Popular Science Monthly/Volume 20/April 1882/Entertaining Varieties

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ENTERTAINING VARIETIES.
 

 

THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON;[1]

OR,

TRAVELS AND ADVENTURES OF HAKIM BEN SHEYTAN.

Translated by F. L. O.
CHAPTER II.

The grace of Allah be with all who walk in his ways, and with all those who read my words and ponder in their hearts the wonders by him to me revealed! And the peace.

There is a mountain in Monghistan which forms the boundary between the hunting-grounds and the cultivated lands, and, two hours after we had left the rock-tombs, we passed the last brook at the foot of that mountain and entered an open hill-country, with a few inclosed fields here and there, but without a drop of drinking-water. The sun went down before we had reached a human habitation, and, as the sky was almost cloudless, we decided to camp under a hedge of mulberry-trees, whose boughs would shelter us from the night-dew. There was no house in sight, but, walking along the hedge in hopes of assuaging my thirst with a few berries, I saw a light that seemed to flicker in a grove on the opposite bank of a ravine. The Karman had seen it, too, for I saw him climb down the rocks with our water-skin under his arm. But he soon returned. "It was no house," said he. "It was the camp-fire of a traveler, a vagrant, who had made his bivouac in that grove."

"Is he a Monakee?" I asked.

"Yes, sir," said my guide. "You can smell him without crossing this ravine. He is burning pest-weed,[2] to befuddle himself, after the vile fashion of these people."

I instantly put on my sandals and clambered down the cliffs. The presage had been fulfilled. # I had dreamed that I should see the first Monakee in the night. The grove consisted of a copse of tamarinds, with an undergrowth of thorn-trees; and I had already made my way to the upper line of bushes, when I stopped and stood spell-bound at the sight that met my eyes. The fire rose from a pile of brush-wood, under a large tamarind, on the top of the hillock, and at the foot of the tree sat a creature with the form of a human being, but with the face of a hog-baboon.[3] His eyes were small and furtive, his beard a mere fringe of bristles, and his nose, which was bluish-red, had the shape of a cucumber.[4] He wore neither a turban nor a sword-belt, but his shoulders were covered with a mantle of hairy or bristly leather, and his feet with a sort of leathern boxes, apparently of considerable weight. The vessels and implements of his camp were equally curious. He was roasting a fowl by means of a fork-spit, and at his side lay a large goat-skin that seemed to contain a combustible fluid, for whenever he placed it to his lips a rill of drops trickled down his face into the fire, where it flared up like camphor-powder.[5] But the strangest thing was a small iron pot, at the foot of the tree. It was stuffed with smoldering weeds, emitting a sort of yellowish smoke, and this vapor—which almost overpowered me with nausea—he seemed to inhale with a peculiar relish, for every now and then he would bend his head over the pot and utter a complacent grunt as the reek entered his nostrils. I do not think that he suspected my presence, though his eyes peered around furtively; but he appeared to be uneasy for some reason or other, and, as he listened to the rustling of the night-wind, he had a curious way of inclining his head sidewise, after the manner of a wary hog. I had watched him nearly half an hour, when I heard behind me the cracking of a dry twig, and, at the same time, the baboon-man suddenly snatched his fowl from the spit and hid it behind the tree. I, too, now heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and, turning round, I recognized the Karman, who had become uneasy at my long absence, and seemed surprised to find me here behind the trees. The man-ape had not seen us yet, for he glared about in every direction; but, when we stepped from behind the bushes, he rose to his feet—a fat, stout fellow, more than five feet to the top of his unturbaned head—and, in an almost human voice, uttered something that sounded like a question, though I did not understand him.

"What does he say?" I asked the Karman; but I had hardly spoken those words when the baboon-man again lifted his voice, and—who shall describe my astonishment to hear that brute address me in fluent speech, in the language of the Khundi-Arabs! "Have pity on me, Aboo-Kunts," said he, joining his hands in a deprecatory way; "do not drive me from this grove. I am a virtuous pauper, performing a pilgrimage for the benefit of my soul, and hope to meet friends at Beth-Raka."

"Peace be with thee, brother," I replied, as one would answer the appeal of a human being. "Salem Kehamad! We, too, are strangers and travelers. Eat thy meal in peace; but, if thou canst spare a cup of drinking-water, I beseech thee to exchange it for our abundant thanks, for we are famished with thirst."

He glared at us in silence. "Strangers? Then Yesha is merciful," said he, at last, and resumed his seat at the fire. I thought he had not understood me, and asked the Karman to repeat my question.

"Water! What water?" said he, looking up with an expression of great surprise. Yesha Ben Allah! Are you blind, O brother of my father? Have I four legs, that I should drink water like a beast? My name is Ben Khelpus, and the poorest of my tribe have never drunk anything weaker than brand-acid.[6] Yet the All-Knowing is the most compassionate. "Come here," he muttered, and conducted us to the head of a ravine on the other side of the hill. "There is a kraal at the foot of this gully," said he, "and you will find the good-man in a rock-cell, in the side of the hill, where you see that tall tree, down there."

I thanked him for his kindness, and, as the smoke of his weeds had almost suffocated me, I took this opportunity to bid him a good-night. Since he was going to Beth-Raka, I expected to have his company the next day.

"But do not tell them where you have seen me," he called after us, as we were walking away. "Allah may have hardened their hearts, and I want to eat my supper in peace."

The moon was risen, and we had no difficulty in finding our way to the foot of the hill, and, by groping about the rocks near the tall tree, we discovered what we supposed to be the door of the grotto-house. The occupants, however, seemed to be deaf or fast asleep; we knocked and knocked, but nobody answered.

"Listen, sir," said the guide. "Do you not hear something?"

I put my ear to the door and heard, now plainly, a moaning and groaning sound, that seemed to come from the interior of the cave.

"They are sick, and perhaps in need of help," I whispered. "Shall we open the door?"

I listened again, and once more I distinguished the same sound. It resembled the groan of a dying man, and I hesitated no longer. Forcing my cutlass into the crack of the door, I put my shoulder to the wooden lock, and, at the second wrench, the board yielded with a grating sound. By good luck I had braced my knee against the edge of the rock, and could steady myself by a swift grip, or I should certainly have fallen senseless to the ground, for the effluvium of the cave completely stunned me for a second or two.

"For Allah's sake, what is this?" I cried, as I staggered backward, and, like an answer to my words, I heard an uproar of sudden howls, and a hoarse shout that sounded like the voice of an old man. "Woe! woe!" he bellowed. "Cover your heads—cover your heads! The door is open! Who has done that?"

"Here, my father; friends and men of peace!" I cried, for I thought that they had taken us for robbers. But again the wailing broke out with renewed violence. "Night-prowlers! Madmen! Where are they?" cried the old man, as he stepped forth with his head muffled up in a cloak or blanket. "Where are they?"

"Here!" said I. "Not robbers, my father, nor are we madmen, but travelers, perishing with thirst and craving a drink of water. Believe me, we do not want to rob you," I repeated, for the clamor still continued.

"Not rob us!" cried the old man. "You have already done us a greater harm! If we had not waked up in time, the night-air would have done us an injury which no medicine could undo!"

"Not so, Aboo Mungha," said I, "we heard you groan as in a sore disease, and some of your children are certainly sick; but, if you will let them sleep in the open air, the benediction[7] of Nature will help them more than all the balm of Feringistan."

"What words are these? You must be a bold unbeliever!" rejoined the old man; "how can Nature or anything natural be possibly good? Who are you?" and putting his hand to my shoulder he pushed me out into the bright moonlight. But my dress and face soon told him that I was a stranger, and his heart then seemed to relent. "My name is Er-Masood; be welcome if you come in peace," said he, and taking my hand he led me to a deep spring at the foot of the hill. "If the men of your tribe drink water, the Holy Ones have guided you well," said he; "this spring is the best in the valley; cattle, and even deer, resort to it from a great distance." He then offered us the shelter of his rock-den, but, seeing that we preferred the open air, he advised us to cover our heads very carefully, and, bidding us good-night, he retired to his cave.

We had left our wander-sacks under the mulberry-hedge, and, as the distance was only short, the Karman offered to fetch them down, while I gathered an armful of grass for our camping-ground. The adventures of this night, however, were not yet ended, for, looking about among the brambles of the hill-side, I discovered a child, a young Monakee, who had hidden himself behind a leafy bush.

"My little brother! what is he doing here?" I asked, when he instantly covered my mouth with his hand, and implored me not to betray him.

"My head ached so that I thought my soul would leave me," he whispered; "pray, let me get a little fresh air before you drive me back!"

He had made himself a couch with his coat and an armful of leaves. To these I added some of the grass I had gathered, and bade him lie down and keep quiet. "I shall not betray him; may Allah be his helper!" I thought, for, on passing the cave, I had again heard the moans of his unfortunate brethren.

When the Karman returned, the moon was shining from a cloudless sky; in the trees and bushes the cicadas chirped their serenades, and on the slopes of the grassy hill-side we saw a swarm of rabbits chasing each other to and fro. They played and gamboled, enjoying the sweet night-air, while the Monakees lay groaning in their noisome cave.

The morning dawned in a streak of spear-shaped clouds,[8] presaging a warm day, so we commended the child to the care of Allah, and ascended the hill before Er-Masood had opened his den. Our red nosed friend had left his camp, but, when we reached the main road, we met several Monakees driving their working-steers to the field. They eyed us with surprise, and some of them quickened their steps to keep up with us, thus giving me an opportunity to observe them well. Whatever might be their sins, I soon saw that the hand of Allah weighed heavily upon their race. They wheezed and coughed; their children looked pale-cheeked, and, among the three or four score of adults we met on that day, I did not see half a dozen purely human countenances. Some had fish-eyes, and some pig-noses, and nearly all the old males were disfigured by the bloated appearance of their faces. They all marched on their hind-legs, but their gait was remarkably awkward; they can not walk with dignity, and in the cities, where I afterward saw large assemblies of their people, only the younger boys seemed to have anything like a natural grace of deportment. Whenever the road led up-hill, their knees weakened, and they had to pause, panting for breath, while the small dogs that accompanied them went boldly ahead. Their feet were shod with leather boxes, and, though the morning was rather sultry, most of them were muffled up to their chins in blankets or heavy cloaks. These garments, however, were well woven, and, like their agricultural implements, evinced the skill of their artificers. Their conversation, too (whenever they ceased to discuss their various bodily ailments), seemed to turn upon mechanical topics; in matters pertaining to natural science and the wonders of natural history they are strangely incurious; their country-people have no names for the splendid butterflies of their fields, and few of them can identify a single constellation of the starry firmament.[9] In these border districts a corrupt dialect of the Khundi Arabs is the prevailing idiom; farther west the vernacular of ancient Monghistan is more generally spoken, though nearly all their educated men have some knowledge of the Arabic language.

On the next steep hill we had left all the villages behind, when we reached a cross-road where we saw a Monakee standing on all-fours, with his head between his hands, and moving his hind-feet up and down like the stampers of a water-wheel. The Karman turned back to me smiling, but I beckoned him to follow me behind a hedge, where we could watch the strange creature unobserved.

"Do you not know him?" whispered my guide; "it is the traveler, the same man we met in the woods last night: that is the way they say their prayers."

I peeped through the bushes and saw that he was right: it was Ben Khelpus, the man with the goat-skin and pest-pot. His performance had lasted about five minutes, when he stopped and turned his head sidewise, and, following the direction of his gaze, we saw a little girl walking across the fields with a sort of basket in her hand. Ben Khelpus crouched down, drew a short club from his bundle, and, rising suddenly on his hind-legs, he made for the field in a kind of a bear trot. The girl saw him come and ran away, shrieking, but the pilgrim, too, then broke into a gallop, and chased her through a canebrake, where we lost sight of them. In the next minute, however, we heard a loud scream, and a second later Ben Khelpus reappeared, carrying in his hand the girl's basket, which he flung away after devouring its contents. He then returned to the cross-road, where he took a deep draught from his goat-skin, and finished his devotion by performing a number of hand-springs. While he repacked his bundle we left our hiding-place, and approached him from the other side of the road.

"How fares my brother?" I asked, when he turned his head.

"Well! thanks to Allah, whose perfection be extolled," he replied; "a man feels so much better after prayers!"

"Are you, too, going to Kápeebad?" I inquired, as he prepared to accompany us.

"Nearly," said he, "but after a day's journey beyond Beth-Raka, I shall ascend the mountain of Sidi-Máyas, for the promotion of my spiritual welfare—Hold this bundle a moment," said he, when we passed an inclosed orchard; and, after pushing down some of the upper stones, he succeeded in climbing the wall, and soon returned with a cloutful of apricots.

"Are you not afraid the owner might see you?" I asked.

"Not I," said he; "no heretic would dare to lay his hands upon a pilgrim: they fear the vengeance of my fellow-believers."

"Who are those heretics?" I asked.

"Vile misbelievers," replied he; "they waste all their prayers on the nephew of Allah."

"I told you so," said the Karman, who had repeatedly mentioned that shocking superstition.

"Yes, the Horn-Ghost[10] will roast them severely," added the pilgrim; "they confine their worship to that nephew, and pay no respect to the rest of the family, nor to the three hundred servants of his household. They even despise the gate-keeper of the heavenly mosque."

"And do you hope to enter that gate?" I asked.

"Yesha is merciful," said he; "I constantly make the sign of the holy triangle, and acquit myself of the prescribed prayers; and, moreover, I am going to worship at the shrine of Sidi-Máyas, where I shall perform the three hand-springs, the three somersaults, and the three holy groans, and thus cleanse my soul from sins past and future for three times three solar years."

We passed several well-cultivated fields, and stopped at a camp of field-laborers, where my guide purchased some manioc-roots for our dinner, and informed our companion that he could supply his wants for a single copper coin.[11]

"Pilgrims carry neither copper nor silver," said Ben Khelpus, "for Yesha supplies all their wants. No, I have no money," he added; "I wish, though, I had; my dram-skin is nearly empty, and these Caffres[12] will not fill it for me. I shall have to use my club if Allah does not soften their hearts."

The day was oppressively hot, and the sun had passed the meridian, when we at last reached a brook at the foot of a wooded hill. Here we decided to cook our dinner, and, while my companions gathered a supply of fire-wood, I drove away two hogs that offended us by their smell and their greedy grunts. My guide assured me that the Monakees not only tolerate, but fatten and eat these unclean animals—an assertion which seemed hardly credible till it was confirmed by some very suspicious circumstances.

After chasing the brutes out of sight, I ascended to the top of the hill, which afforded a good lookout over the surrounding country. Nearly all the uplands are covered with plantations of poison-berries, and the valleys with pest-weeds, so that the useful products are almost confined to the fruits of a few orchards and manioc-fields. In the rear of the cliffs several acres of ground were inclosed with curious wire-fences, and at the end of the first field I found an open shed containing two plows of excellent workmanship. No plowman or horses were in sight, but higher up I met an old man carrying a heavy tub with a sort of black mold, which he scattered here and there to fertilize his fields. The weight of the tub seemed to bear heavily upon him, for I saw him stagger under his load and clutch at the trees to support himself.

"This labor, father, has overtaxed your strength," said I, when I met him.

The old man put down his tub and had to pant for breath before he could reply. "Yes, it is very hard," said he; "nor is this the worst part of my work: I have to fetch the mold from my garden and carry it up this steep hill."

"Do you live far from here?" I inquired.

"There is my house," said he, pointing to the valley, "over yonder, where you see that large orchard at the foot of the hill."

"And is the produce of that orchard not sufficient to support you?" I asked him.

"My wants, sir, are but small," said he, "but I have a wife and a daughter who are in need of wakkad[13] trailing-gowns with double tails, and red-squirrel skins are very expensive."

"Have they, then, no other garments?" I inquired.

"Many, sir," he replied, "but they are gray and single-tailed."

"Father," said I, "I am a physician, and it is my duty to warn you," for I had noticed that he breathed with difficulty, like a person exhausted by a grievous cough. Such labor, I told him, would surely aggravate his disease, and if he hoped to recover he must have more rest and better food.

"Alas! we have sold our milch-cow," said the old man, "and I have to furnish those gowns before the end of this season."

"Then repurchase your cow," I replied, "and let your women wear their usual garments."

He sighed and shook his head. "The women of this country have to follow the customs of Moropolis," said he, "a city of great wealth and refinement. The Moropolitans have ordained that trailing-gowns shall be red and double-tailed, and Monghistan has to obey. All the women would be against me: I might defy them, but I dread the consequences."

By much persuasion I at last encouraged his heart, and agreed to follow him to his home. The orchard was not far from our camping ground; so I hoped to return before my companions had prepared our meal. The old man conducted me through a flourishing tree-garden, and ushered me into his cottage, where we found two women, both unveiled, but of very decorous deportment. "My name is Makel-Frit," said the old man, "and this is Pitha, my wife, and my daughter Pitheka."

They received me with politeness and offered me the hospitality of their table; but, seeing a skewered pig upon their hearth, I asked them to excuse me, adding that I would soon be obliged to rejoin my companions.

"How comes it, my husband," said the kabira,[14] at last, "that your labor has ended so long before sunset?"

"It has ended for ever," said Mak-el-Frit, "I can endure it no more"; and, after explaining the nature of his disease, he told them that he intended to repurchase his milch-cow, and that they must content themselves with gowns of gray-squirrel skin.

At these words the two women started up and glared at each other with bewildered looks; but, when Mak-el-Frit attempted to state his reasons, they saw that he was in earnest, and Pitheka threw herself sobbing upon a bench, while her mother uttered a piercing shriek, and, after clutching at the empty air, sank to the ground as in a swoon. Seeing her fall, I ran out to get a cup of water, but when I returned the two women had recovered and were sitting like monuments on the floor of the room. "Wakkad-russ, wakkad-russ—gray-squirrel skins," the kabira repeated, with a vacant stare, and in a hollow voice, after which they both shrieked louder and longer than before, while a tame monkey leaped down from the window and joined in the clamor. "Mak-el-Frit, are you bereft of your reason?" asked the kabira, after a pause.

The husband seized the monkey and flung it out of the window, but made no other reply. The kabira then turned to her daughter. "I see how it is," said she; "he wants to drive us forth, to beg our bread in a foreign land, where no one knows that I am the daughter of honorable parents. O my child! O my sugar-eating parrot! we shall taste the bread of affliction; we shall wander homeless till our souls return to the peace of Ghinnistan." Then rising to her feet—"And thou, hard-hearted one, who preferrest a cow to thy wife," said she, "go and tell the neighbors that thou hast driven me forth to seek a grave in a stranger's land; for thou shalt behold my face no more.—Come, my daughter," said she, and strode toward the door, when the old man stopped her, and adjured her for Heaven's sake not to darken his countenance.[15]

"I will do what I can," said he, "and you shall have that gown before long, but may be it will be single-tailed."

"No, double-tailed, by Allah!" said the kabira, "and if you want me to stay I have to impose a strict condition: Never again insult your wife or your daughter by such propositions. Even the beggar-women of Moropolis would despise a gray-squirrel gown, and the daughter of my father shall not become a by-word in the land of her birth. Heed my words, for my father has friends who will not suffer his daughter to be oppressed, nor will they fail to invoke the severity of the law against cruelty insupportable. Will you promise me those gowns, and shall they be duly double-tailed?"

The old man sighed, but made no reply.

"Will you promise?"

Mak-el-Frit hesitated. .

"Come, my daughter," said the kabira, "we must leave this house."

"No, no, I will work, I will work!" cried the old man, and seizing his tub he rushed through the open door. When I left the cottage, I saw him hasten toward the hill at the top of his speed. He was an old man, well stricken with age, and the failure of my plan grieved me.

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,"[16] 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[17] 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[18] 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 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?"[19] 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,[20] 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 wonderful 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[21] 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. Copyright by D. Appleton & Company, 1882
  2. Yerba-pesta, pest-plant, or stink-weed.
  3. Schweins-Pavian, the Papio Anubis.
  4. "En forma de un pepino."
  5. Yed-el-Káfoor, camphor-dust, a sort of fumigating powder.
  6. "Brand-Essig" (W.). A sort of pyroligneous acid.
  7. Eyn-daljah literally, "the shining face."
  8. Nubes rayadas(R.).
  9. "The poorest Bedouins," says Professor W., "are as familiar with practical astronomy as a German Förster with the slang and mystery of woodcraft. They have names, and even nicknames, for every constellation and every conspicuous star."
  10. El Cornado, "Old Horny." The horns of Eblis, are not confined to the cacodæmons of the Semitic religions; in the language of the Siberian Yakoots, Atkinson tells us, the local Beelzebub is called "the Old Horn Man," and the national Jehovah "the Gentleman with the Russian Uniform."
  11. Jedeed, a small coin, the tenth part of an Arabian denar.
  12. Unbelievers. Caffre, as well as Giaour, is derived from Gebir—the Gebers, or Fire-worshipers of Western Persia, who so obstinately resisted the inroads of El Islam, that their name became a synonym of "infidel."
  13. Aboo-l-wakkad, literally "father of a great tail," a squirrel. The name is applied both to the gray palm-squirrel and the civet-cat of Northern Africa.
  14. Kabira, the "head-woman," the mistress of a house.
  15. "Sein Angesicht schwärzen" (W.) i. e., disgrace him.
  16. Aboo-l-kalb, padre de un lobo, R.
  17. Sorghum vulgare, a kind of millet.
  18. "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.
  19. "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.
  20. Tocadores (R.), Klopfer (W.)—Slappers or Thumpers.
  21. 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.