Mr. X or Captain Pogossian

By this time Pogossian was feeling so much better that we used to take him out on the terrace, where he would sit for long hours in the sun. I arranged that he would let me know when the priest went out on his business and the next day, on hearing from him that the priest had left the house, I went stealthily into his room to fit a key to his heirloom chest. The first time I was not able to note all the details of the key, and it was not until the third attempt, after numerous filings, that I succeeded in making one fit.

One evening, two days before our departure, while the priest was absent, I got into his room again and took the parchment from the chest. I took it to our room and throughout the night Pogossian and I traced all the details of the map, after having covered it with oiled paper. The next day I put the parchment back in its place.

From the moment I had this treasure—so full of mystery and promise—securely and unnoticeably sewn in the lining of my clothes, it was as if all my other interests and intentions evaporated. An eagerness which was not to be restrained arose in me to reach at any cost and without delay the places where, with the aid of this treasure, I could at last appease that desire for knowledge which during the past two or three years had given me no rest, gnawing me within like a worm.

After this perhaps Justifiable, but nevertheless—whatever way one regards it—culpable treatment of the hospitality of the Armenian priest, I talked things over with my still half­-sick comrade Pogossian. I persuaded him not to spare his lean financial resources but to buy two good local saddle-­horses, of the kind we had noticed during our stay there and whose peculiar, quick, ambling trot we had admired, so that we could set off as soon as possible in the direction of Syria.

The gait of the horses bred in that locality is indeed so smooth that one can ride on them almost at the speed of the flight of a large bird, holding in one’s hand a glass-full of water without spilling a single drop.

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