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He saw to it that all the sheep entered through the ruined gate, and then laid some planks across it to prevent the flock from wandering away during the night.

There were no wolves in the region, but once an animal had strayed during the night, and the boy had had to spend the entire next day searching for it.

He swept the floor with his jacket and lay down, using the book he had just finished reading as a pillow. He told himself that he would have to start reading thicker books: they lasted longer, and made more comfortable pillows.

It was still dark when he awoke, and, looking up, he could see the stars through the half-destroyed roof.

I wanted to sleep a little longer, he thought. He had had the same dream that night as a week ago, and once again he had awakened before it ended.

He arose and, taking up his crook, began to awaken the sheep that still slept. He had noticed that, as soon as he awoke, most of his animals also began to stir.

It was as if some mysterious energy bound his life to that of the sheep, with whom he had spent the past two years, leading them through the countryside in search of food and water.

Thinking about that for a moment, he realized that it could be the other way around: that it was he who had become accustomed to their schedule.

But there were certain of them who took a bit longer to awaken. The boy prodded them, one by one, with his crook, calling each by name.

He had always believed that the sheep were able to understand what he said. So there were times when he read them parts of his books that had made an impression on him, or when he would tell them of the loneliness or the happiness of a shepherd in the fields.

Sometimes he would comment to them on the things he had seen in the villages they passed. But for the past few days he had spoken to them about only one thing: the girl, the daughter of a merchant who lived in the village they would reach in about four days.

He had been to the village only once, the year before. The merchant was the proprietor of a dry goods shop, and he always demanded that the sheep be sheared in his presence, so that he would not be cheated.

A friend had told the boy about the shop, and he had taken his sheep there. The shop was busy, and the man asked the shepherd to wait until the afternoon.

So the boy sat on the steps of the shop and took a book from his bag. The girl was typical of the region of Andalusia, with flowing black hair, and eyes that vaguely recalled the Moorish conquerors.

During the two hours that they talked, she told him she was the merchant's daughter, and spoke of life in the village, where each day was like all the others.

The shepherd told her of the Andalusian countryside, and related the news from the other towns where he had stopped.

It was a pleasant change from talking to his sheep. He was sure the girl would never understand. He went on telling stories about his travels, and her bright, Moorish eyes went wide with fear and surprise.

As the time passed, the boy found himself wishing that the day would never end, that her father would stay busy and keep him waiting for three days.

He recognized that he was feeling something he had never experienced before: the desire to live in one place forever. With the girl with the raven hair, his days would never be the same again.

But finally the merchant appeared, and asked the boy to shear four sheep. He paid for the wool and asked the shepherd to come back the following year.

He was excited, and at the same time uneasy: maybe the girl had already forgotten him. Lots of shepherds passed through, selling their wool.

And he knew that shepherds, like seamen and like traveling salesmen, always found a town where there was someone who could make them forget the joys of carefree wandering.

The day was dawning, and the shepherd urged his sheep in the direction of the sun. They never have to make any decisions, he thought.

Maybe that's why they always stay close to me. The only things that concerned the sheep were food and water. As long as the boy knew how to find the best pastures in Andalusia, they would be his friends.

Yes, their days were all the same, with the seemingly endless hours between sunrise and dusk; and they had never read a book in their young lives, and didn't understand when the boy told them about the sights of the cities.

They were content with just food and water, and, in exchange, they generously gave of their wool, their company, and--once in a while--their meat.

If I became a monster today, and decided to kill them, one by one, they would become aware only after most of the flock had been slaughtered, thought the boy.

They trust me, and they've forgotten how to rely on their own instincts, because I lead them to nourishment. The boy was surprised at his thoughts.

Maybe the church, with the sycamore growing from within, had been haunted. It had caused him to have the same dream for a second time, and it was causing him to feel anger toward his faithful companions.

He drank a bit from the wine that remained from his dinner of the night before, and he gathered his jacket closer to his body. He knew that a few hours from now, with the sun at its zenith, the heat would be so great that he would not be able to lead his flock across the fields.

It was the time of day when all of Spain slept during the summer. The heat lasted until nightfall, and all that time he had to carry his jacket.

But when he thought to complain about the burden of its weight, he remembered that, because he had the jacket, he had withstood the cold of the dawn.

We have to be prepared for change, he thought, and he was grateful for the jacket's weight and warmth. The jacket had a purpose, and so did the boy.

His purpose in life was to travel, and, after two years of walking the Andalusian terrain, he knew all the cities of the region.

He was planning, on this visit, to explain to the girl how it was that a simple shepherd knew how to read. That he had attended a seminary until he was sixteen.

His parents had wanted him to become a priest, and thereby a source of pride for a simple farm family. They worked hard just to have food and water, like the sheep.

He had studied Latin, Spanish, and theology. But ever since he had been a child, he had wanted to know the world, and this was much more important to him than knowing God and learning about man's sins.

One afternoon, on a visit to his family, he had summoned up the courage to tell his father that he didn't want to become a priest.

That he wanted to travel. They climb the mountain to see the castle, and they wind up thinking that the past was better than what we have now.

They have blond hair, or dark skin, but basically they're the same as t he people who live right here. The next day, he gave his son a pouch that held three ancient Spanish gold coins.

I wanted them to be a part of your inheritance. But use them to buy your flock. Take to the fields, and someday you'll learn that our countryside is the best, and our women the most beautiful.

The boy could see in his father's gaze a desire to be able, himself, to travel the world--a desire that was still alive, despite his father's having had to bury it, over dozens of years, under the burden of struggling for water to drink, food to eat, and the same place to sleep every night of his life.

The boy thought back to that conversation with his father, and felt happy; he had already seen many castles and met many women but none the equal of the one who awaited him several days hence.

He owned a jacket, a book that he could trade for another, and a flock of sheep. But, most important, he was able every day to live out his dream.

If he were to tire of the Andalusian fields, he could sell his sheep and go to sea. By the time he had had enough of the sea, he would already have known other cities, other women, and other chances to be happy.

I couldn't have found God in the seminary, he thought, as he looked at the sunrise. Whenever he could, he sought out a new road to travel.

He had never been to that ruined church before, in spite of having traveled through those parts many times. But the boy never took his eye off his new friend.

After all, he had all his money. He thought about asking him to give it back, but decided that would be unfriendly. He knew nothing about the customs of the strange land he was in.

He knew he was stronger than his friend. Suddenly, there in the midst of all that confusion, he saw the most beautiful sword he had ever seen.

The scabbard was embossed in silver, and the handle was black and encrusted with precious stones.

The boy promised himself that, when he returned from Egypt, he would buy that sword. Then he realized that he had been distracted for a few moments, looking at the sword.

His heart squeezed, as if his chest had suddenly compressed it. He was afraid to look around, because he knew what he would find.

He continued to look at the beautiful sword for a bit longer, until he summoned the courage to turn around. All around him was the market, with people coming and going, shouting and buying, and the aroma of strange foods.

The boy wanted to believe that his friend had simply become separated from him by accident. He decided to stay right there and await his return.

As he waited, a priest climbed to the top of a nearby tower and began his chant; everyone in the market fell to their knees, touched their foreheads to the ground, and took up the chant.

Then, like a colony of worker ants, they dismantled their stalls and left. The sun began its departure, as well.

The boy watched it through its trajectory for some time, until it was hidden behind the white houses surrounding the plaza.

He recalled that when the sun had risen that morning, he was on another continent, still a shepherd with sixty sheep, and looking forward to meeting with a girl.

That morning he had known everything that was going to happen to him as he walked through the familiar fields. But now, as the sun began to set, he was in a different country, a stranger in a strange land, where he couldn't even speak the language.

He was no longer a shepherd, and he had nothing, not even the money to return and start everything over. All this happened between sunrise and sunset, the boy thought.

He was feeling sorry for himself, and lamenting the fact that his life could have changed so suddenly and so drastically.

He was so ashamed that he wanted to cry. He had never even wept in front of his own sheep. But the marketplace was empty, and he was far from home, so he wept.

He wept because God was unfair, and because this was the way God repaid those who believed in their dreams.

When I had my sheep, I was happy, and I made those around me happy. People saw me coming and welcomed me, he thought. But now I'm sad and alone.

I'm going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me. I'm going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine.

And I'm going to hold on to what little I have, because I'm too insignificant to conquer the world. He opened his pouch to see what was left of his possessions; maybe there was a bit left of the sandwich he had eaten on the ship.

But all he found was the heavy book, his jacket, and the two stones the old man had given him. As he looked at the stones, he felt relieved for some reason.

He had exchanged six sheep for two precious stones that had been taken from a gold breastplate. He could sell the stones and buy a return ticket.

But this time I'll be smarter, the boy thought, removing them from the pouch so he could put them in his pocket. This was a port town, and the only truthful thing his friend had told him was that port towns are full of thieves.

Now he understood why the owner of the bar had been so upset: he was trying to tell him not to trust that man. They were his treasure. Just handling them made him feel better.

They reminded him of the old man. The boy was trying to understand the truth of what the old man had said. There he was in the empty marketplace, without a cent to his name, and with not a sheep to guard through the night.

But the stones were proof that he had met with a king — a king who knew of the boy's past. The old man had said to ask very clear questions, and to do that, the boy had to know what he wanted.

So, he asked if the old man's blessing was still with him. He took out one of the stones. It was "yes. He stuck his hand into the pouch, and felt around for one of the stones.

As he did so, both of them pushed through a hole in the pouch and fell to the ground. The boy had never even noticed that there was a hole in his pouch.

He knelt down to find Urim and Thummim and put them back in the pouch. But as he saw them lying there on the ground, another phrase came to his mind.

An omen. The boy smiled to himself. He picked up the two stones and put them back in his pouch. He didn't consider mending the hole — the stones could fall through any time they wanted.

He had learned that there were certain things one shouldn't ask about, so as not to flee from one's own destiny.

But the stones had told him that the old man was still with him, and that made him feel more confident.

He looked around at the empty plaza again, feeling less desperate than before. This wasn't a strange place; it was a new one.

After all, what he had always wanted was just that: to know new places. Even if he never got to the Pyramids, he had already traveled farther than any shepherd he knew.

Oh, if they only knew how different things are just two hours by ship from where they are, he thought. Although his new world at the moment was just an empty marketplace, he had already seen it when it was teeming with life, and he would never forget it.

He remembered the sword. It hurt him a bit to think about it, but he had never seen one like it before. As he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.

He was shaken into wakefulness by someone. He had fallen asleep in the middle of the marketplace, and life in the plaza was about to resume.

Looking around, he sought his sheep, and then realized that he was in a new world. But instead of being saddened, he was happy.

He no longer had to seek out food and water for the sheep; he could go in search of his treasure, instead. He had not a cent in his pocket, but he had faith.

He had decided, the night before, that he would be as much an adventurer as the ones he had admired in books. He walked slowly through the market.

The merchants were assembling their stalls, and the boy helped a candy seller to do his. The candy seller had a smile on his face: he was happy, aware of what his life was about, and ready to begin a day's work.

His smile reminded the boy of the old man — the mysterious old king he had met. He's doing it because it's what he wants to do," thought the boy.

He realized that he could do the same thing the old man had done — sense whether a person was near to or far from his destiny.

Just by looking at them. It's easy, and yet I've never done it before, he thought. When the stall was assembled, the candy seller offered the boy the first sweet he had made for the day.

The boy thanked him, ate it, and went on his way. When he had gone only a short distance, he realized that, while they were erecting the stall, one of them had spoken Arabic and the other Spanish.

And they had understood each other perfectly well. There must be a language that doesn't depend on words, the boy thought.

I've already had that experience with my sheep, and now it's happening with people. He was learning a lot of new things. Some of them were things that he had already experienced, and weren't really new, but that he had never perceived before.

And he hadn't perceived them because he had become accustomed to them. He realized: If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.

Relaxed and unhurried, he resolved that he would walk through the narrow streets of Tangier. Only in that way would he be able to read the omens. He knew it would require a lot of patience, but shepherds know all about patience.

Once again he saw that, in that strange land, he was applying the same lessons he had learned with his sheep. The crystal merchant awoke with the day, and felt the same anxiety that he felt every morning.

He had been in the same place for thirty years: a shop at the top of a hilly street where few customers passed.

Now it was too late to change anything — the only thing he had ever learned to do was to buy and sell crystal glassware. There had been a time when many people knew of his shop: Arab merchants, French and English geologists, German soldiers who were always well-heeled.

In those days it had been wonderful to be selling crystal, and he had thought how he would become rich, and have beautiful women at his side as he grew older.

But, as time passed, Tangier had changed. The nearby city of Ceuta had grown faster than Tangier, and business had fallen off.

Neighbors moved away, and there remained only a few small shops on the hill. And no one was going to climb the hill just to browse through a few small shops.

But the crystal merchant had no choice. He had lived thirty years of his life buying and selling crystal pieces, and now it was too late to do anything else.

He spent the entire morning observing the infrequent comings and goings in the street. He had done this for years, and knew the schedule of everyone who passed.

But, just before lunchtime, a boy stopped in front of the shop. He was dressed normally, but the practiced eyes of the crystal merchant could see that the boy had no money to spend.

Nevertheless, the merchant decided to delay his lunch for a few minutes until the boy moved on. A card hanging in the doorway announced that several languages were spoken in the shop.

The boy saw a man appear behind the counter. In his pouch, he had his jacket — he certainly wasn't going to need it in the desert.

Taking the jacket out, he began to clean the glasses. In half an hour, he had cleaned all the glasses in the window, and, as he was doing so, two customers had entered the shop and bought some crystal.

When he had completed the cleaning, he asked the man for something to eat. He put a sign on the door, and they went to a small cafe nearby.

As they sat down at the only table in the place, the crystal merchant laughed. And both you and I needed to cleanse our minds of negative thoughts.

Two customers came in today while you were working, and that's a good omen. But they really don't know what they're saying. Just as I hadn't realized that for so many years I had been speaking a language without words to my sheep.

In return, I need money to get to Egypt tomorrow. There are thousands of kilometers of desert between here and there. No sound from the bazaars, no arguments among the merchants, no men climbing to the towers to chant.

No hope, no adventure, no old kings or destinies, no treasure, and no Pyramids. It was as if the world had fallen silent because the boy's soul had.

He sat there, staring blankly through the door of the cafe, wishing that he had died, and that everything would end forever at that moment.

The merchant looked anxiously at the boy. All the joy he had seen that morning had suddenly disappeared. The boy said nothing. He got up, adjusted his clothing, and picked up his pouch.

And after another long silence, he added, "I need money to buy some sheep. The merchant spent the entire day mumbling behind the counter, telling the boy to be careful with the pieces and not to break anything.

But he stayed with the job because the merchant, although he was an old grouch, treated him fairly; the boy received a good commission for each piece he sold, and had already been able to put some money aside.

That morning he had done some calculating: if he continued to work every day as he had been, he would need a whole year to be able to buy some sheep.

But that's the way life is with sheep and with shepherds. He was selling better than ever. Why ask more out of life? Because life wants you to achieve your destiny," the old king had said.

But the merchant understood what the boy had said. The boy's very presence in the shop was an omen, and, as time passed and money was pouring into the cash drawer, he had no regrets about having hired the boy.

The boy was being paid more money than he deserved, because the merchant, thinking that sales wouldn't amount to much, had offered the boy a high commission rate.

He had assumed he would soon return to his sheep. The treasure was now nothing but a painful memory, and he tried to avoid thinking about it. You could build one in your backyard.

Two days later, the merchant spoke to the boy about the display. If he makes a buying mistake, it doesn't affect him much. But we two have to live with our mistakes.

We have to take advantage when luck is on our side, and do as much to help it as it's doing to help us. It's called the principle of favorability.

Or beginner's luck. Then he said, "The Prophet gave us the Koran, and left us just five obligations to satisfy during our lives.

The most important is to believe only in the one true God. The others are to pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan, and be charitable to the poor.

His eyes filled with tears as he spoke of the Prophet. He was a devout man, and, even with all his impatience, he wanted to live his life in accordance with Muslim law.

We are obliged, at least once in our lives, to visit the holy city of Mecca. When I was young, all I wanted to do was put together enough money to start this shop.

I thought that someday I'd be rich, and could go to Mecca. I began to make some money, but I could never bring myself to leave someone in charge of the shop; the crystals are delicate things.

At the same time, people were passing my shop all the time, heading for Mecca. Some of them were rich pilgrims, traveling in caravans with servants and camels, but most of the people making the pilgrimage were poorer than I.

They placed the symbols of the pilgrimage on the doors of their houses. One of them, a cobbler who made his living mending boots, said that he had traveled for almost a year through the desert, but that he got more tired when he had to walk through the streets of Tangier buying his leather.

That's what helps me face these days that are all the same, these mute crystals on the shelves, and lunch and dinner at that same horrible cafe. I'm afraid that if my dream is realized, I'll have no reason to go on living.

I just want to dream about Mecca. I've already imagined a thousand times crossing the desert, arriving at the Plaza of the Sacred Stone, the seven times I walk around it before allowing myself to touch it.

I've already imagined the people who would be at my side, and those in front of me, and the conversations and prayers we would share. But I'm afraid that it would all be a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it.

Not everyone can see his dreams come true in the same way. Two more months passed, and the shelf brought many customers into the crystal shop.

The boy estimated that, if he worked for six more months, he could return to Spain and buy sixty sheep, and yet another sixty.

In less than a year, he would have doubled his flock, and he would be able to do business with the Arabs, because he was now able to speak their strange language.

Since that morning in the marketplace, he had never again made use of Urim and Thummim, because Egypt was now just as distant a dream for him as was Mecca for the merchant.

Anyway, the boy had become happy in his work, and thought all the time about the day when he would disembark at Tarifa as a winner.

The boy knew, and was now working toward it. Maybe it was his treasure to have wound up in that strange land, met up with a thief, and doubled the size of his flock without spending a cent.

He was proud of himself. He had learned some important things, like how to deal in crystal, and about the language without words.

One afternoon he had seen a man at the top of the hill, complaining that it was impossible to find a decent place to get something to drink after such a climb.

The boy, accustomed to recognizing omens, spoke to the merchant. The people will enjoy the tea and want to buy the glasses. I have been told that beauty is the great seducer of men.

I need to buy my sheep back, so I have to earn the money to do so. I know good crystal from bad, and everything else there is to know about crystal.

I know its dimensions and how it behaves. If we serve tea in crystal, the shop is going to expand. And then I'll have to change my way of life.

Before you came, I was thinking about how much time I had wasted in the same place, while my friends had moved on, and either went bankrupt or did better than they had before.

It made me very depressed. Now, I can see that it hasn't been too bad. The shop is exactly the size I always wanted it to be.

I don't want to change anything, because I don't know how to deal with change. I'm used to the way I am.

The old man continued, "You have been a real blessing to me. Today, I understand something I didn't see before: every blessing ignored becomes a curse.

I don't want anything else in life. But you are forcing me to look at wealth and at horizons I have never known. Now that I have seen them, and now that I see how immense my possibilities are, I'm going to feel worse than I did before you arrived.

Because I know the things I should be able to accomplish, and I don't want to do so. They went on smoking the pipe for a while as the sun began to set.

They were conversing in Arabic, and the boy was proud of himself for being able to do so. There had been a time when he thought that his sheep could teach him everything he needed to know about the world.

But they could never have taught him Arabic. There are probably other things in the world that the sheep can't teach me, thought the boy as he regarded the old merchant.

All they ever do, really, is look for food and water. And maybe it wasn't that they were teaching me, but that I was learning from them.

Sometimes, there's just no way to hold back the river. The men climbed the hill, and they were tired when they reached the top.

But there they saw a crystal shop that offered refreshing mint tea. They went in to drink the tea, which was served in beautiful crystal glasses.

The other man remarked that tea was always more delicious when it was served in crystal, because the aroma was retained. The third said that it was a tradition in the Orient to use crystal glasses for tea because it had magical powers.

Before long, the news spread, and a great many people began to climb the hill to see the shop that was doing something new in a trade that was so old.

Other shops were opened that served tea in crystal, but they weren't at the top of a hill, and they had little business. Eventually, the merchant had to hire two more employees.

He began to import enormous quantities of tea, along with his crystal, and his shop was sought out by men and women with a thirst for things new.

And, in that way, the months passed. The boy awoke before dawn. It had been eleven months and nine days since he had first set foot on the African continent.

He dressed in his Arabian clothing of white linen, bought especially for this day. He put his headcloth in place and secured it with a ring made of camel skin.

Wearing his new sandals, he descended the stairs silently. The city was still sleeping. He prepared himself a sandwich and drank some hot tea from a crystal glass.

Then he sat in the sun-filled doorway, smoking the hookah. He smoked in silence, thinking of nothing, and listening to the sound of the wind that brought the scent of the desert.

When he had finished his smoke, he reached into one of his pockets, and sat there for a few moments, regarding what he had withdrawn.

It was a bundle of money. Enough to buy himself a hundred and twenty sheep, a return ticket, and a license to import products from Africa into his own country.

He waited patiently for the merchant to awaken and open the shop. Then the two went off to have some more tea. And you have the money you need to go to Mecca.

Then he turned to the boy. But you know that I'm not going to go to Mecca. Just as you know that you're not going to buy your sheep.

And he gave the boy his blessing. The boy went to his room and packed his belongings. They filled three sacks.

As he was leaving, he saw, in the comer of the room, his old shepherd's pouch. It was bunched up, and he had hardly thought of it for a long time.

As he took his j acket out of the pouch, thinking to give it to someone in the street, the two stones fell to the floor.

Urim and Thummim. It made the boy think of the old king, and it startled him to realize how long it had been since he had thought of him.

For nearly a year, he had been working incessantly, thinking only of putting aside enough money so that he could return to Spain with pride.

He had worked hard for a year, and the omens were that it was time to go. I'm going to go back to doing just what I did before, the boy thought.

Even though the sheep didn't teach me to speak Arabic. But the sheep had taught him something even more important: that there was a language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout the time that he was trying to improve things at the shop.

It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired. Tangier was no longer a strange city, and he felt that, just as he had conquered this place, he could conquer the world.

But the old king hadn't said anything about being robbed, or about endless deserts, or about people who know what their dreams are but don't want to realize them.

The old king hadn't told him that the Pyramids were just a pile of stones, or that anyone could build one in his backyard. And he had forgotten to mention that, when you have enough money to buy a flock larger than the one you had before, you should buy it.

The boy picked up his pouch and put it with his other things. He went down the stairs and found the merchant waiting on a foreign couple, while two other customers walked about the shop, drinking tea from crystal glasses.

It was more activity than usual for this time of the morning. From where he stood, he saw for the first time that the old merchant's hair was very much like the hair of the old king.

He remembered the smile of the candy seller, on his first day in Tangier, when he had nothing to eat and nowhere to go — that smile had also been like the old king's smile.

It's almost as if he had been here and left his mark, he thought. And yet, none of these people has ever met the old king.

On the other hand, he said that he always appeared to help those who are trying to realize their destiny. He left without saying good-bye to the crystal merchant.

He didn't want to cry with the other people there. He was going to miss the place and all the good things he had learned.

He was more confident in himself, though, and felt as though he could conquer the world. He had worked for an entire year to make a dream come true, and that dream, minute by minute, was becoming less important.

Maybe because that wasn't really his dream. Who knows. But as he held Urim and Thurnmim in his hand, they had transmitted to him the strength and will of the old king.

By coincidence — or maybe it was an omen, the boy thought — he came to the bar he had entered on his first day there. The thief wasn't there, and the owner brought him a cup of tea.

I can always go back to being a shepherd, the boy thought. I learned how to care for sheep, and I haven't forgotten how that's done. But maybe I'll never have another chance to get to the Pyramids in Egypt.

The old man wore a breastplate of gold, and he knew about my past. He really was a king, a wise king. The hills of Andalusia were only two hours away, but there was an entire desert between him and the Pyramids.

Yet the boy felt that there was another way to regard his situation: he was actually two hours closer to his treasure.

I know why I want to get back to my flock, he thought. I understand sheep; they're no longer a problem, and they can be good friends. On the other hand, I don't know if the desert can be a friend, and it's in the desert that I have to search for my treasure.

If I don't find it, I can always go home. I finally have enough money, and all the time I need. Why not?

He suddenly felt tremendously happy. He could always go back to being a shepherd. He could always become a crystal salesman again.

Maybe the world had other hidden treasures, but he had a dream, and he had met with a king. That doesn't happen to just anyone! He was planning as he left the bar.

He had remembered that one of the crystal merchant's suppliers transported his crystal by means of caravans that crossed the desert. He held Urim and Thummim in his hand; because of those two stones, he was once again on the way to his treasure.

What could it cost to go over to the supplier's warehouse and find out if the Pyramids were really that far away? The Englishman was sitting on a bench in a structure that smelled of animals, sweat, and dust; it was part warehouse, part corral.

I never thought I'd end up in a place like this, he thought, as he leafed through the pages of a chemical journal.

Ten years at the university, and here I am in a corral. But he had to move on. He believed in omens. All his life and all his studies were aimed at finding the one true language of the universe.

First he had studied Esperanto, then the world's religions, and now it was alchemy. He knew how to speak Esperanto, he understood all the major religions well, but he wasn't yet an alchemist.

He had unraveled the truths behind important questions, but his studies had taken him to a point beyond which he could not seem to go. He had tried in vain to establish a relationship with an alchemist.

But the alchemists were strange people, who thought only about themselves, and almost always refused to help him.

Who knows, maybe they had failed to discover the secret of the Master Work — the Philosopher's Stone — and for this reason kept their knowledge to themselves.

He had already spent much of the fortune left to him by his father, fruitlessly seeking the Philosopher's Stone.

He had spent enormous amounts of time at the great libraries of the world, and had purchased all the rarest and most important volumes on alchemy.

In one he had read that, many years ago, a famous Arabian alchemist had visited Europe. It was said that he was more than two hundred years old, and that he had discovered the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life.

The Englishman had been profoundly impressed by the story. But he would never have thought it more than just a myth, had not a friend of his — retorting from an archaeological expedition in the desert — told him about an Arab that was possessed of exceptional powers.

He canceled all his commitments and pulled together the most important of his books, and now here he was, sitting inside a dusty, smelly warehouse.

Outside, a huge caravan was being prepared for a crossing of the Sahara, and was scheduled to pass through Al-Fayoum. I'm going to find that damned alchemist, the Englishman thought.

And the odor of the animals became a bit more tolerable. A young Arab, also loaded down with baggage, entered, and greeted the Englishman.

He didn't want any conversation at this point. What he needed to do was review all he had learned over the years, because the alchemist would certainly put him to the test.

The young Arab took out a book and began to read. The book was written in Spanish. That's good, thought the Englishman. He spoke Spanish better than Arabic, and, if this boy was going to Al-Fayoum, there would be someone to talk to when there were no other important things to do.

He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things.

When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.

When I decided to seek out my treasure, I never imagined that I'd wind up working in a crystal shop, he thought. And joining this caravan may have been my decision, but where it goes is going to be a mystery tome.

Nearby was the Englishman, reading a book. He seemed unfriendly, and had looked irritated when the boy had entered.

They might even have become friends, but the Englishman closed off the conversation. The boy closed his book.

He felt that he didn't want to do anything that might make him look like the Englishman. He took Urim and Thummim from his pocket, and began playing with them.

The stranger shouted, "Urim and Thummim! But those who know about such things would know that those are Urim and Thummim. I didn't know that they had them in this part of the world.

The stranger didn't answer; instead, he put his hand in his pocket, and took out two stones that were the same as the boy's.

It was shepherds who were the first to recognize a king that the rest of the world refused to acknowledge.

So, it's not surprising that kings would talk to shepherds. The same book that taught me about Urim and Thummim.

These stones were the only form of divination permitted by God. The priests carried them in a golden breastplate. I am in search of that universal language, among other things.

That's why I'm here. I have to find a man who knows that universal language. An alchemist. It's with those words that the universal language is written.

And he asked the boy if he, too, were in search of the alchemist. But the Englishman appeared not to attach any importance to it. The desert is a capricious lady, and sometimes she drives men crazy.

In the crowd were women, children, and a number of men with swords at their belts and rifles slung on their shoulders.

The Englishman had several suitcases filled with books. There was a babble of noise, and the leader had to repeat himself several times for everyone to understand what he was saying.

But the only God I serve is Allah, and in his name I swear that I will do everything possible once again to win out over the desert. But I want each and every one of you to swear by the God you believe in that you will follow my orders no matter what.

In the desert, disobedience means death. Each was swearing quietly to his or her own God. The boy swore to Jesus Christ.

The Englishman said nothing. And the murmur lasted longer than a simple vow would have. The people were also praying to heaven for protection.

A long note was sounded on a bugle, and everyone mounted up. The boy and the Englishman had bought camels, and climbed uncertainly onto their backs.

The boy felt sorry for the Englishman's camel, loaded down as he was with the cases of books. The boy knew what he was about to describe, though: the mysterious chain that links one thing to another, the same chain that had caused him to become a shepherd, that had caused his recurring dream, that had brought him to a city near Africa, to find a king, and to be robbed in order to meet a crystal merchant, and The closer one gets to realizing his destiny, the more that destiny becomes his true reason for being, thought the boy.

The caravan moved toward the east. It traveled during the morning, halted when the sun was at its strongest, and resumed late in the afternoon. The boy spoke very little with the Englishman, who spent most of his time with his books.

The boy observed in silence the progress of the animals and people across the desert. Now everything was quite different from how it was that day they had set out: then, there had been confusion and shouting, the cries of children and the whinnying of animals, all mixed with the nervous orders of the guides and the merchants.

But, in the desert, there was only the sound of the eternal wind, and of the hoofbeats of the animals. Even the guides spoke very little to one another.

Whenever he saw the sea, or a fire, he fell silent, impressed by their elemental force. I've learned things from the sheep, and I've learned things from crystal, he thought.

I can learn something from the desert, too. It seems old and wise. The wind never stopped, and the boy remembered the day he had sat at the fort in Tarifa with this same wind blowing in his face.

It reminded him of the wool from his sheep. That's good. Creatures like the sheep, that are used to traveling, know about moving on.

Perhaps to a baker, or to another shepherd who could read and could tell her exciting stories — after all, he probably wasn't the only one.

But he was excited at his intuitive understanding of the camel driver's comment: maybe he was also learning the universal language that deals with the past and the present of all people.

The boy was beginning to understand that intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it's all written there.

The desert was all sand in some stretches, and rocky in others. When the caravan was blocked by a boulder, it had to go around it; if there was a large rocky area, they had to make a major detour.

If the sand was too fine for the animals' hooves, they sought a way where the sand was more substantial. In some places, the ground was covered with the salt of dried-up lakes.

The animals balked at such places, and the camel drivers were forced to dismount and unburden their charges. The drivers carried the freight themselves over such treacherous footing, and then reloaded the camels.

If a guide were to fall ill or die, the camel drivers would draw lots and appoint a new one. But all this happened for one basic reason: no matter how many detours and adjustments it made, the caravan moved toward the same compass point.

Once obstacles were overcome, it returned to its course, sighting on a star that indicated the location of the oasis.

When the people saw that star shining in the morning sky, they knew they were on the right course toward water, palm trees, shelter, and other people.

It was only the Englishman who was unaware of all this; he was, for the most part, immersed in reading his books. The boy, too, had his book, and he had tried to read it during the first few days of the journey.

But he found it much more interesting to observe the caravan and listen to the wind. As soon as he had learned to know his camel better, and to establish a relationship with him, he threw the book away.

Although the boy had developed a superstition that each time he opened the book he would learn something important, he decided it was an unnecessary burden.

He became friendly with the camel driver who traveled alongside him. At night, as they sat around the fire, the boy related to the driver his adventures as a shepherd.

During one of these conversations, the driver told of his own life. One year, when the crop was the best ever, we all went to Mecca, and I satisfied the only unmet obligation in my life.

I could die happily, and that made me feel good. It was something that I thought could happen only to others, never to me.

My neighbors feared they would lose all their olive trees in the flood, and my wife was afraid that we would lose our children.

I thought that everything I owned would be destroyed. So now I'm a camel driver. But that disaster taught me to understand the word of Allah: people need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want.

But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand. One always had something that the other needed — as if everything were indeed written by one hand.

As they sat around the fire, the camel drivers exchanged information about windstorms, and told stories about the desert.

At other times, mysterious, hooded men would appear; they were Bedouins who did surveillance along the caravan route. They provided warnings about thieves and barbarian tribes.

They came in silence and departed the same way, dressed in black garments that showed only their eyes. One night, a camel driver came to the fire where the Englishman and the boy were sitting.

The three fell silent. The boy noted that there was a sense of fear in the air, even though no one said anything.

Once again he was experiencing the language without words. The Englishman asked if they were in danger. The rest is up to Allah, including the danger.

The days had always been silent, but now, even the nights — when the travelers were accustomed to talking around the fires — had also become quiet.

And, one day, the leader of the caravan made the decision that the fires should no longer be lighted, so as not to attract attention to the caravan.

The travelers adopted the practice of arranging the animals in a circle at night, sleeping together in the center as protection against the nocturnal cold.

And the leader posted armed sentinels at the fringes of the group. The Englishman was unable to sleep one night. He called to the boy, and they took a walk along the dunes surrounding the encampment.

There was a full moon, and the boy told the Englishman the story of his life. The Englishman was fascinated with the part about the progress achieved at the crystal shop after the boy began working there.

When you want something with all your heart, that's when you are closest to the Soul of the World.

It's always a positive force. We are part of that soul, so we rarely recognize that it is working for us. But in the crystal shop you probably realized that even the glasses were collaborating in your success.

It's going to test the caravan's every step to see if it's in time, and, if it is, we will make it to the oasis.

They were strange books. They spoke about mercury, salt, dragons, and kings, and he didn't understand any of it.

But there was one idea that seemed to repeat itself throughout all the books: all things are the manifestation of one thing only.

In one of the books he learned that the most important text in the literature of alchemy contained only a few lines, and had been inscribed on the surface of an emerald.

The book that most interested the boy told the stories of the famous alchemists. They were men who had dedicated their entire lives to the purification of metals in their laboratories; they believed that, if a metal were heated for many years, it would free itself of all its individual properties, and what was left would be the Soul of the World.

This Soul of the World allowed them to understand anything on the face of the earth, because it was the language with which all things communicated.

They called that discovery the Master Work — it was part liquid and part solid. Every step has to be followed exactly as it was followed by the masters.

And the solid part was called the Philosopher's Stone. They spent so much time close to the fire that gradually they gave up the vanities of the world.

They discovered that the purification of the metals had led to a purification of themselves. He had said that it was a good thing for the boy to clean the crystal pieces, so that he could free himself from negative thoughts.

The boy was becoming more and more convinced that alchemy could be learned in one's daily life. A small sliver of the stone can transform large quantities of metal into gold.

He thought that, with some patience, he'd be able to transform everything into gold. He read the lives of the various people who had succeeded in doing so: Helvetius, Elias, Fulcanelli, and Geber.

They were fascinating stories: each of them lived out his destiny to the end. They traveled, spoke with wise men, performed miracles for the incredulous, and owned the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life.

But when the boy wanted to learn how to achieve the Master Work, he became completely lost. There were just drawings, coded instructions, and obscure texts.

The boy had noticed that the Englishman was irritable, and missed his books. Gold would lose its value. That's why I'm here in the middle of the desert.

I'm seeking a true alchemist who will help me to decipher the codes. Why did they use such strange language, with so many drawings?

He said that for the past few days he had been paying attention to how the caravan operated, but that he hadn't learned anything new. The only thing he had noticed was that talk of war was becoming more and more frequent.

Then one day the boy returned the books to the Englishman. He needed someone to talk to so as to avoid thinking about the possibility of war. I learned that many alchemists realized their destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher's Stone, and the Elixir of Life.

The years of research, the magic symbols, the strange words and the laboratory equipment. His soul must be too primitive to understand those things, he thought.

He took back his books and packed them away again in their bags. But we're both in search of our destinies, and I respect him for that.

The hooded Bedouins reappeared more and more frequently, and the camel driver — who had become a good friend of the boy's — explained that the war between the tribes had already begun.

The caravan would be very lucky to reach the oasis. The animals were exhausted, and the men talked among themselves less and less.

The silence was the worst aspect of the night, when the mere groan of a camel — which before had been nothing but the groan of a camel — now frightened everyone, because it might signal a raid.

The camel driver, though, seemed not to be very concerned with the threat of war. If I'm on the march, I just concentrate on marching. If I have to fight, it will be just as good a day to die as any other.

I'm interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you'll be a happy man. You'll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens, and that tribesmen fight because they are part of the human race.

Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we're living right now.

He thought that the horizon was a bit lower than it had been, because he seemed to see stars on the desert itself.

There, in front of him, where the small stars had been the night before, was an endless row of date palms, stretching across the entire desert.

But the boy was quiet. He was at home with the silence of the desert, and he was content just to look at the trees. He still had a long way to go to reach the pyramids, and someday this morning would just be a memory.

But this was the present moment — the party the camel driver had mentioned — and he wanted to live it as he did the lessons of his past and his dreams of the future.

Although the vision of the date palms would someday be just a memory, right now it signified shade, water, and a refuge from the war.

Yesterday, the camel's groan signaled danger, and now a row of date palms could herald a miracle. The world speaks many languages, the boy thought.

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One of the best-selling book in history which has set the Guinness Record for most translated book ever in so many languages by a living author. The Alchemist is based on the shepherd boy named Santiago , who had to believe that his dreams are always true.

Based on his dream, he decides to travel to the Egypt as he saw the treasure there in the pyramids of Egypt.

In his journey to Egypt, he came along with many characters and people. He experienced different situations and see different aspects of life in his journey.

He meets an old king who asks the boy to sell his sheep to travel to Egypt and introduces him the idea of personal legend by his help. Along the way to Egypt, he meets another man who came to search for the Alchemist.

He continues to travel with him. When I had my sheep, I was happy, and I made those around me happy. People saw me coming and welcomed me, he thought.

But now I'm sad and alone. I'm going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me. I'm going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine.

And I'm going to hold on to what little I have, because I'm too insignificant to conquer the world. He opened his pouch to see what was left of his possessions; maybe there was a bit left of the sandwich he had eaten on the ship.

But all he found was the heavy book, his jacket, and the two stones the old man had given him. As he looked at the stones, he felt relieved for some reason.

He had exchanged six sheep for two precious stones that had been taken from a gold breastplate. He could sell the stones and buy a return ticket.

But this time I'll be smarter, the boy thought, removing them from the pouch so he could put them in his pocket. This was a port town, and the only truthful thing his friend had told him was that port towns are full of thieves.

Now he understood why the owner of the bar had been so upset: he was trying to tell him not to trust that man.

They were his treasure. Just handling them made him feel better. They reminded him of the old man. The boy was trying to understand the truth of what the old man had said.

There he was in the empty marketplace, without a cent to his name, and with not a sheep to guard through the night. But the stones were proof that he had met with a king — a king who knew of the boy's past.

The old man had said to ask very clear questions, and to do that, the boy had to know what he wanted. So, he asked if the old man's blessing was still with him.

He took out one of the stones. It was "yes. He stuck his hand into the pouch, and felt around for one of the stones. As he did so, both of them pushed through a hole in the pouch and fell to the ground.

The boy had never even noticed that there was a hole in his pouch. He knelt down to find Urim and Thummim and put them back in the pouch.

But as he saw them lying there on the ground, another phrase came to his mind. An omen. The boy smiled to himself.

He picked up the two stones and put them back in his pouch. He didn't consider mending the hole — the stones could fall through any time they wanted.

He had learned that there were certain things one shouldn't ask about, so as not to flee from one's own destiny.

But the stones had told him that the old man was still with him, and that made him feel more confident. He looked around at the empty plaza again, feeling less desperate than before.

This wasn't a strange place; it was a new one. After all, what he had always wanted was just that: to know new places.

Even if he never got to the Pyramids, he had already traveled farther than any shepherd he knew. Oh, if they only knew how different things are just two hours by ship from where they are, he thought.

Although his new world at the moment was just an empty marketplace, he had already seen it when it was teeming with life, and he would never forget it.

He remembered the sword. It hurt him a bit to think about it, but he had never seen one like it before. As he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.

He was shaken into wakefulness by someone. He had fallen asleep in the middle of the marketplace, and life in the plaza was about to resume. Looking around, he sought his sheep, and then realized that he was in a new world.

But instead of being saddened, he was happy. He no longer had to seek out food and water for the sheep; he could go in search of his treasure, instead.

He had not a cent in his pocket, but he had faith. He had decided, the night before, that he would be as much an adventurer as the ones he had admired in books.

He walked slowly through the market. The merchants were assembling their stalls, and the boy helped a candy seller to do his. The candy seller had a smile on his face: he was happy, aware of what his life was about, and ready to begin a day's work.

His smile reminded the boy of the old man — the mysterious old king he had met. He's doing it because it's what he wants to do," thought the boy.

He realized that he could do the same thing the old man had done — sense whether a person was near to or far from his destiny.

Just by looking at them. It's easy, and yet I've never done it before, he thought. When the stall was assembled, the candy seller offered the boy the first sweet he had made for the day.

The boy thanked him, ate it, and went on his way. When he had gone only a short distance, he realized that, while they were erecting the stall, one of them had spoken Arabic and the other Spanish.

And they had understood each other perfectly well. There must be a language that doesn't depend on words, the boy thought.

I've already had that experience with my sheep, and now it's happening with people. He was learning a lot of new things. Some of them were things that he had already experienced, and weren't really new, but that he had never perceived before.

And he hadn't perceived them because he had become accustomed to them. He realized: If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.

Relaxed and unhurried, he resolved that he would walk through the narrow streets of Tangier. Only in that way would he be able to read the omens.

He knew it would require a lot of patience, but shepherds know all about patience. Once again he saw that, in that strange land, he was applying the same lessons he had learned with his sheep.

The crystal merchant awoke with the day, and felt the same anxiety that he felt every morning. He had been in the same place for thirty years: a shop at the top of a hilly street where few customers passed.

Now it was too late to change anything — the only thing he had ever learned to do was to buy and sell crystal glassware.

There had been a time when many people knew of his shop: Arab merchants, French and English geologists, German soldiers who were always well-heeled.

In those days it had been wonderful to be selling crystal, and he had thought how he would become rich, and have beautiful women at his side as he grew older.

But, as time passed, Tangier had changed. The nearby city of Ceuta had grown faster than Tangier, and business had fallen off. Neighbors moved away, and there remained only a few small shops on the hill.

And no one was going to climb the hill just to browse through a few small shops. But the crystal merchant had no choice.

He had lived thirty years of his life buying and selling crystal pieces, and now it was too late to do anything else.

He spent the entire morning observing the infrequent comings and goings in the street. He had done this for years, and knew the schedule of everyone who passed.

But, just before lunchtime, a boy stopped in front of the shop. He was dressed normally, but the practiced eyes of the crystal merchant could see that the boy had no money to spend.

Nevertheless, the merchant decided to delay his lunch for a few minutes until the boy moved on. A card hanging in the doorway announced that several languages were spoken in the shop.

The boy saw a man appear behind the counter. In his pouch, he had his jacket — he certainly wasn't going to need it in the desert.

Taking the jacket out, he began to clean the glasses. In half an hour, he had cleaned all the glasses in the window, and, as he was doing so, two customers had entered the shop and bought some crystal.

When he had completed the cleaning, he asked the man for something to eat. He put a sign on the door, and they went to a small cafe nearby.

As they sat down at the only table in the place, the crystal merchant laughed. And both you and I needed to cleanse our minds of negative thoughts. Two customers came in today while you were working, and that's a good omen.

But they really don't know what they're saying. Just as I hadn't realized that for so many years I had been speaking a language without words to my sheep.

In return, I need money to get to Egypt tomorrow. There are thousands of kilometers of desert between here and there. No sound from the bazaars, no arguments among the merchants, no men climbing to the towers to chant.

No hope, no adventure, no old kings or destinies, no treasure, and no Pyramids. It was as if the world had fallen silent because the boy's soul had.

He sat there, staring blankly through the door of the cafe, wishing that he had died, and that everything would end forever at that moment.

The merchant looked anxiously at the boy. All the joy he had seen that morning had suddenly disappeared. The boy said nothing. He got up, adjusted his clothing, and picked up his pouch.

And after another long silence, he added, "I need money to buy some sheep. The merchant spent the entire day mumbling behind the counter, telling the boy to be careful with the pieces and not to break anything.

But he stayed with the job because the merchant, although he was an old grouch, treated him fairly; the boy received a good commission for each piece he sold, and had already been able to put some money aside.

That morning he had done some calculating: if he continued to work every day as he had been, he would need a whole year to be able to buy some sheep.

But that's the way life is with sheep and with shepherds. He was selling better than ever. Why ask more out of life? Because life wants you to achieve your destiny," the old king had said.

But the merchant understood what the boy had said. The boy's very presence in the shop was an omen, and, as time passed and money was pouring into the cash drawer, he had no regrets about having hired the boy.

The boy was being paid more money than he deserved, because the merchant, thinking that sales wouldn't amount to much, had offered the boy a high commission rate.

He had assumed he would soon return to his sheep. The treasure was now nothing but a painful memory, and he tried to avoid thinking about it.

You could build one in your backyard. Two days later, the merchant spoke to the boy about the display. If he makes a buying mistake, it doesn't affect him much.

But we two have to live with our mistakes. We have to take advantage when luck is on our side, and do as much to help it as it's doing to help us.

It's called the principle of favorability. Or beginner's luck. Then he said, "The Prophet gave us the Koran, and left us just five obligations to satisfy during our lives.

The most important is to believe only in the one true God. The others are to pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan, and be charitable to the poor.

His eyes filled with tears as he spoke of the Prophet. He was a devout man, and, even with all his impatience, he wanted to live his life in accordance with Muslim law.

We are obliged, at least once in our lives, to visit the holy city of Mecca. When I was young, all I wanted to do was put together enough money to start this shop.

I thought that someday I'd be rich, and could go to Mecca. I began to make some money, but I could never bring myself to leave someone in charge of the shop; the crystals are delicate things.

At the same time, people were passing my shop all the time, heading for Mecca. Some of them were rich pilgrims, traveling in caravans with servants and camels, but most of the people making the pilgrimage were poorer than I.

They placed the symbols of the pilgrimage on the doors of their houses. One of them, a cobbler who made his living mending boots, said that he had traveled for almost a year through the desert, but that he got more tired when he had to walk through the streets of Tangier buying his leather.

That's what helps me face these days that are all the same, these mute crystals on the shelves, and lunch and dinner at that same horrible cafe.

I'm afraid that if my dream is realized, I'll have no reason to go on living. I just want to dream about Mecca. I've already imagined a thousand times crossing the desert, arriving at the Plaza of the Sacred Stone, the seven times I walk around it before allowing myself to touch it.

I've already imagined the people who would be at my side, and those in front of me, and the conversations and prayers we would share.

But I'm afraid that it would all be a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it. Not everyone can see his dreams come true in the same way.

Two more months passed, and the shelf brought many customers into the crystal shop. The boy estimated that, if he worked for six more months, he could return to Spain and buy sixty sheep, and yet another sixty.

In less than a year, he would have doubled his flock, and he would be able to do business with the Arabs, because he was now able to speak their strange language.

Since that morning in the marketplace, he had never again made use of Urim and Thummim, because Egypt was now just as distant a dream for him as was Mecca for the merchant.

Anyway, the boy had become happy in his work, and thought all the time about the day when he would disembark at Tarifa as a winner. The boy knew, and was now working toward it.

Maybe it was his treasure to have wound up in that strange land, met up with a thief, and doubled the size of his flock without spending a cent.

He was proud of himself. He had learned some important things, like how to deal in crystal, and about the language without words.

One afternoon he had seen a man at the top of the hill, complaining that it was impossible to find a decent place to get something to drink after such a climb.

The boy, accustomed to recognizing omens, spoke to the merchant. The people will enjoy the tea and want to buy the glasses. I have been told that beauty is the great seducer of men.

I need to buy my sheep back, so I have to earn the money to do so. I know good crystal from bad, and everything else there is to know about crystal.

I know its dimensions and how it behaves. If we serve tea in crystal, the shop is going to expand. And then I'll have to change my way of life.

Before you came, I was thinking about how much time I had wasted in the same place, while my friends had moved on, and either went bankrupt or did better than they had before.

It made me very depressed. Now, I can see that it hasn't been too bad. The shop is exactly the size I always wanted it to be.

I don't want to change anything, because I don't know how to deal with change. I'm used to the way I am. The old man continued, "You have been a real blessing to me.

Today, I understand something I didn't see before: every blessing ignored becomes a curse. I don't want anything else in life.

But you are forcing me to look at wealth and at horizons I have never known. Now that I have seen them, and now that I see how immense my possibilities are, I'm going to feel worse than I did before you arrived.

Because I know the things I should be able to accomplish, and I don't want to do so. They went on smoking the pipe for a while as the sun began to set.

They were conversing in Arabic, and the boy was proud of himself for being able to do so. There had been a time when he thought that his sheep could teach him everything he needed to know about the world.

But they could never have taught him Arabic. There are probably other things in the world that the sheep can't teach me, thought the boy as he regarded the old merchant.

All they ever do, really, is look for food and water. And maybe it wasn't that they were teaching me, but that I was learning from them.

Sometimes, there's just no way to hold back the river. The men climbed the hill, and they were tired when they reached the top. But there they saw a crystal shop that offered refreshing mint tea.

They went in to drink the tea, which was served in beautiful crystal glasses. The other man remarked that tea was always more delicious when it was served in crystal, because the aroma was retained.

The third said that it was a tradition in the Orient to use crystal glasses for tea because it had magical powers. Before long, the news spread, and a great many people began to climb the hill to see the shop that was doing something new in a trade that was so old.

Other shops were opened that served tea in crystal, but they weren't at the top of a hill, and they had little business. Eventually, the merchant had to hire two more employees.

He began to import enormous quantities of tea, along with his crystal, and his shop was sought out by men and women with a thirst for things new.

And, in that way, the months passed. The boy awoke before dawn. It had been eleven months and nine days since he had first set foot on the African continent.

He dressed in his Arabian clothing of white linen, bought especially for this day. He put his headcloth in place and secured it with a ring made of camel skin.

Wearing his new sandals, he descended the stairs silently. The city was still sleeping. He prepared himself a sandwich and drank some hot tea from a crystal glass.

Then he sat in the sun-filled doorway, smoking the hookah. He smoked in silence, thinking of nothing, and listening to the sound of the wind that brought the scent of the desert.

When he had finished his smoke, he reached into one of his pockets, and sat there for a few moments, regarding what he had withdrawn.

It was a bundle of money. Enough to buy himself a hundred and twenty sheep, a return ticket, and a license to import products from Africa into his own country.

He waited patiently for the merchant to awaken and open the shop. Then the two went off to have some more tea. And you have the money you need to go to Mecca.

Then he turned to the boy. But you know that I'm not going to go to Mecca. Just as you know that you're not going to buy your sheep. And he gave the boy his blessing.

The boy went to his room and packed his belongings. They filled three sacks. As he was leaving, he saw, in the comer of the room, his old shepherd's pouch.

It was bunched up, and he had hardly thought of it for a long time. As he took his j acket out of the pouch, thinking to give it to someone in the street, the two stones fell to the floor.

Urim and Thummim. It made the boy think of the old king, and it startled him to realize how long it had been since he had thought of him.

For nearly a year, he had been working incessantly, thinking only of putting aside enough money so that he could return to Spain with pride.

He had worked hard for a year, and the omens were that it was time to go. I'm going to go back to doing just what I did before, the boy thought.

Even though the sheep didn't teach me to speak Arabic. But the sheep had taught him something even more important: that there was a language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout the time that he was trying to improve things at the shop.

It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired. Tangier was no longer a strange city, and he felt that, just as he had conquered this place, he could conquer the world.

But the old king hadn't said anything about being robbed, or about endless deserts, or about people who know what their dreams are but don't want to realize them.

The old king hadn't told him that the Pyramids were just a pile of stones, or that anyone could build one in his backyard. And he had forgotten to mention that, when you have enough money to buy a flock larger than the one you had before, you should buy it.

The boy picked up his pouch and put it with his other things. He went down the stairs and found the merchant waiting on a foreign couple, while two other customers walked about the shop, drinking tea from crystal glasses.

It was more activity than usual for this time of the morning. From where he stood, he saw for the first time that the old merchant's hair was very much like the hair of the old king.

He remembered the smile of the candy seller, on his first day in Tangier, when he had nothing to eat and nowhere to go — that smile had also been like the old king's smile.

It's almost as if he had been here and left his mark, he thought. And yet, none of these people has ever met the old king. On the other hand, he said that he always appeared to help those who are trying to realize their destiny.

He left without saying good-bye to the crystal merchant. He didn't want to cry with the other people there.

He was going to miss the place and all the good things he had learned. He was more confident in himself, though, and felt as though he could conquer the world.

He had worked for an entire year to make a dream come true, and that dream, minute by minute, was becoming less important. Maybe because that wasn't really his dream.

Who knows. But as he held Urim and Thurnmim in his hand, they had transmitted to him the strength and will of the old king.

By coincidence — or maybe it was an omen, the boy thought — he came to the bar he had entered on his first day there. The thief wasn't there, and the owner brought him a cup of tea.

I can always go back to being a shepherd, the boy thought. I learned how to care for sheep, and I haven't forgotten how that's done. But maybe I'll never have another chance to get to the Pyramids in Egypt.

The old man wore a breastplate of gold, and he knew about my past. He really was a king, a wise king. The hills of Andalusia were only two hours away, but there was an entire desert between him and the Pyramids.

Yet the boy felt that there was another way to regard his situation: he was actually two hours closer to his treasure.

I know why I want to get back to my flock, he thought. I understand sheep; they're no longer a problem, and they can be good friends. On the other hand, I don't know if the desert can be a friend, and it's in the desert that I have to search for my treasure.

If I don't find it, I can always go home. I finally have enough money, and all the time I need. Why not? He suddenly felt tremendously happy.

He could always go back to being a shepherd. He could always become a crystal salesman again. Maybe the world had other hidden treasures, but he had a dream, and he had met with a king.

That doesn't happen to just anyone! He was planning as he left the bar. He had remembered that one of the crystal merchant's suppliers transported his crystal by means of caravans that crossed the desert.

He held Urim and Thummim in his hand; because of those two stones, he was once again on the way to his treasure. What could it cost to go over to the supplier's warehouse and find out if the Pyramids were really that far away?

The Englishman was sitting on a bench in a structure that smelled of animals, sweat, and dust; it was part warehouse, part corral.

I never thought I'd end up in a place like this, he thought, as he leafed through the pages of a chemical journal. Ten years at the university, and here I am in a corral.

But he had to move on. He believed in omens. All his life and all his studies were aimed at finding the one true language of the universe.

First he had studied Esperanto, then the world's religions, and now it was alchemy. He knew how to speak Esperanto, he understood all the major religions well, but he wasn't yet an alchemist.

He had unraveled the truths behind important questions, but his studies had taken him to a point beyond which he could not seem to go.

He had tried in vain to establish a relationship with an alchemist. But the alchemists were strange people, who thought only about themselves, and almost always refused to help him.

Who knows, maybe they had failed to discover the secret of the Master Work — the Philosopher's Stone — and for this reason kept their knowledge to themselves.

He had already spent much of the fortune left to him by his father, fruitlessly seeking the Philosopher's Stone. He had spent enormous amounts of time at the great libraries of the world, and had purchased all the rarest and most important volumes on alchemy.

In one he had read that, many years ago, a famous Arabian alchemist had visited Europe. It was said that he was more than two hundred years old, and that he had discovered the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life.

The Englishman had been profoundly impressed by the story. But he would never have thought it more than just a myth, had not a friend of his — retorting from an archaeological expedition in the desert — told him about an Arab that was possessed of exceptional powers.

He canceled all his commitments and pulled together the most important of his books, and now here he was, sitting inside a dusty, smelly warehouse.

Outside, a huge caravan was being prepared for a crossing of the Sahara, and was scheduled to pass through Al-Fayoum. I'm going to find that damned alchemist, the Englishman thought.

And the odor of the animals became a bit more tolerable. A young Arab, also loaded down with baggage, entered, and greeted the Englishman.

He didn't want any conversation at this point. What he needed to do was review all he had learned over the years, because the alchemist would certainly put him to the test.

The young Arab took out a book and began to read. The book was written in Spanish. That's good, thought the Englishman. He spoke Spanish better than Arabic, and, if this boy was going to Al-Fayoum, there would be someone to talk to when there were no other important things to do.

He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things.

When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.

When I decided to seek out my treasure, I never imagined that I'd wind up working in a crystal shop, he thought. And joining this caravan may have been my decision, but where it goes is going to be a mystery tome.

Nearby was the Englishman, reading a book. He seemed unfriendly, and had looked irritated when the boy had entered. They might even have become friends, but the Englishman closed off the conversation.

The boy closed his book. He felt that he didn't want to do anything that might make him look like the Englishman.

He took Urim and Thummim from his pocket, and began playing with them. The stranger shouted, "Urim and Thummim! But those who know about such things would know that those are Urim and Thummim.

I didn't know that they had them in this part of the world. The stranger didn't answer; instead, he put his hand in his pocket, and took out two stones that were the same as the boy's.

It was shepherds who were the first to recognize a king that the rest of the world refused to acknowledge. So, it's not surprising that kings would talk to shepherds.

The same book that taught me about Urim and Thummim. These stones were the only form of divination permitted by God.

The priests carried them in a golden breastplate. I am in search of that universal language, among other things.

That's why I'm here. I have to find a man who knows that universal language. An alchemist. It's with those words that the universal language is written.

And he asked the boy if he, too, were in search of the alchemist. But the Englishman appeared not to attach any importance to it.

The desert is a capricious lady, and sometimes she drives men crazy. In the crowd were women, children, and a number of men with swords at their belts and rifles slung on their shoulders.

The heat lasted until nightfall, and all that time he had to carry his jacket. But when he thought to complain about the burden of its weight, he remembered that, because he had the jacket, he had withstood the cold of the dawn.

We have to be prepared for change, he thought, and he was grateful for the jacket's weight and warmth. The jacket had a purpose, and so did the boy.

His purpose in life was to travel, and, after two years of walking the Andalusian terrain, he knew all the cities of the region.

He was planning, on this visit, to explain to the girl how it was that a simple shepherd knew how to read. That he had attended a seminary until he was sixteen.

His parents had wanted him to become a priest, and thereby a source of pride for a simple farm family.

They worked hard just to have food and water, like the sheep. He had studied Latin, Spanish, and theology. But ever since he had been a child, he had wanted to know the world, and this was much more important to him than knowing God and learning about man's sins.

One afternoon, on a visit to his family, he had summoned up the courage to tell his father that he didn't want to become a priest.

That he wanted to travel. They climb the mountain to see the castle, and they wind up thinking that the past was better than what we have now.

They have blond hair, or dark skin, but basically they're the same as t he people who live right here.

The next day, he gave his son a pouch that held three ancient Spanish gold coins. I wanted them to be a part of your inheritance. But use them to buy your flock.

Take to the fields, and someday you'll learn that our countryside is the best, and our women the most beautiful.

The boy could see in his father's gaze a desire to be able, himself, to travel the world--a desire that was still alive, despite his father's having had to bury it, over dozens of years, under the burden of struggling for water to drink, food to eat, and the same place to sleep every night of his life.

The boy thought back to that conversation with his father, and felt happy; he had already seen many castles and met many women but none the equal of the one who awaited him several days hence.

He owned a jacket, a book that he could trade for another, and a flock of sheep. But, most important, he was able every day to live out his dream.

If he were to tire of the Andalusian fields, he could sell his sheep and go to sea. By the time he had had enough of the sea, he would already have known other cities, other women, and other chances to be happy.

I couldn't have found God in the seminary, he thought, as he looked at the sunrise. Whenever he could, he sought out a new road to travel. He had never been to that ruined church before, in spite of having traveled through those parts many times.

The world was huge and inexhaustible; he had only to allow his sheep to set the route for a while, and he would discover other interesting things.

The problem is that they don't even realize that they're walking a new road every day. They don't see that the fields are new and the seasons change.

All they think about is food and water. Maybe we're all that way, the boy mused. Even me--I haven't thought of other women since I met the merchant's daughter.

Looking at the sun, he calculated that he would reach Tarifa before midday. There, he could exchange his book for a thicker one, fill his wine bottle, shave, and have a haircut; he had to prepare himself for his meeting with the girl, and he didn't want to think about the possibility that some other shepherd, with a larger flock of sheep, had arrived there before him and asked for her hand.

It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting, he thought, as he looked again at the position of the sun, and hurried his pace.

He had suddenly remembered that, in Tarifa, there was an old woman who interpreted dreams. The room's furnishings consisted of a table, an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and two chairs.

The woman sat down, and told him to be seated as well. Then she took both of his hands in hers, and began quietly to pray. It sounded like a Gypsy prayer.

The boy had already had experience on the road with Gypsies; they also traveled, but they had no flocks of sheep.

People said that Gypsies spent their lives tricking others. It was also said that they had a pact with the devil, and that they kidnapped children and, taking them away to their mysterious camps, made them their slaves.

As a child, the boy had always been frightened to death that he would be captured by Gypsies, and this childhood fear returned when the old woman took his hands in hers.

But she has the Sacred Heart of Jesus there, he thought, trying to reassure himself. He didn't want his hand to begin trembling, showing the old woman that he was fearful.

He recited an Our Father silently. The boy was becoming nervous. His hands began to tremble, and the woman sensed it. He quickly pulled his hands away.

He thought for a moment that it would be better to pay her fee and leave without learning a thing, that he was giving too much importance to his recurrent dream.

Posted by Melrajas

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Nach meiner Meinung, es ist die Unwahrheit.

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