Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/223

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THE FUEL OF THE FUTURE. 209

almost night, stood at the farther end with torches, which being ap- plied to the moistened places, the first taking fire, instantly, as quick as a man could think of it, it caught from one end to another in such manner that the whole street was one continued flame. Among those who used to wait upon the king, and find occasion to amuse him, when he anointed and washed himself, there was one Athenophanus, an Athenian, who desired him to make an experiment of the naphtha upon Stephanus, who stood by in the bathing-place, a youth with a ridiculously ugly face, whose talent was singing well. ' For,' said he, ' if it take hold of him, and is not put out, it must undeniably be allowed to be of the most invincible strength.' The youth, as it happened, readily consented to undergo the trial, and, as soon as he was anointed and rubbed with it, his whole body bi'oke out into such a flame, and was so seized by the fire, that Alexander was in the greatest perplexity and alarm for him, and not without reason ; for nothing could have prevented his being consumed by it if, by good chance, there had not been people at hand with a great many vessels of water for the service of the bath, with all which they had much ado to extinguish the fire ; and his body was so burned all over that he was not cured of it a good while after. And thus it is not with- out some plausibility that they endeavor to reconcile the fable to truth, who say this was the drug in the tragedies with which Medea anointed the crown and veils which she gave to Creon's daughter."

An interesting reference to the fire-worshipers of the Caucasus is contained in the " History of Zobeide," a tale of the wonderful Arabian Nights Entertainment. It runs thus :

" I bought a ship at Balsora, and freighted it ; my sisters chose to go with me, and we set sail with a fair wind. Some weeks after we cast anchor in a harbor which presented itself, with intent to water the ship. As I was tired with having been so long on board, I landed with the first boat, and walked up into the country. I soon came in sight of a great town. When I arrived there I was much surprised to see vast numbers of people in different postures, but all immovable. The merchants were in their shops, the soldiery on guard ; every one seemed engaged in his proper avocation, yet all were become as stone. ... I heard the voice of a man reading Al Koran. . . . Being curious to know why he was the only living creature in the town, ... he proceeded to tell me that the city was the metropolis of a kingdom now governed by his father ; that the former king and all his subjects were Magi, worshipers of fire and of Nardoun, the ancient king of the giants who rebelled against God. ' Though I was born,' continued he, ' of idolatrous parents, it was my good fortune to have a woman gov- erness who was a strict obseiwer of the Mohammedan religion. She taught me Arabic from Al Koran ; by her I was instructed in the true religion, which I would never afterward renounce. About three years ago a thundering voice was heard distinctly throughout the city, say-

VOL. XXTII. 14

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