Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/861

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839
ENTERTAINING VARIETIES.

Yet this was to be a day of disappointments, for when I returned to our camp the Karman met me at the foot of the grove and informed me that our dinner had disappeared. He had gone down to the creek to fill our water-bottle, and when he returned our maniocs were gone, as well as the contents of our oil-flask, and six pounds of dates which had been taken from our traveling-bag. "The man who did it must be the father of a wolf,"[1] said he, with a mistrustful look at the pilgrim.

But Ben Khelpus protested his innocence. "It is a perfect mystery to me, O fathers of Khundistan," said he, "though it now occurs to me that it may have been one of those swine we saw at the creek. Swine, O brothers of my father, are gifted with an excessive appetite, especially for maniocs. Dates, likewise, they eat with an exceeding great relish."

The Karman looked at me, pointing to the hilt of his cutlass. I understood him, but I shook my head. Determined to get rid of this man, I yet thought it better to let him depart in peace.

"Is there nothing left?" I asked.

"Only a handful of parched durra[2] and a piece of goat-cheese," replied the guide.

"Cheese? then let us eat it now," said Ben Khelpus—"right now, before it becomes too dry. For to-morrow is the weekly mourning-day, when all true children of Yesha must abstain from cheese. As the Good Book hath it:

"'Salvation is to him who observes the prescribed fasts,

And the foot[3] is safe which avoids transgression.'

What says my father?"

I made no reply, and not a word was spoken till we heard the sound of approaching footsteps. It was Mak-el-Frit, returning to his garden to refill his tub. His heart was heavy, and he tried to pass by in silence, but the pilgrim stopped him. "O my father," said he, "have you any rakee at your house, or any brand-acid? For, by Allah (whose perfection be extolled!), my goat-skin is nearly empty."

Mak-el-Frit sighed and shook his head, but the pilgrim repeated his question. "Is there no pity in your heart?" he added; "have you forgotten the behest of Yesha?"

Mak-el-Frit passed on, and the pilgrim then stepped behind a tree, took a club from his sack, and, after readjusting his bundle, followed the old man with rapid steps. Before he returned we forded the brook and resumed our journey. The heat of the day had moderated, and we hoped to reach Beth-Raka before night.

About three miles west of the ford we overtook a man whom I had seen at the laborers' camp, and who seemed to have passed us while

  1. Aboo-l-kalb, padre de un lobo, R.
  2. Sorghum vulgare, a kind of millet.
  3. "Foundation," in the original. In the second hemistich of this verse eddêm (foot) should be substituted for ed-demneh (footing, or foundation), for the sake both of the sense and the metre.