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45. CHAPTER XLV (continued)
"Are you Masr-ed-Deen, the merchant of Alexandria, or is it from far Bagdad that you bring your goods, O, my uncle; and yonder one-eyed youth, do I see in him one of the three kings of whom Scheherazade told stories to her lord?"
The pedlar's smile grew more ingratiating, though he understood no word of what Cronshaw said, and like a conjurer he produced a sandalwood box.
"Nay, show us the priceless web of Eastern looms," quoth Cronshaw. "For I would point a moral and adorn a tale."
The Levantine unfolded a table-cloth, red and yellow, vulgar, hideous, and grotesque.
"Thirty-five francs," he said.
"O, my uncle, this cloth knew not the weavers of Samarkand, and those colours were never made in the vats of Bokhara."
"Twenty-five francs," smiled the pedlar obsequiously.
"Ultima Thule was the place of its manufacture, even Birmingham the place of my birth."
"Fifteen francs," cringed the bearded man.
"Get thee gone, fellow," said Cronshaw. "May wild asses defile the grave of thy maternal grandmother."
Imperturbably, but smiling no more, the Levantine passed with his wares to another table. Cronshaw turned to Philip.
"Have you ever been to the Cluny, the museum? There you will see Persian carpets of the most exquisite hue and of a pattern the beautiful intricacy of which delights and amazes the eye. In them you will see the mystery and the sensual beauty of the East, the roses of Hafiz and the wine-cup of Omar; but presently you will see more. You were asking just now what was the meaning of life. Go and look at those Persian carpets, and one of these days the answer will come to you."
"You are cryptic," said Philip.
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