Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/856

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The morning dawned in a streak of spear-shaped clouds,[1] presaging a warm day, so we commended the child to the care of Allah, and ascended the hill before Er-Masood had opened his den. Our red nosed friend had left his camp, but, when we reached the main road, we met several Monakees driving their working-steers to the field. They eyed us with surprise, and some of them quickened their steps to keep up with us, thus giving me an opportunity to observe them well. Whatever might be their sins, I soon saw that the hand of Allah weighed heavily upon their race. They wheezed and coughed; their children looked pale-cheeked, and, among the three or four score of adults we met on that day, I did not see half a dozen purely human countenances. Some had fish-eyes, and some pig-noses, and nearly all the old males were disfigured by the bloated appearance of their faces. They all marched on their hind-legs, but their gait was remarkably awkward; they can not walk with dignity, and in the cities, where I afterward saw large assemblies of their people, only the younger boys seemed to have anything like a natural grace of deportment. Whenever the road led up-hill, their knees weakened, and they had to pause, panting for breath, while the small dogs that accompanied them went boldly ahead. Their feet were shod with leather boxes, and, though the morning was rather sultry, most of them were muffled up to their chins in blankets or heavy cloaks. These garments, however, were well woven, and, like their agricultural implements, evinced the skill of their artificers. Their conversation, too (whenever they ceased to discuss their various bodily ailments), seemed to turn upon mechanical topics; in matters pertaining to natural science and the wonders of natural history they are strangely incurious; their country-people have no names for the splendid butterflies of their fields, and few of them can identify a single constellation of the starry firmament.[2] In these border districts a corrupt dialect of the Khundi Arabs is the prevailing idiom; farther west the vernacular of ancient Monghistan is more generally spoken, though nearly all their educated men have some knowledge of the Arabic language.

On the next steep hill we had left all the villages behind, when we reached a cross-road where we saw a Monakee standing on all-fours, with his head between his hands, and moving his hind-feet up and down like the stampers of a water-wheel. The Karman turned back to me smiling, but I beckoned him to follow me behind a hedge, where we could watch the strange creature unobserved.

"Do you not know him?" whispered my guide; "it is the traveler, the same man we met in the woods last night: that is the way they say their prayers."

  1. Nubes rayadas(R.).
  2. "The poorest Bedouins," says Professor W., "are as familiar with practical astronomy as a German Förster with the slang and mystery of woodcraft. They have names, and even nicknames, for every constellation and every conspicuous star."