Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/714

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ing deafening, I concluded to follow his advice; so, taking the youngster out, I put him on the ground and gave him a slap as a hint to be off. At first he did not stir, though he kept up his screams; but, seeing me retire behind the tent, he ran for his life and soon rejoined his relatives.

As soon as the old ones caught sight of him they stopped their yelling, and, crowding around him, seemed to examine him very carefully, after which the whole troop wheeled around and rushed away much quicker than before, as if they had not overcome their natural fear, and risked their lives merely to save the youngster's—which shows that these animals treat their young ones more kindly than the Monakees (with all their gods) treat their children.

The next morning we started at sunrise and ascended the slope of a mountain whose rocks were covered with creepers,[1] bearing clusters of sweetish berries. To the production of these berries, and a broadleafed weed (both used for the purpose of intoxication), the Monakees devote a considerable portion of their arable territory, which seemed the more surprising as I was informed that thousands of their poor live in bitter want of their daily bread. Yet the luxuriance of those noxious weeds proves their planters to be expert husbandmen, and they can certainly not be reproached with laziness, whatever may be their other vices.

After a march of three or four hours we reached the southern slope of a harrat,[2] and I beheld now for the first time one of those famous rock-kraals of Monghistan, a sort of city, crowning the brow of a distant hill. The houses looked like white dots on the blue heights, but even at this distance I could distinguish a peculiar kind of conical castles that towered high above all other buildings. These piles, the Karman told me, were temples of the Moon-man—mosques, so to say—some of them so elaborately finished that they had cost wagon-loads of money, and the labor of countless masons. Their very dimensions attested the skill of the architects; but I marveled that people who could do so much for the moon had done so little for their earth; the valley at the foot of the harrat was in a wretched condition, a sheer quagmire, studded with lagoons and reed patches, though a little drainage would have turned those bogs into fertile fields.

Still, Allah has not withdrawn his hand from this country, and at the bank of a little creek farther below I saw bottom-lands that would support more trees to the acre than our poor waddies on a square mile. And even the driest valleys abound with water-signs; if these poor people had learned the sheriat-wakil,[3] every field of their country would be blessed with good wells.

  1. "Schling-Pflanzen," twining plants or vines.
  2. Harrat, from harr, heat or fire. A mountain of igneous rocks, a basalt-hill.
  3. Sheriat-wakil, the "water-place science." Pallas says that the Arabian well-finders eschew the tricks of the divining-rod mystics, and follow a system of practical rules that