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A Prologue to the Story

Old Vartabed, the shepherd whose flocks had clothed three generations, stood silhouetted against the skies on the summit of a Taurus hill. His figure was motionless, erect and very tall. The signs of age were in every crease of his grave, strong face, yet his hands folded loosely on his stick, for he would have scorned to lean upon it.

To the east and north spread the plains of the Mamuret-ul-Aziz, with here and there a plateau reaching out from a nest of foothills. Each Spring, through twenty-five centuries, other shepherds than Old Vartabed had stood on this same hilltop to watch the plains and plateaux of the Mamuret-ul-Aziz turn green, but few had seen the grass and shrubs sprout so early as they had this year. Old Vartabed should have been greatly pleased at such promise of a good season, and should have spoken to his sheep about it—for that was his way.

But the shepherd was troubled. A strange foreboding had come to him in the night. Even at daybreak he could not shake it off. He was gazing now,