
underfoot betrayed the 
presence of serpents, and 
sleep weighed heavily 
upon his eyelids. It grew 
monotonous standing 
hour after hour, stripping 
the rose-leaves from the 
calyxes, until thousands 



3n 



ot Waiting; 



•^•e 

ffi 



and thousands and thou- 
sands had been dropped 
into the great jars. The 
very sweetness of the 
task began to cloy his 
senses. 

When the stars had 
faded and the East was 
beginning to brighten, old 
Omar came out. "'Tis 
well," he said, viewing 
his work. "Now break 
thy fast and then to 
slumber, to prepare for 
another sleepless night." 

So long months went 
by, till it seemed to Sha- 
pur that the garden must 




[19] 







3n t&e 



ot ^Halting; 



surely become exhausted. 
But for every rose he 
plucked another bloomed 
in its stead, and night 
after night he filled the 
jars. Still he was learn- 
ing no secrets, and as the 
deadly monotony of his 
task began to eat into 
his soul he grew restless 
and began to ask himself 
questions. "Was he not 
wasting his life? Would 
it not have been better 
to have waited by the 
other fountain until some 
caravan passed by that 
would have carried him 






Jn tfie 2Dwrt ot 



out of the desert solitude 
to the dwellings of men? 
What opportunity was 
the desert offering him 
greater than kings' 
houses could give?" 

And ever the thorns 
tore him more sorely, 
and the lonely silence of 
the night weighed upon 
him. Many a time he 
would have left his task 
had not the shadowy 
form of his camel, kneel- 
ing outside by the foun- 
tain, seemed to whisper 
to him through the star- 
light, "Patience, Shapur! 
Patience! 



" 



\^~^*^~ i 

9 




[21] 



In t&r SDtsett ot ^Hatting 

Once, far in the dis- 
tance, he saw the black 
outline of a merchant car- 
avan, passing along the 
horizon, where day was 
beginning to break. He 
did no work until it had 
passed from sight. Gaz- 
ing after it, with a fierce 
longing to follow, he pic- 
tured the scenes it; was 
moving towards --the 
gilded minarets of the 
mosques, the deep-toned 
ringing of bells, the cheer- 
ful hum of the populace, 
and all the life and stir 
of the market-place. 




[22] 



Tl^* 

6 




3n t&e SDegett ot Waiting; 

When the shadowy pro- 
cession had passed the 
great silence of the desert 
smote him like a pain. 
Again looking out he saw 
his faithful camel, and 
again it seemed to whis- 
per, "Patience, Shapur, 
Patience! So thou, too, 
shall fare forth some day 
to the City of thy De- 
sire!" 

One day in the waning 
of summer Omar called 
him into a room in which 
he had never been before. 
"Now, at last," said he, 
"thou hast proved thy- 



y- -4^ \ 

& 




[23] 



3Jn t&e 2De0ert of ^Hatting; 

self worthy to be the 
sharer of my secrets. 
Come! I will show thee. 
Thus are the roses dis- 
tilled, and thus is gath- 
ered up the precious oil 
floating on the tops of 
the vessels. Seest thou 
this tiny vial? It weighs 
but the weight of one 
rupee, but it took the 
sweetness of two hun- 
dred thousand roses to 
make the attar it con- 
tains, and so costly is it 
that only princes may 
purchase. It is worth 
more than thy entire load 




[24] 



3fn t&e SDegett ot Waiting; 

of salt that was washed 
away at the fountain." 

Shapur worked dili- 
gently at this new task, 
until there came a day 
when Omar said to him, 
"Well done, Shapur! Be- 
hold the gift of the desert, 
its reward for thy patient 
service in its solitude ! ' 

He placed in Shapur's 
hands a crystal vase, 
sealed with a seal, and 
filled with the precious 
attar. 

"Wherever thou goest 
this sweetness will open 
for thee a way and win 




[25] 



3n 



of 



for thee a welcome. 
Thou earnest into the 
desert a common vendor 
of salt, thou shalt go forth 
an Apostle of my Al- 
chemy. Wherever thou 
seest a heart bowed down 
in some Desert of Wait- 
ing, thou shalt whisper 
to it, 'Patience! Here if 
thou wilt, in these arid 
sands, thou mayst find 
thy garden of Omar, and 
even from the daily tasks 
that prick thee sorest, 
distil some precious at- 
tar to sweeten all life.' 
So like the bee that led 




[26] 



3n t&e 2De0ett ot ^Hatting 

thee to my teaching, thou 
shalt lead others to 
hope." 

Then Shapur went forth 
with the crystal vase, and 
the camel, healed in its 
long time of waiting, bore 
him swiftly across the 
sands to the City of his 
Desire. The Golden Gate, 
that would not have 
opened to the vendor of 
salt, swung wide for the 
Apostle of Omar. Princes 
brought their pearls to 
exchange for drops of his 
attar, and everywhere he 
went its sweetness opened 




3n tfie 2De0ert ot 



for him a way and won 
for him a welcome. 

Wherever he saw a 
heart bowed down in 
some Desert of Waiting 
he whispered Omar's 
words and tarried to teach 
Omar's alchemy, that 
from the commonest ex- 
periences of life may be 
distilled its greatest bless- 
ings. At his death, in 
order that men might not 
forget, he willed that his 
tomb should be made at 
a certain place where all 
caravans passed. There 
at the crossing of the 



®lr 

a 





[28] 




Tll^ 7 

fi 



"SI \O 

B 



3n tfie SDegett of 



highways he caused to 
be cut in stone that sym- 
bol of patience, the camel, 
kneeling on the sand. 
And it bore this inscrip- 
tion, which no one could 
fail to see as he toiled 
past toward the City of 
his Desire: 

"Patience! Here, if 
thou wilt, on these arid 
sands, thou mayst find 
thy Garden of Omar, and 
even from the daily tasks 
which prick thee sorest 
distil some precious attar 
to bless thee and thy 
fellow man. 



" 




[29] 



In t&e SDegert ot Plaiting 

A thousand moons 
waxed and waned above 
it, then a thousand more, 
and there arose a genera- 
tion with restless hearts, 
who set their faces ever 
Westward, following the 
sun towards a greater 
City of Desire. Strange 
seas they crossed. New 
coasts they came upon. 
Some were satisfied with 
the fair valleys that || 
tempted them to tarry, 
and built them homes 
where the fruitful hills 
whispered stay. 

But always the sons of 




[30] 



Jn t&e SDegert of ^Hatting; 

Shapur pushed ahead, to 
pitch their tents a day's 
march nearer the City of 
their Desire, nearer the 
Golden Gate which 
opened every sunset to 
let the royal Rajah of 
the Day pass through. 
Like a mirage that daily 
vision lured them on, 
showing them a dream 
gate of Opportunity, al- 
ways just ahead, yet ever 
out of reach. 

As in the days of Sha- 
pur, so it was in the days 
of his sons. There were 
some who fell by the way, 




ot 



• -^ — -^~* 

1 




and, losing all that made 
life dear, cried out as the 
caravans passed on with- 
out them, that Allah had 
forgotten them ; and they 
cursed the day that they 
were born, and laid hope- 
less heads in the dust. 

But Allah, the Merciful, 
who from the beginning 
knew what Desert of 
Waiting must lie between 
every son of Shapur and 
the City of his Desire, had 
long before stretched out 
his hand over one of the 
mountains of his conti- 
nent. With earthquake 





[32] 





I ^n^^^ 

8 



3in tfje 2De0trt of Sfllatting 

shock it sank before him. 
With countless hammer 
strokes of hail and rain- 
drops, and with gleaming 
rills he chiselled it, till as 
the centuries rolled by it 
took the semblance of 
that symbol of patience, 
a camel, kneeling there 
at the passing of the ways. 
And now, to every heart 
bowed down and hope- 
less, it whispers the lesson 
that Shapur learned in his 
weary Desert of Waiting : 
" Patience! Thou earn- 
est into the desert a ven- 
dor of salt; thou mayst 




[33] 




m 

3Jn t$e 2Dmtt ot 



go forth an alchemist, 
distilling from life's tasks 
and sorrows such pre- 
cious attar in thy soul, 
that its sweetness shall 
win for thee a welcome 
wherever thou goest, and 
a royal entrance into the 
City of thy Desire I 



" 



THE END 




[34] 



[35] 




AND this, O Son of Sha- 
-^~J^ pur, is the secret of 
Omar's alchemy : To gather 
something from every one 
thou passest on the highway, 
and from every experience 
fate sends thee, as Omar 
gathered from the heart of 
every rose, and out of the 
wide knowledge thus gained 
of human weaknesses and hu- 
man needs, to distil in thine 

own heart the precious oil of 

i 

Sympathy. That is the attar 



3n t&e SDegett ot 



that shall win for thee a wel- 
come wherever thou goest 
And no man fills his crystal 
vase with it until he has first 
been pricked by the world's 
disappointments, and bowed 
by its tasks. 

Thou vendor of salt, who, 
as yet, canst follow only in the 
train of others, is not any 
waiting well worth the while, 
if, in the end, it shall give 
thee wares with which to 
gain a royal entrance ? 



v~ -- •*" • 

9 



v -=.*^ < 

9 





[36] 



•;