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Title: Across Coveted Lands - or a Journey from Flushing (Holland) to Calcutta Overland
Author: Landor, A. Henry Savage (Arnold Henry Savage), 1865-1924
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: His Majesty the Shah of Persia.]



ACROSS
COVETED LANDS

OR

A JOURNEY FROM FLUSHING (HOLLAND)
TO CALCUTTA, OVERLAND

BY

A. HENRY SAVAGE LANDOR

_WITH 175 ILLUSTRATIONS, DIAGRAMS, PLANS AND MAPS_
_BY AUTHOR_

IN TWO VOLUMES
VOL. I

London
MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited
1902

_All rights reserved_

Richard Clay and Sons, Limited,
LONDON AND BUNGAY


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                             _To face page_
His Majesty the Shah of Persia                               _Frontispiece_
The Baku Oil Wells                                                       20
The Amir of Bokhara leaving Baku to return to his Country                26
Persian Wrestling                                                        38
Fourgons on the Russian Road between Resht and Teheran                   50
Making a _Kanat_                                                         74
The Murderer of Nasr-ed-din Shah                                         90
Persian Cossacks (Teheran) Drilled by Russian Officers                  100
The Eftetahié College, supported by Meftah-el-Mulk                      102
H. E. Mushir-ed-Doulet, Minister of Foreign Affairs                     106
Persian Soldiers--The Band                                              112
Recruits learning Music                                                 112
The Arrival of a Caravan of Silver at the Imperial Bank of Persia       126
The Imperial Bank of Persia Decorated on the Shah's Birthday            134
A Typical Persian Window. (Mr. Rabino's House, Teheran.)                140
The First Position in Persian Wrestling                                 158
Palawans, or Strong Men giving a Display of Feats of Strength           158
Iman Jumeh. Head Priest of Teheran, and Official Sayer
   of Prayers to the Shah                                               170
Sahib Divan, who was at various periods Governor of
   Shiraz and Khorassan                                                 190
Persian Woman and Child                                                 206
A Picturesque Beggar Girl                                               206
Ruku Sultaneh, Brother of the present Shah                              218
The Shah in his Automobile                                              224
The Sadrazam's (Prime Minister's) Residence, Teheran                    224
In the Shah's Palace Grounds, Teheran                                   230
The Shah and his Suite                                                  240
Rock Sculpture near Shah-Abdul-Azim                                     244
Author's Diligence between Teheran and Kum                              244
The Track along the Kohrut Dam                                          270
Between Gyabrabad and Kohrut                                            270
The Interior of Chappar Khana at Kohrut                                 272
Chapparing--the Author's post horses                                    278
Persian Escort firing at Brigands                                       278
Jewish Girls, Isfahan                                                   292
An Isfahan Jew                                                          292
The Square, Isfahan                                                     298
The Palace Gate, Isfahan                                                304
Boys Weaving a Carpet                                                   314
Cotton Cleaners                                                         314
Handsome Doorway in the Madrassah, Isfahan                              322
One of Zil-es-Sultan's Eunuchs                                          326
The "Hall of Forty Columns," Isfahan                                    326
The Quivering Minarets near Isfahan                                     330
H.R.H. Zil-es-Sultan, Governor of Isfahan                               350
Agriculture and Pigeon Towers near Isfahan                              352
Persian Spinning Wheels and Weaving Looms                               366
Halting at a Caravanserai                                               380
A Street in Yezd, showing High _Badjirs_ or Ventilating Shafts          380
Ardeshir Meheban Irani and the Leading Members of the
    Anguman-i-Nasseri (Parsee National Assembly), Yezd                  394
Parsee Priests of Yezd Officiating during Ceremony in
    their Fire Temple                                                   400
Interior of Old Caravanserai with Central Water Tank                    410
Typical Caravanserai and Mud Fort in the Desert between
    Yezd and Kerman                                                     414
A Trade Caravanserai, Kerman                                            414
H. E. Ala-el-Mulk, Governor of Kerman, in his Palace                    432
Tiled Walls and Picturesque Windows in the Madrassah, Kerman            438
Sirkar Agha's Son, the Head of the Sheikhi Sect, Kerman                 438
The Interior of a Hammam or Bath--First Room                            442
The Hot Room in a Persian Bath                                          444
The Kala-i-Dukhtar or Virgin Fort                                       444
Graveyard and Kala-i-Dukhtar or Virgin Fort, Kerman                     446
Ruined Houses of Farmitan                                               450
Plan of House at Farmitan                                               450
A Steep Rock Climb, Kerman                                              454
A View of the Kerman Plain from the "Ya Ali" Inscription                458
Wives Returning from the Pilgrimage for Sterile Women                   458
Map at the End of Volume.



ACROSS COVETED LANDS


CHAPTER I

     The start--The terrors of the Russian Custom-house--An amusing
     incident at the Russian frontier--Politeness of Russian
     officials--Warsaw: its sights; its lovely women--The talented
     Pole--People who know how to travel by train--A ludicrous scene.


"First single to Baku," I requested when my turn came at the window of
the ticket office at Victoria Station.

"Baku?--where is that?" queried the ticket man.

"In Southern Russia."

"Oh, I see! Well, we cannot book further than Warsaw for Russia."

"Warsaw will do. . . . . How much? . . . Thank you."

My baggage having next been duly registered direct for the capital of
Poland, off I set to Queenborough, crossed over by the night boat to
Flushing, and continued the following morning by express to Berlin.

Once in the Russian train from the German capital one hears a great deal
of the terrors of the approaching Russian Custom-house, and here I may
relate rather an amusing incident which will prove what these terrors
amount to. In my sleeping car there happened to be some French merchants
on their way to the fair of Nijni-Novgorod. On perceiving my two rifles,
a good-sized ammunition case, and two cameras, one of the gentlemen
gratuitously informed me that if I intended to proceed to Russia I had
better leave all these things behind, or they would all be confiscated at
the frontier. I begged to differ, and the Frenchmen laughed boisterously
at my ignorance, and at what would happen presently. In their imaginative
minds they perceived my valued firearms being lost for ever, and
predicted my being detained at the police station till it pleased _les
terribles Cossacques_ to let me proceed.

"Evidently," shouted one of the Frenchmen at the top of his voice, "this
is your first journey abroad. . . . _We_," he added, "are great
travellers. We have been once before in Russia."

"You _are_ great travellers!" I exclaimed, with the emphasis very strong
on the _are_, and pretending intense admiration.

Naturally the Franco-Russian Alliance was dragged into the conversation;
were I a Frenchman I might fare less badly. The Russians and the French
were brothers. But a British subject! A hated Englishman bringing into
Russia two rifles, two revolvers, six hundred cartridges, twelve hundred
photographic plates, two cameras, a large case of scientific instruments,
all of which I would duly declare! Why? Russia was not England. I should
soon experience how Englishmen were treated in some countries.
"Russians," he exclaimed, "have not a polished manner like the French.
_Ah, non!_ They are semi-barbarians yet. They respect and fear the
French, but not the English. . . . _par exemple!_"

The frontier station of Alexandrovo was reached, and a horde of
terror-stricken passengers alighted from the carriages, preceded and
followed by bags, portmanteaux, hold-alls, and bundles of umbrellas,
which were hastily conveyed to the long tables of the huge Custom-house
inspection room.

The two Frenchmen had their belongings next to mine on the long counter,
and presently an officer came. They were French subjects and they had
nothing to declare. Their elaborately decorated bags were instantly
ordered open and turned upside down, while the officer searched with some
gusto among the contents now spread on the table. There was a small
pocket camera, two packets of photographic plates, some soiled
handkerchiefs, collars and cuffs, a box of fancy note-paper, a bottle of
scent, a pair of embroidered pantoufles, and a lot of patent brass studs
and cuff links.

With the exception of the soiled linen, everything was seized, for all
were liable to duty, and some sharp words of reprimand were used by the
officer to my now subdued French neighbours for attempting to smuggle.

The officer moved on to me.

"Monsieur," mournfully remarked the Frenchman, "now _you_ will be done
for."

I declared everything and produced a special permit, which had been very
courteously given me by the Russian Ambassador, and handed it to the
officer. Having eagerly read it, he stood with his heels together and
gave me a military salute. With a profound bow he begged me to point out
to him all my luggage so that he could have it stamped without giving me
further trouble. He politely declined to use the keys I handed him, and
thinking that I might feel uncomfortable in the hustling crowd of people
he conveyed me to a chair in order that I might sit down.

I turned round to look at the Frenchmen. They had altogether collapsed.

"I thought you said that Englishmen were hated in Russia, and that they
would confiscate all my things? You see they have confiscated nothing," I
meekly remarked to the Frenchmen, when they returned to the sleeping car.
"I do not think that I have met with more polite Customs officials
anywhere."

"_Oui, oui_," muttered the stouter Frenchman, who was evidently in no
mood to enter into further conversation. "_Et nous autres bêtes_," he
soliloquized, "_qui avons fait l'alliance avec ces sauvages là! On m'a
tout pris même le papier à lettres!_"

He removed his coat and waistcoat and the many interesting patent
appliances for holding his tie in the correct position--where it never
remained--then he threw himself violently on the berth, face towards the
wall, and grumbled the greater part of the night on the stupid mistake of
the Franco-Russian Alliance. On his return to France he would write a
letter to the Ministre des Affaires Étrangères. After a long and tedious
soliloquy he fortunately fell asleep.

Warsaw on the Vistula, the old capital of Poland, was reached in the
morning.

The quickest way to Baku would have been to proceed to Moscow and then by
the so-called "petroleum express," which leaves once a week, every
Tuesday, for Baku. Unluckily, I could not reach Moscow in time, and
therefore decided to travel across Russia by the next best route, _via_
Kiev, Rostoff, and the Caspian. The few hours I remained in Warsaw were
pleasantly spent in going about seeing the usual sights; the Palace and
lovely Lazienski gardens, laid out in the old bed of the Vistula; the
out-of-door theatre on a small island, the auditorium being separated by
water from the stage; the lakes, the Saski Ogrod, and the Krasinski
public gardens; the Jewish quarter of the town; the museums of ancient
and modern art.

There are few cities in Europe that are prettier, cleaner, and more
animated than Warsaw, and few women in the world that have a better claim
to good looks than the Warsaw fair sex. The majority of women one sees in
the streets are handsome, and carry themselves well, and their dress is
in good taste, never over-done as it is in Paris, for instance.

The whole city has a flourishing appearance, with its tramways, gay
omnibuses, electric light, telephones, and every modern convenience. The
streets are broad and cheerful. In the newer parts of the city there are
beautiful residences, several of which, I was told, belong to British
subjects settled there. The Russian military element is very strong, for
Poland's love for Russia is not yet very great. As we walk along the main
thoroughfares a long string of Cossacks, in their long black felt cloaks
and Astrakan caps, canter along. They are a remarkably picturesque and
business-like lot of soldiers.

Poles are civility itself, that is, of course, if one is civil to them.

Historically the place is of extreme interest, and the battlefields of
Novogeorgievsk, which played such an important part in the Polish
insurrection of 1831, and of Grochowo, where the Poles were defeated, are
well worth a visit. At Maciejowice, too, some fifty miles up the Vistula,
Kosciuzko was made prisoner by the conquering Russians.

Warsaw is the third largest city in the Russian Empire, and its
favourable geographical position makes it one of the great pivots of
Eastern Europe. With a navigable river and the great main railway lines
to important centres such as Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, St. Petersburg,
Dantzig, Kiev, and Odessa, with good climatic conditions, and fertile
soil; with the pick of natural talent in art and science, and the love
for enterprise that is innate in the Polish character, Warsaw cannot help
being a prosperous place.

The city has very extensive suburbs. The best known to foreigners, Praga,
on the opposite bank of the Vistula, is connected with Warsaw by two iron
bridges. Warsaw itself is built on terraces, one above another, along the
bank of the river, but the main portion of the city stands on a high
undulating plain above. There are over a hundred Catholic, several Greek
churches, and a number of synagogues; a university, schools of art,
academies, fourteen monasteries, and two nunneries.

There are few places in the world where the artisan or the common workman
is more intelligent and artistic, and where the upper classes are more
refined and soundly cultured, than in Warsaw. With a certain reflex of
the neighbouring German commercial influence, the place has become a
thriving manufacturing and trading centre. Machinery, excellent pianos
and other musical instruments, carriages, silver and electro-plate, boots
and leather goods are manufactured and exported on a large scale. The
tanneries of Warsaw are renowned the world over, and the Warsaw boots are
much sought after all over the Russian Empire for their softness,
lightness and durability. Then there are great exports of wheat, flax,
sugar, beer, spirits, and tobacco.

But time is short, and we must drive to the station. Say what you will
about the Russian, there is a thing that he certainly knows how to do. He
knows how to travel by rail. One has a great many preconceived ideas of
the Russian and his ways. One is always reminded that he is a barbarian,
that he is ignorant, that he is dirty. He is possibly a barbarian in one
way, that he can differentiate good from bad, real comfort from "optical
illusions" or illusions of any other kind, a thing highly civilised
people seem generally unable to do. This is particularly noticeable in
Russian railway travelling,--probably the best and cheapest in the world.

To begin with, when you take a first-class ticket it entitles you to a
seat numbered and reserved that nobody can appropriate. No more tickets
are sold than correspond with the accommodation provided in the train.
This does away entirely with the "leaving one's umbrella" business, to
secure a seat, or scattering one's belongings all over the carriage to
ensure the whole compartment to one's self, to the inconvenience of other
travellers. Then first, second and third-class passengers are provided
with sleeping accommodation. The sleeping accommodation, especially for
first and second-class passengers, consists of a wide and long berth
wherein they can turn round at their will, if they please, not of a
short, narrow bunk in which even a lean person has to lie edgewise or
roll out, as in the continental sleeping car, for which discomfort
(rather than accommodation) preposterous extra charges have to be paid,
above the first-class fare. Then, too, in the latter the compartments are
so small, so ridiculously ventilated, that after one night spent boxed
in, especially if another passenger shares the same cabin, one feels sick
for some hours, and in the day-time one has no room to turn round, nor
space to put one's legs. As for the lighting, the less said the better.
These faults exist in our own and the continental first-class
compartments.

But the barbarian Russian knows and does better. The line being of a very
broad gauge, his first-class carriages are extremely spacious and very
high, with large windows and efficacious ventilators; and there is plenty
of room everywhere to spread one's limbs in every direction. There is
probably less gilding about the ceiling, fewer nickel-plated catches
about the doors; not so much polished wood, nor ghastly coloured
imitation-leather paper, nor looking-glasses, but very convenient
folding-tables are found instead; the seats are ample and serviceable, of
plain, handsome red velvet, devoid of the innumerable dust-collecting
button-pits--that striking feature of British and continental
railway-carriage decoration. Movable cushions are provided for one's back
and head. There are bright electric lights burning overhead, and
adjustable reading lights in the corners of the carriage. A corridor runs
along the whole train, and for a few kopeks passengers can at any moment
procure excellent tea, caviare sandwiches, or other light refreshments
from attendants.

Now for the bedding itself. The Russian, who is ever a practical man,
carries his own bedding--a couple of sheets, blankets, and small
pillow,--a custom infinitely cleaner and more sensible than sleeping in
dubious, smelly blankets of which one does not know who has used them
before, nor when they were washed last. But if passengers wish, by paying
a rouble (two shillings) a night to the guard, bedding is provided by the
Railway. There is a fine _lavabo_ at the end of each carriage, with
shampoo, hot and cold water, etc. Here, too, by asking the guard, towels
are handed over to those passengers who have not brought their own.

Here I may relate another amusing incident. Unable to get at my towels
packed in my registered baggage, and ignorant of the Russian language, I
inquired of a polyglot fellow-passenger what was the Russian word for
towel, so that I could ask the guard for one.

"_Palatiensi_," said he, and I repeated, "Palatiensi, palatiensi,
palatiensi," so as to impress the word well upon my memory. Having
enjoyed a good wash and a shampoo, and dripping all over with water, I
rang for the guard, and sure enough, when the man came, I could
not recollect the word. At last it dawned upon me that it
was,--"_Palatinski_," and "_Palatinski_," I asked of the guard.

To my surprise the guard smiled graciously, and putting on a modest air
replied: "_Palatinski niet, paruski_ (I do not speak Latin, I speak only
Russian)," and the more I repeated "palatinski," putting the inflection
now on one syllable, then on the other, to make him understand, the more
flattered the man seemed to be, and modestly gave the same answer.

This was incomprehensible to me, until my polyglot fellow-passenger came
to my assistance.

"Do you know what you are asking the guard?" he said in convulsions of
laughter.

"Yes, I am asking for a 'palatinski'--a towel."

"No, you are not!" and he positively went into hysterics. "Palatinski
means 'Do you speak Latin?' How can you expect a Russian railway-guard to
speak Latin? Look how incensed the poor man is at being mistaken for a
Latin scholar! Ask him for a _palatiensi_, and he will run for a towel."

The man did run on the magic word being pronounced, and duly returned
with a nice clean _palatiensi_, which, however, was little use to me for
I had by this time nearly got dry by the natural processes of dripping
and evaporation.

One or two other similar incidents, and the extreme civility one meets
from every one while travelling in Russia, passed the time away
pleasantly until Kiev, one of the oldest cities of Russia, was reached.



CHAPTER II

     Kiev--Its protecting Saint--Intellectuality and trade--Priests
     and education--Wherein lies the strength of Russia--Industries--A
     famous Monastery--The Catacombs of St. Theodosius and St.
     Anthony--Pilgrims--Veneration of Saints--The Dnieper
     river--Churches--A luminous cross--Kharkoff--Agriculture--Horse
     fairs--Rostoff--Votka drunkenness--Strong fortifications--Cheap
     and good travelling--Baku.


Tradition tells us that Kiev was founded before the Christian era, and
its vicissitudes have since been many and varied. It has at all times
been considered one of the most important ecclesiastical centres of
Russia,--if not indeed the most important--but particularly since St.
Vladimir, the protecting saint of the city, preached Christianity there
in 988, this being the first time that the religion of Christ had been
expounded in Russia. A century and a half before that time (in 822) Kiev
was the capital city of the state and remained such till 1169. In 1240 it
was captured by Mongols who held it for 81 years. The Lithuanians came
next, and remained in possession for 249 years, until 1569; then Poland
possessed it until the year 1654, when it became part of the Russian
Empire.

Kiev has the name of being a very intellectual city. Somehow or other,
intellectuality and trade do not seem to go together, and although the
place boasts of a military school and arsenal, theological colleges, a
university, a school of sacred picture painters, and a great many
scientific and learned societies, we find that none of these are locally
put to any marked practical use, except the sacred-picture painting; the
images being disposed of very rapidly, and for comparatively high prices
all over the country. Hardly any religious resorts are great commercial
centres, the people of these places being generally conservative and
bigoted and the ruling priestly classes devoting too much attention to
idealism to embark in commercial enterprise, which leaves little time for
praying. Agriculture and horticulture are encouraged and give good
results.

The priests make money--plenty of it--by their religion, and they
probably know that there is nothing more disastrous to religion in laymen
than rapid money-making by trade or otherwise. With money comes
education, and with education, too powerful a light thrown upon
superstition and idolatry. It is nevertheless possible, even probable,
that in the ignorance of the masses, in the fervent and unshaken
confidence which they possess in God, the Czar and their leaders, may yet
lie the greatest strength of Russia. It must not be forgotten that
half-educated, or half uneducated, masses are probably the weakness
to-day of most other civilised nations.

Some business on a small scale, however, is transacted at the various
fairs held in Kiev, such as the great fair at the beginning of the
Russian year. There are many beet-root sugar refineries, the staple
industry of the country, and next come leather tanneries, worked leather,
machinery, spirits, grain and tobacco. Wax candles are manufactured in
huge quantities, and in the monastery there is a very ancient
printing-press for religious books.

Peter the Great erected a fortress here in a most commanding spot. It is
said to contain up-to-date guns. A special pass has to be obtained from
the military authorities to be allowed to enter it, not so much because
it is used as an arsenal, but because from the high tower a most
excellent panoramic view is obtained of the city, the neighbourhood, and
the course of the river down below.

But Kiev is famous above all for its monastery, the Kievo-Petcherskaya,
near which the two catacombs of St. Theodosius and St. Antony attract
over three hundred thousand pilgrims every year. The first catacomb
contains forty-five bodies of saints, the other eighty and the revered
remains are stored in plain wood or silver-mounted coffins, duly labelled
with adequate inscriptions. The huge monastery itself bears the
appearance of great wealth, and has special accommodation for pilgrims.
As many as 200,000 pilgrims are said to receive board and lodging yearly
in the monastery. These are naturally pilgrims of the lower classes.

Enormous riches in solid gold, silver and jewellery are stored in the
monastery and are daily increased by devout gifts.

But let us visit the catacombs.

The spare-looking, long-haired and bearded priests at the entrance of the
catacomb present to each pilgrim, as a memento, a useful and much valued
wax candle, which one lights and carries in one's hand down the steep and
slippery steps of the subterranean passages. All along, the procession
halts before mummified and most unattractive bodies, a buzzing of prayers
being raised by the pilgrims when the identity of each saint is explained
by the priest conducting the party. The more devout people stoop over the
bodies and kiss them fervently all over, voluntarily and gladly
disbursing in return for the privilege all such small cash as may lie
idle in their pockets.

Down and down the crowd goes through the long winding, cold, damp,
rancid-smelling passages, devoid of the remotest gleam of ventilation,
and where one breathes air so thick and foul that it sticks to one's
clothes and furs one's tongue, throat and lungs for several hours after
one has emerged from the catacombs into fresh air again. Yet there are
hermit monks who spend their lives underground without ever coming up to
the light, and in doing so become bony, discoloured, ghastly creatures,
with staring, inspired eyes and hollow cheeks, half demented to all
appearance, but much revered and respected by the crowds for their
self-sacrifice.

Further on the pilgrims drink holy water out of a small cup made in the
shape of a cross, with which the liquid is served out from a larger
vessel. The expression of beatitude on their faces as they sip of the
holy water, and their amazing reverence for all they see and are told to
do, are quite extraordinary to watch, and are quite refreshing in these
dying days of idealism supplanted by fast-growing and less poetic
atheistic notions. The scowl I received from the priest when my turn came
and he lifted the tin cross to my lips, is still well impressed upon my
mind. I drew back and politely declined to drink. There was a murmur of
strong disapproval from all the people present, and the priest grumbled
something; but really, what with the fetid smell of tallow-candle smoke,
the used-up air, and the high scent of pilgrims--and religious people
ever have a pungent odour peculiar to themselves--water, whether holy or
otherwise, was about the very beverage that would have finished me up at
that particular moment.

Glad I was to be out in the open air again, driving through the pretty
gardens of Kiev, and to enjoy the extensive view from the high cliffs
overlooking the winding Dnieper River. A handsome suspension bridge joins
the two banks. The river is navigable and during the spring floods the
water has been known to rise as much as twenty feet.

The city of Kiev is situated on high undulating ground some 350 feet
above the river, and up to 1837 consisted of the old town, Podol and
Petchersk, to which forty-two years later were added Shulyavka,
Solomenka, Kurenevka and Lukyanovka, the city being divided into eight
districts. The more modern part of the town is very handsome, with wide
streets and fine stone houses of good architecture, whereas the poorer
abodes are mostly constructed of wood.

As in all the other cities of Russia there are in Kiev a great many
churches, over seventy in all, the oldest of which is the Cathedral of
St. Sophia in the centre of the town, built as early as 1037 on the spot
where the Petchenegs were defeated the previous year by Yarosloff. It is
renowned for its superb altar, its valuable mosaics and the tombs of
Russian grand-dukes. Next in importance is the Church of the Assumption,
containing the bodies of seven saints conveyed here from Constantinople.
At night the cross borne by the statue of Vladimir, erected on a high
point overlooking the Dnieper, is lighted up by electricity. This
luminous cross can be seen for miles and miles all over the country, and
the effect is most impressive and weird.

From Kiev I had to strike across country, and the trains were naturally
not quite so luxurious as the express trains on the main line, but still
the carriages were of the same type, extremely comfortable and spacious,
and all the trains corridor trains.

The next important city where I halted for a few hours was Kharkoff in
the Ukraine, an agricultural centre where beet-root was raised in huge
quantities and sugar manufactured from it; wheat was plentiful, and good
cattle, sheep and horses were bred. The population was mostly of Cossacks
of the Don and Little Russians. The industries of the place were closely
akin to farming. Agricultural implements were manufactured; there were
wool-cleaning yards, soap and candle factories, wheat-mills, brandy
distilleries, leather tanneries, cloth manufactories, and brick kilns.

The horse fairs at Kharkoff are patronised by buyers from all parts of
Russia, but to outsiders the city is probably better known as the early
cradle of Nihilistic notions. Although quite a handsome city, with fine
streets and remarkably good shops, Kharkoff has nothing special to
attract the casual visitor, and in ordinary times a few hours are more
than sufficient to get a fair idea of the place.

With a railway ticket punched so often that there is very little left of
it, we proceed to Rostoff, where we shall strike the main line from
Moscow to the Caucasus. Here is a comparatively new city--not unlike the
shambling lesser Western cities of the United States of America, with
plenty of tumbling-down, made-anyhow fences, and empty tin cans lying
everywhere. The streets are unpaved, and the consequent dust blinding,
the drinking saloons in undue proportion to the number of houses, and
votka-drunken people in undue proportion to the population.
Votka-drunkenness differs from the intoxication of other liquors in one
particular. Instead of "dead drunk" it leaves the individuals drunk-dead.
You see a disgusting number of these corpse-like folks lying about the
streets, cadaverous-looking and motionless, spread flat on their faces or
backs, uncared-for by everybody. Some sleep it off, and, if not run over
by a droshki, eventually go home; some sleep it on, and are eventually
conveyed to the graveyard, and nobody seems any the wiser except, of
course, the people who do not drink bad votka to excess.

Rostoff stands at the head of the Delta of the Don, a position of great
strategical importance, where of course the Russians have not failed to
build strong fortifications. These were begun as early as 1761. Now very
active ship-building yards are found here, and extensive caviare
factories. Leather, wool, corn, soap, ropes and tobacco are also
exported, and the place, apart from its military importance, is steadily
growing commercially. The majority of shops seem to deal chiefly in
American and German made agricultural implements, machinery and tools,
and in firearms and knives of all sizes and shapes. The place is not
particularly clean and certainly hot, dusty and most unattractive. One is
glad to get into the train again and steam away from it.

As we get further South towards the Caucasus the country grows more
barren and hot, the dust is appalling, but the types of inhabitants at
the little stations become very picturesque. The Georgians are very fine
people and the Armenians too, in appearance at least. The station sheds
along the dusty steppes are guarded by soldiers, presumably to prevent
attacks on the trains, and as one gets near the Caspian one begins to see
the wooden pyramids over oil wells, and long freight trains of petroleum
carried in iron cylindrical tanks. The wells get more numerous as we go
along; the stations more crowded with petroleum tanks. We are nearing the
great naphtha wells of Baku, where at last we arrive, having travelled
from Tuesday to Sunday afternoon, or five days, except a few hours' halt
in Kiev, Kharkoff and Rostoff.

[Illustration: The Baku Oil Wells.]

The first-class railway fare from Warsaw for the whole journey was fully
covered by a five-pound note, and, mind you, could have been done cheaper
if one chose to travel by slower trains on a less direct route!



CHAPTER III

     Baku--Unnecessary anxiety--A storm--Oil wells--Naphtha
     spouts--How the wells are worked--The native city--The Baku
     Bay--Fortifications--The Maiden's Tower--Depressing
     vegetation--Baku dust--Prosperity and hospitality--The Amir of
     Bokhara--The mail service to Persia on the Caspian--The Mercury
     and Caucasus line--Lenkoran--Astara (Russo-Persian
     boundary)--Antiquated steamers.


So many accounts are heard of how one's registered baggage in Russia
generally arrives with locks smashed and minus one's most valuable
property, and how unpunctual in arriving luggage is, and how few
passengers escape without having their pockets picked before reaching
their destination--by the way, a fellow-passenger had his pockets picked
at the station of Mineralnya Vod--that I was somewhat anxious to see my
belongings again, and fully expected to find that something had gone
wrong with them. Much to my surprise, on producing the receipt at the
very handsome railway terminus, all my portmanteaux and cases were
instantly delivered in excellent condition.

The Caspian Sea steamers for Persia leave Baku on Sunday and Tuesday at
midnight. There was a fierce sand storm raging at the time and the
steamer had returned without being able to land her passengers at their
destination. I decided to wait till the Tuesday. There is plenty to
interest one in Baku. I will not describe the eternal fires, described so
often by other visitors, nor tell how naphtha was tapped for the first
time at this place, and how in 1886 one particular well spouted oil with
such tremendous force that it was impossible to check it and it deluged a
good portion of the neighbourhood. A year later, in 1887, another
fountain rose to a height of 350 ft. There are myriads of other lesser
fountains and wells, each covered by a wooden shed like a slender
pyramid, and it is a common occurrence to see a big spout of naphtha
rising outside and high above the top of the wooden shed, now from one
well, now from another.

The process of bringing naphtha to the surface under ordinary
circumstances is simple and effective, a metal cylinder is employed that
has a valve at the lower end allowing the tube to fill while it descends,
and closing automatically when the tube is full and is being raised above
ground and emptied into pits provided for the purpose. The naphtha then
undergoes the process of refinement. There are at the present moment
hundreds of refineries in Baku. The residue and waste of naphtha are used
as fuel, being very much cheaper than coal or wood.

The greater number of wells are found a few miles out of the town on the
Balakhani Peninsula, and the naphtha is carried into the Baku refineries
by numerous pipe lines. The whole country round is, however, impregnated
with oil, and even the sea in one or two bays near Baku is coated with
inflammable stuff and can be ignited by throwing a lighted match upon it.
At night this has a weird effect.

Apart from the oil, Baku--especially the European settlement--has nothing
to fascinate the traveller. In the native city, Persian in type, with
flat roofs one above the other and the hill top crowned by a castle and
the Mosque of Shah Abbas, constant murders occur. The native population
consists mostly of Armenians and Persians. Cotton, saffron, opium, silk
and salt are exported in comparatively small quantities. Machinery, grain
and dried fruit constitute the chief imports.

The crescent-shaped Baku Bay, protected as it is by a small island in
front of it, affords a safe anchorage for shipping. It has good
ship-yards and is the principal station of the Russian fleet in the
Caspian. Since Baku became part of the Russian Empire in 1806 the harbour
has been very strongly fortified.

The most striking architectural sight in Baku is the round Maiden's Tower
by the water edge, from the top of which the lovely daughter of the Khan
of Baku precipitated herself on to the rocks below because she could not
marry the man she loved.

The most depressing sight in Baku is the vegetation, or rather the
strenuous efforts of the lover of plants to procure verdure at all costs
in the gardens. It is seldom one's lot to see trees and plants look more
pitiable, notwithstanding the unbounded care that is taken of them. The
terrific heat of Baku, the hot winds and sand-storms are deadly enemies
to vegetation. Nothing will grow. One does not see a blade of grass nor a
shrub anywhere except those few that are artificially brought up. The
sand is most trying. It is so fine that the wind forces it through
anything, and one's tables, one's chairs, one's bed are yellow-coated
with it. The tablecloth at the hotel, specklessly white when you begin to
dine, gets gradually yellower at sight, and by the time you are half
through your dinner the waiter has to come with a brush to remove the
thick coating of dust on the table.

These are the drawbacks, but there is an air of prosperity about the
place and people that is distinctly pleasing, even although one may not
share in it. There is quite a fair foreign community of business people,
and their activity is very praiseworthy. The people are very
hospitable--too hospitable. When they do not talk of naphtha, they drink
sweet champagne in unlimited quantities. But what else could they do?
Everything is naphtha here, everything smells of naphtha, the steamers,
the railway engines are run with naphtha. The streets are greasy with
naphtha. Occasionally--frequently of late--the monotony of the place is
broken by fires of gigantic proportions on the premises of over-insured
well-owners. The destruction to property on such occasions is immense,
the fires spreading with incalculable rapidity over an enormous area, and
the difficulty of extinguishing them being considerable.

When I was in Baku the Amir of Bokhara was being entertained in the city
as guest of the Government. His suite was quartered in the Grand Hotel.
He had taken his usual tour through Russia and no trouble had been spared
to impress the Amir with the greatness of the Russian Empire. He had been
given a very good time, and I was much impressed with the pomp and
cordiality with which he was treated. Neither the Governor nor any of the
other officials showed him the usual stand-off manner which in India, for
instance, would have been used towards an Asiatic potentate, whether
conquered by us or otherwise. They dealt with him as if he had been a
European prince--at which the Amir seemed much flattered. He had a
striking, good-natured face with black beard and moustache, and dark
tired eyes that clearly testified to Russian hospitality.

I went to see him off on the steamer which he kept waiting several hours
after the advertised time of departure. He dolefully strode on board over
a grand display of oriental rugs, while the military brass band provided
for the occasion played Russian selections. Everybody official wore
decorations, even the captain of the merchant ship, who proudly bore upon
his chest a brilliant star--a Bokhara distinction received from the Amir
on his outward journey for navigating him safely across the Caspian.

[Illustration: The Amir of Bokhara leaving Baku to return to his
Country.]

The Amir's suite was very picturesque, some of the men wearing long
crimson velvet gowns embroidered in gold, others silk-checked garments.
All had white turbans. The snapshot reproduced in the illustration shows
the Amir accompanied by the Governor of Baku just stepping on board.

There is a regular mail service twice a week in summer, from April to the
end of October, and once a week in winter, on the Caspian between Baku
and Enzeli in Persia, the Russian Government paying a subsidy to the
Kavkas and Mercury Steam Navigation Company for the purpose of conveying
passengers, mails (and, in the event of war, troops) into Persia and
back. There are also a number of coasting steamers constantly plying
between the various ports on the Caspian both on the Russian and Persian
coast.

The hurricane having abated there was a prospect of a fair voyage and the
probability of landing at Enzeli in Persia, so when the Tuesday came I
went on board the old rickety paddle-steamer (no less than forty-five
years old) which was to convey me to that port. She was one of the
Mercury-Caucasus Co. fleet, and very dirty she was, too.

It is perhaps right to mention that for the first time in Russia,
purposeless rudeness and insolence came to my notice on the part of the
ticket officials of the Mercury line. They behaved like stupid
children, and were absolutely incompetent to do the work which had been
entrusted to them. They were somewhat surprised when I took them to task
and made them "sit up." Having found that they had played the fool with
the wrong man they instantly became very meek and obliging. It is
nevertheless a great pity that the Mercury Company should employ men of
this kind who, for some aim of their own, annoy passengers, both foreign
and Russian, and are a disgrace to the Company and their country.

On board ship the captain, officers and stewards were extremely civil.
Nearly all the captains of the Caspian steamers were Norwegian or from
Finland, and were jolly fellows. The cabins were very much inhabited, so
much so that it was difficult to sleep in them at all. Insects so
voracious and in such quantities and variety were in full possession of
the berths, that they gave one as lively a night as it is possible for
mortals to have. Fortunately the journey was not a long one, and having
duly departed at midnight from Baku I reached Lenkoran the next day, with
its picturesque background of mountains and thickly-wooded country. This
spot is renowned for tiger-shooting.

Our next halt was at Astara, where there were a number of wooden sheds
and drinking saloons,--a dreadful place, important only because on the
Perso-Russian boundary line formed by the river of the same name. We
landed here a number of police officers, who were met by a deputation of
some fifty Persian-looking men, who threw their arms round their necks
and in turn lustily kissed them on both cheeks. It was a funny sight.
When we got on board again after a couple of hours on shore the wind rose
and we tossed about considerably. Another sleepless night on the "living"
mattress in the bunk, and early in the morning we reached the Persian
port of Enzeli.



CHAPTER IV

     The Port of Enzeli--Troublesome landing--Flat-bottomed boats--A
     special permit--Civility of officials--Across the Murd-ap
     lagoon--Piri-Bazaar--A self-imposed golden rule--Where our stock
     came from--The drive to Resht--The bazaar--The native shops and
     foreign goods--Ghilan's trade--The increase in trade--British and
     Russian competitions--Sugar--Tobacco--Hotels--The British
     Consulate--The Governor's palace--H.E. Salare Afkham--A Swiss
     hotel--Banks.


One calls Enzeli a "port" _pour façon de parler_, for Persia has no
harbours at all on the Caspian sea. Enzeli, Meshed-i-Sher or Astrabad,
the three principal landing places on the Persian coast, have no shelter
for ships, which have to lie a good distance out at sea while passengers
and cargo are transhipped by the Company's steam launch or--in rough
weather--by rowing boats. In very rough weather it is impossible to
effect a landing at all, and--this is a most frequent occurrence on the
treacherous Caspian--after reaching one's journey's end one has to go all
the way back to the starting point and begin afresh. There are people who
have been compelled to take the journey four or five times before they
could land, until the violent storms which often rage along the Persian
coast had completely subsided and allowed the flimsy steam-launch at
Enzeli to come out to meet the steamers, lying about a mile outside.

We had passengers on board who had been unable to land on the previous
journey, and were now on their second attempt to set foot in Persia. We
were rolling a good deal when we cast anchor, and after waiting some
hours we were informed that it was too rough for the steam-launch to come
out. The captain feared that he must put to sea again, as the wind was
rising and he was afraid to remain so near the coast. Two rowing boats
eventually came out, and with some considerable exertion of the rowers
succeeded in getting near the steamer. I immediately chartered one, and
after a good deal of see-saw and banging and knocking and crackling of
wood alongside the steamer, my baggage and I were transhipped into the
flat-bottomed boat. Off we rowed towards the shore, getting drenched each
time that the boat dipped her nose into the sea.

The narrow entrance of the Enzeli bay is blocked by a sand-bar. The water
is here very shallow, only about six feet deep. Riding on the top of the
breakers was quite an experience, and we occasionally shipped a good deal
of water. We, however, landed safely and had to pay pretty dearly for the
convenience. The boatmen do not run the risk of going out for nothing,
and when they do, take every advantage of passengers who employ them. I
was fortunate to get off by giving a backshish of a few _tomans_
(dollars), but there are people who have been known to pay three, four
and even five pounds sterling to be conveyed on shore.

Here, too, thanks to the civility of the Persian Ambassador in London, I
had a special permit for my firearms, instruments, etc., and met with the
greatest courtesy from the Belgian and Persian officers in the Customs.
It is necessary to have one's passport in order, duly _visé_ by the
Persian Consul in London, or else a delay might occur at Enzeli.

There is a lighthouse at Enzeli, the Customs buildings and a small hotel.
From this point a lagoon, the Murd-ap has to be crossed, either by the
small steam-launch or by rowing boat. As there seemed to be some
uncertainty about the departure of the launch, and as I had a good deal
of luggage, I preferred the latter way. Eight powerful men rowed with all
their might at the prospect of a good backshish; and we sped along at a
good pace on the placid waters of the lagoon, in big stretches of open
water, now skirting small islands, occasionally through narrow canals,
the banks of which were covered with high reeds and heavy, tropical,
confused, untidy vegetation. The air was still and stifling--absolutely
unmoved, screened as it was on all sides by vegetation. The sailors sang
a monotonous cadence, and the boat glided along for some three hours
until we arrived at the mouth of the Piri river, hardly wide enough for a
couple of boats to go through simultaneously, and so shallow that rowing
was no longer practicable.

The men jumped off, tied the towing rope that hung from the mast to their
belts, and ran along the banks of the Piri river, the water of which was
almost stagnant. An hour or so later we suddenly came upon a number of
boats jammed together in the miniature harbour of Piri Bazaar--a pool of
putrid water a few feet in circumference. As the boat gradually
approached, a stone-paved path still separated from you by a thick wide
layer of filthy mud wound its way to the few miserable sheds--the
bazaar--up above. A few trays of grapes, some Persian bread, some
earthenware pottery of the cheapest kind, are displayed in the shop
fronts--and that is all of the Piri-Bazaar. On landing at Enzeli one
hears so much of Piri-Bazaar that one gets to imagine it a big, important
place,--and as it is, moreover, practically the first really typical
Persian place at which one touches, the expectations are high. Upon
arrival there one's heart sinks into one's boots, and one's boots sink
deep into black stinking mud as one takes a very long--yet much too
short--jump from the boat on to what one presumes to be _terra firma_.

With boots clogged and heavy with filth, a hundred people like ravenous
birds of prey yelling in your ears (and picking your pockets if they have
a chance), with your luggage being mercilessly dragged in the mud, with
everybody demanding backshish on all sides, tapping you on the shoulder
or pulling your coat,--thus one lands in real Persia.

In the country of Iran one does not travel for pleasure nor is there any
pleasure in travelling. For study and interest, yes. There is plenty of
both everywhere.

Personally, I invariably make up my mind when I start for the East that
no matter what happens I will on no account get out of temper, and this
self-imposed rule--I must admit--was never, in all my travels, tried to
the tantalising extent that it was in the country of the Shah. The
Persian lower classes--particularly in places where they have come in
contact with Europeans--are well-nigh intolerable. There is nothing that
they will not do to annoy you in every possible way, to extort backshish
from you. In only one way do Persians in this respect differ from other
Orientals. The others usually try to obtain money by pleasing you and
being useful and polite, whereas the Persian adopts the quicker, if not
safer, method of bothering you and giving you trouble to such an
unlimited degree that you are compelled to give something in order to get
rid of him. And in a country where no redress can be obtained from the
police, where laws do not count, and where the lower classes are as
corrupt and unscrupulous as they are in the more civilised parts of
Persia (these remarks do not apply to the parts where few or no Europeans
have been) the only way to save one's self from constant worry and
repressed anger--so bad for one's health--is to make up one's mind at
once to what extent one is prepared to be imposed upon, and leave the
country after. That is to say, if one does not wish to adopt the only
other and more attractive alternative of inflicting summary justice on
two-thirds of the natives one meets,--too great an exertion, to be sure,
in so hot a climate.

They say that Persia is the country that our stock came from. It is quite
possible, and if so we are indeed to be congratulated upon having morally
improved so much since, or the Persians to be condoled with on their sad
degeneration. The better classes, however, are very different, as we
shall see later.

Personally, I adopted the first method suggested above, the easier of the
two, and I deliberately put by what I thought was a fair sum to be
devoted exclusively to extortion. On leaving the country several months
later, much to my astonishment I found that I had not been imposed upon
half as much as I expected, although I had stayed in Persia double the
time I had intended. Maybe this can be accounted for by my having spent
most of my time in parts not so much frequented by Europeans. Indeed, if
the Persian is to-day the perfidious individual he is, we have to a great
extent only ourselves to blame for making him so.

Keeping my temper under control, and an eye on my belongings, I next
hired a carriage to convey me to the town of Resht, seven miles distant.
In damp heat, that made one's clothes moist and unpleasant, upon a road
muddy to such an extent that the wheels sank several inches in it and
splashed the passenger all over, we galloped through thick vegetation and
patches of agriculture, and entered the city of Resht. Through the narrow
winding streets of the bazaar we slowed down somewhat in some places, the
carriage almost touching the walls of the street on both sides. The
better houses possess verandahs with banisters painted blue, while the
walls of the buildings are generally white.

One is struck by the great number of shoe shops in the bazaar, displaying
true Persian shoes with pointed turned-up toes,--then by the brass and
copper vessel shops, the ancient and extremely graceful shapes of the
vessels and amphoras being to this date faithfully preserved and
reproduced. More pleasing still to the eye are the fruit shops, with huge
trays of water-melons, cucumbers, figs, and heaps of grapes. The latter
are, nevertheless, not so very tasty to the palate and do not compare
with the delicate flavour of the Italian or Spanish grapes.

Somewhat incongruous and out-of-place, yet more numerous than truly
Persian shops, are the semi-European stores, with cheap glass windows
displaying inside highly dangerous-looking kerosene lamps, badly put
together tin goods, soiled enamel tumblers and plates, silvered glass
balls for ceiling decoration, and the vilest oleographs that the human
mind can devise, only matched by the vileness of the frames. Small
looking-glasses play an important part in these displays, and
occasionally a hand sewing-machine. Tinned provisions, wine and liquor
shops are numerous, but unfortunate is the man who may have to depend
upon them for his food. The goods are the remnants of the oldest stocks
that have gradually drifted, unsold, down to Baku, and have eventually
been shipped over for the Persian market where people do not know any
better. Resht is the chief city in the Ghilan province.

Ghilan's trade in piece-goods is about two-thirds in the hands of Russia,
while one-third (or even less) is still retained by England,--Manchester
goods. This cannot well be helped, for there is no direct route from
Great Britain to Resht, and all British goods must come through Bagdad,
Tabriz, or Baku. The two first routes carry most of the trade, which
consists principally of shirtings, prints, cambrics, mulls, nainsooks,
and Turkey-reds, which are usually put down as of Turkish origin, whereas
in reality they come from Manchester, and are merely re-exported, mainly
from Constantinople, by native firms either in direct traffic or in
exchange for goods received.

One has heard a great deal of the enormous increase in trade in Persia
during the last couple of years or so. The increase has not been in the
trade itself, but in the collection of Customs dues, which is now done in
a regular and business like fashion by competent Belgian officials,
instead of by natives, to whom the various collecting stations were
formerly farmed out.

It will not be very easy for the British trader to compete successfully
with the Russian in northern Persia, for that country, being
geographically in such close proximity, can transport her cheaply made
goods at a very low cost into Iran. Also the Russian Government allows
enormous advantages to her own traders with Persia in order to secure the
Persian market, and to develop her fast-increasing industrial
progress,--advantages which British traders do not enjoy. Still,
considering all the difficulties British trade has to contend with in
order to penetrate, particularly into Ghilan, it is extraordinary how
some articles, like white Manchester shirtings, enjoy practically a
monopoly, being of a better quality than similar goods sent by Russia,
Austria, Hungary, Germany, Italy or Holland.

Loaf sugar, which came at one time almost entirely from France, has been
cut out by Russian sugar, which is imported in large quantities and
eventually finds its way all over Persia. It is of inferior quality, but
very much cheaper than sugar of French manufacture, and is the chief
Russian import into Ghilan.

Tobacco comes principally from Turkey and Russia. In going on with our
drive through the bazaar we see it sold in the tiny tobacco shops, where
it is tastily arranged in heaps on square pieces of blue paper, by the
side of Russian and Turkish cigarettes.

[Illustration: Persian Wrestling.]

And now for the Resht Hotels. Here is an Armenian hotel--European style.
From the balcony signs and gesticulations and shouts in English, French,
and Russian endeavour to attract the passer-by--a youth even rushes to
the horses and stops them in order to induce the traveller to alight and
put up at the hostelry; but after a long discussion, on we go, and slowly
wind our way through the intricate streets crowded with men and women and
children--all grumbling and making some remark as one goes by. At one
point a circle of people squatting in the middle of a road round a pile
of water-melons, at huge slices of which they each bit lustily, kept us
waiting some time, till they moved themselves and their melons out of the
way for the carriage to pass. Further on a soldier or two in rags lay
sleeping flat on the shady side of the road, with his pipe (kalian) and
his sword lying by his side. Boys were riding wildly on donkeys and
frightened women scrambled away or flattened themselves against the side
walls of the street, while the hubs of the wheels shaved and greased
their ample black silk or cotton trousers made in the shape of sacks, and
the horses' hoofs splashed them all over with mud. The women's faces were
covered with a white cloth reaching down to the waist. Here, too, as in
China, the double basket arrangement on a long pole swung across the
shoulders was much used for conveying loads of fruit and vegetables on
men's shoulders;--but least picturesque of all were the well-to-do
people of the strong sex, in short frock-coats pleated all over in the
skirt.

One gets a glimpse of a picturesque blue-tiled pagoda-like roof with a
cylindrical column upon it, and at last we emerge into a large
quadrangular square, with European buildings to the west side.

A little further the British flag flies gaily in the wind above H.M.'s
Consulate. Then we come upon a larger building, the Palace of the
Governor, who, to save himself the trouble and expense of having sentries
at the entrances, had life-size representations of soldiers with drawn
swords painted on the wall. They are not all represented wearing the same
uniform, as one would expect with a guard of that kind, but for variety's
sake some have red coats, with plenty of gold braiding on them, and blue
trousers, the others blue coats and red trousers. One could not honestly
call the building a beautiful one, but in its unrestored condition it is
quite picturesque and quaint. It possesses a spacious verandah painted
bright blue, and two windows at each side with elaborate ornamentations
similarly coloured red and blue. A red-bordered white flag with the
national lion in the centre floats over the Palace, and an elaborate
castellated archway, with a repetition of the Persian Lion on either
side, stands in front of the main entrance in the square of the Palace.
So also do four useful kerosene lamp-posts. The telegraph office is to
the right of the Palace with a pretty garden in front of it.

The most important political personage living in Resht is His Excellency
Salare Afkham, called Mirza Fathollah Khan, one of the richest men in
Persia, who has a yearly income of some twenty thousand pounds sterling.
He owns a huge house and a great deal of land round Resht, and is much
respected for his talent and kindly manner. He was formerly Minister of
the Customs and Posts of all Persia, and his chest is a blaze of Russian,
Turkish and Persian decorations of the highest class, bestowed upon him
by the various Sovereigns in recognition of his good work. He has for
private secretary Abal Kassem Khan, the son of the best known of modern
Persian poets, Chams-echoéra, and himself a very able man who has
travelled all over Asia, Turkestan and Europe.

Persia is a country of disappointments. There is a general belief that
the Swiss are splendid hotel-keepers. Let me give you my experience of
the hotel at Resht kept by a Swiss.

"Can this be the Swiss hotel?" I queried to myself, as the driver pulled
up in front of an appallingly dirty flight of steps. There seemed to be
no one about, and after going through the greater part of the building, I
eventually came across a semi-starved Persian servant, who assured me
that it was. The proprietor, when found, received me with an air of
condescension that was entertaining. He led me to a room which he said
was the best in the house. On inspection, the others, I agreed with him,
were decidedly not better. The hotel had twelve bedrooms and they were
all disgustingly filthy. True enough, each bedroom had more beds in it
than one really needed, two or even three in each bedroom, but a
_coup-d'oeil_ was sufficient to assure one's self that it was out of the
question to make use of any of them. I counted four different coloured
hairs, of disproportionate lengths and texture, on one bed-pillow in my
room, leaving little doubt that no less than four people had laid their
heads on that pillow before; and the pillow of the other bed was so black
with dirt that I should imagine at least a dozen consecutive occupants of
that couch would be a low estimate indeed. As for the sheets, blankets,
and towels, we had better draw a veil. I therefore preferred to spread my
own bedding on the floor, and slept there. The hotel boasted of three
large dining-rooms in which a few moth-eaten stuffed birds and a case or
two of mutilated butterflies, a couple of German oleographs, which set
one's teeth on edge, and dusty, stamped cotton hangings formed the entire
decoration.

To give one an appetite--which one never lost as long as one stayed
there--one was informed before dinner that the proprietor was formerly
the Shah's cook. After dinner one felt very, very sorry for the poor
Shah, and more so for one's self, for having put up at the hotel. But
there was no other place in Resht, and I stuck to my decision that I
would never get angry, so I stood all patiently. The next day I would
start for Teheran.

One talks of Persian extortion, but it is nothing to the example offered
to the natives by Europeans in Persia. The charges at the hotel were
exorbitant. One paid as much per day as one would at the very first hotel
in London, New York, or Paris, such as the Carlton, the Waldorf, or Ritz.
Only here one got absolutely nothing for it except very likely an
infectious disease, as I did. In walking bare-footed on the filthy
matting, while taking my bath, some invisible germ bored its way into the
sole of my right foot and caused me a good deal of trouble for several
weeks after. Animal life in all its varieties was plentiful in all the
rooms.

Previous to starting on the long drive to the capital I had to get some
meat cooked for use on the road, but it was so putrid that even when I
flung it to a famished pariah dog he refused to eat it. And all this,
mind you, was inexcusable, because excellent meat, chickens, eggs,
vegetables, and fruit, can be purchased in Resht for a mere song, the
average price of a good chicken, for instance, being about 5_d._ to
10_d._, a whole sheep costing some eight or ten shillings. I think it is
only right that this man should be exposed, so as to put other travellers
on their guard, not so much for his overcharges, for when travelling one
does not mind over-paying if one is properly treated, but for his
impudence in furnishing provisions that even a dog would not eat. Had it
not been that I had other provisions with me I should have fared very
badly on the long drive to Teheran.

It may interest future travellers to know that the building where the
hotel was at the time of my visit, August, 1901, has now been taken over
for five years by the Russian Bank in order to open a branch of their
business in Resht, and that the hotel itself, I believe, has now shifted
to even less palatial quarters!

The Imperial Bank of Persia has for some years had a branch in Resht, and
until 1901 was the only banking establishment in the town.



CHAPTER V

     Resht--Impostors--A visit to the Head Mullah--Quaint
     notions--Arrangements for the drive to Teheran--The Russian
     concession of the Teheran road--The stormy Caspian and unsafe
     harbours--The great Menzil bridge--A detour in the road--Capital
     employed in the construction of the road--Mistaken English
     notions of Russia--Theory and practice--High tolls--Exorbitant
     fares--A speculator's offer refused--Development of the road.


Resht is an odious place in every way. It is, as it were, the "Port Said"
of Persia, for here the scum of Armenia, of Southern Russia, and of
Turkestan, stagnates, unable to proceed on the long and expensive journey
to Teheran. One cannot go out for a walk without being accosted by any
number of impostors, often in European clothes, who cling like leeches
and proceed to try to interest you in more or less plausible swindles.
One meets a great many people, too, who are on the look out for a "lift"
in one's carriage to the Persian capital.

I paid quite an interesting visit to a near relation of the Shah's, who
was the guest of the local Head Mullah. The approach to the Mullah's
palace was not attractive. I was conveyed through narrow passages, much
out of repair, until we arrived in front of a staircase at the foot of
which lay in a row, and in pairs, shoes of all sizes, prices, and ages,
patiently waiting for their respective owners inside the house. A great
many people were outside in the courtyard, some squatting down and
smoking a kalian, which was passed round after a puff or two from one
person to the other, care being taken by the last smoker to wipe the
mouthpiece with the palm of his hand before handing it to his neighbour.
Others loitered about and conversed in a low tone of voice.

A Mullah received me at the bottom of the staircase and led me up stairs
to a large European-looking room, with glass windows, cane chairs, and
Austrian glass candelabras. There were a number of Mullahs in their long
black robes, white or green sashes, and large turbans, sitting round the
room in a semicircle, and in the centre sat the high Mullah with the
young prince by his side. They all rose when I entered, and I was greeted
in a dignified yet very friendly manner. A chair was given me next to the
high Mullah, and the usual questions about one's family, the vicissitudes
of one's journey, one's age, one's plans, the accounts of what one had
seen in other countries, were duly gone through.

It was rather curious to notice the interest displayed by the high Mullah
in our South African war. He seemed anxious to know whether it was over
yet, or when it would be over. Also, how was it that a big nation like
Great Britain could not conquer a small nation like the Boers.

"It is easier for an elephant to kill another elephant," I replied, "than
for him to squash a mosquito."

"Do you not think," said the Mullah, "that England is now an old nation,
tired and worn--too old to fight? Nations are like individuals. They can
fight in youth--they must rest in old age. She has lived in glory and
luxury too long. Glory and luxury make nations weak. Persia is an
example."

"Yes, there is much truth in your sayings. We are tired and worn. We have
been and are still fast asleep in consequence. But maybe the day will
come when we shall wake up much refreshed. We are old enough to learn,
but not to die yet."

He was sorry that England was in trouble.

Tea, or rather sugar with some drops of tea on it was passed, in tiny
little glasses with miniature perforated tin spoons. Then another
cross-examination.

"Do you drink spirits and wine?"

"No."

"Do you smoke?"

"No."

"You would make a good Mussulman."

"Possibly, but not probably."

"In your travels do you find the people generally good or bad?"

"Taking things all round, in their badness, I find the people usually
pretty good."

"How much does your King give you to go about seeing foreign countries?"

"The King gives me nothing. I go at my own expense."

This statement seemed to take their breath away. It was bad enough for a
man to be sent--for a consideration--by his own Government to a strange
land, but to pay for the journey one's self, why! it seemed to them too
preposterous for words. They had quite an excited discussion about it
among themselves, the Persian idea being that every man must sponge upon
the Government to the utmost extent.

The young Prince hoped that I would travel as his guest in his carriage
to Teheran. Unfortunately, however, I had made other arrangements, and
was unable to accept his invitation.

My visit ended with renewed salaams and good wishes on their part for my
welfare on the long journey I was about to undertake. I noticed that,
with the exception of the Prince, who shook my hand warmly, the Mullahs
bowed over and over again, but did not touch my hand.

Now for the business visit at the post station. After a good deal of talk
and an unlimited consumption of tea, it had been arranged that a landau
with four post horses to be changed every six farsakhs, at each post
station, and a _fourgon_--a large van without springs, also with four
horses,--for luggage, should convey me to Teheran. So little luggage is
allowed inside one's carriage that an additional _fourgon_ is nearly
always required. One is told that large packages can be forwarded at a
small cost by the postal service, and that they will reach Teheran soon
after the passengers, but unhappy is the person that tries the rash
experiment. There is nothing to guarantee him that he will ever see his
luggage again. In Persia, a golden rule while travelling, that may
involve some loss of time but will avoid endless trouble and worry in the
end, is never to let one's luggage go out of sight. One is told that the
new Teheran road is a Russian enterprise, and therefore quite reliable,
and so it is, but not so the company of transportation, which is in the
hands of natives, the firm of Messrs. Bagheroff Brothers, which is merely
subsidized by the Russian Road Company.

As every one knows, in 1893 the Russians obtained a concession to
construct a carriage-road from Piri-Bazaar _via_ Resht to Kasvin, an
extension to Hamadan, and the purchase of the road from Kasvin to
Teheran, which was already in existence. Nominally the concession was not
granted to the Russian Government itself--as is generally believed in
England--but to a private company--the "Compagnie d'Assurance et de
Transport en Perse," which, nevertheless, is a mere off-shoot of
Government enterprise and is backed by the Russian Government to no mean
degree. The Company's headquarters are in Moscow, and in Persia the chief
office is at Kasvin.

Here it may be well to add that if this important concession slipped out
of our hands we have only ourselves to blame. We can in no way accuse the
Russians of taking advantage of us, but can only admire them for knowing
how to take advantage of a good opportunity. We had the opportunity
first; it was offered us in the first instance by Persia which needed a
loan of a paltry sixty million francs, or a little over two million
pounds sterling. The concession was offered as a guarantee for the loan,
but we, as usual, temporised and thought it over and argued--especially
the people who did not know what they were arguing about--and eventually
absolutely refused to have anything to do with the scheme. The Russians
had the next offer and jumped at it, as was natural in people well versed
in Persian affairs, and well able to foresee the enormous possibilities
of such an undertaking.

It was, beyond doubt, from the very beginning--except to people
absolutely ignorant and mentally blind--that the concession, apart from
its political importance, was a most excellent financial investment. Not
only would the road be most useful for the transit of Russian goods to
the capital of Persia, and from there all over the country, but for
military purposes it would prove invaluable. Maybe its use in the latter
capacity will be shown sooner than we in England think.

Of course, to complete the scheme the landing at Enzeli must still be
improved, so that small ships may enter in safety and land passengers and
goods each journey without the unpleasant alternative, which we have
seen, of having to return to one's point of departure and begin again,
two, or three, or even four times. One gentleman I met in Persia told me
that on one occasion the journey from Baku to Enzeli--thirty-six
hours--occupied him the space of twenty-six days!

[Illustration: Fourgons on the Russian Road between Resht and Teheran.]

The Caspian is stormy the greater part of the year, the water shallow, no
protection from the wind exists on any side, and wrecks, considering the
small amount of navigation on that sea, are extremely frequent. As we
have seen, there are not more than six feet of water on the bar at
Enzeli, but with a jetty which could be built at no very considerable
expense (as it probably will be some day) and a dredger kept constantly
at work, Enzeli could become quite a possible harbour, and the dangers of
long delays and the present risks that await passengers and goods, if not
absolutely avoided, would at least be minimised to an almost
insignificant degree. The navigation of the lagoon and stream presents no
difficulty, and the Russians have already obtained the right to widen the
mouth of the Murd-ap at Enzeli, in conjunction with the concession of the
Piri-Bazaar-Teheran road.

The road was very easy to make, being mostly over flat country and rising
to no great elevation, 5,000 feet being the highest point. It follows the
old caravan track nearly all the way, the only important detour made by
the new road being between Paichinar and Kasvin, to avoid the high
Kharzan or Kiajan pass--7,500 feet--over which the old track went.

Considering the nature of the country it crosses, the new road is a
good one and is well kept. Three large bridges and fifty-eight small ones
have been spanned across streams and ravines, the longest being the
bridge at Menzil, 142 yards long.

From Resht, _via_ Deschambe Bazaar, to Kudum the road strikes due south
across country. From Kudum (altitude, 292 feet) to Rudbar (665 feet) the
road is practically along the old track on the north-west bank of the
Kizil Uzen River, which, from its source flows first in a south-easterly
direction, and then turns at Menzil almost at a right angle towards the
north-east, changing its name into Sefid Rud (the White River). Some
miles after passing Rudbar, the river has to be crossed by the great
bridge, to reach Menzil, which lies on the opposite side of the stream.

From Menzil to Kasvin the Russian engineers had slightly more trouble in
constructing the road. A good deal of blasting had to be done to make the
road sufficiently broad for wheeled traffic; then came the important
detour, as we have seen, from Paichinar to Kasvin, so that practically
the portion of the road from Menzil to Kasvin is a new road altogether,
_via_ Mala Ali and Kuhim, the old track being met again at the village of
Agha Baba.

The width of the road averages twenty-one feet. In difficult places, such
as along ravines, or where the road had to be cut into the rock, it is
naturally less wide, but nowhere under fourteen feet. The gradient
averages 1--20 to 1--24. At a very few points, however, it is as steep
as 1 in 15. If the hill portion of the road is excepted, where, being in
zig-zag, it has very sharp angles, a light railway could be laid upon it
in a surprisingly short time and at no considerable expense, the ground
having been made very hard nearly all along the road.

The capital of £340,000 employed in the construction of the road was
subscribed in the following manner: 1,000 shares of 1,000 rubles each, or
1,000,000 rubles original capital subscribed in Moscow; 1,000,000 rubles
debentures taken by the Russian Government, and a further 500,000 rubles
on condition that 700,000 rubles additional capital were subscribed,
which was at once done principally by the original shareholders.

The speculation had from the very beginning a prospect of being very
successful, even merely considered as a trade route--a prospect which the
British Government, capitalist, and merchant did not seem to grasp, but
which was fully appreciated by the quicker and more far-seeing Russian
official and trader. Any fair-minded person cannot help admiring the
Russian Government for the insight, enterprise and sound statesmanship
with which it lost no time in supporting the scheme (discarded by us as
worthless), and this it did, not by empty-winded, pompous speeches and
temporising promises, to which we have so long been accustomed, but by
supplying capital in hard cash, for the double purpose of enhancing to
its fullest extent Russian trade and of gaining the strategic advantages
of such an enterprise, which are too palpable to be referred to again.

So it was, that while we in England relied on the everlasting and
ever-idiotic notion that Russia would never have the means to take up the
loan, being--as we are told--a bankrupt country with no resources, and a
Government with no credit and no cash,--that we found ourselves left (and
laughed at), having lost an opportunity which will never present itself
again, and which will eventually cost us the loss of Northern Persia, if
not of the whole of Persia.

Russia--it is only too natural--having once set her foot, or even both
feet, on Persian soil, now tries to keep out other nations--which, owing
to her geographical position, she can do with no effort and no
trouble--in order to enhance her youthful but solid and fast-growing
industries and trade.

In the case of the Teheran road, the only one, it must be remembered,
leading with any safety to the Persian capital, it is theoretically open
to all nations. Practically, Russian goods alone have a chance of being
conveyed by this route, owing to the prohibitive Customs duties exacted
in Russia on foreign goods in transit for Persia. Russia is already
indirectly reaping great profits through this law, especially on
machinery and heavy goods that have no option and must be transported by
this road. There is no other way by which they can reach Teheran on
wheels. But the chief and more direct profit of the enterprise itself is
derived from the high tolls which the Russian Company, with the
authorisation of the Persian Government, has established on the road
traffic, in order to reimburse the capital paid out and interest to
shareholders.

The road tolls are paid at Resht (and at intermediate stations if
travellers do not start from Resht), and amount to 4 krans == 1_s._ 8_d._
for each pack animal, whether it be a camel, a horse, a mule, or a
donkey.

A post-carriage with four horses (the usual conveyance hired between
Resht and Teheran) pays a toll of no less than 17_s._ 2_d._

                                   _s._  _d._
    A carriage with 3 horses       12     6
          "     "   2   "           8     4
          "     "   1 horse         4     2
A _fourgon_, or luggage van, 4 horses, £1 0_s._ 10_d._

Passengers are charged extra and above these tolls, so that a landau or a
victoria, for instance, actually pays £1 8_s._ for the right of using the
road, and a _fourgon_ with one's servants, as much as £1 13_s._ 2_d._

The fares for the hire of the conveyance are very high:--

                          £   _s._  _d._
Landau                   11   16     7
Victoria                 10   16     7
Coupé                    11    4    10
Fourgon                  10    0    10

As only 72 lbs. of personal luggage are allowed in the landau or 65 lbs.
in other carriages, and this weight must be in small packages, one is
compelled to hire a second conveyance, a _fourgon_, which can carry 650
lbs. Every pound exceeding these weights is charged for at the rate of
two shillings for every 13½ lbs. of luggage. The luggage is weighed with
great accuracy before starting from Resht, and on arrival in Teheran.
Care is taken to exact every half-penny to which the company is entitled
on luggage fares, and much inconvenience and delay is caused by the
Persian officials at the scales. It is advisable for the traveller to be
present when the luggage is weighed, to prevent fraud.

It may be noticed that to travel the 200 miles, the distance from Resht
to Teheran, the cost, without counting incidental expenses, tips
(amounting to some £3 or more), etc.,

          £  _s._  _d._            £  _s._  _d._     £  _s._ _d._
Landau,  11  16     7 plus toll,   1   8     0      13   4    7
Fourgon, 10   0    10 plus toll,   1  13     2      11  14    0
                                                    ------------
                                       Total       £24  18    7

which is somewhat high for a journey of only 72 to 80 hours.

This strikes one all the more when one compares it with the journey of
several thousand miles in the greatest of luxury from London across
Holland, Germany, Russia, and the Caspian to Enzeli, which can be covered
easily by three five-pound notes.

As every one knows, the road from Piri-Bazaar to Kasvin and Teheran was
opened for wheel traffic in January 1899.

I am told that in 1899--before the road was completed--a Persian
speculator offered the sum of £200 a day to be paid in cash every
evening, for the contract of the tolls. The offer was most emphatically
refused, as the daily tolls even at that time amounted to between £270
and £300.

In these last three years the road has developed in a most astounding
manner, and the receipts, besides being now considerably greater, are
constantly increasing. The Russian shareholders and Government can indeed
fairly congratulate themselves on the happy success which their
well-thought-out investment has fairly won them.



CHAPTER VI

     A journey by landau and four--Picturesque
     coachman--Tolls--Intense moisture--Luxuriant
     vegetation--Deschambe Bazaar--The silk industry of Ghilan--The
     cultivation and export of rice--The Governor's
     energy--Agriculture and Allah--The water question--The coachman's
     backshish--The White River--Olive groves--Halting places on the
     road--The effects of hallucination--Princes abundant.


We have seen how the road was made. Now let us travel on it in the hired
landau and four horses driven by a wild-looking coachman, whose locks of
jet-black hair protrude on either side of his clean-shaven neck, and
match in colour his black astrakan, spherical, brimless headgear. Like
all good Persians, he has a much pleated frockcoat that once was black
and is now of various shades of green. Over it at the waist he displays a
most elaborate silver belt, and yet another belt of leather with a
profusion of cartridges stuck in it and a revolver.

Why he did not run over half-a-dozen people or more as we galloped
through the narrow streets of Resht town is incomprehensible to me, for
the outside horses almost shaved the walls on both sides, and the
splash-boards of the old landau ditto.

That he did not speaks volumes for the flexibility and suppleness of
Persian men, women and children, of whom, stuck tight against the walls
in order to escape being trampled upon or crushed to death, one got mere
glimpses, at the speed one went.

The corners of the streets, too, bore ample testimony to the inaccuracy
of drivers in gauging distances, and so did the hubs and splash-boards of
the post-carriages, all twisted and staved in by repeated collisions.

It is with great gusto on the part of the drivers, but with a certain
amount of alarm on the part of the passenger, that one's carriage chips
off corner after corner of the road as one turns them, and one gets to
thank Providence for making houses in Persia of easily-powdered mud
instead of solid stone or bricks.

One's heart gets lighter when we emerge into the more sparsely inhabited
districts where fields and heavy vegetation line the road, now very wide
and more or less straight. Here the speed is greatly increased, the
coachman making ample use of a long stock whip. In Persia one always
travels full gallop.

After not very long we pull up to disburse the road toll at a wayside
collecting house. There are a great many caravans waiting, camels, mules,
donkeys, horsemen, _fourgons_, whose owners are busy counting hard silver
krans in little piles of 10 krans each--a _toman_, equivalent to a
dollar,--without which payment they cannot proceed. Post carriages have
precedence over everybody, and we are served at once. A receipt is duly
given for the money paid, and we are off again. The coachman is the cause
of a good deal of anxiety, for on the chance of a handsome backshish he
has indulged in copious advance libations of rum or votka, or both, the
vapours of which are blown by the wind into my face each time that he
turns round and breathes or speaks. That this was a case of the horses
leading the coachman and not of a man driving the horses, I have
personally not the shade of a doubt, for the wretch, instead of minding
his horses, hung backwards, the whole way, from the high box, yelling, I
do not know what, at the top of his voice, and making significant
gestures that he was still thirsty. Coachmen of all countries invariably
are.

We ran full speed into caravans of donkeys, scattering them all over the
place; we caused flocks of frightened sheep to stampede in all
directions, and only strings of imperturbable camels succeeded in
arresting our reckless flight, for they simply would not move out of the
way. Every now and then I snatched a furtive glance at the scenery.

The moisture of the climate is so great and the heat so intense, that the
vegetation of the whole of Ghilan province is luxuriant,--but not
picturesque, mind you. There is such a superabundance of vegetation, the
plants so crammed together, one on the top of the other, as it were, all
untidy, fat with moisture, and of such deep, coarse, blackish-green tones
that they give the scenery a heavy leaden appearance instead of the
charming beauty of more delicate tints of less tropical vegetation.

We go through Deschambe Bazaar, a place noted for its fairs.

Here you have high hedges of reeds and hopelessly entangled shrubs; there
your eyes are rested on big stretches of agriculture,--Indian corn,
endless paddy fields of rice and cotton, long rows of mulberry trees to
feed silkworms upon their leaves. Silk is even to-day one of the chief
industries of Ghilan. Its excellent quality was at one time the pride of
the province. The export trade of dried cocoons has been particularly
flourishing of late, and although prices and the exchanges have
fluctuated, the average price obtained for them in Resht when fresh was
from 20½ krans to 22½ krans (the kran being equivalent to about
fivepence).

The cocoon trade had until recently been almost entirely in the hands of
Armenian, French and Italian buyers in Resht, but now many Persian
merchants have begun to export bales of cocoons direct to Marseilles and
Milan, the two chief markets for silk, an export duty of 5 per cent. on
their value being imposed on them by the Persian Government. The cocoons
are made to travel by the shortest routes, _via_ the Caspian, Baku,
Batum, and the Black Sea.

The year 1900 seems to have been an exceptionally good year for the
production and export of cocoons. The eggs for the production of
silkworms are chiefly imported by Levantines from Asia Minor (Gimlek and
Brussa), and also in small quantities from France. According to the
report of Mr. Churchill, Acting-Consul at Resht, the quantity of cocoons
exported during that year showed an increase of some 436,800 lbs. above
the quantity exported the previous year (1899); and a comparison between
the quantity exported in 1893 and 1900 will show at a glance the enormous
apparent increase in the export of dried cocoons from Ghilan.

1893       76,160 lbs.     Value    £6,475
1900    1,615,488  "         "    £150,265

It must, however, be remembered that the value given for 1893 may be very
incorrect.

Large meadows with cattle grazing upon them; wheat fields, vegetables of
all sorts, vineyards, all pass before my eyes as in a kaleidoscope. A
fine country indeed for farmers. Plenty of water--even too much of
it,--wood in abundance within a stone's throw.

Next to the silk worms, rice must occupy our attention, being the staple
food of the natives of Ghilan and constituting one of the principal
articles of export from that province.

The cultivation and the export of rice from Ghilan have in the last
thirty years become very important, and will no doubt be more so in the
near future, when the mass of jungle and marshes will be cleared and
converted into cultivable land. The Governor-General of Resht is showing
great energy in the right direction by cutting new roads and repairing
old ones on all sides, which ought to be of great benefit to the country.

In Persia, remember, it is not easy to learn anything accurately. And as
for Persian statistics, unwise is the man who attaches any importance to
them. Much as I would like to quote statistics, I cannot refrain from
thinking that no statistics are a hundredfold better than slip-shod,
haphazard, inaccurate ones. And this rule I must certainly apply to the
export of rice from Ghilan to Europe, principally Russia, during 1900,
and will limit myself to general remarks.

Extensive tracts of country have been cleared of reeds and useless
vegetation, and converted into paddy fields, the natives irrigating the
country in a primitive fashion.

It is nature that is mostly responsible if the crops are not ruined year
after year, the thoughtless inhabitants, with their natural laziness,
doing little more than praying Allah to give them plenty of rain, instead
of employing the more practical if more laborious expedient of
artificially irrigating their country in some efficient manner, which
they could easily do from the streams close at hand. Perhaps, in addition
to this, the fact that water--except rain-water--has ever to be purchased
in Persia, may also account to a certain extent for the inability to
afford paying for it. In 1899, for instance, rain failed to come and the
crops were insufficient even for local consumption, which caused the
population a good deal of suffering. But 1900, fortunately, surpassed all
expectations, and was an excellent year for rice as well as cocoons.

We go through thickly-wooded country, then through a handsome forest,
with wild boars feeding peacefully a few yards from the road. About every
six farsakhs--or twenty-four miles--the horses of the carriage, and those
of the fourgon following closely behind, are changed at the
post-stations, as well as the driver, who leaves us, after carefully
removing his saddle from the box and the harness of the horses. He has to
ride back to his point of departure with his horses. He expects a present
of two krans,--or more if he can get it--and so does the driver of the
fourgon. Two krans is the recognised tip for each driver, and as one gets
some sixteen or seventeen for each vehicle,--thirty-two or thirty-four if
you have two conveyances,--between Resht and Teheran, one finds it quite
a sufficient drain on one's exchequer.

As one gets towards Kudum, where one strikes the Sefid River, we begin to
rise and the country gets more hilly and arid. We gradually leave behind
the oppressive dampness, which suggests miasma and fever, and begin to
breathe air which, though very hot, is drier and purer. We have risen 262
feet at Kudum from 77 feet, the altitude of Resht, and as we travel now
in a south-south-west direction, following the stream upwards, we keep
getting higher, the elevation at Rustamabad being already 630 feet. We
leave behind the undulating ground, covered with thick forests, and come
to barren hills, that get more and more important as we go on. We might
almost say that the country is becoming quite mountainous, with a few
shrubs here and there and scenery of moderate beauty, (for any one
accustomed to greater mountains), but quite "wildly beautiful" for the
ordinary traveller. We then get to the region of the grey olive groves,
the trees with their contorted, thickly-set branches and pointed leaves.
What becomes of the olives? They are exported to Europe,--a flourishing
trade, I am told.

One bumps a great deal in the carriage, for the springs are not "of the
best," and are hidden in rope bandages to keep them from falling apart.
The road, too, is not as yet like a billiard table. The doors of the
landau rattle continuously, the metal fastenings having long disappeared,
and being replaced by bits of string.

One travels incessantly, baked in the sun by day and chilled by the cold
winds at night, trying to get a little sleep with one's head dangling
over the side of the carriage, one's legs cramped, and all one's bones
aching. But this is preferable to stopping at any of the halting-places
on the road, whether Russian or Persian, which are filthy beyond words,
and where one is mercilessly swindled. Should one, however, be compelled
to stop anywhere it is preferable to go to a thoroughly Persian place,
where one meets at least with more courtesy, and where one is imposed
upon in a more modest and less aggressive way than at the Russian places.
It must, however, be stated that the Russian places are usually in charge
of over-zealous Persians, or else in the hands of inferior Russian
subjects, who try to make all they can out of their exile in the lonely
stations.

I occasionally halted for a glass of tea at the Persian Khafe-Khanas, and
in one of them a very amusing incident happened, showing the serious
effects that hallucination may produce on a weak-minded person.

I had got off the carriage and had carried into the khafe-khana my
camera, and also my revolver in its leather case which had been lying on
the seat of the carriage. At my previous halt, having neglected this
precaution, my camera had been tampered with by the natives, the lenses
had been removed, and the eighteen plates most of them already with
pictures on them--that were inside, exposed to the light and thrown
about, with their slides, in the sand. So to avoid a repetition of the
occurrence, and to prevent a probable accident, I brought all into the
khafe-khana room and deposited the lot on the raised mud portion along
the wall, seating myself next to my property. I ordered tea, and the
attendant, with many salaams, explained that his fire had gone out, but
that if I would wait a few minutes he would make me some fresh _chah_. I
consented. He inquired whether the revolver was loaded, and I said it
was. He proceeded to the further end of the room, where, turning his
back to me, he began to blow upon the fire, and I, being very thirsty,
sent another man to my fourgon to bring me a bottle of soda-water. The
imprisoned gases of the soda, which had been lying for the whole day in
the hot sun, had so expanded that when I removed the wire the cork went
off with a loud report and unfortunately hit the man in the shoulder
blade. By association of ideas he made so certain in his mind that it was
the revolver that had gone off that he absolutely collapsed in a
semi-faint, under the belief that he had been badly shot. He moaned and
groaned, trying to reach with his hand what he thought was the wounded
spot, and called for his son as he felt he was about to die. We supported
him, and gave him some water and reassured him, but he had turned as pale
as death.

"What have I done to you that you kill me?" he moaned pitifully.

"But, good man, you have no blood flowing,--look!"

A languid, hopeless glance at the ground, where he had fallen and sure
enough, he could find no blood. He tried to see the wound, but his head
could not revolve to a sufficiently wide arc of a circle to see his
shoulder-blade, so in due haste we removed his coat and waistcoat and
shirt, and after slow, but careful, keen examination, he discovered that
not only there were no marks of flowing blood, but no trace whatever of a
bullet hole in any of his garments. Even then he was not certain, and two
small mirrors were sent for, which, by the aid of a sympathising friend,
he got at proper angles minutely to survey his whole back.

He eventually recovered, and was able to proceed with the brewing of tea,
which he served with terribly trembling hand on the rattling saucer under
the tiny little glass.

"It was a very narrow escape from death, sahib," he said in a wavering
voice--"for it might have been the revolver."

There is nothing like backshish in Persia to heal all wounds, whether
real or otherwise, and he duly received an extra handsome one.

In Persia the traveller is particularly struck by the number of Princes
one encounters on the road. This is to a certain extent to be accounted
for by the fact that the word _khan_ which follows a great many Persian
names has been translated, mainly by flattering French authors, into the
majestic but incorrect word "Prince." In many cases the suffix of _khan_
is an equivalent of Lord, but in most cases it is no more than our
nominal "Esquire."

I met on the road two fellows, one old and very dignified; the other
young, and who spoke a little French. He informed me that they were both
Princes. He called his friend "_Monsieur le Prince, mon ami_," and
himself "_Monsieur le Prince, moi!_" which was rather amusing. He
informed me that he was a high Customs official, and displayed towards
his fellow countrymen on the road a great many qualities that revealed a
very mean native indeed.

The elder one wore carpet slippers to which he had attached--I do not
know how--an enormous pair of golden spurs! He was now returning from
Russia. He was extremely gentleman-like and seemed very much annoyed at
the behaviour of his companion. He begged me to believe that not all men
in Persia were like his friend, and I quite agreed with him.

We travelled a great portion of the road together, and the old fellow was
extremely civil. He was very well informed on nearly all subjects, and
had belonged to the army. He pointed out to me the important sights on
the road, such as Mount Janja (7,489 ft.) to the East.

After passing Rudbar (665 ft.) the road is mostly in narrow gorges
between mountains. It is rocky and arid, with hardly any vegetation. The
river has to be crossed by the new bridge, a handsome and solid
structure, and we arrive at the village of Menjil or Menzil. The Russian
station-house is the most prominent structure. Otherwise all is desert
and barren. Grey and warm reddish tints abound in the dried-up landscape,
and only a few stunted olive groves relieve the scenery with some
vegetable life.



CHAPTER VII

     Menzil and the winds--The historical Alamut mountain--A low
     plateau--Volcanic formation--Mol-Ali--A genuine case of
     smallpox--Characteristic sitting posture--A caravan of
     mules--Rugged country--The remains of a volcanic commotion--The
     old track--Kasvin, the city of misfortunes--The Governor's palace
     and palatial rest house--Earthquakes and famine--_Kanats_, the
     marvellous aqueducts--How they are made--Manufactures--Kasvin
     strategically.


Perhaps Menzil should be mentioned in connection with the terrific winds
which, coming from the north-east and from the south, seem to meet here,
and blow with all their might at all times of the year. The traveller is
particularly exposed to them directly above the river course on crossing
the bridge. Menzil is celebrated for these winds, which are supposed to
be the worst, in all Persia, but unpleasant as they may be to any one who
has not experienced worse, they are merely gentle breezes as compared,
for instance, with the wind storms of the Tibetan plateau. To the east
there is a very mountainous region, the Biwarzin Yarak range, or
Kuse-rud, averaging from 6,000 to 7,000 ft.; further north a peak of
7,850 ft., and south-west of the Janja, 7,489 ft., the high Salambar,
11,290 ft. On the historical Mt. Alamut the old state prisons were
formerly to be found, but were afterwards removed to Ardebil.

From Menzil we have left the Sefid River altogether, and we are now in a
very mountainous region, with a singular low plateau in the centre of an
extensive alluvial plain traversed by the road. We cross the Shah Rud, or
River of the King, and at Paichinar, with its Russian post-house, we have
already reached an altitude of 1,800 ft. From this spot the road proceeds
through a narrow valley, through country rugged and much broken up,
distinctly volcanic and quite picturesque. It is believed that coal is to
be found here.

Perhaps one of the prettiest places we had yet come to was Mol-Ali, a
lovely shady spot with veteran green trees all round. While the horses
were being changed I was asked by the khafe-khana man to go and inspect a
man who was ill. The poor fellow was wrapped up in many blankets and
seemed to be suffering greatly. He had very high fever and his was a
genuine case of smallpox. Next to him, quite unconcerned, were a number
of Persian travellers, who had halted here for refreshments. They were
squatting on their heels, knees wide apart, and arms balanced, resting
above the elbow on their knees--the characteristic sitting posture of all
Asiatics. Very comfortable it is, too, when you learn to balance yourself
properly and it leaves the free use of one's arms. The _kalian_ was being
passed round as usual, and each had a thimble-full of sugared tea.

I was much attracted by a large caravan of handsome mules, the animals
enjoying the refreshing shade of the trees. They had huge saddles
ornamented with silver pommels and rings and covered over with carpets.
Variegated cloth or carpet or red and green leather saddle-bags hung on
either side of the animals behind the saddles. The bridle and bit were
richly ornamented with shells and silver or iron knobs.

The few mud houses in the neighbourhood had flat roofs and were not
sufficiently typical nor inviting enough for a closer internal
inspection.

We are now on a tributary of the Shah-rud on the new road, instead of the
old caravan track, which we have left since Paichinar.

The country becomes more interesting and wild as we go on. In the
undoubtedly volcanic formation of the mountains one notices large patches
of sulphurous earth on the mountain-side, with dark red and black baked
soil above it. Over that, all along the range, curious column-like,
fluted rocks. Lower down the soil is saturated with sulphurous matter
which gives it a rich, dark blue tone with greenish tints in it and
bright yellow patches. The earth all round is of a warm burnt sienna
colour, intensified, when I saw it, by the reddish, soft rays of a dying
sun. It has all the appearance of having been subjected to abnormal heat.
The characteristic shape of the peaks of the range is conical, and a
great many deep-cut channels and holes are noticeable in the rocky sides
of these sugar-loaf mountains, as is frequently the case in mountains of
volcanic formation.

We rise higher and higher in zig-zag through rugged country, and we then
go across an intensely interesting large basin, which must at a previous
date have been the interior of an exploded and now collapsed volcano.
This place forcibly reminded me of a similar sight on a grander
scale,--the site of the ex-Bandaisan Mountain on the main island of
Nippon in Japan, after that enormous mountain was blown to atoms and
disappeared some few years ago. A huge basin was left, like the bottom
part of a gigantic cauldron, the edges of which bore ample testimony to
the terrific heat that must have been inside before the explosion took
place. In the Persian scene before us, of a much older date, the basin,
corroded as it evidently was by substances heated to a very high
temperature and by the action of forming gases, had been to a certain
extent obliterated by the softening actions of time and exposure to air.
The impression was not so violent and marked as the one received at
Bandaisan, which I visited only a few days after the explosion, but the
various characteristics were similar.

In the basin was a solitary hut, which rejoiced in the name of Kort.
These great commotions of nature are interesting, but to any one given to
sound reflection they are almost too big for the human mind to grasp.
They impress one, they almost frighten one, but give no reposeful, real
pleasure in gazing upon them such as less disturbed scenery does. The
contrasts in colour and shape are too violent, too crude to please the
eye: the freaks too numerous to be comprehensible at a glance. Here we
have a ditch with sides perfectly black-baked, evidently by lava or some
other hot substance which has flowed through; further on big splashes of
violent red and a great variety of warm browns. The eye roams from one
spot to the other, trying to understand exactly what has taken place--a
job which occupies a good deal of one's time and attention as one drives
through, and which would occupy a longer time and study than a gallop
through in a post landau can afford.

At Agha Baba we were again on the old track, quite flat now, and during
the night we galloped easily on a broad road through uninteresting
country till we reached Kasvin, 185 _versts_ from Resht.

Kasvin, in the province of Irak, is a very ancient city, which has seen
better days, has gone through a period of misfortune, and will in future
probably attain again a certain amount of prosperity. It is situated at
an altitude of 4,094 feet (at the Indo-European telegraph office), an
elevation which gives it a very hot but dry, healthy climate with
comparatively cool nights. The town is handsome, square in form, enclosed
in a wall with towers.

The governor's palace is quite impressive, with a fine broad avenue of
green trees leading from it to the spacious Kasvin rest-house. This is
by far the best rest-house on the road to the Persian capital, with large
rooms, clean enough for Persia, and with every convenience for cooking
one's food. Above the doorway the Persian lion, with the sun rising above
his back, has been elaborately painted, and a picturesque pool of
stagnant water at the bottom of the steps is no doubt the breeding spot
of mosquitoes and flies, of which there are swarms, to make one's life a
misery.

[Illustration: Making a _Kanat_.]

The palatial rest-house, the governor's palace, a mosque or two, and the
convenient bath-houses for Mahommedans being barred, there is nothing
particular to detain the traveller in Kasvin.

One hears that Kasvin occupied at one time a larger area than Teheran
to-day. The remains of this magnitude are certainly still there. The
destruction of the city, they say, has been due to many and varied
misfortunes. Earthquakes and famines in particular have played an
important part in the history of Kasvin, and they account for the many
streets and large buildings in ruins which one finds, such as the remains
of the Sufi Palace and the domed mosque. The city dates back to the
fourth century, but it was not till the sixteenth century that it became
the _Dar-el-Sultanat_--the seat of royalty--under Shah Tamasp. It
prospered as the royal city until the time of Shah Abbas, whose wisdom
made him foresee the dangers of maintaining a capital too near the
Caspian Sea. Isfahan was selected as the future capital, from which time
Kasvin, semi-abandoned, began its decline.

In 1870 a famine devastated the town to a considerable extent, but even
previous to that a great portion of the place had been left to decay, so
that to-day one sees large stretches of ruined houses all round the
neighbourhood and in Kasvin itself. The buildings are mostly one-storied,
very few indeed boasting of an upper floor. The pleasant impression one
receives on entering the city is mostly caused by the quantity of verdure
and vegetation all round.

One of the principal things which strike the traveller in Persia,
especially on nearing a big city, is the literal myriads of curious
conical heaps, with a pit in the centre, that one notices running across
the plains in long, interminable rows, generally towards the mountains.
These are the _kanats_, the astounding aqueducts with which dried-up
Persia is bored in all directions underground, the canals that lead fresh
water from the distant springs to the cities, to the villages, and to
irrigate the fields. The ancient process of making these _kanats_ has
descended unchanged to the modern Persian, who is really a marvellous
expert--when he chooses to use his skill--at conveying water where Nature
has not provided it. I watched some men making one of these _kanats_.
They had bored a vertical hole about three feet in diameter, over which a
wooden windlass had been erected. One man was working at the bottom of
the shaft. By means of buckets the superfluous earth was gradually raised
up to the surface, and the hole bored further. The earth removed in the
excavation is then embanked all round the aperture of the shaft. When
the required depth is attained a tunnel is pierced, mostly with the hands
and a small shovel, in a horizontal direction, and seldom less than four
feet high, two feet wide, just big enough to let the workman through.
Then another shaft has to be made for ventilation's sake and to raise to
the surface the displaced earth. Miles of these _kanats_ are thus bored,
with air shafts every ten to twenty feet distant. In many places one sees
thirty, forty, fifty parallel long lines of these aqueducts, with several
thousand shafts, dotting the surface of the ground.

Near ancient towns and villages one finds a great many of these _kanats_
dry and disused at present, and nearly everywhere one sees people at work
making fresh ones, for how to get water is one of the great and serious
questions in the land of Iran. Near Kasvin these _kanats_ are
innumerable, and the water carried by them goes through the streets of
the city, with holes here and there in the middle of the road to draw it
up. These holes are a serious danger to any one given to walking about
without looking where he is placing his feet. It is mainly due to these
artificial water-tunnels that the plain of Kasvin, otherwise arid and
oppressively hot, has been rendered extremely fertile.

There are a great many gardens with plenty of fruit-trees. Vineyards
abound, producing excellent stoneless grapes, which, when dried, are
mostly exported to Russia. Pomegranates, water-melons, cucumbers, and
cotton are also grown. Excellent horses and camels are bred here.

Kasvin being the half-way house, as it were, between Resht and Teheran,
and an important city in itself, is bound--even if only in a reflected
manner--to feel the good effects of having through communication to the
Caspian and the capital made so easy by the completion of the Russian
road.

The silk and rice export trade for Bagdad has gone up during the last two
years, and in the fertile plain in which Kasvin lies agriculture is
beginning to look up again, although not quite so much as in the Resht
district, which is naturally the first to reap benefit from the
development of Northern Persia.

The chief manufactures of Kasvin are carpets, a kind of coarse
cotton-cloth called _kerbas_, velvet, brocades, iron-ware and
sword-blades, which are much appreciated by Persians.

There is a large bazaar in which many cheap European goods are sold
besides the more picturesque articles of local manufacture.

From a strategical point of view, Kasvin occupies a position not to be
overlooked, guarding as it does the principal entrance from the south
into the Ghilan province.



CHAPTER VIII

     Four thousand feet above sea-level--Castellated walls--An
     obnoxious individual--Luggage weighing--The strange figure of an
     African black--How he saved an Englishman's life--Teheran
     hotels--Interesting guests--Life of bachelors in Teheran--The
     Britisher in Persia--Home early--Social
     sets--Etiquette--Missionaries--Foreign communities--The servant
     question.


A few hours' rest to give one's aching bones a chance of returning into
their normal condition and position, and amidst the profound salaams of
the rest-house servants, we speed away towards Teheran, 130 versts more
according to the Russian road measurement (about 108 miles). We gallop on
the old, wide and flat road, on which the traffic alone diverts
one,--long strings of donkeys, of camels, every now and then a splendid
horse with a swaggering rider. We are travelling on the top of the
plateau, and are keeping at an altitude slightly above 4,000 feet.
Distant mountains lie to the north, otherwise there is absolutely nothing
to see, no vegetation worth mentioning, everything dry and barren.

Now and then, miles and miles apart, comes a quadrangular or rectangular,
castellated mud wall enclosing a cluster of fruit trees and vegetable
gardens; then miles and miles again of dreary, barren country.

Were it not for the impudence of the natives--increasing to a
maximum--there is nothing to warn the traveller that one is approaching
the capital of the Persian Empire, and one finds one's self at the gate
of the city without the usual excitement of perceiving from a distance a
high tower, or a dome or a steeple or a fortress, or a landmark of some
sort or other, to make one enjoy the approach of one's journey's end.

Abdulabad, 4,015 feet, Kishslak, 3,950 feet, Sankarabad, 4,210 feet,
Sulimaneh, 4,520 feet, are the principal places and main elevations on
the road, but from the last-named place the incline in the plateau tends
to descend very gently. Teheran is at an altitude of 3,865 feet.

Six farsakhs from Teheran, where we had to change horses, an individual
connected with the transport company made himself very obnoxious, and
insisted on accompanying the carriage to Teheran. He was picturesquely
attired in a brown long coat, and displayed a nickel-plated revolver,
with a leather belt of cartridges. He was cruel to the horses and a
nuisance to the coachman. He interfered considerably with the progress of
the carriage and made himself unbearable in every possible way. When I
stopped at a khafe-khana for a glass of tea, he actually removed a wheel
of the carriage, which we had considerable difficulty in putting right
again, and he pounded the coachman on the head with the butt of his
revolver, in order, as far as I could understand, that he should be
induced to go half-shares with him in the backshish that the driver would
receive at the end of the stage.

All this provided some entertainment, until we reached the Teheran gate.
Only half a mile more and I should be at the hotel. But man proposes and
the Persian disposes. The carriage and fourgon were driven into a large
courtyard, the horses were unharnessed, all the luggage removed from the
fourgon and carriage, and deposited in the dust. A primitive scale was
produced and slung to a tripod, and each article weighed and weighed over
again so as to take up as much of one's time as possible. Various
expedients to impose upon me, having failed I was allowed to proceed, a
new fourgon and fresh horses being provided for the journey of half a
mile more, the obnoxious man jumping first on the box so as to prevent
being left behind.

At last the hotel was reached, and here another row arose with a
profusion of blows among a crowd of beggars who had at once collected and
disputed among themselves the right of unloading my luggage.

A strange figure appeared on the scene. A powerful, half-naked African,
as black as coal, and no less than six foot two in height. He sported a
huge wooden club in his hand, which he whirled round in a most dangerous
manner, occasionally landing it on people's skulls and backs in a
sonorous fashion. The crowd vanished, and he, now as gently as possible,
removed the luggage from the fourgon and conveyed it into the hotel.

The obnoxious man now hastily descended from his seat and demanded a
backshish.

"What for?"

"Oh, sir," intervened a Persian gentleman present, "this man says he has
annoyed you all the way, but he could not make you angry. He must have
backshish! He makes a living by annoying travellers!"

In contrast to this low, depraved parasite, the African black seemed
quite a striking figure,--a scamp, if you like, yet full of character. He
was a dervish, with drunken habits and a fierce nature when under the
influence of drink, but with many good points when sober. On one occasion
an Englishman was attacked by a crowd of Persians, and was in danger of
losing his life, when this man, with considerable bravery (not to speak
of his inseparable mallet which he used freely), went to the rescue of
the sahib and succeeded in saving him. For this act of courage he has
ever since been supported by the charity of foreigners in Teheran. He
unfortunately spends all his earnings in drink, and can be very coarse
indeed, in his songs and imitations, which he delights in giving when
under the influence of liquor. He hangs round the hotel, crying out
"_Yahu! yahu!_" when hungry--a cry quite pathetic and weird, especially
in the stillness of night.

There are two hotels in Teheran and several European and Armenian
restaurants. The English hotel is the best,--not a dream of cleanliness,
nor luxury, nor boasting of a cuisine which would remain impressed upon
one's mind, except for its elaborate monotony,--but quite a comfortable
place by comparison with the other European hotels of Persia. The beds
are clean, and the proprietress tries hard to make people comfortable.

More interesting than the hotel itself was the curious crowd of people
whom one saw at the dinner-table. I remember sitting down one evening to
dinner with nine other people, and we represented no less than ten
different nationalities! The tower of Babel sank almost into
insignificance compared with the variety of languages one heard spoken
all round, and one's polyglot abilities were tested to no mean extent in
trying to carry on a general conversation. One pleasant feature of these
dinners was the amount of talent and good-humour that prevailed in the
company, and the absolute lack of distinction of class or social
position. Side by side one saw a distinguished diplomat conversing with
the Shah's automobile driver, and a noteworthy English member of
Parliament on friendly terms with an Irish gentleman of the Indo-European
Telegraphs. A burly, jolly Dutchman stood drinks all round to members of
the Russian and English Banks alike, and a French _sage-femme_ just
arrived discussed her prospects with the hotel proprietress. The Shah's
A.D.C. and favourite music-composer and pianist came frequently to
enliven the evenings with some really magnificent playing, and by way of
diversion some wild Belgian employees of the derelict sugar-factory used
almost nightly to cover with insults a notable "Chevalier d'industrie"
whose thick skin was amazing.

Then one met Armenians--who one was told had come out of jail,--and
curio-dealers, mine prospectors, and foreign Generals of the Persian
army.

Occasionally there was extra excitement when an engagement or a wedding
took place, when the parties usually adjourned to the hotel, and then
there was unlimited consumption of beer, nominally (glycerine really,
for, let me explain, beer does not stand a hot climate unless a large
percentage of glycerine is added to it), and of highly-explosive
champagne and French wines, Château this and Château that--of Caspian
origin.

Being almost a teetotaller myself, this mixed crowd--but not the mixed
drink--was interesting to study, and what particularly struck me was the
_bonhomie_, the real good-heartedness, and manly but thoughtful, genial
friendliness of men towards one another, irrespective of class, position
or condition, except, of course, in the cases of people with whom it was
not possible to associate. The hard, mean, almost brutal jealousy, spite,
the petty rancour of the usual Anglo-Indian man, for instance, does not
exist at all in Persia among foreigners or English people. On the
contrary, it is impossible to find more hospitable, more gentlemanly,
polite, open-minded folks than the Britishers one meets in Persia.

Of course, it must be remembered, the type of Britisher one finds in
Persia is a specially talented, enterprising and well-to-do individual,
whose ideas have been greatly broadened by the study of several foreign
languages which, in many cases, have taken him on the Continent for
several years in his youth. Furthermore, lacking entirely the ruling
"look down upon the native" idea, so prevalent in India, he is thrown
much in contact with the Persians, adopting from them the courteous
manner and form of speech, which is certainly more pleasant than the
absurd rudeness of the "keep-aloof" notion which generally makes us hated
by most Orientals.

The Britisher in Persia, with few exceptions, is a charming person,
simple and unaffected, and ready to be of service if he can. He is not
aggressive, and, in fact, surprisingly suave.

This abnormal feature in the British character is partly due to the
climate, hot but very healthy, and to the exile to which the Briton has
to reconcile himself for years to come. Indeed, Persia is an exile, a
painful one for a bachelor, particularly. Woman's society, which at all
times helps to make life sweet and pleasant, is absolutely lacking in
Persia. European women are scarce and mostly married or about to get
married. The native women are kept in strict seclusion. One never sees a
native woman except heavily veiled under her _chudder_, much less can a
European talk to her. The laws of Persia are so severe that anything in
the shape of a flirtation with a Persian lady may cost the life of Juliet
or Romeo, or both, and if life is spared, blackmail is ever after levied
by the police or by the girl's parents or by servants.

In Teheran all good citizens must be indoors by nine o'clock at night,
and any one found prowling in the streets after that hour has to deal
with the police. In the European quarter this rule is overlooked in the
case of foreigners, but in the native city even Europeans found
peacefully walking about later than that hour are taken into custody and
conveyed before the magistrate, who satisfies himself as to the man's
identity and has him duly escorted home.

There are no permanent amusements of any kind in Teheran. An occasional
concert or a dance, but no theatres, no music-halls. There is a
comfortable Club, where people meet and drink and play cards, but that is
all.

Social sets, of course, exist in the Teheran foreign community. There are
"The Telegraph" set, "the Bank," "the Legations." There is an uncommon
deal of social etiquette, and people are most particular regarding calls,
dress, and the number of cards left at each door. It looks somewhat
incongruous to see men in their black frock-coats and silk tall hats,
prowling about the streets, with mud up to their knees if wet, or blinded
with dust if dry, among strings of camels, mules, or donkeys. But that is
the fashion, and people have to abide by it.

There are missionaries in Teheran, American and English, but fortunately
they are not permitted to make converts. The English, Russian and Belgian
communities are the most numerous, then the French, the Dutch, the
Austrian, the Italian, the American.

Taking things all round, the Europeans seem reconciled to their position
in Teheran--a life devoid of any very great excitement, and partaking
rather of the nature of vegetation, yet with a certain charm in it--they
say--when once people get accustomed to it. But one has to get accustomed
to it first.

The usual servant question is a very serious one in Teheran, and is one
of the chief troubles that Europeans have to contend with. There are
Armenian and Persian servants, and there is little to choose between the
two. Servants accustomed to European ways are usually a bad lot, and most
unreliable; but in all fairness it must be admitted that, to a great
extent, these servants have been utterly spoilt by Europeans themselves,
who did not know how to deal with them in a suitable manner. I repeatedly
noticed in Teheran and other parts of Persia that people who really
understood the Persian character, and treated subordinates with
consideration, had most excellent servants--to my mind, the most
intelligent and hard-working in the world--and spoke very highly of
them.



CHAPTER IX

     Teheran--The seat of the Kajar family--The square of the
     gun--Sanctuaries--The Top Meidan--Tramways--A railway--Opposition
     of the Mullahs and population--Destruction of a
     train--Mosques--Habitations--Extortion and blackmail--Persian
     philosophy.


A description of Teheran is hardly necessary here, the city being so
well-known, but for the help of people unfamiliar with its character a
rough sketch of the place may be given.

Teheran, it must be remembered, has only been the capital of Persia for
the last hundred years, when the capital was removed from Isfahan.
Previous to that it was merely a royal resort and nothing more. In shape
it was formerly almost circular--or, to be strictly accurate, polygonal,
the periphery of the polygon measuring a _farsakh_, four miles. Like all
Persian cities it was enclosed in a mud wall and a moat. Since then the
city has so increased that an extension has been made to an outer
boundary some ten miles in circumference, and marked by an uneven ditch,
the excavated sand of which is thrown up to form a sort of battlement.
Twelve gates, opened at sunrise and closed at night, give access to the
town. The citadel, the ancient part of the city, contains the principal
public buildings, the private residences of high officials, and the
Shah's Palace. To the south of this are found the extensive domed bazaars
and the commercial portion of Teheran. To the north lies the European
quarter with the Legations, Banks and European shops.

We will not go as far back as the Afghan invasion in 1728 when, according
to history, Teheran was looted and razed to the ground by the Afghans,
but we will only mention the fact, which is more interesting to us, that
it was not till about 1788 that the city was selected on account of its
geographical position and of political necessities, as the seat of the
Kajar dynasty by Agha Mohammed, who in 1796 became the first King of his
family. The Kajar, as everybody knows, has remained the reigning dynasty
of Persia to this day.

The most interesting point of Teheran, in the very centre of the city, is
the old "Place du Canon," where on a high platform is a gigantic piece of
ordnance enclosed by a railing. In the same square is a large reservoir
of more or less limpid water, in which at all hours of the day dozens of
people are to be seen bathing. But the big gun attracts one's attention
principally. A curious custom, which is slowly being done away with, has
made this spot a sanctuary. Whoever remains within touch or even within
the shadow of the gun--whether an assassin, a thief, a bankrupt, an
incendiary, a traitor or a highwayman,--in fact, a criminal of any kind
cannot be touched by the police nor by persons seeking a personal
revenge--the usual way of settling differences in Persia. A number of
distinctly criminal types can always be observed near the gun and are fed
by relations, friends, or by charitable people. Persians of all classes
are extremely charitable, not so much for the sake of helping their
neighbours in distress, as for increasing their claims to a seat in
Paradise, according to the Mussulman religion.

These sanctuaries are common in Persia. The mosques, the principal
shrines, such as Meshed, Kum, the houses of Mullahs, and in many cases
the bazaars which are generally to be found adjoining places of
pilgrimage, afford most convenient shelter to outlaws. The Mullahs are
greatly responsible for the protection of miscreants. By exercising it
they are able to show their power over the authorities of the country--a
fact which impresses the masses. That is why in the neighbourhood of many
mosques one sees a great number of ruffianly faces, unmistakable
cut-throats, men and boys whose villainy is plainly stamped on their
countenances. As long as they remain inside the sacred precincts--which
they can do if they like till they die of old age--they can laugh at the
law and at the world at large. But let them come out, and they are done
for.

The Shah's stables are considered a very safe sanctuary. Houses of
Europeans, or Europeans themselves, were formerly considered sanctuaries,
but the habit has--fortunately for the residents--fallen into disuse. I
myself, when driving one day in the environs of Teheran, saw a horseman
leading a man whose neck was tied to a substantial rope. Much to my
surprise, when near enough, the prisoner jumped into my carriage, and it
was only after some persuasion on my side and a few pulls at the rope
from the rider at the other end that the unwelcome companion was made to
dismount again.

[Illustration: The Murderer of Nasr-ed-din Shah.]

When in the company of high Mullahs evil characters are also inviolable.

The largest square in Teheran is the Top Meidan or "Cannon plain," where
several small and antiquated pieces of artillery are enclosed in a fence.
Two parallel avenues with trees cross the rectangular square at its
longest side from north to south. In the centre is a large covered
reservoir. The offices of both the Persian and Indo-European Telegraphs
are in this square, and also the very handsome building of the Bank of
Persia.

The square is quite imposing at first sight, having on two sides uniform
buildings with long balconies. The _lunettes_ of the archways underneath
have each a picture of a gun, and on approaching the southern gates of
the parallelogram a smile is provoked by the gigantic but crude, almost
childish representations of modern soldiers on glazed tiles. To the west
is the extensive drill ground for the Persian troops. Another
important artery of Teheran runs from east to west across the same
square.

One cannot but be interested on perceiving along the main thoroughfares
of Teheran a service of horse tramways working quite steadily. But the
rolling stock is not particularly inviting outwardly--much less inwardly.
It is mostly for the use of natives and Armenians, and the carriages are
very dirty. The horses, however, are good. The Tramway Company in the
hands of Russian Jews, I believe, but managed by an Englishman and
various foreigners--subalterns--was doing pretty fair business, and
jointly with the tramways had established a capital service of "Voitures
de remise," which avoided all the trouble and unpleasantness of employing
street cabs. The carriages, mostly victorias, were quite good and clean.

Among other foreign things, Teheran can also boast of a railway--a mere
steam tramway, in reality--of very narrow gauge and extending for some
six miles south of the city to the shrine of Shah Abdul Hazim.

The construction of even so short and unimportant a line met with a great
deal of opposition, especially from the priestly class, when it was first
started in 1886 by a Belgian company--"La Société des Chemins de Fer et
des Tramways de Perse." The trains began to run two years later, in 1888,
and it was believed that the enormous crowds of pilgrims who daily
visited the holy shrine would avail themselves of the convenience. Huge
profits were expected, but unluckily the four or five engines that were
imported at an excessive cost, and the difficulties encountered in laying
down the line, which was continually being torn up by fanatics, and, most
of all, the difficulty experienced in inducing pilgrims to travel in
sufficient numbers by the line instead of on horses, mules or donkeys
were unexpected and insoluble problems which the managers had to face,
and which made the shareholders grumble. The expenses far exceeded the
profits, and the capital employed in the construction of the line was
already vastly larger than had been anticipated. One fine day,
furthermore, a much-envied and respected pilgrim, who had returned in
holiness from the famous shrine of Kerbalah, was unhappily run over and
killed by a train. The Mullahs made capital of this accident and preached
vengeance upon foreign importations, the work of the devil and
distasteful to Allah the great. The railway was mobbed and the engine and
carriages became a mass of débris.

There was nearly a serious riot about this in Teheran city; the trains
continued to run with the undamaged engines, but no one would travel by
them. Result? "La Compagnie des Chemins de Fer et des Tramways de Perse"
went bankrupt. The whole concern was eventually bought up cheap by a
Russian Company, and is now working again, as far as regards the railway,
in a more or less spasmodic manner.

The tramway service connects the three principal gates of the outer wall
of Teheran with the centre of the city "the Place des Canons"
(Meidan-Top-Khaned).

Although there are a great many mosques in Teheran city there is not one
of great importance or beauty. The Mesjid-i-shah, or the Shah's Mosque,
is the most noteworthy, and has a very decorative glazed tiled façade.
Then next in beauty is probably the mosque of the Shah's mother, but
neither is in any way uncommon for size, or wealth, architectural lines,
or sacredness. Several mosques have colleges attached to them, as is the
usual custom in Persia. Access to the interior of the mosques is not
permitted to Europeans unless they have embraced the Mahommedan religion.

Outwardly, there are few native houses in Teheran that impress one with
any remarkable features of wealth or beauty; in fact, they are nearly all
wretchedly miserable,--a plastered mud or brick wall with a modest little
doorway being all one sees from the street of the dwellings of even the
richest and noblest of Persians. Inside matters are different. Frequently
a miserable little tumbling-down gate gives access, after going through
similarly miserable, narrow, low passages, to magnificent palaces and
astoundingly beautiful and luxurious courts and gardens. I asked what was
the reason of the poor outward appearance of these otherwise luxurious
dwellings. Was it modesty,--was it to deceive envious eyes?

There are few countries where blackmail and extortion are carried on on a
more extensive and successful scale than in Persia; all classes and
conditions of people are exposed to the danger, and it is only by an
assumed air of poverty that a certain amount of security is obtained. A
miserable-looking house, it was explained by a Persian, does not attract
the covetous eye of the passer-by; an unusually beautiful one does. "It
is a fatal mistake," he added, "to let anybody's eye rest on one's
possessions, whether he be the Shah, a minister, or a beggar. He will
want to rest his hands upon them next, and then everything is gone.
Besides," he said, "it is the inside of a house that gives pleasure and
comfort to the occupier and his friends. One does not build a house to
give pleasure and comfort to the people in the street. That is only
vainglory of persons who wish to make their neighbours jealous by outward
show. They usually have to repent it sooner or later."

There was more philosophy than European minds may conceive in the
Persian's words--at least, for Persian householders.



CHAPTER X

     Legations--Germany a stumbling-block to Russia's and England's
     supremacy--Sir Arthur Hardinge, British Minister in Teheran--His
     talent, tact, and popularity--The British Legation--Summer
     quarters--Legation guards--Removal of furniture.


As late as 1872 there were only four Legations in Teheran: the English,
French, Russian and Turkish; but since then the Governments of Austria,
Belgium, Holland, and the United States have established Legations in the
Persian capital. By the Persians themselves only four are considered of
first-class importance, viz.: the British, Russian, Turkish and Belgian
Legations, as being more closely allied with the interests of the
country. The Austrian Legation comes next to these in importance, then
the German.

American interests are so far almost a negligible quantity in Persia, but
Germany is attempting to force her trade into Persia. In future, if she
can realise her railway schemes in Asia Minor, Germany will be a very
serious stumbling-block to England's and Russia's supremacy, both in
North and Southern Persia. Germany's representative in Teheran is a man
of considerable skill and untiring energy. No doubt that when the
opportune time comes and Germany is ready to advance commercially in the
Persian market, England in particular will be the chief sufferer, as the
British manufacturer has already experienced great difficulty in
contending with the cheap German goods. Even in India, where transport is
comparatively easy, German goods swamp the bazaars in preference to
English goods. Much more will this be the case in Persia when the railway
comes to the Persian boundary.

The German Minister is certainly sparing no efforts to foster German
interests in Persia, and the enterprising Emperor William has shown every
possible attention to the Shah on his visit to Berlin, in order that the
racial antipathy, which for some reason or other Persians entertain
towards Germans, may with all due speed be wiped out.

To us the British Legation is more interesting at present. We may well be
proud of our present Minister, Sir Arthur Hardinge, a man of whose like
we have few in our diplomatic service. I do not think that a man more fit
for Persia than Sir Arthur could be found anywhere in the British Empire.
He possesses quite extraordinary talent, with a quick working brain, a
marvellous aptitude for languages--in a few months' residence in Persia
he had mastered the Persian language, and is able to converse in it
fluently--and is endowed with a gift which few Britishers possess,
refined tact and a certain amount of thoughtful consideration for other
people's feelings.

Nor is this all. Sir Arthur seems to understand Orientals thoroughly, and
Persians in particular. He is extremely dignified in his demeanour
towards the native officials, yet he is most affable and cheery, with a
very taking, charming manner. That goes a much longer way in Persia than
the other unfortunate manner by which many of our officials think to show
dignity--sheer stiffness, rudeness, bluntness, clumsiness--which offends,
offends bitterly, instead of impressing.

A fluent and most graceful speaker, with a strong touch of Oriental
flowery forms of speech in his compliments to officials, with an eye that
accurately gauges situations--usually in Persia very difficult ones--a
man full of resource and absolutely devoid of ridiculous insular
notions--a man who studies hard and works harder still--a man with
unbounded energy and an enthusiast in his work--a man who knows his
subject well, although he has been such a short time in Teheran--this is
our British Minister at the Shah's Court.

Nor is this faint praise. Sir Arthur Hardinge has done more in a few
months to save British prestige and to safeguard British interests in
Persia than the public know, and this he has done merely by his own
personal genius and charm, rather than by instructions or help from the
home Government.

While in Teheran I had much opportunity of meeting a great many high
Persian officials, and all were unanimous in singing the praises of our
new Minister. Many of them seemed very bitter against some of his
predecessors, but whether the fault was in the predecessors themselves or
in the home Government, it is not for me to say. Anyhow, bygones are
bygones, and we must make the best of our present opportunities. The
staff at our Legation and Consulate is also first-class.

It is to be hoped, now that the South African war is over, that the
Government will be able to devote more attention to the Persian Question,
a far more serious matter than we imagine; and as extreme ignorance
prevails in this country about Persia--even in circles where it should
not exist--it would be well, when we have such excellent men as Sir
Arthur Hardinge at the helm, in whose intelligence we may confidently and
absolutely trust, to give him a little more assistance and freedom of
action, so as to allow him a chance of safeguarding our interests
properly, and possibly of preventing further disasters.

It is not easy for the uninitiated to realise the value of certain
concessions obtained for the British by Sir Arthur Hardinge, such as, for
instance, the new land telegraph line _via_ Kerman Beluchistan to India.
Of the petroleum concessions, of which one hears a great deal of late, I
would prefer not to speak.

The Legation grounds in Teheran itself are extensive and beautiful, with
a great many fine trees and shady, cool avenues. The Legation house is
handsomely furnished, and dotted all over the gardens are the various
other buildings for secretaries, attachés, and interpreters. All the
structures are of European architecture--simple, but solid. In summer,
however, all the Legations shift their quarters to what is called in
Teheran "_la campagne de_ Golahek, de Tejerish, de Zargandeh,"--by which
gracefully misleading and misapplied terms are indicated the suburban
residences of the Legations, at the foot of the arid, barren, hot, dusty
Shamran range of mountains.

Golahek, where the British Legation is to be found, does actually boast
of a few green trees in the Legation grounds; and a cluster or two of
nominally "green" vegetation--really whitish brown--can be seen at
Zargandeh, where the Russian and Belgian Legations are side by side, and
Tejerish, where the Persian Foreign Office and many Persian officials
have their summer residences.

The drive from Teheran to Golahek--seven miles--is dusty beyond words.
There are wretched-looking trees here and there along the road, so dried
and white with dust as to excite compassion. Half-way to Golahek the
monotony of the journey is broken by a sudden halt at a khafe-khana, into
which the coachman rushes, leaving the horses to take care of themselves,
while he sips refreshing glasses of tea. When it suits his convenience he
returns to splash buckets of water between the horses' legs and under
their tails. This, he told me, in all seriousness, was to prevent
sunstroke (really, the Persian can be humorous without knowing it), and
was a preventive imported with civilised ways from Europe! The ears and
manes of the animals are then pulled violently, after which the horses
are considered able to proceed.

[Illustration: Persian Cossacks (Teheran) Drilled by Russian Officers.]

The Persian Government gives each Legation a guard of soldiers. The
British Legation is guarded by infantry soldiers--an untidy, ragged,
undisciplined lot, with cylindrical hats worn at all angles on the side
of the head, and with uniforms so dirty and torn that it is difficult to
discern what they should be like. Nearly all other Legations are provided
with soldiers of the (Persian) Cossack regiment, who are infinitely
better drilled and clothed than the infantry regiments. They are quite
military in appearance. It was believed that these Cossacks, being
drilled by Russian military instructors, would not be acceptable at the
British Legation, hence the guard of infantry soldiers.

The Russian Legation has two additional Russian cavalry soldiers.

The country residences of all the Legations are quite comfortable, pretty
and unpretentious, with the usual complement of furniture of folding
pattern, so convenient but so inartistic, and a superabundance of cane
chairs. Really good furniture being very expensive in Teheran, a good
deal of the upholstery of the Teheran Legations is conveyed to the
country residences for the summer months. Perhaps nothing is more
amusing to watch than one of these removals to or from the country.
Chairs, tables, sofas, and most private effects are tied to pack-saddles
on ponies, mules or donkeys, with bundles of mattrasses, blankets, and
linen piled anyhow upon them, while the more brittle articles of the
household are all amassed into a high pyramid on a gigantic tray and
balanced on a man's head. Rows of these equilibrists, with the most
precious glass and crockery of the homestead, can be noticed toddling
along on the Golahek road, dodging carriages and cavaliers in a most
surprising manner. They are said never to break even the smallest and
most fragile articles, but such is certainly not the case with the
heavily laden donkeys and mules, which often collide or collapse
altogether, with most disastrous results to the heavier pieces of
furniture.

On my arrival in Teheran I received a most charming invitation to go and
stay at the British Legation, but partly owing to the fact that I wished
to remain in town and so be more in touch with the natives themselves,
partly because I wished to be unbiassed in any opinion that I might form,
I decided not to accept anybody's hospitality while in Teheran. This I am
very glad I did, for I feel I can now express an opinion which, whether
right or wrong, is my own, and has not been in any way influenced by any
one.



CHAPTER XI

     Visits to high Persian officials--Meftah-es-Sultaneh--Persian
     education--A college for orphans--Uncomfortable etiquette--The
     Foreign Office--H.E. Mushir-ed-Doulet, Minister of Foreign
     Affairs--Persian interest in the Chinese War of 1900--Reform
     necessary.


Perhaps the description of one or two visits to high Persian officials
may interest the reader.

Through the kindness of the Persian Legation in London I had received
letters of introduction which I forwarded to their addresses on my
arrival in Teheran. The first to answer, a few hours after I had reached
Teheran, was Meftah-es-Sultaneh (Davoud), the highest person in the
Foreign Office after the Minister, who in a most polite letter begged me
to go to tea with him at once. He had just come to town from Tejerish,
but would leave again the same evening.

[Illustration: The Eftetahié College, supported by Meftah-el-Mulk.]

Escorted by the messenger, I at once drove to Meftah's Palace, outwardly,
like other palaces, of extremely modest appearance, and entered by a
small doorway leading through very narrow passages. Led by my guide, we
suddenly passed through a most quaint court, beautifully clean and with a
pretty fountain in the centre,--but no time was given me to rest and
admire. Again we entered another dark passage, this time to emerge into a
most beautiful garden with rare plants and lovely flowers, with a huge
tank, fountains playing and swans floating gracefully on the water. A
most beautiful palace in European architecture of good taste faced the
garden.

I was admitted into a spacious drawing-room, furnished in good European
style, where Meftah-es-Sultaneh--a rotund and jovial gentleman--greeted
me with effusion. Although he had never been out of Persia, he spoke
French, with a most perfect accent, as fluently as a Frenchman.

What particularly struck me in him, and, later, in many other of the
younger generation of the upper classes in Persia, was the happy mixture
of the utmost charm of manner with a keen business head, delightful tact
and no mean sense of humour. Meftah-es-Sultaneh, for instance, spoke most
interestingly for over an hour, and I was agreeably surprised to find
what an excellent foreign education students can receive without leaving
Persia. It is true that Meftah is an exceptionally clever man, who would
make his mark anywhere; still it was nevertheless remarkable how well
informed he was on matters not concerning his country.

He comes from a good stock. His father, Meftah-el-Mulk, was Minister
member of the Council of State, a very wealthy man, who devoted much of
his time and money to doing good to his country. Among the many
praiseworthy institutions founded and entirely supported by him was the
college for orphans, the Dabetsane Daneshe, and the Eftetahié School. The
colleges occupy beautiful premises, and first-rate teachers are provided
who instruct their pupils in sensible, useful matters. The boys are well
fed and clothed and are made quite happy in every way.

Meftah told me that His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs wished
to see me, so it was arranged that I should drive to Tejerish the next
morning to the Minister's country residence.

As early as five a.m. the following day I was digging in my trunks in
search of my frock-coat, the only masculine attire in Persia that is
considered decent, and without which no respectable man likes to be seen.
Then for the tall hat; and with the temperature no less than 98° in the
shade I started in an open victoria to drive the nine miles or so to the
appointment.

Not being a Persian myself, and not quite sharing the same ideas of
propriety, I felt rather ridiculous in my get-up, driving across the
sunny, dusty and barren country until we reached the hills. I had to keep
my feet under the seat of the carriage, for when the sun's rays
(thermometer above 125°) struck my best patent-leather shoes, the heat
was well-nigh intolerable.

At last, after going slowly up-hill through winding lanes enclosed in mud
walls, and along dry ditches with desiccated trees on either side, we
arrived at the _Campagne de Tejerish_, and pulled up in front of a big
gate, at the residence of the Minister.

The trials of the long drive had been great. With the black frock-coat
white with dust, my feet absolutely broiled in the patent shoes, and the
perspiration streaming down my forehead and cheeks, I really could not
help laughing at the absurdity of civilised, or semi-civilised fashions,
and at the purposeless suffering inflicted by them.

There were a number of soldiers at the gate with clothes undone--they
were practical people--and rusty muskets resting idle on a rack.

"Is Meftah-es-Sultaneh here?" I inquired.

"Yes, he is waiting for you," answered a soldier as he sprang to his
feet. He hurriedly buttoned up his coat and hitched his belt, and,
seizing a rifle, made a military salute in the most approved style.

An attendant led me along a well-shaded avenue to the house, and here I
was ushered into a room where, round tables covered with green cloth, sat
a great many officials. All these men wore pleated frock-coats of all
tints and gradations of the colours of the rainbow. One and all rose and
politely saluted me before I sat down.

Through the passage one could see another room in which a number of other
officials, similarly clad and with black astrakan caps, were opening and
sorting out correspondence.

Suddenly there was a hurried exit of all present--very much like a
stampede. Up the avenue a stately, tall figure, garbed in a whitish
frock-coat over which a long loose brown coat was donned, walked slowly
and ponderously with a crowd of underlings flitting around--like
mosquitoes round a brilliant light. It was Mushir-ed-Doulet, the Minister
of Foreign Affairs. He turned round, now to one, then to another
official, smiling occasionally and bowing gracefully, then glancing
fiercely at another and sternly answering a third.

[Illustration: H. E. Mushir-ed-Doulet, Minister of Foreign Affairs.]

I was rather impressed by the remarkable facility with which he could
switch on extreme courteousness and severity, kindliness and contempt.
His face was at no time, mind you, subjected to very marked exaggerated
changes or grimaces, such as those by which we generally expect emotions
to show themselves among ourselves, but the changes in his expression,
though slight, were quite distinct and so expressive that there was no
mistake as to their meaning. A soft look of compassion; a hard glance of
offended dignity; the veiled eyes deeply absorbed in reflection; the
sudden sparkle in them at news of success, were plainly visible on his
features, as a clerk approached him bringing correspondence, or asking
his opinion, or reporting on one matter or another.

A considerable amount of the less important business was disposed of in
this fashion, as the Minister strode up the avenue to the Foreign Office
building, and more still with two or three of the more important
personages who escorted him to his tents some little way from the avenue.

Meftah-es-Sultaneh, who had disappeared with the Minister, hurriedly
returned and requested me to follow him. On a sofa under a huge tent, sat
Mushir-ed-Doulet, the Minister, who instantly rose and greeted me
effusively as I entered. He asked me to sit on his right on the sofa
while Meftah interpreted. His Excellency only spoke Persian. Cigarettes,
cigars, coffee and tea were immediately brought.

The Minister had a most intelligent head. As can be seen by the
photograph here reproduced, he might have passed for a European. He was
extremely dignified and business-like in his manner. His words were few
and much to the point.

Our interview was a pleasant one and I was able to learn much of interest
about the country. The Minister seemed to lay particular stress on the
friendly relations of Russia and England, and took particular care to
avoid comments on the more direct relations between Persia and Russia.

One point in our conversation which his Excellency seemed very anxious to
clear up was, what would be the future of China? He seemed keenly
interested in learning whether Russia's or England's influence had the
supremacy in the Heavenly Empire, and whether either of these nations was
actually feared by the Chinese.

"Will the Chinese ever be able to fight England or Russia with success?
Were the Chinese well-armed during the war of 1900? If properly armed and
drilled, what chances had the Chinese army of winning against the Allies?
Would China be eventually absorbed and divided into two or more shares by
European powers, or would she be maintained as an Empire?"

Although the Minister did not say so himself, I could not help suspecting
that in his mind the similarity and probably parallel futures of China
and Persia afforded ground for reflection.

There is no doubt that in many ways the two countries resemble one
another politically, although Persia, owing to her more important
geographical position, may have a first place in the race of European
greed.

The interest displayed by Persians of all classes in the Chinese war of
1900 was intense, and, curiously enough, the feeling seemed to prevail
that China had actually won the war because the Allies had retreated,
leaving the capital and the country in the hands of the Chinese.

"More than in our actual strength," said a Persian official once to me,
"our safety lies in the rivalry of Great Britain and Russia, between
which we are wedged. Let those two nations be friends and we are done
for!"

After my visit to the Minister of Foreign Affairs I had the pleasure of
meeting the Prime Minister, the Minister of War, and the Minister of
Public Works. I found them all extremely interesting and courteous and
well up in their work. But although talent is not lacking in Persia
among statesmen, the country itself, as it is to-day, does not give these
men an opportunity of shining as brightly as they might. The whole
country is in such a decayed condition that it needs a thorough
overhauling. Then only it might be converted into quite a formidable
country. It possesses all the necessary requirements to be a first-class
nation. Talent in exuberance, physical strength, a convenient
geographical position, a good climate, considerable mineral and some
agricultural resources, are all to be found in Persia. All that is wanted
at present is the development of the country on a solid, reliable basis,
instead of the insecure, unsteady intrigues upon which business, whether
political or commercial, is unfortunately carried on in the present state
of affairs.

No one realises this better than the well-to-do Persian, and nothing
would be more welcome to him than radical reform on the part of the Shah,
and the establishment of the land of Iran on unshakable foundations. With
a national debt so ridiculously small as Persia has at present, there is
no reason why, with less maladministration, with her industries pushed,
with her army reorganised and placed on a serviceable footing, she should
not rank as one of the first and most powerful among Asiatic independent
nations.

We have seen what young Japan, against all odds, has been able to
accomplish in a few years. All the more should a talented race like the
Persians, situated to begin with in a far less remote position than
Japan, and therefore more favourably for the acquisition of foreign ways,
be able to emulate, and even in a short time surpass, the marvellous
success attained by the little Islanders of the Far East.

It is grit that is at present lacking in Persia. The country has a
wavering policy that is extremely injurious to her interests. One cannot
fail to compare her to a good old ship in a dangerous sea. The men at her
helm are perplexed, and cannot quite see a clear way of steering. The
waves run high and there are plenty of reefs and rocks about. A black
gloomy sky closes the horizon, forecasting an approaching cyclone. The
ship is leaking on all sides, and the masts are unsteady; yet when we
look at the number of rocks and reefs and dangers which she has steered
clear through already, we cannot fail to have some confidence in her
captain and crew. Maybe, if she is able to resist the fast-approaching
and unavoidable clash of the wind and sea (figuratively England is the
full-blown wind, Russia the sea)--she may yet reach her destination,
swamped by the waves, dismantled, but not beyond repair. Her damage, if
one looks at her with the eye of an expert, is after all not so great,
and with little present trouble and expense she will soon be as good as
new. Not, however, if she is left to rot much longer.

Such is Persia at present. The time has come when she must go back into
the shelter of a safe harbour, or face the storm.



CHAPTER XII

     The Persian army--The Persian soldier as he is and as he might
     be--When and how he is drilled--Self-doctoring under
     difficulties--Misappropriation of the army's salary--Cossack
     regiments drilled by Russian officers--Death of the Head
     Mullah--Tribute of the Jews--The position of Europeans--A gas
     company--How it fulfilled its agreement.


A painful sight is the Persian army. With the exception of the good
Cossack cavalry regiment, properly fed, dressed, armed and drilled by
foreign instructors such as General Kossackowski, and Russian officers,
the infantry and artillery are a wretched lot. There is no excuse for
their being so wretched, because there is hardly a people in Asia who
would make better soldiers than the Persians if they were properly
trained. The Persian is a careless, easy-going devil, who can live on
next to nothing; he is a good marksman, a splendid walker and horseman.
He is fond of killing, and cares little if he is killed--and he is a
master at taking cover. These are all good qualities in a soldier, and if
they were brought out and cultivated; if the soldiers were punctually
paid and fed and clothed and armed, there is no reason why Persia should
not have as good an army as any other nation. The material is there and
is unusually good; it only remains to use it properly.

[Illustration: Persian Soldiers--The Band.]

[Illustration: Recruits Learning Music.]

I was most anxious to see the troops at drill, and asked a very high
military officer when I might see them.

"We do not drill in summer," was the reply, "it is too hot!"

"Do you drill in winter?"

"No, it is too cold."

"Are the troops then only drilled in the autumn and spring?"

"Sometimes. They are principally drilled a few days before the Shah's
birthday, so that they may look well on the parade before his Majesty."

"I suppose they are also only dressed and shod on the Shah's birthday?"

"Yes."

"What type and calibre rifle is used in the Persian army?"

"Make it plural, as plural as you can. They have every type under the
sun. But," added the high military officer, "we use of course 'bullet
rifles' (_fusils à balle_) not 'small shot guns'!"

This "highly technical explanation" about finished me up.

As luck or ill-luck would have it, I had an accident which detained me
some four weeks in Teheran. While at the Resht hotel, it may be
remembered how, walking barefooted on the matting of my room, an
invisible germ bored its way into the sole of my foot, and I could not
get it out again. One day, in attempting to make its life as lively as
the brute made my foot, I proceeded to pour some drops of concentrated
carbolic acid upon the home of my invisible tenant. Unluckily, in the
operation my arm caught in the blankets of my bed, and in the jerk the
whole contents of the bottle flowed out, severely burning all my toes and
the lower and upper part of my foot, upon which the acid had quickly
dripped between the toes.

With the intense heat of Teheran, this became a very bad sore, and I was
unable to stand up for several days. Some ten days later, having gone for
a drive to get a little air, a carriage coming full gallop from a side
street ran into mine, turning it over, and I was thrown, injuring my leg
very badly again; so with all these accidents I was detained in Teheran
long enough to witness the Shah's birthday, and with it, for a few days
previous, the "actual drilling of the troops."

I have heard it said, but will not be responsible for the statement, that
the troops are nearer their full complement on such an auspicious
occasion than at any other time of the year, so as to make a "show"
before his Majesty. Very likely this is true. When I was in Teheran a
great commotion took place, which shows how things are occasionally done
in the land of Iran. The ex-Minister of War, Kawam-ed-douleh, who had
previously been several times Governor of Teheran, was arrested, by order
of the Shah, for embezzling a half year's pay of the whole Persian army.
Soldiers were sent to his country residence and the old man, tied on a
white mule, was dragged into Teheran. His cap having been knocked
off--it is a disgrace to be seen in public without a hat--his relations
asked that he should be given a cap, which concession was granted, on
payment of several hundred tomans. A meal of rice is said to have cost
the prisoner a few more hundred tomans, and so much salt had purposely
been mixed with it that the thirsty ex-Minister had to ask for copious
libations of water, each tumbler at hundreds of tomans.

Several other high officials were arrested in connection with these army
frauds, and would probably have lost their heads, had it not been for the
special kindness of the Shah who punished them by heavy fines, repayment
of the sums appropriated, and exile. It is a well-known fact in Persia
that whether the frauds begin high up or lower down in the scale of
officials, the pay often does not reach the private soldier, and if it
does is generally reduced to a minimum.

The food rations, too, if received by the men at all, are most irregular,
which compels the soldiers to look out for themselves at the expense of
the general public. This is a very great pity, for with what the Shah
pays for the maintenance of the army, he could easily, were the money not
appropriated for other purposes, keep quite an efficient little force,
properly instructed, clothed, and armed.

The drilling of the soldiers, which I witnessed just before the Shah's
birthday, partook very much of the character of a theatrical performance.
The drilling, which hardly ever lasted more than a couple of hours a day,
was limited to teaching the soldiers how to keep time while marching and
presenting arms. The brass bands played _fortissimo_--but not
_benissimo_--all the time, and various evolutions were gone through in
the spacious _place d'armes_ before the Italian General, in Persian
employ, and a bevy of highly-dressed Persian officers. There was a great
variety of ragged uniforms, and head-gears, from kolah caps to brass and
tin helmets, and the soldiers' ages ranged from ten to sixty.

The soldiers seemed very good-humoured and obedient, and certainly, when
I saw them later before the Shah in their new uniforms, they looked quite
different and had not the wretched appearance they present in daily life.

But these infantry soldiers do not bear comparison with the
Russian-drilled Persian Cossacks. The jump is enormous, and well shows
what can be done with these men if method and discipline are used. Of
course perfection could not be expected in such a short time, especially
considering the difficulties and interference which foreign officers have
to bear from the Persians, but it is certainly to be regretted that such
excellent material is now practically wasted and useless.

There were several other excitements before I left Teheran. The head
Mullah--a most important person--died, and the whole population of
Teheran turned out to do him honour when his imposing funeral took place.
Curiously enough, the entire male Jewish community marched in the funeral
procession--an event unprecedented, I am told, in the annals of Persian
Mussulman history. The head Mullah, a man of great wisdom and justice,
had, it was said, been very considerate towards the Jews and had
protected them against persecution: hence this mark of respect and grief
at his death.

The discovery of the ex-Minister of War's frauds, the death of the head
Mullah, the reported secret attempts to poison the Shah, the prospects of
a drought, the reported murder of two Russians at Resht, and other minor
sources of discontent, all coming together, gave rise to fears on the
part of Europeans that a revolution might take place in Teheran. But such
rumours are so very frequent in all Eastern countries that generally no
one attaches any importance to them until it is too late. Europeans are
rather tolerated than loved in Persia, and a walk through the native
streets or bazaars in Teheran is quite sufficient to convince one of the
fact. Nor are the Persians to be blamed, for there is hardly a nation in
Asia that has suffered more often and in a more shameful manner from
European speculators and adventurers than the land of Iran.

Perhaps the country itself, or rather the people, with their vainglory
and empty pomp, are particularly adapted to be victimised by impostors
and are easy preys to them. Some of the tricks that have been played upon
them do not lack humour. Take, for instance, the pretty farce of the
_Compagnie générale pour l'éclairage et le chauffage en Perse_, which
undertook to light the city of Teheran with no less than one thousand
gas lights. Machinery was really imported at great expense from Europe
for the manufacture of the gas--many of the heavier pieces of machinery
are still lying on the roadside between Resht and Teheran--extensive
premises were built in Teheran itself, and an elaborate doorway with a
suitable inscription on it, is still to be seen; but the most important
part of all--the getting of the coal from which the gas was to be
extracted--had not been considered. The Lalun coal mines, which offered a
gleam of hope to the shareholders, were exploited and found practically
useless. The Company and Government came to loggerheads, each accusing
the other of false dealing, and the result was that the Persians insisted
on the Company lighting up Teheran with the agreed 1,000 lights. If gas
could not be manufactured, oil lights would do. There was the signed
agreement and the Company must stick to it.

The Company willingly agreed, but as the document did not specify the
site where each lamp-post should be situate nearly all were erected, at a
distance of only a few feet from one another--a regular forest of
them--in the two main streets of the European settlement.

One single man is employed after dark to set the lamps alight, and when
he has got to the end of the two streets he proceeds on his return
journey to blow them all out again. By ten o'clock everything is in
perfect darkness.

The Company now claim that they have fulfilled their agreement!

The Belgian Company for the manufacture of Beetroot Sugar was another
example of how speculations sometimes go wrong, and no wonder. In theory
the venture seemed quite sound, for the consumption of sugar in Persia is
large, and if it had been possible to produce cheap sugar in the country
instead of importing it from Russia, France and India, huge profits would
have been probable; but here again the same mistake was made as by the
gas company. The obtaining of the raw material was neglected.

The sugar refinery was built at great cost in this case, too, machinery
was imported to manufacture the three qualities of sugar most favoured by
the Persians--loaf sugar, crystallised sugar, and sugar-candy,--but all
this was done before ascertaining whether it was possible to grow the
right quality of beetroot in sufficient quantities to make the concern
pay. Theoretically it was proved that it would be possible to produce
local sugar at a price which, while leaving the Company a huge profit,
would easily beat Russian sugar, by which French and Indian sugar have
now been almost altogether supplanted.

A model farm was actually started (and is still in existence) near
Shah-Abdul Azim, where beetroot was to be grown in large quantities, the
experts declaring that the soil was better suited for the crop than any
to be found in Europe. Somehow or other it did not answer as well as
expected. Moreover, the question of providing coal for the engines
proved--as in the case of the Gas Company--to be another serious
stumbling block. An attempt to overcome this difficulty by joining with
the Gas Company in working the Lalun Mines was made, but, alas! proved an
expensive failure.

Moreover, further difficulties were encountered in obtaining the right
manure for the beetroots, in order that the acids, which delay
crystallisation, might be eliminated; and the inexperience, carelessness
and reluctance with which the natives took up the new cultivation--and,
as it did not pay, eventually declined to go on with it--render it by no
means strange that the sugar factory, too, which was to make the fortunes
of so many became a derelict enterprise.



CHAPTER XIII

     Cash and wealth--Capital as understood by Persians--Hidden
     fortunes--Forms of extravagance--Unbusiness-like
     qualities--Foreign examples--Shaken confidence of natives in
     foreigners--Greed for money--Small merchants--Illicit ways of
     increasing wealth--The Persian a dreamer--Unpunctuality--Time no
     money and no object--Hindrance to reform--Currency--Gold, silver,
     and copper--Absorption of silver--Drainage of silver into
     Transcaspia--Banknotes--The fluctuations of the Kran--How the
     poorer classes are affected by it--Coins old and new--Nickel
     coins--The _Shai_ and its subdivisions.


The Persian does not understand the sound principles on which alone
extensive business can be successful. Partly owing to prevailing
circumstances he is under the misapprehension that hard cash is
synonymous with wealth, and does not differentiate between treasure,
savings, and savings transformed into capital. This is probably the main
cause of the present anaemic state of business in the Shah's Empire.
Thus, when we are told there is in Persia enormous "capital" to be
invested, we are not correctly informed. There are "enormous
accumulations of wealth" lying idle, but there is no "capital" in the
true meaning of the word. These huge sums in hard cash, in jewellery, or
bars of gold and silver, have been hidden for centuries in dark cellars,
and for any good they are to the country and commerce at large might as
well not exist at all.

Partly owing to the covetousness of his neighbours, partly owing to a
racial and not unreasonable diffidence of all around him, and to the fact
that an Asiatic always feels great satisfaction in the knowledge that he
has all his wealth within his own reach and protection, rich men of
Persia take particular care to maintain the strictest secrecy about their
possessions, and to conceal from the view of their neighbours any signs
which might lead them to suspect the accumulation of any such wealth. We
have already seen how even the houses of the wealthiest are purposely
made humble outwardly so as to escape the notice of rapacious officials,
and it is indeed difficult to distinguish from the outside between the
house of a millionaire and that of a common merchant.

The Persian, it must be well understood, does not hide his accumulated
treasure from avaricious reasons; on the contrary, his inclinations are
rather toward extravagance than otherwise, which extravagance he can only
satisfy under a mask of endless lies and subterfuges. No honest ways of
employing his wealth in a business-like and safe manner are open to the
rich Persian under the present public maladministration, nor have the
foreign speculations in the country offered sufficient examples of
success to induce natives to embark upon them again. Far from it; these
enterprises have even made Persians more sceptical and close than before,
and have certainly not shown foreign ways of transacting business at the
best.

That is why, no other way being open to him, the Persian who does wish to
get rid of his wealth, prefers to squander his money, both capital and
income (the latter if he possesses land), in luxurious jewellery and
carpets, and in unhealthy bribery and corruption, or in satisfying
caprices which his voluptuous nature may suggest. The result? The Persian
is driven to live mostly for his vanity and frivolity--two
unbusiness-like qualities not tending to the promotion of commercial
enterprise on a large scale, although it is true that in a small way his
failings give rise and life to certain industries. For instance, even in
remote, poor and small centres where food is scarce and the buildings
humble, one invariably finds a goldsmith, filigree-workers and embroidery
makers, whereas the necessaries of life may be more difficult to obtain.

Of course Persia contains a comparatively small number of Persians of a
more adventurous nature, men who have travelled abroad and have been
bitten with the Western desire for speculation to increase their money
with speed, if not always with safety; but even these men have mostly
retired within their shells since the colossal _fiascos_ of the
speculations started in Persia by foreign "company promoters." A
considerable number of Persians, seduced by glowing prospectuses and
misplaced faith in everything foreign, were dreadfully taken in by the
novel experiments--everything novel attracts the Persian
considerably--and readily unearthed solid gold and silver bars, that had
lain for centuries in subterranean hiding-places, and now came out to be
converted into shares in the various concerns, hardly worth the paper on
which they were printed, but promising--according to the prospectus--to
bring the happy possessors fabulous incomes.

We have seen how the Sugar Refinery, the Glass Factory, the "Gas"
Company--a more appropriate name could not have been given--and the
ill-fated Mining Company have created well-founded suspicion of foreign
ways of increasing one's capital, nor can we with any fairness blame the
Persians for returning to their old method of slow accumulation. True
enough, a fortune, if discovered, has a fair possibility of being seized
in the lump by a greedy official, but that is only a possibility;
whereas, when invested in some foreign speculations the loss becomes a
dead certainty! More even than the actual loss of the money, the Persians
who burned their fingers by meddling with foreign schemes felt the scorn
of their friends, of whom they had become the laughing stock.

There is no doubt that to-day the confidence of the natives towards
foreigners has been very much shaken, and excepting a few men whom they
well know, trust and respect, they regard most Europeans as adventurers
or thieves. The "treasuring" of capital instead of the investment of it
is, therefore, one of the reasons why industries in Persia seldom assume
large proportions. It is only the small merchant, content to make a
humble profit, who can prosper in his own small way while more extensive
concerns are distrusted.

But it must not be understood that Persians do not care for money. There
is, on the contrary, hardly a race of people on the face of the earth
with whom the greed for money is developed to such an abnormal extent as
in all classes in the land of Iran! But, you will ask, how can money be
procured or increased fast and without trouble in a country where there
is no commercial enterprise, where labour is interfered with, where
capital cannot have a free outlet or investment? An opening has to be
found in illicit ways of procuring wealth, and the most common form
adopted is the loan of money at high interest on ample security. As much
as 50 per cent., 80 per cent., 100 per cent. and even more is demanded
and obtained as interest on private loans, 15 per cent. being the very
lowest and deemed most reasonable indeed! (This does not apply to foreign
banks.) All this may seem strange in a Mussulman country, where it is
against all the laws of the Koran to lend money at usury, and it is more
strange still to find that the principal offenders are the Mullahs
themselves, who reap large profits from such illegal financial
operations.

The Persian is a dreamer by nature; he cannot be said to be absolutely
lazy, for he is always absorbed in deep thought--what the thoughts are it
does not do to analyse too closely--but he devotes so much time to
thinking that he seldom can do anything else. His mind--like the minds
of all people unaccustomed to hard work and steady, solidly-built
enterprise--runs to the fantastic, and he ever expects immense returns
for doing nothing. The returns, if any, and no matter how large they may
be, are ever too small to satisfy his expectations.

As for time, there is no country where it is worth less than to the
natives of Persia. The _mañana_ of the Spaniards sinks into perfect
insignificance when compared with the habits of the land of Iran.
Punctuality is unknown--especially in payments, for a Persian must take
time to reflect over everything. He cannot be hurried. A three months'
limit of credit--or even six months--seems outrageously short in the eyes
of Persians. Twelve months and eighteen, twenty, or twenty-four months
suit him better, but even then he is never ready to pay, unless under
great pressure. He does disburse the money in the end, capital and
interest, but why people should worry over time, and why it should matter
whether payment occurs to-day or to-morrow are quite beyond him.

If he does transact business, days are wasted in useless talk and
compliments before the subject with which he intends to deal is
incidentally approached in conversation, and then more hours and days and
weeks, even months have to elapse before he can make up his mind what to
do. Our haste, and what we consider smartness in business, are looked
upon by the Persian as quite an acute form of lunacy,--and really, when
one is thrown much in contact with such delightful placidity, almost
torpor, and looks back upon one's hard race for a living and one's
struggle and competition in every department, one almost begins to fancy
that we are lunatics after all!

[Illustration: The Arrival of a Caravan of Silver at the Imperial Bank of
Persia.]

The Persian must have his hours for praying, his hours for ablutions,
more hours for meditation, and the rest for sleep and food. Whether you
hasten or not, he thinks, you will only live the number of years that God
wills for you, and you will live those years in the way that He has
destined for you. Each day will be no longer and no shorter, your life no
sadder and no happier. Why then hurry?

Amid such philosophic views, business in European fashion does not
promise to prosper.

Unable to attach a true meaning to words--his language is beautiful but
its flowery form conduces to endless misunderstandings--casual to a
degree in fulfilling work as he has stipulated to do it; such is the
Persian of to-day. Whether the vicissitudes of his country, the fearful
wars, the famines, the climate, the official oppression have made him so,
or whether he has always been so, is not easy to tell, but that is how he
is now.

Besides all this, each man is endowed with a maximum of ambition and
conceit, each individual fully believing himself the greatest man that
ever lived and absolute perfection. Moreover the influence of Mullahs is
used to oppose reform and improvement, so that altogether the economic
development of production, distribution and circulation of capital is
bound to be hampered to no mean extent. On examining things carefully it
seems almost astonishing that the trade of Persia should be as well
developed as it is.

Another difficulty in the way is the currency, which offers some
interesting lessons, and I am indebted to the author of a paper read
before the Statistical Society for the following details.

Gold is not produced in Persia. Bar gold is imported in very small
quantities only. Gold coin is a mere commodity--is quite scarce, and is
mostly used for presents and hoarding. It is minted principally from
Russian Imperials and Turkish pounds which drift into Persia in small
quantities in the course of business. Goldsmiths, too, in their work,
make use of foreign coins, although some gold and silver bullion is
imported for manufacturing purposes.

Silver, too, is not obtainable in Persia except in very small quantities,
and the imported silver comes from Great Britain, _via_ the Gulf or _via_
Hamburg and Russia. In the year 1901 the Persian Government, in
connection with the Russian Loan, imported some three million tomans'
worth of silver to be minted, and the Imperial Bank of Persia another
million tomans; while some 500,000 tomans more were brought into the
country by other importers. But under normal circumstances the annual
output hardly ever exceeds three to four million tomans. In 1900 it was
something between 2,000,000 and 2,500,000 tomans.

The Mint--like all other institutions of Persia--is in a tumbling-down
condition, with an ancient plant (1877) so obsolete and worn as to be
almost useless. Partly owing to the insufficient production of coin,
partly because of the export in great quantities of Persian silver coin
into Transcaspia, and, last but not least, owing to the Persian custom of
"making a corner" by speculators, the commercial centres of Persia suffer
from a normal dearth of silver coins. Persian silver coin has for the
foregoing reasons a purchasing power of sometimes 20 per cent. beyond its
intrinsic value. In distant cities, like Yezd or Kerman, it is difficult
to obtain large sums in silver coin at face value, as it disappears into
the villages almost as soon as it arrives by caravan or post. New coin is
generally in great demand and commands a premium.

So the yearly drain of silver coin from Teheran as soon as it is minted
is very considerable, especially to the north, north-east and north-west
provinces. This coin does not circulate but is almost entirely absorbed
and never reappears, the people themselves holding it, as we have seen,
as treasure, and huge quantities finding their way into Transcaspia and
eventually into Afghanistan, where Persian coin is current and at a
premium, especially on the border land.

In Transcaspia Persian coin is cherished because the nominally equivalent
Persian coin contains a much larger quantity of silver than the Russian.
Russian silver is a mere token of currency, or, at best, stands midway
between a token and a standard or international currency, and its
difference when compared with the Persian coin amounts to no less than
21.92 per cent. in favour of the Persian. Persian coin, although
defective and about 2 per cent. below legal weight and fineness, is a
standard or international currency.

It appears that a good deal of the silver exported into Transcaspia finds
its way to Chinese Turkestan, where it is converted into bars and ingots,
and is used for the inland trade to China. The Russian Government have
done all in their power to prevent the competition of Persian and Russian
coins in their Transcaspian provinces. A decree was issued some eleven
years ago forbidding the importation, and in 1897 a second Ukase further
prohibited foreign silver from entering the country after the 13th of May
(1st of May of our calendar), and a duty of about 20 per cent. was
imposed on silver crossing the frontier. All this has resulted in silver
entering the provinces by smuggling instead of openly, but it finds its
way there in large quantities just the same as before.

The Government of Persia does not issue bank-notes, which would be
regarded with suspicion among the people, but it is interesting to find
that the monopoly granted to the Imperial Bank of Persia for the issue of
paper money has had excellent results, in Teheran particularly, where the
Bank is held in high esteem and the notes have been highly appreciated.
In other cities of Persia which I visited, however, the notes did not
circulate, and were only accepted at the Bank's agencies and in the
bazaar by some of the larger merchants at a small discount.

Naturally, with the methods adopted by Persians, and the insecurity which
prevails everywhere, the process of convincing the natives that a piece
of printed paper is equivalent to so many silver krans, and that the
silver krans will surely be produced in full on demand is rather a slow
one; but the credit of the Imperial Bank and the popular personality of
Mr. Rabino, the manager, have done much towards dispelling the
suspicions, and since 1890 the notes have assumed a considerable place in
the circulation. In September 1890 the circulation of them amounted to
29,000 tomans; in 1895 it had gradually increased to 254,000 tomans, and
by leaps and bounds had reached the sum of 1,058,000 in 1900.[1] It is
rather curious to note that in the previous year, 1899, the note
circulation was 589,000 tomans, and became very nearly double in the
following twelve months.

This only applies to Teheran and the principal cities; in the villages,
and in out-of-the-way towns, notes are out of the question, and even
silver coins are very scarce. A two-kran piece of the newer type is
seldom found, and only one-kran pieces, little irregular lumps of silver,
are occasionally to be seen. Copper is really the currency and is a mere
subsidiary or token coinage with a value fluctuating according to local
dearth or other causes at almost every place one goes to.

The precarious system of farming, accompanied by the corruption of
officials, has given an opportunity for most frequent and flagrant abuses
in the excessive over-issue of copper coin, so that in many cities copper
issued at the nominal value of 20 shais per kran was current at 30, 40,
50, and even, in Eastern Persia, at 80 shais per kran. I myself, on
travelling through Persia, never knew exactly what a kran was worth, as
in almost every province I received a different exchange of shais for my
krans. In Birjand and Sistan, particularly, the exchange differed very
considerably.

This state of maladministration affects the poorer classes, for the
copper currency forms their entire fortune. On coming to the throne the
present Shah, with praiseworthy thoughtfulness, endeavoured to put a stop
to this cause of misery in his people, and ordered the Government to
withdraw some 720,000 tomans' worth of copper coins at 25 to 30 shais per
kran. This had a good effect, and although much of the depreciated coin
is still in circulation, particularly in out-of-the-way places, its
circulation in the larger towns has been considerably diminished.

Lately the Government has adopted the measure of supplying the public
with nickel coins, one-shai and two-shai pieces, which, although looked
at askance at first, are now found very handy by the natives and
circulate freely, principally in Resht, Kasvin, Teheran and Isfahan. In
other cities I did not see any, nor would the natives accept mine in
payment, and in villages no one would have anything to do with them as
they were absolutely unknown. But wherever it has been possible to
commence the circulation of these nickel coins--which were struck at the
Brussels Mint and which are quite pretty--they have been accepted with
great pleasure.

The old gold coins in circulation in Persia--very few and far apart--were
the toman, half-toman, and two-kran piece. The gold had a legal fineness
of 990. The legal weight in grains troy was: toman, 53.28; half-toman,
26.64; two-kran piece, 10.656. Weight in pure gold; toman, 51.7572;
half-toman, 26.3736; two-kran piece, 10.54944.

The new coins are the two-tomans, one-toman (differentiated in 1879 and
subsequent to 1879), half-toman and two-kran pieces, the gold having a
legal fineness of 900. Legal weight:--

                    |         |   One toman.       |        |
                    |   Two   |        | Subsequent| Half   | Two kran
                    |  tomans.|  1879. | to 1879.  | toman. |  piece.
--------------------+---------+--------+-----------+--------+---------
Grains troy         | 100.64  | 50.32  |    44.40  |  22.20 | 8.88
Weight in pure gold |  90.576 | 45.288 |    39.96  |  19.98 | 7.992

The new silver coinage consists of 2-kran pieces (five of which make a
toman), one-kran, half-kran, and quarter-kran, all keeping to the legal
fineness of 900 as in the older coins struck from 1857 to 1878:--

                           |  Two    | One    | Half   | Quarter
                           | krans.  | kran.  | kran.  |  kran.
---------------------------+---------+--------+--------+--------
Legal weight (grains troy) | 142.08  | 71.04  | 30.52  | 15.26
Weight in grains silver    | 127.872 | 63.936 | 27.468 | 13.734

The 1857 to 1878 coins were merely one-kran, half-kran, quarter-kran:--

                     | One kran. | Half kran. | Quarter kran.
---------------------+-----------+------------+--------------
Legal weight         |  76.96    |   38.48    |    19.24
Weight in pure silver|  69.264   |   34.632   |    17.316

The older coinage before 1857, a most irregular coin--of one kran--varied
considerably and had an approximate average fineness of 855, an average
weight (grains troy) of 75.88, and a weight in pure silver of grains troy
64.877, which is below the correct standard by no less than 6.76 per
cent.

In the newest coinage of two-kran pieces, the coin most used in
cities,--large payments being always made in two-kran pieces--we have an
average fineness of 892.166; average weight, grains troy, 119.771; weight
in pure silver, grains troy, 124.69, or 2.55 per cent. below the
standard.

In nickel coinage, composed of 25 per cent. of nickel and 75 per cent. of
copper, we have:--

Two shai pieces (grains troy)  69.45
One shai pieces (grains troy)  46.30

The copper coins are in great variety. There is the _abassi_ (one-fifth
of a kran) worth four shais, and very scarce now.

The _sadnar_ (one-tenth of a kran) equivalent to two shais.

The (one) _shai_ (one-twentieth of a kran).

The _pul_ (one-fortieth of a kran), half a shai.

And the _jendek_ (one-eightieth of a kran) a quarter shai; this coin only
found in circulation in Khorassan.

When it is remembered that at the present rate of exchange the kran can
be reckoned at fivepence in English money, and the toman as roughly
equivalent to one American dollar, it will be seen that the subdivisions
of the kran are rather minute for the average European mind.

[Illustration: The Imperial Bank of Persia Decorated on the Shah's
Birthday.]

Yet there are things that one can buy even for a _jendek_; think of
it,--the fourth part of a farthing! But that is only in Khorassan.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] I understand this figure has since considerably increased.



CHAPTER XIV

     The Banks of Persia--The Imperial Bank of Persia--The most
     revered foreigner in Persia--Loans--The road concession--The
     action of the Stock Exchange injurious to British
     interests--Securities--Brains and not capital--Risks of importing
     capital--An ideal banking situation--Hoarding--Defective
     communication--The key to profitable banking in Persia--How the
     exchange is affected--Coins--Free trade--The Russian Bank and Mr.
     De Witte--Mr. Grube an able Manager--Healthy competition--Support
     of the Russian Government.


The Banks of Persia can be divided into three classes. One, containing
the smaller native bankers, who often combine the jeweller's business
with that of the money changer; the larger and purely native banking
businesses, and then the foreign banks, such as the Imperial Bank of
Persia (English Bank), the Banque d'Escompte et de Prêts (Russian Bank)
and the Agency of the Banque Internationale de Commerce de Moscow (Banque
Poliakoff). There are other foreign firms too, such as Ziegler and Co.,
Hotz, the Persian Gulf Trading Co., etc., which transact banking to a
limited extent besides their usual and principal trading business; but
these are not banks proper.

The Imperial Bank of Persia, being a purely British enterprise, is the
most interesting to us. Its main offices are in a most impressive
building in the principal square of Teheran, and it has branch offices at
Tabriz, Isfahan, Meshed, Yezd, Shiraz, in the Teheran Bazaar, at Bushire
and Kermanshah. It would be useless to go into the various vicissitudes
through which the Bank has passed since it was first started, and the
difficulties which it encountered in meeting the unusual ways of doing
business of Persians and satisfying the desires of directors and
shareholders in simple London town. One thing is, nevertheless, certain,
and that is that if the Imperial Bank of Persia maintains the prestige
now belonging to it, it owes this to Mr. Rabino, of Egyptian fame, the
Manager of the Bank,--without exception the most revered foreigner in
Persia.

I will not touch on the sore question of the Persian loans, eventually
secured by Russia, but, curiously enough, the capital of the first loan,
at least, was in great measure practically transferred from Russia to
Persia by the Imperial Bank, which had the greatest stock of money in
Teheran; nor shall I go into the successful and unsuccessful ventures of
the Bank, such as the Road Concession, and the Mining Corporation. As to
the road concession, it is beyond doubt that had the Bank not become
alarmed, and had they held on a little longer, the venture might have
eventually paid, and paid well. But naturally, in a slow country like
Persia, nothing can be a financial success unless it is given time to
develop properly.

With regard to its relation with the Banque d'Escompte et de Prêts, the
Russian Bank--believed by some to be a dangerous rival--matters may to my
mind be seen in two aspects. I believe that the Russian Bank, far from
damaging the Imperial Bank, has really been a godsend to it, as it has
relieved it by sharing advances to the Government which in time might
have proved somewhat of a burden on one establishment. It is a mistake,
too, to believe that in a country like Persia there is not room for two
large concerns like the two above-mentioned Banks, and that one or the
other is bound to go.

The rumoured enormous successes of the Russian Bank and its really
fast-increasing prestige are indisputable, but the secret of these things
is well known to the local management of the Imperial Bank, which could
easily follow suit and quickly surpass the Russians if more official and
political support were forthcoming.

The action of the London Stock Exchange in depreciating everything
Persian, for the sake of reprisal, is also injurious to the Bank, and
more so to the prestige of this country, though we do not seem to see
that our attitude has done much more harm to ourselves than to the
Persians. It is true that Persia is a maladministered country, that there
is corruption, that there is intrigue, and so forth, but is there any
other country, may I ask, where to a greater or smaller extent the same
accusation could not be made? Nor can we get away from the fact that
although Persia has been discredited on the London market it is one of
the few countries in which the national debt is extremely small and can
easily be met.

The obligations of the Imperial Government and of Muzaffer-ed-din Shah's
signature, have never failed to be met, nor has the payment of full
interest on mortgages contracted ever been withheld. Delays may have
occurred, but everything has come right in the end. Our absurd attitude
towards the Persians, when we are at the same time ready to back up
enterprises that certainly do not afford one-tenth of the security to be
found in Persia, is therefore rather difficult to understand.

There are few countries in which so much can be done with a comparatively
small outlay as in Persia. It is not enterprises on a gigantic scale, nor
millions of pounds sterling that are needed; moderate sums handled with
judgment, knowledge and patient perseverance, would produce unlooked-for
results. Large imported sums of capital in hard cash are not wanted and
would involve considerable risk. First of all, stands the danger of the
depreciation of capital by the fall in silver and the gradual rise in
exchange due to the excess of imports over exports. Then comes the
narrowness of the Persian markets which renders the return of large sums
in cash an extremely long and difficult operation; and last but not
least, the serious fact that capital is generally imported at a loss,
inasmuch as the intrinsic value of the kran is much below its exchange
value.

The ideal situation of an English Bank trading with the East,[2] is when
its capital remains in gold, whilst its operations are conducted in
silver by means of its deposits. This, because of the instability in the
price of silver as compared with that of gold, and the risks which follow
upon holding a metal fluctuating in value almost daily. The situation in
Persia, partly owing to the constant appreciation of the Persian
currency, due to the great dearth of silver produced by hoarding as well
as by the export of coin to Central Asia, is quite suitable to the system
of banking indicated above.

The difference between the intrinsic and the exchange value of the kran,
notwithstanding the constant demand for exchange, is quite worthy of
note. Political preoccupation is the principal cause of the hoarding
system in Government circles, and in the masses the absence of banking
organisations in which the natives have sufficient confidence to deposit
their savings. Slowly but surely the Persian is beginning to feel the
good effects of depositing his money in a European-managed Bank offering
sound guarantees, and it is certain that in time all the money required
for trade purposes will be found in Persia itself.

When better communication between the various commercial centres has been
established, the distribution of the funds as required, now a matter of
great difficulty and risk, will be greatly facilitated. When the
despatching of sums from one city to another instead of taking minutes
by telegraph or hours by post occupy, under normal circumstances, days,
weeks, a month or even more, because the payments are made in solid
silver which has to travel by caravan, it is easy to understand how the
dangerous system of hoarding comes to be practised with impunity and
facility all over Persia.

[Illustration: A Typical Persian Window. (Mr. Rabino's House, Teheran.)]

Of course every precaution is taken to foresee abnormal scarcity of
funds, by sending specie to the places threatened, in order to help
trade. During the summer months, for instance, most of the floating
capital is absorbed in the provinces by the opium crop in the Yezd and
Isfahan markets, when the silver krans find their way _en masse_ to the
villages, much to the inconvenience of the two cities. In the autumn a
similar occurrence hampers trade during the export season of dried fruit
and silk from Azerbaijan and Ghilan, the exchange falling very low owing
to scarcity of money.

A very important item in the Bank's transactions in Persia is the
constant demand for remittances of revenue to Teheran for Government
purposes, such as payments for the army, officials, etc., and these
remittances amount to very large sums.

The key to profitable banking in Persia is the arbitration of foreign
exchanges, which being so intimately connected with internal exchange
allows the latter to be worked at a profit, advantage being taken of
breaks in the level of prices; but of course, with the introduction of
telegraphs and in future of railways, these profits will become more
and more difficult to make. In Persia the lack of quick communication
still affords a fair chance of good remuneration without speculation for
the important services rendered by a bank to trade.

The exchange of Persia upon London is specially affected by two
influences. In the north by the value of the ruble, the more important
and constant factor, Tabriz, the Persian centre of the Russian exchange,
being the nearest approach in Persia to a regular market; and in the
south by the rupee exchange, which differs from the ruble in its being
dependent upon the price of silver.

In a country like Persia, where the exchange is not always obtainable and
money at times is not to be procured, it is easy to conceive the
difficulty of a bank. Forecasts of movements, based on general causes,
are of little or no value in Persia. To this must be added the
difficulties of examining and counting coins--weighing is not practicable
owing to the irregularity of each coin--of the transmission of funds to
distant places, and the general ignorance except in mercantile
circles--of banking methods as we understand them.

The Imperial Bank is established in Persia, not as is believed by some
persons to do business for England and English people, but to do business
with everybody. "The spirit of free trade alone," said Mr. Rabino to me,
"must animate the management of such a bank. Its services must be at the
disposal of all; its impartiality to English, Russian, Austrian,
Persian, or whatever nationality a customer may belong to, unquestioned.
All must have a fair and generous treatment." The interests of the
Imperial Bank are firstly those of its shareholders, secondly those of
Persia which gives the Bank hospitality.

The Bank has already rendered inestimable services to Persia by diffusing
sound business principles, which the Persians seem slowly but gladly to
learn and accept. That the future of a bank on such true principles is
bound to be crowned with success seems a certainty, but as has often been
pointed out, it would be idle to fancy that a couple of years or three
will remove the prejudices and peculiar ways of thinking and of
transacting business of an Oriental race, whose civilisation is so
different from ours, or that the natives will accept our financial system
with its exactitude and punctuality, the result of ages of experience,
unhesitatingly and immediately.

The Persian requires very careful handling. He is obstinate, and by mere
long, tedious, passive resistance will often get the better in a bargain.
By the employment of similar methods however, it is not difficult to
obtain one's way in the end. A good deal of patience is required and time
_ad libitum_, that is all.

There is no need for a large stock of gold and rubles, but what is mostly
wanted is a greater number of men who might be sent all over the country,
men with good business heads and a polite manner, and, above all, men
well suited to the present requirements of the country.

The Russian, we find,--contrary to our popular ideas, which ever depict
him knut in hand,--almost fraternises with the Asiatics, and in any case
treats them with due consideration as if they had a right to live, at
least in their own country. Hence his undoubted popularity. But we, the
quintessence of Christianity and charity towards our neighbours,
habitually treat natives with much needless harshness and reserve, which
far from impressing the natives with our dignity--as we think--renders us
ridiculous in their eyes. A number of younger Englishmen are beginning to
be alive to this fact, and instruction on this point should form part of
the commercial training of our youths whose lives are to be spent in the
East.

The other important bank in Persia upon which great hopes are built,
although worked on different lines, is the so-called Russian Bank, the
_Société de Prêts de Perse_, as it was at first called when founded by
Poliakoff in 1891. It was an experiment intended to discover exactly what
was wanted in the country and what was the best way to attract business.
The monopoly of Public Auctions was obtained in conjunction with the
Mont-de-Piété--a scheme which did not work very well at first, the
natives not being accustomed to sudden innovations. The concern
subsequently developed into the _Bank Estekrasi_ (Bank of Loans), or
_Banque de Prêts de Perse_, as it styled itself, but financially it did
not pay, and at one moment was expected to liquidate. It is said that it
then threatened to amalgamate with the Imperial Bank. Mr. De Witte, of
St. Petersburg fame, was consulted in the matter, and took exactly
twenty-four hours to make up his mind on what was the best course to
pursue. He bought the bank up, the State Bank of St. Petersburg making an
advance on the shares. The Minister of Finance has a right to name all
the officials in the bank, who, for appearance sake, are not necessarily
all of Russian nationality, and the business is transacted on the same
lines as at the State Bank of St. Petersburg.

A most efficient man was sent out as manager; Mr. Grube, a gentleman of
much tact and most attractive manner, and like Mr. Rabino--a genius in
his way at finance; a man with a thorough knowledge of the natives and
their ways. In the short time he has been in Teheran the bank has made
enormous strides, by mere sound, business capability and manly,
straightforward enterprise.

Mr. Grube has, I think, the advantage of the manager of the Imperial Bank
in the fact that, when the Russians know they have a good man at the
helm, they let him steer his ship without interference. He is given
absolute power to do what he thinks right, and is in no way hampered by
shareholders at home. This freedom naturally gives him a very notable
advantage over the Imperial Bank, which always has to wait for
instructions from London.

Mr. Grube, with whom I had a long and most interesting conversation,
told me how he spends his days in the bazaar branch of his bank, where he
studies the ways and future possibilities of the country and its natives,
and the best ways of transacting business compatible with European
principles, and in particular carefully analysing the best ways of
pushing Russian trade and industries in Persia. In all this he has the
absolute confidence and help of his Government, and it is really
marvellous how much he has been able to do to further Russian influence
in Persia. There is no trickery, no intrigue, no humbug about it; but it
is mere frank, open competition in which the stronger nation will come
out first.

It was most gratifying to hear in what glowing terms of respect the
managers of the two rival banks spoke of each other. They were fighting a
financial duel, bravely, fairly, and in a most gentlemanly manner on both
sides. There was not the slightest shade of false play on either side,
and this I specially mention because of the absurd articles which one
often sees in English papers, written by hasty or ill-informed
correspondents.

Russia's trade, owing to its convenient geographical position, is bound
to beat the English in Northern Persia, but it should be a good lesson to
us to see, nevertheless, how the Russian Government comes forward for the
protection of the trade of the country, and does everything in its power
to further it. Russia will even go so far as to sell rubles at a loss to
merchants in order to encourage trade in Persia, no doubt with the
certainty in sight that as trade develops the apparent temporary loss
will amply be compensated in due time by big profits.

It is, to an Englishman, quite an eye-opener to watch how far the
Russians will go for the absolute benefit of their own trade, and this
conduct pursued openly and blamelessly can only be admired by any
fair-minded person. It is only a pity that we are not yet wide awake
enough to do the same.

The Russian Bank has branches in the principal cities of Northern Persia,
her business being so far merely confined to the North.

FOOTNOTES:

[2] See Institute of Bankers.



CHAPTER XV

     Illegitimate Bank-notes--Hampering the Bank's work--The grand
     fiasco of the Tobacco Corporation--Magnificent behaviour of the
     natives--The Mullahs and tobacco--The nation gives up
     smoking--Suppression of the monopoly--Compensation--Want of
     tact--Important European commercial houses and their
     work--Russian and British trade--Trade routes--The new Persian
     Customs--What they are represented to be and what they
     are--Duties--The employment of foreigners in Persia--The Maclean
     incident.


The work of the Imperial Bank has at various times been hampered by
speculators who tried to make money by misleading the public. Their
speculations were always based on the prestige of the bank. For instance,
take the Bushire Company and the Fars Trading Company, Limited, companies
started by native merchants. They illegally issued bank-notes which,
strangely enough, owing to the security found in the Imperial bank-notes,
found no difficulty in circulating at a small discount, especially in
Shiraz.

Naturally, the Imperial Bank, having in its conventions with the Persian
Government the exclusive right to issue bank-notes payable at sight,
protested against this infringement of rights, but for a long time got
little redress, and some of the fraudulent bank-notes are to this day
circulating in Southern Persia.

Sooner or later this was bound to interfere with the bank, as the
natives, unaccustomed to bank-notes, confused the ones with the others.
Moreover, the enemies of the bank took advantage of this confusion to
instigate the people against the Imperial Bank, making them believe that
the word "Imperial" on the bank-notes meant that the issuing of
bank-notes was only a new scheme of the Government to supply people with
worthless paper instead of a currency of sound silver cash. In the
southern provinces this stupid belief spread very rapidly, and was
necessarily accentuated by the issue of the illegal bank-notes of local
private concerns, which, although bearing foreign names, were merely
Persian undertakings.

Necessarily, the many foreign speculations to which we have already
referred, cannot be said to have strengthened confidence in anything of
European importation; but the grand successive abortions of the Belgian
and Russian factories--which were to make gas, sugar, glass, matches,
etc.--are hardly to be compared in their disastrous results to the
magnificent English fiasco of the Tobacco Corporation, which not only
came to grief itself, but nearly caused a revolution in the country. It
is well-known how a concession was obtained by British capitalists in
1890 to establish a tobacco monopoly in Persia, which involved the usual
payment of a large sum to the Shah, and presents to high officials.

The company made a start on a very grand scale in February, 1891, having
the whole monopoly of purchase and sale of tobacco all over Persia. No
sooner had it begun its work than a commission of injured native
merchants presented a petition to the Shah to protest against it. A
decree was, however, published establishing the monopoly of the
corporation all over Persia, and upon this the discontent and signs of
rebellion began.

Yet this affair of the tobacco monopoly showed what fine, dignified
people the Persians can be if they choose. The want of tact, the absolute
mismanagement and the lack of knowledge in dealing with the natives, the
ridiculous notion that coercion would at once force the Persians to
accept the tobacco supplied by the Corporation, fast collected a dense
cloud of danger overhead. Teheran and the other larger cities were
placarded with proclamations instigating the crowds to murder Europeans
and do away with their work.

But the Persians, notwithstanding their threats, showed themselves
patient, and confident that the Shah would restore the nation to its
former happiness. In the meantime the company's agents played the devil
all over the empire. It seems incredible, even in the annals of Persian
history, that so little lack of judgment could have been shown towards
the natives.

The Mullahs saw an excellent opportunity to undo in a few days the work
of Europeans of several scores of years. "Allah," they preached to the
people, "forbids you to smoke or touch the impure tobacco sold you by
Europeans." On a given day the Mugte halh, or high priest of sacred
Kerbalah, declared that the faithful throughout the country must touch
tobacco no more; tobacco, the most cherished of Persian indulgences.

Mirza Hassan Ashtiani, _mujtehed_ of Teheran, on whom the Shah relied to
pacify the crowds now in flagrant rebellion, openly preached against his
Sovereign and stood by the veto of his superior priest at Kerbalah. He
went further and exhorted the people to cease smoking, not because
tobacco was impure, but because the Koran says that it is unlawful to
make use of any article which is not fairly dealt in by all alike.

At a given date all through the Shah's dominions--and this shows a good
deal of determination--the foreigner and his tobacco were to be treated
with contempt. Tobacco was given up by all. In the bazaars, in the
caravanserais, in the streets, in the houses, where under ordinary
circumstances every man puffed away at a _kalian_, a _chibuk_ (small
pocket-pipe) or cigarette, not a single soul could be seen smoking for
days and days. Only the Shah made a point of smoking in public to
encourage the people, but even his wife and concubines--at the risk of
incurring disfavour--refused to smoke, and smashed the _kalians_ before
his eyes. In house-holds where the men--ever weaker than women--could,
after weeks of abstinence, not resist the temptation in secrecy, their
wives destroyed the pipes.

For several weeks not a single individual touched tobacco--a most
dignified protest which quite terrified the Shah and everybody, for,
indeed, it was apparent that people so strong-willed were not to be
trifled with.

In many places the natives broke out into rebellion, and many lives were
lost. Nasr-ed-din Shah, frightened and perplexed, called the high Mullah
of Teheran to the palace (January 5th-6th, 1892). By his advice the
tobacco monopoly was there and then abolished by an Imperial Decree, and
the privileges granted for the sale and export of tobacco revoked.
Furthermore, the Mullah only undertook to pacify the people on condition
that all foreign enterprises and innovations in Persia should be
suppressed; that all people imprisoned during the riots should be freed,
and the families of those killed fully indemnified.

The sudden end of the Tobacco Corporation necessarily led to much
correspondence with the British Minister, Sir Frank Lascelles, on the
question of compensation and damages to the company which, depending on
its monopoly, had entered into agreements, and had already paid out large
sums of money. It was finally agreed that the Shah should pay £500,000
sterling compensation, and take over the assets of the company, supposed
to be some £140,000, subject to realisation.

With the assistance of the Bank of Persia, a six per cent. loan was
issued, which was taken up principally by the shareholders of the Tobacco
Corporation. The interest and the sinking fund of this loan were
punctually met until the year 1900 when it was repaid in full on the
conclusion of the Russian loan.

In England this failure seems to have been ascribed to Russian intrigue,
but it must in all fairness be said that had the Russians tried a similar
scheme in a similar manner, they would have fared even worse than we did.
Even Persian concerns established on European principles have serious
troubles to contend with; but it was madness to believe that an entire
Eastern nation could, at a moment's notice, be forced to accept--in a way
most offensive to them--such an article of primary use as tobacco, which,
furthermore, was offered at a higher price than their own tobaccos which
they liked better.

There are in Persia a few important European commercial houses, such as
Ziegler and Co., and Hotz and Son, which have extensive dealings with
Persians. Ziegler and Co. deal in English imports and in the exportation
of carpets, etc., whereas Hotz and Son import Russian articles, which
they find cheaper and of easier sale. Both are eminently respectable
firms, and enjoy the esteem of everybody.

Notwithstanding the Swiss name, Ziegler and Co. is an English firm,
although, as far as I know, it has not a single English employee in its
various branches in Persia. The reason, as we have seen, is that
foreigners are considered more capable. It has in the various cities some
very able Swiss agents, who work most sensibly and excellently, and who
certainly manage to make the best of whatever business there is to be
done in the country. For over thirty years the house has been established
in Persia, having begun its life at Tabriz and then extended to Teheran,
Resht, Meshed, Isfahan, Yezd--the latter so far a non-important
branch--and Shiraz, Bushire, Bandar Abbas and Bagdad, where it has
correspondents working for the firm.

The house imports large quantities of Manchester goods and exports
chiefly carpets, cloths, opium and dried fruit. The carpets, which are
specially made for the European market, are manufactured chiefly at
Sultanabad where thousands of hands are employed at the looms, scattered
about in private houses of the people and not in a large factory. The
firm takes special care to furnish good wool and cottons coloured with
vegetable dyes, and not with aniline. Ancient patterns are selected and
copied in preference to new designs. Of course, besides these, other
carpets are purchased in other parts of the country. Carpets may be
divided into three classes. The scarce and most expensive pure silk rugs;
the _lamsavieh_ or good quality carpets, and the _mojodeh_ or cheaper
kind. There is a good demand for the two latter qualities all over Europe
and in America.

Articles specially dealt in are the cotton and wool fabrics called
_ghilim_, the designs of which are most artistic; and to a certain extent
other fabrics, such as the vividly coloured Kashan velvets, the watered
silks of Resht, the Kerman cloths resembling those of Cashmir, the silver
and gold embroidered brocades of Yezd, and the silk handkerchiefs
manufactured in the various silk districts, principally Tabriz, Resht,
Kashan and Yezd.

The stamped and hand-drawn _kalamkars_ in stringent colours upon white
cotton also find their way in large quantities to Europe, but are more
quaint than beautiful. Large and ill-proportioned figures are frequently
attempted in these designs. When of truly Persian manufacture the colours
are said to be quite permanent under the action of both light and water.

The firm of Hotz and Son deals in well-nigh everything, and has made good
headway of late years. It has large establishments at Isfahan, Shiraz and
Bushire, and two agencies, one at Ahwaz on the Karun River, and one in
Teheran (Groeneweg, Dunlop, and Co.); while it has correspondents in
Bagdad, Busrah, Hongkong and Rotterdam, the head offices being in London.
Its carpet manufacturing business in Sultanabad is now carried on by the
Persian Manufacturing Co. The exports are similar to those of Ziegler and
Co.

There are also smaller firms, particularly in Teheran, such as the Toko,
Virion, and others who do a retail business in piece goods and articles
of any kind, and are entirely in the hands of foreigners, Belgians,
Austrians, and French. Without reference to statistics, which are
absolutely worthless in a country like Persia, the yearly foreign trade
of Persia, divided between the Gulf ports and the north and north-western
and south-western frontiers, may be put down roughly at some nine or ten
millions sterling.

The Russian trade in the north may be considered as about equal to the
British in the south. Then there are the goods brought by the
Trebizonde-Tabriz trade route from Turkey and the Mediterranean, and by
the Bagdad-Kermanshah, another very important route.

The extravagant system of farming prevailing until quite lately in
Persia, as well as the uncertainties of Customs and revenue returns,
makes it difficult to give trustworthy figures; but in future, probably
this year, we may expect some more reliable data from the new Belgian
customs office, a really sensible and well-managed administration
organised by Monsieur Naus, who is, indeed, to be congratulated on the
success with which his efforts at bringing about so radical a reform in
the system of collecting duties have in so short a time been crowned. We
often hear in England that the Customs of Persia are absolutely in the
hands of Russia, and are worked by Russian officials. Even serious papers
like _The Times_ publish misleading statements of this kind, but nothing
could be more erroneous. M. Naus, at the head of the Customs, is a
Belgian, and so are nearly all the foreign employees (there are one or
two French, I believe) in Persian employ, but not a single Russian is to
be found among their number. That the Russians hold a comparatively
trifling mortgage on the Customs as a security for their loan is true,
but, as long as Persia is able to pay interest on it, Russia has no more
power over the Persian Customs than we have. Under regular and honest
management, like the present, the Customs have already given considerable
results, and were it not for the weakness of the Government in the
provinces, the Customs receipts might easily be doubled, even without a
change in the tariff.

The duties levied in Persia are determined by the treaty of Turkmantchai
with Russia in 1828, by which a uniform and reciprocal five per cent. for
import and export was agreed to, a special convention, nevertheless,
applying to Turkey, which fixed a reciprocal 12 per cent. export and 6
per cent. import duty, and 75 per cent. on tobacco and salt. An attempt
was made to negotiate a new commercial treaty with Russia last year, but
unfortunately, matters did not go as was expected by M. Naus, who was
very keen on the subject. A high Russian official was despatched to
Teheran who caused a good deal of trouble, and eventually the whole
matter fell through.

Regarding the employment of foreigners by the Persian Government, it is
not out of place to recall the Maclean incident.

An agreement had been entered into with Mr. Maclean, a British subject,
and a former employee of the Imperial Bank, to take charge of the Mint,
in order to bring it up to date and work it on more business-like
principles than at present. This led to a demand from the Russians that a
similarly high office in the Shah's Government should be given to a
Russian, so that this appointment might not be taken as a slight against
Russia; or, if this were not possible, that two or three Russians might
be employed instead in minor capacities in the new Customs. The Persian
Government would not agree to this, but owing to the pressure that had
been brought to bear by the Russians they felt obliged to dismiss Mr.
Maclean. The British minister necessarily then stood up for British
rights, and a great scandal was made of the whole affair, and as an
agreement for three years had been signed, the Persian Government had to
pay the salary in full for that period, although they had only availed
themselves of Mr. Maclean's services for a few months.

It is to be regretted that the Sadrazam acted in so reckless a manner,
for the whole matter might have been settled quietly without the
slightest disturbance and unpleasantness. Anyhow, this led to a decree
being passed (in 1901) that in future _no British subject, no Russian,
and no Turk_ will be accepted in Persian employ. This includes the army,
with the exception of the special Cossack regiment which had previously
been formed under Russian instructors. It can safely be said that there
is not a single Russian in any civil appointment in Persia, no more than
there is any Britisher; but, in the Customs service particularly, M.
Naus being a Belgian, nearly all the employees are Belgian, as I have
said, with only one or two French lower subordinates.

[Illustration: The First Position in Persian Wrestling.]

[Illustration: Palawans, or Strong Men giving a Display of Feats of
Strength.]

The Customs service is carried on with great fairness to all alike, and
the mischievous stories of Russian preference and of the violation of
rules in favour of Russian goods are too ridiculous to be taken into
consideration. One fact is certain, that any one who takes the trouble to
ascertain facts finds them very different from what they are represented
to be by hasty and over-excited writers.



CHAPTER XVI

     Russia on the brain--The apprehended invasion of India--Absolute
     nonsense--Russia's tariff--In the House of Commons--A friendly
     understanding advisable--German competition--The peace of the
     world--Russia's firm policy of bold advance--An outlet in the
     Persian Gulf--The policy of drift--Sound knowledge of foreign
     countries needed--Mutual advantages of a Russian and British
     agreement--Civilisation--Persia's integrity.


There is, unfortunately, a class of Englishmen--especially in India--who
have Russia on the brain, and those people see the Russian everywhere and
in everything. Every humble globe-trotter in India must be a Russian
spy--even though he be an Englishman--and much is talked about a Russian
invasion of India, through Tibet, through Afghanistan, Persia or
Beluchistan.

To any one happening to know these countries it is almost heartrending to
hear such nonsense, and worse still to see it repeated in serious papers,
which reproduce and comment upon it gravely for the benefit of the
public.

In explanation, and without going into many details, I will only mention
the fact that it is more difficult than it sounds for armies--even for
the sturdy Russian soldier--to march hundreds of miles across deserts
without water for men and animals, or over a high plateau like Tibet,
where (although suggested by the wise newspaper Englishman at home as a
sanatorium for British troops in India) the terrific climate, great
altitudes, lack of fuel, and a few other such trifles would reduce even
the largest European army into a very humble one at the end of a journey
across it.

Then people seem to be ignorant of the fact that, with a mountainous
natural frontier like the Himahlyas, a Maxim gun or two above each of the
few passable passes would bring to reason any army--allowing that it
could get thus far--that intended to cross over into India!

But, besides, have we not got soldiers to defend India? Why should we
fear the Russians? Are we not as good as they are? Why should we ever
encourage the so far unconcerned Russian to come to India by showing our
fear? It is neither manly nor has it any sense in it. The Russian has no
designs whatever upon India at present--he does not even dream of
advancing on India--but should India eventually fall into Russia's
hands--which is not probable--believe me, it will never be by a Russian
army marching into India from the north, or north-west, or west. The
danger, if there is any, may be found probably very much nearer home, in
our own ignorance and blindness.

We also hear much about the infamy of Russia in placing a tariff on all
goods in transit for Persia, and we are told that this is another blow
directed at English trade. Such is not the case. Russia, I am told by
people who ought to know, would be only too glad to come to an
understanding with England on some sensible basis, but she certainly is
not quite so unwise as we are in letting Germany, her real enemy, swamp
her market with cheap goods. The tariff is chiefly a protection against
Germany. Of course, if we choose to help Germany to ruin Russia's markets
as well as our own, then we must suffer in consequence, but looking ahead
towards the future of Asia, it might possibly not be unwise to come to
some sensible arrangement with Russia, by which her commercial interests
and ours would mutually benefit instead of suffering as they do at
present.

In Persia we are playing a rapidly losing game. Commercially, as I have
already said, we have lost Northern Persia, and Russian influence is fast
advancing in Southern Persia. This is surely the time to pull up and
change our tactics, or we shall go to the wall altogether.

As Mr. Joseph Walton, M.P., very ably put it before the House of Commons
on January 22nd, 1902, in the case of Russia we have at present to
contend with abnormal conditions of competition. It would therefore be
wise for the British Government to reconsider its policy in order to
maintain, at least, our commercial interests in Southern Persia. The
Government of India, too, should take its share in upholding British
interests--being directly concerned in affairs that regard the welfare
of Persia. Russia has gone to great expense to construct two excellent
roads from the north into Persia to facilitate Russian commerce, and it
would be advisable if we were to do the same from the south. (One of the
roads, the Piri Bazaar--Kasvin Road, is said to have cost, including
purchase of the Kasvin Teheran section, something like half a million
sterling). It is indeed idle, as Mr. Walton said, to adhere to methods of
the past when foreign Governments are adopting modern methods in order to
achieve the commercial conquest of new regions.

The matter of establishing Consulates, too, is of the greatest
importance. We find even large trading cities like Kermanshah, Yezd,
Shiraz and Birjand devoid of British Consuls. Undoubtedly we should wish
a priority of right to construct roads and railways in Southern
Persia--in the event of the Persians failing to construct these
themselves--to be recognised, and it seems quite sensible and fair to let
Persia give a similar advantage to Russia in Northern Persia. Nothing but
a friendly understanding between England and Russia, which should clearly
define the respective spheres of influence, will save the integrity of
Persia. That country should remain an independent buffer state between
Russia and India. But to bring about this result it is more than
necessary that we should support Persia on our side, as much as Russia
does on hers, or the balance is bound to go in the latter's favour.

The understanding with Russia should also--and I firmly believe Russia
would be only too anxious to acquiesce in this--provide a protection
against German commercial invasion and enterprise in the region of the
Persian Gulf. Germany--not Russia--is England's bitterest enemy--all the
more to be dreaded because she is a "friendly enemy." It is no use to try
and keep out Russia merely to let Germany reap any commercial advantages
that may be got--and that is the policy England is following at the
present moment. The question whether or no we have a secret agreement
with Germany, in connection with the Euphrates Valley Railway, is a
serious one, because, although one cannot but admire German enterprise in
that quarter, it would be well to support it only in places where it is
not likely to be disastrous to our own trade and interests generally.

Little or no importance should be attached to the opinion of the Russian
Press in their attacks upon England. The influential men of Russia, as
well as the Emperor himself, are certainly anxious to come to a
satisfactory understanding with England regarding affairs not only in
Persia but in Asia generally. An understanding between the two greatest
nations in the world would, as long as it lasted, certainly maintain the
peace of the world, and would have enormous control over the smaller
nations; whereas petty combinations can be of little practical solid
assistance or use to us.

As I have pointed out before on several occasions,[3] Russia is not
to-day what she was half a century ago. She has developed enough to know
her strength and power, and her soldiers are probably the finest in
Europe--because the most practical and physically enduring. Her steady,
firm policy of bold advance, in spite of our namby-pamby, ridiculous
remonstrances, can but command the admiration of any fair-minded person,
although we may feel sad, very sad, that we have no men capable of
standing up against it, not with mere empty, pompous words, but with
actual deeds which might delay or stop her progress. As matters are
proceeding now, we are only forwarding Russia's dream of possessing a
port in the Persian Gulf. She wants it and she will no doubt get it. In
Chapters XXXIII and XXXIV the question of the point upon which her aims
are directed is gone into more fully. The undoubted fact remains that,
notwithstanding our constant howling and barking, she invariably gets
what she wants, and even more, which would lead one to believe that, at
any rate, her fear of us is not very great.

We are told that our aggressive--by which is meant retrogressive--policy
towards Russia is due to our inability to effect an entire reversal of
our policy towards that country, but this is not the case at all. At any
rate, as times and circumstances have changed, our policy need not be
altogether reversed, but it must necessarily be subjected to
modifications in order to meet changed conditions. If we stand still
while Russia is going fast ahead, we are perforce left behind. The
policy of drift, which we seem to favour, is bound to lead us to
disaster, and when we couple with it inefficacious resistance and bigoted
obstruction we cannot be surprised if, in the end, it only yields us
bitter disappointment, extensive losses, enmity and derision.

The policy of drift is merely caused by our absolute ignorance of foreign
countries. We drift simply because we do not know what else to do. We
hear noble lords in the Government say that the reason we did not lend
Persia the paltry two and a half millions sterling was because "men of
business do not lend money except on proper security, and that before
embarking on any such policy the Government must be anxious to see
whether the security is both sufficient and suitable." Yes, certainly,
but why did the Government not see? Had the Government seen they
certainly would have effected the loan. Surely, well-known facts, already
mentioned in previous pages, have proved very luminously our folly in
taking the advice of incompetent men who judge of matters with which, to
say the least, they are not familiar. But the real question appears to
be, not how to make a safe and profitable financial investment, which is
no part of the functions of the British or any other Government, but
rather whether it is not better to lay out a certain sum for a valuable
political object than to allow a formidable competitor to do so to our
prejudice.

Hence the disadvantageous position in which we find ourselves at
present, all over Asia, but particularly in Persia. It would no doubt be
the perfection of an agreement if an amicable understanding could be
arrived at with Russia, not only regarding Persia but including China,
Manchuria, and Corea as well. A frank and fair adjustment of Russian and
British interests in these countries could be effected without serious
difficulty, mutual concessions could advantageously be granted, and
mutual advice and friendly support would lead to remarkably prosperous
results for both countries.

Russia, notwithstanding all we hear of her, would only be too glad to
make sacrifices and concessions in order to have the friendship and
support of England, and Russia's friendship to England would, I think, be
of very great assistance to British manufacturers. It must be remembered
that Russia is an enormous country, and that her markets both for exports
and imports are not to be despised. In machinery alone huge profits could
be made, as well as in cloths, piece goods, fire-arms, Manchester goods,
worked iron, steel, etc.

Articles of British manufacture are in much demand in Russia and Siberia,
and, should the British manufacturer see his way to make articles as
required by the buyer, very large profits could be made in the Russian
market. Also huge profits will eventually be made by the export of
Siberian products into England and the Continent, a branch of industry
which the Russians themselves are attempting to push into the British
market with the assistance of their Government.

To return to Persia it must not be forgotten that British imports into
that country (in 1900) amounted to £1,400,000, whilst Russia imported
£21,974,952 of British goods. Which, after all, is the customer best
worth cultivating: Persia which takes £1,400,000 of our goods, or Russia
which buys from us for £21,974,952?

It is a mistake to believe that we are the only civilising agents of the
world, and that the work of other powers in that direction only tends to
the stagnation of Eastern peoples. One might affirm with more truth that
our intercourse with the civilisation of the East tends to our own
stagnation. We do impart to the natives, it is true, some smattering of
the semi-barbaric, obsolete ways we possess ourselves, but standing aside
and trying to look upon matters with the eye of a rational man, it is
really difficult to say whether what we teach and how we teach it does
really improve the Eastern people or not. Personally, with a long
experience of natives all over Asia, it appears to me that it does not.

The Russian, though from a British point of view altogether a barbarian,
does not appear to spoil the natives quite so much in his work among
them. The natives under his _régime_ seem happy, and his work of
civilisation is more of the patriarchal style, tending more to enrich the
people, to promote commerce and trade on appropriate lines, than to
educate the masses according to Western methods and laws. The results
are most decidedly good, and anyhow lead to much greater contentment
among the masses than we can secure, for instance, in India. Above all
things it makes for peace; the natives are treated with extreme
consideration and kindness, but at the same time they know that no
nonsense is tolerated, and that is undoubtedly the way most appreciated
by Asiatics.

In Persia, it is to be hoped for the peace of all that neither Russia nor
England will acquire any territorial rights, but that the integrity of
the Shah's Empire may long be preserved. Only it would not be unwise to
prepare for emergencies in case the country--already half spoiled by
European ways--should one day collapse and make interference necessary.
The integrity of states in Asia intended to serve as buffers is all very
well when such states can look after themselves, but with misgovernment
and want of proper reform, as in Persia, great trouble may be expected
sooner than we imagine, unless we on our side are prepared to help Persia
as much as Russia does on her side.

If this can be done, with little trouble to ourselves, and in a way
agreeable to the Persians, there is no reason why, as an independent
state, Persia should not fully develop her resources, reorganise her
government and army, become a powerful nation, and establish a
flourishing trade, Russia and England profiting equally by the assistance
given her.

FOOTNOTES:

[3] See _China and the Allies_, Heinemann; Scribner.



CHAPTER XVII

     Education--Educated but not instructed--The Mullahs--The
     Madrassahs--The Royal College in Teheran--Secular Schools--The
     brain of Persian students--Hints on commercial education for
     Englishmen--Languages a necessity--Observation--Foreigners and
     Englishmen--The Englishman as a linguist--Special commercial
     training in Germany--The British manufacturer--Ways and ways--Our
     Colonies swamped with foreign-made goods--Russia fast and firmly
     advancing.


To believe that the Persians are illiterate would be a mistake, and to
think that the masses of Iran were properly educated would be a greater
mistake still; but, if I may be allowed the expression, the average
Persian cannot be better described than by saying he is "educated in
ignorance"; or, in other words, the average Persian is educated, yes; but
instructed, no.

If what the people are taught can be called education--and we in England
should not be the first to throw stones at others--the average Persian is
better educated than the average European. But there is education and
education. It is difficult to find the commonest man in Persian cities
who cannot read to a certain extent, and most people can also write a
little and have a smattering of arithmetic.

The teaching, except in the larger and principal centres, is almost
entirely in the hands of the Mullahs, so that naturally, as in our
clerical schools, religion is taught before all things, verses of the
Koran are learnt by heart, and the various rites and multiple religious
ceremonies are pounded into the children's brains, and accessory
religious sanitary duties of ablutions, etc., which are believed to
purify the body and bring it nearer to Allah, are inculcated. Even in
remoter villages, the boys are taught these things in the Mosques as well
as a little reading, and enough writing for daily uses and how to add and
subtract and multiply figures. Famous bits of national poetry and further
passages from the Koran are committed to memory.

[Illustration: Iman Jumeh. Head Priest of Teheran, and Official Sayer of
Prayers to the Shah.]

In the large cities a higher education can be obtained in the elaborate
Madrassahs adjoining the mosques, and here, too, entirely at the hands of
the Mullahs; but these higher colleges, a kind of university, are only
frequented by the richer and better people, by those who intend to devote
themselves to medicine, to jurisprudence, or to theological studies.
Literature and art and science, all based mostly on the everlasting
Koran, are here taught _à fond_, the students spending many years in deep
and serious study. These are the old-fashioned and more common schools.
But new schools in European or semi-European style also exist and,
considering all things, are really excellent.

In Teheran, a Royal College has been in existence for some years. It has
first-class foreign teachers, besides native instructors educated in
Europe, and supplies the highest instruction to the students. Modern
languages are taught to perfection, the higher mathematics, international
jurisprudence, chemistry, philosophy, military strategy, and I do not
know what else! I understood from some of the professors that the
students were remarkable for their quickness and intelligence as compared
with Europeans, and I myself, on meeting some of the students who had
been and others who were being instructed in the University, was very
much struck by their facility in learning matters so foreign to them, and
by their astounding faculty of retaining what they had learnt. It must be
recollected that the various scientific lessons and lectures were
delivered not in Persian, but in some foreign language, usually French,
which intensified their difficulty of apprehending.

Other private schools have also been started on similar principles in
various parts of the Empire. Even in Yezd a most excellent school on
similar lines is to be found and will be described later on.

Naturally the Mullahs look askance upon these Government schools, in
which foreign methods are adopted. The Alliance Française of Paris, which
has a committee in Teheran, has opened a French school under the
direction of Mr. Virioz, a certificated professor. The school has nearly
100 pupils, all natives. This is a primary school, of which the studies
are in French, but a Mullah has been added to the staff to teach the
Koran and religious subjects. In Hamadan, a large Jewish centre, the
Alliance Israelite has opened important schools which have largely
drained the American Presbyterian schools of their Jewish pupils. Other
secular schools, it appears, are to be opened in which foreign education
is to be imparted, and no doubt this is a first and most excellent step
of Persia towards the improvement, if not the actual reform, of the old
country.

Not that the religious education received from the priests was without
its good points. The love for literature and poetry, which it principally
expounded, developed in the people the more agreeable qualities which
have made the Persian probably the most polite man on this earth. The
clerical education, indeed, worked first upon the heart, then upon the
brain; it taught reverence for one's parents, love for one's neighbours,
and obedience to one's superiors; it expounded soft, charitable ways in
preference to aggression or selfishness--not the right instead of the
duty--as is frequently the case in secular schools.

But softness, consideration, poetry, and charity are things of the past;
they can only be indulged in by barbarians; in civilisation, unluckily,
there is very little use for them except for advertisement sake. So the
Persians were wise to resort to our style of education, which may yet be
the means of saving their country. They will lose their
courteousness--they are fast beginning to do that already--their filial
love, their charity, and all the other good qualities they may possess;
only when these are gone will they rank in civilisation quite as high as
any European nation!

The wealthier people send their sons to be educated abroad in European
capitals, and one cannot help being struck by the wonderful ease with
which these fellows master not only languages, but science and extremely
complex subjects. Whether this is due to the brain of young Persians
being fresher owing to its not having been overtaxed for generations--and
therefore the impressions are clearly received and firmly recorded, or
whether the mode of life is apt to develop the brain more than any other
part of their anatomy is difficult to say, but the quickness and lucidity
of the average young Persian brain is certainly astounding when compared
to that of European brains of the same ages.

The Persian, too, has a most practical way of looking at things,--when he
does take the trouble to do so--not sticking to one point of view but
observing his subject from all round, as it were, with a good deal of
philosophical humour that is of great help to him in all he undertakes;
and it is curious to see how fast and thoroughly the younger Persians of
better families can adapt themselves to European ways of thought and
manner without the least embarrassment or concern. In this, I think, they
surpass any other Asiatic nation, the small community of the Parsees of
India alone excepted.

And here a word or two on the education of Englishmen intending to make
a living abroad, especially in Asia, and particularly in Persia, will
not, I hope, be out of place. With the fast-growing intercourse between
East and West, sufficient stress cannot be laid upon the fact that sound
commercial education on up-to-date principles is chiefly successful in
countries undergoing the processes of development, and that, above all,
the careful study of foreign languages--the more the better--should
occupy the attention of the many students in our country who are to live
in Asia. There is a great deal too much time absolutely wasted in English
schools over Latin and Greek, not to mention the exaggerated importance
given to games like cricket, football, tennis, which, if you like, are
all very well to develop the arms and legs, but seem to have quite the
reverse effect upon the brain.

Yet what is required nowadays to carry a man through the world are
brains, and not muscular development of limbs. As for a classical
education, it may be all right for a clergyman, a lawyer, or for a man
with high but unprofitable literary tastes, but not for fellows who are
not only to be useful to themselves, but indirectly to the mother
country, by developing the industries or trades of lands to be opened up.

If I may be permitted to say so, one of the principal qualities which we
should develop in our young men is the sense of observation in all its
forms--a sense which is sadly neglected in English education. It has
always been my humble experience that one learns more of use in one
hour's keen observation than by reading all the books in the world, and
when that sense is keenly developed it is quite extraordinary with what
facility one can do things which the average unobservant man thinks
utterly impossible. It most certainly teaches one to simplify everything
and always to select the best and easiest way in all one undertakes,
which, after all, is the way leading to success.

Again, when observation is keenly developed, languages--or, in fact,
anything else--can be learnt with amazing facility. The "knack" of
learning languages is only due to observation; the greatest scientific
discoveries have been due to mere observation; the greatest commercial
enterprises are based on the practical results of observation. But it is
astounding how few people do really observe, not only carefully, but at
all. The majority of folks might as well be blind for what they see for
themselves. They follow like sheep what they are told to do, and make
their sons and grandsons do the same; and few countries suffer more from
this than England.

When travelling in the East one cannot help being struck by the
difference of young Englishmen and foreigners employed in similar
capacities in business places. The foreigner is usually fluent in four,
five or six different languages, and has a smattering of scientific
knowledge which, if not very deep, is at any rate sufficient for the
purposes required. He is well up in engineering, electricity, the latest
inventions, explorations, discoveries and commercial devices. He will
talk sensibly on almost any subject; he is moderate in his habits and
careful with his money.

Now, take the young Englishman. He seldom knows well more than one
language; occasionally one finds fellows who can speak two tongues
fluently; rarely one who is conversant with three or four. His
conversation generally deals with drinks, the latest or coming races, the
relative values of horses and jockeys and subsequent offers to bet--in
which he is most proficient. The local polo, if there is any, or tennis
tournaments afford a further subject for conversation, and then the lack
of discussible topics is made up by more friendly calls for drinks. The
same subjects are gone through with variations time after time, and that
is about all.

Now, I maintain that this should not be so, because, taking things all
round, the young Englishman is really _au fond_ brighter and infinitely
more intelligent than foreigners. It is his education and mode of living
that are at fault, not the individual himself, and this our cousins the
Americans have long since discovered; hence their steaming ahead of us in
every line with the greatest ease.

We hear that the Englishman is no good at learning languages, but that is
again a great mistake. I do not believe that there is any other nation in
Europe, after the Russians, who have greater facility--if properly
cultivated--and are more capable of learning languages to perfection than
the English. I am not referring to every shameless holiday tripper on
the Continent who makes himself a buffoon by using misapplied,
mispronounced, self-mistaught French or Italian or German sentences, but
I mean the rare observant Englishman who studies languages seriously and
practically.

Speaking from experience, in my travels--which extend more or less all
over the world--I have ever found that Englishmen, when put to it, could
learn languages perfectly. Hence my remarks, which may seem blunt but are
true. Truly there is no reason why the gift of learning languages should
be neglected in England,--a gift which, I think, is greatly facilitated
by developing in young people musical qualities, if any, and training the
ear to observe and receive sounds correctly,--a fact to which we are just
beginning to wake up.

It is undoubted that the command of several languages gives a commercial
man an enormous advantage in the present race of European nations in
trying to obtain a commercial superiority; but the command of a language
requires, too, to a limited extent the additional etiquette of ways and
manners appropriate to it to make it quite efficient; and these, as well
as the proper manner of speaking the language itself, can only, I repeat,
be learnt by personal observation.

The Germans train commercial men specially for the East, men who visit
every nook of Asiatic countries where trade is to be developed, and
closely study the natives, their ways of living, their requirements,
reporting in the most minute manner upon them, so that the German
manufacturers may provide suitable articles for the various markets. In
the specific case of Persia, Russia, the predominant country in the
North, does exactly the same. The Russian manufacturer studies his
client, his habits, his customs, and supplies him with what he desires
and cherishes, and does not, like the British manufacturer, export to
Eastern countries articles which may very well suit the farmer, the
cyclist, or the cabman in England, but not the Persian agriculturist,
camel-driver, or highwayman.

The everlasting argument that the British manufacturer supplies a better
article borders very much on the idiotic. First of all, setting apart the
doubt whether he does really supply a better article, what is certain is
that a "better article" may not be of the kind that is wanted at all by
the people. There are in this world climates and climates, peoples and
peoples, religions and religions, houses and houses, customs and customs;
and therefore the well-made English article (allowing it to be well-made)
which suits English people is not always adapted for all other countries,
climates, and usages.

Another prevalent mistake in this country is to believe that the Persian,
or any other Oriental, will only buy cheap things. The Oriental may
endeavour to strike a bargain--for that is one of the chief pleasures of
his existence, though a fault which can easily be counter-balanced--but
he is ever ready to pay well for what he really wants. Thus, if because
of his training in fighting he requires a certain curl and a particular
handle to his knife; if he fancies a particular pattern printed or woven
in the fabrics he imports, and if because of his religious notions he
prefers his silver spoons drilled with holes; there does not seem to be
any plausible reason why his wishes should not be gratified as long as he
pays for the articles supplied.

We, who own half the world, and ought to know better by this time, seem
constantly to forget that our customs, and ways, seem as ridiculous to
Orientals (to some of ourselves, too,) quite as ridiculous as theirs to
us. In some cases, even, great offence can be caused by trying to enforce
our methods too suddenly upon Eastern countries. Civilised people may
prefer to blow their noses with an expensive silk handkerchief, which
they carefully fold up with contents into the most prominent pocket of
their coats; the unclean Oriental may prefer to close one nostril by
pressing it with his finger and from the other forcibly eject extraneous
matter to a distance of several feet away, by violent blowing, repeating
the operation with the other nostril. This may be thought not quite
graceful, but is certainly a most effective method, and possibly cleaner
than ours in the end. We may fancy it good manners when in public to show
little more of our shirts than the collar and cuffs, but the Persian or
the Hindoo, for instance, prefers to let the garment dangle to its full
extent outside so as to show its design in full. Again, we may consider
it highly unbecoming and improper for ladies to show their lower limbs
above the ankle; the Persian lady thinks nothing of that, but deems it
shocking to show her face.

And so we could go on and on; in fact, with the Persians, one might
almost go as far as saying that, with the exception of eating and
drinking and a few other matters, they do most things in a contrary way
to ours. They remove their shoes, when we would remove our hats; they
shave their heads and let the beard grow; they sleep in the day and sit
up the greater portion of the night; they make windows in the roof
instead of in the walls; they inoculate smallpox instead of vaccinating
to prevent it; they travel by night instead of by day.

It would be absurd to believe that we can alter in a day the customs,
religions, and manners of millions of natives, and it seems almost
incomprehensible that in such long colonial experience as ours we have
not yet been able to grasp so simple a fact. But here, again, comes in my
contention that our failing is absolute lack of observation; unless it be
indeed our conceited notion that other people must rise up to our
standard. Anyhow, we have lost and are losing heavily by it.

We see the Germans and Austrians swamping our own Colonies with goods
wherewith our bazaars in India are overflowing; whereas English
articles--if cottons are excepted--are seldom to be seen in the bazaars.
This seems indeed a curious state of affairs. Nor do we need to go to
India. England itself is overflowing with foreign-made goods. Now, why
should it not be possible--and certainly more profitable--to meet the
wishes of natives of Eastern countries and give them what they want?

There is another matter which greatly hampers the British manufacturer,
in his dealings with Persians particularly. It is well to recollect that
the blunt way we have of transacting business does not always answer with
Orientals. Impatience, too, of which we are ever brimful, is a bad
quality to possess in dealings with Persians. Times have gone by when
England had practically the monopoly of the trade of the East and could
lay down the law to the buyers. The influx of Europeans and the extension
of trade to the most remote corners of the globe have increased to such
an extent during the last few years--and with these competition--that the
exporter can no longer use the slack, easy ways of half-a-century ago,
when commercial supremacy was in our hands, and must look out for
himself.

A knowledge of the language, with a conciliatory, courteous manner, a
good stock of patience and a fair capacity for sherbet, hot tea and
coffee, will, in Persia, carry a trader much further in his dealings than
the so-called "smarter ways" appreciated in England or America; and
another point to be remembered in countries where the natives are
unbusiness-like, as they are in Persia, is that personal influence and
trust--which the natives can never dissociate from the bargain in
hand--go a very long way towards successful trading in Iran.

This is, to my mind, one of the principal reasons of Russian commercial
successes in Northern Persia. We will not refer here to the ridiculous
idea, so prevalent in England, that Russia was never and never will be a
manufacturing country. Russia is very fast developing her young
industries, which are pushed to the utmost by her Government, and what is
more, the work is done in a remarkably practical way, by people who
possess a thorough knowledge of what they are doing. The natives and the
geographical features of the country have been carefully studied, and the
Russian trading scheme is carried firmly and steadily on an unshakable
base. We sit and express astonishment at Russian successes in Persia; the
people at home can hardly be made to realise them, and I have heard
people even discredit them; but this is only the beginning and nothing to
what we shall see later on unless we proceed to work on similar sensible
lines. It certainly arouses admiration to see what the Russians can do
and how well they can do it with ridiculously small capital, when we
waste, absolutely waste, immense sums and accomplish nothing, or even the
reverse of what we intend to accomplish. But there again is the
difference between the observant and the unobservant man.



CHAPTER XVIII

     Persia's industrial, mineral and agricultural resources--Climate
     of various districts--Ghilan's trade--Teheran and the surrounding
     country--Khorassan and Sistan--The Caspian provinces--Mazanderan,
     Astrabad and Azerbaijan--Russian activity and concessions in
     Azerbaijan--Hamadan--The Malayer and Borujird districts--The
     nomads of Kurdistan--Naphtha--The tribes of Pusht-i-kuh--The
     pastoral people of
     Luristan--Arabistan--Farsistan--Laristan--Shiraz wines--Persian
     Beluchistan.


The geographical situation of Persia, its extent, the altitude of its
plateau above the sea level, its vast deserts and its mountain ranges,
give the country a good selection of climates, temperatures and
vegetation. We have regions of intense tropical heat and of almost arctic
cold, we have temperate regions, we have healthy regions, and regions
where everybody is fever-stricken. Regions with moist air, plenty of
water, and big marshes, and dreary waterless deserts.

Necessarily such natural conditions are bound to give a great variety of
resources which show themselves in various guises. A quick survey of the
agricultural, industrial and mineral resources of the principal provinces
of Persia according to up-to-date information may not be out of place,
and will help the reader to appreciate the journey through some of the
districts mentioned.

We have already been through Ghilan with its almost temperate climate in
the lowlands, but damp in the northern portion, where fever is rampant,
but where, at the same time, luxuriant vegetation with thick forests,
grass in abundance, paddy fields for the extensive cultivation of rice,
olive-groves, vineyards, cotton, wheat, tobacco, sugar-cane, fruit and
all kinds of vegetables nourish; while the production of silk for export
on a large and fast-increasing scale--it might be increased enormously if
more modern methods were adopted--and wool and cotton fabrics, mostly for
the Persian market, are manufactured. It exports, mostly to Russia, great
quantities of dried fruit, wool, cotton, and tobacco (made into
cigarettes), salt fish, caviare and oil.

South-east of Ghilan we find Teheran on a high plateau, its situation
giving it a delightful and healthy climate, but very scanty agricultural
resources owing to lack of water. In and near the capital city there are
good gardens, grown at considerable expense and trouble, but very little
other vegetation. We have seen in previous chapters what the industries
of the capital, both native and foreign, are, and what they amount to;
there is also a manufacture of glazed tiles, quite artistic, but not to
be compared in beauty of design, colour and gloss with the ancient ones.
Teheran is dependent on the neighbouring provinces and Europe for nearly
everything.

This is not, however, the case with Isfahan, the ancient capital, in the
province of which cotton, wheat, Indian corn, tobacco and opium are grown
in fair quantities, the last-named for export. Mules and horses are
reared, and there are several flourishing industries, such as
carpet-making, metal work, leather tanneries, gold and silver work, and
silk and wool fabrics.

To the east we have Khorassan and Sistan, a great wheat-growing country
with some good pastures, and also producing opium, sugar-cane, dates and
cotton. In summer the northerly winds sweeping over the desert are
unbearable, and the winter is intensely cold. In the northern part of
Khorassan snow falls during the coldest months, but in Sistan the winter
is temperate. Life is extremely cheap for natives in Sistan, which is a
favourite resort for camel men and their beasts, both from Afghanistan
and Beluchistan. Northern Khorassan is the great centre of turquoise
mining; copper and coal are also found there, but its local trade, now
that the export of grain is forbidden, is mostly in opium, worked
leather, wool and excellent horses, which can be purchased for very
little money. Camels, both loading and riding (or fast-going camels) are
also reared here in the southern portion of the province, the northern
part being too cold for them in winter.

The handsomest and richest districts of Persia, but not the healthiest,
are undoubtedly the northern ones on the Caspian Sea, or bordering on
Russian territory, such as Mazanderan, Astrabad, and Azerbaijan. In the
first two, rice is grown in large quantities, castor-oil, wheat, cotton
and barley; and in Mazanderan extensive pasturages are found on the hills
for sheep; but not so in Astrabad, which, owing to its peculiar
formation, is exposed to broiling heat on the sandy wastes, and to
terrific cold on the mountains, but has a fairly temperate climate in the
southern portion of the province. These--if the production of silk is
excepted--are mostly agricultural districts. At one time Mazanderan had
beautiful forests which are now fast being destroyed. Considerable
bartering is carried on between the towns and the nomad tribes, in rugs,
carpets, horses and mules, against grain, rice, felts and woollen cloths
of local manufacture.

Azerbaijan, the most northern province of Persia, with Tabriz as a
centre, is very rich in agricultural products, particularly in rice and
wheat. Notwithstanding the severe climate in winter, when the snowfall is
rather heavy, and the thermometer down to 20° below zero centigrade in
February, there are good vineyards in the neighbourhood of Tabriz, and
most excellent vegetables and fruit. Tobacco is successfully grown (and
manufactured for the pipe and into cigarettes). The heat in summer is
intense, with hot winds and dust storms; but owing to the altitude (4,420
feet at Tabriz) the nights are generally cool. In the spring there are
torrential rains, and also towards the end of the autumn, but the months
of May, June, October and November are quite pleasant.

The local trade of Azerbaijan is insignificant, but being on the Russian
border the transit trade has of late assumed large proportions, and is
increasing fast. The importation, for instance, of Turkey-reds by Russia
is growing daily, and also the importation of silk, in cocoons and
manufactured, velvet, woollen goods, various cotton goods, raw wool, dyes
(such as henna, indigo, cochineal and others), and sugar, the principal
import of all. With the exception of tea, indigo and cochineal, which
come from India, the imports into Azerbaijan come almost altogether from
Russia, Turkey, Austria-Hungary and France. The Russian trade in sugar is
enormous from this quarter.

The carpet trade, which at one time seemed to be dying out, is now about
to enter on a prosperous phase; but not so the wool-weaving, which does
not go beyond the local market. Firearms are manufactured and sold to the
Kurds, and jewellery is made; but the principal exports are dried fruit,
raisins, almonds, pistachios, chiefly to Russia and Turkey; also gum,
oils, raw metals (copper, iron), hides, precious stones, alimentary
products (honey and dried vegetables), various kinds of wood, live stock
(mainly sheep and oxen), tobacco, raw and manufactured, dyes, and raw and
manufactured cotton and silk, carpets, rugs, and cloth.

All these exports are to Russia and Turkey, and do not all necessarily
come from Azerbaijan. The Russians are displaying great activity in this
province, and have established an important branch of their "Banque
d'Escompte et de Prêts de Perse." They have obtained road, railway, and
mining concessions, and according to the report of our consul in Tabriz,
the Russian Bank makes advances, to the extent of fifty per cent., to
merchants dealing in Russian goods, especially to native exporters of
dried fruit, such advances being repaid in Russia by the sale of such
produce, or in Persia by the sale of corresponding imports of
manufactured goods.

Tabriz itself, being a centre of export of the produce of Northern
Persia, is a promising field for banking enterprise, and will assume
greater importance even than it has now when the carriage road scheme, a
concession which was granted by the Shah, is completed, and furnishes
easier communication for trade and travelling purposes. Russian engineers
are said to have surveyed and mapped the country for the establishment of
a railway system in Azerbaijan.

The mineral resources of Azerbaijan are said to be considerable, iron
being found in rich deposits of hematite; sulphur, copper and arsenical
pyrites, bitumen, lignite, salt, mineral, ferruginous and sulphurous
springs, and variegated marble. A similar geological formation is found
extending to Hamadan, where beds of lignite and anthracite exist, and
fine marbles and granites are to be found. Here, too, we have a trifling
market for local produce, but a considerable transit trade between the
capital and Kermanshah, Bagdad and Tabriz.

Hamadan is mostly famous for its capital tanneries of leather and for
its metal work; but its climate is probably the worst in Persia, if the
suffocating Gulf coast is excepted--intensely cold in winter and spring,
moist and rainy during the rest of the year. This produces good
pasturages and gives excellent vegetables, wine of sorts, and a
flourishing poppy culture--a speciality of the province.

The same remarks might apply to the adjoining (south) Malayer and
Borujird districts, which, however, possess a more temperate climate,
although liable to sudden terrific storms accompanied by torrential
rains. There is a great deal of waste lands in these regions; but, where
irrigated and properly cultivated, wheat flourishes, as well as fruit
trees, vines, vegetables, poppies, cotton and tobacco. The people are
extremely industrious, being occupied chiefly in carpet-making for
foreign export, and preparing opium and dried fruit, as well as dyed
cottons. Gold dust is said to be found in beds of streams and traces of
copper in quartz.

Other provinces, such as Kurdistan, are inhabited by nomadic peoples, who
have a small trade in horses, arms, opium, wool and dates; but the
cultivation of land is necessarily much neglected except for the supply
of local needs. In many parts it is almost impossible, as for five or six
winter months the soil is buried in snow, and the heat of the summer is
unbearable. There seem to be no intermediate seasons. The people live
mostly on the caravan traffic from Bagdad to various trading centres of
Persia, and they manufacture coarse cloths, rugs and earthenware of
comparatively little marketable value. Naphtha does exist, as well as
other bituminous springs, but it is doubtful whether the quantity is
sufficient and whether the naphtha wells are accessible enough to pay for
their exploitation.

That naphtha does exist, not only in Kurdistan, but in Pusht-i-kuh,
Luristan, and all along the zone extending south of the Caucasus, is
possible; but whether those who bore wells for oil in those regions will
make fortunes similar to those made in the extraordinarily rich and
exceptionally situated Baku region, is a different matter altogether,
which only the future can show.

[Illustration: Sahib Divan, who was at various periods Governor of Shiraz
and Khorassan.]

The tribes of Pusht-i-kuh are somewhat wild and unreliable. On the
mountain sides are capital pasturages. A certain amount of grain, tobacco
and fruit are grown, principally for local consumption.

In Luristan, too, we have partly a nomad pastoral population. Being a
mountainous region there are extremes of temperature. In the plains the
heat is terrific; but higher up the climate is temperate and conducive to
good pasturages and even forests. As in the Pusht-i-kuh mountain
district, here, too, wheat, rice and barley are grown successfully in
huge quantities, and the vine flourishes at certain altitudes as well as
fruit trees. The local commerce consists principally in live stock, the
horses being quite good, and there is a brisk trade in arms and
ammunition.

There remain now the large districts of Khuzistan, better known as
Arabistan, Farsistan and Laristan. The heat in these provinces is
terrible during the summer, and the latter district is further exposed to
the Scirocco winds of the Gulf, carrying with them suffocating sand
clouds. If properly developed, and if the barrage of the Karun river at
Ahwaz were put in thorough repair, the plains of Arabistan could be made
the richest in Persia. Wheat, rice and forage were grown in enormous
quantities at one time, and cotton, tobacco, henna, indigo and
sugar-cane. But this region, being of special interest to Britain, a
special chapter is devoted to it, as well as to the possibilities of
Farsistan and Laristan, to which future reference will be made.

The trade in Shiraz wines is fairly developed, and they are renowned all
over Persia. Considering the primitive method in which they are made they
are really excellent, especially when properly matured. The better ones
resemble rich sherries, Madeira and port wine.

Indigo, horses, mules and carpets form the trade of the province which,
they say, possesses undeveloped mineral resources such as sulphur, lead,
presumed deposits of coal, mercury, antimony and nickel.

Persian Beluchistan is quite undeveloped so far, and mostly inhabited by
nomad tribes, somewhat brigand-like in many parts and difficult to deal
with. They manufacture rugs and saddle-bags and breed good horses and
sheep. Their trade is insignificant, and a good deal of their country is
barren. The climate is very hot, and in many parts most unhealthy.



CHAPTER XIX

     A Persian wedding--Polygamy--Seclusion of
     women--Match-makers--Subterfuges--The _Nomzad_, or official
     betrothal day--The wedding ceremony in the harem--For luck--The
     wedding procession--Festival--Sacrifices of sheep and camels--The
     last obstacle, the _ruhmah_--The bride's endowment--The
     bridegroom's settlement--Divorces--A famous well for unfaithful
     women--Women's influence--Division of property.


The general European idea about Persian matrimonial affairs is about as
inaccurate as is nearly every other European popular notion of Eastern
customs. We hear a great deal about Harems, and we fancy that every
Persian must have dozens of wives, while there are people who seriously
believe that the Shah has no less than one wife for each day of the year,
or 365 in all! That is all very pretty fiction, but differs considerably
from real facts.

First of all, it may be well to repeat that by the Mahommedan doctrine no
man can have more than four wives, and this on the specified condition
that he is able to keep them in comfort, in separate houses, with
separate attendants, separate personal jewellery, and that he will look
upon them equally, showing no special favour to any of them which may be
the cause of jealousy or envy. All these conditions make it well-nigh
impossible for any man of sound judgment to embark in polygamy. Most
well-to-do Persians, therefore, only have one wife.

Another important matter to be taken into consideration is, that no
Persian woman of a good family will ever marry a man who is already
married. So that the chances of legal polygamy become at once very small
indeed in young men of the better classes, who do not wish to ruin their
career by marrying below their own level.

An exception should be made with the lower and wealthy middle classes,
who find a satisfaction in numbers to make up for quality, and who are
the real polygamists of the country. But even in their case the real
wives are never numerous--never above the number permitted by the
Koran,--the others being merely concubines, whether temporary or
permanent. The Shah himself has no more than one first wife, with two or
three secondary ones.

In a country where women are kept in strict seclusion as they are in
Persia, the arrangement of matrimony is rather a complicated matter.
Everybody knows that in Mussulman countries a girl can only be seen by
her nearest relations, who by law cannot marry her, such as her father,
grandfather, brothers and uncles--but not by her cousins, for weddings
between cousins are very frequently arranged in Persia.

It falls upon the mother or sisters of the would-be bridegroom to pick a
suitable girl for him, as a rule, among folks of their own class, and
report to him in glowing terms of her charms, social and financial
advantages. If he has no mother and sisters, then a complaisant old lady
friend of the family undertakes to act as middlewoman. There are also
women who are professional match-makers--quite a remunerative line of
business, I am told. Anyhow, when the young man has been sufficiently
allured into matrimonial ideas, if he has any common sense he generally
wishes to see the girl before saying yes or no. This is arranged by a
subterfuge.

The women of the house invite the girl to their home, and the young
fellow is hidden behind a screen or a window or a wall, wherein
convenient apertures have been made for him, unperceived, to have a good
look at the proposed young lady. This is done several times until the boy
is quite satisfied that he likes her.

The primary difficulty being settled, his relations proceed on a visit to
the girl's father and mother, and ask them to favour their son with their
daughter's hand.

If the young man is considered well off, well-to-do, sober and eligible
in every way, consent is given. A day is arranged for the Nomzad--the
official betrothal day. All the relations, friends and acquaintances of
the two families are invited, and the women are entertained in the harem
while the men sit outside in the handsome courts and gardens. The
bridegroom's relations have brought with them presents of jewellery,
according to their means and positions in life, with a number of
expensive shawls, five, six, seven or more, and a mirror. Also some large
trays of candied sugar.

After a great consumption of tea, sherbet, and sweets, the young man is
publicly proclaimed suitable for the girl. Music and dancing (by
professionals) are lavishly provided for the entertainment of guests, on
a large or small scale, according to the position of the parents.

Some time elapses between this first stage of a young man's doom and the
ceremony for the legal contract and actual wedding. There is no special
period of time specified, and the parties can well please themselves as
to the time when the nuptial union is to be finally effected.

When the day comes the parties do not go to the mosque nor the convenient
registry office--Persia is not yet civilised enough for the latter--but a
_Mujtehed_ or high priest is sent for, who brings with him a great many
other Mullahs, the number in due proportion to the prospective backshish
they are to receive for their services.

The wedding ceremony takes place in the bride's house, where on the
appointed day bands, dancing, singing, and sweets in profusion are
provided for the great number of guests invited.

The high priest eventually adjourns to the harem, where all the women
have collected with the bride, the room being partitioned off with a
curtain behind which the women sit. The bride and her mother (or other
lady) occupy seats directly behind the curtain, while the priest with
the bridegroom and his relations take places in the vacant portion of the
room.

The priest in a stentorian voice calls out to the girl:--

"This young man, son of so-and-so, etc., etc., wants to be your slave.
Will you accept him as your slave?"

(No reply. Trepidation on the bridegroom's part.)

The priest repeats his question in a yet more stentorian voice.

Again no reply. The women collect round the bride and try to induce her
to answer. They stroke her on her back, and caress her face, but she
sulks and is shy and plays with her dress, but says nothing. When the
buzzing noise of the excited women-folk behind the curtain has subsided,
the priest returns to his charge, while the expectant bridegroom
undergoes the worst quarter of an hour of his life.

The third time of asking is generally the last, and twice the girl has
already not answered. It is a terrible moment. Evidently she is not over
anxious to bring about the alliance, or is the reluctance a mere feminine
expedient to make it understood from the beginning that she is only
conferring a great favour on the bridegroom by condescending to marry
him? The latter hypothesis is correct, for when the priest thunders for
the third time his former question, a faint voice--after a tantalizing
delay--is heard to say "Yes."

The bridegroom, now that this cruel ordeal is over, begins to breathe
again.

The priest is not yet through his work, and further asks the girl whether
she said "Yes" out of her will, or was forced to say it. Then he appeals
to the women near her to testify that this was so, and that the voice he
heard behind the curtain was actually the girl's voice. These various
important points being duly ascertained, in appropriate Arabic words the
priest exclaims:

"I have married this young lady to this man and this man to this young
lady."

The men present on one side of the curtain nod and (in Arabic) say they
accept the arrangement. The women are overheard to say words to the same
effect from the other side of the partition. Congratulations are
exchanged, and more sherbet, tea and sweets consumed.

The religious ceremony is over, but not the trials of the bridegroom, now
legal husband.

When sufficient time has elapsed for him to recover from his previous
mental anguish, he is conveyed by his mother or women relatives into the
harem. All the women are veiled and line the walls of the drawing-room,
where a solitary chair or cushion on the floor is placed at the end of
the room. He is requested to sit upon it, which he meekly does. A small
tray is now brought in with tiny little gold coins (silver if the people
are poor) mixed with sweets. The bridegroom bends his head; and sweets
and coins are poured upon his back and shoulders. Being round--the coins,
not the shoulders--they run about and are scattered all over the room.
All the ladies present gracefully stoop and seize one pellet of gold,
which is kept for good luck; then servants are called in to collect the
remainder which goes to their special benefit.

This custom is not unlike our flinging rice for luck at a married couple.

The bridegroom then returns to the men's quarters, where he receives the
hearty congratulations of relatives and friends alike.

From this moment the girl becomes his wife, and the husband has the right
to see her whenever he chooses, but not to cohabit with her until further
ordeals have been gone through.

The husband comes to meet his wife for conversation's sake in a specially
reserved room in the harem, and each time he comes he brings presents of
jewellery or silks or other valuables to ingratiate himself. So that, by
the time the real wedding takes place, they can get to be quite fond of
one another.

There is no special limit of time for the last ceremony to be celebrated.
It is merely suited to the convenience of the parties when all necessary
arrangements are settled, and circumstances permit.

Usually for ten days or less before the wedding procession takes place a
festival is held in the bridegroom's house, when the Mullahs, the
friends, acquaintances, relations and neighbours are invited--fresh
guests being entertained on each night. Music, dancing, and lavish
refreshments are again provided for the guests. The men, of course, are
entertained separately in the men's quarter, and the women have some fun
all to themselves in the harem.

On the very last evening of the festival a grand procession is formed in
order to convey the bride from her house to that of her husband. He, the
husband, waits for her at his residence, where he is busy entertaining
guests.

All the bridegroom's relations, with smart carriages--and, if he is in
some official position, as most Persians of good families are,--with
infantry and cavalry soldiers, bands and a large following of friends and
servants on horseback and on foot proceed to the bride's house.

A special carriage is reserved for the bride and her mother or old lady
relation, and another for the bridesmaids. She is triumphantly brought
back to the bridegroom's house, her relations and friends adding to the
number in the procession.

Guns are fired and fireworks let off along the road and from the bride's
and bridegroom's houses. One good feature of all Persian festivities is
that the poor are never forgotten. So, when the bride is driven along the
streets, a great many sheep and camels are sacrificed before her carriage
to bring the bride luck and to feed with their flesh the numberless
people who congregate round to divide the meat of the slaughtered
animals. In the house of the bridegroom, too, any number of sheep are
sacrificed and distributed among the poor.

There are great rejoicings when the procession arrives at the house,
where the bridegroom is anxiously awaiting to receive his spouse. As she
alights from the carriage more sheep are sacrificed on the door-step--and
the husband, too, is sacrificed to a certain extent, for again he has to
content himself with merely conducting his bride to the harem and to
leave her there. It is only late in the evening, when all the guests,
stuffed with food, have departed, that the husband is led by his best man
to a special room prepared for him and his wife in the harem. The bride
comes in, heavily veiled, in the company of her father or some old and
revered relation, who clasps the hands of husband and wife and joins them
together, making a short and appropriate speech of congratulation and
good wishes for a happy conjugal existence. Then very wisely retreats.

There is yet another obstacle: the removal of the long embroidered veil
which hangs gracefully over the bride's head down to her knees. This
difficulty is easily surmounted by another present of jewellery, known as
the _ruhmuhah_ or "reward for showing the face." There is no further
reward needed after that, and they are at last husband and wife, not only
in theory but in fact.

True, some gold coins have to be left under the furniture to appease
expecting servants, and the next day fresh trials have to be endured by
the bride, who has to receive her lady friends and accept their most
hearty congratulations. This means more music, more professional dancing,
more sweets, more sherbet, more tea. But gradually, even the festivities
die out, and wife and husband can settle down to a really happy, quiet,
family life, devoid of temptations and full of fellow-feeling and
thoughtfulness.

Ten days before this last event takes place the wife is by custom
compelled to send to the husband's house the endowment which by her
contract she must supply: the whole furniture of the apartments complete
from the kitchen to the drawing-room, both for the man's quarter and for
her own. Besides this--which involves her in considerable expense--she,
of course, further conveys with her anything of which she may be the
rightful owner. Her father, if well-off, will frequently present her on
her wedding-day with one or more villages or a sum in cash, and
occasionally will settle on her what would go to her in the usual course
of time after his death. All this--in case of divorce or
litigation--remains the wife's property.

On the other hand, the bridegroom, or his parents for him, have to settle
a sum of money on the bride before she consents to the marriage, and this
is legally settled upon her by the Mullah in the wedding contract. She
has a right to demand it whenever she pleases.

It can be seen by all this that a Persian legal marriage is not a simple
matter nor a cheap undertaking. The expense and formalities connected
with each wedding are enormous, so that even if people were inclined to
polygamy it is really most difficult for them to carry their desire into
effect. Among the nobility it has become unfashionable and is to-day
considered quite immoral to have more than one wife.

Partly because the marriages are seldom the outcome of irresistible--but
fast burning out--love; partly because it is difficult for a husband and
almost impossible for a wife to be unfaithful, divorces in Persia are not
common. Besides, on divorcing a wife, the husband has to pay her in full
the settlement that has been made upon her, and this prevents many a rash
attempt to get rid of one's better-half. To kill an unfaithful wife is,
in the eyes of Persians, a cheaper and less degrading way of obtaining
justice against an unpardonable wrong.

One hears a good deal in Persia about a famous and extraordinarily deep
well--near Shiraz, I believe--into which untrue wives were precipitated
by their respective offended husbands, or by the public executioner; and
also how dishonoured women are occasionally stoned to death; but these
cases are not very frequent nowadays. The Persian woman is above all her
husband's most intimate friend. He confides all--or nearly all--his
secrets to her. She does the same, or nearly the same with him. Their
interests are mutual, and the love for their own children unbounded. Each
couple absolutely severed from the outside world, forbidden to get
intoxicated by their religion, with no excitements to speak of, and the
wife in strict seclusion--there is really no alternative left for them
than to be virtuous. Women have in Persia, as in other countries, great
influence over their respective husbands, and through these mediums
feminine power extends very far, both in politics and commerce.

At the husband's death the property is divided among his children, each
male child taking two shares to each one share for every girl's part,
after one-eighth of the whole property has been paid to the deceased's
widow, who is entitled to that amount by right.

Most praiseworthy union exists in most Persian families, filial love and
veneration for parents being quite as strong as paternal or maternal
affection. Extreme reverence for old age in any class of man is another
trait to be admired in the Persian character.



CHAPTER XX

     Persian women--Their anatomy--Their eyes--_Surmah_--Age of
     puberty--The descendants of
     Mohammed--Infanticide--Circumcision--Deformities and
     abnormalities--The ear--The teeth and dentistry--The nose--A
     Persian woman's indoor dress--The _yel_--The _tadji_ and other
     jewels--Out-of-door dress--The _Chakchur_--The _ruh-band_--The
     _Chudder_.


Persia, they say, is the country of the loveliest women in the world. It
probably has that reputation because few foreign male judges have ever
seen them. The Persians themselves certainly would prefer them to any
other women. Still, there is no doubt, from what little one sees of the
Persian woman, that she often possesses very beautiful languid eyes, with
a good deal of animal magnetism in them. Her skin is extremely fair--as
white as that of an Italian or a French woman--with a slight yellowish
tint which is attractive. They possess when young very well modelled arms
and legs, the only fault to be found among the majority of them being the
frequent thickness of the wrists and ankles, which rather takes away from
their refinement. In the very highest classes this is not so accentuated.
The women are usually of a fair height, not too small, and carry
themselves fairly well, particularly the women of the lower classes who
are accustomed to carry weights on their head. The better-off women walk
badly, with long steps and a consequent stoop forward; whereas the poorer
ones walk more firmly with a movement of the hips and with the spine well
arched inwards. The neck lacks length, but is nicely rounded, and the
head well set on the shoulders.

Anatomically, the body is not striking either for its beauty or its
strength or suppleness. The breasts, except with girls of a very tender
age, become deformed, and very pendant, and the great tendency to fatness
rather interferes with the artistic beauty of their outlines.

The skeleton frame of a Persian woman is curiously constructed, the
hip-bones being extremely developed and broad, whereas the shoulder
blades and shoulders altogether are very narrow and undeveloped. The
hands and feet are generally good, particularly the hand, which is less
developed and not so coarse as the lower limbs generally and the feet in
particular. The fingers are usually long and quite supple, with
well-proportioned nails. The thumb is, nevertheless, hardly ever in good
proportion with the rest of the hand. It generally lacks length and
character. The feet bear the same characteristics as the hands except, as
I have said, that they are infinitely coarser. Why this should be I
cannot explain, except that intermarriage with different races and social
requirements may be the cause of it.

[Illustration: Persian Woman and Child.]

[Illustration: A Picturesque Beggar Girl.]

The head I have left to the last, because it is from an artist's point of
view the most picturesque part of a Persian woman's anatomy. It may
possibly lack fine chiselled features and angularity; and the first
impression one receives on looking at a Persian woman's face is that it
wants strength and character--all the lines of the face being broad,
uninterrupted curves. The nose is broad and rounded, the cheeks round,
the chin round, the lips large, voluptuous and round--very seldom tightly
closed; in fact, the lower lip is frequently drooping. But when it comes
to eyes, eyelashes and eyebrows, there are few women in the world who can
compete with the Persian. There is exuberant fire and expression in the
Persian feminine organs of vision, large and almond-shaped, well-cut, and
softened by eyelashes of abnormal length, both on the upper and lower
lid. The powerful, gracefully-curved eyebrows extend far into the
temples, where they end into a fine point, from the nose, over which they
are very frequently joined. The iris of the eye is abnormally large, of
very rich dark velvety brown, with jet black pupils, and the so-called
"white of the eye" is of a much darker tinge than with Europeans--almost
a light bluish grey. The women seem to have wonderful control over the
muscles of the eyelids and brows, which render the eyes dangerously
expressive. The habit of artificially blackening the under lid with
_Surmah_, too, adds, to no mean extent, to the luminosity and vivid power
of the eyes in contrast to the alabaster-like, really beautiful skin
of the younger Persian women.

I said "younger," for owing to racial and climatic conditions the Persian
female is a full-grown woman in every way at the age of ten or twelve,
sometimes even younger. They generally keep in good compact condition
until they are about twenty or twenty-five, when the fast expanding
process begins, deforming even the most beautiful into shapeless masses
of flesh and fat. They are said, however, to be capable of bearing
children till the mature age of forty to forty-five, although from my own
observation thirty-five to forty I should take to be the more common
average at which Persian women are in full possession of prolific powers.

In the case of Sayids, the descendants of Mahommed, both sexes of whom
are reputed for their extraordinary powers and vitality, women are said
not to become sterile till after the age of fifty.

Whether this is a fact or not, I cannot say, but it is certain that the
Sayids are a superior race altogether, more wiry and less given to
orgies--drinking and smoking,--which may account for their natural powers
being preserved to a later age than with most other natives of Persia.
Their women are very prolific. Sayid men and women are noticeable even
from a tender age for their robustness and handsome features. They are
dignified and serious in their demeanour, honest and trustworthy, and are
a fine race altogether.

Infanticide after birth is not very common in Persia, but abortion
artificially procured has, particularly of late, become frequent for the
prevention of large families that cannot be supported. This is done by
primitive methods, not dissimilar to those used in European countries.
Medicine is occasionally also administered internally. These cases are
naturally illegal, and although the law of the country is lenient--or,
rather, short-sighted--in such matters, any palpable case, if discovered,
would be severely punished.

The umbilicus of newly-born children is inevitably tied by a doctor and
not by a member of the family, as with some nations. Circumcision is
practised on male children when at the age of forty days. It is merely
performed as a sanitary precaution, and is not undergone for religion's
sake.

There are few countries where deformities and abnormalities are as common
as they are in Persia. In women less than in men; still, they too are
afflicted with a good share of Nature's freaks. The harelip is probably
the most common abnormality. Webbed and additional fingers and toes come
next. Birth-marks are very common--especially very large black moles on
the face and body.

Persian ears are very seldom beautiful. They are generally more or less
malformed and somewhat coarse in modelling, although they seem to answer
pretty well the purpose for which they are created. But although the
hearing is very good in a general sense, I found that the Persian, of
either sex, had great difficulty in differentiating very fine modulations
of sounds, and this is probably due to the under-development or
degeneration of the auricular organ, just the same as in the ears of
purely Anglo-Saxon races.

To an observant eye, to my mind, there is no part of people's anatomy
that shows character and refinement more plainly than the ear. Much more
delicate in texture than the hands or feet, the ear is, on the other
hand, less subject to misleading modifications by artificial causes which
are bound to affect the other extremities.

The ear of a Persian is, in the greater percentage of cases, the ear of a
degenerate. It is coarse and lumpy, and somewhat shapeless, with animal
qualities strongly marked in it. Occasionally one does come across a good
ear in Persia, but very rarely.

Similar remarks might apply to teeth. When young, men and women have good
teeth, of fairly good shape and length, and frequently so very firmly set
in their sockets as to allow their possessors to lift heavy weights with
them, pulling ropes tight, etc., when the strength of the hands is not
sufficient. One frequently notices, however, irregularity, or additional
teeth--caused again by intermixture of race--the upper teeth not fitting
properly the lower ones, and causing undue friction, early injury to the
enamel, and consequent decay. This is also greatly intensified by the
unhealthy state of Persian blood, especially in people inhabiting the
cities, where the worst of venereal complaints has crept in a more or
less virulent form into the greater part of the population. Add to this,
a disorganized digestion, coloration by constant smoking, and the injury
to the enamel brought on by the great consumption of sugary stuff; and if
one marvels at all it is that Persian teeth are as good and serviceable
as they are to a fair age.

Native Persian dentistry is not in a very advanced stage. With the
exception of extraction by primitive and painful methods, nothing
efficient is done to arrest the progress of decay.

The Persian nose is well shaped--but it is not perfection, mind you--and
generally does not perform its duties in a creditable manner. It has
nearly all the drawbacks of civilised noses. Partly owing to defective
digestive organs and the escaping fumes of decayed teeth, the nose,
really very well shaped in young children, generally alters its shape as
they get older, and it becomes blocked up with mucous matter, causing it
unduly to expand at the bridge, and giving it rather a stumpy, fat
appearance. The nostrils are not very sharply and powerfully cut in most
cases, and are rounded up and undecided, a sign of pliant character.

Women have better cut and healthier noses than men, as they lead a more
wholesome life. In children and young people, however, very handsome
noses are to be seen in Persia. The sense of odour is not very keen in
either sex; in fact, it is probably the dullest of all Persian senses,
which is not unfortunate for them in a country where potent smells
abound. In experimenting upon healthy specimens, it was found that only
comparatively strong odours could be detected by them, nor could they
distinguish the difference between two different scents, when they did
succeed in smelling them at all!

A Persian woman is not seen at her best when she is dressed. This sounds
very shocking, but it is quite true. Of all the ugly, inartistic, clumsy,
uncomfortable, tasteless, absurd female attires, that of the Persian lady
ranks first.

Let us see a Persian lady indoors, and describe her various garments in
the order in which they strike the observer. First of all one's eye is
caught by a "bundle" of short skirts--usually of very bright
colours--sticking out at the hips, and not unlike the familiar attire of
our ballet girls--only shorter. These skirts are made of cotton, silk or
satin, according to the lady's wealth and position.

There are various versions of how such a fashion was adopted by Persian
ladies. It is of comparatively modern importation, and up to fifty or
sixty years ago women wore long skirts reaching down to the ankle. The
skirts gradually got shorter and shorter as the women got more
civilised--so a Persian assures me--and when Nasr-ed-din Shah visited
Europe and brought back to his harem the glowing accounts of the ladies'
dress--or, rather, undress--at the Empire and Alhambra music-hall
ballets, which seem to have much attracted him, the women of his court,
in order to compete with their European rivals, and to gain afresh the
favour of their sovereign, immediately adopted a similar attire. Scissors
were busy, and down (or up) were the skirts reduced to a minimum length.

As in other countries, fashions in men and women are copied from the
Court, and so the women from one end of Persia to the other, in the
cities, took up the hideous custom. One of the principal points in the
fashion is that the skirt must stick out at the sides. These skirts are
occasionally very elaborate, with heavy gold braiding round them, richly
embroidered, or covered all over with small pearls. The shape of the
skirt is the same in all classes of women, but of course the difference
lies in the material with which the dress is made.

Under the skirt appear two heavy, shapeless legs, in long foreign
stockings with garters, or in tight trousers of cotton or other light
material--a most unseemly sight. When only the family are present the
latter garments are frequently omitted.

Perhaps the only attractive part of a woman's indoor toilet is the neat
zouave jacket with sleeves, breast and back profusely embroidered in
gold, or with pearls. It is called the _yel_. When lady friends are
expected to call, some additions are made to the costume. A long veil
fastened to the belt and supported on the projecting skirt hangs down to
the feet. Sometimes it is left to drag behind. It is quite transparent,
and its purposeless use none of my Persian friends could explain. "The
women like it, that is all," was the only answer I could elicit, and that
was certainly enough to settle the matter.

Persian women are extremely fond of jewellery, diamonds, pearls and
precious stones. On the head, the hair being plastered down with a
parting in the centre and knot behind on the neck, a diadem is worn by
the smarter ladies, the _tadji_. Those who can afford it have a _tadji_
of diamonds, the shape varying according to fashion; others display
sprays of pearls. The _tadji_ is a luxurious, heavy ornament only worn on
grand occasions; then there is another more commonly used, the _nim
tadji_, or small diadem, a lighter and handsome feathery jewel worn
either in the upper centre of the forehead, or very daintily and in a
most coquettish way on one side of the head, where it really looks very
pretty indeed against the shiny jet black hair of the wearer.

Heavy necklaces of gold, pearls, turquoises and amber are much in vogue,
and also solid and elaborate gold rings and bracelets in profusion on the
fingers and wrists.

Out of doors women in the cities look very different to what they do
indoors, and cannot be accused of any outward immodesty. One suspects
blue or black bag-like phantoms whom one meets in the streets to be
women, but there is really nothing to go by to make one sure of it, for
the street costume of the Persian lady is as complete a disguise as was
ever conceived.

Before going out a huge pair of loose trousers or bloomers--the
_chakchur_--fastened at the waist and pulled in at the ankle, are
assumed, and a _ruh-band_--a thick calico or cotton piece of cloth about
a yard wide, hangs in front of the face, a small slit some three to four
inches long and one and a half wide, very daintily netted with heavy
embroidery, being left for ventilation's sake and as a look-out window.
This is fastened by means of a hook behind the head to prevent its
falling, and is held down with one hand at the lower part. Over all this
the _chudder_--a black or blue piece of silk or cotton about two yards
square and matching the colour of the trousers, covers the whole from
head to foot, and just leaves enough room in front for the ventilating
parallelogram.

In public places this cloak is held with the spare hand quite close to
the chin, so that, with the exception of a mass of black or blue clothing
and a tiny bit of white embroidery over the eyes, one sees absolutely
nothing of the Persian woman when she promenades about the streets. With
sloping shoulders, broad hips, and huge bloomers, her silhouette is not
unlike a soda-water bottle.

Her feet are socked in white or blue, and she toddles along on dainty
slippers with no back to the heels. A husband himself could not recognise
his wife out of doors, nor a brother his sister, unless by some special
mark on her clothing, such as a spot of grease or a patch--otherwise,
poor and rich, young and old, are all dressed alike. Of course the diadem
and other such ornaments are only worn in the house, and the _chudder_
rests directly on the head.

Yet with some good fortune one occasionally gets glimpses of women's
faces, for face-screens and _chudders_ and the rest of them have their
ways of dropping occasionally, or being blown away by convenient winds,
or falling off unexpectedly. But this is only the case with the prettier
women, the ugly old ones being most particular not to disillusion and
disappoint the male passers-by.

This is possibly another reason why hasty travellers have concluded that
Persian women must all be beautiful.



CHAPTER XXI

     The Shah's birthday--Illuminations--The Shah in his
     automobile--Ministers in audience--Etiquette at the Shah's
     Court--The Shah--A graceful speaker--The Shah's directness of
     speech--The Kajars and the Mullahs--The _défilé_ of troops--A
     blaze of diamonds.


There are great rejoicings in Teheran and all over Persia on the Shah's
birthday and the night previous to it, when grand illuminations of all
the principal buildings, official residences and business concerns take
place. Large sums of money are spent in decorating the buildings suitably
on such an auspicious occasion, not as in our country with cheap,
vari-coloured cotton rags and paper floral ornaments, but with very
handsome carpets, numberless looking-glasses of all sizes and shapes,
pictures in gold frames, plants and fountains. Nor are the lights used of
a tawdry kind. No, they are the best candles that money can purchase,
fitted in nickel-plated candlesticks with tulip globes--thousands of
them--and crystal candelabras of Austrian make, or rows of paraffin lamps
hired for the occasion.

It is customary in Teheran even for foreign business houses to illuminate
their premises lavishly, and the Atabeg Azam or Prime Minister and other
high officials go during the evening to pay calls in order to show their
appreciation of the compliment to their sovereign, and admire the
decorations of the leading banks and merchants' buildings.

In front of each illuminated house carpets are spread and a number of
chairs are prepared for friends and guests who wish to come and admire
the show. Sherbet, tea, coffee, whisky, brandy, champagne, cigarettes and
all sorts of other refreshments are provided, and by the time you have
gone round to inspect all the places where you have been invited, you
have been refreshed to such an extent by the people, who are very jolly
and hospitable, that you begin to see the illuminations go round you of
their own accord.

The show that I witnessed was very interesting and really well done, the
effect in the bazaar, with all the lights reflected in the mirrors, and
the gold and carpets against the ancient wood-work of the caravanserais,
being quite picturesque. The crowds of open-mouthed natives were, as a
whole, well behaved, and quite amusing to watch. They seemed quite
absorbed in studying the details of each bit of decoration. The Bank of
Persia was decorated with much artistic taste. Side by side, in the wind,
two enormous flags--the British and the Persian--flew on its façade.

Fireworks were let off till a late hour of the night from various parts
of the town, and bands and strolling musicians played in the squares, in
the bazaar, and everywhere.

The following morning the Shah came in his automobile to town from his
country residence, driven, as usual, by a Frenchman. The Persian and
foreign Ministers were to be received in audience early in the morning,
and I was to be presented after by Sir Arthur Hardinge, our Minister at
the Shah's Court.

The strict etiquette of any Court--whether European or Eastern--does
remind one very forcibly of the comic opera, only it is occasionally
funnier.

[Illustration: Ruku Sultaneh, Brother of the present Shah.]

As early as 9 a.m. we left the Legation in a procession--all on
horseback--the officials in their diplomatic uniforms, with plenty of
gold braiding, and cocked hats; I in my own frock-coat and somebody
else's tall hat, for mine had unluckily come to grief. We rode along the
very dusty streets and arrived at the Palace, where we got off our
horses. We entered the large court of the Alabaster Throne. There were a
great many dismounted cavalry soldiers, and we were then led into a small
ante-room on the first floor where all the foreign representatives of
other nations in Teheran were waiting, received by a Persian high
official.

We were detained here for a considerable time, and then marched through
the garden to another building. By the number of pairs of shoes lining
both sides of the staircase in quadruple rows, it was evident that his
Majesty had many visitors. We were ushered into the Jewelled Globe Room
adjoining the Shah's small reception room.

After some adjustment of clothes and collars in their correct positions,
and of swords and belts, the door opened and the Ministers were let in to
the Shah's presence. One peculiarity of the Shah's court is that it is
etiquette to appear before the sovereign with one's hat on, and making a
military salute. In former days carpet slippers were provided for the
Ministers to put on over the shoes, but the custom has of late been
abandoned, as it looked too ludicrous, even for a court, to see the
ministers, secretaries, and attachés in their grand uniforms dragging
their feet along for fear of losing a _pantoufle_ on the way.

There was the usual speech of greeting and congratulation on the part of
the _doyen_ Minister, and presently the crowd of foreign representatives
returned to the ante-room in the most approved style, walking backwards
and stooping low.

My turn came next. As we entered, the Shah was standing almost in the
centre of the room, with the familiar aigrette in his _kolah_ (black
headgear) and his chest a blaze of diamonds. He rested his right hand on
a handsome jewelled sword. He looked pale and somewhat worn, but his
features were decidedly handsome, without being powerful. One could
plainly see depicted on his face an expression of extreme
good-nature--almost too soft and thoughtful a face for a sovereign of an
Eastern country. His thick underlip added a certain amount of obstinate
strength to his features, which was counter-balanced by the dreamy,
far-away look of his eyes heavily shadowed by prominent lids. His thick
black eyebrows and huge moustache were in great contrast to the Shah's
pallid face. His Majesty appeared bored, and was busy masticating a
walnut when we entered, the shell of which lay in _débris_ by the side of
two additional entire walnuts and a nut-cracker on a small jewelled
side-table.

We stood at attention with our hats on while Sir Arthur, who, as we have
seen, is a linguist of great distinction, delivered to the sovereign, a
most charming and graceful speech in Persian with an oriental fluency of
flowery language that nearly took my breath away.

The Shah seemed highly delighted at the nice compliments paid him by our
Minister, and graciously smiled in appreciation. Then Sir Arthur broke
forth in French--which he speaks like a Frenchman--and with astounding
grace proceeded to the presentation. The Shah was curt in his words and
much to the point, and I was greatly delighted at the charming directness
of his remarks. There was no figure of speech, no tawdry metaphor in the
compliment paid me.

I had presented his Majesty with two of my books.

"_Vous écrivez livres?_" thundered the Shah to me in lame French, as he
stroked his moustache in a nervous manner.

"_Malheureusement pour le public, oui, Majesté_," (Unfortunately for the
public, yes, your Majesty), I replied, touching my hat in military
fashion.

"_Combien de livres avez vous écrits?_" (How many books have you
written?)

"_Quatre, Majesté._" (Four, your Majesty.)

"_Combien livres avez vous envoyé moi?_" (How many books have you sent
me?) he roared again in his Perso adaptation of French.

"_Deux, Majesté._" (Two, your Majesty.)

"_Envoyez encore deux autres._" (Send the other two.) And with a nod the
conversation was over, and we retreated backwards through the glass door,
but not before Sir Arthur Hardinge had completed the interview with
another most appropriate and graceful little speech.

The foreign Ministers departed, but I was allowed to remain in the Palace
grounds to witness the various native officials and representatives
paying their salaams to the Shah.

After us the foreigners in Persian employ were received in audience, and
it was interesting to notice that they had adopted the Persian headgear,
and some even the Persian pleated frock-coat. The Shah's reception room
had a very large window overlooking the garden. The glass was raised and
a throne was placed close to the edge of the window on which the Shah
seated himself with a _kalian_ by his side.

Then began the _défilé_ of native representatives. The _Kajars_ in their
grand robes and white turbans paraded before the window, and then forming
a semicircle salaamed the head of their family. One of them stepped
forward and chanted a long poem, while the Shah puffed away at the
_kalian_ and stroked his luxuriant moustache. Every now and then the
sovereign bowed in acknowledgment of the good wishes paid him, and his
bow was repeated by the crowd below in the court. After the Kajars came
the Mullahs. Again another recitation of poetry, again more bows, more
_kalian_ smoking. Then foreign generals stood before the window, and
native officers, Court servants and eunuchs. The _défilé_ of troops,
colleges, merchant associations and schools came next, and was very
interesting.

Persian Cossacks in their nice long white uniforms and formidable chest
ornamentations; bandsmen with tin helmets and linoleum top boots; hussars
with plenty of braiding on cotton coats and trousers; infantrymen,
artillerymen, military cadets,--all were reviewed in turn by his Majesty,
who displayed his royal satisfaction by an occasional bow.

There were no shrieks of enthusiasm, no applause, no hurrahs, as they
went, but they all walked past the royal window in a quiet, dignified
way--no easy matter, considering the extraordinary clothing that some
were made to wear. One had a sort of suspicion that, not unlike the
armies marching on the stage, one recognised the same contingents
marching past several times to make up for numbers, but that did not take
away from the picturesqueness of the scene, in the really beautiful
garden, with lovely fountains spouting and flowers in full bloom.

The procession with banners and music went on for a very long time, but
at last the garden was cleared of all people. His Majesty wished to
descend for a little walk.

Absolutely alone, the Shah sauntered about, apparently quite relieved
that the ordeal was over. The Atabeg Azam was signalled to approach, and
Prime Minister and Sovereign had a friendly conversation.

Although personally not fond of jewellery, I must confess that I was much
impressed by the resplendent beauty of the Shah's diamonds when a ray of
sun shone upon them. His chest and the aigrette on the cap were a blaze
of dazzling light, with a myriad of most beautiful flashing colours.

The great social excitement of the year in Teheran was the Prime
Minister's evening party on the Shah's birthday, when all the higher
Persian officials were invited, and nearly all the Europeans resident in
Teheran, regardless of their grade or social position.

This evening party was preceded by an official dinner to the members of
the Legations. Elaborate fireworks were let off in the beautiful gardens
and reflected in the ponds in front of the house, and the gardens were
tastefully illuminated with vari-coloured lanterns and decorated with
flags.

The house itself was full of interesting objects of art, and had spacious
rooms in the best European style. Persian officials, resplendent in
gold-braided uniforms, their chests a mass of decorations, were
politeness itself to all guests. Excellent Persian bands, playing
European airs, enlivened the evening, and it was quite interesting to
meet the rank and file and beauty of Teheran official and commercial life
all here assembled. Persian ladies, naturally, did not appear, but a few
Armenian ladies of the better classes were to be observed.

[Illustration: The Shah in his Automobile.]

[Illustration: The Sadrazam's (Prime Minister's) Residence, Teheran.]

The gentle hint given to the guests to depart, when the Prime Minister
got tired and wanted to retire, was quaintly clever. A soft music was
heard to come from his bedroom. It was the signal. All hastened to make
their best bows and departed.



CHAPTER XXII

     The Shah's Palace--The finest court--Alabaster throne hall--A
     building in European style--The Museum--A chair of solid gold and
     silver--The _Atch_--Paintings--The banqueting room--The audience
     room--Beautiful carpets--An elaborate clock--Portraits of
     sovereigns and their places--Pianos and good music--The
     Jewelled-Globe room--Queen Victoria's photograph--Moving
     pictures--Conservatory--Roman mosaics--Toys--Adam and Eve--Royal
     and imperial oil paintings--A decided slight--The picture
     gallery--Valuable collection of arms--Strange
     paintings--Coins--Pearls--Printing press--Shah's country places.


One is told that one must not leave Teheran without carefully inspecting
the Shah's Palace, its treasures and its museum. A special permit must be
obtained for this through the Legation or the Foreign Office.

The first large court which I entered on this second visit has pretty
tiled buildings at the sides, with its rectangular reservoir full of
swans, and bordered by trees, is probably the most impressive part of the
Palace. Fountains play in the centre, the spouts being cast-iron women's
heads of the cheapest European kind.

The lofty throne hall stands at the end, its decorative curtains
screening its otherwise unwalled frontage. For my special benefit the
curtains were raised, leaving exposed the two high spiral stone columns
that support the roof in front. The bases of these columns bore
conventionalized vases with sunflowers and leaf ornamentations, while the
capitols were in three superposed fluted tiers, the uppermost being the
largest in diameter. The frieze of the ceiling was concave, made of bits
of looking-glass and gold, and the ceiling itself was also entirely
composed of mirrors. The back was of shiny green and blue, with eight
stars and two large looking-glasses, while at the sides there was a blue
frieze.

Two large portraits of Nasr-ed-din Shah, two battle scenes and two
portraits of Fath-Ali-Shah decorated the walls. The two side doors of the
throne-hall were of beautifully inlaid wood, and the two doors directly
behind the throne were of old Shiraz work with ivory inscriptions upon
them in the centre. The lower part of the wall was of coloured alabaster,
with flower ornaments and birds, principally hawks. There were also other
less important pictures, two of which I was told represented Nadir and
Mahmud Shah, and two unidentified.

High up in the back wall were five windows, of the usual Persian pattern,
and also a cheap gold frame enclosing a large canvas that represented a
half-naked figure of a woman with a number of fowls, a cat and a dog. Two
gold _consoles_ were the only heavy articles of movable furniture to be
seen.

The spacious throne of well-marked yellow alabaster was quite gorgeous,
and had two platforms, the first, with a small fountain, being reached
by three steps, the second a step higher. The platform was supported by
demons, "guebre" figures all round, and columns resting on the backs of
feline animals. On the upper platform was spread an ancient carpet.

On leaving this hall we entered a second court giving entrance to a
building in the European style, with a wide staircase leading to several
reception rooms on the first floor. One--the largest--had a billiard
table in the centre, expensive furniture along the walls, and curtains of
glaring yellow and red plush, the chairs being of the brightest blue
velvet. Taken separately each article of furniture was of the very best
kind, but it seemed evident that whoever furnished that room did his
utmost to select colours that would not match.

There were two Parisian desks and a fine old oak inlaid desk, a capital
inlaid bureau, manufactured by a Russian in Teheran, and some Sultanabad
carpets not more than fifty years old. On the shelves and wherever else a
place could be found stood glass decorations of questionable artistic
taste, and many a vase with stiff bunches of hideous artificial flowers.

Let us enter the adjoining Museum, a huge room in five sections, as it
were, each section having a huge chandelier of white and blue Austrian
glass, suspended from the ceiling. There are glass cases all round
crammed full of things arranged with no regard to their value, merit,
shape, size, colour or origin. Beautiful Chinese and Japanese
_cloisonné_ stands next to the cheapest Vienna plaster statuette
representing an ugly child with huge spectacles on his nose, and the most
exquisite Sèvres and other priceless ceramic ware is grouped with empty
bottles and common glass restaurant decanters. In company with these will
be a toy--a monkey automatically playing a fiddle.

Costly jade and cheap prints were together in another case; copies of old
paintings of saints and the Virgin, coloured photographs of theatrical
and music-hall stars, and of picturesque scenery, a painting of the Shah
taken in his apartments, jewels, gold ornaments inlaid with precious
stones, a beautiful malachite set consisting of clock, inkstand, vases,
and a pair of candlesticks; meteoric stones and fossil shells--all were
displayed in the utmost confusion along the shelves.

At the further end of the Museum, reached by three steps, was a gaudy
throne chair of solid gold and silver enamelled. The throne had amphoras
at the sides and a sunflower in diamonds behind it. The seat was of red
brocade, and the chair had very small arms. It rested on a six-legged
platform with two supports and two ugly candelabras.

A glance at the remaining glass cases of the museum reveals the same
confusion; everything smothered in dust, everything uncared for. One's
eye detects at once a valuable set of china, and some lovely axes,
pistols and swords inlaid in gold, ivory and silver. Then come busts of
Bismarck and Moltke, a plaster clown, tawdry painted fans and
tortoiseshell ones; a set of the most common blue table-service, and two
high candelabras, green and white; a leather dressing-bag with silver
fittings (unused), automatic musical figures, shilling candlesticks,
artificial coloured fruit in marble, and a really splendid silver
dinner-service.

From the Museum we passed into the _Atch_, a kind of store-room, wherein
were numberless cigar-boxes, wicker-work baskets, and badly-kept tiger
skins. Here were photographs of some of the Shah's favourites, a great
assortment of nut-crackers--the Persians love walnuts--cheap prints in
profusion, and some good antelope-skins.

This led into the banqueting room, in the European style--and quite a
good, sober style this time. The room was lighted by column candelabras,
and there was a collection of the Shah's family portraits in medallions;
also a large-sized phonograph, which is said to afford much amusement to
His Majesty and his guests.

The paintings on the walls ran very much to the nude, and none were very
remarkable, if one excepts a life-size nude figure of a woman sitting and
in the act of caressing a dove. It is a very clever copy of a painting by
Foragne in the Shah's picture gallery, and has been done by a Persian
artist named Kamaol-el-Mulk, who, I was told, had studied in Paris.

Most interesting of all in the room, however, was the exquisite old
carpet with a delightful design of roses. It was the carpet that
Nasr-ed-din Shah brought to Europe with him to spread under his chair.

The dining-room bore evident signs of His Majesty's hasty departure for
the country. On the tables were piled up anyhow mountains of dishes,
plates, wine-glasses, and accessories, the table service made in Europe
being in most excellent taste, white and gold with a small circle in
which the Persian "Lion and Sun" were surmounted by the regal crown.

[Illustration: In the Shah's Palace Grounds, Teheran.]

We go next into the Shah's favourite apartments, where he spends most of
his time when in Teheran. We are now in the small room in which I had
already been received in audience by his Majesty on his birthday, a room
made entirely of mirrors. There was a low and luxurious red couch on the
floor, and we trod on magnificent soft silk carpets of lovely designs.
One could not resist feeling with one's fingers the deliciously soft
Kerman rug of a fascinating artistic green, and a charming red carpet
from Sultanabad. The others came from Isfahan and Kashan. The most
valuable and beautiful of all, however, was the white rug, made in
Sultanabad, on which the Shah stands when receiving in audience.

Next after the carpets, a large clock by Benson with no less than
thirteen different dials, which told one at a glance the year, the month,
the week, the day, the moon, the hour, minutes, seconds, and anything
else one might wish to know, was perhaps the most noticeable item in the
Shah's room.

There was nothing in the furniture to appeal to one, the chairs and
tables being of cheap bamboo of the familiar folding pattern such as are
commonly characteristic of superior boarding-houses. In the way of art
there was a large figure of a woman resting under a palm tree, a
photographic enlargement of the Shah's portrait, and on the Shah's
writing-desk two handsome portraits of the Emperor and Empress of Russia,
the Emperor occupying the highest place of honour. Two smaller
photographs of the Czar and Czarina were to be seen also in shilling
plush frames on another writing-desk, by the side of an electric clock
and night-light.

The eye was attracted by three terrestrial globes and an astronomical one
with constellations standing on a table. A number of very tawdry articles
were lying about on the other pieces of furniture; such were a metal dog
holding a ten-shilling watch, paper frames, cheap imitation leather
articles, numerous photographs of the Shah, a copy of the _Petit Journal_
framed, and containing a representation of the attempt on the Shah's
life, an amber service, and last, but not least, the nut-cracker and the
empty nutshells, the contents of which the Shah was in process of eating
when I had an audience of him some days before, still lying undisturbed
upon a small desk. The Shah's special chair was embroidered in red and
blue.

All this was reflected myriads of times in the diamond-shaped mirror
ceiling and walls, and the effect was somewhat dazzling. The room had a
partition, and on the other side was an ample couch for his Majesty to
rest upon. In each reception room is to be seen a splendid grand piano,
the music of which, when good, the Shah is said passionately to enjoy.
One of his aides de camp--a European--is an excellent pianist and
composer.

We now come to the world-renowned "Jewelled-Globe" room, and of course
one makes at once for the priceless globe enclosed in a glass case in the
centre of the room. The frame of the large globe is said to be of solid
gold and so is the tripod stand, set in rubies and diamonds. The Globe,
to do justice to its name, is covered all over with precious stones, the
sea being represented by green emeralds, and the continents by rubies.
The Equator line is set in diamonds and also the whole area of Persian
territory.

There is nothing else of great artistic interest here, and it depressed
one to find that, although the portraits in oil and photographs of the
Emperors of Russia and Austria occupied prominent places of honour in the
Shah's apartments, the only image of our Queen Victoria was a wretched
faded cabinet photograph in a twopenny paper frame, thrown carelessly
among empty envelopes and writing paper in a corner of his Majesty's
writing desk. Princess Beatrice's photograph was near it, and towering
above them in the most prominent place was another picture of the Emperor
of Russia. We, ourselves, may attach little meaning to these trifling
details, but significant are the inferences drawn by the natives
themselves.

In this room, as in most of the others, there is Bohemian glass in great
profusion, and a "one year chronometer" of great precision. A really
beautiful inlaid ivory table is disfigured by a menagerie of coloured
miniature leaden cats, lions, lizards, dogs, a children's kaleidoscope,
and some badly-stuffed birds, singing automatically. On another table
were more glass vases and a variety of articles made of cockle shells on
pasteboard, cycle watches, and brass rings with imitation stones.

Adjoining this room is a small boudoir, possessing the latest appliances
of civilisation. It contains another grand piano, a large apparatus for
projecting moving pictures on a screen, and an ice-cream soda fountain
with four taps, of the type one admires--but does not wish to possess--in
the New York chemists' shops!! The Shah's, however, lacks three
things,--the soda, the ice, and the syrups!

Less modern but more reposeful is the next ante-room with white walls and
pretty wood ceiling. It has some military pictures of no great value.

On going down ten steps we find ourselves in a long conservatory with
blue and yellow tiles and a semi-open roof. A channel of water runs in
the centre of the floor, and is the outlet of three octagonal basins and
of spouts at intervals of ten feet. There is a profusion of lemon and
orange trees at the sides of the water, and the place is kept deliciously
cool.

Here we emerge again into the gardens, which are really beautiful
although rather overcrowded, but which have plenty of fountains and huge
tanks, with handsome buildings reflected into the water.

The high tiled square towers, one of the landmarks of Teheran, are quite
picturesque, but some of the pleasure of looking at the really fine view
is destroyed by numerous ugly cast-iron coloured figures imported from
Austria which disfigure the sides of all the reservoirs, and are quite
out of keeping with the character of everything round them.

We are now conducted into another building, where Roman mosaics occupy a
leading position, a large one of the Coliseum being quite a valuable work
of art; but on entering the second room we are suddenly confronted by a
collection of hideous tin ware and a specimen case of ordinary fish
hooks, manufactured by Messrs. W. Bartlett and Sons. Next to this is a
framed autograph of "Nina de Muller of St. Petersburg," and a
photographic gathering of gay young ladies with suitable
inscriptions--apparently some of the late Shah's acquaintances during his
European tours. Here are also stuffed owls, an automatic juggler, an
imitation snake, Japanese screens, and an amusing painting by a Persian
artist of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden--the forbidden fruit already
missing.

Previous to entering the largest room we come to an ante-room with
photographs of scenery and events belonging to the Shah's tour to
Europe.

In the large gold room the whole set of furniture, I am told, was
presented to Nasr-ed-din Shah by the Sultan of Turkey, and there are,
besides, six large oil-paintings hanging upon the walls in gorgeous gold
frames. They represent the last two Shahs, the Emperor and Empress of
Russia, the Crown Prince at the time of the presentation, and the Emperor
of Austria. A smaller picture of Victor Emmanuel also occupies a
prominent place, but here again we have another instance of the little
reverence in which our beloved Queen Victoria was held in the eyes of the
Persian Court. Among the various honoured foreign Emperors and Kings, to
whom this room is dedicated, Queen Victoria's only representation is a
small, bad photograph, skied in the least attractive part of the room--a
most evident slight, when we find such photographs as that of the Emperor
William occupying a front and honoured place, as does also the photograph
of Queen Wilhelmina of Holland with her mother. Yet another palpable
instance of this disregard for the reigning head of England appears in a
series of painted heads of Sovereigns. The Shah, of course, is
represented the biggest of the lot, and King Humbert, Emperor William,
the Sultan of Turkey and the Emperor of Austria, of about equal sizes;
whereas the Queen of England is quite small and insignificant.

The furniture in this room is covered with the richest plush.

We now come upon the royal picture gallery (or, rather, gallery of
painted canvases), a long, long room, where a most interesting display
of Persian, Afghan, Beluch and Turkish arms of all kinds, ancient and
modern, gold bows and arrows, jewelled daggers, Damascus swords, are much
more attractive than the yards of portraits of ladies who have dispensed
altogether with dressmakers' bills, and the gorgeously framed
advertisements of Brooks' Machine Cottons, and other products, which are
hung on the line in the picture gallery! The pictures by Persian art
students--who paint in European style--are rather quaint on account of
the subjects chosen when they attempt to be ideal. They run a good deal
to the fantastic, as in the case of the several square yards of canvas
entitled the "Result of a dream." It contains quite a menagerie of most
suggestive wild animals, and dozens of angels and demons in friendly
intercourse playing upon the surface of a lake and among the entangled
branches of trees. In the background a pyrotechnic display of great
magnitude is depicted, with rockets shooting up in all directions, while
ethereal, large, black-eyed women lie gracefully reclining and
unconcerned, upon most unsafe clouds. The result on the spectator of
looking at the "Result of a dream," and other similar canvases by the
same artist, is generally, I should think, a nightmare.

There are some good paintings by foreign artists, such as the life-size
nude with a dove by Folagne, which we have already seen, most faithfully
and cleverly copied by a Persian artist, in the Shah's dining-room. Then
there are some pretty Dutch and Italian pictures, but nothing really
first-rate in a purely artistic sense.

The cases of ancient and rare gold and silver coins are, however, indeed
worthy of remark, and so are the really beautiful Persian, Afghan and
Turkish gold and silver inlaid shields, and the intensely picturesque and
finely ornamented matchlocks and flintlocks. Here, too, as in China, we
find an abnormally large rifle--something like the _gingal_ of the
Celestials. These long clumsy rifles possess an ingenious back sight,
with tiny perforations at different heights of the sight for the various
distances on exactly the principle of a Lyman back sight.

The Persians who accompanied me through the Palace seemed very much
astonished--almost concerned--at my taking so much interest in these
weapons--which they said were only very old and obsolete--and so little
in the hideous things which they valued and wanted me to admire. They
were most anxious that I should stop before a box of pearls, a lot of
them, all of good size but not very regular in shape. Anything worth big
sums of money is ever much more attractive to Persians (also, one might
add, to most Europeans) than are objects really artistic or even pleasing
to the eye.

Next to the pearls, came dilapidated butterflies and shells and fossils
and stuffed lizards and crocodiles and elephants' tusks, and I do not
know what else, so that by the time one came out, after passing through
the confusion that reigned everywhere, one's brain was so worn and jumpy
that one was glad to sit and rest in the lovely garden and sip cup after
cup of tea, which the Palace servants had been good enough to prepare.

But there was one more thing that I was dragged to see before
departing--a modern printing-press complete. His Majesty, when the fancy
takes him, has books translated and specially printed for his own use.
With a sigh of relief I was glad to learn that I had now seen everything,
quite everything, in the Shah's Palace!

The Shah has several country seats with beautiful gardens on the hills to
the north of Teheran, where he spends most of the summer months, and in
these residences, too, we find the rooms mostly decorated with mirrors,
and differing very little in character from those in the Teheran Palace,
only not quite so elaborate. European influence has frequently crept in
in architectural details and interior decorations, but not always
advantageously.

The Andarun or harem, the women's quarter, is generally less gaudy than
the other buildings, the separate little apartments belonging to each
lady being, in fact, quite modest and not always particularly clean.
There is very little furniture in the bedrooms, Persian women having
comparatively few requirements. There is in addition a large reception
room, furnished in European style, with elaborate coloured glass windows.
This room is used when the Shah visits the ladies, or when they entertain
friends, but there is nothing, it may be noted, to impress one with the
idea that these are regal residences or with that truly oriental,
gorgeous pomp, popularly associated in Europe with the Shah's court.
There is probably no court of any importance where the style of life is
simpler and more modest than at the Shah's. All the houses are,
nevertheless, most comfortable, and the gardens--the principal feature of
all these country places--extremely handsome, with many fountains, tanks,
and water channels intersecting them in every direction for the purpose
of stimulating the artificially reared vegetation, and also of rendering
the places cooler in summer.

Unlike most natives of the Asiatic continent, the Persian shows no
reluctance in accepting foreign ways and inventions. He may lack the
means to indulge in foreign luxuries, but that is a different matter
altogether; the inclination to reform and adopt European ways is there
all the same.

More forward in this line than most other Persians is the Shah's son, a
very intelligent, bright young fellow, extremely plucky and charmingly
simple-minded. He takes the keenest interest in the latest inventions and
fads, and, like his father the Shah, fell a victim to the motor car
mania. Only, the Shah entrusts his life to the hands of an expert French
driver, whereas the young Prince finds it more amusing to drive the
machine himself. This, of course, he can only do within the Palace
grounds, since to do so in the streets of the town would be considered
below his dignity and would shock the people.

At the country residences he is said to have a good deal of amusement out
of his motor, but not so the Shah's Ministers and friends who are now
terrified at the name "motor." The young Prince, it appears, on the
machine being delivered from Europe insisted--without previous knowledge
of how to steer it--on driving it round a large water tank. He invited
several stout Ministers in all their finery to accompany him, which they
did with beaming faces, overcome by the honour. The machine started full
speed ahead in a somewhat snake-like fashion, and with great destruction
of the minor plants on the way; then came a moment of fearful
apprehension on the part of spectators and performers alike. The car
collided violently with an old tree; some of the high dignitaries were
flung into the water, others though still on dry land lay flat on their
backs.

[Illustration: The Shah and his Suite.

Prime Minister. General Kossakowski.]

It speaks volumes for the young Prince's pluck that, when the car was
patched up, he insisted on driving it again; but the number of excuses
and sudden complaints that have since prevailed among his father's
friends when asked to go for a drive with the Prince are said to be quite
unprecedented.

The Prince is a great sportsman and much beloved by all for his frankness
and geniality.



CHAPTER XXIII

     The selection of a servant--A Persian
     _diligence_--Shah-Abdul-Azim mosque--Rock carving--The round
     tower--Beggars--The _Kerjawa_--Hasanabad--Run-away
     horses--Misplaced affection--Characteristics of the
     country--Azizawad--Salt lake of Daria-i-Nimak--Aliabad--Sunsets.


I had much difficulty in obtaining a really first-class servant, although
many applied with glowing certificates. It has always been my experience
that the more glowing the certificates the worse the servant. For my
particular kind of travelling, too, a special type of servant has to be
got, with a constitution somewhat above the average. I generally cover
very great distances at a high speed without the least inconvenience to
myself, but I find that those who accompany me nearly always break down.

After inspecting a number of applicants I fixed upon one man whose
features showed firmness of character and unusual determination. He was a
man of few words--one of the rarest and best qualities in a travelling
servant, and--he had no relations dependent upon him--the next best
quality. He could shoot straight, he could stick on a saddle, he could
walk. He required little sleep. He was willing to go to any country
where I chose to take him. He required a high salary, but promised by all
he held most sacred that he would die before he would give me the
slightest trouble. This seemed all fair, and I employed him.

Only one drawback did this man have--he was an excellent European cook. I
had to modify him into a good plain cook, and then he became perfection
itself. His name was Sadek.

On October 2nd I was ready to start south. My foot was still in a bad
condition, but I thought that the open air cure would be the best instead
of lying in stuffy rooms. Riding is my favourite way of progression, but
again it was necessary to submit to another extortion and travel by
carriage as far as Kum on a road made by the Bank of Persia some few
years ago. The speculation was not carried on sufficiently long to become
a success, and the road was eventually sold to a Persian concern. The
same company runs a service of carriages with relays of horses between
the two places, and if one wishes to travel fast one is compelled to hire
a carriage, the horses not being let out on hire for riding purposes at
any of the stations.

This time I hired a large diligence--the only vehicle in the stables that
seemed strong enough to stand the journey. It was painted bright yellow
outside, had no windows, and was very properly divided into two
compartments, one for men and one for women. The money for the journey
had to be paid in advance, and the vehicle was ordered to be at the door
of the hotel on Friday, October 4th, at 5.30 a.m.

It arrived on Sunday evening, October 6th, at 6.30 o'clock. So much for
Persian punctuality. Sadek said I was lucky that it did come so soon;
sometimes the carriages ordered come a week later than the appointed
time; occasionally they do not come at all!

Sadek, much to his disgust, was made to occupy the ladies' compartment
with all the luggage, and I had the men's. We were off, and left the city
just in time before the South Gate was closed. There were high hills to
the south-east, much broken and rugged, and to the north beyond the town
the higher ones above Golahek, on which snow caps could be perceived.
Damovend (18,600 ft.), the highest and most graceful mountain in Persia,
stood with its white summit against the sky to the north-east.

Even two hundred yards away from the city gate there was nothing to tell
us that we had come out of the capital of Persia--the place looks so
insignificant from every side. A green-tiled dome of no impressive
proportions, a minaret or two, and a few mud walls--that is all one sees
of the mass of houses one leaves behind.

Barren country and dusty road, a graveyard with its prism-shaped graves
half-buried in sand, are the attractions of the road. One comes to an
avenue of trees. Poor trees! How baked and dried and smothered in dust! A
couple of miles off, we reached a patch of verdure and some really green
trees and even signs of agriculture. To our left (east) lay the
narrow-gauge railway line--the only one in Persia--leading to the
Shah-Abdul Azim mosque. The whole length of the railway is not more than
six miles.

To the right of the road, some little distance before reaching the
mosque, a very quaint, large high-relief has been sculptured on the face
of a huge rock and is reflected upside down in a pond of water at its
foot. Men were bathing here in long red or blue drawers, and hundreds of
donkeys were conveying veiled women to this spot. An enormous tree casts
its shadow over the pool of water in the forenoon.

[Illustration: Rock Sculpture near Shah-Abdul-Azim.]

[Illustration: Author's Diligence between Teheran and Kum.]

It is interesting to climb up to the high-relief to examine the figures
more closely. The whole sculpture is divided into three sections
separated by columns, the central section being as large as the two side
ones taken together. In the centre is Fath-ali-shah--legless
apparently--but supposed to be seated on a throne. He wears a high cap
with three aigrettes, and his moustache and beard are of abnormal length.
In his belt at the pinched waist he disports a sword and dagger, while he
holds a bâton in his hand. There are nine figures to his right in two
rows: the Naib Sultaneh, Hussein Ali, Taghi Mirza, above; below,
Mahommed, Ali Mirza, Fatali Mirza, Abdullah Mirza, Bachme Mirza, one
figure unidentified. To the Shah's left the figures of Ali-naghi Mirza
and Veri Mirza are in the lower row; Malek Mirza, the last figure to
the left, Hedar Mirza and Moh-Allah-Mirza next to Fath-Ali-Shah. All
the figures are long-bearded and garbed in long gowns, with swords and
daggers. On Fath-Ali-Shah's right hand is perched a hawk, and behind his
throne stands an attendant with a sunshade, while under the seat are
little figures of Muchul Mirza and Kameran Mirza. There are inscriptions
on the three sides of the frame, but not on the base. A seat is carved in
the rock by the side of the sculpture.

A few hundred yards from this well-preserved rock carving, a round tower
90 or 100 feet in height has been erected. Its diameter inside is about
40 feet and the thickness of the wall about 20 feet. It has two large
yellow doors. Why this purposeless structure was put up, nobody seems to
know for certain. One gets a beautiful view from the top of the
wall--Teheran in the distance on one side; the Shah-Abdul-Azim mosque on
the other. Mountains are close by to the east, and a patch of cultivation
and a garden all round down below. Near the mosque--as is the case with
all pilgrimage places in Persia--we find a bazaar crammed with beggars,
black bag-like women riding astride on donkeys or mules, depraved-looking
men, and stolid-looking Mullahs. There were old men, blind men, lame men,
deaf men, armless men, men with enormous tumours, others minus the nose
or lower jaw--the result of cancer. Millions of flies were buzzing about.

One of the most ghastly deformities I have ever seen was a tumour under a
Mullah's foot. It was an almost spherical tumour, some three inches in
diameter, with skin drawn tight and shining over its surface. It had
patches of red on the otherwise whitish-yellow skin, and gave the
impression of the man resting his foot on an unripe water-melon with the
toes half dug into the tumour.

Non-Mussulmans are, of course, forbidden to enter the mosque, so I had to
be content with the outside view of it--nothing very grand--and must take
my reader again along the flat, uninteresting country towards Kum.

The usual troubles of semi-civilised Persia are not lacking even at the
very first stage. There are no relays of horses, and those just
unharnessed are too tired to proceed. They are very hungry, too, and
there is nothing for them to eat. Several hours are wasted, and Sadek
employs them in cooking my dinner and also in giving exhibitions of his
temper to the stable people. Then follow endless discussions at the top
of their voices, in which I do not take part, for I am old and wise
enough not to discuss anything with anybody.

The prospects of a backshish, the entreaties and prayers being of no
avail, Sadek flies into a fury, rushes to the yard, seizes the horses and
harness, gives the coachman a hammering (and the post master very nearly
another), and so we are able to start peacefully again at three a.m., and
leave Chah-herizek behind.

But the horses are tired and hungry. They drag and stumble along in a
most tiresome manner. There is moonlight, that ought to add poetry to
the scenery--but in Persia there is no poetry about anything. There are a
great many caravans on the road--they all travel at night to save the
animals from the great heat of the day--long strings of camels with their
monotonous bells, and dozens of donkeys or mules, some with the covered
double litters--the _kerjawa_. These _kerjawas_ are comfortable enough
for people not accustomed to ride, or for women who can sleep comfortably
while in motion inside the small panier. The _kerjawa_ is slung over the
saddle like two large hampers with a roof of bent bands of wood. A cloth
covering is made to turn the _kerjawa_ into a small private room, an
exact duplicate of which is slung on the opposite side of the saddle. Two
persons balancing each other are required by this double arrangement, or
one person on one side and an equivalent quantity of luggage on the other
so as to establish a complete balance--a most important point to consider
if serious accidents are to be avoided.

Every now and then the sleepy voice of a caravan man calls out
"Salameleko" to my coachman, and "Salameleko" is duly answered back;
otherwise we rattle along at the speed of about four miles an hour,
bumping terribly on the uneven road, and the diligence creaking in a most
perplexing manner.

At Hasanabad, the second stage, I was more fortunate and got four good
horses in exchange for the tired ones. One of them was very fresh and
positively refused to go with the others. The driver, who was brutal,
used his stock-whip very freely, with the result that the horse smashed
part of the harness and bolted. The other three, of course, did the same,
and the coachman was not able to hold them. We travelled some few hundred
yards off the road at a considerable speed and with terrible bumping, the
shaky, patched-up carriage gradually beginning to crumble to pieces. The
boards of the front part fell apart, owing to the violent oscillations of
the roof, and the roof itself showed evident signs of an approaching
collapse. We were going down a steep incline, and I cannot say that I
felt particularly happy until the horses were got under control again. I
feared that all my photographic plates and cameras might get damaged if
the diligence turned over.

While the men mended the harness I had a look at the scenery. The
formation of the country was curious. There were what at first appeared
to be hundreds of small mounds like ant-hills--round topped and greyish,
or in patches of light brown, with yellow sand deposits exposed to the
air on the surface. On getting nearer they appeared to be long
flat-topped ridges evidently formed by water-borne matter--probably at
the epoch when this was the sea or lake bottom.

"_Khup es!_" (It is all right!) said the coachman, inviting me to mount
again--and in a sudden outburst of exuberant affection he embraced the
naughty horse and kissed him fondly on the nose. The animal reciprocated
the coachman's compliment by promptly kicking the front splashboard of
the carriage to smithereens.

We crossed a bridge. To the east the water-level mark, made when this
valley was under water, is plainly visible on the strata of gravel with
reddish mud above, of which the hills are formed.

Then, rising gradually, the diligence goes over a low pass and along a
flat plateau separating the first basin we have left behind from a
second, more extensive, of similar formation. The hills in this second
basin appear lower. To the S.S.E. is a horseshoe-shaped sand dune, much
higher than anything we had so far encountered, and beyond it a range of
mountains. Salt can be seen mixed with the pale-brownish mud of the soil.

Then we drive across a third basin, large and flat, with the scattered
hills getting lower and seemingly worn by the action of weather. They are
not so corrugated by water-formed channels as the previous ones we had
passed. Twenty feet or so below the summit of the hills a white sediment
of salt showed itself plainly.

The fourth basin is at a higher level than the others--some 100 feet or
so above the third--and is absolutely flat, with dark, gravelly soil.

Azizawad village has no special attraction beyond the protecting wall
that encloses it--like all villages of Persia--and the domed roofs of
houses to which one begins to get reconciled. Next to it is the very
handsome fruit garden of Khale-es-Sultan.

At Khale Mandelha the horses are changed. The road becomes very
undulating, with continuous ups and downs, and occasional steep ascents
and descents. Glimpses of the large salt lake, Daria-i-Nimak, or the
Masileh, as it is also called, are obtained, and eventually we had quite
a pretty view with high blue mountains in the background and rocky black
mounds between the spectator and the silvery sheet of water.

Aliabad has a large caravanserai with a red-columned portico to the east;
also a special place for the Sadrazam, the Prime Minister, when
travelling on this road; a garden with a few sickly trees, and that is
all.

On leaving the caravanserai one skirts the mountain side to the west, and
goes up it to the horse station situated in a most desolate spot. From
this point one gets a bird's-eye view of the whole lake. Its waters,
owing to evaporation, seem to withdraw, leaving a white sediment of salt
along the edge. The road from the Khafe-khana runs now in a perfectly
straight line S.W., and, with the exception of the first short incline,
is afterwards quite flat, passing along and very little above the lake
shore, from which the road is about one mile distant. The lake is to the
S.E. of the road at this point. To the S.W., W., N.W., N., lies a long
row of dark-brown hills which circle round the valley we are about to
cross.

The sunset on that particular night was one in which an amateur painter
would have revelled. A dirty-brown foreground as flat as a
billiard-table--a sharp cutting edge of blue hill-tops against a bilious
lemon-yellow sky blending into a ghastly cinabrese red, which gradually
vanished into a sort of lead blue. There are few countries where the sun
appears and disappears above and from the earth's surface with less glow
than in Persia. Of course, the lack of moisture in the atmosphere largely
accounts for this. During the several months I was in the country--though
for all I know this may have been my misfortune only--I never saw more
than half a dozen sunsets that were really worth intense admiration, and
these were not in Western Persia. The usual sunsets are effects of a
washed-out sort, with no force and no beautiful contrasts of lights and
colours such as one sees in Egypt, in Morocco, in Spain, Italy, or even,
with some amount of toning down, in our little England.

The twilight in Persia is extremely short.



CHAPTER XXIV

     Severe wind--Kum, the holy city--Thousands of
     graves--Conservative Mullahs--Ruin and decay--Leather
     tanning--The gilt dome--Another extortion--Ingenious
     bellows--Damovend--The scenery--Passangun--Evening prayers--A
     contrivance for setting charcoal alight--Putrid water--Post
     horses--Sin Sin--Mirage--Nassirabad--Villages near Kashan.


On a deserted road, sleepy and shaken, with the wind blowing so hard that
it tore and carried away all the cotton curtains of the carriage, I
arrived at Kum (3,200 feet above sea level) in the middle of the night.
The distance covered between Teheran and Kum was twenty-four farsakhs, or
ninety-six miles.

As we approached the holy city there appeared to be a lot of vegetation
around, and Sadek and the coachman assured me that this was a region
where pomegranates were grown in profusion, and the castor-oil plant,
too. Cotton was, moreover, cultivated with success.

Kum is, to my mind, and apart from its holiness, one of the few really
picturesque cities of Persia. I caught the first panoramic glimpse of the
shrine and mosque at sunrise from the roof of the post house, and was
much impressed by its grandeur. Amidst a mass of semi-spherical mud
roofs, and beyond long mud walls, rise the gigantic gilded dome of the
mosque, two high minarets, and two shorter ones with most beautifully
coloured tiles inlaid upon their walls, the general effect of which is of
most delicate greys, blues and greens. Then clusters of fruit trees,
numerous little minarets all over the place, and ventilating shafts above
the better buildings break the monotony agreeably.

Kum, I need hardly mention, is one of the great pilgrimages of
Mahommedans. Happy dies the man or woman whose body will be laid at rest
near the sacred shrine, wherein--it is said--lie the remains of Matsuma
Fatima. Corpses are conveyed here from all parts of the country. Even
kings and royal personages are buried in the immediate neighbourhood of
the shrine. Round the city there are thousands of mud graves, which give
quite a mournful appearance to the holy city. There are almost as many
dead people as living ones in Kum!

Innumerable Mullahs are found here who are very conservative, and who
seem to resent the presence of European visitors in the city. Access to
the shrine is absolutely forbidden to foreigners.

Immense sums of money are brought daily to the holy city by credulous
pilgrims, but no outward signs of a prosperous trade nor of fine streets
or handsome private buildings can be detected on inspecting the bazaar or
streets of the town. On the contrary, the greater part of the residences
are in a hopeless state of decay, and the majority of the inhabitants, to
all appearance, little above begging point.

Leather, tanned with the bark of the pomegranate, and cheap pottery are
the chief industries of the holy city. On inquiring what becomes of all
the wealth that comes into the town, a Persian, with a significant
gesture, informed me that the Mullahs get it and with them it remains.

The handsome dome over the shrine was begun by order of Hussein Nadir
Shah, but the gorgeous gilding of the copper plates was not finished till
a few years ago by Nasr-ed-din Shah. A theological college also exists at
this place. There is a station here of the Indo-European Telegraphs, with
an Armenian in charge of it.

Much to my disgust, I was informed that the owner of the post-house had
the monopoly of the traffic on the track for six or seven farsakhs more,
and so travellers were compelled to submit to a further extortion by
having to hire another wheeled conveyance instead of being able to ride.
This time I chartered a victoria, and off we went as usual at a gallop.

Two horses had to be sent ahead while the carriage was driven with only
two animals through the narrow streets of the bazaar, covered over with
awnings or with domed perforated roofs. The place had a tawdry, miserable
appearance, the leather shops being the only interesting ones, with the
many elaborate saddles, harness, saddle-bags, and horses' ornamentations
displayed on nails along the walls.

I saw in a blacksmith's shop an ingenious device to create a perpetual
draught with bellows. The big bellows were double and allowed sufficient
room to let two boys stand between the two. The boys clinging to handles
in the upper part of the bellows and using the weight of their bodies now
to the right, then to the left, inflated first one then the other, the
wind of each bellow passing through a common end tube and each being in
turn refilled with air while the other was blowing. This human pendulum
arrangement was carried on with incredible rapidity by the two boys, who
dashed their bodies from one side to the other and back, keeping steady
time and holding their feet stationary, but describing an almost complete
semicircle with the remainder of the body, the whole length of the boy
forming the radius.

There was a shop or two where glass was being blown, and numerous
fruit-shops with mountains of pomegranates, water-melons and grapes. At
the entrance of the mosques crowds of people stood waiting for admission,
some praying outside.

Once out of the town the extra two horses, which were waiting at the
gate, were harnessed, and as we sped along, the lungs rejoiced in the
pure air of which the stuffy, cellar-like bazaar had afforded none.

Behind, in the far distance, Damovend Mountain, covered with snow, could
still be seen rising high above everything. It was undoubtedly a
good-looking mountain. To the south-west and west lay indented hills of
the most curious shapes and colours--one, particularly, like a roof, with
a greenish base surmounted by a raw-sienna top; a twin-sister hill
further west presented the same peculiarities. In the distant mountains
to the west the same characteristics were apparent, the greenish stratum
below extending all along and increasing in depth towards the south.

The road--if one may call it so--was extremely bad and hardly fit for
wheeled traffic. After leaving Kum the vegetation ceased, and it was only
at Langherut village that a patch of green refreshed the eye.

A few strolling wayfarers crowded round when the carriage stopped to give
the horses a rest under the shade of a tree, and Sadek was cross-examined
about the Sahib whom he was accompanying. It was quite amusing to hear
one's self and one's doings commented upon in the most open manner,
regardless of one's personal feelings, which are better discarded
altogether while travelling in Persia. There is absolutely nothing
private in the land of Iran. One's appearance, one's clothes, the
quantity of food one eats, the amount of money one carries, where one
comes from and where one goes, whom one knows, one's servants, one's
rifles, one's cameras,--everything is remarked upon, as if one were not
present. If one possesses no false pride and a sense of humour, a deal
of entertainment is thus provided on the road.

Passangun could be perceived in the distance, and a dreary, desolate
place it was when one got there. In the way of architecture, we found a
large tumbling-down caravanserai, a tea-shop, and the Chappar Khana (the
post-house). As to vegetation, thirteen sickly trees, all counted.
Barren, uninteresting country surrounded the halting place.

I spent here a pleasant hour while waiting for my luggage to arrive on
pack animals. A caravan of some fifty horses and mules had halted at
sunset, and a number of pilgrims, with beards dyed bright-red, were
making their evening salaams towards Mecca. Having removed shoes and duly
washed their feet and hands, they stood erect on the projecting platform
of the caravanserai, and after considerable adjusting of caps and
head-scratching, assumed a meditative attitude, head bent forward, and
muttered prayers with hands down. Then the hands were raised flat before
the face, with a bow. Kneeling followed, with hands first resting on the
knees, then raised again to cover the face, after which, with the palms
of the hands resting flat on the ground, the head was brought down until
it touched the ground too. A standing position was further assumed, when
the temples were touched with the thumb while prayers were recited, and
then the petitioners stooped low and fell a second time on their knees,
saying the beads of their rosaries. The forehead was made to touch the
ground several times before the evening prayers were over.

Next, food was cooked in the small fire places of the caravanserai, and
tea brewed in large quantities. The inevitable kalian was called for, and
the caravanserai boy brought out his interesting little arrangement to
set charcoal quickly alight for the large cup of the kalian. To a string
three feet long, hung a small perforated iron cup, which he filled with
charcoal, one tiny bit being already alight. By quickly revolving the
contrivance as one would a sling, the draught forced through the
apertures in the cup produced quick combustion, and charcoal was at once
distributed alight among the kalians of the impatient guests.

Much amusement and excitement was caused among the pilgrims by a fight
between a puppy-dog and five or six small goats. Only one of these at a
time fought the dog, while the others occupied a high point of vantage on
which they had hastily climbed, and from that place of security displayed
a keen interest in the fight.

The water at Passangun was extremely bad. There were two tanks of rain
water drained from the hillside along a dirty channel filled with animal
refuse. The wells were below the ground level, and were walled and domed
over to prevent too rapid an evaporation by the sun's rays. The water was
pestilential. It had a nasty green look about it, and patches of putrid
matter decomposing visibly on its surface. The stench from it when
stirred was sickening. Yet the natives drank it and found it all right!
There is no accounting for people's taste, not even in Persia.

At last, from this point, the positive torture of driving in carriages
was over, and _Chappar_ horses were to be obtained. The saddles were got
ready, and with five horses we made a start that same evening for Sin
Sin. After the wretched bumping and thumping and being thrown about in
the wheeled conveyance on the badly-kept road, it seemed heavenly to be
ambling along at a fairly good pace, even on these poor, half-starved
animals, which could not in all honesty be considered to afford perfect
riding. Indeed, if there ever was a society for the prevention of cruelty
to animals, it should have begun its work along the Persian postal roads.
The poor brutes--one can hardly call them horses--are bony and starved,
with sore backs, chests and legs, with a bleeding tongue almost cut in
two and pitifully swollen by cruelly-shaped bits, and endowed with
stinking digestive organs and other nauseous odours of uncared-for sores
heated by the friction of never-removed, clumsy, heavy pads under the
saddles. It requires a pretty strong stomach, I can tell you, to ride
them at all. Yet the poor devils canter along, when they do not amble,
and occasionally gallop clumsily on their unsteady, skeleton-like legs.
So that, notwithstanding everything, one generally manages to go at the
rate of six or seven miles an hour.

If the horses at the various post-stations have just returned from
conveying the post-bags, an extra sorry time is in store for the
traveller. The poor animals are then so tired that they occasionally
collapse on the road. I invariably used all the kindness I could to these
wretches, but it was necessary for me to get on, as I intended to proceed
in the greatest haste over the better known parts of Persia.

It is important to see the horses fed before starting from all the
post-houses, but on many occasions no food whatever could be procured for
them, when, of course, they had to go without it.

Changing horses about every 20 to 28 miles, and being on the saddle from
fourteen to twenty hours out of the twenty-four, I was able to cover long
distances, and kept up an average of from 80 to 120 miles daily. One can,
of course, cover much greater distances than these in one day, if one is
fortunate enough to get good and fresh horses at the various stations,
and if one does not have to keep it up for a long period of time as I had
to do.

From Sin Sin we go due south along a flat trail of salt and mud. We have
a barrier of mountains to the south-west and higher mountains to the
south. To the south-east also a low ridge with another higher behind it.
To the north we leave behind low hills.

Sin Sin itself is renowned for its water-melons, and I, too, can humbly
certify to their excellence. I took a load of them away for the journey.

From here we began to see the wonderful effects of deceitful mirage,
extremely common all over Persia. One sees beautiful lakes of silvery
water, with clusters of trees and islands and rocks duly reflected upside
down in their steady waters, but it is all an optical deception, caused
by the action of the heated soil on the expanding air immediately in
contact with it, which, seen from above and at a distance, is of a bluish
white tint with exactly the appearance and the mirror-like qualities of
still water.

Although in Central Persia one sees many of these effects every day, they
are sometimes so marvellous that even the most experienced would be
deceived.

The country is barren and desolate. Kasimabad has but two buildings, both
caravanserais; but Nassirabad, further on, is quite a large village, with
domed roofs and a couple of minarets. On the road is a large
caravanserai, with the usual alcoves all round its massive walls. Except
the nice avenue of trees along a refreshing brook of limpid water, there
was nothing to detain us here but the collision between one of my
pack-horses and a mule of a passing caravan, with disastrous results to
both animals' loads. But, with the assistance of one or two natives
commandeered by Sadek, the luggage scattered upon the road was replaced
high on the saddles, the fastening ropes were pulled tight by Sadek with
his teeth and hands, while I took this opportunity to sit on the roadside
to partake of my lunch--four boiled eggs, a cold roast chicken, Persian
bread, some cake, and half a water-melon, the whole washed down with a
long drink of clear water. Riding at the rate I did, the whole day and
the greater part of the night, in the hot sun and the cold winds at
night, gave one a healthy appetite.

As we got nearer Kashan city, the villages got more numerous; Aliabad and
the Yaze (mosque) and Nushabad to my left (east), with its blue tiled
roof of the mosque. But the villages were so very much alike and
uninteresting in colour and in architecture, that a description of each
would be unimportant and most tedious, so that I will only limit myself
to describing the more typical and striking ones with special features
that may interest the reader.

In the morning of October 9th I had reached the city of Kashan, seventeen
farsakhs (sixty-eight miles) from Kum, and forty-one farsakhs or 164
miles from Teheran, in two days and a half including halts.



CHAPTER XXV

     Kashan--Silk manufactories--Indo-European Telegraph--The
     Zein-ed-din tower--The Meh-rab shrine--The Madrassah Shah--The
     Panja Shah--The hand of Nazareth Abbas--The Fin Palace--Hot
     springs--The tragic end of an honest Prime Minister--Ice
     store-houses--Cultivation--In the bazaar--Brass work--Silk--The
     Mullahs and places of worship--Wretched post-horses--The
     Gyabrabad caravanserai--An imposing dam--Fruit-tree
     groves--Picturesque Kohrut village.


Kashan, 3,260 feet above sea level, is famous for its gigantic and
poisonous scorpions, for its unbearable heat, its capital silk works, and
its copper utensils, which, if not always ornamental, are proclaimed
everlasting. The silk manufactories are said to number over three
hundred, including some that make silk carpets, of world-wide renown. The
population is 75,000 souls or thereabouts. Nothing is ever certain in
Persia. There are no hotels in the city, and it is considered undignified
for Europeans to go to a caravanserai--of which there are some three
dozen in Kashan--or to the Chappar Khana.

The Indo-European Telegraphs have a large two-storied building outside
the north gate of the city, in charge of an Armenian clerk, where,
through the courtesy of the Director of Telegraphs, travellers are
allowed to put up, and where the guests' room is nice and clean, with a
useful bedstead, washstand, and a chair or two.

A capital view of Kashan is obtained from the roof of the Telegraph
building. A wide road, the one by which I had arrived, continues to the
north-east entrance of the bazaar. The town itself is divided into two
sections--the city proper, surrounded by a high wall, and the suburbs
outside. To the south-west, in the town proper, rises the slender tower
of Zein-ed-din, slightly over 100 feet high, and not unlike a factory
chimney. Further away in the distance--outside the city--the mosque of
Taj-ed-din with its blue pointed roof, adjoins the famous Meh-rab shrine,
from which all the most ancient and beautiful tiles have been stolen or
sold by avid Mullahs for export to Europe.

Then we see the two domes of the mosque and theological college, the
Madrassah Shah, where young future Mullahs are educated. To the west of
the observer from our high point of vantage, and north-west of the town,
lies another mosque, the Panja Shah, in which the hand of one of the
prophets, Nazareth Abbas, is buried. A life-size hand and portion of the
forearm, most beautifully carved in marble, is shown to devotees in a
receptacle in the east wall of the mosque. The actual grave in which the
real hand lies is covered with magnificent ancient tiles.

It is with a certain amount of sadness that one gazes on the old Fin
Palace, up on the hills some six miles to the west, and listens to the
pathetic and repellent tragedy which took place within its garden walls.

The square garden is surrounded by a high wall, and has buildings on
three sides. Marble canals, fed by large marble tanks, in which run
streams of limpid water, intersect the garden in the middle of a wide
avenue of dark cypresses. The garden was commenced by Shah Abbas. The
Palace, however, was built by Fath-Ali-Shah, who also much improved the
gardens and made this a favourite residence during the hot summer months.

There is here a very hot natural spring of sulphur water, and copper,
which is said to possess remarkable curative qualities, especially for
rheumatism and diseases of the blood. One bath is provided for men and
another for women.

The Palace, with its quaint pictures and decorations is now in a state of
abandonment and semi-collapse. The tragic end (in 1863 or 1864, I could
not clearly ascertain which) at this place of Mirza-Taki Khan, then Prime
Minister of Persia--as honest and straightforward a politician as Persia
has ever possessed--adds a peculiar gloom to the place.

A man of humble birth, but of great genius, Mirza-Taki Khan, rose to
occupy, next to the Shah, the highest political position in his country,
and attempted to place the Government of Persia on a firm basis, and to
eradicate intrigue and corruption. To this day his popularity is
proverbial among the lower classes, by whom he is still revered and
respected for his uprightness. The Shah gave him his only sister in
marriage, but unhappily one fine day his enemies gained the upper hand at
Court. He fell into disgrace, and was banished to Kashan to the Fin
Palace. Executioners were immediately sent to murder him by order of the
Shah. Mirza-Taki Khan, when their arrival was announced, understood that
his end had come. He asked leave to commit suicide instead, which he did
by having the arteries of his arms cut open. He bled to death while in
his bath.

Royal regret at the irreparable loss was expressed, but it was too late.
The body of the cleverest statesman Persia had produced was conveyed for
burial to the Sanctuary of Karbala.

One cannot help being struck, in a stifling hot place like Kashan, to
find large ice store-houses. Yet plenty of ice is to be got here during
the winter, especially from the mountains close at hand. These ice-houses
have a pit dug in the ground to a considerable depth, and are covered
over with a high conical roof of mud. To the north-east, outside the
city, in the suburbs a great many of these ice store-houses are to be
seen, as well as a small, blue-tiled roof of a mosque, the pilgrimage of
Habbib-Mussah.

There is some cultivation round about Kashan, principally of cotton,
tobacco, melons and water-melons, which one sees in large patches
wherever there is water obtainable.

Kashan is protected by mountains to the south and west, and by low hills
to the north-west, but to the north and north-east the eye roams
uninterrupted over an open, flat, dusty, dreary plain of a light brown
colour until it meets the sky line on the horizon, softly dimmed by a
thick veil of disturbed sand. Due east lie the Siah Kuh (mountains), then
comes another gap in the horizon to the south-east.

In the dark and gloomy bazaar the din of hundreds of wooden hammers on as
many pieces of copper being made into jugs, trays, pots or pans, is
simply deafening, echoed as it is under the vaulted roofs, the sound
waves clashing in such an unmusical and confused way as to be absolutely
diabolical. A few of these copper vessels are gracefully ornamented and
inlaid, but the majority are coarse in their manufacture. They are
exported all over the country. The manufactured silk, the other important
product of Kashan, finds its way principally to Russia.

The inhabitants are most industrious and, like all industrious people,
are extremely docile, amenable to reason, and easy to manage. The Mullahs
are said to have much power over the population, and, in fact, we find in
Kashan no less than 18 mosques with five times that number of shrines,
counting large and small.

I experienced some difficulty in obtaining relays of fresh post horses,
the mail having been despatched both north and south the previous night,
and therefore no horses were in the station. At seven in the evening I
was informed that five horses had returned and were at my disposal.
Twenty minutes later the loads were on their saddles, and I was on the
road again.

After travelling under the pitch-dark vaulted bazaars (where, as it was
impossible to see where one was going, the horses had to be led), and
threading our way out of the suburbs, we travelled on the flat for some
time before coming to the hilly portion of the road where it winds its
way up at quite a perceptible gradient. We had no end of small accidents
and trouble. The horses were half-dead with fatigue. They had gone 48
miles already with the post, and without rest or food had been sent on
with me for 28 more miles! The poor wretches collapsed time after time on
the road under their loads, although these were very light, and my
servant and I and the chappar boy had to walk the whole way and drag the
animals behind us, for they had not sufficient strength to carry us. Even
then their knees gave way every now and then, and it was no easy job to
get them to stand up again. One of them never did. He died, and,
naturally, we had to abandon him.

It came on to blow very hard, and with the horses collapsing on all sides
and the loads getting constantly undone owing to the repeated falls of
the animals, we could not cover more than one mile, or two, an hour.
Caravans generally take the road over these mountains during the day, so
that now the road was quite deserted and we could get no assistance from
any one. The loss of one horse increased our difficulty, as it involved
putting more weight on the other horses.

At 3.30 a.m. we managed to reach the caravanserai in the mountains at
Gyabrabat (Gabarabat), the sight of which was enough to settle all the
horses. They one and all threw themselves down on reaching the door, and
it was not possible to make them stand again. To continue the journey to
Kohrut (Kohrud) through the night, as I had intended, was absolutely out
of the question, so we roused the keeper of the hostelry and demanded
admission.

The man was extremely uncivil, as he said he had some grievance against a
previous English traveller, but on being assured that I would pay with my
own hands for all I got and not through servants--a rule which I always
follow, and which saves much unpleasantness and unfair criticism from the
natives--he provided me with all I required. First of all I fed the
horses. Then Sadek cooked me a capital supper. Then I gave the horses and
myself some four hours rest--that refreshed us all very much.

The caravanserai was filthy. All the small rooms and alcoves were
occupied, and I preferred to sleep out in the yard, sheltered from the
wind behind the huge doorway. I had with me some boxes of my own
invention and manufacture, which had accompanied me on several previous
journeys, and which, besides a number of other purposes, can serve as a
bedstead. They came in very usefully on that particular occasion.

From Gyabrabad to Kohrut the region is supposed to be a famous haunt of
robbers. Undoubtedly the country lends itself to that kind of enterprise,
being mountainous and much broken up, so that the occupation can be
carried on with practical impunity. The road is among rocks and boulders.
Although there are no very great elevations in the mountains on either
side, the scenery is picturesque, with black-looking rocky slopes, at the
bottom of which a tiny and beautifully limpid stream descends towards
Kashan. The track is mostly along this stream.

[Illustration: The Track along the Kohrut Dam.]

[Illustration: Between Gyabrabad and Kohrut.]

After a steep, stony incline of some length, half-way between Gyabrabad
and the Kohrut pass, one comes across a high and well-made dam, the work
of a speculator. In winter and during the rains the water of the stream
is shut up here into a large reservoir, a high wall being built across
the two mountain slopes, and forming a large lake. The water is then sold
to the city of Kashan. If in due course of time the purchase-money is not
forthcoming, the supply is cut off altogether by blocking up the small
aperture in the dam--which lets out the tiny stream the course of which
we have been following upwards.

The Persian post-horse is a most wonderful animal. His endurance and
powers of recovery are simply extraordinary. Having been properly fed,
and enjoyed the few hours' rest, the animals, notwithstanding their
wretched condition and the bad road, went fairly well.

On nearing Kohrut one is agreeably surprised to find among these barren
mountains healthy patches of agriculture and beautiful groves of
fruit-trees. The fruit is excellent here,--apples, plums, apricots,
walnuts, and the Kohrut potatoes are said (by the people of Kohrut) to be
the best in the world. The most remarkable thing about these patches of
cultivation is that the soil in which they occur has been brought
there--the mountain itself being rocky--and the imported earth is
supported by means of strong stone walls forming long terraces. This
speaks very highly for the industry of the natives, who are extremely
hardworking. We go through these delightful groves for nearly one mile,
when suddenly we find ourselves in front of Kohrut village, most
picturesquely perched on the steep slope of the mountain.

The houses are of an absolutely different type from the
characteristically domed Persian hovels one has so far come across. They
have several storeys, two or even three--an extremely rare occurrence in
Persian habitations. The lower windows are very small, like slits in the
wall, but the top windows are large and square, usually with some lattice
woodwork in front of them. The domed roofs have been discarded, owing to
the quantity of wood obtainable here, and the roofs are flat and
thatched, supported on long projecting beams and rafters. Just before
entering the village a great number of ancient graves can be seen dotted
on the mountain-side, and along the road. The view of the place, with
its beautiful background of weird mountains, and the positions of the
houses, the door of one on the level with the roof of the underlying one,
against the face of the rock, are most striking.

[Illustration: The Interior of Chappar Khana at Kohrut.]

The inhabitants of this village are quite polite and friendly, and lack
the usual aggressiveness so common at all the halting places in Persia.

Fresh horses were obtained at the Chappar Khana, and I proceeded on my
journey at once. We still wound our way among mountains going higher and
higher, until we got over the Kuh-i-buhlan (the pass). From the highest
point a lovely view of the valley over which we had come from the
north-west displayed itself in dark brown tints, and to the east we had a
mass of barren mountains.



CHAPTER XXVI

     Crossing the Pass--Held up by robbers--Amusing courtesy--Brigands
     to protect from brigands--Parting friends--Soh--Biddeshk--Copper
     and iron--Robber tribes--An Englishman robbed--A feature of
     Persian mountains--A military escort--How compensation is paid by
     the Persian Government--Murchikhar--Robbers and the
     guards--Ghiez--Distances from Teheran to Isfahan.


It was not till after sunset that we crossed the Pass, and, the horses
being tired, my men and I were walking down the incline on the other side
to give the animals a rest. It was getting quite dark, and as the chappar
boy had warned me that there were brigands about the neighbourhood I
walked close to my horse, my revolver being slung to the saddle. The
place seemed absolutely deserted, and I was just thinking how still and
reposeful the evening seemed, the noise of the horses' hoofs being the
only disturbing element amid quiescent nature, when suddenly from behind
innocent-looking rocks and boulders leapt up, on both sides of the road,
about a dozen well-armed robbers, who attempted to seize the horses.
Before they had time to put up their rifles they found themselves covered
by my revolver and requested to drop their weapons or I would shoot
them. They hastily complied with my request, and instead of ransacking my
baggage, as they had evidently designed to do, had to confine themselves
to polite remarks.

"You are very late on the road, sahib?" said one brigand, in a voice of
assumed kindness and softness.

"Please put back your revolver. We will not harm you," said suavely and
persuasively another, who displayed a most gaudy waistcoat which he
evidently did not want perforated.

Sadek was in a great state of excitement, and entreated me not to shoot.
"Persian robbers," he assured me, with a logic of his own, "do not kill
the master until the servant has been killed, because it is the servant
who is in charge of the luggage. . . . . They would not steal anything
now, but I must be kind to these fellows."

As is usual with persons accustomed to stalk other persons, I did not
fail to notice that, while trying to attract my attention by
conversation, my interlocutors were endeavouring to surround us. But I
checked them in this, and warned them that I had met many brigands
before, and was well acquainted with their ways. I hoped they would not
compel me to shoot, which I would most certainly do if they attempted any
tricks. They well understood that it was risky to try their luck, so they
changed tactics altogether. The conversation that ensued was amusing.

"Sahib," shouted a boisterous robber, very gaily attired, and with
cartridges in profusion in his belt, "there are lots of brigands near
here and we want to protect you."

"Yes, I know there are brigands not far from here," I assented.

"We will escort you, for you are our friend, and if we lead you safely
out of the mountains, maybe, sahib, you will give us backshish."

I felt certain that I could have no better protection against brigands
than the brigands themselves, and preferred to have them under my own
supervision rather than give them a chance of attacking us unexpectedly
again some miles further on. Anyhow, I resolved to let them come as far
as the next pass we had to cross, from which point the country would be
more open and a sudden surprise impossible. So I accepted their offer
with a politely expressed condition that every man must keep in front of
me and not raise his rifle above his waist or I would send a bullet
through him.

In the middle of the night we parted on the summit of the pass, and I
gave them a good backshish--not so much for the service they had rendered
me as for relieving for a few hours the monotony of the journey. They
were grateful, and were the most civil brigands I have ever encountered.

While resting on the pass we had an amicable conversation, and I asked
them where they got their beautiful clothes and the profusion of gold and
silver watch-chains.

"It is not everybody we meet, sahib, that has a formidable revolver like
yours," answered the boisterous brigand, with a fit of sarcastic
merriment, echoed by all of us.

"Yes," I retorted in the same sarcastic spirit, "if it had not been for
the revolver, possibly next time I came along this road I might meet the
company dressed up like sahibs, in my clothes!"

I advised them to put up a white flag of truce next time they sprang out
from behind rocks with the intention of holding up another Englishman, or
surely some day or other there would be an accident.

We all laughed heartily, and parted with repeated salaams--and my luggage
intact.

In the moonlight I took the precaution to see them well out of sight on
one side of the pass before we began to descend on the other, and then we
proceeded down the steep and rocky incline.

We reached Soh (8,000 feet) early in the morning, and went on to the
Chappar house at Biddeshk. Here one abandons the region of the Kehriz
Kohrud and Kale Karf mountains, west and east of the road respectively,
and travels over a flat sandy country devoid of vegetation and water.

Copper and iron are to be found at several places in the mountains
between Kashan and Soh, for instance near Gudjar, at Dainum, and at
Kohrut.

October is the month when the Backhtiari tribes are somewhat troublesome
previous to their return to winter quarters. A great many caravans are
attacked and robbed on this road, unless escorted by soldiers. Daring
attempts have even been made to seize caravans of silver bullion for the
Bank of Persia. Only a few days before I went through, an English
gentleman travelling from Isfahan was robbed between Soh and Murchikhar
of all his baggage, money, and clothes.

The country lends itself to brigandage. One can see a flat plain for
several miles to the north and south, but to the west and east are most
intricate mountain masses where the robber bands find suitable hiding
places for themselves and their booty. To the north-west we have flat
open country, but to the west from Biddeshk there are as many as three
different ranges of mountains. To the east rises the peak Kehriz Natenz.
A great many low hill ranges lie between the main backbone of the high
and important range extending from north-west to south-east, and the
route we follow, and it is curious to notice, not only here but all over
the parts of Persia I visited, that the great majority of sand dunes, and
of hill and mountain ranges face north or north-east. In other words,
they extend either from north-west to south-east, or roughly from west to
east; very seldom from north to south.

From Biddeshk two soldiers insisted on escorting my luggage. I was
advised to take them, for in default, one cannot claim compensation from
the Persian Government should the luggage be stolen. In the case of _bona
fide_ European travellers, robbed on the road, the Persian Government is
extremely punctual in making good the damage sustained and paying ample
compensation.

The method employed by the local Governor, responsible for the safety of
travellers on the road, is to inflict heavy fines on all the natives of
the district in which the robbery has occurred,--a very simple and
apparently effective way, it would seem, of stopping brigandage, but one
which, in fact, increases it, because, in order to find the money to pay
the fines, the natives are driven to the road, each successive larceny
going towards part payment of the previous one.

[Illustration: Chapparing--the Author's Post Horses.]

[Illustration: Persian Escort firing at Brigands.]

One or two domed reservoirs of rain-water are found by the road-side, but
the water is very bad.

The soldiers, laden with cartridges, ran along by the side of my horses
and pretended to keep a sharp look-out for robbers. Every now and then
they got much excited, loaded their rifles, and fired away shot after
shot at phantom brigands, whom, they said, they perceived peeping above
sand hills a long way off.

At Murchikhar there is nothing to be seen. The post-horses were very good
here and I was able to go through this uninteresting part of the road at
a good speed of from six to seven miles an hour. To the west the
mountains were getting quite close, and, in fact, we had hills all round
except to the south-east. Murchikhar is at a fairly high altitude, 5,600
ft.

One still heard much about brigands. Soldiers, armed to the teeth,
insisted on accompanying my luggage. This, of course, involved endless
backshish, but had to be put up with, as it is one of the perquisites
of the guards stationed at the various stages. I have heard it stated
that if one does not require their services it is often these protectors
themselves who turn into robbers. There is a guard-house on the road, and
the two soldiers stationed there told us that a large band of thirty
robbers had visited them during the early hours of the morning, and had
stolen from them all their provisions, money and tobacco!

We were not troubled in any way, and, with the exception of some
suspicious horsemen a long way off making for the mountains, we hardly
met a soul on the road.

A curious accident happened to one of my luggage horses. For some reason
of his own he bolted, and galloped to the top of one of the _kanat_
cones, when getting frightened at the deep hole before him he jumped it.
His fore-legs having given way on the steep incline on the other side, he
fell on his head and turned a complete somersault, landing flat on his
back, where, owing to the packs, he remained with his legs up in the air
until we came to his aid and freed him of the loads.

On nearing Ghiez the track is over undulating country, but after that the
road to Isfahan is good and flat, but very sandy and dusty. I got to
Ghiez in the evening but proceeded at once to Isfahan. We galloped on the
twelve miles, and in less than two hours I was most hospitably received
in the house of Mr. Preece, the British Consul-General in Isfahan.

The distances from Teheran are as follows:--

From Teheran to Kum        24 farsakhs     96 miles.
 "   Kum to Kashan         17   "          68   "
 "   Kashan to Kohrut       7   "          28   "
 "   Kohrut to Biddeshk     6   "          24   "
 "   Biddeshk to Murchikhar 6   "          24   "
 "   Murchikhar to Ghiez    6   "          24   "
 "   Ghiez to Isfahan       3   "          12   "
                           --              --
                     Total 69 farsakhs or 276 miles.

The time occupied in covering the whole distance, including halts and
delays, was somewhat less than four days.



CHAPTER XXVII

     Missionary work in Persia--Educational and medical work--No
     Mahommedan converts--Bibles--Julfa--Armenian
     settlement--Conservative customs--Armenian women--Their
     education--The Armenian man--Europeans--A bird's-eye view of
     Isfahan--Armenian graveyard--A long bridge--The Rev. James
     Loraine Garland--Mission among the Jews.


There is little to say of interest in connection with Missionary work in
Persia, except that a considerable amount of good is being done in the
educational and medical line. There are well-established schools and
hospitals. The most praiseworthy institution is the supply of medicinal
advice and medicine gratis or at a nominal cost. As far as the work of
Christianising is concerned, it must be recollected that Missionaries are
only allowed in Persia on sufferance, and are on no account permitted to
make converts among the Mahommedans. Any Mussulman, man, woman, or child,
who discards his religion for Christianity, will in all probability lose
his life.

If any Christianising work is done at all it has to be done
surreptitiously and at a considerable amount of risk to both convert and
converter. Some interest in the Christian religion is nevertheless shown
by Mussulmans of the younger generation--who now are practically atheists
at heart--but whether this interest is genuine or not it is not for me to
say. There is much in the Bible that impresses them, and I understand
that constant applications are made for copies of translations into the
Persian language. To avoid the great waste which occurred when Bibles
were given away for nothing, a nominal charge is now made so as to
prevent people throwing the book away or using it for evil purposes.

In Isfahan itself there are no missionaries among the Mahommedans, but
some are to be found at Julfa, a suburb of Isfahan, on the south bank of
the Zindah-rud (river). Julfa was in former days a prosperous Armenian
settlement of some 30,000 inhabitants, but is now mostly in ruins since
the great migration of Armenians to India.

There is an Armenian Archbishop at Julfa. He has no real power, but is
much revered by the Armenians themselves. He provides priests for the
Armenians of India.

A handsome cathedral, with elaborate ornamentations and allegorical
pictures, is one of the principal structures in Julfa.

One cannot help admiring the Armenians of Julfa for retaining their
conservative customs so long. Within the last few years, however, rapid
strides have been made towards the abandonment of the ancient dress and
tongue. At Julfa the Armenians have to a great extent retained their
native language, which they invariably speak among themselves, although
many of the men are equally fluent in Persian; but in cities like
Teheran, where they are thrown into more direct contact with Persians,
the Armenians are almost more conversant with Persian than with their own
tongue. The men and women of the better classes have adopted European
clothes, in which they might easily be mistaken for Southern Italians or
Spaniards.

But in Julfa such is not the case, and the ancient style of dress is so
far maintained. One is struck by the great number of women in the streets
of Julfa and the comparative lack of men. This is because all able-bodied
men migrate to India or Europe, leaving their women behind until
sufficient wealth is accumulated to export them also to foreign lands.

The education of the Armenian women of the middle and lower classes
consists principally in knitting socks--one sees rows of matrons and
girls sitting on the doorsteps busily employed thus,--and in various
forms of culinary instruction. But the better class woman is well
educated in European fashion, and is bright and intelligent.

The Armenian woman, in her ample and speckless white robes, her
semi-covered face, and beautiful soft black eyes, is occasionally
captivating. The men, on the other hand, although handsome, have
something indescribable about them that does not make them particularly
attractive.

The Armenian man--the true type of the Levantine--has great business
capacities, wonderful facility for picking up languages, and a persuasive
flow of words ever at his command. Sceptical, ironical and humorous--with
a bright, amusing manner alike in times of plenty or distress--a born
philosopher, but uninspiring of confidence,--with eyes that never look
straight into yours, but are ever roaming all over the place,--with
religious notions adaptable to business prospects,--very hospitable and
good-hearted, given to occasional orgies,--such is the Persian-Armenian
of to-day.

The more intelligent members of the male community migrate to better
pastures, where they succeed, by steady hard work and really practical
brains, in amassing considerable fortunes. The less enterprising remain
at home to make and sell wine. Personally, I found Armenians surprisingly
honest.

In Julfa the Europeans--of whom, except in business, there are few--have
comfortable, almost luxurious residences. The principal streets of the
Settlement are extremely clean and nice for Persia. The Indo-European
Telegraph Office is also here. But the best part of Julfa--from a
pictorial point of view--is the extensive Armenian cemetery, near a
picturesque background of hills and directly on the slopes of Mount
Sofia. There are hundreds of rectangular tombstones, many with neatly
bevelled edges, and epitaphs of four or five lines. A cross is engraved
on each grave, and some have a little urn at the head for flowers.

From the roof of a house situated at the highest point of the inclined
plane, one obtains a magnificent bird's-eye view of Isfahan, its ancient
grandeur being evinced by the great expanse of ruins all round it. The
walls of Isfahan were said at one time to measure twenty-four miles in
circumference. Like all other cities of Persia, Isfahan does not improve
by too distant a view. The mud roofs are so alike in colour to the dried
mud of the streets that a deadly monotony must follow, as a matter of
course; but the many beautiful green gardens round about and in Isfahan
itself are a great relief to the eye, and add much attraction to the
landscape.

Most prominent of all buildings in the city are the great semi-spherical
dome of the Mesjid-i-Shah, with its gracefully ornamented tiles; the
Madrassah; the multi-columned, flat-roofed Palace, and the high minarets
in couples, dotted all over the city. Then round about, further away,
stand any number of curious circular towers, the pigeon towers.

The bed of the river between Isfahan and Julfa is over six hundred feet
wide, and is spanned by three bridges. One of these, with thirty-four
arches, is no less than 1,000 ft. in length, but is much out of repair.

The Armenian Christians of Julfa are enjoying comparative safety at
present, but until quite recently were much persecuted by the
Mahommedans, the Mullahs being particularly bitter against them.

One sees a great many priests about Julfa, and as I visited the place on
a Sunday the people looked so very demure and sanctimonious--I am
speaking of the Armenians--on their way out of church; taciturn and with
head low or talking in a whisper, all toddling alongside the wall--as
people from church generally do,--that I must confess I was glad when I
left this place of oppressive sanctity and returned to Isfahan. Somehow,
Julfa impresses one as a discordant note in Persian harmony--although a
very fine and pleasing note in itself.

Until quite recently the Persians objected to foreigners residing even in
Isfahan itself. The officials of the Bank of Persia were the first to
take up their abode within the city wall, then soon after came Mr.
Preece, our able and distinguished Consul-General.

There is now a third Englishman residing in Jubareh, the Jewish quarter,
the Revd. James Loraine Garland, of the London Society for Promoting
Christianity amongst the Jews of Isfahan. Why such a Society should exist
at all seems to any one with a sense of humour bewildering, but on
getting over the first shock of surprise one finds that of all the
Missions to Persia it is probably the most sensible, and worked on
practical, sound, useful lines. Much as I am unfavourably inclined
towards religious Missions of any kind, I could not help being impressed
with Mr. Garland's very interesting work.

The first time I saw Mr. Garland I was nearly run over by him as he was
riding a race with a sporting friend on the Golahek road near
Teheran--raising clouds of dust, much to the concern of passers-by.

The same day I met Mr. Garland in Teheran, when he was garbed in the
ample clothes of the sporting friend, his own wardrobe having been
stolen, with his money and all other possessions, by robbers on the
Isfahan-Kashan road. In fact, he was the Englishman referred to in
Chapter XXVI.

Being somewhat of a sportsman myself, this highly-sporting clergyman
appealed to me. Extremely gentlemanly, courteous, tactful, sensible and
open-minded, he was not a bit like a missionary. He was a really good
man. His heart and soul were in his work. He very kindly asked me to
visit his Mission in Isfahan, and it was a real pleasure to see a Mission
worked on such sensible lines.

The first Mission to the Jews of Persia and Chaldea was established in
1844 by the Reverend Dr. Stern, who resided part of the year in Bagdad,
and the remainder in Isfahan. The work was up-hill, and in 1865 the
Mission was suspended.



CHAPTER XXVIII

     The Mission among Jews--Schools for boys and girls--A practical
     institution--The Jews of Persia--Persecution by
     Persians--Characteristics of
     Jews--Girls--Occupations--Taxation--The social level of Jews.


From October, 1889, to December, 1891, a Christianised Jew of Teheran,
named Mirza Korollah, worked in Isfahan as the representative of the
Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews. A Bible depôt was
opened, and a school started at the request of the Jews themselves. In
December, 1891, however, Mirza Korollah was banished from the city, and
the work was again interrupted.

In 1897, Mr. Garland volunteered to undertake the work in Persia, and his
offer was gladly accepted. On his arrival in Isfahan he found, he told
me, a prosperous boys' school, that had been re-opened in 1894 by a
native Jewish Christian, who rejoiced in the name of Joseph Hakim, and
who carried on the educational work under the supervision of members of
the Church Missionary Society resident in Julfa. It was deemed advisable
to commence a night-school, as many of the boys were unable to attend
day classes. The scheme answered very well, and has been steadily
continued.

As many as 200 boys attended the school daily in February, 1898, a fact
that shows the success of the new enterprise from the very beginning.

At the invitation of a number of Jewesses, Miss Stuart, the Bishop of
Waiapu's daughter, kindly consented to go over twice a week to the Jewish
quarter to instruct them in the Holy Scriptures. This led to the
commencement of a girls' school with twelve pupils, at a time of great
turmoil and anxiety. However, the experiment had the happiest results.

It was not, nevertheless, till 1899 that Mr. Garland was able to take up
his abode in the Jewish quarter. He met with no opposition whatever from
Mahommedans or Jews. The usual Sunday service, attended by converts and
inquirers, and a Saturday afternoon class were commenced in 1899, and
have uninterruptedly continued to the present time.

To me, personally, the most important part of the Mission, and one to
which more time is devoted than to praying, was the excellent carpentry
class for boys, begun in 1900, and the carpet-weaving apparatus set up on
the premises for the girls. The former has been a great success, even
financially, and is paying its way. The latter, although financially not
yet a success, is of great value in teaching the girls how to weave.
Necessarily, so many hands have to be employed in the manufacture of a
large carpet, and the time spent in the manufacture is so long, that it
is hardly possible to expect financial prosperity from mere beginners;
but the class teaches the girls a way to earn money for themselves in
future years.

Both trades were selected by Mr. Garland, particularly because they were
the most suitable in a country where Jews are excluded from the more
honest and manly trades, and Jewesses often grow up to be more of a
hindrance than a help to their husbands. Worse still is the case of Jews
who become Christians; they have the greatest difficulty in earning their
living at all.

These industrial occupations are a great practical help to the studies of
the pupils, who are taught, besides their own language, Persian and
Hebrew, and, if they wish, English, geography, etc.

More frivolous but less remunerative forms of recreation, such as
cricket, tennis, football, or gymnastic drills,--which invariably
accompany Christianity in the East, and develop most parts of a convert's
anatomy except his brain,--have not been deemed of sufficient importance
among the Jews of Isfahan, who would, moreover, think our best English
games or muscle-developers in the highest degree indecorous and unseemly.

On the whole the Society's work among the Jews of Teheran, Hamadan and
Isfahan has been most encouraging, and this is to be put down entirely to
the tact and personal influence of Mr. Garland, who is greatly respected
by Jews and Mahommedans alike. No better testimony to the appreciation of
his work could exist than the fact that in his interesting journeys
through Persia, he is frequently invited to preach in crowded
synagogues.

It seems probable that the Jews of Persia are descendants of the Ten
Tribes, and more probable still that Jews have resided in Isfahan from
its earliest foundation.

In the tenth century--under the Dilemi dynasty--Isfahan consisted of two
cities, Yahoodieh (Jewry) and Shehristan (the City). In the middle of the
twelfth century, according to Benjamin of Tudela, the Jews of Isfahan
numbered 15,000.

At present they number about 5,000. They are mostly pedlars by
profession, or engaged in making silk thread (Abreesham Kâr, Charkhtâbee,
etc.). There are a few merchants of comparative influence. Jewellers and
traders in precious stones, brokers and wine-sellers are frequent, but
the majority consists almost entirely of diviners, musicians,
dancers--music and dancing are considered low, contemptible occupations
in Persia--scavengers, and beggars.

The Jews of Isfahan, like those of all other cities in Persia, have been
subjected to a great deal of oppression. There is a story that
Timour-i-Lang (Tamerlane--end of 14th century) was riding past a
synagogue in Isfahan, where the Mesjid-i-Ali now stands, and that the
Jews made such a horrible noise at their prayers (in saying the "Shema,
Israel" on the Day of Atonement) that his horse bolted and he was thrown
and lamed. Hence his name, and hence also a terrible massacre of the
Jews, which reduced their number to about one-third.

Even to this day it is not easy for Jews to obtain justice against
Mahommedans. Only as recently as 1901 a Jew was murdered in cold blood a
few miles from Isfahan, and his body flung into the river. Although the
murder had been witnessed, and the murderer was well known, no punishment
was ever inflicted upon him.

[Illustration: Jewish Girls, Isfahan.]

[Illustration: An Isfahan Jew.]

The Jews of Isfahan possess striking features, as can be seen by a
characteristic head of a man reproduced in the illustration. The face is
generally very much elongated, with aquiline nose of abnormal length and
very broad at the nostrils. The brow is heavy, screening deeply-sunken
eyes revealing a mixed expression of sadness and slyness, tempered
somewhat by probable abuse of animal qualities. Of a quiet and rather
sulky nature--corroded by ever-unsatisfied avidity--assumedly courteous,
but morose by nature,--with a mighty level head in the matter of
business; such is the Jew of Isfahan. He is extremely picturesque, quite
biblical in his long loose robe and skull cap, with turban wound tight
round his head.

Jewish girls when very young are nice-looking without being beautiful,
very supple and pensive, and with expressive eyes. They lack the
unsteady, insincere countenance of the men, and have reposeful, placid
faces, with occasional good features. There is a good deal of character
in their firmly closed lips, the upper lip being slightly heavy but
well-shaped. The inside of the mouth is adorned with most regular, firm,
and beautiful teeth. Curiously enough, the typical Jewish nose--so
characteristic in men--is seldom markedly noticeable in women. I have
even seen Jewish girls with turned-up noses. Their arms are beautifully
modelled, and the hands as a whole extremely graceful, with unusually
long and supple fingers, but with badly-shaped nails of an unwholesome
colour.

Jewesses in Persia are not kept in seclusion and go about with uncovered
faces, which exposes them to constant and unpleasant insult from the
Mahommedans. They dress differently from Persian women, with a long skirt
of either black, blue, or coloured cotton. The head is framed in a white
kerchief, leaving exposed the jet black hair parted in the middle and
covering the temples. Over that is worn a long cloak, either black or
white, almost identical with the Persian "chudder."

Jewesses are said to be most affectionate and devoted to their husbands
and their families. They are extremely amenable to reason--except in
cases of jealousy, which is one of the leading characteristics of the
race in general and of Jewish women in particular. They are hard-working,
intelligent, thrifty. They take life seriously: are endowed with no sense
of humour to speak of--it would be difficult to have any under their
circumstances--and whether owing to severe anæmia, caused by wretched and
insufficient food, or to some external influence, are often affected by
melancholia.

Soft and shy in manner and speech, under normal circumstances, pale and
silent, the Jewish woman is not unattractive.

One of the few occupations open to Jewesses is the practice of midwifery.

Hunted as the Jews are by everybody in the streets, and in the bazaar,
insulted, spat upon, the women often compelled to prostitution, it is to
be marvelled that any honesty at all is left in them.

The higher Persian schools and colleges do not admit Jews as students,
nor is education permitted to them even in the lower Persian schools.
Therefore, the welcome work of Mr. Garland is much needed and
appreciated. A special quarter is reserved in which the Jews must live,
huddled together, the majority of them in abject poverty. Until of late
no peace was given them. Their customs were interfered with in every way
by vagabond Persians, and the little money they made by industrious
habits was extorted from them by officials or by the enterprising Persian
to whom the Jewish community was farmed out.

The Jews of a city are taxed a certain sum, usually beyond what they can
afford to pay. Some speculator undertakes to pay the amount for them to
the local Governor and receives authority to compensate himself from the
Jewish community as best he can, either by making them work, or trade, or
by selling their clothes or depriving them of the few articles of
furniture they may possess.

Until quite lately, at public festivities the meek and resigned Jews were
driven before an insulting mob who held them in derision, and exposed
them to most abject treatment; some of their number ending by being
pitched into the water-tank which adorns the courtyard or garden of most
residences. Little by little, however, with the spread of civilisation,
Jews have been spared the torture of these baths.

The Jew is looked upon as unclean and untrustworthy by the Persian, who
refuses to use him as a soldier, but who gladly employs him to do all
sorts of dirty jobs which Persian pride would not allow him to do
himself. His social level therefore stands even lower than that of the
Shotri of India, the outcast who does not stop at the basest occupations.

The majority of the older Jews are illiterate, but not unintelligent.
Each city has one or more Rabbis or priests, but they have no power and
receive a good share of the insults in the Persian bazaars.

Whatever feeling of repulsion towards the race one may have, the position
of the Jews in Persia--although infinitely better than it was before--is
still a most pathetic one.



CHAPTER XXIX

     The square of Isfahan--The Palace gate--The entrance to the
     bazaar--Beggars--Formalities and etiquette--The
     bazaar--Competition--How Persians buy--Long
     credit--Arcades--Hats--Cloth shops--Sweet
     shops--Butchers--Leather goods--Saddle-bags--The bell
     shop--Trunks.


The great square of Isfahan is looked upon as the centre of the city. It
is a huge oblong, with the great and beautiful dome of the Mesjid-i-Shah
on one side of the long rectangle, and another high domed mosque with two
high minarets at the end. The very impressive red and white quadrangular
palace gate, flat-topped, and with a covered blue verandah supported on
numerous slender columns, stands on the side of the square opposite the
Mesjid-i-Shah mosque.

To the north of the great square one enters the bazaar by a high gate,
handsomely tiled with flower ornamentations; this gateway has three lower
windows and a triple upper one, and a doorway under the cool shade of the
outer projecting pointed archway. To the right of the entrance as one
looks at it, rises a three-storied building as high as the gate of the
bazaar. It has a pretty upper verandah, the roof of which is supported on
transverse sets of three wooden columns each, except the outer corner
roof-supports, which are square and of bricks. In front is an artistic
but most untidy conglomeration of awnings to protect from the sun
pedlars, merchants and people enjoying their kalians, or a thimbleful of
tea.

There are men selling fruit which is displayed upon the dirty ground, and
there are tired horses with dismounted cavaliers sleeping by their side,
the reins fastened for precaution to a heavy stone or slung to the arm.
One sees masses of children of all ages and conditions of health, from
the neatly attired son of the wealthy merchant, who disports himself with
his eldest brother, to the orphan boy, starving, and in rags covered with
mud. There is a little cripple with a shrunken leg, and further, an old
man with lupus in its most ghastly form. Disreputably-clothed soldiers
lie about in the crowd, and a woman or two with their faces duly screened
in white cloths may be seen.

The sight of a sahib always excites great curiosity in Persia. Followed
by a crowd of loafers and most insistent beggars, one forces one's way
into the crowded bazaar, while the ghulams of the Consulate--without whom
it would be indecorous to go anywhere--shove the people on one side or
the other without ceremony, drive the donkeys, laden with wood or
panniers of fruit, into the shops--much to the horror of the
shopman,--and disband the strings of mules and the horsemen to make room
for the passing sahib.

It is very difficult, under such circumstances, to stop any length of
time at any particular spot to study the shops, the shop-people, and the
buyers, for instead of being an unobserved spectator, one is at all times
the principal actor in the scene and the centre of attention, and
therefore a most disturbing element in the crowd.

There are so many complicated and tiresome formalities to be adhered to
in order to avoid offending the natives, or the officials, or the
susceptibilities of foreign residents, who seem to feel responsible for
the doings of every traveller--and who, at all events, remain to suffer
for the untactful deeds of some of them,--and there are so many things
one must not do for fear of destroying the prestige of one's country,
that, really, if one possesses a simple and practical mind, one gets
rather tired of Persian town life, with its exaggerated ties, its empty
outward show and pomp and absolute lack of more modest aims which, after
all, make real happiness in life.

[Illustration: The Square, Isfahan.]

As for European ladies it is considered most improper to be seen with
uncovered faces in the bazaar. In fact, walking anywhere in the town they
are generally exposed to insult.

I once took a walk through the various bazaars, but the second time, at
our Consul's recommendation, was advised to ride in state, with
gold-braided, mounted Consulate ghulams preceding and following me, while
I myself rode a magnificent stallion presented by Zil-es-Sultan to our
Consul. The horse had not been ridden for some time and was slightly
fresh. The place to which we directed our animals was the brass
bazaar, the most crowded and diabolically noisy place in the Shah's
dominions.

The sudden change from the brilliant light of the sun to the pitch
darkness of the vaulted bazaar, affected one's sight, and it was some few
seconds before one could distinguish anything, although one could hear
the buzzing noise of an excited crowd, and the cries of the ghulams
ordering the people to make room for the cavalcade.

In nearly all bazaars of the principal cities of Persia a very good
custom prevails. One or more streets are devoted entirely to the same
article, so that the buyer may conveniently make comparisons, and the
various merchants are also kept up to the mark by the salutary
competition close at hand thus rendered unavoidable. A Persian does not
go to a shop to buy anything without going to every other shop in the
bazaar to ask whether he can get a similar article better and cheaper.
Such a convenience as fixed prices, alike for all, does not exist in the
Persian bazaar, and prices are generally on the ascending or descending
scale, according to the merchant's estimate of his customer's wealth. It
is looked upon as a right and a duty to extort from a rich man the
maximum of profit, whereas from a poor fellow a few shais benefit are
deemed sufficient.

To buy anything at all in the bazaar involves great loss of time--and
patience,--excessive consumption of tea plus the essential
kalian-smoking. Two or three or more visits are paid to the stall by
Persian buyers before they can come to an agreement with the merchant,
and when the goods are delivered it is the merchant's turn to pay endless
visits to his customer's house before he can obtain payment for them.
Long credit is generally given by merchants to people known to them.
There is comparatively little ready money business done except in the
cheapest goods.

We shoved our way along through the very narrow streets with a long row
before us of sun columns, piercing through the circular openings in the
domed arcade of the bazaar, and projecting brilliant patches of light now
on brightly-coloured turbans, now on the black chudder of a woman, now on
the muddy ground constantly sprinkled with water to keep the streets
cool.

There are miles of bazaar, in Teheran and Isfahan, roofed over in long
arcades to protect the shops and buyers from the sun in summer, from the
rain and snow in winter. The height of the arcade is from thirty to sixty
feet, the more ancient ones being lower than the modern ones.

To any one well acquainted with other Eastern countries there is
absolutely nothing in a Persian bazaar that is worth buying. The old and
beautiful objects of art have left the country long ago, and the modern
ones have neither sufficient artistic merit nor intrinsic value to be
worth the trouble and expense of sending them home. For curiosity's
sake--yes, there are a few tawdry articles which may amuse friends in
Europe, but what I mean is that there is nothing that is really of
intense interest or skilful workmanship, such as one can find in Japan,
in China, in Morocco or Egypt.

We ride through the street of hatters, each shop with walls lined with
piles of _kolah_ hats, black and brimless, shaped either in the section
of a cone or rounded with a depression on the top. They are made of
astrakan or of black felt, and are worn by the better people; but further
on we come to cheaper shops, where spherical skull caps of white or light
brown felt are being manufactured for the lower classes.

As we ride along, a stinging smell of dyes tells us that we are in the
cloth street, indigo colours prevailing, and also white and black cottons
and silks. One cannot help pitying the sweating shopman, who is busy
unrolling cloths of various makes before a number of squatting women, who
finger each and confabulate among themselves, and request to have the
roll deposited by their side for further consideration with a mountain of
other previously unrolled fabrics,--just like women at home. The rolls
are taken from neat wooden shelves, on which, however, they seldom rest.
Soiled remnants of European stocks play a very important part in this
section of the bazaar.

On turning round a corner we have shoes and boots, foreign made, of the
favourite side-elastic pattern, or the native white canvas ones with rope
soles--most comfortable and serviceable for walking. The local leather
ones have strong soles with nails and turned-up toes, not unlike the
familiar Turkish shoe; while the slippers for women have no back to them
at the heel and have fancy toes.

Then come the attractive sweet-shops, with huge trays of transparent
candy, and the _Pash mak_ pulled sugar, as white and light as raw silk,
most delicious but sticky. In bottles above, the eye roams from highly
coloured confetti to _Abnabad_ and _Kors_ or other deadly-looking
lozenges, while a crowd of enraptured children deposit shais in the hands
of the prosperous trader, who promptly weighs and gives in exchange a
full measure of _rahat-ul-holkoom_, "the ease of the throat," or candied
sugar, duly packed in paper bags.

There is nothing very attractive in the butchers' bazaar; the long rows
of skinned animals black with flies, and in various degrees of freshness,
made even less artistic by ornamentations of paper rosettes and bits of
gold and silver paper. Beef, camel, mutton, game and chickens, all dead
and with throats cut--the Mahommedan fashion of killing--can be purchased
here, but the smell of meat is so strong and sickening that we will
promptly adjourn to the leather-work bazaar.

For a man, this is probably the most typical and interesting section of
the Persian retail commerce. There is something picturesque and artistic
in the clumsy silver or brass or iron mounted saddles, with handsome red,
or green, or brown ample leather flaps, gracefully ornamented with more
or less elaboration to suit the pockets of different customers. Then the
harness is pretty, with its silver inlaid iron decoration, or solid
silver or brass, and the characteristic stirrups, nicely chiselled and
not unlike the Mexican ones. The greater part of the foot can rest on the
stirrup, so broad is its base. Then come the saddlebags of all sizes, the
_horjin_, in cloth, in sacking, in expensive leather, in carpeting, of
all prices, with an ingenious device of a succession of loops fastening
the one into the other, the last with a padlock, to secure the contents
of the bag from intrusive hands.

These _horjins_--or double bags--are extremely convenient and are the
most usual contrivance in Persia for conveying luggage on horseback or
mules.

Then in the lower part of the shop there is a grand display of leather
purses, sheaths for knives, and a collection of leather stock whips,
gracefully tied into multiple knots.

In this same bazaar, where everything in connection with riding or
loading animals can be purchased, are also to be found the bell shops.
These confine themselves particularly to horses', mules' and camels' neck
decorations. Long tassels, either red or black, in silk or dyed
horsehair, silk or leather bands with innumerable small conical shrill
bells, and sets of larger bells in successive gradations of sizes, one
hanging inside the other, are found here. Then there are some huge
cylindrical bells standing about two and a half feet high, with scrolls
and geometrical designs on their sides. These are for camels and are not
intended to hang from the neck. They are slung on one side under the
lighter of the two loads of the pack.

[Illustration: The Palace Gate, Isfahan.]

Next, one is attracted by a shop full of leather trunks, of the reddest
but not the best morocco, stretched while wet upon a rough wooden frame.
Primitive ornamentations are painted on the leather, and the corners of
each box are strengthened with tin caps and rings. The trunks for pack
animals are better made than the others, and are solidly sewn, with heavy
straps and rings to sling them upon the saddles. Gaudy revolver pouches,
cartridge belts, and slings for daggers are to be purchased in the same
shop.



CHAPTER XXX

     The Brass Bazaar--Mirror shop--Curdled milk--A tea shop--Fruit
     and vegetable bazaar--The walnut seller--The Auctioneer--Pipe
     shops--Barber--Headdress--Bread shops--Caravanserais--The day of
     rest.


Winding our way through the labyrinth of narrow streets, and meeting a
crescendo of diabolical din as we approach it, we emerge into a more
spacious and lighter arcade, where hundreds of men are hammering with all
their might upon pieces of copper that are being shaped into trays, pots
with double spouts, or pans. This is the coppersmiths' bazaar. On a long
low brick platform, extending from one end to the other on both sides of
the street, is tastefully arranged the work already finished. Huge
circular trays have coarse but elaborate ornamentations of figures, trees
and birds chiselled upon them--not unlike the Indian Benares trays in
general appearance, but not in the character of the design. Copper vases
with spouts are gracefully shaped, the ancient Persian models being
maintained. They are much used by Persians in daily life. More elaborate
is the long-necked vessel with a circular body and slender curved spout,
that rests upon a very quaint and elegantly designed wash-basin with
perforated cover and exaggerated rim. This is used after meals in the
household of the rich, when an attendant pours tepid water scented with
rose-water upon the fingers, which have been used in eating instead of a
fork. These vessels and basins are usually of brass. All along the
ground, against the wall, stand sets of concentric trays of brass, copper
and pewter, and metal tumblers innumerable, having execrable designs upon
them, and rendered more hideous by being nickel-plated all over. Each
shop, about ten to twenty feet long and eight to fifteen wide, has a
furnace in one corner.

Considering the few and primitive tools employed, it is really wonderful
that the work is as good as it is. The polishing of trays is generally
done with their feet by boys, who stand on them and with a circular
motion of the body revolve the tray to the right and left upon a layer of
wet sand until, after some hours of labour, a sufficiently shiny surface
is obtained by friction.

I became much interested in watching a man joining together two pieces of
metal to be turned into an amphora, but the noise made the horse I rode
very restless. It was impossible to hear any one speak, the din of the
hammered metal being so acute and being echoed in each dome of the
arcade. The horse became so alarmed when the bellows began to blow upon
the fire that he tried to throw me, first by standing on his fore-legs
and scattering the crowd of yelling natives with his hindlegs, then by
standing up erect the other way about. In a moment the place was clear of
people; some had leapt on to the side platform: others had rushed inside
the shops. The horse delighted in pirouetting about, kicking the nearest
metal vases and trays all over the place, and causing quite a commotion.
It was rather amusing to watch the rapidity with which the merchants a
little way off withdrew their goods to safety inside the premises to
prevent further damage. The horse, being then satisfied that he could not
shake me off, continued the journey more or less peacefully through the
bazaar.

Here is a mirror shop--imports from Austria. There the flourishing grain
merchants, whose premises are the neatest and cleanest of the whole
bazaar. Each merchant tastily displays his various cereals in heaps on
speckless enormous brass trays, and by the side of them dried fruit, in
which he also deals extensively. His shop is decorated with silvered or
red or blue glass balls.

Further on is another very neat place, the curdled-milk retailer's, with
large flat metal tanks filled with milk, and a great many trays, large
and little, in front of his premises. He, too, keeps his place and
belongings--but not himself--most beautifully clean. He does a
flourishing business.

Every now and then we come upon a very spacious and well-lighted room,
with gaudy candelabras of Bohemian glass, and a large steaming samovar.
This is a tea-shop. There are plenty of men in it, in green or brown or
blue long coats, and all squatting lazily, cross-legged, sipping tea from
tiny glasses and being helped to sugar from a large tray containing a
mountain of it.

The fruit and vegetable bazaar is always a feature of Persian city
markets, water-melons, cucumbers, grapes, apples, pomegranates, almonds
and walnuts playing a prominent part in the various displays. Then there
is the retailer of peeled walnuts, a man who wears a red cap and green
coat, and who sells his goods spread on a brass tray. The walnuts as soon
as peeled from their skin are thrown into a large basin full of water,
and when properly washed are spread on the tray to dry, ready for
consumption.

The walnut man is generally a character. He keeps his stall open even at
night, when other shops are closed, and has plenty to say to all the
passers-by on the merits of his walnuts.

To enumerate all one sees in the bazaar would take a volume to itself,
but on glancing through we see the excited auctioneer in his white turban
calling out figures on an ascending scale, and tapping on a piece of wood
when a sufficient sum is offered and no more bids are forthcoming. He has
assistants showing round the various articles as they are being
sold,--umbrellas, tooth-brushes, mirrors, knives, etc.

The pipe shops are small--with black and red and blue earthenware cups
for the kalian. There is not much variety in the shape of the pipes
except that some are made to be used in the joined hands as a draw-pipe
for the smoke, the cup being held between the thumbs. Others, the
majority of them, are intended for the top part of the kalian.

The barber's shop is a quaint one, remarkably clean with whitewashed
walls and a brick floor. Up to some five feet along the walls is nailed a
cloth, usually red, against which the customers rest their heads while
being shaved. Hung upon the walls are scissors of all sizes, razors, and
various other implements such as forceps for drawing teeth, sharp lancets
for bleeding, the knives used for the operation of circumcision, and a
variety of wooden combs and branding irons.

Yes, the Persian barber has multifarious occupations. He is surgeon,
dentist and masseur, besides being an adept with comb and razor. He
is--like his brother of the West--an incessant talker, and knows all the
scandal of the town. While at work he has a bowl of clean water by his
side which he uses on the patient's face or top of the skull and neck,
which are in male Persians all clean-shaved. No soap is used by typical
Persian barbers. Their short razors, in wooden cases, are stropped on the
barber's arm, or occasionally leg, and are quite sharp.

The younger folks of Persia shave the top of the skull leaving long locks
of hair at the side of the head, which are gracefully pushed over the ear
and left hanging long behind, where they are cut in a straight horizontal
line round the neck. This fashion is necessitated by the custom in
Persia of never removing the heavy headgear. The elder people, in fact,
shave every inch of the scalp, but balance this destruction of hair by
growing a long beard, frequently dyed bright red or jet black with henna
and indigo.

The bread-shops of Persia are quaint, a piece of bread being sometimes as
big as a small blanket and about as thick. These huge flat loaves are
hung up on slanting shelves. In Central and Southern Persia, however, the
smaller kind of bread is more commonly used, not unlike an Indian
_chapati_. A ball of flour paste is well fingered and pawed until it gets
to a semi-solid consistency. It is then flung several times from one palm
of the hand into the other, after which it is spread flat with a roller
upon a level stone slab. A few indentations are made upon its face with
the end of the baker's fingers; it is taken up and thrown with a rapid
movement upon the inner domed portion of a small oven, some three to four
feet high, within which blazes a big charcoal fire. Several loaves are
thus baked against the hot walls and roof of the oven, which has an
aperture at the top, and when properly roasted and beginning to curl and
fall they are seized with wonderful quickness and brought out of the
oven. Gloves on the hands and a cover over the baker's face are necessary
to prevent burns and asphyxia from the escaping gases of the charcoal
from the aperture over which the man must lean every time.

In the bazaars of large cities one finds every now and then large
caravanserais, handsome courts with a tank of water in the centre and
shops all round. It is here that wholesale dealers and traders have their
premises, and that caravans are accommodated on their arrival with goods.
There are generally trees planted all round these courts to shade the
animals and buyers, and often a high and broad platform or verandah all
round, where the goods are spread for inspection. Some of the richer
caravanserais are quite handsome, with neat latticed windows and doors.
The walls are painted white. The court is crammed with tired camels,
mules, beggars and loafers.

The camel men squat in one corner to smoke their pipes and eat their
bread, while the merchants form another ring up above on the verandah,
where prices are discussed at the top of their voices, a crowd of
ever-to-be-found loafers taking active part in the discussion.

On a Friday, the day of rest of the Mahommedan, the bazaar, so crowded on
other days, is absolutely deserted. All the shops--if a hatter or two be
excepted--are barricaded with heavy wooden shutters and massive padlocks
of local or Russian make. Barring a dog or two either lying asleep along
the wall, or scraping a heap of refuse in the hope of satisfying
hunger--there is hardly a soul walking about. Attracted by a crowd in the
distance, one finds a fanatic gesticulating like mad and shouting at the
top of his voice before an admiring crowd of ragamuffins squatting round
him in a circle.

On these holidays, when the streets are clear, the effect of the columns
of sunlight pouring down from the small circular apertures from each dome
of the arcade, and some twenty feet apart, is very quaint. It is like a
long colonnade of brilliant light in the centre of the otherwise dark,
muddy-looking, long, dirty tunnel. At noon, when the sun is on the
meridian, these sun columns are, of course, almost perfectly vertical,
but not so earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon.



CHAPTER XXXI

     A carpet factory--Children at work--The process of
     carpet-making--Foreign influence in the design--Aniline
     dyes--"Ancient carpets" manufactured to-day--Types of
     carpets--Kerman carpets--Isfahan silk carpets--Kurdistan
     rugs--Birjand and Sultanabad carpets--Carpets made by wandering
     tribes--Jewellers--Sword-makers and gunsmiths--Humming birds.


A visit to a carpet factory proves interesting. The horses must be left,
for it is necessary to squeeze through a low and narrow door in order to
enter the shed where the carpets are made.

Every one is familiar with the intricate and gorgeous designs of Persian
carpets, and one imagines that only veteran skilful artisans can tackle
such artistic work. One cannot, therefore, help almost collapsing with
surprise on seeing mere children from the age of six to ten working away
at the looms with a quickness and ease that makes one feel very small.

In badly lighted and worse ventilated rooms, they sit perched in long
rows on benches at various altitudes from the floor, according to the
progression and size of the carpet, the web of which is spread tight
vertically in front of them. Occasionally when the most difficult
patterns are executed, or for patterns with European innovations in the
design, a coloured drawing is hung up above the workers; but usually
there is nothing for them to go by, except that a superintendent--an
older boy--sings out the stitches in a monotonous cadence. A row of
coloured balls of the various coloured threads employed in the design
hang from the loom just within reach of the boys' hands.

[Illustration: Boys Weaving a Carpet.]

[Illustration: Cotton Cleaners.]

The process of carpet-making is extremely simple, consisting merely of a
series of twisted--not absolutely knotted--coloured worsted threads, each
passing round one of the main threads of the foundation web. The
catching-up of each consecutive vertical thread in the web, inserting the
coloured worsted, giving it the twist that makes it remain in its
position, and cutting it to the proper length, is done so quickly by the
tiny, supple fingers of the children that it is impossible to see how it
is done at all until one requests them to do it slowly for one's benefit.
After each horizontal row of twisted threads, a long horizontal thread is
interwoven, and then the lot is beaten down with a heavy iron comb with a
handle to it, not unlike a huge hair-brush cleaner. There are different
modes of twisting the threads, and this constitutes the chief
characteristic of carpets made in one province or another.

The labour involved in their manufacture is enormous, and some carpets
take several years to manufacture. The children employed are made to work
very hard at the looms--seldom less than twelve or fourteen hours a
day--and the exertion upon their memory to remember the design, which has
taken them several months to learn by heart, is great. The constant
strain on the eyes, which have to be kept fixed on each successive
vertical thread so as not to pick up the wrong one, is very injurious to
their sight. Many of the children of the factories I visited were
sore-eyed, and there was hardly a poor mite who did not rub his eyes with
the back of his hand when I asked him to suspend work for a moment. The
tension upon their pupils must be enormous in the dim light.

Although made in a primitive method, the carpet weaving of Persia is
about the only manufacture that deserves a first-class place in the
industries of Iran. The carpets still have a certain artistic merit,
although already contaminated to no mean extent by European
commerciality. Instead of the beautiful and everlasting vegetable dyes
which were formerly used for the worsted and silks, and the magnificent
blue, reds, greens, greys and browns, ghastly aniline dyed threads--raw
and hurtful to the eye--are very commonly used now. Also, of the carpets
for export to Europe and America the same care is not taken in the
manufacture as in the ancient carpets, and the bastard design is often
shockingly vulgarised to appease the inartistic buyer.

But even with all these faults, Persian carpets, if not to the eye of an
expert, for all general purposes are on the whole better than those of
any other manufacture. They have still the great advantage of being made
entirely by hand instead of by machinery. It is not unwise, before buying
a Persian carpet, to rub it well with a white cloth. If it is
aniline-dyed, some of the colour will come off, but if the old Persian
dyes have been used no mark should remain on the cloth. However, even
without resorting to this, it must be a very poor eye indeed that cannot
recognise at once the terrible raw colours of aniline from the soft,
delicious tones of vegetable dyes, which time can only soften but never
discolour.

To manufacture "ancient carpets" is one of the most lucrative branches of
modern Persian carpet-making. The new carpets are spread in the bazaar,
in the middle of the street where it is most crowded, and trampled upon
for days or weeks, according to the age required, foot-passengers and
their donkeys, mules and camels making a point of treading on it in order
to "add age" to the manufacturer's goods. When sufficiently worn down the
carpet is removed, brushed, and eventually sold for double or treble its
actual price owing to its antiquity!

There are some thirty different types of carpets in Persia. The Kerman
carpets are, to my mind, the most beautiful I saw in Persia, in design,
colour and softness. They seem more original and graceful, with
conventional plant, flower and bird representations of delicate and very
varied tints, and not so much geometrical design about them as is the
case in the majority of Persian carpets.

Less successful, in fact quite ugly, but quaint, are those in which very
large and ill-proportioned figures are represented. One feels Arab
influence very strongly in a great many of the Kerman designs. They say
that Kerman sheep have extremely soft and silky hair, and also that the
Kerman water possesses some chemical qualities which are unsurpassable
for obtaining most perfect tones of colour with the various dyes.

The principal carpet factory is in the Governor's Palace, where old
designs are faithfully copied, and really excellent results obtained. The
present Governor, H. E. Ala-el-Mulk, and his nephew take particular
interest in the manufacture, and devote much attention to the carpets,
which retain the ancient native characteristics, and are hardly
contaminated by foreign influence.

The Isfahan silk carpets are also very beautiful, but not quite so
reposeful in colour nor graceful in design. Those of Kurdistan are
principally small prayer rugs, rather vivid in colour, and much used by
Mahommedans in their morning and evening salaams towards Mecca. In
Khorassan, Meshed, Sultanabad, Kaian (Kain) and Birjand, some very thick
carpets are made, of excellent wear, but not so very artistic. In the
Birjand ones, brown camel-hair is a prevailing colour, used too freely as
a background, and often taking away from the otherwise graceful design.
Sultanabad is probably the greatest centre of carpet-making for export
nearly every household possessing a loom. The firm of Ziegler & Co. is
the most extensive buyer and exporter of these carpets. The Herat
(Afghanistan) carpets are also renowned and find their way mostly to
Europe.

In Shiraz and Faristan we find the long narrow rugs, as soft as velvet,
and usually with geometrical designs on them. Red, blue and white are the
prevalent colours.

It would be too long to enumerate all the places where good carpets are
made; but Kermanshah, Tabriz, Yezd,--in fact, nearly all big centres,
make carpets, each having special characteristics of their own, although
in general appearance bearing to the uninitiated more or less similar
semblance.

The rugs made by the wandering tribes of South-east and South-west Persia
are quaint and interesting. The Persian Beluch rugs are somewhat minute
and irregular in design, deep in colour, with occasional discords of
tones, but they recommend themselves by being so strongly made that it is
almost impossible to wear them out. They are generally small, being woven
inside their tents by the women.

In Northern Persia Turcoman carpets--the most adaptable of all for
European houses--are seldom to be found now, as they are generally bought
up for Russia. Dark red, warm and extremely soft is the striking note in
these carpets, and the design is quite sedate.

Carpets, except the cheaper ones, are seldom sold in the bazaars
nowadays. They are purchased on the looms. The best ones are only made
to order. There are, of course, a few rug shops, and occasionally an old
carpet finds its way to a second-hand shop in the bazaar.

Next in attraction to carpets come the jewellers' shops. The goldsmiths'
and silversmiths' shops are not very numerous in the bazaars, nor, when
we come to examine the work carefully, do they have anything really worth
buying. The work is on good gold or silver of pure quality, but, with few
exceptions, is generally clumsy in design and heavily executed. Figures
are attempted, with most inartistic results, on silver cases and boxes.
The frontage of a goldsmith's shop has no great variety of articles.
Bracelets, rings, necklaces, tea and coffee pots, stands for coffee cups,
and enamelled pipe heads; a silver kalian or two, an old cigar-box full
of turquoises, and another full of other precious stones--or, rather,
imitations of precious stones--a little tray with forgeries of ancient
coins; that is about all. Pearls and diamonds and really valuable stones
are usually concealed in neat paper parcels carried on the person by the
jeweller and produced on the demand of customers.

The swordmaker and gunsmith displays many daggers and blades of local
make and a great number of obsolete Belgian and Russian revolvers; also a
good many Martini and Snider rifles, which have found their way here from
India. Occasionally a good modern pistol or gun is to be seen. Good
rifles or revolvers find a prompt sale in Persia at enormous figures.
Nearly every man in the country carries a rifle. Had I chosen, I could
have sold my rifles and revolvers twenty times over when in Persia, the
sums offered me for them being two or three times what I had paid for
them myself. But my rifles had been very faithful companions to me; one,
a 256· Mannlicher, had been twice in Tibet; the other, a 30·30 take-down
Winchester, had accompanied me through the Chinese campaign, and I would
accept no sum for them.

One is carried back a few score of years on seeing the old rings for
carrying gun-caps, and also gunpowder flasks, and even old picturesque
flintlocks and matchlocks; but still, taking things all round, it is
rather interesting to note that there is a considerable number of men in
Iran who are well-armed with serviceable cartridge rifles, which they can
use with accuracy. Cartridge rifles are at a great premium, and although
their importation is not allowed, they have found their way in
considerable quantities from all sides, but principally, they tell me,
from India, _via_ the Gulf.

One of the notes of the bazaar is that in almost every shop one sees a
cage or two with humming-birds. In the morning and evening a male member
of the family takes the cage and birds out for a walk in the air and sun,
for the dulness and darkness of the bazaar, although considered
sufficiently good for Persians themselves, is not regarded conducive to
sound health and happiness for their pets.



CHAPTER XXXII

     The Grand Avenue of Isfahan--The Madrassah--Silver gates--The
     dome--The Palace--The hall of forty columns--Ornamentations--The
     picture hall--Interesting paintings--Their artistic
     merit--Nasr-ed-din Shah's portrait--The ceiling--The quivering
     minarets.


The grand Avenue of Isfahan, much worn and out of repair, and having
several lines of trees along its entire length of half a mile or so down
to the river, is one of the sights of the ancient capital of Persia.

About half-way down the Avenue the famous Madrassah is to be found. It
has a massive, handsome silver gate, in a somewhat dilapidated condition
at present, and showing evident marks of thieving enterprise. At the
entrance stand fluted, tiled columns, with alabaster bases, in the shape
of vases some ten feet in height, while a frieze of beautiful blue tiles
with inscriptions from the Koran, and other ornamentations, are to be
admired, even in their mutilated condition, on tiles now sadly tumbling
down.

So much for the exterior. Inside, the place bears ample testimony to
former grandeur and splendour, but at present hopeless decay is rampant
here as everywhere else in Persia. The Madrassah is attributed to Shah
Sultan Hussein, the founder of the Shrine at Kum, and some magnificent
bits of this great work yet remain. One can gaze at the beautiful dome,
of a superb delicate greenish tint, surmounted by a huge knob supposed to
be of solid gold, and at the two most delightful minarets, full of grace
in their lines and delicately refined in colour, with lattice work at
their summit.

[Illustration: Handsome Doorway in the Madrassah, Isfahan.]

In the courts and gardens are some fine old trees, amid a lot of uncouth
vegetation, while grass sprouts out between the slabs of stone on the
paths and wherever it should not be; the walls all round, however, are
magnificent, being built of large green tiles with ornamentations of
graceful curves and the favourite leaf pattern. In other places white
ornamentations, principally curves and yellow circles, are to be noticed
on dark blue tiles. In some of the courts very handsome tiles with flower
patterns are still in good preservation.

There are in the college 160 rooms for students to board and lodge. The
buildings have two storeys and nearly all have tiled fronts, less
elaborate than the minarets and dome, but quite pretty, with quaint white
verandahs. When I visited the place there were only some fifty students,
of all ages, from children to old men. Much time is devoted by them to
theological studies and some smattering of geography and history.

One cannot leave Isfahan without visiting the old Palace.

In a garden formerly beautiful but semi-barren and untidy now, on a
pavement of slabs which are no longer on the level with one another,
stands the Palace of the Twenty Columns, called of "the forty columns,"
probably because the twenty existing ones are reflected as in a mirror in
the long rectangular tank of water extending between this palace and the
present dwelling of H. E. Zil-es-Sultan, Governor of Isfahan. Distance
lends much enchantment to everything in Persia, and such is the case even
in this palace, probably the most tawdrily gorgeous structure in
north-west Persia.

The Palace is divided into two sections, the open throne hall and the
picture hall behind it. The twenty octagonal columns of the open-air hall
were once inlaid with Venetian mirrors, and still display bases of four
grinning lions carved in stone. But, on getting near them, one finds that
the bases are chipped off and damaged, the glass almost all gone, and the
foundation of the columns only remains, painted dark-red. The lower
portion of the column, for some three feet, is ornamented with painted
flowers, red in blue vases. The floor under the colonnade is paved with
bricks, and there is a raised platform for the throne, reached by four
stone steps.

There is a frieze here of graceful although conventional floral
decoration with gold leaves. In the wall are two windows giving light to
two now empty rooms. The end central receptacle or niche is gaudily
ornamented with Venetian looking-glasses cut in small triangles, and it
has a pretty ceiling with artichoke-leaf pattern capitals in an upward
crescendo of triangles.

The ceiling above the upper platform is made entirely of mirrors with
adornments in blue and gold and glass, representing the sky, the sun, and
golden lions. Smaller suns also appear in the ornamentation of the
frieze. The ceiling above the colonnade and the beams between the columns
are richly ornamented in blue, grey, red, and gold. This ceiling is
divided into fifteen rectangles, the central panel having a geometrical
pattern of considerable beauty, in which, as indeed throughout, the
figure of the sun is prominent.

The inner hall must have been a magnificent room in its more flourishing
days. It is now used as a storeroom for banners, furniture, swords, and
spears, piled everywhere on the floor and against the walls. One cannot
see very well what the lower portion of the walls is like, owing to the
quantity of things amassed all round, and so covered with dust as not to
invite removal or even touch; but there seems to be a frieze nine feet
high with elaborate blue vases on which the artist called into life gold
flowers and graceful leaves.

The large paintings are of considerable interest apart from their
historical value. In the centre, facing the entrance door, we detect
Nadir Shah, the Napoleon of Persia, the leader of 80,000 men through
Khorassan, Sistan, Kandahar and Cabul. He is said to have crossed from
Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass to Peshawar, and from there to
Delhi, where his presence led to a scene of loot and carnage. But to him
was certainly due the extension of the Persian boundary to the Indus
towards the East and to the Oxus on the North. In the picture he is
represented on horseback with a great following of elephants and turbaned
figures.

To the right we have a fight, in which Shah Ismail, who became Shah of
Persia in 1499, is the hero, and a crowd of Bokhara warriors and Afghans
the secondary figures. Evidently the painting is to commemorate the great
successes obtained by Ismail in Khorassan, Samarkand and Tashkend.

The third is a more peaceful scene--a Bokhara dancing girl performing
before Shah Tamasp, eldest of four sons of Ismail and successor to his
throne. The Shah is represented entertaining the Indian Emperor Humaiyun
in 1543. The lower portion of this picture is in good preservation, but
the upper part has been patched up with hideous ornamentations of birds
and flowers on red ground.

Over the door Shah Ismail, wearing a white turban, is represented riding
a white horse and carrying a good supply of arrows. The Shah is in the
act of killing a foe, and the painting probably represents one of his
heroic deeds at the battle of Khoi against Salim.

To the right of the door there is a picture of dancing and feasting, with
Shah Abbas offering drink in sign of friendship to Abdul Mohmek Khan
Osbek.

Finally, to the left of the front door we have pictorially the most
pleasing of the whole series, another scene of feasting, with the
youthful figure of Shah Abbas II. (died 1668), a man of great pluck, but
unfortunately given to drunkenness and licentious living, which developed
brutal qualities in him. It was he who blinded many of his relations by
placing red-hot irons in front of their eyes. Considering this too
lenient a punishment he ordered their eyes to be extracted altogether. We
see him now, sitting upon his knees, garbed in a red tunic and turban. In
the foreground a most graceful dancing-girl, in red and green robes, with
a peculiar waistband, and flying locks of hair. The artist has very
faithfully depicted the voluptuous twist of her waist, much appreciated
by Persians in dancing, and he has also managed to infuse considerable
character into the musicians, the guitar man and the followers of the
Shah to the left of the picture, as one looks at it, and the tambourine
figure to the right. Fruit and other refreshments lie in profusion in
vessels on the floor, elaborately painted. This picture is rectangular,
and is probably not only the most artistic but the best preserved of the
lot.

[Illustration: One of Zil-es-Sultan's Eunuchs.]

[Illustration: The "Hall of the Forty Columns," Isfahan.]

Great labour and patience in working out details have been the aim of the
artists of all these pictures, rather than true effects of nature, and
the faces, hands, and poses are, of course, as in most Persian paintings,
conventionalized and absolutely regardless of proportion, perspective,
fore-shortening or atmospherical influence or action--generally called
aerial perspective. The objection, common in nearly all countries,
England included, to shadows on the faces is intensified a thousand-fold
in Persian paintings, and handicaps the artist to no mean degree in his
attempts to give relief to his figures. Moreover, the manipulation and
concentration of light, and the art of composing a picture are not
understood in old Persian paintings, and the result is that it is most
difficult to see a picture as an _ensemble_. The eye roams all over the
painting, attracted here by a patch of brilliant yellow, there by another
equally vivacious red, here by some bright detail, there by something
else; and like so many ghosts in a haunted room peep out the huge, black,
almond-shaped eyes, black-bearded heads, all over the picture, standing
like prominent patches out of the plane they are painted on.

The pictures are, nevertheless, extremely interesting, and from a
Persian's standpoint magnificently painted. Such is not the case with the
modern and shocking portrait of Nasr-ed-din Shah, painted in the best oil
colours in European style, his Majesty wearing a gaudy uniform with great
wealth of gold and diamonds. This would be a bad painting anywhere in
Persia or Europe.

The ceiling of this hall is really superb. It has three domes, the centre
one more lofty than the two side ones. The higher dome is gilt, and is
most gracefully ornamented with a refined leaf pattern and twelve gold
stars, while the other two cupolas are blue with a similar leaf
ornamentation in gold. There is much quaint irregularity in the
geometrical design of the corners, shaped like a kite of
prettily-arranged gold, blue and green, while other corners are red and
light blue, with the sides of green and gold of most delicate tones.
These are quite a violent contrast to the extravagant flaming red patches
directly over the paintings.

The hall is lighted by three windows at each end near the lower arch of
the side domes, and three further double windows immediately under them.
There is one main entrance and three exits (one large and two small)
towards the throne colonnade.

Through narrow lanes, along ditches of dirty water, or between high mud
walls, one comes six miles to the west of Isfahan to one of the most
curious sights of Persia,--the quivering minarets above the shrine and
tomb of a saint. These towers, according to Persians, are at least eight
centuries old.

Enclosed in a rectangular wall is the high sacred domed tomb, and on
either side of the pointed arch of the Mesjid rise towards the sky the
two column-like minarets, with quadrangular bases. A spiral staircase
inside each minaret, just wide enough to let a man through, conveys one
to the top, wherein four small windows are to be found. By seizing the
wall at one of the apertures and shaking it violently an unpleasant
oscillation can be started, and continues of its own accord, the minaret
diverging from the perpendicular as much as two inches on either side.
Presently the second minaret begins to vibrate also in uniformity with
the first, and the vibration can be felt along the front roof-platform
between the two minarets, but not in other parts of the structure. A
large crack by the side of one of the minarets which is said to have
existed from time immemorial foretells that some day or other minarets
and front wall will come down, but it certainly speaks well for the
elasticity of minarets of 800 years ago that they have stood up quivering
so long.

The minarets are not very high, some thirty-five feet above the roof of
the Mesjid, or about seventy-five feet from the ground. The whole
structure, of bricks and mud, is--barring the dangerous crack--still in
good preservation. On the outside, the minarets are tiled in a graceful,
geometrical transverse pattern of dark and light blue.

A visit to the sacred shrine of the quivering minarets has miraculous
powers--say the Persians--of curing all diseases or protecting one
against them, hence the pilgrimage of a great number of natives afflicted
with all sorts of complaints. Beggars in swarms are at the entrance
waiting, like hungry mosquitoes, to pounce upon the casual visitor or
customary pleasure-seeker of Isfahan, for whom this spot is a favourite
resort.



CHAPTER XXXIII

     Isfahan the commercial heart of Persia--Dangers of maps in
     argument--Bandar Abbas--The possibility of a Russian railway to
     Bandar Abbas--Bandar Abbas as a harbour--The caravan road to
     Bandar Abbas--Rates of transport--Trade--British and Russian
     influence--Shipping--A Russian line of steamers--Customs under
     Belgian officials--Lingah--Its exports and imports.


Isfahan is for England the most important city, politically and
commercially, in Western Persia. It is the central point from which roads
radiate to all parts of the Shah's Empire. It is the commercial heart, as
it were, of Persia, and the future preponderance of Russian or British
influence in Isfahan will settle the balance in favour of one or the
other of the two countries and the eventual preponderance in the whole of
Western Iran.

Khorassan and Sistan stand on quite a different footing, being severed
from the West by the great Salt Desert, and must be set apart for the
moment and dealt with specially.

[Illustration: The Quivering Minarets near Isfahan.]

A reliable map ought to be consulted in order to understand the question
properly, but it should be remembered that it is ever dangerous to base
arguments on maps alone in discussing either political or commercial
matters. Worse still is the case when astoundingly incorrect maps such as
are generally manufactured in England are in the hands of people
unfamiliar with the real topography and resources of a country.

To those who have travelled it is quite extraordinary what an appalling
mass of nonsensical rubbish can be supplied to the public by politicians,
by newspaper penny-a-liners, and by home royal geographo-parasites at
large, who base their arguments on such unsteady foundation. It is quite
sufficient for some people to open an atlas and place their fingers on a
surface of cobalt blue paint in order to select strategical harbours,
point out roads upon which foreign armies can invade India, trade routes
which ought to be adopted in preference to others, and so on, regardless
of sea-depth, currents, winds, shelter, and climatic conditions. In the
case of roads for invading armies, such small trifles as hundreds of
miles of desert, impassable mountain ranges, lack of water, and no fuel,
are never considered! These are only small trifles that do not
signify--as they are not marked on the maps--the special fancy of the
cartographer for larger or smaller type in the nomenclature making cities
and villages more or less important to the student, or the excess of ink
upon one river course rather than another, according to the
cartographer's humour, making that river quite navigable, notwithstanding
that in reality there may not be a river nor a city nor village at all.
We have flaming examples of this in our Government maps of Persia.

I myself have had an amusing controversy in some of the London leading
papers with no less a person than the Secretary of a prominent
Geographical Society, who assured the public that certain well-known
peaks did not exist because he could not find them (they happened to be
there all the same) on his map!

Such other trifles as the connecting of lakes by imaginary rivers to
maintain the reputation of a scientific impostor, or the building of
accurate maps (_sic_) from badly-taken photographs--the direction of
which was not even recorded by the distinguished photographers--are
frauds too commonly perpetrated on the innocent public by certain
so-called scientific societies, to be here referred to. Although these
frauds are treated lightly, the harm they do to those who take them
seriously and to the public at large, who are always ready blindly to
follow anybody with sufficient bounce, is enormous.

Without going into minor details, let us take the burning question of the
fast-expanding Russian influence in the south of Persia. We are assured
that Russia wishes an outlet in the Persian Gulf, and suspicions are
strong that her eye is set on Bandar Abbas. On the map it certainly
appears a most heavenly spot for a harbour, and we hear from scribblers
that it can be made into a strong naval base and turned into a formidable
position. The trade from Meshed and Khorassan and Teheran, Isfahan, Yezd,
and Kerman is with equal theoretical facility switched on to this place.
Even allowing that Russia should obtain a concession of this place--a
most unlikely thing to be asked for or conceded while Persia remains an
independent country--matters would not be as simple for Russia as the man
in the street takes them to be.

It would first of all be necessary to construct a railway connecting the
Trans-Caspian line with Bandar Abbas, a matter of enormous expense and
difficulty, and likely enough never to be a profitable financial
enterprise. The political importance is dubious. A long railway line
unguarded in a foreign country could but be of little practical value. It
must be remembered that Persia is a very thinly populated country, with
vast tracts of land, such as the Salt Desert, almost absolutely
uninhabited, and where the construction of such a railway would involve
serious difficulties, owing to the lack of water for several months of
the year, intense heat, shifting sands, and in some parts sudden
inundations during the short rainy season.

Moreover, Bandar Abbas itself, although ideally situated on the maps, is
far from being an ideal harbour. The water is shallow, and there is no
safe shelter; the heat unbearable and unhealthy. At enormous expense, of
course, this spot, like almost any other spot on any coast, could be
turned into a fair artificial harbour. The native town itself--if it can
be honoured with such a name--consists of a few miserable mud houses,
with streets in which one sinks in filth and mud. The inhabitants are the
most miserable and worst ruffians in Persia, together with some Hindoos.
There is a European community of less than half-a-dozen souls.

The _British India_ and other coasting steamers touch here, and therefore
this has been made the starting-point for caravans to Kerman and Yezd and
Sistan _via_ Bam. But for Isfahan and Teheran the more direct and shorter
route _via_ Bushire is selected. The caravan road from Bandar Abbas to
Kerman and Yezd is extremely bad and unsafe. Several times of late the
track has been blocked, and caravans robbed. During 1900, and since that
date, the risk of travelling on the road seems to have increased, and as
it is useless for Persians to try and obtain protection or compensation
from their own Government the traffic not only has been diverted when
possible to other routes, principally Bushire, but the rates for
transport of goods inland had at one time become almost prohibitive. In
the summer of 1900, it cost 18 tomans (about £3 9_s._) to convey 900 lbs.
weight as far as Yezd, but in the autumn the charges rose to 56 tomans
(about £10 13_s._) or more than three times as much for the same weight
of goods. Eventually the rates were brought down to 22 tomans, but only
for a short time, after which they fluctuated again up to 28 tomans. It
was with the greatest difficulty that loading camels could be obtained at
all, owing to the deficiency of exports, and this partly accounted for
the extortionate prices demanded. An English gentleman whom I met in
Kerman told me that it was only at great expense and trouble that he was
able to procure camels to proceed from Bandar Abbas to Kerman, and even
then he had to leave all his luggage behind to follow when other animals
could be obtained.

According to statistics furnished by the British Vice-Consul, the exports
of 1900 were half those of 1899, the exact figures being £202,232 for
1899; £102,671 for 1900. Opium, which had had the lead by far in previous
years, fell from £48,367 to £4,440. Raw cotton, however, not only held
its own but rose to a value of £18,692 from £6,159 the previous year. In
the years 1888, 1889, 1890, and 1891 the exports of raw cotton were
abnormal, and rose to about £35,000 in 1890, the highest record during
the decade from 1888 to 1897.

Large quantities of henna and opium are also exported from this spot, as
it is the principal outlet of the Kerman and Yezd districts, but the
trade may be said to be almost entirely in British hands at present, and
Russian influence so far is infinitesimal.

We find that, next to opium, fruit and vegetables, especially dates,
constitute a large part of the export, then wool, drugs and spices, salt,
carpets and woollen fabrics, piece goods, silk (woven), seeds, skins and
tanned leather, wheat and cereals, and cotton raw and manufactured.
Perfumery--rose-water--was largely exported from 1891 to 1896. The
exportation of tobacco seems to decrease, although it is now beginning to
look up again a little. Dyes and colouring substances are also exported.

The value of imports is very nearly double that of the exports. Cotton
goods have the lead by a long way, then come tea, and piece goods,
loaf-sugar, powdered sugar, indigo, metals, wheat and cereals, spices,
drugs, wool and woollen fabrics, jute fabrics, cheap cutlery, coffee,
tobacco, mules, horses, donkeys, etc., in the succession enumerated.

It is pleasant to find that the shipping increases yearly at Bandar
Abbas, and that, second only to Persian vessels, the number of British
sailing vessels entering Bandar Abbas in 1900 was nearly double (48) of
the previous year (28). Steamers were in the proportion of 101 to 64.
Although in number of sailing vessels the Persians have the priority,
because of the great number of small crafts, the total tonnage of the
Persian vessels was 5,320 tons against 75,440 tons in 1899, and 139,164
tons in 1900 British.

Turkish steamers occasionally ply to Bandar Abbas and Muscat and also
Arab small sailing crafts.

It is rather curious to note that in 1899 the imports into Bandar Abbas
came entirely from India, Great Britain and France, and in a small
measure from Muscat, Zanzibar, the Arab Coast, Bahrain and Persian ports,
whereas the following year, 1900, the imports from India fell to less
than half their previous value, from £435,261 to £204,306, and from the
United Kingdom there was a diminution from £86,197 to £69,597; whereas
France doubled hers in 1900 and other countries entered into competition.
The Chinese Empire, curiously enough, was the strongest, to the value of
£18,419, presumably with teas, and Austria-Hungary £10,509. Germany and
Turkey imported to the value of some £2,174 and £2,147 respectively.
Belgium £2,254, Java £7,819, Mauritius £3,564, Muscat £692, the Canaries
£637, America £600, and Arabia £494. Japan contributed to the amount of
£305, Sweden £273, Italy £82, and Switzerland the modest sum of £8.

A most significant point is that Russia, with all her alleged aims and
designs, only contributed to the small amount of £572. Nothing was
exported from Bandar Abbas to Russia. It would appear from this that at
least commercially Russia's position at Bandar Abbas was not much to be
feared as late as 1900. Since then a Russian line of steamers has been
established from the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf ports, but I have no
accurate statistics at hand. It is said not to be a financial success.

The establishment of Customs under Belgian officials in 1900 caused some
trouble at first, and may have been responsible for a portion of the
falling-off in trade, but it is now agreed by everybody that the system
is carried on in a fair and honest manner, preferable to the extortionate
fashion employed by the former speculators who farmed out the Customs.

I rather doubt whether Russia's aim is even directed towards Lingah, to
the south-west of Bandar Abbas, as has been supposed by others. Although
this port would afford a deeper and better anchorage and a breakwater,
it has the same difficulties of approach by land from Russia as Bandar
Abbas--in fact, greater ones, being further south.

Lingah is a more prosperous port than Bandar Abbas, its exports being
roughly two-thirds larger than those of Bandar Abbas, and its imports
one-third in excess. In value the export and import of pearls form the
chief item, next come wheat and cotton. Very little tea is disembarked at
Lingah, but dates and firearms were landed in considerable quantities,
especially in 1897. Coffee and tobacco were more in demand here than at
Bandar Abbas, and metals were largely imported. White sea-shells found
their way in huge quantities to Beluchistan, where the women use them for
decorating their persons. Bangles and necklaces are made with them, and
neck-bands for the camels, horses and mules, as well as ornamentations on
the saddle bags. With these two exceptions the imports and exports of
Lingah are made up of larger quantities of articles similar to those
brought to and from Bandar Abbas.



CHAPTER XXXIV

     Mahommerah--Where Russia's aims are directed--Advantages of
     Mahommerah--The navigation of the Karun River--Traffic--Rates on
     the Ahwaz-Isfahan track--The Government's
     attitude--Wheat--Russian influence--Backhtiari Chiefs--Up and
     down river trade--Gum--Cotton goods--Sugar--Caravan
     route--Steamers--Disadvantages of a policy of drift--Russian
     enterprise.


So much for Bandar Abbas and Lingah. I will not touch on Bushire, too
well known to English people, but Mahommerah may have a special interest
to us, and also to Russia. It is rather curious to note that it has never
struck the British politician nor the newspaper writer that Russia's
aims, based usually on sound and practical knowledge, might be focussed
on this port, which occupies the most favourable position in the Persian
Gulf for Russia's purposes. Even strategically it is certainly as good as
Bandar Abbas, while commercially its advantages over the latter port are
a thousandfold greater.

These advantages are a navigable river, through fertile country, instead
of an almost impassable, waterless desert, and a distance as the crow
flies from Russian territory to Mahommerah one-third shorter than from
Bandar Abbas. A railway through the most populated and richest part of
Persia could easily be constructed to Ahwaz. The climate is healthy
though warm.

Another most curious fact which seems almost incredible is that the
British Government, through ignorance or otherwise, by a policy of drift
may probably be the cause of helping Russia to reap the benefit of
British enterprise on the Karun River, in the development of which a
considerable amount of British capital has already been sunk. The
importance, political and commercial, of continuing the navigation of the
Karun River until it does become a financial success--which it is bound
to be as soon as the country all round it is fully developed--is too
obvious for me to write at length upon it, but it cannot be expected that
a private company should bear the burden and loss entirely for the good
of the mother country without any assistance from the home Government.

The British firm, who run the steamers, with much insight and
praiseworthy enterprise improved the existing caravan track from Isfahan
to Ahwaz on the Karun River, the point up to which the river is navigable
by steamers not drawing more than four feet. They built two fine
suspension bridges, one over the Karun at Godar-i-Balutak and the other,
the Pul-Amarat (or Built-bridge) constructed on the side of an ancient
masonry bridge. The track has thus been rendered very easy and every
assistance was offered to caravans, while a regular service of river
steamers plied from Mahommerah to Ahwaz, to relieve the traffic by
water. The s.s. _Blosse Lynch_, 250 tons, was sent up at first, but was
too large, so the s.s. _Malamir_, 120 tons, was specially built for the
Karun navigation.

Matters were very prosperous at first, until many obstacles came in the
way. The road has been open to traffic some three years. The first year
traffic was healthy and strong, but the second year, owing to famine in
Arabistan, the traffic suddenly dropped and nothing would induce
muleteers to travel by that route. Although they were offered as much as
100 (£2) to 110 krans (£2 4_s._) per load from Isfahan to Ahwaz, a
distance of 17 stages--277 miles--they preferred to take 70 krans (£1
9_s._ 2_d._) to Bushire, a journey of about 30 stages, over a distance of
510 miles.

The caravan men in Persia are curious people to deal with, and it takes a
very long time to imbue their minds with new ideas. In the case of the
Ahwaz road it was partly conservatism and fear instigated by the Mullahs
that prevented their taking loads to the steamers.

It was fully expected that the route could not pay its way for at least
five years from its inauguration, and the British Government--which at
that time seemed to understand the value of the undertaking--agreed to
give in equal shares with the Government of India a collective guarantee
against losses up to £3,000 for the first two years, then of £2,000 for
five years. For some unaccountable reason the Government of India, which
the scheme mostly concerned, dropped out, and the guarantee was further
reduced to £1,000 payable by the home Government only. As a result of
this the steamers have been run since at a considerable loss, and had it
not been for the patriotism of Lynch Brothers, and the prospects to which
they still cling of a successful issue, the navigation of the Karun would
have already come to an untimely end.

The principal article of export of any importance was wheat, grown in
enormous quantities in the fertile plains of Arabistan; and were its
export legal, the export of grain would be infinitely greater than the
whole of the present imports. But the Persian Government unfortunately
prohibited the export of grain from Persia, nominally to allay and
prevent famine in the country, in fact to enrich local governors by
permitting illicit export. Consequently, the peasants could not sell
their produce in the open market and had to sell it, accepting what they
could get from speculators at about half the actual value. This led to
the discontinuance of the cultivation of wheat. When for three years the
exportation of grain was permitted, the acreage under cultivation was
enormous and yielded very large returns, but as soon as the prohibition
was set in force it dwindled year by year until it became approximately
the fifth part of what it originally was. On the top of all this a severe
drought occurred and a famine resulted.

It seems very likely that the British Government may now fall out also
and stop the meagre guarantee of £1,000. This may have disastrous
results, for it cannot be expected that a private firm will continue the
navigation of the Karun at a great loss. This is, in a few words, what it
may lead to. Should the British abandon the work already done, Russia
will step in--she has had her eye upon the Karun more than upon any other
spot in Persia--and reap the benefit of the money and labour that has
been spent by us. In the plain of Arabistan Russian influence is not yet
very far advanced, but among the Backhtiaris it is spreading fast.
Intrigue is rampant. The Russian agents endeavour to get the tribesmen
into disgrace with the Government and they succeed to a great extent in
their aim.

Isphandiar Khan, who has the title of Sirdar Assad, is the head chief of
the Backhtiaris, and with his cousin Sephadar keeps going the various
branches of the family, but serious family squabbles are very frequent
and may eventually cause division. The two above named men manage to keep
all together except Hadji-Riza Kuli Khan, who is an opposing factor. He
is an uncle of Isphandiar Khan, and his rancour arises from having been
ousted from the chieftainship. He is said to have fallen very badly under
Russian influence, and instigated his followers to rebellion, the cause
being, however, put down not to family squabbles and jealousy--the true
causes--but to disapproval of the new road and the influence exercised by
it upon the Backhtiari country.

Only about one-fifth of foreign imports into Mahommerah find their way up
the Karun River. It is certainly to be regretted that no articles direct
from the United Kingdom are forced up the river. The trade with India in
1900 only amounted to some £43,062 against £30,149 the previous year,
France, Turkey, and Egypt being the only other importers. The total
imports into Mahommerah for transhipment to Karun ports amounted to
£59,194 in 1900, and showed a considerable increase on 1899.

Piece goods find their way up the river in considerable quantities. Then
loaf-sugar and soft sugar are the principal articles of import; dates,
iron, and treacle come next; while various metals, tea and matches come
last.

In regard to local commerce the river trade for 1900 was £100,437,
showing an increase of £37,449 upon the trade of 1899. This ought to be
regarded as satisfactory, considering the slowness of Oriental races in
moving from their old grooves.

The down river trade falls very short of the up river commerce, and
consists mostly of wheat, oil seeds, opium, wool, gum, flour, beans,
cotton, rice, tobacco, piece goods, glue. In 1900 the decrease in the
carriage of wheat was enormous, and also the trade in oil seeds. Although
gum was carried down stream in much larger quantities, owing to the yield
being unusually abundant, the price obtained was very poor, owing to the
falling London market. Gum Tragacanth was conveyed principally by the
Isfahan-Ahwaz route. Notwithstanding all this there was an increase of
£17,000 in 1900 over the trade of 1899, which shows that the route is
nevertheless progressing and is worth cultivating.

Cotton goods, which are reimported from India mostly by Parsee and Jewish
firms, originally come from Manchester and are in great demand. They
consist of grey shirtings, prints (soft finish), lappets, imitation
Turkey red, Tanjibs and jaconets. Marseilles beetroot sugar is holding
its own against other cheaper sugars imported lately and finds its way to
Isfahan by the Ahwaz road.

Caravans usually employ twenty days on the Ahwaz-Isfahan journey, but the
distance can easily be covered in fifteen days and even less. A
fortnightly steamer is run by the Euphratis and Tigris Steam Navigation
Company to Ahwaz.

Mahommerah exports chiefly to India, then to Turkey, the United Kingdom,
Hong Kong, the Persian Gulf ports, Egypt and France. In 1900 the exports
were to the value of £115,359. The imports were similar to those of
Bandar Abbas, viz.:--cotton goods, sugar, coffee, silk, iron, tea,
manufactured metal, thread, spices, etc. They amounted to an aggregate
sum of £281,570 in 1900, against £202,492 in 1899.[4]

If I have gone into details it is to show the mistake made by the British
Government in letting such a valuable position, of absolute vital
importance to our interest, drift slowly but surely into Russian hands.
Russia's aims in the Gulf are at present concentrated on the Karun River;
our movements are closely watched, and nothing could be more probable
than, that if we abandon the Karun, Russia will at once fill our place
and turn the whole business into a formidable success.

The Russian Government have now granted a subsidy of £5,000 per round
voyage to the Russian Steam Navigation to run three steamers a year from
Odessa to Bussorah, touching at all the principal ports of the Persian
Gulf. The s.s. _Kornilof_ made two voyages in 1901, arriving in Bussorah
in April and November. On her first voyage she landed most of her cargo
in Bushire, and only conveyed 8,000 cases of petroleum and a quantity of
wood for date boxes; but on her second journey 16,500 cases of petroleum
were landed at Bussorah and a further supply of wood, besides a great
number of samples of Russian products, such as flour, sugar and matches.
On the second return journey the _Kornilof_ took back to Odessa freight
for two thousand pounds from Bussorah, principally dates, a cargo which
had been previously carried by British steamers to Port Said and then
transhipped for the Black Sea.

The appearance of the Russian boats excited considerable interest among
the natives and merchants, both British and indigenous. Comments are
superfluous on the grant given by the Russian Government to further
Russian trade, and the wavering attitude of the British Government in
safeguarding interests already acquired.

FOOTNOTES:

[4] See Diplomatic and Consular Reports, Trade of Persian Gulf for the
    year 1900. Foreign Office. H.M. Stationery Office.



CHAPTER XXXV

     The British Consul-General in Isfahan--Russia's influence in
     Southern Persia--H.R.H. Zil-es-Sultan--Departure for Yezd--Pigeon
     towers--A Persian telegraph line--Ghiavaz--Characteristics of the
     scenery--A village in ruins--Types--Saigsi--Mud dunes--Mirage--A
     reservoir--Kanats--Scarcity of fodder.


I only halted a few days in Isfahan, during which time I was the guest of
Mr. Preece, the British Consul-General. Mr. Preece's hospitality and
popularity are proverbial among Europeans and natives all over Persia. A
step in the right direction was taken by the British Government in making
a Consulate-General in Isfahan, and another good step was that of
furnishing the Consulate with a guard of mounted Indian soldiers.
Prestige and outward show go much together in Persia, and no matter to
what extent one's private feelings may rebel at the idea, we must make a
display, I suppose.

We have in Mr. Preece a very able and intellectual officer; a man who
understands the Persians thoroughly, and a gentleman of uncommon tact and
kindliness. His artistic taste has served him well, so that the Consulate
and grounds have been rendered most comfortable and delightful, and the
collections of carpets and silver which he has made during his many
years' residence in Persia are very interesting.

It is true that Russian influence is spreading fast towards the south,
and that the establishment of a Russian Consulate in Isfahan, with its
guard of Cossacks, has made considerable impression on the population,
but no doubt Mr. Preece will be able to maintain British prestige high,
if the Government at home show grit and enable him to do so.

It is most important, I think, to come to some sound conclusion on the
policy to be followed towards Russia in Persia, either to check her
advance immediately and firmly, or to come to some satisfactory agreement
with her so that her interests and ours may not altogether clash; but it
cannot be impressed too often upon our minds that our present policy of
drift and wavering is most disastrous to our interests. We have lost
Northern Persia. Southern Persia will soon slip from our grip unless we
pull up soon and open our eyes wide to what is happening.

We place too much reliance on the fact that Zil-es-Sultan, the Shah's
brother and now Governor of Isfahan, was once extremely pro-British. We
have a way of getting ideas into our heads and nothing will drive them
out again, but we forget that things and people change in Persia as
everywhere else, and what was accurate fifteen years ago may not be so
now. Also it must be remembered that Zil-es-Sultan, although in high
power, does not occupy the same high position politically as before the
late Shah's death. He and his family are kept under strict control of the
Shah, and any pro-English ideas which they may still have are
discouraged, if not promptly eradicated. His Highness's sons have been
forbidden to be educated in Europe or to travel abroad, although a visit
to Russia only might be allowed. Beyond the secondary power of a High
Governor, Zil-es-Sultan has no other influence, and has to conform to
superior orders. He is now no longer very young, and his popularity,
although still very great, cannot be said to be on the increase.

[Illustration: H. R. H. Zil-es-Sultan, Governor of Isfahan.]

While in Isfahan I had an audience of his Highness. One could not help
being struck at first glance by the powerful countenance of the Prince,
and the mixture of pride and worry plainly depicted on his face. He spoke
very intelligently but was most guarded in his speech. One of his sons
Baharam Mirza--a wonderfully clever young man, who spoke French and
English fluently although he had never been out of Persia--interpreted. I
was much impressed by the kindliness of the Zil-es-Sultan towards his
children, and in return by the intense respect, almost fear, of these
towards their father. After a pleasant visit and the usual compliments
and refreshments, coffee was brought, the polite signal that the audience
should come to a close. The Prince accompanied the Consul and myself to
the door of the room--a most unusual compliment.

There were many soldiers, and servants and attendants with silver-topped
maces who escorted us out of the grounds, where we found the Consular
guard again, and returned to the Consulate.

Two days later I departed for Yezd. There is no high road between the two
cities; only a mere track. No postal service and relays of horses are
stationed on the track, but, by giving notice some days previous to one's
departure, horses can be sent out ahead from Isfahan to various stages of
the journey, until the Kashan-Nain-Yezd road is met, on which post horses
can again be obtained at the Chappar Khanas. This, however, involved so
much uncertainty and exorbitant expense that I preferred to make up my
own caravan of mules, the first part of the journey being rather hilly.

On leaving Isfahan there are mountains to the south, the Urchin range,
and also to the east, very rugged and with sharply defined edges. To the
north-east stand distant elevations, but nothing can be seen due north.
We go through a great many ruins on leaving the city, and here, too, as
in other cities of Persia, one is once more struck by the unimportant
appearance of the city from a little distance off. The green dome of the
Mosque, and four minarets are seen rising on the north-east, five more
slender minarets like factory chimneys--one extremely high--then
everything else the colour of mud.

The traffic near the city is great. Hundreds of donkeys and mules toddle
along both towards and away from the city gate. The dust is appalling.
There is nothing more tantalizing than the long stretches of
uninteresting country to be traversed in Persia, where, much as one
tries, there is nothing to rest one's eye upon; so it is with great
relief--almost joy--that we come now to something new in the scenery, in
the shape of architecture--a great number of most peculiar towers.

[Illustration: Agriculture and Pigeon Towers near Isfahan.]

These are the pigeon towers--a great institution in Central Persia. They
are cylindrical in shape, with castellated top, and are solidly built
with massive walls. They stand no less than thirty to forty feet in
height, and possess a central well in which the guano is collected--the
object for which the towers are erected. A quadrangular house on the top,
and innumerable small cells, where pigeons lay their eggs and breed their
young, are constructed all round the tower. These towers are quite
formidable looking structures, and are so numerous, particularly in the
neighbourhood of Isfahan, as to give the country quite a strongly
fortified appearance. The guano is removed once a year. After passing
Khorasgun, at Ghiavaz--a small village--one could count as many as
twenty-four of these pigeon houses.

Some amusement could be got from the way the Persian telegraph line had
been laid between Isfahan and Yezd, _via_ Nain. There were no two poles
of the same height or shape; some were five or six feet long, others ten
or fifteen;--some were straight, some crooked; some of most irregular
knobby shapes. As to the wire, when it did happen to be supported on the
pole it was not fastened to an insulator, as one would expect, but merely
rested on a nail, or in an indentation in the wood. For hundreds of yards
at a time the wire lay on the ground, and the poles rested by its side or
across it. Telegrams sent by these Persian lines, I was told, take
several days to reach their destination, if they ever do reach at all;
and are usually entrusted for conveyance, not to the wire, but to caravan
men happening to travel in that particular direction, or to messengers
specially despatched from one city to the other.

Some two farsakhs from Isfahan we went through a passage where the hills
nearly meet, after which we entered a flat plain, barren and ugly. In the
distance to the south-east lay a line of blackish trees, and another in
front of us in the direction we were travelling, due east. Then we saw
another bunch of pigeon towers.

Leaving behind the hills nearer to us to the north-west, west, and
south-west, and the more distant and most fantastically shaped range to
the south, my mules gradually descend into the plain. For an angle of 40°
from east to S.S.E. no hills are visible to the naked eye, but there is a
long range of comparatively low hills encircling us from N.N.W. to S.S.E.
and N.E. of the observer, the highest points being at 80° (almost
N.E.E.). To the north we have a long line of _kanats_.

Following the drunken row of telegraph poles we arrive at Gullahbad
(Gulnabad)--a village in ruins. From this point for some distance the
soil is covered with a deposit of salt, giving the appearance of a
snow-clad landscape, in sharp contrast with the terrific heat prevailing
at the time. This road is impassable during the rainy weather. As one
nears the hills to the N.E. tufts of grass of an anæmic green cover the
ground (altitude 5,250 feet).

Under a scorching sun we reached Saigsi (8 farsakhs from Isfahan) at six
o'clock in the afternoon, and put up in the large caravanserai with two
rooms up stairs and ten down below around the courtyard. The difference
in the behaviour of the natives upon roads on which Europeans do not
frequently travel could be detected at once here. One met with the
greatest civility and simplicity of manner and, above all, honesty, which
one seldom finds where European visitors are more common.

There are few countries where the facial types vary more than in Persia.
The individuals of nearly each town, each village, have peculiar
characteristics of their own. At Saigsi, for instance, only 32 miles from
Isfahan, we find an absolutely different type of head, with abnormally
large mouth and widely-expanded nostrils, the eyes wide apart, and the
brow overhanging. The latter may be caused by the constant brilliant
refraction of the white soil in the glare of the sun (altitude of Saigsi
5,100 feet).

About four miles east of Saigsi and north of the track we come across
five curious parallel lines of mud-heaps or dunes stretching from north
to south. Each of these heaps is precisely where there is a gap in the
mountain range to the north of it, and each has the appearance of having
been gradually deposited there by a current passing through these gaps
when the whole of this plain was the sea-bottom. These mud heaps are
flat-topped and vary from 20 to 40 feet in height, the central row of all
being the highest of the series. This is a grand place for wonderful
effects of mirage all round us. To the W. spreads a beautiful lake in the
depression of the plain--as complete an optical deception as it is
possible to conceive, for in reality there is no lake at all.

Water is not at all plentiful here. One finds a reservoir made for
caravans along this track. It is a tank 25 feet by 10 feet sunk deep into
the ground and roofed over with a vault. The water is sent to it by means
of a channel from the small village of Vartan north of it.

We gradually rise to 5,550 feet and again we have before us another
beautiful effect of mirage in the shape of a magnificent lake with a
village and cluster of trees apparently suspended in the air. My caravan
man assures me that the village, which appears quite close by, is many
miles off.

Long rows of _kanats_, ancient and modern, to the south-east warn us of
the approach of a small town, and on the road plenty of skeletons of
camels, donkeys, and mules may be seen. Fodder is very scarce upon this
track, and many animals have to die of starvation. Also animals caught
here during the rains cannot proceed in the sinking soft ground, and
eventually die.



CHAPTER XXXVI

     Khupah--Sunken well--Caravanserai--Night marching--Kudeshk--The
     Fishark and Sara ranges--Lhas--The
     pass--Whirlwinds--Robbers--Fezahbad--The dangers of a telegraph
     wire--An accident--Six villages--Deposits of sand and
     gravel--Bambis--The people--Mosquitoes--A Persian house--Weaving
     loom--Type of natives--Clothing--Sayids.


Early in the afternoon Khupah (altitude 5,920 feet) was reached, with its
very large and dirty caravanserai to the west, just outside the town
wall. From the roof--the only clean part of the hostelry--one obtains a
good panoramic view of the town. It is built in a most irregular shape,
and is encircled by a castellated mud wall with round turrets. There is a
humble dome of a mosque rising somewhat higher than all the other little
domes above each dwelling.

Feeble attempts at raising a bazaar have been made on different sites in
the town, where bits of arcades have been erected, but there are no signs
about the place of a flourishing industry or trade. The majority of
houses, especially in the northern part of the city, are in ruins. The
principal thoroughfare is picturesque enough, and on the occasion of my
visit looked particularly attractive to me, with its huge trays of
delicious grapes. They were most refreshing to eat in the terrific heat
of the day. One peculiarity of the place is that most doorways of houses
are sunk--generally from one to three feet--below the level of the
street.

Between the caravanserai and the city is a sunken well with flat roof and
four ventilating shafts to keep the water cool. Further away, are seven
more buildings--probably dead-houses--and a garden. The little range
north of the city is quite low, and has in front of it a pyramidal
dune--a similar deposit to those we have already noticed to the
north-west in the morning on our march to this place, but much higher.

South of the town many trees and verdant gardens are visible, and to the
West the immense stretch of flat--some sixty miles of it that we had
travelled over from Isfahan.

For want of a better amusement I sat on the roof to watch the sunset,
while Sadek cooked my dinner. The nearer hills, of a bright cobalt blue,
faded into a light grey in the distance, the sky shone in a warm cadmium
yellow, and beneath stretched the plain, of a dark-brown bluish colour,
uninterrupted for miles and miles, were it not for one or two
tumbled-down huts in the immediate foreground, and a long, snake-like
track winding its way across the expanse until it lost itself in the dim
distance.

Directly below, in the courtyard of the caravanserai, four camels
squatted round a cloth on which was served straw mixed with cotton
seeds, that gave flavour to their meal. The camels slowly ground their
food, moving their lower jaws sideways from right to left, instead of up
and down as is usual in most other animals; and some of the caravan men
placidly smoked their kalians, while others packed up their bundles to
make ready for their departure as soon as the moon should rise. In
another corner of the courtyard my own caravan man groomed the mules, and
around a big flame a little further off a crowd of admiring natives gazed
open-mouthed at Sadek boiling a chicken and vegetables for my special
benefit.

We were to make a night march, as the heat of the day was too great to
travel in. At three in the morning, yawning and stretching our limbs when
we were roused by the charvadar,[5] we got on the mules and made our
departure. The cold was intense, and the wind blowing with all its might
from the west. Six miles off we passed Kamalbek, then six miles further
the large village of Moshkianuh in ruins, with a few green trees near it.

The plain on which we are travelling rises gently up to the village of
Kudeshk at the foot of the mountain (altitude 6,750 feet). We ascend
gradually between hills to the north and south and find ourselves in
another flat valley, about three quarters of a mile broad and one mile
and a half long. (Altitude 7,200 feet.) We are surrounded by hills, and
find two villages, one to the east, the other to the west of the valley.
The latter possesses buildings with masonry walls instead of the usual
mud ones, and also masonry enclosures round wheat-fields and fruit-tree
groves.

We continue to rise until the highest point of the plain is reached,
7,620 feet. Two or three smaller hamlets are found in the centre of the
plain.

A second basin is found on proceeding east, with here and there miserable
clusters of trees; otherwise everything is as barren as barren could be.
On the reddish hills the rocky portion shows through at the summit only,
whereas the bases are enveloped in a covering of sand and salt. To the
north the Fishark and Sara mountain range extends in a general direction
of N.W. to S.E., and its formation is quite interesting. Due north of us
the eye is attracted by a peculiar hill, a double cone, two pointed, and
much redder in colour than the hills near it.

On nearing the mountains many small villages appear. Yazih village has a
solid stone wall round it. Wheat is cultivated by the natives, good water
being obtainable here in small but limpid streams. Then we have the old
village of Lhas, now rejoicing in the new name of Mazemullahmat, and near
it, Fezahbad, where I halted.

I strolled in the afternoon a mile from the latter village to the pass,
8,000 feet above sea level. Directly in front of the pass (at 110°
bearings magnetic) stands a high peak, and beyond it to the right of the
observer (at 140° b.m.) another and higher summit.

We leave behind to the W.N.W. the high Sara mountain range, no peaks of
which, I estimated, rose above 10,000 feet. W.N.W. (at 280° b.m.) is a
most curious conical hill, standing isolated and very high above the
plain.

Among the most common sights of these parts are the whirlwinds--the
_tourbillons_,--each revolving with terrific rapidity round its own axis
and raising to the sky a cylindrical column of dust. They further move
along the country in a spasmodic manner, but never so fast that they
cannot be avoided. The diameter of the wind columns I observed by the
dust carried with it, varied from 3 feet to 20 feet.

The mountains we are travelling on are said to be somewhat unsafe, the
villagers being given to attacking caravans, and robber bands coming here
for shelter when it becomes unsafe for them to be on the Kashan-Yezd high
road. In fact, while resting in the house of Haji-Mulla Ahmed at
Fezahbad, a curious lot of men appeared, who, notwithstanding the
remonstrances of Sadek and Haji, broke into the house in a most
boisterous manner, demanding food of the landlord. They were armed with
revolvers and old Martini rifles, and had plenty of cartridges about
their persons. They seemed quite taken aback to find a European inside
the room. They changed their attitude at once, and became quite polite.

I entertained them to tea, of which they drank gallons. I cannot say that
I was particularly charmed with their faces, but their manner was
certainly most courteous. They showed me their rifles--English Martinis
with additional gold ornamentations of lion and sun, such as one sees in
thousands all over Persia. I asked them where they got them from. They
said they came from the Persian Gulf.

Haji Mulla Ahmed, the founder of the village, was a fine old fellow with
a kindly face, eyes shining like beads under an overhanging brow, and a
crimson beard dyed with henna. He appeared rather sulky at this unwonted
visit, and more sulky still later when the visitors left me and he had to
provide food for them. He said that the robbers frequently called upon
him, and were a great drain on his supplies.

When we left at 1.45 a.m. to go across the pass, he advised Sadek and
myself to load our rifles and keep a sharp look-out. As I had already
measured the altitude of the pass in the afternoon I had no particular
object in keeping awake, so I slung the rifle to my saddle and dozed off
on my mule as we were slowly winding our way up to the summit. The long
night marches were so dreary and the sound of the mules' bells so
monotonous that it was most difficult to keep awake. One gradually learns
to balance one's self quite well on the saddle while asleep, and it does
shorten the long hours of the night very considerably. Occasionally one
wakes up abruptly with a jolt, and one fancies that one is just about to
tumble over, but although I suppose I must have ridden in my life
hundreds of miles while asleep on the saddle, I have never once had a
fall in the natural course of affairs. The animals, too, are generally so
intelligent that they do for one the balancing required and manage to
keep under the rider.

On that particular night I was extremely sleepy. I opened my eyes for a
second when we reached the pass and began to descend on the other side,
but sleepiness overcame me again. I was riding the first mule in the
caravan. Unexpectedly I received a fearful blow in the face, and I was
very nearly torn off the saddle. There was a curious metallic buzzing
resounding in the air, and before I had time to warn those that came
after, Sadek, who came next, was knocked down, and the mules, frightened
at this unusual occurrence, stampeded down the steep incline. It was the
telegraph wire hanging loose right across the road that had caused the
accident. The road was in zig-zag, and was crossed several times by the
wire which was laid more or less in a straight line. But this, of course,
I did not know, so a few minutes later, before we had time to bring the
runaway mules to a stop, the wire, unseen, was again met with a foot or
so above the ground. It caught the mules on the legs, and as they were
tied to one another, and were carried on by the impetus of the pace at
which we were going, all the animals tumbled down one on the top of the
other in a heap. The packs got mercilessly undone, and it took us the
best part of an hour to disentangle all and get things straight again.

The cold was bitter. Some two miles East of the pass there were two
roads, one leading to Nain, the other to Nao Gombes. We took the latter
and shorter route, and with some sense of relief now we left the
telegraph line, which proceeds to Nain.

On the plateau east of the pass, we found six small villages, the most
eastern--Eshratawat (Ishratabad)--being the largest (altitude 6,800 ft.).
When the sun was about to rise we more clearly distinguished a grey,
sombre, mountainous mass to the east, sharply indented at its summit,
like the teeth of a gigantic saw, and ending abruptly on the northern
terminus.

We had come between mountains, and some twelve miles from Fezahbad we
reached Kudarz (altitude 6,580 ft.), a village situated at the foot of
the range we had crossed. As the sun peeped above the mountains close by
to the east a large plain disclosed itself before the observer. A long
mountain range, bluish and indistinct, could just be perceived in the
distance, bounding the plain to the north. Some low, semi-spherical and a
few conical hills, and also a somewhat higher and rugged rocky elevation,
were found on entering the plain from the west.

Oskholun village lies in the plain 16 miles from Fezahbad. At the foot of
the mountains on one's right one notices a curious deposit of sand and
gravel, cushion shaped, rising in a gentle incline up the mountain side
to a height of 150 feet. It would be interesting to find out exactly how
these accumulations have formed, and whether the wind or water or both
are responsible for them.

On arriving at Bambis (altitude 5,660 ft.) Sadek was in a great state of
mind to find a suitable house where we could put up, as there were no
caravanserais. Several of the principal people in the town offered me
their own houses, and eventually, after careful inspection, I accepted
the cleanest.

Of course, in small, out-of-the-way villages no great luxury could be
expected even in dwellings of well-to-do people, but after entering by a
miserable door and going through a filthy passage, one came to a nice
little court with an ornamental tank of somewhat fetid water. Swarms of
mosquitoes rose from the floating leaves of the water plants as soon as
we appeared and gave us a very warm reception. In a few seconds we were
stung all over.

The women folks were made to stampede to the upper storey on our arrival,
where they remained concealed while we stayed in the house, and the
younger male members of the family hastily removed all the bedding and
personal belongings from the principal room, which I was to occupy.
Clouds of dust were raised when an attempt was made to sweep the dried
mud floor. Out of the windows of the upper storey the women flung
handsome carpets, which Sadek duly spread upon the floor.

The room was a very nice one, plastered all over and painted white,
enriched with adhering dried leaves of red roses forming a design upon
the ceiling. There were nine receptacles in the walls, and four more in
the sides of the chimney piece. Next to this room was another similar
one, and opposite in the courtyard a kind of alcove was used as a
kitchen. It had a raised part of mud bricks some three feet high and
about as broad, on which was fixed the weaving loom that stretched right
across the court when in use. A hole was made in the raised portion, in
which the weaver sat when at work, so as to keep the legs under the loom.

[Illustration: Persian Spinning Wheels and Weaving Looms.]

The loom is simple enough, the two sets of long horizontal threads being
kept at high tension by an iron bar fixed into the cylindrical wooden
rollers, round which the threads are rolled. There is then a vertical
arrangement for moving the long horizontal sets of threads alternately up
and down by means of pedals, a cross thread being passed between them
with a spool, and beaten home each time with the large comb suspended in
a vertical position. The threads are kept in position by two additional
combs which represent the width of the cloth, and in which each
horizontal thread is kept firm in its central position by a clever device
of inverted loops between which it is passed and clenched tight. The
cloth is rolled round a wooden cylinder. It is extremely strong and
durable. Almost each house has a weaving loom.

On one side of the court was a recess in the wall for valuables. The
padlock was closed by means of a screw. By the side of the kitchen one
found the lumber and refuse room, and there were corresponding
arrangements on the floor above. Unlike other Persian houses this was
lighted by windows with neat woodwork, instead of by the usual skylight
hole in the dome of the room.

The natives at this village were very handsome. There was a touch of the
Afghan type in the men, and the women had fine faces with magnificent
eyes. One found firm mouths with well-cut and properly developed lips, in
contrast to the weak, drooping mouths of the people one had met in the
western cities; and the noses were finely chiselled, with well-defined
nostrils. There was no unsteadiness in the eyes, so common to the
Persians of the north-west,--and these fellows consequently presented
quite an honest appearance, while the overhanging brow added a look of
pensiveness. The skull was peculiarly formed, slanting upwards
considerably from the forehead to an abnormal height, and giving the
cranium an elongated shape. The ears, too, generally malformed or
under-developed in most Persians, were better shaped in these people,
although by no means perfect. They, nevertheless, showed a certain
refinement of blood and race.

In the matter of men's clothing it was gratifying to find the ugly
pleated frockcoats discarded--or, rather, never adopted--and long
picturesque shirts and ample trousers worn instead, held together by a
kamarband. Over all was thrown a brown burnous, not unlike that of the
Bedouins, and the head was wound in an ample turban of the Hindoo
pattern.

Children wore short coats ornamented with embroidery and shells at the
back and pretty silver buttons in front. Their little caps, too, were
embellished with shells, beads, or gold braiding.

Nearly all male natives, old and young, suffered from complaints of the
eyes, but not so the women,--probably because they spent most of the time
in the house and did not expose themselves to the glare of the sun and
salty dust, which seemed to be the principal cause of severe inflammation
of the eyes.

Bambis village was greatly dependent upon Isfahan for its provisions, and
therefore everything was very dear. Excellent vegetables, _shalga_,
_sardek_, _churconda_, and pomegranates were nevertheless grown, by means
of a most elaborate and ingenious way of irrigation, but the water was
very brackish and dirty. Felt filters were occasionally used by the
natives for purifying the drinking water.

There were a number of Sayids living at Bambis, who looked picturesque in
their handsome green turbans; they were men of a splendid physique, very
virile, simple in manner, serious and dignified, and were held in much
respect by their fellow villagers.

FOOTNOTES:

[5] Charvadar--Caravan man.



CHAPTER XXXVII

     Bambis--The Kashsan-Yezd high road--The Kevir
     plain--Minerals--Chanoh--Sand
     deposits--Sherawat--Kanats--Agdah--Stone cairns--Kiafteh--An
     isolated mount--A long sand bar--A forsaken village--Picturesque
     Biddeh--Handsome caravanserai at Meiboh--Rare
     baths--Shamsi--Sand-hills--Hodjatabad--Fuel--A "tower of
     silence"--A split camel--Thousands of borings for water--A
     four-towered well.


We left Bambis at ten o'clock on Sunday evening and travelled on a flat
plain the whole night. One village (Arakan) was passed, and eventually we
entered the Teheran-Kashan-Yezd high road which we struck at Nao Gombes.
Here there were a Chappar Khana and an ancient Caravanserai--the latter
said to be of the time of Shah Abbas--but we did not stop, and continued
our journey along a broad, immense stretch of flat country consisting of
sand and gravel.

My men were fast asleep on their mules, but the animals seemed to know
their way well, as they had been on this road many times before. The
night was extremely cold. We were now at an altitude of 4,240 feet in
what is called the "Kevir," a small salt desert plain, enclosed to the
south-west of the track by the south-easterly continuation of the Sara
and Keble range; to the north-east by the Mehradji, Turkemani, and Duldul
mountains; and to the north by the Aparek and Abiane mountains.

During the rainy weather the drainage of the latter two ranges is carried
in large volumes into the plain between them, and eventually into the
Kevir, in which it loses itself. To the south-east the Ardakan mountains
form a barrier, having, however, a gap between them and the Andjile
mountains, through which the road crosses in a south-easterly direction.

Antimony is found in the Mehradji mountains, and copper, lead (in several
localities), nickel and antimony in the Anarek region. Silver is said to
have been found in the Andjile. To the north-east, almost in the middle
of the Kevir, stands the isolated high mountain of Siakuh.

Thirty-six miles from Bambis we reached Chanoh, a most desolate place,
with a rest-house in ruins and a couple of suspicious-looking wells. We
arrived here at eight in the morning, after having travelled since ten
o'clock the previous evening, but we only allowed ourselves and our mules
four hours' rest for breakfast, and we were again in the saddle at noon.

There is nothing to interest the traveller on this part of the road
except an occasional passing caravan, and the scenery is dreary beyond
words. Long, long stretches of flat, uninteresting sand and gravel, or
sand alone in places. On nearing the spot where the track passes between
the Andjile and Ardakan mountains we find sand deposits stretching out
for nearly two miles from the mountain ranges to the south-west and
south.

Shehrawat (Shehrabad) village differs from most we have seen in the shape
of its few roofs, which are semi-cylindrical, like a vault, and not
semi-spherical. A mud tower rises above them, and there are a few fields
and some fruit-trees near the habitations.

About a mile further, more sand dunes are to be found, and a long row of
kanats carrying water to the village of Nasirabad, half a mile east of
the track. Further on we come upon an open canal, and we can perceive a
village about two miles distant, also to the east of the track.

Just before arriving at Agdah the earth has positively been disembowelled
in search of water, so numerous are the kanats of all sizes and depths
among which we wind our way. The large village of Agdah itself stands on
a prominence (4,080 ft.) against a background of mountains, and is
embellished with a great many orchards tidily walled round. It is a
famous place for pomegranates, which are really delicious. As usual a
number of ruined houses surround those still standing, and as we skirt
the village wall over 30 feet high we observe some picturesque high round
towers.

The telegraph wire (which we had met again at Nao Gombes) was here quite
an amusing sight. In the neighbourhood of the village it was highly
decorated with rags of all colours, and with stones tied to long strings
which, when thrown up, wind themselves round and remain entangled in the
wire.

There were some 300 habitations in Agdah, the principal one with a large
quadrangular tower, being that of the Governor; but both the Chappar
khana and the caravanserai were the filthiest we had so far encountered.
A number of Sayids lived here.

We halted at four in the afternoon on Monday, October 19th. The mules
were so tired that I decided to give them twelve hours' rest. It may be
noticed that we had travelled from ten o'clock the previous evening until
four in the afternoon--eighteen hours--with only four hours' rest,--quite
good going for caravan marching. The mules were excellent.

At 4 a.m. on the Tuesday we rode out of the caravanserai, and still
travelled south-east on a flat gravel plain, with the high Ardakan
Mountains to the east. Fourteen miles or so from Agdah the country became
undulating with large pebble stones washed down from the mountain-sides.
Cairns of stone had been erected on the first hillock we came to near the
road. We passed two villages, one on the track, the other about a mile
north of it, and near this latter two or three smaller hamlets were
situated.

Sixteen miles from Agdah we halted for an hour or so at the village of
Kiafteh (Chaftah)--altitude 3,960 feet--with its round tower and the
Mosque of Semur-ed-din one mile north of it. Here there was a Chappar
khana. The labourers wore a short blue shirt and ample trousers, with
white turban and white shoes. Having partaken of a hearty breakfast we
were off again on the road in the broiling sun at 10.30 a.m. Beautiful
effects of mirage were before us like splendid lakes, with the mountains
reflected into them, and little islands.

As we go through the gap in the mountains that are now to the south-west
and north-east of us the plain narrows to a width of some four miles, and
the direction of the track is east-south-east. To the south-east the
hillocks of a low range stretch as far as the mountains on the
south-west, and several parallel ranges lie on the north-east. South,
very far off, is the high Shirkuh mountain.

Eight miles from Kiafteh we cross over the low hill range by a pass
(4,090 ft.) about 100 feet above the plain (3,990 ft.). There is a
mournful look about the soil of black sand, and also about the gloomy
shingle hill range extending from the north-east to the south-west. The
black underlying rock where exposed to the air shows numberless holes
corroded in it, as by the action of moving salt water. An inexplicable
isolated hill stands in the centre of the valley, which here is not
perfectly flat, but in a gentle incline, higher at its south-western
extremity than at its north-eastern edge.

A formation of mud dunes similar to those we had encountered near Saigsi
is here to be noticed, this time, however, not directly in front of each
gap in the mountain range, but opposite them near the range in front,
that forms a kind of bay. These dunes were probably caused by the
deposit of sand and gravel left by a current that met the barrier of
mountains on the opposite side of the bay.

On crossing the hill range some eighteen miles from Kiafteh, we come
across a sand-bar which stretches in a semi-circle half way across the
valley, where it then suddenly turns south-east. It is about 80 feet
high. To all appearance the sand deposited upon this bar seems to have
travelled in a direction from north north-east to south south-west. A
mile further it meets another sand dune, stretching in a general
direction of south-west to north-east. Where the higher dune comes to an
end half-way across the valley we find a village, having the usual
quadrangular mud enclosure with towers, an abandoned caravanserai fast
tumbling down, and a few domed mud hovels. The larger and better
preserved village of Bafru, one mile to the east of the track, is well
surrounded by a long expanse of verdant trees. South of it is the other
flourishing settlement of Deawat (Deabad).

The abandoned village of Assiabo Gordoneh, now in ruins, tells us a sad
story. The village at one time evidently ran short of water. Hundreds of
borings can be seen all round it in all directions, but they must have
been of no avail. The place had to be forsaken.

The sand dune is here 80 feet high. The space between these two sand
dunes--plateau-like--is nicely cultivated in patches where some water has
been found.

We arrived in the evening at Biddeh, a very large and most weird place,
with habitations partly cut into the high mud banks. The houses were
several storeys high. The greater number of buildings, now in ruins, show
evidence of the former importance of this place and the wonderful ancient
aqueducts with the water carried over a high bridge from one side of a
ravine to the other are of great interest. This must have been a
prosperous place at one time. The whitish clay soil has been quaintly
corroded by the action of water, and one finds curious grottoes and deep,
contorted, natural channels. A mosque and several impressive
buildings--the adjective only applies when you do not get too near
them--stand high up against the cliff side. The whole place is quite
picturesque.

The mules go along a narrow lane between walled fields, and then by a
steepish ascent among ruined houses and patches of cultivation we reach
the summit of the clay dune, on which the newer village of Meiboh
(Maibut)--3,940 feet--is situated.

There is a most beautiful (for Persia) caravanserai here with a
delightful domed tank of clear spring water, in which I then and there
took a delicious bath, much to the horror of the caravanserai proprietor
who assured me--when it was too late--that the tank was no _hammam_ or
bath, but was water for drinking purposes. His horror turned into white
rage when, moreover, he declared that my soap, which I had used freely,
would kill all the fish which he had carefully nursed for years in the
tank. We spent most of the evening in watching the state of their health,
and eventually it was with some relief that we perceived all the soap
float away and the water again become as clear as crystal. To the evident
discomfiture of the caravanserai man, when we paid the last visit to the
tank at 4 a.m. just previous to my departure, no deaths were to be
registered in the tank, and therefore no heavy damages to pay.

There is nothing one misses more than baths while travelling in central
and eastern Persia. There is generally hardly sufficient water to drink
at the various stages, and it is usually so slimy and bad that, although
one does not mind drinking it, because one has to, one really would not
dream of bathing or washing in it! Hence my anxiety not to lose my chance
of a good plunge at Meiboh.

On leaving Meiboh at 4 a.m. we passed for a considerable distance through
land under cultivation, the crop being principally wheat. A large
flour-mill was in course of construction at Meiboh. After that we were
again travelling on a sandy plain, with thousands of borings for water on
all sides, and were advancing mainly to the south-west towards the
mountains. We continued thus for some twelve miles as far as Shamsi,
another large village with much cultivation around it. After that, there
were sand and stones under our mules' hoofs, and a broiling sun over our
heads. On both sides the track was screened by mountains and by a low
hill range to the north-east.

About eight miles from Shamsi we entered a region of sand hills, the sand
accumulations--at least, judging by the formation of the hills--showing
the movement of the sand to have been from west to east. This fact was
rather curious and contrasted with nearly all the other sand
accumulations which we found later in eastern Persia, where the sand
moved mostly in a south-westerly direction. No doubt the direction of the
wind was here greatly influenced and made to deviate by the barriers of
mountains so close at hand.

There were numerous villages, large and small, on both sides of the
track. Hodjatabad, our last halt before reaching Yezd, only sixteen miles
further, had a handsome caravanserai, the porch of which was vaulted over
the high road. It was comparatively clean, and had spacious stabling for
animals. Delicious grapes were to be obtained here, and much of the
country had been cleared of the sand deposit and its fertile soil
cultivated.

Fuel was very expensive in Persia. At the entrance of nearly every
caravanserai was displayed a large clumsy wooden scale, upon which wood
was weighed for sale to travellers, and also, of course, barley and
fodder for one's animals. The weights were generally round stones of
various sizes.

Jaffarabad, a very large and prosperous place, stood about one mile to
the north-west of the caravanserai, and had vegetation and many trees
near it; this was also the case with the other village of Medjamed, which
had innumerable fields round it.

Firuzabad came next as we proceeded towards Yezd, and then, after
progressing very slowly,--we sank deep in sand for several miles--we
perceived upon a rugged hill a large round white "tower of silence,"
which had been erected there by the Guebres (or Parsees) for the disposal
of their dead. We skirted the mud wall of Elawad--where the women's dress
was in shape not unlike that of Turkish women, and consisted of ample,
highly-coloured trousers and short zouave jacket. The men resembled
Afghans.

I here came across the first running camel I had seen in Persia, and on
it was mounted a picturesque rider, who had slung to his saddle a sword,
a gun, and two pistols, while round his waistband a dagger, a
powder-flask, bullet pouch, cap carrier, and various such other warlike
implements hung gracefully in the bright light of the sun. A few yards
further we came upon a ghastly sight--a split camel. The poor obstinate
beast had refused to cross a narrow stream by the bridge, and had got
instead on the slippery mud near the water edge. His long clumsy
hind-legs had slipped with a sudden _écart_ that had torn his body ripped
open. The camel was being killed as we passed, and its piercing cries and
moans were too pitiful for words.

The mountain on which the huge tower of silence has been erected--by
permission of Zil-es-Sultan, I was told--is quadrangular with a long,
narrow, flat-topped platform on the summit. The best view of it is
obtained from the south. Sadek told me in all seriousness from
information received from the natives, that the bodies are placed in
these towers in a sitting position with a stick under the chin to support
them erect. When crows come in swarms to pick away at the body, if the
right eye is plucked out first by a plundering bird, it is said to be a
sure sign that the ex-soul of the body will go to heaven. If the left eye
is picked at first, then a warmer climate is in store for the soul of the
dead.

After leaving behind the Guebre tower we come again upon thousands of
borings for water, and ancient _kanats_, now dry and unused. The country
grows less sandy about eight miles from Yezd, and we have now gradually
ascended some 320 feet from the village of Meiboh (Maibut) to an altitude
of 4,230 feet. Here we altogether miss the flourishing cultivation which
lined the track as far as the Guebre tower, and cannot detect a single
blade of grass or natural vegetation of any kind on any side. There are
high mountains to the south-west and east.

On the right (west) side of the track, eight miles from Yezd, is the neat
mud wall of Nusseratabad, with a few trees peeping above it, but to the
left of us all is barren, and we toddled along on grey, clayish sand.

Half-way between Nusseratabad and Yezd a four-towered well is to be
found, and a quarter of a mile further the Mazereh Sadrih village, one
and a-half farsakhs from Yezd. The mules sank deep in the fine sand.
There were a good many Guebres about, mostly employed in carrying manure
on donkeys. One of them, who was just returning from one of these
errands, addressed me, much to my surprise, in Hindustani, which he spoke
quite fluently. He told me that he had travelled all over India, and was
about to start again for Bombay.

[Illustration: Halting at a Caravanserai.]

[Illustration: A Street in Yezd, showing High _Badjirs_ or Ventilating
Shafts.]

Some "_badjir_"--high ventilating shafts--and a minaret or two tell us
that we are approaching the town of Yezd--the ancient city of the
Parsees--and soon after we enter the large suburb of Mardavoh, with its
dome and graceful tower.

A track in an almost direct line, and shorter than the one I had
followed, exists between Isfahan and Yezd. It passes south of the Gao
Khanah (Salt Lake) to the south-east of Isfahan.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

     Yezd--Water supply--Climate--Cultivation--Products--Exports and
     imports--Population--Trade--Officials--Education--Persian
     children--Public schools--The Mushir school--The Parsee
     school--C.M.S. mission school--The medical mission--The
     hospital--Christianizing difficult--European ladies in
     Persia--Tolerance of race religions.


Yezd is the most central city of Persia, but from a pictorial point of
view the least interesting city in the Shah's empire. There are a great
many mosques--it is said about fifty--but none very beautiful. The
streets are narrow and tortuous, with high walls on either side and
nothing particularly attractive about them. Curious narrow arches are
frequently to be noticed overhead in the streets, and it is supposed that
they are to support the side walls against collapse.

There is not, at least I could not find, a single building of note in the
city except the principal and very ancient mosque,--a building in the
last degree of decay, but which must have formerly been adorned with a
handsome frontage. There is a very extensive but tumbling-down wall
around the city, and a wide moat, reminding one of a once strongly
fortified place.

To-day the greater portion of Yezd is in ruins. The water supply is
unfortunately very defective and irregular. There are no perennial
streams of any importance, and all the irrigation works are dependent on
artificial subterranean canals and kanats, and these in their turn are
mostly subject to the rain and snow fall on the hills surrounding Yezd.
Unluckily, the rains are now neither frequent nor abundant, and the land
has in consequence been suffering severely from want of water. Snow falls
in winter and to a great extent feeds the whole water supply of Yezd and
its neighbourhood. It is not surprising, therefore, that more than
three-quarters of the province of Yezd is barren land, cultivation being
under the circumstances absolutely out of the question. Some portions of
the province, however, where water is obtainable are quite fertile.

Towards the west the hills show some signs of vegetation, mainly fruit
trees. But nothing larger than a bush grows wild, if we except occasional
stunted fig-trees. Surrounded by mountains as Yezd is, there are two
different climates close at hand: that of the "Kohestan" or hills,
temperate in summer but piercing cold in winter, and the other, much
warmer, of the low-lying land. In the eastern lowlands the summer heat is
excessive, in autumn just bearable, and in the spring the climate is
quite delightful. In all seasons, however, with few exceptions, it is
generally dry and always healthy and pure.

Where some moisture is obtainable the soil is very fertile and is
cultivated by the natives. The chief cultivated products are wheat,
barley, and other cereals, cotton, opium, and tobacco. The vine
flourishes near Yezd, and the wines used by the Parsees are not
unpalatable. Mulberries are cultivated in large quantities. Silk is
probably the most important product of the Yezd district. Wild game is
said to be plentiful on the mountains. With the exception of salt, the
mineral products of the district are insignificant.

Yezd is a great trading centre, partly owing to its geographical
position, partly because its inhabitants are very go-ahead and
enterprising. Yezd men are great travellers and possess good business
heads. They go across the salt desert to Khorassan and Afghanistan, and
they trade, with India principally, via Kerman, Bandar Abbas, and Lingah,
and also to a small extent via Sistan. Previously the trade went entirely
by Shiraz and Bushire, but now that road is very unsafe, owing to
robbers. Yezd traders travel even much further afield, as far as China,
India, Java. During my short stay I met quite a number of people who had
visited Bombay, Calcutta, Russia, Bokhara, and Turkestan.

The settled population of Yezd consists mostly of Shia Mahommedans, the
descendants of the ancient Persian race, with an intermixture of foreign
blood; the Parsees or Zoroastrians, who still retain their purity of race
and religious faith, and who are principally engaged in agriculture and
commerce; a very small community of European Christians, including a few
Armenian natives of Julfa (Isfahan). Then there are about one thousand
Jews, who live mostly in abject poverty.

The Mahommedan population of the town may be approximately estimated at
sixty thousand. Here, even more noticeably than in any other Persian
town, there is very little outward show in the buildings, which are of
earth and mud and appear contemptible, but the interiors of houses of the
rich are pleasant and well-cared for. The miserable look of the town,
however, is greatly redeemed by the beauty of the gardens which surround
it.

It is to be regretted that the roads in and around Yezd are in a wretched
condition, being absolutely neglected, for were there safer and more
practicable roads trade would be facilitated and encouraged to no mean
degree. As things stand now, indigenous trade is increasing slowly, but
foreign trade is making no headway. The silk and opium trades, which were
formerly the most profitable, have of late declined. Cottons and
woollens, silk, the _Kasb_ and _Aluhi_ of very finest quality, shawls,
cotton carpets and noted felts equal if not superior to the best of Kum,
are manufactured both for home use and for export.

The exports mainly consist of almonds and nuts, tobacco, opium (to
China), colouring matters, walnut-wood, silk, wool, cotton carpets,
felts, skins, assafoetida, shoes, copper pots, country loaf-sugar,
sweetmeats, for which Yezd is celebrated, etc. Henna is brought to Yezd
from Minab and Bandar Abbas to be ground and prepared for the Persian
market, being used with _rang_ as a dye for the hair.

The chief imports are spices, cotton goods, yarn, prints, copper
sheeting, tin slabs, Indian tea, broadcloth, jewellery, arms, cutlery,
watches, earthenware, glass and enamel wares, iron, loaf-sugar, powdered
sugar, etc.

The Government of Yezd, as of other cities of Persia, is purely despotic,
limited only by the power and influence of the Mahommedan priests, the
Mullahs, and by the dread of private vengeance or an occasional
insurrection. It is true that the actions of Hakims and Governors and
their deputies are liable to revision from the Teheran authorities, but
this does not prevent exactions and extortions being carried on quite
openly and on a large scale.

The present Governor, Salal-ud-dauleh--"Glory of the state,"--eldest son
of Zil-es-Sultan, is an intelligent and well-to-do young man, sensibly
educated, who tries his best to be fair to everybody; but it is very
difficult for him to run alone against the strong tide of corruption
which swamps everything in Persia. He is not in good health, and spends
much of his time hunting wild game at his country place in the hills near
Yezd. His town residence is a kind of citadel--not particularly
impressive, nor clean--inside the city wall. The Naib-ul-Kukumat was the
Deputy-Governor at the time of my visit. He seemed quite an affable and
intelligent man.

Near the Palace in the heart of the city are the covered bazaars, old and
new, and well stocked with goods, but they are in character so exactly
like those of Teheran and Isfahan, already described in previous
chapters, that a repetition is quite unnecessary. The streets are
irregularly planned, and the older ones are very dark and dingy, but the
newer arcades are lofty and handsome. The merchants seem--for
Persia--quite active and business-like.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the population of Yezd is said
to have been one hundred thousand souls, and to have dwindled down to
less than thirty thousand in 1868-1870 during the terrific famine which
took place at that time. Whether this is correct or not, it is difficult
to ascertain, but to-day the city is on the increase again, and the
population, as already stated, is certainly not less than sixty thousand.
There are numerous Mahommedan _hammams_ (baths)--some 65 or more--in
Yezd, but Europeans are not allowed to enter them.

The Yezd people are very forward in educational matters. I inspected some
of the schools and colleges, and was much impressed by the
matter-of-fact, sensible way in which some of the more modern
institutions were conducted. They would indeed put to shame a great many
of our schools in England, and as for the talent of children, as compared
with English children of the same age, one had better say nothing at all.
With no exaggeration, children aged six analysed and reasoned out
problems placed before them in a way that would in this country baffle
men of six times that age. The quickness of the Persian child's brain is
well-nigh astounding, and as for their goodness and diligence, there is
only one word that fits them: they are simply "angelic." Their intense
reverence for the teachers, their eagerness really to learn, and their
quiet, attentive behaviour were indeed worthy of admiration. But it must
be well understood that these angelic traits are confined to the
school-days only. When they leave school the "angelic" wears off very
soon, and the boys, unluckily, drift into the old and demoralized ways
with which Persia is reeking.

There are about a dozen public schools in Yezd, but the one conducted on
most modern lines is the new school started by the Mushir. If I
understood aright, the Mushir provided the buildings and money to work
the school for a period of time, after which if successful it will be
handed over to be supported by the city or by private enterprise.

The school was excellent. There were a hundred pupils from the ages of
six to fifteen, and they were taught Arabic, Persian, English, French,
geography, arithmetic, &c. There was a Mudir or head master who spoke
French quite fluently, and separate teachers for the other various
matters. The school was admirably conducted, with quite a military
discipline mingled with extreme kindness and thoughtfulness on the part
of the teachers towards the pupils. By the sound of a bell the boys were
collected by the Mudir in the court-yard, round which on two floors were
the schoolrooms, specklessly clean and well-aired.

While I was being entertained to tea, sherbet, and coffee, on a high
platform, I was politely requested to ascertain for myself the knowledge
of the boys--most of whom had only been in the school less than a year.
It was rather interesting to hear little chaps of six or eight rattle
off, in a language foreign to them and without making a single mistake,
all the capitals of the principal countries in the world, and the largest
rivers, the highest mountains, the biggest oceans, and so on. And other
little chaps--no taller than three feet--summed up and subtracted and
divided and multiplied figures with an assurance, quickness and accuracy
which I, personally, very much envied. Then they wrote English and French
sentences on the slate, and Persian and Arabic, and I came out of the
school fully convinced that whatever was taught in that school was
certainly taught well. These were not special pupils, but any pupil I
chose to pick out from the lot.

I visited another excellent institution, the Parsee school--one of
several teaching institutions that have been established in Yezd by the
Bombay Society for the amelioration of Persian Zoroastrians,--in a most
beautiful building internally, with large courts and a lofty vaulted hall
wherein the classes are held. The boys, from the ages of six to fifteen,
lined the walls, sitting cross-legged on mats, their notebooks,
inkstands, and slate by their side. At the time of my visit there were as
many as 230 pupils, and they received a similar education, but not quite
so high, as in the Mushir school. In the Parsee school less time was
devoted to foreign languages.

Ustad Javan Mard, a most venerable old man, was the head-master, and
Ustad Baharam his assistant. The school seemed most flourishing, and the
pupils very well-behaved. Although the stocks for punishing bad children
were very prominent under the teacher's table, the head-master assured me
that they were seldom required.

Another little but most interesting school is the one in connection with
the clerical work done by the Rev. Napier Malcolm. It is attended
principally by the sons of well-to-do Mussulmans and by a few Parsees,
who take this excellent opportunity of learning English thoroughly. Most
of the teaching is done by an Armenian assistant trained at the C. M. S.
of Julfa. Here, too, I was delightfully surprised to notice how
intelligent the boys were, and Mr. Malcolm himself spoke in high terms of
the work done by the students. They showed a great facility for learning
languages, and I was shown a boy who, in a few months, had picked up
sufficient English to converse quite fluently. The boys, I was glad to
see, are taught in a very sensible manner, and what they are made to
learn will be of permanent use to them.

The Church Missionary Society is to be thanked, not only for this good
educational work which it supplies in Yezd to children of all creeds, but
for the well-appointed hospital for men and women. A large and handsome
caravanserai was presented to the Medical Mission by Mr. Godarz
Mihri-ban-i-Irani, one of the leading Parsees of Yezd, and the building
was adapted and converted by the Church Missionary Society into a
hospital, with a permanent staff in the men's hospital of an English
doctor and three Armenian assistants. There is also a smaller women's
hospital with an English lady doctor, who in 1901 was aided by two ladies
and by an Armenian assistant trained at Julfa.

There are properly disinfected wards in both these hospitals, with good
beds, a well appointed dispensary, and dissecting room.

The natives have of late availed themselves considerably of the
opportunity to get good medical assistance, but few except the very
poorest, it seems, care actually to remain in the hospital wards. They
prefer to take the medicine and go to their respective houses. A special
dark room has been constructed for the operation and cure of cataract,
which is a common complaint in Yezd.

The health of Yezd is uncommonly good, and were it not that the people
ruin their digestive organs by excessive and injudicious eating, the
ailments of Yezd would be very few. The population is, without exception,
most favourable to the work of the Medical Mission, and all classes seem
to be grateful for the institution in the town.

The school work of the Mission necessarily appeals to a much smaller
circle, but there is no doubt whatever about its being appreciated, and,
further, there seems to be exceedingly little hostility to such religious
inquiry and teaching as does not altogether collide with or appear to
tend to severance from the Mussulman or Parsee communities. This is very
likely due to the fast extending influence of the Behai sect, the members
of which regard favourably an acquaintance with other non-idolatrous
religions. These people, notwithstanding their being outside of official
protection and in collision with the Mullahs, form to-day a large
proportion of the population of Yezd, and exercise an influence on public
opinion considerably wider than the boundaries of their sect. As for
actual Missionary work of Christianization going beyond this point, the
difficulties encountered and the risks of a catastrophe are too great at
present for any sensible man to attempt it.

The European staff of the C.M.S. Mission, employed entirely in
educational and medical work in Yezd, consists of the Rev. Napier
Malcolm, M.A., a most sensible and able man, and Mrs. Malcolm, who is of
great help to her husband; George Day Esq., L.R.C.P. & S., and Mrs. Day;
Miss Taylor, L.R.C.P. & S., Miss Stirling, Miss Brighty.

The work for ladies is somewhat uphill and not always pleasant, for in
Mussulman countries women, if not veiled, are constantly exposed to the
insults of roughs; but people are beginning to get reconciled to what
appeared to them at first the very strange habits of European women, and
no doubt in time it will be less unpleasant for ladies to work among the
natives. So far the few English ladies who have braved the consequences
of undertaking work in Persia are greatly to be admired for their pluck,
patience, and tact.

The Yezd C.M.S. Mission was started in May, 1898, by Dr. Henry White, who
had a year's previous experience of medical work at Julfa and Isfahan. He
was then joined in December of the same year by the Rev. Napier Malcolm,
who had just come out from England. The European community of Yezd is
very small. Besides the above mentioned people--who do not always reside
in Yezd--there are two Englishmen of the Bank of Persia, and a Swiss
employed by the firm of Ziegler & Co. That is all.

The fact that the Persian Government recognizes the "race religions,"
such as those of Armenians, Parsees and Jews, has led many to believe
that religious liberty exists in Persia. There is a relative tolerance,
but nothing more, and even the Parsees and Jews have had until quite
lately--and occasionally even now have--to submit to considerable
indignities on the part of the Mullahs. For new sects like the Behai,
however, who abandon the Mussulman faith, there is absolutely no official
protection. Great secrecy has to be maintained to avoid persecution.
There seems, nevertheless, to be a disposition on the part of the
Government to go considerably beyond this point of sufferance, but wider
toleration does not exist at present, nor is it perfectly clear to what
length the Government of the country would be prepared to go.



CHAPTER XXXIX

     The Guebres of Yezd--Askizar--The Sassanian
     dynasty--Yezdeyard--The name "Parsees"--The Arab invasion of
     Persia--A romantic tale--Zoroaster--Parsees of India--Why the
     Parsees remained in Yezd and Kerman--Their
     number--Oppression--The teaching of the Zoroastrian religion and
     of the Mahommedan--A refreshing quality--Family
     ties--Injustice--Guebre places of worship--The sacred
     fire--Religious ceremonies--Three excellent points in the
     Zoroastrian religion--The Parsees not "fire
     worshippers"--Purification of fire--No ancient sacred
     books--Attire--No civil rights--The "jazia" tax--Occupations--The
     Bombay Parsees Amelioration Society and its work--The pioneers of
     trade--A national assembly--Ardeshir Meheban Irani--Establishment
     of the Association--Naturalized British subjects--Consulates
     wanted--The Bombay Parsees--Successful traders--Parsee
     generosity--Mr. Jamsetsji Tata.


Yezd is extremely interesting from a historical point of view, and for
its close association with that wonderful race the "Guebres," better
known in Europe by the name of Parsees. The ancient city of Askizar was
buried by shifting sands, in a desert with a few oases, and was followed
by the present Yezd, which does not date from earlier than the time of
the Sassanian dynasty.

[Illustration: Ardeshir Meheban Irani and the Leading Members of the
Anguman-i-Nasseri (Parsee National Assembly), Yezd.]

Yezdeyard, the weak and unlucky last King of the Sassan family, which had
reigned over Persia for 415 years, was the first to lay the
foundations of the city and to colonize its neighbourhood. It is in this
city that, notwithstanding the sufferings and persecution of Mussulmans
after the Arab invasion of Persia, the successors of a handful of brave
people have to this day remained faithful to their native soil.

To be convinced that the Parsees of Yezd are a strikingly fine lot of
people it is sufficient to look at them. The men are patriarchal,
generous, sober, intelligent, thrifty; the women, contrary to the usage
of all Asiatic races, are given great freedom, but are renowned for their
chastity and modesty.

The name of Parsees, adopted by the better-known Guebres who migrated to
India, has been retained from Fars or Pars, their native country, which
contained, before the Arab invasion, Persepolis as the capital, with a
magnificent royal palace. From this province the whole kingdom eventually
adopted the name.

It is not necessary to go into the history of the nine dynasties which
ruled in Persia before it was conquered by the Arabs, but for our purpose
it is well to remind the reader that of all these dynasties the Sassanian
was the last, and Yezdeyard, as we have seen, the ultimate King of the
Sassan family.

One is filled with horror at the romantic tale of how, through weakness
on his part and treachery on that of his people, the fanatic Arabs,
guided by the light of Allah the Prophet, conquered Persia, slaying the
unbelievers and enforcing the Mahommedan religion on the survivors. The
runaway Yezdeyard was treacherously slain with his own jewelled sword by
a miller, in whose house he had obtained shelter after the disastrous
battle of Nahavand and his flight through Sistan, Khorassan and Merv.
Persia, with every vestige of its magnificence, was lost for ever to the
Persians, and the supremacy of Mahommedanism, with its demoralizing
influence, its haughty intolerance and fanatic bigotism, was firmly
established from one end of the country to the other. The fine temples,
the shrines of the Zoroastrians, were mercilessly destroyed or changed
into mosques.

Zoroaster, the prophet of the Parsees, had first promulgated his religion
during the reign of Gushtasp (b.c. 1300) of the Kayanian family, but
after centuries of vicissitudes and corruption it was not till the time
of the Sassanian dynasty (a.d. 226) that Ardeshir Babekhan, the brave and
just, restored the Zoroastrian religion to its ancient purity. It is this
religion--the true religion of ancient Persia--that was smothered by the
conquered Arabs by means of blood and steel, and is only to-day retained
in a slightly modified character by the few remaining Guebres of Yezd and
Kerman, as well as by those who, sooner than sacrifice their religious
convictions and their independence, preferred to abandon their native
land, migrating to India with their families, where their successors are
to be found to this day still conservative to their faith.

It is not too much to say that, although--in the conglomeration of races
that form the Indian Empire--the Parsees are few in number, not more than
100,000 all counted, they nevertheless occupy, through their honesty,
intelligence and firmness of character, the foremost place in that
country. But with these Parsees who migrated we have no space to deal
here. We will merely see why the remainder escaped death at the hands of
the Mahommedans, and, while ever remaining true to their religion,
continued in Yezd and Kerman when, under the new rulers, almost the whole
of the Zoroastrian population of Persia was compelled to embrace the
religion of Islam.

The fact that Yezd and Kerman were two distant and difficult places of
access for the invading Moslems, may be taken as the likely cause of the
Zoroastrians collecting there. Also for the same reason, no doubt, the
Arabs, tired of fighting and slaying, and having given way to luxury and
vice, had become too lazy to carry on their wholesale slaughter of the
Zoroastrian population. This leniency, however, has not done away
entirely with constant tyrannical persecution and oppression of the
unbelievers, so that now the number of Zoroastrians of Yezd does not
exceed 7,000, and that of Kerman is under 3,000. A great many
Zoroastrians have, notwithstanding their unwillingness, been since
compelled to turn Mahommedans. Even fifty years ago the Zoroastrians of
Yezd and Kerman called in Persia contemptuously "Guebres," were subjected
to degradations and restrictions of the worst kind. Now their condition,
under a stronger government and some foreign influence, has slightly
ameliorated, but is not yet entirely secure against the cruelty,
fanaticism, and injustice of the Mullahs and officials in the place.

If Yezd is, for its size, now the most enterprising trading centre of
Persia, it is mostly due to the Guebres living there. Although held in
contempt by the Mullahs and by the Mahommedans in general, these Guebres
are manly fellows, sound in body and brain, instead of lascivious,
demoralized, effeminate creatures like their tyrants. Hundreds of years
of oppression have had little effect on the moral and physical condition
of the Guebres. They are still as hardy and proud as when the whole
country belonged to them; nor has the demoralizing contact of the present
race, to whom they are subject, had any marked effect on their industry,
which was the most remarkable characteristic in the ancient Zoroastrians.

The Zoroastrian religion teaches that every man must earn his food by his
own exertion and enterprise,--quite unlike the Mahommedan teaching, that
the height of bliss is to live on the charity of one's neighbours, which
rule, however, carries a counterbalancing conviction that the more money
dispensed in alms, the greater the certainty of the givers obtaining
after death a seat in heaven.

One of the most refreshing qualities of the Guebres (and of the Parsees
in India) is that they are usually extraordinarily truthful for natives
of Asia, and their morality, even in men, is indeed quite above the
average. There are few races among which marriages are conducted on more
sensible lines and are more successful. The man and woman united by
marriage live in friendly equality, and are a help to one another. Family
ties are very strong, and are carried down even to distant relations,
while the paternal and maternal love for their children, and touching
filial love for their parents, is most praiseworthy and deserves the
greatest admiration.

The Mussulmans themselves, although religiously at variance and not keen
to follow the good example of the Guebres, admit the fact that the
Zoroastrians are honest and good people. It is principally the Mullahs
who are bitter against them and instigate the crowds to excesses. There
is not such a thing for the Guebres as justice in Persia, and even up to
quite recent times their fire temples and towers of silence were attacked
and broken into by Mussulman crowds, the fires, so tenderly cared for,
mercilessly put out: the sacred books destroyed, and the temples
desecrated in the most insulting manner.

There are a number of Guebre places of worship in Yezd, and in the
surrounding villages inhabited by Guebre agriculturists, but the
principal one is in the centre of the Guebre quarter of Yezd city. It is
a neat, small structure, very simple and whitewashed inside, with a
fortified back room wherein the sacred fire is kept alight, well covered
with ashes by a specially deputed priest. It is hidden so as to make it
difficult for intending invaders to discover it; and the strong door,
well protected by iron bars, wants a good deal of forcing before it can
be knocked down.

The religious ceremony in the temple of the Guebres is very interesting,
the officiating priests being dressed up in a long white garment, the
_sudra_, held together by a sacred girdle, and with the lower portion of
the face covered by a square piece of cloth like a handkerchief; on the
head they wear a peculiar cap. Various genuflexions, on a specially
spread carpet, and bows are made and prayers read.

[Illustration: Parsee Priests of Yezd Officiating during Ceremony in
their Fire Temple.]

The priests belong generally to the better classes, and the rank is
mostly hereditary. Certain ceremonies are considered necessary before the
candidate can attain the actual dignity of a prelate. First of the
ceremonies comes the _navar_, or six days' retreat in his own dwelling,
followed by the ceremony of initiation; four more days in the fire temple
with two priests who have previously gone through the _Yasna_ prayers for
six consecutive mornings. Although after this he can officiate in some
ceremonies, such as weddings, he is not fully qualified as a priest until
the _Bareshnun_ has been undergone and again the _Yasna_. The following
day other prayers are offered to the guardian spirit, and at midnight the
last ceremony takes place, and he is qualified to the degree of
_Maratab_, when he can take part in any of the Zoroastrian rituals.

As a preliminary, great purity of mind and body are required from
candidates, and they are made to endure lavish ablutions of water and
cow urine, clay and sand--an ancient custom, said to cleanse the body
better than modern soaps. After that the candidate is secluded for nine
whole days in the fire temple, and is not permitted to touch human
beings, vegetation, water nor fire, and must wash himself twice more
during that time, on the fourth day and on the seventh. It is only then
that he is considered amply purified and able to go through the _Navar_
ceremony.

The Zoroastrian religion is based on three excellent points--"good
thoughts, good words, good deeds"--and as long as people adhere to them
it is difficult to see how they can go wrong. They worship God and only
one God, and do not admit idolatry. They are most open-minded regarding
other people's notions, and are ever ready to recognise that other
religions have their own good points.

Perhaps no greater libel was ever perpetrated on the Parsees than when
they were put down as "fire-worshippers," or "worshippers of the
elements." The Parsees are God-worshippers, but revere, not worship, fire
and the sun as symbols of glory, heat, splendour, and purity; also
because fire is to human beings one of the most necessary things in
creation, if not indeed the most necessary thing; otherwise they are no
more fire-worshippers than the Roman Catholics, for instance, who might
easily come under the same heading, for they have lighted candles and
lights constantly burning in front of images inside their churches.

Besides, it is not the fire itself, as fire, that Parsees nurse in their
temples, but a fire specially purified for the purpose. The process is
this: Several fires, if possible originally lighted by some natural
cause, such as lightning, are brought in vases. Over one of these fires
is placed a flat perforated tray of metal on which small pieces of very
dry sandal-wood are made to ignite by the mere action of the heat, but
must not actually come in contact with the flame below. From this fire a
third one is lighted in a similar manner, and nine times this operation
is repeated, each successive fire being considered purer than its
predecessor, and the result of the ninth conflagration being pronounced
absolutely pure.

It is really the idea of the purifying process that the Parsees revere
more than the fire itself, and as the ninth fire alone is considered
worthy to occupy a special place in their temples, so, in similarity to
it, they aim in life to purify their own thoughts, words, and actions,
and glorify them into "good thoughts, true words, noble actions." This is
indeed very different from fire-worshipping of which the Parsees are
generally accused.

In Yezd the Guebres told me that they possessed very few sacred books in
their temple (or if they had them could not show them). They said that
all the ancient books had been destroyed by the Mahommedans or had been
taken away to India.

There were also several smaller temples in the neighbourhood of Yezd,
which had gone through a good many vicissitudes in their time, but now
the Parsees and their places of worship are left in comparative peace.
Parsee men and women are still compelled to wear special clothes so as to
be detected at once in the streets, but this custom is gradually dying
out. The women are garbed in highly-coloured striped garments, a short
jacket and a small turban, leaving the face uncovered. The men are only
allowed to wear certain specially-coloured cloaks and are not allowed to
ride a horse in the streets of Yezd.

Parsees do not enjoy the civil rights of other citizens in Persia, and
justice was until quite lately out of the question in the case of
differences with Mussulmans. At death a man's property would be lawfully
inherited by any distant relation who had adopted the religion of Moslem,
instead of by the man's own children and wife who had remained faithful
to their creed; and in the matter of recovering debts from Mussulmans the
law of Persia is certainly very far indeed from helping a Guebre. This is
necessarily a great obstacle in commercial intercourse.

Worst of all the burdens formerly inflicted upon the Guebres--as well as
upon Armenians and Jews of Persia--was the "jazia" tax. Some thousand or
so male Guebres of Yezd were ordered to pay the tax yearly, which with
commissions and "squeezes" of Governors and officials was made to amount
to some two thousand tomans, or about £400 at the present rate of
exchange. Much severity and even cruelty were enforced to obtain payment
of the tax.

The Parsees were, until quite lately, debarred from undertaking any
occupation that might place them on a level with Mahommedans. With the
exception of a few merchants--who, by migrating to India and obtaining
British nationality, returned and enjoyed a certain amount of nominal
safety--the majority of the population consists of agriculturists and
scavengers.

Mainly by the efforts of the Bombay Amelioration Society of the Parsees,
the Guebres of Yezd and Kerman fare to-day comparatively well. The
"jazia" has been abolished, and the present Shah and the local Government
have to be congratulated on their fairness and consideration towards
these fine people. May-be that soon they will be permitted to enjoy all
the rights of other citizens, which they indeed fully deserve. Many steps
have been made in that direction within the last few years. The Parsees
are a most progressive race if properly protected. They are only too
anxious to lead the way in all reformation, and, with all this, are
remarkable for their courteousness and refined manner.

The most prominent members of the Yezd community, especially the sons of
Meheban Rustam, have been the pioneers of trade between Yezd and India.
Besides the excellent Parsee school, several other institutions have been
established in Yezd and its suburbs by the Bombay Society, supported by a
few charitable Parsees of Bombay and some of the leading members of the
Parsee community in Yezd. The Bombay Society has done much to raise the
Zoroastrians of Persia to their present comparatively advanced state, but
trade and commerce also have to a great extent contributed to their
present eminence.

The Bombay Society nominates and sends an agent to reside in Teheran, the
capital of Persia, to look after the interests of helpless Zoroastrians,
and the Parsees of Yezd have moreover a national assembly called the
Anguman-i-Nasseri.

I was entertained by this interesting body of men, and received from
their president, Ardeshir Meheban Irani, much of the valuable information
here given about the Yezd Parsees. The Association has an elected body of
twenty-eight members, all honorary, the most venerable and intelligent of
the community, and its aims are to advocate the social rights of the
Zoroastrians as a race, to settle disputes arising between the
individuals of the community, to defend helpless Parsees against Moslem
wantonness, and to improve their condition generally.

The Association was established on the 3rd of February, 1902, by the late
Mr. Kaikosroo Firendaz Irani, the then agent of the Bombay Society. In
this work he had the advice and help of the leading men of the community.

There are several naturalised British subjects in Yezd, including the
President of the Association--who speaks and writes English as well as
any Englishman--but it is greatly to be regretted that these men cannot
obtain proper protection from the British Government. Yet these fellows
could be of very great assistance to England in spreading British
influence in Yezd, not to speak of increasing British trade--which they
are only too anxious to do, if a chance is given them--in conjunction
with the representatives of their race in Bombay--the most Anglicised,
except in religion, of all our subject races of India. There was formerly
a British Vice-Consul in Yezd, but for some reason known to the
Government, while Russia finds it expedient to establish Consular agents
in all the principal centres of Persia, we have actually withdrawn our
representative even from so important a city as Yezd!

The Parsee communities of Yezd and Bombay are in constant communication
with each other, and it is well known what marvellous prosperity these
fugitives of Fars have now attained in Bombay, through their honesty and
hard work, especially since their connection with the British, whose
civilisation, with the exception of religion and the hat, they have
entirely adopted. Most of them speak perfect English, and many of the
sons of the wealthier Parsees have been educated at universities in
England. We find them working banking houses on a large scale, and cotton
mills, running lines of steamers and shipbuilding yards. They trade
considerably with the Far East and Far West, and with every nook in Asia.
Even as far as Samarkand, Bokhara, Siberia, Nijni-Novgorod, and St.
Petersburg, Parsee traders are to be found, and in Japan, China, the
United States, and Canada. With England they carry on a very extensive
trade, and through them as intermediaries much of the import trade into
India finds its way into neighbouring markets more difficult of access to
the direct British exporter.

One of the most noticeable traits of the flourishing Parsees of Bombay is
their extreme generosity, often hampered by petty, stupid, Anglo-Indian
officialdom, which they seem to stand with amazing patience and
good-nature. We find well appointed hospitals erected by them; schools,
clubs, and only lately one of the richest of all Parsees, Mr. Jamsetsji
Tata, has given the city of Bombay no less a gift than a quarter of a
million pounds for the erection of a university on the most modern lines
in that city.



CHAPTER XL

     _Badjirs_--Below the sand level--Chappar service between Yezd and
     Kerman--The elasticity of a farsakh--Sar-i-Yezd--An escort--Where
     three provinces meet--Etiquette--Robbers' impunity--A capital
     story--Zen-u-din--The Serde Kuh range--Desert--Sand
     accumulations--Kermanshah--The Darestan and Godare Hashimshan
     Mountains--Chappar Khana inscriptions and ornamentations by
     travellers--Shemsh.


The most characteristic objects in Yezd are the _badjirs_, a most
ingenious device for catching the wind and conveying it down into the
various rooms of dwelling. These _badjirs_ are on the same principle as
the ventilating cowls of ships. The ventilating shafts are usually very
high and quadrangular, with two, three, or more openings on each side at
the summit and corresponding channels to convey the wind down into the
room below. The lower apertures of the channels are blocked except on the
side where the wind happens to blow, and thus a draught is created from
the top downwards, sweeping the whole room and rendering it quite cool
and pleasant even in the hottest days of summer. The reason that one
finds so many of these high _badjirs_ in Yezd is probably that, owing to
constant accumulations of sand, the whole city is now below the level of
the surrounding desert, and some device had to be adopted to procure
fresh air inside the houses and protect the inhabitants from the
suffocating lack of ventilation during the stifling heat of the summer.
The _badjirs_ are certainly constructed in a most scientific or, rather,
practical manner, and answer the purpose to perfection.

When we leave Yezd the city itself cannot be seen at all, but just above
the sand of the desert rise hundreds of these quadrangular towers, some
very large indeed, which give the place a quaint appearance.

From Yezd to Kerman there is again a service of post-horses, so I availed
myself of it in order to save as much time as possible. The horses were
not much used on this road so they were excellent.

I departed from Yezd on October 26th, and soon after leaving the city and
riding through the usual plentiful but most unattractive ruins, we were
travelling over very uninteresting country, practically a desert. We
passed two villages--Najafabat and Rachmatabad--and then wound our way
through avenues of dried-up mulberry trees at Mahommedabad or Namadawat,
a village where silk-worms are reared in quantities, which accounts for
the extensive mulberry plantations to provide food for them. The village
is large and is three farsakhs from Yezd, or something like ten miles.

The "farsakh"--the most elastic measure ever invented--decreases here to
just above three miles, whereas further north it averaged four miles.

In a strong wind we rode on, first on sand, then on gravelly soil, ever
through dreary, desolate country. The villages, Taghiabad, Zehnawat,
etc., get smaller and poorer and further apart, and some eight farsakhs
from Yezd we eventually reach the small town of Sar-i-Yezd. From
Namadawat the country was an absolutely flat gravel plain with no water.

[Illustration: Interior of Old Caravanserai with Central Water Tank.]

At Sar-i-Yezd (altitude 4,980 feet) we were detained some time. The
highest official in the place had received orders from the Governor of
Yezd not to let me proceed without a strong guard to accompany me. This
was rather a nuisance than otherwise, for, although the country between
Sar-i-Yezd and Anar was reported infested by robbers, we really should
have been able to hold our own against them even without the rabble that
was sent to accompany us.

After a delay of some hours five soldiers--as picturesque as they would
have been useless in case of danger--put in an appearance. They had old
long muzzle loaders, which must have been more dangerous to the person
firing them than to the ones fired at, and they wore elaborate leather
belts with two ample pouches for lead bullets, two gunpowder flasks made
of desiccated sheep testicles, a leather bag for small shot, and a large
iron ring with small clips for caps. Horses could not be procured for
these men, so they had to follow my baggage on foot, which caused a
further delay.

We left shortly before sunset as I intended marching the whole night.
There was a great discussion among these soldiers about crossing over
into Kerman territory, four farsakhs beyond Sar-i-Yezd, and just at the
point where the robbers are supposed to attack caravans the guard,
whether through fear or otherwise, declined to come on. Sadek
remonstrated most bitterly, but three of them left us, while two said
they had been entrusted with orders to see me and my luggage safely to
the place where another guard could be obtained and would continue. I
tried to persuade them to go back too, but they would not.

It appears that between Sar-i-Yezd and Zen-u-din there is an expanse of
waste land near the boundary of the Yezd, Kerman and Farsistan (Shiraz)
provinces, the possession of which is declared by the Governors of all
these provinces not to belong to them, the boundary having never been
properly defined. So robbers can carry on their evil deeds with
comparative immunity, as they do not come under the jurisdiction of any
of the three Governors in question. Moreover, if chased by Yezd soldiers,
they escape into Shiraz or Kerman territory, and if pursued by Kerman
troops they escape into either of the neighbouring provinces, while the
Governor of Shiraz, being the furthest and least interested in that
distant corner of his province, really never knows and probably does not
care to learn what takes place in so remote and barren a spot. In any
case he will not be held responsible for anything happening there. It
would certainly involve him in too great expense and difficulty to send
soldiers to live so far into the desert, and unless in great force they
could be of little assistance to caravans; so that, as things stand,
robber bands have it all their own way.

Strict etiquette is observed between Governors of provinces and their
subordinates, and an encroachment on one's neighbour's territory would be
considered a most outrageous breach of good manners and respective
rights.

Still travelling quite fast across sand, and with no brigands in sight,
we went on, pleasantly entertained by the astounding yarns of the two
remaining soldiers. We were told how, twenty years ago, a foreign
doctor--nationality unknown--being attacked by a band of thirty robbers,
produced a small bottle of foreign medicine--presumably a most highly
concentrated essence of chloroform--from his waistcoat pocket and, having
removed the cork, the thirty brigands immediately fell on all sides in a
deep sleep. The doctor and his party then continued their journey
quietly, and returned several days later with a number of soldiers, who
had no trouble in despatching the robbers from a temporary into an
eternal sleep, without their waking up at all!

On being asked how it was that the doctor himself remained awake when
such a powerful narcotic was administered, the narrator did not lose his
presence of mind nor his absence of conscience, and said the doctor had,
during the operation, held his nose tight with his two fingers. The
doctor had since been offered thousands of tomans for the precious
bottle, but would not part with it.

The soldiers told us a great many more stories of this type, and they
recounted them with such an _aplomb_ and seriousness that they nearly
made one fall off one's saddle with laughter. Every now and then they
insisted on firing off their rifles, which I requested them to do some
distance away from my horses. There were no mishaps.

At Sar-i-Yezd I had not been able to obtain fresh horses, so the Yezd
horses had been taken on, with an additional donkey. They had gone
splendidly, and we arrived at Zen-u-din shortly after ten o'clock at
night.

Solitary, in the middle of the desert, and by the side of a salt water
well, stands Zen-u-din (Alt. 5,170 feet). There is a chappar station, and
a tumbling-down, circular caravanserai with massively built watch-towers.
These appeared much battered as if from the result of repeated attacks.

We left our soldier protectors behind here, and two more military
persons, in rags and with obsolete guns, insisted on accompanying us, but
as they were on foot and would have delayed us considerably I paid them
off, a hundred yards from Zen-u-din, and sent them back.

There are mountains extending from the north-east to the south-east, the
Serde Kuh range, and to the south-east they are quite close to the track
and show low passes a mile or so apart by which the range could easily be
crossed. To the west also we have high hills, some three or four miles
apart from the mountains to the north-east, and to the north an open
desert as far as Yezd. We notice here again the curious accumulations of
sand high up on the south mountain side, and also to the south-west of
the mountain range east of us.

[Illustration: Typical Caravanserai and Mud Fort in the Desert between
Yezd and Kerman.]

[Illustration: A Trade Caravanserai, Kerman.]

At ten in the morning, after a dreary ride through desolate country, we
reached the small village of Kermanshah (5,300 feet), where a post
station and caravanserai were to be found, a few trees and, above all,
some good drinking water. From Zen-u-din to Kermanshah, a distance of
sixteen miles (five farsakhs), we had seen only one solitary tree to the
south-west of the track.

We had now rugged mountains about a mile to the west and south-west.
These were ranges parallel to one another, the Darestan mountains being
the nearest to us and the Godare Hashimshan behind them further
south-west.

While I was waiting for fresh horses to be got ready I amused myself at
every station studying the curious inscriptions and ornamentations by
scribbling travellers on the caravanserai and post-house walls.
Laboriously engraved quotations from the Koran were the most numerous,
then the respective names of travellers, in characters more or less
elaborate according to the education of the writer, and generally
accompanied by a record of the journey, place of birth, and
destination of the scribbler. Occasionally one was startled by a French
inscription in sickening terms of humility, the work of Persian minor
officials in Government employ, who thus made a public exhibition of
their knowledge of a foreign language and expounded in glowing terms
their servile admiration for superiors.

More interesting were the records of illiterate travellers who, in
default of literature, placed one arm and hand upon the whitewashed wall
and traced their silhouette with the point of a knife or a bit of
charcoal or a brush held in the other hand.

Then came those still more artistically inclined, who ventured into
conventionalised representations of the peacock with widely-expanded
tail--the most favourite and frequent of Persian outbursts of Chappar
khana art, and probably the most emblematic representation of Persian
character. The conventionalised peacock is represented in a few lines,
such as one sees on the familiar Persian brass trays.

The Shah's portrait with luxuriant moustache is met in most Chappar
khanas scraped somewhere upon the wall, and not infrequently other whole
human figures drawn in mere lines, such as children do in our country,
but with a greater profusion of anatomical detail. Very frequent indeed
are the coarse representations of scenes in daily life, which we
generally prefer to leave unrecorded--in fact, the artistic genius of the
Persian traveller seems to run very much in that direction, and these
drawings are generally the most elaborate of all, often showing signs of
multiple collaboration.

Horses fully harnessed are occasionally attempted, but I never saw a
camel represented. Only once did I come across a huge representation of a
ship or a boat. Small birds drawn with five or six lines only, but quite
characteristic of conventionalised Persian art, were extremely common,
and were the most ingeniously clever of the lot. Centipedes and
occasional scorpions were now and then attempted with much ingenuity and
faithfulness of detail but no artistic merit.

All these ornamentations, studied carefully, taught one a good deal of
Persian character. That the Persian is very observant and his mind very
analytical, is quite out of the question, but his fault lies in the fact
that in art as in daily life minor details strike him long before he can
grasp the larger and more important general view of what he sees. He
prefers to leave that to take care of itself. We find the same
characteristics not only in his frivolous Chappar khana art--where he can
be studied unawares and is therefore quite natural--but in his more
serious art, in his music, in his business transactions, in his political
work. The lack of simplicity which we notice in his rude drawings can be
detected in everything else he does, and the evident delight which he
takes in depicting a peacock with its tail spread in all its glory is
nothing more and nothing less than an expression of what the Persian
feels within himself in relation to his neighbours.

Nothing has a greater fascination for him than outward show and
pomp. He cares for little else, and a further proof of this unhappy
vainglory is obtained by the study of the wall scrolls of the
travelling public--whether travelling officially or for trading
purposes--representing in Persia usually the most go-ahead and
intelligent section of the Persian population.

On we go along the dreary track, again on flat, desolate country of sand
and stones at the spur of the mountains to the west and south-west. Sand
deposits rise at a gentle gradient up to half the height of these
mountains, well padding their slopes. The track here leads us due south
to a low pass at an altitude of 5,680 feet. One gets so tired of the
monotonous scenery that one would give anything to perceive something
attractive; nor is the monotony of the journey diminished by two other
miserable nagging soldiers who have clung to us as an escort from
Kermanshah, and who are running after our horses moaning and groaning and
saying they are starved and tired and have not received their pay nor
their food from the Government for several months.

On the other side of the pass there is a basin encircled by mountains,
except to the south-east, where we find an open outlet. The track goes
south-south-east through this yellow plain, and on proceeding across we
find several conical black mounds with curious patches of a verdigris
colour. To the east rises a low sand dune.

We come in sight of Shemsh, a most forlorn, cheerless place. Sadek
gallops ahead with the _horjins_, in which he has the cooking pans, some
dead fowls, and a load of vegetables and pomegranates, and I slow down to
give him time to prepare my lunch. I arrived at the place at 2.45 p.m.
There was only a desolate caravanserai and a Chappar khana.

On the Yezd-Kerman track there are not more than three horses at each
post station--at some there are only two,--and as I required no less than
five horses, or, if possible, six, I always had to take on the deficient
number of horses from the previous stations. I generally gave these
horses two or three hours' rest, but it made their marches very long
indeed, as it must be remembered that on my discharging them they must at
once return to their point of departure. Fortunately, the traffic was so
small by this road that the horses were in good condition, and so I was
able to proceed at a good rate all along. Occasionally, one or two horses
had to be taken on for three consecutive stages, which, taking as an
average six farsakhs for each stage, made the distance they had to
travel, including return journey, six stages, or some 120 miles in all.

The altitude of Shemsh was 5,170 feet.



CHAPTER XLI

     Desolate scenery--Anar--A word for Persian servants--Sadek's
     English--Bayas village--Sand deposits--Robber
     villagers--Kushkuhyeh Chappar khana--The post contractor, his
     rifle--Cotton cultivation--Fast growing Rafsenju--Trade
     tracks--Hindu merchants--Sadek and the Chappar
     boy--Kafter-han--Photography and women--A flat, salty stretch of
     clay and sand--The Kuh Djupahr peaks--Robat
     women--Baghih--Attractive girls--_Mirage_--Arrival in Kerman.


I left Shemsh two hours later, at 4.30, and we travelled over slightly
undulating country on sandy ground with occasional tracts of stones and
gravel. If possible, this part was even more desolate than the scenery we
had found before reaching here, and not a vestige of vegetation or animal
life could be detected anywhere. When night descended upon us we had
glorious moonlight to brighten our way, and we marched on gaily--this
time without the nuisance of an escort--until we arrived at Anar at 9.30
p.m.--seven farsakhs (about 22 miles) from Shemsh.

From what one could see during our short stay in the night there appeared
to be a large village, mostly in ruins, with a few trees and a mud fort.
We had gradually descended here to 4,800 feet. The water was quite good.
We only allowed ourselves three hours to have our dinner and sleep, and
I ordered the horses to be ready shortly after midnight.

And here, whatever other faults they may have, a word of commendation
must be put in for the endurance of Persian servants. It is all very well
for one's self to do with little sleep, but servants who will go days and
days without any at all, and without a word of complaint or sign of
collapse, are retainers not easily found and not to be despised.
Certainly, one seldom obtains such qualities in European servants. After
doing fifty or sixty miles on the saddle we would get off, and I rested
awhile, writing up my notes or, if at night, changing plates in my
cameras, but Sadek never had any rest at all. No sooner had we jumped off
our horses than he had to undo the saddles and unpack the baggage and
kill fowls and cook my meals, which all took him some little time; then
he had to wash or clean up everything and repack, and run about the
villages to purchase provisions, and all this kept him well employed
until the hour of departure; so that, even when I could put in a couple
of hours' sleep of a night, he never had time to sleep at all. Sleeping
on the saddle, of course, was usual when we travelled by caravan, but was
impossible when chapparing. So that he had to go several days at a time
without a moment's wink.

The remarkable facility with which, under these trying circumstances, he
got most excellent meals ready at all hours of the day or night and in
the most outlandish places, and the magic way in which he could produce
fuel and make a fire out of the most unlikely materials, was really
extraordinary. True, he took himself and his work most seriously and his
pride lay principally in having no reproach about the cooking.

He had a smattering of English that was very quaint. Everything above
ground he called "upstairs"; anything on the ground or below was
"downstairs." Thus, to mount and dismount a horse was laconically
expressed "horse upstairs," "horse downstairs." Similarly, to lie down
was "downstairs," to get up "upstairs." Anything involving violent motion
was "shoot," by which single word to fall, to kick, to bite, to drop, to
jump, to throw away, were defined. He possessed a good vocabulary of
swear words--which he had learnt from sailors at Bushire--and these
served him well when anything went wrong; but I forbade him to use them
in my presence as I wished to have the monopoly myself, and thus his
English vocabulary was very much curtailed. The remainder of his English
conversation applied entirely to cooking chickens.

Shortly after midnight we moved out of the Chappar khana, and, barring
some slight cultivation in the immediate neighbourhood of the village, we
soon entered again upon the flat, sandy desert. We had a lovely full moon
over us, which added to the pleasure of travelling, and we rode on to
Bayas (five farsakhs), some seventeen or eighteen miles, where we arrived
at five in the morning. The altitude of this place was exactly the same
as that of Anar, 4,800 feet.

Bayas is a tiny village with a few mulberry trees and a small stream of
water. It has a fair caravanserai. We rested the horses for a couple of
hours, while I had breakfast, and by 7.30 a.m. we were again in our
saddles.

To the south-west and north-east by east we again perceived the familiar
high sand deposits, all along the base of the mountain ranges, and they
reached up to two-thirds of the height of the mountains, forming a
smooth, inclined plane rising very gently from the flat desert on which
we were travelling. To the north-east by east the sand-banks rose nearly
to the summit of the hill range.

Sadek and the chappar boy pointed out to me a village to the north-east
of the track, and informed me that all its inhabitants were robbers and
murderers. In fact upon the road, we came across a poor boy crying, and
bruised all over. We asked him what was the matter. He pointed to three
men in the distance who were running away, and said they had beaten him
and stolen his money, two krans, and two pomegranates. Sure enough, when
we galloped to the men and stopped them they did not wait to be accused
but handed me at once both fruit and money to be returned to their
rightful owner.

These folks had very brutal faces, framed in flowing locks of shaggy
hair. They were garbed in long thick coats of white felt, made entirely
of one piece, and quite stiff, with sleeves sticking out at the sides,
into which the arms were never to be inserted. There were two red and
blue small circular ornamentations at the bottom of the coat in front,
and one in the centre of the back, as on Japanese kimonos.

We began to see more habitations now, and about one mile north-east of
the track we perceived the villages of Esmalawat, Aliabad, and
Sher-i-fabad,--the latter quite a large place. We still went on over sand
and white salt deposits.

Poor Sadek was so tired and sleepy that he fell off his horse a couple of
times. The soil got very stony on getting near Kushkuhyeh (altitude 4,900
feet), where we entered the Chappar khana exactly at noon.

The contractor of the postal service lived at this village, and he was
extremely civil. As many as eight horses were in his stable, and he
ordered that the best should be given me. He entertained me to tea and
took the keenest interest in my rifles. He also possessed one of the
familiar discarded British Martini military rifles, specially decorated
for the Persian market--a rifle worth at its most a pound sterling, or
two, but for which he had paid no less than 100 tomans (about £20). The
smugglers of firearms must have made huge profits on the sale of these
antiquated weapons, for firearms are among the few articles for which
large sums of ready money can be obtained in Persia.

This particular man now took a great fancy to my .256 Mannlicher, and
jokingly said he would not let me proceed until I had sold it to him. He
produced large sums in solid silver to tempt me, about four times the
value of the rifle, and was greatly upset when I assured him that I would
not part with the rifle at all.

When I left, he accompanied me part of the way, some few hundred yards,
and he took with him his Martini and a belt full of cartridges; his
servant who followed him was also similarly armed. On inquiring of him
why master and servant loaded themselves with arms and ammunition to go
such a short distance, he replied that it was not safe for him to go
unarmed even one yard out of his house. One of his friends had been
murdered only a few days before, and one never knows in Persia when one's
turn will come next. In out-of-the-way places in Persia private revenge
is extremely common, which generally takes the form of shooting one's
adversary in the back.

There seemed to be abundance of water at Kushkuhyeh, and the fields were
properly irrigated. Cultivation seemed prosperous, and vast cotton
plantations were to be seen all round. When we passed, hundreds of men,
women and children were busy taking in the cotton, and scores of camels,
donkeys, sheep and goats grazing were dotting the green patch in the
landscape. This gay scene of active life and verdure was all the more
refreshing after the many miles of sand and gravel and barren hills of
which we had grown so weary since leaving Yezd.

Two hours were wasted for lunch, and off we went again. On leaving behind
Kushkuhyeh we also left behind vegetation, and again we sank in sand. A
few tamarisk shrubs were scattered here and there on the large plain we
were traversing, bounded on all sides by distant mountains.

Three and a half farsakhs (about 13 miles) saw us at Hemmatawat, a large
walled enclosure.

At 6.30 p.m. we entered the small town of Barawamad
(Bahramabad)--altitude 5,150 feet--or Rafsenju as it is called now by its
new name. This is a fast-growing place of quite modern origin, and it
owes most of its prosperity to the extensive cultivation of cotton,
exported from here direct to the Persian Gulf and India.

Besides the route on which we are travelling there are several other
tracks leading out of Barawamad. A minor one runs in a north-easterly
direction, over the Dehring Mountains to the Seroenan district, where
many villages are to be found, and then turns sharply south-east _viâ_
Zerend to Kerman. It is also possible, when once one has crossed into
Seroenan, to continue to Lawah (Rawar) and then, across the Salt Desert,
to Meshed or to Birjand.

To the Persian Gulf there are three tracks. One south-west by west to
Sher-i-balek, from which place the traveller has the option to travel to
Bushire (_viâ_ Shiraz) or to Lingah or to Bandar Abbas _viâ_ Forg. Two
different tracks, to Reshitabad and Bidu, join at Melekabad (south-west)
and these eventually enter the Kerman-Shiraz-Bushire track; while another
track, the most in use, goes almost due south, direct to Bidu, skirting
the Pariz Mountains on their westerly slopes. This track, too, crosses
the Kerman-Shiraz route at Saidabad, and proceeds due south to Bandar
Abbas.

The few Hindoo merchants of Kerman come here during the cotton season to
make their purchases and send their goods direct to Bandar Abbas for
shipment to India. Pottery of an inferior kind is manufactured at
Rafsenju.

We left the Chappar khana at midnight in a terrific cold wind, and this
time on shockingly bad horses. They were tired and lame, the cold wind
probably intensifying the rheumatic pains from which most of them were
suffering. The country was undulating and we gradually rose to 5,700
feet. The horses gave us no end of trouble and we had to walk the greater
portion of the night.

Sadek, five feet two in height, and the Chappar boy, six feet two, came
to words and soon after to most sonorous blows. To add to our comfort,
the Chappar boy, who got the worst of the scrimmage, ran away, and it was
only at sunrise that we perceived him again a long way off following us,
not daring to get too near. Eventually, by dint of sending him peaceful
messages by a caravan man who passed us, Sadek induced him to return, and
still struggling in the sand of the desolate country all round us, and
our horses sinking quite deep into it, we managed to drag men, horses,
and loads into Kafter-han (Kebuter-han)--altitude 5,680 feet--at 8.30 in
the morning, where we were glad to get relays of fresh steeds. We had
gone about twenty-eight miles from the last station.

A few mud huts, an ice store-house, a flour mill, a high building, said
to have been an arsenal, the usual caravanserai, and a dingy Chappar
khana were all, quite all one could rest one's eye upon at Kafter-han.
There was some cultivation, but nothing very luxuriant. The few
inhabitants were quite interested in the sudden appearance of a
_ferenghi_ (a foreigner). The women, who were not veiled here, were quite
good-looking, one girl particularly, whose photograph I snatched before
she had time to run away to hide herself--the usual effect of a camera on
Persian women, quite the reverse to its effects on the European fair sex.

We left almost directly on better animals, and proceeded south-east
having lofty rugged hills to the north-east, east, and south of us, with
the usual high sand accumulations upon their sides. To the south-east we
could just discern the distant mountains near Kerman. The track itself,
on the sandy embankment at the foot of the hillside to the south-west, is
rather high up and tortuous, owing to a very long salt marsh which fills
the lower portion of the valley during the rainy weather and makes
progress in a straight line impossible. But now, owing to the absolute
absence of rain for months and months, the marsh was perfectly dry and
formed a flat white plastered stretch of clay, sand and salt, as smooth
as a billiard-table, and not unlike an immense floor prepared for
tennis-courts. The dried salt mud was extremely hard, our horses' hoofs
leaving scarcely a mark on it. I reckoned the breadth of this flat, white
expanse at one and a half miles, and its length a little over eleven
miles. Two high peaks stood in front of us to the south-east, the Kuh
Djupahr, forming part of a long range extending in a south-east
direction.

At a distance of four farsakhs (about thirteen miles), and directly on
the other side of the dried-up salt stretch, we came to another Chappar
khana, at the village of Robat. There were a good many women about in
front of the huge caravanserai, and they looked very ridiculous in the
tiny short skirts like those of ballet girls, and not particularly clean,
over tight trousers quite adhering to the legs.

We have the same mountains on both sides, and we continue over undulating
ground, the valley getting somewhat narrower as we proceed towards
Baghih. Six or seven miles from Kafter-han was Esmaratabad village, a
mass of ruins, and ten miles or so a large village, still in fair
preservation, Sadi, with some vegetation, principally wheat. The track
lay mostly over a stony, barren desert, with here and there, miles and
miles apart, a forced patch of green.

Baghih, our last halt before reaching Kerman, was nine farsakhs from
Kafter-han. It stood at an elevation of 5,740 feet, and had plenty of
excellent water. The village was large, with handsome walled gardens and
nicely-kept wheat-fields all round. The inhabitants were most affable
and civil, and the women and children particularly simple and attractive.
The girls were attired in longer and more graceful skirts than the
damsels of Robat, and did not leave the leg exposed even as high as the
knee. Over it they had an ample shirt with wide short sleeves, showing
their gracefully modelled and well rounded arms, adorned with metal
bracelets. On the head was a kerchief neatly bound quite tight over the
head by means of a ribbon.

It was not possible to get fresh horses here, and mine were very tired or
I would have continued to Kerman the same evening, completing the journey
from Yezd (220 miles) in three days. We had arrived early in the
afternoon, and had I not been compelled to take on the tired horses for
the remaining four farsakhs (13 miles) I could have easily reached Kerman
before the gates of the city were closed at sunset. As it was, I had to
give it up, and had to sleep the night at Baghih, making an early start
on Wednesday, the 30th.

Baghih is actually south-west of Kerman, and the track makes this long
detour to avoid the Bademan Mountains to the north. It thus passes over
comparatively level land in the valley between that range and the Kuh
Djupahr, the track turning here sharply to the north-east, in which
direction, when we get to the highest point of the track (5,980 feet) one
and a half farsakhs from Baghih, we can almost discern Kerman in the
distance. Except to the north-west we have high mountains all round, the
highest being the Djupahr to the south-east, and of which we now get a
most lovely view, and also of the whole Kerman plain with its innumerable
semi-spherical sand-hills.

At the foot of the Djupahr below us we see the two villages of Kheirabad
and Akhibarabad, with many trees and some cultivation round them. On
descending into the Kerman plain we have deceiving effects of mirage,
lovely lakes on both sides and streams of water, but on the rising of a
gentle breeze, limpid lakes and streams suddenly disappear, and the whole
plain is nothing but a big undulating stretch of yellow sand, until we
arrive within almost a stone's-throw of the city gates of Kerman.

At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, October the 30th, I halted at the palatial
Chappar khana of Kerman, just outside the city wall, in a handsome
garden, having accomplished the journey from Yezd in four days, including
halts.



CHAPTER XLII

     Kerman--The _Ark_ or citadel--Civility of the
     natives--Europeans--The British Consulate--Major Phillott--H. E.
     Ala-el-Mulk, Governor of Kerman--Soldiers--Teaching music to
     recruits--Preparation for the campaign against the Beluch--Cloth
     manufacture.


It was my intention to pay my respects to the British Consul for whom I
had letters of introduction from the Minister at Teheran, and I at once
proceeded through the city, entering first the "Ark" or citadel, and then
the south-west gate with two side columns of green and blue tiles in a
spiral design and pointed archway, into the Meidan--a fine rectangular
square of great length and breadth. Sentries posted at the gates of the
city and at the sides of the square saluted, and also many of the people
along the road. This extraordinary civility was very refreshing in a
country where one only expects extreme rudeness from the lower classes.

We entered the vaulted bazaar, the main big artery of Kerman city,
intersected about half-way by a tortuous street from north to south and
by other minor narrow lanes, and crowded with people, donkeys, camels and
mules; and here, too, one was rather surprised to see various merchants
get up in their shops salaaming as I passed, and to receive a
"Salameleko" and a bow from most men on the way. The bazaar itself, being
in appearance more ancient than those of Yezd, Isfahan and Teheran, was
more alluring and had many quaint bits. It bore, however, very much the
same characteristics as all other bazaars of Persia. At the end of it on
the north-east we emerged into an open space with picturesque awnings,
suspended mats, and spread umbrellas shading innumerable baskets of
delicious green figs, trays of grapes, and pomegranates, piles of
water-melons and vegetables of all sorts.

[Illustration: H. E. Ala-el-Mulk, Governor of Kerman, in his Palace.]

No Europeans live within the wall of Kerman city itself, and at the time
of my visit there were only four Europeans altogether residing in the
neighbourhood of the town. Two missionaries, husband and wife; a
gentleman who, misled by representations, had been induced to come from
India to dig artesian wells at great expense--in a country where the
natives are masters at finding water and making aqueducts--and our most
excellent Consul, Major Phillott, one of the most practical and sensible
men that ever lived.

The Consulate was at Zeris or Zirisf, some little distance to the east of
the town. We passed through a graveyard on leaving the inhabited
district, and had in front of us some ancient fortifications on the rocky
hills to the south, which we skirted, and then came to some huge
conical ice-houses--very old, but still in excellent preservation. We
passed the solidly-built and foreign-looking gateway of the Bagh-i-Zeris,
and a little further at the end of a short avenue the British flag could
be seen flying upon a gate.

As I came upon him a ragged infantry soldier, who, being at his dinner,
was busy licking his fingers, sprang to his feet and made a military
salute. Having passed through a court and a garden and a series of
dismantled rooms I found myself in the Consulate, where I was greeted
effusively by Major Phillott, who had no idea I was coming, and who,
owing to my being very much sun-tanned, had at first mistaken me for a
Persian! He would not hear of my remaining at the Chappar khana, and most
kindly sent at once for all my luggage to be brought up to the Consulate.
The hospitality of Englishmen in Persia is really unbounded.

H. E. Ala-el-Mulk, Governor of Kerman, called on the Consul that same
afternoon, and I was able to present the letter I had brought to him.
Having lived long in Europe Ala-el-Mulk is a most fluent French scholar,
and, being a man of considerable talent, sense, and honesty he is rather
adverse to the empty show and pomp which is ever deemed the necessary
accompaniment of high-placed officials in Persia. He can be seen walking
through the town with only a servant or two, or riding about inspecting
every nook of his city hardly attended at all. This, curiously enough,
has not shocked the natives as people feared, but, on the contrary, has
inspired them with intense respect for the new Governor, whose tact,
gentleness, consideration and justice were fully appreciated by the whole
town; so that, after all, it is pleasant to notice that the lower classes
of Persia have more common sense and power of differentiation than they
have hitherto been credited with.

"When I want anything well done," said the Governor to me, "I do it
myself. I want the welfare of my people and am only glad when I can see
with my own eyes that they get it. I inspect my soldiers, I see them
drilled before me; I go to the bazaar to talk to the people, and any one
can come to talk to me. Nobody need be afraid of coming to me; I am ever
ready to listen to all."

Although this innovation in the system of impressing the crowds created
somewhat of a sensation at first, the Governor soon managed to impress
the people with his own personality, and he is now extraordinarily
popular among all classes, except the semi-official, who cannot carry on
their usual extortions with impunity.

He asked me to go and inspect his troops, whom he had drilled before his
own eyes every morning, and undoubtedly, of all the soldiers I had seen
in Persia, they were the only ones--barring the Cossack regiments drilled
by Russians--that had a real military appearance and were trained
according to a method. They were better dressed, better fed, and more
disciplined even than the soldiers of Teheran.

The teaching of music to recruits for the band was quite interesting. The
musical notes were written on a black-board and the young fellows were
made to sing them out in a chorus until they had learnt the whole melody
by heart. The boys had most musical voices and quite good musical ears,
while their powers of retention of what they were taught were quite
extraordinary, when it was considered that these fellows were recruited
from the lowest and most ignorant classes.

The garrison of Kerman was armed with Vrandel rifles, an old, discarded
European pattern, but quite serviceable. Anyhow, all the men possessed
rifles of one and the same pattern, which was an advantage not noticeable
in the Teheran troops, for instance. For Persians, they went through
their drill in an accurate and business-like manner, mostly to the sound
of three drums, and also with a capital band playing European brass
instruments.

The Governor took special delight in showing me several tents which he
had had specially manufactured for his approaching campaign, in
conjunction with British troops from British Beluchistan, against
marauding Beluch tribes who had been very troublesome for some time, and
who, being so close to the frontier, were able to evade alike Persian,
Beluch, and British law, until a joint movement against them was made
from west and east. H. E. Ala-el-Mulk told me that he intended to command
the expedition himself.

Ala-el-Mulk, a man extraordinarily courteous and simple in manner, was
former Persian Ambassador in Constantinople. Through no fault of his own,
owing to certain customs prevalent at the Sultan's court, the Shah during
his visit to Constantinople was unreasonably displeased, and the
Ambassador was recalled. The Governorship of distant Kerman was given
him, but a man like Ala-el-Mulk, one of the ablest men in Persia, would
be more useful in a higher position nearer the capital, if not in the
capital itself. Kerman is a very out-of-the-way place, and of no very
great importance just yet, although, if Persia develops as she should, it
will not be many years from the present time before Kerman becomes a
place of great importance to England.

However, Ala-el-Mulk is, above all, a philosopher, and he certainly makes
the best of his opportunities. He has to contend with many difficulties,
intrigue, false dealing, and corruption being rampant even among some of
the higher officials in the town; but with his sound judgment and
patience he certainly manages to keep things going in a most satisfactory
manner.

Besides his official business, and with the aid of his nephew, he
superintends the manufacture, as we have already seen, of the best, the
most characteristically Persian carpets of the finest quality and dyes.
There are a great many looms in the buildings adjacent to the Palace and
hundreds of hands employed in the Governor's factories. He also possesses
a good collection of very ancient carpets, from which the modern ones
are copied.

I returned his visit at his Palace, where the Consul and I were received
most cordially and had a lengthy and most interesting conversation with
his Excellency. Then he showed me all the buildings in the Ark.

Kerman is celebrated for its cloth manufacture and felts. The cloth is of
fine worsted, and is generally in pieces six yards long by three quarters
of a yard wide. It is much used by the natives, both for hangings and for
making clothes for men and women, being very soft and durable.
Embroidered turbans and kamarbands are made from these cloths, especially
in white cloth, generally of a fine quality. The process of weaving these
cloths, called inappropriately "Kerman shawls," is identical with that of
the loom described at the village of Bambis in Chapter XXXVI. The
material used for the best quality is the selected fine wool, growing
next to the skin of goats. These dyed threads are cut into short lengths
and woven into the fabric by the supple and agile fingers of the children
working, packed tight together, at the looms. Some of the best cloths,
not more than ten feet in length, take as long as a month per foot in
their manufacture, and they realise very high prices, even as much as
nine or ten pounds sterling a yard. The design on the more elaborate ones
is, as in the carpets, learnt by heart, the stitches being committed to
memory like the words of a poem. This is not, however, the case with the
simpler and cheaper ones, which are more carelessly done, a boy reading
out the design from a pattern or a book.

[Illustration: Tiled Walls and Picturesque Windows in the Madrassah,
Kerman.]

[Illustration: Sirkar Agha's Son, the Head of the Sheikhi Sect, Kerman.]

The carpet factories of Kerman are very extensive, the process being
similar to that already described in a previous chapter.



CHAPTER XLIII

     The Madrassah--"Peace on Abraham"--The _Hammam_--Trade
     caravanserais--The Hindoo caravanserai--Parsees--Ancient
     fortifications--The Kala-i-Dukhtar, or virgin
     fort--Speculation--The Kala-Ardeshir--A deep well--Why it was
     made.


A visit to the Madrassah on the north side of the bazaar was extremely
interesting, it being the best preserved building of that type I had so
far seen in Persia. The Consul and I were shown round it by the Son of
Sirkar Agha, the head of the Sheikhi sect, a most dignified individual
with long black cloak and ample white turban, and with a beard dyed as
black as ink. He conversed most intelligently and took great delight in
showing every nook of the building.

The college is only some ninety years old. Its courts, its walls, its
rooms, its dome, are most beautifully tiled all over, and, strange to
say, it is kept in good repair and the gardens are well looked after.
There is a handsome lecture-hall, with four strong receptacles high up in
the corners of the room, and fret-work at the windows, not unlike
Egyptian _musharabeahs_. Four very high ventilating shafts are
constructed over the buildings to keep the rooms cool.

"Peace on Abraham" reads an elaborate inscription, quoted from the Koran,
but applying in this case, Sirkar Agha's son tells me, to the founder of
the institution. There are other inscriptions on the towers and
ventilating shafts.

At the time of my visit the number of pupils was two hundred. The
adjoining Hammam belonging to the College was, to our astonishment, also
shown us. Such baths are underground and are reached by steps or by a
slippery incline. These particular ones were very superior and had a
beautifully tiled entrance, but the door itself was small and always kept
closed. The first room was domed with a fountain playing in the centre
and platforms, three feet high all round, on the matting of which lay
spread a great many cotton towels, red and blue. The only light came from
a centre aperture in the dome. High earthen jugs stood artistically
resting against one another, and a few people were dressing or undressing
preparatory to taking or after having taken a bath. This was all that was
done in this room.

Through a narrow slippery passage we entered another room, where the
steamy heat was considerable. There were small sections round the room
divided by a wall, like the cells of a monastery, and in each cell was a
tap of cold water. Then we ascended through a small aperture into another
and warmer room, spacious enough, but stifling with a sickening acid
odour of perspiration and fumes of over-heated human skins. The steam
heat was so great that one saw everything in a haze, and one felt one's
own pores expand and one's clothes get quite wet with the absorbed damp
in the atmosphere over-saturated with moisture.

There were two or three men, stripped and only with a loin cloth, lying
down flat on their backs,--one undergoing massage, being thumped all
over; another having the hair of his head and beard dyed jet-black. The
reason that the Persian hair-dyes are so permanent is principally because
the dyeing is done at such a high temperature and in such moist
atmosphere which allows the dye to get well into the hair. When the same
dyes are used at a normal temperature the results are never so
successful. Further, a third man was being cleansed by violent rubbing.
He needed it badly; at least, judging by the amount of black stuff that
rolled from his skin under the operator's fingers. The attendants, too,
barring a loin-cloth, were naked.

With perspiration streaming down my cheeks I took the photographs here
reproduced, and then proceeded to a yet hotter small room--as suffocating
a place as one may wish to enter in one's lifetime, or after! One
received a positive scorching blow in the face as one entered it, the
heat was so great. This is the last chamber, and in a corner is a tap of
cold water with which the skin is repeatedly rinsed and made to sweat
several times until the pores are considered absolutely clean. There were
two people lying down in a semi-unconscious state, and although I was
only there a few minutes I came out quite limp and rag-like. It ruined
my watch, and only by very careful nursing I was able to save my camera
from falling to pieces. On returning to the previous hot chamber it
seemed quite cool by comparison, and when we emerged again into the open
air, thermometer about 90° in the shade, one felt quite chilled.

The various trade caravanserais, of which there were over a dozen in
Kerman on either side of the main bazaar street, were quite interesting.
They were large courts with high platforms, six to ten feet high, all
round them, the centre well, enclosed by them, being tightly packed with
camels, mules and donkeys. Above on the broad platform lay all the packs
of merchandise which had arrived from Birjand and Afghanistan, from
Beluchistan or from India _via_ Bandar Abbas. The shops and store rooms
were neat and had wood-work in front, with gigantic padlocks of a
primitive make. Some, however, had neat little English padlocks.

[Illustration: The Interior of a Hammam or Bath--First Room.]

The most interesting to us, but not the most beautiful, was the Hindoo
caravanserai, where some forty British Hindoo merchants carried on their
commerce. The place looked old and untidy, and the shops overcrowded with
cheap articles of foreign make, such as are commonly to be seen in
India,--paraffin lamps, knives, enamelled ware, cotton goods, indigo,
tea, sugar and calicos being prominent in the shops. The piece goods come
mostly from Germany and Austria, the cottons from Manchester.

The Hindoos were very civil and entertained us to tea, water melon,
and a huge tray of sweets, while a crowd outside gazed at the unusual
sight of Europeans visiting the caravanserais. The merchants said that
the trade in cotton, wool, gum and dates was fairly good, and that,
taking things all round, matters went well, but they had a great many
complaints--they would not be Hindoos if they had not--of petty quarrels
to be settled among themselves and with the Persians. These, of course,
arose mostly out of matters of money. They seemed otherwise quite jolly
and happy, notwithstanding the exaggerated hats and curious costumes they
are compelled to wear, so that they may be distinguished at a glance from
the Persians themselves.

Here, too, as has been already said, there is a small Parsee community of
about 3,000 souls. They are, however, rather scattered nowadays, and are
not so prominent as in Yezd.

The side streets leading out of the bazaar are narrow and dingy, covered
up in places with awnings and matting. There is very little else worth
seeing in the city, but the many ruins to the east of the town and the
ancient fortifications are well worth a visit.

It is to the east of the city that the ancient fortifications are found,
on the most western portion of the crescent-shaped barrier of mountains.
According to some natives the smaller fort, the Kala-i-Dukhtar, or Virgin
fort, on the terminal point of the range, at one time formed part of
ancient Kerman. The fort, the Kala-i-Dukhtar is on the ridge of the hill,
with a fairly well-preserved castellated wall and a large doorway in the
perpendicular rock at the end of the hill range.

In a long semicircular wall at the foot of the hill a row of niches can
be seen, but whether these made part of an ancient stable for horses, or
were used for other purposes, I could not quite ascertain. Some people
said that they were a portion of a _hammam_; others said they might have
been cells of a prison, but what remained of them was not sufficient to
allow one to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

[Illustration: The Hot Room in a Persian Bath.]

[Illustration: The Kala-i-Dukhtar or Virgin Fort.

(Kala Ardeshir on summit of mountain) Kerman.]

The outside wall of the fort was very high, and had strong battlements
and towers. Inside the lower wall at the foot of the hill was a moat from
twenty-five to thirty feet wide and fifteen feet deep. The upper wall
went along the summit of two ridges and was parallel to the lower one,
which had four large circular turrets, and extended down to and over the
flat for some 120 yards. There was another extensive but much demolished
fortress to the east of this on the lower part of the hill range,
guarding the other side of the entrance of the pass, and this, too, had
two large walled enclosures in the plain at its foot. A great many
fragments of pottery with angular geometrical patterns and small circles
upon them were to be found here and in the neighbourhood.

The fort of Kala-i-Dukhtar is attributed by the people to King Ardishir,
and is one of the three mentioned by Mukaddasi in the tenth century, who,
in describing the city of Bardasir, unmistakably identified with the
present Kerman, speaks of the three famous impregnable castles--the
_Hisn_ defended by a ditch, evidently the one above described, directly
outside the city gate, and the old castle, the Kala-i-Kuh, on the crest
of the hill. It has been assumed that the third castle mentioned by
Mukaddasi, was where the _Ark_ or citadel is now, but personally I doubt
whether this is correct. The citadel, the residence of the present
Governor, is to my mind of much more recent origin. There is every sign
to make one doubt whether Kerman extended in those days as far west as
the citadel, which to-day occupies the most western point outside the
city; whereas in the accounts of Mukaddasi one would be led to understand
that the third fortress was well within the city near a great mosque. In
Persian chronicles, too, the Hill Castle, the old, and the new castles
are often referred to, but personally I believe that these three castles
were adjoining one another on the same chain of hills.

An ascent to the Kala Ardeshir well repays the trouble of getting there.
It is not possible to reach the Castle from the south side, where the
rocky hills are very precipitous, and even from the north it is not easy
of access. On the north-west side, facing the British Consulate, there is
a somewhat narrow and slippery track in the rock along a ravine, by
which--in many places "on all fours"--one can get up to the top.

The gateway is very much blocked with sand, but squeezing through a small
aperture one can get inside the wall, within which are several small
courts, and a series of tumbled-down small buildings. In the walls can
still be seen some of the receptacles in which grain and food were
formerly stored.

[Illustration: Graveyard and Kala-i-Dukhtar or Virgin Fort, Kerman.]

Although the exterior of the castle, resting on the solid rock and built
of sun-dried bricks so welded together by age as to form a solid mass,
appears in fair preservation from a distance, when one examines the
interior it is found to be in a dreadful state of decay. The courts and
spaces between the walls are now filled up with sand. There is a well of
immense depth, bored in the rock, the fort standing some five hundred
feet above the plain; but although this is said by some writers to have
been a way of escape from this fortress to as distant a place as Khabis,
some forty-five miles as the crow flies to the east of Kerman, I never
heard this theory expounded in Kerman itself, but in any case, it is
rather strange that the well should have been made so small in diameter
as hardly to allow the passage of a man, its shaft being bored absolutely
perpendicular for hundreds and hundreds of feet and its sides perfectly
smooth, so that an attempt to go down it would be not a way of escape
from death, but positive suicide. The well was undoubtedly made to supply
the fort with water whenever it became impracticable to use the larger
wells and tanks constructed at the foot of the hills within the
fortification walls.



CHAPTER XLIV

     The deserted city of Farmidan--More speculation--The Afghan
     invasion--Kerman surrenders to Agha Muhammed Khan--A cruel
     oppressor--Luft-Ali-Khan to the rescue--The Zoroastrians--Mahala
     Giabr--Second Afghan invasion--Luft-Ali-Khan's escape--Seventy
     thousand human eyes--Women in slavery--Passes--An outpost--Fire
     temples--Gigantic inscriptions--A stiff rock climb--A pilgrimage
     for sterile women--A Russian picnic--A Persian
     dinner--Fatabad--The trials of abundance--A Persian
     menu--Rustamabad--Lovely fruit garden.


The very large deserted city of Farmidan lies directly south of the
mountainous crescent on which are found the fortifications described in
the previous chapter. The houses of the city do not appear very ancient,
their walls being in excellent preservation, but not so the domed roofs
which have nearly all fallen in. The houses are entirely constructed of
sun-dried mud bricks, now quite soldered together by age and reduced into
a compact mass. A few of the more important dwellings have two storeys,
and all the buildings evidently had formerly domed roofs. In order that
the conformation of each house may be better understood, a plan of one
typical building is given. On a larger or smaller scale they all
resembled one another very closely, and were not unlike the Persian
houses of to-day.

There was a broad main road at the foot of the mountains along the
southern side of which the city had been built, with narrow and tortuous
streets leading out of the principal thoroughfare. Curiously enough,
however, this city appeared not to have had a wall round it like most
other cities one sees in Persia. It is possible that the inhabitants
relied on taking refuge in the strength and safety of the forts above,
but more probable seems the theory that Farmidan was a mere settlement, a
place of refuge of the Zoroastrians who had survived the terrible
slaughter by Agha Muhammed Khan.

It may be remembered that when the Afghan determined to regain his throne
or die, he came over the Persian frontier from Kandahar. He crossed the
Salt Desert from Sistan, losing thousands of men, horses and camels on
the way, and with a large army still under his command, eventually
occupied Kerman.

Kerman was in those days a most flourishing commercial centre, with
bazaars renowned for their beauty and wealth, and its forts were well
manned and considered impregnable. So unexpected, however, was the
appearance of such a large army that the inhabitants made no resistance
and readily bowed to the sovereignty of Agha Muhammed. They were brutally
treated by the oppressors. Luft-Ali-Khan hastened from the coast to the
relief of the city, and fiercely attacked and defeated the Afghan
invader, who was compelled to retreat to Kandahar; but Kerman city,
which had undergone terrible oppression from the entry of the Afghans,
fared no better at the hands of the Persians. The Zoroastrians of Kerman
particularly were massacred wholesale or compelled to adopt the
Mahommedan religion.

It is not unlikely--although I assume no responsibility for the
statement--that at that time the Zoroastrians, who were still numerous in
Kerman, driven from their homes by the invading Afghan and Persian
armies, settled a few miles from the city, unable to proceed further
afield owing to the desolate nature of the country all round. With no
animals, no means of subsistence, it would have been impossible for them
with their families to go much further _en masse_ in a country where food
and even water are not easily obtainable. The name of the
town--Farmidan--also would point to the conclusion that it had been
inhabited by Fars, and the age attributed to the city by the natives
corresponds roughly with the epoch of the Afghan invasion.

To the north of Kerman city we have another similar settlement, now
deserted, Mahala-Giabr (a corruption of Guebre), of which there is little
doubt that it was inhabited by Zoroastrians. One of the reasons that
these cities are now deserted may be found in the fact that Agha
Muhammed, having raised another army in Afghanistan, proceeded a second
time to the conquest of Persia. The Zoroastrians, who had fared worse at
the hands of Luft-Ali-Khan than under the Afghan rule, were persuaded to
join Agha Muhammed against their Perso-Arab oppressors, in hopes of
obtaining some relief to their misery, but history does not relate what
became of them. They were never heard of again. One fact only is known,
that very few of those living in Kerman at the time succeeded in escaping
massacre. That previous to this the Zoroastrians must have been very
numerous in Kerman can be judged by the remains of many fire-temples to
be seen, especially in the neighbourhood of the city.

[Illustration: Ruined Houses of Farmitan.]

[Illustration: Plan of House at Farmitan.]

In his second invasion of Persia Agha Muhammed again reached Kerman in
1795 and besieged the city defended by Luft-Ali-Khan. The inhabitants,
who had suffered at the hands of their saviours as much if not more than
at those of their oppressors, made a half-hearted resistance and
eventually, in the thick of the fighting, the city gates were opened by
treachery. Luft-Ali-Khan and a handful of his faithful men fought like
lions in the streets of the city, but at last, seeing that all hope of
victory had vanished, and forsaken by most of his men, Luft-Ali-Khan rode
full gallop in the midst of the Afghans. According to chronicles, he
defiantly ran the gauntlet with only three followers, and they were able
to force their way through the Kajar post and escape to Bam-Narmanshir,
the most eastern part of the Kerman province, on the borders of Sistan.

Agha Muhammed demanded the surrender of Luft-Ali-Khan; the city was
searched to find him, and when it was learned that he had succeeded in
effecting an escape, the wrath of the Afghan knew no bounds. The people
having declared that they could not find Luft-Ali, he ordered 70,000 eyes
of the inhabitants to be brought to him on trays, and is said to have
counted them himself with the point of a dagger. But this punishment he
believed to be still too lenient. A general massacre of the men was
commanded, and no less than 20,000 women and children were made into
slaves. To this day the proverbially easy morals of the Kerman women are
attributed to the Afghan invasion, when the women became the concubines
of soldiers and lost all respect for themselves; and so is the
importation of the dreadful disease which in its most virulent form is
pitifully common in a great portion of the population of the present
Kerman city. According to some the city was razed to the ground, but
whether this was so or not, there is no doubt that Kerman has never
recovered from the blow received, and from the subsequent oppression at
the hands of this barbarous conqueror.

In the south-west part of the mountainous crescent are three very low
passes, by which the hill range can be crossed. One pass between the
Kala-i-Dukhtar and the Kala-Ardeshir forts; one between the Kala-Ardeshir
and the ruins south of it along the southern continuation of the range;
and the third at the most southern point of the crescent, where the
precipitous rocky hill-ranges are separated by a narrow gap, level with
the flat plains on either side. One can still see the remains of a ruined
wall on the east side of this entrance, a round, outpost mud turret, with
other buildings and a large walled enclosure directly outside the pass on
the flat to the south; while on the lower slope of the eastern mountain
stands a tall square building, now roofless, erected on a strong
quadrangular base with corner turrets. It has three pointed arch doorways
(east, west, south), almost as tall as the building itself, and by the
side of these are found high and broad windows in couples. This building
appears to be of a much more recent date than the underlying castle
filled up with earth on which it stands. It has rather the appearance of
a fire temple.

On going through the pass we find ourselves in the centre basin formed by
the mountainous crescent, and here we have another deserted settlement
smaller than Farmidan, also to all appearance not more than a century
old, and directly under the lee of the precipitous rocky mountains. A
high building of a rich burnt-sienna colour, with a dome of stone and
mortar--the latter said to have been mixed with camel's milk, which gives
the mortar greater consistency--is to be seen here. This, too, is
supposed to have been a fire temple. Its base is quadrangular, with two
tiers of three windows each. A small lateral wall is next to the
entrance, but nothing is to be seen in the interior except the bare
walls.

East of this, on the face of the cliff and several hundred feet above the
valley, one is shown a gigantic inscription, "Ya Ali," in white
characters depicted on the rock. The letters are so big that they can be
seen from Kerman, about three miles off. This is a pilgrimage well worth
making, for they say every wish of those who climb up to the inscription
will come true. Two qualities are required--a very steady head and the
agility of a monkey. The angle of the rock is very steep,--almost
vertical, as can be seen on the left side of the photograph, which I took
from the site of the inscription looking down upon the ruined city and
the whole Kerman plain. The only way by which,--on all fours,--one can
climb up is so worn, greasy and slippery, owing to the many pilgrims who
have glided up and down, that it is most difficult to get a grip on the
rock.

Yet the going-up is much easier than the coming down. The full-page
illustration shows the man who accompanied me just about to reach the
inscription,--I took the photograph as I clung to the rock just below
him, as can be seen from the distortion of his lower limbs caused by my
being unable to select a suitable position from which to take the
photograph. We were then clinging to the rock with a drop below us in a
straight line of several hundred feet.

We reached the inscription safely enough, and sat on the edge of the
precipice--the only place where we could sit--with our legs dangling over
it. Screened as we were in deep shadow, we obtained a magnificent
bird's-eye view of the Kerman plain, brilliantly lighted by the morning
sun, and of the forts to our left (south-west) and the many ruins down
below between ourselves and Kerman city. A bed of a stream, now dry,
wound its way from these mountains to almost the centre of the plain,
where it lost itself in the sand beyond a cluster of ruined buildings.
Undoubtedly at some previous time this torrent carried a good volume of
water to the village, and this accounts for the deserted settlement being
found there.

The letters of the inscription were ten feet high, painted white.

[Illustration: A Steep Rock Climb, Kerman.

Photograph of Guide taken by the Author on reaching the Inscription
several hundred feet above the plain.]

The man who had climbed up with me related an amusing incident of the
occasion when H. E. the Governor of the city was persuaded to climb to
inspect the inscription. Hauled up with the assistance of ropes and
servants, he became so nervous when he reached the inscription and looked
down upon the precipice below that he offered a huge reward if they took
him down again alive. Although otherwise a brave man he was unaccustomed
to mountaineering, and owing to the great height, had been seized with
vertigo and was absolutely helpless and unable to move. With considerable
difficulty he was hauled down and safely conveyed to his palace.

The descent presented more difficulty than the ascent, and one's shoes
had to be removed to effect it in more safety. Eventually we reached the
bottom again where, in a gully is a small ruined temple and a mud hut or
two.

A great many women, who from this point had been watching us come down
along the face of the cliff, stampeded away, giggling, at our approach,
and on my asking why so many representatives of the fair sex were to be
found here--there were lots more dotting the landscape below in their
white or black chudders, all converging towards this point--it was
explained that, a few yards off, was a rock possessing marvellous
properties. The rock in question forms part of the mountain-side, and in
its natural formation coarsely suggests, much magnified, the effigy of a
component of feminine anatomy. At the foot of it there was an inscription
and certain offerings, while above it, in a recess, a large wax candle
was burning. Near this stone a stunted tree was to be seen, laden with
bits of red and white rags and various kinds of hair--a most unedifying
sight.

This is a well-known pilgrimage for sterile women, who, after certain
exorcisms in front of and on the divine stone, and a night or two spent
in the neighbouring ruins, are said infallibly to become prolific. The
neighbouring ruins, it should be added, are the favourite night resort of
the Kerman young men in search of romantic adventure, and a most
convenient rendezvous for flirtations; but whether the extraordinary
qualities of prolificness are really due to the occult power of the magic
stone or to the less mystic charms of nights spent away from home, the
reader is no doubt better able to discriminate than I. Judging by the
long strings of ladies of all ages to be seen going on the pilgrimage,
one would almost come to the conclusion that half the women of Kerman are
in a bad plight, or else that the other half only is a good lot!

Much unsuspected amusement was provided to the natives by a Russian
political agent who had visited Kerman a few weeks before I did, with the
intention--it was stated--of starting a Consulate there and a
caravanserai to further Russian trade. Previous to his departure,
attracted merely by the lovely view from the pilgrimage stone, and
absolutely unaware of what misconstruction might be placed on his
hospitality, the Russian gave a picnic at this spot to the tiny European
community of Kerman. Needless to say, the evil-minded Persians of course
put a wrong construction upon the whole thing, and a good deal of
merriment was caused among the natives--who may lack many other
qualities, but not wit--by the sahibs going _en masse_ to the pilgrimage.

The Russian picnic was the talk of the bazaar when I was there, and will
probably remain so for some little time.

We will now leave ruins and puzzling pilgrimages alone, and will accept
an invitation to a substantial Persian dinner with Hussein-Ali-Khan,
known by the title of Nusrat-al-Mamalik, and probably the richest man in
the province of Kerman. At great expense and trouble, this man bought an
English carriage, for the pleasure of driving in which he actually made a
road several miles long. He kindly sent the carriage for the Consul and
me to drive to his place, and had relays of horses half-way on the road
so that we could gallop the whole way. He has planted trees all along the
new road, and brought water down from the hills by a canal along the
roadside in order to provide sufficient moisture to make them grow.

When we reached Fatabad--that was the name of the village close to which
our host's country residence stood--we alighted at a most beautiful
avenue of high trees on either side of a long tank of limpid water, in
which gracefully floated dozens of swans and ducks. We were met at the
gate by our host, a charming old fellow, and his son, Mahommed Ali Khan,
a most intelligent young man. Surrounded by a crowd of servants we were
shown round the beautiful garden, with its rare plants from all parts of
the world, its well-cared-for flowers, and its fruit trees of every
imaginable kind. There was a handsome house built in semi-European style
and with European furniture in it. On a table in the dining-room were
spread a great many trays of sweets. After the usual compliments dinner
was brought in by a long row of attendants, who carried tray after tray
full of delicacies, part of which they deposited on the table, the rest
on the floor.

Our host, with much modesty, asked us to sit at the table, and he and his
Persian friends sat themselves on the floor. We--the Consul, the two
other Englishmen, residents of Kerman, and myself, however--declined to
take advantage of his offer and declared that we should all sit on the
floor in the best Persian style, an attention which was greatly
appreciated by our host and by his friends.

It was with some dismay that I saw more trays of food being conveyed into
the room, until the whole floor was absolutely covered with trays, large
and small, and dishes, cups and saucers, all brim-full of something or
other to eat.

[Illustration: A View of the Kerman Plain from the "Ya Ali" Inscription.

(How steep the ascent to the inscription is can be seen by the mountain
side on left of observer.)]

[Illustration: Wives Returning from the Pilgrimage for Sterile Women.]

Persian food of the better kind and in moderation is not at all bad nor
unattractive. It is quite clean,--cleaner, if it comes to that, than the
general run of the best European cooking. The meat is ever fresh and
good, the chickens never too high--in fact, only killed and bled a few
minutes before they are cooked; the eggs always newly laid in fact, and
not merely in theory, and the vegetables ever so clean and tasty. As for
the fruit of Central and Southern Persia, it is eminently excellent and
plentiful.

The Persians themselves eat with their fingers, which they duly wash
before beginning their meals, but we were given silver forks and spoons
and best English knives. Really to enjoy a Persian meal, however, one's
fingers are quite unapproachable by any more civilised device.

The most sensible part of a Persian meal is its comparative lack of
method and order, anybody picking wherever he likes from the many dishes
displayed in the centre of the room and all round him; but any one
endowed with digestive organs of moderate capacity feels some
apprehension at the mountains of rice and food which are placed before
one, and is expected to devour. A European who wants to be on his best
behaviour finds the last stages of a Persian dinner a positive trial, and
is reminded very forcibly of the terrible fable of the frog that tried to
emulate the cow. To show the reader to what test of expansion one's
capacity is put, no better evidence can be given than a faithful
enumeration of the viands spread before us at the dinner here described,
all of which we were made to taste.

Qalam pal[=a]j[=o]               = Cabbage pilao.
Chil[=a]-[=o]                    = White rice with a soupçon of butter.
Khurish-i-murgh-i-b[=a]dinj[=a]n = Stew of chicken with tomatoes.
Kab[=a]b-i-ch[=u]ja              = Broiled chicken.
Sh[=a]m[=i]                      = Meat sausages.
Dulmayi qalam                    = Meat wrapped in cabbage leaves with
                                   onions and beans.
[=A]b-g[=u]sht                   = Soup with a lump of meat.
Halwa                            = A dish of honey, pistache, and camel's
                                   milk.
K[=u]-k[=u]                      = Omelette of eggs and vegetables.
Mushta                           = Rissoles.
Mast                             = Curds.
Kharbuza                         = Melon.
Pan[=i]r                         = Cheese.
Turb                             = Radishes.
Pista                            = Pistachio nuts.
[=A]n[=a]r                       = Pomegranates.
Zab[=a]n-i-gaw                   = Green bombes.
Tursh[=i]                        = Pickles of all sorts.
Rishta                           = White and green vermicelli cakes.
Murabba bihi                     = Preserved gum.

To these must be added the numerous sweets of which one has to partake
freely before dinner. Through dinner only water is drunk, or nothing at
all, but before and after, tea--three-quarters sugar and one quarter tea,
with no milk,--is served, and also delicious coffee.

The capacity of Persians is enormous, and on trying to emulate it we all
suffered considerably. So pressing were our hosts to make us eat some of
this and some of that, and to taste some of the other, that by the time
we had finished we were all in a semi-conscious state. An attendant
passed round a brass bowl and poured upon our fingers, from a graceful
amphora, tepid water with rose-leaf scent. Then our host very
considerately had us led to the upper floor of the building to a
deliciously cool room, wherein were soft silk broad divans with velvet
pillows. Five minutes later, one in each corner of the room, we were all
fast asleep. It is the custom in Persia to have a siesta after one's
meals--one needs it badly when one is asked out to dinner. So for a
couple of hours we were left to ourselves, while our hosts retired to
their rooms. Then more tea was brought, more coffee, more sweets.

We paid an interesting visit to the village of Fatabad, the older portion
of which, formerly called Rustamabad, had from a distance the appearance
of a strongly fortified place. It had a high broad wall with four
circular towers at the corners, and quite an imposing gateway. The
interior of the village was curious, the habitations being adjacent to
the village wall all round, and each room having a perforated dome over
it. There was spacious stabling on one side for horses, and several
irregular courts in the centre of the village. A long wall stretched from
this village to the Fatabad gardens and palatial dwelling of
Hussein-Ali-Khan, and on one side of this wall were nicely kept wheat
fields, while on the other lay a capital fruit garden.

In the new village of Fatabad, directly outside the wall of Rustamabad,
there were but few houses, with an interesting underground hammam, with
water coming from natural mineral springs brought here from the village
of Ikhtiyarabad, some little distance off. Behind this village, to the
west, a barrier of high rugged hills closed the horizon before us, and
made the view a most delightfully picturesque one.

In the evening, in the same grand carriage, we were again conveyed back
to Kerman, as I intended to start at midnight on my journey across the
Great Salt Desert.

[Illustration: Sketch Map Showing Route Followed by Author and Principal
Tracks between Kum and Kerman (Persia).

Drawn by A. Henry Savage Landor.]

END OF VOL. I


RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BUNGAY.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: Mahommed Hussein. Sadek.

(Author's Servants.)]



ACROSS
COVETED LANDS

OR

A JOURNEY FROM FLUSHING (HOLLAND)
TO CALCUTTA, OVERLAND

BY

A. HENRY SAVAGE LANDOR

_WITH 175 ILLUSTRATIONS, DIAGRAMS, PLANS AND MAPS_
_BY AUTHOR_

IN TWO VOLUMES
VOL. II

London
MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited
1902

_All rights reserved_

Richard Clay and Sons, Limited,
LONDON AND BUNGAY


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                             _To face page_
Mahommed Hussein and Sadek (Author's Servants)               _Frontispiece_
Kerman and Zeris, the two Kittens who accompanied
   Author on his wanderings                                              6
Author's Caravan and Others Halting in the Desert                       20
Author's Caravan in the Salt Desert                                     26
Ali Murat Making Bread                                                  26
Wolves in Camp                                                          34
Author's Camel Men in their White Felt Coats                            38
Camel Men saying their Prayers at Sunset                                38
Author's Camels being Fed in the Desert                                 48
The Trail we left behind in the Salt Desert                             54
Author's Caravan Descending into River Bed near Darband                 58
Rock Habitations, Naiband                                               58
The Village of Naiband, and Rock Dwellings in the Cliff                 60
Young Men of an Oasis in the Desert                                     64
Man and Child of the Desert                                             64
Naiband Barber Stropping a Razor on his Leg                             68
A Woman of Naiband                                                      68
Fever Stricken Man at Fedeshk                                           86
The Citadel, Birjand                                                    86
The City of Birjand, showing main street and river bed combined         90
Women Visiting Graves of Relatives, Birjand.
    (Ruined Fort can be observed on Hill.)                             110
In the Desert. (Tamarisks in the Foreground.)                          118
Women at Bandan                                                        142
Dr. Golam Jelami and his Patients                                      142
The Main Street, Sher-i-Nasrya (Showing centre of City)                144
The British Bazar (Husseinabad), Sistan                                150
The Wall of Sher-i-Nasrya at Sunset                                    156
The Sar-tip                                                            162
The Customs Caravanserai, Sher-i-Nasrya, Sistan (Belgian
    Customs Officer in foreground)                                     166
The Sistan Consulate on Christmas Day, 1901                            174
Major R. E. Benn, British Consul for Sistan, and his Escort
    of 7th Bombay Lancers                                              186
The Citadel of Zaidan, the Great City                                  202
The Zaidan West Towers and Modern Village                              204
Towers of the Citadel, Zaidan                                          206
S.E. Portion of Zaidan City, showing how it disappears
    under distant sand accumulations                                   208
Double Wall and Circular Unroofed Structures, Zaidan. In
    the distance high sand accumulations above City                    208
Interior of Zaidan Fortress                                            212
Graveyard of Zaidan City                                               212
East View of the Zaidan Citadel                                        214
The Figure we dug out at Zaidan                                        218
Arabic Inscription and marble columns with earthenware
    lamps upon them. Fragment of water-pipe. Stone
    implements. Brick wall of the "Tombs of Forty
    Saints" showing in top corners of photograph                       218
Arabic Inscription on Marble dug by Author at the City of Zaidan       220
Transfer of Inscription dated 1282, found in the "Tomb of Forty
    Saints," Zaidan                                                    222
Transfer of Ornament above four lines of Koran on Grave Stone          222
Transfer of Ornamentations on Marble Grave                             222
Presumed Summits of Towers buried in Sand, Zaidan
    (Notice top of Castellated Wall behind.)                           222
Sketch Plan of Zaidan Citadel, by A. Henry Savage Landor               228
Sketch Map of Summit of Kuh-i-Kwajah, by A. Henry Savage Landor        238
Dead Houses and Ziarat on Kuh-i-Kwajah                                 240
A Family Tomb (Eight Compartments) on Kuh-i-Kwajah                     240
Kala-i-Kakaha, the "City of Roars of Laughter"                         242
The "Gandun Piran" Ziarat on Kuh-i-Kwajah                              242
A Bird's Eye View of Kala-i-Kakaha, the "City of Roars of Laughter"    246
Sher-i-Rustam. (Rustam's City)                                         260
The Stable of Rustam's Legendary Horse                                 260
The Gate of Rustam's City, as seen from Rustam's House                 262
The Remains of the Two Upper Storeys of Rustam's House                 266
Rustam's City, showing Rustam's House in Citadel, also
    domed roofs blown in from the north                                268
Plan of Sher-i-Rustam                                                  270
View of Sher-i-Rustam from Rustam's House. (West
    portion of City under the lee of wall)                             272
View of Sher-i-Rustam from Rustam's House (South-east
    section of City)                                                   274
Saïd Khan, Duffadar and Levies at the Perso-Beluch
     Frontier Post of Robat                                            294
Beluch Musicians (at Sibi)                                             298
Beluch Dance (at Sibi)                                                 304
The Beluch-Afghan Boundary Cairn and Malek-Siah
    Mountains in Background                                            306
Rest House at Mahommed Raza Chah overlooking Afghan Desert             310
Beluch Black Tents at Mahommed Raza Chah                               314
Rock Pillar between Kirtaka and Saindak                                314
Sand Hills                                                             318
A Caravan of Donkeys in Afghanistan                                    320
In Afghanistan. Who are you?                                           322
In the Afghan Desert. Afghan Caravan Men                               322
The Thana and New Bungalow at Saindak. (Saindak Mt. in Background.)    324
Beluch Prisoners at Saindak                                            326
Interior of Rest House, Mukak                                          332
The Rest House at Sahib Chah                                           332
Windmill at Mushki Chah                                                350
Three Beluch who would not be Photographed!                            350
Ziarat at Chah Sandan. (Belind Khan Salaaming)                         362
Desert covered with Gypsum, near Sotag                                 362
Circular Mesjid, with Tomb and Outer Kneeling Place                    364
Mesjid on the Site where a Man had been Killed between
    Kishingi and Morad Khan Kella                                      364
The Type of Thana and New Bungalow between Nushki and Robat            368
The Nushki-Robat Track                                                 372
A Beluch Family                                                        382
Beluch Huts thatched with Palm Leaves and Tamarisk                     394
Circular Ziarat with Stone, Marble and Horn Offerings                  398
Ziarat with Tomb showing Stone Vessels                                 398
Beluch Mesjid and Graveyard at Dalbandin                               402
Kuchaki Chah Rest House                                                410
Old Beluch Mud Fort near Nushki                                        410
Beluch Huts and Weaving Loom                                           416
Cave Dwellers, Nushki                                                  416
A Badini Sardar                                                        422
The Salaam of the Beluch Sardars at Nushki                             422
The New City of Nushki (overlooking the Tashil Buildings.)             426
Jemadar and Levies, Nushki                                             428
A Giant Beluch Recruit. (Chaman.)                                      428
The Track between Nushki and Kishingi                                  432
Taleri (Kanak). The new type of Rest House between Nushki and Quetta   438
The Horse Fair at Sibi, Beluchistan                                    440
Beluch Boys off to the Races--Horse Fair at Sibi                       442
Map at the End of Volume.



ACROSS COVETED LANDS


CHAPTER I

     Difficulties of crossing the Great Salt Desert--The trials of
     arranging a caravan--The ways of camel-men--A quaint man of the
     Desert--A legal agreement--Preparations for the
     departure--"Kerman" and "Zeris," my two Persian kittens and
     travelling companions--Persian cats--The start--The charms of
     camel riding--Marching among mountains.


My intention was to cross the Salt Desert in an almost easterly direction
by the route from Khabis to Neh, which seemed the most direct route from
Kerman to the Afghan frontier, but on mentioning my project to the Consul
and his Persian assistant, Nasr-el Khan, they dissuaded me from
attempting it, declaring it impossible to get across in the autumn. Why
it was impossible I could not quite ascertain, each man from whom I
inquired giving a different reason, but the fact remained that it was
impossible. The Governor of Kerman, all the highest officials in the
town, told me that it could not be done till three or four months later,
when the Afghan camels would come over, laden with butter, by that
route. Even faithful Sadek, whom I had despatched to the bazaar to get
camels at all costs, returned with a long face after a whole day's
absence, and for the first time since he was in my employ had to change
his invariable answer of "Sahib, have got," to a bitterly disappointing
"Sahib, no can get."

A delay was predicted on all hands of at least a month or two in Kerman
before I could possibly obtain camels to cross the desert in any
direction towards the east. The tantalising trials of arranging a caravan
were not small.

I offered to purchase camels, but no camel driver could be induced to
accompany me. Offers of treble pay and bakshish had no effect, and I
found myself in a serious dilemma when a camel man appeared on the scene.
His high terms were then and there accepted, everything that he asked for
was conceded, when suddenly, probably believing that all this was too
good to come true, he backed out of the bargain and positively refused to
go. Had I chosen to go by the southern route, skirting the desert _via_
Bam, the difficulty would not have been so great, but that route is very
easy, and had been followed by several Europeans at different times, and
I declined to go that way.

I was beginning to despair when Sadek, who had spent another day hunting
in the various caravanserais, entered my room, and with a broad grin on
his generally stolid countenance, proclaimed that he had found some good
camels. To corroborate his words a clumsy and heavy-footed camel man,
with a face which by association had become like that of the beasts he
led, was shoved forward into the room.

He was a striking figure, with an ugly but singularly honest countenance,
his eyes staring and abnormally opened, almost strained--the eyes of a
man who evidently lived during the night and slept during the day. His
mouth stretched, with no exaggeration, from ear to ear, and displayed a
double row of powerful white teeth. What was lacking in quantity of nose
was made up by a superabundance of malformed, shapeless ears, which
projected at the sides of his head like two wings. When his legs were
closed--_pour façon de parler_--they were still some six inches apart,
and a similar space was noticeable between each of his arms and his body.
Unmistakably this fellow was the very picture of clumsiness.

He seemed so much distracted by the various articles of furniture in the
Consul's room that one could get no coherent answer from him, and his
apprehension gave way to positive terror when he was addressed in flowing
language by the various high officials who were then calling on the
Consul. Their ways of persuasion by threats and promises alarmed the
camel man to such an extent that his eyes roamed about all over the
place, palpably to find a way to effect an escape. He was, however, so
clumsy at it, that the consul's servants and soldiers checked him in
time, and Sadek broke in with one of his usual flows of words at the top
of his voice, which, however, could hardly be heard amid the vigorous
eloquence of the Persians present, who all spoke at the same time, and at
an equally high pitch.

With a sinking heart I closely watched the camel man, in whom rested my
faint and last hope of crossing the Salt Desert. He looked so
bewildered--and no wonder--almost terror-stricken, that when he was asked
about his camels, the desert, the amount of pay required, he sulkily
mumbled that he had no camels, knew nothing whatever about the desert,
and did not wish to receive any pay.

"Why, then, did you come here?"

"I did not come here!"

"But you are here."

"I want to go away."

"Yes, sahib," cried the chorus of Persians, "he has the camels, he knows
the desert; only he is frightened, as he has never spoken to a sahib
before."

Here a young Hindoo merchant, Mul Chan Dilaram, entered the room, and
with obsequious salaams to the company, assured me that he had brought
this camel man to me, and that when he had got over his first fears I
should find him an excellent man. While we were all listening to the
Hindoo's assurances the camel man made a bolt for the door, and escaped
as fast as he could lay his legs to the ground towards the city.

He was chased by the soldiers, and after some time was dragged back.

"Why did you run away?" he was asked.

"Sahib," he replied, almost crying, "I am only a man of the desert; my
only friends are my camels; please have pity on me!"

"Then you have camels, and you do know the desert; you have said so in
your own words."

The camel man had to agree, and on being assured that he would be very
well paid and treated, and have a new pair of shoes given him, and as
much tea brewed for him on the road, with as much sugar in it as his
capacity would endure, he at last said he would come. The Hindoo, with
great cunning, at once seized the hand of the camel man in his own and
made him swear that death should descend upon himself, his camels and his
family if he should break his word, or give me any trouble. The camel man
swore. An agreement was hastily drawn up before he had time to change his
mind, and a handsome advance in solid silver was pressed into his hands
to make the agreement good and to allay his feelings. When requested to
sign the document the camel man, who had sounded each coin on the
doorstep, and to his evident surprise found them all good, gaily dipped
his thumb into the inkstand and affixed his natural mark, a fine smudge,
upon the valuable paper, and licked up the surplus ink with his tongue.
The man undertook to provide the necessary camels and saddles, and to
take me across the Salt Desert in a north-easterly direction, the only
way by which, he said, it was possible to cross the _Lut_, the year
having been rainless, and nearly all the wells being dry. It would take
from twenty-two to twenty-six days to get across, and most of the journey
would be waterless or with brackish water. Skins had to be provided to
carry our own supply of water.

A whole day was spent in preparing for the journey, and when November 4th
came, shortly before midnight my provisions were packed upon my camels,
with an extra load of fowls and one of fruit, while on the hump of the
last camel of my caravan were perched, in a wooden box made comfortable
with straw and cotton-wool, two pretty Persian kittens, aged respectively
three weeks and four weeks, which I had purchased in Kerman, and which,
as we shall see, lived through a great many adventures and sufferings,
and actually reached London safe and sound, proving themselves to be the
most wonderful and agreeable little travelling companions imaginable. One
was christened "Kerman," the other "Zeris."

[Illustration: Kerman and Zeris, the two Kittens who accompanied Author
on his wanderings.]

The Persian cat, as everybody knows, possesses a long, soft, silky coat,
with a beautiful tail and ruff, similar to the cats known in Europe as
Angora, which possess probably longer hair on the body. The Persian cats,
too, have a longer pencil of hair on the ears than domestic cats, and
have somewhat the appearance and the motions of wild cats, but if
properly treated are gentleness itself, and possess the most marvellous
intelligence. Unlike cats of most other nationalities, they seem to enjoy
moving from place to place, and adapt themselves to fresh localities
with the greatest ease. If fed entirely on plenty of raw meat and water
they are extremely gentle and affectionate and never wish to leave you;
the reason that many Persian cats--who still possess some of the
qualities of wild animals--grow savage and leave their homes, being
principally because of the lack of raw meat which causes them to go
ahunting to procure it for themselves. The cat, it should be remembered,
is a carnivorous animal, and is not particularly happy when fed on a
vegetable diet, no more than we beef-eating people are when invited to a
vegetarian dinner.

Isfahan is the city from which long-haired Persian cats, the _burak_, are
brought down to the Gulf, and from there to India, but the Kerman cats
are said by the Persians themselves to be the best. The white ones are
the most appreciated by the Persians; then the blue (grey) ones with
differently coloured eyes, and the tabby ones. Mine were, one perfectly
white, the other tabby.

At midnight I said good-bye to Major Phillott, whose kind hospitality I
had enjoyed for four days, and began my slow and dreary march on
camel-back. Swung too and fro till one feels that one's spine is breaking
in two, we wound our way down from the Consulate at Zeris, skirted the
town, now asleep and in a dead silence, and then turned north-east among
the barren Kupayeh Mountains.

We had a fine moonlight, and had I been on a horse instead of a camel I
should probably have enjoyed looking at the scenery, but what with the
abnormal Persian dinner to which I had been treated in the afternoon (see
Vol. I.)--what with the unpleasant swing of the camel and the monotonous
dingle of the camels' bells--I became so very sleepy that I could not
keep my eyes open.

There is very little style to be observed about riding a camel, and one's
only aim must be to be comfortable, which is easier said than done, for
camels have so many ways of their own, and these ways are so varied, that
it is really difficult to strike a happy medium.

Sadek had made a kind of spacious platform on my saddle by piling on it
carpets, blankets, and a mattress, and on the high butt of the saddle in
front he had fastened a pillow folded in two.

As we wended our way along the foot of one hill and then another, while
nothing particularly striking appeared in the scenery, I thought I would
utilise what comfort I had within reach, and resting my head on the
pillow, through which one still felt the hard wooden frame of the saddle,
and with one leg and arm dangling loose on each side of the saddle, I
slept soundly all through the night. Every now and then the camel
stumbled or gave a sudden jerk, which nearly made one tumble off the high
perch, but otherwise this was really a delightful way of passing the long
dreary hours of the night.

We marched some nine hours, and having gone over a low pass across the
range, halted near a tiny spring of fairly good water. Here we were at
the entrance of an extensive valley with a small village in the centre.
Our way, however, lay to the south-east of the valley along the
mountains. We were at an elevation of 6,300 feet, or 800 feet above
Kerman.

The heat of the day was so great that we halted, giving the camels a
chance of grazing on what tamarisks they could find during day-light, for
indeed camels are troublesome animals. They must not eat after sundown or
it makes them ill. They are let loose on arrival at a camp, and they
drift away in search of lichens or other shrubs. At sunset they are
driven back to camp, where they kneel down and ruminate to their hearts'
content until it is time for the caravan to start. The heavy wooden
saddles with heavy padding under them are not removed from the camel's
hump while the journey lasts, and each camel has, among other
neck-ornaments of tassels and shells, one or more brass bells, which are
useful in finding the camels again when strayed too far in grazing.

We left at midnight and crossed the wide valley with the village of
Sar-es-iap (No. 1) four miles from our last camp. Again we came among
mountains and entered a narrow gorge. The night was bitterly cold. We
caught up a large caravan, and the din of the camels' bells and the
hoarse groans of the camels, who were quite out of breath going up the
incline, made the night a lively one, the sounds being magnified and
echoed from mountain to mountain.

Every now and then a halt had to be called to give the camels a rest, and
the camel men spread their felt overcoats upon the ground and lay down
for five or ten minutes to have a sleep. Then the long string of camels
would proceed again up the hill, the camels urged by the strange cries
and sing-songs of the men.

This part of the journey being mountainous, one came across three little
streams of water, and at each the camel man urged me to drink as much as
I could, because, he said, the time will come when we shall see no water
at all for days at a time.

We were gradually rising, the camels panting dreadfully, and had got up
to 7,100 feet when we camped near the village of Kalaoteh--a few small
domed hovels, a field or two, and a cluster of trees along a brook. We
were still among the Kupayeh Mountains with the Kurus peak towering
directly above us.



CHAPTER II

     Fifty miles from Kerman--Camels not made for climbing hills--The
     Godar Khorassunih Pass--Volcanic formation--Sar-es-iap--A
     variegated mountain--A castle--Rock dwellings--Personal
     safety--Quaint natives--Women and their ways--Footgear.


On November 6th we were some fifty miles from Kerman. Again when midnight
came and I was slumbering hard with the two kittens, who had made
themselves cosy on my blankets, the hoarse grunts of the camels being
brought up to take the loads woke me up with a start, and the weird
figure of the camel-man stooped over me to say it was time to depart.

"Hrrrr, hrrrr!" spoke the camel-man to each camel, by which the animals
understood they must kneel down. The loads were quickly fastened on the
saddles, the kittens lazily stretched themselves and yawned as they were
removed from their warm nooks, and Sadek in a moment packed up all my
bedding on my saddle.

We continued to ascend, much to the evident discomfort of the camels, who
were quite unhappy when going up or down hill. It was really ridiculous
to see these huge, clumsy brutes quite done up, even on the gentlest
incline. The track went up and up in zigzag and curves, the cries of the
camel-drivers were constantly urging on the perplexed animals, and the
dingle of the smaller bells somewhat enlivened the slow, monotonous
ding-dong of the huge cylindrical bell--some two and a half feet high and
one foot in diameter--tied to the load of the last camel, and mournfully
resounding in the valley down below.

And we swung and swung on the camels' humps, in the beautiful starlight
night--the moon had not yet risen--on several occasions going across
narrow passages with a drop under us of considerable depth, where one
earnestly hoped the quivering legs of the timid camels would not give way
or perchance stumble. The higher we got the more the camels panted and
roared, and the cries of the drivers were doubled.

One farsakh and a half from our last camp, we reached at 2 a.m. the top
of the Godar Khorassunih Pass (8,400 ft.), and we had to halt for a while
to let the camels rest. The cold was bitter. Camels and men were
trembling all over. Then came the descent.

Camel riding is comfortable at no time. It is passable on the flat; just
bearable going up hill, but dreadful going down a fairly steep incline.
The wretched beasts assumed a kind of hopping, jerky motion on their
front legs, with a good deal of spring in their knees, which bumped the
rider to such an extent that it seemed almost as if all the bones in
one's body began to get disjointed and rattle. When the camel happened to
stumble among the rocks and loose stones the sudden jerk was so painful
that it took some seconds to recover from the ache it caused in one's
spine.

The moon rose shortly after we had gone over the pass, as we were wending
our way from one narrow gorge into another, between high rocks and cliffs
and mountains of most fantastic forms. We passed the little village of
Huruh, and at dawn the picturesqueness of the scenery increased tenfold
when the cold bluish tints of the moon gradually vanished in the
landscape, and first the mountains became capped and then lighted all
over with warm, brilliant, reddish tints, their edge appearing sharply
cut against the clear, glowing, golden sky behind them.

We were now proceeding along a dry, wide river bed, which had on one side
a tiny stream, a few inches broad, of crystal-like water dripping along.
Evident signs could be noticed that during the torrential storms of the
rainy season this bed must occasionally carry large volumes of water. A
foot track can be perceived on either side some twelve feet above the
bed, which is followed by caravans when the river is in flood.

We now entered a volcanic region with high perpendicular rocks to our
right, that seemed as if they had undergone the action of long periods of
fire or excessive heat; then we emerged into a large basin in which the
vegetation struck one as being quite luxuriant by contrast with the
barren country we had come through. There were a few old and healthy
trees on the edge of the thread of water, and high tamarisks in
profusion. On our left, where the gorge narrowed again between the
mountains, was a large flow of solid green lava. In this basin was a
quaint little hamlet--Sar-es-iap (No. 2)--actually boasting of a
flour-mill, and curious rock dwellings which the natives inhabit.

We continued, and entered a broader valley, also of volcanic formation,
with reddish sediments burying a sub-formation of yellowish brown rock
which appeared in the section of the mountains some 300 feet above the
plain. To the W.N.W. stood a lofty variegated mountain, the higher part
of which was of dark brown in a horizontal stratum, while the lower was a
slanting layer of deep red.

In the valley there was some cultivation of wheat, and I noticed some
plum, apple, fig and pomegranate trees. One particularly ancient tree of
enormous proportions stood near the village, and under its refreshing
shade I spent the day. The village itself--a quaint castle-like structure
with ruined tower--was curiously built in the interior. On the first
storey of the large tower were to be found several humble huts, and other
similar ones stood behind to the north. These huts were domed and so low
as hardly to allow a person to stand erect inside. Some had an opening in
the dome, most had only a single aperture, the door. The majority of the
inhabitants seemed quite derelict and lived in the most abject poverty.

A few yards north-east of the castle were some rock habitations. There
were three large chambers dug in the rock side by side, two of one single
room and one of two rooms _en suite_. The largest room measured twenty
feet by twelve, and was some six feet high. In the interior were
receptacles apparently for storing grain. The doorway was quite low, and
the heat inside suffocating. Curiously enough, one or two of these
chambers were not quite straight, but formed an elbow into the mountain
side.

At the sides of the row of cliff dwellings were two smaller doors giving
access to storehouses also dug in the rock. I was told that the natives
migrated to this village during the winter months from October till one
month after the Persian New Year, while they spend the remainder of the
year higher up on the mountains owing to the intense heat. Firewood,
which is scarce, is stored piled up on the top of roofs, whence a little
at a time is taken down for fuel, and prominent in front of the village
was a coarse and well-fortified pen for sheep. Wolves were said to be
plentiful in the neighbourhood, and as I was sitting down writing my
notes a shepherd boy ran into the tower to say that a wolf had killed one
of his sheep.

Both from men and beasts there seemed to be little safety near the
village, according to the natives, who invariably took their
old-fashioned matchlocks with them when they went to work in their
fields, even a few yards away from the castle.

One peculiarity of this village, which stood at an altitude of 6,180
feet, was that nobody seemed to know its name. The people themselves said
that it had no name, but whether they were afraid of telling me, in their
suspicions that some future evil might come upon them or for other
reasons, I cannot say.

The natives were certainly rather original in their appearance, their
ways and speech, and as I comfortably sat under the big tree and watched
them coming in and out of the castle-village, they interested me much.
Donkeys in pairs were taken in and out of the gate to convey manure to
the fields, and old men and young came in and out carrying their
long-poled spades and matchlocks. Even little boys were armed.

The men reminded one very forcibly, both in features and attire, of the
figures in ancient Egyptian sculptures, of which they were the very
image. They wore felt skull caps, the side locks of jet black hair cut
straight across. They had clean-shaven necks and lumpy black beards.
Their tall bodies were slender, with short waists, and their wiry feet
showed beneath ample trousers--so ample as almost to approach a divided
skirt. The children were pretty, and although miserably clothed looked
the very picture of health and suppleness.

The women, of whom a number sat the whole day perched on the domed roofs
of their huts to watch the doings of the _ferenghi_, showed their faces
fully, and although professing to be Mussulman made no attempt whatever
at concealment. They wore picturesque light blue and red kerchiefs on the
head and shoulders, falling into a point behind, and held fast in
position round the skull by a small black and blue turban. A pin held the
two sides of the kerchief together under the chin. The women were garbed
in short, pleated blue skirts reaching just below the knee, and a short
loose coat of the same cotton material with side slits and ample sleeves.
They had bare legs, well proportioned and straight, with handsome ankles
and long, well-formed feet and toes. When working they went about
bare-footed, but when their daily occupations were finished put on small
slippers.

They were particularly to be admired when they walked, which they did to
perfection, looking most attractively picturesque when carrying jugs of
water on the head. The head had to be then kept very erect, and gave a
becoming curve to the well-modelled neck and a most graceful swing to the
waist. A long black cloak, not unlike a _chudder_, was worn over the head
after sunset when the air was turning cold.

The women did all the hard work and seemed to put their whole soul into
it. Some gaily spun wool on their wheels, and others worked at small,
neat, but primitive weaving looms which were erected on the top storey of
the castle.

Affectionate mothers carefully searched the hair of the heads of their
children--to remove therefrom all superfluous animal life,--but to my
dismay I discovered that their good-nature went so far as not to destroy
the captured brutes, which were merely picked up most gently, so as not
to injure them, and flung down from the castle-village wall, on the top
of which this operation took place. As there were other people sitting
quite unconcerned down below, no doubt this provided a good deal of
perpetual occupation to the women of the castle, and the parasites were
provided with a constant change of abode.

Probably what astonished me most was to see a young damsel climb up a
tall tree in the best monkey fashion, with successively superposed arms
and legs stiff and straight, not round the tree, mind you, and using her
toes for the purpose with almost equal ease as her fingers.

The foot-gear of the men was interesting. They wore wooden-soled clogs,
held fast to the foot by a string between the big toe and the next, and
another band half way across the foot. Some of the men, however, wore
common shoes with wooden soles.



CHAPTER III

     An abandoned caravanserai--Fantastic hill tops--No water--A most
     impressive mountain--Sediments of salt--A dry river bed--Curious
     imprints in the rock--A row--Intense heat--Accident to our supply
     of eggs--The end of a meeting--Misleading maps--Haoz Panch--The
     camel-man's bread--Lawah.


Again we left camp shortly before midnight, and ascended continually
between mountains until we reached a pass 7,250 ft. above the sea, after
which we came upon the abandoned caravanserai of Abid (pronounced Obit).
On descending, the way was between high vertical rocks, and then we found
ourselves among hills of most peculiar formation. The sun was about to
rise, and the fantastic hill-tops, in some places not unlike sharp teeth
of a gigantic saw, in others recalled Stonehenge and the pillar-like
remains of temples of Druids. In this case they were, of course, entirely
of natural formation. Although there was no water in the valley into
which we had descended, we camped here owing to the camels being very
tired, and I took the opportunity of climbing to a neighbouring hill
(6,300 ft.) in order to obtain a panoramic view of the surrounding
country.

To the South-East, whence we had come, were low and comparatively
well-rounded mountains with two narrow valleys separated by a
flat-topped, tortuous hill range. To the north-east of my camp was a high
and most impressive mountain, the upper portion of which appeared at
first almost of a basaltic formation, with vertical quadrangular columns,
while the lower portion of the mountain, evidently accumulated at a later
period, and slanting at an angle of 45°, displayed distinct strata of
light brown, a deep band of grey, then dark brown, light brown, a thin
layer of grey, and then a gradation of beautiful warm burnt sienna
colour, getting richer and richer in tone towards the base. Here at the
bottom, all round the mountain, and in appearance not unlike the waves of
a choppy sea in shallow water, rose hundreds of broken-up, pointed
hillocks, the point of each hillock being invariably turned in a
direction away from the mountain, and these were formed not of sand, but
by a much broken-up stratum of black, burnt slate, at an angle of 20° in
relation to an imaginary horizontal plane.

[Illustration: Author's Caravan and Others Halting in the Desert.]

It was most curious to find these enormous layers of black slate here,
for they were quite different in character from the whole country around.
About two miles further off, north-east, we had, for instance, a range of
mountains of quite a different type, not at all broken up nor with sharp
cutting edges, but quite nicely rounded off. Between this range and the
high peculiar mountain which I have just described--in the flat
stretch--were to be seen some curious hillocks, apparently formed by
water.

N.N.E. was the way towards Birjand, first across a long flat plain
bounded before us by low greyish hills, beyond which a high
mountain-range--the Leker Kuh--towered sublime. Two mountain masses of
fair height stood in front of this range, one N.N.E. on the left of the
track, the other N.N.W., with a white sediment of salt at its base; while
beyond could be distinguished a long flat-topped mountain with a peculiar
white horizontal band half way up it, like a huge chalk mark, all along
its entire length of several miles. This mountain appeared to be some
thirty miles off. The mountain mass to the N.W. showed no picturesque
characteristics, but a more broken-up mountain, somewhat similar to the
one to our N.E., stood between my camp and the range beyond.

As I have already stated, we had come along a dry river bed, and from my
high point of vantage I could see its entire course to the north-west. It
ran in a tortuous manner until it absolutely lost itself in the flat
desert. The long snake-like hill-range separating the parallel valleys
from south-east to north-west appeared to owe its formation to the action
of water, the surface pebbles, even at the summit of it, being well
rounded and worn quite smooth, many with grooves in them.

Near my camp I came across some very curious imprints in the hard rock,
like lava. There were some rocks hollowed out, in a fantastic way, as if
the hollows had been formed by some softer matter having been enclosed in
the rock and having gradually disappeared, and also a perfect cast of a
large tibia bone. On other rocks were footprints of large animals,
evidently made when the lava was soft.

On returning to camp I found a general row going on between Sadek and the
camel men--my own and those of the other caravan who had asked permission
to travel with me. There was no water at this camp, and only salt water
could be procured in small quantities some distance away. The intense
heat had played havoc with some of my fresh provisions, and we
unfortunately had an accident to the load of eggs which were all
destroyed. A great many of the chickens, too, had gone bad, and we were
running rather short of fresh food. The caravan men said that it was
impossible to go on, because, this being such a dry year, even the few
brackish wells across the desert would be dry, and they refused to come
on.

The greater part of the evening was spent in arguing--everybody except
myself shouting himself hoarse. At midnight, the usual hour of our
departure, the camel men refused to pack the loads and continue across
the desert. At 1 a.m. they were preparing to leave me to return to
Kerman. At 1.30, my patience being on the verge of being exhausted, they
most of them received a good pounding with the butt of my rifle. At 1.45,
they having come back to their senses, I duly entertained each of them to
a cup of tea, brewed with what salt water we had got, on a fire of camel
dung, and at 2 a.m. we proceeded on our course as quietly as possible as
if nothing had happened.

We still followed the dry river bed among hills getting lower and lower
for about three miles on either side of us, and at last we entered a vast
plain. We went N.N.W. for some twelve miles, when by the side of some low
hillocks of sand and pebbles we came upon a caravanserai, and an older
and smaller structure, a large covered tank of rain water (almost empty)
which is conveyed here from the hills twelve miles off by means of a
small canal.

To the S.S.E. we could still see the flat-topped mountain under which we
had camped the previous day, and all around us were distant mountains.
The flat plain stretching for miles on every side had deep grooves cut
into it by water flowing down from the mountain-side during the
torrential rains and eventually losing themselves in the sand.

On the English and some of the German maps these dry grooves are marked
as large and important rivers, but this is a mistake. There is not a drop
of water in any of them at any time of the year except during heavy
storms, when the drainage of the mountains is immediately carried down by
these channels and lost in the desert. It is no more right to mark these
channels as rivers than it would be to see Piccadilly marked on a map of
London as a foaming torrent because during a heavy shower the surplus
water not absorbed by the wood pavement had run down it half an inch deep
until the rain stopped.

To the N.E. we saw much more clearly than the day before the extensive
salt deposits at the base of the mountains, and to the N.N.E. a grey
mountain with a fluted top. A high mountain mass stretched from the South
to the North-West and then there was a wide opening into another flat
sandy plain. Far, far beyond this a distant range of high mountains could
hardly be distinguished, for a sand-storm was raging in that direction
and veiled the view with a curtain of dirty yellowish grey.

This caravanserai, called Haoz Panch (or "Fifth water") altitude 5,050
feet--was built by some charitable person to protect caravans during
sand-storms, and also to supply them with water, which was quite
drinkable, if one were not too particular, and if one did not look at it.
The caravanserai, very solidly built, was left to take care of itself,
there being no one in charge of it. The _kilns_ erected to bake the
bricks with which the caravanserai had been built, still stood near it.

It is rather curious to notice what effect a drink of fair water has on
the temper of one's men. My camel man, Ali Murat, for that was his name,
was in high spirits and came to fetch me to show me how he made his
bread, for he was keen to know whether camel men(!) in my country made it
the same way! I reserved my answer until I had seen his process.

The hands having been carefully washed first, flour and water, with great
lumps of salt, were duly mixed together in a bowl until reduced into
fairly solid paste. A clean cloth was then spread upon the ground and the
paste punched hard upon it with the knuckles, care having been taken to
sprinkle some dry flour first so that the paste should not stick to the
cloth. When this had gone on for a considerable time the paste was
balanced upon the knuckles and brought gaily bounding to where the hot
cinders remained from a fire of camel dung which had previously been
lighted. The flattened paste was carefully laid upon the hot ashes, with
which it was then covered, and left to bake for an hour or so.

When ready, Ali Murat brought me a piece of the bread to try--which I
reluctantly did so as not to offend his feelings.

"Do camel men in your country, Sahib, make as good bread as this when
they cross the _lut_ (desert)?" inquired Ali Murat, with an expectant
grin from ear to ear.

"We have no camel men in my country, and no camels, and no _lut_! How
could we then get as good bread as yours?" (Really, when one tried to
forget the process of making it, which did not quite appeal to one, the
bread was not bad.)

"You have no camels, sahib,--no _lut_--in your country?" exclaimed Ali,
with his eyes fast expanding with surprise; "Why, then, did you come
here?"

"We have so much scenery in my country that I thought I would come here
for a change."

[Illustration: Author's Caravan in the Salt Desert.]

[Illustration: Ali Murat Making Bread.]

We left the caravanserai at 11.30 p.m. on November 9th and travelled
across the plain all through the night. About 4 miles from Haoz Panch we
found an ancient mud caravanserai abandoned and partly ruined. We had the
hills quite close on our right and we came across a good many dry
channels cut by water. We travelled on the flat all the time, but we
passed on either side a great many low mounds of sand and gravel. There
was absolutely nothing worth noticing in the night's journey until we
came to the small villages of Heirabad and Shoshabad, eighteen miles from
our last camp. Two miles further we found ourselves at Lawah
(Rawar)--altitude 4,430 feet--a very large oasis with a small town of
some three thousand mud huts and ten thousand inhabitants, according to
native accounts.



CHAPTER IV

     Lawah or Rawar--A way to Yezd--The bazaar--Trade--Ruined
     forts--Opium smoking and its effects--Beggar's ingenious
     device--In a local gentleman's home--The Tokrajie--Buying fresh
     provisions--Water skins--An unhealthy climate--A fight--When
     fever is contracted--Wolves in camp--Fever stricken--A third cat
     purchased.


Lawah or Rawar is, in a way, quite an important centre. It is the last
place one passes before entering the Salt Desert proper, on the border of
which it is situated, and is, therefore, the last spot where provisions
and good water can be obtained. It has a certain amount of local trade
and is connected with Yezd by a very tortuous track _via_ Bafk-Kuh-Benan.
It has no possible resting place, and we therefore camped just outside
the town. The natives were not particularly friendly and seemed inclined
to give trouble. There was considerable excitement when we crossed the
town in the morning on our arrival, and even more when I went to inspect
the city alone in the afternoon.

There was nothing to see, the bazaar in the place being one of the most
miserable looking in Persia. It was not domed over like those of other
Persian cities, but the streets were merely covered with rafters
supporting brush wood and rotten mats. There were no shops proper, but
various merchants, and brass-smiths, fruit-sellers, or sellers of
articles for caravans, had a certain amount of cheap goods within their
habitation doors.

More quaintly interesting were the commercial caravanserais, or small
squares with receptacles all round for travelling merchants to display
their goods upon. Lawah's trade is principally a transit trade, the
caravans which occasionally come through the desert taking an opportunity
of selling off some of their goods here, as also, of course, do those
that come from Yezd or Kerman.

There is some cultivation of wheat and cotton in the immediate
neighbourhood, and of fruit, which is quite excellent. The water is not
very plentiful, as can be seen by the hundreds of borings for water and
disused _kanats_ to the north of the city, where most fields are to be
found, while the majority of fruit gardens and trees are to the east.

Here, as everywhere else in Persia, a great portion of the town is
uninhabited and in ruins, and to the south-west, outside the inhabited
part, can be seen an interesting ruined quadrangular castle with a double
wall and moat with an outer watch tower besides the corner turrets.
Inside this castle was formerly a village. Another smaller fort, also in
ruins, is situated to the S.S.W.

There are a great many palm trees within the place, and they produce
good dates. The climate is most unhealthy, fever of the desert being
rampant. Great use is made of opium, which is smoked to excess by the
natives and has very disastrous effects in such an unhealthy climate.
Personally, I have ever believed, and believe still, that opium used in
moderation has no worse effects upon the light-headed human beings who
choose to make themselves slaves to it than whisky or tobacco, but under
these particular circumstances and in this particular climate it had
undoubtedly most evil effects in just the same way that whisky, which is
certainly the best drink for damp Scotland, is most injurious to those
who make use of it in similar doses in India.

Although I have visited opium dens, merely for the purpose of observing,
in almost every Asiatic country where opium smoking is practised, I have
never seen cases quite so depressing as here. A great proportion of the
population suffered from fever, to allay the sufferings of which opium
was used.

There was, of course, the usual contingent of sick people visiting my
camp to obtain medicine for their various troubles--one fever-stricken
man, with cadaverous face and skeleton-like limbs, collapsing altogether
when reaching me and remaining senseless for a considerable time. As I
never carry medicine of any kind in my travels I was unable to satisfy
them, but I gave them some little present each, which did them just as
much good.

Beggars, too, visited the camp in appalling numbers, and their ways were
quite interesting; but none was so ingenious as that of an old woman, who
waited till there was a goodish crowd of visitors in my camp, and then
rushed at me and made a violent scene, saying that I must pay her 50
tomans--about £10.

"But I have never seen you before! What have you done to earn such a
sum?"

"Oh, Sahib, you have ruined me!" and she yelled as only an angry old
woman can! She plumped herself on my best carpet and proceeded to
explain. She said that she had buried the above stated sum in solid
silver within a pile of straw, which she had sold the day before to a man
to feed his camels upon. She was therefore--according to a reasoning of
her own, since I had not yet arrived here the day before, nor could she
identify the man with any of my party--certain that my camels had
devoured the sum, and I, therefore, must pay the sum back! She was,
nevertheless, sure that I was not to blame in the matter, and was willing
to waive the claim on the immediate payment of two shais--about a
half-penny!

Although it is well to be as kind as one can to the natives, it is never
right to allow them to go unpunished for playing tricks. Of all the
people--and they were many--who applied for charity that day, she was the
only one who received nothing. This punishment, I was glad to see, was
approved of by the many natives who had collected round.

A gentlemanly-looking fellow came forward and asked me to visit his
house, where he was manufacturing a huge carpet--very handsome in design,
but somewhat coarse in texture--ordered for Turkestan. Three women in his
house had uncovered faces, and were very good-looking. They brought us
tea in the garden, and sweets and water melon, but did not, of course,
join in the conversation, and modestly kept apart in a corner. They wore
white _chudders_ over the head and long petticoats--quite a becoming
attire--while the men, too, were most artistic in appearance, with smart
zouave yellow jackets trimmed with fur, with short sleeves not reaching
quite to the elbow, leaving the arm quite free in its movements, and
displaying the loose sleeve of the shirt underneath.

A couple of newly-born babies were swung in hammocks in the garden, and
were remarkably quiet when asleep!

On going for a walk on the outskirts of the city one found a great many
fairly high mud hillocks to the east, averaging 400 feet. East-south-east
there stood hundreds more of these hillocks, with taller brown hills (the
Leker Kuh) behind them, and to the west a high peak, rising to an
estimated 11,000 feet, in the Kuh-Benan mountains. The Tokrajie
Mountains, south-west of Lawah, did not seem to rise to more than 9,000
or 10,000 feet, and extended in a south-south-east direction. South-east
we could still see the Kuh Legav Mountain, at the foot of which we had
camped on November 8th. To the north was a long mountain, with a white
stratum like a horizontal stripe half-way up it, and the summit was in
regular teeth like those of a saw. Another similar but more pointed
mountain was to the east-south-east, the white stratum being less
horizontal in this portion. This curious white stripe in the hills
extended over an arc of a circle from 70° (east-north-east) to 320°
(north-west).

We made great purchases of provisions in Lawah--sheep, chickens, eggs,
vegetables and fruit, the slaughtered chickens being carefully prepared
in layers of salt to make them last as long as possible. Then we
purchased a number of sheep skins to carry a further supply of drinking
water, for from this place, we were told, we should be several days
without finding any. Sadek was busy all day smearing these skins with
molten butter to make them absolutely water tight, and I, on my part, was
glad to see all the butter go in this operation, for with the intense
heat of the day it was impossible to touch it with one's food. Sadek's
idea of good cooking was intense richness--everything floating in grease
and butter; so these skins, which absorbed all the butter we had, were
really a godsend to me--as far as the _cuisine_ of the future was
concerned.

There was something in the climate of Lawah that made one feverish and
irritable. In the afternoon some of the camel men had a fight with a
number of Lawah people, and later the camel men in a body attacked Sadek.
He was very plucky and quick--they were heavy but clumsy--so that Sadek
succeeded with a heavy mallet in giving them several cracks on the head,
but as they were eight to one and closed in upon him and were about to
give him a good hammering, I had to rush to his assistance and with the
butt of my rifle scattered the lot about. For a moment they seemed as if
they were going to turn on me; they were very excited and seized whatever
they could lay their hands upon in the shape of sticks and stones, but I
casually put a few cartridges in the magazine of my rifle and sat down
again on my carpets to continue writing my diary. They came to beg pardon
for the trouble they had given, and embraced my feet, professing great
humility.

Four camels of the combined caravans had been taken ill with fever and
had to be left behind. Their cries from pain were pitiful. Owing to the
abundant dinner we got here, with lavish supplies of meat, fruit--most
delicious figs, pomegranates and water melons--of which we partook more
copiously than wisely, all the men got attacks of indigestion, and so did
my poor little kittens, who had stuffed themselves to their hearts'
content with milk and the insides of chickens; so that when night came,
everybody being ill, we were unable to make a start.

At sunset, with the sudden change in the temperature, and the revulsion
from intense dryness to the sudden moisture of the dew, a peculiar
feeling took possession of me, and I could feel that I was fast inhaling
the miasma of fever. The natives shut themselves up inside their
houses--for sunset, they say, and sunrise are the times when fever is
contracted,--but we were out in the open and had no protection against
it. It seems to seize one violently from the very beginning and sends up
one's temperature extremely high, which produces a fearful exhaustion,
with pains in the ribs, arms and spinal column.

[Illustration: Wolves in Camp.]

The altitude of Lawah is 4,420 ft. and therefore the nights are terribly
cold in contrast to the stifling heat of the day. I had wrapped myself up
in my blankets, shivering with the fever that had seized me quite
violently, and the kittens were playing about near my bed. My men were
all sound asleep and only the occasional hoarse roar of the squatted
camels all round our camp broke the silence of the night. I eventually
fell asleep with my hat over my face screening it from the heavy fall of
dew.

Suddenly I woke up, startled by the kittens dashing under my blankets and
sticking their claws into me and making a fearful racket, and also by
some other animals sniffing my face. I jumped up, rifle in hand, for
indeed there were some wolves visiting our camp. One--a most impudent
rascal--was standing on one of my boxes, and another had evidently made a
dash for the white cat; hence the commotion.

The wolves bolted when I got up--I could not fire owing to the camels and
people being all round--but the kittens did not stir from their hiding
place until the next morning, when in broad day-light they cautiously
peeped out to see that the danger had passed.

With the coming day the gruesome reality had to be faced, that one and
all of my party had contracted fever of the desert in more or less
violent form, even the kittens, who sneezed and trembled the whole day.
Some of the camels, too, were unwell and lay with their long necks
resting upon the ground and refused to eat. The prospects of crossing the
most difficult part of the desert with such a sorry party were not very
bright, but we made everything ready, and at ten o'clock in the evening
we were to make a start.

I purchased here a third and most beautiful cat--a weird animal, and so
wild that when let out of the bag in which it had been brought to me, he
covered us all over with scratches. He was three months old, and had
quite a will of his own. When introduced to Master Kerman and Miss Zeris,
there were reciprocal growls and arched backs, and when asked to share
their travelling home for the night there was evident objection and some
exchange of spitting. But as there were four corners in the wooden box
and only three cats, they eventually settled down, one in each, watching
the new comer with wide expanded eyes and fully outstretched claws,
merely for defensive emergencies, but otherwise quite peacefully
inclined.



CHAPTER V

     Salt sediments as white as snow--Brilliant stars--Plaintive songs
     of the camel men--An improvisatore--Unpleasant odour of camels--A
     large salt deposit--No water and no fuel--A device to protect
     oneself against great heat--Amazing intelligence of
     cats--Nature's ways and men's ways--A hot climb--A brilliantly
     coloured range--Sea shells and huge fossils.


On November 11th at ten o'clock p.m. we gladly left poisonous Lawah and
spent the night (November 12th) traversing a mountain region by a
flattish and low pass, and then travelling due north entered the actual
_Dasht-i-lut_--the sandy Salt Desert, the sediment of surface salt being
in some places so thick and white as to resemble snow. Here and there
some hillocks of sand relieved the monotony of the dreary journey,
otherwise flat sand and surface salt extended as far as the eye could
see.

The nights, even when there was no moonlight, were so clear, and the
stars and planets so brilliant, that with a little practice one could,
for general purposes, see almost as well as by day.

The night was terribly cold, which I felt all the more owing to the
fever, as I hung resting my head on the padded pommel of the saddle and
my legs and arms dangling at the sides. A howling, cutting wind blew and
made it impossible to cover one's self up with blankets, as they were
constantly being blown away, no matter how well one tucked one's self in
them.

There was a certain picturesque weirdness in these night marches in the
desert--when one could dissociate one's self from the discomforts. The
camel men had some sad, plaintive songs of their own--quite melodious and
in good tune with the accompaniment of dingling bells hanging from the
camels' necks. There was a musician in our party--Ali Murat's young
brother--who carried a flute in his girdle during the day, but played
upon the instrument the whole night--some doleful tunes of his own
composition, which were not bad. True, when one had listened to the same
tune, not only scores but hundreds of times during one night, one rather
felt the need of a change, but still even the sound of his flute was a
great relief in the dreary night marches. Occasionally, when the fancy
took him, and he made some variations in the airs, the camel men, who
slept while mechanically walking, would join in to sing in a chorus.

Overhead the stars gleamed with a brightness that we can never dream of
seeing in Europe, and in the distance we now began to perceive some
phantom-like hills rising from the whitish-grey surface of the desert. A
good deal of the poetry of the desert is, nevertheless, lost each time
that the camel on which you ride breathes. Behold! one is brought to
earth very soon! The rancid smell which comes in regular whiffs is
sickening. So is the powerful stench of his hump when it gets heated by
the pads of the never-removed saddle.

About every two miles a few minutes' rest is given to the camels, then on
again they slowly swing forward, the nose of one being attached by a long
string to the tail rope of the preceding animal.

[Illustration: Author's Camel Men in their White Felt Coats.]

[Illustration: Camel Men saying their Prayers at Sunset.]

Twenty miles from Lawah, mud-hills covering underlying rock were reached,
and closed us in on either side. Two miles further, when it got too hot
to proceed--thermometer 148° in the sun and not a thread of shade--we
halted on a white salt deposit of considerable extent. There was no water
and no fuel, and the heat was well-nigh unbearable in the middle of the
day. It was useless to pitch my tent, for in such stifling heat it is not
possible to remain under it, nor could one breathe at all if one tried to
get a little shade by screening one's self against a wall of loads which
impeded the air moving.

My camel men showed me a device which by the ignorant may be ridiculed,
but to the sensible is a great blessing when exposed to abnormally high
temperatures. The only way to protect one's self against the broiling air
is to cover one's self, head and all, leaving space to breathe, with one
or two thick blankets of wool or thick felt, of a white or light colour
preferably, white being a non-absorbent of the hot sun's rays. The
thickness of the cloth keeps the body at an enveloping temperature
slightly above the temperature of the body itself (even when with high
fever seldom more than 104°), and therefore a cooler temperature than
outside the blankets, when it is frequently 148° sometimes 150° and even
more. By contrast this seems quite cool. It is, in other words, a similar
process to that used by us in summer to maintain ice from melting.

In Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Arabia, the people who are much exposed to
the rays of the hot sun in deserts always wear extremely thick woollen
clothing, or bernouses; and in Persia the camel men of the desert, as we
have seen, possess thick white felt coats in which they wrap themselves,
head and all, during the hot hours of the day. The Italians, too, seem to
have been fully aware of this, for in Naples and Southern Italy they have
an ancient proverb in the Neapolitan dialect:--_Quel che para lo freddo
para lo caldo_--"What is protection against cold is protection against
heat."

I know one Englishman in Southern Persia who, when crossing the broiling
plains of Arabistan, wears a thick overcoat and plenty of woollen
underwear--a method which he learnt from the nomad tribes of
Arabistan--but he is generally laughed at by his countrymen who do not
know any better. This cooling device, naturally, only applies to tropical
climates when the temperature of the air is greatly above the actual
temperature of the blood.

I had arranged with the caravan that accompanied mine to carry fodder for
my camels, as there was no grazing for the animals here. Large cloths
were spread on which straw and cotton-seeds were mixed together, and then
the camels were made to kneel round and have a meal.

On this occasion I was much struck by the really marvellous intelligence
of cats. We hear a lot about dogs finding their way home from long
distances by using their sense of scent (how far this explanation is
correct we have no time to discuss), but of cats the general belief is
that if they are taken away from home they seldom find their way back.
This may be the case with cats that have always been shut up in some
particular house, but it is not that they do not possess the intellect to
do so in their natural state. Here is an instance.

On letting the cats loose when we halted, the newly-purchased one
attempted to make his escape. I was watching him carefully. He did not do
this in a haphazard manner, running here and there as a dog would, but
jumped out of the box, took his bearings with great calm and precision
and in a most scientific manner, first by looking at the sun, and then at
his own shadow, evidently to discover whether when shut up in the box he
had travelled east or west, north or south, or to some intermediate
point. He repeated this operation several times with a wonderful
expression of intelligence and reflection on his little face, and then
dashed away with astounding accuracy in the direction of Lawah town. Mind
you, he did not at all follow the track that we had come by, which was
somewhat circuitous, but went in a bee line for his native place and not
a second to the left or right of the direct bearings which I took with my
prismatic compass to check his direction. Sadek and the camel men went in
pursuit of him and he was brought back.

This seemed so marvellous that I thought it might be a chance. We were
then only twenty-two miles from Lawah. I repeated the experiment for
three or four days from subsequent camps, until the cat reconciled
himself to his new position and declined to run away. I took the trouble
to revolve him round himself several times to mislead him in his
bearings, but each time he found his correct position by the sun and his
own shadow, and never made a mistake in the absolutely correct bearings
of his route.

A remarkable fact in connection with this is that the most ignorant
natives of Persia, men who have never seen or heard of a compass, can
tell you the exact direction of places by a very similar method, so that
there is more in the process than we think.

It is rather humiliating when we reflect that what we highly civilised
people can only do with difficulty with the assistance of elaborate
theodolites, sextants, artificial horizons, compasses and lengthy
computations, an ignorant camel man, or a kitten, can do practically and
simply and always correctly in a few seconds by drawing conclusions on
facts of nature which speak for themselves better than all the scientific
instruments we can manufacture.

There was a high mountain north-east of camp, the Darband, 8,200 feet,
and as my fever seemed to be getting worse, and I had no quinine with
which to put a sudden stop to it, I thought I would climb to the top of
the mountain to sweat the fever out, and also to obtain a view of the
surrounding country.

After having slept some three hours and having partaken of a meal--we had
the greatest difficulty in raising enough animal fuel for a fire--I
started off about one in the afternoon under a broiling sun. The camp was
at an altitude of 4,350 feet and the ascent not difficult but very steep
and rocky, and involving therefore a good deal of violent exertion. The
dark rocks were so hot with the sun that had been shining upon them that
they nearly burned one's fingers when one touched them. Still, the view
from the top well repaid one for the trouble of getting there.

A general survey showed that the highest mountain to be seen around was
to the south-south-east (150° bearings magnetic), and a couple of almost
conical hills, exactly alike in shape, but not in size, stood one in
front of the other on a line with 160° b.m. Between them both to east and
west were a number of misshapen mountains. Were it not for a low confused
heap of grey mud and sand the desert would be an absolutely flat stretch
from the distant mountains enclosing the plain on the south to the others
on the north. A long high mud barrier runs diagonally at the northern
end, in a direction from east to west, and another extending from
south-east to north-west meets it, forming a slightly acute angle. The
latter range is of a most peculiar formation, extremely brilliant in
colour, the ground being a vivid red, regularly fluted and striped across
so straight with friezes and bands formed by strata of different tones of
colour, that from a distance it almost resembles the patient work of a
skilful artisan instead of the results of the corrosive action of water.
Another parallel and similar range stands exactly opposite on the east.

The mountain itself to which I had climbed was most interesting. Imbedded
in the rock were quantities of fossil white and black sea-shells, and
about half way up the mountain a huge fossil, much damaged, resembling a
gigantic turtle. Near it on the rock were impressions of enormous paws.



CHAPTER VI

     A long detour--Mount Darband--A water-cut gorge--Abandoned watch
     towers--Passes into the desert--A wall-like mountain range--The
     tower and fortified caravanserai at camp Darband--Brackish
     water--Terrific heat--Compensating laws of nature better than
     absurd patents--Weird rocks--Cairns--Chel-payeh salt well--Loss
     of half our supply of fresh water--Camels and men overcome by the
     heat.


When we left camp soon after midnight on November 13th, we had to make
quite a long detour to take the caravan around the Darband Mountain,
which barred our way directly on the course we were to follow. On foot
one could have taken a short cut in a more direct line by climbing up to
a certain height on the western mountain slope, but it was out of the
question to take camels up by it. We had to go some distance due north,
through very broken country with numerous hillocks, after which we
followed a narrow gorge cut deep by the action of water. The sides of
this gorge were like high mud and gravel walls, occasionally rocks worn
smooth, averaging from 60 to 100 feet apart.

The river bed, now absolutely dry, evidently carried into the desert
during the torrential rain all the drainage of the mountainous country we
had traversed, practically that from Abid, the Leker Mountains, and the
combined flow of the Lawah plain from the mountains to the west of it, to
which, of course, may be added the western watershed of the Darband
Mountain itself. A glance at the natural walls, between which we were
travelling, and the way in which hard rocks had been partly eaten away
and deeply grooved, or huge hollows bored into them, was sufficient to
show the observer with what terrific force the water must dash its way
through this deep-cut channel. The highest water-mark noticeable on the
sides was twenty-five feet above the bed. The impetus with which the rain
water must flow down the almost vertical fluted mountain sides must be
very great, and immense also must be the body of water carried, for the
mountain sides, being rocky, absorb very little of the rain falling upon
them and let it flow down to increase the foaming stream--when it is a
stream.

Some sixteen miles from our last camp we came across a circular tower,
very solidly built, standing on the edge of a river cliff, and higher up
on a ridge of hills in a commanding position stood the remains of two
quadrangular towers in a tumbling-down condition. Of one, in fact, there
remained but a portion of the base; of the other three walls were still
standing to a good height. The circular tower below, however, which
seemed of later date, was in good preservation. According to the camel
men, none of these towers were very ancient and had been put up to
protect that passage from the robber bands which occasionally came over
westward from Sistan and Afghanistan. It had, however, proved impossible
to maintain a guard in such a desolate position, hence the abandonment of
these outposts.

This is one of the three principal passages by which the mountains can be
crossed with animals from Kerman towards the east (north of the latitude
of Kerman 30° 17' 30"). The other two passages are: one to Khabis over a
pass (north-east of Kerman) in the Husseinabad Mountains; the second
between the Derun Mountain and the Leker Kuh from Abid, also to Khabis.
From the latter place it is also possible to cross the Desert to
Birjiand, but the lack of water even at the best of times makes it a very
dangerous track to follow both for men and animals. Barring these
passages there are high mountains protecting Kerman and continuously
extending, roughly, from N.N.W. to S.S.E.

We travelled partly above the high cliffs, then, near the circular tower,
we descended to the dry river-bed of well-rounded pebbles and sand. Our
course had gradually swerved to the south-east, then we left the river
bed once more and went due east, over confused masses of mud hillocks
from twenty to a hundred feet high. To the north we had a wall-like
mountain range formed of superposed triangles of semi-solidified rock,
the upper point of each triangle forming either an angle of 45° or a
slightly acute angle; and to the south also another wall-like range,
quite low, but of a similar character to the northern ones. Beyond it, to
the south-west, twenty miles back (by the way followed) lay the Darband
Mountain, on the other side of which we had made our previous camp.

The camp at which we halted bore the name of Darband, and from this point
the desert again opened into a wide flat expanse. The mountains to the
north suddenly ended in a crowded succession of low mud-hills, descending
for about a mile into the flat. The desert in all its dignified grandeur,
spread before us almost uninterruptedly from due north to south-east, as
far as the eye could see. North, a long way off, one could perceive a low
range of hills extending in an easterly direction, and beyond at 30°
bearings magnetic (about N.N.E.) rose a very high mountain and yet
another very far north-east, with some isolated conical hills of fair
height standing before it in the same direction; otherwise everything
else in front of us was as flat and as barren as could be.

At Darband halting place there is an interesting old circular tower, much
battered, as if it had seen some fighting. The attacks on it seem to have
taken place mostly from the south-westerly side, which aspect bears
evident marks of violent assaults. The tower is most cleverly loopholed,
so as to protect the inmates while firing on the enemy, and has a
look-out house on the top. For additional protection the entrance door is
about twenty feet above the ground and can only be reached by a ladder,
which was drawn up in cases of emergency.

A large dilapidated and filthy caravanserai--a regular fortress with a
watch tower of its own and loop-holes all round--is erected in the
vicinity in another commanding position. In the gully below there is a
small oasis of palm trees and a few square yards of vegetation alongside
a small spring of brackish water--the only water there is--with a
reservoir. Next to this, west of the caravanserai, are the remains of a
few mud huts in ruins.

We were here only 3,780 feet above the sea. The heat was terrific.

[Illustration: Author's Camels being Fed in the Desert.]

Brackish water is not pleasant to drink, but it is not necessarily
unhealthy. Personally, I am a great believer in the compensating laws of
Nature in preference to the ill-balanced habits of civilised men, and am
certain that the best thing one can drink in the desert, under the
abnormal conditions of heat, dust and dryness, is salt water, which
stimulates digestion and keeps the system clean. Of filters, condensing
apparatuses, soda-water cartridges, and other such appliances for
difficult land travelling, the less said the better. They are very pretty
toys, the glowing advertisements of which may add to the profits of
geographical magazines, but they are really more useful in cities in
Europe than practical in the desert. Possibly they may be a consolation
to a certain class of half-reasoning people. But anything else, it might
be argued would serve equally well. One sees them advertised as
preventatives of malarial fever, but no sensible person who has ever
had fever or seen it in others would ever believe that it comes from
drinking water. Fever is in the atmosphere--one breathes fever; one does
not necessarily drink it. When the water is corrupted, the air is also
corrupted, and to filter the one and not the other is an operation the
sense of which I personally cannot see.

It has ever been my experience, and that also of others, that the fewer
precautions one takes, the more one relies on Nature to take care of one
instead of on impracticable devices--the better for one's health in the
end. I do not mean by this that one should go and drink dirty water to
avoid fever,--far from it,--but if the water is dirty the best plan is
not to drink it at all, whether filtered--or, to be accurate, passed
through a filter--or not, or made into soda-water!

One fact is certain, that if one goes through a fever district one can
take all the precautions in the world, but if one's system is so inclined
one is sure to contract it; only the more the precautions, the more
violent the fever.

But to return to our specific case, brackish water is not necessarily
dirty, and as I have said, is to my mind one of Nature's protections
against fever of the desert. In my own case, when I partook of it freely,
it decidedly kept the fever down.

We made a much earlier start, at 8 p.m., on November 13th, and I had to
walk part of the way as it was too steep for the camels. We had great
trouble in taking them down to the dry river-bed--which we were to
follow, being quite flat and therefore easier for the animals. We went
along between low hills, getting lower and lower, and some two miles from
the Darband tower we emerged into the open, the river-bed losing itself
here in the desert.

During the night of the 13th-14th we travelled 28 miles on the flat until
we came to more low hills, which we entered by another river-bed, also
dry. We had come in a north-north-east direction so far, but we now
turned due east among high, flat-topped hills which resembled a mass of
ruined Persian houses of a quadrangular shape, so strangely had they been
carved out by the corrosive action of water. They were of solid rock, and
eaten into holes here and there, which from a distance gave the
appearance of windows and doors, and of caves.

The river-bed on which we travelled was of soft sand--very
troublesome--and minute gravel strewn here and there with large boulders
fallen from the cliffs at the sides. Cairns had been erected in various
prominent points by caravan men, to show future travellers the way to
Naiband for Birjiand and Meshed.

Following this in an easterly direction we came to a large basin, and
then further on to another. We continued in zig-zag for a short distance,
when we arrived at a place where the river-bed makes an elbow, turning to
the north. At this spot a caravanserai was in course of construction,
built at the expense of some charitable person. There was only one well
of brackish water, and very little of that, too. The workmen would not
let us partake of it. Everything, of course, had to be brought, as
nothing could be obtained there, and the few workmen complained bitterly
of the hardships they had to endure in going on with their work. They
feared they would soon run short even of water. They were all
fever-stricken, and two quite in a pitiable condition. They had little
food left; most of their animals had died, and they were unable to leave.
Chel-Payeh was the name of this well (altitude 4,420 feet).

We were thirty-two miles from our last camp, and reached here at 8 a.m.
On taking the loads down we had a great disappointment. Sadek, who was
not accustomed to ride camels, was suffering considerably, and in order
to make himself comfortable he had contrived a clever device to avoid
coming in immediate contact with the wooden frame of his saddle. He had
fastened the two largest skins we had with our supply of good water on
the top of his saddle, and having covered them over with blankets and
carpets, on them, he sat and slept through the whole night. Alas! the
weight of his body burst both skins during the night and squeezed all the
water out!

So here we were, with only two small skins of fresh water left, which
would have to last the whole party several days. But we were to have a
further misfortune on the following march.

The heat was intense--146° in the sun--not an inch of shade in the middle
of the day, and the river-bed being cut into the plain, and therefore
lower than the surface of the remainder of the desert, the lack of a
current of air made this spot quite suffocating; so much so that both
camels and men were getting quite overcome by the heat, and we had to
start off early in the afternoon at 4 o'clock.



CHAPTER VII

     Fortress-like cliffs--A long troublesome march--Sixteen hours on
     the saddle--All our fresh-water supply gone!--Fever--Electricity
     of the desert--Troublesome camel men--A small oasis--An ancient
     battered tower--A giant--Naiband mountain and village--Rock
     habitations--A landmark in the desert.


Fortress-like, vertical rocky cliffs rose to our left and enormous
boulders tumbled down to our right. Our direction was due north. On our
right, as we were again entering the flat desert, a quadrangular fort of
natural formation stood on the mountain-side.

We did not halt for dinner as we could find no fuel to do the cooking
with, and we marched all night (November 15th)--a most painful march, for
the camels were all more or less sick and tired, and they dragged
themselves jerkily, grunting and making the most awful noises all night.

My fever got very bad and I was seized with bad pains in my ribs and
spine. Sadek and the camel men complained of feeling very ill, and the
cats remonstrated from their high perch at not being let out of their box
at the customary hour. To add to our happiness, one of my camels,
carrying some air-tight cases with sharp brass corners, collided with
the camel conveying the precious load of the two remaining water-skins
which hung on its sides, and, of course, as fate would have it, the brass
corners wrenched the skin and out flowed every drop of water, which was
avidly absorbed by the dry sand.

[Illustration: The Trail we left behind in the Salt Desert.]

The character of the country was the same as on the previous day, a long
stretch of flat, then undulations, after which we entered another dry
canal cut deep, with vertical rocky sides, very similar to the Chel-Payeh
except that in the bed of the gorge itself there were now enormous flat
slabs of stone instead of sand and gravel, as the day before. Further on
we were surrounded by low hills, which we crossed by a pass, and after
having been on the saddle continuously for sixteen hours we halted at
eight o'clock a.m. in the middle of a broiling, barren stretch of sand,
gravel and shingle.

After so long a march, and under such unpleasant conditions, our throats
and tongues were parched with thirst. Fortunately, we still had one skin
of water left, I thought, so my first impulse was to hasten to have it
taken off the saddle that we might all have a sip. But misfortune pursued
us. On approaching the camel that carried it, the animal was all wet on
one side, and I fully realised what to expect. Sadek, with a long face of
dismay, took down the flabby empty skin; the water had all dripped out of
it, and here we were, in the middle of the desert, no well, whether salt
or otherwise, and not a thimbleful of water!

The very thought that we could get nothing to drink made us ten times
more thirsty, and we seemed to be positively roasting under the fierce
sun. The camel men threw themselves down upon their felt coats and moaned
and groaned, and the camels, who had drunk or eaten nothing for three
days, appeared most unhappy and grunted pitifully.

For want of better remedy we sucked pebbles, which stimulated salivation
and allayed the thirst to a certain extent, but with the high fever,
which brought about fearful exhaustion and severe aches, and the
unpleasant, abundant electricity in the air caused by the intense
dryness--which has a most peculiar effect on one's skin--we none of us
felt particularly happy. The three cats were the only philosophers of the
party and were quite sympathetic. They amused themselves by climbing up
the camel's long necks, just as they would up a tree, to the evident
discomfort of the larger animals. They had a particular fancy for sitting
on the camels' bushy heads.

The electricity with which the air of the desert is absolutely saturated
is gradually absorbed by the human body and stored as in an accumulator.
On touching the barrel of a rifle or any other good conductor of
electricity, one would discharge an electric spark of some length. By
rubbing one's woollen blankets with one's hands one could always generate
sufficient electricity to produce a spark; and as for the cats, if one
touched them they always gave out a good many sparks. At night, if one
caressed them, there was quite a luminous greenish glow under one's
fingers as they came into contact with the hair. Quite a brilliant flash
ensued when the cats were rubbed with a woollen blanket.

We had only risen about 100 feet to 4,520 feet from our last camp, and we
steered N.N.E. for the high Naiband Mountain.

The camel men, taking advantage of my being ill, were very troublesome
and attempted some of their tricks; but although I was absolutely at
their mercy I screwed up what little strength I had and brought them back
to their senses. The camels, they said, were very ill, and we could not
possibly go on. We certainly could not stop where we were, and I most
decidedly would not go back, so, when night came, on we went leaving camp
at 10 p.m. and travelling first over a great flat stretch, then among low
hills and through several ravines cut by water. We travelled some ten
hours at a good pace, and when nearing the Naiband Mountain the country
became quite undulating.

On November 16th we arrived in a small oasis of high palm trees, with a
streamlet of salt water forming a pool or two, dirty to a degree owing to
the bad habits of camels when drinking. Our camels, who had drunk nothing
for several days, on perceiving these pools made a dash for them and
sucked to their hearts' content gallons of water of a ghastly
reddish-green tint, almost as thick as syrup with mud and organic
matter, but which they seemed to enjoy all the same.

There was here a much battered tower, attributed, to Beluch, who are said
to have fought here most bravely in times gone by, but more probably of
Afghan origin--or at least erected during the time of the Afghan
invasion. It is said to be some centuries old, but here again it is well
to have one's doubts upon the matter.

As I was examining the tower, which has undoubtedly seen some terrific
fighting, a giant man emerged from the palm trees and came towards us. He
was some 6 feet 6 inches in height, and being slender, with a small head,
appeared to be even taller than he really was. He strode disjointedly
towards us and was somewhat peculiar in manner and speech. He examined us
very closely and then ran away up to the village--a quaint old place
perched high on the mountain side and with eight picturesque towers. Most
of these towers were round, but a large quadrangular one stood apart on a
separate hill.

There were innumerable holes in the rock, which were at one time
habitations, but are used now as stables mostly for donkeys, of which
there were a great number in the place. The rock on which the village
stood is very rugged and difficult of access, as can be seen by the
photograph which I took, and the architecture of the buildings had a
character peculiar to itself and differed very considerably from any
other houses we had met in Persia. They were flat-roofed, with very high
walls, and four circular apertures to answer the purpose of windows about
half-way up the wall. The roof was plastered and made a kind of verandah,
where the natives spread fruit and vegetables to dry and the women had
their small weaving looms. On one side of the rock, where the greater
number of habitations were to be found, they actually appeared one on the
top of the other, the front door of one being on the level with the roof
of the underlying one.

[Illustration: Author's Caravan Descending into River Bed near Darband.]

[Illustration: Rock Habitations, Naiband.]

The path to the village was very steep, tortuous and narrow. The village
extended from south-west to north-east on the top of the mountain, and
the separate quadrangular tower occupied a prominent position to its
eastern extremity. There were palm trees and fields both to the south and
east at the foot of the rocky mountain on which the village stood, and to
the W.N.W. (300° bearings magnetic) of it towered the majestic Naiband
Mountain mass, very high, one of the great landmarks of the Dasht-i-Lut,
the Salt Desert.

Directly above the village of Naiband was a peak from which, although of
no great altitude--4,500 ft.--one got a beautiful bird's-eye view both of
the village and the surrounding country. An immense stretch of desert
spread below us, uninterrupted from north-east to south except by a small
cluster of hillocks directly under us, and by the continuation towards
the south-west of the Naiband mountainous mass; a high mountain lay to
(170° bearings magnetic) S.S.E. The highest peak of the Naiband was to
the north of the village, and the mountainous region extended also in a
direction further north beyond the mountain that gives its name to the
whole mass. S.S.E. (150° b.m.) of the village down in the plain rose an
island of hills and also a few more to the east.

The desert was rather more undulating in the eastern portion, but
absolutely flat towards the south-west and to the south, while north-east
of the village stood a weird collection of picturesquely confused
brown-red and whitish mountains.

Most of the cultivation--only a few patches--was visible to the S.W. and
E.N.E. of the village. Palm trees were numerous. A spring of fresh water
ran down the mountain side, through the main street of the village, and
down into the fields, in the irrigation of which it lost itself.



CHAPTER VIII

     A visit to the eight-towered village--A hostile
     demonstration--Quaint houses--Stoned--Brigand villagers--A
     device--Peculiar characteristics of natives--Picturesque
     features--Constant intermarriage and its effects--Nature's
     freaks--Children--Elongating influence of the desert--Violent
     women--Beasts of burden--Photography under difficulty--Admirable
     teeth of the natives--Men's weak chests--Clothing--A farewell
     demonstration--Fired at.


I climbed up to the village, accompanied by one of my camel men, but our
friend the giant had preceded us and given the warning that a _ferenghi_
had arrived, and we were met on the road by a number of boys and men who
were running down the hill to see the new arrival. The people were not
particularly respectful, and freely passed remarks, not always
complimentary--in fact, most offensive; but as I was bent on seeing all
that there was to be seen, I paid no heed and continued to go up.

[Illustration: The Village of Naiband, and Rock Dwellings in the Cliff.]

The camel man, who was getting quite alarmed--especially when a stone or
two were flung at us--begged me to return to camp, but I would not, and
as I had my rifle with me I thought I could hold my own, and certainly
did not wish the natives to think that an Englishman feared them.

It appears that a European had visited this spot some time previously,
and they had some grievance against him, but although it seemed rather
hard that I should come in for the punishment which should have been
meted to my predecessor, I well knew that the only way out of the scrape
was to face the music. To run away would have been fatal.

So we entered the village by a narrow path, while men, women and children
collected on the house-tops and in the doorways and gesticulated and
spouted away as fine a collection of insults as one may expect to listen
to in one's life. The Naiband people may certainly be congratulated on
the possession of a most extensive and complete vocabulary of swear
words.

Pretending unconcern, but keeping a watchful eye on what was taking place
all round, I stopped here and there to examine the small water-skins
hanging in couples or more outside each doorway, and halted in the small
square of the village to admire the wretched buildings all round.

The lower portion of the houses was of mud, the upper of stone. Down the
side of the main street gurgled the limpid little stream. Each house had
a sort of walled recess outside the front door, reached by a step or two,
where tilling tools rested against the wall, and where the women's
spinning wheels were worked during the day. The wheels, however, were now
idle, for the women had joined the men in the demonstration.

It was most evident that _ferenghis_ were not popular at Naiband, but,
come what might, here I was, and here I would stay as long as it suited
me. A stone flung with considerable force hit me in the knee--stones
always have a way of striking you in the most sensitive spots--and it
took me some minutes before I could recover from the pain and move on;
but I never let the natives suspect what agony I was enduring, or they
would have done worse.

The slow march through the village up to the highest point was decidedly
not pleasant, missiles flying pretty plentifully all round. Fortunately,
no more hit me quite as badly again. The camel man had warned me that the
population of Naiband was a mixture of robbers and cut-throats, and the
facts fully proved his words, so I was rather glad that I had taken not
only my rifle with me but a pocketful of cartridges as well.

Things were getting rather hot, and it was only when, having reached a
high point of vantage, I stopped and, in full view of the crowd, inserted
a five cartridge clip in the magazine of my Mannlicher, that most anxious
inquiries were made from the camel man as to what I was about to do. The
camel man, amid a sudden silence and eager attention, explained the
terrific powers of a _ferenghi's_ rifle which, he said, never misses and
ever kills, even ten miles off; and to add more humour to his words he
explained that shots could be fired so quick that one had not time to
count them.

At this point of the lecture I casually produced a handful of cartridges
from my coat pocket, and having counted them aloud, proceeded to count
the people, who watched, somewhat flabbergasted. The device answered
perfectly. They dropped the stones which, during the short armistice,
they had carefully nursed in their hands, and some thought they had
better return to their homes, the bolder ones only remaining, who put a
grin of friendship on their faces, and made signs that they would try to
do no further harm.

Peace being proclaimed, and after making them pay their salaams, which
seemed the most unusual thing they ever had to do in their lifetime, I
spoke to them in a friendly way and patted them on the back. They were
much impressed with the rifle and wanted me to let them see it in their
own hands, which, of course, I did not do. They showed me some of their
houses, which were very dirty--people, fowls, and in some cases a donkey
or a goat, occupying the same room.

These brigand villagers were most interesting as a type. They were quite
unlike the Persians of the West, and they certainly had nothing in common
with the Afghan; nor did they resemble the people of the northern part of
Persia. The Beluch type came nearer. It would be curious to trace exactly
where they came from--although undoubtedly their features must have been
greatly modified, even altogether altered, by the climatic conditions of
the spot they live in.

One was struck by the abnormal length, thinness and disjointedness of
their limbs, and by the long, well-chiselled faces, with handsome
aquiline noses, broad and high foreheads, well-defined eyebrows in a
straight line across the brow, piercing eyes well protected by the brow
and drooping at the outer corners, with quite a hollow under the lower
eyelid; very firm mouths full of expression and power, also drooping
slightly at the corners, and high cheek bones.

[Illustration: Young Men of an Oasis in the Desert.]

[Illustration: Man and Child of the Desert.]

Their appearance was certainly most picturesque, and they possessed the
cat-like manner and general ways of feline animals which made them appear
rather unreliable but in a way quite attractive. They were evidently
people accustomed to high-handed ways, and they needed very careful
handling. They were frank and resolute enough in their speech--ever
talking at the top of their voices, which, however, sounded quite musical
and not grating.

They possessed dirty but very beautifully-formed hands and feet, the
thumb only being somewhat short and stumpy, but the fingers supple, long
and tapering. The few lines which they possessed in the palms of their
hands were very strongly marked. There was a good deal of refinement
about their facial features and hands which made me think that these
people came from a good stock, and even the ears--which were generally
malformed with all the natives of Persia which had so far come under my
observation--were in this case much more delicately modelled and
infinitely better shaped. The chins were beautifully chiselled, even when
somewhat slanting backwards.

I give here a photograph which I took of two typical young men, and
which I think bears out my remarks.

There was an extraordinary family resemblance in nearly all the heads one
saw, which made one suspect constant intermarriage among relations in the
small community. In fact, on asking, they professed to be all related to
one another.

Another very curious point about the faces of the male members of Naiband
village, which contrasted with other natives of Persia, was that, whereas
the latter can grow heavy beards from a comparatively very tender age,
the Naiband young men were quite hairless on the face, almost like
Mongolians--even at twenty or twenty-two years of age. When they had
reached a fairly advanced age, however, some forty years, they seemed to
grow quite a good black beard and heavy moustache, somewhat curly, never
very long, and of a finer texture than with modern Persians. The hair of
the skull was perfectly straight, and was worn long, parted in the
middle, with an occasional fringe on the forehead.

Nature's freaks are many and varied. While the men had invariably long
aquiline noses, elongated faces, and eyes well protected by the brow, the
children, until the age of ten or twelve, had rather stumpy faces with
noses actually turned up, and most beautiful large eyes softened by
abnormally long eyelashes, the eyes themselves, strangely enough, being
quite _à fleur de tête_. I noticed this curious phenomenon in members of
the same family, and the older ones told me that when they were young
their faces were also stubby and their noses turned up.

The inference I drew was that it must be the climatic conditions of the
desert that have the elongating effect, not only upon the facial
features, but on all the limbs of the people. The people were not
naturally born elongated. The climate certainly has an elongating effect
on plants, or leaves, which all tend to come to a point, such as the
leaves of the elongated palm trees, for instance, or any of the other
spiky plants one finds in parts of the desert.

There was a good deal of the demon about the women of the place, a
superabundance of fire in their movements and in the expression of their
flashing eyes, which was a great contrast to the slow, dignified manner
of the men, when seen under normal circumstances. Their frame was much
more powerfully built than that of the men. The ladies seemed to be in a
perpetual state of anger. That they were industrious there could be no
mistake, and one could but be amazed at their muscular strength in
lifting heavy loads; but, taking things all round, one was rather glad to
have no friends among the Naiband fair sex when one saw how their men,
relations or otherwise, were pulled about by them. The men positively
feared them, and the women seemed to have it all their own way.

They were so violent that it was most difficult to approach them, but
with some careful coaxing I succeeded in persuading the wildest and most
typical of the lot to sit for her photograph, which I look upon as quite
an achievement, considering that it might have cost her life or mine or
both. As it was it went pretty well, and when I gave her a few silver
pieces, she screamed with delight and sounded them on a stone to make
sure they were good.

Women blackened their eyes underneath artificially, which gave them a
languid but ardent appearance. Their long, wild, curly hair hung loose at
the side of the head, over which they wore a kerchief fastened into a
knot under the chin. Their costume was simple, a mere short blue cotton
skirt reaching below the knee, and a little red loose shirt with ample
sleeves. Various silver ornaments and charms, mainly old coins, hung
round their necks from leather cords.

The arms and legs, quite bare, were well-shaped in most cases, and showed
abnormal muscular development, due, no doubt, to the hard work the women
were made to endure. They were positively used as beasts of burden--which
occupation they seemed to like--while the men, I presume, lazily sat
about smoking their tobacco or opium. But the body--very likely owing to
the same reason--is, from a European point of view, quite shapeless, even
in comparatively young women hardly above twenty. Their little blouses,
generally torn or carelessly left open, display repulsively pendent
breasts and overlapping waists, while the abdominal region, draped by a
thin skirt, appeared much deformed by undue development.

These facts are given as they were typical of the majority of women in
the place. The diet and the strain of lifting and carrying huge weights
on the head may, to a certain extent, account for these evils. I also saw
one or two cases of varicose veins.

The children seemed very pale and anaemic, a condition which has been
mainly brought about, I think, by the constant intermarriage among
relations.

[Illustration: Naiband Barber Stropping a Razor on his Leg.]

[Illustration: A Woman of Naiband.]

Men, women and children possessed admirable teeth, of a slightly
yellowish tint, very thick, powerful and regular enough, although the
front teeth were rather too long, especially in adults. They were,
however, generally well protected and covered by the lips, almost
invariably tightly closed.

The people, I noticed, had a tendency to breathe mostly through the nose.
Their nostrils were wide, well-cut and healthy looking. They all
possessed very keen eyesight, but not good hearing.

The want of expansion of the men's chests was a striking feature of
masculine anatomy at Naiband, and, in fact, the profile silhouette of
members of the Naiband strong sex was not unlike that of a phonograph
trumpet resting on the ground, for they wore trousers of enormous size,
divided skirts of the largest pattern, pure and simple, and little
jackets over them with broad sleeves and buttoned over on the right
shoulder. It seemed almost that the further we got into the desert the
larger the trousers of the men in the oases. Some of the men had several
yards of material draped round their legs, in Hindoo fashion, instead
of trousers.

The colours of their clothes were white and dark blue, while their
headgear consisted of a double skull cap, a thin, coloured one underneath
and a light brown, thick felt one over it. The men were either barefooted
or wore sandals.

Things went fairly well while we remained talking in the village, but in
the meantime the entire population had turned out, and for some reason of
their own again became rather boisterous. Having seen all there was to be
seen I made my way down to camp as slowly as possible, followed by a
howling mob. The moment one had one's back turned stones flew in
abundance. The camel man and I went down the steep incline, and when we
reached the last houses of the village a great number of people were
congregated on the roofs, who gesticulated frantically and yelled
something or other at me as I passed. One or two of them had long
matchlocks. We had gone but a few yards when a shot was fired at us, and
a minute or so later another, but no damage was inflicted.

We went on with assumed calm and stopped, apparently to look at the
scenery all round, but really to watch what the howling mob behind were
doing, and eventually, when we reached the foot of the mountain and were
out in the open instead of among rocks, the mob, taken by panic, bolted,
and we saw them scrambling with great speed up the rocky path to the
village like so many rabbits.



CHAPTER IX

     Misfortunes--Suffocating heat--An expected
     attack--Electricity--Strayed camels--A barber and his ways--A
     track to Meshed--Pilgrim husband and wife across the
     desert--Another long march--A salt stream--Brackish well.


Many misfortunes befel us at this place. We had made our camp in the
oasis of palm trees at the foot of the mountain, and as the camels were
much worn out we were unable to proceed on our journey the same evening.
The heat during the night under the palm trees was quite suffocating, and
I had to remove my bedding into the open where one could breathe a little
better.

The camel men feared that during the night we might be attacked by the
villagers and we made ready for any emergency, but nobody came.

There was so much electricity in the air that it gave quite an unpleasant
feeling, and had a curious effect upon one's skin. The cats on coming in
contact with the woollen blankets discharged sparks all over, and sparks
also snapped from one's fingers on touching anything that was a good
conductor of electricity.

A wild animal came into our camp during the night and carried away some
newly-purchased hens. We had been told that there were many wolves and
foxes in the neighbourhood.

In the morning we were confronted with what seemed a disaster. Eleven
camels of our combined caravans had disappeared. Had they been stolen or
had they run away? The camel men were in tears, and, instead of going to
look for them, sat on the loads sobbing bitterly and wiping the tears
from their eyes with the skirts of their long coats. A ray of hope arose
when we discovered their tracks. They had made for some hot water
springs, some miles to the east, and judging from their footprints were
evidently travelling at a great pace. Two men on other camels were
despatched after them, and we had to resign ourselves to a delay of
another day.

Curiously enough, there was a sudden change in the temperature, and the
thermometer in the sun only registered 105°, which made us feel quite
chilly after the 140° and 150° of previous days. Our camp was at an
altitude of 3,810 ft. (at the foot of the Naiband Mountain).

Sadek took the opportunity of the delay to set everything tidy, and we
had a great washing day. He sent for a barber in the village to trim his
hair and beard. The Naiband Figaro was an extraordinary creature, a most
bare-faced rascal, who had plenty to say for himself, and whose peculiar
ways and roaming eyes made us conceal away out of his sight all small
articles, for fear that he should walk away with them. He carried all
the tools of his trade around his waist in a belt, and ground his razor
first on a stone which he licked with his tongue, then using his bare
arms and legs for stropping purposes, as snapshotted in the accompanying
photograph.

The camel men--on whom he was first requested to experiment--he shaved,
splashing their faces with salt water during the process, but Sadek, the
next victim, produced a cake of soap with which he luxuriously lathered
his own face, and which the barber scraped gradually from the chin and
cheeks and every now and then deposited the razor's wipings on his
patient's head.

We were able to buy some fresh water skins, and this time they were
really water tight. The natives, naturally, took every advantage of us in
the bargains, but we were able to purchase a lot of fresh provisions,
which we needed badly, and men and beasts felt none the worse for our
compulsory halt.

In the middle of the second night we were waked up by some distant
grunts, and the camel men jumped up in great glee as they had recognised
the beloved voices of some of their strayed camels. A few minutes later,
in fact, the whole eleven were brought back by the two men who had gone
in search of them. They had found them some twenty miles off.

From Lawah to Naiband we had come practically due north, but from this
camp to Birjand the way lay due east for the first portion of the
journey. At 160° b.m. (S.S.E.) in the desert rose a high mountain.

We had everything ready for our departure, but the camel men were in a
dreadful state as some villager had told them that the news had spread
that the strong boxes which the _ferenghi_ had were full of silver and
gold--as a matter of fact there was hardly any left of either--and that a
raid was being arranged for that night to kill us and rob our baggage
when we were starting. The camel men spent the whole day polishing up the
old rifles they possessed and, much to my concern for their safety,
loaded them.

To allay their fears we made a sudden start at 5 p.m. instead of at the
hour of 10 p.m. which had been previously arranged.

One mile beyond Naiband a track branches to the north-east for Meshed,
and here we bade good-bye to a Persian husband and wife--he aged
twenty-eight, she aged twelve--who in the company of a donkey, were on a
pilgrimage from Yezd to the Sacred Shrine. We had picked them up in a
sorry plight in the desert, the husband riding the lame donkey, the girl
on foot and shoving both from behind. I could not help admiring their
enterprise. All the provisions they had carried were a few cucumbers,
figs, and a load of bread, nearly all of which were exhausted when we
found them. On remonstrating with the strapping youth for riding the
donkey while he made his poor wife walk, he replied that they had been
newly married and it would not do for a man to show consideration for a
wife so soon!

She, being a city girl, was a bundle of clothing and we could not see her
face, but she seemed a nice meek little thing, with pretty hands and
feet. On being asked whether she was tired, a thread of voice from under
her _chudder_ said she was, and on being invited to ride one of my camels
on the top of a load, there was a giggle which meant "yes."

The selected camel was brought down on his knees, and Sadek and Ali Murat
hauled her up in the most approved style; she having an evident joke at
her selfish husband for having a better mount than he after all.
Unfortunately, the poor child was so exhausted that after she had gone
some distance, with the swaying of the camel she became fast asleep, lost
her balance and fell on her head. Nobody delighted in the misfortune more
than her lord and master, who did not fail to impress upon her that this
was evidently Allah's punishment for her vanity in trying to be superior
to her better half! Rubbing her aching skull, and much concerned at the
_chudder_ having got torn, the bride thought she had better resign
herself to walk after all.

Here, too, as in other parts of the desert, near mountainous regions we
found the usual deep, cut channels carrying into the desert the overflow
of rain water from the Naiband Mountain, and the many little hills at its
foot; otherwise in the thirty-six miles which we covered during the night
there was absolutely nothing of interest.

When we had gone some ten miles from Naiband the camel men, tired of
carrying their matchlocks, slung them to the saddles and professed the
danger of an attack over. We were in the open again. I was much troubled
by my fever, which had seized me violently and brought on aches all over
my body.

We camped at 3,480 feet, having descended 330 feet in thirty-six miles,
an almost perfectly flat stretch except a hillock or undulation here and
there. My fever continued so fierce the whole day that I had not the
strength to stand up nor the inclination to eat, the exhaustion caused by
the very high temperature being indescribable.

We left at 7 p.m., meaning to make another long march. The night was
intensely cold, with a terrific wind sweeping from the north-east.
Several times during the night, when we came across a tamarisk shrub or
two, we halted for a few minutes to make a bonfire and warm our frozen
hands and toes. We actually came across a stream of brackish water--four
feet broad, and about two to three inches deep--the largest stream we had
seen since entering the desert, and having been twelve hours on the
saddle to cover only twenty-four miles, camels and men shivering
pitifully from the cold, and the latter also from fever, we made camp in
a spot where there was an abundance of tamarisks and a deep well, the
water of which was fully twenty feet below the earth's surface.

A small basin had been excavated next to the well. We filled it with
water by means of a bucket, and it was a real pleasure to see the camels
crowding round it and satisfying their thirst of two days. We did not
allow them to drink the water of the brackish stream.

The elevation of this camp was 3,890 feet.



CHAPTER X

     Intense cold--Dulled sense of taste--Characteristics of the
     country--Beautiful stones--Clouds of the desert--A salt
     stream--Icicles on the moustache and eyelashes--Longing for
     sunrise--Prayers of the camel men--Fedeshk--Ali Murat meets his
     wife--Opium dens and opium smokers--Effects of smoking opium in
     excess--Fever-stricken people--Dwellings--An official
     visitor--Science reduced to practice--Sadek's idea of sunset and
     sunrise--"Keshk" cheese--Arrival in Birjand.


We left camp at 8 p.m. on the night of November 20th-21st, and by
midnight the cold grew intense. The camel men lighted big bonfires all
through the night wherever they found a few shrubs, but I was so ill with
fever that I had not the strength and energy to dismount from my camel,
on which I was shivering with cold although well wrapped up in blankets.

After marching eight miles from our last camp we came to a brackish well
where the camel men replenished their water-skins. I was rather
interested to see what dulled sense of taste these men of the desert
possessed. When I saw them making a rush for this well I thought that
probably we had come to fresh water, and on asking them they said this
was a well of excellent "sweet water." When I tasted it, it was so salt
that it quite made one's inflamed gums and palate smart with pain. I
noticed some days later that when we did actually get fairly sweet water
they could detect no difference between it and the most brackish water.

We had come through hilly and broken country, over low passes and narrow
gorges flanking dry river-beds. Then we had entered another immense flat
stretch of _lut_, quite level except an occasional solitary hillock
breaking the monotonous line of the horizon here and there. From one of
these hillocks (4,300 feet) near our camp of November 21st one got quite
an interesting panorama all round.

The highest mountain in sight was still the Naiband peak to the
south-west of us. A range which seemed about 50 miles off spread to the
north-west, and before it--about 20 miles distant from us--a very long
low hill range. In an arc from our west to our north were distinguishable
several high pointed peaks. A blackish brown, handsomely cut hill stood
prominent a mile or so from us in the middle of the plain.

To the north the country was much broken up and low. There was a stream
of salt water running from east to west with thick salt deposits on each
side of the water edge. To the north-east the hills showed no peculiar
characteristics but to the east and south-east could be observed two
short hill-ranges, much indented, of broken up and corroded rock, similar
to the many we had already found across the desert. To the north and to
the south of the hill range which stood to the east of us there were low
passes, and behind them again the flat _lut_.

The only thing of real interest in the absolutely bare parts of the
desert is the geological formation of the soil and the only amusement is
to examine the different beautifully coloured stones that can be picked
up, such as handsome agates, bits of malachite, crystals, beautiful
marbles, and flints. These are all the more interesting when one thinks
that most of them may have travelled hundreds, some, thousands of miles
to get there, either brought by the water when the country was submerged
or shifted on and on by the wind. They all bear marks of travel, and even
the hardest are polished smooth, the original natural angles of crystals
being in many cases actually worn down and quite rounded. Sand-polished
pebbles of red jasper, jasper-conglomerates, chalcedony, quartz and
agatescent quartz, pink and brown corroded limestone, and calcite were
the most frequently met with.

A desert is, in England, always associated with glorious sunsets. Why
this should be so is rather difficult to be understood by anybody
reasoning in the right way, because the magnificent tints of a sunset are
caused by moisture in the air and not by abnormal dryness. All the time
that I was in the desert itself I never saw a sunset that really had half
the picturesqueness of one of our most modest sunsets in Europe. The sun
disappeared very fast, leaving a slightly yellow glow above the horizon,
which soon became greenish by blending with the blue sky and then black
with night. The twilight was extremely short.

We seldom saw clouds at all in the desert and when we did they were
scrubby, little, patchy, angular lumps at enormous heights above the
earth's surface. They were generally white or light grey. Occasionally
they were of the fish-bone pattern, in long successive ridges, resembling
the waves formed on the sand surface when shifted by wind. Soon after the
sun had disappeared behind the horizon, these clouds generally changed
their colour from white into black and made long lines stretching for
great distances across the sky, but adding no beauty to it.

Naturally, the play of shifting lights and shadows upon the desert when
the sun shone above the clouds was quite weird, especially when the last
formation of clouds referred to cast long bluish shadows slowly moving
upon the brilliantly-lighted, whitish tint of the ground. Lower upon the
horizon line a curtain of a dirty brownish tint was generally to be seen,
due to particles of sand in the air, otherwise in almost all cases that
came under my observation the clouds formed well-defined, thin, clean,
horizontal lines, or else when very high up patchy small skiffs.

One missed greatly the fat, rolling, globular clouds which are so common
to Europe, and which fill the sky with fantastic forms. There is such a
thing as getting tired of an everlasting spread of blue sky and the glow
of a roasting sun.

A strong westerly gale swept low over the surface of the desert. It was
very cold after sunset, but fortunately we had plenty of tamarisk shrubs
at hand and camel dung with which to make big fires.

The river bed below our camp was very wide, but the salt stream itself
not more than three to four feet across. It eventually lost itself to the
north-west in the desert. The camels had been let loose to graze and had
a good feed of tamarisk, which they seemed to enjoy much after their long
diet on reduced rations of straw and cotton seeds.

We left this camp (4,120 feet) soon after dinner at 7 p.m., and during
the night passed several ranges of hills, we travelling all the time on
the flat. In the middle of the night the cold was bitter, so cold that I
had icicles hanging on my moustache and eyelashes. It was impossible to
remain on the camels, and ill as we all felt we had to walk--drag
ourselves would be a more suitable expression--to keep ourselves from
freezing. On these cold nights we simply longed for the sun to come out.
The dark hours seemed interminable. One began slightly to revive when the
first glimmering of yellowish light began to tinge the dark blue sky, and
the dazzling stars gradually lost their brilliancy and eventually
disappeared altogether from the heaven above us.

On the first ray of sun appearing the devout camel men stopped the
caravan, spread a small cloth upon the ground, and, having picked up a
small stone, placed it in front of them. They duly turned towards sacred
Mecca and lifted their arms, then, muttering their prayers, knelt and
placed their heads upon the ground, as we have already seen others do, in
the usual Mussulman manner. They were most diligent in this respect, and
one could not help admiring the intent fervour of their appeals to Allah.
At sunset, too, their prayers never failed to be recited--no matter what
they were busy doing at the time, all being interrupted for the purpose.

At 5.30 a.m. we arrived at a village called Fedeshk--quite a large place,
situated in a flat oblong plain ten miles long and a mile and a half
wide, surrounded by low hills on all sides.

On being asked why he had made the camels go so fast on this march, Ali
Murat, my camel man, blushingly confessed that in this village was his
home and his wife, whom he had not seen for eight months. The anxiety to
see his better half, who lived only a stone-throw from where we made
camp, did not, however, prevent him looking carefully after his camels,
whom he placed first of all in his affection, and smoking Sadek's
cigarettes, and a pipe with the other camel men, and waiting till my tea
had been brewed to receive his customary six cups. After all this had
been gone through, which took the best part of two hours, he disappeared
and we did not see him again for the remainder of the morning.

The people of Fedeshk were striking for two reasons, first for being
sadly fever-stricken, secondly because they were addicted to opium
smoking to a disastrous degree. There were a number of opium dens in the
place, and I went to see them. They were dreadful places, in which one
would suspect opium smoking was not the only vice indulged in by the
natives.

As I entered one of these houses, after a considerable knocking at the
door and a great rustling of people running about the small courtyard
inside, we were admitted into a room so dark that I at first could
discern nothing at all. The pungent, sickening odour of the opium pipes
gave one quite a turn, and I lighted up a match to see where I was.

There were men lying about on mats in a semi-stupefied state, and men
attendants refilling the pipes--similar to those used in China, a cane
holder with earthenware pipe in which tiny pills of opium were inserted
and consumed over the flame of a small lamp. Several of the men were in
such a torpid state that they mechanically inhaled the opium smoke when
the pipes were pressed to their lips, but were hardly cognizant of what
went about around them. The opium-den keeper in the meantime did a
roaring business, and had a little scale on which he weighed the opium
that he served out.

It seemed evident, as I lighted match after match, by certain articles of
ladies' attire which in the hurried departure had been left behind in the
room, that the usual attendants of the smokers were women, but they had
stampeded away on our arrival. One heard them chuckle in the adjoining
rooms, and in their haste, they had left behind a great many pairs of
slippers at the entrance of the room.

I had two men conveyed out into the sun where I wanted to examine them.
The pupils of their eyes had contracted to a most abnormal extent, even
before they were exposed to the sunlight, and seemed to have almost lost
the power of expanding and contracting in various lights, and although
the eyes were wide opened and staring they did not seem to discern what
was placed before them. The eye-ball had a yellowish tinge and the iris
was not well-defined but seemed to have undergone discoloration and faded
away into the white of the eye. They seemed affected by a kind of
temporary atrophy.

The pulse beat extremely slow and faintly; the lips were drawn tight; the
hearing so dulled that even loud noises seemed to have no effect upon
them. The body was flabby and almost lifeless. It was not possible to
obtain an answer to anything one asked them. They had quite a cadaverous
appearance, with yellowish, pallid skins, sunken eyes, and teeth showing
fully under the drawn lips.

Only now and then, as one watched them, a sigh, followed by a shiver or a
grunt, came forth to show us that they were still alive. The fingers and
toes displayed some muscular contraction, but not the other joints, which
were quite loose. The heart beat so feebly that one could hardly feel
it.

They remained spread out in the yard in the positions we had placed them,
and were indeed most pitiful objects. The den-keeper told me that these
two men were most inveterate smokers, and were at it the whole time until
they became quite unconscious.

There were other men in a slightly better condition, but all more or less
showing the same symptoms of stupefaction. Those that could mutter words
said that it was an irresistible passion that they could never stop. The
opium gave them no dreams, they told me, but a delicious feeling of
absolute contentment and happiness, which they could never experience
when not indulging in this disastrous vice.

On looking upon things impartially, however, one came to the conclusion
that, bad as it was, opium-smoking had certainly more peaceful and less
disgusting effects upon those unfortunates addicted to it than whiskey or
absinthe, or votka drunkenness, for instance.

The entire population of this village was, unfortunately, given to this
bad habit, and it was quite pitiable to look upon their haggard, staring
faces, and idiotic expression.

Malarial fever is very prevalent at Fedeshk, and some of the corpse-like
people affected by it came to my camp for medicine. They were not unlike
walking skeletons, with stringy hands and feet and a skin of ghastly
yellow colour. They had parched, bloodless ears, curled forward, and
sunken cheeks, with deep sunk-in eyes. In the more virulent cases fever
was accompanied by rheumatic pains so strong as practically to paralyse
the legs and arms, which were reduced to a positive minimum of flesh.

The dwellings of Fedeshk were not impressive. Mud hovels as usual, with
domes over the rooms, as everywhere in Persia, only the familiar
aperture, instead of being directly in the centre of the dome itself, had
a kind of hood over it to screen it from the terrific winds of the West.

[Illustration: Fever Stricken Man at Fedeshk.]

[Illustration: The Citadel, Birjand.]

It is to be noticed in connection with these winds that to the west of
Fedeshk there are rather high mountains, and even winds originally not
coming from the west may be turned back or switched in that direction by
this chain of mountains.

A large ice store-house is met with at the end of the village, which
testifies to the intense cold that can be experienced here in the winter
months.

An official residing in the place sent word that he would call upon me,
and we made a grand display of all the carpets we possessed to receive
him. He arrived with a number of servants, and we had a very pleasant
interview, with great consumption of tea. He was extremely civil;
inquired whether he could be of any assistance, which was politely
declined, and showed intense interest in my firearms and scientific
instruments. He and his people were amazed when I told them that their
village stood at an elevation of 4,620 ft. above sea level, and
explained to them how I had measured the height by means of aneroids
and the hypsometrical apparatus.

"These are wonderful!" he said, with a salaam, as he handed me back the
instruments which had been eagerly examined by all present. "And," he
added, "can you also measure the length of cloth with them?"

A compass, too, he had never set eyes upon; and he at first thought that
it was constructed to point towards Mecca! Had not one long ago got
accustomed to similar questions often asked one by London people, the
innocence of the Persian official might have taken one's breath away, but
this was nothing to what happened later.

The Persians showed great curiosity to learn everything in connection
with whatever foreign articles I possessed and the respective prices I
had paid for them. Then Sadek was closely examined as to the amount of
food I ate every day, the salary I paid him, and why I had come across
the desert. Was I a Russian or an Englishman? The officer had never seen
either, but heard both well spoken of. He had understood that all
Englishmen had yellow hair; why had I dark hair? London, he, like most
Persians, believed to be a suburb of Bombay, connected with Russia by
means of a "machine road,"--a railway!

Why on earth did the _ferenghi_ want to know how high mountains were? Did
the _ferenghi_ know how to find gold in the earth? and so on, were the
queries which Sadek had to answer.

With repeated salaams, preceded by a thousand other questions, the
official departed; but Sadek, who was much excited, was still bent on a
highly scientific conversation to the following effect:--

"Sahib," he said, "you have travelled in many countries, have you not?"

"Yes."

"Sahib, have you been to the country where the sun 'goes to sleep' in a
hole in the earth every evening?"

That was Sadek's idea of a sunset! His idea of a sunrise was that a
brand-new sun was sent up every day, and this explained how it was that
it rose from the opposite side to that on which it had "gone to sleep."

Ali Murat, looking somewhat washed out and absent minded, came back to
camp at noon, garbed in a very handsome new coat which his wife had woven
and embroidered for him during his absence. He was very proud of it.

We left Fedeshk an hour later, as I was very anxious to reach the city of
Birjand the same day if possible. We were now again in fairly inhabited
country, and on our hurried march passed a great many villages, large and
small, such as Shahzileh, Mazumabad, Tagot, Siaguih, Shamzabad. Further,
at Ossenabad, is to be seen a ruined country-house of the Governor of
Birjand, then the last two villages of Khelatekhan and Khelatehajih.

Ali Murat seemed rather dazzled on this last march, and was so worn out
that he threw himself down upon the ground several times, regardless of
spoiling his smart new coat. In a moment he became fast asleep, and it
took some rousing to make him get up again. His wife had given him a bag
of _keshk_--a kind of cheese, which looked like hardened curdled
milk--and of this he partook freely to try and regain his former
strength. Keshk cheese was very hard stuff to eat and took a lot of
chewing. To prevent it getting too hard it had to be soaked in water
every few days.

We had a nasty wind against us, but the way was flat and good; our
direction, due east across the long narrow valley of sand, nowhere
broader than a couple of miles. To the north were a number of low hills
shaped like so many tents, white, grey, and light-red in colour, and also
to the south, where there was an additional irregular and somewhat higher
rocky mountain.

In the evening of November 24th we had crossed the entire Salt Desert and
arrived at the large city of Birjand, after Meshed the most important
city of Khorassan, the journey having occupied twenty days, which was
considered a very fast crossing.

There was a beautiful new caravanserai here, with clean spacious rooms,
and with a most attentive and obliging keeper in charge of it.



CHAPTER XI

     My caravan disbanded--Birjand--Ruined fortress--The city--Number
     of houses--Population--The citadel--Artillery--Trade
     routes--Birjand as a strategical position--A trading centre--No
     fresh water--The Amir--Indian pilgrims--Birjand
     carpets--Industries--A pioneer British trader--Imports and
     exports--How business is transacted--Russian and British
     goods--Long credit--A picturesque caravanserai--Afghan
     soldiers--Beluch camel men.


At Birjand, my camels being utterly exhausted, I disbanded my caravan,
paid up Ali Murat, and attempted to make up a fresh caravan to proceed to
Sistan. This would take two or three days at least, so I employed my time
at first by seeing all that there was to be seen in the place, then by
receiving various official callers, and last in trying to shake off the
fever, which I partially did by very violent but effective methods.

[Illustration: The City of Birjand, showing main street and river bed
combined.]

We entered Birjand from the west by a wide, dry river bed which formed
the main street of the city. A ruined fortress which seemed at one time
to have been of great strength, was to be seen on the western extremity
of the town on a low hillock. The interior was quite interesting, with
several tiers showing how the walls had been manned for defensive
purposes.

The general view of Birjand reproduced in the illustration was taken
from the fort and gives a better idea of the place than any description.
It can be seen that the city is unequally divided by the combined
river-bed and main street, the northern portion (to the left of observer
in the photograph) having merely an extensive graveyard, a few houses,
the large caravanserai at which I had halted, and a row of shops;
whereas, on the southern side was the bulk of the houses, two, three and
some even four storied, all of a monotonous greyish colour, the buildings
being mostly of sun-dried mud bricks. The little windows in sets of
threes and fives, with brown wooden shutters, relieved to a certain
extent the dulness of the architecture, while a certain relief to the eye
was afforded by a dome and another building, both painted white, in
marked contrast to the mud walls. Many houses had long verandahs and
balconies, on which the women spread their washing.

As the city was built in terraces upon undulating ground and two higher
hills, it covered a greater area than it at first appeared to do. The
streets were very tortuous and narrow, arched over in some places,
forming long dark tunnels, many of the dwellings having rooms over them
directly above the roadway.

Making a rough guess, there were, I daresay, some 3,500 to 4,000 houses
in Birjand and its suburbs, with a population of not over 30,000 souls.
These figures, the natives said, were about correct, but no exact
statistics existed.

The higher point of Birjand was at its south-east portion, and at the
most extreme south-east point of the town at the bottom of the hill was
the high, square, fortress-like enclosure with bastions and a high tower,
as represented in the illustration. It was in a dilapidated condition,
but was, nevertheless, the only structure in Birjand which had a claim to
some picturesqueness. It was the old citadel, inhabited at one time by
the Amir. The wall of the citadel facing south had a large window with
_musharabeah_ woodwork, and a lower building to the side. The adjacent
building also had quaint balconies.

A good view of the whole city was obtained from a high, isolated building
to the south of the town, in the centre of a large but somewhat untidy
fruit garden, an official residence, but now very little used except in
cases of emergency to accommodate passing officials or distinguished
people.

There were some Persian military officers staying there and they most
kindly showed me all that there was to be seen, after having entertained
me to some refreshments. They conveyed me inside the citadel where they
proudly showed me a battery of six nine-pounder guns of obsolete Austrian
manufacture; an eighteen pounder bronze gun and another gun of a somewhat
smaller calibre, both of Persian make. They were very carelessly kept,
there being apparently only a ragged boy or two to look after them.

The officer told me that the garrison of Birjand consisted of one
thousand men, about one hundred of whom were stationed in Birjand itself,
the rest being scattered in the villages around and at one or two posts
along the Afghan frontier. For the accuracy of this statement, however, I
leave the entire responsibility to the officer.

He was much distressed when I inquired whether the soldiers were ever
drilled in artillery practice, and he said it could not be done because
they had not sufficient ammunition, but they possessed some gunpowder. He
agreed with me that artillery would be of little use if there was no one
who knew how to use it, and no ammunition at hand!

Birjand being so near the Afghan frontier and having direct roads to
Meshed, Herat, Sabzawar, Anardar, Farah, Lash, Sistan, Beluchistan,
Bandar Abbas, Kerman, Yezd, Isfahan, and Teheran, is a place of interest
from a strategic point of view. In its present condition it could not
possibly offer any resistance. The city and citadel can be commanded from
many points on the hills to the north-east and east, and the
citadel--even allowing that it were strong enough to make a
resistance--could be shelled with the greatest ease at close range from
the hill on which now stands the ruined fortress west of the city. This
point could be reached in perfect safety and would afford absolute cover
under fire from the citadel, but with modern artillery even of moderate
calibre would prove fatal to the citadel itself.

Birjand is probably the greatest commercial centre in Eastern Persia,
its transit trade at various seasons of the year being very extensive
from all the routes above-mentioned. Agriculturally, Birjand could not
even support its own population, for the water supply is scanty and bad.
There is no fresh water obtainable in the city, but brackish water is a
little more plentiful. A small spring of good water is, however, to be
found some two miles from the city, and there I daily sent a man to bring
us a supply.

In war time, therefore, the city could not support nor aid an army, which
would fare badly if locked up here. Possibly in some seasons it might
supply some camels, horses and mules, but no food.

That the Persians themselves believe this an untenable place in time of
war is evident, as this is one of the few large cities in Persia which is
not surrounded by a wall.

The Amir, or Governor, does not live in Birjand itself but half a
farsakh, or two miles, across the plains to the S.S.E., where he has a
handsome residence in a pretty garden. Much to my regret I was too unwell
to go and pay my respects to him, although I carried an introduction to
him from H.R.H. Zil-es-Sultan, the Shah's brother. He very kindly sent to
inquire after my health several times during my stay, and the Karghazar
was deputed to come and convey these messages to me.

One cannot speak too highly of the extreme civility of Persian officials
if one travels in their country properly accredited and in the right
way. If one does not, naturally one only has to blame one's self for the
consequences.

One hears a good deal about the advantages of being a Britisher in any
country, and one could not help being amused at the natives of Birjand
who could not distinguish a European from the blackest Bengalese. They
were all _Inglis_ to them. Some natives came to announce that a caravan
of twenty of my own countrymen had just arrived--which gave me quite a
pleasant surprise, although I could hardly credit its truth. On rushing
out of my room to greet them, I found myself confronted with a crowd of
black-faced, impudent, untidy Indian pilgrims from Bengal, on their way
to the Sacred Shrine of Meshed. Most of them were fever-stricken; others,
they told me, had died on the way.

These caravans have caused a good deal of friction both with the Persian
and Russian authorities, for fear that they should bring plague into
Persia and Transcaspia. When one saw these fanatics--religious people can
be so dirty--one could not with any fairness blame the authorities for
making a fuss and taking stringent measures to protect their own
countries and people from probable infection. True, it should be
remembered that the journey of 600 miles across the hot Baluchistan
desert to Sistan, and the 500 more miles to Meshed, ought to have been a
sufficient disinfectant as far as the plague went, but their wretched
appearance was decidedly against them.

These pilgrims were a great nuisance; they traded on the fact that they
were under British protection; they lived in the most abject fashion,
continually haggling and quarrelling with the natives, and decidedly did
not add to our popularity in Eastern Persia, to say nothing of the
endless trouble and worry they gave to our officials at the Consulates
and on the route.

As I have said, the natives do not know the difference between these men
and Englishmen, and believe that all British subjects are of the same
stamp--by which one cannot quite feel flattered. If these pilgrimages
could be gradually restricted and eventually stopped, I think everybody
all round would benefit,--even the pilgrims themselves, who might
possibly not feel so holy, but whose health would not be impaired by the
fearful sufferings they have to endure to gain--and often obtain very
prematurely--a claim to a seat in heaven.

The opening up of the Nushki route from Quetta to Sistan and Meshed is
responsible for the great influx of pilgrims, who have been attracted by
the glowing reports of how easy it is to travel by this route. And so it
is very easy, for men accustomed to that particular kind of travelling,
like myself or like traders or Government officials, who can travel with
all they want, and just as they please, but not for people who have to
live from hand to mouth and who are destitute of everything. Those
fellows have no idea whatever, when they start, of what they will have to
endure on the road.

There is not much local trade in Birjand, but quite a brisk transit
trade. The industries are practically confined to carpet-weaving, the
carpets being renowned all over Persia for their softness, smooth
texture, and colours, which are said never to fade, but the designs upon
them are not always very graceful nor the colours always artistically
matched. The most curious and durable are the camel-hair ones, but the
design, usually with a very large medallion in the centre, does not seem
to appeal to European eyes. Even the smallest rugs fetch very large sums.
Although called Birjand carpets they are mostly manufactured in some of
the villages north of Birjand, especially at Darakush.

Among the shops there are a few silversmiths', some blacksmiths', and
some sword and gunsmiths'. The latter manufacture fairly good blades and
picturesque matchlocks.

The trade caravanserais in the town are quaint, but to me most
interesting of all was the one approached by a sharp incline--a very old
one--where an Indian British trader had started business, attempting to
further British trade in these regions. This man, by name Umar-al-din
Khan, of the firm of Mahommed Ali of Quetta, was really a remarkable
fellow. If Russian trade has not yet succeeded in getting a fair hold in
Birjand, if British trade has it so far almost altogether its own way, we
have only to thank the tact, energy, patience, and talent of this man.
The patriotism, enterprise, and hard labour of Umar-al-din and his firm
deserve indeed the greatest credit and gratitude.

Birjand is a most interesting point commercially because it will be here
that Russian and British competition in Eastern Persia will eventually
come into collision.

The main imports of the province of Kain, of which Birjand is the
capital, are now English and Russian made merchandise. English goods are
so far preferred and realize higher prices, because of their better
quality. The articles principally required, and for which in retail the
natives are ready to pay well, are ordinary cotton, woollen and silk
cloths, household iron, copper, brass vessels, loaf-sugar, glass-ware and
crockery, especially of shapes suitable for Persian uses. Indian tea sold
very well at first, but the market is greatly overstocked at present and
great caution should be exercised by Indian exporters.

Russian sugar, being of a much cheaper quality, is rapidly driving out of
the place French and Indian sugars, but the quality of Russian sugar is
so bad that of late there has been rather a reaction in favour of
Shahjahanpur Rosa (Indian) sugar.

There are in Birjand several native merchants having fair amounts of
capital at their disposal, but it appears that the prices which they are
willing to pay are so low and the credit required so long, that it is
most difficult to do business with them. The retail business is,
therefore, more profitable than the wholesale.

The competition in Russian-made cotton cloths and tea is getting very
keen and the Russians can sell these things so cheaply that it is not
possible for Indian traders to sell at their prices. Also the Russians
have learnt to manufacture the stuff exactly as required by the natives.

The glass ware and fancy goods are chiefly sold to the better class
people, but no very great profits, especially to passing trading
caravans, can be assured on such articles.

The exports consist of wool and skins to Russia, and to Bandar Abbas for
India; carpets to Russia, Europe and India; _Barak_, a kind of woollen
cloth, to various parts of Persia; opium to China _via_ Bandar Abbas;
saffron, caraway seeds, _onaabs_, etc., to India, also _via_ Bandar
Abbas, and some English and Russian merchandize to Herat.

Birjand is the commercial pivot, not only of the trade of North-eastern
Persia, but also of Western Afghanistan. The commercial supremacy of this
town will decide whether we are able in the future to hold our own in the
south or not; but once driven back from this centre we may as
well--commercially--say good-bye altogether to the northern and central
Persian markets; while even the southern markets will be very seriously
attacked, as far as goods coming overland are concerned.

Umar-al-din has made a most careful and serious study of the trade of
Eastern Persia, and I am certain that if we were to encourage a number of
other Indian traders of the same type to establish themselves in Birjand,
with possible branches in Meshed, England could make rapid headway
against any foreign competition. Being an Asiatic himself, although
Umar-al-din has travelled, I believe, in Australia, England, etc., and
speaks Hindustani, Persian and English perfectly, he is able to deal with
the Persians in a way in which a European would not be so successful. He
is on most friendly terms with H. E. Shan-kal-el-Mulk, the Governor, and
all the local officials, by whom he is held in much respect and who have
at various times made most extensive purchases in his shop to the amount
of several thousand tomans' (dollars) worth of British goods.

On one occasion he imported for the Amir and his son a first-class double
barrel English gun of the latest type, some revolvers, a bicycle, with a
lot of European furniture for which he received immediate payment in cash
of 4,000 rupees.

Umar-al-din was the first Indian trader to open a shop in Birjand. By
this means he has exercised great influence over the Persian merchants of
the place, and has induced the leading ones to trade with India, in
preference to Russia, by the Nushki-Quetta route. His good work has been
reported to Government by Major Chevenix Trench, then H. B. M. Consul in
Sistan, now Consul in Meshed, by Lieutenant-Colonel Temple, Major Benn,
and others.

On his arrival in Birjand he acted as Agent for the British Government,
and was for ten months in charge of the Consular postal arrangements from
Sistan to Meshed, while advising the Government on the best ways of
promoting trade in those regions, a work which he did mostly for love and
out of loyalty.

He has experimented a great deal, and his experience is that indigo is
the article which commands the greatest sale at present, then plain white
and indigo dyed cottons of two qualities, a superior kind with shiny
surface for the better classes, and one rather inferior with no gloss for
the lower people. Fancy articles find no sale.

One of the greatest difficulties that a trader has to contend with is the
impossibility of selling anything for ready money, and thus making small
but quick profits. Credit has to be given generally for one year,
eighteen months, and even as long as two years. Even in the few cases
where credit has been allowed for one or two months the greatest
difficulty is experienced in obtaining payment for the goods supplied,
threats and applications to the Amir being often necessary. Delays are
constant, although the money is always paid in the end.

This necessitates keeping the prices very high to compensate for the
loss, but by careful handling good profits can be made, if sufficient
capital is at hand to keep the concern going.

The caravanserai in which Umar-al-din had hired several rooms which he
had turned into a shop was now known by the name of the English
Caravanserai, and nearly all the caravans with Indian and Afghan goods
halted there. When I went to visit the place there were a number of
Afghan soldiers who had conveyed some prisoners, who had escaped into
Afghan territory, back from Herat to Birjand. Their rifles, with bayonets
fixed, were stacked on the platform outside, and they loitered about, no
two soldiers dressed alike. Some had old English military uniforms which
they wore over their ample white or blue cotton trousers. These fellows
looked very fierce and treacherous, with cruel mouths and unsteady eyes.
They wore pointed embroidered peaks inside their turbans, and curly hair
flowed upon their shoulders. At a distance they were most picturesque but
extremely dirty.

A number of Beluch _mari_, or running camels, were being fed with huge
balls of paste which were stuffed down their mouths by their owners.
These camel men were the first Beluch I had come across, and although
they wore huge white flowing robes, long hair, and pointed turbans not
unlike the Afghans, the difference in the features and expression of the
faces was quite marked. One could see that they were fighting people, but
they had nice, honest faces; they looked straight in one's eyes, and had
not the sneakish countenance of their northern neighbours.



CHAPTER XII

     A loud explosion--Persian military officers--Dr. Abbas Ali Khan,
     British Agent in Birjand--His excellent work--Gratefulness of the
     natives--A quaint letter--The Russian Agent--A Russian temporary
     score--More British Consulates needed--Visits returned--Altitude
     and temperature of Birjand--Cossacks and their houses--A bright
     scene in a graveyard--Departure of Indian pilgrims for
     Meshed--British Consular postal service--Russian post--Making up
     a second caravan.


Early in the morning of the 26th I was awakened by a fearful explosion
that shook the caravanserai and made everything in the room rattle. A few
minutes later there was a second report and then a third and fourth,
twelve altogether, but these fortunately not quite so loud. Evidently my
military friends of the previous day were firing off their artillery.

Shortly after this, in their gaudy uniforms and with a guard of soldiers,
the officers came to call upon me at the caravanserai.

"Have you heard the guns being fired?" was their first anxious question.
Indeed I had. It appears that to make sure that I should hear them a
double charge of powder was placed in the first gun. When it was let off
in the very small court of the citadel the concussion had most
disastrous effects upon the mud walls all round, as well as upon some of
the spectators who were close at hand and who were nearly stunned by the
fearful report.

The officers were extremely civil, intelligent and full of humour.
Intense astonishment and interest was shown in my repeating rifles. They
had never set their eyes upon, nor ever heard that there was such a thing
as, a repeating rifle! I was, nevertheless, much struck by their
quickness compared with that of the average European, in grasping the
mechanism and the way to use the weapons.

They seemed fully to realize that it would be of little practical use to
defend Birjand city in case of an attack, because it could be commanded
from several excellent positions close at hand to the north-east, north
and north-west. Furthermore, the water supply could easily be cut off.
They told me, if I remember right, that it was the intention of the
Persian Government to strengthen this place and that some more pieces of
artillery were expected.

We have in Birjand an Indian doctor, by name Abbas Ali Khan, who acts as
British Agent. He is a young fellow of uncommon ability and education, a
capital doctor, and a most gentlemanly man, who has had great experience
of the world, having travelled with several political missions in various
parts of Asia, including the Pekin Syndicate Survey expedition under
command of J. W. Purvis, Captain R. E., where not only did he look after
the medical necessities of a large party of Europeans, Indians and
Chinese, but helped to manage a large transport of mule carts. Captain
Purvis testifies to Abbas Ali having performed his professional duties
with zeal, and extraneous duties cheerfully, during a journey of some
2,000 miles through China.

It was in April, 1897, that Abbas Ali Khan, at twenty-four hours' notice,
accompanied Major Brazier Creagh's Mission to Sistan, when British
influence in that part of Persia was non-existent. The Mission returned
to India in October of the same year, but Abbas Ali was sent on a second
journey to Sistan in charge of a small party from December, 1897, to
July, 1898, when he was entrusted with political business which required
great discretion and tact.

It is greatly to his credit that he managed--in spite of many
difficulties and obstacles--to win the confidence and friendship of
officials of a district where all British subjects were regarded with
undisguised suspicion and distrust. No better proof of this could be
furnished than by reproducing here a literal translation of a quaint
document, dated May, 1898, given him, unsolicited, by Mir Masum Sar-tip,
Deputy Governor of Sistan, whose official seal it bears:--

     "God is acquainted with what is in the minds of men. Beyond doubt
     and without hesitation it is rightly and justly stated that
     Military Doctor Mirza Abbas Ali Khan has during the period of his
     stay in Sistan displayed his personal tact and natural ability.
     He has treated with great civility and politeness any person who
     has applied to him for medical attendance and treatment of
     diseases, and has in no case whatever demanded payment or
     anything from anybody. He has never hesitated to give gratuitous
     medical aid with medicines or personal attendance, and all the
     natives from the highest to the lowest are well satisfied and
     under great obligation to him. It is hoped that the trouble taken
     and the pecuniary loss suffered by him will be appreciated by his
     Government. I have personally greatly benefited by his treatment
     of my personal diseases and ailments and I trust that he will
     receive great favour from his Government."

Naturally the medicines are supplied to him by the Government, but it
would be becoming if the Government saw its way to reward men of this
type for the "soul" which they put into their work, for this it is after
all that wins the esteem of the natives more than the actual cost of the
medicines. A few grains of quinine, or a few ounces of castor oil have
often been the means of obtaining information and advantages for the
British Government, which, if properly used, may be worth millions of
pounds sterling.

It is to these pioneers that the nation should be grateful, to these
people who build sound foundations on which the Empire can spread without
fear of collapsing we are indebted far more than to the folks who stop at
home and reap with little trouble the credit of the work which has been
done by others.

Abbas Ali has gained a most intimate knowledge of the country and people,
which gives him enormous influence, and he has been the means of
smoothing the way to a considerable extent for the new trade route to
Quetta. Major Chevenix Trench, Consul at Meshed, fully testifies to this,
and speaks very highly of Abbas Ali's political work, and so does Captain
Webb-Ware, in charge of the Nushki-Sistan road, who writes that in his
belief the growth of British influence in Sistan and Birjand is due in no
small degree to the tact, discretion, and conscientious discharge of
duties of Abbas Ali.

Abbas Ali was ordered again to Persia in August, 1899, and has remained
there since, stationed at Birjand.

The Russians have established a rival agent to look after their own
interests, in the person of Veziroff Gazumbek, a Perso-Russian subject
and a Mussulman. This man very politely called upon me in great state,
wearing a decoration of the third class which had just been bestowed upon
him by the Shah, and accompanied by four Cossacks who were on their way
to the Russian Consulate at Sistan to relieve the escort there. He and
Abbas Ali were socially and outwardly on excellent terms, but great
rivalry necessarily existed in their work.

The Russian had gained a temporary advantage in the eyes of the natives
by the honour conferred upon him by the Shah, and it was a pity that an
exception to the general rule could not be made and a similar or higher
honour obtained for Abbas Ali, whose work certainly deserves--one would
think--some consideration. Matters of that sort, although of absolutely
no significance in themselves, are of great importance in a country like
Persia, where appearances cannot altogether be neglected.

The British Government, one feels, makes a primary and most palpable
mistake in not being represented by more English Consular officials, not
necessarily sent by the London Foreign Office, but rather of that most
excellent type, the military Political servants, such as those who are
now found in some few Persian cities. The establishment of a
vice-Consulate here at Birjand instead of a Medical Political Agency
would, I think, also, be of very great help at the present moment and
would increase British prestige there.

The afternoon of that day was spent in returning the visits of Abbas Ali
Khan, the Russian Agent, and the Karghazar. Everywhere I met with extreme
civility. Both the British and the Russian Agent lived in nice houses,
handsomely carpeted and furnished, only Abbas Ali's place had a more
business-like appearance than that of the Russian because of the many
books, the red cross trunks of medicine and surgical instruments and
folding camp furniture. The house of the Russian was practically in
Persian style, with handsome carpets and cushions, but with hardly any
European chairs or furniture.

Birjand is very high up, 5,310 ft. above sea level, and we did not feel
any too warm. The thermometer was seldom more than 60° in the shade
during the day, and from 40° to 50° at night.

In the evenings the four Cossacks of the Sistan Consular escort, who had
been detained here, and occupied one of the rooms of the caravanserai,
sat out in the open singing with melodious voices in a chorus the weird
songs of their country. These men were really wonderful. They had come
down from Turkestan, a journey of close upon five hundred miles, riding
their own horses, with only a few roubles in their pockets, and little
more than the clothing they wore, their rifles, and bandoliers of
cartridges. The affection for their horses was quite touching, and it was
fully reciprocated by the animals. One or two of the men slept by the
horses so that no one should steal them, and the animals were constantly
and tenderly looked after.

There was a bright scene in the graveyard behind the caravanserai, the
day that all the women went to visit the graves and to lay offerings of
food, rice and dried fruit upon the tombs of their dead. Little conical
white tents were pitched by hawkers, and dozens of women in their white
chudders prowled about like so many ghosts, or else squatted down in rows
beside or upon the graves. The doleful voices of blind beggars sang
mournful tunes, and cripples of all kinds howled for charity.

A Persian crowd is always almost colourless, and hardly relieved by an
occasional touch of green in the men's kamarbands or a bright spot of
vermilion in the children's clothes. The illustration representing the
scene, shows on the left-hand side of the observer, the ruined fortress
at the western end of the city of Birjand, and the near range of hills to
the north-west which, as I mentioned, would afford most excellent
positions for artillery for commanding Birjand. The domed building in the
centre of the photograph is one of the dead-houses adjoining every
cemetery in Persia, to which the bodies are conveyed and prepared
previous to interment.

The Persian Government have a Belgian Customs official in Birjand, but he
generally spends much of his time travelling along the Afghan frontier.
He had left Birjand when I arrived.

[Illustration: Women Visiting Graves of Relatives, Birjand. (Ruined Fort
can be observed on Hill.)]

With more pity than regret I watched at the caravanserai the departure of
the Indian pilgrims for the Shrine at Meshed. They had obtained a number
of donkeys and mules, and were having endless rows with the natives about
payment. Eventually, however, the caravanserai court having been a
pandemonium for several hours, all was settled, their rags were packed in
bundles upon the saddles, and the skeleton-like pilgrims, shivering with
fever, were shoved upon the top of the loads. There was more fanaticism
than life left in them.

The four Cossacks, also, who were at the caravanserai received orders to
leave at once for their post at Sistan, and gaily departed in charge of
the British Consular courier who was to show them the way.

This courier travels from Meshed to Sistan with relays of two horses
each, in connection with the Quetta-Sistan postal service. The service is
worked entirely by the Consuls and by the Agent at Birjand, and is
remarkably good and punctual considering the difficulties encountered.
There is also a Persian postal service of some sort, but unfortunate is
the person who rashly entrusts letters to it. Even the Persian officials
themselves prefer to use the English post. The Russians have established
a similar service from their frontier to Sistan, but it does not run so
frequently.

The making up a second caravan in a hurry was no easy matter, but
eventually I was able to persuade one of the men who had accompanied me
across the Salt Desert to procure fresh camels and convey me there. This
he did, and after a halt of three days we were on the road again to cross
our third desert between Birjand and Sistan, a distance of some 210
miles.



CHAPTER XIII

     Departure from Birjand--A cloud like a skeleton hand--A
     downpour--The village of Muht--A ruined fortress--A beautiful
     sunset--A pass--Besieged by native callers--Two towers at
     Golandeh--Strayed--Curious pits--Sahlabad--The impression of a
     foreign bed--Fujiama's twin.


A large and most respectful crowd collected in and out of the
caravanserai to watch the departure of my caravan at five o'clock in the
evening on November 27th. We were soon out of Birjand and, steering a
south-easterly course, passed one or two large mud enclosures with a few
fruit-trees, but otherwise there was hardly any vegetation visible
anywhere--even in the immediate neighbourhood of Birjand. Everything was
as barren as barren could be.

Overhead the sky after sunset was most peculiarly marked by a weird,
black, skeleton-like hand of perfect but gigantic proportions, spreading
its long bony fingers over us. As night came on, it grew very cold and
the skeleton hand of mist compressed itself into a nasty black cloud. A
few minutes later a regular downpour drenched us to the skin and the
camels experienced great difficulty in walking on the slippery mud.

This was the first rain we had seen, or rather felt, since leaving
Teheran. Our long-unused macintoshes had been applied to such usages as
wrapping up cases of photographic plates and enveloping notebooks, so
that we could not very well get at them, now that we needed them, without
taking all the loads down. So we went on until our clothes were perfectly
saturated, when at least we had the satisfaction of knowing that we could
not get wetter than we were.

The rain came down in bucketfuls for over an hour, then luckily stopped,
and in a few moments, with a howling wind rising, the sky was clear again
and the myriads of stars shone bright like so many diamonds. The cutting
wind and our wet clothes made this march rather a chilly one, although
one felt some relief at the sensation of moisture after so many months of
intense dryness.

There was nothing whatever to see on any side, and I have never thanked
my stars so much as when, after marching thirteen hours, we reached the
village of Muht, a place of fair size in a picturesque little valley with
nice hills on all sides.

To the north-east of the village was an interesting demolished fortress
standing on a low hill. It had a very deep well in the centre within its
walls, which were of stone, with twelve turrets round it. At the foot of
the hill was a _haoz_, or water tank, now dry, which the natives said was
very ancient and which they attributed to the Hindoos. To the west a
lake was said to exist called Kiemarakalah, by the side of a mountain
not unlike a Swiss roof in shape; while to the north-east of the fortress
were rugged rocks and low sand-hills. The elevation of this village was
6,520 feet.

We left Muht at noon of the same day and passed a small village on our
way, then we gradually ascended to a pass 7,050 feet high, on the other
side of which was a plain--green not from vegetation, but because the
clayish soil was of that colour--with hills to the east and west.

It was hardly possible to imagine more dreary, desolate scenery than that
through which we were going. There was not a living soul beyond ourselves
anywhere in sight. The camels, which had caught cold in the shower of the
previous night, had to be given a rest, and we halted again after a five
hours' march. The cold was intense. Whether owing to the moisture in the
atmosphere, or to some other cause, we had on the evening of the 28th a
really beautiful sunset. The sky was dazzling with brilliant gold and
vermilion tints.

At midnight we were again under way, first across flat, then over
undulating country, after which we got among the mountains and between
precipitous gorges. This was quite a welcome change, but not for the
camels, the way being somewhat rough and stony.

We had some little difficulty in going up the steep pass, 7,200 feet, the
camels panting terribly. We suffered from the cold and the heavy dew
which positively drenched men, camels, and baggage. It was quite as bad
as having been out in the rain, we were so soaked. I, unfortunately,
became ill again, fever attacking me afresh more fiercely than ever;
Sadek, too, and Abbas Ali, the camel man, were also taken very sick.

On the other side of the pass we went through a steep, narrow, and most
fantastically picturesque defile of rocks, and eventually passed the
little hamlet of Golandeh which boasts of no less than half-a-dozen mud
huts and as many fruit trees.

We had descended to precisely the altitude of Muht, or 6,520 feet. From
this village the Sistan track descends for a few hundred yards and then
proceeds in a south by south-east direction over a flat stretch with some
hills. A very high mountain could be seen to the south by south-west and
another quite pointed to the south by south-east (at 170° b.m.). To the
east-south-east some twenty miles from Muht, was another tiny hamlet
built against the foot of the mountain along which we had come. A large
plain opened before us to the south-west.

At Golandeh we were besieged by natives applying for medicine, as there
seemed to be hardly a soul in the place who was not affected by some
complaint or other. Affections of the eyes were most common. Those who
wanted no medicine begged for money or lumps of sugar,--which latter
there is apparently some difficulty in obtaining here and for which they
seemed to have a perfect craving. Men, women, and children implored to
be given some.

There were two towers at Golandeh, the lower one quadrangular in shape
and two-storied. The upper floor had recesses in all the rooms for
storing grain and provisions.

We left camp at 5.45 p.m. and all went well until about ten o'clock, when
Sadek took it into his head that we were travelling in the wrong
direction and proceeded to put us right, I being fast asleep on my camel.
The camel man, having never been on this route, did not know the way and
depended a great deal on the bearings I gave him daily by my compass.
When I awoke we had got sadly mixed up among big boulders and sharp
broken-up rocks, from which the camels had the greatest difficulty in
extricating themselves, and we wasted a good deal of time in helping the
animals to get on to better ground as they continually stumbled and fell
among the loose stones. The loads got undone several times and we were
all three so ill that we had not the strength to tie them up again
properly on the saddles.

In the course of time I put the party on the right track again, and for
more than one hour we went up and down steep but not high passes, through
defiles, and across a small stream. We were following the dry river-bed
among rocks in a gorge, and we arrived at a spot where there was a rock
barrier several feet high beneath us, which made it impossible for camels
to get down; so Abbas Ali was despatched to try and find an easier way
while Sadek and I were left to freeze in a cutting south-west wind.

The camel man returned and led the camels back a long distance until we
came to a faint track along a streamlet, which we tried to follow, but it
went along such precipitous places that we had to abandon it for fear the
camels, who could not get a proper foot-hold, might come to grief. In
Birjand I had only succeeded in obtaining just sufficient animals to
carry my loads, Sadek, and myself, and so was not very anxious to run the
risk of losing any and becoming stranded in such an inhospitable place.

We eventually contrived to take the camels down to the flat without any
serious mishaps, and wandered and wandered about and went over another
pass--my compass being all we had to go by.

Sadek, whose high fever had affected his vision, now swore that we were
going back towards Birjand instead of going on, and said he was certain
my compass was wrong; but I paid no heed to his remarks, and by carefully
steering our course with the compass--which involved a reckless waste of
matches owing to the high wind--I eventually got the party into the open,
upon a wide plain of sand and gravel. Here, having shown Abbas Ali the
right bearings to follow, I got upon my camel, again wrapped myself well
in my blankets and went fast asleep.

So unfortunately did Abbas Ali, who was tired out after his exertions
among the rocks, and at 3 a.m. I woke up to find the camels going as and
where they pleased, and the camel man, buried under his thick felt coat,
snoring so soundly upon his camel that it took a good deal of shouting to
wake him up. I had no idea where we had drifted while I had been asleep,
and the night being an unusually dark one we could not well see what was
ahead of us, so we decided to halt until sunrise.

[Illustration: In the Desert. (Tamarisks in the Foreground.)]

When it grew light in the morning I was much interested in some curious
circular and quadrangular pits only a few yards from where we had
stopped, which were used as shelters for men and sheep but were now
deserted. These pits were from four to six feet deep below the level of
the ground, and from ten to thirty feet in diameter (when circular), a
section being partitioned for sheep by a fence of thick but soft cane
that grows in the neighbourhood of water. In the part reserved for human
beings there was a circular fireplace of stones, and some holes in the
earth at the sides for storing foodstuff. The lower portion of the inside
wall all round the pit was of beaten earth up to a height of two feet,
above which a wall of stones carefully fitted one upon the other was
constructed from two to four feet high, up to the level of the earth.
Here a projecting screen of cane was erected all round at an angle
converging towards the centre of the pit, for the double purpose of
preventing the sheep escaping, and of sheltering the inmates during
the fearful sand and windstorms that sweep with great force along the
earth's surface. The entrance was cut on one side with an incline to
afford easy access to the pit.

At this particular place there were altogether some fifteen of these
pits, and in one of them we lighted a big fire with some shrubs we
collected, and rested for some three hours to give Sadek time to cook my
breakfast.

The difference in the temperature between the interior of these pits and
the open ground was extraordinary. They were comfortably warm, even when
it was unpleasantly cold as one peeped out of them.

While Sadek was busy with his culinary work, and the camel man chewed
dried pieces of bread and _keshk_ cheese, I proceeded to find our right
way. It lay about one mile to the east of the pits.

On resuming our march, five farsakhs (twenty miles) from Golandeh, we
reached Sahlabad, an unimportant village. South there was to be seen an
extensive white salt deposit, which at first had all the appearance of a
large lake, and a stream of salt water flowed across the large valley and
through the village from north-east to south-west.

To the east there was a long range of multi-coloured mountains, all with
high sand accumulations at their base; greys in several beautiful tones,
were prevalent, and there were stretches of black, brown, burnt sienna,
and a pale cadmium yellow. To the north-west, whence we had come, low
hills were visible, and to the south-west fairly high ones.

Sahlabad was a depressing place. The natives were in abject poverty and
their habitations dismal, to say the least. The huts were partly
underground, and the top aperture of the domed roof was screened by a
hood with an opening to the north-east. No firewood was obtainable at
this place, and the only water the natives had to drink was the salt
water from the stream. At Sahlabad we had descended to an elevation of
5,050 ft., which made a considerable change in the temperature.

We encountered here a large caravan in charge of Beluch drivers, and
among other curious articles one of the camels carried a beautiful new
enamelled iron bedstead. The reader may suppose that, after several
months of sleeping on the ground, I wished it had been mine,--but I did
not. On the contrary, I was particularly struck on that occasion by what
an elaborate, clumsy, useless thing it seemed, although, as bedsteads go,
it was one of the best!

To the south stood a high mountain, very closely resembling in shape the
world-renowned Fujiama of Japan, only this one had a somewhat wider
angle. Beyond the white expanse of salt to the south-east there was low,
flattish country, but to the west, north-west and south-west, rose fairly
high hills. The valley itself in which we were was some two and a half
miles broad, and covered with grey sand.

In the centre of the village in the neighbourhood of which we camped was
a tumbled-down circular tower, and an octangular tower in two tiers, also
partly ruined. The latter stood at the corner of an enclosure which at
one time must have been the beginning of the village wall.



CHAPTER XIV

     Suspicious characters--A trap--Held up--No water--The haunt of
     robbers--Fierce daily winds--Volcanic formation--A
     crater--Wall-like barriers--A salt stream--A caravan from Quetta.


We remained at Sahlabad the whole afternoon, and we were visited in camp
by a number of suspicious-looking people, who were most inquisitive to
know what I possessed and how much money I carried, and other such
pertinent questions which they put to Sadek and my camel man. Also a
peculiar lot of fellows, with very ugly countenances and armed to their
teeth, passed by. They were mounted on fine horses with gaudy saddles,
and on coming suddenly and unexpectedly upon us seemed quite upset.
Instead of salaaming us, as had been usual with the few well-to-do people
we had so far met, they whipped their horses and galloped away.

Sadek said they must be Sawars--mounted soldiers. Abbas Ali said they
were robbers from Afghanistan. We shall see later what they were.

At 6.30 p.m. we left--it was quite dark--and we had gone but two miles
when a distant voice called upon us to stop. By his speech the stranger
seemed very excited when he reached us, and said we must keep the track,
to the left and not follow the one to the right where two trails branched
off. We could not see his face, for he kept some twenty or thirty yards
off, and besides, his face was wrapped all round in the tail of his
turban. We professed to be thankful for the information, but continued on
the track to the right, which seemed greatly to disturb him--at least,
judging by the number of times he entreated us to follow his advice.

Both Sadek and Abbas Ali corroborated my conviction that this was a trap
laid for us. The man, on seeing us go a different way from the one he
advised us, ran away, and presently we heard some shrill whistles which
were no doubt signals to his companions.

We had gone but another mile when suddenly a figure with a gun in hand
sprang before us and seized the camel man by the chest.

"Whose caravan is this?" he shouted.

"It is the _ferenghi's_," hastily replied the camel man.

There was a short pause in the conversation when our interlocutor,
looking up at my camel which had got close upon him, perceived himself
covered by my rifle.

Sadek had leapt off his camel as quick as lightning and shoved the muzzle
of his Winchester in the man's face. As the stranger's demeanour was most
peculiar and his answers incoherent as well as flippant, Sadek first
disarmed his adversary, then turned his own rifle the round way about
and gave the man a good pounding for his impertinence in holding up my
camel man. We heard a number of voices of people hidden all around. When
the fellow managed to effect an escape he gave an alarm signal, and we
saw a lot of black figures jump up and stampede for their lives.

This furnished a little variation in our dreary night marches, and we
proceeded briskly, Sadek, Abbas Ali and I being most grateful to our
unknown friends for the amusement they had provided us.

Some three miles further we came upon several caravans that had halted
and were hiding, for they were aware of robbers being about--they had
seen fresh tracks of their horses during the day and were in fear of
being attacked. At first when we appeared on the scene they mistook us
for brigands, and as we discovered them hidden we also mistook them for
robbers, so that the beginning of our interview did not lack in humour.

We had a hearty laugh over it all when their identity and ours were
established, and after a few minutes' halt we continued our journey on
soft sand, rather undulating, with frequent depressions in places. We
travelled the whole night of December 1st, passing to the right of the
salt deposits--which looked like a big stretch of country covered with
snow and threw out a certain luminosity, possibly because the salt
crystals reflected and condensed what light there was from the stars. As
the hours of the night went by we gradually left the salt stretch behind
us to the north, and proceeded on the flat for some distance.

In the morning we passed a small village right up on the mountain side,
one mile and a half to the west of our course. We then entered a dry
river-bed between high sand hills, and having marched nineteen hours
continuously camels and men were rather in need of a rest.

At one p.m. on December 1st we pitched our camp in the middle of the
river-bed--80 feet broad here--the only place where we could get a
draught of air,--but the heat was suffocating, the thermometer
registering 112°--the altitude being 5,010 feet.

As we expected to find water of some kind we had omitted to fill up the
skins and load the camels unnecessarily, but, unluckily, there was no
water anywhere at hand. Abbas Ali was sent to the village we had
passed--now some four miles back--to get some, but being too tired to
carry the heavy skin down to us again he entrusted it to a boy, giving
him full directions where our camp was. The boy did not find where we
were, and in the meantime Sadek and I had our throats parched with
thirst. Abbas Ali returned at seven o'clock and had to be despatched back
to the village in search of the lost boy and the water skin. It was ten
o'clock when he returned, and after twenty-eight hours of dryness we had
our first drink of water. It was brackish but it tasted delicious.

We were compelled to remain here for the night. Several caravans passed
through going north, and also a lot of suspicious people, whose manner
was so peculiar that we were compelled to sit up the greater part of the
night and keep watch on my property. Some of the caravan men who had gone
through had warned us that we had encamped in a regular nest of robbers,
and that three men had been robbed and murdered at this spot only a few
days before.

The high sand hills afford excellent hiding places for these gentry. It
appears that the men on horseback whom we had seen at Sahlabad, and who
had bolted on coming suddenly upon us, were the high chief of the robber
band and some of his confederates,--very likely on their way to Birjand
to dispose of booty. Being so near the Afghan border these fellows enjoy
practical safety by merely going from one country into the other to suit
their plans and to evade search parties occasionally sent out for their
capture.

We had come forty miles from Sahlabad, and Abbas Ali brought us the news
from the village that we should find no water on our course for fifteen
miles more and no habitations for forty-eight more miles. Unluckily, we
had hardly enough provisions to last one day, and we perceived a fair
prospect before us of having to go one day without food, when Abbas Ali
was despatched for a third time for another eight miles' walk to the
village and back to see what he could get in the way of edibles.

He returned, riding a cow, in company with another man, and a third
fellow on a mule carrying a fat sheep. The latter was there and then
purchased and killed, and we had a copious breakfast before starting
along the winding dry bed of the river at 11.30 a.m. on December 2nd.

Before us to the south by south-west (190° b.m.) was a lofty flat-topped
mountain which appeared about fifteen miles off, and directly in front of
our course was also another and more extensive long, flat-topped mountain
stretching from north-east to south-west, three miles off, with
precipitous sides towards the north-west and north. The sides were padded
with sand accumulations which reached almost to the summit of the lower
portions of the mountain barrier. To the south-west, approximately twenty
miles off, stood a high range.

West and north-westerly winds blew every day in a fierce manner, usually
from sunset till about ten or eleven o'clock the following morning, at
which hour they somewhat abated. They are, no doubt, due to the great
jumps in the temperature at sunset and sunrise. On December 1st, for
instance, from 112° in the sun during the day the thermometer dropped to
20° at night, or 12° of frost. On December 2nd at noon it was up again as
high as 114°.

We traversed a plain twelve miles long and at its south-east course,
where the mountain ranges met, there occurred a curious
spectacle--evidently of volcanic formation. On the top of the black hills
of gravel and sand lying in a confused mass, as if left so by an
upheaval, rose a pinnacle of bright yellow and red stone, with patches
of reddish earth and of a dissimilar texture to the underlying surface of
the hill. There seemed little doubt that both the rocky pinnacle and the
red earth had been thrown there by some force--and under the projecting
rocks and masses of soft earth one could, in fact, find a different
formation altogether, bearing the same characteristics as the remainder
of the hill surface.

This was on the northern slope of that hill. As the track turned here due
east, and rounded, as it were, this curious mount, we found in reality on
the other side a large, crater-like basin with lips of confused masses of
earth both vermilion and of vivid burnt sienna colour, as well as most
peculiar mud-heaps in a spiral formation all round the crater, looking as
if worn into that shape by some boiling liquid substance. To the
south-east, on the very top of a hill of older formation, was perched at
a dangerous angle another great yellow boulder like the one we had seen
on the north side of the crater. For a diameter of several hundred yards
the earth was much disturbed.

One mile further south-east, in traversing a basin a mile broad, it was
impossible not to notice a curious range of hills with some strange
enormous baked boulders--(they had evidently been exposed to terrific
heat)--standing upright or at different angles to the east side of the
hills, stuck partly in the sand and salt with which the ground was here
covered.

Irregular and unsystematic heaps of rock, on which sand had accumulated
up to a certain height, were to be seen to the south, and huge boulders
of rich colour lay scattered here and there; whereas near the mountains
which enclosed the basin both to south and east there were thousands of
little hillocks of rock and sand in the most disconnected order.

As we went on, two perpendicular flat-topped barriers were before us to
the east--like gigantic walls--one somewhat higher than the other, and of
a picturesque dark burnt sienna colour in horizontal strata.

The whole country about here seemed to have been much deranged at
different periods. We passed hillocks in vertical strata of slate-like
brittle stone, in long quadrangular prisms, but evidently these strata
had solidified in a horizontal position and had been turned over by a
sudden commotion of the earth. This conclusion was strengthened by the
fact that the same formation in a horizontal position was noticeable all
along, the strata in one or two places showing strange distortions, with
actual bends, continuing in curves not unlike the letter S. In the dry
river bed there were large rocks cut into the shape of tables on a single
pillar stand, but these were, of course, made by the erosion of water,
and at a subsequent date.

Further on we found a tiny stream of salt water in the picturesque
gorge--as weird and puzzling a bit of scenery as can be found in Persia,
if one carefully examined each hill, each rock, and tried to speculate on
their formation.

From the rocks--a hundred feet or so above the salt stream,--we came to a
spring--if one could call it by that name--of delicious sweet water. The
water dripped at the rate of about a tumbler-full an hour, but a gallon
or two had collected in a pool directly under the rock, with a refreshing
border of green grass round it. We gladly and carefully transferred the
liquid into one of the skins by means of a cup judiciously handled so as
not to take up the deep sediment of mud in the shallow pool.

We came across a very large caravan from Quetta in charge of some Beluch
drivers, and--after one's experience of how things are packed by Persian
caravans--one was greatly struck by the neat wooden packing boxes, duly
marked and numbered. I inquired whose caravan it was, and the Beluch said
it belonged to two English Sahibs who were ten miles behind, and were
expected to catch it up during the night. The names of the two sahibs
were so mispronounced by the Beluch that I could not, to save my life,
understand what they were.

We halted in the gorge at four o'clock, having come only sixteen miles
from my last camp. Altitude, 4,440 feet.



CHAPTER XV

     Sadek's wastefulness--Meeting two enterprising English
     traders--Another circular crater--Wind and electricity in the
     air--Their effects--A fortress--Soldiers and
     brigandage--Zemahlabad--Windmills--Bandan--Ancient
     tombs--Picturesque women--Lost our way--A welcome
     messenger--Nasirabad--"Ruski" or "Inglis"--Several miles of
     villages and houses--English maps and foreign names--Greeted by
     Major Benn.


We intended continuing our journey after dinner. This camp being well
screened on all sides, Sadek gave way to his ambition to have the camp
lighted up by a number of candles, with which he was always most
wasteful. He had two candles alight where he was doing his cooking, I had
two more to do my writing by, Abbas Ali had also two to do nothing by.
Luckily, there was not a breath of wind to disturb the illumination.

Towards nine o'clock we heard noises of camels' and horses' hoofs
stumbling against the rocks down the gorge, and my ears caught the
welcome sound of English voices.

"What can all those lights be?" said one.

"They look like candles," replied the other.

"They _are_ candles!" I intervened. "Will you not get off your horses and
have some dinner with me by the light of them?"

"Who in the world is that?" queried one of the riders of the other,
evidently taken aback at being addressed in English in such a queer place
and at such a time of the night.

"My name is Henry Savage Landor."

"What? not Tibet Landor? Our names are Clemenson and Marsh--but what in
the world are you doing here? Have you not some companions?"

"Yes, I have. Here they are: three Persian kittens!"

As Mr. Clemenson had some big dogs with him, the moment the cats were let
out of the box to be introduced there was a chase, but the kittens
climbed in due haste up the side of the cliff and left the disappointed
dogs below to bark. On this high point of vantage they squatted down and
watched our proceedings below with the greatest interest.

It was a real delight to meet countrymen of one's own after so many weeks
of loneliness. These two enterprising English traders had brought over a
very large caravan from Quetta, and were on their way to Meshed, having
done good business in Sistan. They had with them every possible article
they could think of, from tea to phonographs, lamps, razors, music boxes,
magic lanterns, bedsteads, cottons, silks, cloths, chairs, glass-ware,
clocks, watches, and I do not know what else. I believe that it was the
largest caravan of that kind that had ever come over to Persia from
Beluchistan.

After a pleasant interview of an hour or so, and what humble
refreshments I could offer, they were compelled to continue their journey
to the north. The kittens, having anxiously watched the departure of Mr.
Clemenson's dogs, leapt back from rock to rock and down on to my carpet,
all three sitting as usual in a row in front of my plate while I was
having my dinner, with their greedy eyes on the meat, and occasionally
also one of their paws.

We did not make a start till 2.30 a.m., when there was moonlight, as the
way was very bad among stones and boulders. For a short distance we
travelled between high cliffs and boulders, then between low hills much
further apart. On our left we came to a most peculiar formation of rock
which seemed almost like a castle, and from this point we got into a long
and wide plain, most uninteresting and swarming with a troublesome kind
of small fly.

A rugged mountain to the north, being higher and more vividly coloured
than the rest, attracted the eye, as one tried hard to find something to
admire in the scenery; and to the south-west we saw the back view of the
flat-topped plateau we had skirted the day before. To the S.S.W. lay
another flat-topped high mountain like the section of a cone which we had
noticed on our previous march.

We were now marching due east, and after some sixteen miles' journey from
our last camp we again entered a hilly portion of country. We made a halt
of three hours, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., to have our breakfast. Then we
entered the hills by one of the usual dry channels formed by the water
washing down with great force in rainy weather from the hillsides. After
half a mile we emerged again into another plain, three miles long and
about equally wide, with very broken, low rocky mountains to the east,
and low sand hills to the south. To the south-east, in the direction we
were following, stood a massive-looking mountain, which, however,
possessed no very beautiful lines.

More interesting and quaint was the circular crater in a conical mountain
to the north-east of the long dreary plain we were now traversing. The
mouth of this large crater was much lower on the south-west side than on
the north-east, thus exposing to the full view of the traveller the
entire opening in the centre of the mountain, reddish-brown in colour.

Having gone some twelve miles more, we stopped, at four in the afternoon,
in a bitterly penetrating cold wind, which seemed to have a most
uncomfortable effect upon one's nervous system. Whether it was that the
intense dryness caused an excess of electricity, or what, I do not know,
but one ached all over in a frightful manner, and experienced the same
tendon-contracting feeling as when exposed to an electric current.

One farsakh before reaching camp we had passed the camping ground of
Angiloh, where a tiny drip of fresh water exists. We happily found here a
quantity of wood, abandoned by the Clemenson caravan, which we put on
our camels and carried further down into the plain, where, having found
a depression in the ground affording some shelter from the fearful wind,
we halted to wait until the moon rose.

My fever seized me violently on that night, and I experienced intense
pain in my spine, my legs and arms, more especially in places where I had
received wounds on previous journeys.

We left again in the middle of the night at 3 a.m., and a great effort it
was, too, to get out of one's warm blankets and scramble on the camel,
aching as I was all over, and with the indescribable exhaustion that
fever of the desert brings on. Luckily, with the rising of the moon, the
wind had somewhat abated, but the electricity in the air was as
unpleasant as it was extraordinary. One was absolutely saturated with it,
and discharged sparks from one's finger-tips when one touched anything
that was a good conductor.

In the morning at the foot of the mountains we passed a large fortress
where, they told me, twenty soldiers had been stationed the previous year
in order to suppress brigandage that had been rampant here. Both Afghan
and Sistan robbers seemed to be most partial to this spot, probably
because it is that at which all the caravans from Birjand and Meshed
converge on their way to Sistan.

We actually perceived some trees in the distance, and at last we arrived
at Zemahlabad, a quadrangular fort, with two such peculiar structures at
the sides that I really could not at first guess what they were. Sadek,
called upon to explain, was no wiser, and we had to find a solution to
our speculation from one of the local authorities. They were windmills,
and most ingenious and simple they were, too, when once one had grasped
the mechanism of them. Only in their case the large opening to the east
and west, to let in and out the wind, had been screened with elaborate
wood-work, and it was not easy to understand the principle of the device
until one visited the interior. We shall come later in our journey to
some quite superior ones, which I will endeavour to describe.

There were many palm trees at this place and some few patches of
vegetation. A great many mat-sheds had been erected, and hundreds of cows
were to be seen; the land, being marshy, provided fair pasturages.
(Altitude 2,700 ft.)

To the extreme east of the long valley we had traversed the Bandan
mountains, converged into an acute angle with those on the opposite side
of the valley, and on the north-east side we had again the same formation
of rock in horizontal strata with some contortions at its western end. A
salt stream flowed here through a narrow gorge, between the picturesque,
wall-like barrier to the north and the handsome hills to the south-west.
A great number of palm trees gave quite a tropical appearance to this
gorge, although the whitish sand mixed with salt impressed one like dirty
snow, and the sky was also whitish and promising real snow. It was none
too hot--thermometer 34°.

Just before reaching Bandan--also called Darban by some natives (2,870
ft.)--we noticed on the precipitous slopes of the mountain to the
south-west several buildings in ruins, said to be ancient tombs. They
were domed. At the foot of the mountain were the remains of a village.

Bandan consisted of a quadrangular walled village with five high towers
and two more partly collapsed. The lower part of the village wall--a
regular fortress--was of stone and mud, the upper portion of sun-dried
mud bricks. It appeared to have been built at different epochs, the
south-west half especially seeming more modern than the north-east
portion. Holes about three feet above the ground in the wall served the
purpose of windows to the houses adjoining the wall inside the castle,
and a stone of suitable size shoved into the aperture was the shutter.

The village wall had two entrances on the south-east side, where outside
the wall could be seen fifteen small domed ovens, of the usual Persian
type, for baking bread, the paste of which is plastered on the inside of
the dome when sufficiently heated.

The highest tower was on the south-west side, and all of these structures
had a foundation of stone, but the remainder was of mud.

We saw here a string of picturesque women. They were carrying loads of
wood and heavy bags of wheat on their heads. On perceiving me
unexpectedly they tried to run away, and did so, but not before I had got
the good snapshot of them here reproduced. It can be seen by this
photograph what long steps these women took, and how those that carried
heavier loads swung their arms about to diminish the effort and balance
themselves. They walked with a good deal of spring in their knees.

These women had much stronger features than the Persian generally have,
and resembled--in fact, were practically--Afghan women. One or two only
had the Hindoo type, with large, soft, drooping eyes, large hook noses,
and over-developed lips, with small receding chins. The younger ones were
strikingly handsome.

On our last march we had come from north to south, but now, after a short
halt, we went on towards the south-east on what we thought would be our
last two marches before reaching Sher-i-Nasrya, the capital city of
Sistan, only some sixty miles off. Soon after leaving Bandan we found
ourselves in an open plain with gradually vanishing mountains to the
south-west. To the north-east the wall-like barrier, about one mile from
Bandan, suddenly ceased in a gentle slope. East and E.S.E., now that the
plain became of immense breadth, one could see two isolated low hill
ranges, barring which, in the arc of a circle between north-east and
south, we had nothing before us except a flat, dreary stretch of sand and
stones meeting the sky on the horizon line.

On getting nearer the Hamun-i-Halmund (swamp), formed by the Halmund
river and others losing themselves into the sand and flooding part of
that region, the whole country was covered with high reeds and small
water channels, which constantly made us deviate from our course. In the
middle of the night we got so mixed up that we were unable to go on. It
is most dangerous to make camels get into water channels, especially if
muddy, without being certain of their depth. The brutes, if sinking, are
seized with panic and collapse, or, in trying to get out quickly, often
slip sideways and get split in two, which necessitates their being
killed.

In the morning we passed two Cossacks from the Sistan Consulate escort,
who, having been relieved, were now on their way back to Russia. They
gave us a hearty greeting, and shortly after a messenger from the British
Consul in Sistan handed me a letter, a most kind invitation from Major
Benn to go and stay with him at the Consulate.

Towards noon we reached Nasirabad (altitude 2,050 ft.), a very old
village founded by one Malik Nasir Khan Kayani--the _Kayani_, as is well
known, being the former rulers of Sistan, and every big _Kayani_ being
called "Malik." We stopped for a couple of hours for lunch, the principal
house in the village being vacated by the courteous inmates for my use.
The arrival of a _ferenghi_ excited considerable attention, and numerous
and anxious inquiries were made whether I was a "Ruski" or "Inglis." On
learning that I was "Inglis," they expressed their unsolicited conviction
that all Inglis were good people and Ruski all bad, and no doubt if I
had been a Ruski the reverse conviction would have been expressed with
similar eagerness.

The natives were polite, but extremely noisy, shouting and yelling at the
top of their voices when they spoke. The men wore large white turbans
over their white skull caps, long blue shirts, opened and buttoned on the
left side, reaching to below their knees, and the enormous Afghan
trousers.

From Nasirabad we came across a long uninterrupted row of ruined villages
and towns, stretching in a line for some eight miles from north to south.
The most northern one had the appearance of a fortress with a very high
wall, still in fair preservation, and several more of these fortresses
were to be seen along the line of houses, the majority of dwellings being
outside these forts. The domed houses--some of which were in perfect
preservation--showed the identical architecture and characteristics of
Persian houses of to-day.

We were benighted again. Curiously enough, even within a mile or so from
Sher-i-Nasrya, on asking some natives where the city of _Nasirabad_ or
_Nasratabad_, as it is marked in capital letters on English maps (even
those of the Indian Trigonometrical Survey), nobody could tell me, and
everybody protested that no such city existed. (The real name of it,
Sher-i-Nasrya, of course, I only learnt later.)

This was puzzling, but not astonishing, for there is a deal of fancy
nomenclature on English maps.

Eventually, when I had almost despaired of reaching the place that night,
although I could not have been more than a stone-throw from it, I
appealed to another passer-by, riding briskly on a donkey.

"How far are we from Nasratabad?"

"Never heard the name."

"Is there a town here called Nasirabad?"

"No, there is no such town--but you must have come through a small
village by that name, two farsakhs off."

"Yes, I have. Do you happen to know where the English Consulate is?"

"Oh, yes, everybody knows the English Consulate. I will take you there.
It is only a short distance from here, near the city of Sher-i-Nasrya!"

Thanks to this fellow, a few minutes later I found myself greeted most
effusively by Major and Mrs. Benn in their charming mud Consulate. This
was on the evening of December 6th.



CHAPTER XVI

     English fancy geographical names--Sher-i-Nasrya--The main
     street--The centre of the city--Reverence of the natives for
     Major Benn--A splendid type of British official--Indian and
     Russian goods--The Shikin Maghut cloth--Steadily increasing trade
     of the Nushki route--Khorassan horses for
     remounts--Husseinabad--Russian Vice-Consulate--Mr.
     Miller--Characteristic windmills--"The wind of 120 days"--Benn
     Bazaar.


Disappointing as it may seem that the natives themselves should be
barefaced enough not to call their city by the fancy name given it by
certain British geographers, we might as well explain why the natives
call the capital of Sistan by its real name, Sher-i-Nasrya. The three
words mean the "City of Nasr," Nasr being an abbreviation of Nasr-ed-din
Shah, in honour of whom the city was named. In Sistan itself the city
goes by the shortened name of mere "Sher" or "city," but letters sent by
Persians from other parts of the Shah's dominions are generally addressed
Sher-i-Nasrya, or simply Sher-i-Sistan.

[Illustration: Women at Bandan.]

[Illustration: Dr. Golam Jelami and his Patients.]

When the place was first conquered by the father of the present Amir,
Mir-Alam-Khan, it was spoken of as Nusratabad, or the "City or Victory,"
just the same as we speak of the "City of the Commune," or the "Eternal
City," or the "City of Fogs." The name "Nusratabad" only applied to
the victory and not to the city. We should certainly not wish to see the
names of the three above illustrations given on maps for Paris, Rome, or
London.

As for calling the city Nasirabad, as the Trigonometrical Survey maps do,
there is no excuse whatever for this, which is a mere blunder--not the
only one, unfortunately--and attributes to the city the name of a small
village some eight miles off.

The present Sher-i-Nasrya is not more than twenty years old. It has a
double wall all round, a higher one with semicircular castellated towers,
and a lower on a mud bank with outwardly projecting semicircular
protected platforms, the walls of which, eight feet high, are loopholed
in a primitive fashion. On the inner side of the lower wall there is a
platform all along the wall for soldiers to stand upon. The city wall,
forty feet high, is separated from this outer defence by a road all round
the city, and outside of all there is a moat, but with very little water
in it.

The wall on the south side (really S.S.W.) has ten towers, the two
central ones being close together and larger than the others, between
which is the principal city gate, reached by an earthen bridge and a
tortuous way, as the entrance of the outer wall is not in a line with the
inner. The east and west side have only eight towers, including the
corner ones, the double towers being the fourth and fifth. Every tower
is semicircular, with loopholes pointing towards the sky--very useful in
case of defence--and a large opening for pieces of artillery. The corner
towers have two of these apertures, one under the other.

A kind of bastion or battlement has been formed by piling up the earth
removed from the moat round the lower wall. The moat is forty feet broad
and thirty feet deep.

A large road was made not long ago round three sides of the city by
Colonel Trench, then our Consul there, so that the Amir could drive to
his garden, a quarter of a mile outside the north city gate, the
residence of the Amir's son, the Sar-tip. On the west side of
Sher-i-Nasrya there is merely a sheep track.

[Illustration: The Main Street, Sher-i-Nasrya. (Showing centre of City.)]

In the north-west corner of the city is a higher wall enclosing a large
space and forming the citadel and Anderun, in which the Amir and part of
his family reside. There are three large towers to each side of the
quadrangle, the centre tower to the south being of much larger
proportions than the others. A lower outer wall surrounds the higher one,
and in the large tower is the entrance gate to the Governor's citadel.

The inside of the city of Sher-i-Nasrya is neither beautiful nor
interesting from a pictorial point of view. There is a main street with
some mud buildings standing up, others tumbled down. The full-page
illustration shows the most attractive and interesting point of the city,
the centre of the quadrangle where the two streets, one from south to
north, the other from east to west, intersect at right angles. A dome of
mud bricks has been erected over the street, and under its shade a number
of the Amir's soldiers were generally to be seen with their rifles
resting idle against the wall.

The type of Sistan residence can be seen in the two hovels to the right
of the observer in this photograph. The two hoods on the highest point of
the dome are two typical ventilators. To the left the large doorways are
mere shops, with a kind of narrow verandah on which the purchasers squat
when buying goods. The main street is very narrow and has a small
platform almost all along its sides, on which the natives sit smoking
their kalians or conversing.

I was really very much impressed, each time that I visited the city in
the Consul's company, by the intense respect shown by these people to our
representative. There was not a single man who did not rise and salaam
when we rode through the bazaar, while many also came forward to seize
the Consul's hand and pay him the customary compliments. Major Benn
modestly put down this civility of the natives to the popularity of his
predecessor, Major Trench, and the good manners which he had taught these
men; but Major Benn himself, with his most affable manner, his
unsophisticated ways, absolutely devoid of nonsensical red-tape or false
pride, is to my mind also to be held responsible for the reverence which
he inspires among the masses.

To me personally, I must confess, it was a very great pleasure indeed to
see an English gentleman held in such respect, and that solely on account
of his tact and _savoir faire_. It is not a common sight.

Of course, a certain amount of show has also to be made to impress the
natives, but "show" alone, as some believe, will be of little good unless
there is something more attractive behind it. Major Benn seemed to be
everybody's welcomed friend; everybody, whether rich or poor, whether in
smart clothes or rags, gleamed with delight as they saw him come; and
Major Benn stopped his horse, now to say a kind word to a merchant, then
to shake hands with a native friend, further on to talk to a little child
who had run to the door of his parents' mud hut to say "salameleko" to
the Consul.

It is men with sound common sense, civil manners, and human sympathy, of
Benn's type, that we want to represent England everywhere, and these men,
as I have ever maintained, can do Great Britain more good in foreign
countries in a day than all the official red-tape in a year. It is a
mistake to believe that Persians or other Asiatics are only impressed by
gold braiding and by a large retinue of servants. The natives have a
wonderful intuitive way of correctly gauging people, as we civilised folk
do not seem able to do, and it is the man himself, and his doings, that
they judge and criticise, and not so much the amount of gold braiding on
a man's coat or trousers, or the cut of a resplendent uniform.

In the northern portion of the main street are the few shops with English
and Russian goods. Most of the articles I saw in the couple of Indian
shops were of Indian or English importation--many of the articles
appeared to me of German manufacture, like the usual cheap goods one sees
in the Indian bazaars.

On the opposite side of the road was the rival merchant who dealt in
Russian goods, and he seemed to be doing quite a brisk business. He
appeared to deal mostly in clothes. There is a kind of moleskin Russian
cloth called the _shikin maghut_, of various shades, colours and
qualities, which commands a ready sale both in Khorassan and Sistan,
although its price is high and its quality and dye not particularly good.
With a little enterprise Indian manufacturers could certainly make a
similar and better cloth and easily undersell the Russian material.

It is most satisfactory to find from Captain Webb-Ware's statement that
Indian trade by the Nushki-Sistan route, which was absolutely nil in the
year 1895-96, and only amounted to some 64,000 rupees in 1896-97, made a
sudden jump to 589,929 rupees in the following twelve months, 1897-98. It
has since been steadily on the increase, as can be seen by the following
figures:--

1898-99            Rupees      728,082
1899-1900            "       1,235,411
1900-01              "       1,534,452

These figures are the total amount of imports and exports by the Nushki
route, beginning from 1st of April each year. In 1900-01 the imports were
Rs. 748,021; the exports Rs. 786,431.

When the route comes to be better known the returns will inevitably be
greatly increased, but of course only a railway--or a well-conducted
service of motor vans--can make this route a really practical one for
trade on a large scale. The cost of transport at present is too great.

A point which should be noted in connection with the railway is that
every year a great number of horses are brought from Meshed to India
_via_ Quetta for remount purposes. In 1900-01 the number of horses
brought by dealers to Quetta amounted to 408, and as the Khorassan horses
are most excellent, they were promptly sold at very remunerative prices.
The average price for a capital horse in Persia is from 80 to 100 rupees
(15 rupees to £1). I understand that these horses when in Quetta are sold
by dealers to Government at an average of 300 rupees each, leaving a very
large profit indeed. As horses are very plentiful in Khorassan, if a
railway existed the Government could remount its cavalry at one-third of
the present cost.

Adjoining Sher-i-Nasrya to the south is the partly ruined village of
Husseinabad. It has a wall, now collapsed, and a moat which forms an
obtuse angle with the east wall of Sher-i-Nasrya. There are in this
village some miserable little mud houses still standing up and inhabited,
and the high-walled, gloomy mud building of the Russian Vice-Consulate
which has lately been erected, opposite to an extensive graveyard.

The site and the outward appearance of the Russian Vice-Consulate, which
one can only reach by jumping over various drain channels or treading
over graves, was decidedly not one's ideal spot for a residence, but once
inside the dwelling, both house and host were really charming. Mr.
Miller, the Consul, was a very intelligent and able man indeed, a most
wonderful linguist, and undoubtedly a very efficient officer for his
country. There is also in Husseinabad a round tower where the Beluch
Sirdar fought the Amir some nine years ago, and one or two windmills
characteristic of Sistan and Beluchistan.

These windmills are not worked by sails in a vertical position like ours,
but are indeed the simplest and most ingenious contrivance of its kind I
have ever seen. The motive wheel, which revolves in a horizontal
position, is encased in high walls on three sides, leaving a slit on the
north side, from whence the prevalent winds of Sistan blow. The wind
entering with great force by this vertical slit--the walls being so cut
as to catch as much wind as possible--sets the wheel in motion--a wheel
which, although made coarsely of reeds tied in six bundles fastened
together by means of cross-arms of wood, revolves easily on a long iron
pivot, and once set in motion attains a high speed.

The flour mill has two stories, the motive wheel occupying the entire
second floor, while attached to its pivot on the ground floor is the
actual grinding stone. The wheat to be ground flows into a central
aperture in this stone from a suspended vessel, a simple system of
strings and ropes acting as an efficient brake on the axle of the upper
wheel to control its speed, and others allowing the grain to fall
uniformly and, when necessary, preventing its flow.

[Illustration: The British Bazar (Husseinabad) Sistan.]

There sweeps over Sistan in the hot weather what is called the
_Bad-i-sud-o-bist-roz_, or wind of the 120 days, which blows from the
north-north-west, and, although this may seem unpleasant to the
inhabitants, it has a most undoubtedly salubrious effect upon the climate
of the province, which, owing to the great quantity of channels and
stagnant water, would otherwise be most unhealthy. As it is the climate
is now extremely healthy. The water of the Halmund is delicious to drink.

The suburb of Husseinabad stretches for about one mile towards the south,
and contains among other places of importance the buildings of the
Customs, with a caravanserai--very modest and unsafe--a picture of which
is here given. What is called "Benn Bazaar," or the British Bazaar, is
also found at the south-east portion of Husseinabad and facing the
Consulate Hospital.



CHAPTER XVII

     The British Bazaar--The pioneer traders of Sistan--Sistan a
     half-way house and not the terminus of the route--Comfortable
     route--Protection and redress--Indian tea in Persia--Persian
     market overstocked--Enterprise of Indian tea traders--Which are
     the markets worth cultivating--Articles mostly wanted in Sistan
     and Meshed--Exports--A problem to be faced--Ways of communication
     needed to cities of central Persia.


The entire British bazaar--a modest one so far--can be taken in at a
glance. The snapshot reproduced in the illustration gives a very good
idea of it. Besides this, one or two Indian British merchants are
established in the main street of Sher-i-Nasrya, where, as we have seen,
they have opened nice shops.

The pioneer merchants of Sistan were the firm of Mahommed Ali Brothers,
of Quetta, established in 1900, and represented by a very intelligent man
called Seth Suliman.

The firm has branches in Birjand and Meshed. They have done good business
both in Sistan, Birjand and Meshed, and have been followed in Sistan by
Tek-Chand, of the wealthy firm of Chaman Singh from Shikarpur--at one
time the trade-centre of Asia. This firm holds to-day the opium contract
of the whole of the Sind district, and is a most enterprising concern.

Mahommed Azim Khan Brothers, of Lahore, have also opened a shop in
Sistan, and so has Mahommed Hayab, agent for Shek Fars Mahommed, the
biggest British firm in Meshed. It is probable that in the near future a
number of other Indian firms may be induced to open branches in Sistan
and Khorassan; but, if they are to avoid disappointment, they should
remember that the Sistan market is merely a retail one, and there is very
little wholesale trade to be transacted so far. In time to come no doubt
a wholesale trade will eventually be developed.

A point which is seldom grasped, or at any rate is frequently overlooked,
is that Sistan (Sher-i-Nasrya) is a mere half-way house between Quetta
and Meshed, and not, as is supposed by many people, the terminus of the
route. Considerable loss and disappointment have been sustained by some
rash British traders, who, notwithstanding the exceptional opportunities
given them to obtain accurate official information, set out with large
caravans, apparently without the most rudimentary geographical knowledge,
as well as without sound commercial foresight.

Another mistake is frequent. Somehow or other the idea seems to prevail
among some Indian traders that Persia, or Eastern Persia, forms part of
the Indian Empire, and they forget that the protection and unusual
facilities which they enjoy from Quetta to Robat (the Beluch frontier)
and, to a certain extent, as far as Sistan, cannot possibly be given on
Persian territory beyond Sistan as far as Meshed.

Although practically across a desert, the journey from Quetta-Nushki to
Sistan is--for travelling of that kind--extremely comfortable and easy;
the real difficulty begins for traders when they are perforce left to
look after themselves on Persian soil, where there are no more clean
rest-houses and where a Britisher--if travelling as a trader--is no more
thought of than if he were an Asiatic trader. He is no longer the
salaamed "Sahib" of the Indian cities, but becomes a mere _ferenghi_, a
stranger, and is at the mercy of everybody.

Moreover, it should be well understood that the protection and redress
obtainable under English law, cease on crossing the Persian frontier.
Very little, if any, redress is to be obtained from Persian officials
except at great cost and infinite worry, waste of time and patience.

Indian tea traders have probably been the greatest sufferers in
consequence of their rash ventures, and they will probably suffer even
more in the future if they do not exercise greater caution in
ascertaining beforehand the suitable markets for their teas and the
actual cost of transport to the markets selected. Several traders have
brought very large caravans of Indian tea to Sistan on various occasions,
believing that they had arrived at the end of their journey, and, after
having paid the heavy duty imposed upon goods introduced into the
country, have found before them the option of going the 600 miles back to
Quetta or continuing at great expense, _via_ Bam to Kerman, a long
journey with doubtful results at the end; or of going to Birjand, Meshed,
Teheran, where they have eventually been compelled to sell at a loss or
to pay the additional Russian duty and send the tea on to Moscow.

The Persian market is at present very much blocked up with Indian teas,
and great caution should be exercised by intending exporters from India.
In time to come, when good roads have been made in every direction, or
railways constructed, and cost of transport greatly minimised, Persia
will be, I think, a considerable buyer of Indian teas; but as matters are
to-day the expense of conveying the tea to the various Persian markets,
especially by the land route, is too great to make any profit possible at
the very low prices paid by the Persians for tea.

Tea exported overland to the Meshed market (not to Sistan) realised,
before the market became overstocked, better prices than the sea-borne
tea _via_ Bandar Abbas. It is certain that the delicate aroma of tea is
not improved by being exposed to the warm sea air, no matter how
carefully it has been packed. And as Major Webb-Ware, the political agent
at Chagai, points out, tea despatched by the land route direct from the
gardens or from Calcutta is not liable to the numerous incidental
charges, commissions and transhipments which are a matter of course upon
teas sent _via_ Bandar Abbas or other Persian Gulf ports.

The demand for unspoiled teas brought overland is considerable in Russia
and all over Europe, even more than in Persia, and when a sensible
understanding has been arrived at with Russia to let Indian teas proceed
in transit through that country, there is no reason why the better Indian
teas should not favourably compete all over Europe with the China caravan
teas.

The Persian market, to my mind, speaking generally, will only be able to
purchase the inferior teas, the Persians as individuals being
comparatively poor. Superior teas in small quantities, however, may find
a sale at good prices among the official classes and the few richer
folks, but not in sufficient quantities to guarantee a large import. The
same remarks, I think, would apply to teas finding their way into Western
Afghanistan from various points on the Sistan-Meshed route.

The Indian tea-traders have shown very commendable enterprise in
attempting to push their teas by the overland route, and trying to
exploit the new markets which the Nushki-Meshed route has thrown open to
them, but their beginning has been made too suddenly and on too large a
scale, which I fear will cause a temporary loss to some of them. A
gradual, steady development of the tea trade is wanted in Persia, not a
rush and violent competition flooding the market with tea that has to be
sold at a loss. When the natives all over Persia have by degrees got
accustomed to Indian tea, and when it is brought in at a cheap price,
Indian teas are likely to be popular in Persia.

[Illustration: The Wall of Sher-i-Nasrya at Sunset.]

I may be wrong, but, to my mind, the greater profits on Indian teas
brought by this route will in the future be made not in Persia itself,
but in Transcaspia, Turkestan, Russia and Central Europe, where people
can pay well for a good article. Great credit should be given to the
Indian and Dehra Dun Tea Associations for despatching representatives to
study the requirements of the Persian market on the spot; but, as Captain
Webb-Ware suggests in the _Gazette of India_, the tea associations would
do well to turn their attention to the sale of Indian teas in Russia, and
to send some experimental consignments of their teas to Moscow by the
overland route. The same remarks might also apply to a great many other
English or Indian manufactured goods.

We complain a great deal that the Russian protective tariff is high, but
it is mild when compared with the murderous protectionism of the United
States or of our beloved friend Germany. And, after all, does this
protection keep out our goods from those countries? By no means. Russia's
industries are indeed fast developing, but they are far from sufficient
to supply her own wants. English, German, and American goods find their
way even to the most remote spots of Siberia. It is, then, a problem
worth considering whether "free trade Persia," with her English and
Indian imports amounting to one million four hundred thousand pounds
sterling (£1,400,000), is a customer so well worth cultivating as
protectionist Russia, which buys from us nearly twenty-two millions'
(£21,974,952) worth yearly.

In regard to the Quetta-Meshed route, it would strike a casual observer
that from our geographical situation we might, without much difficulty,
kill two birds with one stone by a happy combination--Persia being dealt
with _en passant_, as it were, while aiming for quicker, sounder, and
more extensive markets further north.

Persia is a good market for Indian indigo, which has, so far, commanded a
ready sale.

In Sistan itself--which, it cannot be too emphatically repeated, is
to-day only a comparatively poor and sparsely-populated district--the
articles which have, so far, found a quick retail sale, have been Indian
assorted spices, second-hand apparel, sugar, tea, boots, cheap cotton
cloths, matches, kerosene oil, thread, needles, cheap cutlery, scissors,
small looking glasses.

The Amir and the Sardars have at different times made purchases of boots,
shoes, saddlery, silk, woollen and cotton cloths, rugs, shawls, crockery,
and enamel ware, watches, chains, and knives, and have also bought a
considerable number of English-made fancy goods, furniture, stationery,
cigarettes, cigars and tobacco, &c. The humbler Sistanis purchase very
freely from the Indian British shops, but cannot afford to pay very high
prices; but the high officials pay cash and give a good price for all
they buy.

Speaking generally, the articles which are mostly wanted at present are
those mentioned in the official report. For these commodities there is a
steady demand in the markets of Sistan and Khorassan, but the supply, it
should be remembered, should be in proportion to the size of the
population. Sistan, Birjand, Meshed, are not London nor Paris nor Berlin.

The articles wanted are:--

    Woollen stuffs, flannels, muslins, mulls, sheetings, chintzes,
        cottons, &c.
    Velvets, satins, silks, brocades.
    Indigo of medium and good quality. (Oudh indigo is principally in
        demand in Bushire.)
    Iron, brass and copper sheets.
    Sulphur matches.
    Spices, including cinnamon, cardamums, cloves, pepper, turmeric, &c.
    Rice (for Sistan).
    Tea, black for Persia, and green for Afghanistan and Transcaspia.
    Coffee (in berry).
    Refined sugar, loaf.
    Ginger preserve (in jars).
    Sal-ammoniac.
    Baizes (specially of high class), Khinkhabs and gold cloth.
    Cotton turbans (lungis) of all qualities, including those with
        pure gold fringes.
    Leather goods.
    Boots (Cawnpore and English).
    Saddlery (Cawnpore, as the English is too expensive).
    Glass-ware.
    Enamel-ware.
    Cutlery.
    Ironmongery of every description. Cheap padlocks find a ready sale.
    Watches (cheap).
    Jewellery.
    Kalai (for tinning copper vessels).

Fire-arms would command a very ready sale, but their importation is
strictly forbidden.

The articles of export from Khorassan and Sistan are wool, ghi, saffron,
dried fruit of various kinds, hides, jujubes, assafoetida,
pistachio-nuts, barak, kurak, gum, valuable carpets, and some turquoises.

In Sistan itself wheat and oats are plentiful, but their export to
foreign countries is not permitted. Opium finds its way out of the
country _via_ Bandar Abbas, and wool, ghi, feathers, carpets, and
assafoetida are conveyed principally to Kerman, Birjand, Meshed, Yezd,
the Gulf, and Quetta.

One of the principal problems of the new land route to India is not only
how to induce British traders to go to Persia, but how to solve the more
difficult point of persuading the big Persian traders to cross the bridge
and venture into India. They seem at present too indolent and suspicious
to undertake such a long journey, and would rather pay for luxuries to be
brought to their doors than go and get them themselves.

With the assistance, both moral and financial, of the enterprising Major
Sykes, a large caravan was sent from Kerman to Quetta with Persian
goods, and paid satisfactorily, but others that followed seem to have had
a good many disasters on the road (on Persian territory) and fared less
well. Major Sykes's effort was most praiseworthy, for indeed, as regards
purely Persian trade, I think Kerman or Yezd must in future be the aiming
points of British caravans rather than Meshed. These places have
comparatively large populations and the field of operations is
practically unoccupied, whereas in Meshed Russian competition is very
strong.

With the present ways of communication across the Salt Desert, it is most
difficult and costly to attempt remunerative commercial communication
with these towns. Small caravans could not possibly pay expenses, and
large caravans might fare badly owing to lack of water, while the
circuitous road _via_ Bam is too expensive.

When more direct tracks, with wells at each stage, after the style of the
Nushki-Sistan route, have been constructed between Robat and Kerman, and
also between Sher-i-Nasrya and Kerman, and Sher-i-Nasrya and Yezd,
matters will be immensely facilitated.



CHAPTER XVIII

     Sistan's state of transition--British Consul's tact--Advancing
     Russian influence--Safety--A fight between Sistanis and
     Afghans--The Sar-tip--Major Benn's pluck and personal
     influence--Five Afghans seriously wounded--The city gates
     closed--The Customs caravanserai--A British caravanserai
     needed--Misstatements--Customs officials--Fair and just treatment
     to all--Versatile Major Benn--A much needed assistant--More
     Consulates wanted--Excellent British officials--Telegraph line
     necessary--A much-talked-of railway--The salutary effect of a
     garrison at Robat frontier post.


Sistan is in a state of rapid transition, and it is doubtful whether the
position of the three or four Europeans on duty there is one of perfect
safety. The natives are so far undoubtedly and absolutely favourable to
British influence in preference to Russian, a state of affairs mainly due
to the personal tact of Majors Trench and Benn rather than to
instructions from home, but great caution should be exercised in the
future if this prestige, now at its highest point, is to be maintained.

The Russians are advancing very fast, and their influence is already
beginning to be felt in no slight degree. The Sistanis may or may not be
relied upon. They are not perfectly Europeanised like peoples of certain
parts of Western Persia, nor are they quite so amenable to reason as
could be wished. They can easily be led, or misled, and bribed, and are
by no means easy folks to deal with. For a few tomans one can have people
assassinated, the Afghan frontier so close at hand being a guarantee of
impunity for murderers, and fights between the townspeople and the
Afghans or Beluch, in which many people are injured and killed, are not
uncommon.

[Illustration: The Sar-tip.]

One of these fights, between Sistanis and Afghans (under British
protection), took place when I was in Sistan, and I think it is only
right that it should be related, as it proves very forcibly that, as I
have continually urged in this book, calm and tact, gentleness and
fairness, have a greater and more lasting control over Persians than
outward pomp and red-tape.

The Consul and I, after calling on the Amir, proceeded to visit the
Sar-tip, the Amir's first son by his legal wife. The Sar-tip is the head
of a force of cavalry, and inhabits a country house, the Chahar Bagh, in
a garden to the north outside the city. He is a bright and intelligent
youth, who had travelled with Dr. Golam Jelami to India--from which
country he had recently returned, and where he had gone to consult
specialists about his sadly-failing eyesight.

The Sar-tip, of whom a portrait is here given, received us most kindly
and detained us till dark. Being Ramzam-time we then bade him good-bye,
and were riding home when, as we neared the Consulate gate, a man who
seemed much excited rushed to the Consul and handed him a note from
the Belgian Customs officer. As I was still convalescent--this was my
first outing--and not allowed out after dusk, Major Benn asked me to go
back to the Consulate as he was called to the Customs caravanserai on
business. I suspected nothing until a messenger came to the Consulate
with news. A crowd of some 300 Sistanis had attacked some fifteen Afghan
camel men, who had come over with a caravan of tea from Quetta. These
camel drivers had been paid several thousand rupees for their services on
being dismissed, and some money quarrel had arisen.

On the arrival of the Consul the fight was in full swing, and he found a
crowd of howling Sistanis throwing stones and bricks at the Afghans. At
Major Benn's appearance, notwithstanding that their blood was up and
their temper, one would think, beyond control, the Sistanis immediately
opened a way for him, some even temporarily stopping fighting to make a
courteous salaam. This will show in what respect our Consul is held.

The Afghans, having by this time realised that they had been insulted,
and having, furthermore, discovered the loss of some money--which they
only detected when they went for their rifles and swords, which they kept
together in a safe place with their treasure--formed up in line and, with
drawn swords, made a rush on the Sistanis.

Major Benn with considerable pluck dashed between the fighting men,
seizing with his left hand the rifle of the leader--who had knelt down
and was on the point of firing--and with his right hand got hold of the
blade--fortunately blunt--of another Afghan's sword, who was slashing
away at the Sistanis near him. The force of the blow caused quite a wound
in the gallant Major's hand, but suddenly, as by magic owing to the
respect he commanded on both sides, his action put a stop to the fight.

Seizing this opportunity he talked to them calmly in his usual quiet,
jocular manner, and told the Afghans how, by behaving in this fashion,
while under his protection, they were doing him harm in the eyes of the
Persians in whose country they were guests, and that if they had any
claim they must apply to him and not take the law into their own hands.
With his keen sense of humour he even succeeded with some joke or other
in raising a laugh from both belligerent parties, and requested them to
sit down and give up their arms into his custody, which they willingly
did.

The Afghans seated themselves at the further end of the caravanserai,
while the Sistanis, whom he next addressed in the kindest way, were
persuaded to desist from using further violence. He managed to turn the
whole thing into a joke, and eventually the Sistanis dispersed laughing
and retired within the wall of their city; but, indeed, there were five
Afghans left on the ground severely wounded,--one with a fractured skull
being carried to the Consulate Hospital in a dying condition.

The Afghans possessed some excellent Russian rifles, a great many of
which find their way into Afghanistan from the north.

The Consul, when the row was over, proceeded to the Amir, who had the
gates of the city instantly closed and promised the Consul that they
should not be opened again until the Consul could go the next day to
identify the ringleaders of the attacking Sistanis. The Amir received the
Consul with more than usually marked respect, and showed himself greatly
disturbed at the occurrence. He took personal charge of the keys of the
city and undertook to mete out severe punishment upon the offenders.

The city gates, which are daily opened at sunrise, remained closed the
greater portion of the day at the Consul's request, but for a
consideration the doorkeepers let out occasional citizens,--in all
probability those very ones that should have been kept in.

Unfortunately, being Ramzam-time, when Mussulmans sit up feasting the
greater part of the night, as they are compelled to fast when the sun is
above the horizon, his Excellency the Amir was unable to attend to even
this important matter, which was left to slide from day to day. The
Consul, however, although extremely patient, was the last man to let
things go to the wall, and no doubt in the end the leaders were duly
punished and compensation paid.

The illustration shows the Customs caravanserai, in front of which the
fight took place. Two of the domed rooms shown in the picture are
occupied by Mr. Miletor, the Belgian Customs officer, in Persian employ.
The others are occupied by camel-men or native travellers, there being no
other caravanserai of the kind in Sher-i-Nasrya.

[Illustration: The Customs Caravanserai, Sher-i-Nasrya, Sistan. (Belgian
Customs Officer in foreground.)]

It would be a very great addition to the British Consulate, now that so
many Beluch and Afghans, all under British protection, travel through
Sistan, if a British caravanserai could be built in which they, their
goods and their camels, might enjoy comparative safety. The expense of
putting it up would be very small, and it would avoid the constant
friction which is bound to exist at present in a country where honesty is
not the chief forte of the lower people, and where quarrels are ever
rampant. Even during the short stay of Messrs. Clemenson and Marsh's
caravan, several articles were stolen under their very eyes in the
Consulate shelter, and at the time of my visit caravans, British or
otherwise, were absolutely at the mercy of the natives. The goods were
left out in the open in front of the caravanserai, and the Customs people
had not sufficient men to protect them from interference at the hands of
the lower people.

I have seen it stated by correspondents in leading London papers that
"Russian" Customs officials were stationed in Sistan, and interfered
greatly with British caravans. That is mere fiction from beginning to
end. As I have already stated, there is not a single Russian in the
Customs anywhere in Persia. In Sistan the only official--a Belgian--far
from interfering with the caravans, is of great help to them and does
all in his power within the limits of his duty to be of assistance to
them. The Consul himself was full of praise of the extreme fairness and
justice to all alike of the Belgian official. There never was the
slightest trouble or hitch so long as traders were prepared to comply
with Persian laws, and so long as people paid the duty on the goods
entering the country no bother of any kind was given to anybody, either
British or others.

On April 3rd, 1901, the Persian Government introduced a law abolishing
all inland Customs Houses and transit dues, and substituting instead a
_rahdari_ tax of 6 annas per 240 pounds. This tax is payable on crossing
the frontier, and is levied in addition to the 5 per cent. _ad valorem_
duty to which the Persian Government is entitled under the existing
International Customs Convention. The rate of duty levied (5 per cent.),
is calculated on the actual value of goods, plus the cost of transport.

The Sistan Consul, as well as the officials of the Nushki Sistan route in
Beluchistan, go to an immense deal of trouble to be of use to British
traders and travellers, and everything is made as easy for them as is
compatible with the nature of the country and existing laws.

A great deal of extra heavy work was thrown upon the shoulders of Major
Benn, who acted in no less than three official capacities--Consul,
Postmaster, and Banker--as well as, unofficially, as architect,
house-builder, and general reference officer. It is very satisfactory to
learn that this autumn (1902) an assistant is to be sent out to him from
India, for the work seemed indeed too heavy for one man. Day and night's
incessant work would in time have certainly told on even the cheerful
disposition and abnormally wiry constitution of Major Benn, who, besides
being a most loyal and careful official, takes a great deal of personal
pride in fighting hard to win the severe race which will result in our
eventually acquiring or losing Sistan and Eastern Persia commercially.
Major Benn is most decidedly very far ahead in the race at present, and
owing to him British prestige happens to be at its zenith, but greater
support will be needed in the future if this advantageous race is to be
continued up to the winning post.

Were a Vice-Consulate established at Birjand, as I have said before, the
Sistan Consular work would be relieved of much unnecessary strain, the
distance from Birjand to Sistan being too great under present conditions
to allow the Consul to visit the place even yearly. The medical British
Agent whom we have there at present is excellent, but the powers at his
disposal are small, and a Consulate with an English officer in charge
would most decidedly enhance British prestige in that important city, as
well as being a useful connecting link between Sistan and Meshed, a
distance of close upon 500 miles.

It was a most excellent step to select for the Consular work in Eastern
and Southern Persia men from the Military Political Service, instead of
the usual Foreign Office men, who are probably better adapted for
countries already developed. The Political Service is a most perfect body
of gentlemanly, sensible, active-minded, well-educated men of versatile
talents, the pick of the healthiest and cleverest Englishmen in our
Indian Service. They cannot help doing good wherever they are sent.
Captain Trench, Major Benn, Major Phillott, Captain White, have all
answered perfectly, and have all done and are doing excellent work.

What is most needed at present in Sistan is a telegraph line to Nushki.
Should everybody in the Sistan Consulate be murdered, it would be the
best part of a fortnight or three weeks before the news could reach India
at the present rate of post going. If assistance were needed it could not
reach Sistan from Quetta in less than a couple of months, by which time,
I think, it would be of little use to those in danger. And the danger,
mind you, does exist. It seems rather hard that we should leave men who
work, and work hard and well, for their country absolutely at the mercy
of destiny.

The next most important point would be to join Sistan, or at least Robat,
on the Perso-Beluch frontier, with the long-talked-of railway to Quetta,
but of this we shall have occasion to speak later. So far the line has
been sanctioned to Nushki, but that point, it must be remembered, is
still 500 miles distant from Sistan, a considerable distance across, what
is for practical purposes, desert country.

The third point--the easiest of all, which would involve little expense,
but would have a most salutary effect--would be to maintain a small
garrison at the Perso-Beluch-Afghan frontier post of Robat. This, to my
mind, would at the present moment strengthen the hands of our officials
in Persia to a most extraordinary extent.

Something tangible, which the natives themselves could see and talk
about, together with the knowledge that a smart body of soldiers could
soon be on the spot if required, would not only assure the so far
doubtful safety of the few but precious English lives in those parts, but
would add enormously to our prestige and make us not only revered but
feared.



CHAPTER XIX

     The history of the Sistan Vice-Consulate--Major Chevenix
     Trench--Laying the foundation of the Consulate--Hoisting the
     British flag--Major Benn--A terrible journey--A plucky
     Englishwoman--The mud Consulate--Its evolution--The new
     buildings--Ka-khanas--Gardening under difficulties--How horses
     are kept--The enclosing wall--The legend of Trenchabad city--The
     Consulate Mosque--Dr. Golam Jelami--The hospital--Successful
     operations--Prevalent complaints of Sistan--The Sistan Sore.


The history of the Sistan Vice-Consulate does not go back very far, but
is, nevertheless, very interesting. We will recapitulate it in a few
words.

Major Brazier-Creagh was sent to Sistan on a special mission; as has
already been said, and Captain F. C. Webb-Ware, C. I. E., Political
Assistant at Chagai, visited the place every year at the end of his
annual trip along the new route in North Beluchistan from Quetta to
Robat, the most Eastern station of the route prior to entering Persian
territory. Major Sykes visited Sistan in 1896 in connection with the
Perso-Beluch Boundary Commission and again in 1899, when he travelled
here from Kerman by the easier southern route _via_ Bam.

It was on February 15th, 1900, that a Russian Vice-Consul for that
important Province was appointed to Sistan to take the place of a Persian
who was a news-writer in Russian employ. Major G. Chevenix Trench was
then specially selected by the Viceroy of India as a suitable person to
look after British interests in that region--and indeed no better man
could have been chosen.

Having given up his appointment in India this officer left Quetta on
March 7th, 1900, and arrived at Sher-i-Nasrya on the 18th of April,
accompanied by Major R. E. Benn, who was on a year's furlough, and can be
said, I believe, to be the first European who has travelled all the way
from India to England by this overland route, _via_ Meshed-Transcaspia.

Major Trench, prior to leaving for Meshed to take up his appointment of
Consul-General for Khorassan, being unable to stand the fierce heat of
the sun, laid the foundation stone--it was a "sun-dried mud brick," to be
accurate--of the present temporary buildings of the Consulate. A domed
mud hut _à la Persane_ was built, with an additional spacious window, but
no framework and no glass.

The great difficulty of hoisting the British flag, which seems to have
been strongly objected to during the Perso-Afghan Commission when Sir
Frederic Goldsmid passed through Sistan in 1872, was overcome mainly
owing to the great tact shown by Major Trench. The Union Jack flew daily,
gaily and undisturbed, over the mud hovel which will probably be during
the next few years one of the most important consular posts we possess in
Asia.

Major Benn, who had hastily proceeded to London on a long expected
holiday, was immediately recalled to replace Major Trench. Major Benn,
accompanied by his plucky and devoted wife and child, journeyed a second
time across the Beluchistan desert to reach his post.

The journey was terrible, owing to torrential rains and snowstorms. When
already several marches out they were compelled to return to Quetta as
their child had become very ill. But they were despatched again on their
duty. They encountered severe storms; the country was practically
flooded; some of their camels died, and for days at a time they were in
the desert unable to move, the country being in many places inundated. In
a blizzard two of their men lost themselves and died from exposure, but
the party advanced slowly but surely, the plucky little English lady
standing all the hardships without a murmur.

Major Benn having been ordered to make a detour, they went down into the
Sarhad, south of the Kuh-i-Malek-Siah, and it was not till February 15th,
1901, that they eventually reached Sher-i-Nasrya, and were received by
Trench in his mud-hut Consulate, he having moved into a tent. Major
Trench, on the arrival of Major Benn, proceeded to Meshed.

During Major Benn's time the Consulate buildings went through a
marvellous evolution. It may be recollected that I reached Sistan in
December, 1901, or only ten months after his arrival, but there were
already several additional mud-rooms built and connected so as to form a
suite of a spacious office, sitting-room, dining-room, two bedrooms and a
storeroom. There were doors, made locally by imported Indian carpenters,
but no glass to the windows,--muslin nailed to the wall answering the
purpose of blinds. Famished dogs, attracted by the odour of dinner, would
occasionally jump through this flimsy protection, much to the despair of
Mrs. Benn--but those were only small troubles. Thieves found their way
into the rooms, and even succeeded in stealing Mrs. Benn's jewellery.
There was no protection whatever against an attack in force, and the
natives were at first most impudent in their curiosity.

[Illustration: The Sistan Consulate on Christmas Day, 1901.]

Being a Mussulman country, things were at first very uncomfortable for
Mrs. Benn until the natives got accustomed to the sight of an English
lady, she being the first they had ever seen, or who had ever travelled
so far.

The temporary mud-rooms were gradually furnished and decorated with so
much taste that they became simply charming, but a new Consulate is now
being built, which, by comparison in size and style, seems quite
palatial. It is being constructed of real baked bricks, Major Benn having
put up a serviceable kiln for the purpose, and the handsome structure is
so sensibly built after a design by the versatile Consul, that when
finished it will fully combine English comfort with the exigencies of
the climate, the incessant northerly winds of the summer months--from
June to the end of August--rendering life unbearable unless suitable
arrangements to mitigate their effects are provided.

Into the northern wall _ka khanas_ or "camel thorn compartments" are
being built some four feet deep, filled with camel thorn. To make them
effective two coolies are employed all day long to swish buckets of water
on to them. The wind forcing its way through causes rapid evaporation and
consequent cooling of the air in the rooms. When the wind stops the heat
is, however, unbearable. The rooms are also provided with _badjirs_, or
wind-catchers, on the domed roof, but these can only be used before the
heat becomes too great.

An attempt had been made to start a garden, both for vegetables and
flowers, but the hot winds burnt up everything. Only four cabbages out of
hundreds that were planted had survived, and these were carefully nursed
by Mrs. Benn for our Christmas dinner. Unluckily, on Christmas Eve a cow
entered the enclosure and made a meal of the lot!

Another garden is being started, but great difficulty is experienced in
making anything grow owing to the quantity of salt in the ground and the
terrific winds. Poplars have come up fairly well under shelter of a wall,
but no tree can hope to stand upright when it attains a height where the
wind can reach it. In fact, what few trees one sees about near
Sher-i-Nasrya are stooping southward in a pitiful manner.

The Consul's horses and those of the escort are kept out in the open.
They are tethered and left well wrapped up, wearing nearly double the
amount of covering to protect them from the heat during the hot summer
months that they do in winter, on the principle explained in previous
chapters. It is not possible to keep them in stables, owing to the
terrible white fly, which has a poisonous sting. When out in the open the
flies and mosquitoes are blown away by the wind.

It was satisfactory to find that, although the Government did not see its
way to furnish the Consulate with a wall for the protection of the Consul
and his wife, whose personal property was constantly being stolen, an
allowance was at once granted with instructions to build at once a high
wall all round the Consulate when one of the Government horses was
stolen!

This wall, a wonderful bit of work, was put up in a fortnight, while I
was in bed with fever, and on my getting up from bed I had the surprise
of finding the Consulate, which, when I had arrived, stood--a few lonely
buildings--in the middle of a sandy plain, now surrounded by a handsome
mud wall with a most elaborate castellated, fortress-like gate of Major
Benn's own design. The wall encloses a good many acres of land; it would
be rash to say how many! This has given rise among the natives to the
report that a new city is rising near Sher-i-Nasrya, called Trenchabad,
or Trench's city.

Major Benn is to be complimented on the wonderful work he succeeds in
getting done with comparatively little expenditure for the Government,
and there is no doubt that he manages to impress the natives and to keep
England's prestige high. He imported from Quetta a flagstaff, in pieces,
which when erected measured no less than 45 feet, and on this, the
highest flagstaff in Persia, flies from sunrise to sunset the Union Jack.
Except on grand occasions only a small flag can be used in summer, owing
to the fierce winds which tear the larger flags to pieces the moment they
are put up.

Major Benn scored heavily in the esteem of Sistanis when he had the
bright idea of erecting a handsome little mosque within the Consulate
boundary, wherein any traveller, whether Persian or Beluch or Afghan or
any other Mussulman, can find shelter and a meal at the private expense
of the Consul. People devoid of a house, too, or beggars when in real
need are always helped.

The erection of this mosque has greatly impressed the Persians with the
respect of England for the Mahommedan religion. On the religious festival
day of the "sheep eat" the place is crowded with Beluch and Persians
alike, the Mahommedan members of the British Consulate having raised a
fund to feed all worshippers at the mosque during the day.

Major Benn, who has really the energy of half-a-dozen men taken together,
has organised some weekly gymkhanas, with the double object of giving
his Indian escort of fourteen men of the 7th Bombay Lancers and a
Duffadar (non-commissioned native officer) a little recreation, and of
providing some amusement to the town folks; exhibitions of horsemanship,
tent-pegging and sword exercises are given, in which some of the Persian
gentlemen occasionally also take part.

The Sistanis of all classes turn out in great force to witness these
displays, and--for a Persian crowd--I was really amazed at their
extraordinarily quiet and respectful demeanour. Each man who entered the
grounds courteously salaamed the Consul before sitting down, and there
was unstinted clapping of hands--a way of applauding which they have
learnt from Benn--and great enthusiasm as the Lancers displayed their
skill at the various feats.

The phonograph was also invariably brought out on these occasions, and
set working near the flagstaff, much to the delight and astonishment of
the Sistanis, who, I believe, are still at a loss to discover where the
voices they hear come from. To study the puzzled expressions on the
awe-stricken faces of the natives, as they intently listened to the
music, was intensely amusing, especially when the machine called out such
words as "mamma," which they understood, or when it reproduced the
whistling of a nightingale, which sent them raving with delight.

Perhaps the most touching part of these performances was when loyal Major
Benn wound up with "God save the King," scraped on the record by a tired
and blunted needle--phonograph needles are scarce in Sistan and could not
be renewed for the sake of only one and last tune--and we Britishers
removed our hats. Now, to the natives of Persia removing one's hat seems
as ludicrous a thing as can be done, just as their equivalent discarding
of shoes seems very ridiculous to us; but the natives, to whom the
meaning we attach to our National Anthem had been explained, behaved with
the utmost reverence notwithstanding the trying circumstances, and many
actually placed their right hands to their foreheads in sign of salaam
until the anthem was over.

Another department in the Consulate of great interest is the spacious
hospital containing a well-supplied dispensary, where an average of forty
daily patients are treated gratis by Dr. Golam Jelami and a compounder.

Patients came on in their turn with various complaints, and they were
disposed of with due speed, undergoing the necessary treatment with
various degrees of grace.

The hospital contains besides the dispensary, an in-patients' and an
accident ward, office, operating room and doctor's quarters, the whole
place being kept beautifully clean by Indian attendants--Dr. Golam Jelami
taking great pride in his work and in the success and efficacy of the
establishment.

Being himself a Mussulman Dr. Golam Jelami has a great advantage over a
Christian doctor in attending the natives, and, in fact, he has become
the medical adviser to the Amir and his entire family, and a favourite
with all the _Darbaris_ or people at the Amir's court owing to his
extreme tact, skill and charm of manner.

He has performed some quite extraordinary operations. One day when the
Consul and Mrs. Benn were about to sit down to lunch, a huge tumour,
which had just been excised from the back of a man's neck, was sent round
on a tray for the Consul's inspection; and lenses of the eye from
successful cataract operations are frequently sent in for the Consul's
approval.

The climate of Sistan is very healthy generally, and the Halmund water
delicious--by some it is said to be an actual tonic--but the hot winds of
the summer and the salt sand cause severe injury to the eyes. Cataract is
a most common complaint, even in comparatively young persons. Also
ophthalmia in its two forms. Confusion of vision is frequent even among
children, and myopia, but not so common as the opacity of the cornea.

The most common complaint is the "Sistan Sore," which affects people on
the face or any other part of the body. It is known by the local name of
_Dana-i-daghi_. It begins with irregularly-shaped pustules--very seldom
circular--that come to suppuration and burst, and if not checked in time
last for several months, extending on the skin surface, above which they
hardly rise.

The digestion of Sistanis, although naturally good, is interfered with by
the abuse of bad food, such as _krut_, or dried curd--most rancid,
indigestible stuff.

Venereal complaints are also most common, the most terrible form of all,
curiously enough, being treated even by Persian doctors with mercury--a
treatment called the _Kalyan Shingrif_--but administered in such
quantities that its effects are often worse than the ailment itself.

Partly owing to this complaint and stomach troubles and the chewing of
tobacco, the teeth are usually bad, black and decayed even in young
people, nor have the Sistanis themselves any way of saving the teeth.

Siphylitic tonsilitis is almost the only throat complaint noticeable in
Sistan, but inflammation of the palate is not rare. Heart disease is
practically unknown in Sistan, and there are but very few lung
affections.

The bones of the skeleton are extremely hard and possess abnormal
elasticity of texture, and are, therefore, not easily fractured.

There are several kinds of hair diseases caused by climatic conditions
and dirt, as well as cutaneous affections of the scalp.

The nails both of fingers and toes are healthy, not brittle, with
well-marked fibre showing through their smooth surface, and of good
shape.

The tape worm, so common in many other parts of Persia, is absolutely
unknown in Sistan, and this is probably due to the excellent water
obtainable.

Lunacy is also scarcely ever met with in Sistan in any violent form, but
cases of hypochondria are not unusual, produced principally by
indigestion--at least, judging by the symptoms shown.

The women are much healthier than the men, as they lead a more rational
life, but neither possess the power of producing large families. One or
two is the average number of children in healthy families. Twins and
triplets are unknown in Sistan, or so I was assured.

The mode of life of Sistan men of the better classes is not conducive to
large families, the men not returning to their wives till midnight or
later, having spent the greater part of the day in orgies with their
friends, when, what with opium smoking and what with being stuffed with
food and saturated with gallons of tea, they are dead tired.

Abortion seldom occurs naturally, and is never artificially procured,
owing to the local laws. Women do not experience any difficulty during
labour and operations are unheard of.

The umbilicus of children, here, too, as in Western Persia, is tied at
birth in two or three places with a common string, and the remainder cut
with a pair of scissors or a knife. A mid-wife, called _daya_, is
requested to perform this operation. Abnormalities of any kind are
extremely uncommon.



CHAPTER XX

     Laid up with fever--Christmas Day--A visit to the
     Amir--Hashmat-ul-Mulk--An ancient city over eighty miles
     long--Extreme civility of Persian officials--An unusual
     compliment--Prisoners--Personal revenge--"An eye for an eye, a
     tooth for a tooth"--Punishments and
     crime--Fines--Bastinado--Disfigurement--Imprisonment--Blowing
     criminals from a gun--Strangling and decapitation.


It was my intention to remain in Sistan only four or five days, but
unluckily my fever got so bad--temperature above 104°--that,
notwithstanding my desire to continue the journey, Major Benn most kindly
would not allow me. I was placed in bed where, covered up with every
available blanket, I remained close upon three weeks. The tender care of
Major and Mrs. Benn, to whom my gratitude cannot be expressed in words,
the skilful treatment of Dr. Golam Jelami, the Consulate doctor,--not to
speak of the unstinted doses of quinine, phenacetin, castor-oil, and
other such delightful fare, to which may also be added some gallons of
the really delicious water of the Halmund river,--at last told upon me
and eventually, after twenty-one days of sweating I began to pull up
again and was able to get up.

The fever was shaken off altogether, but strange to say, whether it was
that I was unaccustomed to medicine, or whether it was due to the
counter-effects of the violent fever, my temperature suddenly went down
and remained for several months varying from two to three degrees below
normal. Medical men tell me that this should mean physical collapse, but
on this point I can only say that I have never in my life felt stronger
nor better.

I was just out of bed on Christmas Day, when the Consulate was decorated
with flags, and Major Benn in his uniform had his escort of Bombay
Lancers on parade. There was an official Christmas dinner in good old
English style, with a fine plum pudding and real sixpences in it,
followed by fire-crackers; while illuminations were burning bright on the
Consulate wall and roofs. Official visitors were received, the doctor of
the Russian Vice-Consulate and the Belgian Customs Officer forming the
whole European community of Sher-i-Nasrya.

Sadek, who was great on charity, especially when it went to my account,
in order to thank Providence for my recovery sacrificed two sheep, and
their meat was distributed to the clamouring poor. Such an expedient was
necessary, Sadek said, or I should certainly get fever again!

Owing to the Russian calendar being in disagreement with ours, the
Consul, Mrs. Benn and I were most cordially entertained to a second
Christmas dinner by the Russian Consul, who had just returned from
Meshed, and we had a most delightful evening. For a convalescent, I could
not help thinking so many Christmas dinners coming together might have
been fatal, but fortunately, owing entirely to the charming and
thoughtful kindness of my hosts, both English and Russian, I managed to
pull through with no very ill effects. The Consular escort of Cossacks
looked very business-like and smart as they paraded in the yard which had
been duly illuminated for the occasion.

The Amir expressed a wish to see me, and as I was just able to get on a
horse the Consul and I paid an official visit to the Governor in the
citadel. We rode in full state with the escort of Lancers, and traversed
the town along the main street, entering from the South gate.

I was again much struck by the intense respect shown by the natives
towards Major Benn, all rising as we passed and making a profound salaam.
We traversed the greater portion of the city by the main street, and then
arrived at the gate of the citadel in the north-west part of
Sher-i-Nasrya.

The door was so low that we had some difficulty in entering without
dismounting, and just as we were squeezing in, as it were, through this
low passage, one of the disreputable-looking soldiers on guard fired his
gun--in sign of salute--which somewhat startled our horses and set them
a-kicking.

In the small court where we dismounted was a crowd of soldiers and
servants, and here another salute was fired by the sentry. Through
winding, dilapidated passages and broken-down courts we were conveyed to
the Amir's room--a very modest chamber, whitewashed, and with humble
carpets on the floor. A huge wood fire was burning in the chimney, and
the furniture consisted of a table and six chairs, three folding ones and
three Vienna cane ones, arranged symmetrically on either side of the
table.

[Illustration: Major R. E. Benn, British Consul for Sistan, and his
Escort of 7th Bombay Lancers.]

The Amir sat on a folding chair on one side of the table, and the Consul,
Ghul Khan and myself in a row on the opposite side. We were most
cordially received by Hashmat-ul-Mulk, the Amir, who--this being Ramzam
or fasting time--showed ample evidence of mis-spent nights. He had all
the semblance of a person addicted to opium smoking. His Excellency was
unshaven and unwashed, and seemed somewhat dazed, as if still under the
effects of opium. His discoloured eyes stared vaguely, now at the Consul,
now at Ghul Khan, now at me, and he occasionally muttered some compliment
or other at which we all bowed.

Presently, however, his conversation became most interesting, when,
having gone through all these tedious preliminary formalities, he began
to describe to me the many ruined cities of Sistan. He told me how at one
time, centuries and centuries gone by, Sistan was the centre of the
world, and that a city existed some twenty miles off, named Zaidan, the
length of which was uninterrupted for some eighty or ninety miles.

"The remains of this city," he said, "are still to be seen, and if you do
not believe my words you can go and see for yourself. In fact," added the
Amir, "you should not leave Sistan without going to inspect the ruins.
The city had flat roofs in a continuous line, the houses being built on
both sides of a main road. A goat or a sheep could practically have gone
along the whole length of the city," went on the Amir, to enforce proof
of the continuity of buildings of Zaidan. "But the city had no great
breadth. It was long and narrow, the dwellings being along the course of
an arm of the Halmund river, which in those days, before its course was
shifted by moving sands, flowed there. The ruined city lies partly in
Afghan, partly in Sistan territory. In many parts it is covered
altogether by sand, but, by digging, houses, and in them jewellery and
implements, are to be found all along."

I promised the Amir that I would go and visit Zaidan city the very next
day.

When we had once begun talking, the Amir spoke most interestingly, and I
was glad to obtain from him very valuable and instructive information.
One hears accounts in some quarters of the Persian officials being
absolutely pro-Russian and showing incivility to British subjects, but on
the contrary the Amir positively went out of his way to show extreme
civility. He repeatedly inquired after my health and expressed his
fervent wishes that fever should no more attack me.

"What do you think of my beloved city, Sher-i-Nasrya?" he exclaimed. I
prudently answered that in my travels all over the world I had never seen
a city like it, which was quite true.

"But you look very young to have travelled so much?" queried the Amir.

"It is merely the great pleasure of coming to pay your Excellency a visit
that makes me look young!" I replied with my very best, temporarily
adopted, Persian manner, at which the Amir made a deep bow and placed his
hand upon his heart to show the full appreciation of the compliment.

He, too, like all Persian officials, displayed the keenest interest in
the Chinese war of 1900 and the eventual end of China. He spoke bitterly
of the recluse Buddhists of Tibet, and I fully endorsed his views. Then
again, he told me more of historical interest about his province, and of
the medical qualities of the Halmund water--which cures all evils. More
elaborate compliments flowed on all sides, and numberless cups of
steaming tea were gradually sipped.

Then we took our leave. As a most unusual courtesy, the Consul told me,
and one meant as a great honour, the Amir came to escort us and bid us
good-bye right up to the door,--the usual custom being that he rises, but
does not go beyond the table at which he sits.

Out we went again through the same narrow passages, stooping so as not to
knock our heads against the low door-way, and came to our horses. The
soldier on guard fired another salute with his gun, and Ghul-Khan, who
happened to be near at the time, nearly had his eye put out by it.

As we rode through the gate a number of prisoners--seven or eight--laden
with chains round the neck and wrists and all bound together, were being
led in. They salaamed us and implored for our protection, but we could do
nothing. I could not help feeling very sorry for the poor devils, for the
way justice is administered in Sistan, as in most parts of Persia, is not
particularly attractive. The tendons of the hands or feet are cut even
for small offences, hot irons are thrust into the criminal's limbs, and
other such trifling punishments are inflicted if sufficient money is not
forthcoming from the accused or their relations to buy them out.

Here is an example of Persian justice. While I was in bed with fever, one
day Major and Mrs. Benn went for a ride along the wall of the city, with
their usual escort. On reaching the city gate they saw several people
come out, and they were startled by a shot being fired close by them, and
a dead body was laid flat across the road. The dead man, it appeared, had
been himself a murderer and had been kept in chains in the Amir's
custody, pending trial. The verdict might have possibly turned in his
favour had he been willing to grease the palms of the jailors, in
accordance with old Persian custom; but although the man was very well
off, he refused to disburse a single shai. He was therefore there and
then handed over to the relations of the murdered man so that they should
mete out to him what punishment they thought fit.

The man was instantly dragged through the streets of the city, and on
arriving outside the city gate they shot him in the back. The body was
then left in the road, the Persian crowd which had assembled round
looking upon the occurrence as a great joke, and informing Major Benn
that the corpse would remain there until some of his relations came to
fetch it away. On referring the matter to the Governor the following day,
he smilingly exclaimed: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth!"--a
quotation from the Koran that quite cleared his conscience.

This is a very common way of disposing of criminals in Persia by allowing
personal revenge to take its course. Although such ways of administering
justice may not commend themselves to one, the moral of it as looked upon
by Persian eyes is not as bad as it might at first appear. The honest,
the well-to-do man, they reason, has nothing whatever to fear from
anybody, and if a man chooses to be a criminal, he must take the
consequences of it. The more severe the punishment the less crime there
will be in the country. Persian law prevents crime.

In a province like Sistan, where the people are not quite up-to-date as
in other parts of Persia, naturally, ways which to us may seem very
cruel have to be applied by the Amir to impress the people. If fines to
the maximum of the prisoner's purse are excepted, the usual way of
satisfying the law for almost any offence, the next most common
punishment is the bastinado applied on the bare soles of the feet. When
an option is left to the prisoner of undergoing the bastinado or paying a
fine, he generally selects the sticks, which he feels much less than the
anguish of disbursing the smallest sum in cash. Minor crimes only are so
punished--it is considered the lightest punishment. Occasionally it is
used to obtain confessions. People are seldom known to die under it.

Disfigurement, or deprivation of essential limbs, such as one or more
phalanges of fingers, or the ears or nose, is also much in vogue for
thieves, house-breakers and highwaymen. For second offences of criminals
so branded the whole hand or foot is cut off. Blinding, or rather,
atrophizing the eyes by the application of a hot iron in front, but not
touching them, such as is common all over Central Asia, is occasionally
resorted to in the less civilised parts of Persia, but is not frequent
now. I only saw one case of a man who had been so punished, but many are
those who have the tendons of arms and legs cut--a favourite punishment
which gives the most dreadfully painful appearance to those who have
undergone it.

Imprisonment is considered too expensive for the Government, and is
generally avoided except in the bigger cities. The prisoners have a very
poor time of it, a number of them being chained close together.

To burn people or to bury them alive are severe punishments which are
very seldom heard of now-a-days, but which occasionally take place in
some remote districts and unknown to his Majesty the Shah, who has ever
shown a tender heart and has done all in his power to suppress barbarous
ways in his country; but cases or crucifixion and stoning to death have
been known to have occurred not many years ago--if not as a direct
punishment from officials, yet with their indirect sanction.

Strangling and decapitation are still in use, and I am told--but cannot
guarantee its accuracy--that blowing criminals from guns is rarely
practised now, although at one time this was a favourite Persian way of
disposing of violent criminals.

A Persian official was telling me that, since these terrible punishments
have been to a great extent abolished, crimes are more frequent in Persia
than they were before. The same man--a very enlightened person, who had
travelled in Europe--also remarked to me that had we to-day similar
punishments in Europe instead of keeping criminals on the fat of the
land--(I am only repeating his words)--we should not have so much crime
in the country. "Your laws," he added, "protect criminals; our ways deter
men and women from crime. To prevent crime, no matter in how cruel a way
it is done, is surely less cruel than to show leniency and kindness to
the persons who do commit crimes!"

That was one way of looking at it. Taking things all round, if blood
feuds and cases of personal revenge are excepted, there is certainly less
crime in Persia than in many European countries.



CHAPTER XXI

     The London of the East--A city eighty-six miles long--The village
     of Bunjar--An ancient tower--Iskil--The _Kalantar_ of
     Sistan--Collection of ancient jewellery from the buried
     city--Interesting objects--A romantic life and tragic death--A
     treacherous Afghan--Strained relations between the Sistan and
     Afghan Governors--Sand-barchans--Flat roofs and gable roofs--The
     pillar of Mil-i-Zaidan--A conical ice-house--The imposing fort of
     Zaidan--A neighbouring modern village.


The Consul, Mrs. Benn and I, started off early one morning on horseback
to inspect the ruins of the ancient London of the East, the great city of
Zaidan, which in the days of its glory measured no less than eighty-six
miles--from Lash Yuwain on the north to Kala-i-Fath on the South--ruins
of the city being traceable the whole distance to this day, except in the
portion which has been covered by the waters of the Hamun Halmund.

On the way there was little to be seen for the first four miles until we
reached the village of Bunjar, the biggest trading village in Sistan and
the residence of the Iman Jumeh, the next holiest man to the head priest
of Sher-i-Nasrya. This village and neighbourhood supply Sher-i-Nasrya
entirely with wood and very largely with food. There are many stunted
trees about, all curved southwards by the wind, and much cultivated
land, the ground being intersected by numerous natural and artificial
water channels.

A very curious ancient tower, split in two, and the portion of another
very much corroded at its base, and looking like a big mushroom, are to
be seen on the south near this village. We cut across, almost due east,
to Iskil, wading through several canals and channels into which our
horses dived up to their saddles.

On approaching Iskil from the west one was impressed by the unusual
height of some of its buildings, most of which were two-storied and had
domed roofs, the domes being of much larger proportions than usual. A
quadrangular tower of considerable loftiness stood prominent above the
height of all the other buildings. For a Persian village Iskil had quite
a clean, fresh appearance, even from a short distance. On getting near we
entered the main road--one might more accurately call it a canal--walled
in on both sides and filled with water some eight or ten inches deep. Our
horses waded through, and having rounded another large pond of dirty
green water--such as is always found in the more prosperous villages of
Persia--we came to a high wall enclosing a garden and an Andarun near the
residence of the Kalantar of Sistan (Kalantar means the "bigger one"),
the title taken by the head of the tribe who in by-gone days were the
masters of the whole of Sistan.

The Kalantar is a large landowner, and has the contract for all the
grazing tax of East Sistan. Among the villages owned by him are Iskil,
Bunjar, and Kas-im-abad, the three richest in Sistan. The name of
Kalantar is taken by each of the family as he succeeds to the possession
of these villages, lands, and rights.

The Kalantar, previous to the one now in possession, was a man of most
commanding presence, very tall and very stout--the biggest man in
Sistan--and much respected by everybody. He was extremely friendly
towards the English. He had planted an entire garden of English flowers
and fruit at Iskil, and took the keenest interest in horticulture and
agriculture. Above all, however, he was renowned for a magnificent
collection of ancient seals, coins, jewellery, implements, beads, and
other curiosities, of which he had amassed chests and chests full that
had been dug up from the great city of Zaidan and neighbourhood. Some of
the cameos were very delicately cut in hard stone, and reminded one of
ancient Greek work. Symbolic representations in a circle, probably to
suggest eternity, were favourite subjects of these ornamentations, such
designs as a serpent biting its own tail, or three fishes biting one
another's tails and forming a circle, being of frequent occurrence. So
also were series of triangles and simple circles. The gold rings were
most beautifully delicate and simple in design, and so were all the other
ornaments, showing that the people of Zaidan had a most refined
civilisation which is not to be found in Persian art of to-day.
Personally, I have certainly never seen modern Persian work which in any
way approached in beauty of line and execution to the articles excavated
from the great city of Zaidan.

A great profusion of beads of amber, jasper, crystal, turquoise,
malachite, agate, had been found in Zaidan and some that we saw were
handsomely polished and cut, some were ornamented, others were made of
some composition like very hard enamel. All--even the hardest crystal
ones--had clean holes drilled through them.

The Kalantar had built himself a fine residence at Iskil, with huge rooms
and lofty domes, and here he kept these collections. His generous nature
had caused him to build a handsome guest house in front of his dwelling
in order to put up and entertain his friends, native or foreign.

It was on the steps of his guest house that the last act of a terrible
tragedy took place only a short time before we visited Iskil. About ten
years ago, in 1891, a man called Mahommed Hussein Khan, an Afghan
refugee, came to live in Bunjar, bringing with him a _sigah_ wife
(concubine), her mother and a child. Shortly after his arrival he left
his family in Bunjar and went on a pilgrimage to Meshed. No news was
received of him for a very long time, and the wife wrote to him--when her
money and patience were exhausted--that if he did not return on a certain
date or answer her letter she should consider herself divorced from him.
He replied that she might consider herself free from the date of receipt
of his letter, and requested her to send her mother in charge of his
child to Meshed.

During Mahommed Hussein's absence rumour says that Kalantar Mir-Abbas had
an intrigue with the lady, and on receipt of her husband's letter from
Meshed he forcibly removed her from Bunjar and compelled her to marry
him, Mir-Abbas, at Iskil.

Unluckily, the lady was a Suni and Kalantar Mir-Abbas was a Shia, which
made it difficult to overcome certain religious obstacles. Such a union
would anyhow be greatly resented by relations on both sides. In fact,
about a year ago, 1900, the lady's brother, a native of Girisk, near
Kandahar, enraged at his sister marrying a man who was not an Afghan, and
of a different persuasion, came to Iskil with characteristically
treacherous Afghan ways and sought service with the Kalantar, assuring
him of the great affection and devotion he entertained towards him. The
good-hearted Kalantar immediately gave him employment and treated him
most generously.

On the night of September 19th, 1901, the Kalantar had been entertaining
some friends in the Durbar building opposite his residence, among whom
was the Afghan, who left the room before Mir-Abbas and went to conceal
himself in the darkness at the entrance. When the Kalantar was joyfully
descending the steps after the pleasant night assembly, the treacherous
Afghan attacked him and, placing his rifle to Mir-Abbas' head, shot him
dead. The assassin then endeavoured to enter the Andarun to kill his
sister, but the lady, having her suspicions, had barricaded herself in,
and an alarm being given he had to make his escape across the Afghan
frontier only a few miles distant from Iskil.

It was rumoured that the murderer had been sheltered by the Afghan
Governor of the Chikansur district, who goes by the grand name of
_Akhunzada_, or "The great man of a high family." The Governor of Sistan,
angered at the infamous deed, demanded the extradition of the assassin,
but it was refused, with the result that the Afghan official was next
accused of screening the murderer. There was much interchange of furious
correspondence and threats between the Persian and Afghan Governors, and
their relations became so strained that a fight seemed imminent.

The shrewd Afghan then offered to allow five Persian soldiers,
accompanied by twenty Afghans, to search his district--an offer which was
very prudently declined. Persian and Afghan soldiers were posted in some
force on both sides of the river--forming the frontier--and devoted their
time to insulting one another; but when I left Sistan in January, 1902,
although the relations were still much strained, the affair of the
Kalantar, which seemed at one time likely to turn into a national
quarrel, was gradually being settled on somewhat less martial lines.

The death of such a good, honest man has been much regretted in Sistan,
and great hopes are now built on his son and successor, a young fellow
much resembling his father both in personal appearance and kindliness
towards his neighbours.

We next came to a second and smaller village four miles further on--after
having waded through numberless water-channels, ponds and pools and our
horses having performed some feats of balancing on bridges two feet wide
or even less. Some of these structures were so shaky that the horses were
not inclined to go over them except after considerable urging.

The country between was flat and uninteresting, except that here and
there some low mounds had formed where the sand blown by the N.N.W. wind
had been arrested by some obstacle, such as a shrub of camel-thorn or
tamarisk. Most of these sand-barchans had a striking peculiarity. They
were semi-spherical except to the S.S.E., where a section of the sphere
was missing, which left a vacuum in the shape of a perfect crescent.

By the numberless waves on the sand surface it seemed evident that the
sand had accumulated from the N.N.W. side.

The village was small and miserable, with a few scraggy trees bowing low,
like all trees of Sistan, towards the S.S.E., owing to the severe, N.N.W.
winds. Here instead of the everlasting domes, flat roofs were again
visible--wood being, no doubt, available close at hand. More curious,
however, were actual gable roofs, the first I had noticed in Persia in
purely native houses. The ventilating apertures were not in the roof
itself, as in the domed houses, but in the walls, which were of a much
greater height than in the domed habitations. The doors and windows were
invariably on the south wall, but to the north at the lower portion of
the roof in each house one could observe a triangular, projecting
structure, usually in the centre of the upper wall. This was a different
type of wind-catcher, but in winter blocked up with sun-dried bricks and
mud.

Between this village and Zaidan there was again a good deal of water to
be crossed, and in some spots it was so deep that our horses sank into it
up to their chests and we had to lie flat, with our legs resting on the
animals' backs, to escape a ducking.

To our left--to the north--could be seen in the distance a high tower,
which is said to have a spiral staircase inside, and must be of very
great height, as even from where we were--eight miles away--it rose very
high above the horizon, some 70 feet, as we guessed, and looked very big.
This tower stood alone several miles to the North of the principal Zaidan
ruins for which we were steering, and I had not therefore time to visit
it.

The pillar is locally called Mil-i-Zaidan, and is circular in shape, made
of kiln-baked bricks cemented together by clay. On the summit, above a
broad band with ornamentations and a much worn inscription can be seen
the fragments of two smaller structures, also cylindrical, which may have
been the supports of the dome of the minaret. There is said to be
another illegible inscription about thirty feet from the ground.

According to Goldsmid, who visited this place in 1872, the tower then
stood on a square foundation, and its circumference was 55 feet at the
base and only 28 feet at the summit. The lower portion of the tower, as
seen through powerful glasses, seemed very much corroded, and it will not
be long before it collapses. There are various theories regarding this
tower, which now rises directly above the flat desert. It is said by some
to be one of a number of isolated watch towers, but this, I think, is
incorrect.

[Illustration: The Citadel of Zaidan, the Great City.]

According to Major Sykes, who quotes from the Seljuk history: "Every
three hundred paces a pillar twice the height of a man was built and two
_minars_ between Gurz and Fahraj, one forty _gaz_ high, the other
twenty-five, and _under_ each _minar_ a caravanserai and a tank." By the
word "under" the historian evidently meant directly underneath the
tower--which was the customary way of constructing such buildings. The
_minars_ seldom rose from the ground, but were and are generally
constructed on the roofs of buildings. A proof that this was the case in
this particular instance was that when Goldsmid visited it in 1872, he
stated that it "was built on a square foundation."

The caravanserai underneath this tower and the tank are evidently buried
by the sand, as is the case with a great portion of the City of Zaidan.
That there is underneath the sand a city connecting the southern portion
of Zaidan--still partly above ground--with the northern portion of
Zaidan, and that this _minar_ rises above buried habitations, there can
be little doubt, for all along the several miles of intervening sandy
stretch the earth is covered with debris, ruins and fragments of tiles,
bricks, &c., &c., showing the remains of a great city.

As we went along, leaving the pillar to the north and steering south-east
for the main ruins of Zaidan, we saw close by on the north a very large
structure forming the section of a cone--the lower portion buried in sand
and the upper portion having collapsed,--which a Sistani who accompanied
us said was an ancient ice-house. This theory may be correct, for it is
probable that the climate of Sistan may have greatly changed; but it is
also possible that the structure may have been a large flour-mill, for to
this day mills are built in Persia on similar exterior lines to the
ice-houses. Structures of the same kind are also to be observed as far
south as Kala-i-Fath, the southern terminus of the great city.

No ice to speak of can be collected nowadays, either in Sistan or within
a very large radius of country, and snow is seldom, almost never seen.

Near this mill or ice-house, whichever it was, another high building in
ruins was to be observed, but I could not afford the time to deviate from
my route and inspect it. It appeared like a watch-tower, and was not
dissimilar to two other round towers we had seen before on the
south,--very likely they were all outer fire-signalling stations, so
common all over Asia.

[Illustration: The Zaidan West Towers and Modern Village.]

After a brisk ride of some four hours we arrived at the main portion of
the ruins of Zaidan--an imposing fort on a clay hill, which must have
formed the citadel. At the foot of the hill was the modern village of
Zaidan--about fifty houses, some with flat, others with gabled, roofs,
such as we had seen at the previous villages, and a few with domed roofs.
There were a few cultivated fields in which wheat was raised.



CHAPTER XXII

     An ancient city as big as London--The citadel--Towers--Small
     rooms--The walls--Immensity of the city--Sand drifts--Why some
     parts are buried and some are not--An extensive wall--Great
     length of the city--Evidence that the habitations were
     continuous--The so-called Rud-i-Nasru--Its position--A double
     outer wall--A protected road--Interesting structures--An immense
     graveyard--Tombs--Sand drifts explained--A former gate of the
     city--The _Chil-pir_ or tomb of forty saints--Interesting objects
     found--Beautiful inscriptions on marble and slate--Marble
     columns--Graceful lamps--Exciting digging--A tablet--Heptagonal
     tower--A ghastly figure.


As we approached the ruins we could not help being impressed by their
grandeur. They were certainly the most imposing I had so far come across
in Persia. The high walls and towers of the fort could be seen from a
great distance, and for the benefit of my readers a photograph is
reproduced in this book to show how the citadel of this great city
appeared as one drew near it from the west. The photograph was taken half
a mile away from the fortress.

We entered the citadel by a short incline on the northern side of the
main fort and found ourselves in a huge court, the sides of which were
much blocked towards the wall by sand drifts. Contrary to what has been
stated by others, the citadel is not inhabited to-day, nor are there any
signs of its having been inhabited probably for a great many years. There
is nothing whatever to be seen in the centre of this yard, which is
covered with accumulated sand far above its original level, and at the
sides, too, of the court, where buildings would have very likely been,
everything is smothered in sand up to a great height of the wall. In
other places the wall has collapsed altogether.

[Illustration: Towers of the Citadel, Zaidan.]

Remains of small rooms high up near the top of the wall can be seen. The
inside of the inner fort enclosed by the highest wall is quadrangular,
and has ten towers round it, eight of which are still in wonderful
preservation considering their age. Those at the angles of the quadrangle
had large, somewhat elongated, windows ending in a point cut into them in
two tiers, as may be seen in the illustration. Curiously enough, while
the windows were six feet in height, the doors were never more than five
feet. There were rooms in all the towers, but all were extremely small.
The largest averaged eight feet square. The walls of the towers were of
mud bricks with layers of kiln-baked bricks, and were three to four feet
deep and of very great strength.

As can be seen by the illustration, a fragment of an archway was to be
found on the summit of the wall and there were often signs that a covered
passage, such as may be found in other northern forts of this great city,
must have been in existence when the place was in all its glory.

As one stood on the highest point of the wall and looked around one
got a fair idea of the former immensity of the city. It evidently
stretched from south-east to north, forming an obtuse angle at the
citadel on which I stood. To the south-east of the fortress, where
sheltered from the terrific north winds and from the sand drifts, the
ruins were in better preservation and less covered with sand, which here
indeed made quite a depression, while the northern aspect now displays a
continuous mass of fine sand interrupted only by some of the higher
buildings projecting above it.

One could distinguish quite plainly where the wall of the city continued
for a long distance to the south-east with occasional towers, but this
portion of the wall, as seen in the illustration facing page 208, is now
in a sad state of decay and fast being covered with sand. The first three
hundred yards of it, which are the best preserved, however, will show
what a place of great strength Zaidan must have been. The towers appear
to have been enormous, as shown by the base of the nearer one in the
foreground of the photograph, and also by the second one, a portion of
which still remained standing.

The city boundary made a detour to the south-east at the third tower, all
the buildings visible being on the east of the wall and none to the west.
The modern village of Zaidan should, of course, be excepted.

There seems to have been a great space intervening between this wall and
the nearest habitations, but why that was would now be difficult to
ascertain except by digging to a considerable depth. It seems hardly
likely that a moat with water should have been constructed on the inside
of the fortress, although at first sight one might be led to conclude
that this was the case.

[Illustration: S.E. Portion of Zaidan City, showing how it disappears
under distant sand accumulations.]

[Illustration: Double Wall and Circular Unroofed Structures, Zaidan. In
the distance high sand accumulations above City.]

The city does not seem to have had a great general breadth, and is mostly
remarkable for its enormous length, although at several of the most
important points it has indeed considerable width. It extended mostly
like a long line, and one could still perceive, as far as the eye could
see, partially destroyed domed roofs, fragments of walls, and in some
cases entire structures still standing and bearing roofs. The ice-house,
which we had passed on the way, stood prominent to the north by
north-west and also the pillar, the _minar_ of Mil-i-Zaidan.

Major Sykes makes a very quaint statement in the _Geographical Journal_
for February, 1902. He says: "I have seen it stated by previous
travellers" (presumably Sir F. Goldsmid and Bellew) "that the ruins of
Zaidan extend for fourteen miles, but the fact is that _there were
villages lining the Rud-i-Nasru throughout its length_ (a length of 30
miles according to Major Sykes's maps), and these have been mistaken for
suburbs of the capital of Sistan."

It seems to me that Major Sykes has only strengthened the contention of
previous travellers and that, whether one calls them suburbs or a
continuity of habitations, villages, or by any other name, the fact is
that continuous miles of buildings can be traced. The Rud-i-Nasru
canal, according to Major Sykes's own maps as given in the _Geographical
Society's Journal_, is over 30 miles in length, and if the 30 miles are
lined _throughout_ by villages surely that fact further establishes the
continuity of the city.

Personally, however, I have my doubts whether Major Sykes is correct in
placing the Rud-i-Nasru to the west of the city in Zaidan's days of
glory. There are signs of a canal, but to the east of the city. The
Hamun, too, I think, no more stretched across from east to west in the
northern portion than it does to-day, but rather formed two separate
lakes--the eastern one fed by the surplus water of the Halmund; the
western filled by the Farah Rud. The space between is liable to be
occasionally flooded by the excess of water in these two lakes, but that
is all.

All the evidence goes to show that the great city, under different local
names, extended continuously northwards as far as Lash Yuwain, passing
between the two marshy lakes. In the next chapter I have brought
undoubted evidence pointing to that conclusion, and if any one is still
sceptical about it, all he has to do is to go there and see for himself.
In such a dry climate the ruins, although gradually being covered over
with sand, will remain long enough for any one wishing to spend some time
there and to make a thorough study of them.

To the east of the Zaidan fort, about 100 yards and 200 yards
respectively, are the remains, still fairly well preserved, of a high
double wall, castellated and with loop-holes half-way up the wall. These
two walls, where free from sand, stand some 40 feet high, but in most
portions the sand has accumulated to a height of 15 to 20 feet.

These parallel walls were somewhat puzzling. They were only a few feet
apart and protected a road between them which went from north-west to
south-east. Each wall was constructed very strongly of two brick walls
filled between with beaten earth. The lower portion of the wall was much
corroded by the wind and sand, but the upper part where it had not
collapsed, was in good preservation. There were rows of holes at the
bottom on the east side, where there appeared to have been extensive
stables with mangers for horses. The lower portion of the wall was of
kiln-baked bricks, and the upper part in horizontal layers of baked
bricks every four feet and mud bricks between.

Of the two parallel walls the eastern one was not castellated, but the
western or inner had a castellated summit. There was an outer moat or
canal.

Only a comparatively small portion of this double wall stood up to its
former height--merely a few hundred feet of it--but traces could be seen
that it must have extended for a very long distance. It appeared to be
tortuous and not in a straight line, its direction being plainly
traceable even in the photograph reproduced in the illustration facing
page 208. Only one tower of a quadrangular shape could be seen along
this wall, and the apertures in the wall were at regular intervals of
four feet. The doorway in these walls appeared to have been next to the
quadrangular tower, which was very likely constructed in order to guard
the gate.

There were small circular unroofed structures between the fort itself and
this double wall, but they appeared more like the upper sections of
towers than actual habitations. Though much smaller and lower they bore
all the architectural characteristics of the towers of the greater fort,
and possessed windows, one above the other, similar to those we had found
in the larger towers of the main fort. In the illustration the reader can
see for himself. That a considerable portion of this structure is buried
is shown by the fact that the upper portion of a window is just visible
above the sand in the circular building to the left of the observer.
These structures had in the interior some elaborately moulded recesses,
and ornamented windows in pointed arches. The circular building had three
rooms on the floor still above ground and six small recesses. One window
was in most excellent preservation.

Further on, beyond the double wall to the south-east, was a most
extensive graveyard, a portion of which had been freed from sand by the
natives of the modern village of Zaidan. There were hundreds and hundreds
of tombs, some in quite good preservation, as can be seen by the two
photographs facing pages 212 and 214.

The photograph facing page 212 shows the eastern portion of the graveyard
where some of the tombs were altogether free from sand, and in a splendid
state of preservation. They were made of kiln-burnt bricks plastered over
with mud, the body, it may be remarked, being enclosed in these
rectangular brick cases and entirely above ground. They were mostly
single tombs, not compound graves, like some which we shall inspect later
on (Mount) Kuh-i-Kwajah. Their measurements were about 7 feet by 4 feet
by 3½ feet, and they were extremely simple, except that the upper face
was ornamented by a series of superposed rectangles diminishing in size
upwards and each of the thickness of one brick, and the last surmounted
generally by a prism.

[Illustration: Interior of Zaidan Fortress.]

[Illustration: Graveyard of Zaidan City.]

The photograph facing page 214 shows the north-western portion of the
graveyard, with the entire eastern aspect of the Zaidan fortress. I took
this photograph for the special purpose of proving how high the sand has
accumulated over many portions of the graveyard, as well as over a great
portion of the city. The particular spot where I took the photograph was
somewhat protected from the north, hence the low depression, slightly
more free from sand than further back where the sand, as can be seen, was
able to settle down to a great height. The upper portions of several
graves can be noticed mostly buried in sand, and by the ripples on the
sand and the casting of the shadows (the photograph was taken in the
afternoon when the sun was west) it can be seen plainly that the sand
has accumulated from the north.

Under the immediate lee of the fortress and of the outer walls, similar
depressions in the sand were found, and it is owing to these that some
portion of the city was still uncovered by sand.

In the photograph facing page 214 it may be noticed that where the lee of
the high fortress no longer protects the buildings from the drifting
sand, the city gradually disappears, as it were, under fairly high
accumulations.

We shall find later, on our journey to the Beluchistan frontier, how
these sand accumulations, in their turn, forming themselves into barriers
against the sands which came from the north, allowed further southerly
portions of the city to escape unburied, which portions can be seen
extending in and out of these transverse sand ridges as far south as
Kala-i-Fath. North of the Zaidan fortress the sand, finding no high
obstacles, has accumulated to a much greater height, only very lofty
buildings remaining visible above the surface.

In the photograph facing page 206 this high cushion, as it were, of sand
can plainly be seen over the north of the city beyond the tower of the
castle; also a portion of the small canal at the foot of the tower, which
some will have it was the Rud-i-Nasru.

In the distance towards the south-east, two quadrangular towers could be
seen, which the Katkhuda of Zaidan village told us formed part of one of
the former gates of the city. These two towers can be seen in the
background of the photograph facing page 212.

Some distance beyond the graveyard we came to a section of a tower,
heptagonal in form, which had just been dug out to a depth of 4 feet by
the natives of the village of Zaidan. The Katkhuda--who could have given
points to an Irishman--told us that this was the tomb of the renowned
legendary "Forty Saints of Zaidan," and added, that they numbered
forty-four! On being asked why it was called the tomb of the forty saints
if their number was forty-four, he did not lose his presence of mind, but
explained that four had been added afterwards when this sacred spot had
already received its legendary name.

[Illustration: East View of the Zaidan Citadel.]

For a very long time the Zaidan people had searched for this sacred spot,
and they seemed very proud to have discovered it. It is called by them
_Chil-pir_, or the "forty saints." As the tower is not large enough to
contain them all, a number of them are said to be buried in the immediate
neighbourhood to the south and west of the structure, and the Katkhuda,
to prove his words, showed us some three graves, more elaborate than the
rest. There were also others that were anxiously searched for, but had
not been located yet.

The graves which I was shown were entirely of kiln-burnt bricks, and so
was the wall of the tower itself, as can be seen by a portion of it
showing in the illustration facing page 218, behind the marble
inscription and columns.

Since its discovery the natives had made this into a _Ziarat_ or shrine,
and on its western side (towards Mecca) had adorned it with a bundle of
sticks, horns, and a number of rags, or pieces of ribbon, white, red or
blue. Every Mussulman visiting it leaves an offering of a piece of cloth
generally from his coat or turban, if a man, or from the chudder or other
feminine wearing apparel if a woman.

The Katkhuda told us that a great many things had been found in digging
near here, but the more valuable ones had disappeared, sold to officials
or rich people of Sistan. A great many seals, coins, stone weapons, lamps
and pottery had been found, the latter often glazed. Innumerable
fragments of earthenware were strewn everywhere round about these ruins,
some with interesting ornamentations, generally blue on white ground. The
"parallel lines" and "heart pattern" were common, while on some fragments
of tiles could be seen quotations from the Koran in ancient Arabic. Some
pieces of tiles exhibited a very handsome blue glaze, and on some plates
the three leaf pattern, almost like a fleur-de-lis, was attempted, in
company with the two-leaf and some unidentified flower.

Most interesting of all were the beautiful inscriptions on stone and
marble, recently been found in the tomb of the Forty Saints. Some had
already been covered again by the sand, but we dug them out afresh and I
photographed them. They were in fair preservation. They bore Arabic
characters, and were apparently dedicated in most laudatory terms, one
to "the Pomp of the country, Sun of righteousness and religion, and the
founder of a mosque"; the other commemorated the death of a great Amir.
As, however, there appears to be some difficulty in deciphering some of
the very ancient characters I will refrain from giving any translation of
them for fear of being inaccurate. The photographs given of them facing
pages 218, 220, 222, are, however, quite clear enough for any one
interested in the matter to decipher them for himself.

These tablets were most artistic and beautifully carved, and one had a
most charming ornamentation of two sprays of flowers in each of the two
upper corners. The second inscription had much more minute writing on it,
and was of a finer design and cut, but was, unfortunately, rather worn.
It had evidently been subjected to a long period of friction--apparently
by sand. The natives had made a sort of altar with this last inscription
and some cylindrical sections of columns carved out of beautiful marble,
white or most delicately variegated.

There were also various other large pieces of marble and stone, which had
evidently formed part of a very fine and rich building, as well as a very
ancient fragment of a red baked earthenware water-pipe. Many of the
pieces of marble in the heap contained ornamentations such as successions
of the heart pattern, graceful curve scrolls suggesting leaves, and also
regular leaf patterns. One stone was absolutely spherical, like a cannon
ball, and quite smooth; and some stone implements, such as a conical
brown hammer and a pestle, were very interesting.

On the white marble columns stood two charming little oil lamps, of a
most graceful shape, in green earthenware, and in digging we were
fortunate enough to find a third, which is now in my possession. They can
be seen in the illustration (facing page 218), although I fear not at
their best, being so small. They were not unlike the old Pompeian lamps
in shape, and certainly quite as graceful. The wick used to be lighted at
the spout.

Among other fragments was the capital of a pillar, and portions of Koran
inscriptions. As we dug excitedly with our hands in the sand we found
other inscriptions on slate and on grey-stone, of one of which I took an
impression on paper. It seemed much more ancient than the others and had
a most beautiful design on it of curves and flowers.

A tablet at the entrance of the tomb of the Forty Saints was not of
marble but of slate carved. It bore the following date: [Arabic: 1282]
which I believe corresponds to 1282. The heptagonal tower had two
entrances, one to the north, the other to the south, but was,
unfortunately, getting smothered in sand again.

We became greatly excited on discovering the inscriptions, and pulled up
our sleeves and proceeded in due haste to dig again in the sand--a
process which, although much dryer, reminded one very forcibly of one's
younger days at the seaside. Our efforts were somewhat cooled by a
ghastly white marble figure which we dug up, and which had such a
sneering expression on its countenance that it set the natives all round
shrieking with laughter.

[Illustration: The Figure we dug out at Zaidan.]

[Illustration: Arabic Inscription and marble columns with earthenware
lamps upon them. Fragment of water-pipe. Stone implements. Brick wall of
the "Tombs of Forty Saints" showing in top corners of photograph.]

We thought we had better leave off. Moreover, the natives who had
accompanied us seemed rather upset at my photographing and digging, and
now that I had got what I wanted I did not care to make them feel more
uneasy than was necessary. I had exhausted all the photographic plates I
had brought out with me, night was coming on fast, and we had twenty
miles to ride back. On my last plate I photographed our last find, which
is reproduced for the benefit of my readers facing page 218.

This ugly head, with a very elongated and much expanded nose and a
vicious mouth full of teeth, had been carved at the end of a piece of
marble one and a half feet high. The head, with its oblique eyes, was
well polished, but the remainder of the marble beyond the ears, which
were just indicated by the artist, was roughly cut and appeared to have
been made with the intention of being inserted into a wall, leaving the
head to project outside. Its flat forehead, too, would lead to the
conclusion that it had been so shaped to act as a support, very likely to
some tablet, or moulding of the mosque.

The Katkhuda said that it was a very ancient god, but its age was not
easy to ascertain on so short an acquaintance. It certainly seemed very
much more ancient than anything else we had found and inspected at
Zaidan.



CHAPTER XXIII

     A short historical sketch of Zaidan city--How it was pillaged and
     destroyed--Fortresses and citadels--Taimur Lang--Shah
     Rukh--Revolutions--The Safavi dynasty--Peshawaran, Pulki,
     Deshtak--Sir F. Goldsmid's and Bellew's impressions--The extent
     of the Peshawaran ruins--Arabic inscriptions--A curious
     ornamentation--Mosques and _mihrab_--Tomb of Saiyid Ikbal--The
     Farah Rud and Harut Rud--The "Band" of the Halmund--Canals and
     channels old and new of the Halmund delta--The Rud-i-Nasru and
     the Rud-i-Perian--Strange temporary graves--Ancient prosperity of
     Eastern Persia.


It is not for me to go fully into the history of this great city of
Zaidan, for so much of it rests on speculation and confused traditions
that I would rather leave this work to some scientist of a more gambling
disposition than my own; but now that I have described what I myself saw
I will add a few historical details which seem correct, and the opinions
of one or two other travellers in that region which add interest to the
place as well as strengthen my statements. With the many photographs
which I took and which are reproduced in this book, I hope that a fair
idea of the place will be conveyed to the reader.

The following short historical notes were furnished to me by the
Katkhuda (or head village man) of the present village near the Zaidan
ruins. I reproduce them verbatim, without assuming any responsibility for
the accuracy of the historical dates, but the information about the great
city itself I found to be correct.

[Illustration: Arabic Inscription on Marble dug by Author at the City of
Zaidan.]

When Shah Rukh Shah was ruler of Turkistan, and one Malek Kutuh-ud-din
was ruler of Sistan and Kain, Shah Rukh Shah was engaged in settling
disturbances in the northern part of his dominions, and Malek
Kutuh-ud-din, taking advantage of it, attacked Herat and plundered it.
Shah Rukh Shah, hearing of this, collected an army and marched on Sistan.
During this march he devastated the country, which was then very fertile
and wealthy, and captured and dispersed the inhabitants of the endless
city of Zaidan--which extended from Kala-i-Fath, to the south (now in
Afghan territory on the present bank of the Halmund), to Lash Yuwain on
the north (also in Afghan territory on the bank of the Farah Rud), a
distance, according to the Trigonometrical Survey Maps, of 86 miles as
the crow flies. This would agree with the account given me by the Amir of
the extent of the city.

The city of Zaidan was protected by a large fortress at every six
farsakhs (24 miles). Each fortress was said to be strongly garrisoned
with troops, and had a high watch tower in the centre similar to that
which I saw at a distance on the north-east of Iskil, and which has been
described in previous pages.

Another historical version attributes the destruction of Zaidan and
adjoining cities to Taimur Lang (Tamerlane) or Taimur the lame (a.h.
736-785), father of Shah Rukh whose barbarous soldiery, as some
traditions will have it, were alone responsible for the pillage of Zaidan
city and the devastation of all Sistan. The name of Taimur Lang is to
this day held in terror by the natives of Sistan.

But whether Zaidan was devastated twice, or whether the two accounts
apply to the same disaster, it is not easy to ascertain at so distant a
date. There are obvious signs all over Eastern Sistan that the country
must have undergone great trouble and changes--probably under the rule of
Shah Rukh and his successors (a.h. 853-873), after which revolutions seem
to have been rampant for some sixty years, until Shah Ismail Safavi
conquered Khorassan and the neighbouring countries, founding a powerful
dynasty which reigned up to the year a.h. 1135.

Under the Safavi dynasty Sistan seems to have been vested in the Kayani
Maliks, who are believed to be descendants of the royal house of Kai. (I
came across a village chief claiming to be the descendant of these Kayani
rulers.)

To return to the Zaidan ruins, as seen to-day from the highest point of
the citadel wall, the ruined city stretches in a curve from north to
south-east. It is to the south-east that the ruins are less covered with
sand and in better preservation, the citadel standing about half way
between its former north and southern termini. There is every evidence
to show that the present extensive ruins of Peshawaran to the north,
Pulki, Deshtak (Doshak described by Bellew) and Nad-i-Ali were at one
epoch merely a continuation of Zaidan the great city, just as
Westminster, South Kensington, Hammersmith, &c., are the continuation of
London, and make it to-day the largest conglomeration of houses in the
world. It was evidently necessary to subdivide such an enormous place
into districts.

[Illustration: Transfer of Inscription dated 1282, found in the "Tomb of
Forty Saints," Zaidan.]

[Illustration: Transfer of Ornament above four lines of Koran on Grave
Stone.]

[Illustration: Transfer of Ornamentations on Marble Grave.]

[Illustration: Presumed Summits of Towers buried in Sand, Zaidan.

Notice top of Castellated Wall behind.]

Bellew, who visited the ruins in 1872, speaks of Zaidan as "extending as
far as the eye can reach to the north-east, and said to be continuous
with the ruins of Doshak (Deshtak), about nine miles from the Helmund.
These ruins, with those of Pulki, Nadali and Peshawaran, are the most
extensive in Sistan, and mark the sites of populous cities, the like of
which are not to be found at this present day in all this region between
the Indus and the Tigris."

Doshak or Deshtak is situated about fourteen miles south by south-east of
Sher-i-Nasrya, on the right bank of the main canal which extended from
the Halmund towards the west. It was a large walled town, with towers and
a square fort in the centre. Deshtak is said to have been the residence
and capital of the first member of the Safavi dynasty in Sistan, which,
like all other cities of Sistan, was pillaged and razed to the ground by
the terrible Taimur Lang. On its ruins rose the smaller city of some 500
houses which we have mentioned--also called Jalalabad--and which
eventually became the seat of Bahram Khan, the last of the Kayani
chiefs. The city was built by him for his son Jalaludin, after whom it
was named. Jalaludin, however, was expelled from the throne, and from
that date the Kayani family ceased to reign in Sistan.

Pulki was also located on this main canal, east of Deshtak, and
Peshawaran was situated due north of Zaidan. They consist of an immense
extent of ruins. Both Sir F. Goldsmid and Bellew, who travelled in that
part testify to the whole country between Jalalabad, Buri-i-Afghan and
Peshawaran being covered with ruins.

The ruins at Peshawaran I was not able to visit, they being in Afghan
territory--now forbidden to Englishmen--and, being the guest of the
British Consul, I did not wish to cause trouble. Sir F. Goldsmid, who
visited them during the Perso-Afghan Frontier Mission, describes them as
covering a great area and being strongly built of alternate layers of
sun-burnt and baked brick. The ruins of a madrassah, with a mosque and a
_mihrab_, were most extensive, and had traces of ornamentations, and an
inscription, said to be Kufic. The walls of the citadel were (in 1872) in
fairly good repair. "The citadel," Sir F. Goldsmid relates, "was of a
circular form, somewhat irregular in shape, with a diameter of from two
to three hundred yards. The walls are about fifty feet high, built
strongly of baked brick, with a species of arched covered gallery, five
feet high and five feet wide, running round the summit of the ramparts."

A very similar arrangement was to be seen on the Zaidan fort, as can be
noticed in the photograph which I took and which is reproduced in the
full page illustration (facing page 206).

"Two massive round towers guard the gateway approached by a narrow steep
ascent. In the centre of the fort on a mound stood a superior house,
probably the residence of the Governor. To the south,[6] dense drifts of
sand run to the summits of the ramparts."

If these drifts can rise so high on the high wall of the citadel, it is
certain that a great many of the smaller buildings must be rather deep
under the sand level by now, but that they are there, there can be little
doubt, for fragments of tiles, bricks, vases, &c., strew the ground. No
doubt the usual critic will wonder how it is that, if the houses are
buried, these fragments are not buried also. The wind principally is
responsible for their keeping on the surface of the sand. They are
constantly shifted and are blown from place to place, until arrested by
some obstacle such as a wall, where a great number of these fragments can
generally be found collected by the wind.

"The great characteristic of these ruins"--continues Sir F. Goldsmid--"is
the number of accurately constructed arches which still remain, and which
are seen in almost every house, and the remains of strongly built
windmills, with a vertical axis, as is usually the case in Sistan."

This again, as we have seen, is also one of the characteristics of the
Zaidan buildings.

The ruins of Peshawaran are subdivided into several groups, such as the
Kol Marut, Saliyan, three miles east of the fort, Khushabad,
Kalah-i-Mallahun, Nikara-Khanah, &c.

Bellew, who camped at Saliyan, describes this section of the ruins "which
cover many square miles of country, with readily distinguishable mosques
and colleges (madrassahs), and the Arabic inscriptions traceable on the
façades of some of the principal buildings clearly refer their date to
the period of the Arab conquest, and further, as is evidenced by the
domes and arches forming the roofs of the houses, that then, as now, the
country was devoid of timber fit for building purposes. The most
remarkable characteristic of these ruins is their vast extent and
excellent preservation."

I, too, am of Bellew's opinion about these points. The several
inscriptions I found at Zaidan, photographs of which I have given in this
book, were, as we have seen, in Arabic; the ornamentations of which I
took tracings were Arabic in character.

Bellew reckons the great extent of the Peshawaran section of the ruins as
covering an area of about six miles by eight. He states that they were
the outgrowths of successive cities rising on the ruins of their
predecessors upon the same spot, and, like the other few travellers who
have intelligently examined the ruins, came to the conclusion that in
point of architecture and age the whole length from Lash Yuwain to the
north to Kala-i-Fath to the south, and including Peshawaran, Zaidan and
Kali-i-Fath were absolutely identical.

Goldsmid supplies information similar to Bellew's regarding the
Peshawaran ruins, and he writes that on his march north to Lash Yuwain he
had to go three or four miles to the west on account of the ruins. He
speaks of seeing a place of worship with a _mihrab_, and, curiously
enough, on the wall above it he found "the masonic star of five points
surrounded by a circle and with a round cup between each of the points
and another in the centre." He also saw the tomb of Saiyid Ikbal, also
mentioned by another traveller, Christie.

Eight miles west by north-west from the ruins rises a flat-topped
plateau-like hill, called the Kuh-i-Kuchah, not dissimilar in shape to
the Kuh-i-Kwajah to the south-west of Sher-i-Nasrya. Four villages are
found near it. To the east of it is found the Farah Rud, and to its west
the Harut Rud,--two rivers losing themselves (when they have any water in
them) into the lagoon. The Harut is not always flowing. To the south is
the Naizar lagoon forming part of the Hamun-Halmund. (This lagoon was
mostly dry when I went through.) It has formed a huge lake at various
epochs, but now only the northern portion, skirting the southern edge of
the Peshawaran ruins, has any permanent water in it, and is principally
fed by the delta of canals and by the overflow of the Halmund, over the
Band, a kind of barrage.

Some explanation is necessary to make things clear.

On the present Afghan-Perso boundary, at a place called the
"Band-i-Sistan," is the great dam across the Halmund, completely turning
the waters of the stream, by means of semi-artificial canals, for the
irrigation of Sistan. Hence the fertility of that district. The dam, "the
Band," as it is called by the natives, is a barrier slightly over 700
feet long, constructed of upright wooden stakes holding in position
horizontal fascines of tamarisk interwoven, strengthened by stones and
plastered with mud to form a semi-solid wall. In olden days the Band was
so feebly constructed that it was generally carried away every year at
the spring floods, but now greater attention is given to its construction
and it is kept in fairly good repair, although portions of it usually
collapse or are carried away by the force of the current during the
floods. The height of the Band is not more than eighteen or twenty feet.
Practically the actual river course comes to an end at this Band, and
from this point its waters are spread into a delta of canals, large and
small, subdivided into hundreds other tortuous channels. The Hussein Ki
Canal is one of the most important, and feeds Zaidan, Iskil, Bunjar and
Sher-i-Nasrya, Husseinabad, and other places, and is subdivided into
minor channels during its course. It flows roughly in a north-west
direction.

In 1896, according to Major Sykes (_Royal Geographical Society's
Journal_), a new canal, known as the Rud-i-Perian, was formed, and
destroyed Jahanabad, Ibrahimabad and Jalalabad. This canal, he says, is
not far from the Rud-i-Nasru, which he seems to think was at one time the
main stream and flowed in a natural bed past Zaidan to the west of it,
but personally I have my doubts about the accuracy of this statement. I
believe that the Rud-i-Nasru was merely a shallow canal that passed to
the west of Zaidan, but that the river course of the Halmund itself was
always to the east of Zaidan as well as of the other adjoining cities
north of Zaidan. The Canal to the east of Nad-i-Ali is no doubt a
naturally cut channel, the obvious continuation under natural
circumstances of the river course. The same remark might apply to the
small channel self-cut to the west of that place. There are other
important channels, such as the Madar-Ab, which supplies water to
Chiling, Pulki and Sekhuka; the Kimak canal and the Kasimabad. Before the
present dam was constructed some eighty years ago, a previous "Band"
existed, as we shall see, further up the course of the Halmund to the
south, and secured the irrigation of the southern portion of Sistan,
which is now absolutely dry and barren. Dried up canal beds of great
length are still to be found in southern Sistan.

[Illustration: Sketch Plan of "Zaidan Citadel"

by A. Henry Savage Landor.]

It would be a great undertaking to describe accurately all these canals
and the various positions they have occupied at different epochs, and
the task would at best be most thankless and useless, for, with the
exception of the larger ones, the minor ones keep constantly changing
their course by cutting themselves new beds in the soft soil. Anybody who
has visited eastern Sistan, even in a very dry season, as I did, knows
too well how the ground is intersected in all directions by myriads of
natural water channels, all fed by the Halmund, so that, unless one had
months of time at one's disposal, it would hardly be possible to map them
all out exactly.

During flood time the water flows over the Band and into its natural
channel due north up into the Hamun, where it loses itself.

There is a good deal of verdure, trees, and high reeds near the banks of
the river at the Band, with many snakes, while fish is plentiful in the
water and myriads of wild fowl are to be seen.

Curious conical temporary graves of mud can occasionally be seen, some
six feet high, the body being, it is said, buried standing within these
cones previous to proper interment with due ceremony. On the outside,
clear imprints made while the mud was still soft of several sized
hands--presumably of the deceased's relations or friends--were left on
the surface of the cone, the imprints being one above the other in a
line.

Among the ruins of Peshawaran, Bellew found traces of several canals, now
dry, one of which, however, had been restored by the chief of Hokat and
brought a stream of good water up to the Silyan ruins for irrigation
purposes.

As for the southern end of the great city at Kala-i-Fath, we have very
good accounts from Ferrier, Goldsmid, and Bellew, all testifying to its
great extent. Here, too, there is a strong citadel standing on an
artificial mound, and seeming to have been repaired some twenty-five or
thirty years ago. Bellew says that the ruins extend over several miles of
country, and Goldsmid speaks of a circumference of ruins of some two and
a half miles at Kala-i-Fath, with a large citadel and fine arched
buildings within. He mentions spacious courtyards and the remains of
reservoirs, caravanserais, and large buildings in abundance, but no
vestige of anything approaching magnificence.

This, however, is the case with everything Persian, whether ancient or
modern, especially in regard to architecture, and a great deal of the
humbleness of the buildings is, I think, due to the facts that the
inhabitants of Persia are nomads by nature; that the shifting sands drive
people from their homes; that rivers constantly alter their courses, and
that the water supply is a constant source of difficulty in most parts of
Iran; moreover the terrible wars and invasions made the natives
disinclined to construct themselves very elaborate houses which they
might at any moment have to abandon.

These reasons account for the extraordinary number of abandoned villages,
towns, fortresses, and whole ruined suburbs of towns all over Persia, a
sight which I think cannot be seen on such a large scale in any other
country in the world.

At Kala-i-Fath the question of the water may not have been the principal
one, but the fear of constant attacks must have deterred the natives from
erecting magnificent buildings. Or else how could we account for these
enormous fortresses which are found all along to protect the great city?

Goldsmid describes a fine caravanserai at Kala-i-Fath, built of large
baked bricks, each brick eleven inches square, and displaying a nicety of
design foreign to Sistan. The caravanserai seems to have been domed over
a large central courtyard, with wings for rooms and stabling; and an
adjoining ice-house of mud bricks. In the graveyard fragments of
alabaster and tiles were found.

The wall round the city which Goldsmid describes--six feet at the base
tapering to one foot at the summit--is somewhat different in character
from that of Zaidan, and is, to my mind, of much later construction, as
are many of the buildings.

"Some of the streets," he says, "which all run from east to west, are in
excellent preservation and as if they were of recent construction."

It is quite possible, in fact, very probable, that this portion of the
great city--which, by the bye, is said to have been the last capital of
the Kayani Kings, and was deserted by them when attacked by Nadir
Shah--has, owing to its favourable geographical position on the east
bank of the Halmund, been inhabited to a certain extent until a much
later date. The local accounts, at least, would point to that conclusion.

A dry canal exists, which we shall cross on our way to the Beluchistan
frontier; it is fed by the Halmund, north of Kala-i-Fath, and strikes
across the plain in a westerly direction.

If all the accounts given by people who have been there are taken into
consideration, together with the photographs here given, which seem to me
to show that the place was one of unusual grandeur; if the fact is
grasped that, whether considered as a single city or a conglomeration of
adjoining successive cities, Zaidan was undoubtedly a continuous and
uninterrupted row of houses of no less than eighty-six miles; I think
that whatever theories may be expounded by the usual scientific
speculator at home, the fact must remain that this ancient London of Asia
marks a period of astounding prosperity in the history of Eastern
Persia.

FOOTNOTES:

[6] I think this must be a mistake; it should be to the north.--A.H.S.L.



CHAPTER XXIV

     Departure from Sistan--Dadi--Not one's idea of a pasture--The
     Kuh-i-Kwajah--Its altitude--The "City of roars of
     laughter"--Interesting ascent to the summit--A water
     reservoir--Family graves--Dead-houses--A grave with thirty-eight
     compartments--The Gandun Piran Ziarat--Scrolls and
     inscriptions--Priest's house--Modern graves--Skulls and their
     characteristics--A smaller Ziarat--The Kuk fort--A bird's-eye
     view of Kala-i-Kakaha city--Strange legends about the city--Why
     Kala-i-Kakaha is famous.


Owing to the tender care of Major and Mrs. Benn I was, at the beginning
of 1902, in a fair condition of strength to undertake the journey of 600
miles on camels across Northern Beluchistan to Quetta. With the help of
Major Benn I made up a fresh caravan entirely of running camels, and
expected therefore to be able to travel very fast. The camels selected
were excellent, and the two Beluch drivers who came with me most
faithful, considerate and excellent servants. Sadek also accompanied me.

Everything was made ready to start by January 2nd, but some hitch or
other occurred daily, and it was not till January 10th that I was able to
take my departure--sorry indeed to say good-bye to my new good friends,
Major and Mrs. Benn, to whose charmingly thoughtful care I altogether
owed it that I was now able to proceed in good health.

The hour of our departure was fixed for 5 o'clock a.m., but my three
cats, suspecting that we were going to move from our comfortable
quarters, disappeared during the night, and some hours were wasted by
Sadek and all the servants of the Consulate in trying to find them again.
I was determined not to start without them. Sadek was furious, the camel
men impatient, the guard of Lancers sent by the Consul to accompany me
for some distance had been ready on their horses for a long time, and
everybody at hand was calling out "Puss, puss, puss!" in the most
endearing tones of voice, and searching every possible nook.

After four hours of expressive language in Persian, Hindustani, Beluchi
and English, at nine o'clock the cats were eventually discovered. One had
hidden under a huge pile of wood, all of which we had to remove to get
him out; the second had found a most comfortable sanctum in Mrs. Benn's
room, and the third, having ascertained that his companions had been
discovered, walked out unconcerned and entered the travelling box of his
own accord.

I was sorry to leave Sistan too, with its ancient ruins, its peculiar
inhabitants, a mixture of all kinds, its quaint city, so strikingly
picturesque especially at sunset, when, owing to the moisture in the air,
beautiful warm colours appeared in the sky, and the thousands of camels,
and sheep, moving like so many phantoms in clouds of dust, returned to
their homes. The sad dingling of their bells sounded musical enough in
the distance, and one saw horsemen dashing full gallop towards the city
before the gates were closed, every man carrying a gun. Far to the west
in the background stood the Kuh-i-Kwajah mountain, so famous in the
history of Sistan. All this after the dreary, long Salt Desert journey
had seemed heavenly to me, and I was more than sorry to leave the place.

Had I been a Russian instead of an Englishman I would not have continued
my journey on the morning of my departure, for on coming out of the
Consulate gate the first thing I saw was a dead body being washed and
prepared for interment by relatives in the dead-house adjoining the
Consulate wall. The Russians believe the sight of a dead body an ill-omen
at the beginning of a journey.

Gul Khan, the Consul's assistant, accompanied me as far as the
Kuh-i-Kwajah mountain, to inspect which I had to make a detour.

We passed south of Sher-i-Nasrya, and, after wading through numberless
water channels and skirting large pools of water, crossed a tiny
anonymous village of six domed huts, and then came to a very large one
rejoicing in the name of Dadi. My fast camels carrying loads had gone
ahead, and we, who had started later on horses, caught them up some
sixteen miles onward, where there was a third little village, the
inhabitants of which were wild-looking and unkempt. The women and
children stampeded at our approach. The houses were flat-topped and were
no taller than seven feet, except the house of the head village man which
was two-storeyed and had a domed roof.

When the Hamun Halmund extended as far south as Kandak the Kuh-i-Kwajah
mountain was an island, but now the whole country around it is dry except
some small swamps and pools, on the edges of which thousands of sheep
could be seen grazing. It took a very powerful sight indeed to see what
the animals were grazing on. One's idea of a pasture--we always picture a
pasture for sheep as green--was certainly not fulfilled, and after a
minute inspection one saw the poor brutes feeding on tiny stumps of dried
grass, yellowish in colour and hardly distinguishable from the sand on
which it grew in clusters not more than half an inch high.

Where the Hamun had been its bed was now of a whitish colour from salt
deposits.

The Kuh-i-Kwajah (mountain), occasionally also called Kuh-i-Rustam,
rising as it does directly from the flat, is most attractive and
interesting, more particularly because of its elongated shape and its
flat top, which gives it quite a unique appearance. Seen from the east,
it stretches for about three miles and a half or even four at its base,
is 900 feet high, and about three miles on top of the plateau. The
summit, even when the beholder is only half a mile away from it, appears
like a flat straight line against the sky-line, a great boulder that
stands up higher on the south-west being the only interruption to this
uniformity. The black rocky sides of the mountain are very
precipitous--in fact, almost perpendicular at the upper portion, but the
lower part has accumulations of clay, mud and sand extending in a gentle
slope. In fact, roughly speaking, the silhouette of the mountain has the
appearance of the section of an inverted soup-plate.

[Illustration: silhouette of kuh-i-kwajah.]

Major Sykes, in the _Royal Geographical Society's Journal_, describes
this mountain as resembling in shape "an apple," but surely if there ever
was anything in the world that had no resemblance whatever to "an apple"
it was this mountain. It would be curious to know what Major Sykes calls
"an apple."

The diagram here appended of the outline of the mountain, and indeed the
photograph given by Major Sykes in the _Royal Geographical Society's
Journal_, February, 1902, page 143, will, I think, be sufficient to
convince the least observant on this point. Major Sykes is also no less
than 500 feet out in his estimate of the height of the hill. The summit
is 900 feet above the plain--not 400 feet as stated by him.

The altitude at the base is 2,050 feet, and at the summit 2,950 feet. As
we rounded the mountain to the southward to find a place at which we
could climb to the top, we saw a very ancient fort perched on the summit
of the mountain commanding the ruins of Kala-i-Kakaha, or the "city of
roars of laughter,"--a quaint and picturesque city built on the steep
slope of the south escarpment of the mountain.

[Illustration: Sketch Map of Summit of Kuh-i-Kwajah

by A. Henry Savage Landor.]

In the centre of this city was a large and high quadrangular wall like a
citadel, and it had houses all round it, as can be seen by the bird's-eye
view photograph I took of it from the fort above, a view from which high
point of vantage will be described at the end of this chapter.

We went along the outer wall of the city on a level with the plain at the
hill's base, but we abandoned it as this wall went up the mountain side
to the north. Some high columns could be seen, which appeared to have
formed part of a high tower. The sides of the hill on which the city was
built were very precipitous, but a steep tortuous track existed, leading
to the city on the east side, the two gates of the city being
situated--one north-east, the other north-west--in the rear of the city,
and, as it were, facing the mountain side behind. On the south-west side
high accumulations of sand formed an extensive tongue projecting very far
out into the plain.

The rocky upper portion of the Kuh-i-Kwajah mountain was black towards
the east, but getting yellowish in the southern part, where there were
high sand accumulations up to about three-quarters of the height of the
mountain, with deep channels cut into them by water.

We came to a narrow gorge which divides the mountain in two, and by which
along a very stony path between high vertical rocks the summit of the
table mountain could be reached. We left our horses in charge of a lancer
and Mahommed Azin, the head village man of Deh-i-Husena--a man who said
he was a descendant of the Kayani family, and who professed to know
everything about everything,--Gul Khan and I gradually climbed to the
higher part of the mountain. I say "gradually" because there was a great
deal to interest and puzzle one on the way up.

This path to the summit had been formerly strongly fortified. Shortly
after entering the gorge, where we had dismounted, was a strange wall cut
in the hard, flint-like rock by a very sharp, pointed instrument. One
could still distinctly see the narrow grooves made by it. Then there were
curious heads of the same rock with side hollows that looked as if caused
by the constant friction or some horizontal wooden or stone implement. I
was much puzzled by these and could not come to a definite conclusion of
what could have been their use. Even our guide's universal knowledge ran
short; he offered no explanation beyond telling me that they had been
made by man, which I had long before discovered for myself.

A small reservoir for rain-water was found near this spot, and nearly at
the top of the hillock a ditch had been excavated near the easiest point
of access, and another ditch could be seen all round. The low land round
the mountain has most certainly been inundated at various epochs, forming
a shallow, temporary swamp, but not a permanent lake as has been asserted
by some, and from what one saw one was tempted to believe that the plain
around Kuh-i-Kwajah must have been dryer in the days of its glory than it
has been in this century.

[Illustration: Dead Houses and Ziarat on Kuh-i-Kwajah.]

[Illustration: A Family Tomb (Eight Compartments) on Kuh-i-Kwajah.]

On reaching the summit we found ourselves on an undulating plateau
covered with graves, but these graves, unlike all others which I had seen
in Persia, had not only the characteristic points of the Zaidan ones in
which the body was encased in the tomb above the level of the ground, but
were in compartments and contained whole families. The first grave we
examined was made of huge boulders and was six yards long, four yards
wide and had four sections, each occupied by a skeleton and covered over
with flat slabs of stone. Each compartment was about 1½ feet high, 2½
feet broad, and 6 feet long. Near this family grave was a quarry of good
stone from which stones for grinding wheat, hand-mortars, &c., had been
cut. At the foot was a reservoir for rain-water.

One was rather surprised on reaching the summit of Kuh-i-Kwajah to find
it so undulating, for on approaching the mountain from the plain one
was specially impressed by its straight upper outlines against the sky.
The summit is actually concave, like a basin, with numerous hillocks all
round, and one portion, judging by sediments left, would appear to have
contained a lake. In the centre of the plateau are two extensive
artificial camps dug into the earth and rock, and having stone sides. On
a hillock to the west of one of these ponds stands a tomb with no less
than ten graves side by side.

From this point eastwards, however, is the most interesting portion of
this curious plateau. Numerous groups of graves are to be seen at every
few yards, and two dead-houses, one with a large dome partly collapsed on
the north side, the other still in the most perfect state of
preservation. The photograph facing page 240 gives a good idea of them.
The larger and more important dead-house had a central hall 4½ yards
square, and each side of the square had an outer wing, each with one door
and one window above it. Each wing projected three yards from the central
hall. To the east in the central hall there was a very greasy stone, that
looked as if some oily substance had been deposited on it, possibly
something used in preparing the dead. Next to it was a vessel for water.

Outside, all round the walls of this dead-house, and radiating in all
directions, were graves, all above ground and as close together as was
possible to construct them, while on the hillocks to the south of the
dead-houses were hundreds of compartments for the dead, some in perfect
condition, others fallen through; some showing evident signs of having
been broken through by sacrilegious hands--very likely in search of
treasure.

[Illustration: Kala-i-Kakaha, the "City of Roars of Laughter."]

[Illustration: The "Gandun Piran" Ziarat on Kuh-i-Kwajah.]

On the top of a hillock higher than the others was a tomb of thirty-eight
sections, all occupied. A lot of large stones were heaped on the top of
this important spot, and surmounting all and planted firmly in them was a
slender upright stone pillar 6½ feet high. It had no inscription upon it
nor any sign of any kind, and had been roughly chipped off into an
elongated shape. Near this grave, which was the most extensive of its
kind that I had observed on the plateau, was a very peculiar ruined house
with four rooms, each four yards square, and each room with two doors,
and all the rooms communicating. It was badly damaged. Its shape was most
unusual.

We then proceeded to the Ziarat, a pilgrimage place famous all over
Persia and south-western Afghanistan. I was fortunate enough to take a
good photograph of its exterior (see opposite), which will represent its
appearance to the reader better than a description. A high rectangular
building plastered all over with mud, a front arch or alcove giving
access to a small door, and two domed low stone buildings, one on either
side, and another ruined building with a wall around it behind the
Ziarat. A few yards to the left of the entrance as one looked at it was a
coarse upright stone pillar.

The inside of the Ziarat was more interesting than the outside. It was a
very large whitewashed single room, with high vaulted ceiling, and in the
centre rose from the floor to a height of three feet a gigantic tomb, six
yards in length, with a gabled top. It measured one yard and a half
across at the head, and one yard at its foot, and had two stone pillars
some five feet high standing one at each extremity. To these two end
pillars was tied a rope, from which hung numberless rags, strips of cloth
and hair. Behind the head of the tomb along the wall stretched a platform
four and a half feet wide, on which rested two brass candlesticks of
primitive shape, a much-used kalyan, and a great number of rags of all
sizes, ages, and degrees of dirt.

The scrolls and inscriptions on the wall were very quaint, primitive
representations of animals in couples, male and female, being the most
indulged in by the pilgrims. Goats and dogs seemed favourite subjects for
portrayal.

[Illustration: Male and Female Goats. Dog.]

A lock of human hair and another of goat's hair hung on the wall to the
right of the entrance, and on two sticks laid across, another mass of
rags, white, blue, yellow and red. Hundreds more were strewn upon the
ground, and the cross bars of the four windows of the Ziarat were also
choke-full of these cloth offerings. Among other curious things
noticeable on the altar platform were a number of stones scooped into
water-vessels.

This Ziarat goes by the name of Gandun Piran, and is said to be some
centuries old. In the spring equinox pilgrimages are made to this Ziarat
from the neighbouring city and villages, when offerings of wheat are
contributed that the donor may be at peace with the gods and expect
plentiful crops. These pilgrimages take very much the form of our "day's
outing on a Bank Holiday," and sports of various kinds are indulged in by
the horsemen. It is the custom of devout people when visiting these
Ziarats to place a stone on the tomb, a white one, if obtainable, and we
shall find this curious custom extending all over Beluchistan and, I
believe, into a great portion of Afghanistan.

Directly in front of the Ziarat was the priests' house, with massive,
broad stone walls and nine rooms. The ceilings, fallen through in most
rooms, were not semi-spherical as usual but semi-cylindrical, as could
still be seen very plainly in the better-preserved one of the central
room. This house had a separate building behind for stables and an outer
oven for baking bread. The dwelling was secluded by a wall.

The top of Kuh-i-Kwajah is even now a favourite spot for people to be
laid to their eternal rest, and near this Ziarat were to be found a great
many graves which were quite modern. These modern tombs, more elaborate
than the old ones, rose to about five feet above the ground, had a mud
and stone perforated balustrade above them all round, and three steps by
which the upper part could be reached. They seldom, however, had more
than three bodies in each tomb.

We found on the ground a very curious large hollowed stone like a big
mortar, which seemed very ancient. Then further were more old graves in
rows of five, six, eight, and more. When one peeped into the broken ones,
the temptation to take home some of the bleached skulls to add to the
collection of one's national museum, and to let scientists speculate on
their exact age, was great. But I have a horror of desecrating graves. I
took one out--a most beautifully preserved specimen--meaning to overcome
my scruples, but after going some distance with it wrapped up in my
handkerchief I was seized with remorse, and I had to go and lay it back
again in the same spot where it had for centuries lain undisturbed.

I examined several skulls that were in good condition, and the following
were their principal characteristics. They possessed abnormally broad
cheek-bones, and the forehead was very slanting backwards and was
extremely narrow across the temples and broad at its highest portion. The
back portion of the skull, in which the animal qualities of the brain are
said by phrenologists to reside, was also abnormally developed, when
compared to European skulls. The top section (above an imaginary plane
intersecting it horizontally above the ear) was well formed, except that
in the back part there was a strange deep depression on the right side of
the skull, and an abnormal development on the left side. This peculiarity
was common to a great many skulls, and was their most marked
characteristic. Evidently the brains of the people who owned them must
have constantly been working on a particular line which caused this
development more than that of other portions of the skull.

[Illustration: A Bird's Eye View of Kala-i-Kakaha, the "City of Roars of
Laughter."]

The upper jaw was rather contracted and mean as compared to the remaining
characteristics of the skull, slanting very far forwards where it ended
into quite a small curve in which the front teeth were set. The teeth
themselves were extremely powerful and healthy. The bumps behind the ear
channels were well marked.

The whole skull, however, as seen from above, was more fully developed on
its right side than on the left; also the same abnormal development on
the right side could be noticed under the skull at the sides, where it
joins the spinal column. In a general way these skulls reminded one of
the formation of the skulls of the present Beluch.

Another smaller Ziarat partly ruined was to be found south of the one we
had inspected, the tomb itself being of less gigantic proportions, and
now almost entirely buried in sand. The two end pillars, however,
remained standing upright, the northern one being, nevertheless, broken
in half. The door of this Ziarat was to the south of the building, and
had a window above it. The walls had a stone foundation, some 2 feet
high, above which the remainder of the wall was entirely of mud, with a
perforated window to the west. The tomb itself was 8 feet long by 4 feet
wide. A small square receptacle was cut in the northern wall.

We had now come to the Kuk fort above the city of Kala-i-Kakaha on the
south of the mountain. With the exception of a large round tower, 40 feet
in diameter at the base, there remained very little to be seen of this
strong-hold. Sections of other minor towers and a wall existed, but all
was a confused mass of debris, sand and mud.

From this point a splendid view was obtained of the city of Kala-i-Kakaha
just below, of which a photograph from this bird's eye aspect will be
found facing p. 246 of this volume. There was an extensive courtyard in
the centre enclosed by a high wall, and having a tower in the centre of
each of the two sides of the quadrangle. A belt of buildings was enclosed
between this high wall and a second wall, which had two towers, one at
each angle looking north towards the cliff of the mountain from which we
observed. Outside this wall two rows of what, from our high point of
vantage, appeared to be graves could be seen, while to the east were
other buildings and cliff dwellings extending almost to the bottom of the
hill, where a tower marked the limit of the city.

From this point a tortuous track could be seen along the gorge winding
its way to the city gate, the only opening in the high third wall, most
irregularly built along the precipice of the ravine. At the foot of the
mountain this wall turned a sharp corner, and describing roughly a
semicircle protected the city also to the west.

At the most north-westerly point there seemed to be the principal gate of
the city, with a massive high tower and with a road encased between two
high walls leading to it. The semicircle formed by the mountain behind,
which was of a most precipitous nature, was enclosed at its mouth by a
fourth outer wall, with an inner ditch, making the fortress of
Kala-i-Kakaha practically impregnable.

The legend about Kala-i-Kakaha city furnished me by the Sar-tip, through
Gul Khan, was very interesting.

In ancient days there was in that city a deep well, the abode of certain
godly virgins, to whom people went from far and near for blessings.
Visitors used to stand listening near the well, and if their prayers were
accepted the virgins laughed heartily, whereby the city gained the name
of Kaka-ha (roar of laughter). Silence on the part of the sanctimonious
maidens was a sign that the prayers were not granted.

The Sistan historical authorities seem to think this origin of the name
plausible. There were, however, other amusing, if less reliable legends,
such as the one our friend Mahommed Azin gave me, which is too quaint to
be omitted.

"In the time of Alexander the Great," he told us, "Aristotles the famous
had produced an animal which he had placed in _a_ fort" (_which_ fort
Mahommed Azin seemed rather vague about). "Whoever gazed upon the animal
was seized with such convulsions of laughter that he could not stop until
he died.

"When Alexander was 'in the West' (_i.e._ _maghreb zemin_)" continued
Mahommed Azin, "he had seen this wonderful 'animal of laughter' produced
by Aristotles, and some seventy or eighty thousand soldiers had actually
died of laughter which they could not repress on seeing it. Plato only,
who was a wise man, devised a ruse to overcome the terrible effects of
looking at the animal. He brought with him a looking-glass which he
placed in front of the brute, and, sure enough, the demon, which had
caused the hilarious death of many others, in its turn was seized by
hysterical laughing at itself, and of course could not stop and died
too."

Mahommed Azin was somewhat uncertain whether the animal itself had
resided in the fortress of the Kuh-i-Kwajah mountain, or whether the
owner of the animal had visited the place, or whether the place had been
named merely in honour of the legend of the "animal of laughter." All I
can say is that when Mahommed, with a grave face, had finished his
inimitable story, Gul Khan and I were also seized with such
uncontrollable fits of hilarity that, notwithstanding our mournful
surroundings of graves and dead-houses, we, too, very nearly went to
swell the number of victims of Mahommed Azin's "animal of laughter,"
although without the pleasure of having made its personal acquaintance.

Mahommed Azin positively finished us up when he gravely added that it was
most dangerous to recount the legend he had told us for he had known
people die of laughter by merely listening to it. There was some truth in
that. We nearly did, not only at the story but at the story-teller
himself!

Kala-i-Kakaha is a famous spot in Persian history, for it is said that
the great Persian hero Rustam's first exploit was to capture this city
and slay its king _Kuk_, after whom the fort standing above Kakaha is
named. In more modern days Kakaha, which, from ancient times, had been a
place of shelter for retreating princes hard driven by the enemy, has
become noteworthy for its seven years' resistance to the attacks of
Nadir's troops, when the Kayani King Malik-Fath, having abandoned his
capital, Kala-i-Fath had taken refuge in the impregnable city of
Kala-i-Kakaha.



CHAPTER XXV

     Villages between Sher-i-Nasrya and Kuh-i-Kwajah--The last of the
     Kayani--Husena Baba--Thousands of sheep--The Patang
     Kuh--Protecting black walls--A marsh--Sand dunes--Warmal--Quaint
     terraces--How roofs are built--A spacious residence built for
     nine shillings--Facial characteristics of natives--Bread
     making--Semi-spherical sand mounts--Natural protections against
     the northerly winds.


We were benighted on the mountain and did not reach the village of
Deh-i-Husena till nearly nine o'clock, our friend and guide having lost
his way in the dark and having taken us round the country for a good many
more miles than was necessary. It is true the night was rather black and
it was not easy to see where the low mud-houses of his village were.

The distance in a direct line from Deh-i-Husena to the foot of the
Kuh-i-Kwajah mountain was 4 miles, and the village of Deh-i-Husena was
about 15 miles from Sher-i-Nasrya, the village of Dadi we had passed
being 9 miles off, and Sanchuli 14¾ miles from the city and only a
quarter of a mile from Deh-i-Husena. To the south of the latter village
was Deh-i-Ali-Akabar.

We spent the night at Deh-i-Husena, Mahommed Azin, the head village man
and guide, being so entertaining in his conversation that he kept us up
till all hours of the morning. He professed to be one of the only two
surviving members of the Kayani family which formerly reigned over
Sistan, his cousin being the other. According to his words--which,
however, could not always claim to be models of accuracy--his family had
a good deal of power in Sistan up to about forty years ago (1860). They
were now very poor.

Mahommed Azin had well-cut features and bore himself like a man of
superior birth, but he was very bitter in his speech against fate and
things in general. It was, nevertheless, wonderful how a man, living in a
small village secluded from everybody and everywhere, had heard of flying
machines, of submarine boats, of balloons that _ferenghis_ made. His
ideas of them were rather amusing, but he was very intelligent and quick
at grasping how they worked when I explained to him. Surgery interested
him intensely, and after that politics. The Ruski and Inglis he was sure
would have a great deal of trouble over Sistan. He could not quite make
up his mind as to which was the bigger nation. When he heard Ruski's
accounts of themselves he certainly thought the Ruski were the greater
people, but when he listened to the Inglis and what they could do he
really believed they must be stronger.

"Who do you think is the most powerful?" he inquired of me.

"Of course, the Inglis, without doubt."

"Then do you think that your king will grant me a pension, so that I can
live in luxury and without working to the end of my days?"

"The king does not usually grant pensions to lazy people. Pensions are
granted to people who have done work for the country."

"Well then, you see," exclaimed Mahommed Azin, in thorough unreasonable
Persian fashion, "you say your king is greater than the Ruski king, and
he would not grant me a pension, I the last of the Kayanis!" He was sure
the Ruski potentate would at once if he knew!

I left Husena at 9.30 a.m. on January 11th, striking south for Warmal.
There were a good many wretched villages in succession half a mile or so
apart from one another, such as Dubna, Hasan-Jafa, Luftulla and Husena
Baba. The ground was covered with white salt which resembled snow.

Husena Baba was quite a large and important village. The inhabitants came
out in great force to greet us. Although wood was extremely scarce at
this village, nearly all the houses had flat roofs supported on rough
rafters. Matting on a layer of reeds prevented the upper coating of mud
from falling through. I came across several horses laden with bundles of
long reeds which they dragged behind them, and which they had carried,
probably from the Naizar, where they were plentiful.

We had altered our course from south to east, and here I parted with
useful Gul Khan and the escort, who had to return to the Consulate. I
mounted my riding camel and started off, this time south-east, on my way
to Warmal.

Again we saw thousands of sheep grazing on the flat desert of dried mud
and salt cracked in innumerable places by the sun. Here and there a close
examination showed tiny tufts of dried grass, some two inches in
circumference, and not more than half an inch tall, and at an average
distance of about ten feet from one another. It was astounding to me that
so many animals could find sufficient nourishment for subsistence on so
scanty a diet, but although not very fat the sheep seemed to be in pretty
good condition.

To the west we had a high ridge of mountains--the Patang Kuh--and between
these mountains and our track in the distance an extensive marsh could be
distinguished, with high reeds in profusion near its humid banks.

To the east some miles off were Dolehtabad (village), then Tuti and
Sakawa, near Lutok.

South-east before us, and stretching for several miles, a flat-topped
plateau rose to no very great height above the horizon, otherwise
everything was flat and uninteresting all around us. Some very curious
walls of black mud mixed with organic matter, built to shelter sheep from
the fierce north winds while proceeding from one village to another, can
be seen in the _lut_. These black dashes on the white expanse of salt and
sand have about the same effect on the picturesqueness of the scenery as
coarse scrawls with a blunt pen on a fine page of calligraphy. You see
them here and there, scattered about, all facing north, like so many
black dashes in the otherwise delicate tones of grey and white of the
soil.

When we had gone some miles on this flat, hard stretch of ground, where
the heat was terrible, we had to make a detour round a large marsh. Then
beyond it stood five parallel banks of sand, 25 feet high, with
horizontal layers of half-formed stone up to half the height of the
dunes. The dunes were about 200 yards apart.

In the afternoon we arrived at Warmal, where water seemed plentiful and
good. Here too, as in the centre of most villages and towns of Persia, a
pond of stagnant filthy water could be seen. The pond at Warmal was of
unusually ample proportions and extended through the whole length of the
village, which was built on both sides of this dirty pond. Numerous
canals branched off from this main reservoir, and in fact, had one had a
little imagination, one might have named this place the Venice of Sistan.
At sunset swarms of mosquitoes rose buzzing from the putrid water, but
from a picturesque point of view the effect of the buildings reflected in
the yellow-greenish water was quite pretty.

To facilitate transit from one side of the village to the other, a
primitive bridge of earth had been constructed across the pond, but as
the central portion of it was under water it was necessary to remove
one's foot-gear in order to make use of the convenience.

Chara