Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/124

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though my soul shrank from the thought as long as there was a shadow of doubt, namely, that these ship-loads of victuals would all be made into fire-water; mountains of grain and fruit turned into poison, while the streets were full of starving children!

"Do you believe in a god?" I asked the Kabir.

"I do, and in more than one!" was the prompt reply.

"And do you believe the gods will forgive you this shameful waste?"

The Kabir touched my arm. "Do not talk so loud," he whispered. "How can we help it?" said he, in an undertone; "we have tried all kinds of remedies, and they have all failed. How can we prevent the manufacture of mash?"

"Simply enough," I replied; "do not drink it. Does your religion not forbid such an outrage, or does not your conscience prompt you to stop it? Is the way to freedom so far?"[1]

"We have not been idle, O son of my uncle," said the Kabir; "the evil has been greatly diminished."

"In what way?" I asked.

"Our dervishes," said he, "prohibit the sale of mash on all prayer-days."

"When do they permit it?" I asked.

"Only on six days out of seven," said he.

"But do you not drink mash in your mosques?" asked my guide.

The Kabir gave him an evil look.[2] "That is a slander," said he. "What they hand around in our mosques has the smell and the appearance of mash, but before we put it to our lips a special miracle turns it into quite a different substance."[3]

"Has it a different taste?" I inquired.

The Kabir hesitated. "Unbelievers deny it," said he. "Our doctors claim that it has the same effect on the human body as a similar quantity of ordinary mash; but science, you know, is always forging weapons to destroy the faith."[4]

The overseer of the mash-house stood near enough to overhear our conversation. He made no remark, but walked up to the furnace and ordered the laborers to quit work. "It is time to close the gate," said he.

We took the hint and left.

"That overseer owns a part of the mash-house," said the Kabir? when we reached the open street. "I wonder if he has heard your remarks?"

  1. Professor Widerleger understands this as an allusion to the sixteenth chapter of the Syrian Koran, where the drunkard is compared to a slave who can not fly because "the way to his native land is so far."
  2. Meyad emássek—a venomous look.
  3. "Por un milagro peculiar se obra una trasustaciacion," (R.).
  4. "Dass die Wissenschaft Waffen zur Vernichtung des Glauhens schmiedet," (W.).