CHAPTER XVIII. MOUNT ARARAT AND KOORDISTAN.
The shades of evening are beginning to settle down over the wild mountainous country round about. It is growing uncomfortably chilly for this early in the evening, and the prospects look favorable for a supperless and most disagreeable night, when I descry a village perched in an opening among the mountains a mile or thereabouts off to the right. Repairing thither, I find it to be a Koordish village, where the hovels are more excavations than buildings; buffaloes, horses, goats, chickens, and human beings all find shelter under the same roof; their respective quarters are nothing but a mere railing of rough poles, and as the question of ventilation is never even thought of, the effect upon one's olfactory nerves upon entering is anything but reassuring. The filth and rags of these people is something abominable; on account of the chilliness of the evening they have donned their heavier raiment; these have evidently had rags patched on. top of other rags for years past until they have gradually developed into thick-quilted garments, in the innumerable seams of which the most disgusting entomological specimens, bred and engendered by their wretched mode of existence, live and perpetuate their kind. However, repulsive as the outlook most assuredly is, I have no alternative but to cast my lot among them till morning. I am conducted into the Sheikh's apartment, a small room partitioned off with a pole from a stable-full of horses and buffaloes, and where darkness is made visible by the sickly glimmer of a grease lamp. The Sheikh, a thin, sallow-faced man of about forty years, is reclining on a mattress in one corner smoking cigarettes; a dozen ill-conditioned ragamuffins are squatting about in various attitudes, while the rag, tag, and bobtail of the population crowd into the buffalo-stable and survey me and the bicycle from outside the partition-pole.
A circular wooden tray containing an abundance of bread, a bowl of yaort, and a small quantity of peculiar stringy cheese that resembles chunks of dried codfish, warped and twisted in the drying, is brought in and placed in the middle of the floor. Everybody in the room at once gather round it and begin eating with as little formality as so many wild animals; the Sheikh silently motions for me to do the same. The yaort bowl contains one solitary wooden spoon, with which they take turns at eating mouthfuls. One is compelled to draw the line somewhere, even under the most uncompromising circumstances, and I naturally draw it against eating yaort with this same wooden spoon; making small scoops with pieces of bread, I dip up yaort and eat scoop and all together. These particular Koords seem absolutely ignorant of anything in the shape of mannerliness, or of consideration for each other at the table. When the yaort has been dipped into twice or thrice all round, the Sheikh coolly confiscates the bowl, eats part of what is left, pours water into the remainder, stirs it up with his hand, and deliberately drinks it all up; one or two others seize all the cheese, utterly regardless of the fact that nothing remains for myself and their companions, who, by the by, seem to regard it as a perfectly natural proceeding.