Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/863

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
841
ENTERTAINING VARIETIES.

derful degree of mechanical skill. The bow-iron was as thick as my arm, but could be bent by means of an ingenious lever; the cord was made of a curious kind of vegetable fiber, stout, but twisted as evenly as a lute-string, and retaining that appearance under a tension that would have snapped the strongest sinew. The arrows were altogether unlike ours—unfeathered, short and thick, and terminating in a dagger-like point of hardened steel. With a shower of these darts the Monakees have often repulsed the charge of the best warriors of Darfoor and Khundistan.

We had now reached the ridge of this hill-country; to the west the view was bounded only by an airy-blue mountain-range; at a distance of now less than twelve leagues we recognized the hill with the towering mosques of Kápeebad, and at our feet lay the town of Beth-Raka, embowered in trees and shrouded in a cloud of murky smoke. At the next cross-road our companion left us, after giving me the names of several learned friends of his in the city of Kápeebad, for I had not mentioned the object of my journey, and, judging from my questions, he probably took me for one of those traveling scholars[1] who visit foreign countries for the love of learning.

My guide had never been in Beth-Raka before, as Kápeebad can be reached by a road through the northern highlands, which is preferable in the rainy season; but the suburbs of the city were already in sight, and, as the sun was still more than an hour high, we were in no danger of losing our way. Our road led now steadily down-hill, and we quickened our pace in order to reach the town before dark, for I was curious to ascertain the cause of the black smoke that rose incessantly from the bottom of the valley.

 

 
——The Summit of the Earth.—Adolphus Schlagintweit, the immortal though unpronounceable explorer of Central Asia, calls the highland of Pamir "die Welt-Zinne"—the roof of the world. On the road from the Punjaub to Yarkand four passes have to he crossed that are higher than 17,500 feet, and for a distance of 280 miles the halting-ground is not below the height of Pike's Peak. On the eastern plateau of the Beloor-Dagh there is a shelter-house near a cliff from whose summit the main chain of the Himalayas with all its giant peaks and immeasurable ice-fields is in full view from the highlands of Lassa to the sources of the Indus, while in the west the head-waters of the Oxus and Jaxartes can be traced to the borders of Cabool, where the peaks of the Hindoo-Koosh lift their crests of everlasting snow. In spring the echo of the avalanches resembles the boom of continuous thunder; and in midwinter, when the storm-wind sweeps the table-land, whirling pillars of snow scud along the ridges, and often seem to dance together like specters in their fluttering winding sheets. Our "Land of the Sky" in the Southern Alleghanies must be a mere piazza compared with that top-roof of the earth.
  1. The scholars of the Arabs, like those of ancient Greece, were mostly peripatetic philosophers. Tabari, Ibn-Koteiba, and Ibn-Baitar traveled on foot through all the provinces of the Saracenic empire.