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Full text of "Marco Polo, his travels and adventures"

MARCO POLO 



TOWLE 






MARCO STUDYING THE CHARTS. Pagre 27. 



1,1 UK A til 

UNIVERSITY OF 



YOUNG FOLKS' HEROES OF HISTORY. 



MARCO POLO 



H I S TR A VE LS 



ADVENTURES 



GEORGE MAKEPEACE TOWLE 

Author of " VASCO DA GAMA," " PIZARRO," " MAGELLAN," etc. 



BOSTON : 

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO. 



COPYRIGHT, i8o> 
Br LEE & SHEPARD. 
Jt*sfn*t. 




PREFACE. 



|HE reader is carried back, in the present 
volume, to a period two centuries previous to 
the discovery of the route to India by Vasco 
da Gama, and to the conquest of Peru by Pizarro. A 
young Venetian of the thirteenth century, brought up 
amid luxury and wealth, of a bold spirit and a curious 
mind, went forth from his home in the beautiful Queen 
City of the Adriatic, and for many years lived among 
a far-off Asiatic people, and at a court of barbaric and 
yet splendid pomp. 

He made many far and dangerous journeyings in the 
wild distant lands and among the fierce tribes of Cathay, 
Thibet, India, and Abyssinia. His life was passed 
amid an almost incessant succession ot exciting events, 
of strange adventures, and of hair-breadth escapes. 
He rose to high distinction and power at the Tartar 
court of the mighty Kublai Khan, one of the most 
famous conquerors and potentates who ever, in either 

iii 



IV PREFACE. 

ancient or modern times, have led legions to devas- 
tating wars, or have ruled teeming millions with des- 
potic sway. 

Nor did his career of valor and stirring action end 
with his return, middle-aged and laden with riches, to 
his native Venice. He engaged in the bitter warfare 
between the two rival republics of the sea, Venice 
and Genoa; became a prisoner of the latter state; 
and while in prison, dictated the wondrous narrative 
of his adventures which still survives, a precious legacy 
left by this great traveller to later generations. 

I have attempted to transform the somewhat dry 
and monotonous translation of this narrative into an 
entertaining story, that may engage the attention and 
the interest of my young readers ; for which it cer- 
tainly presents ample opportunities. If the task is 
properly done, no one can fail to follow Marco Polo 
from his Venetian home, across the entire continent 
of Asia to the court of Kublai Khan, and in his various 
adventures and journeys while in the far-off Orient, 
without eager curiosity and ever-deepening interest. 
The central figure of the story is heroic, for Marco 
Polo was in all things manly, brave, persevering, in- 
telligent, and chivalrous ; and the scenes and incidents 
in which he was the leading actor were in the highest 
degree thrilling and dramatic. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. PAGE 

THE RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. * 

CHAPTER II. 
MARCO POLO'S YOUTH. . l8 

CHAPTER III. 
MARCO POLO SETS FORTH *9 

CHAPTER IV. 
MARCO POLO'S TRAVELS IN PERSIA AND TURKISTAN. . . 45 

CHAPTER V. 
MARCO POLO REACHES CATHAY. 61 

CHAPTER VI. 
THE IMPERIAL HUNTING GROUNDS 78 

CHAPTER VII. 
THE COURT OF THE GREAT KHAN 93 

CHAPTER VIII. 
MARCO POLO AMONG THE TARTARS *9 

CHAPTER IX. 
MARCO POLO'S TRAVELS IN CATHAY. 124 

CHAPTER X. 

MARCO POLO'S RETURN X 39 

V 



VI CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XI. 
MARCO POLO m THE EASTERN SEAS. 155 

CHAPTER XII. 
MARCO POLO AMONG THE HINDOOS 170 

CHAPTER XIII. 
MARCO POLO IN AFRICA ^5 

CHAPTER XIV. 
HOMEWARD BOUND aoo 

CHAPTER XV. 
A STRANGE WELCOME. .... .... 316 

CHAPTER XVI. 

MARCO POLO GOES TO THE WARS. 232 

CHAPTER XVII. 

MARCO POLO A PRISONER. 248 

CHAPTER XVIII. 
LAST DAYS or MARCO POLO. aC 




MARCO POLO. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. 

lEAUTIFUL as Venice now is, in the 
days of its stagnation and decay, it was a 
yet more beautiful city seven centuries 
ago. Then its quays and Grand Canal were 
crowded with the ships of every nation ; its 
bazaars and marts were bustling with active trade, 
and were picturesque in the mingling of the gay 
and brilliant costumes of the East, with the more 
sober attire of the European peoples ; its noble 
and lofty palaces, not yet, as we now see them, 
hoary and dilapidated, rose in fresh splendor 
from the verge of its watery and winding streets ; 
the dome of St. Mark's shone with new gilding, 



2 MARCO POLO. 

and its walls with recent frescoing; the Piazza. 
was nightly crowded with throngs of gallant nobles 
and cavaliers, long-bearded, prosperous merchants, 
and bevies of fair dames, whose black veils swept 
from their fair foreheads to their dainty feet. 
Venice was not only a queen among commercial 
cities, but a great warlike power ; with brave and 
well-disciplined armies, hardy captains, formid- 
able fleets, and proud strongholds, where, on 
either shore of the sparkling Adriatic, she held 
her own valiantly, against Turk, Austrian, and 
Genoese. 

Mighty princes sought the hands of the daugh- 
ters of Venice in marriage ; the Doges who ruled 
over the stately city were greeted by Emperors 
and Kings as their brothers and equals ; the con- 
quests of Venice reached to Asia and to Africa ; 
her ships rode the purple waters of the Mediter- 
ranean in haughty defiance of the galleys of her 
rivals. Around the patriarchal Doges was gathered 
a gorgeous court. There were festal days when 
the Grand Canal, bordered by palaces on either 
side, was crowded thick with gilded and canopied 
barges, and interminable lines of gondolas, each 
gay craft filled with richly attired cavaliers and 



THE RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. 3 

dames, on whom jewels sparkled, and above whom 
rose many-colored banners that announced their 
rank and station; while, after night-fall, the air 
was alive with the most dazzling fire-works, which 
fairly hid moon, stars, and the heaven's canopy 
from view. 

It is in Venice, at this period of her greatness 
and glory, that our story opens. 

A mellow, hazy autumn day was drawing to 
its close. The sky was lit with that soft, rich, 
yellow sunset glow, which has always been re- 
marked as one of the loveliest sights to be seen 
at Venice ; the last rays of the sun glittered 
upon the gilded dome of Saint Mark's; the 
broad square before the ancient cathedral was 
beginning to fill with its evening multitude of 
cavaliers and coquettes. In the Grand Canal, and 
the glassy lagoon beyond, the gondoliers lazily 
plied their long oars, or rested their gondolas on 
the still waters. It was an hour in which what- 
ever there was of activity and bustle in Venice, 
became indolent and tranquil ; when men and 
women sought their ease under a sky which com- 
pelled serenity and reverie. In the bazaars, on 
the Rialto, and the Piazza, the stalls were laden 



4 MARCO POLO* 

with bunches of large and luscious grapes, with 
figs of many colors, so ripe that the gummy juice 
oozed from them, and with pomegranates, upon 
whose cheeks glowed the rich red bloom which 
betrayed their full ripeness ; and there was scarcely 
to be seen a Venetian of the lower class, who was 
not munching some of the succulent fruit which 
his climate produced in such cheap and varied 
abundance. 

Not far from the centre of the beautiful city, 
on one of the many canals which serve it instead 
of streets, stood a lofty mansion, which, at one's 
first approach, seemed two. Three stories in 
height, it towered above many of the surround- 
ing buildings ; and between its two wings stood 
an archway, richly decorated with scrolls and 
figures of animals, surmounted by an ornate cross ; 
while, above the archway, rose a tall square tower. 
Entering the archway, you would have found 
yourself in a spacious, paved court-yard, which the 
house, quadrangular in shape, completely en- 
closed. The inner walls were adorned, like the 
archway, with sculptured devices, among which 
you might have observed a coat-of-arms, compris- 
ing a shield, with a wide bar running across it, 



THE RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. 5 

upon which were graven three birds. The whole 
mansion was stately and imposing, and betokened 
that its possessors were at once rich and of high 
rank. 

On the late afternoon which has been described, 
an unusual bustle was going on in and near this 
house. It was full of gayly-dressed people, old 
and young, all of whom were evidently in a state 
of excitement. Servants hurried to and fro in 
the corridors ; in the pretty balconies which were 
built at the windows facing the canal of San 
Giovanni Crisostomo, were gathered groups of 
cavaliers and ladies, who were leaning over and 
peering eagerly out to the end of the watery 
thoroughfare, as if they were anxiously expecting 
an arrival. 

In the main hall of the mansion, a vast apart- 
ment, approached from the court-yard by a broad 
flight of stone steps, and entered by a high and 
richly-sculptured portal stood a knot of persons 
who seemed even more excited than the rest. 
One was a tall and dignified man, clad in a long 
blue cloak, his head covered by a slashed blue and 
white cap, from which rose an ostrich feather. 
He wore a long, brown beard, just streaked with 



6 MARCO POLO. 

gray; his dark face was flushed, and every ma 
ment he approached the door, and questioned the 
servants posted in the court-yard. On either side 
of him stood two youths, one fifteen and the 
other thirteen, both very richly attired, and both 
the very pictures of boyish freshness and beauty. 
The elder was tall for his age, and his form 
was straight, graceful, and well-knit. A pair of 
bright gray eyes, a nose rather longer than me- 
dium, full red lips, and a handsome round chin, 
comprised his features , the expression of his face 
was at once energetic and pleasing ; his move- 
ments were quick and nervous ; and every now 
and then he turned to the cavalier beside him, 
and talked rapidly in a strong, musical voice. The 
younger boy, while he closely resembled his 
brother, was of more gentle mould and manners. 
The one seemed made to be a warrior, to play an 
active, perhaps a heroic part, in the struggling 
world. The other appeared born to be a courtier, 
to shine in the society of elegant women, to be 
rather a favorite of the polite world, than a man 
of deeds. While the younger clung to the cava- 
lier's arm with sort of air of dependence, the elder 
bore himself erect, as if quite able to take care 
of himself. 



THE RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. J 

All at once loud and joyous cries were heard 
from the balconies in front of the house; and 
presently down rushed their occupants into the 
hall, whither all the others who were in the house 
flocked in a twinkling. 

" They are coming! They are coming!" were 
the words that went eagerly around. The two 
lads were seized and embraced by the ladies ; the 
elder's eyes kindled with delight as he hurried to 
the door; his brother danced up and down, and 
clapped his hands, while tears of happiness flowed 
over his rosy cheeks. 

In the court-yard there was the greatest noise 
and confusion. The retainers of the household 
gathered in two rows at the archway, while the 
steward, a portly personage, in a tunic, with a 
heavy chain around his neck, and a long staff in 
his hand, passed out upon the landing to welcome 
the new-comers. 

He was soon seen returning, walking backwards, 
and bowing, as he came, almost to the ground. 
In another moment, the travellers who had been 
so anxiously awaited, slowly walked through the 
archway, and greeted the excited group before 
them. 



8 MARCO POLO. 

A strange appearance, indeed, did the two tall, 
bronzed men present to those who were gazing 
at them. Instead of the rich and elegant Vene- 
tian costume of the day, their forms were covered 
with what seemed rough and barbarous garments. 
From their shoulders to their feet they were ar 
rayed in long, loose gowns, or great-coats, one of 
them made of shaggy fur ; while on their heads 
were fur caps. Their feet were incased in rude- 
shoes, which turned up at the toes ; while at their 
sides, instead of the long, slender Venetian sword, 
hung broad, heavy, curved scimitars. In their 
hands they carried stout sticks ; slung across their 
shoulders were long, furry bags. Not less strange 
were their faces. Both wore long, shaggy, grizzled 
hair, which fell in thick masses to their shoulders ; 
the beards of both were long and tangled, and 
covered their cheeks almost to their eyes ; their 
skin was rough and brown, and here and there a 
seamed scar betokened that they had met with 
fierce and savage enemies. 

No sooner had they appeared than the elder of 
the two boys pushed his way through the crowd, 
which parted to let him pass, and rushed up to 
the new-comers as if to throw himself into the 




RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. Page 8. 



THE RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. 9 

arms of one of them. But when he came close to 
them, he suddenly stopped short. In place of 
the light of joy, a puzzled and pained expression 
came across his handsome face. He looked, first 
at one and then at the other ; peered into their 
countenances, and seemed quite at a loss which 
to embrace first. His trouble, however, was 
soon relieved. The stouter, and evidently the 
elder of the travellers, advanced and folded him 
in his arms. 

"Surely," said he, in a hoarse, low voice, "this 
is my beloved Marco ! No wonder you did not 
know me, child ; for when I went away, you were 
but an infant, six years old. And how has it 
been with you? Thank heaven, I find you well 
and strong. But where where is Maffeo?" 

The traveller looked eagerly around ; and 
then the younger boy resolved his anxiety by 
leaping into his arms. 

The two boys were clasped close at last to 
their father's breast. He kissed them on both 
cheeks, and patted their heads, and lifted their 
chins with his finger, the better to scan their 
faces. Then the tears coursed down his bronzed 
face ; and raising his hands aloft, he made a silent 



IO MARCO POLO. 

prayer of thanksgiving, that he had returned home 
from far-distant lands, and an absence of many 
years, to find his darling sons alive and well. 

Meanwhile the other traveller found a welcome 
not less loving. A comely dame had thrown her 
arms around his neck, and was holding him tight, 
overjoyed to find her husband by her side once 
more; and two fair young girls, his daughters, 
were disputing with their mother his caresses. 
Then it came the turn of the other relatives and 
old friends of the wanderers to greet them and 
overwhelm them with endearments ; and, before 
these greetings were over, night had fallen, and 
the court-yard was lit up by the torches which the 
servants had fetched and lighted. 

The scene then changed to the great hall, 
which, while the merry-making had been going 
on in the court-yard, had been quickly trans- 
formed into a banqueting-room. Two long rows 
of tables, decked out with a profusion of flowers, 
and profusely laden with a bounteous, smoking- 
hot supper, were ranged throughout its length ; 
while the apartment was lit up by hundreds of 
wax candles, which gleamed from gilded candel- 
abra fixed along the walls. The servants, clad in 



THE RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. II 

the livery of the house, stood beside the tables, 
ready to serve the many guests ; who poured in 
and took their places, and waited till the two 
travellers re-appeared. 

The latter had gone up to their chambers, to 
enjoy a moment with their families in private, and 
to exchange their outlandish garments for their 
native costume. They ere long descended, clad 
in splendid suits of velvet, and took their places 
at the heads of the two tables, their children on 
either side of them. Very late that night, it may 
well be believed, was the revel of welcome kept 
up. The travellers, at last finding themselves 
cozily at home, with all who were dear around 
them, their appetites sated with delicious dishes 
and warming wines, their bodies rested from the 
long journey, grew very merry and talkative, and 
launched out into long stories of their adventures. 

For nine long years they had been absent from 
Venice, and only once or twice had they either 
heard news from home, or been able to send tid- 
ings of themselves to their families and friends. 
The elder, Nicolo, had left his two boys scarcely 
more than infants, in the care of their aunt and 
of their uncle Marco, the cavalier who has ben 



12 MARCO POLO. 

described as awaiting, in the great hall, the 
travellers' return. 

The two brothers had set out, at first, with the 
intention of making a trading journey to Con- 
stantinople, and then to the countries bordering 
on the Black Sea ; for they were not only Vene- 
tian nobles, but merchants as well. It was no 
uncommon thing in those days for Venetian 
noblemen to engage in commerce; and in this 
way the nobility of that city long maintained 
themselves in wealth and power, when the nobles 
of other Italian cities fell into poverty and decay. 

Nicolo had taken his wife with him to Constan- 
tinople ; and soon after their arrival there, she had 
died. The two little boys who had been left at 
home, thus became motherless. At first Nicolo 
was overcome with grief. He lost all desire, for 
the time, to return home ; and now resolved to 
extend his travels further East than he had ori- 
ginally planned. After remaining awhile at Con- 
stantinople, the brothers crossed the Black Sea 
and tarried sometime in the Crimea, the promon- 
tory which was, centuries after, to become a fam- 
ous battle ground between the Russians on one 
side, and the English, French, and Turks on the 



THE RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. 13 

other. While in the Crimea, they succeeded in 
making some profitable trading ventures; and 
they learned, moreover, that further East there 
were countries rich in goods and treasures, 
though warlike in temper and barbarous in cus- 
toms. Nicolo finally persuaded his brother Maffeo 
to venture further, and to join him in penetrat- 
ing the remote countries of which they heard so 
much. 

They first ascended the great river Volga, 
which flows for so long a distance through the 
vast territory now comprised in the Russian Em- 
pire, and entered what is now called, on the 
maps, Central Asia. They stopped at Bokhara, 
then the seat of a rude and warlike court, but 
where they were well treated ; then sped on their 
way still further east, and continued their jour- 
ney, pausing at the various Asiatic capitals, cross- 
ing now vast deserts, now bleak and lofty steppes, 
now lovely and luxuriant valleys, now dense and 
seemingly interminable forests, until they found 
themselves among the curious, squint-eyed, pig- 
tailed, small-footed, ingenious race whom we now 
call the Chinese. 

Of course their journey was far from rapid. 



14 MARCO POLO. 

They proceeded for the most part on horse-back, 
although sometimes they perched themselves on 
the humps of camels, or rode aloft on the broad 
backs of elephants. It took not only months, but 
years, to reach the limit of their journey. They 
were often delayed by savage Asiatic wars, which 
made further progress dangerous. Sometimes 
they were forcibly detained in the rude towns by 
the ruling khans, who insisted on being enter- 
tained with accounts of European marvels. Now 
and then they were in terrible peril of their lives 
from the attacks of barbarian brigands, who as- 
sailed them in lonely solitudes. Meanwhile, they 
were able to observe the great riches which many 
of the Asiatic potentates displayed ; the beautiful 
fabrics which Asiatic skill and taste and love of 
gorgeous colors could produce ; the astonishing 
variety and luxuriance of the Oriental vegetation, 
and the many strange animals, birds and reptiles 
which peopled the forests, and had their lairs and 
nests in the deep, rank, overgrown jungles. 

Europeans had long suspected the existence, in 
a remote part of Asia, of a powerful and splendid 
empire, which they had come to speak of as 
Cathay. Indeed, accounts kept coming from time 



THE RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. 15 

to time of the exploits of the sovereign of Cathay, 
and no less of the wisdom and energy of his rule. 
It was towards this mysterious land that the 
brothers now wended their way; resolved to dis- 
cover, if possible, whether such a land really ex- 
isted, and to see for themselves the mighty mon- 
arch who reigned over it. 

After long years of wandering, they at last 
reached Cathay, which they found to really and 
truly exist ; nor, as they saw, had any of the ac- 
counts of it which had come to their ears in Venice, 
at all exaggerated its extent, wealth, and power. 
The monarch, they saw, was indeed a great and 
wise ruler, a man of far higher intelligence than 
the Asiatic princes they had before met, and 
a host who welcomed them with gracious 
hospitality, and made them quite at home at his 
court. 

His name was Kublai Khan, and his sway ex- 
tended over a large portion of Eastern China. He 
was delighted with his Venetian guests, and plied 
them with questions about the continent from 
whence they came. They found, too, that he 
was deeply interested in Christianity, about which 
he eagerly and constantly asked them ; declaring 



l6 MARCO POLO. 

that he himself would introduce Christianity into 
Cathay. 

After the brothers had spent a long period at 
the court of Kublai Khan, they began to feel 
homesick, and to wish to bear back to Venice the 
story of the wonderful things they had seen and 
heard. At first, Kublai Khan was very loth to 
part with them. He was very fond of their society 
and conversation, and he had learned a great many 
things from them, useful to his government. 
Seeing, however, that they were bent on return- 
ing home, he finally consented to take leave of 
them; but before he did so, he made them 
solemnly promise that they would come back to 
Cathay again. This they did, although at that 
time they were very doubtful whether they would 
fulfil their pledge. 

The khan then gave them an important mis- 
sion to the pope of Rome. He desired very much, 
he said, that the pope should send a large number 
of educated missionaries to Cathay, to convert his 
people to Christianity, and to civilize and polish 
his semi-barbarous subjects, so that they might 
become like Europeans. 

The brothers were only too glad to bear this 



THE RETURN OF THE WANDERERS. I/ 

message to the pope ; for they were both good 
Christians, and they knew with what pleasure the 
head of the Church would receive the news that 
the monarch of Cathay was not only willing, but 
eager, that his people should embrace the Chris- 
tian faith. 

Their journey back home was unattended by 
any serious accident, though it was a long, weary, 
and dangerous one. At last, in the spring of 1269, 
their eyes were rejoiced to greet the waters of the 
Mediterranean at Acre, where they remained 
several months, and from whence they sailed, in 
a Venetian galley, directly to their native city. 
They soon safely reached the familiar bay, and 
were welcomed with open arms, as we have seen, 
by their long-waiting relatives and friends. 



1 8 MARCO POLO. 



CHAPTER II. 

MARCO POLO'S YOUTH. 




POLO for the reader has already 
guessed that the elder of the two boys 
who had welcomed their father home 
was Marco Polo was born amid surroundings of 
wealth and luxury. His family was a noble one, 
and held high rank in Venice. His father, Nicolo, 
before he made his memorable journey to the 
court of Kublai Khan, had both inherited and 
amassed riches. Marco suffered in early life none 
of those privations which have hardened so many 
great travellers and discoverers, and have accus- 
tomed them to lives of peril and rough adven- 
ture. From his most tender years, he had not 
known what it was to wish for anything beyond 
his reach. Fine clothes, plenty of playmates, 
petting, fond parents, all the pleasures enjoyed 
by the children of his time, were his. 



MARCO POLO'S YOUTH. 19 

Instead of going to school, he was taught at 
home by tutors and governesses ; and happily 
his own tastes led him to find study interesting, 
so that he became a better scholar than most 
boys of his age. He especially loved history and 
narratives of adventure and discovery, and it was 
often difficult to persuade him to leave his books 
and go to bed. He was fond, too, of geography, 
and was wont to puzzle for hours over such rude 
maps and charts as he could lay his hands on ; 
though at that period, the maps and charts in ex- 
istence were but few, and represented but here 
and there patches of the world. 

The Polo family lived all together in the great 
mansion that has been described. Marco's uncle, 
whose name also was Marco, was the eldest 
brother, and when Nicolo and Maffeo went on 
their travels, remained in Venice to retain charge 
of the important trading-house which they car- 
ried on in common. This elder Marco was a 
kindly, though rather proud and stately man ; 
and while he treated his little nephews, deprived 
as they were both of father and mother, with 
gentleness, he kept a close watch upon their hab- 
its and conduct. As the phrase is, he " brought 



2O MARCO POLO. 

them up well ;" and once in a great while, when 
young Marco's high spirits betrayed him into wild 
pranks, his uncle would shut him up in one of the 
remote rooms of the house. On this occasion the 
little fellow would beg, as a special favor, that 
one of his books might keep him company, and 
when his uncle refused this, the punishment he 
inflicted was indeed a severe one. 

Besides their uncle, Marco and young Maffeo 
were left in the care of their aunt, the wife of 
that uncle who had gone away with their father ; 
and their daily companions were their two cousins, 
the daughters of this aunt, not far from their own 
age. But their aunt was a fine lady of the doge's 
court, and was always going to balls, the theatre, 
or galas in the lagoon ; and so they saw but little 
of her. Marco and his brother spent many happy 
hours in their gondolas, which they themselves 
learned to manage with skill ; and once in a while 
as they grew older, their uncle took them with 
him on hunting expeditions on the main land. 

At this period, ferocious wars were continually 
going on between Venice and its great maritime 
rival, the republic of Genoa. Both struggled for 
the supremacy of Mediterranean commerce, and 



MARCO POLO S YOUTH- 2l 

sought to gain as many military stations and 
fortresses as possible on the islands and seaboards 
of the Levant. In these wars, Venice up to this 
time had been generally successful; the time was, 
indeed, drawing near when the Genoese would be- 
come the conquerors ; but it had not yet come. 

It was one of Marco's chief delights to watch 
the brilliant arrays of troops as they were re- 
viewed by the doge in the Piazza before leaving 
for the seat of conflict : and to haunt the quays 
and watch the preparations for departure of the 
quaint war-galleys of the age. He caught the 
martial spirit which was then in the air, and often 
longed to be old enough to go to the wars and fight 
under the proud flag of Venice ; and thus came 
to have adventurous and military tastes. He 
was not destined to indulge these tastes for many 
years to come ; but the time was, long after, to 
arrive, when he would engage in furious battle 
with his country's foes, and have a romantic 
and thrilling experience in the fortunes of war. 

At the period of his father's return from Cathay. 
Marco, as has been said, was fifteen years of age, 
a bright, promising boy, intelligent beyond his 
age, and a great favorite with all who knew him. 



22 MARCO POLO. 

It may well be believed that he was delighted tc 
*ee his father once more, after the lapse of so 
many years ; and to hear from his lips the tale 
of his many and marvellous adventures in the 
East. Nicolo, on his side, was rejoiced to find 
his elder son grown up to be so vigorous and at- 
tractive a youth, and was extremely proud of 
him. He freely indulged Marco's desire to hear 
him recount his adventures ; and used to sit talk- 
ing with him for hours together. He soon per- 
ceived that Marco had a keen taste for a life of 
stirring adventure, and was far from displeased to 
make the discovery. 

One day, when Nicolo had been at home for 
several months, he was chatting with Marco, and 
happened to say that he had given his promise to 
Kublai Khan to return to Cathay. 

" And you will go, sir, will you not ?" eagerly 
asked Marco. " You will keep your promise to 
the great king?" 

" In truth, I know not," was the father's reply. 
"There are many things to keep me at home. 
These wars interfere much with our trade, and it 
needs all three of us brothers to be here to look 
after it. The journey to Cathay, too, is not only 



MARCO POLO'S YOUTH. 2J 

long and dreary, but dangerous. The man who goes 
thither, holds his life, every hour, in his hand. 
At any moment, a hidden enemy may despatch 
him before he can lift a weapon ; or, he may be 
lost on the great deserts, and die of sheer thirst 
and starvation. Then, my son, how can I leave 
you and your brother again, for so long a time? 
It would be too hard to part from you ; to be 
far away, and not able to watch you, as month 
by month you grow towards manhood. On the 
other hand, there are vast riches to be had in 
Cathay ; and noble service to be done for our 
Holy Church, by once more venturing thither." 
" But, father," replied Marco, grasping Nicolo's 
arm, " you need not leave me behind. I beg you 
to go, and to let me go with you ! Surely I am 
old enough and big enough now to go anywhere. 
Think, sir, I shall be soon sixteen : why, that is 
almost a man. Look, I am almost as tall as you 
are now. I can handle a sword, javelin, and 
cross-bow as well as any boy of my age ; I am 
strong and well, and can walk and ride with the 
stoutest. My uncle Maffeo said, the other day, 
I would make a fine soldier, young as I am. Pray, 
sir, let me go with you to Cathay 1" 



24 MARCO POLO. 

Nicolo smiled, and patted the eager boy's 
flushed cheek ; but gently shook his head. 

"You ask, dear Marco," said he, "what cannot 
be. What ! Do you suppose I would risk your 
young life amid those fierce Tartar tribes, those 
frightful jungles, those dreary, trackless wastes ? 
And even if you reached Cathay in safety, do you 
think I would trust you with that Eastern despot, 
Kublai Khan, who might take it into his wilful 
head to separate you from me, and keep you for- 
ever? No, no, Marco, I should not dare take you, 
even if I went." 

Marco hung his head in deep disappointment. 
He had long had it in his "heart to implore his 
father to let him return with him to Cathay ; and 
now Nicolo's words chilled and grieved him. 
But he was not easily discouraged. In spite of 
his father's refusal, he resolved to leave no per- 
suasion untried. Again and again he returned to 
the subject that absorbed his mind ; but all his 
pleading might have been in vain, had it not been 
that a powerful ally took up his cause. This 
was his uncle Maffeo : who, besides admiring 
Marco greatly, said that the companionship of a 
brave and vigorous youth would be of great value 



MARCO POLOS YOUTH. 2$ 

to his brother and himself, in case they again 
crossed Asia, and that Marco might win the 
special frienship of Kublai Khan by his youth, 
lively spirits, and agreeable bearing. 

In due time, the two brothers definitely made 
up their minds to fulfil their promise to the 
oriental monarch ; and after many long and earnest 
talks, Nicolo filled his son's heart with joy 
by telling him that he might go with them. 

Much remained to be done, however, before 
they set out. On arriving at Acre, returning from 
their first journey, the brothers Polo had borne in 
mind the message of Kublai Khan to the pope ; 
and the first thing they did was to visit a famous 
Church dignitary who was staying there, named 
Tedaldo, archdeacon of Lige This eminent man 
had no sooner heard their errand, than he aston- 
ished them very much by telling them that, just 
now, there was no pope at all, and that conse- 
quently, they could not deliver their message ! 
Not long before their arrival, Pope Clement IV. 
had died ; and the cardinals had not yet been able 
to agree upon a successor. This vacancy in 
the papal chair was not, indeed, yet filled. The 
Polos, after having resolved to go again to Cathay, 



20 MARCO POLO. 

delayed their departure until a new pope should 
be chosen, so that he might send some mis- 
sionaries with them, as Kublai Khan desired. 

But they grew tired of waiting ; for, after two 
years, the great council of the Church seemed no 
nearer electing a pope than at first ; and the 
Polos made up their minds that they must return 
to Cathay, if at all, without the missionaries. 
Then the naval wars going on between Venice and 
Genoa made it for a while unsafe for Venetians to 
cross the Mediterranean to Syria, and this com- 
pelled another postponement of their plans. At 
last, however, a favorable opportunity occurred to 
traverse the sea to Acre, which as before was to 
be the starting-point of the travellers. A war- 
galley destined for that Asiatic town, then in the 
possession of Venice, was about to set forth; and 
by Nicole's great influence at court, where he had 
been heartily welcomed back by the reigning 
doge, a passage was secured in her for all three. 

Marco had scarcely slept since permission to go 
had been wrung from his reluctant father. He 
devoted himself ardently to the practise of the 
sword and the cross-bow ; he was measured for 
two suits of clothes, fit for rough travelling ; again 



MARCO POLOS YOUTH. 2J 

and again he went over the proposed route, on 
such charts relating to it as his father had brought 
with him ; and he constantly talked about the 
wonderful things he was about to see, and the 
many adventures he would undoubtedly meet 
with. Happily his younger brother, Maffeo, whose 
tastes were gentle and domestic, did not share his 
eagerness for a wandering life ; and, well content 
to stay at home, was only distressed at the thought 
of the long absence of his father and of the 
brother who had been his constant companion. 

On the eve of the day appointed for the depart- 
ure of the travellers, the great house on the 
canal of San Giovanni Crisostomo was once more 
crowded with a numerous and brilliantly attired 
assemblage. Nicolo had resolved to give a boun- 
teous parting feast to his family and friends ; and 
the doge himself had consented to honor the 
feast with his presence. There was no family 
more honored and respected in Venice than the 
Polos ; and the doge regarded Nicolo as one of 
the bravest and most estimable of his subjects. 

The appearance of the guests was very differ- 
ent from that on the former occasion. The joy- 
ful welcome was replaced by the sad leave-taking. 



28 MARCO POLO. 

Little Maffeo's face was suffused with tears, 
which he in vain tried to repress ; and the elder 
Marco looked grave and downcast. As for young 
Marco, his anticipations of the journey so excited 
him that he could scarcely think of grief, even at 
leaving his home and parting from his brother 
and kind kindred. His fair face was flushed with 
eager expectation : and he felt very proud of the 
bran-new sword which swung, for the first time, 
at his side. He felt himself already a man and a 
soldier, and never once thought of shrinking from 
the dangers of the tour. To him it was more 
like a holiday journey than a dangerous venture; 
and it seemed as if the morrow would never come. 

At last the guests tearfully embraced the 
brothers and Marco, and one by one departed. 
The candles in the glittering candelabra were put 
out, and the house was left in darkness. 

The sun had scarcely risen when Marco leaped 
from his bed, donned the suit which had been 
prepared for his setting out, and buckled on his 
sword ; and while almost all the people of Venice 
were still wrapped in slumber, the travellers 
wended their way to the war-galley on the quay, 
and went on board. 



MARCO POLO. 




CHAPTER III. 

MARCO POLO SETS FORTH. 

|S Marco Polo stood, on that bright April 
morning in 1271, on the deck of the war- 
galley, and watched the glittering domes 
and spires of Venice receding from view, while the 
vessel sailed down the Adriatic, he little guessed 
how many years would elapse ere his eyes would 
greet the familiar home scenes again. 

But he thought only of the future just before 
him ; and although, on passing out of the Gulf of 
Venice into the rougher waters of the Adriatic, he 
was at first a little sea-sick, he soon recovered his 
bouyancy of spirits, and now gazed with keen in- 
terest at the objects which coast and waters 
presented. 

It was a delightful trip, through the Adriatic, 
across the sparkling purple waves of the Mediter- 
ranean, skirting the rugged coast of Greece, and 



3O MARCO POLO. 

at last launching into the more open ocean, out of 
sight of land ; and the days that elapsed between 
the departure from Venice and the arrival at the 
curious old town of Acre, on the Syrian coast, 
with its towered walls, its narrow, winding streets, 
its lofty castle, its temples, palaces and churches, 
quite unlike those of Venice, were joyous ones to 
the young traveller. 

On landing at Acre, the brothers Polo and 
Marco repaired to the best inn in the place; and 
Nicolo lost no time in seeking out his old friend, 
the priest Tedaldo, to learn what prospect there 
was of missionaries going eastward with them. 
Tedaldo was rejoiced to see him, but said that no 
pope had yet been chosen ; and begged Nicolo 
to stay at Acre until that event took place. At 
first Nicolo, impatient to reach the great khan's 
court, resisted Tedaldo's request ; but finally the 
shrewd priest prevailed with him. 

" If you will give us leave to go Jerusalem, and get 
some holy oil from the lamp on the Sepulchre," 
said Nicolo, " we will not proceed on our journey 
until you consent. The great khan will receive 
the holy oil as a precious gift." 

" Be it so," responded Tedaldo ; " go to Jeru- 



MARCO POLO SETS FORTH. 31 

salem, and after performing your errand, return 
hither. Perhaps, then, we shall have a pope." 

Marco was well pleased to visit the holy city, 
which he now did, in company with his father. 
They did not stay long at Jerusalem ; but while 
there, Marco had time to see all the ancient and 
sacred relics and curious sights which still attract 
the traveller. Having procured a vial of oil from 
the lamp on the Sepulchre (which, it was said, 
had been kept constantly burning there from the 
time of Christ's death), Nicolo returned to Acre. 
No pope had yet been chosen ; and nowTedaldo 
could not find it in his heart to forbid the depart- 
ure of the brothers. 

They therefore set out from Acre, crossing in a 
galley to the old fortified town of Ayas, in the 
gulf of Scanderoon. Ayas they found to be a busy 
commercial port, with teeming bazaars and a 
noble fortress rising near the shore ; but they could 
not tarry long there, and began to make their 
preparations to penetrate into Armenia. They 
were on the point of starting, when an urgent 
message reached them from Acre. 

It seemed that a pope had at last been elected, 
and that the choice had fallen on no other than 



32 MARCO POLO, 

their friend Tedaldo himself, who took the 
name of Gregory the Tenth ; and he had sent for 
them to return at once to Acre, and receive his in- 
structions how to deal with the great khan. 

On reaching Acre, the Polos were at once ad- 
mitted to the presence of their old friend, who 
had now become the head of the Church. Te- 
daldo, or Pope Gregory, as he should now be 
called, received them with all his old kindness of 
manner, in the palace where he was sojourning, 
and gave his special blessing to young Marco, 
whose youth and bearing greatly pleased him. 

Then, turning to the two brothers, the pope 
said: 

" Now I can give you full power and authority 
to be the envoys of the Church to Kublai Khan. 
You shall take with you two trusty friars, who 
will aid you in converting the heathen of Cathay ; 
and you yourselves may ordain bishops and 
priests, and grant absolution. To show my de- 
sire to receive Kublai into the bosom of the 
Church, 1 will give you some vases and jars of 
crystal, to take to him as presents from me." 

Nicolo fell at the pope's feet, and did him hum- 
ble and grateful reverence ;and Maffeo and Marco 



MARCO POLO SETS FORTH. 33 

followed his example. All their wishes seemed 
now fulfilled ; and, after bidding the pope once 
more adieu, and receiving his blessing, they set 
out to return to Ayas, inspired by the new and 
noble purpose of converting a vast nation of bar- 
barians to the true faith. With them went the 
two friars whom the pope had appointed, Nicolo 
of Vicenza, and William of Tripoli ; and on land- 
ing at Ayas, they resolved to delay their journey 
no longer. 

Another mishap, however, was destined to be- 
fall them before they found themselves full on 
their way eastward. At Ayas they learned that 
Armenia, the country through which they were 
about to pass, had just been invaded by the Sul- 
tan of Babylon with a formidable army. 

No sooner had the two friars heard this unwel- 
come news than they ran to Nicolo, and declared 
that they were afraid to go on, or even to stay at 
Ayas. In vain Nicolo besought them to con- 
tinue with him, and even to brave the dangers 
that now loomed before them, rather than give 
up the project of converting the people of Cathay. 

"No," replied the friars: "We are afraid of 
these ruthless Saracens. If they should capture 



34 MARCO POLO. 

any Christian priests, it would be to torture and 
kill them. Take our credentials and documents, 
Messer Polo ; and God be with you. We must 
return to Acre." 

And so they did, taking the first galley that 
set out for that place. 

The Polos found that they must go forward 
alone ; and after a last look at Ayas, and feeling, 
truth to tell, somewhat alarmed lest they should 
meet the Saracen invaders, they started on the 
high road that led northward in the direction of 
Turcomania. 

Marco observed everything on the journey with 
the keenest curiosity ; and his father, who had 
already traversed that region, was able to explain 
many sights that were mysterious to him. They 
passed through many queer Asiatic cities and 
towns, and Marco stared at the dusky complex- 
ions and picturesque attire of the natives. The 
natives, in turn, examined the travellers with 
much amazement; but everywhere, in this part 
of the country, seemed friendly, and not at all 
disposed to molest them. 

Sometimes the wayfarers would stop in a city 
or town a week or two at a time, lodging in very 



MARCO POLO SETS FORTH. 35 

old inns, and partaking of dishes which Marco 
had never seen before, and of some of which 
neither of the three knew the names. 

The people of the regions through which they 
passed were usually poverty stricken, and seemed 
quite content with very little. Marco observed 
that they were a very lazy set, and spent a great 
deal of time drinking a coarse, rank liquor, which 
speedily intoxicated them. 

Sometimes, however, the travellers came to a 
town which had a well-to-do, thriving aspect, and 
where they met men and women of a higher and 
more active class. The chiefs in these places 
would treat them with hearty hospitality, placing 
before them the best dishes and most luscious 
fruits the region afforded, and giving them the 
best rooms in their houses not very confortable 
ones, at best in which to sleep. 

One day, a hospitable chief proposed to the 
Polos that they should form part of a hunting ex- 
pedition, which was about to set out in search of 
savage game on the neighboring hills. This pro- 
posal gave young Marco a thrill of pleasure, for 
he had begun to think that their journey was 
getting monotonous. At first his father refused 



3 MARCO POLO. 

to let him go with the hunting party ; but Marco 
begged so persistently, and the chief brought 
out a horse for his use that seemed so strong and 
steady, that Nicolo finally yielded. 

Not only horses, but elephants also, bore the 
sportsmen to their scene of action ; and after 
travelling for two days across the plains and 
among the hills, the party encamped on a river 
bank. Then Marco, for the first time, saw the 
fierce, wild sport which the Asiatic hills and 
jungles provided. He was too young and too 
little skilled to take any active part in the hunt 
for wild beasts ; but roamed the lofty forests, 
and brought down many a bird of gorgeous 
plumage, which proved afterwards to afford the 
sweetest and most delicate nourishment. Once 
he witnessed, from a safe distance, a terrific en- 
counter with a gigantic tiger, which the natives 
attacked from the backs of their elephants, and 
at last succeeded in killing and dragging, with his 
magnificent striped hide, into the camp. 

Marco was afterwards to become quite accus- 
tomed to this thrilling sport, and to deal, with 
his own hand, many a finishing blow upon lion 
and tiger and famished wolf. 




MAKCO SHOOTING IN THE ASIATIC HILLS. Page 36. 



MARCO POLO SETS FORTH 37 

After crossing the eastern edge of Turco- 
mania, the travellers entered the picturesque and 
fruitful country of Greater Armenia with its 
broad, fertile plains, and its grim and narrow 
mountain passes; the same country, indeed, 
which in our own times has been so often the 
scene of conflict between the Russians and the 
Turks. They passed near or by the very spots 
where the now famous fortresses of Kars and 
Erzeroum stand ; and as they proceeded, they 
were surprised to find the region so thickly 
dotted with towns and villages, and sometimes 
quite stately cities. They found the inhabitants, 
who were for the most part Tartars, as little dis- 
posed to molest them as the Turcomans had 
been ; though, now and then, as they went through 
lonely districts, they were menaced by brigands. 

With them were several native guides, whose 
language was already familiar to the two elder 
Polos. One day, one of these guides stopped, 
and pointed to a mountain, whose dim outline 
could just be made out in the hazy distance. 

"Do you see that mountain?" he said, turning 
to the travellers. " It is Mount Ararat. It was 
there that Noah's ark was stranded, after the 



38 MARCO POLO. 

flood. The ark is still there, on the top of the 
mountain; and the faithful of this region brave 
the snows with which Ararat is perpetually 
shrouded, to get from the ark some of its pitch, 
which they make into amulets, and wear as a 
charm around their necks!" 

Marco listened with open mouth, and stared 
long and earnestly at the famous eminence. He 
could scarcely believe that the ark was still there ; 
yet the guide spoke so earnestly that he was 
loth to doubt what he said. 

After crossing a lofty range of mountains, they 
descended into a wide and umbrageous valley, 
through which meandered a broad, rapidly flow- 
ing river. This river, Marco learned, was no other 
than the Tigris, which flows northward from trie 
Persian Gulf. On every hand the young traveller 
perceived the majestic ruins of the splendid civili- 
zation which had once existed in this valley. 
Ruined or decaying cities, with vast walls, and 
lofty palaces, and towering temples, were often 
encountered ; and near them nestled the more 
modern towns and villages, still alive with the 
bustle of trade or the vanity of oriental show. 

This country was the kingdom of Mosul ; and 



MARCO POLO SETS FORTH. 39 

in some of the towns, Marco observed manufac- 
tories of fine cloth, which was produced with ra- 
pidity and skill, and was made of many beautiful 
colors. This cloth gave the name to what we now 
call " muslin," from the place whence it was first 
obtained ; it was really not muslin, but a much 
finer texture, of silk and gold. The Polos were 
delighted to find that large numbers of the people 
of Mosul were Christians, who gave them a wel- 
come all the warmer because of their professing 
the same faith. 

As they descended the valley of the Tigris 
further towards the Persian Gulf, however, they 
were destined to meet with a very different kind 
of people. From the mountain fastnesses of 
Curdistan there swooped into the valley tierce 
bands of Curds, the savage and vindictive race 
who dwelt in those fastnesses, and whose occupa- 
tion it was to rob and murder. Their very name, 
which, in Turkish, means "wolves," betrayed 
their character and habits. Luckily a large number 
of Mosul Christians accompanied the travellers, 
armed to the teeth, purposely to protect them 
from the inhuman Curds; and the latter, when- 
ever they assailed the party, were driven back, 



4<D MARCO POLO 

with great loss of life, to their mountain retreats 
again. Marco thought he had never seen such 
ferocious looking creatures as were some of the 
Curds who were taken prisoners. They were very 
dark, wore long, fierce moustaches, and their black 
eyes gleamed with a savage and murderous glare. 
This danger was therefore escaped ; and, soon 
after, Marco went nearly wild with joy to enter, 
and see with his own eyes, the famous city of 
Bagdad. He had often heard of Bagdad, from 
the Venetian merchants who had made journeys 
hither ; and often, at home, had his curiosity been 
aroused to see the singular sights, the curious 
people, the ancient temples, gates and palaces, 
which had been thus described to him. And here 
he was, in the streets of the old Arab city, still 
in all the glory of its trade, though many of its 
ancient splendors had departed ; and everything 
he saw filled him with delight. He was delighted 
when his father and uncle, putting up at the best 
inn the old city afforded, announced their inten- 
tion to rest some time in Bagdad ; for now he 
would have leisure to explore it thoroughly, and 
to hunt up the very scenes of the marvellous 
tales. 



MARCO POLO SETS FORTH. 4l 

He found Bagdad to be not only full of ancient 
monuments, but a very thriving and busy place, 
ruled over by a caliph, who had a large and val- 
iant army. It produced a bewildering variety of 
cloths, such as silk, gold cloth, and brocade, and 
it was a fine sight to see the men and women of the 
higher classes, arrayed in these splendid tissues, as 
they strolled on the river bank, or lolled in their 
luxurious balconies, that overlooked the Tigris. It 
was while in this famous place that Marco heard a 
story which gave him an insight into Oriental char- 
acter. About forty years before there had been 
reigning at Bagdad, a caliph who was very avar- 
icious, and also very rich. He had a lofty tower, 
which was said to be piled full of gold and silver. 
A Tartar prince came with a great army, attacked 
Bagdad and took it, and made the caliph a pris- 
oner. When he saw the tower full of treasure, the 
Tartar conqueror was amazed ; and ordering the 
captive caliph into his presence, said, " Caliph, 
why hast thou gathered here so many riches ? 
When thou knewest I was coming to attack thee, 
why didst thou not use it to pay soldiers to de- 
fend thee ?" The caliph not replying, the Tartar 
went on, "Now, caliph, since thou hast so vast 



42 MARCO POLO. 

a love for this treasure, thou must eat it !" He 
caused the caliph to be shut up in the tower, 
and commanded that neither food nor drink should 
be given him ; for, he said, he must eat the gold, 
or nothing. The poor caliph died in the tower 
some days after, of starvation, though surrounded 
by heaps of treasure, that would have bought food 
for a mighty army. 

Marco had by this time picked up enough of 
the language of the region to con verse with the na- 
tives ; and nothing pleased him more than to 
wander about the bazaars and shops, and to finO 
some talkative Mussulman, who would sit and tell 
him stories. In this way, he heard many tales 
which were scarcely less romantic than those of 
the Arabian Nights. 

One of the stories that seemed mosf wonderful 
to him was that of the " one-eyed Gobbler." 
Some years before, it was related, there reigned 
at Bagdad a caliph who bore bitter hatred against 
the Christians, and who was resolved to put 
them to the sword. Thinking to entrap them 
by their own doctrine, he called a vast number of 
Christians together, and pointed to the passage in 
the Bible which says, that if a Christian has faith 



MARCO POLO SETS FORTH. 43 

as a grain of mustard seed, and should com- 
mand a mountain to be moved, it would obey the 
command. 

" Now," said the caliph, " you who have such 
faith, must either move that mountain, which 
you see yonder " pointing to a very lofty emi- 
nence, " or you shall one and all perish by the 
sword. Unless you do this in ten days, or become 
Mohammedans, every one of you shall die." 

The Christians were terrified and bewildered 
at the caliph's words, and knew not what to do. 
For several days they felt like men already lost. 
But one day a certain bishop came to them, and 
said that he had had a vision from God ; and that 
God had told him that if the Christians would 
persuade a certain pious cobbler, who had but one 
eye, to pray that the mountain should be moved, 
the prayer would be granted. 

The cobbler was eagerly sought out. At first 
he refused to pray for the miracle, saying that 
he was no better than the rest. But finally he 
consented to offer up the prayer. The caliph's 
army and the Christians assembled on avast plain 
before the mountain. The cobbler knelt and made 
a solemn appeal to heaven : when lo, the mountain 



44 MARCO POLO. 

rising up, moved to the spot that the caliph had 
pointed out ! It was said that after this miracle, 
the caliph became secretly a Christian ; and that 
when he died a small ivory cross was found hung 
around his neck. 

Marco was very loth to leave Bagdad, with its 
romantic memories, its venerable buildings, its 
brilliant bazaars, and its captivating story-tellers ; 
and when one day, Nicolo told him that they 
should set out again early the next morning, he 
felt exceedingly sorry to hear the news. Fresh 
scenes, however, soon diverted his mind from the 
old city ; and ere many days he found himself 
with his father and uncle on a strange galley, 
with lateen sails, crossing the Persian Gulf. 



MARCO POLO. 45 




CHAPTER IV. 

MARCO POLO'S TRAVELS IN PERSIA AND TURKIS- 

TAN. 

HE passage across the Persian Gulf was 
a brief and prosperous one ; and in due 
time the Polo party landed on the soil of 
the ancient country of Persia. The port at which 
they set foot on shore was an old fortified town 
named Hormuz, with its towers rising high above 
the sea, and its harbor crowded with the shipping 
of many nations. Here for the first time Marco 
witnessed the dress, manners and customs of the 
people who, once upon a time, had been led to 
brilliant victory by Cyrus and Darius. 

Hormuz itself, with its bazaars, its wide streets, 
its fortresses and palaces, was not unlike the cities 
Marco had seen in Armenia; but the people, 
both in their appearance and in their customs, 
were very different from those of Western Asia, 



46 MARCO POLO. 

They lived, it appeared, mainly on dates and salt 
fish ; and it was only when they were ill that 
they would taste bread. For a beverage, they 
drank a very strong wine, made of dates and 
spices. The city seemed to have but few inhabit- 
ants who actually dwelt in it. The buildings, 
except on the outskirts, were mostly given up to 
store-houses, shops, and other places of business ; 
and the surrounding plain was covered with 
dwellings, almost every one with a pretty, shady 
garden, whither the mass of the population re- 
sorted at nightfall. Marco soon learned that the 
people lived in this way on account of the op- 
pressive heat which existed in the city ; and 
found by his own experience that it was one of 
the hottest places on earth. 

He learned that sometimes winds swept across 
the deserts, so scorching that the people were 
obliged to plunge themselves up to the neck in 
cool water, and stay there until the winds had 
gone down ; otherwise they would be burnt to 
death ; and a story was told him of a hostile 
army, which was literally baked to death, while 
on its way to attack Hormuz. 

Marco examined the Persian ships which he 



TRAVELS IN PERSIA AND TURKISTAN. 47 

saw in the harbor with great curiosity. They 
were wretched affairs compared with the skil- 
fully-built Venetian galleys. Instead of being 
made fast with pitch, they were smeared with fish 
oil ; and were held together by a rude twine, 
made of the husk of a nut. The ships were 
deckless, the cargo being only protected by a 
matting; and had but one mast, one sail, and one 
rudder. The nails were of wood ; and altogether, 
these frail craft seemed to Marco dangerous 
boats in which to cross the stormy seas of the 
East. 

Setting out from Hormuz, the Polos found 
themselves travelling over a vast and beautiful 
plain, which glowed with the most brilliant 
flowers, among which birds of gorgeous plumage 
nestled, and where dates and palms grew in the 
richest luxuriance. The plain was watered by 
many picturesque streams, on the banks of which 
the travellers gratefully rested after their long 
daily jaunts. The plain crossed, they began a 
gentle ascent to a range of lofty hills, after 
traversing which they found themselves at Ker- 
man, which was then the seat of Persian sover- 
eignty. This, too, was a busy place, where all 



48 MARCO POLO. 

sorts of warlike weapons were made, and where 
the women were very skilful in needle-work and 
embroidery. Marco saw a great number of beauti- 
ful light blue turquoises, which precious stones, he 
heard, were found in great quantities among the 
neighboring mountains. 

The Polos only staid in Kerman long enough 
to take a good rest, and then set out again ; for 
already they had been nearly a year on their 
travels, and Nicolo was anxious to get to Cathay 
as soon as possible, lest the good khan who had 
treated him so well before, should be dead. But 
they had yet many a long month of journeying 
before them, and they were to see many strange 
and wonderful things before they reached the 
end of their travels. They now crossed a beauti- 
ful country, varied with plains, hills, and lovely 
valleys, where dates grew in plenty, and many 
other fruits, which Marco had never before seen, 
hung on the trees and bushes. He saw, browsing 
in the meadows, many large, white oxen, with 
short smooth hair, thick stubby horns, and 
humps on their backs; and the sheep in the 
pastures were the biggest he had ever seen. Al- 
most every village they passed was surrounded by 



TRAVELS IN PERSIA AND TURKISTAN. 49 

a high wall of mud. On asking why this was, 
Marco was told that the country was infested 
with banditti, and that these walls were built to 
protect the people from their bold and savage in- 
cursions. A native declared to him that these 
banditti were magicians; and that when they 
wished to attack a village, they were able, by 
their magic spells, to turn daylight into darkness. 
Sometimes, this native said, there was as many as 
ten thousand men in these bands of robbers. 

The travellers heard these stories of the ban- 
ditti with some alarm, for they were about to 
pass through the very region where they dwelt ; 
nor was this alarm groundless. Scarcely had 
they got fairly away from one of the villages, 
when they were suddenly attacked by a formida- 
ble band, and were forced to fight desperately 
for their lives. The three Polos succeeded in 
killing a number of the robbers, and in escaping 
into a village just beyond ; but when they called 
their guides and attendants together, they found 
that the robbers had killed or captured all but 
seven of them ; and they were obliged to push 
forward with this small number. 

They soon came to a dismal and dreary desert, 



5O MARCO POLO. 

which it took them a week to cross, and where 
they saw nowhere a vestige of human habitation. 
For three days they found no water whatever, 
except some little salt streams, from which they 
could not drink, however parched by thirst. It 
was a vast solitude, where no living thing ap- 
peared ; and Marco gave a sigh of relief and satis- 
faction when, towards the end of the seventh day, 
the buildings of another large and flourishing 
city came into view. But beyond this city, 
another and still larger desert stretched out be- 
fore them. Profiting by their previous experi- 
ence, the Polos carried with them an ample quan- 
tity of water; and passed across the greater 
desert without much suffering. They had now 
reached the northernmost provinces of Persia. 
One day Marco observed a very tall, wide- 
spreading tree, the bark of which was a bright 
green on one side, and white on the other. This 
tree stood entirely alone, on a vast plain, where 
there was not the least sign of any other trees, 
as far as eye could reach in any direction. Marco 
thought this very strange, and called his party to 
look at it. Then one of the Persian guides, whom 
they had brought with them, told him that it was 



TRAVELS IN PERSIA AND TURKISTAN. 5 1 

very near this curious tree, which was called the 
" Dry Tree," that a famous battle was once fought 
between Alexander the Great and King Darius. 

Not long after passing the " Dry Tree," the 
travellers entered a district called Mulchet, not 
far from the Caspian sea ; and here Marco, who, 
everywhere he went, put himself on easy terms 
with the most intelligent natives he could find, 
heard many interesting stories and legends 
about the country through which he was trav- 
elling. One of the most romantic of these 
legends was that which related to the " Old Man 
of the Mountain," who it was said, dwelt in the 
neighboring range not many years before. An 
old nobleman so ran the story who had plenty 
of money, had caused a certain deep valley to be 
enclosed with high walls at either end, so that 
none could enter whom he wished to keep out ; 
and thus protected, he cultivated a rare and 
beautiful garden in the valley. In the midst of 
this he reared gilded pavilions, and even lofty 
and glittering palaces, whose minarets could be 
seen a great distance away. The old man also 
surrounded himself with many lovely women, who 
sang and danced exquisitely, and every day 



52 MARCO POLO. 

feasted, with the chosen few whom he invited to 
share the delights of the valley. 

Thus was created what the old man called his 
Paradise ; following, as near as he could, the de- 
scription which Mohammed had given of that 
celestial abode. It was said that he gathered about 
him a number of boys and youths, to whom he 
told tales of Paradise ; and that, sometimes, 
making these youths drink a certain wine, which 
stupefied them, he had them carried to the beauti- 
ful garden, where they awoke to find themselves 
in the midst of the most ravishing scenes. He 
thereby made them believe that it was really 
Paradise where they dwelt, and that he was a 
great Prophet ; and so could persuade them to do 
just what he pleased. When he had a grudge 
against any neighboring prince, he would send 
these youths forth to kill his enemy, promising 
that if they did his bidding they should forever 
live in this charming Paradise. 

Soon he became a terror through all the land, 
wreaking his vengeance on all who offended him, 
and reducing the rulers round about to submis- 
sion. But by and by the king of the Western 
Tartars became enraged at the tyranny and mur- 



TRAVELS IN PERSIA AND TURKISTAN. $3 

ders of the Old Man of the Mountain, and re- 
solved to put an end to them. He accordingly 
sent one of his generals at the head of a numer- 
ous army, to destroy the Old Man's Paradise. In 
vain, however, did the Tartars assail the solid 
towers and walls that defended the valley ; they 
could not penetrate it. They were obliged to 
lay regular siege to it ; and it was only after three 
months that the Old Man of the Mountain, his 
courtiers and houris, were forced, from sheer 
want of food, to surrender. The old man him- 
self, and all the youths and men of his court, were 
at once put to death ; the palaces and pavilions 
were razed to the earth; and the fairy-like gar- 
dens were ruthlessly turned into a desolate waste. 
The Polos had gone as far northward as they 
intended, and now turned their faces directly to- 
wards the east. They entered a wild mountain 
region, where there were but few human habita- 
tions, but which was broken into jagged moun- 
tain masses, in the defiles of which were the 
fastnesses of robbers. They were often attacked 
by these fierce bands, but so well armed were 
they and their company, and so valiant, that they 
escaped this frequent peril. They reached Balkh, 



54 MARCO POLO. 

then still a stately city, many of whose buildings 
were of marble, though much of it was in ruins. 
Here, Marco was told, Alexander the Great had 
married the Persian King Darius's daughter; 
and he gazed with deep interest on a place which 
was the scene of many thrilling events of which he 
had read in history. 

From Balkh Marco and his fellow-travellers 
rapidly approached those lofty ranges of gigantic 
mountains which rise in Eastern Turkistan, and 
which divide Western Asia from China on one 
side, and Hindoostan on the other. As he gazed 
at these eminences, the peaks of which seemed to 
cleave the very clouds, Marco was deeply impressed 
by their rugged grandeur. He had never seen or 
imagined mourtains so high ; and he wondered 
how it could be possible for the party to cross 
them. Sometimes, at the end of a valley, they 
seemed to close in the way completely. There 
seemed to be no possible exit ; no declivity or 
pass seemed to open itself between them. Yet 
when the travellers reached the foot of the moun- 
tains, a narrow defile would be revealed and they 
would pass through in single file, leading their 
horses and camels, sometimes on a path so narrow 



TRAVELS IN PERSIA AND TURKISTAN. 55 

and so high above the gorge by whose side it 
ran, that it seemed inevitable that the travellers 
would fall and break their necks. 

All through these mountains, Marco observed 
that the people were fierce and wild, and lived 
wandering lives, subsisting on the game they 
secured by hunting. They were, for the most part, 
intemperate; and after a hunt, would resort to 
the nearest village, and intoxicate themselves with 
the fiery palm wine which was everywhere made 
and drunk in that region. In some places, where 
sheep were raised on the steep hill-sides, Marco 
found that the shepherds lived in caves in the 
mountains, so dug as to form dwellings, with 
several rooms. Sometimes these caves were very 
handsomely fitted up. 

The next great town that the travellers reached, 
after leaving Balkh, was Badakshan, still famous, 
in our own day, as a centre of Oriental trade. It 
was then ruled over by a powerful king, who 
claimed to be a direct descendant of Alexander 
the Great and of King Darius. The city w r as 
situated in the midst of lofty and jagged emin- 
ences ; and all around, perched on the tops of high 
crags, Marco espied the strong castles and fortresses 



56 MARCO POLO. 

which defended it from hostile attacks. Every 
pass was thus stoutly guarded, and Marco saw 
that the people were warlike in their tastes, being 
excellent archers and very skilful hunters. The 
men wore the skins of beasts ; and the women 
always clothed themselves in an immense quantity 
of bombazine, wrapped in many folds around their 
bodies. On Marco's asking why they did this, he 
was told that it was because they wished to appear 
very fat ; for this, in the eyes of the men, was re- 
garded as a point of beauty. The women's heads 
were covered with hoods, while from their ears long 
sleeves hung to the ground, and swayed to and 
fro as the stout-looking damsels waddled along. 

While the wanderers were staying at Badak- 
shan (for having been made welcome by the king, 
they were in no great haste to depart) Marco fell 
extremely ill with a fever. For a while his life was 
despaired of ; but the skill of the native doctors 
at last set him on his feet again. As soon as he 
was able to stir abroad, the doctors told him to 
go to the summit of one of the neighboring moun- 
tains and stay awhile. This he did ; and the air 
was so pure and dry at that elevation, that he 
very rapidly recovered. Leaving Badakshan, where 



TRAVELS IN PERSIA AND TURKISTAN. 57 

the Venetians had much enjoyed their rest and 
the hospitality of the monarch, they soon found 
themselves passing along the banks of a wide and 
swift river, the same that we now know as the 
Oxus ; which, at the point that they reached it, 
issued from a vast lake, fed by the eternal snows 
of the surrounding eminences. 

The river flowed in a vast and most picturesque 
valley between two lofty ranges; and Marco was 
fairly transported by the exceeding grandeur of the 
river. Ascending then to the plateau beyond, the 
travellers found themselves on a higher level than 
they had ever before reached, where the atmos- 
phere was so rare that they actually found it 
difficult to breathe. This was no other than the 
famous Pamir Steppe, which extends, in a broad 
tableland, for many miles between Turkistan and 
Chinese Tartary. The views from this high alti- 
tude were imposing in the extreme. In the dis- 
tance rose the snowy summits of the Himalayas; 
while far below the travellers lay the sunny and 
luxuriant valleys, creeping far under the moun- 
tain shadows, in some of which was the birth-place 
of that great Aryan tribe from which almost every 
European nation has descended. 



58 MARCO POLO. 

Many were the interesting sights that Marco 
saw, as the party slowly wended its way over the 
mighty steppe. There were sheep with horns 
three or four feet long, out of which horns the 
shepherds made knives and spoons. Every little 
while, along the road, Marco saw piles of these 
horns heaped up, and learned that they were 
landmarks to guide the traveller on his way, when 
the snows of winter concealed the road from 
view. Marco was surprised to see no villages, or 
even huts, on the great steppe , and found that 
the shepherds, who were its only inhabitants, 
dwelt in mountain caves. 

Descending at last from the Pamir Steppe, the 
party entered what was then the noble and 
flourishing city of Samarcand. This place was 
not many years after to be taken by the famous 
Tartar warrior, Timour Tamerlane, and to be 
made the seat of his splendid empire m Central 
Asia; and in our own day, the visitor to 
Samarcand is taken to a mosque where, he 
is told, repose Timour's remains. Marco was 
greatly impressed with the wealth and splendor 
of the city, its imposing temples and palaces, 
and its bustling bazaars; but time was pass- 



TRAVELS IN PERSIA AND TURKISTAN. 59 

ing, and the travellers were forced to hurry away 
and continue their journey eastward. Beyond 
Samarcand, they proceeded through fruitful 
valleys and delightful scenes, across fields where 
the cotton plant was growing luxuriantly, by 
orchards and vineyards, and through villages 
where cloths of many kinds were being made. 
They came to spots where they saw the people 
searching, among the rocks and in the moun. 
tain sides, for rare jewels; and Marco saw the 
men extracting rubies, jasper, and calcedony from 
the hiding-places where nature had concealed 
them. 

So travelling, they came at last to a town on 
the banks of a lake, called Lop. This town stood 
on the borders of the great Gobi Desert, which 
now alone separated the Polos from the western 
confines of China ; and before entering upon the 
long tramp across this dreary waste, they resolved 
to stay at Lop a week and rest. Meanwhile, 
they made ample preparations for crossing the 
great desert. It would take them a month, they 
were told, to gain the other side ; and they 
therefore packed enough provisions to last them 
that length of time. Happily, there was no 



6O MARCO POLO. 

need that they should burden themselves with 
water; for the desert, arid as it was, provided 
streams that ran from the lofty ranges near by, 
in sufficient abundance to supply all who crossed 
its wide expanse. 



MARCO POLO. 




CHAPTER V. 

MARCO POLO REACHES CATHAY. 

[FTER passing across the great Gobi 
Desert, where he endured many hardships, 
and once came near being lost, by being 
separated from his companions, Marco encoun- 
tered a very different country and people from 
those he had before seen. Before he had met 
with Turcomans only ; for the most part fierce, 
wandering tribes, given to plundering and mur- 
der, and going from place to place, without any 
settled home. Now he found himself among a 
quiet, busy, and to a large degree civilized people, 
the greater portion of whom seemed to be farmers, 
devoted to the tilling of their fruitful and abund- 
antly yielding lands. 

Instead of the tall, large-featured, heavily- 
bearded Turcomans, the people were short and 
squat, with squinted eyes, high cheek bones, hair 



62 MARCO POLO. 

braided in long queues behind, and a peculial 
yellow complexion. 

They were, indeed, Chinese. Their loose cos- 
tumes, their hats turned up at the brim, their 
small shoes turned up at the toes, their taste in 
dress, marked them as a quite distinct race from 
the inhabitants of the mountain regions Marco 
had not long before traversed. Instead of the 
plain mosques, too, with their glaring white ex- 
teriors, their bare interiors, and their big bulb- 
like domes, Marco now saw gorgeous temples, 
decked out both inside and out with the greatest 
profusion of ornament, and containing huge idols 
that fairly glittered with gilding and gems. The 
towns, instead of consisting of low, plain buildings, 
were full of variety and adornment in their archi- 
tecture, and displayed the high degree to which 
the arts had even then been carried by the 
Chinese. 

Everywhere the fields were aglow with rich 
and plentiful crops. Marco could not but per- 
ceive the air of home-like contentment that 
everywhere prevailed, in contrast with the restless 
and savage customs of the Turcomans ; and as he 
passed through the Chinese villages towards 



MARCO POLO REACHES CATHAY. 63 

evening, he was visibly reminded of home 
when he saw the Chinese families cozily seated in 
front of their doors, or in the little shaded balco- 
nies over them, enjoying, after the day's labor, the 
serenity and repose of the twilight hours, very 
much as the Venetians were wont to do. 

He was much struck by the great number of 
temples and of monasteries which he saw as the 
party penetrated the country. Instead of the 
worship of Mohammed the Prophet, the people 
were Buddhists, and paid their devotion to the 
countless idols everywhere set up. Marco soon 
learned a great deal about the manners and 
habits of this race, which greatly excited his cu- 
riosity. Every Chinese who had children was wont, 
at a certain festival, to take them, with a sheep, to 
one of the temples, where the sheep was cooked and 
offered as a sacrifice to the chief idol. After the 
meat had been left for some time at the feet of the 
idol, it was taken away, and the man invited his 
friends together to feast upon it. The bones were 
then collected, and kept in the house with much 
reverence and care. When a man or woman died 
the body was burned. It was first carried to a sort 
of pavilion, erected for the purpose, and placed 



64 MARCO POLO. 

in it ; and then the friends brought wine and food, 
and put it before the corpse. Arriving at the 
funeral pyre, the mourners cut out of paper a num. 
ber of little figures, representing men, horses, 
camels and lions, which they threw upon the 
flames as they enveloped the dead person ; be- 
lieving that by so doing they insured their rela- 
tion the possession of the realities thus represented, 
in the other world. 

One day, the Venetians arrived at a city called 
Kamul, which struck Marco, as a very gay and 
lively place. The people here seemed to think of 
nothing but having a perpetual good time. Their 
main occupation was that of farming; but they 
seemed to work very little, while their store- 
houses were full to overflowing, and they evidently 
had an abundance of good things. From morning 
till night, while Marco staid at Kamul, he heard 
nothing but sounds of music, singing, and danc- 
ing. He was awakened by the playing of strange 
loud musical instruments, and went to sleep with 
their sounds still ringing in his ears. The people 
were exceedingly hospitable, and vied with each 
other to receive the strangers as their guests. 
The master of the house where Marco lodged, 



MARCO POLO REACHES CATHAY. 6j 

having seen to it that he was comfortably en. 
sconced, went off to another house, leaving Marco 
to do as he pleased, and for the time master. 
Marco could not fail to observe that the women 
of Kamul were not only full of gayety and fond of 
amusement, but were singularly handsome. Every 
evening there were dancing and singing in the 
open spaces in front of the houses, in which all 
seemed to join with the heartiest gusto. 

Marco found that sorcerers and magicians were 
held in awe and high respect here, as in other 
countries through which he had passed. The 
Chinese sorcerers were very different looking 
personages, however, from those he had so often 
seen in Turkistan. They wore long moustaches, 
that flowed down on their breasts ; but no beards 
on their chins. Instead of long black gowns, 
they appeared in tunics, blazoned all over with 
the figures of dragons, dolphins and other fabu- 
lous animals. They carried long wands, often of 
silver or gold; and on their heads they wore high 
caps, richly fringed. Whenever a sorcerer passed 
along the street, the people uncovered until he 
had gone by. These mysterious men lived apart" 
from the rest of the world, often in monasteries 



66 MARCO POLO. 

that stood on hills on the outskirts of the town ; 
and it was the custom of the people, whenever 
any special event occurred in their towns, such as 
a birth, a death, a journey or a fire, to seek in 
all haste their magicians to learn its significance 
and bearing upon their lives. 

The sorcerers, of course, charged a large round 
sum for their prophecies ; and so were all rich, 
and lived in much grandeur and luxury. As soon 
as any one died, the sorcerer was applied to, and 
informed of the exact date of the dead person's 
death. He then went into his room and performed 
a number of strange incantations ; after which he 
was able to tell the relatives what day and hour 
it would be lucky to bury the dead. He would 
also inform them by what door the corpse should 
be carried out of the house ; and sometimes told 
them that it must be brought into the street 
through a hole made in the wall, so as to give 
good fortune to the living relatives. 

Not far from Kamul, Marco and his party came 
to a large mining district, where he had an oppor- 
tunity to witness another instance of the skill and 
intelligence of the Chinese. There were mines 
of copper and antimony? and also mines from 



MARCO POLO REACHES CATHAY. 6/ 

which a very peculiar mineral, called asbestos, was 
taken. The ore of this asbestos, it seems, was 
taken from the mountains and broken up, and 
then became a sort of stringy mass. It was dried 
and crushed in a mortar, and then formed a rough, 
strong thread. This thread was woven into cloth, 
and being bleached by fire, became as white as 
snow, and very strong. The idea of making a 
cloth out of a mineral, dug from mountain gorges, 
was a new and surprising one to our young trav- 
eller. 

As Marco advanced through the country, which 
was that of Tangat, he observed that the temples 
became larger and more magnificent, and that the 
idols in them also increased in size and splendor 
of decoration. He saw, at one of the more popu- 
lous cities, idols ten or twelve feet high, of wood, 
stone, and clay, completely covered with thick 
plates of gold and ivory. In some of these tern- 
pies, the priests, unlike those of other parts of 
China, lived with great sobriety and even self, 
denial. During one month in the year these 
priests would not kill any animal, or even insect, 
however small . and in this month they only par- 
took of flesh, and that of the plainest kind, once 



68 MARCO POLO. 

in five days. The people of this region, on the 
other hand, lived in a very gross and beastly way, 
giving themselves up to self-indulgence and in- 
dolence. The richer men had many wives, whom 
they divorced as soon as they got sick of them ; 
and often married their cousins and other near 
relatives. They devoted a great deal of time to 
eating, drinking and sleeping, and impressed 
Marco as a much lower order of beings than the 
other Chinese he had seen. 

The travellers were about to resume their jour- 
ney westward, when they heard news that greatly 
disappointed them, and caused them to delay 
their departure from Campicion, the chief town 
ot Tangat. This news was, that a great war had 
broken out between two nations whose territories 
were directly in their path to Cathay. Their way, 
indeed, lay through the very region where the war 
had already begun to rage. To attempt to reach 
Cathay by any other road was impossible ; for the 
countries north and south were unknown to their 
guides, and they would probably get lost, or fall 
into the hands of hostile races, if they tried an 
unknown, roundabout road. 

They were, therefore, forced to content them- 



MARCO POLO REACHES CATHAY. 69 

selves with awaiting the return of peace at Cam- 
picion , an idea which was far from pleasant to 
Marco, who did not think it an attractive place, 
and was, moreover, very impatient to reach his 
journey's end. He made the best of circumstances, 
however, and finding that the war was likely to last 
some time, resolved to spend the time of waiting 
in making explorations in the neighboring regions. 
He accordingly set out with a small company, and 
made his way from place to place as best he 
could, narrowly observing all the curious peoples 
and customs that he encountered. 

He soon found himself once more on the edge 
of the great desert, and came to a large and 
ancient city called Ezina, which was more than 
half in ruins. He soon learned that it had once 
been a thriving capital, and had been taken by 
the famous Tartar warrior, Genghis Khan. Now it 
was inhabited by a roving and sport-loving pop- 
ulation, who only lived in it in summer, descend- 
ing into the valleys and there dwelling in the 
winter season. These people were much given 
to the rearing of camels and horses, and were 
exceedingly fond of hunting in the vast pine 
forests that spread over the neighboring hills. 



/O MARCO POLO. 

From Ezina Marco went to a still larger city of 
Karakorum, which seemed to him at least three 
miles in circumference, and which, as he heard, 
had once been the capital of the Tartar conquer- 
ors of China. It stood on a very picturesque 
spot. A beautiful river flowed near its walls, on 
the banks of which were numberless tents, occu- 
pied by wandering Tartar tribes who preferred 
this mode of life to dwelling in the city itself. 
The mountains were not far off; and on many a 
crag and spur Marco could espy the lordly cas- 
tles where once had dwelt the proud Tartar 
nobles. 

It was at Karakorum that Marco for the first 
time heard the wonderful story of the conquests 
of Genghis Khan, the mighty Tartar chief whose 
descendant, Kublai Khan, was then reigning in 
Cathay. He listened with wrapt attention to 
the accounts which some of the natives, whose 
acquaintance he made, gave of the terrific battle 
in which Genghis Khan had overthrown the 
haughty tyrant, Prester John, and had himself 
won sway over all the surrounding region. 
Genghis Khan, it seemed, had asked Prester 
John to give him his daughter to wife; and 



MARCO POLO REACHES CATHAY. Jl 

Prester John had returned a haughty refusal. 
"What is this Genghis Khan," Prester John had 
exclaimed, " but my dog and slave ! Go and let 
him know that I would burn my daughter to ashes 
before I would give her to him. Tell him he is a dog 
and a traitor !" Genghis Khan was beside himself 
with rage when he heard this insulting message, and 
swore that he would humble Prester John's pride 
in the dust. He gathered in all haste a vast Tartar 
army, and sent word to Prester John to defend 
himself as best as he could. Then Genghis in- 
vaded his foe's territory, and on the beautiful 
plain of Tenduc met Prester John's forces in ter- 
rible conflict. The battle raged furiously for two 
days ; at the end of which the invader's victory 
was complete. Prester John himself fell dead in 
the midst of his host ; and Genghis Khan over- 
ran his kingdom without resistance. Thus the 
Tartars had come into the possession of all China, 
from the great desert to the eastern seas ; and 
everywhere, in the region where Marco now was, 
he saw the vestiges of their wars and triumphs. 
During his expeditions Marco saw and heard 
much that was interesting about the Tartars. 
He found that everywhere he went, they were 



KAKCO FUi-U. 



in the habit of living on the sides of the moun- 
tains in summer, and in the sunny and well- 
watered valleys in the winter. They could move 
their residence thus easily, as the tents they lived 
in were made of felt, and being very light, could 
readily be carried from place to place. They 
were so superstitious that they always placed the 
openings of their tents to the South, as to put 
them in any other way was a bad omen. The 
Tartar men did nothing but hunt and go to war; 
their wives did all the home work, the trading, 
and the cultivating of the fields. They lived 
principally on milk and the game they brought 
in from the forests and fields ; though sometimes 
Marco found them feasting on the flesh of camels 
and even dogs. 

These Tartars had each many wives, but they 
always held the wife they first married in the 
highest esteem. Husbands and wives were strictly 
faithful to each other, and a marriage was always 
the occasion of a great deal of feasting and 
merry-making. Each Tartar family had an idol 
of its own, made, curiously enough, of cloth ; 
and very queer-looking things, like rude dolls. 
did these idols seem to Marco. The idol was 



MARCO POLO REACHES CATHAY. 73 

placed in a little room apart, and by his side were 
smaller idols, representing his wife and children. 
Before the family ate, they smeared the idol's 
mouth with some fat meat, and lay some pieces 
of bread at his feet. 

The richer Tartars, Marco observed, were often 
very handsomely attired in robes of silk fringed 
with gold, and in coats made of many beautiful 
furs. The soldiers had clubs, swords, and bows 
and arrows, in the use of the latter of which 
they were very expert. When they went to war, 
they wore heavy buffalo cloaks which served 
as armor. 

While Marco was away on one of his jaunts, 
he one day received a message from his father, 
saying that the war which had delayed them 
was now over, and urging him to hasten back 
to Campicion, that they might proceed on 
their journey. He therefore hurried back, and as 
soon as he had arrived, the party once more set 
out. They had been detained at Campicion no 
less than a year; no wonder that they were 
tired of their long wanderings. 

The travellers now passed through scenes 
marked by the ravages of a ferocious war. In 



74 MARCO POLO. 

some places the villages were entirely laid waste; 
in others, half-burned cities betrayed the savage 
nature of the contest. At last they emerged 
again into a pleasant and thriving region, and 
soon found themselves in the lovely plain of 
Tenduc, where, long before, the great battle be- 
tween Genghis Khan and Prester John had been 
fought. Here Marco was surprised to learn that 
most of the inhabitants were Christians ; and he 
saw for himself that they were very industrious, 
and were prosperous farmers and skilful artisans. 
This was the country which, it was said, was 
once upon a time ruled over by two mighty giants, 
named Gog and Magog. Marco heard with de- 
light that Tenduc was not many days' journey from 
the place where at last his eyes would be grati- 
fied with the sight of Kublai, the great khan. 
The travellers were already in Cathay, and the 
end of their long wanderings was near. They 
had learned that Kublai Khan was at his summer 
palace at Shandu, in the northern part of his 
dominions ; and they had accordingly directed 
their course thither. Nicolo knew well that they 
would be most warmly welcomed when they 
came into the Tartar sovereign's presence; 



MARCO POLO REACHES CATHAY. 75 

for when he had been in Cathay before. He had 
found it difficult to get away from the khan's 
court. 

As they approached the goal of their travels, 
the Venetians passed through a more and more 
thickly settled country, and larger and richer 
cities ; until one morning they arrived at an im- 
posing place called Cianganor, where were a 
stately palace and a vast park belonging to the 
khan. This was only a three day's journey from 
Shandu ; and Nicolo resolved to stay here until 
he had sent forward a messerger to Kublai Khan 
to apprize him of their coming, and to receive 
his reply. They had aot long to wait; for 
withm a week their mo&senger returned, with a 
numerous and brilliant 1 cavalcade which the khan 
had dispatched to escort the Venetians to his 
palace. At the AA/ne time, he sent word that 
he was awa/tir.g their arrival with great im- 
patience. 

No time was l&st in setting out for Shandu, 
the road to which lay through a smiling and 
thickly settled country. On the third day, about 
noon, they had arrived within sight of the vast 
palace which served the khan as his summer 



76 MARCO POLO. 

residence, and beyond which stretched out, for 
miles, the hunting grounds where he enjoyed the 
rough pastimes of the chase. As the travellers 
approached nearer, they perceived a great multi- 
tude of horsemen coming towards them ; and 
soon one of their escort exclaimed that the khan 
himself was there. Marco eagerly strained his 
eyes in the direction of those who were ap- 
proaching ; and pretty soon was able to perceive 
a huge elephant in the midst of the horsemen, 
upon whose back appeared a glittering canopy of 
silk and gold. It was indeed the khan, coming 
out to welcome his guests. 

As soon as he was near enough, the khan de- 
scended from his elephant, and the Polos and their 
party leaped from their horses upon the ground. 
Nicolo, Maffeo and Marco advanced toward the 
monarch with bowed heads, and fell at his feet. 
Kublai gently raised the brothers, and warmly 
embraced one, and then the other. 

" Good Venetians," he said, " I am filled with 
joy to see you. Welcome back to Cathay. You 
have kept your promise to return, and I am grate- 
ful to you. But who," he asked, turning to 
Marco, " is this comely youth?" 



MARCO FOLO REACHES CATHAY. JJ 

" Sire," replied Nicolo. " He is your majesty's 
servant, my son." 

The khan looked at Marco from head to foot, 
and advancing to him, smiled very pleasantly. 

" Then," said he, " your son is also welcome. I 
am much pleased with him." 

Once more mounting, the three Polos rode by 
the khan's side until they reached the palace. 
That evening the khan gave a great feast in honor 
of the travellers' arrival; and that night, the Polos 
found themselves luxuriously lodged in some 
of the best apartments the imperial palace 
afforded. 



78 MARCO POLO. 




CHAPTER VI. 

THE IMPERIAL HUNTING GROUNDS. 

T had taken the Polos almost four long 
years to reach the hunting grounds of the 
great khan from Venice. Marco, who 
was seventeen when he set out from home, was 
now a tall and slender young man of twenty-one, 
bronzed by the suns and hardships of many months, 
and rejoicing in a slight moustache, which im- 
parted a manly appearance to his features. 

He had seen many strange sights in the lands 
through which he had passed ; had witnessed 
many singular peoples, gorgeous shows, and peril- 
ous sports. But when he beheld the splendid es- 
tablishment of Kublai Khan at Shandu, he thought 
to himself that this far surpassed all that he had 
before witnessed. Here, at the further end of 
the world, at the remotest confines of Asia, was 
a display of riches and magnificent luxury such 



THE IMPERIAL HUNTING GROUNDS. 79 

as, probably, no European potentate, however 
mighty, could maintain. 

It was not long before he had ample opportuni- 
ties to observe everything in the great summer 
palace at Shandu and the vast hunting grounds, 
stretching away for miles over forest, hill and dale, 
which served as the scene of the hardy recrea- 
tions of the Tartar monarch. Installed in the 
palace, and finding himself surrounded on every 
hand by its lavish decorations and its numberless 
comforts, he eagerly scanned all the objects about 
him. 

The palace itself was a vast though not very 
lofty edifice, constructed of marble, porphyry, 
and other beautiful stones. It comprised long 
series of spacious halls, and enclosed a number of 
wide, sunny courts, in the midst of which rare 
plants flourished and fountains forever played. 
The walls of the apartments were painted with 
figures of men, women, beasts and birds; and, 
however rude these paintings seemed to Vene- 
tians, accustomed to the most advanced art the 
world then knew, their colors were brilliant and 
gorgeous, and they presented to Marco's eyes a 
dazzling effect. They much resembled, indeed, 



8O MARCO POLO. 

the pictures which we now see that come from 
Japan. Between these pictures, the walls were 
lavishly gilded, and shone wonderfully. In the 
great hall was a raised dais, sheltered by a large 
canopy of the richest cloth ; and upon the dais 
was a gorgeous throne, which seemed ablaze with 
gold, and upon which the khan sat when, as he 
often did, he held his court at Shandu. 

Besides this main palace there stood, in the 
park beyond, another palace which was put up 
when the khan went to Shandu, and was taken 
down again when he departed from thence to his 
southern capital. This building was quite as 
large as the other, but was made of thick, long 
canes, that grew plentifully in the neighboring 
jungles. These were cut lengthwise from one 
knot to the other, and formed the roof ; and the 
structure was supported by stout silken cords. 
It was, indeed, rather a kind of wooden tent than 
a building, and was so arranged that it could be 
taken apart and packed away ; and yet, when it 
was set up, its walls appeared decorated with gay 
pictures of hunting scenes, which were relieved by 
broad stripes of gilt. The roof of the edifice was 
90 thickly varnished as to be perfectly water tight 



THE IMPERIAL HUNTING GROUNDS. 8l 

Surrounding these palaces were the vast hunt- 
ing grounds devoted to the pastimes of the 
khan and his pleasure-loving court. They were 
enclosed by a wall which was no less than sixteen 
miles around. The tract thus enclosed presented 
the most attractive variety of Oriental scenery. 
There were dense forests crowded with huge 
trees, in which roamed not only stags, deer and 
wild-goats, but lions, tigers, leopards and ele- 
phants. There were enchanting dells, through 
the midst of which flowed sparkling streams and 
in which the hunters might rest and dine amid 
their sport. There were broad spaces of lawn 
and flower-garden, with many fountains playing 
on the turf and flowers, and lovely groves that 
gave grateful shelter from the blazing summer 
sun of Tartary. There were delightful meadows, 
stretching off from the slopes of verdant hills to 
the borders of rivers, ponds and lakes ; and there 
were carefully-tended parks where, in the open 
air, the Tartar court held many of its solemn fes- 
tivals and more joyous merry-makings. 

But even all this did not suffice to content the 
khan in his summer pleasures. Three days' 
journey away there stood, at Cianganor, yet 



82 MARCO POLO. 

another palace, whither he retreated when he 
wearied of the delights of Shandu. This palace 
was quite as large as the other two, and it had 
the advantage of being situated on a very broad 
and beautiful plain, and on the borders of a charm- 
ing lake. It was here that the khan found the 
smaller game which it pleased him to hunt when 
he had got tired of slaughtering tigers and wild- 
goats; for the woods and lake-side about Cian- 
ganor abounded in pheasants, partridges and 
cranes. Marco, when he went with the khan 
and his train to this retreat, was especially struck 
with the cranes that he saw there. They were 
far more beautiful in form and color than those 
he had seen in Europe. Some were large, and of a 
dense, glossy black ; others were white, with their 
feathers " full of round gold eyes," like peacocks ; 
yet others were red and black, and others, again, 
were gray, with red and black heads. 

Not far from this palace, in a little valley that 
descended toward the lake, were a number 
of small houses, where the khan kept large 
flocks of partridges. When he went hunting at 
Cianganor. he usually carried falcons and hawks 
with him ; and many an exciting day did Marco 



THE IMPERIAL HUNTING GROUNDS. 83 

spend there in the exciting sport of hawking, 
Sometimes these royal hawking parties com- 
prised an immense number of men, carrying 
a perfect multitude of hawks and vultures. On 
more than one occasion, when Marco attended 
the khan, as many as ten thousand falconers 
went along, carrying half that number of falcons. 
When this army of sportsmen reached the hunt- 
ing ground they dispersed themselves, by twos, 
over a wide space. One of them, at one end, 
would then let fly his falcon, which would be 
watched by the others as it receded, and flew 
for its prey ; and it, with its prey, would be 
caught by the attendant nearest where they came 
in conflict. Each falcon had a silver label on its 
feet, on which was engraved its name and that of 
its owner ; and thus, having done its work, it was 
duly returned into the right hands again. 

The great khan himself set out on these hawk- 
ing expeditions in splendid array. He always 
went with four enormous elephants, whose mag- 
nificent trappings betrayed the imperial rank of 
him they bore; and on reaching the hunting 
ground, he had a square tent, of gold cloth 
and lions' skins, erected in a convenient place, 



84 MARCO POLO. 

from an opening in which he witnessed and took 
part in the sport. When the game was started 
up, some of the falconers, riding to the royal 
tent, would cry out, " Sire, the birds are passing ;" 
whereon the khan threw open the side of the 
tent, let fly one of his favorite hawks, and then, 
throwing himself back upon his luxurious couch, 
watched the plunges and whirlings of the birds in 
the air, as the falcon swooped on its victims. 

But exciting as was this sport, that which still 
more fascinated Marco was the fiercer and more 
dangerous hunting that he witnessed at Shandu. 
There the khan possessed a most imposing 
menagerie of wild beasts, which he used for at- 
tacking the ferocious denizens of his forests. 

Not far from the palace was a long line of low 
buildings which, when Marco came to inspect 
them, proved to be nothing less than enormous 
cages. On peering within the massive bars, he 
saw a number of wild animals. There were sleek 
yellow and black-spotted leopards, pacing steathily 
and watchfully up and down, and now and then 
stopping and showing their sharp teeth ; there 
were cunning looking lynxes, with their keen, 
restless eyes; and in some of the cages we: 



THE IMPERIAL HUNTING GROUNDS. 8$ 

animals, the like of which Marco had never be- 
fore seen. At first he took them for lions. He 
had never seen a live lion, it is true, but he had 
seen the bronze effigies of the lions of St. Marc, 
which stood near the big cathedral at home, and 
these animals appeared to resemble them. They 
were not, however, lions, but tigers ; a beast not 
then known in Europe. Marco gazed with in- 
terest, not unmixed with terror, upon these 
ferocious creatures, with their smooth striped skins 
and their savage faces, with which he afterward 
became familiar in the hunting field. In other 
cages were stately eagles, sitting solemn and 
still on their perches, and glaring steadily at their 
visitor ; and in kennels near the cages were many 
varieties of hunting dogs. Marco was soon to 
learn that the khan took the tigers out hunting 
with him and set them upon stags, wild oxen, 
wild boars and wild goats ; and that the eagles 
were used to hunt animals as large as foxes, 
and even wolves. A fight between an eagle 
and a wolf was one which aroused him to the 
most intense excitement. It was with great in- 
terest that, one day, he saw the khan mounted 
and going to the hunt, with a sleek little leopard 



86 MARCO POLO. 

squatted on the crupper of his horse, apparently 
as tame and contented as possible. This leopard 
the khan employed to run down and kill stags and 
wild deer. 

Nothing surprised Marco more than the great 
fstablishment of dogs kept by the khan. Two of 
his nobles, who were brothers, were the keepers of 
the dogs ; and under them were no less than ten 
thousand men, who took the dogs to the hunt. 
These jtiefl were divided into two corps, one of 
whom wore yellow costumes, and the other, blue; 
and it was a grand sight to see this numerous 
and brilliant company set out, on a sunny morn- 
ing, with thousands of hounds and mastiffs, 
growling and barking, leaping about, and when 
let loose, running with the greatest speed, while 
the trumpets sounded the calls, and the Tartar 
monarch, mounted on his elephant, advanced in 
the midst. 

Besides his hunters, the khan had many pet 
dogs of every breed, shape, size and color that 
Asia afforded. Some of them had been brought 
from the far north, from the bleak regions of Si- 
beria ; and a few of them were European dogs, 
such as Marco was Already familiar with. These 



THE IMPERIAL HUNTING GROUNDS. 8/ 

dogs were highly trained, and the khan and his 
court were often wont to spend long summer af- 
ternoons lolling on couches, or stretched upon 
the lawn, watching their funny antics. 

Sometimes, when the khan went a considerable 
distance from his palace in pursuit of the pleas- 
ures of which he was fond, a large number of tents 
was carried by his numerous attendants ; and on 
reaching a favorable spot, the tents were pitched 
by some brawling river, or on a shaded plain, and 
thus a canvas city suddenly made its appearance. 
This " camping-out" of the Tartar court was on a 
most elaborate scale. For the higher nobles an 
enormous tent was spread, in which a thousand 
men were lodged. The khan himself had a gor- 
geous pavilion, sustained by columns of cedar 
and other perfumed wood, and garnished, inside 
and out, by a profusion of lions' and tigers' skins. 
At the sides hung ermine and zibelline skins of 
vast value, elaborately worked with great art and 
skill. This royal tent, too, was supplied with 
gilded and painted furniture of the most gaudy 
description. Divans with huge silk-covered cush- 
ions, beds into which one sank almost out of sight, 
lounges and chairs of downy softness, hangings of 



88 MARCO POLO. 

the heaviest texture and most brilliant colors, 
enabled the khan to live in as luxurious comfort 
in his pleasure camp as at his palace. 

Around the royal tent were other smaller tents, 
only less splendid than itself. Some of these 
were occupied by his ladies, others by his astron- 
omers, doctors and chief hunters, and still others 
by his dogs and falcons. A strong guard was posted 
night and day near the royal tent ; and in it, every 
night, were held feasts in which every delicacy of 
dish or fruit was partaken of, no matter how dis- 
tant the camp might be from the nearest city. 

All this was so new and strange to Marco, that 
for the first few months of his stay with the khan 
he did nothing but gaze and wonder. He seemed 
to be in a new world ; to have been transported 
from our globe to some distant planet, where 
every scene and custom were wholly unfamiliar. 
The khan, pleased with his appearance at first, 
liked Marco more and more as he came to know 
him better. He indulged the young Venetian in 
many privileges from which even his own nobles 
were excluded ; learned from him to speak Italian 
pretty well ; and always insisted on his going with 
the royal party on its expeditions. Marco might 



THE IMPERIAL HUNTING GROUNDS. 89 

roam in the palace or through the hunting grounds 
as he pleased ; the best that the palace afforded 
was set before him when he dined or supped ; and 
when he went abroad, he could, if he chose, call 
a guard to attend and protect him. 

Sometimes Marco, as well as his father and 
uncle, was admitted to the royal table itself. The 
first time that he enjoyed this privilege, he saw a 
sight which deeply impressed him, and at first 
completely deceived him. No sooner were the 
khan and his company fairly seated, than the 
magicians (who were solemn looking men, with 
long beards and long black robes) rose and waved 
their wands ; whereupon the cups of wine and 
milk, intended for the khan, and which were on a 
table apart, moved as of themselves, and placed 
themselves before the monarch. Marco found 
that the Tartars, and even the khan himself, be- 
lieved that this was done by real magic ; but he 
soon suspected that the cups were moved by 
mechanical contrivances, secretly arranged by the 
magicians themselves. 

The magicians of the court, indeed, greatly in- 
terested Marco. They often dressed in more 
splendid costumes than the nobles themselves ; 



9O MARCO POLO. 

and they were not only magicians, but priests. 
The religious festivals of the Tartars were held 
very frequently, and were attended by much 
pomp and ceremony. Fireworks, such as Masco 
had never imagined, were let off at night ; and 
troops of women filled the air with strange, wild 
songs. The khan was always very anxious that 
all due respect should be paid to his idols on 
their feast days ; for the magicians threatened 
him with all sorts of misfortunes, as a result of 
his neglect to celebrate these occasion and of 
the wrath of the idols thereat. 

Besides the magicians, there was a vast number 
of monks in the vicinity of the imperial hunting 
grounds, whose monasteries crowned the hills and 
crags in every vicinity. Some of these monks 
were married, and lived with their families in little 
huts near the monasteries ; but most of them, like 
the European monks, remained unmarried. They 
ate nothing but the boiled husks of corn, shaved 
their heads and beards, wore a very coarse attire, 
and slept either on rude mats or on the bare 
ground. Marco was surprised to find an order of 
men, in distant Cathay, so nearly resembling the 
monks of his own country 



THE IMPERIAL HUNTING GROUNDS. 9! 

Marco's first summer in Cathay, amid all these 
scenes and excitements, passed very rapidly. The 
month of August was fast drawing to an end ; and 
from what he observed of the movements around 
him, it was evident that the Tartar court would 
soon leave Shandu, and proceed to the khan's 
southern capital. He soon received confirmation 
of this conjecture ; for, one day, the magicians an- 
nounced to the khan that the 28th of August 
was near, and reminded him that he must be 
at Kambalu, his capital, on that day, " to sprinkle 
the milk of the sacred mares." 

On asking a young Tartar noble, who had been 
very friendly to him, and of whom he had made 
quite an intimate companion, what this meant, 
the former replied : 

" There is, in the south, a race of sacred mares 
which are as white as the driven snow. Their 
milk is also sacred, and must not be drunk by 
any one who is not of imperial blood. It is said 
to preserve life and to impart wisdom. Well, on 
the 28th of August the great khan takes a large 
quantity of this milk, and sprinkles it in the air, 
in every direction. By his so doing the spirits 
are able to drink in abundance of the, sacred bev- 



93 MARCO POLO. 

erage ; and in their gratitude to the khan, they 
protect him and all things that are dear to him." 

No sooner had the magicians announced the 
approach of the time to sprinkle the sacred 
milk, than the khan gave orders to his court to 
prepare for their return to Kambalu. All be- 
came bustle and confusion in the palace and its 
neighborhood. It was no small task to get ready 
for a journey of several hundred miles, and to 
provide, during its progress, for the luxurious 
travelling of the monarch and his vast train of 
nobles and ladies; and thousands of servants 
were busy night and day makirg the necessary 
preparations. The khan meanwhile enjoyed for 
the last times the hunting in his grounds, and 
made the most of the brief interval that remained. 

At last it was announced that everything had 
been made ready for departure. Provision trains 
and guards had started on ahead to post them- 
selves at convenient distances on the route ; and 
after a monster feast, in which all the great 
people of the court took part, the khan set out 
on his tour southward. 



MAr\CO FOLO. 93 




CHAPTER VII. 

THE COURT OF THE GREAT KHAN. 

|T was a grand sight to see the vast multi- 
tude of courtiers, soldiers, nobles, ladies, 
and attendants, as it crowded the high- 
way as far as eye could reach, and spread itself 
out over the plain beyond Shandu. 

As Marco gazed on the immense procession, 
including thousands upon thousands of swarthy 
Tartars, attired in every variety of gay and bril- 
liant costume, it seemed to him as if a great city 
of people were emptying itself, and had risen 
bodily to move to a new site. On one side he 
saw a long train of large elephants, so long that 
he could not see the end of it in the distance ; 
each elephant adorned with heavy embroidered 
trappings and lofty palanquins, and some of 
them bearing huge bales of goods and provisions. 
Near by was another train, composed entirely of 



94 MARCO POLO. 

camels and dromedaries, which strode off in thei* 
patient, sober way, bearing also their heavy 
burdens. 

Of troops of horses, some mounted by the 
fierce Tartar cavalry, with their long moustaches, 
their rude helmets, their huge yataghans, and 
their long, limber spears, others bearing packages, 
others dragging heavy wagons, and yet others 
strode by gorgeously dressed nobles, there seemed 
to be no end ; in the midst of the great multi- 
tude was the khan's corps of kennel-keepers, 
holding dogs in the leash by the dozen ; and here 
and there were to be seen the moving cages 
containing the khan's big menagerie his lions 
and tigers, his leopards and foxes, his eagles, 
hawks and falcons. The din that arose from this 
immense number of people was sometimes deaf- 
ening. The departure was announced by much 
blowing of shrill trumpets, and by the beating of 
flat drums; and from the midst of the many 
groups of women, the ladies and slaves of the 
khan and his principal courtiers, proceeded the 
wierd songs of Cathay, which had so startled 
Marco when he first reached the khan's hunting 
grounds. 



THE COURT OF THE GREAT KHAN. <)* 

He wondered very much how it was that tht 
officers kept so innumerable a host in anything 
like good order ; for he observed that, in spite of 
the apparent confusion, the vast caravanserai 
advanced in regular sections, each body of men 
and women keeping the place in the procession 
in which it had set out. 

In the very midst of his subjects, went, in mag- 
nificent state, Kublai Khan himself. He was 
perched on the back of an enormous white ele- 
phant, down whose huge leathery sides hung dra- 
peries of cloth of gold and silver, worked with the 
symbols of the Buddhist faith in many dazzling 
colors. Above these draperies appeared a splen- 
did pavilion, supported by slender and beautifully 
carved pillars of sandal-wood and other aromatic 
woods. It was curtained in the richest silk ; above 
it rose a little dome, plated with silver, and sur- 
mounted by many brilliant plumes, that waved 
and nodded high in the air. 

Within the pavilion was a throne which was one 
blaze of burnished gold, and which was supplied 
with a large soft cushion, as large and soft as a 
feather bed. Its arms were carved tiger's heads, 
the eyes of the tigers being immense emeralds ; 



96 MARCO POLO. 

and upon this throne sat, or rather reclined, the 
mighty monarch of Cathay. It was a fine oppor- 
tunity to observe this famous warrior and king. 
Of middle height and build, Kublai Khan's dark 
complexion was yet clear and creamy, and on his 
cheeks a faint flush lent a rich color to his ex- 
pressive features. His form was perfect in its 
proportions ; he seemed to have been cast in the 
finest mould of men. He was at once lithe and 
athletic ; strong of muscle, quick and nervous in 
motion. 

His large, dark eyes shone at once with energy 
and kindliness ; his nose, not large and thick as 
were those of most of his countrymen, was straight 
and bold. His lips were thick and sensuous, but 
beautifully outlined, and full of expression. A 
short, shiny black beard, just tinged with gray, 
depended from his round chin, and a narrow 
black moustache adorned his upper lip. In his 
ears hung long ear-rings of tear-shaped pearls, and 
his robe and turban were of the heaviest and glos- 
siest silk. 

On a cushion, on one side of the khan, reposed 
a beautiful young girl, one of the most recent and 
well beloved of his many wives; while on the 



THE COURT OF THE GREAT KHAN. 9? 

other side of the throne, and chained to its leg, 
sat a small but handsomely spotted leopard, the 
khan's favorite pet. 

All around the elephant that bore the khan, 
were other elephants, which carried his wives and 
principal courtiers, who were being constantly 
fanned by their dusky slaves with fans made of 
peacock's feathers, and fastened to long poles that 
reached from the ground to the palanquins on the 
elephant's backs. 

The journey from the imperial hunting grounds 
to Kambalu, the capital of Cathay, occupied 
several weeks; for the two places were some 
hundreds of miles apart. The khan and his cara- 
vanserai went leisurely, for there was ample time 
before them. They halted three or four times 
each day, and timed their progress so as to reach 
some large town at night-fall. No sooner did 
they reach a town, than they found every prepara- 
tion made to receive them. Vast tents were spread, 
luxurious feasts loaded down long tables within 
some of them, while in others beds were arranged 
for the repose of all. The journey thus seemed 
no hardship at all, but a delightful excursion. The 
country through which Marco passed was, for the 



98 MARCO POLO. 

most part, beautiful. Sometimes the caravanserai 
passed across tedious deserts and plains, or rank 
and dangerous jungles ; but they usually found 
themselves winding through lovely valleys, with 
a rich vegetation all about them, and wide spread- 
ing trees that afforded a delicious shade from the 
sun's rays. 

As they approached Kambalu, one bright after- 
noon, the whole population of the capital seemed 
to empty itself out to receive them. There was 
a commingling of two vast multitudes. Relatives 
and friends greeted each other with the wildest 
demonstrations of delight ; and as the khan passed 
by, the people of the city prostrated themselves, 
all along the road, in his august presence. 

Nothing, thought Marco, could exceed the gran- 
deur of the palace in which, by the invitation of 
the khan, he now took up his quarters. That at 
Shandu had amazed him ; but it seemed insignifi- 
cant indeed, when he compared it with this noble 
edifice, which was comprised in a square a mile 
on each side, and whose walls rose high above all 
the surrounding houses. These walls themselves 
supported buildings which, together, composed 
a part of the imperial abode. 



THE COURT OF THE GREAT KHAN. 99 

At their four corners were spacious towers, in 
which were kept the bows, arrows, yataghans and 
spears, the bridles and saddles, the helmets and 
breastplates which comprised the khan's imple- 
ments of war. Midway between these were other 
towers, which contained the enormous stores 
needed for the support of the court. In the vast 
space, a mile square, enclosed within the walls, 
were several groups of spacious buildings, some 
used for the wardrobes, others for the plate and 
other movable articles; while in the midst of 
these stood the imperial palace itself, its roof 
rising high above the rest. 

Marco found this palace, in its general appear- 
ance, not unlike that at Shandu ; but far larger in 
the size of its apartments, and far more magnifi- 
cent in its decorations. The hall was reached by 
a broad flight of porphyry steps ; and this room 
was so long, that it held six thousand persons at 
its banquet table. Its walls were fairly crusted 
with gold and silver; and on them were emblaz- 
oned enormous figures of dragons, horses, dol- 
phins, tigers, suns and full moons. 

The apartments within this palace seemed to 
Marco fairly innumerable, and all the chambers 



IOO MARCO POLO. 

were as gorgeously decorated as was the hall it. 
self. The roof especially attracted his attention ; 
for it was painted red, blue, and green, and so 
thickly varnished that it glistened in the sun. 
Quadrangle after quadrangle succeeded each 
other, in the centre of which spurted fountains, 
stood basins full of fish, and grew trees of rarest 
bloom and verdure. 

All the surroundings of the palace were fairly 
delicious. Marco found a large artificial lake a 
few rods away, upon which barges so painted and 
gilded as fairly to dazzle him, gayly floated. This 
lake was alive with the greatest variety of fish, 
which daily supplied the khan's table. Near the 
lake rose an artificial hill, perhaps forty feet high, 
even on every side, which the khan had had planted 
completely over with evergreens that preserved 
their soft and genial color the year round. This 
was called " the green mountain," and on its sum- 
mit was the prettiest pavilion imaginable, whence 
a view of all the surrounding country might be 
enjoyed. It was one of the khan's pet hobbies to 
cover this eminence with the rarest trees, which he 
caused to be brought thither from the remotest 
parts of Tartary and planted. 



THE COURT OF THE GREAT KHAN IOI 

" How my brother Maffeo and my uncle Marco 
would wonder to see all this splendor!" mused 
Marco. " When I get home, and tell them about 
it, they will not believe me." 

The palace stood on the banks of a river ; and 
it was on the other bank of this river that the city 
of Kambalu (which means, " city of the khan") 
stood. It was, Marco saw, a large city, some 
twenty-four miles ar'ound, and built regularly in 
squares ; and it stood on or near the site which 
the great Chinese city of Pekin now occupies. It 
was entirely surrounded by a thick and lofty 
earthen wall, through which, on the several sides, 
twelve gates gave admission to the streets. 

On either side of these gates were square towers, 
which were always filled with heavily-armed troops. 
The streets were really broad, straight avenues, 
and were lined with wide-spreading trees; and 
along them were to be seen many fine palaces and 
temples. Marco saw a very high building in the 
very centre of the city, on which was a steeple 
containing a large bell. This bell, he learned, was 
rung at nightfall three times ; this was a signal that 
the great gates were closed, and that no one could 
enter or go out of the city until the next day. 



\O2 MARCO POLO. 

Kambalu was a very busy place. It was full 
of rich merchants, who drove a thriving trade, and 
Its bazaars were every day crowded with eager 
traders dealing in every imaginable kind of wares. 
From India came to the bazaar stalls precious 
stones and rich fabrics, and from the Austral- 
asian islands delicious spices and fruits ; while 
Cathay itself supplied them with an abundance of 
food and cloths. The suburbs of the city 
stretched away over the hills beyond the walls as 
far as eye could reach on either side, and Marco's 
head ached when he tried to guess how large the 
population of Kambalu and its vicinity could be. 

Marco had not long been at Kambalu, before 
he learned that the khan had a large number of 
wives. Of these four were held in higher honor 
than the rest, and were called " Empresses." Each 
of these empresses was entitled to take the khan's 
name, and each had a separate court of her own, 
with a palace all to herself. Each empress was 
attended by no less than ten thousand persons, 
among whom were three hundred of the loveliest 
maidens of Cathay. It was a great honor to be- 
long to an empress's court, and all the young 
girls of the country were anxious to be chosen 



THE COURT OK THE ORB AT KHAN. IO3 

among this band. By his four empresses, the 
khan had twenty-two sons, and by his other 
wives, no less than twenty-five more; and this 
numerous family lived, one and all, in the greatest 
splendor and state. 

The khan's court, as Marco had seen it at 
Shandu, was as nothing compared with the court 
he held at Kambalu. He was constantly guarded 
by twelve thousand horsemen. After one body of 
horsemen had served him three days and three 
nights, they were replaced by another body of 
the same number ; and wherever the khan went, 
he was attended by this military array. 

Marco marvelled at nothing more than at the 
magnificent feasts which the khan gave on the 
occasion of an imperial or religious festival. The 
great banqueting hall of the palace served as the 
scene of these feasts. At these times, the monarch 
himself sat at a table at one end of the hall, 
raised on a dais high above the rest, facing the 
South. On his left sat his favorite wife, and on 
his right, his sons and nephews. On a lower 
platform were stationed the great nobles of the 
state with their wives, and lower down still, on 
the floor, were seated the lower dignitaries of 



IO4 MARCO POLO. 

Kublai's court. In the very centre of the hall, 
between the long rows of groaning tables, stood 
an immense basin of solid gold, and on either 
side two smaller ones, all filled to overflowing 
with the choicest wine ; and from thence the at- 
tendants took the beverage, in flagons, to the 
feasters. 

Two guards, of lofty stature, were stationed at 
each door of the banqueting hall, with heavy 
staves. These saw to it that no one who entered 
or went out touched the threshold ; for this was 
a serious offence in a royal apartment. 

Marco observed that those who waited upon 
the khan and his family, who were nobles of high 
degree, had their mouths closely wrapped up in 
silk and gold towels ; and soon learned that this 
was to keep them from breathing upon the 
dishes destined for the imperial palate. As soon 
as the khan raised his goblet to drink, the 
trumpets and drums made a great noise in every 
part of the hall, and the nobles, leaving their 
chairs, fell all at once on their knees and raised 
their hands, in a sort of supplicating attitude, 
above their heads ; and this happened every time 
the khan quaffed his wine. 



THE COURT OF THE GREAT KHAN. 10$ 

While the feast was thus going forward in the 
great hall, multitudes were eating and drinking to 
their hearts' content in the smaller apartments 
surrounding it. In all, it was said that forty 
thousand people feasted at once within the palace 
walls. Many of these were nobles or mer- 
chants who came from distant parts of the em- 
pire, and who had brought costly gifts to the 
khan. 

The eating and drinking over, the tables were 
cleared and moved aside, the vast company 
gathered in a semi-circle on the floor, a lofty 
throne was placed for the khan on the dais, and 
forthwith in came a host of dancers, singers, 
magicians, and jugglers ; who, in the open space 
below the monarch, entertained the multitude 
with the exhibition of their various talents. 
Marco was especially struck with the jugglers, 
who performed seemingly impossible feats, and 
tumbled about greatly to the risk, as he thought, 
of breaking their necks. 

Among the chief festivals that took place at 
court, were those which celebrated the khan's 
birthday, and the incoming of the new year, 
which, in Cathay, began in February. On his 



IO6 MARCO POLO. 

birthday, the khan was wont to array himself in 
a robe of beaten gold, and all his court wore their 
most gorgeous apparel. The feast was preceded 
by a solemn ceremony in the principal temple ; and 
after this, presents were offered to the khan by a 
multitude of his subjects, who came from every 
part of the country; and also by neighboring 
princes. 

A still more splendid festival was that, called 
the " White Feast," which ushered in the new year. 
On that day the entire population of the khan's 
empire attired themselves in white, from head to 
foot. It was customary on this occasion also to 
offer gifts to the monarch; indeed, these occa- 
sions for making him presents came very often, 
and served to enrich him beyond calculation. On 
New Year's day, the presents usually consisted of 
gold and silver ornaments, rare gems, and costly 
white cloths, white horses, camels, and elephants, 
these animals also bearing on their backs boxes 
and packages of presents, and being habited in 
the richest apparel. 

The ceremony of receiving these offerings, and 
of celebrating the day, was a most imposing one. 
The khan and all his court repaired in splendid 



THE COURT OP THE GREAT KHAN. IO? 

attire to the great hall of the palace, and ranged 
themselves in order of rank around the sides. As 
soon as all had occupied their places, a high 
priest advanced in the centre and said, in a loud 
voice, " Kneel and adore !" whereupon all fell 
upon their knees, struck their foreheads with 
their hands, and turning to the khan, rendered 
him homage as if he were a god. Then the crowd 
advanced to an altar, where the priest poured out 
incense in the khan's honor. 

This ceremony over, the khan, followed by the 
rest, went out upon the flight of steps leading up 
to the principal portal of the palace ; and as he 
stood there, beneath a glittering canopy, fanned by 
peacock fans, and the centre of a dazzling galaxy of 
silk and jewels, the elephants, camels and horses 
that bore his innumerable presents passed by in 
slow procession. All the animals were taught 
to kneel when they came opposite the khan ; 
and it took several hours for the long train, bear- 
ing its countless treasures, to pass. 

After this the banquet took place; and on New 
Year's night, every one at the khan's court felt at 
liberty to become intoxicated, and to indulge 
in such wild capers as the wine inspired them to 



IO8 MARCO POLO. 

commit. The wine thus drunk was seasoned with 
rice and rich spices, and was very strong. 

At all these festivals and merry-makings, the 
Polos were not only permitted to be present, but 
were honored with places in the midst of the 
nobles. The khan's favor, which was fully and 
openly bestowed upon the Venetian strangers, 
served to procure them the good will and friend- 
ship of his courtiers. 

All this while Marco was learning what seemed 
to him the endless language of Cathay. He 
found it a great deal harder than French, which 
he had studied as a boy at home ; but in due 
time he found that he could converse quite easily 
with his Tartar companions, and heard every day 
something new and strange about the land in 
which he was sojourning. 



POLO. 




CHAPTER VIII. 

MARCO POLO AMONG THE TARTARS. 

1EFORE Marco had lived in the khan's 
palace a year, he had become quite used 
to his novel surroundings ; and felt as much 
at home as he could anywhere outside of his native 
Italy. As soon as he learned the language so as 
to talk readily, he learned a great deal that was 
very curious about Cathay. He was never tired 
of asking questions, and he found many learned 
men about the court who were very willing to 
satisfy his curiosity. 

He had now thrown aside his Venetian attire, 
and, like his father and uncle, wore the costume 
which was imposed upon him by Tartar custom ; 
and very oddly he looked, in loose tunic, small 
turban, and turned-up shoes, his complexion being 
:nany shades lighter than that of the dusky faces 

1 him. He had adopted, also, the Tartar 



IO MARCO POT.O. 

ways of living; and instead of keeping himscff 
apart, made himself one among the courtiers. 

The more he saw of Kublai Khan, and the more 
he learned of his method of governing his vast 
empire, the more ardently did he admire that ener- 
getic and kindly monarch. He observed that 
whenever there was a great storm, or flood, or 
other calamity, the khan sent messengers into the 
districts where it had occurred, to find out if the 
crops had been destroyed ; and if they had been, 
the khan not only relieved the sufferers of their 
taxes for the year, but distributed food among 
them out of his own abundant stores. 

The khan, in times of plenty, always caused 
his store-houses to be filled full of grain ; and 
when a period of scarcity occurred, he ordered this 
grain to be sold to the commonfolk at a third or 
a fourth of its cost. The poor people of Kambalu 
were constantly fed from the 'khan's generous 
bounty ; even the humblest beggar was not turned 
away empty from the palace doors. Not only 
did the khan thus provide the hungry with food, 
but the ragged with clothing. Of the silk, hemp, 
and wool which he collected as a part of the trib- 
utes due him, he caused cloths to be made in a 



MARCO POLO AMONG THE TARTARS. If* 

building within the palace walls ; and these cloths 
were turned into comfortable garments, and given 
freely to those who stood in need of them. The 
good monarch also took care that there should be 
spacious highways leading from every part of his 
dominions to the capital. Nor was he content 
with merely constructing these roads ; he caused 
them to be planted, on either side, with tall trees, 
which served at once to afford the tired traveller 
a grateful shade on his way, and to guide him 
aright to his destination. When the soil was such 
that trees could not be planted, the khan caused 
mile-stones to be erected at convenient intervals. 
On these highroads, at distances of five-and-twenty 
miles, were stationed a kind of post houses, to 
serve as resting-places both for the khan's mes- 
sengers, and for travellers. These houses were 
often spacious and luxuriously furnished, and 
many horses were kept in the stables, so as to be 
ready for use at any moment. 

The khan, indeed, had no need to fear that his 
treasure would ever become exhausted ; for he had 
the power, and freely used it, to manufacture as 
much money as he chose. This he did with the 
rind beneath the bark of a certain tree. This was 



112 MARCO POLO. 

cut up into small strips, and stamped with the royal 
seal ; and thus the khan had an ample supply of 
funds. This was, perhaps, the earliest known em- 
ployment of paper money. It surprised Marco 
very much to see the Tartars burning lumps of 
" blackstone," instead of wood, in their fire-places ; 
for he had never seen or heard of coal in Europe. 
Nothing about the court was more interesting 
to Marco than the many astrologers and magicians 
whom he saw there, and who were held in high 
honor by the khan and all his courtiers. These 
grave men, who always wore very long beards and 
had wise, solemn countenances, were supported at 
the khan's expense, and were constantly engaged 
in the exercise of their mysterious arts. They 
studied the stars, and had many curious instru- 
ments for this purpose ; and from the positions 
and course of the heavenly bodies, they foretold 
the weather and many other events. When they 
made their prophecies, these were written down 
on small tablets, and sold to all who wished to 
peer into the future. When a noble courtier was 
going to a distance, and desired to know whether 
he would be overtaken by storms, or would suc- 
ceed in the object of his journey, he went to an 



MARCO POLO AMONG THE TARTARS. 113 

astrologer to be informed, and paid him roundly 
for his service. 

Marco often attended the religious rites in 
the temples, and noted with curiosity the re- 
ligious customs of the people. Each Tartar 
had, he observed, a small tablet fixed in the 
wall of one of his rooms, with the name of 
Buddha engraved upon it in large letters. To 
this tablet he and his family prayed every morn- 
ing. They prostrated themselves on the ground, 
raised their hands, frantically beat their foreheads, 
and then burned incense in honor of their god. 
On the floor below the tablet, stood a small statue 
of an inferior god, who was supposed to have a 
care of the earthly affairs of Buddha's worshippers, 
and to whom prayers were offered for good 
weather, full crops, and health. The Tartars 
believed that as soon as a man died, his soul 
inhabited a new body ; that a poor man who had 
been good during this life, would be re-born a 
gentleman, or perhaps a noble ; but that on the 
other hand a man of rank who had been wicked 
would, after death, become a peasant, and after- 
wards a dog or a wolf. 

The more Marco saw of the Tartars the more 



114 MARCO POLO. 

he respected and liked them. He was pleased 
with their polite and gentle manners; he was 
attracted by their agreeable, smiling faces; he 
noticed with what cleanliness and care they ate ; 
and he observed that children invariably treated 
their parents with reverence and humility, and 
that the punishment of a child who rebelled 
against parental authority was very severe. 

The khan was treated by his subjects with a 
respect and awe which passed the bounds of 
servility. When any one came within half a mile 
of where the khan was, he at once assumed a 
very sober face, advanced slowly and softly, and 
talked in a subdued voice ; and on reaching the 
portal of the palace, proceeded to produce from a 
pocket a pair of soft leather buskins, with which 
he replaced his shoes. On entering the royal 
presence, he fell upon the carpet, and did not lift 
his head until he had received the khan's permis- 
sion to do so. 

But the time was soon to come when Marco 
must abandon the idle and luxurious life he had 
so long led, and to engage in active and perilous 
service for the khan. Everything about the court 
and city had amused and interested him, and the 



MARCO POLO AMONG THE TARTARS. 11$ 

days had passed quickly amid so many strange 
scenes and so many brilliant shows and attrac- 
tions. He could scarcely believe in the rapid 
passage of time ; and he almost forgot that his 
presence in Cathay was for more serious purposes 
than to saunter and dream among those beauti- 
ful and bewildering surroundings. Yet, when the 
moment arrived for him to arouse himself, to 
enter upon active pursuits, and do something to 
show his gratitude for all the khan's generosity, 
hospitality and kindness, he was by no means 
sorry; for Marco had an adventurous disposition, 
and was happiest when engaged in some stirring 
task. 

One afternoon, when he was lolling in his 
apartment, an attendant entered and summoned 
Marco into the khan's presence. Kublai was re- 
posing by a fountain in one of the shady court- 
yards of the palace. Dark-visaged slaves were 
fanning him with peacock fans, as the monarch 
reclined on soft pillows, and quaffed, every now 
and then, a cooling beverage from a golden 
goblet. By his side lay, in languid attitude, two 
of his beautiful young wives, attired in light but 
exceedingly rich costumes, their ears, necks and 



II<5 MARCO POLO. 

arms sparkling with many gems. Around the 
khan stood a group of courtiers and attendants ; 
while in the corners of the courtyard, gigantic 
and fierce-featured guards watched over his safety. 

Marco approached and made the usual humble 
obeisance to the monarch. Kublai, raising him- 
self on his elbow, motioned to Marco to come 
nearer and stand by him ; for he said he had 
something to say to him. 

" Venetian," began Kublai, " I have made you 
very welcome at my court, and have found 
pleasure in your presence. Your countenance 
was agreeable to my eyes when I first saw you ; 
and since, your conduct has been such as to win 
my confidence and esteem. I trust you, and be- 
lieve that you are devoted to me. Is it not so ?" 

Marco replied that he longed for an occasion 
to show the khan how grateful he was for all that 
the khan had done for him. 

" Such an occasion has now arisen," continued 
the khan. " There is grave business to be done 
in my western and southern provinces. They are 
disturbed, and the people do not understand my 
fatherly care over them. I must send thither some 
one who will reason with them, and explain my 



MARCO POLO AMONG THE TARTARS. 

proceedings ; who will persuade them to be sub- 
missive, and assure them that they may be certain 
of justice and protection. This task, Venetian, 
I have marked out for you." 

"Nothing," declared Marco, " would please me 
better than to undertake it. I thank your majesty 
for the confidence you thus repose in me." 

"Your journey will be long, and it may be 
perilous. My subjects in those distant portions 
of my empire are not easily governed. Some- 
times they break out into rebellion. Besides, the 
mountains are full of robbers, who dare to attack 
even my royal messengers. But you are a brave 
and active youth, and danger has no terrors for 
you. You shall go well guarded ; I shall give 
orders that you are attended as the chosen envoy 
of the great khan should be." 

Marco was far from dismayed by the prospect 
before him. Now that it was decided upon, he 
became impatient to enter on his travels, and en- 
counter the possible perils of which the khan 
had spoken. His father was at first loth to 
have him go. He feared lest he should never 
see his young son again. But Nicolo knew that 
Kublai Khan's will was law; and that, however 



18 MARCO POLO. 

kind he might be on ordinary occasions, he was 
very resolute that his will, when expressed, 
should be obeyed at once, and without a mur- 
mur. 

In no long time the preparations for Marco's 
setting out were complete. He was to be at- 
tended by a considerable guard of soldiers, 
armed to the teeth ; and also by a large train of 
attendants, as an indication of his rank and his 
position near the khan. 

The day of departure came ; and Marco, arrayed 
in Tartar costume, his belt well armed with sword 
and daggers, and his horse fresh and sleek from the 
royal stables, bade the khan adieu in the midst 
of his court. He received his last instructions 
from one of the principal ministers, and then 
retired to his father's apartment to embrace 
Nicolo and Maffeo for the last time. This touch- 
ing interview over, he mounted his horse, and 
accompanied by his guard and attendants, emerged 
from the palace gate, crossed the river, and 
wended his way leisurely through the spacious 
avenues of Kambalu. 

Soon the open country beyond the suburbs was 
reached, and now Marco pushed forward more 



MARCO POLO AMONG THE TARTARS. 

rapidly. When he had gone about ten miles he 
came to a river, much wider and more rapid than 
that which flowed beneath the palace wall. On 
approaching the banks, he espied before him the 
finest bridge he had ever seen. It was built of 
stone, and had four-and-twenty arches supported 
by massive piers imbedded in the stream. At 
one end was a lofty column of marble, around the 
foot of which were several skilfully carved 
figures of lions. As he rode across the bridge, 
Marco found that ten horsemen could easily go 
abreast upon it. In spite of all that he had al- 
ready seen in Cathay, Marco was surprised to finl 
there as splendid a work of art as this bridge really 
was. 

Continuing his journey, Marco found himself 
passing through a rich and thriving country, the 
soil of which was fruitful, the landscapes charm- 
ing, and the people industrious and busy. He 
reached towns and villages all alive with bazaars, 
and silk and linen factories ; he passed broad 
fields of waving grain, and beneath avenues of 
trees which stretched far away over the hills. 
On eminences here and there he espied quite 
stately castles, guarded by towers and high walls, 



I2O MARCO POLO. 

just as were the castles he used to see about 
Venice ; and vineyards crept up the slopes to 
their foundations. Once in a while Marco came 
upon very large cities, teeming with dense popu- 
lations, and all alive with manufacture and trade: 
processions of camels and carts going in and out 
the lofty gateways, and many temples rising 
high above the mass of dwellings. In the bazaars 
great fairs were being held ; and Marco could 
not but remark how intelligent and shrewd this 
race of Tartar merchants seemed. He seized 
every occasion to talk both with merchants and 
the native soothsayers, and with the landlords of 
the inns where he sojourned. He heard accounts 
of the country through which he was passing, the 
manners and customs of the people, and, as well, 
many anecdotes of the events which had taken 
place in the various neighborhoods. 

One afternoon he stopped at a large town called 
Pianfu, and was enjoying his ease after supper 
and talking with one of the local gossips. On a 
hill some two miles distant he observed a very 
spacious and hoary castle. He asked his com 
panion what castle it was. 

" That is the castle of Cayafu," was the reply 



MARCO POLO AMONG THE TARTARS. 121 

" and there is an interesting story about a good 
king who once dwelt there." 

Marco was fond of listening to the stories with 
which all Tartar minds seemed stored, and begged 
his companion to tell that of Cayafu. 

"A long time ago," said the native, "the 
king of this region, whose name was Dor, had a 
war with the famous Prester John. The country 
was invaded by Prester John, but Dor so stoutly 
entrenched himself that his enemy could not get 
at him. Prester John was exceedingly vexed, 
for he supposed that It would be the easiest 
matter in the world to conquer Dor; and did not 
know what to do. Seven of his servants, seeing 
their master's anger, went to him and told him 
that, if he chose, they would bring Dor into his 
tent alive. Prester John listened to them incred- 
ulously, but gave them permission to attempt 
the feat which they proposed. They disguised 
themselves and got access to Dor's camp. Pre- 
senting themselves before the king, they offered 
him their services. Dor received them with a 
hearty welcome, and gave them posts imme- 
diately about his person. He soon became at- 
tached to them, and learned to trust them conv 



122 MARCO POLO. 

pletely. The traitors watched and waited for 
their opportunity. After a while, it came. Dor set 
out one day on a short excursion beyond his 
camp ; and with him went these seven men. The 
party crossed a wide river and entered a dense 
forest. Perceiving that the king was now sepa- 
rated from the main body of his followers, the 
villains fell upon the few that remained, stretched 
one after another dead on the ground, and rudely 
seized their benefactor. 

"'What means this, my children?' exclaimed 
Dor, amazed. 'What would you do with me? 
How have I offended you ?' 

" * We are going to take you to our master 
Prester John !' 

" Dor, on hearing this, covered his face with his 
hands and exclaimed: 'How have I been de- 
ceived ! Why, my children, have I not welcomed 
and honored you like brothers ? And will you, 
like traitors, give me up to my bitterest foe ?' 

They said nothing in reply, but putting him 
bound upon a horse, hurriedly cleared the forest, 
and galloped to Prester John's camp as fast as 
they could go. Prester John was as surprised as 
he was delighted to see his enemy in his power 



MARCO POLO AMONG THE TARTARS. 123 

at last. Turning to him roughly, he exclaimed : 

" ' Well, you are caught at last. Now confess 
that you are not equal to making war with me.' 

"Dor bowed with humility and replied: 

' " I know well, sire, that I am not as strong as 
you. I repent of having taken up arms against 
you, and in future I will act as your faithful friend.' 

" Prester John, though a stout warrior, was not 
obdurate of heart. On hearing these gentle words 
fall from his royal prisoner's lips, he arose and 
embraced him. 

" ' Be of good cheer, brother,' said he ; ' I will 
not humiliate you any further, but will give you 
my esteem and friendship.' 

"Whereupon Prester John provided Dor with a 
splendid escort of cavalry, and after having 
feasted him in a manner worthy of a king, sent 
him rejoicing back to the castle of Cayafu. From 
that time Dor and Prester John were the best of 
friends, and fought side by side in many a furious 
battle with their common foes." 

Marco was deeply interested in this story, and 
thought it sounded very much like the stories of 
what sometimes had happened to European 
kings. 



124 MARCO POLO. 




CHAPTER IX. 

MARCO POLO'S TRAVELS IN CATHAY. 

[FTER leaving Pianfu Marco travelled 
steadily westward, always seeing some- 
thing new and curious that deeply im- 
pressed itself on his memory. He was surprised 
at the great size of many of the rivers he crossed, 
some of which far exceeded in width any he 
had ever seen in Europe, and which could not be 
spanned by bridges. When he came to such a 
stream, he and his train were transported to the 
further bank on large rafts and barges. 

He was especially struck, too, by the size, num- 
bers and splendid plumage of the birds which 
peopled the Tartar forests, and the plenteous and 
luscious fruit that grew in the river valleys. 
Sometimes his road led by zig-zags to the sum- 
mits of lofty mountains, whence he had fine 
/lews of all the country round, and where were 



TRAVEt I IN CATHAY. 125 

spacious inns and royal houses wherein he rested. 
One bridge that he crossed was constructed 
wholly of marble, and upon it were long ranges of 
shops, where a lively trade was going on. This 
much reminded him of the Rialto, at home in 
Venice. 

At last, after travelling many weeks, he reached 
the important province of Thibet. As he crossed 
the borders of this country, he found himself con- 
stantly in danger from the bold and barbarous 
brigands that found safe retreats in its mountain 
fastnesses. More than once 'Marco and his com- 
panions had to fight these fierce robbers for their 
lives. As an envoy of the khan, Marco would 
have been a rich prize ; and the treasure he car- 
ried with him, to be given as presents to the 
vassal kings of the khan, would have been no 
despicable booty. But every time that he en- 
countered the Thibet robbers he repulsed them, 
and got off with a few slight wounds which soon 
healed. 

Marco was very much struck with the wealth 
and rich productions as well as the picturesque 
aspect of Thibet. He found gold very plenty, so 
plenty that many of the commonest people wore 



126 MARCO POLO. 

golden ornaments on their arms and around their 
necks. Cinnamon was one of the most valuable 
resources of the country ; and the women dis- 
played a great deal of coral on their persons. 
Thibet was full of wizards and astrologers ; but 
Marco thought them, unlike those of Kambalu, 
wicked men, who served rather the devil than 
mankind. 

He saw many very large dogs in the country, 
which seemed to him as big as donkeys, and 
which were excellent hunters ; and he was amazed 
at the height to which the canes grew in the jun- 
gles. These canes were used by caravans who 
passed through the jungles at night, to make fires 
with, and thus to keep off the lions, tigers, and bears 
that prowled in the dark, dismal swamps. 

There was a long tract of country in Thibet 
which was uninhabited ; and Marco and his com- 
panions were obliged to take enough food with 
them to last until they had crossed this tract. 
Every night they camped in the dreary solitude, 
making great roaring fires of the gigantic canes. 
On reaching the limit of this waste, Marco found 
a country that was inhabited, indeed, but by a 
degraded and wicked people, who robbed every 



TRAVELS IN CATHAY. I2/ 

one who came into their neighborhood without 
scruple, and lived on the fruits and on what game 
they could procure in the woods. They used 
lumps of salt as money, and clad themselves in 
the skins of wild beasts and in the coarsest 
cloths. Marco saw cinnamon, cloves, and ginger 
growing in this region, and examined them with 
eager curiosity. 

On crossing the wide river which formed the 
frontier of Thibet, Marco reached a kingdom 
ruled over by one of the great khan's sons. Here 
again he saw plenty and prosperity, noble castles 
and thriving cities. He paid a visit to the king, 
the khan's son, from whom he received a very 
gracious welcome, and who entertained him with 
much honor in his palace. 

Marco was glad to once more find himself in 
a land which appeared thrifty and civilized. The 
people seemed to him more like those of Kambalu 
than any he had seen ; and he narrowly observed 
their various customs and industries. He saw 
a great deal of grain and rice growing, and 
noticed that here the money was made of a kind 
o porcelain, taken from the sea. Vast quantities 
of salt were dug from pits near the principal 



128 MARCO POLO. 

city; and not far off there was a great lake, a 
hundred miles long, from which an abundance of 
fish of many kinds were taken. The people ate 
their meat and fish raw, in garlic sauce. 

While Marco was in this country, he enjoyed 
a strange sort of sport that of snake-hunting. 
It appeared that the region abounded in huge 
reptiles, some of them twenty or more feet long, 
with heads shaped like a loaf of bread, and big 
mouths wide enough to swallow a man. These 
snakes lay, in the daytime, in underground caves, 
where it was dark and slimy ; crawling forth at 
night in search of prey, and to drink in the rivers 
and ponds. They thus made long tracks in the 
sand. 

Marco set out, late one afternoon, with a 
party of snake-hunters, and soon came to a place 
where these tracks were visible. 

Some of the natives at once set to work, fixed 
a kind of trap across the tracks, and covered it 
all over with sand. They then lay in wait till a 
snake should squirm out of his cavern, and make 
his way toward the neighboring river. Presently 
one was seen, slipping rapidly along through the 
sand, straight towards the spot where the trap 



TRAVELS IN CATHAY. I2Q 

was concealed. In another moment the trap had 
caught his huge body. The snake's head rose 
high in air, his fangs shot out, and a sharp hissing 
noise was heard. The natives rushed up, and 
found that the teeth of the trap had nearly 
severed the reptile in two ; and a few blows soon 
settled him. The party returned in triumph, and 
Marco was delighted to have seen so novel a 
sport. 

The huge snake's gall bladder was taken out ; 
and, on asking why this was done, Marco learned 
that it was an infallible remedy for the bite of a 
mad dog. The snake's body was then cut up, 
and sold for food ; the people regarding it as a 
very delicate and palatable dish. 

Marco saw in this land many magnificent 
horses, in which the people took great pride. 
The men were very skilful horsemen, and always 
went to the hunt or to battle astride of their 
steeds. Marco was very much pleased when, on 
parting from the king, the latter presented him 
with several of the finest of these horses. 

The next province which Marco reached seemed 
to him a very curious place, so strange were the 
manners and customs of its people. He per- 



I3O MARCO POLO. 

ceived that the first man and woman whom he 
met on the road had their teeth completely 
covered with plates of gold ; and he soon found 
that this was the general custom. The money 
of this people consisted both of porcelain, gold, 
and silver. They had no idols or temples, but 
each family worshipped its chief as a god. Nor 
did they have any doctors ; but when any one 
was ill, they sent for a magician, who performed 
incantations over the invalid, and danced about 
and howled in the most dismal manner. 

Their way of making a bargain struck Marco 
as singular. The two traders cut a piece of wood 
into two equal halves, and each took one of the 
halves ; and after the bargain had been completed, 
and the money paid over, he who paid the money 
also delivered up his piece of the wood. Another 
strange custom was this. When a woman had 
given birth to a child, instead of remaining in bed 
and tending it, her husband took her place, while 
she went about her household work ; and the 
man staid in bed with the child forty days, at the 
end of which period he rose, and entertained his 
relatives and friends with a bounteous feast. 

From this place, which was situated high among 



TRAVELS IN CATHAY. 1 31 

the mountains, Marco began what was called " the 
great descent." He went down hill for nearly 
three days, descending from the mountains into 
the valley below. This valley had scarcely a 
human habitation. It was nearly covered with 
dense forests, where roamed elephants, leopards, 
and rhinoceroses, at will. To cross these forests 
was a perilous task ; happily a good road led 
through them, and Marco found convenient open- 
ings at night where to fix his camp. 

But often, as he lay on his rude bed made of 
branches, while the flames of the big fire his at- 
tendants had built flickered through the opening 
of his tent, he heard the terrible roar of the wild 
beasts, which seemed only a few feet off. He half 
expected to feel their hot breath against his 
cheek, and their teeth burying themselves in his 
flesh. The fires proved, however, an effectual 
defence ; and ere many days the party emerged 
safe and sound from the depths of the dreadful 
forest into the open country again. 

Marco was delighted to find, just beyond, a fine 
and populous city, where he could see the faces 
of men once more, and repose in a comfortable 
bed. The most remarkable thing he observed in 



MARCO POLO. 

the city was a magnificent tomb, erected in honor 
of one of its kings. Above the tomb were two 
towers, twenty feet high, one of silver, and the 
other of gold ; at their summits were round 
cupolas hung with golden bells, which tinkled 
merrily whenever they were stirred by the breeze. 
The further Marco penetrated to the westward, 
the more numerous and dangerous did he find the 
wild beasts that infested the country. But 
wherever they were most to be dreaded, the 
natives were most skilful in hunting and destroy- 
ing them. In one place Marco saw a lion-hunt 
which greatly excited him. The party went out 
on horseback, carrying a pack of large, ferocious, 
but well-trained dogs. As soon as they found 
a lion, prowling and roaring on the edge of the 
jungle, the dogs were unleashed, and rushed for 
the lion with loud, fierce barks. Dodging around 
his shaggy head, they quick as lightning pounced 
upon his hind legs and thighs, into which they 
fixed their long sharp teeth. The lion whirled 
around to seize them ; but the dogs were always 
too quick for him, and kept their grip grimly on 
the hind parts of his body. Then the lion ran 
howling to a large tree, against which he set his 



TRAVELS IN CATHAY. I$3 

back. But this was of no avail, for the dogs kept 
their hold, and made him keep turning round and 
round in a circle. Meanwhile the hunters pierced 
him through and through with arrows and javel- 
ins in front, until he fell dead at their feet. 

In course of time Marco came to the vast city 
of Nankin, which is to-day second in size to the 
Chinese capital of Pekin. He found it a very 
busy place, all alive with manufactures, and the 
country round about exceedingly fruitful. He 
did not stay at Nankin long, however, but pressed 
on still westward. 

All this time he was faithfully fulfilling the 
errand with which Kublai Khan entrusted him. 
Whenever he reached a province where it was 
necessary to reconcile the chiefs or the people to 
the khan, Marco used his persuasions, accom- 
panied by lavish presents ; and he so favorably 
impressed the chiefs everywhere, that he was 
usually successful in his aim. Now and then he 
found a province which could not be persuaded 
to yield to the khan's wishes; and such places 
Marco left to be subdued by force of arms. 

Marco had not for many a long month set eyes 
upon the sea ; and born, as he had been, on the sea 



134 MARCO POLO. 

coast, he had always been fond of the briny deep. 
He was much rejoiced, therefore, when in the 
course of his wanderings he reached one of the 
Tartar sea-ports, and could gaze out once more 
over the expanse of waters. This port was a very 
thriving one; Marco thought there must have 
been no less than five thousand craft in its harbor ; 
certainly there was a perfect forest of lateen sails 
and curious sloops and brigs. It was at the mouth 
of a very broad and deep river, whose waters were 
in their turn fairly covered with vessels of all kinds, 
which were drawn through the water with ropes 
made of a limber sort of cane. 

Not long after leaving this seaport and pro- 
ceeding inland again, Marco came to a city the 
size and beauty of which, although he had already 
seen many beautiful cities, fairly astonished him. 
This was called Kinsai, or the chief city, and was 
the same place as that now called Hang-chou- 
fou. He was told, and could almost believe it, 
that the walls around Kinsai were no less than 
one hundred miles in circumference ; as he neared 
the gates, the buildings stretched out on every 
side as far as the eye could reach, presenting the 
same idea of vastness which London now does to 



TRAVELS IN CATHAY. 135 

the eyes of the approaching traveller. He found 
it harder to believe that there were at least twelve 
thousand bridges within the limits of the city, all 
built of stone, beneath many of which ships of 
the largest size could pass. 

As he passed through the streets of Kinsai, he 
wondered more and more at the great wealth and 
extreme beauty and activity of the place. Many 
trades were evidently pursued there; for great 
warehouses and factories covered block after 
block, and long lines of bazaars bordered the side- 
walks, or ran though the centre of the broad 
avenues ; while palatial residences, belonging to 
the merchants, crowned the hills above the busi- 
ness quarter. 

Marco, a comely young man of twenty-three or 
four, could not fail to remark that the women of 
Kinsai were " of angelic beauty," and that in their 
apparel they were as elegant and showy as the 
ladies of the European courts. The men were 
tall and stalwart, and full of vigor and enterprise 
in their movements. The streets, in whatever 
direction Marco turned, were well paved with 
large stones ; and he observed, at brief intervals, 
large square buildings which, he learned, were the 



236 MARCO POLO. 

public baths. Of these he was told there were 
no less than four thousand in the city, in each of 
which a hundred people could bathe at once ; and 
now Marco was at no loss to account for the 
very neat appearance that all the natives made. 
Marco had the curiosity, one day soon after reach- 
ing Kinsai, to go into one of these large bath- 
houses. He found a wide square pool of clear, 
cold water in the centre, with broad flights of 
stone steps leading down into it ; and there was 
a crowd of forty or fifty men, women and children, 
of all ages and sizes, with only a cloth band 
about their waists, floundering about in the water, 
and evidently much enjoying themselves. 

In the very centre of the city Marco found the 
royal palace, which had been occupied by the an- 
cient kings of the country before it was con- 
quered by Kublai Khan. It was scarcely less 
magnificent than Kublai's palace itself. Like the 
latter, it was surrounded by vast, high walls; 
and between these walls were orchards, lawns, 
parks, sparkling fountains, glossy little lakes, and 
artifical hillocks thickly planted with rare trees 
and shrubs. The great hall of the palace was 
decorated in gold and azure, and covered with 



TRAVELS IN CATHAT. 137 

pictures of beasts, birds, knights, beautiful women, 
and enchanting landscapes. Other buildings 
stood around the palace, and in all, Marco was 
told, there was ample room to seat ten thousand 
men at table. In the palace were no less than 
one thousand bed chambers. 

Not far from this right royal edifice was a high 
mound, on which was placed a large wooden 
table ; and upon this, when there was a fire in 
any part of the city, a man struck heavy blows 
with a hammer, which resounded sharply to a con- 
siderable distance. In another part of the city 
was a large stone tower, whither people whose 
houses were on fire carried their household effects 
for safe-keeping, until they could procure a new 
abode. 

Marco made quite a long stay at Kinsai, for 
it was by far the most important place he was to 
visit in the western portion of the khan's domin- 
ions. Many of the customs of the people inter- 
ested and amused him. It appeared that every 
dweller in the city caused his own name and those 
of his wife, children and servants, to be written 
on his front door ; and whenever a child was born, 
his or her name was added. When any one of 



1 38 MARCO POLO. 

the family died, the name of the deceased was 
erased from the door. There was a beautiful lake 
at a short distance out of Kinsai, in which were 
two very picturesque islands. On one of these 
stood a splendid palace ; and whenever a couple 
of the higher class were married, they always 
went to this island palace, with their relations and 
friends, there to celebrate, amid lovely scenes and 
on embowered terraces overlooking the lake, 
their wedding feast. At funerals, the friends of 
the departed made images of horses, camels, 
cloths, money, and other things that mortals 
enjoy on earth, out of stiff cards ; and when the 
funeral pyre was lighted, threw these images into 
the flames, saying that in the other world the 
deceased one would enjoy the realities which 
these represented. 



MARCO POLO. 




CHAPTER X. 

MARCO POLO'S RETURN. 

fARCO was very reluctant to leave Kinsai. 
Every day that he tarried there, he saw 
something new and curious ; he thought 
it a far more interesting city than Kambalu. At- 
tended by one or two of the Tartars who had ac- 
companied him on his journey, and by an old 
merchant whom he had attached to him, he went 
about the streets, marvelling at the vastness of 
the place and its population, at the immense col- 
lection of goods displayed in the warehouses and 
shops, and especially at the great public works, 
comforts and conveniences, which gave evidence 
of a civilization in many respects as high as that 
of Europe itself. 

He found ten or twelve vast squares, half a 
mile long, succeeding each other in regular order 
and in a straight line, from one end of the city to 



140 MARCO POLO. 

the other. On these squares were lofty ware- 
houses, filled to overflowing with goods from India 
and Arabia, from Africa, Java and Ceylon. Par- 
allel to this series of squares ran a broad canal, 
crossed, at the intersection of the streets, by 
dainty little bridges ; and on either side of the 
canal, rows of stone warehouses. There were 
certain days in the week when these business 
quarters were thronged by thousands of mer- 
chants from every Eastern clime, and in all the 
picturesque costumes of the Orient. 

In the markets Marco saw the greatest variety 
of game and fruit. There were partridges and 
pheasants, fowl, ducks and geese. On the stalls 
of the fruiterers were immense pears, some of 
which seemed to Marco to weigh ten pounds, and 
which were delicious to eat ; large luscious 
peaches, yellow and white ; and grapes of many 
hues and flavors. 

Each avocation, rank and profession of the 
people seemed to have a quarter of its own in 
which to reside. In one quarter lived, in spacious 
mansions, often richly frescoed on the exterior, 
the prosperous merchants. There were streets on 
which you could find no one but astrologers and 



MARCO POLOS RETURN. 141 

seers; others devoted to doctors and teachers; 
yet others where all the residents were artisans. 
Many of the wealthier mansions had lovely gar- 
dens, with marble fountains and blooming flower 
beds attached to them. The interiors displayed 
very rich carvings, and luxurious furniture. 

The lake which has been spoken of, where the 
wedding parties of the rich and noble were held, 
was full of pretty barges with banners and stream- 
ers, which, on pleasant afternoons, fairly dotted its 
placid waters, crowded with gay pleasure-seekers. 
They were pushed along by means of long poles ; 
and each barge had its elegantly fitted cabin, with 
every arrangement for eating and drinking. Sail- 
ing in these barges was, indeed, the favorite amuse- 
ment of the people after the labors of the day 
were over. Another pastime was driving along 
the spacious shady avenues in their handsome 
carriages, which were long, covered at the top, 
and supplied with elegant silk curtains and cush- 
ions. No European dame, however high her 
degree, would have disdained to ride in one of 
these luxurious conveyances. 

Indeed, Marco found that the people of Kinsai 
liked very much the same recreations as did the 



142 MARCO POLO. 

Venetians. What with boating, driving, and sauiv 
tering in beautiful gardens, where they drank tea 
and listened to music, their habits of pleasure 
closely resembled those of his own countrymen. 

The people themselves seemed to him not only 
highly civilized, but very amiable and agreeable. 
They lived peaceably, and seemed to hate dis- 
turbance and war; and the only class generally 
disliked in the city were the royal guard placed 
there by the khan, who kept careful watch over 
the walls and the palace, and also acted as police- 
men. The people did not even go armed, and 
seemed to have but little knowledge of the use of 
warlike weapons. Their business dealings with 
each other were frank and honest, and they treated 
each other with a familiar courtesy very pleasing 
to see. The men held their wives in high respect, 
and confided implicitly in them ; and all strangers 
who came to Kinsai were received with the most 
generous and genial hospitality. 

Ruling over Kinsai, before the conquest of the 
khan, had been a native king, named Facfur. 
He lived in gorgeous style in the palace, and had 
had everything for his enjoyment that heart 
could wish. In the inner part of the palace, 



MARCO POLO'S RETURN. 143 

beyond the sight of men, and most jealously 
guarded, were ten courts which contained fifty 
beautifully fitted apartments, and which were 
reached by a long, dark corridor. These apart- 
ments were occupied by a thousand beautiful 
girls, who were the king's slaves, and whom he 
daily visited. Beyond this seraglio was a lake, 
on the banks of which were pretty groves, 
orchards, and enclosures; and to this spot the 
king with his multitude of lovely damsels often 
repaired, sometimes driving with them in car- 
riages, at other times on horseback. The groves 
were full of deer, antelopes and rabbits, and the 
damsels joined their master in the hunt with 
great zest and skill. Sometimes breakfast or 
dinner was spread beneath the wide spreading 
trees of the grove, and the king and his seraglio 
enjoyed their meals in the open air. 

But all this had passed away when Marco was 
at Kinsai ; for some years before Kublai Khan 
had besieged and taken the city, and had driven 
Facfur from the throne of his ancestors, and now 
the palace and its pleasure grounds were fast 
falling into decay. Instead of their king, the 
people were ruled over by a Tartar governor 



144 MARCO POLO. 

sent by the khan ; and peaceably as they were 
disposed, they were far from contented with the 
dominion of a foreign despot. 

Marco, however, was treated with kindness as 
long as he stayed, though the envoy of the 
khan ; and at last, having accomplished his 
mission there, departed with his train, being 
followed beyond the walls by the governor and a 
great concourse of the people. 

Continuing his journey, Marco passed through 
many thriving cities and pretty towns, which 
favorably impressed him with the value of this part 
of the khan's dominions, all of which had been 
acquired by conquest. The inhabitants were no 
longer Tartars, but almond-eyed Chinese; and 
Marco gazed upon them, with their yellow skins, 
their long pig-tails, their little shoes and loose 
dress, with much interest. 

Everywhere the people seemed a most peace- 
ful, harmless, industrious race ; until Marco 
came to a place called Fugui, where the inhabit- 
ants were rude and ferocious, and lived apart 
from all the surrounding population. They were 
always fighting, and when they went to war, 
they cut their hair close to their heads, and 



MARCO POLO'S RETURN. 145 

painted their faces a deep blue, which gave them 
a horrible, ghastly expression. They always 
fought on foot, the only mounted person in the 
army being its chief. The prisoners they took 
they cooked and ate, and seemed to exceedingly 
relish this human food. Marco stayed in this 
place as short a time as possible ; for his escort 
was not a large one, and the natives were so 
hostile to the rule of the khan, that he feared 
they might suddenly attack him. 

It was time for Marco to think of returning to 
the khan's court, and reporting the result of his 
errand to the western provinces. As he reflected 
on all that he had seen and heard, he could not 
but be astounded at the wonderful civilization, 
riches, and activity of these far Eastern peoples, 
of which Europe had scarcely heard, and certainly 
of whose great skill in the arts and industries 
Europeans had not the faintest idea. He cast 
his eyes into the future, and foresaw the time when 
all these marvels would become known to the 
Western world ; he pictured to himself the im- 
mense trade which would grow up between the 
West and the East what luxuries, comforts and 
adornments Europe would sooner or later derive 



146 MARCO POLO. 

from Asia. In his heart he was glad that he had 
seen all these things, and that, when he returned to 
Venice, he should have so thrilling a story to tell. 

He took the journey back to Kambalu leisurely, 
pursuing much the same route as that by which he 
had come, and meeting with many adventures on 
the way. He encountered the same perils and 
witnessed the same wild sports, as those of his 
outward progress ; loitered in the pleasant places, 
and hurried through those the memory of which 
was not agreeable, or the dangers of which were 
to be avoided. 

More than a year had passed since his setting- 
out, when, one cloudy morning, the domes and 
roofs of Kambalu once more met his view. He 
was not sorry to see them, for he should embrace 
his father and uncle once more, and he had news 
for the khan which could not fail to please his 
royal friend. A messenger, gone on before, had 
carried the tidings of his return ; and when he 
was within a few miles of the city, he was met by 
his father and uncle, who had galloped out on 
horseback to greet him. Father and son leaped 
off their steeds, and were locked in each other's 
fond embrace. They eagerly questioned each 



MARCO POLO'S RETURN. 147 

other as to what had happened while they had 
parted ; Nicolo remarked how stalwart, brown and 
sinewy Marco had grown, and how long his beard 
was; and Marco perceived that his father bore 
more wrinkles, and that his hair was more plenti- 
fully sprinkled with streaks of gray. 

The khan's welcome of his faithful envoy was 
most cordial. He warmly embraced him, and 
heard his account of what he had seen and done 
with emphatic tokens of his pleasure. That 
night a noble feast was held in the great hall of 
the palace in honor of the wanderer's return, 
after which the khan ordered his jugglers and 
clowns to perform their most perilous and amus- 
ing feats for the entertainment of the court. 

Marco now enjoyed a long period of repose 
from his wanderings. He found himself more 
firmly fixed than ever in the khan's favor, and 
that his position at court was more privileged 
and prominent than before. But having had a 
taste of adventure, he soon wearied of the luxu- 
rious indolence and ease that marked life at the 
palace ; and when the khan proposed another 
expedition to him, he eagerly caught at the chance 
for a more stirring career. 



148 MARCO POLO. 

Thus it came about that Marco often went on 
embassies to distant parts of the monarch's do- 
minions. Sometimes he was accompanied by his 
father and uncle ; sometimes they went, while he 
staid at home. After a time, he was oftener on 
his travels than idly loitering about the court. 
He became acquainted with all the khan's prov- 
inces, even the remotest ; and was soon known 
and honored by all the governors and vassal kings 
who were subject to the khan, and even by the 
populations of the cities and towns. 

Happily for the world, Marco had a wonder- 
fully good memory ; and he took care to 
make notes of the curious things he observed. 
So that, years after, when he was cast into prison 
(as we shall find), he was able to give a full nar- 
rative of all that he had seen and all that had 
befallen him in the romantic East. 

The khan was pursuing his military operations 
all the time that the Polos were at his court. He 
was a warlike potentate, loved the din of battle, 
and was insatiably ambitious of adding new ter- 
ritory to his already vast dominions. It was 
rarely that a neighbor whom he had resolved to 
subdue could withstand him for any length of 



MARCO POLOS RETURN. 149 

time ; for so numerous and well-appointed were his 
armies, such was his own skill and perseverance, 
and such was the fierce courage of his troops 
that he was well nigh irresistible. 

There was one large and prosperous city on the 
western borders of his empire, however, which 
defied every assault that he could make upon it. 
It was a valuable prize, for it was not only a 
good military stronghold, but also a seat of busy 
manufacture and highly profitable arts. To sub- 
due this city would be to add largely to the 
khan's revenues; but to this advantage he was 
more indifferent than to the others it possessed. 
He would also acquire a most thrifty population, 
a stout defence against his enemies beyond, and 
a large addition to his armies. Besides, Kublai 
Khan was unwilling that any foreign city should 
rival his own in power and prosperity; he wished 
to rule supreme in Asia. 

For three years this brave city, the name of 
which was Sayanfu, had held out against the im- 
perial forces, though the khan had sent a mighty 
army to besiege it. The army could only ap- 
proach it on one side, because on every other side 
the city was bounded by a wide lake. Across 



I5O MARCO POLO. 

this lake came the provisions which enabled the 
garrison to hold out. The khan's troops were 
therefore obliged to give up the siege, and return 
to Cathay. 

This discomfiture irritated the khan, whose will 
was seldom thwarted in anything he undertook ; 
and he became morose and despondent. Not 
long after the return of the troops, Marco Polo 
sought an audience of the khan; and having been 
admitted to his presence, as he always was freely 
when he asked it, addressed the downcast monarch 
as follows : 

" Sire, I think, if you will intrust an expedi- 
tion against Sayanfu to my father, my uncle and 
myself, we can subdue the city, and deliver it 
into your hands." 

The khan looked up surprised, and a new hope 
glowed in his eyes. He had unlimited confidence 
in the wisdom and capacity of the Polos, and 
Marco's words at once aroused him from his gloom. 

" And how will you do this, Venetian, when 
my greatest generals and bravest troops have 
failed ?" 

" We will assail the walls, sire, and batter them 
down. We have certain skilful men in our train. 



MARCO POLOS RETURN. 151 

One of them, a German and a Christian, can build 
a powerful engine which no wall can resist ; and 
other engines, which will hurl enormous stones 
to a great distance, and will thus bring the city to 
terms." 

" Go speedily, then," cried the khan ; " take 
such troops as you choose, and assume their com- 
mand. Once more lay siege to this audacious 
city ; and if you can take it with your engines, 
my gratitude will be boundless." 

The Polos started forth with a numerous force. 
The German and his companions were as good as 
Marco's word. The march was along and dreary 
one ; but both the Polos and the cohorts they 
commanded were used to hard tramping, and in a 
shorter time than might be believed found them- 
selves confronting the frowning walls of Sayanfu. 
The machines made by the German and transported 
to the scene of action were soon placed in position ; 
and ere long the people of Sayanfu found their 
houses pelted with huge rocks, which came crash- 
ing through the roofs and spreading devastation 
in the streets. At the same time great battering- 
rams were brought near the walls, and being set 
in motion, made terrible breaches in them. This 



152 MARCO POLO. 

was a kind of warfare which the people of Sayanfu 
had never before seen. They soon became panic- 
stricken, and began to clamor to their governor 
and generals to give up the city. The chiefs met 
in council; meanwhile building after building was 
falling headlong, crushed by the missiles of the 
Tartars. At last, it was resolved to send out 
messengers to plead for terms of peace. 

The Polos received the envoys in their camp. 
They told them that there was only one condition 
on which they would cease bombarding the city. 
This was, that it should submit to the dominion 
of the khan. There was no time to waste in par- 
leying. The harsh terms were agreed to, and the 
Tartar army entered Sayanfu in triumph, and took 
possession of it in the name of their sovereign. 

Their return to Kambalu was signalized by the 
wildest rejoicings. The khan was beside himself 
with delight, and showered honors and gifts 
upon the Venetians, who had so valiantly suc- 
ceeded where his oldest and ablest generals had 
failed. 

The triumph of the Polos, however, gave rise 
to much jealousy on the part of these generals, 
and other nobles of the khan's court ; and it was 



MARCO POLO'S RETURN. 153 

not long before Marco heard of a plot to entice 
himself, his father and his uncle, out of the city 
to a lonely spot, and there to murder them. He 
divulged this plot to the khan, who instantly 
banished those who were concerned in it ; and 
after that it was long before Marco heard of any 
further jealousy or ill will towards him and his 
kinsmen. 

Many years had now elapsed since the arrival 
of the Polos in Cathay. Marco, amid all the ex- 
citements and luxury of his life there, had often 
sighed for home and the friends left behind, so 
long ago, in Venice. But when he or his father 
spoke to the khan of their desire to turn their 
steps westward towards Europe again, the 
swarthy potentate would not listen to such a 
thing. The Polos knew well that, if he had set 
his heart on their remaining, he could, if neces- 
sary, prevent their departure by force ; nor could 
they hope to escape secretly from his court and 
country. They were forced, therefore, to bide 
their time, and await a favorable opportunity to 
return to Europe. 

Meanwhile, Marco was destined to have many 
adventures, and see other peoples, as strange and 



154 MARCO POLO. 

interesting as those he had already visited. It 
was not long after their unsuccessful attempt to get 
away, that the khan sent him upon a longer and 
more interesting expedition than he had before 
undertaken. 



MAttCO POLO. 155 




CHAPTER XI. 

MARCO POLO IN THE EASTERN SEAS. 

JN a hot summer morning, Marco set foot 
for the first time on an Oriental ship. 
Once more he was on his travels; and 
this time the greater part of his journey was to 
be by sea. The ship on whose deck he found 
himself was, to his eyes, a very curious affair; 
rude, when compared with European craft, yet 
not without its features of comfort, safety, and 
convenience. It was evidently constructed of fir 
wood, and it had but a single deck. 

Marco wandered over the vessel, eager to ex- 
amine its every part. He observed that the space 
below the deck was divided into no less than sixty 
cabins, very cozily fitted and furnished, most of 
them being used for sleeping purposes. The ship 
had one rudder and four masts. In the hold 
was a number of compartments made of very 



156 MARCO POLO. 

thick planks, and water-tight, so that if the vessel 
sprang aleak in one of them the goods might be 
removed to another, into which the water from 
the first could not penetrate. He was told that 
not seldom vessels were struck so hard by whales 
as to force in the bottom. If a leak followed 
the water ran on to a well, and passed out again. 
The ship was very strongly built. The planks 
were thick, held together with stout nails, and 
were thickly plastered ; but not with pitch, of the 
use of which the Tartars appeared to be quite 
ignorant. The vessel was propelled by oars, each 
of which required four sailors. In all the crew 
numbered two hundred men. A number of small 
boats, for fishing and other purposes, were hung 
at the sides. Marco's first destination was to the 
large group of flourishing islands, which lay several 
hundred miles off the coast of Cathay, and with 
which we are now familiar as Japan. It was a 
long and wearisome voyage, and for the first few 
days Marco felt all the discomforts of seasickness. 
After recovering from this, he began to enjoy the 
sea transit and gazed with much interest at the 
many strange-looking craft that passed and re. 
passed within sight of his ship. 



IN THE EASTERN SEAS. !$/ 

It appeared that, not many years before, the 
khan had attacked the Japanese islands with a large 
fleet and a strong army under two of his ablest 
generals. They landed on one of the islands, but 
were forced to embark from it again, on account 
of dangerous storms and winds that threatened 
the destruction of their vessels. They repaired 
to another island, where they sought refuge from 
the fury of the elements. Soon after some of 
their ships sailed for home, and others were de- 
stroyed by the tempests. The Japanese now de- 
scended with a large fleet upon the island to make 
an end of the invaders ; and desembarking, ad- 
vanced to attack them. The Tartars, perceiving 
that the enemy had left their ships, ran down to 
the coast and, boarding them, set sail for the 
largest island, leaving the Japanese in dismay and 
helplessness behind. 

The inhabitants of the large island, seeing their 
own ships return, thought of course that they 
brought back the Japanese army. They therefore 
left their principal city undefended, and the Tar- 
tars entered it and held it. But soon the Japanese 
who had been left on the smaller island recovered 
their senses. They collected other ships, be- 



158 MARCO POLO. 

sieged their city, held as it was by the Tartars, 
and at last compelled the khan's forces to sur- 
render. Thus the khan's expedition had failed, 
and the Japanese were still, when Marco made this 
voyage, independent of his rule. Satisfied to re- 
cover their natural liberty, the Japanese had been 
willing to live ever since on terms of peace and 
friendship with the khan and his subjects; and 
when Marco arrived at their islands, he found 
himself free to land and wander in their towns at 
will. 

He found them a people with lighter complex- 
ions than those who dwelt on the main land, and 
better looking. Their pleasant manners, too, 
pleased him. Like the Tartars and the Chinese, 
they seemed very rich, and especially to have an 
abundance of gold. He saw a palace on the 
first island at which he landed which appeared 
to be fairly plated with gold. Even the pave- 
ments of the palace blazed with the" rich metal. 
The Japanese also had plenty of precious stones ; 
and among them Marco saw for the first time 
ed pearls, which struck him as very beautiful. 

Marco observed that the Japanese were idol- 
aters, and tha* they worshipped idols having the 



IN THE EASTERN SEAS. 1 59 

heads of dogs, sheep, and pigs, and an immense 
number of arms and hands, spreading out from 
the bodies in every direction. On his asking one of 
them why his countrymen had such strange idols, 
the reply was that " our ancestors left them to 
us, and we shall leave them to our children." 

Marco's stay in Japan was brief, for he had 
still a long voyage to take. His ship sailed thence 
southward into the sea of China, and stopped at 
many groups of islands, on which the young trav- 
eller landed, and where he saw many novel 
sights. 

He was greatly struck with the number and de- 
licious fragrance of the spice trees and shrubs that 
grew on these islands ; and also with the abundance 
of gold and other precious metals which seemed 
to exist everywhere. At last he reached a large 
island called Ciampa, which was ruled over by a 
king who paid tribute to the khan, and who there- 
fore welcomed Marco with such semi-barbarous 
hospitality as he could. The khan had some years 
before invaded Ciampa with a large army, and 
had laid waste the territory ; whereupon the king 
had agreed to pay yearly a tribute, in the shape 
a number ol large elephants. Every year, there- 



I6O MARCO POLO. 

fore, there arrived at the khan's court a group of 
these lordly beasts, which he valued more than 
any others he had. 

Marco was amused with some of the customs 
of Ciampa. One was, that before any young girl 
on the island could be married, she must be 
brought before the king ; and if he chose to take 
her for one of his wives, she must be given up 
to him. Thus his sable majesty had a multi- 
tude of wives, the greatest beauties in his 
realm ; and more than a hundred sons and 
daughters. 

After a long voyage Marco found himself 
among that famous group of islands that lies in 
a long, almost parallel line, along the southern 
coast of Asia. He landed on Java, which was 
then a powerful and independent kingdom, with 
a prosperous trade with India and China. The 
Java merchants sent their pepper, nutmegs, 
cloves and other rich spices to the continent, 
and received back grain and silks. Marco was 
amazed at the busy aspect of its towns and the 
wealth of its people. He was still more deeply 
interested in Sumatra, which he soon afterwards 
visited, and which seemed to him even richer in 



IN THE EASTERN SEAS. l6l 

commerce and in natural productions. In some 
parts of the island he found the people very w'"u 
and barbarous ; and while sojourning in one of 
the interior towns, he amused himself by wit- 
nessing a wild elephant hunt. The rhinoceroses 
there were the largest and most ferocious he had 
ever seen, v;Ith big black horns in the middle of 
thei- foreheads, and a most forbidding aspect. 
There, too, he saw the greatest multitude of 
monkeys of all shapes, sizes and colors, whose 
antics among the .branches of the forest trees 
he watched with much glee. 

Marco observed in Sumatra some mummies 
which, it was said, were those of a race of pig- 
mies that dwelt in India. On examining them 
closely, however, he was able to detect that they 
were really preserved monkeys. These monkeys 
it appeared, were taken, skinned and shaved, and 
their limbs pressed so as to resemble human 
bodies as much as possible ; and were then put 
in jars and sold to credulous people as dwarfs. 

Among the tribes inhabiting Sumatra, Marco 
found some who were cannibals; and so much 
afraid were the Tartars who came with him that 
these cannibals would catch and roast them, that 



l62 MARCO POLO. 

they built huts of wood and twigs on the 
shore, so as to defend themselves from them if 
attacked. In one of the tribes, if a man fell 
sick, his family sent for a magician and asked 
him if the invalid could recover. The magician, 
after performing incantations over him, pretended 
to be able to predict this. If he foretold that the 
man would die, the relatives made haste to 
strangle the sufferer, to cook his body, and invite 
all their friends to feast upon it. They were very 
careful to eat him completely up, for they be- 
lieved that otherwise his soul would be in tor- 
ment ; and having collected the bones, they 
placed them in a large, beautifully ornamented 
coffin, which they hid away in a cavern in the 
mountains. 

On another island, which Marco visited after 
leaving Sumatra, he saw some huge orang- 
outangs, which, it seemed, the natives believed to 
be hairy wild men who dwelt in the woods. 

After leisurely cruising for some time among 
the islands in this vicinity, Marco at last came to 
that famous and lovely island which we know as 
Ceylon. The loveliness of the place was in striking 
contrast with the barbarous aspect and character of 



IN THE EASTERN SEAS. l* 

> 

the natives, who, Marco noticed, went almost 
naked, and roamed about their picturesque moun- 
tains and forests just as if they were wild beasts. 
They raised no grain except rice, on which, and the 
flesh of the game they caught in the woods, 
they wholly subsisted. But savage as these 
people were, Marco was amazed at the number and 
beauty of the gems they possessed. Chief among 
these were the rubies, which were very large and 
brilliant. The king of the country had a ruby 
which Marco was sure was the largest in the 
world. Sapphires, topazes, amethysts and dia- 
monds were also abundant. 

While in Ceylon, Marco saw a lofty and jagged 
mountain rising from the midst of verdant hills, 
which it seemed impossible to ascend. Its crags 
rose among the clouds, and were often lost to view 
amid the shrouds the clouds spread about them. 
This, he was told, was "Adam's Peak;" and upon 
it was said to be the tomb of the founder of the 
Buddhist religion, being situated near the place 
where he had departed from earth. Kublai Khan 
had, indeed, sent thither some years before and 
had obtained two of the teeth, and some of the 
hair, supposed to belong to the god of his faith. 



164 MARCO POLO. 

He had also obtained a miraculous cup which 
had been used by this god, and which when filled 
with food for one man, speedily contained, it was 
said, enough for five. 

Marco spent a long time in Ceylon, for it was 
the loveliest island he had yet seen in the eastern 
seas, and the people, though wild and almost 
bestial in their habits, were not quarrelsome or 
unfriendly. He found them, indeed, to be great 
cowards, who seemed afraid of the weapons which 
the Tartars carried in their belts; and Marco 
wondered why, with all their riches, they had 
not long since been conquered by some ambitious 
potentate from the mainland. He loved to wander 
in their beautiful groves, and to loiter under the 
natural avenues of wide spreading palms ; to eat 
of the delicious fruit which grew there in richest 
profusion, and some kinds of which were quite 
new to him ; or to ascend some sloping hill, and 
gaze out upon the sparkling sea. 

It was a very short transit only about sixty 
miles from Ceylon to the nearest point on the 
great peninsula of India ; and it was with deep 
emotion that Marco for the first time caught 
sight of that famous and mighty empire. People 



IN THE EASTERN SEAS. 165 

in Europe already knew something about India; 
although three centuries were to elapse before 
Vasco da Gama found a way to it by sea, around 
the Cape of Good Hope. Travellers from Italy 
had visited its wonderful cities, and had brought 
back thrilling accounts, which had reached Marco 
Polo's ears in his boyhood. Of India he had learned 
still more at the khan's court, for a prosperous 
trade existed between India and Cathay ; and all 
that he had heard of the Hindoo Empire made 
him very impatient to observe it for himself. 

As he approached the coast, he saw a sight 
which he afterwards remembered with much in- 
terest. This was the vast fleet of boats that were 
engaged in the pearl fishery. Many large vessels 
were anchored in the sea for miles around, and 
from these the boats with the divers went out. 
Marco saw the divers, with their strange gear, 
plunging into the water, and, after a few moments, 
drawn up again by their comrades, holding the 
large shells which they had grasped on the bot- 
tom, and in which the pearls were fixed in rows. 

Marco landed on the coast of India, which at 
this point was full of sand banks and coral reefs; 
and went into the interior, guarded by the train 



1 66 MARCO POLO. 

of attendants whom Kublai Khan had sent with 
him. Ere long he reached the chief town of the 
province of Maabar, where he rested from his 
voyage, and employed himself in observing the 
country and the manners and customs of the 
people. The king of Maabar, learning that he 
was from the mighty monarch of Cathay, received 
him with all honor, and permitted him to wander 
everywhere at full liberty. 

The people, he perceived, went naked, except 
that they wore a piece of cloth about their middle. 
The same was true of the king himself ; but to 
make up for want of clothes, the dusky potentate 
fairly glittered with rich jewelry. He wore an 
enormous necklace of rubies, sapphires and 
emeralds ; and from this was suspended a long 
silk cord, on which very large pearls were strung. 
On both his arms and legs were heavy jewelled 
and golden bracelets. 

This king had no less than five hundred wives, 
and freely appropriated the wives of any of his sub- 
jects when he happened to take a fancy to them; 
and the despoiled husbands were obliged to sub- 
mit to their loss with a good grace. The king 
had a numerous body guard, armed to the teeth, 



IN THE EASTERN SEAS. 167 

who attended him wherever he went, and pro- 
tected his palace at night. Marco was told that 
when a king of Maabar died, a huge funeral pyre 
was erected, upon which the royal corpse was 
placed ; and that as soon as the priests set fire to 
it, his guards threw themselves upon it, and were 
burned with their master. 

Marco was one day loitering in the streets of 
the town (which was quite a populous one) when 
he saw a crowd approaching, and in their midst 
a wagon drawn by natives. The crowd were 
shouting in an excited manner ; and as soon as 
the wagon came near, he perceived a man standing 
bolt upright in it, holding some long sharp knives. 
On asking what this meant, he was told that the 
man had committed some grave crime, and was 
being carried to the place of execution. The crowd 
were calling out, " This brave man is about to kill 
himself, for the love of the great idol !" Marco 
followed the crowd, which stopped in an open 
space in the centre of the town. Then the man in 
the cart began to stab himself with the knives, first 
in the arms, then in the legs, and lastly in the 
stomach, crying the while, " I kill myself for love 
of the idol ;" until, pierced by many self-inflicted 



l68 MARCO POLO. 

wounds, he fell expiring in the bottom of the cart. 
It was supposed that thus he saved his soul. 

Soon after, Marco had occasion to witness 
another ghastly custom of the Hindoos, in which 
the wife was thrown alive upon the burning pyre 
with her dead husband. The natives, besides 
their idols, worshipped oxen and cows, and no 
power on earth could have induced them to eat 
beef. 

Everybody in Maabar, from the king to his 
meanest subject, always sat upon the ground ; 
and when Marco asked a Hindoo why they did 
not sit on chairs or benches, the latter replied, 
solemnly, " We came from earth, and must return 
to earth; and we cannot too much honor this 
common mother." Though barbarous in many 
of their ways, this people were at least exceed- 
ingly neat. In this respect, there were some 
European nations that might have taken pattern 
from t!:oin. They never would eat until they 
had washed all over; and every Hindoo took two 
baths each day. They were also very temperate, 
rarely or never partaking of wine. 

Crimes or offences aga:r...t their laws were 
very severely punished. \Yhcn a Hindoo owed 



IN THE EASTERN SEAS. 169 

another a debt and would not pay it, the creditor 
watched his opportunity, and drew a wide circle 
around the debtor with a pointed stick. If the 
debtor moved out of this circle without pay- 
ing what he owed, he condemned himself to 
death. In consequence of this curious method, 
there were but few debtors in Maabar. Once 
while Marco was there, the king himself became 
subject to the custom. A foreign merchant, 
to whom the king owed a large sum, was bold 
enough to draw a circle around his majesty; 
who finding himself fairly caught by his own 
law, made haste to pay the debt. 

After staying for some time at Maabar, Marco 
pursued his journey into the interior of Hin- 
doostan, his mind full of the singular sights he 
had seen, and eager to observe the Hindoo races 
who dwelt beyond. 



MARCO POLO. 




CHAPTER XII. 

MARCO POLO AMONG THE HINDOOS. 

INDIA, at the time that Marco visited it, 
was divided into a great many independ- 
ent states, some Hindoo and some Mo- 
hammedan, each ruled over by its own sovereign. 
It was not, as now, the dependency of a great 
foreign power. But as India was six centuries 
ago, in its faith, manners and customs, and the 
character of its people, so it is very much to-day. 
Many of the manners and customs which Marco 
observed, still exist ; and we find in the Hindoos 
of the present very much the same peculiar vices 
and virtues as those he described. Marco found 
the Hindoos, like most of the Orientals he had 
seen, very much under the influence of magicians 
and astrologers. They were very superstitious, 
and there were many omens the warnings of which 
they always took care to obey, believing that if 



AMONQ THE HINDOOS. I/I 

they did not do so, misfortune would fall upon 
them. A man who set out on a journey, if he 
met with what he considered an evil omen, 
would turn back and go straight home again, 
no matter how near he might be to his destina- 
tion, or how pressing his business. The day, 
hour and minute of the birth of every child were 
recorded, simply to enable the magicians to make 
predictions concerning his future life. 

As soon as a boy reached his thirteenth birth- 
day he became independent of his parents, and 
went out into the world to make his own living; 
having received a small sum of money from his 
father with which to make a start. They did 
very much as poor boys, dependent on themselves, 
do in our day ; found something to hawk about 
the streets and sell, on which they could make a 
little profit. Near the seashore they were in the 
habit of watching on the beach for the pearl- 
boats to come in, and would buy a few small 
pearls of a fisherman, and carry them into the in- 
terior and sell them to the merchants. Having 
made a little money, they would go and buy some 
provisions for their mothers, who still prepared 
their food for them. 



IJ2 MARCO POLO. 

Marco saw many monasteries, nestling amid 
the mountains and hills, as he progressed through 
the country ; and learned that these monasteries 
were full of idols, adorned with gold and precious 
stones. To the care and worship of these idols 
large numbers of lovely young girls were sacrificed 
by their parents ; and these girls were in the 
habit, every day, of cooking very savory dishes, 
and placing them, with great reverence, before 
the hideous idols. As the idols did not descend 
from their pedestals and partake of the food, 
Marco wondered what became of it. He soon 
found out ; for, having been admitted to one of the 
monasteries as a great favor, he saw the girls offer 
the idols their daily meal : after which they began 
to dance some very quick and graceful dances, sing- 
ing the while a loud, wild, joyous chorus. When 
they ceased dancing and singing, they went up to 
the dishes ; and, supposing the idols had eaten 
as much as they desired, the girls themselves de- 
voured the contents of the plates. Marco was 
told that these girls remained in the monasteries 
until the very day of their marriage. 

The priests of the monasteries at once attracted 
' rro's attention, so singular was their aspect, 



AMONG THE HINDOOS. 

and so strange their mode of living. Many of 
them seemed to be very old men, with long 
snowy beards and bent forms ; yet they had fresh, 
dark complexions, and were very active in their 
movements. Marco was told that they often 
lived to be a hundred and fifty or even two hun- 
dred years old ; but he had now been in India 
long enough not to believe everything he heard. 
The priests lived on nothing but rice, apples and 
milk, and for a beverage drank a curious mixture 
of quicksilver and sulphur. In some of the mon- 
asteries the priests always went perfectly naked, 
even in winter, and slept in the open air; and 
led a very severe and self-denying life. The 
only symbol of their sacred office was a little 
copper or bronze ox (an animal they worshipped)^ 
which they wore on their foreheads. 

These priests were always very careful not to 
kill any living thing; for they thought that not only 
animals and insects, but even fruits and flowers, 
had souls. They would not harm so much as a fly 
or a worm ; and would not eat apples until they 
were all dried up, for they supposed them when 
fresh to be alive, and only dead when they were 
shrivelled. 



174 MARCO POLO. 

When a young man sought to become a priest 
in the monasteries, he underwent what seemed 
to Marco a very amusing trial. On arriving at 
the monasteries, the fairest young girls belonging 
to it came forth to meet him; and gathering 
around him, overwhelmed him with kisses and 
embraces. The old priests, meanwhile, stood by 
and keenly watched him. If he betrayed any 
pleasure at the caresses of the girls, he was at 
once rejected and sent into the outer world 
again ; but if he submitted to them coldly, and 
with unmoved countenance, he was admitted to 
che priesthood. 

As the envoy of the khan, Marco was admitted 
into "the best society" of the places that he 
visited ; and he was much struck with the 
manners and virtues of the higher class of H indoos. 
These comprised the class which we know as Brah- 
mins. He could not fail to notice their high sense 
of honor in their dealings with each other ; their 
truthfulness and probity; the temperance and 
purity of their lives. They ate no flesh and 
drank no wine, and as husbands were models 
of fidelity. The Brahmins, to designate their 
rank, wore a long silk thread over the shoulder, 



AMONG THJ=: HINDOOS. 1/5 

and across the breast ; and so do the Brahmins of 
our own time. The only habit they had which 
Marco did not like, was that of chewing betel 
leaves. This made their gums very red, and was 
thought to be healthy ; but it caused them to be 
constantly spitting. 

Intelligent as the Brahmins seemed, they were 
as completely under the influence of superstition 
and magic as the lowest and most ignorant of 
their country folk. When a Brahmin merchant 
was about to make a bargain for some goods, he 
rose at sunlight, went out, and caused his shadow 
to be measured. If it was of a certain length, he 
went on with the trade ; if not he postponed it to 
another day. This is perhaps the origin of the 
Eastern greeting, " May your shadow never be 
less !" If a Brahmin proposed to buy an animal, 
he went where it was, and observed whether the 
animal approached him from a lucky direction. 
If so, he bought it ; but if not, he would have 
nothing to do with it. If, when a Brahmin issued 
from his house, he heard a man sneeze in a way 
which seemed to him of bad omen, he turned 
around, went into his house again, and waited 
till the man who had sneezed unluckily was quite 



MARCO POLO. 

out of sight. In the same way a Brahmin who, 
walking along a road, saw a bird approaching 
from the left, at once turned on his heel and 
went the other way. 

On his journey northward, Marco passed through 
the famous valley of Golconda, from whence 
came, and still come, the largest and most beauti- 
ful diamonds in the world. He found an aged 
queen reigning there who, though she had been 
a widow for forty years, was still mourning for 
her husband. She received Marco with a cordial 
welcome, and entertained him with feasts, dances 
and music in her palace. He delighted to wander 
in the picturesque valleys from which the most 
beautiful gems in the world were procured; to 
see the swift mountain torrents, as, after a storm, 
they swept through the declivities ; and to watch 
the diamond-hunters who, when the freshet was 
over, hunted for their precious merchandise in 
the valleys through which the waters had passed. 
He was told, at Golconda, the same story 
about the eagles and the diamonds, that we 
read in Sinbad the Sailor's adventures in the 
"Arabian Nights;" how the people threw huge 
pieces of meat into the deep, inaccessible pits, to 



AMONG THE HINDOOS. 177 

which the diamonds lying on the bottom stuck 
how the eagles swooped down, caught the 
jewelled flesh in their talons, and on rising 
again were so frightened by the cries and frantic 
gestures of the men, that they let their precious 
prey drop ; and how the men thus secured the 
diamonds which they could not otherwise reach. 
But Marco knew how fond the Hindoos were of 
telling marvellous tales ; and did not give too 
easy a belief to what he heard. 

Marco saw some of the white eagles that were 
said to render this great service to the diamond- 
hunters ; but observed that most of the eagles in 
India were black as jet, like crows, and were much 
larger than those he had seen in Europe. He 
also saw some curious bald owls, with neither 
wings nor feathers ; peacocks, larger than he had 
ever before seen ; parrots of every hue and size, 
which he greatly admired, especially some very 
small red and white ones ; and chickens, altogether 
different from European fowl. 

On reaching the province of Coilon, where he 
found many Christians and Jews, as well as Mo- 
hammedans and Hindoos, he was deeply inter- 
ested in seeing the growth of pepper, and es- 



178 MARCO POLO. 

pecially of indigo, the latter being very plentiful 
It was made, he observed, of an herb, which was 
soaked a long time in water ; after which, being 
exposed to the hot sun, it boiled, grew solid, 
and thus became the indigo which everybody 
knows. The people of this province were very 
black, many shades darker than most of the 
Hindoos , and were less civilized than the natives 
Marco had hitherto seen. As he passed through 
the vast forests of this part of India, he espied in- 
numerable herds of monkeys of every shape and 
hue, which threw down branches and nuts at him 
as he went along ; and now and then he saw leop- 
ards, enormous wildcats, and even lions, prowl- 
ing about on the edge of the woods, and in the 
neighboring jungles. 

After travelling for many weeks in the interior 
of India, Marco at last reached the seashore 
again, and found himself on the western coast of 
the continent. He then went on shipboard, and 
passed from place to place by water, thus travers- 
ing the same coast along which, two hundred 
years later, Vasco da Gama sailed, and established 
the dominion of Portugal. 

Marco soon became aware that he was in 



AMONG THE HINDOOS. 

a dangerous par. of the world; for the coast of 
Malabar was swarmed, at that time, with pirates, 
who had it pretty much their own way with 
strange vessels. Once or twice the ship in which 
Marco sailed was hotly pursued by these free- 
booters of the sea ; but happily she was able to 
make port safely each time. Marco learned that 
the pirates were in the habit of signalling to each 
other, when a merchant vessel appeared, all along 
the coast, by means of brilliant lights. They were 
stationed five miles apart, on a line a hundred 
miles long ; and these lights, appearing first on 
one corsair ship, and then on the next, tele- 
graphed the news of a coming prize throughout 
this distance ; so that the poor merchantman had 
usually but little chance of escape. The mer- 
chantmen, therefore, always went strongly manned 
and armed; and more than one desperate sea- 
fight did Marco witness on his way northward to 
Bombay. He was told that the pirates, on seizing 
a ship, took all her goods, but did not harm the 
crew ; saying to them, " Go and get another 
cargo, so that we may catch you again and rid 
you of it." 

Despite the pirates, Marco found the west 



IO MARCO POLO, 

coast of India fairly bustling with commerce. 
Every harbor seemed full of ships, and every 
port full of store-houses ; the trade of the coast 
extended to Arabia and Egypt, to Africa, Austral- 
asia and Cathay. On the wharves of the sea- 
port towns he saw the greatest variety of cos. 
tumes and features, from the sober Parsee in his 
long flowing robe, to the heavy-turbaned Arab 
and the Persian with his gorgeously embroidered 
sack. 

Even used as he was to the great warehouses 
of China and Cathay, he was astonished at the 
beautiful cloths and articles of skilful workman- 
ship that he saw at Malabar and Bombay; the 
finely dressed leather, the rich embroideries, and 
the luxurious trappings for men, horses, and ele- 
phants ; the ornaments and knicknacks of brass, 
gold, silver and precious gems ; and he was forced 
to confess that the bazaars of India out-rivalled 
those of any Oriental land he had yet visited. 

Marco again set sail, and his ship now took its 
course across the Indian Ocean towards the coast 
of Africa ; for his mission would not be wholly 
fulfilled until he had been to certain islands and 
kingdoms of that continent. He had already been 



AMONG THE HINDOOS. l8l 

absent from Cathay for more than a year ; and 
found himself now quite as near his Venetian 
home as to the court of the great khan. There 
were moments, as he sped across the Indian 
Ocean, when he was sorely tempted to order the 
sailors to turn northward, to land in Egypt and 
make his way across that country to Alexandria, 
and there watch the opportunity to take pas- 
sage in a Venetian galley to the city of his birth. 

But his father and uncle were far away in Cathay, 
and Marco could not desert them. He knew 
that if he did, the khan would revenge himself 
for such a desertion upon his kinsmen. Besides, 
Marco had been overwhelmed with favors, wealth 
and power by Kublai Khan ; and to prove false 
to his pledge that he would faithfully return, was 
an act of baseness of which the high-souled young 
Venetian was incapable. 

So he kept on his course across the ocean, re- 
solved to see all of the world that he could ; and, 
having accomplished all the objects for which he 
had set out, to return with his report to Cathay. 
On the way he stopped at two islands, called the 
" Male" and "Female," whose dusky inhabitants he 
found to be Christians ; but they were very differ- 



182 MARCO POLO. 

ent Christians from those to whom Marco had been 
used in Europe. It appeared that all the men 
dwelt on the " Male" island, and all the women 
on the " Female," thirty miles away, and that the 
men crossed over and visited their wives and 
daughters once a year, remaining with them for 
three months and then returning to their own 
abode. The sons lived with their mothers until 
they were fourteen years of age, when they were 
thought to be old enough to join the community 
of their own sex. The two islands were ruled 
over, not by a king, but by a bishop ; and Marco 
was much amused to observe that this holy potent- 
ate, instead of wearing a mitre and embroidered 
robes, went almost naked. 

Marco landed at another island, several hundred 
miles south of the " Male" and " Female" islands > 
where the people were also Christians. They 
claimed to have all sorts of miraculous powers, 
such as the power to change the direction of the 
wind by their enchantments. The island was a 
very remote, solitary, dismal place, frequented by 
pirates, and Marco was very glad to get away 
from it after making as brief a sojourn as possible. 

His next stopping place was the great island of 



AMONG THE HINDOOS. 183 

Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa, which 
he found inhabited by two races. One of these 
was Arab, and they were men of light complex- 
ions and were well dressed ; the other was Negro, 
as black as Erebus. Marco saw in Madagascar 
a large variety of animals, wild and domestic, and 
learned that the favorite food of the people was 
the flesh of camels, which he had never known to 
be eaten elsewhere. One species of bird he saw, 
enormous in size, and formidable to men and 
beasts, which, it was said, could lift an elephant 
high in the air. Marco was told that when one 
of these birds they were probably what we know 
as condors was hungry, he seized an elephant, 
and raising him in the air, let him fall to the earth, 
crushing him to death ; and then fed upon his 
carcass. 

Crossing to the main coast of Africa, Marco 
passed through the country of Zanzibar, where 
he saw negroes of gigantic size, quite terrible to 
behold, who could carry as much in their arms or 
on their shoulders as any four common men. 
They were very black and savage, and went quite 
naked ; their mouths were huge, their teeth very 
regular and glistening white. The women struck 



MARCO POLO. 

Marco as singularly hideous, with their big eyes 
and mouths, and their coarse, clumsy shapes. He 
heard that this people were very warlike, and 
fought on the backs of elephants and camels, 
fifteen or twenty men being mounted on each 
animal ; and that their weapons consisted of staves, 
spears, and rude swords. As they went into 
battle, they drank a very strong liquor, which they 
also gave to their elephants and camels, rendering 
both the beasts and their riders extremely fierce 
and bloodthirsty. 

Marco saw in Zanzibar, for the first time in his 
life, an animal with which we are all now quite 
familiar the giraffe ; and admired exceedingly 
its beautiful stripes, graceful motions, and gentle 
actions. He also saw white sheep with black 
heads, and very large elephants ; the latter were 
hunted for their tusks, which, as ivory, found its 
way to the remote marts of the world. 



MARCO POLO, 185 




CHAPTER XIII. 

MARCO POLO IN AFRICA. 

|ROM Zanzibar, Marco ventured into a 
famous African country, very ancient in 
its history, and remarkable as the early 
seat of Christianity on the " dark continent." 
This was Abyssinia ; a land which, in our own 
time, has attracted a great deal of attention, as 
the scene of a war between the English and the 
savage King Theodore. 

In Marco's time, Abyssinia was called " Middle 
India," and was renowned as a great kingdom, 
inhabited by a bold and warlike race. He was 
therefore naturally very anxious to visit it, es- 
pecially as he knew the Abyssinians to be 
Christians. 

The journey thither from Zanzibar was long, 
difficult and dangerous. The wild, black tribes 
of the coast constantly menaced him and his 



1 86 MARCO POLO. 

party; and sometimes, as he proceeded up the 
rivers in the rude canoes furnished to him by 
friendly natives, he was assailed by showers of 
arrows and javelins, some of which did fatal 
work among his escort. 

Nor were the menaces of the wild beasts to be 
despised. In the night, especially, the deep and 
awful stillness of the misty African jungle was 
roughly broken by the roaring of hungry lions, 
and the bellowing of hippopotami and rhinocer- 
oses. A constant watch was the only safety 
from the fell assaults of these half-famished 
monsters. 

But Marco and his companions had now be- 
come quite used to " roughing it." His experi- 
ence in the remotest parts of Tartary and China, 
his adventures in the islands and in the depths of 
Hindoostan, had not only hardened his sense of 
peril, but had taught him how to pass through 
the dangers of the jungle and the forest. In due 
time, the Tartar train crossed the confines of 
Abyssinia, and found themselves on the way to 
its capital. 

Marco at once made himself known as an 
European and a Christian; and his light complexion 



IN AFRICA. 187 

and regular features showed the Abyssinians that 
he was not deceiving them, in spite of his Oriental 
dress and company. No sooner did they recog- 
nize him as a brother in religion, than the natives 
overwhelmed him with the warmth of their 
welcome. They entertained him on such rude 
fare as their huts provided ; they guided him, in 
strong companies, through dangerous parts of the 
country ; and they paddled him in their biggest 
canoes across the lakes and up the reed-bordered 
rivers. 

The young traveller observed all that he saw 
and heard with the keenest interest ; for he 
wished to carry back as minute an account as 
possible of this land of sable Christians. He 
soon learned that it was ruled over by a power- 
ful emperor, under whom there were six kings r 
each of whom reigned over the six large prov- 
inces into which Abyssinia was divided. Three 
of these kings were Christians, and three were 
Mohammedans, the subjects of each being of the 
same faith as their sovereign. The emperor 
himself was a Christian. Marco also found that 
there were many Jews in Abyssinia : but they 
were not at all like the long-nosed, keen-eyed, 



1 88 MARCO POLO. 

heavily-bearded Jews whom he remembered at 
Venice. 

Very different, too, were the Christian customs 
of this half-savage country from those to which 
he was accustomed at home. The Christians 
distinguished themselves from the Mohamme- 
dans and Jews, by having three marks branded 
on their faces; one from the forehead to the 
middle of the nose, and one on each cheek; and 
it was the branding of these marks with a red- 
hot iron which constituted their baptism. 

It was soon evident to Marco that he was in 
the midst of a very warlike people. Everywhere 
there appeared troops of soldiers ; and very 
often he passed large camps teeming with 
warriors. Nearly the whole male population 
seemed to be expert in the use of arms, and 
ready at a moment's warning to obey a summons 
to the battle-field. On the Abyssinian frontier 
were two other warlike nations, Adel and Nubia; 
and the emperor was almost constantly at war 
with one or the other. 

Not many years before Marco's visit, the 
Abyssinian monarch had engaged in a terrific 
contest with the king of Adel. The cause of 



IN AFRICA. 189 

this war was a singular one ; but it showed 
Marco, when he heard it related, how devoted the 
Abyssinians were to their religion. A Christian 
bishop was sent by the emperor on a pilgrimage 
to Christ's Sepulchre at Jerusalem. Having 
safely performed his errand at the Holy City, 
the bishop set out on his return. His way 
lay through Adel. Now it happened that the 
king and people of that country were intense 
Mohammedans, and bitterly hated the Christians ; 
so when the bishop came along, he was seized 
and brought before the governor of the province. 
The latter urged him to desert his religion, and 
become a follower of the prophet. But the 
bishop stuck firmly to his faith. Then the 
governor ordered that he should be taken out 
and circumcised. Thus cruelly outraged, the 
venerable prelate returned to Abyssinia, and lost 
no time in apprizing the emperor of what had 
happened. 

The Abyssinian monarch was so enraged at the 
bishop's sad tale, that he wept and gnashed his 
teeth ; and calling out to his courtiers, swore 
that the bishop should be avenged as never in- 
jured man was before. Collecting an immense 



IOO MARCO POLO. 

army he advanced at the head of it into the 
heart of Adel, where he met the opposing forces 
of his mortal foe. The battle was long and 
terrific ; but it ended in a sweeping victory for 
the invaders. The army of Adel broke and fled ; 
and the Abyssinians, infuriated and intoxicated 
by their triumph, laid waste and destroyed the 
largest towns and fairest fields of Adel, and put 
many of the people to the sword. Having thus 
wreaked his vengeance for the bishop's wrong, the 
emperor returned to his own country. 

Marco found in Abyssinia the greatest abund- 
ance and variety of production, and the richest 
and most profuse vegetation. The natives lived 
on rice, wild game, milk and sesame. Among the 
animals he saw giraffes, lions, leopards and 
huge apes, the largest and most intelligent he 
had yet encountered. The feathered creation, 
as it appeared in Abyssinia, struck him with 
wonder and admiration. The domestic fowls he 
thought the most beautiful in the world ; the 
ostriches seemed "as large as asses;" and the 
parrots exceeded in variety of color and splendor 
of plumage anything he had ever imagined. He 
passed through many thriving towns in some of 



IN AFRICA. 191 

which he observed manufactories of cotton and 
other cloths; and by many lofty, though rudely 
built castles, perched on high cliffs, or on the 
slopes of wooded hills. 

Marco would have liked to linger long in Abys- 
sinia, which was a country that greatly attracted 
him on many accounts. He would have liked, 
also, to push on further, and explore all the 
wonders of Egypt and the Nile. But he had 
now been away from the court of the khan much 
longer than he had intended ; and he knew that 
both the khan, and his father and uncle, must by 
this time be looking anxiously for his return. 

He was forced, therefore, reluctantly, to turn 
his face eastward again. During his travels, he 
had gathered many curiosities of the strange places 
he had visited ; and he had lost a number of the 
Tartars who had formed a part of his train. He 
had now with him only enough men to bear his 
baggage, and to act as a guard. Seeking a port 
whence to embark, he found it necessary to pro- 
ceed to the great and flourishing city of Aden, the 
port which was the centre of all the commerce of 
the African and Indian seas. Arriving at Aden, 
Marco was surprised at its wealth and the vast 



192 MARCO POLO. 

amount of shipping that lay in its harbor; and at 
the magnificence of the sultan who ruled the city 
and the country round about. He had no diffi- 
culty, in so busy a place, in chartering a vessel 
to take him and his company back to Tartary; 
and ere many days once more found himself 
on the great deep, full on the way to Kambalu. 

The voyage was a long, tedious, and stormy 
one. Sometimes Marco despaired of ever seeing 
the land again, so furious were the cyclones and 
tempests of wind and rain ; sometimes they were 
becalmed for days and weeks. Marco landed at 
many of the islands he had visited on his out- 
ward voyage, and saw some which he had before 
passed by ; but he did not, throughout the long 
transit, often touch at points on the mainland. 

At last, however, the long voyage was over. 
The coast of Cathay appeared in a long, dim line 
at the horizon ; then familiar cities and towns 
came into view ; finally, the good ship neared 
the port whence Marco had set out ; and it was 
with a full heart that he jumped upon the shore, 
and knew that ere long he would be clasped in 
his father's arms, and receive the welcome and 
the praises of the great khan. 



IN AFRICA. 193 

His return to Kambalu was celebrated by re- 
joicings in which the whole court took part ; for 
the Tartar nobles had never known of so great 
and indefatigable a traveller as Marco had proved 
himself to be. His exploits, the dangers by sea, 
savages and beasts through which he had passed, 
the wonderful countries and curious customs he 
had witnessed, and the valuable services he had 
rendered to the khan, made him a real hero, even 
among generals who had fought great battles, and 
nobles who wielded powers inferior only to those 
of Kublai Khan himself. 

Nicolo was proud of his son's achievements, and 
was never done praising him. The khan grew 
fonder than ever of Marco, and lavished the cost- 
liest gifts and the rarest favors upon him. He 
made him a noble of his empire ; he called him 
almost daily to sup with him ; he offerred to marry 
him to one of the most beautiful, rich and high- 
born maidens of his realm ; he gave him a stable 
full of beautiful horses; and consulted him upon 
the most important affairs of state. 

By and by the warmth of the khan's affection 
for Marco began to fill the proud and fierce 
breasts of the Tartar barons with jealousy ; and 



MARCO POLO 

now Marco had to feel the bitterness as well as 
the sweets of good fortune. He was constantly 
threatened with snares and assassination. He 
was forced to go armed, and protected by a strong 
guard, lest a secret attack should be made upon 
him. So his life at the court, surrounded as it 
was with every luxury and privilege that heart 
could wish, became anything but a comfortable 
one. 

Nicolo and Maffeo Polo, as well as Marco, 
aroused the hostility of many of the barons ; and 
so unpleasant did their position at the court begin 
to be, despite the fondness and favor of the mon- 
arch, that they often talked together anxiously 
about the prospect of their being able to return 
to Venice. 

Sixteen years had elapsed since the day on 
which they had bidden farewell to their native 
city. The two elder Polos were growing old ; 
their hair was gray, their faces were wrinkled, and 
their strength was waning. Marco himself, who 
had departed from Venice a stripling, was now a 
stalwart, broad-shouldered man, between thirty 
and forty, with a heavy brown beard and the 
strength of a lion. Their mission in Cathay had 



IN AFRICA. 193 

been accomplished ; for they had persuaded the 
khan to be a Christian, had converted many of his 
subjects, and had acquired great wealth for 
themselves. 

They finally resolved to make a vigorous at- 
tempt to persuade Kublai Khan to allow them to 
depart, and to provide them with the means of 
doing so safely. The first day, they said to each 
other, that Kublai seemed in a particularly good 
and indulgent humor, they would proffer their 
petition. 

Not long after this, the khan gave a great 
feast; and afterwards witnessed, with his court, 
the exciting sports with which he was wont to be- 
guile the pleasant afternoon hours, after he had 
eaten and drunk his fill. 

Retiring, then, to the shade of his park, Kublai 
Khan reclined under the trees, and called about 
him his favorite courtiers and wives. Near him 
were the three Polos, who observed that the mon- 
arch was in high spirits. He jested pleasantly 
with his companions, and lolled luxuriously on his 
cushions. 

The Polos gave each other significant glances ; 
and at a favorable moment, Nicolo advanced 



ig6 MARCO POLO. 

and prostrated himself at the monarch's feet 
" I have an immense favor to ask of your 
majesty," he said, clasping his hands, and raising 
his eyes to Kublai's face, " and implore you to 
listen kindly to it." 

" And what favor can you ask, good Venetian, 
that I will not grant ? You and your brother, 
and your brave, stout son, have served me nobly 
these many years; how can I refuse what you 
ask?" 

" But I fear to offend your majesty, by asking 
for more than you are willing to give. We beg for 
no more riches, no more honors. These your 
majesty has lavished upon us far beyond our de- 
serts. You have loaded us with your favors and 
your gold. It is, indeed, many, many years that 
we have lived in the sunshine of your royal 
countenance; so many, that my brother and I 
have waxed old in your service. And after this 
long time, sire, our hearts yearn for our native 
land, for those beloved ones of whom we have not 
heard a word ; and we would fain return, to tell 
Europe of the wonders of your vast realm, and 
the lofty virtues that dwell in your royal breast. 
Pray, your majesty, give us permission to go back 



IN AFRICA. 197 

to Venice ; that is the petition we would lay at 
your feet." 

The khan at first frowned, and impatiently shook 
his head ; then smiled, and said : 

" Venetian, I cannot let you go. You are too 
useful to me. Whom could I send as an envoy 
to my remote provinces, if Marco were not here? 
Who could teach my people how to be Christians, 
if you departed ? No, no, stay in content, Vene- 
tians ; and whatever your present possessions may 
be, they shall be doubled from my treasure-house. 
Whatever you desire to make you rich, to give 
you pastime, to afford you ease and content in 
Cathay, shall be yours. Choose your dwelling, 
your horses, your servants, your guards, and they 
shall be granted to you. But think not of going 
hence ; it cannot be." 

Nicolo continued to plead with all the eloquence 
he could command ; but his prayers were quite in 
vain. The khan was good-naturedly deaf to his 
entreaties. He then tried another way of gaining 
his object. 

" Sire," said Nicolo, " Our good fortune here, 
and your bounteous favor, have made us bitter 
enemies among your barons and courtiers. They 



198 MARCO POLO. 

are jealous to see the affection of their monarch 
bestowed upon foreigners ; and they hate to per- 
ceive all your most secret trusts and counsels 
confided to us, who are of strange birth and 
blood. Should we depart, these nobles would no 
longer entertain feelings so angry, and would 
once more gather, a united band, about your 
throne. For the sake, then, of peace in your 
court and palace, grant our prayer." 

The khan looked around among his courtiers 
with lowering and threatening brow. 

"Who dares," he cried, "to murmur at my 
sovereign will; who would forbid my choice of 
such counsellors as I please to have ? Point out, 
Venetian, the men of whom you speak !" 

" Sire, I see none among those who are present ; 
nor do I wish to breed further discontent and 
quarrels in your palace, by naming those who are 
jealous of us. But I assure you, there are such ; 
nor will they ever be at rest until we have for- 
ever set our faces towards the west." 

The khan, however, was obdurate; and although 
the Polos again and again besought him to let 
them go, he would not budge an inch from his 
resolution to keep them with him. There seemed 



IN AFRICA. 199 

to be no help for them. The Polos could not hope 
to escape by stealth from Cathay ; for every high- 
road was guarded by faithful troops of the khan, 
and his couriers, with their relays of horses, could 
travel much more swiftly than they could hope 
to do. 

They once more reluctantly gave up the hope 
of returning home, and began to say to each other 
that, in all probability, they were destined never 
to set eyes on Venice more, but to live and die in 
Cathay. Marco resumed his idle life at court, find- 
ing a relief from its pleasures in writing out an ac- 
count of his travels. In the early summer, he went 
in the khan's innumerable train to the imperial 
hunting grounds in the north ; and as he had now 
become one of the most stalwart and skilful hunts- 
men of the court, he plunged with new ardor into 
the lusty sports of the forest and the jungle. 

Marco little thought as, the summer over, he 
was returning again, in the wake of the imperial 
caravanserai, to Kambalu, that events had hap- 
pened in his absence which would hasten the re- 
turn of himself, his father and his uncle to 
Venice ; and on arriving at the palace, was over- 
joyed to find that good fortune had suddenly 
opened a \vay for their final departure. 



2OO MARCO POLO. 




CHAPTER XIV. 

HOMEWARD BOUND. 

JHILE the khan had been away with his 
court at the hunting grounds, three Per- 
sian ambassadors, with a gorgeous train, 
had arrived at Kambalu. Finding the khan 
away, they resolved to await his return, and were 
therefore sumptuously lodged in his palace. No 
sooner had the khan heard of their arrival, than 
he gave a splendid banquet in their honor ; and, 
having feasted on the bounteous good things that 
his stewards set before them, the ambassadors 
were summoned into the garden, where the khan 
reclined in the midst of his women, to inform him 
of the object of their visit. The three Polos, as 
usual, had their places near the monarch. They 
watched with no little interest the appearance of 
the Persians, and listened intently to what they 
had to say. 



HOMEWARD BOUND. 2OI 

The chief ambassador, making low salaams, ad- 
vanced to Kublai Khan, and kneeling at his feet, 
spoke : 

" Your majesty knows that our great sovereign, 
King Argon of Persia, married a lady of Cathay 
for his wife. With much grief I have to announce 
that the good Queen Bolgana is no more. She 
was a most gracious queen, beloved of all her 
lord's subjects ; and the king himself loved her 
most faithfully. When she died, with her last 
words she implored King Argon on no account 
to take to himself a Persian as his second wife, 
but to send hither for a maiden of her own 
family, and make this maiden her successor. 
King Argon paid heed to the dying prayer of the 
queen ; and hath, in compliance with it, sent us 
here to Cathay, to seek for a second wife." 

" You are very welcome, noble Persians," re- 
plied Kublai Khan, " and I shall give orders that 
you be entertained at my court, as long as you 
choose to tarry, in a manner befitting your rank 
and my love for King Argon, your master. You 
and your gallant company shall be lodged within 
my palace, and all things in it shall be at your 
service. Meanwhile, I will send messengers with- 



2O2 MARCO POLO. 

out delay to the province whence Queen Argon 
came, and will demand of her family a maiden 
who shall return with you to Persia." 

The Persians then retired, and the khan and 
his courtiers resumed their recreations. The 
Polos soon made the acquaintance of these envoys 
of King Argon. Nicolo and Maffeo had twice 
travelled in Persia, and had already been received 
at the sovereign's court, and they well understood 
the native language of the envoys ; while the 
latter were delighted to find accomplished Euro- 
peans, with whom they could freely talk, and who 
were familiar with their own country. Marco 
busied himself with providing amusements for 
the Persians, and acted as their guide about the 
palace park and the city of Kambalu. Occasion- 
ally he went with them on hunting parties ; and 
soon became very intimate and confidential with 
them. He did not conceal from his new friends 
how long and eagerly he and his father had de- 
sired to return to Venice, and how resolutely 
Kublai Khan had forbidden them to think of 
doing so. The Persians sympathized with him 
in his longing, and encouraged him to hope that 
his deliverance might not be far off. But Marco 



HOMEWARD BOUND. 2O3 

drew little comfort from their words, and did not 
once suspect that they would themselves be the 
means of opening the way to his return home. 
Kublai Khan was as good as his word to the Per- 
sian envoys. He lost no time in sending to the 
native province of Queen Bolgana to demand a 
new bride for the Persian monarch, giving orders 
that the youngest and fairest daughter of the 
family should be sent. In due time his messengers 
returned, and with them the newly destined bride. 
Marco was at the court when she entered the 
palace, and was brought into the presence of the 
khan and of the Persian ambassadors ; and, ac- 
customed as he was to the beauty of many of the 
Tartar ladies, he was amazed at the exceeding 
loveliness of this young girl, whose fate it was to 
be sent to a far-off strange land, and to become the 
wife of a king more than double her own age. 
She was very young and girlish, being scarcely 
seventeen ; her graceful and slender form 
was attired in robes of the richest silk. The 
khan presented her to the Persian envoys, who did 
not conceal their admiration of her beauty, and 
declared that she could not fail to greatly please 
their lord and master. 



2O4 MARCO POLO. 

Preparations were now hastened for the de- 
parture of the embassy. Kublai Khan had re- 
solved that the bride should be attended with 
great state on her journey to her new home. 
He provided a brilliant escort of courtiers and 
guards, and selected some of the choicest gems 
and gold and silver ornaments that his treasure- 
houses provided, as presents for King Argon and 
his youthful bride. Upon the latter he showered 
necklaces, bracelets, and rings enough to dazzle 
even a queen ; and he also gave the ambassadors 
solid proofs of his esteem. 

The time had nearly arrived for their depart- 
ure, when, one day, the chief of the ambassadors 
sought an audience of the khan, and told him 
that he was about to ask a still greater favor than 
the khan had as yet conferred upon him. 

" At your majesty's court," said the Persian, 
" are three noble and learned Venetians, who have 
been here, as I learn, some seventeen years. 
Sire, they are most anxious to return to their 
own land. They have served you faithfully and 
they seek the reward of their fidelity in your 
gracious permission that they shall again behold 
the scenes of their youth. These Venetians have 



HOMEWARD BOUND. 20$ 

much knowledge of the Indian seas, by which we 
are about to return to Persia ; and we are bold 
enough to beg your majesty's leave to take them 
with us." 

Kublai Khan frowned, and at first seemed on 
the point of breaking out in a fit of passion ; but 
governing his temper, turned abruptly around, 
and said that he would think of the Persian's re- 
quest and give him his answer on the morrow. 
The next day he called the Persian to him and 
said: 

"The Venetians have attached themselves 
strongly to me, and have been, for many years, 
my wisest and most trusted counsellors. I am 
most loth to part with them. But I clearly see 
that they are fully resolved to go back to Venice, 
and that they cannot possibly reconcile them- 
selves to remaining in Cathay. I perceive that 
they have begged you Persians to intercede for 
them ; nor, methinks, will they leave any stone 
unturned to break away from me. I have there- 
fore resolved, at last, to grant your request, and 
to set them free to go back with you, if so it 
pleases them." 

The Persian bent low before the khan, in abject 



2O6 MARCO POLO. 

token of his gratitude ; and then hastened off to 
impart his good news to Marco, who could 
scarcely believe that the obdurate khan had really 
yielded. He soon, however, received from the 
khan's own lips the assurance of the truth ; and 
his heart thrilled with joy to think that, after all, 
he would see dear old Venice once more. 

So it was decided that the Polos should go with 
the party of the young bride to Persia, and make 
their way from thence, as they could, to Europe. 
They soon made ready for the voyage (for the 
party were to travel by sea, the land journey 
being too long and too perilous for the frail 
young princess and her female companions); and 
the day quickly came for them to bid adieu to 
the good khan who had treated them so gener- 
ously, and to the host of Tartar friends whom they 
were about to leave forever. 

The khan had not only loaded down the Polos, 
the envoys and the princess with costly gifts, and 
provided them with a brilliant Tartar escort, but 
had caused thirteen of his largest and finest four- 
masted ships to be especially fitted up for their 
use, and to be manned by ample crews of from one 
to two hundred sailors each. Everything on these 



HOMEWARD BOUND. 2O7 

ships was arranged for the luxury of the travellers. 
The furniture was elegant and comfortable, and 
the stock of provisions was choice and abundant. 
In all, the company that attended the party 
comprised, besides the sailors, six hundred per- 
sons. 

Just before they set out, Kublai Khan sum- 
moned the Polos before him, in the presence of 
the whole court ; and tenderly embracing each of 
them, with tears in his eyes, he handed Nicolo 
two golden tablets, which were to serve them as 
passports. On these tablets the khan had caused 
to be written his command to all his governors 
and subjects, not only to permit the Polos a safe 
passage, but to provide them with all things of 
which they might be in need. 

When the travellers repaired to the port where 
lay their ships, Kublai Khan, with a great multi- 
tude of courtiers and soldiers, proceeded with 
them some miles on the road, and parted from 
them with the warmest demonstrations of 
affection at a village where all halted for the 
leave-taking. The khan fairly wept as he em- 
braced Marco, who was his chief favorite ; while 
Marco himself was overcome with emotion at 



2O8 MARCO POLO. 

separating from a monarch who had overwhelmed 
him with favor and kindness. 

The ambassadors, the princess and the Polos, 
having arrived at the port of embarkation, re- 
paired on board the flag-ship, in which they were 
all to sail together ; their escort and attendants 
entered the other ships ; and, while an enormous 
multitude roared its good-bye from the shore, the 
fleet set forth on its southward voyage. 

Marco had already traversed these Eastern 
seas, and was quite familiar with the various 
islands and headlands as they were passed. He 
took command of the fleet, and under his direc- 
tions the ships sailed by the nearest route into 
the Australian waters. They did not deem it wise 
or necessary to put in at any of the islands, as they 
had already on board provisions and water enough 
to last them two years, and it was needless to 
risk an attack from the savage inhabitants. 

It took the fleet fully three months to reach the 
long and lovely island of Sumatra. On the voy- 
age, Marco greatly enjoyed the companionship of 
the three Persians, who were men of high birth 
and remarkable intelligence. On making the 
acquaintance of the young princess, (whose 



HOMEWARD BOUND. 209 

name was Cocachin), he found her as lively and 
amiable as she was lovely in face and person. 
She was soon able to converse with her protectors, 
and spent much of her time on deck, gazing 
amazed at the myriad wonders of the sea, which 
she had never before beheld. At first she had 
been homesick, and melancholy ; but the excite- 
ments of the voyage had restored the rosy color 
to her cheeks, and gayety to her heart. 

After staying a short while at Sumatra, the 
ships resumed their voyage, their stores replen- 
ished, and their company refreshed by the brief 
sojourn on land. Sailing southwestward, they 
skirted the coast of India as far as Ceylon ; and 
then, turning their prows northwestward, traversed 
the Indian ocean, thus in due time reaching the 
Persian Gulf. By the time they reached the 
port of Hormuz, however, they had been more 
than two years away from Kambalu, during 
which period they had only landed once, at 
Sumatra. Two of the Persian envoys had died 
on the voyage. 

The brilliant company landed on Persian soil 
with great pomp and display, for they were 
escorting the future queen of the country, and 



2IO MARCO POLO. 

the envoy who survived deemed that she should 
make her first appearance among her future sub- 
jects in all proper state. But no sooner had 
they landed than they learned that the good 
King Argon had in their absence followed his 
first queen to the grave. The country was in a 
state of civil war, and the young Princess Cocachin 
had arrived to find herself widowed before she 
was a wife. 

The party lost no time in repairing to the prince 
who was then ruling in Southern Persia, Kiacatu, 
the brother of Argon ; to whom they presented 
their lovely charge. But Kiacatu, though engaged 
in a struggle with King Argon's son, Casan, for 
the crown, was too honorable to detain the 
young girl ; and directed her escort to proceed 
with her to Casan's camp in the north, providing 
the party with two hundred horsemen to protect 
them. 

Marco now found himself traversing the same 
road as that by which he had travelled to Cathay. 
Many objects were familiar to him as he ad- 
vanced ; and now and then, on stopping at a 
town or village, he found old men who remem- 
bered his journey more than twenty years before. 



HOMEWARD BOUND. 211 

It was a long jaunt from Hormuz to Khorassan, 
where the young King Casan was posted with 
his army ; and their progress was often interrupted 
by the operations of war. But everywhere the 
soldiers and the people respected the cavalcade, 
on account of the fair young princess whom they 
were conducting to the northern camp. Marco 
always rode at her side, with the ambassador; 
and had she not been of rank so much above his 
own, and the destined bride of another, he might 
easily have fallen head over ears in love with her. 
As it was, she became very much attached to 
her handsome and sturdy cavalier; and looked 
forward with real sorrow to parting from 
him. 

It was towards evening that the company ap- 
proached the camp of the gallant young prince 
who was fighting for the crown which was his due. 
The tents were spread over a wide space in a 
beautiful valley, watered by a swiftly-flowing 
stream ; and from a hill top Marco surveyed the 
bustling scene. The soldiers were loitering about 
their tents in groups ; and above the tents 
floated the banners of the royal house of Persia. 
In their centre was a lofty and handsome pa- 



212 MARCO POLO. 

vilion ; and this the travellers rightly guessed to be 
the headquarters of the prince himself. 

With the passports they had, it was no difficult 
matter to penetrate the out-posts, and advance 
to the royal pavilion. On reaching it, the prin- 
cess, ambassador, and three Polos dismounted 
and approached the door. Presently Prince 
Casan, apprized of the arrival of the party, 
emerged from the pavilion. He was a fine- 
looking young man, tall and straight, with broad 
shoulders, a fresh rosy complexion, and a soft 
brown beard. He was splendidly dressed in silk 
and jewels, and altogether presented a noble and 
attractive appearance. He stepped forward and 
welcomed the party to his camp. Then the 
ambassador, standing with bowed head, informed 
Casan that this was the young princess of Cathay, 
whom his father Argon had sent for, in order to 
make her his wife. But now that Argon was 
dead, he knew nothing else to do with her, than 
to bring her to Argon's son and heir, Casan 
himself. The prince was already glancing with 
tender eyes at the lovely young maiden ; and no 
sooner had the ambassador done speaking than 
he exclaimed : " You have done well, my lord. 



HOMEWARD BOUND. 213 

The fair princess shall receive all honor and pro- 
tection from me. Nay, I am happily still un- 
married ; and the bride whom my august father 
destined as his queen, I will receive as mine." 

So saying, he took the blushing Cocachin by 
the hand and led her to a tent near by, sending her 
women after her to keep her company. It may 
well be believed that she did not much regret, 
after all, finding that her destined spouse was no 
more ; for he was an old man, and now she was 
to be married to one as young, handsome, 
and powerful as the proudest princess could 
wish. 

Meanwhile, Casan busied himself with offering 
such hospitalities as his camp afforded to his 
visitors. The ambassador and the Polos were 
provided with luxurious tents, and at night were 
feasted by the prince to their hearts' content ; 
and the next day a great review of the troops 
was held, at which they rode beside the prince 
himself. 

Eager as Marco was to see Venice once more, 
it was with much reluctance and sorrow that he 
parted from the good friends with whom he had 
travelled so far, and whose friendship he had so 



214 MARCO POLO. 

keenly enjoyed. The Polos resolved to tarry at 
the camp at least until Casan and Cocachin 
were married, after which event they would hasten 
towards home. The more Casan saw of the 
young girl, the fonder he grew of her; and he 
soon became impatient to be wedded to her as 
soon as possible. Cocachin was nothing loth ; 
and so within a week of her arrival in the camp, 
they were duly married according to the rites of 
the faith to which they belonged. 

The next day, the Polos prepared to set out 
for Trebizond, which was the nearest port where 
they could hope to find a ship to take them to 
Constantinople, from whence their way home 
would be easy. When the moment for bidding 
farewell came, Marco could not restrain his tears. 
He warmly embraced his Persian friends, and 
kneeling at the feet of the Princess Cocachin, 
fervidly kissed her hand. She, also, was much 
touched at parting from so good and faithful a 
friend, and tears of regret coursed down her 
cheeks. 

The Polos here bade good-bye also to the 
larger part of the escort who had accompanied 
them on their travels, and only took with them a 



HOMEWARD BOUND. 

few guides and attendants, and a body of Persian 
cavalry, whom Prince Casan detailed to guard 
them as far as Trebizond. They then set out, 
followed by the friendly cries of the Persian 
soldiers. 



210 MARCO POLO. 




CHAPTER XV. 

A STRANGE WELCOME. 

f ARCO and his party reached Trebizond in 
safety, having crossed the Armenian 
mountains, and seen with great interest 
still another phase of Oriental life. Trebizond 
was then a very thriving port of the Black Sea, 
and Marco was delighted when his eyes greeted, 
among the crowded shipping in the harbor, 
several vessels from which floated the once so 
familiar Venetian flag. There were also Cossack, 
Circassian, Greek and Moorish vessels, each 
with its peculiar and striking characteristics. 

It was not long before an opportunity occurred 
of procuring a passage across the Black Sea to 
Constantinople ; and the weary travellers, worn 
and bronzed by long wanderings, at last found 
themselves snugly ensconced in a European 
cabin. The passage across the Black Sea was a 



A STRANGE WELCOME. 217 

rapid and pleasant one. Soft winds blew, and 
the sky remained serene throughout the voyage. 
Yet it seemed a long voyage to Marco, who, now 
that he once more found himself among Euro- 
peans, was doubly eager to reach home. 

One morning he awoke to find the vessel enter- 
ing the narrow strait of the Bosphorus, its high 
banks on either side crowned with fortresses, and 
with the stately residences of the Greek nobles 
who chose to live near the metropolis of the em- 
pire. A brief sail brought them within sight of 
the domes and minarets of Constantinople itself ; 
and soon Marco once more put foot upon dry land, 
and was threading the narrow winding streets 
of the famous city. 

The stay of the Polos at Constantinople was 
not a long one. Nicolo had some business to 
transact with Levantine merchants, whose large 
warehouses stood upon the quay, and who only 
recognized their old acquaintance with difficulty, 
so entirely had he changed during his twenty 
years' residence at Cathay. Happily, there were 
Venetian galleys in port ; and on one of these, 
bound for home, the party was able to procure 
a passage. Setting sail once more, they swiftlv 



2l8 MARCO POLO. 

sped through the picturesque Sea of Marmora and 
then entered the channel of the Hellespont, of 
which Marco had read much in his ancient his- 
tories. From the Hellespont they issued into 
the ^Egean Sea, and were now full on the way to 
Venice. The galley stopped at several Greek 
ports on the way ; and Marco had an opportunity 
which he eagerly seized, to observe the monu- 
ments and traits of that noble race, which had 
now reached its period of rapid decline. 

Ere many days had passed, Marco found him- 
self sailing up the Adriatic, and so vivid had been 
his first impressions of his outward voyage, that 
at twenty years' distance he easily recognized 
many of the objects he espied along the shores. 
The weather continued propitious from the 
time they left Constantinople ; it seemed as if 
the elements were giving the travellers a smiling 
and sunny welcome back to Europe again. 

It was late in the afternoon of a mellow 
autumn day, that, far off in the northern haze, 
Marco saw dimly rising from the waters the well- 
known domes and palaces of his beloved Venice. 
He could with difficulty contain himself for joy. 
He could scarcely speak, so deep were his 



A STRANGE WELCOME. 

emotions at beholding the longed-for sight. The 
three travellers stood on the deck of the galley, 
and, shading their eyes from the sun's rays with 
their hands, strained their eyes towards their 
native city. 

Nearer and nearer they approached it ; each 
object became every moment more distinct. The 
big dome of St. Mark's, the column of the lion, the 
spires of many churches, the broad, ornate facade 
of the doge's palace, came, one by one, into 
view ; and now gondolas began to appear, gliding 
swiftly and noiselessly in every direction across 
the glassy bay. Then the mouth of the Grand 
Canal, flanked on either side by its palaces and 
churches, was easily recognized ; and, before the 
Polos had done pointing out to each other, with 
eager delight, the familiar points, they found the 
galley drawing up to the quay. It was soon 
moored, and the Polos tremblingly prepared to 
disembark. 

What had become of all their relatives and 
friends, whom they had left behind so many years 
before? It could not be but they would find 
many of them dead, and it was certain that all 
would have, like themselves, greatly changed. 



22O MARCO POLO. 

To land once more at Venice, therefore, after such 
an absence, was to encounter pain, and to exist 
for a time in feverish suspense. 

The galley in which they had come was to re- 
main at Venice for some time ; and the three 
travellers left such baggage as they had brought 
with them from the east on board of her, 
while they landed and visited home once 
more. 

It happened that all three of the Polos wore 
the rough travelling costumes which they brought 
from Cathay. Their clothes were not only rough 
and shabby, but were of Tartar make; so that 
they looked much more like Tartars than Ven- 
etians. The two elders wore long pointed caps 
of fur, and coats that fell to the ground. About 
their waists were belts, from which hung yata- 
ghans and scimitars such as those used by Tartar 
soldiers. Marco had a flat fur cap, with a long tas- 
sel ; very much such a head-gear as some Chinese 
mandarins wear at the present day. Maffeo Polo 
led with him, by a stout chain, a great shaggy 
dog that he had brought with him from Tartary. 
All three, moreover, were very dark, their skins 

vi-:;* been tanned almost to the color of their 



A STRANGE WELCOME. 221 

Tartar friends, by long residence in a tropical 
clime, and long journeyings through rude and 
difficult lands. They wore long, shaggy, beards, 
those of Maffeo and Nicolo being quite gray ; 
and their hair fell in tangled mats down 
over their shoulders. On their feet were the 
short, thick shoes, turned up at the ends, which 
every one wore in Cathay. 

They thus presented, as they tramped across 
the square of Saint Mark, a very strange and 
striking appearance to the good folk of Venice 
whom they met ; and many turned around and 
stared after them with no little astonishment. 
Not far from the square, they took a gondola, 
and, as well as they could, directed the gondolier 
to row them to Nicolo's house. They found that, 
in so long an absence, they had actually almost 
forgotten their native tongue. It was as much as 
they could do to make the gondolier understand 
them ; they had to stop, and scratch their heads, 
and search their memories, for the simplest word ; 
for they had got accustomed at the khan's court, 
to talk with each other, as well as with the 
Tartars, in the Tartar language, and had long 
ceased to speak Italian altogether. 



222 MARCO POLO. 

The street of San Giovanni Chrysostomo, on 
which stood the home of the Polos, was not far dis- 
tant from the Square of St. Mark ; and the swift 
gondola soon brought them to the broad flight of 
steps which led up to it. Marco felt a curious 
emotion at finding himself once more speeding 
across the canals in one of the boats familiar to his 
youth ; while Nicolo and Maffeo could not but call 
to mind their former return from Cathay. 

Everything in the street where their home 
stood looked much as they remembered it. 
Neither fire nor improvements had done away 
with any of the neighboring buildings. There 
were the same stair-ways, the same ornamental 
portals, the same snug balconies, the same pretty 
cupolas, the same air of indolent quiet and re- 
pose, which they so well remembered. There, 
too, stood the old home, as stately and silent 
as of old, with the dainty carving around the 
arch of the door, the same handsome cross set in 
the wall just above it, and the same coat-of-arms, 
with its bars and initials, on the wall at the side. 
It looked just as if everything had gone on as 
usual for twenty years ; as if it were but the 
other day that the travellers had set out from 



A STRANGE WELCOME. 223 

that spot, followed by the tearful farewells of 
their families and friends. 

No sooner had they landed and advanced to- 
ward the door, than a group of curious neighbors, 
mostly women and children, gathered closely 
around them, staring at them with all their 
might. Such strange, uncouth figures, surely, 
they had never seen; nor could those good 
people imagine what the foreign looking men 
were doing at the door of the big Polo house. 

Marco knocked loudly upon the portal. At 
first, no response came to his summons ; but pres- 
ently several women leaned out of the windows 
above, glared at the strangers, and somewhat 
curtly demanded what they wanted. They were 
evidently taken for foreign vagabonds and tramps ; 
their rough, shabby coats, and bronzed and 
bearded faces, confirmed this idea. Nor were 
the suspicions of the women at the windows 
diminished when Marco tried in vain so hard did 
he find it to speak his native tongue to explain 
who they were, and what they were there for. 

At last, however, the people consented to open 
the door, and admit the three men into the 
courtyard, where the entire household gathered 



224 MARCO POLO. 

around them. Marco addressed himself to the 
butler, a stout, pompous person, who had entered 
the family service long after the departure of the 
travellers ; and at last made him understand that 
they were really Nicolo, Maffeo and Marco Polo. 
The butler stared at him as if he did not believe a 
word he said ; and then called two old women 
who were in the group to come forth and see if 
they could recognize the strangers. The old 
dames placed ther hands on their hips, stooped 
down, and narrowly scanned the countenances of 
all three. 

" Pooh, pooh," exclaimed one of them, in a 
shrill voice, " We know you not. You are a set 
of impostors." 

" Besides/' added the other, " Messer Nicolo 
and Messer Marco are dead long ago. It is years 
since we heard that they were killed by a band of 
robbers, away off there in the East." 

By this time a crowd of neighbors had pene- 
trated the court-yard, and were gathered in a 
close group about the travellers. Among them 
were several old men and women, who had seen 
the Polos before they went to Cathay. To these 
the butler appealed ; but one and all shook their 



A STRANGE WELCOME. 22$ 

heads. Stare as hard as they might, no one could 
recognize their old acquaintances in these rugged 
features. 

"But where is Messer Marco the elder?" 
Nicolo asked, anxiously, in broken Italian, look- 
ing about him. " And young Maffeo, the son of 
Nicolo ?" 

" Messer Maffeo," responded the butler, pomp- 
ously, " is away in the country, on a hunt. Messer 
Marco is dead long ago." 

" Alas, poor Marco !" exclaimed Nicolo, with a 
deep sigh. Then, turning to the group, he added, 
" Very well, good friends, since you deny me in 
my own house, and my son is at a distance, 
we will repair to an inn, and await an op- 
portunity to prove to all that we arc the persons 
we represent ourselves to be." 

With this Nicolo walked out of the court-yard 
of his own house, followed by Maffeo and Marco, 
and all three betook themselves to an inn not far 
distant. 

The rumor of the arrival of the three strangers 
was soon spread through the neighborhood 
and the city; and a large number of their old 
friends and acquaintances came 1 > see them at 



226 MARCO POLO. 

the inn. But, though there were some who 
thought they saw a dim likeness in the strangers' 
faces to the old friends they asserted themselves 
to be, nearly all denied that they perceived the 
least likeness whatever. Besides, the fact that the 
Polos were so shabby, and looked and appeared 
so destitute, gave a general impression that they 
were impudent pretenders, who were trying, by 
this device, to obtain the Polo property. 

The affair was getting to be serious ; for some 
time must elapse before young Maffeo and other 
relatives at a distance could be apprized of their 
arrival, and return to recognize and welcome 
them. 

At last Nicolo hit upon a plan by which he 
thought they would be able to prove their iden- 
tity, and win the recognition of all ; and without 
delay the three set about putting the plan into 
execution. 

They sent forth and invited all the old friends 
and acquaintances whom they could find to be 
living, and in Venice, to meet them at a grand 
banquet at Nicolo's house on a certain evening ; 
and so earnest were they in asserting their ability 
to prove themselves what they claimed, that 



A STRANGE WELCOME. 

those left in charge of the house reluctantly con- 
sented that the banquet should be held there. 
They did not believe there would be any banquet 
at all, and suspected that before the appointed 
time, the strange men would slip away from the 
city, and be well rid of. 

The night of the banquet, warm and serene, 
came ; and about an hour before the guests were 
expected to arrive, the three Polos came to the 
house accompanied by porters bearing large 
boxes, and asked to have an apartment set aside 
for them, where they might make their toilet for 
the festivity. This request was grudgingly 
granted to them, and they entered the room 
where their boxes had been deposited and locked 
themselves in. 

The banquet was prepared with great splendor 
and expense ; and in due time the invited friends 
began to flock in, and gazed with astonishment 
at the bounteous feast that was spread in the great 
hall. They assembled in a large apartment just 
beyond, and there awaited the entrance of their 
singular hosts. 

They had not long to wait ; for in a few mo- 
ments the doors of the apartment were thrown 



225 MARCO POLO. 

open, and the three men entered. As soon as 
they appeared, there was a general exclamation 
of surprise and admiration. No longer attired in 
the uncouth costume of Tartars, no longer shaggy 
of hair and ragged of aspect, the three Polos pre- 
sented themselves in gorgeous robes of crimson 
satin, that reached to the floor. Their hair and 
beards had been cut to the prevailing fashion in 
Venice; and on their necks and fingers sparkled 
jewels of dazzling brightness and enormous size. 

The guests gathered around them, and some 
cried out at once that they recognized the strangers 
as the three Polos who had been supposed to be 
long ago dead. Others hung back, and still sus- 
pected that the company were being made the 
victims of a trick. 

With graceful courtesy, however, the Polos con- 
ducted their guests to the groaning tables, and 
the feasting began. They talked to those who 
sat next to them in a free, easy strain, and with 
a manner as if they were the undoubted lords of 
the house. After the first course, the three Polos 
rose from the table, and, while the company mois- 
tened their hands a custom practised in Venice 
after each course retired to their apartment. 



A STRANGE WELCOME. 22Q 

By the time the second course was served, they 
had reappeared, this time in fresh and still more 
brilliant costumes of crimson damask, with new 
bracelets and rings on their necks and fingers. 
Behind them came attendants, bearing the satin 
robes they had just taken off; and these they 
ordered to be cut up on the spot, and divided 
among the servants. They then resumed their 
seats, and once more made merry with their guests. 

In due time all the courses had been served, 
and the company had grown gay and boisterous 
with the meat and wine. The cloth was removed 
and the servants were ordered to leave the 
banqueting room ; and then Marco rose, and turn- 
ing to the guests, said, 

" My friends, you have doubted that we are the 
Polos, and have denied us with much scorn and 
scoffing. You did this because, when we arrived 
from our long journey, our hair and beards were 
long and straggling, our faces scarred and sun- 
burnt ; and also because, ragged and miserable as 
we looked, you took us to be poor, scheming 
beggars. Now you see us trim and kempt, and 
some of you recognize in our faces, thus restored, 
s .-nothing of the Polo look. It still remains to 



23O MARCO POLO. 

prove to you that we are not beggars, forced by 
want to make false pretensions to a name that 
is not ours." 

So saying, he strode through the room, and 
for a moment disappeared. He soon returned, 
bringing on his arm the shabby Tartar coats in 
which they had made their appearance in Venice. 

Laying them upon the table, while the guests 
gathered curiously around him, Marco began to 
rip open the seams of the rough coats. Presently 
out from between the seams rolled a great num- 
ber of large and beautiful diamonds and emeralds, 
pearls, torquoises, rubies and sapphires ! Seam 
after seam was torn open, and more and more 
jewels fell upon the table ; until there was a pile 
of them equal in value to a very considerable 
fortune. 

"You see, my good friends," said Marco, 
" that we have not returned from Cathay quite 
penniless. Before leaving the court of the great 
khan, we turned all our property into these 
jewels, which might be easily carried ; and in 
order both to carry and to conceal them safely, 
we had them sewed up as you see, in these rude 
garments." 



A STRANGE WELCOME. 23! 

The company could no longer doubt that the 
three men before them were really the long-ab- 
sent Polos; and one and all crowded around 
them, eager to be forgiven for having at first 
denied them. 

Ere many days had passed, young Maffeo, 
hearing of the return of his relatives, reached 
home, and was locked in the embrace of his father 
and brother ; and now the wanderers heard the 
news of all that had happened during their ab- 
sence of nearly a quarter of a century. The 
elder Maffeo's wife had also died, and this intelli- 
gence for a while filled him with grief: but 
happily his children still lived, though they had 
grown up, and were scattered in different parts of 
Italy. 

The Polos were soon cozily settled once more 
in their old home ; and enjoyed, it may well be 
believed, the rest and luxury which it afforded 
after their weary travels. 



232 MARCO POLO. 




CHAPTER XVI. 

MARCO POLO GOES TO THE WARS. 

|T the time of his return to Venice, Marco 
Polo was forty-one years of age, and in the 
full vigor and prime of life. His wander- 
ings and rough career had given him a powerful 
frame, and great bodily strength, and had im- 
planted in him a taste for adventure and action 
which ill-suited him for the tranquillity of city and 
commercial life. 

No sooner had his identity been fully recog- 
nized, than all Venice hastened to do him, as well 
as his father and uncle, all honor. Every day 
their house was thronged by nobles and great 
ladies, by hosts of old friends and new, anxious 
to pay their homage to the heroic travellers. 
An office of high rank was conferred on the elder 
Maffeo ; Nicolo became one of the chief gentle- 
men of the doge's court; and Marco was over- 



MARCO GOES TO THE WARS. 233 

whelmed with favors, honors and attentions by 
the ruler of Venice. Fetes were given in celebra- 
tion of their happy return ; and it was with diffi- 
culty that they could escape the profuse atten, 
tions which were showered upon them. 

Marco became a special hero and favorite with 
the young Venetians, who vied with each other 
in seeking his friendship and companionship. 
Scarcely a day passed that Marco did not receive, 
at his father's house, a company of young men, 
who sat eagerly listening to the wonderful stories 
he had to tell them of the East. They plied him 
with a multitude of questions about Cathay and 
the great khan, and he pleased thorn all by the 
willingness and pleasant manner with which he 
replied to every one. 

It happened that Marco, in describing the mag- 
nificence of Kublai Khan's palace and court, un- 
consciously gave the name to his house, by which 
it was long after known. He constantly repeated 
the word " millions" in speaking of the khan's 
treasure and possessions. The khan had, he 
said, millions of money, millions of subjects, mil- 
lions of jewels, and so on ; so that the young men 
laughingly called him " Messer Marco Millions ;* 



234 MARCO POLO. 

and from this the Polo house became known as 
the " Court of the Millions." 

When the excitement and rejoicings attending 
their return home were over, Marco looked about 
him to see what he could do with himself. After 
such a life as his had been, he did not look fon- 
ward with pleasure to a career of mere indolence. 
Amply rich by reason of the treasures he had 
brought with him from Cathay, he was not 
compelled to contemplate entering into business. 
He desired some active, and if possible, adven- 
turous occupation. Meanwhile, he now bethought 
him of a desire he had long had, to take to him- 
self a life partner, in the person of some young 
and noble-born Venetian lady. Before leaving 
Cathay, he had told his father that, on their re- 
turn, he would marry, and thus perpetuate the 
name and wealth of the family ; and now 
seemed a favorable time to put this design into 
execution. 

He began to look about him with a view to 
selecting some fair companion. There were 
many beauties at the Venetian court, and a man of 
Marco's handsome, manly appearance and great 
fame might be sure of a favorable hearing, to 



MARCO GOES TO THE WARS. 235 

whichever of them he chose to address himself. 
But before he had been able to make his 
choice amid such a bevy of pretty women, an 
event occurred which drew him away, for a time, 
from all thoughts of marriage. During the year 
before the return of the Polos from the East, a 
fierce war had broken out between Venice and 
her ancient and bitter rival, the city of Genoa. 
These two cities, both boasting of a most thriving 
commerce, and both powerful and warlike, had 
long contested with each other the supremacy of 
the seas. Nearly a hundred years before, Venice 
had performed the feat of capturing Constanti- 
nople, and had thus won the alliance of the 
Eastern Roman Empire. After that period, 
both Venice and Genoa had established many 
colonies in the Levant, on the shores of Asia 
Minor and Greece, and on the islands that dotted 
the JEgean. Fifty years after the taking of Con- 
stantinople by Venice, a fierce war had broken 
out between her and Genoa, in Asia Minor, re- 
sulting in a brilliant triumph by Venice. Then 
came a time when Genoa in turn was victorious, 
and drove her rival from many places which 
Venice had taken from. her. 



236 MARCO POLO. 

The new war, begun in 1294, when Marco and 
his party were sailing on the Indian ocean, home- 
ward bound, had at first been favorable to the 
Genoese, who had defeated the Venetians in a 
great sea battle off the coast of Palestine, taking 
almost their entire fleet ; and this war was still 
going on when Marco returned to Venice. 

News had now come that the Genoese had 
fitted out a formidable squadron, and were re- 
solved to attack the proud old city of Venice 
itself. They had won so many victories, that they 
arrogantly believed that, by a great effort, they 
might capture even the famed capital of the doges 
The news of this approaching peril filled Venice 
with excitement and fury. The haughty Ven- 
etians were beside themselves with rage to think 
that so audacious a plan should bethought of by 
their ancient foes ; and every preparation was 
made in all haste to give them a hot reception. 

The doge called upon every Venetian cavalier 
to aid in saving their beloved city from a crowning 
disgrace ; and his call was promptly obeyed by all 
the flower of Venetian chivalry. Marco Polo's 
heart was fired with patriotic ardor among the 
foremost. He saw with delight a chance to return 



MARCO GOES TO THE WARS. 237 

to a life of action and peril, and to win new laurels 
by his prowess ; and he was one of the first to 
offer his sword and his life to the doge. No 
sooner had he done so, than he was appointed to 
the command of one of the galleys in the fleet 
which was being rapidly prepared to resist that of 
the Genoese. 

The enemy's expedition, comprising nearly one 
hundred war galleys, was commanded by a famous 
admiral, named Doria. Soon the news reached 
Venice that this fleet had assembled at the Gulf 
of Spezia, near Genoa, and had thence set sail 
around the Italian peninsula for the Adriatic. 
Then couriers arrived with the startling intelli- 
gence that the Genoese galleys were actually in 
the Adriatic, and were rapidly approaching Venice 
itself. 

But at this moment the elements served as the 
ally of the Venetians. A furious storm of wind 
and rain broke over the Genoese fleet ; Doria 
hastened to put into a port on the Dalmatian 
coast, with such galleys as he could gather ; while 
some sixteen of his galleys were swept far away 
from him by the tempest. 

When the storm abated, Doria was forced to 



238 MARCO POLO. 

pursue his design with about eighty galleys. 
After ravaging the Dalmatian coast, the greater 
part of which belonged to Venice, the Genoese 
advanced to the island of Curzola, the same that 
the ancient Greeks called Corcyra. Here he put 
in at the harbor of the chief town, which, as it 
belonged to the Venetians, Doria ruthlessly sacked 
and burned. All these events were learned by the 
doge soon after they had occurred ; and now a 
Venetian fleet had been collected, comprising 
ninety-five galleys, and put under the command 
of a veteran sea-warrior named Dandolo. 

The Genoese fleet were riding confidently at 
anchor in the bay of Curzola, when, one hazy 
afternoon in early September, they perceived the 
Venetian galleys in close ranks, approaching from 
the southern side of the island. They came to 
anchor in sight of the Genoese, and the sun went 
down upon the two fleets confronting each other, 
and only waiting for the morning light to engage 
in a deadly conflict. 

Both sides were very sure of victory. After 
the night had fallen Doria, the Genoese admiral, 
called a council of war, and put the question 
whether they should attack the enemy in the 



MARCO GOES TO THE WARS. 239 

morning, or stand on the defensive and await his 
assault where they were. It was decided to at- 
tack. At the same time the Venetian commander, 
Dandolo, was so confident of beating the Genoese, 
that he was sending out boats to watch that 
the Genoese did not sneak away under cover of 
night. Marco Polo was in command of his 
galley in Dandolo's fleet ; and no warrior in it 
was more passionately eager than he for the 
fray. 

The sun rose bright and clear on the next 
morning, which was a Sunday. From earliest 
dawn the greatest activity prevailed in both 
fleets. The long galleys, with their multitudes 
of slim oars, their many flags flying and flutter- 
ing in the fresh breeze, their warriors, with shield, 
sword and lance, crowded not only on the deck, 
but on platforms raised above it, and in basket- 
like boxes hoisted nearly to the tops of the 
masts, their trumpeters blowing martial blasts in 
raised enclosures near the stern, their captains 
shouting hoarsely the words of command, pre- 
sented a gay and bold appearance as they ad- 
vanced to meet the foe. Marco's galley was one 
of the largest and best-manned in Dandolo's 



24O MARCO POLO. 

fleet ; and as the vessels sped forward, was one 
of those which led the way. 

The Genoese had resolved to make the attack ; 
but to their surprise, the Venetians appeared 
coming down upon them the first thing in the 
morning. The Venetian galleys had full sail 
on, for the wind was in their favor. On the other 
hand, as they were proceeding eastward, the sun 
shone directly in their eyes. The air was filled 
with the noise of their trumpets and the shout- 
ing of the warriors; and there was a moment 
when Doria, seeing his enemy's brave array and 
bold advance, trembled lest they should overcome 
him. 

The first shock of the battle seemed to give 
reason to his fears. The Venetian galleys came 
on with an impetuous rush, and plunged pellmell 
among those of Genoa. Before Doria was able 
to make a single stroke, no less than ten of his 
galleys had been captured and sunk, Marco Polo 
having been one of the capturers. But the Vene- 
tians had advanced too nmiclly, as the event soon 
showed; for scarcely had Dandolo heard with 
joy of the taking of the ten galleys, when word 
came to him that several of his own boats had 



MARCO GOES TO THE WARS. 24! 

run aground. This was a great misfortune. It 
was soon to be followed by the capture of one oi 
his largest galleys, the soldiers in which werd 
thrown by the Genoese into the water ; and the 
galley itself was turned against Dandolo. The tide 
of battle, raging fiercely, had seemed at first to 
run decidely in favor of the Venetians. But now 
it turned. The Venetians became confused and 
desperate by these mishaps ; while the Genoese 
were filled with new hope and courage. Never, 
theless, the conflict went on desperately for hours, 
victory inclining now to one side and now to the 
other. 

Marco, with his galley, fought like a lion. He 
stood on a platform above his men, and kept 
encouraging them by his shouts and his own 
example. Every now and then, fired by the ex- 
citement of the fray, he would descend from the 
platform, and drawing his long sword, would rush 
into the midst, and rain sturdy blows upon the 
heads of the Genoese in reach of it. 

The contest had gone on till the sun was far in 
the west, when the Genoese fleet, rallying to- 
gether for a desperate rush, formed a close rank 
of galleys, and plunged straight down upon 



242 MARCO POLO. 

Dandolo's boats. So impetuous was the assault 
that it scattered the Venetian galleys right and 
left. At this critical moment, an event occurred 
that completed the defeat and destruction of the 
brave Venetians. Sixteen Genoese galleys, 
which had been driven away from the rest of the 
Genoese fleet, in the storm which had assailed 
it on entering the Adriatic, now came up, and fell 
upon the Venetian vessels with crushing force. 

This decided the battle. Venetian galleys, one 
after another, were sunk or captured, the men 
resisting heroically to the last ; until nearly every 
galley which still floated fell into the hands of 
the victorious Genoese. A few escaped, and 
made all sail for Venice ; but among the captive 
vessels was the admiral's ship, in which Dandolo 
himself was taken. 

One of the very last galleys to yield to the 
conqueror was that of Marco Polo. He contested 
every inch with the foe, and it was only after his 
masts had gone, his men had been dreadfully 
thinned out, and all the other Venetian galleys 
around him had fallen into the hands of the 
Genoese, that he sadly surrendered and shared 
the humiliating fate of his brave commander 



MARCO GOES TO THE WARS. 243 

1 .e prisoners were all taken into port, where 
the} were forced to witness the exultant re- 
joicing of their enemies. The commanders of the 
captured galleys were confined in a house to- 
gether, and Marco found himself in company with 
Dandolo. The Venetian admiral was over- 
whelmed with grief at his defeat. In spite of the 
entreaties of his guard and of Marco himself, 
Dandolo utterly refused to take any food ; and 
one day, in utter despair, he threw himself down, 
violently struck his head against a bench, and 
thus killed himself. He preferred to die thus, 
rather than be carried a prisoner to hated Genoa. 

Doria heard with grief of the violent death of 
his gallant enemy, and ordered that Dandolo's 
body should be embalmed and carried to Genoa, 
where a funeral worthy of his fame should be 
given him. Having rested his army and repaired 
his galleys, Doria, ordering his prisoners to be 
chained and put on board, set sail for his own 
city. 

This was a dreary moment, indeed, for Marco ; 
a sad ending to his ambition for military glory. 
Instead of returning home bearing the honors of 
his prowess, he was a captive, loaded with chains, 



244 MARCO POLO. 

and on the way to prison in a strange and hostile 
country. Here was a sorrowful termination to 
his plans of marriage, and his hope of sitting in 
the midst of a family of blooming children. In- 
stead of his luxurious home in the Court of the 
Millions, a bare dark cell was destined to be his 
lot. But he bore up bravely in the midst of his 
misfortunes. His nature was so cheerful a one, 
that instead of brooding, he tried to encourage 
and enliven his fellow prisoners; and won the 
liking of the Genoese soldiers whose duty it was 
to guard and serve him. 

In due time the victorious fleet reached Genoa, 
and was received with the wildest demonstrations 
of delight. The ships in the beautiful bay dis- 
played their flags and banners ; the great nobles 
vied with each other in paying honor to Doria ; 
and a splendid funeral was awarded to the dead 
Venetian admiral. The prisoners, still in chains, 
were marched through the streets, bounded on 
either side by stately palaces, and were jeered at 
by the multitude as they passed along. Finally, 
to Marco's great relief, they reached a massive and 
gloomy edifice, not far from the quays, into which 
they were taken, and distributed in narrow cells. 



MARCO GOES TO THE WARS. 245 

For some time, at first, Marco feared that his 
captors had doomed him to all the horrors of soli- 
tary imprisonment. He was aghast at the ida 
of spending months, perhaps years, shut up in 
darkness and dampness, utterly alone, with no 
companion, however humble, to share his solitude. 
He was greatly relieved, therefore, when one day 
after he had been in prison about a week, the 
governor of the jail entered his cell, followed by 
a grave, scholarly- looking man, to whom the 
governor introduced Marco as his future prison- 
mate. 

As soon as the governor had retired, Marco 
rushed forward and grasped the new-comer by 
the hand, eagerly asking him who he was and 
whence he came. 

" I am Rustician, a gentleman of Pisa," replied 
the stranger; "and was taken prisoner by the 
Genoese several years ago. Ever since, I have 
languished in one prison or another; but now, 
since such large numbers of you Venetians have 
been taken, the prisons of Genoa are full, and 
they are obliged to put two men in each cell. 
And who, pray, are you ?" 

Marco told the Pisan who he was, and gave him 



246 MARCO POLO. 

a full account of his wanderings ; and speedily 
they found themselves fast friends. 

The Pisan proved to be a scholar and writer 
of rare accomplishments, and he, in turn, was 
delighted to find, in his fellow-prisoner, a man 
who had seen so much of a continent almost 
wholly unknown to Europeans. The companion- 
ship of Rustician, indeed, made Marco's prison 
life almost cheerful. They talked to each other 
by the hour, Marco listening to Rustician's 
learned conversation, and Rustician eagerly ab- 
sorbing Marco's stories of the marvels of the East. 
Meanwhile, the severity of their prison life was 
gradually relaxed, until at last they were allowed 
comfortable couches to sleep on, and an abun- 
dance of palatable food at their daily meals. 

The prison was a large one, and contained 
several hundred prisoners; these were for the 
most part Venetians who, like Marco, had been 
taken in the battle of Curzola. After a time, the 
prisoners were allowed to see and talk with each 
other at certain hours of the day ; a permission of 
which Marco eagerly availed himself. He found 
many of his friends among the prisoners, as well 
as a number of the men who had served on board 



MARCO GOES TO THE WARS. 247 

his own galley. Among other privileges which 
were now allowed the captives, were those of 
having books and writing materials in their cells, 
and of writing to and receiving letters from their 
friends at home ; and Marco took good care to 
send his father a full account of all that happened 
to him in prison. 

But his chief pleasure was to talk with his room- 
mate, the gentle and learned Rustician. They 
had speedily become close and loving friends ; and 
Rustician, as soon as they were allowed pen and 
ink, bethought him of a way to pass the weary 
hours, for which the world owes him a deep debt 
of gratitude. He proposed to Marco that he 
should sit down day after day, and relate, in due 
order, all his travels and what befel him in the 
East, describing the countries and peoples he had 
seen, and the many adventures which had hap- 
pened to him ; while Rustician himself, sitting 
at the little prison table, should carefully write 
off Marco's thrilling story. To this Marco readily 
consented ; and the next day the two captives 
set to work upon their new labor in good earnest 



248 MARCO POLO. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

MARCO POLO A PRISONER. 




POLO had accepted Rusticiano's 
proposition, to dictate to him an account 
of his travels, with pleasure. It afforded 
a grateful relief from the monotony of prison 
life; and, besides, Marco well knew that the 
wonderful narrative would perpetuate his fame 
long after he himself was dead. 

We may picture to ourselves the two men, 
seated on the rude chairs of their cell ; Marco 
leaning against the wall, and leisurely recount- 
ing his adventures, while the grave Rusticiano 
slowly wrote at the table. Sometimes the 
scholar would stop, and look at Marco with in- 
credulous amazement, as he related some story 
that seemed to Rusticiano beyond belief; but 
Marco would nod his head emphatically, and 
assert that what he told was not half the truth. 



MARCO A PRISONER. 249 

Then Rusticiano would quietly shrug his 
shoulders, and go on writing. 

Thus sped quickly the hours, days, and weeks. 
The imprisonment of both seemed the shorter 
for this pleasant labor ; and Rusticiano was very 
careful, when the day's work was over, to deposit 
the precious manuscript where it would be safe. 

Meanwhile, the rules of the prison were 
gradually relaxed in Marco's favor. He was 
allowed to roam about the gloomy old edifice 
pretty much as he pleased, and to take ample 
exercise in the courtyard. Gradually it became 
known in Genoa and the country round about, 
that a famous Venetian traveller occupied the 
prison, and then Marco began to receive many 
visits from the principal personages of the city. 
Crowds gathered at the prison gate to catch a 
glimpse of him ; dames of noble rank sent him 
presents of books and rare wines. The carriages 
of noblemen jostled each other at the prison 
gates, as their occupants waited for an oppor- 
tunity of talking with the traveller. The governor 
of the prison invited Marco and his companion 
Rusticiano, to dine at IMS t.ible; and finally, they 
were transferred to another c?!l which was 1 



25O MARCO POLO. 

well lighted and ventilated, and handsomely and 
luxuriously furnished ; while the food placed 
before them was as rich and various as that 
supplied to a nobleman's family. 

The prisoners now lived in the greatest com, 
fort. The walls were lined with book shelves; 
they slept on soft couches at night ; and, had it 
not been for the heavy bars across the windows, 
they would have scarcely known that they were 
prisoners at all. Every day their apartment for 
it could no longer be called a cell was thronged 
with visitors ; and every little while Marco gave 
dinners and suppers to his visitors, and made 
very merry with them. Months thus passed, not 
wholly without their pleasures and consolations. 
But Marco often grieved at his situation, and be- 
came impatient to regain his freedom. It seemed 
cruel that, no sooner had he found himself at home 
after his long sojourn in the east, he should have 
been captured and doomed to suffer exile and the 
grim slavery of dungeon walls. He longed to 
breathe once more the free air of Venice, to 
settle down among his kindred, and to reap the 
reward of all his toils, in the establishment of a 
family and the enjoyment of his well-earned 



MARCO A PRISONER. 25! 

riches. Yet there seemed no prospect of his 
captivity coming to an end. He knew that 
Venetians were often kept prisoners at Genoa 
for many years, and he saw no reason to hope 
that he would be set at liberty sooner than the 
rest. 

One day, after he had been at Genoa about five 
months, Marco was sitting at his table with 
Rusticiano, reading, when the door of his room 
was thrown open, and two men entered. At first 
Marco did not recognize them ; but when one of 
them advanced, and took off his cap, he saw that 
it was his father, Nicolo, and that his com- 
panion was Marco's brother, Maffeo. In a 
moment Marco was locked in his father's close 
embrace. The emotion of all three at meeting 
was so great, that for a while neither could 
speak. At last Marco exclaimed : 

" You have filled me with joy, father and 
brother, by coming to me ! How did you ven- 
ture into the territory of our enemies ?" 

" I could bear no longer the thought of your 
imprisonment," answered Nicolo, wiping his 
eyes ; " and so I sought and procured the consent 
of the Geneose to come hither, and see you- 



252 MARCO POLO. 

my dear son, and to try to obtain your liberty." 
"Alas, father," returned Marco, shaking his 
head mournfully, " I fear it will be of no avail. 
The Genoese treat me with the most generous 
kindness, but they have no idea of setting me 
free." 

Nicolo groaned as he heard these words ; but 
Maffeo with cheerful voice, said, " Do not des- 
pair, father. We come with the offer of a heavy 
ransom. Perhaps the Genoese will yield to a 
golden argument." 

" We can but try," replied Nicolo. Then all 
three sat down, and began to talk of all that had 
happened to them since the time they had parted 
at Venice. Marco told his father and brother the 
history of his prison life, the indulgence shown 
him by his captors, and the consolation he had 
had in the friendship of the learned and warm- 
hearted Rusticiano. Of home news that Nicolo 
gave him in return, there was little that was in- 
teresting. This friend had married and that 
friend had died, but the course of life at their own 
home had gone smoothly on. Marco observed 
that his father was more bent, gray and feeble 
than when he had seen him last; and knew that 



MARCO A PRISONER. 253 

grief at his own misfortunes was, in part at least, 
the cause of Nicole's altered appearance. 

The effort to secure his liberty proved, as 
Marco had predicted, unsuccessful. In vain 
Nicolo offered the Genoese a large sum as a ran- 
som ; they refused to think of setting Marco free. 
But Nicolo at least procured one privilege for his 
son. The government consented that Marco 
should be released from prison and live as he 
pleased in the city, on condition that he would 
give his word of honor that he would not attempt 
to escape from it. 

Nicolo hastened to the prison with the news of 
this fresh favor, and Marco was delighted at least 
to bid adieu to the gloomy walls which had so 
long confined him. His effects were soon packed, 
and he took up his residence in one of the best 
inns in Genoa. He parted from Rusticiano with 
much regret, and promised that he would come 
to the prison very often and see him, and would 
try to procure the same favor for his friend that 
he himself had just secured. This he soon after 
succeeded in accomplishing. 

It was with keen sorrow that Marco parted 
from his father and brother. It seemed very 



254 MARCO POLO. 

doubtful whether he should ever see Nicolo 
again ; he himself might be kept at Genoa for 
the rest of his life, and he felt very unhappy to 
be left behind, while his father and brother were 
free to return to Venice. 

But in his new situation Marco soon recovered 
his buoyant spirits. No longer treated as a pris- 
oner, he lived like a Genoese gentleman, and had 
as his friends and companions men of wealth and 
rank. Wherever he went he was treated with great 
honor and respect. He was invited to all the 
fashionable balls and fetes, and often attended 
them ; and with his ample means, was able to in- 
dulge his desires and tastes as he pleased. 

It has already been said that, before leaving the 
court of the great khan, Marco had made up his 
mind that on reaching home, he would marry, 
and rear a family of children. His departure for 
the war had postponed the execution of this design, 
and now there seemed no prospect that he could 
carry it out. He desired to perpetuate his name, 
family, and property ; yet now, when he was over 
forty years old, he found himself still a bachelor. 

But though Marco could not, situated as he 
was, think of marriage, his father Nicolo had not 



MARCO A PRISONER. 

experienced the same difficulty; for, old as he 
was, Nicolo, some time before Marco had been 
taken prisoner, had taken to himself a new 
wife. Marco's new step-mother was considerably 
younger than himself; and he was rejoiced to 
think that now, in all probability, the family 
name and fame was in no danger of dying out. 

In course of time the news came to him of the 
birth of a little step-brother; and Marco was 
greatly amused to think of being the brother at 
over forty, of a little fellow just come into the 
world. Then he heard the sad intelligence that his 
father Nicolo had suddenly died, leaving his young 
widow and child. Marco grieved much that he 
could not have been at the old man's bedside in 
his last hours. He sent word to Venice that a 
splendid tomb should be erected in Nicole's 
honored memory, in the Church of San Lorenzo, 
at his own expense. This tomb, consisting of a 
sarcophagus of solid stone, upon which was en- 
graved the coat-of-arms of the Polos, long stood 
under the portico of that venerable edifice. 

The quarrel between Venice and Genoa, which 
had now lasted for many years, and still continued, 
was the cause why Marco and his comrades in 



256 MARCO POLO. 

the war were yet retained as prisoners. Many 
attempts had been made to bring about peace 
between the rival cities, each of whom proudly 
claimed to be queen of the sea. After Marco had 
been at Genoa about a year, he heard one day 
with great delight that the Prince of Milan had 
become a mediator between the two foes, and 
was making every effort to induce them to come 
to terms. Both Venice and Genoa, indeed, were 
tired of the long strife, which had not resulted in 
any very important gain on either side ; and the 
Prince of Milan did not find it very difficult to 
make them listen to reason. Envoys from 
Venice and Genoa went to Milan, and after they 
had talked the matter over with each other, 
finally agreed upon terms of peace. Among 
these terms were, that when the treaty was signed 
the prisoners on both sides should be released and 
returned to their homes. In due time the news 
came that the doge of Venice and duke of 
Genoa had both signed the treaty, and that the 
two cities were friends again. 

Marco was entertaining a number of friends at 
supper when it was announced to him that he 
was at last free to return to Venice. Among his 



MARCO A PRISONER. 257 

guests were some Venetians, who like himself 
were prisoners, and who had been allowed to re- 
side outside the prison walls. These rose from 
the table and, with tears in their eyes, embraced 
each other and Marco. The Genoese gentlemen 
who were present exclaimed that now the Vene- 
tians were their brothers, and a scene of great hi- 
larity and rejoicing followed, and was continued 
far into the night. 

But Marco, though free, was not allowed to 
depart at once. His many Genoese friends, who 
had already become strongly attached to him, 
insisted that he should attend the banquets and 
fetes which were to celebrate the return of peace, 
and some of which were to be given in his own 
honor. The duke of Genoa invited all the high 
nobility of the "City of Palaces" to his own pal- 
ace, where night was turned into day by gorgeous 
illuminations, and from whose towers floated 
the flags of the sister cities between whom con- 
cord once more reigned. Among the brilliant 
throng, Marco's stalwart form and handsome 
face were conspicuous, and everywhere he went 
he was surrounded by admiring groups. The 
duke himself invited Marco to walk beside him i i 



258 MARCO POLO. 

the banqueting hall, where he was placed at the 
sovereign's right hand. At the duke's fete, too, 
were very many of the gallant Venetians who 
had fought with Marco at Curzola, and had since 
shared his captivity. 

Now that friendship was restored between the 
two cities, the Genoese were resolved to treat 
their late prisoners with all honor and attention. 
A fleet of galleys was ordered to anchor in the 
picturesque bay, for the purpose of transporting 
the Venetians home. These were fitted up with 
every luxury and comfort, that the voyage might 
be as pleasant as possible; and a store of pro- 
visions was stored away in them, comprising good 
things enough to supply the travellers with boun- 
teous meals throughout the transit. 

Before Marco took his departure, he paid a visit 
to his old prison comrade, the worthy Rusticiano. 
Rusticiano was still a prisoner, though Genoa 
had just made peace with Pisa, and he was look- 
ing forward to a speedy release. The interview be- 
tween the two friends was therefore a very happy 
one ; and Marco made Rusticiano promise that, 
ere long, he would pay him a visit in Venice. 

On a hot morning in the midsummer of 1299, 



MARCO A PRISONER. 

the Venetians embarked on the galleys, home- 
ward bound. A vast crowd of Genoese thronged 
the quays to see them off and bid them God 
speed on their voyage. Marco, on reaching the 
scene of departure, was almost suffocated by the 
warm reception given him by his Genoese friends. 
They pressed close around him and embraced 
him, and would scarcely let him go to proceed on 
board his galley. 

At last he found himself standing upon the 
deck, and gazing for the last time at the noble 
and stately city which had dealt so gently with 
him as a captive, and where, in spite of his cap- 
tivity, he had formed so many pleasant ties and 
passed so many happy hours. The signal was 
given ; the fleet of galleys, gay with flags and 
pennons, and alive with the quick movements of 
the many long oars, glided away from the quays ; 
the multitude on shore gave a great shout of 
farewell, the Genoese ladies waving their veils, 
and the men their plumed hats ; and soon the 
vineclad eminences and long lines of palaces dis- 
appeared from view. 

Meanwhile word had gone to Venice that the 
prisoners had been released, and were on their 



26O MARCO POLO. 

way home by sea. Immediately the city was 
thrown into a great commotion. It was resolved 
that the heroes of Curzola should have a reception 
worthy of their bravery and their misfortunes ; 
and every preparation was made to greet them 
with the most distinguished honors. Among the 
prisoners, who numbered more than a thousand, 
were many Venetian youths of noble birth, the 
hopes of haughty houses, the beloved of many 
a fair damsel of rank and beauty. It seemed, in- 
deed, as if there were scarcely a noble family in 
Venice who had not been bereft of a son in the 
heroic but disastrous sea-fight. 

Had there been powder in these times, no doubt 
the cannon would have boomed forth a deafening 
roar of boisterous welcome as, on the misty Au- 
gust afternoon, the fleet of Genoese galleys made 
its appearance in the Gulf of Venice. As it was, 
the whole city seemed fluttering with flags and 
banners ; from the doge's palace and the lofty 
Campanile, from the Byzantine domes and pina- 
cles of St. Mark's, from the spires of churches and 
the summits of bell towers, waved innumerable 
standards, bearing the national device of the 
'winged lion. Towards t'.ie ruays, cvi-ry 1 ..ilcony 



MARCO A PRISONER. 26l 

of the ducal palace and the council houses, the 
palaces of the proud nobles of Venice, and the 
terraces on the edge of the grand canal, were 
thronged with a gay and excited multitude. 
The doge himself, with his long, pointed cap, his 
rich robes sweeping the ground, and his white 
beard flowing over his breast, stood, surrounded 
by his brilliant court, on the quay in front of his 
palace ; while on every side of the square was 
drawn up the flower of the Venetian army, the 
lancers and cross-bow-men being conspicuous. In 
the bay and canal, countless gondolas awaited the 
arrival. As the fleet of galleys came nearer, they 
were greeted by the long and loud applause of 
the multitude on shore ; and it was with diffi- 
culty that the soldiers prevented the crowd from 
invading the quay where the prisoners were to 
land. At last the galleys were safely moored. 
The oarsmen raised their oars, and held them 
upright in long lines along the decks. Then the 
prisoners, in groups of twos and threes, advanced 
up the planks, and sprang on shore. First they ad- 
vanced to the doge, who welcomed them with cor- 
dial words of affection and praise. Then each 
sought his parents, sweethearts or friends, in the 
swaying crowd or on the overflowing balconies. 



262 MARCO POLO. 

Marco soon found himself in the arms of his 
brother and uncle, while other relatives and friends 
huddled excitedly around him. They talked to 
each other rapidly and earnestly ; and as soon 
as they could make their way through the crowd, 
they hastened across the square of St. Mark, and 
taking a gondola, were soon speeding towards 
the street of San Giovanni Chrysostomo. The 
retainers of the household were waiting in a group 
in front of the " Court of the Millions" to wel- 
come their master home ; and as he landed from 
the gondola, formed in a line on either side, and 
bowed low while he passed, with brother and 
friends, through the archway. 

That night, as may well be believed, there 
were sounds of revelry and rejoicing in the spa- 
cious mansion of the Polos. Marco thought of 
his return, with his father and uncle, from Cathay : 
and could not restrain himself from shedding a 
tear when he saw his father's vacant seat at the 
groaning board. He was now to take the old 
man's place ; his voyages, travels and adventures 
over, he would henceforth live quietly at home, 
and devote himself to the service of his family and 
of the state, reaping the reward of the perils he 
had passed and the fame he had won. 



MARCO POLO. 263 




CHAPTER XVIII. 

LAST DAYS OF MARCO POLO. 

|T the time of Marco Polo's return to 
Venice, he was about forty-six years old, 
that is, in the prime of manhood. He 
might yet look forward to many years of health 
and vigor ; and might, had he so chosen, have 
undertaken new expeditions to remote lands. But 
he had at last grown tired of wandering. In his 
prison life at Genoa, he had often thought how 
happy he might be in a home of his own, with a 
loving wife by his side, and children playing 
about his knees ; and had felt that with such a 
home he would be quite content to settle down 
for the rest of his life. 

On finding himself at Venice once more, he 
arranged his affairs as if he were now resolved to 
settle down there. He fitted up his house 
anew; and now for the first time took part in the 



264 MARCO POLO. 

affairs of commerce which his family had long 
pursued. He owned a large share in the trade 
which they carried on ; and soon was busily 
engaged as a merchant. 

Then he began to look about him for a wife. 
As a nobleman and a traveller of the greatest dis- 
tinction, Marco Polo was a welcome guest in the 
best houses in Venice. He was invited every- 
where, and, had he chosen, he might have gone 
every night to some feast or ball. His friends 
were countless, and belonged to the highest 
social rank ; while his own hospitable nature 
continually filled his house with merry parties, 
gay masqueraders, and hilarious f casters. His 
tall, stalwart person, his courteous bearing, his 
fine, expressive features, and his wide renown, 
made him a special favorite with the noble 
dames and demoiselles of Venice, who loved to 
hear him recount his adventures, and showed 
him, in many coquettish ways, their admiration 
of his exploits. To them he was a brave hero, 
who had fearlessly encountered many perils, and 
had survived the most bitter hardships and 
hairbreadth escapes. 

Marco therefore had ample opportunities to 



LAST DAYS OF MARCO POLO. 265 

make choice of a life partner; it seemed certain 
that wherever he paid his court, he was sure of 
being kindly received. 

Among the noble families whose acquaintance 
he had made after his return from Cathay, was 
that of the Loredanos. The head of the family 
was a wealthy nobleman, a member of the doge's 
council, and a man of mark in Venice. Loredano 
had two lovely daughters. One, Donata, was a tall, 
stately brunette, about twenty-five; the younger, 
Maria, was a delicate blonde, with rich auburn 
hair. Marco Polo was soon attracted to the 
beauty and graces of Donata. To be sure, he 
was twenty years older than she ; but his heart 
was still fresh and young, and had never before 
been touched by the passion of love. It was all 
the stronger in a man of his age and vigor. He 
soon became very attentive to the young 
signorita. He visited her at her father's house, 
or in her company sped over the beautiful bay 
in his luxurious gondola. It was observed that 
he was always at her side at the balls and fetes, 
and that he paid her special honor at the festivi- 
ties at which she was present in his own house. 

The fair Donata seemed pleased with his at- 



266 MARCO POLO. 

tentions, and gradually learned to feel for the 
sturdy cavalier a warm affection. The course of 
their love ran smooth; and when Marco Polo 
asked the consent of Loredano to their betrothal, 
the noble councillor at once and joyfully 
accorded it. 

Then came sweet, happy days when the middle- 
aged cavalier courted his young lady love, and 
spent long dreamy hours in her beloved company. 
Never a day passed that he did not spend a 
portion of it with her. It soon became known 
through Venice that Marco Polo was to wed 
Donata Loredano ; and their friends vied with 
each other in giving parties and masques in 
honor of the event. 

This pleasant courtship was not of long dura- 
tion, for Marco was eager to be "married and 
settled." The wedding was a grand affair. It 
took place in the stately church of San Lorenzo, 
where Nicolo Polo lay buried, and which was 
destined also to receive the remains of his more 
famous son. The ceremony was performed by 
an archbishop, assisted by numerous priests. The 
doge with all his retinue was there, and so was 
the flower of the nobility and wealth of Venice. 



LAST DAYS OP MARCO POLO. 267 

The bridegroom, attended by his brother and 
other relatives, made his appearance in a gor- 
geous suit of satin, while about his neck hung a 
massive chain of gold, the insignia of a knightly 
order which had been conferred upon him. Upon 
his head he wore a satin cap, above which rose 
several flowing feathers of white and blue ; while 
at his side hung a jewelled scimetar, which had 
been given to him by Kublai Khan as a token 
of his affection. The multitudes that crowded 
densely the sombre old church noted the manly 
presence, the proud carriage, and the noble 
features of Marco Polo, as he strode up the 
nave beneath the high, echoing arches, and de- 
clared to themselves that even at his age, he 
made a comely and imposing bridegroom. 

The bride appeared splendidly dressed, with a 
long gauzy veil that flowed to her feet, and every 
part of her dress sparkling with jewels. She 
looked beautiful and happy, and all the world 
envied Marco Polo his possession of the fair 
Donata Loredano. 

The wedding festivities lasted, as was the 
custom in Venice, a w.eek. They began with a 
bounteous banquet at the Court of the Millions, 



268 MARCO POLO. 

which was kept up till the streaks of dawn shot 
between the heavily curtained windows. There 
were fetes of gondolas on the water, sports at a 
country seat which Marco Polo had purchased out 
of his abundant wealth, and masquerades at the 
palaces of Loredano and other friends. 

Then followed the quietest and perhaps the 
pleasantest period of Marco Polo's life. Estab- 
lished in his luxurious home at the Court of the 
Millions, surrounded by hosts of friends who 
were devotedly attached to him, with a lovely 
wife whom he adored and who admired and loved 
him, held in high esteem and confidence by the 
doge and all the highest dignitaries of the Re- 
public, abundantly able to indulge in every 
pleasure and recreation for which his taste in- 
clined him, his lot indeed seemed a fortunate one. 

There was plenty of work to occupy his time in 
the business house which had so long been car- 
ried on by his family, and which was still in a 
prosperous condition. In this \ie took a keen 
personal interest, and thus at once employed his 
time profitably, and added new stores to his 
abundant wealth. His travels in the East had 
been of great benefit to the trade of his house ; 



LAST DAYS OF MARCO POLO. 269 

for he had made the acquaintance of many mer- 
chants in Persia, India, Arabia, Asia Minor, and 
Constantinople, and had formed business connec- 
tions with them which were now of much advan- 
tage to his trade. 

Not long after he had married and settled, Marco 
Polo was surprised and delighted to receive a 
visit from two Persian travellers of high rank, 
who had come to Venice on a commercial errand. 
They went to the Court of the Millions to see 
Marco, of whose fame as a traveller they had 
heard, and to bear him a message of friendship from 
the fair young queen Cocachin, who gratefully re- 
membered Marco's gallant attentions to herwhile 
journeying from Cathay to Persia, and who sent 
him a beautiful jewel in token of her gratitude. 
Marco was grieved to learn, about a year after- 
wards, that this lovely young queen had died, 
mourned by all her new subjects and by her 
gallant husband. 

Marco soon found himself one of the most im- 
portant citizens of Venice. Still active and ener- 
getic, he began to take part in public affairs ; and 
ere very long, was chosen by the doge a member 
of his grand council, in which he soon v: r n 1'. , 



2/O MARCO POLO. 

reputation of being a sagacious and keen-sighted 
statesman. There was a time, indeed, when it 
seemed not unlikely that the great traveller might 
some day be himself elected doge ; but the pros- 
pect passed away before his death. Meanwhile, he 
not only served the state as councillor, but went on 
embassies to various countries, and made treaties 
of peace or alliance, and patched up quarrels. 

In due time, Marco Polo found himself the 
father of a thriving young family. Three little 
daughters were the fruit of his union with his 
beloved Donata Fantina, Bellela, and Moreta. 
They grew up to be as pretty and gentle as 
their names. Marco greatly desired to have a son, 
who should be the heir of his name and wealth. 
But Providence denied him this blessing. He 
was delighted with his little girls, however, and 
when they became old enough, was wont to take 
them on his knee, and relate to them the strange 
adventures he had met with by land and sea in 
remote lands. They were very proud of their 
father, who had seen and done such wonderful 
things ; and listened as eagerly to his stories as 
children do nowadays to the Arabian Nights and 
Robinson Crusoe. 



LAST DATS e? MARCO POLO. 271 

As the girls grew up, they proved as handsome 
and engaging as their mother had been in her 
own youth ; and now the Court of the Millions 
was besieged by gallant young suitors for their 
hands. There was not a youth in Venice who 
would not have been proud to ally himself to so 
distinguished a family as that of the Polos had 
become ; and such was the beauty of Fantina and 
Bellcla, that had they been poor, they would not 
have lacked ardent wooers. Then other wed- 
dings were celebrated at the Court of the Millions. 
Fantina first, and then Bellela, chose their cava- 
liers, and were duly wedded to them ; and Marco 
Polo, now wrinkled and grizzled, was soon happy 
to find himself a grandfather. Thus many years 
passed in serene and contented prosperity. Marco, 
as he grew older, was less and less tempted to 
attempt new adventures. He was blessed 
with a delightful home, was crowned with plen- 
teous honors, and felt himself a conspicuous per- 
sonage of the time. He was often visited by 
travellers from a distance, both from Western 
Europe and from the more remote East ; and 
always received them with the bounteous hospi- 
tality for which he was known far and wide. 



2/2 MARCO POLO. 

He lived nearly a quarter of a century after his 
return from captivity at Genoa ; and rose bright 
and well on the morn of his seventieth birthday, 
appearing as if he had yet many years to survive. 
But soon after, he was laid low by a fever which 
from the first betrayed serious symptoms that 
alarmed his family. He grew worse and worse ; 
and the news spread through Venice that the 
illustrious Marco Polo lay dangerously ill. Im- 
mediately the doors of the Court of the Millions 
were besieged by crowds of anxious and inquiring 
friends. The doge sent daily to ask after the 
health of his honored councillor; and Marco's 
wife and daughters tended at the bedside night 
and day. It soon became but too apparent that 
the life of the heroic old traveller was fast ebbing 
away. Still his mind was often clear, and then 
he talked serenely and even cheerfully with his 
beloved ones. He had always been good and up- 
right, and death, which he had so often braved in 
years gone by, had but few terrors for him now. 
Then came a sad day when the doctors despaired 
of restoring him to health, and gently broke the 
news to the grief-stricken wife and daughters. 
Marco Polo still lingered a few days, gro^-i--^ 



LAST DAYS OF MARCO POLO. 2/3 

feebler and feebler each hour, but suffering little 
pain. One sunny morning, the end came. It was 
peaceful, serene, and happy as his later life had 
been. The old man sank gently into Donata's 
arms, and ceased to breathe. 

Venice was wrapt in gloom at the death of its 
most famous citizen ; and for several days no 
other subject was talked of in its marts and in 
the public squares where the people met to chat 
and gossip. The doge and his court went into 
mourning, and tributes to Marco Polo's memory 
were paid in the grand council of the Republic. 
He was buried with great pomp and ceremony, 
and laid in the old church of San Lorenza beside 
his good father, and where his own marriage, and 
the christening and marriage of his elder daugh- 
ters, had taken place. 

His memory was kept green by the Venetians for 
generations and centuries after his death. Three 
hundred years after, a stately marble statue of him 
was erected by the city in one of its squares, and 
still stands to commemorate the honor in which 
Venice held him ; while, two centuries after his 
death, his direct descendant, Trevesano, was elec- 
ted doge, and presided over the Republic. 



274 MARCO POLO. 

Thus lived, and thus died at the goodly age o( 
three-score and ten, the greatest of the early ex- 
plorers of the remote and unknown regions of the 
Orient ; who may be said to have introduced 
Europe and Asia to each other, and to have dis- 
covered the vast possibilities of a commerce be- 
tween the two continents. He thus did invalua- 
ble service to the world ; and it is pleasant to re- 
member that, after all the perils and vicissitudes 
through which he passed, the long and weary 
exile from home that he suffered, and the subse- 
quent misfortune he encountered while fighting 
for the preservation of Venice, he reaped the full 
reward of his perseverance and patriotism, and 
enjoyed a long after-life of prosperity, honor, 
happiness and domestic bliss ; and that his 
memory still lives, his name being written high 
up on the roll of the world's most illustrious dis- 
coverers and benefactors. 



THE END. 



U. S. SERVICE SERIES 

By FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER 

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latest light uhed by science upon a subject of perennial interest." Mtu- 
York Htrald. 

Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Boston, Mass. 



THE WONDER OF WAR 
IN THE AIR 

By FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER 

With Forty-two Illustrations from Unusual War Photo- 
graphs and Sketches Large 12mo Cloth Price, $1.35 

Tyro more lucid account haa ever 
been written of the various 
types of airplanes, their construc- 
tion, and their relative purpose in 
war. One sees the bombardment 
machine, the airplane for direct- 
ing artillery fire, the scout, and the 
fighter of the air, at work in their 
several fields The hero of the 
book, trained in the French Flying 
Corps, is taught every detail neces- 
sary in that new world of warfare 

the battle-ground of the skies. He witnesses some of the 
most historic raids of the War, and takes a share hi the 
destruction of one of the newest aerial monsters. Taken a 
prisoner by the enemy, the young aviator's escape (based on 
an actual incident from the front) is daring in the extreme. 

"The information imparted cornea step by step and with the spice that 
allures to mastery of the details given. It leaves one in better condition to 
appreciate those parts of the communiques which deal with air-fighting than 
by perusing some technical volumes on the^subject." Literary Digest, N. Y. 

'It has more than thrills, abundant as these are. It gives a comprehen- 
sible account of the technical side of aviation, and any lad who reads it will be 
well informed on all the varieties of planes and the marvels of uoriul 
strategy." Philadelphia Public Ledger. 

"Probably no more lucid and technically correct account has ever been 
written of the various typei of airplanes, their construction and their rela- 
tive purposes in war. It holds the interest from cover to cover." 
Springfield, Mans., Union, 

"There are some bvoks written ostensibly for boys which are marvelously 
interesting to their elders as well. This is one of that class." Brooklyn 
Oitieen. 



<p : 

OP;*** 




For sale by all booksellers or by the publishers 

Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Boston, Mass. 



THE BOY ELECTRICIAN 

Practical Plans for Electrical Toys and Apparatus, with an 
Explanation of the Principles of Every-Day Electricity 

By ALFRED P. MORGAN 

Author o) ~* Wireless Telegraphy Construction for Amateurs" and 

" Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony" 300 illustrations 

and working drawings by the author Net, $2.00 

Postpaid, $2.25 



'T'HIS is the age of electricity. The most 
A fascinating of all books for a boy must, 
therefore, be one dealing with the mystery of 
this ancient force and modern wonder. The 
best qualified of experts to instruct boys has 
in a book far superior to any other of its kind 
told not only how to MAKE all kinds of 
motors, telegraphs, telephones, batteries, 
etc., but how these appliances are used in 
the great industrial world. 



"Of all books recently published on practical electricity for the youth, 
ful electricians, it is doubtful if there is even one among 1 them that is more 
suitrc! to this field. This work is recommended to every one interested in 
electricity and the making of electrical appliances." 

Popular' Electricity and Modern Mechanics 

"This is an admirably complete and explicit handbook for boys who fall 
under the spell of experimenting and "tinkering" with electrical apparatus. 
Simple explanations of the principles involved make the operation readily 
understandable." Boston Transcript. 

" Any boy who studies this book, and applies himself to the making and 
operating of the simple apparatus therein depicted, will be usefully and happily 
employed. He will, furthermore, be developing into a useful citizen. For this 
reason we recommend it as an excellent gift for all boys with energy, appli- 
cation, and ambition." Electrical Record, N. Y. City. 

"A book to delight the hearts of ten thousand perhaps fifty thousand 
American boys who are interested in wireless telegranhy and that sort of thing. 
Any boy who has even a slight interest in things eiectrical, will kindle with 
enthusiasm at sight of this book," Chicago News. 

.ftw sale by mil booksellers or *eat postpaid oa receipt of 
price by the publishers 

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON 




The Book of Athletics 

Editea by PAUL W1THINGTON 

With many reproductions of photographs, and with diagrams 

Sv0 Net, 1.50 Postpaid, $1.70 

NEARLY thirty college stars and 
champions, men like Dr. Kraen- 
zlein, Thorpe, Ketcham, "Sammy" 
White, "Eddie" Han, Ralph Craig, 
"Hurry Up" Yost, Jay Camp, Horner, 
Jackson, F. D. Huntington, R. Norris 
Williams, "Eddie" Mahan, and many 
more tell the best there is to tell about 
every form of athletic contest of con- 
sequence. In charge of the whole 
work is Paul Withington, of Harvard, 
famous as football player, oarsman, 
wrestler and swimmer. 

" Here is a book that will serve a purpose and satisfy a need. 
Every important phase of sport in school and college is discussed 
within its covers by men who have achieved eminent success in their 
line. Methods cf training, styles of play, and directions for attaining 
success are expounded in a clear, forceful, attractive manner." 

Harvard Monthly^ 

"The book is made up under the direction of the best qualified 
editor to be found, Paul Withington, who is one of America's greatest 
amateur athletes, and who has the intellectual ability and high 
character requisite for presenting such a book properly. The emphasis 
placed upon clean living, fair play and moderation in all things makes 
this book as desirable educationally as it it in every other way." 

Outdoor Life 

" That Mr. Withington's book will be popular we do not doubt. 
For it contains a series of expert treatises on all important branches 
of outdoor sports. A very readable, practical, well-illustrated book." 

Boston Herald. 




POf tale by all booksellers or seat oa receipt of postpaid 
price by the publisher* 

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON 



ON THE TRAIL OF THE SIOUX 

The Adventures of Two Boy Scouts on 
the Minnesota Frontier 

By D. LANQE 
Illustrated 12010 Cloth Price, Net, $1.25 

THIS story was written by a prominent 
educator to satisfy the insistent demand o( 
active boys for an " Indian Story," as well as 
to help them to understand what even th^ young 
endured in the making of our country, the story 
is based on the last desperate stand of the brave 
and warlike Sioux tribes against the resistles? 
tide of white men's civilization, the thrilling 
scenes of which were enacted on the Minnesof 
frontier in the early days of the Civil War. 

" It is a book which will appeal to younpr and olc. 
alike, as the incidents are historically correct and 
related in a wide-awake manner." Pkiladelfhit 
Press. 

" It seems like a strange, true story more than 
fiction. It is well written and in good taste, and 
it can be commended to all boy readers and to many 
of their elders." Hartford Times. 

THE SILVER ISLAND OF 
THE CHIPPEWA 

By D. LANQE 

Illustrated 12010 Cloth Price, Net, $1.25 

HERE is a boys' book that tells of the famous 
Silver Island in Lake Superior from which 
it is a fact that ore to the value of $3,089,000 
was taken, and represents a youth of nineteen 
and his active small brother aged eleven as 
locating it after eight months of wild life, dur- 
ing which they wintered on Isle Royale. Their 
success and escape from a murderous half-breed 
are due to the friendship of a noble Chippewa 
Indian, and much is told of Indian nature and 
ways by one who thoroughly knows the subject. 




" There is no call to buy cheap, impossible stuff 
for boys' reading while there is such a book as this 
available." Philadelphia. Inquirer. 



THE SILVER ISLAND 
OF THE CHIPPEWA 




Par fate by mil booksellers or seat postpaid on receipt 
of price by the publishers 

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON 



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