The Alchemist


Part 2

Section 1

It is one month later and, thanks to Santiago’s hard work and innovations, the crystal shop is thriving. Santiago proposes building a display case at the bottom of the hill to bring in even more business. The merchant is reluctant, fearing that people will bump into it and break the crystal. The boy explains that shepherds are used to taking risks. The merchant is afraid of change and the unknown, afraid of the consequences of making a mistake; why not leave well enough alone? Because, Santiago says, they have the principle of favorability on their side, and they have to take advantage of it. The merchant asks him why he had wanted to go to the pyramids. Santiago doesn’t want to answer, because his dream is now but a painful memory. The merchant confesses that he has always wanted to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five obligations of a Muslim. He had been waiting for the day he would be rich enough to make the trip, but when he was making money he was afraid to leave someone else in charge of the shop. Over the years, the merchant has seen his neighbors return from Mecca, many poorer than he, but all happy. Santiago tells him that it’s not too late, but the merchant fears that if he does go, he will then have nothing to look forward to. He keeps his dream alive by not fulfilling it. Still, he does agree to the display case.

Two more months pass, and the boy calculates that in another six, he will be able to buy twice the number of sheep he had before. He has convinced himself that perhaps this was his treasure all along: to be robbed and to live and work in Tangier, ending up richer than before. He has also learned Arabic, all about the crystal business, and about language without words.

Santiago proposes selling tea in crystal glasses to the people who have climbed the hill. The tea drinkers will naturally want to buy the beautiful crystal. The merchant worries about the increased business, which might force him to expand. He says that the boy has been a blessing to him, but also taught him that...

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