Prince Yuri Lubovedsky

From the shop I went to the town gardens to rest on a bench in the shade of the trees. My Philos sat down beside me. Buried in my thoughts, I looked at the trees where sparrows flitted from branch to branch enjoying the stillness of the afternoon. Suddenly the thought entered my head: ‘Why not try to make money with the sparrows? The inhabitants of this place, the Sarts, are very fond of canaries and other kinds of song birds; is a sparrow any worse than a canary?’

On the street which ran alongside the town gardens was a cabstand, where a number of drivers were resting and dozing on their boxes in the afternoon heat. I went over and plucked from the horses’ tails the hairs I needed, made snares of them and set them in various places, Philos watching me all the time with great attention. A sparrow soon fell into one of the snares. I carefully took it out and carried it home.

At the house I asked the landlady for scissors, clipped my sparrow to the shape of a canary, and then coloured it fantastically with the aniline dyes. I took this sparrow to Old Samarkand, where I immediately sold it, claiming that it was a special ‘American canary’. I charged two roubles for it. With the money I at once bought several simple painted cages and from then on began selling my sparrows in cages. In two weeks I sold about eighty of these American canaries.

The first three or four days when I went to catch sparrows, I took Philos with me; but after this I did not take him any more because by then he had become a celebrity among the small boys of New Samarkand, and a crowd of them would come up to him in the town gardens, scare the sparrows and interfere with my catching them.

The day after I stopped taking Philos with me, he disappeared from the house early in the morning and only returned in the evening, tired and covered with dirt, and solemnly placed on my bed a sparrow—to be sure, a dead one. This was repeated each day; he would leave early in the morning and would invariably bring back and place on my bed a dead sparrow.