Piotr Karpenko

As we went, we saw from a long way off a man sitting in a meadow under a tree, and our guide, without waiting for us, ran to him and, after telling him something, beckoned to us to approach.

We exchanged the customary greetings and sat down beside him. At that moment another of the local inhabitants came and sat down beside us. As it turned out later he also was a pupil of this venerable ez-ezounavouran.

The face of this old man appeared to us so benevolent and not of ordinary humankind that, without any of the usual preliminary manipulations and without concealing anything, we told him what had happened to us and how we thought of making our way out of that region. We also told him why we had come to him.

He listened to us with great attention and, after thinking a little, said that the stream by whose banks we had stopped was a tributary of the river Chitral, which flows into the river Kabul, which in its turn flows into the Indus. There were many roads, he told us, leading out of that region, but they were all long and arduous. If we were able to travel as we had planned, and if we were fortunate enough to avoid the banks inhabited by people who were not at all friendly to strangers, then our plan would be the best that could be devised. As for the kind of wood we were seeking, he thought it was not at all suitable, and that the best wood for the purpose would be Cornelian cherry, and added that there was a dell to the left of the path by which we had come where thick clumps of these trees grew.

All of a sudden there was a sound from near by—the kind that makes a man shiver from head to foot. The old man calmly turned his head, and with his old voice called out in a special way. Then, out of the bushes, in all its beauty and strength, emerged a huge grey bear, carrying something in its mouth. As it came nearer to us, the old man called out again, and the bear, looking at us with glittering eyes, moved slowly towards him and laid the thing it was carrying at his feet—then turned round and lumbered back into the bushes.