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PART IV - THE EAST
CHAPTER V - MARCO POLO

quaintly about oddities, such as the one-eyed cobbler who moved a mountain near Mosul, or the exportation of dried pygmies from India, but he could not differentiate between men and make them come alive, and the East that he evoked is only a land of strange customs. He could manage men and conciliate them and outwit them, but they never fascinated him ; he remained the merchant-diplomat, and it is significant that even his interest in ' novelties ' seems to have been due to a whim of Kublai Khan's ; the Emperor had complained that his envoys usually did their work and nothing else ; he would have liked, he said, out-of-the-way information about the countries they visited, and Marco determined to win his favour here. We get, indeed, the impression of a somewhat unpleasant character, shrewd, complacent, and mean. He despises idolatry, but is glad to benefit by it ; when the witches recover some lost property for him, he experiences pleasure but declines to pay the usual fee. The East will not reveal itself wholly through a mind of this type, and we have to wait two hundred years more before we can see it in its full splendour, in the autobiography of the Emperor Babur. A land of riches and curios is all that Marco Polo unveils, and it is appropriate that his book should have been nicknamed by its enthusiastic contemporaries ' il Milione,' or the Millionaire.

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