Armenian Literature

Part 2 out of 4

home. It was very evident that he wished to defraud Sarkis. After much
talk back and forth the matter came into the courts, and since Sarkis
had sold part of the goods and had given a receipt for them, he had to
pay the sum demanded.

"For several months past business had been going very badly with the
poor fellow and he could not raise the required sum, so he had to give
up his property. First they drove the poor man out of his house and
emptied his store and his storehouse. Then they sold the tobacco and the
tea, for which no one would give more than fifty rubles, for both were
half rotten. The store and all that was in it were then auctioned off
for a few hundred rubles, and finally the house was offered for sale. No
one would buy it, for among our people the praiseworthy custom rules
that they never buy a house put up at auction till they convince
themselves that the owner sells it of his own free-will. The household
furniture was also sold, and Sarkis became almost a beggar, and was
obliged, half naked, to leave his house, with his wife and children.

"I proposed that they should occupy my house, but he would not have it.
'From to-day the black earth is my dwelling-place,' he said, and rented
a small house at the edge of the town near where the fields begin.

"When the neighbors found out the treachery of Hemorrhoid Jack, they
were terribly angry, and one of them threw a note into his yard in which
was written: that if he took possession of poor Sarkis's house they
would tear or burn it down. That was just what John wished, and he
immediately sent carpenters to tear down the house and stable and then
he sold the wood.

"At this time I became very sick and lay two months in bed. When I got
up again I thought to myself, 'I must go and visit the poor wretches!' I
went to their little house, but found the door locked and the windows
boarded up. I asked a boy, 'My child, do you know where the people of
this house are?' 'Two weeks ago they got into a wagon and drove away,'
answered the lad. 'Where are they gone?' I asked. 'That I don't know,'
he said.

"I would not have believed it, but an old woman came up to me on the
street, of her own accord, and said:

"'They all got into a wagon and have moved away into a Russian village.'

"What the village was called she could not tell me, and so every trace
of them was lost.

"Many years later a gentleman came from Stavropol to our city, who gave
me some news of the poor wretches. They had settled in a Cossack
village--he told me the name, but I have forgotten--where at first they
suffered great want; and just as things were going a little better with
them, Mairam and Sarkis died of the cholera and Takusch and Toros were
left alone. Soon after, a Russian officer saw Takusch and was greatly
pleased with her. After a few months she married him. Toros carried on
his father's business for a time, then gave it up and joined the army.
So much I found out from the gentleman from Stavropol.

"Some time later I met again one who knew Takusch. He told me that she
was now a widow. Her husband had been a drunkard, spent his whole nights
in inns, often struck his poor wife, and treated her very badly. Finally
they brought him home dead. Toros's neck had been broken at a horse-race
and he was dead. He said also that Takusch had almost forgotten the
Armenian language and had changed her faith.

"'That is the history of the Vacant Yard."

* * * * *


[_Metrical Version, by Robert Arnot, M.A._]

* * * * *



Were I a springtime breeze,
A breeze in the time when the song-birds pair,
I'd tenderly smooth and caress your hair,
And hide from your eyes in the budding trees.

Were I a June-time rose,
I'd glow in the ardor of summer's behest,
And die in my passion upon your breast,
In the passion that only a lover knows.

Were I a lilting bird,
I'd fly with my song and my joy and my pain,
And beat at your lattice like summer-rain,
Till I knew that your inmost heart was stirred.

Were I a winged dream,
I'd steal in the night to your slumbering side,
And the joys of hope in your bosom I'd hide,
And pass on my way like a murmuring stream.

Tell me the truth, the truth,
Have I merited woe at your tapering hands,
Have you wilfully burst love's twining strands,
And cast to the winds affection and ruth?

'Twas a fleeting vision of joy,
While you loved me you plumed your silvery wings,
And in fear of the pain that a man's love brings
You fled to a bliss that has no alloy.


* * * * *


Wind of the morn, of the morn of the year,
Violet-laden breath of spring,
To the flowers and the lasses whispering
Things that a man's ear cannot hear,
In thy friendly grasp I would lay my hand,
But thou comest not from my native land.

Birds of the morn, of the morn of the year,
Chanting your lays in the bosky dell,
Higher and fuller your round notes swell,
Till the Fauns and the Dryads peer forth to hear
The trilling lays of your feathery band:
Ye came not, alas, from my native land.

Brook of the morn, of the morn of the year,
Burbling joyfully on your way,
Maiden and rose and woodland fay
Use as a mirror your waters clear:
But I mourn as upon your banks I stand,
That you come not, alas, from my native land.

Breezes and birds and brooks of the Spring,
Chanting your lays in the morn of the year,
Though Armenia, my country, be wasted and sere,
And mourns for her maidens who never shall sing,
Yet a storm, did it come from that desolate land,
Would awaken a joy that ye cannot command.


* * * * *


Fly, lays of mine, but not to any clime
Where happiness and light and love prevail,
But seek the spots where woe and ill and crime
Leave as they pass a noisome serpent-trail

Fly, lays of mine, but not to the ether blue,
Where golden sparks illume the heavenly sphere,
But seek the depths where nothing that is true
Relieves the eye or glads a listening ear.

Fly, lays of mine, but not to fruitful plains
Where spring the harvests by God's benison,
But seek the deserts where for needed rains
Both prayers and curses rise in unison.

Fly, lays of mine, but not to riotous halls,
Where dancing sylphs supply voluptuous songs,
But seek the huts where pestilence appals,
And death completes the round of human wrongs.

Fly, lays of mine, but not to happy wives,
Whose days are one unending flow of bliss,
But seek the maidens whose unfruitful lives
Have known as yet no lover's passionate kiss.

Fly, lays of mine, and like the nightingales,
Whose liquid liltings charm away the night,
Reveal in song the sweets of summer's gales,
Of lover's pleadings and of love's delight.

And tell my lady, when your quests are o'er,
That I, away from her, my heart's desire,
Yearn for the blissful hour when I shall pour
Down at her feet a love surcharged with fire.


* * * * *


Meditating by Araxes,
Pacing slowly to and fro,
Sought I traces of the grandeur
Hidden by her turgid flow.

"Turgid are thy waters, Mother,
As they beat upon the shore.
Do they offer lamentations
For Armenia evermore?

"Gay should be thy mood, O Mother,
As the sturgeons leap in glee:
Ocean's merging still is distant,
Shouldest thou be sad, like me?

"Are thy spume-drifts tears, O Mother,
Tears for those that are no more?
Dost thou haste to pass by, weeping,
This thine own beloved shore?"

Then uprose on high Araxes,
Flung in air her spumy wave,
And from out her depths maternal
Sonorous her answer gave:

"Why disturb me now, presumptuous,
All my slumbering woe to wake?
Why invade the eternal silence
For a foolish question's sake?

"Know'st thou not that I am widowed;
Sons and daughters, consort, dead?
Wouldst thou have me go rejoicing,
As a bride to nuptial bed?

"Wouldst thou have me decked in splendor,
To rejoice a stranger's sight,
While the aliens that haunt me
Bring me loathing, not delight?

"Traitress never I; Armenia
Claims me ever as her own;
Since her mighty doom hath fallen
Never stranger have I known.

"Yet the glories of my nuptials
Heavy lie upon my soul;
Once again I see the splendor
And I hear the music roll.

"Hear again the cries of children
Ringing joyfully on my banks,
And the noise of marts and toilers,
And the tread of serried ranks.

"But where, now, are all my people?
Far in exile, homeless, lorn.
While in widow's weeds and hopeless,
Weeping, sit I here and mourn.

"Hear now! while my sons are absent
Age-long fast I still shall keep;
Till my children gain deliverance,
Here I watch and pray and weep."

Silent, then, the mighty Mother
Let her swelling tides go free.
And in mournful meditation
Slowly wandered to the sea.


* * * * *


In the hush of the spring night dreaming
The crescent moon have you seen,
As it shimmers on apricots gleaming,
Through velvety masses of green.

Have you seen, in a June-tide nooning,
A languorous full-blown rose
In the arms of the lilies swooning
And yielding her sweets to her foes?

Yet the moon in its course and the roses
By Armenia's maiden pale,
When she coyly and slowly discloses
The glories beneath her veil.

And a lute from her mother receiving,
With a blush that a miser would move,
She treads a soft measure, believing
That music is sister to love.

Like a sapling her form in its swaying,
Full of slender and lissomy grace
As she bends to the time of her playing,
Or glides with a fairy-light pace.

The lads for her beauty are burning,
The elders hold forth on old age,
But the maiden flies merrily spurning
Youth, lover, and matron and sage.


* * * * *


Sweet lady, whence the sadness in your face?
What heart's desire is still unsatisfied?
Your face and form are fair and full of grace,
And silk and velvet lend you all their pride.
A nod, a glance, and straight your maidens fly
To execute your hest with loving zeal.
By night and day you have your minstrelsy,
Your feet soft carpets kiss and half conceal;
While fragrant blooms adorn your scented bower,
Fruits fresh and rare lie in abundance near.
The costly narghile exerts its power
To soothe vain longing and dispel all fear:
Envy not angels; you have paradise.
No lowly consort you. A favored wife,
Whose mighty husband can her wants suffice;
Why mar with grieving such a fortunate life?

So to Haripsime, the Armenian maid,
On whom the cruel fortune of her lot had laid
Rejection of her faith, spake with a sigh
The wrinkled, ugly, haggard slave near by.

Haripsime replied not to the words,
But, silent, turned her face away. With scorn
And sorrow mingled were the swelling chords
Of passionate lament, and then forlorn,
Hopeless, she raised her tearful orbs to heaven.

Silent her lips, her grief too deep for sound;
Her fixed gaze sought the heavy banks of cloud
Surcharged with lightning bolts that played around
The gloomy spires and minarets; then bowed
Her head upon her hands; the unwilling eyes
Shed tears as heavy as the thunder-shower
That trails the bolt to where destruction lies.

There was a time when she, a happy girl,
Had home and parents and a numerous kin;
But on an Eastertide, amid a whirl
Of pillage, murder, and the savage din
Of plundering Kavasses, the Pacha saw
Her budding beauty, and his will was law.

Her vengeful sire fell 'neath a sabre's stroke;
Her mother, broken-hearted, gave to God
The life in which no joys could now evoke
The wonted happiness. The harem of the Turk
Enfolds Haripsime's fresh maidenhood,
And there where danger and corruption lurk,
Where Shitan's nameless and befouling brood
Surround each Georgian and Armenian pearl,
She weeps and weeps, shunning the shallow joys
Of trinkets, robes, of music, or the whirl
Of joyous dance, of singing girls and boys,
And murmurs always in a sobbing prayer,
"Shall never help be sent? Is this despair?"


* * * * *


Tell me, brother, where is rest
From the flame that racks my breast
With its pain?
Fires unceasing sear my heart;
Ah, too long, too deep, the smart
To heal again.

When I'd pluck the roses sweet
Sharpest thorns my fingers greet;
Courage flies.
Since my love has humbled me,
Tyrant-like has troubled me,
'Spite my cries.
Health and joy have taken flight,
Prayer nor chant nor priestly rite
Do I prize.

Girl, my girl, my peerless one,
Radiant as Armenia's sun,
Beautiful Sanan!
Earth has none as fair as thou,
Nor can ages gone bestow
One like my Sanan.

Sixteen summers old is she,
Grace of slender pines has she,
Like the stars her eyes.
Lips, thrice blessed whom they kiss,
Brows as dark as hell's abyss,
And with sighs,
Her heart to win, her love alone,
What mighty prince from his high throne
Would not descend?
So I crave nor crown nor gold,
Longed-for One, I her would hold
Till time shall end.


* * * * *



[_Translated by F.B. Collins, B.S._]

* * * * *


Strong and mighty was the Caliph of Bagdad[1]; he gathered together a
host and marched against our Holy John the Baptist[2]. Hard he oppressed
our people, and led many into captivity. Among the captives was a
beautiful maiden, and the caliph made her his wife. In time she bore two
sons, Sanassar and Abamelik. The father of these children was a heathen,
but their mother was a worshipper of the cross[3], for the caliph had
taken her from our people.

[1] From the sense and according to the time in which the action takes
place, Nineveh must be understood here; and instead of an Arabian
caliph, the Assyrian king Sennacherib. There is an anachronism here, as
the reader will see, for a king living 800 years before Christ is called
an Arabian caliph, though the caliphs first took up their residence in
Bagdad in the year 755.

[2] The reference here is to the famous monastery of St. John the
Baptist, which was built by Gregory the Illuminator during the fourth
century, on the mountain of Kark, near the Euphrates, on a spot where
heathen altars had previously stood. On certain days pious Armenians
made annual pilgrimages to the place. Among them many poets and
champions, who, with long fasts and many prayers, begged from the saint
the gifts of song, strength, and courage. John the Baptist was regarded
by the Armenians generally as the protector of the arts.

[3] So the Armenians called Christians.

This same caliph again gathered together a host and fell upon our
people. This time--I bow before thy holy miracle, O sainted John--this
time our people pressed him sorely, and in his affliction he cried unto
his idols: "May the gods save me from these people; bring me to my city
safe and well, and both my sons will I sacrifice unto them."

In Bagdad the mother lay sleeping, and she had a dream. She dreamed she
had in each hand a lamp, and when their flames seemed ready to go out
they flashed up brightly again. When morning came she told this dream to
her sons, and said: "Last night holy St. John appeared to me in my
dreams and said that your father was in great trouble and had vowed to
sacrifice you. When he again comes home he will stab you: look to your

Both sons cried unto their gods, took food with them for their journey,
put gold into their purses, and set out on their travels. Coming to a
narrow valley they halted there. They saw a river, and in the distance a
brook clove the river to mid-stream, then mingled with its waters and
flowed onward with it.

And Sanassar said to Abamelik: "He who finds the source of this brook
and builds him a dwelling there, his race shall also wax mighty."

The brothers rose with one will and followed the brook upstream. They
found its spring and saw its waters flowing as from a small pipe, and
they ran down with the brook and increased till they mixed with waters
of the great river. Here the brothers halted and laid the foundations of
their dwelling.

And Sanassar hunted while Abamelik worked on the house. Ten, yea, twenty
days they worked on their dwelling. It happened that once Abamelik came
upon Sanassar asleep, worn out with fatigue, his venison thrown away
unroasted. Abamelik was much troubled at this, and said, "Rise, brother,
and we will depart from this place. How long shall we stay here and eat
meat without salt? If it were God's will that we should have happiness,
in our father's wooden palace we should have found it." And they mounted
their horses and rode to the Lord of Arsrom.[4] Both came thither,
presented themselves to him, and bowed before him.

[4] The original name of this city is Theodosiopol. It was founded by
the Greek commander Anato in the year 412 A.D. and named in honor of
Emperor Theodosius II. Later it was captured by the Sultan of Ikonika,
Who named it Arsi-Rom, "Land of the Greeks." The Armenians call it
Karin, after the old Armenian province in which it lies.

Now both brothers were mighty men. They found favor with the Emir of
Arsrom, and he asked them of their birth and of their tribe, and said,
"What manner of men are you?"

Sanassar answered and said, "We are the sons of the Caliph of Bagdad."

"Hoho!" said the Emir, while terror seized him. "We feared you dead, and
here we meet you living. We cannot take you in. Go whither ye will."

And Sanassar said to Abamelik, "Since we have run away from our father,
why should we bear his name? From this day, when anyone asks us
concerning ourselves, let us say we have neither father nor mother nor
home nor country: then will people lodge us."

Thence they rode to the Emir of Kars, who gave the lads the same
answer. They turned and rode to the King of Kraput-Koch. The King of
Kraput-Koch scrutinized the lads, and they found favor in his sight; and
Abamelik presented himself to the King and bowed low before him. This
pleased the King greatly, and he said: "My children, whither came ye?
What have you? and what do you lack?"[5]

[5] Southwest from the Sea of Wan lies a high mountain called
Kraput-Koch ("Blue Ridge," from its blue color). Probably there was a
dukedom or kingdom of Kraput-Koch which served as a city of refuge for
the wandering Assyrian princes. Perhaps the legend has preserved in the
person of the King of Kraput-Koch the memory of the Armenian prince

"We have neither father nor mother nor anyone beside," answered the

And it came to pass that Sanassar became the King's _tschubuktschi_[6]
and Abamelik his _haiwatschi,_[7] and they lived at the King's house a
long time.

[6] Pipe-bearer.

[7] The servant who prepares the coffee.

But Sanassar said one day to Abamelik: "We fatigued ourselves greatly
with labor, yet was our house not finished. To-morrow make the King no
coffee, nor will I hand him his pipe. Let us not appear before him

When the King awoke, neither of them was near. He called the lads to him
and said: "I asked you once if you had anyone belonging to you, either
father or mother; and you said you had no one. Why, then, are you so

And the brothers said: "Live long, O King! In truth, we have neither
father nor mother. Even if we hide it from you we cannot hide it from
God. We worked a little on a dwelling, but left the work unfinished and
came away." And they told the King everything as it was.

The heart of the King was grieved, and he said: "My children, if such is
the case, to-morrow I will give you some court servants. Go and finish
your house."

Then the King arose and gave them forty servants, skilful workers, and
each had a mule and a bridle.

Early in the morning they arose and loaded the beasts with their tools,
and the two brothers led them to the dwelling. They travelled on and at
last reached the spring and the threshold of their house.

Now Sanassar said to Abamelik: "Brother, shall we build the house first
or the huts for the servants? These poor wretches cannot camp out in the

And they began first to make the huts. So strong was Abamelik that he
built ten huts every day, while the others brought in wood for their
building. In four days they finished forty huts, and then they set about
building the house and finished it. They set up stone pillars in
rows--so powerful were they--and laid a stone base under them, and the
house was made ready.

Abamelik rode to the King of Kraput-Koch and said: "We are thy children.
We have built our castle: it is finished, and we come to you and entreat
you, 'Come and give our dwelling a name,'" It pleased the King of
Kraput-Koch that Abamelik had done this, and he said: "I rejoice that
you have not forgotten me."

So the King gave Abamelik his daughter in marriage and made him his
close friend. After the wedding the King and the young pair came
together at the palace--and Uncle Toross[8] was with them--and they
mounted their horses and departed. Abamelik rode before them to point
out the way. When they were approaching the castle the King suddenly
turned his horse as if to ride back again, and said: "You have given
your castle a name and have purposely brought me here to try me."

[8] Probably the King's brother.

Abamelik said: "May your life be long, O master! Believe me, we have
given the castle no name. We have but built it and made it ready."

"Very well. It may be that you have given it no name, but as you have
set up rows of stone pillars let us call it Sausun or Sassun."[9]

[9] "Sassun" signifies "pillar upon pillar." This explains the origin of
the name of Sassun, a district of the old Armenian province Achznik,
south of the city of Musch. The residents of this district up to the
present day owe their independence to their inaccessible dwelling-place.

Here they remained several days. Uncle Toross was also married and
stayed at Sassun, but the King returned home.

And Abamelik was strong and became a mighty man. From the environs of
the Black Mountain and the Peak of Zetzinak, from Upper Musch as far as
Sechanssar and the Plains of Tschapachtschur,[10] he reigned, and built
a wall around his dominions. He made four gates. Often he shut his
doors, mounted his horse, and captured whatever came in his way, both
demons and beasts of prey. Once he penetrated into Moesr and ravaged it,
and he went in to the wife of the Lord of Moesr and lay with her. She
bore a son, and the King of Moesr knew that the boy was Abamelik's and
named him Moesramelik. But afterward Abamelik slew the King and took his
wife and became King of Moesr.[11]

[10] The names cited here exist to the present day. The places lie in
the old districts of the Turuberan and Achznik in the present district

[11] The Armenians now call Egypt Moesr. This probably refers to Mossul.

* * * * *

Now Sanassar dwelt at Sassun, but the gods of his fathers gave him no
repose, so he travelled to Bagdad to the home of his father and mother.
His father, sitting at his window, saw his son Sanassar come riding up,
and recognized him, and the caliph said: "My life to thee, great god!
Thou hast brought back thy victim. Certainly in thy might thou wilt
restore the second soon."

The mother--she was a Christian--began to weep and shed tears over her
children. The father took a sharp sword and went out to meet his son,
saying: "Come, my son, let us worship the great god in his temple. I
must sacrifice to him."

The son said, "Dear father, your god is great and very wonderful. Truly
in the night he permits us no rest. Certainly he will bring the second
victim to you by force."

And they went into the temple of the god, and the son said: "Father
dear, you know that we left your house when we were yet children, and we
knew not the might of your god."

"Yes, yes, my son, but kneel before him and pray."

The son said: "What a wonderful god your god is! When you bowed before
your god, there was a darkness before my eyes and I did not see how you
did it. Bow once more before him, that I may learn to worship him."

When the father did the second time the son cried: "Bread and wine, the
Lord liveth!" and seized his club and hurled the caliph full seven yards
distant to the ground. And with his club he shattered all the images
where they stood, put the silver in the skirts of his robe and carried
it to his mother, saying: "Take this, mother, and wear it for ornament!"

His mother fell full length and bowed herself and said: "I thank thee,
Creator of heaven and earth. It is well that thou hast rescued me from
the hands of this cruel man."

They found Sanassar a wife and placed him on the throne in his father's
place, and he remained at Bagdad.[12]

[12] Here the story of Sanassar breaks off and he is not mentioned again
in the tale.

Now Abamelik, who reigned in Moesr, left his son Moesramelik to rule in
his stead and went to Sassun. Many years passed and children were born
to him. To one he gave the name Tschentschchapokrik. The eldest son he
named Zoera-wegi, the second Zenow-Owan; while the third son was called
Chor-Hussan,[13] and the youngest David.

[13] All these names are poetic and refer to certain characteristics of
their bearers. "Zenow-Owan" means "melodiously-speaking John";
"Chor-Hussan" means "good singer"; "Tschentschchapokrik" means "sparrow";
and "Zoeranwegi," "cowardly Wegi."

Of these, Tschentschchapokrik and Zoeranwegi proved to be ne'er-do-weels.
Zenow-Owan had such a voice that he dried seven buffalo hides in the sun
and wound them round his body so that it should not rend him. But the
cleverest of all was David, and to his strength words cannot do justice.

Abamelik's life was long, but old age came upon him. Once he sat sunk in
thought and said to himself: "Enemies are all about me. Who will care
for my children after my death? Moesramelik alone can do this, for none
beside him can cope with my enemies."

He set out to visit Moesramelik,[14] but he was very aged. "Moesramelik, my
son," he said, "you are truly of my blood. If I die before you, I
intrust my children to you. Take care of them. If you die first, confide
yours to me and I will watch over them."

[14] To Mossul.

He returned and lived in his castle. His time came and he died. Then
Moesramelik came and took the children to his house, for he had not
forgotten his father's command. Sassun mourned the death of Abamelik for
seven years. Then the peasants feasted and drank again with Uncle
Toross, for they said: "Uncle Toross, our lads have grown old and our
pretty girls are old women. If thou thinkest that by our seven years of
weeping Abamelik will live again we would weep seven years longer."
Uncle Toross gave the peasants their way, and said: "Marry your lads and
maidens. Weeping leads nowhere."

And they sat down and feasted and drank wine. Uncle Toross took a cup
in his hand and paused: he was thinking about something, and he neither
drank nor set the cup down. His son cries from the street: "Father,
dear, there are the mad men of Sassun. Take care, they will be jeering
at you. Let us go away."

Uncle Toross turned to his son and said: "Oh, you dog of a son! Shall I
sit here and feast? Did not Moesramelik come and take our children away?
Abamelik's children in trouble, and I sitting at a banquet? Oh, what a
shame it is! Bread and wine, God be praised! Truly, I will drink no wine
till I have fetched the little ones." And Uncle Toross went out of
Sassun and came to Moesr. He greeted Moesramelik, and they sat down
together. Said Uncle Toross: "Now, we are come for God's judgment. It is
true that you made an agreement with Abamelik, but if a man sells a
captive he should first wait on the lord."[15]

[15] This means that if a captive is to be sold his kinsmen have a right
before all others to redeem him.

They arose and went to the court,[16] and Uncle Toross was given the

[16] Schariat, the name of the Turkish court of justice, stands in the

But Moesramelik stood in fear of these children, and he said to Uncle
Toross, "Let these children first pass under my sword, and then take
them with you."

Uncle Toross told the lads of this, and Zoeranwegi said, "Let us pass
under his sword and escape hence"; and the other two said the same. But
David said otherwise: "If he wishes us dead he will not kill us to-day,
for the people will say he has murdered the children. Under his sword I
will not go. He does this so that I shall not lift my sword against him
when I am a man." Uncle Toross got the boys together, that they might
pass under the sword of Moesramelik, for he was very anxious. David was
rebellious; he stood still and went not under it. Uncle Toross seized
his collar and pushed him, but David would not go. He ran past it at one
side and kicked with his great toe upon a flint until the sparks flew.
And Moesramelik was frightened and said: "This child is still so young
and yet is terrible. What will happen when he is a man! If any evil
comes to me it will be through him."

Uncle Toross took the children and came to Sassun. Zoeranwegi he
established in the castle in his father's place, but David, who was the
youngest, was sent out to herd the calves.

What a boy David was! If he struck out at the calves with his oaken
stick, he would throw them all down, and forty others beside. Once he
drove the calves to the top of the mountain. He found a herdsman there
who was abusing his calves, and said: "You fellow! What are you up to?
Wait now, if I catch you, you will get something from my oaken stick
that will make you cry Ow! ow!"

The fellow answered David: "I am ready to give my life for your head if
I am not a shepherd from your father's village. These calves, here,
belong to the peasants."

David said, "If that is so, watch my calves also. I know not what time I
should drive them home. When the time comes tell me, that I may drive
them in."

Then David drove in the calves on time that day, and Uncle Toross was
pleased and said: "Always be punctual, my son; go out and come back
every day at the right time."

"Uncle Toross, it was not my wisdom that did this. I have hired a
comrade who will watch over my calves and see that I am ready with

Once his comrade tarried, and David was greatly vexed. It appeared that
a religious festival was held in the village, and on this account the
young man was detained. Finally he arrived, and David said to him,
"To-day you get nothing from me."

The young man said: "David, I am willing to die for you. From fear of
your anger, I waited not for the end of the service of God in the
church, and not one spoonful of the holy soup[17] has passed my lips. I
drove out the calves and am here. Now you know why I tarried."

[17] Although me Armenians became Christians in the fourth century, they
still retain many heathen customs which have lost all their original
significance. They still sacrifice sheep and cows which have on the
previous evening been given some salt consecrated by the priests. The
meat is cooked in immense kettles and carried around to the houses. The
shepherd speaks of soup of this kind.

David said: "Wait here; I will bring you your dinner."

He set off with his oaken stick over his shoulder. He came to the
village, and found that all the people had brought corn to the priests,
who blessed it. David stuck his oaken stick through the handle of the
four-handled kettle, and, full as it was, lifted it to his shoulder and
walked away. The priests and the peasants wondered at it, and one cried,
"Truly, he has carried off a kettle!"

A priest cried out, "For God's sake, be silent! It is one of those mad
men of Sassun. Take care or he will come back and break our ribs for us.
May he take the thing and fall down with it!"

And David took the kettle of grits to his comrade, whom he found weeping
on the mountain.

"Ha, ha," said David, "I know why you weep. I have brought the grits,
but have forgotten butter and salt. That is why you weep. Eat the grits
now, and have salt and butter this evening."

But the youth said. "David, I am ready to die for you, What need have I
of salt and butter; forty thieving Dews have come and driven away our

David said, "Stay here and watch these calves, and I will bring back all
the others"; and he went after the calves. He followed their tracks to
the entrance of a cave and paused. He cried out with so loud a voice
that the Dews were frightened, and were as full of fear as is the devil
when Christ's voice is heard in hell.

And when the leader of the Dews heard the voice he said: "That is surely
David, Abamelik's son. Go receive him with honor, else he will strike us

They went out, one by one, and David struck each as he passed with his
oaken cudgel, so that their heads fell off and only dead bodies remained
in the place. He cut off the ears of all the forty and buried them under
a stone at the mouth of the cave.

He laid down his club and entered the cave. There he saw a heap of gold
and a heap of silver--indeed, all the treasures of the world. Since his
father's death they had robbed and concealed their plunder in this
cavern. He opened a door, and saw a steed standing fastened to a ring.
David was sunk in thought, and said to himself: "Uncle dear, this
property belongs to you, but this beast to me. If you give it to
me--good. If not, you travel after those other fellows." Then he
answered for Uncle Toross: "My child, the treasure and the beast should
belong to you. What shall I do with them?"

He looked around and saw upon a pyre a copper kettle with four handles,
and in it were his forty calves. He stuck his oaken stick through the
handles and raised the kettle, poured off the water, pushed the calves'
feet back into the kettle, lifted it to his shoulder, and went back to
his comrade.

The two drove the rest of the herd into the village, and David called
the owners to him and said: "If you deceive my brother a hair's breadth
in the reckoning it will go badly with you. Sell this kettle. May it
repay you for your calves."

He separated his own calves from the peasants', and went home. It was
then midday. He said to Uncle Toross: "Take quickly twenty asses and we
will go out and bring back treasure that shall suffice you and your
children till the seventh generation."

And they took the asses and set forth. When they reached the cavern,
Uncle Toross saw the bodies of the Dews stretched near the entrance, and
they were swelled up like hills. In great fright Uncle Toross loosed his
ass from the others and fell back.

David said: "You destroyer! I fled not before them living, but you fear
them dead! If you believe me not, turn back and raise this stone. I
concealed all their ears there."

Uncle Toross came back and took the asses, and they went into the cave.
They made a pack of all the treasure and carried it away with them.
David said: "All this treasure belongs to you, but the steed is mine. If
you will not give it to me, you shall follow after them."

He answered: "My child, the horse and the treasure too are yours. What
should I do with it?"

Uncle Toross let David mount the steed. He gave him the spurs and he
bucked to right and left. This was no ordinary steed--the difficulties
of managing him cannot be described.

They returned to Sassun with the treasure. David procured a beautiful
falcon and rode off to hunt. The calves he had long ago given over.

Once, as he hunted, he rode across the soil of a poor man, whose family
numbered seven heads, and the man had seven beds of millet. Four beds he
laid waste, and three remained. Someone ran with the news to the old
graybeard and said: "You are ruined. Go at once to your field, for
before night he will destroy the other three beds."

The graybeard rose early and went out and saw his field was laid waste.
He glanced about and saw David coming with a falcon on his hand. The
graybeard cursed David and said: "Dost thou not fear God? Dost thou test
thy strength on my grain-field? I have seven mouths to fill, and seven
millet beds. Four thou hast destroyed, and three remain! If you are
brave, go and get back your inheritance that extends from the summit of
Mount Zoezmak as far as Sechanssar. Moesramelik has taken it from you and
draws wealth from it Go and get it back. Why try your strength on me?"

But David answered: "Old man, curse me not. Here is a handful of
gold--use it." And as he said it he killed his falcon.

David returned home and said: "Uncle Toross, go and bring me my father's
staff and bow. I am going to make war, for others consume my inheritance
and none of you have said anything about it to me."

Uncle Toross arose and demanded of Zoeranwegi in David's name the staff
and bow of Abamelik, but Zoeranwegi refused it. David sent a second time,
saying: "If you give it to me, good. If not, I will see to it that your
head flies off and only your body remains."

Zoeranwegi was frightened, and surrendered the bow and baton, and Uncle
Toross brought them to David. And David fell asleep and dreamed. The
next day he took forty calves and went to holy Maratuk,[18] where he
slaughtered the forty calves and bathed in their blood. Then he fell on
his face and prayed and wept until God sent from heaven a sacred sign
and a token. Even now the holy sign is to be found in Hawar at the house
of Sork. David kissed the holy sign and put it under the right shoulder,
and the token under the left.

[18] Maratuk is a monastery built on a mountain of the same name.

Moesramelik knew that David, Abamelik's son, was come into manhood, and
he gathered together a host to march against him. And he appointed a
_holbaschi_,[19] who prepared his army and attacked David at Maratuk. He
met on the march seven women, and said to them, "Sing and dance until I
return," and they answered: "Why shall we dance and sing? We know not
what we should say."

[19] This Turkish title shows that the legend has been altered at a late

And Holbaschi sang for them:

"May the little women busy themselves grinding corn;
May the stout women help with the camel-loading;
For Holbaschi carries grim war to Sassun.
Strong yoke-oxen and red milch-cows he'll bring back
In the springtime; butter and Tochorton
Will be plentiful in the Land of Moesr."

Holbaschi saw the women begin dancing and singing, and started his host
again and went to Maratuk and entered its gates. The daughter of the
priest of Maratuk had often glanced slyly at David, and he was not
indifferent to her. The priest's daughter went to David and said:
"David, I am ready to die for you! Arise and see how many warriors are
congregated in the courtyard."

When she had spoken she went out and closed all the gates from without.
David stretched himself and cried: "Bread and wine, the Lord liveth!"
and began to knock off the heads of the men of war. He beheaded them so
that the bodies flew over the walls and the heads remained lying in the
court. And he laid hold of Holbaschi, and tore out his teeth and drove
them into his brow like nails. And he bent his lance till it curved like
a dog's collar and put it around his neck. "Now," he said, "take
yourself off and tell all to Moesramelik. If people still remain in his
country let him herd them together before I come."

Holbaschi met the women a second time, and they were singing and
dancing. And one of them sang:

"Holbaschi, dear Holbaschi, went hence like a cruel wolf,
Why come you back to us like a hunting dog?
Your lance lies on your neck like a dog's collar,
Thy mouth gapes like an open window,
And slime flows out like curdled milk from a skin;[20]
And whole caravans of flies buzz round it."

[20] In Armenia, as is usual in the East, they make butter out of
curdled milk; and for this reason the vessel is always covered with

And Holbaschi sang:

"Oh, you shameless, worthless hussies,
I thought that Sassun was a free field.
Think not that only rocks and clefts opposed me.
There new-born children are fierce devils,
Their arrows like beams of the oil-mill;
And like windows they tear out the mouths of their enemies.
All the brave lads who went with me
Are fallen in Charaman.[21]
In the spring its waters will bring you booty,
Then your butter and cheese can be made."

[21] A valley near Musch.

Now David armed himself and marched against Moesramelik. He found a great
host assembled and encamped near Sechanssar.[22]

[22] Literally, a table-like mountain.

David said: "I promise thee not to give battle till I have eaten rice
pillau in the green and red tent," and he urged his horse forward and
appeared suddenly from the west in front of the tent. Great fright
possessed the army when they perceived this rider, and Melik said, "What
manner of man art thou?"

"I am the son of a western king, and I have come to help you."

Melik pitched a tent for him, and they ate together seven days. On the
eighth day David mounted his horse, rode twice before Moesramelik's tent,
and said: "Now, come out, I want to fight you. How long, Moesramelik, are
you going to encroach upon my inheritance?" And David cried: "Bread and
wine, God lives!" and fighting began on all sides.

Uncle Toross heard of the combat. He tore up a poplar by its roots,
threw it across his shoulder, and set out. He halted at the upper end of
the valley in which the fight was going on. If anyone crept away David
shouted: "Dear Uncle Toross, chase him back into the valley and I will
be ready for him!"

At last the army began to murmur: "Let them struggle hand to hand. He
who overpowers the other has conquered."

Then said one of them. "Sit down, that I may slay you with my club," and
the other said: "No, you sit down." At last they agreed that David,
being the youngest, should sit, So he put his shield over his head, laid
under it the holy cross, and sat down. Moesramelik made an onset from
three leagues, burst upon him, and assailed him with a club, saying,
"Earth thou art, be earth again!"

David said: "I believe in the high and holy cross of Maratuk. It is to
me as if I were still eating rice pillau under the red and green tent."

Moesramelik sprung upon him three times, struck him with his club, and
said: "Earth thou art, be earth again!" and David replied only, "I
believe in the high and holy cross of Maratuk."

Then came Moesramelik's turn to sit down, and he was stubborn and would
not. But the army reproached him and put his shield over his head, and
he sat down. Then came Moesramelik's mother, and began to ask mercy,
saying: "David, I am ready to die for you! Is he not thy brother? Slay
him not; have pity on him!"

"O shameless woman! When he struck me, thou saidst not, 'Is he not thy
brother!' But, may your wish be granted! One blow I will give up for
God's sake, the second for your sake, but the third belongs to me, and
when I strike either he dies or lives!"

David rode back and forward again, and seizing his club hurled
Moesramelik seven yards deep into the earth. Then he ravaged Moesr and
ascended the throne.

* * * * *

The Emir[23] of Kachiswan had a daughter, and her name was
Chandud-Chanum.[24] Chandud-Chanum heard of David's valor, and gave gifts
to a bard and said to him: "Go, sing to David of my beauty, that he may
come hither and we may love each other."

[23] "Emir," in the eyes of the orientals, is almost the same as "king."

[24] "Chandud" is a woman's name. "Chanum" means "lady."

The bard went to Sassun, for he thought David was there. He came to
Sassun and entered Zoeranwegi's castle, thinking David lived in it, and
sat down and began to sing to Zoeranwegi. Zoeranwegi cried: "Go. Club him
and hunt him forth. He thinks to bring David hither by cunning!"

They set upon the singer, dragged him to the valley, and threw him into
the road. In the evening the shepherds returned on their oxen to the
village. An ox became wild, and the herdsman fell off, and seeking the
cause he found the bard, who wept and lamented and asked the herdsman:

"Which of the brothers lives in that castle?"

The shepherd answered: "Here lives Zoeranwegi; yonder, in Moesr, David."

And the bard gave a piece of gold to the shepherds, and they gathered up
the pieces of his broken tambur[25] and pointed out his way to him. He
went and sang of Chandud-Chanum's beauty before David. David rewarded
him richly, and said, "Go before, I will come," and the singer went and
told all to Chandud-Chanum.[26]

[25] An instrument like a guitar.

[26] The song in which the bard praises the beauty of Chandud-Chanum is
wanting. A certain carelessness is seen generally in the rest of the

David departed straightway and went by way of Sassun and the Heights of
Zoezmak. He found a plough[27] standing in his way. He freed the oxen,
seized the plough-chain, mounted his horse, and dragged the plough down.
And it fell from the summit of the Black Mountain plump into the
aqueduct of the village of Marnik.

[27] The Armenians use, in ploughing, a kind of plough which is drawn by
from five to ten pairs of buffaloes or oxen.

He drew on and perceived that a buffalo had got loose and run along the
road and left its dung there. David looked at the dung and said: "If
evil befalls me he is guilty of it who left the dung there; if not, it
is also his work that it befalls me not."

From a side-path appeared a buffalo, and David had never seen the like
before. He lifted his club to slay him when from the opposite side a
shepherd came and began to scold the buffalo. David thought the shepherd
was scolding him and said, "Fellow, what have I done to you that you
rail at me?"

The shepherd answered: "Who are you? Ah, you are a Sassun brawler who
has seen nothing of the world! I spoke to my buffalo."

"Don't be angry, youngster! It is a shame, indeed, that in my country I
have never seen the like. Are there many such creatures in these parts?"

The shepherd said, "Come, and I will show you."

And they went to the field of Ausut, where the peasants hitched their
buffaloes and drove them. David found the buffaloes with tongues lolling
from the heat as they drew the plough. David felt pity for them; he
unhitched them and drove them to the pond.

The ploughman began to curse him, and he said: "Ploughman, curse me not;
only give me the chain into my hand."

He seized the chain and began to draw; the ploughman guided the plough
and David ploughed nine furrows. Then the shepherd said to David: "That
is not thy strength. Leave thy horse and then draw. We shall see whether
it is thine or thy horse's strength."

David left his horse and ploughed nine furrows alone.

The shepherd then said to David: "It is already noon. Come now and eat,
then thou canst go on thy way!"

David answered: "No, I will ride on. Thy children want to eat, and if I
come nothing will remain for them."

However, they sat down and when the dinner was set out David crumbled
all the bread and the vessels all at once, and the shepherd said: "Here,
hide yourselves or he will devour us also."

David said: "Surely, brother, he who drags the plough must eat bread.
How could it be otherwise?"

And he went his way to the city where Chandud-Chanum dwelt.

* * * * *

David came to the gates of the castle where Chandud-Chanum lived--to the
place where all her suitors came to woo. He saw a youth standing near
the door with a club in his hand, David said: "Ha, my lad, what do they
call you?"

"My name is Gorgis."

"Gorgis!" said David. "When I marry Chandud-Chanum you shall be
godfather! Now, Godfather Gorgis, who is in the house?"

"Matchmakers from the giants--Schibikan of Chorassan and Hamsa of Lori."

David said, "Take my horse and fasten him." And he took his horse and
tied him.

Then David asked: "What kind of a club have you? Show it me."

David took the club and threw it into the air with such force that it
is whirring till this very day. Then he said, "Godfather Gorgis, let us
go in and eat and drink."

They went in, and David sat down, for he was tired and hungry, and every
matchmaker, one after the other, handed David a cup of wine. David lost
patience and seized the wine-pitcher and emptied it in one draught,
saying, "Now say only what is well for you!"

The wine made David drunk, and when he let his head fall the matchmakers
drew their swords to strike him, but when he raised his head they
concealed their swords. They began this again when Godfather Gorgis
called out: "Think not that you are in Georgia! No, this is a dangerous
country." And when David heard him he said, "Now stand bravely at the

The matchmakers sprang up and as they ran each gave Gorgis a box on the
ear and escaped. David then turned to Gorgis and said: "Where can I see

"In the garden of the King," Gorgis answered. "To-day is Friday and she
will be there. Before her walk twenty slaves, and twenty walk behind
her. We will go to-day and see her there."

So Gorgis and David went thither and concealed themselves behind the
garden wall and waited. The slaves passed by one after another, and,
when Chandud-Chanum came, David put his arm around her neck and kissed
her three times. Chandud-Chanum said not a word. He kissed her again.
Chandud-Chanum seized him by the collar and threw him against the wall
so that the blood gushed from his nose.

David was angry and was going to mount his horse. "Godfather Gorgis," he
said, "lead out my horse. I will destroy the city and depart."

Gorgis began to plead: "I pray you, put it off till morning. It is dark
now. At daybreak arise and destroy the city and depart."

David lay in bed and could not sleep from anger. "Would it were dawn
that I might rise and destroy the city and get away from here," he
thought to himself.

Chandud-Chanum was still walking in the garden. A lame slave came to her
and said: "Thy walk will end sadly. Take care, David is going to destroy
the city and depart."

She took the cloth in which her evening meal had been brought, and
wrapped her head in it. She turned and went straightway into the castle
where David was and knocked at his door.

David said: "What insolent people live here! They will not wait till
morning, but say, 'Arise, destroy the city and be off!'"

Gorgis arose and looked out of the window and said, "These are women,
not men," and they opened the door.

Chandud-Chanum came to David and said: "You kissed me first for the
fatigue of your journey, a second time for yourself, and a third time
for God's sake. Why did you kiss me a fourth time? You are the son of
your father and I am the daughter of mine. It has been said: Take to
yourself a wife that you may have a son who is like his uncle. Do you
think you have brought me the heads of the giants Hamsa of Lori and
Schibikan of Chorassan, that you kiss me a fourth time?"

David's heart softened and he said: "If that is so I will go out at
daybreak and bring you their heads." Then he added: "Very well, I go; if
they are stronger than I they will kill me. For God's sake come and seek
my body. On the right hand I have a birth-mark--a cross--by that you
shall know me. Bring my body back and bury it."

So David set out. The giants perceived a rider coming, for the dust from
his horse's hoofs rose to heaven: "This rider comes to fight with us.
Perhaps he is of the race of Sergo."[28]

[28] Sergo-Sarkus (Sergius) so the Kurds called the Christians,
regarding them as descendants of St. Sergius, who is very popular among
the Armenians of Wan and Musch.

They called to him, saying: "Ho, fellow! who are you, and whence come
you? Do you know Chandud-Chanum? Will you take this ring to her?"

David said: "Certainly I know her, but I have come to take your heads to
the Princess Chandud. I know nothing about your rings!"

The eyebrows of Schibikan of Chorassan hung down over his breast and he
fastened them across his back. Hamsa of Lori had an underlip so long
that it reached the ground and swept it.

David and the giants began to hack and hew each other and they fought
with clubs and bows until night. David cried: "I believe in the high and
holy cross of Maratuk," and took his sword and cut both their heads off.
He bound their hair together and hung them across his horse like saddle
bags and their tongues furrowed the ground like a plough.

David rode away with their heads and had already traversed half the way
when he saw approaching him, riding between heaven and earth, a rider,
who called out to him! "Do you think you have conquered the giants
Schibikan and Hamsa?" The rider sprang behind David and struck at him
with a club. He crawled under the saddle and the club struck the stirrup
and tore it loose, and it fell to the ground. David sprang out from
under the saddle and cried: "Bread and wine, as the Lord liveth!" and
swung his club over his enemy. The enemy dodged the blow, but his hair
fell away from his face. David looked and recognized Chandud-Chanum; she
had disguised herself and had come to meet him.

"O shameless woman!" David said. "You would disgrace me a second time."

They rode together into Chandud-Chanum's city. They arrived and
dismounted and called Chandud-Chanum's father. David said to him: "Will
you give me your daughter for a wife?"

Her father said: "I will not give her to you. If you will marry her and
live here, I will give her to you. If you must take her away, I will not
give her. How can I do otherwise? I have enemies all around me; they
will destroy my city."

And David said: "I will marry her and stay here. I will not take her

So they were married and celebrated the wedding, feasting seven days and
seven nights.

The time passed by unheeded, and when nine months, nine days and nine
hours had passed, God sent them a son.

And David said to Chandud-Chanum: "If this child is mine, he must have a
mark--he will show great strength." They put the child in
swaddling-clothes, but instead of bands they bound him with
plough-chains. He began to cry and stir in his cradle and the chain
snapped into pieces.

They sent word to David: "The youngster is a stout fellow. He has
broken the chains. But one of his hands seems hurt. He clenches his
fist, and no one can open it."

David came and sat down, looked at the hand and opened it. In the hand
he found a little lump of clotted blood. "The whole world is to him as a
drop of blood, and he will hold it in his hand. If he lives he will do
wonderful deeds."

Then they christened the boy and gave him the name of Mcher.

Time passed and the boy grew fast, and David left him in Kachiswan with
his grandparents, and took Chandud-Chanum with him to Sassun. The men of
Chlat[29] heard David's coming and they assembled an army, built a
rampart, formed their wagons into a fortress, and began to give battle.
When Chandud-Chanum sent her lance against the wall she shattered it and
the wagons flew seven leagues away. Then David went forward and drove
the fighters away, saying to them: "Ye men of Chlat! what shameless
people ye be! Ye wage war on women! Let me but take my wife to Sassun
and I will come back, and we will fight it out."

[29] The city of Chlat (Turkish "Achlat") lies northwest of the Sea of
Wan. In olden times it was famous for its splendor, its high walls, and
its citadel. The inhabitants had been injured by David's father and
wished to avenge themselves.

But the men of Chlat believed him not. "Swear to us by the holy cross
you carry; then we will believe you," said they.

David touched the token with his hand as he thought, but the cross was
there and he knew it not, and the power of the cross was that no one
could swear by it.

He took Chandud-Chanum to Sassun. Here he first knew that he had sworn
on the cross, for he found the cross lying at his left shoulder where
the token had been.

"Now it will go badly with me," said David. "Whether I go or whether I
stay, it will go badly with me. And I must go."

He advanced, therefore, to give battle, and the men of Chlat pressed him
sorely. His horse was caught in the reedy marsh of Tschechur.[30] With
difficulty he crawled out of the bog and reached the waters of the

[30] A marsh at the outlet of the Kara-Su, a tributary of the Euphrates.

[31] A small river which empties into the Sea of Wan not far from Chlat.

Once Abamelik had lingered at the house of Ibraham Aga, and forcibly
entered the sleeping-room of his wife. Her name was Schemschen-Chanum.
She had borne a daughter to Abamelik, who was now an ardent Mahometan.
This daughter took up her bow and arrows and concealed herself on the
sloping river-bank. When David bathed in the waters of Locher she shot
him, assassin-like, with an arrow in the back. David arose and made a
great outcry and his voice sounded even up to Sassun. Zoenow-Owan,
Chorassan, Uncle Toross, Tschoentschchapokrik, and Zoeranwegi came
together, for they heard the voice of David. And Zoenow-Owan called to
him from Sassun, "We are coming."

And they went forth to help David, who heard in the water the voice of
his kinsmen. They came to the river and found David, who said:
"Zoenow-Owan, she seemed frightened at our calling. Go and find her."

And they sought and found the blue-eyed maiden. David seized her by one
foot, trod on the other, tore her in pieces, and threw her into the
village at the foot of the mountain. From this deed he named the village
Tschiwtis-Tschapkis.[32] The village lies at the mouth of the Tschechur
and is called Tschapkis to this day.

[32] Literally, "I will tear in pieces and scatter."

The brothers took David with them and moved on to Sassun. And after four
days David died, and his brothers mourned for him. They went to
Chandud-Chanum to console her and wish her long life; but Chandud-Chanum
said, "Ah, me, after David's death I am but the subject of your scorn."

And Tschoentschchapokrik said: "Chandud-Chanum, weep not, weep not. David
is dead, but my head is still whole."

Chandud-Chanum climbed the tower and threw herself down. Her head struck
a stone and made a hole in it, and into this hole the men of Sassun pour
millet and grind as the people of Moesr do; and every traveller from Moesr
stops there before the castle to see the stone.

The brothers came to see the body of Chandud-Chanum, and they pressed on
her breasts and milk flowed therefrom. They said: "Surely she has a
child! If there is a child it must be in Kachiswan."[33] And they set out
for Kachiswan and said to the governor: "A child of our brother and
sister-in-law lives here. Where is it?"

[33] The small city of Kagisman, not far from Kars.

"It is not here."

"We have a sign. In the breast of our sister-in-law was milk."

Then the governor said: "She had a daughter, but it is dead."

"We have a test for that also--for our dead. The grave of one dead one
year is one step long, of one dead two years, two steps long, and so

They went to the church-yard and found not a single grave which stood
their test.

Zoenow-Owan said: "Bind leather bands about me. I will cry out."

The truth was, they had dug a cellar for Mcher underground, and hid him
there and watched over him.

The brothers bound Zoenow-Owan about the body and he cried out. Mcher
knew his voice and would have gone to him, but his grandmother said to
him: "That is not the voice of thy kinsman. It is the noise of children
and the beating of drums."

When Mcher heard the voice for the third time he beat down the door and
went out. One door destroyed the other. By a blow of his fist he sent
the first door against the second, the second against the third, and so
all seven doors were shattered.

Mcher saw his uncles from afar, but his father was not there. He asked,
and his uncle told him the men of Chlat had slain his father. He fell
upon his face and wept, and as he lay there his uncles wished to lift
him, but exert themselves as they would they could not move him.

The tears of Mcher furrowed the earth and flowed like a river. After
three days he arose, mounted his father's horse, and rode to Chlat. He
circled the town and destroyed it--as it is even to this day. Then he
ascended the mountain Memrut[34] and saw the smoke of the ruins grow ever
denser. Only one old woman remained alive. He seized her, and, bending
two trees down, bound her feet to the trees and let them loose. And thus
he killed her. Since then no smoke ascends from Chlat.

[34] A high mountain not far from Chlat northwest of the Sea of Wan.
Many interesting legends about it exist. Haik, the ancestor of the
Armenian Nimrod, is said to be buried here.

Mcher permitted his uncles to return to their own dwelling-places and
himself rode toward Tosp.

Men say he is still there, and they show his house, and even now water
flows from the rocks for his horse.

On Ascension-night the door of Mcher's rock opens. But it is decreed
that he shall not go out: the floor holds him not, his feet sink into
the earth.

Once on Ascension-night a shepherd saw Mcher's door open, and the
shepherd entered. Mcher asked him: "By what occupation do you live?"

"By brains," said the shepherd.

Then Mcher said: "We shall see what kind of brains you have! Take the
nose-bag of my horse and hang it around his neck."

The shepherd tried with all his might, but could not lift the bag. He
led the horse to the bag, opened it, and put the straps around the
horse's neck. The horse raised his head and lifted the bag. The shepherd
led him back to his place and said, "That is the sort of brains by which
we live in the world."

Then the shepherd said, "Mcher, when will you leave this place?"

Mcher answered: "When plum-trees bear wheat and wild-rose bushes barley,
it is appointed I shall leave this place."

And three apples fell down from heaven--one for the story-teller, one
for the hearer, and the other for the whole world.

* * * * *




[_Translated by F.B. Collins, B.S._]


OSSEP GULABIANZ, a merchant.
SALOME, his wife.
NATO, his daughter.
CHACHO, Ossep's aunt.
GEWO, a merchant, Ossep's friend.
ALEXANDER MARMAROW, a young official.
KHALI, his wife.
MOSI, Leproink's relative.
MICHO, shop-boy at Leproink's.
DARTSCHO, clerk at Leproink's.
MARTHA, Salome's friend.

Guests, an executor, his secretary, creditors, witnesses, and several

The scene is Tiflis. The first and third acts take place in Ossep's
house, the second in Barssegh's.



_Well-furnished room with open door in centre and ante-room behind. To
the left in foreground a window looking out upon a garden. To the right
a sofa, in front of which is a table. To the left a tachta[35] with a
ketscha[36] and several mutakas.[37] A side door._

[35] Broad, low sofa.

[36] Carpet.

[37] Long, round pillows.


_Salome. Chacho_.

SALOME [_from back of stage_]. You're welcome. Come, come, I beg of you.
Dear aunt, how can I thank you for taking the trouble to come here!

CHACHO [_covered by a tschadra[38] enters from the right of the
ante-chamber_]. Good-morning! [_Taking off the tschadra._] Why did you
send for me in such haste?
[_Gives one end of the tschadra to Salome_.

[38] A long veil, covering the head and upper part of the body.

SALOME [_taking hold of one end of the tschadra_]. Dear aunt, I am in
such a desperate mood that if someone were to pierce my heart not a drop
of blood would flow.
[_While she is speaking they fold the tschadra_.

CHACHO. So it seems that it cannot be managed?

SALOME. How could it be managed, dear aunt? They insist upon having
8,000 rubles. Ossep will not give so much. You know what a miser he is!

CHACHO. Yes, he is really odd.

SALOME. But, dear aunt, God would surely not allow an affair like this
to come to nothing for the sake of 2,000 rubles. What, am I to let a man
of such social position and such brilliancy escape me?

CHACHO. Great heaven, how can anyone be so obstinate!

SALOME. That is just why I begged you to come to us. Speak to Ossep
about it, and perhaps your words will soften him.

CHACHO. I will talk with him; yes, indeed, I will talk to him. We cannot
neglect a matter of such importance, my child. [_Lays the tschadra under
the tachta covering the ketscha and sits down on it_.] Great heaven, how
sore the pavement has made my feet!

SALOME [_seating herself on a chair_]. May God reward you, dear aunt!
May the Holy Mother be a protectress for your children as you are now
for my Nato.

CHACHO. Is not Nato my child also? Is she a stranger to me? I am
altogether charmed with her beautiful form. But where is the child? Is
she not at home?

SALOME. Yes, certainly; she is dressing. You understand, dear aunt, how
you are to talk to him? Perhaps you will succeed with him. They expect
the final answer to-day; this morning the young man's sister was here,
and she may be here again any minute.

CHACHO. Don't be afraid, dear child. Calm yourself. Where is Ossep? What
does he think about it?

SALOME. He is busy, but he will be here directly. He says, and insists
upon it, that he will allow our daughter to marry no one but a business

CHACHO. He is right, my child; a good business man is worth much. Yes;
is not one who has money in his pockets the best?

SALOME. Oh, how you talk! What business man is to be compared with
Alexander Marmarow! Is there any business man worthy to untie his
shoe-strings? His politeness alone is worth more than ten business men.
Lately he honored us with a visit, and I was so fascinated with his
manners! and beside he is still young; is handsome; is educated; has a
good position and a good salary and will advance every day--everybody
says so. Perhaps some day he will be governor.

CHACHO. That is all very well, dear Salome; but if the thing cannot be
done, what then? One must submit, to some extent, to the head of the
family. A good business man never suffers from hunger, and lives without
wanting anything. I don't know what has gotten into your heads.
Officials! always officials!

SALOME. You speak well, dear aunt, but Nato would not marry a business
man at any price. I would thank God if she would. Would I be so stupid
as not to be glad of it? The deuce take these times! This comes of too
much study: the girls now mind neither father nor mother!

CHACHO. Yes; how the world has changed! The streams and the hills are
the same, but the people are different! But, by the way, Salome, do you
know what I have heard? They say that Leproink is trying for him also;
is that true?

SALOME. Yes, yes, dear aunt, a lot of go-betweens go to his house. But
God will surely not let a man like that become his son-in-law while my
daughter is left to become the wife of a shopkeeper.

CHACHO. Who would have believed that this Barssegh would have worked
himself up like that! Yet God be praised! Perhaps it is the times that
bring it about. Yesterday or the day before he was a shop-boy at
Basaschoma,[39] and now! I can picture him as he was then! He wore a
_tschocha_[40] of green camelot with a narrow purple belt. The wadding
stuck out at his elbows and his boots were mended in four places. Great
piles of goods were loaded on the poor devil's shoulders. Many a time,
with the yardstick in one hand, he came to our houses with whole pieces
of calico and got a few pennies from us for his trouble. And now he is a
man of some importance! Many's the time we gave him a cuff and sent him
back and forth with his goods. And, Salome, do you know that he lied?
God save us from such lies! But what could he do? One would die of
hunger, to be sure, if one always told the truth.

[39] A bazaar in Tiflis.

[40] A long overcoat.

SALOME. Yes, yes, dear aunt, it is the same Barssegh--whom they all call
"Wassil Matwejitsch" now.

CHACHO. What! have they turned Mathus, his father, into Matjewitsch? Who
is good enough for them now? Many a time has the cobbler, Mathus, mended
my shoes. His workshop was in the Norasch quarter. O good heavens, the
world is upside down!


NATO [_entering at right_]. Mamma! O aunt, are you here, too?
[_Hugs her and kisses her_.

CHACHO. O my only treasure! [_Kisses her_.] How fresh and pretty you
are! Where are you going? Are you going out when I have just come?

NATO. What are you saying, dear aunt? I will come back again
immediately. I am only going to make a few purchases at the bazaar.
[_Turning to Salome_] Dear mamma----
[_They begin to speak together in a low tone_.

CHACHO [_aside_]. Yes, yes, her father is right! [_Aloud._] I will go
and see what the children are doing [_trying to rise_]. Come here, you
pretty rogue, and give me your hand. I feel exhausted.
[_Nato helps her_.

SALOME [_offering her hand_]. Let me help you, too.

CHACHO. May God give you health and a life as long as mine! [_To Nato:_]
O my heart's angel--if only I have my wish and see you wear the bridal

SALOME. God grant it, dear aunt!

CHACHO. He will, he will, my child! [_Going toward the entrance._] Good
heaven! how old I have grown!
[_Goes out at the left._


NATO. Don't keep me waiting, mamma.

SALOME. And won't a little less satisfy you? Why do you want so much all
of a sudden?

NATO. But, dear mamma, please; I want it so much!

SALOME [_putting her hand in her pocket_]. I can never get away from
[_Takes out her purse and looks for something in it._

NATO [_holding out her hand_]. You have it there, mamma.

SALOME. Have a little patience. [_Takes out some money and gives it to
her_.] Take it! take it! though I know your father will scold about it.

NATO. But what can I do, when I need it so badly?

SALOME. Need it--nonsense! There is no end of your needs. [_Pulling at
Nato's hat._] How have you put your hat on again? And the flowers are
all pulled apart.
[_Arranges it._

NATO. Bah! what difference does that make?

SALOME. You're crazy! [_Removes her veil._] How have you put on your
veil? I must ever and eternally fix something on you!

NATO. You will make me too beautiful, mamma.

SALOME. Whether I make you beautiful or not, it will make no difference.
You will be only the wife of a merchant.

NATO. Yes, yes, I have been expecting that!

SALOME. And you really think that your father will ask you?

NATO. And whom should he ask?

SALOME. Think what you will; he will not let his decision be altered by
you. He says, "I will give her only to a business man."

NATO. Yes, yes, surely.

SALOME. By heaven!

NATO. Mamma, is what you say true?

SALOME. As true as the sun shines above you. He spoke of it again

NATO. It is decided, then?

SALOME. What am I to do if there is no other way out? You know we have
not any too much money.

NATO. And you are going to make a shopkeeper's wife of me, so that
everyone will laugh at me [_ready to cry_]; so that I shall be an object
of scorn for all. And why have you had me so well educated? Have I
learned Russian and French and piano-playing for a man of that sort?
What does a shopkeeper want of a piano? Pickle-jars and butter-tubs are
useful to him, but not my French! I am curious as to how he would speak
to me: _Moi aller, vous joli tu voir_.

SALOME. Enough! enough! you wild girl!

NATO [_crying_]. It is out of the question, mamma. No, not for the
world could I marry a business man! I will not have one! I would rather
jump into the water than marry one! [_Crying, she gives the money
back_.] Take it back! What do I need it for now? Why should I go out and
make purchases? For whom, then?
[_Takes off her mantle, flings her parasol aside, sits
down on the sofa and begins to cry_.

SALOME. O great heaven! is this not torture? I get it on both sides.
[_Turning to Nato_:] Be still, you stupid girl!

NATO. For this I have learned so much; for this you have brought me up
so grandly and given yourself so much trouble and care! [_Weeping_.] Is
he, also, to take me walking on the boulevard? Is he to accompany me to
the club and to the theatre?

SALOME. Be quiet! Enough! Give yourself no unnecessary heartache.

NATO [_jumps up and embraces Salome_]. Dear, dear mamma! dearest mamma,
save me!

SALOME. Oh, rather would your mother be dead than to see this day!

NATO. Dear mamma, save me! save me, or I shall go into consumption! God
is my witness!

SALOME [_weeping_]. The deuce take everything!
[_Wipes away her tears_.

NATO. Mamma, if you please, I would rather not marry at all. I will
serve you here at home like a housemaid. Only make them stop this

SALOME. That has already happened, my child.

NATO. Dear mamma, please do it.

SALOME. But I tell you, truly.

NATO. Is it really true?

SALOME. As true as the sun shines.

NATO [_kissing Salome_]. O my dear, dear mamma!

SALOME. At last I am rid of you. Your eyes are real tear-fountains. It
would not have taken much more to make me cry, too.

NATO [_laughing_]. Ha! ha! ha!

SALOME. You can laugh now.

NATO. Ha! ha! ha! you gave me such a fright!

SALOME. You are terribly flighty. [_Presses the money into her hand_.]
Here, take it; and do not be too long.
[_Smoothes Nato's hair_.

NATO [_pulling herself away from her mother_]. Very well, mamma.
[_Taking her parasol and mantle_.

SALOME. Wipe your eyes, I pray, or they will laugh at you!

NATO. They are quite dry; and what does anybody care about my eyes?

SALOME. Come back soon; don't allow yourself to be delayed.

NATO. I will come back right away, dear mamma.
[_Goes toward the right into the ante-room._


SALOME [_alone_]. No, there is no other way out. Cost what it will, I
shall accomplish what I want. Yes, I must, if I am ruined by it. Mother
of God, plead for my Nato!

OSSEP [_enters, right_]. Where has Nato gone?

SALOME. Just across the way, to the store. She needed some music.

OSSEP. These are fine times for me! And a girl like this is to become a
good citizen's wife! [_Sits down on the sofa_.

SALOME [_coming near_]. That is what I say, too, dear Ossep. [_Lays hand
on his shoulder_.] Are you not sorry? Is it not too bad about her?

OSSEP. I am still more to be pitied; but who pities me? SALOME. Shall we
really give her to a business man for a wife?

OSSEP. And what else? Is a merchant such a bad fellow? To judge by your
words, I also am good for nothing; I who, day and night, worry myself to
get you bread.

SALOME [_embracing him_]. How can you say such a thing, dear Ossep?
Listen to me; are you not sorry for Nato? It would be quite different if
she had been educated as I was.

OSSEP [_smiling_]. Hm! Then she would be the right sort.

SALOME [_draws back her hand_]. You are very polite, really! You laugh
at poor me! Well, talk as you like, but finish this affair with Nato.

OSSEP. I have already finished it. What will you have of me?

SALOME. How, then? You will not give as much as they demand.

OSSEP. How can I give it when I have not so much?

SALOME [_embracing him_]. Dear Ossep, please do it.

OSSEP. But I cannot do it.

SALOME [_still pleading_]. If you love me only a little bit, you will do
me this favor.

OSSEP. O woman! Can you not understand at all what yes and no mean? I
tell you short and plain that I cannot afford to do it. My back is too
weak to lift such a burden. A man can stretch out his feet in bed only
as far as the covers reach. Isn't that true? Am I stingy? And would I be
stingy toward my own child?

SALOME. But in this case no one asks whether we have it or not. Would it
not be stupid to have such a lover for your daughter and not sacrifice
everything for him? Others, indeed, have no great wealth, and yet give
and are not called crazy.

OSSEP. Perhaps they have stolen money, since it is so easy for them to
give it up. However, what is the use of so much talk? Take the cotton
out of your ears and listen, for, I tell you, I have no money; and I
repeat, I have no money. To-day or to-morrow I expect the conclusion of
important business. If it is not completed, I am lost, body and soul.
And you stand before me and torture me by asking me to do what is

SALOME. But why do you seem so angry? One cannot even open one's mouth
before you.
[_Seats herself sulking on the tachta_.

OSSEP. Yes, I am angry. You women would exasperate an angel, let alone a

SALOME [_reproachfully_]. Just heaven! with my heart bleeding, I speak
to you of our daughter and you are angry! You, then, are her father? Let
us suppose I was dead: would it not be your sacred duty to provide for
her future?

OSSEP. Am I not providing for her, you wicked woman? Have I not
presented three or four young persons to you as sons-in-law? For that
matter, they would still be very glad to take her. They are young,
clever, and industrious, and, moreover, persons of our condition in
life. But who can be reasonable and speak to you? You have got it into
your head that Nato's husband shall be an official, and there you stick.
It is not your daughter's future that makes your heart bleed, but your
own ambition.

SALOME. What more can I say to you? Are they, then, your equals? Who are
they, properly speaking? Who are their parents?

OSSEP [_springing up_]. And who are you, then? Whose daughter, whose
wife are you? Perhaps you are descended from King Heraclius; or perhaps
you are the wife of a prince!

SALOME. How the man talks! Were your parents of better rank than mine?
What? Say!



CHACHO [_enters, left_]. What's all this noise about?

OSSEP. O aunt, you are here?

CHACHO. Yes, it is I, as I love and live. How are you, my son?

OSSEP. Pretty well, thank God. And how are you, aunt?

CHACHO. My dear son, I am very feeble. But what is going on here? They
must have heard your voices in the street.

SALOME. Do you not know that married people often have little quarrels?

CHACHO. That I know a hundred times better than you. And only a
blockhead takes a dispute between man and wife seriously. That is true;
but that you two have already had time to get used to each other is also

OSSEP. Sit down, dear aunt. Tell me, rather, whether a wagon can be
moved when one ox pulls to the right and the other to the left.

CHACHO. It will not stir from its place any more than I will now.
[_Sits down with legs planted firmly_.] What can move me away from here?

OSSEP. Now, is it not true? One must help the other, for one alone
cannot accomplish much, be he ever so strong and ready to work.

SALOME. Oh, yes! and you are the one ready to work and I am the lazy
one, I suppose.

OSSEP. For heaven's sake, do not fly into a passion like that!

CHACHO [_to Salome_]. That was nothing more than a figure of speech. Who
is accusing you of laziness?

OSSEP [_sitting down_]. Tell me, can we count ourselves among those
persons who can give their daughter 10,000 rubles for a dowry? Are we
able to do that?

SALOME. Eight thousand is surely not 10,000.

OSSEP. Both are too much for me.

SALOME. Oh, it is all the same to me; it is not for myself; it is for
your daughter.
[_Sits down, ready to cry, upon the sofa_.

OSSEP. It is a beautiful thing, the way you look out for your daughter;
but everything has its time and place. We have, remember, two other
daughters to provide for.

CHACHO. Dear Ossep, why are you so obstinate?

OSSEP. I am not obstinate; but you two are. Yes, you are obstinate, and
will pay no attention at all to what I say.

CHACHO. Since when have you become such a niggard? You should have
economized when you gave the sasandars[41] something like ten rubles for
a fee.

[41] Musicians.

OSSEP. Those times have passed and won't come back again, dear aunt. At
that time I was able to do it; but not now. Trade is dull and my
business is going badly.

CHACHO. Possibly with your enemies, dear son; but there is nothing the
matter with your business.

OSSEP [_aside_]. There you have it! They insist that I let them inspect
my books. [_Aloud_.] Do you know, what, aunt? What I say I first
consider, for I do not like to speak to no purpose. If that young man
pleases you and my daughter, and you will have him at all hazards, I
have nothing against it. So therefore go to him; and if you can settle
the affair with 6,000 rubles, do it. I will gladly make the best of it;
but mind, this is my last word, and if you hang me up by the feet, I
will not add a single shilling.

CHACHO. What has come over you, Ossep? If you are willing to give 6,000
rubles, you will surely not let the whole thing go to pieces for the


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