Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/712

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might somehow justify such deeds, but I learned that the sole object of the invaders was the suppression of certain views or doubts about the secrets of a future existence. Their adversaries, it seems, confine their worship to the God of the Sun, while the priests of the Monakees address their prayers to several other deities, especially to the Man in the Moon, whom they call the nephew of Allah. It is true that they also assert the superior sanctity of their nation, and, the Karman's faith being opposed to theirs, I was unwilling to adopt his views on this point; but even before we had entered the dwellings of the Monakees I could not help noticing a peculiar smell in the air, an odor resembling the fumes of the East-Bombay[1] rum-shops. A few miles farther west we met a poor boy, who took to his heels as soon as he saw us, though the Karman called after him to stop and not to mistake us for Monakees. He belonged to the race of the Musanites, a tribe of dissenters who live here and there in the Monakee settlements, and seem to be treated well enough as soon as they have acquired a certain amount of wealth, though the poor ones are often subjected to gross indignities. Their offense, too, consists only in a difference of opinion. They seem to be a harmless and very industrious sort of people, but they have no great faith in the Moon-man.

We made thirty miles the next day, and toward evening crossed the Monghistan frontier on the west shore of a dry river-bed. I have seen Persia and India, and the palm-gardens of Yemen, but I believe that this country was originally far more favored by Nature: mountains constantly alternate with plains, highlands with terrace-lands, all intersected by lakes and broad river-valleys, and considering the fertility of the soil it seems that Monghistan must once have been a land of transcendent beauty. Once, I say, for the river-beds are now dry; the lakes are bordered with naked rocks. While Shadissa Ibrahim[2] (may Allah receive his soul kindly!) did his best to redeem our land by planting millions of shade-trees, these unfortunates seem to vie in destroying the last remnants of their woodlands; on all the ridges I saw heaps of felled trees, and in the plains moldering stumps are the only traces of the original forests.

Here, as in India and Darfoor, I have noticed a strange circumstance. As soon as the tall trees (Hochwald, W.) disappear, the underbrush becomes thorny; acacias, mimosas, prickly palms, cactus, and camel-thorns are here the only wild-growing shrubs. By this armor of spines Allah seems to protect these poor plants against the hand of the destroyer, though the Turks of Stamboul would probably say that the thorn-trees were there before the destruction began, and were able to hold their ground while other trees perished.[3]

  1. "Bumbad el Shork," East-Bombay, a suburb of sailors and gamblers.
  2. Ibrahim Pasha.—Mehemet Ali and his son Ibrahim planted 20,000,000 forest-trees in the Thebaïs and along the shore of the Red Sea.—(Marsh, "Man and Nature," p. 189.)
  3. Dr. Reidor understands this passage as an allusion to the Darwinian survival theory,