Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/862

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

we were cooking our dinner. He wore a black cloak with a high collar which somewhat concealed the absence of a beard, for his face resembled that of a sick old woman. He seemed, however, to be a person of considerable information, for he inquired after the state of affairs in Fan-Khundistan, mentioning the name of the sheik and his chief counselor. "Where have you left your companion?"[1] he asked, after I had answered his first questions.

I understood that he referred to Ben Khelpus, and told him under what circumstances we had parted from that pious pilgrim.

The stranger smiled. "That fellow," said he, "belongs to the sect of the Tripilates, so called from the triple hat of their chief imam. You have acted wisely; your appearance is that of a learned stranger, and I marveled to see you in the company of that man."

"You do not belong to his sect, then?" I inquired.

"Yesha forbid!" said he; "there are many kinds of superstitious people in this country, but the Tripilates are the worst. They pay divine honors to countless unworthy servants of Allah, while we confine our worship to his nearest relatives. As for myself, I profess the creed of the Thumpers,[2] who were the first to secede from the community of the Tripilates. Our dervishes derive their authority from the first chief imam, whose sacred slap of approval encouraged his successor to continue the work of the Lord. If you come to Kápeebad you will find that nearly all the respectable people belong to our sect. The superstition of the Tripilates," he added, "prevails only in the southern valleys; theirs is a grossly corrupt form of the Yeshanee faith, while ours is a pure and refined doctrine." He stopped and put his hand to his breast—to attest the superior sanctity of his creed, as I supposed, till I saw that he was rubbing his stomach. "I do not feel well this evening," said he, "I have eaten three pounds of fat hog-flesh, and I fear that it was not properly fried."

My amazement at these words increased when we soon after reached the top of a hill where the ground was thickly covered with chestnuts and beechnuts, which, as the Karman informed me, are despised by the Monakees, and serve only to fatten the animals whose mention has already thrice defiled these pages, and whose flesh, as a means of sustenance, a proper person would hardly prefer to the pangs of actual starvation.

While we rested a few minutes, a swarm of wild pigeons alighted in the trees, and almost in the same moment an arrow whizzed from a thicket of brambles, and one of the birds fell fluttering to the ground. The hunter was a bottle-nosed old man, with a perceptible smell of rakee about him, but the workmanship of his cross-bow once more convinced me that it has pleased Allah to endow these people with a won-

  1. "Prophet," W. By the omission of a letter and the misplacing of a diacritical point, nedeem (boon companion) in the Tunisian edition may have been converted into nedyeh, prophet or embassador.
  2. Tocadores (R.), Klopfer (W.)—Slappers or Thumpers.