Professor Skridlov

When we were seated, he said: ‘Here no one will hear or see us and we can talk in perfect quiet about whatever pleases our hearts.’

In the course of conversation, it turned out that he was an Italian, but knew Greek because his mother was a Greek, and in his childhood, on her insistence, he had spoken this language almost exclusively.

He had formerly been a Christian missionary and had lived a long time in India. Once, when he had gone on some missionary work into Afghanistan, he was taken prisoner by Afridi tribesmen while travelling through a certain pass.

He was then passed from one to another as a slave, fell into the hands of various groups inhabiting these regions, and finally arrived in this place in the bondage of a certain man.

He had succeeded during his long stay in these isolated countries in gaining the reputation of being an impartial man who humbly recognized and submitted to all the local conditions of life, established by centuries. And so, through the efforts of this last master of his, to whom he had rendered some important service or other, he was given his full freedom and the promise that he could go wherever he pleased in these countries as though he were one of the local power-possessing inhabitants. But just at that time he accidentally came in contact with certain adepts of the ‘World Brotherhood’, who were striving for what he had dreamed of all his life, and, having been admitted to their brotherhood, he did not wish to go anywhere else but ever since then had lived with them in their monastery.

As our trust in this brother, Father Giovanni—which was the name we called him when we learned that he had once been a Catholic priest and had been called Giovanni in his own country —was growing all the time, we considered it necessary to tell him who we really were and why we were disguised.

Listening to us with great understanding and clearly wishing o encourage us in our strivings, he thought for a few moments and then, with a kindly, unforgettable smile, said: