A selection from
THE TRAVELS OF MARCO POLO
Narrated by John Lescault
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HOW NICOLO AND MAFFEO POLO, ACCOMPANIED BY MARCO, TRAVELED TO THE COURT OF THE GREAT KHAN.
The Two Brothers, and Marco along with them, proceeded on their way, and
journeying on, summer and winter, came at length to the Great Khan, who
was then at a certain rich and great city, called KEMENFU. As to
what they met with on the road, whether in going or coming, we shall give
no particulars at present, because we are going to tell you all those
details in regular order in the after part of this Book. Their journey
to the Khan occupied a good three years and a half, owing to the bad
weather and severe cold that they encountered. And let me tell you in good
sooth that when the Great Khan heard that s Nicolo and Maffeo Polo
were on their way back, he sent people a journey of full 40 days to meet
them; and on this journey, as on their former one, they were honourably
entertained upon the road, and supplied with all that they required.
HOW NICOLO AND MAFFEO POLO AND MARCO PRESENTED THEMSELVES BEFORE THE GREAT KHAN.
And what shall I tell you? When the Two Brothers and Marco had arrived at
that great city, they went to the Imperial Palace, and there they found
the Sovereign attended by a great company of Noblemen. So they knelt
before him, and paid their respects to him, with all possible reverence.
Then the Lord bade them stand up,
and treated them with great honour, showing great pleasure at their
coming, and asked many questions as to their welfare, and how they had been so swift in their journey. They replied that they had journied well, and were glad to see the Khan well and safe. Then they presented the credentials and
letters which they had received from the Pope, which pleased the Khan; and after that they produced the Oil from the Sepulchre, and at that
also he was very glad, for he set great store thereby. And next, spying
Marco, who was then a young gallant, he asked who was that in their
company? "Sire," said his father, Nicolo, "'tis my son and your
liegeman." "Welcome is he too," quoth the Emperor. And why should
I make a long story? There was great rejoicing at the Court because of
their arrival; and they met with attention and honour from everybody.
So there they abode at the Court with the Noblemen.
HOW THE EMPEROR SENT MARCO ON AN EMBASSY OF HIS.
Now it came to pass that Marco, the son of Nicolo, sped wondrously
in learning the customs of the Tartars, as well as their language, their
manner of writing, and their practice of war; in fact he came in brief
space to know several languages, and four sundry written characters. And
he was discreet and prudent in every way, insomuch that the Emperor held
him in great esteem. And so when he discerned Marco to have so much
sense, and to conduct himself so well and beseemingly, he sent him on an
ambassage of his, to a country which was a good six months' journey
distant. The young gallant executed his commission well and with
discretion. Now he had taken note on several occasions that when the
Prince's ambassadors returned from different parts of the world, they were
able to tell him about nothing except the business on which they had gone,
and that the Prince in consequence held them for no better than fools and
dolts, and would say: "I had far liever hearken about the strange things,
and the manners of the different countries you have seen, than merely be
told of the business you went upon;"—for he took great delight in hearing
of the affairs of strange countries. Marco therefore, as he went and
returned, took great pains to learn about all kinds of different matters
in the countries which he visited, in order to be able to tell about them
to the Great Khan.
HOW MARCO RETURNED FROM THE MISSION WHEREON HE HAD BEEN SENT.
When Marco returned from his ambassage he presented himself before the
Emperor, and after making his report of the business with which he was
charged, and its successful accomplishment, he went on to give an account
in a pleasant and intelligent manner of all the novelties and strange
things that he had seen and heard; insomuch that the Emperor and all such
as heard his story were surprised, and said: "If this young man live, he
will assuredly come to be a person of great worth and ability." And so
from that time forward he was always entitled MARCO POLO, and thus
we shall style him henceforth in this Book of ours, as is but right.
Thereafter Marco abode in the Khan's employment some seventeen
years, continually going and coming, hither and thither, on the missions
that were entrusted to him by the Lord [and sometimes, with the permission
and authority of the Great Khan, on his own private affairs.] And, as he
knew all the sovereign's ways, like a sensible man he always took much
pains to gather knowledge of anything that would be likely to interest
him, and then on his return to Court he would relate everything in regular
order, and thus the Emperor came to hold him in great love and favour. And
for this reason also he would employ him the oftener on the most weighty
and most distant of his missions. These Marco ever carried out with
discretion and success, God be thanked. So the Emperor became ever more
partial to him, and treated him with the greater distinction, and kept him
so close to his person that some of the Noblemen waxed very envious thereat.
And thus it came about that Marco Polo had knowledge of, or had
actually visited, a greater number of the different countries of the World
than any other man; the more that he was always giving his mind to get
knowledge, and to spy out and enquire into everything in order to have
matter to relate to the Lord
HOW NICOLO, MAFFEO, AND MARCO, ASKED LEAVE OF THE
GREAT KHAN TO GO THEIR WAY.
When the Two Brothers and Marco had abode with the Lord all that time that
you have been told [having meanwhile acquired great wealth in jewels and
gold], they began among themselves to have thoughts about returning to
their own country; and indeed it was time. For, to say nothing of the
length and infinite perils of the way, when they considered the Khan's
great age, they doubted whether, in the event of his death before their
departure, they would ever be able to get home. They applied to
him several times for leave to go, presenting their request with great
respect, but he had such a partiality for them, and liked so much to have
them about him, that nothing on earth would persuade him to let them go.
Now it came to pass in those days that the Queen BOLGANA, wife of ARGON,
Lord of the Levant, departed this life. And in her Will she had desired
that no Lady should take her place, or succeed her as Argon's wife, except
one of her own family [which existed in Cathay]. Argon therefore
despatched three of his Noblemen, by name respectively OULATAY, APUSCA, and COJA, as ambassadors to the Great Khan, attended by a very gallant
company, in order to bring back as his bride a lady of the family of Queen
Bolgana, his late wife.
When these three Noblemen had reached the Court of the Great Khan, they
delivered their message, explaining wherefore they were come. The Khan
received them with all honour and hospitality, and then sent for a lady
whose name was COCACHIN, who was of the family of the deceased Queen
Bolgana. She was a maiden of 17, a very beautiful and charming person, and
on her arrival at Court she was presented to the three Noblemen as the Lady
chosen in compliance with their demand. They declared that the Lady
pleased them well.
Meanwhile, Marco chanced to return from India, whither he had gone
as the Lord's ambassador, and made his report of all the different things
that he had seen in his travels, and of the sundry seas over which he had
voyaged. And the three Lords, having seen that Nicolo,
Maffeo, and Marco were not only Latins, but men of marvellous good
sense withal, took thought among themselves to get the three to travel
with them, their intention being to return to their country by sea, on
account of the great fatigue of that long land journey for a lady. And the
ambassadors were the more desirous to have their company, as being aware
that those three had great knowledge and experience of the Indian Sea and
the countries by which they would have to pass, and especially
Marco. So they went to the Great Khan, and begged as a favour that he
would send the three Latins with them, as it was their desire to return
home by sea.
The Lord, having that great regard that I have mentioned for those three
Latins, was very loath to do so and his countenance showed great
dissatisfaction. But at last he did give them permission to depart,
enjoining them to accompany the three Lords and the Lady.
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