Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/123

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115
ENTERTAINING VARIETIES.

over a big man who was lying prostrate in the middle of the street. A shorter and fatter fellow was sitting near him, but made no attempt to help his comrade, and for good reasons, as it seemed, for, when I tried to assist the prostrate man, he kicked me like a horse, and after a torrent of frightful blasphemies began to pelt us with mud and rubbish.

"Leave them alone!" cried the Karman; "I believe that drunken wretch has hit me with a stone."

But at those words the fat man jumped to his feet and staggered forward as if he were going to follow us. "Do not call a Yeshanee a wretch," he stammered; "that man is fond of mash, but he atones for it on the prayer-day, and in the mosque no one can exceed the frequency and fervor of his groans.—Oh, how Yesha loves a prayerful heart!" he added; when I heard a loud splash, and, looking back, I saw that he, too, had fallen in the mud, and was evidently as drunk as his companion.

"Mash is very cheap in this town," explained the Kabir.

"Not to those poor fellows," said I; "it will cost them their health."

"Yes, but such losses, too, often result in spiritual gain," replied the Kabir. "The body must be humbled, the natural heart must be broken, before the soul can partake of grace. The vilest sinners become the devoutest believers.—Here is the mash-house," said he, as we stopped before a high stone-wall.

The building was shrouded in a cloud of hot vapor that added a lurid glow to the lights that shone through every hole and crack in the wall, and when we reached the gate we could hear the hiss of a mighty furnace, but the flues were so high that the black smoke passed harmless over our heads. Still, the atmosphere within was almost suffocating. The air was thick with steam, made more offensive by the intensity of the same vicious odor we had first noticed in the eastern suburbs. All this smell, filling the air for leagues around, seemed to be diffused from a seething kettle in the background of the building. A multitude of half-naked men ran to and fro with sacks, pots, and buckets, while others were raking the furnace which was going to be covered for the night. Nearer by, and all along the walls, were large heaps of grain, besides apples and other fruits.

"Is this hábbada[1]—a provision store-house? "I inquired.

"No, these things are merely stored here till they are ready to use them," said the Kabir, "and that will be soon enough; every day five hundred horse-loads of grain are here used up in the manufacture of strong drink. They make five kinds of mash, the cheaper sorts cheap enough for the poorest."

These words convinced me of what I had suspected for some time,

  1. Ed' abbada, "by treason," in the original—evidently by the misplacement of a diacritical point.