George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

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it contained three bedsteads covered with coarse blankets.
I secured a stool, placing it against one of the corner
wooden pillars of the hearth, refusing the bed-seat pre-
pared for me, which, though more honourable, had
dreadful possibilities lurking in the thick blankets.
Toraa: Merak and his wife dived into the treasure-
room of the house, in the middle storey, and presently
emerged, carrying the food with which we were to be
regaled. The repast began with walnuts and wine.
The latter was strong and good, and was declared to
be three years old. A small earthen vessel of honey
was placed by my side, into which the walnuts were
to be dipped before being eaten. As Torag Merak's
women folk were indifferent cooks, it had been ex-
pressly stipulated that no unleavened bread cakes were
to be provided. Therefore rice, a great luxury accord-
ing to Kafir ideas, since it has to be imported into
the country, was provided, and cooked in a large earthen
vessel over the fire in front of us. Torag Merak, to
show the lavishness of his hospitality, so recklessly
salted the rice and ladled so much ghi into it, that
when it was ready to eat I had to content myself with
one small " mouthful, for fear of consequences. My
surroundings also were not of a kind to favour the con-
sumption of food. The place swarmed with the dirtiest
of dirty children, some belonging to the house, others
the offspring of servants. Among them were two in-
fants in arms, one Torag Merak's, the other a visitor's.
The son of the house began to cry miserably, upon which
the visitor, politely putting her own child away, which




TORAG MERAK ESCORTS ME HOME.



To face page 237.



DESCRIPTIOX OF TORAG MKRAK 237

at once began to howl dismally, proceeded to suckle
the other. A three-year-old son of Torag Merak's, a
marvellously spoiled child, ran riot all over the place.
He was a horrible nuisance. This urchin, wanting he
knew not what, began crying for food. His fond father
fed him with rice, ghi, wine, honey, cheese, evervthing
there was which was edible ; but nothing satisfied the
young cormorant until he was handed an enormous
meat bone, the mere application of which to his face
nearly suffocated him, and so kept him partially quiet.
The way the other children ran about, staggering and
tumbling all round the big fire, was a wonderful sight.
Old Torag Merak. who was his own head-cook, stirred
and fiddled about with the food in a most unpleasant
way. lie has the appearance of a gipsy king, and
though darker than the average of the tribe, is wonder-
fully picturesque. In his gloomy eyes there is a world
of pathos. They belie him utterly. He is at heart a
howling savage, while in repose his features are those
of a man saddened from gazing on the sufferings of a
troubled world. As a matter of fact, a ferocious-looking
Kafir is rarely seen. The greatest cut-throats are often
the quietest-looking individuals. I was glad to get
away to my own house. Torag Merak escorted me
almost to the door, lighting my steps with sticks of
resinous pine, similar to those he had employed to see
how the cooking in the earthen pot was getting on,
and to show me where my plate was in the grimy room
we had just left.



CHAPTER XV

The narrative continued — Present at an exclusive Jast ceremony — The Kafirs'
friendly bearing towards me — Small-pox and influenza — Inoculation —
(Jarelessness of infection — Interest in vaccination — Pitiless weather —
A white woman — Gazab Shah — Shahru the "i^shur"- — He sees a spirit —
A kindly young brave's homicides — The youthful Chandlu Torag —
Dinner with Utah — A considerate host — A suffering household- — Epi-
demic of influenza — Rusala's treachery — Matters assume a dangerous
complexion — A sorry triumph — I leave Kahidesh for a time.

December, January, and February were destined to be
a period of great trouble to me, although it opened
auspiciously enough by my being invited to join the
Jast in a ceremony of a very exclusive kind. It is pro-
bable, indeed, that on no former occasion had a stranger
been permitted to view such proceedings. Although I
had been particularly asked by the priest to go to his
house for this special ceremony, both Shermalik and
Sayed Shah declared that it would be impossible for
me to obtain admittance into the inner room, where
none but headmen or those who exercised religious
functions were ever permitted to enter. But, as a
matter of fact, the priest and his companions warmly
welcomed me on my arrival, and conducted me to a
seat with great politeness. The respect with which
they treated me on this occasion seemed a good omen
for the relations in which we should live together.
Indeed, on looking back to my residence in Kafiristc4n,

after comparing different dates in my diaries, the con-

238



OUTBREAK OF SMALL-POX 239

elusion is forced upon me, that if the Kafirs had no
warm ati'ection for me, which, from our different mental
training, our different modes of thou



Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 15 of 38)