Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/853

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831
ENTERTAINING VARIETIES.

but his shoulders were covered with a mantle of hairy or bristly leather, and his feet with a sort of leathern boxes, apparently of considerable weight. The vessels and implements of his camp were equally curious. He was roasting a fowl by means of a fork-spit, and at his side lay a large goat-skin that seemed to contain a combustible fluid, for whenever he placed it to his lips a rill of drops trickled down his face into the fire, where it flared up like camphor-powder.[1] But the strangest thing was a small iron pot, at the foot of the tree. It was stuffed with smoldering weeds, emitting a sort of yellowish smoke, and this vapor—which almost overpowered me with nausea—he seemed to inhale with a peculiar relish, for every now and then he would bend his head over the pot and utter a complacent grunt as the reek entered his nostrils. I do not think that he suspected my presence, though his eyes peered around furtively; but he appeared to be uneasy for some reason or other, and, as he listened to the rustling of the night-wind, he had a curious way of inclining his head sidewise, after the manner of a wary hog. I had watched him nearly half an hour, when I heard behind me the cracking of a dry twig, and, at the same time, the baboon-man suddenly snatched his fowl from the spit and hid it behind the tree. I, too, now heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and, turning round, I recognized the Karman, who had become uneasy at my long absence, and seemed surprised to find me here behind the trees. The man-ape had not seen us yet, for he glared about in every direction; but, when we stepped from behind the bushes, he rose to his feet—a fat, stout fellow, more than five feet to the top of his unturbaned head—and, in an almost human voice, uttered something that sounded like a question, though I did not understand him.

"What does he say?" I asked the Karman; but I had hardly spoken those words when the baboon-man again lifted his voice, and—who shall describe my astonishment to hear that brute address me in fluent speech, in the language of the Khundi-Arabs! "Have pity on me, Aboo-Kunts," said he, joining his hands in a deprecatory way; "do not drive me from this grove. I am a virtuous pauper, performing a pilgrimage for the benefit of my soul, and hope to meet friends at Beth-Raka."

"Peace be with thee, brother," I replied, as one would answer the appeal of a human being. "Salem Kehamad! We, too, are strangers and travelers. Eat thy meal in peace; but, if thou canst spare a cup of drinking-water, I beseech thee to exchange it for our abundant thanks, for we are famished with thirst."

He glared at us in silence. "Strangers? Then Yesha is merciful," said he, at last, and resumed his seat at the fire. I thought he had not understood me, and asked the Karman to repeat my question.

"Water! What water?" said he, looking up with an expression of great surprise. Yesha Ben Allah! Are you blind, O brother of

  1. Yed-el-Káfoor, camphor-dust, a sort of fumigating powder.