CHAPTER XVIII. MOUNT ARARAT AND KOORDISTAN.
We are invited to take supper with their Reverences in their cell beneath the walls, which they occupy in common. The repast consists of yaort and pillau, to which is added, by way of compliment to visitors, five salt fishes about the size of sardines. The most greasy-looking of the divines thoughtfully helps himself to a couple of the fishes as though they were a delicacy quite irresistible, leaving one apiece for us others. Having created a thirst with the salty fish, he then seizes what remains of the yaort, pours water into it, mixes it thoroughly together with his unwashed hand, and gulps down a full quart of the swill with far greater gusto than mannerliness. Soon the priests commence eructating aloud, which appears to be a well-understood signal that the limit of their respective absorptive capacities are reached, for three hungry-eyed laymen, who have been watching our repast with seemingly begrudging countenances, now carry the wooden tray bodily off into a corner and ravenously devour the remnants. Everything about the cell is abnormally filthy, and I am glad when the inevitable cigarettes are ended and we retire to the quarters assigned us in the village. Here my companion produces from some mysterious corner of his clothing a pinch of tea and a few lumps of sugar. A villager quickly kindles a fire and cooks the tea, performing the services eagerly, in anticipation of coming in for a modest share of what to him is an unwonted luxury. Being rewarded with a tiny glassful of tea and a lump of sugar, he places the sweet morsel in his mouth and sucks the tea through it with noisy satisfaction, prolonging the presumably delightful sensation thereby produced to fully a couple of minutes. During this brief indulgence of his palate, a score of his ragged co- religionists stand around and regard him with mingled envy and covetousness; but for two whole minutes he occupies his proud eminence in the lap of comparative luxury, and between slow, lingering sucks at the tea, regards their envious attention with studied indifference. One can scarcely conceive of a more utterly wretched people than the monastic community of Sup Ogwanis; one would not be surprised to find them envying even the pariah curs of the country. The wind blows raw and chilly from off the snowy slopes of Ararat next morning, and the shivering, half-clad-wretches shuffle off toward the fields and pastures, - with blue noses and unwilling faces, humping their backs and shrinking within themselves and wearing most lugubrious countenances; one naturally falls to wondering what they do in the winter. The independent villagers of the surrounding country have a tough enough time of it, worrying through the cheerless winters of a treeless and mountainous country; but they at least have no domestic authority to obey but their own personal and family necessities, and they consume the days huddled together in their unventilated hovels over a smouldering tezek fire; but these people seem but helpless dolts under the vassalage of a couple of crafty-looking, coarse-grained priests, who regard them with less consideration than they do the monastery buffaloes. Eleven miles over a mostly ridable trail brings me to the large village of Dyadin. Dyadin is marked on my map as quite an important place, consequently I approach it with every assurance of obtaining a good breakfast. My inquiries for refreshments are met with importunities of bin bacalem, from five hundred of the rag-tag and bobtail of the frontier, the rowdiest and most inconsiderate mob imaginable. In their eagerness and impatience to see me ride, and their exasperating indifference to my own pressing wants, some of them tell me bluntly there is no bread; others, more considerate, hurry away and bring enough bread to feed a dozen people, and one fellow contributes a couple of onions. Pocketing the onions and some of the bread, I mount and ride away from the madding crowd with whatever despatch is possible, and retire into a secluded dell near the road, a mile from town, to eat my frugal breakfast in peace and quietness. While thus engaged, it is with veritable savage delight that I hear a company of horsemen go furiously galloping past; they are Dyadin people endeavoring to overtake me for the kindly purpose of worrying me out of my senses, and to prevent me even eating a bite of bread unseasoned with their everlasting gabble. Although the road from Dyadin eastward leads steadily upward, they fancy that nothing less than a wild, sweeping gallop will enable them to accomplish their fell purpose; I listen to their clattering hoof-beats dying away in the dreamy distance, with a grin of positively malicious satisfaction, hoping sincerely that they will keep galloping onward for the next twenty miles. No such happy consummation of my wishes occurs, however; a couple of miles up the ascent I find them hobnobbing with some Persian caravan men and patiently awaiting my appearance, having learned from the Persians that I had not yet gone past. Mingled with the keen disappointment of overtaking them so quickly, is the pleasure of witnessing the Persians' camels regaling themselves on a patch of juicy thistles of most luxuriant growth; the avidity with which they attack the great prickly vegetation, and the expression of satisfaction, utter and peculiar, that characterizes a camel while munching a giant thistle stalk that protrudes two feet out of his mouth, is simply indescribable.