Sometimes opportunity is right where you are at.
There once lived not far from the River Indus an ancient Persian by the name of Al Hafed. Al Hafed owned a very large farm with orchards, grain fields and gardens. He was a contented and wealthy man, contented because he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was contented.
One day there visited this old farmer one of those ancient Buddhist priests, and he sat down by Al Hafed’s fire and told that old farmer how this world of ours was made. He said that this world was once a mere bank of fog, which is scientifically true, and he said that the Almighty thrust his finger into the bank of fog and then began slowly to move his finger around and gradually to increase the speed of his finger until at last he whirled that bank of fog into a solid ball of fire, and it went rolling through the universe, burning its way through other cosmic banks of fog, until it condensed the moisture without, and fell in floods of rain upon the heated surface and cooled the outward crust. Then the internal flames burst through the cooling crust and threw up the mountains and made the hills and the valleys of this wonderful world of ours. If this internal melted mass burst out and cooled very quickly it became granite; that which cooled less quickly became silver; and less quickly, gold; and after gold diamonds were made. Said the old priest, “A diamond is a congealed drop of sunlight.”
This is a scientific truth also. You all know that a diamond is pure carbon, actually deposited sunlight — and he said another thing I would not forget: he declared that a diamond is the last and highest of God’s mineral creations, as a woman is the last and highest of God’s creations. I suppose that is the reason why the two have such a liking for each other. And the old priest told Al Hafed that if he had a handful of diamonds he could purchase a whole country, and with a mine of diamonds he could place his children upon thrones through the influence of their great wealth.
Al Hafed heard all about diamonds and how much they were worth, and went to his bed that night a poor man — not that he had lost anything, but poor because he was discontented and discontented because he thought he was poor. He said: “I want a mine of diamonds!” So he lay awake all night, and early in the morning sought out the priest.
Now I know from experience that a priest when awakened early in the morning is cross. He awoke that priest out of his dreams and said to him, “Will you tell me where I can find diamonds?” The priest said, “Diamonds? What do you want with diamonds?” “I want to be immensely rich,” said Al Hafed, “but I don’t know where to go.” “Well,” said the priest, “if you will find a river that runs over white sand between high mountains, in those sands you will always see diamonds.” “Do you really believe that there is such a river?” “Plenty of them, plenty of them; all you have to do is just go and find them, then you have them.” Al Hafed said, “I will go.” So he sold his farm, collected his money at interest left his family in charge of a neighbor, and away he went in search of diamonds.
He began very properly, to my mind, at the Mountains of the Moon. Afterwards he went around into Palestine, then wandered on into Europe, and at last, when his money was all spent, and he was in rags, wretchedness and poverty, he stood on the shore of that bay in Barcelona, Spain, when a tidal wave came rolling in through the Pillars of Hercules and the poor, afflicted, suffering man could not resist the awful temptation to cast himself into that incoming tide, and he sank beneath its foaming crest, never to rise in this life again.
When that old guide had told me that very sad story, he stopped the camel I was riding and went back to fix the baggage on one of the other camels, and I remember thinking to myself, “Why did he reserve that for his particular friends?” There seemed to be no beginning, middle or end — nothing to it. That was the first story I ever heard told or read in which the hero was killed in the first chapter. I had but one chapter of that story and the hero was dead.
When the guide came back and took up the halter of my camel again, he went right on with the same story. He said that Al Hafed’s successor led his camel out into the garden to drink, and as that camel put its nose down into the clear water of the garden brook Al Hafed’s successor noticed a curious flash of light from the sands of the shallow stream, and reaching in he pulled out a black stone having an eye of light that reflected all the colors of the rainbow, and he took that curious pebble into the house and left it on the mantel, then went on his way and forgot all about it.
A few days after that, this same old priest who told Al Hafed how diamonds were made, came in to visit his successor, when he saw that flash of light from the mantel. He rushed up and said, “Here is a diamond — here is a diamond! Has Al Hafed returned?” “No, no; Al Hafed has not returned and that is not a diamond; that is nothing but a stone; we found it right out here in our garden.” “But I know a diamond when I see it,” said he; “that is a diamond!”
Then together they rushed to the garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers and found others more beautiful, more valuable diamonds than the first, and thus, said the guide to me, were discovered the diamond mines of Golconda, the most magnificent diamond mines in all the history of mankind, exceeding the Kimberley in its value. The great Kohinoor diamond in England’s crown jewels and the largest crown diamond on earth in Russia’s crown jewels, which I had often hoped she would have to sell before they had peace with Japan, came from that mine, and when the old guide had called my attention to that wonderful discovery he took his Turkish cap off his head again and swung it around in the air to call my attention to the moral.
Those Arab guides have a moral to each story, though the stories are not always moral. He said had Al Hafed remained at home and dug in his own cellar or in his own garden, instead of wretchedness, starvation, poverty and death — a strange land, he would have had “acres of diamonds” — for every acre, yes, every shovelful of that old farm afterwards revealed the gems which since have decorated the crowns of monarchs. When he had given the moral to his story, I saw why he had reserved this story for his “particular friends.” I didn’t tell him I could see it; I was not going to tell that old Arab that I could see it. For it was that mean old Arab’s way of going around such a thing, like a lawyer, and saying indirectly what he did not dare say directly, that there was a certain young man that day traveling down the Tigris River that might better be at home in America. I didn’t tell him I could see it.